“The Zar Tales”, Chapter 9

September 29, 2014

Full Moon, March 2011



(thanks to ritabay.com  Tariq the Tuareg)

(Note:   Berbers are known to wear indigo dyed cloth as headgear.  The indigo bleeds into the skin of men from the desert.  Below their eyes, where the cloth hugs their face, the faint color of the indigo is permanently seen.  They are called “The Blue Men of the Sahara”).



The Mullahs left in the afternoon before dark settled for the region was full of cliffs and sudden drops off narrow roads. They had to get through the roughest terrain before dark.

The sedan was a large car, roomy enough for the three Mullahs to sit in the back seat and talk about the proceedings of the day. They were pleased with themselves, and felt they had rendered justice, as Allah would in the case of Shakira Sheikha and her illegal zars. This would be enough to quash any more such ideas in this village for a while, but they were still troubled. The zar ritual was springing up all over these regions, and they went back to the pagan gods these ignorant people still secretly worshiped. They agreed that the old Mullah Kaleel would have to be replaced soon. He didn’t have the strength or forcefulness to keep these villages in line. He was so ancient he had one foot in the grave already.

The Mullahs did not know the region, so they did not concern themselves with where the driver was going. They barely noticed him, with his thin face, hawk-nosed and wearing a strange blue turban. It was impossible to tell how old he was, and except for nodding and bowing, he did not utter a sound. They dismissed him as an ignorant peasant, perhaps a villager who made a living driving from the mountains to the bigger towns and then to cities. He was too insignificant to engage in conversation beyond being civil, so the Mullahs did not bother themselves with him.

However, after a while, one became concerned. They seemed to leave the village and head downward, past forests and over a valley, but then the road rose again into the mountains. When one of the Mullahs asked the driver where they were, all he got was a garble of words in a strange dialect. The only words they could understand were, ‘rock slide’, ‘other road’ and of course, ‘Allah’. This last sounded a bit like “Ammon” but the loose rocks from the road bouncing up under the chassis of the car made his speech even more garbled.

There was little they could do, except trust Allah and the driver. So darkness fell, and it was a very dark night. The moon in its cycle would rise that night, but until then, the only light came from the head beams of the car. Suddenly it stopped, dead in the road. The driver turned from his seat and addressed the Mullahs in his strange dialect.

‘Out! Out! This is the end of the road for you!”

These words the Mullahs understood. Perhaps something had happened to the car. So, being intelligent men, they opened the door and got out into the black night. Only the head beams illuminated the road before them. Suddenly the lamps cut off and it took a few minutes for the Mullahs eyes to adjust to the dark. They could see the surrounding mountain ranges off in the distance, for the moon finally rose above a mountain. Ah! All was made clear, and they could see where the road continued, now down the mountain, and off to the right of the road, a forest. In fact, the forest was thick, totally black, and the moon did nothing to illuminate the trees.

Suddenly, there were men…..or what looked like men in the middle of the road! But there was something strange, for these men seemed to float in an errie way upon the surface. They were dressed in long robes, and some wore dark, blue turbans. They all seemed to be tall men, but that could be an illusion from their wavering movement. Their sudden appearance was enough to raise the hair on the necks of the Mullahs. Though the night air was warm enough, each Mullah shivered and muttered Allah’s name under his breath.

One, two, a dozen men came forward down the road towards them. They must be robbers, highwaymen in the middle of the mountains, setting upon travelers from the cities and towns passing through these isolated villages. The driver must have been one of them! He led them right into this trap! Well, they had little money about them, so the pickings would be small.

The chief Mullah, the man that pronounced the sentence upon Shakira Sheikha, stepped up firmly and addressed the bobbing line of ‘men’.

“We are the appointed Mullahs of the Religious Authorities of Ankara, Praise Allah the One God! We are here on official business and demand that you let us pass.”

There was silence from the men who seemed more like vaporous ghosts to the human eye. Then the line parted in the middle, and a man stepped forth. He was tall, dressed in a white robe, and had an indigo blue turban on his head. His eyes, even in the dim light of the moon, sparkled with a particular flame. He had a short curved sword pushed through his girdle at his waist. He was obviously the leader.

“We know who you are. We know you are the Mullahs from Ankara who came to sit in judgment of the Sheikha. We also know the sentence you pronounced upon her head today.”

“Who are you to know all of this?” The voice of the chief Mullah rang out into the night. His eyes flashed, but there was fear along with challenge in them.

A low laugh came from the ranks of the men standing in the road behind the indigo turbaned speaker. It passed over the Mullahs like the wind from the mountains, soft and haunting to their ears. It did not sound like human laughter. The Mullahs shivered.

“We are Zars, you should have figured that out by now. And we are here to pronounce our own judgement upon you.”

“Zars! In the name of Allah! You do not exist!”

A low laughter again kicked up from the line of men standing there. This time it sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.

“In the name of your Allah, and our Ammon, we do exist. We stand before you in judgement and will provide our own sentences upon your heads.”

The Mullahs were herded to a clearing, deep in the woods. They stood together, fearful, angry and disbelieving their eyes. The Zars seemed to command the moon, for it rose and illuminated the clearing like torches set in the surrounding trees. The Zars floated up in those trees, settling in for the night’s entertainment.  Ali, the speaker and the leader of these Zars, and because of his connection to the condemned Shakira, was the judge of the Mullahs. He would make short work of the matter before him, for he was a merciful man, or was a thousand years before becoming a Zar. But first he signaled to Emir now perched like a Zar-fruit in a branch of a tree.

Emir had been writing the rest of his poem in his head. This was the poem he never could seem to finish over the long centuries. The situation before him gave a nudge and a push he had not opportunity to use before. So, he jumped down, or actually floated down with a poem in his mouth, and addressing the Mullahs, recited that which had eluded him for centuries.

Clearing his throat, Emir, who in his past, mortal life had been truly a second rate Persian poet, addressed the Mullahs now in the center of the clearing in a melodious voice.

“Take to delight the presence
that from this two-way abode
we would not meet each other
once we pass through.

For our chance meeting is but
A reflection of life’s mysteries
Not to be counted upon,
but to acknowledge the wonder.

You have barred our spirits from Paradise!
You, and your God, have condemned us
To wander the earth inconsolable to human kindness.

Now is the time for our answer!
Now is the time for the quick slash
Of a sword!

Now we delight that we will not
Meet again
Once you pass through this
Vale of tears you have created.

Heaven or Hell-
You have made it the same.”

Emir’s voice rang through the nighttime air and seemed to reach up to the moon. Even Ali, a far better poet, was impressed with Emir’s words. The Mullahs eyes shone like satellite moons, for their fear made the full moon catch the whites of their eyes.

Ali, the judge, gazed at each Zar-fruit hanging in the trees.
He looked at each pointedly, and received a nod from each one. Then, in a strong voice, he spoke to the Mullahs standing before him.

