Conceptions of Space and Time among the Georgians and Other Peoples of the Caucasus
The Caucasus is a region of great cultural complexity. About 50 languages are spoken in the Caucasus, including three linguistic phyla found there and nowhere else: the Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan), the Northwest Caucasian languages (Abkhaz, Circassian, Kabardan, Ubykh [extinct as of 1992]), and the Northeast Caucasian languages (about 30 languages, including Chechen, Avar, and Lezghin). Over the millennia, the Caucasus became a “haven for remnants in flight,” where “they might hold their peace against the conquerors . . . and scrape a meager life, fall to a great obscurity among the nations, and cause some idle men to wonder on their ancient coming.” (Allen, 1932, p. 27) The region “became a Noah’s ark of eccentric lives, an undiscriminating reserve of esoteric groups and customs.” (Karny, 2000, p. xv) Among these “remnants” are the descendants of a number of famous invading hordes, including the Ossetians (a remnant of the Alans, who arose from the Sarmatians, who arose from the Scythians), the Avars (connected to the Huns), the Balkars (a remnant of the Bulgars), the Kalmyks (the only Buddhists in Europe), and the Tats (“Mountain Jews,” possibly a remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes). The Caucasus may be described as an ethnographic museum; beneath a veneer of nominal Christianity or Islam, most of the peoples of the Caucasus preserve a rich array of ancient pagan customs.
The present paper is a preliminary attempt to make sense of some of this rich cultural material, as expressed in folklore and in a number of literary works, and with particular attention to their assumptions about Space and Time. Such conceptions are of the greatest importance to the specific focus of my research, the practice of Astrology in the Caucasus, as I seek to identify and describe the astrological ideas which appear to be uniquely associated with that region.
Owing to the complex history of the Caucasus, it is very difficult to sort out the various streams of cultural influence, which include indigenous pagan ideas as well as later Zoroastrian, Islamic Persian, Turkish, Arab, Central Asian, Indian, and Russian influences, as well as ideas brought to the Caucasus by merchants, missionaries, and printed books from Western Europe. The identification of specific cultural influences is made still more difficult by the fact that over many centuries, a general “Caucasian” culture came into existence, with its “North Caucasian” (predominantly Muslim) and “South Caucasian” (mainly Georgian, Christian) subdivisions. Thus, many of the customs, deities, and superstitions of the Chechens are shared by the Circassians far to the west, since both fall within the North Caucasian cultural area. It is difficult, often impossible, to ascertain the precise origin of many of these specific ideas and practices.
This semester, I have done a great deal of reading and research on the cultures, peoples, and languages of the Caucasus. The preliminary results of this study are presented here; there is a great deal more to be done with this—there are hundreds of books and articles (including much material in Georgian and Russian) on the history, language, and culture of the dozens of unique ethnic groups which inhabit the Caucasus. The present paper presents a preliminary synthesis of only a small fraction of this material. Parts of this paper have been fully developed, while other parts have been left in outline form. The unfinished sections are indicated by italics.
The Caucasian Linguistic Phyla, and Possible Remote Connections
Linguists have divided the indigenous languages of the Caucasus into three phyla: the Kartvelian languages, the Northwest Caucasian languages, and the Northeast Caucasian languages. In the past, it was often assumed that all three of these were branches of a single macro-family. More recently, it has become apparent that while the Northeast Caucasian and Northwest Caucasian phyla are probably connected, there is no genetic relation between these and the Kartvelian phylum; their observed similarities are the result of areal linguistic influences. In addition to these indigenous phyla, several other linguistic phyla are represented in the Caucasus: the Ossetians speak an Indo-European language; the Kalmyk language is related to Mongolian, while the Azeris, Kumyks, Balkars, Karachays, and Nogays speak Turkic languages. The present discussion is limited to the three indigenous phyla.
