Picture It: The Polytheistic Kalash Tribe of Pakistan

When I ran across these jaw-droppingly striking pictures, I couldn't believe I'd never heard of the Kalash Tribe — and I wanted to rectify that immediately. The tribe lives nestled in the North-Western Province of Pakistan. Protected by the Hindu Kush mountain range lives this culture of people Muslims call Kafirs or “infidels”.

Among the region known as Kafiristan lies the town of Brir, considered one of the last remaining settlements of the Kalash — or “wearers of black." Its inhabitants consider themselves the direct descendants of Alexander the Great. The 3,500 souls are the last enclave of pagan tribespeople.

Incredibly, the Kalash have not changed much over the centuries. They make their own wine, elevate animals to religious status and believe in mountaintop fairies. To find out more about the tribe, read more.

Their gods, like those of the ancient Greeks, are split up into male and female deities and they claim they once belonged to highly literate culture until their books were burned by barbarian tribes. Shown in these pictures celebrating their annual Spring festival, the Kalash still maintain a fertility rite where a teenage boy is sent alone into the surrounding woods for a year and when he returns is treated to a feast and the mating rites to as many of the Kalash women he chooses.

They struggle to preserve their identity from encroaching Islamic rule, deforestation, and entrepreneurs who take advantage of their simple natures — as well as the assault of the Justin Timberlake/cell phone/jeans avalanche of the modern world. Here's to hoping they resist — I'm so taken with the fact that real diversity still exists in our ever-shrinking world.

Have you heard of the Kalash? Have you ever seen such beautiful pictures? Is it possible to maintain an untouched culture in our modern age?