“In the name of Ammon and Isis, our ancient God and Goddess, who you attempt to crush out of the memories of our tribes, I condemn you to your own Paradise with your One God Allah to comfort you. This is done not only for the offense to Shakira Sheikha and to the women of our villages, but also for the more terrible offense that you have done to other’s Gods over the past thirteen centuries. May your Allah have mercy upon your souls.”

There was a rustle of wind, sounding like leaves whipping up from the bottom of the trees, but it was night time and there was no wind. It was the sound of three curved, Berber swords whipping through the clearing and taking the heads of three Mullahs. They stood for a long few seconds, headless, their blood spilling down over their robes, and then they crumbled together and fell in a heap, much like Shakira had fallen at her trial, but with their blood staining the forest floor.

The Zars had their revenge, and so did Ammon, but there was a problem. What to do with the bodies of the Mullahs?

The Zars were Demons and there is a very old custom amongst these type of spirits. They would roast the Mullahs in a grand barbecue, push the car over the cliff and go home that dawn.

And the Spirits were made Flesh, thanks to the Mullahs.

So they did, and thought the Mullahs were old men, they were tasty enough, and in this partaking of sacred flesh, the Zars were transformed into men, or enough to look like men, but still with the particular humor and talents and skills of Zars. Even Emir’s poetry improved, for now he could taste and touch and smell and make love to the woman he possessed and this transformed his poetry.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VIII

September 24, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010


Mayor Nageesh called to the women clustered around the door. Four entered and seeing Shakira lying in a black, formless heap, uttered loud cries. The chief Mullah raised his voice over the women moans and admonished them sharply.

“She is not dead. She has just swooned. Do not be stupid women. Take her to her house and attend her there. Do not let her out of your sight. I command you in the name of the Ankara Authorities to do this.”

The four women, Leila amongst them, gathered up Shakira from the floor and carried her from the room. Other village women stood outside and their cries rose up like a flock of startled birds. They quickly carried Shakira home and lay her down on the bed, chaffing her wrists and putting wet cloths on her brow. She revived and looked around in confusion. Trying to sit up, she was kept from doing so by hands holding her down. The women’s soft murmurs sounded like the clucking of worried hens to her ears. Then, within a moment’s revival, she remembered why she had swooned, and fell back stunned, too shocked even for the mercy of tears.

The women’s sound became like a hive of bees to her ears, irritating, annoying and she tried to cut out the noise by tightly squeezing her eyes. Then the tears came, and they rolled down her face in a steady stream. Seeing her distress, the others close to her started their own moans and tears and before long, like a nursery where one baby starts to cry, all the women were giving vent to their own personal grief.

Aiiiiiyeee! Our beloved Sheikha is to be taken from us. Our days of laughter are over. The blessings of the Zar are to be crushed into the dust. Our tears and wails are for all women, for our future is doomed!

Word passed quickly throughout the village as to the Sheikha’s sentence. There was shock and disbelief, and even those men who didn’t like the fact that their women disappeared to Shakira’s house to smoke and drink and laugh, were distressed at the severity of the sentence.

Ten years!

That evening, when the Mullahs left for the long trip back over the mountain and through the valleys and forests, the men gathered. They talked amongst themselves, sharing the hookah, the sweet scent of their tobacco rising amongst their soft babble like vaporous ghosts.

This did not portend well for their village, what the mullahs had done this day. No, it was not good at all! Their women would make lives more difficult until time had quieted and dulled the emotions.

Aiyee! Allah! In your greatness, could you not have done something else here? Could you not think farther down the road to what the men now would suffer? Ah, the fury of the women would be subtle, but constant.

Each man thought of how his life would suffer. The silence, at other times welcome from the babble of women, would be heavy with accusation. First there would be tasteless dishes, then angry words, then no comfort in bed from their heavy thighs and perfumed hands. No, all they could expect were turned backs and mouths of bitterness. The men would be punished along with Shakira, and though her sentence was long, theirs would be heavy, compounded by each house and by each torment that an angry wife could conceive.

They talked through the soft summer evening, each afraid to go home. They knew what they would face. They even talked about recalling the Mullahs and protesting the sentence on the Sheikha, for now, Shakira seemed to become even their Sheikha, not only the women’s. It was funny how things worked, but something deep in the fabric of the village had been disturbed. And now, their lives would be made less comfortable because of it. But what could they do? They had never questioned the authority of the Mullahs nor those in religious power.

Ah! Allah! Restore the peace to our lives! Restore our mundane routine with our wives! Give us back the solitude we threw to the winds when we complained of our women’s frolicking with our Shakira Sheikha!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VII

September 20, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010

Zar Dancer


“You have been accused, Shakira Arsan, of holding the zar in this village for the women. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Shakira sat on a chair in front of the three visiting Mullahs. This was no investigation. They had jumped to a fast trial. The mullahs sat behind a long, covered table, and she was like a specimen displayed in front of their dark, accusing eyes.

She was dressed in black robes and covered her head with a scarf, something she did only when required. She knew the charges were serious and she could be imprisoned for violating the religious laws.

It was whispered the mullahs were concerned with how the women would react. Already Leila had been listening to her husband talk to the visiting men through the door, her ear pressed firmly. They were aware the Mayor would have his hands full if proceedings went hard on Shakira. The women would show their heels and the men would suffer. How much, was not known, but the men’s comfort seemed a factor in their concerns. As to the women, well women were made to suffer, blessed be the one God, Allah! He restored the balance on Earth and ruled the Universe with his wisdom, Shakira thought sourly.

Shakira talked with Ali before this encounter with the Mullahs. She was nervous and agitated and Ali did what he could to placate her nerves. He told her if she was stoned to death, he would claim her spirit and together they would ride the clouds and float over mountains for eternity. This was little solace to Shakira, and she rolled her dark eyes at him in disgust. Ah! Men were a torment in life, but Demons reached far beyond with their needling.

Ali was little comfort to her and she did not raise his anger with more questions. She saw how he reacted when she pressed him, and avoided discord where she could. He seemed pre occupied, spent hours smoking his hookah, silent except to answer her stares with a wry smile. He disappeared frequently, coming in at dawn. The smell of hashish was like a vaporous ghost clinging to his own wavering spirit. He was plotting something, but Shakira finally had the good sense not to ask what.

Since word had gone out that she was to be called before the Mullahs, many women would walk past her house with their eyes cast to the ground. Only Leila, her kinswoman, would visit her and commiserate. Leila was the best source of what was planned, but had very little knowledge. What Shakira did know was from the gatherings of eavesdropping, and that was little enough for comfort. She had never felt so alone and abandoned, and the disembodied spirit of Ali did not give her enough substance to placate her fears. He tried to comfort her in the usual ways, but his efforts in bed did not calm her.

She was brought back to the present by the voice of one of the mullahs.

“Shakira Arsan.”

Shakira’s eyes focused on the mustache of the speaker. It looked surreal, like a snake had crawled up under his nose, twitching with his words.