1. The Kartvelians occupy the region south of the Caucasus range. There are four Kartvelian languages: Georgian (about 4 million speakers), Mingrelian, Laz, and Svan (the most archaic of them, preserving many proto-Kartvelian features). Svan is thought to have diverged from the rest around 2000 B.C., and is spoken today by about 40,000 people in two remote valleys in northwestern Georgia). The Kartvelian nation is designated by the term “Meshech” in the Old Testament, and were known to the Greeks as “Moschoi.” Meshech was a son of Japheth (Gen. 10:2, I Chron. 1:5), and Meshech is associated with Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39). Ezekiel provides some interesting cultural details about Meshech: “Javan, Tubal and Meshech, they were your traders; with the lives of men and vessels of bronze they paid for your merchandise” (Ezek. 27:13). This statement is of great interest because the Caucasus was an early center of metallurgy, and was an important source of slaves from ancient times until well into the 19th century. “Meshech, Tubal and all their hordes are there; their graves surround them. All of them were slain by the sword uncircumcised, though they instilled their terror in the land of the living” (Ezek. 32:26). During the first millennium B.C., the Kartvelians were centered in eastern Anatolia; they gradually migrated northeast into their present location. The kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia were established during the 6th century B.C.
Xenophon (5th century B.C.) gives a very interesting account of the Mossynoeci, a branch of the Kartvelians: “The following description will apply to the majority of them: the cities were on an average ten miles apart, some more, some less; but so elevated is the country and intersected by such deep clefts that if they chose to shout across to one another, their cries would be heard from one city to another. When, in the course of their march, they came upon a friendly population, these would entertain them with exhibitions of fatted children belonging to the wealthy classes, fed up on boiled chestnuts until they were as white as white can be, of skin plump and delicate, and very nearly as broad as they were long, with their backs variegated and their breasts tattooed with patterns of all sorts of flowers. They sought after the women in the Hellenic army, and would fain have laid with them openly in broad daylight, for that was their custom. The whole community, male and female alike, were fair-complexioned and white-skinned. It was agreed that this was the most barbaric and outlandish people that they had passed through on the whole expedition, and the furthest removed from the Hellenic customs, doing in a crowd precisely what other people would prefer to do in solitude, and when alone behaving exactly as others would behave in company, talking to themselves and laughing at their own expense, standing still and then again capering about, wherever they might chance to be, without rhyme or reason, as if their sole business were to show off to the rest of the world.” (Anabasis, iv)
By Greco-Roman times, the Georgians had established the two kingdoms of Colchis (on the Black Sea coast) and Iberia (inland, comprising the regions of Kartli and Kakheti). Colchis exerted an important cultural influence on the Greeks: it was the source and locus of a number of important myths, including the story of Prometheus (clearly the same as the Georgian Armazi, who stole fire from the gods and suffered eternal torment on a mountain peak), and the story of Jason, the Argonauts, the Golden Fleece, and the sorceress Medea; Colchis was a famed source of poisons, drugs, and medicinal herbs. The kingdom of Iberia was founded by P’arnavaz shortly after the death of Alexander the Great; P’arnavaz is also credited with the invention of the Georgian alphabet. Iberia was invaded by the Romans under Pompey (1st century B.C.), who took the citadel of Gori after a hard fight.
St. Andrew is supposed to have brought the Gospel to the Georgians, and according to legend, a Mingrelian bit off one of his fingers while he was preaching. The Mingrelians were thereafter known as “finger-eaters.” (Movses Dasxuranci, p. 29n) Despite this unpromising beginning, Georgia was one of the first Christian nations. St. Nino, a Christian slave, succeeded in converting king Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity (circa 337), and the Georgians have been Christians ever since. Some of the ancient churches in Svaneti date to the 6th century A.D.
No relationship has been discovered between the Kartvelian languages and any other linguistic phylum. However, there is evidence to suggest some intriguing possibilities:
A. Classical geographers designated two nations as “Iberians”—the Georgians (“Eastern Iberians”) and the people who inhabited the Mediterranean coast of Spain (“Western Iberians”). These were generally understood to be branches of the same nation. Indeed, this idea persisted into mediaeval times, when the Georgian kings would occasionally send emissaries or letters to their “brothers,” the kings of Spain (need to find reference). The extant inscriptions in the western Iberian language are variously interpreted; there is some evidence that Iberian was related to Aquitanian (the ancestor of Basque), but Iberian is generally regarded as a linguistic isolate. The possibility that Iberian is related to Georgian has not been adequately explored. According to Strabo, the Western Iberians possessed a written literature that went back 6000 years! (reference)
B. Herodotus makes the startling statement that the Georgians (eastern Iberians) and the Egyptians were the same people. I can make no sense of this at all!
