At the cemetery of the isolated village of Nokhur, nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post adorned with the horns of a mountain goat.
The goat horns are thought to fight off evil spirits and help the souls of the deceased to ensure a safe passage to heaven. In addition to their appearances at the village cemetery, skulls of mountain goats are found at some of the houses’ doorways of the village as well.
The Nokhuris, the mountain tribe of the region, have always considered mountain goats sacred animals for their strength and endurance. The reverence of mountain goats clearly predates Islamic traditions, and though today the Nokhuris are devout Muslims, this part of their ancient belief system has continued to survive.
The cemetery of Nokhur is an excellent example of how Islam works in Central Asia. Other than in the Middle East, where the arrival of Islam virtually erased all traces of pre-Islamic religions, in Central Asia certain parts of pre-Islamic belief systems have been incorporated into the younger religion, creating a syncretism often symbolized in the burial rites of local tribes.
Know Before You Go
Visitors are discouraged from entering the cemetery. However, you can still admire the horned graves respectfully from outside the fence.