“Allah the One God is the Merciful One. It is not our intent to destroy you but to reclaim you for the One true religion, which is Islam. These villages in the mountains have a long history of pagan gods. You fall into their hands when you hold the zars. Plus, you corrupt the women in the village and turn them from the true face of Allah. Your crime here is far reaching, but we are merciful men, thanks be to Allah, who guides us in our work and judgment.”

There was a moment of silence before the mullah spoke.

“Do you have some final words before we pass sentence upon you?”

Shakira’s eyes were studying the floor before her. She was scared, because, regardless the tone of the mullahs, they represented the religious authority of the country.

Oh, Goddess Nut! Protect me in my hour of need! Save my life and let me continue the work among women! We are besieged upon all sides by their One God and the men. Give me your blessing and protection I beseech you, Blessed Mother!

Shakira shivered, though the room was hot and the flies circled her head like she was already a dead carcass in the sun. What could she say to these men? How could they possibly understand the needs of women? How could they be sympathetic to the status and comfort and dignity of women who were less than donkeys to these men?

Mother Nut! Give strength to my tongue. If these men refuse to see with their eyes, let them feel with their hearts. Let my tongue give truth and grace to my words. If nothing else, let these words live after my death.

It was not clear to Shakira whether the Goddess Nut heard her words, but her tongue was made bold. She took a deep breath, and trance-like, narrowed her eyes and let them unfocus. No longer were four old men before her, but the wall opened up and she saw the valleys and mountains. She heard the comforting babble of the brooks as they ran into the river, and smelled the sweet smell of grasses in the valley. The caressing fingers of the evening wind surrounded her.

In a trance, brought both upon by fear and comforting habit, Shakira spoke.

“The women of this village have many problems. We toil in the fields for long hours. We keep house and bake the bread and prepare the meals. We weave the cloth and make the clothes that cover our families. We give birth to children with only an old midwife to attend us, with no medical help when things go wrong. The mountains isolate us from our relatives and many of the younger people have left for the cities for a better life.”

The men seemed to be listening carefully to her words.

“Ah! Life is hard for men and women, but especially hard for women. We have little to sustain us. The weddings, births, funerals are all we have. The Zar rituals are a time for us to find joy in life, to find song and laughter in our souls. These rituals fill the holes deep within our hearts. They answer the pain we women feel. They sustain us for further life. They answer to the suffering that is the lot of all women, even if only a little part of it. These small Zar festivals lift our souls to Heaven and reunite our hearts with our dead children.”

Shakira spoke from the authority of her many years in this village, and though she did not focus on their faces, at least the Mayor’s heart was moved. Tears formed in his eyes, and his features softened. Ah! This woman before them had the heart of a poet!

Though she be just a woman.

The visiting mullahs were not so impressed. They had no connection with Shakira Sheikha and to them, she was a bothersome woman. The lead mullah spoke with some impatience in his voice.

“Shakira Arsan. You have turned the eyes and hearts and minds of these women from the one source of comfort, the One God, Allah! For this, you have not only disregarded the law, but you have also encouraged the other women here in this village to do the same by your example.”

Shakira fell back in her chair. Ah Goddess Nut, soften the hearts of these men! If not to save my life, save the lives of the other women who stand accused as I

“Stand and hear your sentence, and remember that Allah is the Merciful God!”

Shakira stood on her feet, but felt she would swoon. The words came to her ears, but they seemed so far away.

“Shakira Arsan, you have been condemned before the authority of the Mullahs, representing the Religious Laws of Islam, the Shari’a authority, which charges and condemns you for following false gods and influencing other gullible women. Your sentence is merciful, for we take into account that you are a woman and not to be judged with the severity of a man, for you are ignorant and weak as Allah has made you. Therefore, you will be taken within three days from this village and you will be imprisoned in the Women’s Prison in Ankara for the duration of ten years.”

A buzzing filled Shakira’s ears. It seemed time had stopped.

“May Allah have mercy on you!”

It was too much. Shakira’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell in a dull, black heap before the Mullahs. The only mercy in the room was this, and it was small comfort.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014, “The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VI.

September 18, 2014



The heat of the day faded and the soft, cooling winds came down from the mountain, swirling around the trees in the woods. The village was high up the mountain, with pine forests peppering the area. Ali and other Zars met in a clearing, far up that mountain, hidden from any mortals who might travel up the steep terrain. It was easy for the Zars, for they could float upwards, where they would perch on tree branches. They gathered to smoke the sweet hashish together and discuss details of the mortals around them. They would fill the bowl at the top of a big hookah, light it with a little small magic, sit cross-legged around the big glass bottomed pipe and each take a hose and suck in a lungful of the potent smoke. After a while each Zar would float to a branch in a tree, until the trees surrounding the clearing were hung with glimmering Zar-fruit.

Most of the Zars were around the same age. They were transformed into Demons at a time of life when they were still full of the vitality of men, just not their mortal lives. However they became to be, and of course the reasons varied, they seemed to have mortal interests. They gathered to discuss the business and gossip of the villages, the politics, the secrets and rumours of the prominent. Like men everywhere, they complained and groaned about the women they possessed. If human ears could hear this Zar-talk, they would hear the common, everyday concerns of men. Alas, they would only hear the sighing of the wind, the rustle of leaves whirled by eddies of air swept down from the mountain passes. No language for mortal ears to discern, but a constant moaning in the woods, enough to make a man turn back and run down to the world he knew. The woods in this region were known to be haunted by spirits, and though they suspected there were Zars up there, no one had ever seen evidence. There was just the sigh of the wind and the sweet lingering smell of hashish.

This evening the Zar-fruit discussed the Shahnamah. For thirteen centuries this book of wisdom ran like a river through the minds of Persians to the ultimate ocean of life. The book spoke of wisdom, and to some of the men-spirits this was to know good from evil. To others, sitting on the branches, with eyes distant and unfocused by the hashish, wisdom was the dispensing of justice and fairness. Whatever an individual Zar thought, there was sure to be an opposing opinion. For Adil, Benan, Emir, Ali, Hasan, and quiet Derin, all were Zars of intelligence and former distinction. At one point, Emir, who was considered by some to be a poet, quoted an old verse he had worked upon for many centuries. He revisited the garden of memories to versify his experience and refine it now when mortal toil was beyond his reach.

“Take to delight the presence
from this two-way abode.
We would not meet each other
Once we pass through.”

Ah! To some of the Zars this was the sad essence of life. To others, it was not. Good they had taken of the pipe before they began to discuss Emir’s verse, for the argument could have grown fierce. Sadly, they were just spirits. Their impact upon mankind was long past.

But not in the plans of Ali.

In life, he had been a Berber chieftain of the Tuaregs tribe. He was a natural leader of men, had been known for his courage and fierce sword play. He had stood on the edge of the desert, robed in blue gowns and indigo veils, looking out from his encampment, and counted the horses grazing before him. He had raided other tribes, and the scars on his body were the badges of his courage. He was a tall man in life, with flashing dark eyes and flowing dark hair he wore braided with gold coins. Gold earrings glittered in his ears and a gold torque around his neck signified his status in the tribe. He came from warriors, and his young sons by his wives would be raised as warriors.