C. Several features of the Kartvelian languages suggest a distant connection to Indo-European. Probably Kartvelian is to be coordinated with Indo-European as part of the Nostratic macro-phylum (along with Uralic, Altaic, Dravidian, Semitic, and Eskimo-Aleut); Kartvelian appears to occupy a node fairly close to Indo-Hittite and is probably correlated to a number of little-known languages of the Mediterranean basin including Etruscan, Lemnian, and Pelasgian (the pre-Greek inhabitants of the Mediterranean) This suggests a probable connection to Troy and to Tartessus (the biblical Tarshish), which (according to Greek historians) was founded by refugees from Troy in 1184 B.C. It is probable that some of the Sea-Peoples (Peleset [=Philistines], Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen, Weshesh, Shardana, Lukka) who irrupted into the Mediterranean at that time were of Kartvelian origin.
D. Most linguists and pre-historians believe that the Kartvelians were autochthonous to the Caucasus region; Joanna Nichols, however, has suggested that they originally migrated through Iran from Central Asia (this argument is based on linguistic evidence of early contact between Kartvelians and Indo-Europeans) [find reference]. Whether or not this is correct, there are ancient connections between the Kartvelians and the Altai mountains: mtDNA testing has revealed that haplogroup X2e is found only in the South Caucasus and in the Altai and Kyrgyz regions; furthermore, “the Altaian sequences are all almost identical, suggesting that they arrived in the area probably from the South Caucasus more recently than 5000 BP.” (Haplogroup X (mtDNA), 2009, ¶5) Such a connection is further substantiated by the fact that ancient helmets from the Caucasus have been found in the Altai region (Sulimirski, 1970). Herodotus gives an account of the Argippaei, a race of bald-headed, flat-nosed people who inhabited the Altai mountains; they were distinct from the Scythians, and spoke a language of their own. The Argippaei were pacifistic, and occupied themselves with metallurgy. It appears that the Altai mountains were one of two important sources of tin during the Bronze Age (the other was the British Isles). Since tin is required to make bronze, an important trade-route developed: “The Scythians who make this journey communicate with the inhabitants by means of seven interpreters and seven languages.” (Persian Wars iv.24). Finally, genetic and linguistic research suggests that the inhabitants of the Alborz mountains of Gilan and Mazanderan (on the south coast of the Caspian Sea) formerly spoke a Kartvelian language and are genetically related to the Kartvelian peoples. (find reference) Thus, it appears likely that the Kartvelians had cultural connections extending deep into Central Asia. However, it remains uncertain whether the Kartvelians originated in Central Asia, or whether they penetrated that region as traders. In this regard, it is interesting to read Movses Dasxuranci’s (10th century) account of the Huns who settled near Derbent in the Caucasus: “Using horses as burnt offerings they worship some gigantic savage monster whom they invoke as the god T’angri Xan, called Aspandiat by the Persians.” (ii.40, p. 156) The ancient Turks, Huns, Avars, Bulgars, and Magyars were monotheistic and worshipped a sky-god known (in Turkish) as tängri qan (“sky blue”), and “in the nineteenth century… Altay shamanists in their prayers still called on Xan Tengere.”(Dickens, 2004, pp. 67-68)–yet another link between the Caucasus and the Altai region. The Circassians refer to the Sea of Azov as the “Taingyiz Sea,” which comes from the same Turkic root (Colarusso, 2002, p. 101).
2. The Northwest Caucasians include the Abkhazians, Abazins, Circassians, Kabardans, and Ubykh (extinct since 1992). The Northwest Caucasian (or Pontic) languages are renowned for their massive inventory of consonants (Ubykh had more than 80 consonantal phonemes), which contrasts with a paucity of vowels. While many linguists posit two phonemic vowels for these languages (e.g. Hewitt, 1979), others maintain that they in fact contain no phonemic vowels (Allen, 1965); in other words, all vowels in Abkhaz (for example) are generated from their consonantal environment according to predictable rules. These languages are thus eminently suited to whispered communication, a fact which is probably to be correlated to the great cultural importance of hunting among the Northwest Caucasian peoples. All complex and abstract terms in these languages are generated from a limited inventory of simple roots.
Another interesting feature of these languages is the phenomenon of chakobza, a secret language formerly used only by men of the princely class in the context of hunting or preparations for war. Chakobza supposedly had “no resemblance” to everyday language (Allen, 1932, p. 30). There are also rumors of a corresponding secret language used only by females; this language (apparently no longer used) is described as being monosyllabic and tonal (find reference), and was supposedly understood by women who spoke various languages—perhaps extending across the entire North Caucasus.
