chapter  6
23 Pages

Rites of Passage

By the grave of a holy man in the middle of the ruins of Merv, there is a tree covered with hundreds of tiny pieces of fabric. Here and there flashes of bright red and blue remain, but most of the colours have been bleached away by the unrelenting sun. One rag hangs from a twig like a tiny cradle {Plate 14). Like most of the others, it represents the pitiful prayer of an infertile woman. Many of the fertility rituals practised by Turkmen women over the centuries continue little changed in a society that still values large families above almost anything else.