He was killed by a traitor while in the arms of his second wife, in the throngs of passion. When he was judged by the Mullahs in Paradise he was found wanting, for he had chosen to remain with the gods and goddesses of his ancestors. Plus he made the foolish mistake of not having his sword by his side. This condemned him more for they once had been men themselves. So Ali ben Gaia du Naravas, first son of the illustrious father of the tribe, and a new Berber poet, was cast out of Paradise, and condemned and branded a Demon. No longer would the smell of the wind from the desert fill his nostrils. No longer would he see the sun fall to the horizon over endless dunes. He would not hear the ney and soft drums played by Berber tribesmen around a fire at night, nor see the women dance, their hair swirling outward like black waves upon a roiling nighttime sea.

Ali’s fate was to roam the mountains far north of the desert, where other demons, some with similar crimes, some from countries unknown to him, shared their sad stories and their longings for home and family. Most had been wandering for thousands of years, taking residence where they could fine suitable quarters. Ali was fortunate in the choice of Shakira, for she was intelligent and comely. She was also passionate and demanding. Ali expected to remain with her for a long time, though it was a matter of opinion who was possessed by whom. Ah! That Shakira was a strong woman, and never boring. Sometimes annoying but all women were to some extent.

These mullahs would upset the apple cart in the name of their one God, Allah. He was a jealous god, no different from the Christian’s Christ or whoever the Jew’s God was when you thought about it. Ali missed the tolerant and easy gods of his youth. So, he had a reason for bringing together these Zars this fine evening. If he could get these hashish-sodden demons to agree, together they could have one sweet revenge on the Mullahs.

“Ali my friend!” Hasan , from a village across the great ridge, called out to Ali.

“We hear all over the mountain the Mullahs from Ankara are interested in our women. What do you my fine friend, know of these rumors?”

Ali smiled from his perch in an alder tree. His white teeth gleamed like bleached bones in the gathering darkness.

“Hasan, my brother! I hear the Mullahs have been warned by the mayor of our village that our women are holding zars. They must stick their narrow noses where the women are concerned.”

The sound of sighing wind was heard amongst the trees. This concerned them all, and they struggled to focus their attention on the words of both men.

“Ah”, chimed in Benan, from the village closest to Ali’s. “So that’s why those men were closed up for a day. Our elders went from the mosque to the home of Imam Kaleel and stayed there for hours. I only heard bits and pieces over the wind. May Ammon and Isis protect us!”

At the mention of these two earliest gods of the Berbers and their cousins, the Egyptians, the Zar Demons kissed their closed fist and touched their foreheads in the old Berber self-blessing.

Ali’s eyes flashed, his heart lept in his chest. Each Zar perched on a branch would have had the same reaction. Ah, thought Ali. Our Gods are forbidden to us. The religion of the Arabs has replaced the true religion of our ancestors. Ammon will have his revenge. The defeat of our culture has taken them ten centuries, but there still is resistance amongst our living tribesmen to the north and south of the desert.
Berbers still, and with this Ali concocted a plan.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapters IV and V.

September 13, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010


Mr. Mazud Nageesh sat at his desk, pondering the information before him. His wife Leila, attending the Zar ritual at Sheikha Shakira’s house was a further complication.

Ah! Women and their issues certainly screwed a peaceful life! They were essential to men’s comfort, and they continued the bloodlines, but by Allah’s Exalted Name in Paradise…they troubled a peaceful man!

Mr. Nageesh thought through his options. If he ignored the activity of the women, winked at their Zars, his own leadership of the village could be called into question and he could be removed from office. Things could go worse than that for him.

Then, there was his marriage. Leila had been a good if stubborn wife for over thirty years. The man was supposed to rule the house, but any man married that long knew who actually ruled. It was always the women who had real power. At his age he longed for peace and quiet, and if at times he walked on eggshells around the women of his household, well, it was only because he was a wise man.

But Leila was at the zar, and playing her tamboura. It would not be possible to ignore her presence at Sheikha Shakira’s house. Perhaps there was a way around the behavior of the women, but at this time, he didn’t know what it was. The situation was like a sour pickle and however he held his mouth, it would be bitter.

There didn’t seem any way out. Sighing deeply, he resolved to contact the proper authorities in the nearest city for guidance. But he would sit on it for a while, think of some options, and as long as he did something, what was the reasoning to rush? Better to run into a lion’s mouth where religion and women were concerned than mess with the authorities.

Ah! Allah the Merciful! What was the difference between lions, women and religion? You got chewed up all ways!


Leila caught wind of her husband’s plans. It was easy, for thirty years of marriage gave sharp insight into the workings of any married man if you were paying even a little attention. A few questions, a few mumbled responses, a bit of shouting and Leila had her answers. Her stupid husband would meddle in women’s affairs for the sake of his position and now only grief and trouble would follow.

Ah! Allah listen to the women’s plight! Even if you are a Man-God.

Perhaps cousin Shakira was right. Perhaps Goddess Nut was where she should take her concerns. Allah seemed to be doing right well by the men, and the women’s suffering didn’t abate.

Leila went to Shakira and together they sat and drank sweet mint tea, Shakira pouring it high into the pot three times so it would foam properly.

“So, this is what I know, cousin, though it took a bit of work to learn Mazud’s plans.”

Leila sipped her mint tea, her eyes looking at Shakira’s face over the rim of her tiny glass.

Shakira’s concern was obvious, her brows crinkling with concentration. Shakira called upon Nut silently, for she was needed to address all women’s concerns.

Mother Nut? Help us!

“Leila”, began Shakira, addressing her cousin in a lowered voice. “Who has he talked to? Is it anyone local?”

“Ah….from what I could get from him, and what I heard through the wall when he spoke on the phone in his office, he first talked to the old mullah, that ancient fart in the next district, what is his name? Imam Kaleel? Yes, that is his name. He is half blind with age and clinging to life. Allah push him over the cliff.”

They both laughed. Allah could at times be reasonable.

“Then the Imam will go to others for advice.” Shakira sipped her tea, deep in thought.

Yes, there would be trouble, no doubt about it. The zars would be too much of a target for the men to resist. This would have to be addressed, and soon.

“Well, cousin”. Leila’s voice cut into Shakira’s thoughts. “What do you propose? Surely there is something we can do? It is too good a thing to lose to the men. What should we do?”

“Let me think a while, Leila. Let me think.”

Shakira knew how important this was. The zars must continue. But how? The mullahs had supreme power, but the women needed the zars for so many reasons. Things were worked out in the zars. Health was restored by the zars. Her precious Ali had come to her at a zar. Shakira shook her head to clear her thoughts.

Ah! Mother Nut! Come to me at night in my dreams! Come to me with some answers!