The Northwest Caucasian languages are thought to be related to the ancient Hattic (Hattian) language, which was spoken in Anatolia before the arrival (ca. 2000 B.C.) of the Hittites. During the first millennium B.C., the Northwest Caucasian peoples occupied the Black Sea coast of Anatolia, whence they eventually migrated north into their present location. It appears probable that they can be traced back to the prehistoric the Çatalhöyük culture of Anatolia.
The Northwest Caucasians were originally matriarchal. This gave rise to the Greek account of the Amazons, a nation of female warriors. In fact, their women have always gone to war alongside the men, even as recently as the 1992-93 Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. The word “Amazon” appears to be derived from the Abkhaz word a-mza (“moon”). In this connection, I would like to propose a theory that the Northwest Caucasians are to be identified with Naamah, the sister of Tubal-Cain (Gen. 4:22).
John Colarusso has suggested an ancient genetic link between Northwest Caucasian and Indo-European, as part of a “Proto-Pontic” macro-phylum. In any case, there is evidence of ancient linguistic contact between the two groups: the Circassian name of the “prince of the dead” (pšyәmahrәqwa) contains an element (mahrә) which is clearly to the Indo-European word for death (mortis, brotos, Mord) (Colarusso, 2002). This suggests that the two groups were in contact no later than 2000 BC. Colarusso (2002) also points out that the being known in Abaza folklore as “Sotrash” is described as having “eyes like two morning stars” (p. 237). He proposes an Indo-European etymology for this name, which simply means “two stars,” yet such an etymology points to a previously-unknown branch of Indo-European, falling between Iranian and Tocharian. Colarusso suggests that the Northwest Caucasians were in contact with this linguistic stock at a very early period, long before either group had migrated to their present location. This may suggest that the Northwest Caucasians originated in Central Asia.
Until the 19th century, there were several villages in Abkhazia which were inhabited by Negroes. These people have since disappeared. Most scholars believe these people were the descendants of slaves imported to the region by the Ottomans, but it has been suggested that they may have been a remnant of some ancient migration from Africa—yet another of the mysteries of the Caucasus! (find reference)
3. The Northeast Caucasians are perhaps the most interesting of the three groups. The Northeast Caucasian (a.k.a. Caspian, Nakh-Daghestanian) languages are divided into two main branches: the Daghestanian languages (about 30 languages, the most conservative and divergent of which are located in southern Daghestan), and the Nakh (or North Caucasian) languages, comprising Chechen, Ingush, and Batsbi. The genetic relationship between the Nakh and Daghestanian branches is now firmly established. The archaeology of Daghestan reveals an unbroken cultural continuity going back to Neolithic times. These people are clearly the most ancient of the groups still dwelling in the Caucasus, and are connected to the Kura-Araxes culture (circa 3400 – 2000 B.C.), who were among the first people on earth to master metallurgy (arsenical copper). The related Nakh peoples are believed to be a reflux from the North Caucasian steppe, into which their ancestors began to spread several thousand years ago and subsequently retreated.
The languages of the ancient Hurrians and their descendants, the Urartians, were also genetically related to Northeast Caucasian phylum (when these are included, it is sometimes known as the Alarodian phylum). The Hurrians (Akkadian hu-ur-ri; the “Horites” of the Old Testament) were very important in the Ancient Near East (circa 2400 – 1200 B.C.). It appears that the still more ancient Subarians, who were dominant in Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium B.C. (prior to the arrival of the Sumerians), spoke a related language. The Hurrians founded a number of important states, including Urkesh (northern Syria, circa 2250 – 1800 B.C.), Yamhad (northwestern Syria, circa 1800 – 1550 B.C.), and the Mitanni Empire (northern Syria and Mesopotamia, circa 1500 – 1300 B.C.). There were various small Hurrian (Horite) states in Palestine as well: both the Edomites and the Jebusites were partially Hurrian (see Genesis 36, Deuteronomy 2; the Horites were the original inhabitants of Mount Seir). The Mitanni are notable for having an Indo-Aryan superstrate; although they spoke the Hurrian language, their rulers and gods bore Indo-Aryan names (kings Artashumara, Biridashva, Priyamazda, Citrarata, Indaruda, Shativaza, Shubandhu, Tushratta; gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya); a manual of horsemanship in the Hurrian