The Goddess Nut did speak to Shakira. She came to her in a dream but her answer was not in the form she expected. In her dream, a smiling Nut spread herself over Shakira, caressing her with her sweet breath, dripping the milk of her breasts into Shakira’s mouth, and perfuming her skin with the scent of her hair. Nut rubbed her strong limbs on Shakira’s and made her sound her joy cry in her sleep! Shakira awoke suddenly, thinking of Ali and his lovemaking! Ah! Ali was no where to be found, but Shakira was given a vision by her dream. Still, her holy place felt a faint sweet ache left over from her sleep, and she knew then Nut had visited her. She knew Nut was wise and would lead her in this troubling time. She would turn to Ali and confide in him.

So she did. As soon as she saw him, she decided to throw it all at his feet and implore his advice and help. Even though he was spirit, he still was a man, and men sometimes were wise in these issues. Well, at least she hoped Ali would know what to do.

But first she would make an effort to appeal to him. Ali, like any man, liked the efforts of a woman attempting to please. He may only be spirit, but he still was enough of a man to remember the old ways.

So Shakira made a sweet feast of stuffed dates, and Turkish delight candies, and sugared almonds and candied fruits and golden raisins stuck together in a rich nougat and roasted her best beans for coffee. She washed her long hair and rinsed in rosewater, and dried it in the sun on the roof of her house, where it sparkled like gems in the sunshine. She rubbed almond oil into her heated skin on the roof, and rubbed some into her bush of black hair beneath. She hennaed the palms of her hands with designs and the tops of her feet, and dressed in a white, embroidered cotton gown that was fine enough to show the dark rings of her nipples beneath. But just for good measure, she also applied the brick red henna to her nipples first to make sure that they looked like two eyes looking seductively out at Ali from beneath the thin lawn fabric. Ah! If this didn’t make his ney rise from his loins, then all the art in Persia was dead, along with its manhood!


Ali sat on the low bed, in his usual position, hovering a few inches from the Turkish rug. He smoked his hookah, and the apple- dried tobacco floated out through the piping. Since Ali was mostly spirit, it circled in his lungs, visible to the eyes of Shakira. When Ali was pleased or aroused, he shimmered with a golden gleam, and Shakira did not fail to notice his interest. Ali never touched the food offered him, for he did not live on such substance of mortals. But his eyes widened when he saw Shakira standing before him, and she saw that he was pleased. Her nipples hardened and ached and seem to stretch their now reddened buds towards him sitting before her.

“Ya Habibi”, began Shakira, settling herself on a mound of pillows next to Ali. “There is talk amongst our mayor and men about the women’s zars. I have heard the old Iman Kaleel has been consulted by Mayor Nageesh.”

Shakira took a bite of a stuffed date, and looked at Ali siting next to her. Ah! He was handsome this morning, with his robes sparkling in gold dust and the sweet smell of the tobacco surrounding his head like a vaporous crown.

Ali continued to puff on his hookah, his face dissolving in the smoke. He did not look at Shakira, but with eyes half closed, seemed lost in his own thoughts. He did not immediately answer her, but continued to pull languidly on his pipe.

“It is more than just Imam Kaleel who has knowledge of what you women do.” Ali blew out a long plume of smoke.

“News has rolled like a stone from a hill down to the valley. Now the mullahs in the district know what goes on here, for your Mayor Nageesh is out to protect his good name.”

Shakira was surprised, but then again, Ali was spirit and would be able to gather information unseen. That was a definite advantage over mortals. He didn’t stand with his ear to the wall like Leila. She also knew Ali would not share how he obtained this knowledge. He was a spirit of mystery, after all.

And a man.


Shakira’s voice was sweet as mashed dates and cut through Ali’s smoke seductively.

“What do you think I should do? What should we women do to protect ourselves?”

Shakira could see a smile forming on Ali’s lips, even through the smoke. His smile broadened, but still he did not look at her.

“Ah, women! They do not change much through the centuries. They dig holes in the ground and complain when they fall in.”

He blew out a long stream of smoke, obscuring his face completely. Shakira could sense his mirth, for his spirit-body vibrated with his silent laughter.

“You should have asked my advice before you held your zars and I would have told you my opinion.”

Shakira’s mood changed from cajoling to anger.

Just like a man! Hah! He doesn’t remember the role his own zar played in his past. I could have left him in stupid Aya’s womb and he would still be unhappy.

Demon Ali must have sensed her thoughts for he changed his position slightly, and laid down the hose from the hookah.

“Look, Shakira. You have involved yourself and the others in a dangerous thing. The mullahs have cracked down all over the country on zars. This you well knew. Your rebellion against the men has been too open. Had you been smarter, you would not be so worried now.”

Shakira exploded.

“Alright, Mighty Zar! I have played the foolish woman and now you have your satisfaction! Your wisdom is more than my own, though I am called Sheikha. What can I do to make you help me?

“Ah! You want my help? All you had to do is ask.” Ali the Demon vibrated with laughter.

“I am asking, Ali, I am begging for your help. I am lost which way to go. I am lost.”

Now Ali the Demon turned to look at Shakira propped up on the rich colored cushions beneath him. His eyes softened and he folded his arms across his chest and golden stardust rose from his movements. His voice was serious but still a hint of laughter was there as he spoke in low tones to this woman.

“You and the others do nothing. Tell them to be obedient wives to their husbands. Tell them to act sweetly and talk in pleasing, melodious tones and not to challenge them. Tell them to act as white doves and bring honor to their house. I will do the rest.”

Shakira, being an intelligent and curious woman, could not resist. “What Ali, do you plan on doing?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake.

Ali the Demon’s eyes grew dark, and his face scowled with thunder. Shakira had never seen him in such a state, and shrunk back on her pillows. Her heart thumped as if she had seen a horrible jinn in the black of night, and sweat rose on her skin in fright.

Ali saw her fear, could smell it with his sharpened senses, and curbed his anger as well as he could.

“Woman, it is enough for you to know I will fix what you have broken. It is not for you to question what I do. I am not your husband, but you apply the same advice here as you tell the other women. Now, I desire soft music and the perfume of your body in my nostrils and my ney within your woman’s bush. I will play the flute and you will dance for me. But you take off that gown. I prefer to see your skin glisten with your almond oil, and to see your flesh roll in the morning light. This is what you will do for me and I will take care of your mess. But ask me not again my plans. You would not want to know. Have faith in your beloved.”

Ah! Shakira knew a strong and determined man when she heard one. And since she had no power against the mullahs, she was glad to leave it to Ali. There are times when a man is a necessity in life, and this was a prime example. He might be spirit, but there was enough man in that spirit to hide behind.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009-2014. “The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com, 2009

“9-11″,….. a poem dedicated to my aunt Jean.

September 10, 2014

This poem was the favorite of my Aunt Jean Kohut, who died at almost 102 July 28, 2014. She was from Hungary and this courageous young woman at 24 years old, sailed back on the Queen Mary to Hungary to defend her parent’s property rights before the Hungarian court. In 1936 all state institutions, courts, etc. were already taken over by the Nazis. Of course she lost, but the miracle was her courage in facing these circumstances. She could have been jailed or shot.

Aunt Jean knew most of the Astronauts and had signed photos framed on her walls. To say that she was patriotic is an understatement. She was buried in her favorite lavender pants suit, wearing her USA tee shirt. She was a fierce intellectual, and a rare woman at that. She wrote extensively of her love for her new country.

Lady Nyo


Painting by Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2006"Eagle" Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005




That beautiful morning–

Teasing taste of early Autumn

The unthinkable happened

And our world stopped turning

I saw the plane, I saw the fire

I saw the smoke descend like

A blanket of blinding grief

Too late to spare those on the ground

The sight of Armageddon.



Mortar-grey people transformed

Into gritty moving statues,

Holding hands, blinded by smoke,

Move down streets where

Paper, bricks, metal, glass rained down

Like the Devil’s Ticket Parade,

Walked in silence towards the bridges,

Barely a moan I am told,

An Exodus unexpected on this

Morning of such seasonal promise.


I saw worse.

I saw people jump

From the ledges, holding hands,

Some with briefcases

And all I could do

Was howl:


“I will catch you!

Jump into my arms

I will not drop you.

Do not be afraid,

Aim for my embracing arms,

With the last of my life—

I will catch you.”


That day of fire and ash,

Inexplicable funeral pyre,

Of brave souls rushing in

And frightened souls rushing out

And the ash, the ash, the ash,

Covered everything like a silent September snow.


Thirteen years later

Grieving when this day approaches,

I hear the words well up in me:


“We will catch you!

Jump into our arms,

We will not drop you.

You will not be forgotten,

With the last of our breath–

We will catch you.”


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 9-11-2011-2014

‘The Zar Tales’, Chapter Three…..

September 8, 2014

"The Zar Tales", just published.....will be on Lulu.com very soon.

-“The Zar Tales”,  published….. on Lulu.com.




Shakira looked around at the women on the floor. Some were smoking, most talking and the sound of clinking bottles were heard though the women tried to muffle it with their robes.

“Aliya, don’t be so stingy with that bottle. Pass it over here, woman.”

“You will guzzle it, and we will have to clean up the mess.” Laugher sounded throughout the room. Some of the women sipped from the hidden and forbidden bottles of their husbands. They were not the young ones.

Give them time, thought Shakira, the wine will flow as easy as their tongues and their laughter.

It was not often they could gather, and each yearned for a time where inhibitions would lessen and gossip, the welcome companion of women, was allowed.

“Jassa”, called Shakira, “come spread the cloth on the altar. We must do this properly if

we are to catch a Zar tonight.”

“Perhaps cousin we catch two Zars tonight. My Farah has been complaining of stomach troubles and maybe a Zar has gripped her middle.”

Shakira shook her head and laughed. “Farah eats too many dates and she is fat as a ewe. No Zar would have room to lodge in her stomach. Too much food in there. 

Dried fruit, stuffed dates, nuts and sweet breads were passed around on large trays. A large brass one was placed on the altar, made of a high stool in the middle of the room. This was for the spirits who happened to come wandering in during the drumming. No mortal would dare touch that offering.

A number of women had dumbeks, brought to the house smuggled under their voluminous robes. The tamboura , an ancient lyre-like instrument, was already in the hands of Leila, and she busy tuning it to suit the mood of the evening. Leila usually started with sad songs, and as the wine made the rounds, the tempo of the tamboura , followed by the dumbeks, would increase and the women would make little effort to confine their happiness.

Ah! Life could be good! It was just a matter of side- stepping the men. 

Tonight Shakira had an idea, something she had dreamed of for a while. The festival of the Goddess Nut was approaching, and though no longer celebrated openly Nut was the Goddess closest to the heart of women. Protector of the dead, Nut was also beloved by the living, for she spread her body over the Universe and fed and comforted them from her teats. There was always enough milk from generous Nut and she was beloved by mothers, and most of the women in the village were mothers.

So many babies now in the arms of Nut, resting like stars in her bosom! She had lost her only babe, along with her husband many years ago. So Ali was both to her and tonight she would dance in celebration. Allah was the men’s god, but Nut had the heart and devotion of women.

Leila started to play her tamboura, and slow, sad chords and plaints tumbled from her fingers. Women around the room hushed, listened with their ears and hearts, heads nodding. This was the music reaching up to their wombs and lifting the sorrows off their bosoms. Shakira could imagine the ghosts of children and husbands long gone floating like wisps of smoke in the center of the room. Perhaps they would eat from the sacred tray of sweets. Tonight they would join together, still part of the village though no longer in corporal form. The magic of Leila’s fingers drew forth tears along, perhaps, invisible spirits.

Her playing changed after these sad songs. Gone was the mourning of the women, to be replaced by joyful tunes. Voices were lifted in song and chant, shoulders swayed and hands clapped out a counter rhythm to the drums.

Shakira felt the trance take over her body, slip up her loins and envelop her mind. 


It was a warm embrace, and it wasn’t Ali! Warm enough to make her move with an internal rhythm apart from any conscious intentions.

She was possessed by the Zar trance. 

Shakira rose to her feet and discarded her outer garment. She shook out her arms and rolled her head around.   Her white cotton undergown was loose over her swelling breasts and haunches. She kicked off her sandals and her long black hair streamed down her back, unplaited, flowing like dark waves. She paced around the circle, her body picking up the rhythm of the drums and tamboura, her hips defining a pattern of movement, her arms held out from her body. She was dancing the age-old dance of women, for women, to greet the cares and concerns of their tribe. For, men aside, women were the heart beat of the village, they were the blood coursing through the alleys and up to the well. They were the waters of Life .

Shakira stalked the room, now a tigress, the drums following her, she commanding the rhythm. Shaking, bowing, swaying, each movement mirrored in the watching eyes of the women. She danced alone, but the movements were blood, flesh and muscle of every woman who sat before her. Heads nodded in time with the drums, hands clapped, some women pounded the floor in counter rhythms, swayed with their own bodies in imitation of Shakira’s dancing.   She moved around the room, hips shaking, belly rolling, shoulders thrown back and forth, hair cascading outward like the whirling skirts of the Dervishes of Turkey as she turned in circles, feet pivoting beneath her body, those feet beating out an tattoo that went straight into the earth. 


“Sheikha Shakira dances in the river of life! The Sheikha captures our hearts and lifts them to the Goddesses’ lips!”

“Ayaaa! We dance with you, Shakira!”

Voices were raised in chants, joined together in different harmonies, rising up to the ceiling, taking wing in the nighttime air. Shakira’s feet pounded out rhythms deep, deep into the soil of the floor. Her hands and flinging arms commanded the winds, and the women’s chants rose to the ears of heaven.