language, composed by one Kikkuli, was found in the Hittite archives at Boghaz-Koy. This text employs Indo-Aryan numbers aika (“one”), tera (“three”), panza (“five”), satta (“seven”), na (“nine”). (Gelb, 1944; Wilhelm, 1989) It appears that the Mitanni Hurrians migrated into Mesopotamia from Central Asia, and that their ruling class was Indo-Aryan (not Indo-Iranian). These facts accord well with a very interesting theory, first proposed by the Soviet archaeologist Sergei Pavlovich Tolstov (1907-1976), that the Hurrians (hu-ur-ri) originated from the Central Asian region of Khwarezm (Chorasmia), which is etymologically related. The names for the ancient Kurds (Gk. karduchoi, kurtioi) appear to share this etymology. Based on their physical culture, it appears that the Hurrians were not a mountain people (like the Daghestanians), but a steppe people; indeed, it was the Hurrians who introduced the two-wheeled chariot to the Near East. Certain motifs found on objects excavated in Central Asia bear a striking resemblance to motifs associated with the Hurrians in the Near East. But if the Hurrians came from Central Asia, how do we explain the fact that their language is part of a phylum which is autochthonous to the Northeast Caucasus? One possible explanation is suggested by the probable pre-history of the Nakh peoples. If the Nakh indeed migrated into the North Caucasian steppe and subsequently retreated, it may be that other Northeast Caucasian peoples migrated into the steppe but did not retreat. Instead, they may have pushed deep into Central Asia over a period of several thousand years, circling the Caspian and Aral Seas before reappearing in the Near East by way of Khwarezm and Iran with their Indo-Aryan rulers. This is my own speculation, and will require much further study. In this regard, it will be especially important to establish what node Hurrian-Urartian occupies in the stemma Northeast Caucasian languages. It is especially interesting to note that like the Mitanni, the Chechens displayed a preference for foreign rulers: “After internecine tribal conflicts over supremacy, a compromise was reached whereby Kabardian and Kumyk princes and khans were brought over as chieftains, for it was easier to banish an imported detached ruler than a native dynast. . . . there were some instances of foreign princes invited to rule Chechen localities right up to the middle of the eighteenth century.” (Jaimoukha, 2005, p. 35).
The ancient Caucasian Albanians were a branch of the Northeast Caucasian linguistic phylum. This kingdom coalesced during the 2nd century B.C., and adopted Christianity during the 4th century A.D. A small corpus of inscriptions and manuscripts is extant in their language. The Caucasian Albanians are now extinct except for the Christian Udi people of Azerbaijan, who are still Christians and whose language (with perhaps 5,000 speakers) is the most archaic example of Northeast Caucasian.
Prior to their conversion, the Caucasian Albanians were addicted to human sacrifice. “And any of those [temple slaves] who, becoming violently possessed, wanders alone in the forests, is by the priest arrested, bound with sacred fetters, and sumptuously maintained during that year, and then led forth to the sacrifice that is performed in honour of the goddess, and being anointed, is sacrificed along with other victims. The sacrifice is performed as follows: Some person holding a sacred lance, with which it is the custom to sacrifice human victims, comes forward out of the crowd and strikes the victim through the side into the heart, he being not without experience in such a task; and when the victim falls, they draw auguries from his fall and declare them before the public; and when the body is carried to a certain place, they all trample upon it, thus using it as a means of purification.” (Strabo, Geography, xi.4.7) Movses Dasxuranci, an Armenian writer of the 10th century, describes two murderous sects, the Finger-Cutters and the Poisoners, which were still active in the region in the 7th century. Concerning the Finger-Cutters, he writes, “And falling on his face, the young man began to divulge the secrets of the evil sect: “The devil appears in human form and orders three ceremonies (dask’) to be held, each one comprising three men; these are not to be wounded or slain, but while still alive are each to have the skin and thumb of the right hand removed and drawn with the skin over the chest to the little finger of the left hand; the little finger is then to be cut and broken off inside [the skin]. The same is to be done to the feet while the victim is still alive, and then he is to be slain and flayed, arranged and placed in a basket.” (The History of the Caucasian Albanians, i.18, p. 31) These cults were highly secretive, much like the thugs of Northern India (18th-19th centuries).