Sweat dripped on the face of Leila as she played the tamboura, her fingers flashing on the lyre-like instrument and the drums beat different cadences, creating multi-layered sounds. This drone of music underlay the vocals of the women singing in now- strange harmonies. Pagan magic filled the room and Shakira’s body radiated the energies of an older culture. Gone were the cities, the stuff of modern life, the mullahs, the chadors and berka that veiled the beauties of women and in their place was the teats of nourishing Goddess Nut, spreading her body over the universe, the stars coursing through her body, the planets, the moons, the comets, too. The sun crept up her holy woman’s place at night, to be born out of her mouth at dawn. The moon too, came forth from her body, and the passage of the hours were marked by her Houri, the original women of the night, dancing with lessening veils till they lay under her belly at daybreak, sleeping. 

Praise Nut! Goddess of women. Goddess of our own, time before time, Goddess before any God!


 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2010-2014, The Zar Tales published by Lulu.com, 2010



Life is Good.

September 5, 2014

My beautiful picture

Except for war, except for women in India and Pakistan…hell, all around these more ‘backward’ countries where the rights of women are non existent…..except for Ebola, terrorists, threats, attacks on the children and innocent.

Well, this summer has been quite an adventure.  It’s been a sharp learning curve but things are working out.  The blinders have come off my eyes on any number of issues, and for that I am grateful.  My dear Aunt Jean dying hasn’t really hit me yet, but it will.  I am slow on some of these things.

It was hot this summer at times.  But the good news for me is  I finally finished a novel…..”A Kapitany”…..a Hungarian themed….art thieves, insurance crimes, bdsm, redemption, etc.  LOL!  Not the novel I wanted to finish, but one that was most completed.  Spent the summer  changing tense and tightening up the book.  Will publish it next spring with Createspace….

Talked with my dear friend Bill Penrose last week.   He is well and silver smithing and rock climbing still.  Bill formatted the first three of my books with Lulu.com.  He is an amazing writer and man.  He believed in my writing when I didn’t have a clue.  You can’t buy friends like that and he will always be at the top of my list.

No cats or dogs here died, which is a very different circumstance than last summer when we lost three darlings to old age.  We have three more, a dog at 15 and two cats at the same age, but they are doing great.  We are preparing for winter this fall with a new woodstove:  it’s our 30th wedding anniversary, and we thought to go on a long vacation, but then decided that a new woodstove would last longer…and be more comfortable.  LOL!

I am planning a new and expanded version of “Boundaries, Setting them and meaning them”…..for the blog.  Things happened this summer that brought back to me the importance of such issues.  In particular, a meeting with a fool of a man after more than 40 years.  We will call this man Bubba, because he acted with all the finesse of a lout.  Bubba overstepped every boundary known to women, and he did it with glee.  Or perhaps thoughtlessness.  But I think he thought he could get away with a very self-centered and polluted agenda, so it was purposeful. (Though he couldn’t believe that I would ‘take offense.”  Hah!)   Boundaries are something that every one needs, and why is it so damn hard for most of us women to remember them and put them into action at the immediate time and proper place?  I think it is because our shock that the Bubbas Of The World  would violate them without thought or consideration. It’s because some very stupid men think that they can and it’s acceptable to do so.  Showing me a picture of his naked wife on his phone was just the beginning of the offense.  What a wanker! His poor wife.  And this man thinks he can be taken seriously???  Jesus, good thing this badly aging man didn’t meet my husband.  He would have summed up the offense to me and taken care of the situation, probably in the usual way men deal with insults.  With their fists. Primitive but effectual.  But we don’t usually travel around with our husbands so we have to be alert and faster on our feet. And depend upon ourselves.   Applying boundaries again and letting the chips fall where they will.

But the fall is coming and I love the change of seasons….especially this one.  There is expectation in the air, a cooling of temps which is welcome in the Deep South, and I am ready.  The garden gave a lot of tomatoes and that is about all, but I am planning next year’s garden already.  A better one.

Except for the writing, nothing really new here, except I have slowly gone back to belly dance and the feared flamenco …..mostly for exercise…..with weights.  LOL! Ambitious a bit,, but it’s working.

Life can be a sharp learning curve.  I guess the point is to keep learning and pushing forward.

Lady Nyo




The soil has lost its excellence.

Worms hide in the

Deep sullen earth

I imagine curled up,

Embracing worm castings

And each other,

Desiccated former selves

Pale little ghosts

Awaiting the fertility of spring

The watering of a hard rain.


I squandered the bloom months

Thinking paper and pen

Would bring its own blossoming

Scarcely seeing the vitality outside


Allowing cabbage moths and beetles

To dominate

My nod to farming

To self-sufficiency,

My tithe to the earth.


The soil is hardened

By the sins of the season.

Sharp winds make


The cold buries down,

Deep, deep down

Torments, teases life

Who would show a feckless head.


Especially those hopeful worms

Now bundled in worm-sleep.


The words, verse,

I chose to cultivate

Over cabbage, collards,

Failed to bloom.

Better I had plied the hoe

And bucket to that

Than a fevered pen to paper.


It is now winter

And the fallow earth

Plays a waiting game

Knows I have failed

In pulp and soil

And mocks with a barrenness

I feel inside and out.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014, from “Pitcher of Moon”, published by Createspace, Amazon, 2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter Two

August 31, 2014

Zar Dancer

A Woman possessed by a Zar……


Chapter II.


Of course there had to be a snake in this paradise.  It was the village mayor. He was not happy with the power Shakira had.  For Shakira was a Sheikha, a ‘wise woman’, trained from her mother’s line in the responsibilities of such a position.  Shakira was consulted by the women over many issues. Marriages, birth names, the problems women had over their troublesome men, all these and much more came to Shakira.  She was wise, and known for her sensible opinion.  She had power in her own right.

And this was irksome to the mayor.   Not enough issues came to his desk.  He was a man, and in this world, a man was the one to consult, not a woman!

No, the mayor was up against a force of nature disobedient to the natural order of life. And besides, he heard the women were having too much fun in the opinion of some of the husbands.  There was talk they were planning to meet and drink and smoke and drum and laugh till late at night, but that was just a whispered rumor.  Ah, life was not in the proper order at all!

He, by the authority of his office, would have to make inquiries into this matter.  The women were showing their heels and who knew what would happen next?  Perhaps they would roll their eyes at the Imam!  Perhaps the women would refuse next to go to the mosque!  Who knows with women?  They could create all sorts of mischief, and he, the mayor, would be called to account for it.  Ah!  He owed it to the men, his brothers under the sun,  to find out what was going on.  He owed it to his own reputation and his position in the village to investigate all rumors.  Perhaps if he put his foot down now, his own wife of many years would quiet her voice and heel to his command like a good Muslim wife.  But he had his doubts.  His wife, after all, was related to Shakira.  Ah! That clan stretched back into time, and making his own wife obey was like telling the wind not to blow.  It was the blood of Shakira that made ill in his own house.  Or, at least, it had a part in his problems. 

Well, whatever to come, he owed it to Allah, the one God!  And He was a Man! He would agree with the mayor. That was the natural Order of things.

So the mayor, whose name was Mr. Nageesh, heard that on a certain Friday, when the men were at mosque chanting their prayers, the women were making their way to Shakira’s house.   Mayor Nageesh sent a young boy, not more than twelve, to count those entering the house and see if he could hear anything of their plans.  This young boy lurked in the shadows of a doorway and watched.  At least twelve women had entered the house, some with bundles concealed under their dresses.  What they were carrying was not clear to the boy, but the sound of drumming and laughter and even the sound of suspicious clinking of bottles could be heard from this house after dark.  Worse, the women stayed there for hours. The sound of their ruckus was shameful, even the men could hear it through their snoring.

A Zar!  The women were holding a Zar! What else could it be?   Ah, this was very bad, very, very bad, for the Zar was now illegal. Everyone knew it was banned as pagan by the illustrious council of religious men in the cities.  This would be the end of his office if word of this spread beyond this village.  It was sure to reach the ears of the district and then he would have his hands full.  Or, he thought with a shiver….they could have his head.  It had happened before.  Allah have mercy!


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014



“The Zar Tales”, Chapter One

August 28, 2014



In 2010 I published the novella, “The Zar Tales” with Lulu.com.  It started out as a short story, but had it’s own ideas.  That happens when the characters have more life than was supposed.  The writer loses control and some times that isn’t a bad thing.  This is dedicated to my dear friend of many years, Bill Penrose, who is an excellent writer and believed in my own undeveloped abilities as a writer.

Lady Nyo

Shakira is Sheikha, Wise Woman, leader of the Zar ritual and general organizer of the women  and  women’s issues.  Previously, Ali the Demon has jumped from young Aya to the arms of Shakira, a middle-aged woman. (“A Turkish Tale of A Zar”)  Zars have been outlawed in most Islamic countries since 1983 as pagan worship.  However, it flourishes in rural areas and also in some big cities.  It is considered part of ‘women’s religion’ by the officials and yet it continues in spite of being outlawed.  It is one of the main mental health outlets for women in these countries.  Possession by a Zar usually is a woman’s way of sassing her husband and expressing her unhappiness with marriage and her life.




Shakira, wise woman, daughter of the veil, Sheikha to the village like her mother and grandmother before her…. stood before the window of her small stone house. She could see to the village pump and watch dark clad women like so many black crows, fill their water jugs each morning and again in the afternoon. 

It was still early in the morning, but a sultry wind blew in from the south.  It would be no different than any other day of the season, for the rains would not return until late fall.

Mixing the humble mashed chickpeas, oil and garlic, she prepared the day’s humus. Not a task to try her powers, but one that fed her, important enough. The flat bread was already cooked, the yogurt curdling in the heavy glass jars sitting outside in the sun. 

 She wondered where Ali had gone so early this morning.  Probably lurking around with other Zars on the mountain, playing at knucklebones. 

“Shakira! Have you enough water this morning?  I will draw you some if not.”

A woman walked by the window, her black dress and head scarf no different from any of the other middle aged women.   Except for her voice and that limp from a club foot, she would not be distinguished from any other black robed woman.

“I have enough, Leila, enough for this morning.  Later I will go draw more.”

Leila was Shakira’s relative, their families as mixed as a bowl of wheat and barley. Not much had changed in this mountain village in centuries, except the convenience of electricity, a central, motorized village pump and a few motor cars that brought dignitaries from the far flung cities once a year.   New was old by the time it got to their village, for they were isolated in the mountains of eastern Turkey. 

Shakira’s Ali was a Zar, a demon who came to Shakira for a man’s comfort up under her dress.  He was young, younger than middle-aged Shakira, but he only appeared young. Ali was at least a thousand years old. He was killed by one of his tribesman around the age of thirty. Shakira knew very little about his circumstances, because Ali did not talk.  It was a man’s prerogative to keep secrets, and Ali, though a Zar, was once a man. 

Shakira first saw Ali when he appeared before her a shimmering, golden ghost at the Zar ritual a year ago. She struck a deal with the handsome devil and Ali was glad to jump into the welcoming and much more experienced arms of Shakira.  He had more room to sleep than in the womb of Aya, the young women he formerly possessed. He liked the strong thighs and women’s quarters of Shakira.

At times, when the weather was cooled by breezes blown down from the mountain, Shakira would close her door and draw the curtain over her front window.  In the other room serving as her bedroom she could watch the constellations revolve in the sky from a small window cut high in the wall.  There she would hope to entertain Ali, dancing the slow, sensuous movements, caught in the moonlight from that window. 

“Come, my Habibi, come and comfort me,” Shakira would call out, her eyes closing in expectation, her voice shaking with her need.  And Ali would magically appear, materializing in the room, glowing like a golden shower of tiny stardust. 

 Ali would then sit on her bed, hovering as demons do, a few inches from the woven wool covering.  He would smoke his hookah and his eyes would sparkle through the stardust  as he watched Shakira, now naked, seduce him with her dance.

“My Habibi, I dance for you, I dance with my limbs and my heart and my soul.  Do you like what you see, my dearest?” 

We must remember that Ali was a Zar, a Spirit, and there wasn’t much of flesh on him…or of him.

Somehow Ali would answer her, but not in words.  He would speak into her heart, into her soul and Shakira always heard this unspoken language.

“You are my heart’s delight, my beautiful and wise Shakira.  Your movements would inspire the dead to rise and dance in the streets, so lovely are you to my eyes.” 

 Shakira’s body was mature and ripe, her skin the color of turkish coffee filled to the brim with rich cream.  Her hair was still black as the night, with just a few strands of silver, and when she danced, freed of the day’s covering, it swung in waves down her back to her full, muscular buttocks.  Her belly was rounded and jiggled when she laughed, not like the slim, flat bellied girls like Aya before her baby, but full like the clay jugs made to carry the precious water from the village well.  Her hips were strong and fleshed out like ripe fruit from a sacred and ancient olive tree.  

Shakira had some vanity about her, and since Ali had appeared and taken up residence, she rubbed scented oils into her skin.  In the dim light of the oil lamp, Shakira’s skin rolled and wavered like watered silk.  She raised her strong and muscled limbs above her head, snapping her fingers like zils to her humming.  Her breasts swayed and pushed themselves out proudly, and if they sagged a bit with age, Ali didn’t mind.  She was a woman after all, and the scent of her body and the oils rubbed in her skin put him in a narcotic trance.  Her dark eyes rolled back in her head as her shoulders rolled forward, and her hips gyrated in the age-old movements of seduction. 

Ali was enchanted.  Their nights were filled with  strange lust and if Shakira woke in her bed alone, she was not deserted.  Ali had climbed into her woman’s garden to sleep, folding himself and resting in the warmth below her womb.  She would rub her belly, and say: “Good morning, dearest”, smile and start her day. Some mornings she would feel Ali rush out of her like a warm fart and disappear into the day, off to converse and argue with other Zars around their mountain village.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014


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