It is probable that at least some of the peoples who formerly inhabited the Alborz mountains along the south coast of the Caspian Sea (including the Caspi from which the sea got its name) spoke Northeast Caucasian languages. Strabo makes this connection explicitly: “To the country of the Albanians belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian tribe, as was also the sea; but the tribe has now disappeared.” (Geography, xi.v.5) Other tribes inhabiting these mountains in ancient times included the Amardi (or Mardi), Anariacae (or Parsii), Cadusii, Vitii, Gelae, Tapyri, Cyrtii, Derbices, and Hyrcanians. Strabo records some of their customs: “The Derbices worship Mother Earth; and they do not sacrifice, or eat, anything that is female; and when men become over seventy years of age they are slaughtered, and their flesh is consumed by their nearest of kin; but their old women are strangled and then buried. However, the men who die under seventy years of age are not eaten, but only buried. . . . It is a custom of the Tapyri for the men to dress in black and wear their hair long, and for the women to dress in white and wear their hair short. They live between the Derbices and the Hyrcanians. And he who is adjudged the bravest marries whomever he wishes. The Caspi starve to death those who are over seventy years of age and place their bodies out in the desert; and then they keep watch from a distance, and if they see them dragged from their biers by birds, they consider them fortunate, and if by wild beasts or dogs, less so, but if by nothing, they consider them cursed by fortune.” (Geography, xi.11.8)
As mentioned above, there were formerly also speakers of Kartvelian languages in that region; so it appears that the Alborz mountains were once a region of great linguistic complexity, and were a more ancient bastion of two of the Caucasian linguistic phyla, both of which also have ancient connections to Central Asia. These connections are reinforced by Herodotus’ account of the Issedones, another extinct nation whose lands bordered upon the Argippaei of the Altai mountains: [The Issedones] “are said to have these customs: when a man's father is dead, all the relations bring cattle to the house, and then having slain them and cut up the flesh, they cut up also the dead body of the father of their entertainer, and mixing all the flesh together they set forth a banquet. His skull however they strip of the flesh and clean it out and then gild it over, and after that they deal with it as a sacred thing and perform for the dead man great sacrifices every year. This each son does for his father, just as the Hellenes keep the day of memorial for the dead. In other respects however this race also is said to live righteously, and their women have equal rights with the men.” (Persian Wars, iv.26)
There appears to be a distant genetic relationship between the Northeast Caucasian (Caspian) and Northwest Caucasian (Pontic) linguistic phyla. A system of putative sound-correspondences was established by Prince Nikolai S. Troubetzkoy (1890-1938). Sergei Starostin and Sergei Nikolayev have attempted to reconstruct Proto-North-Caucasian, and have even published a North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary (1994). However, their results have been criticized by Johanna Nichols of UC Berkeley (Jaimoukha, 2005). Strabo may shed further light on this connection: [The Amazons] “have two special months in the spring in which they go up into the neighbouring mountain which separates them and the Gargarians. The Gargarians also, in accordance with an ancient custom, go up thither to offer sacrifice with the Amazons and also to have intercourse with them for the sake of begetting children, doing this in secrecy and darkness, any Gargarian at random with any Amazon; and after making them pregnant they send them away; and the females that are born are retained by the Amazons themselves, but the males are taken to the Gargarians to be brought up; and each Gargarian to whom a child is brought adopts the child as his own, regarding the child as his son because of his uncertainty.” (Geography, xi.5.1) The Gargarians are almost certainly to be identified as Nakh or Proto-Nakh (gergara means “kindred”) (Jaimoukha, 2005, p. 30). This story establishes an ancient connection between the matriarchal Northwest Caucasians and the patriarchal Northeast Caucasians. I would like to propose an identification of the Northeast Caucasian metallurgists with Tubal-Cain (“the forger of all implements of bronze and iron,” Gen. 4:22). If this identification is accepted, we find that both the Northeast and Northwest Caucasians are ultimately descended from Tubal-Cain and Naamah, the children of the Cainite Lamech by his second wife, Zillah.
The Significance of Various Numbers
One: the one SUN (291); archaic NWC Caucasian element (za) = Kabardan zə; absence of the One SUN (936); also ONE GEM like to the SUN with augmented ray (1441)
Two (dualism): Sun/Moon, human/devi, day/night (146), male/female (125), heaven/hell (132); two days and nights (215), G-d/satan (1-2), Why should the creator of good make evil? (112), Sun+Moon (40, 207), Planetary Sect (33), two men on road (207ff., 250), King and Sun-like Queen (308), flesh/soul (268), adamant/rock (330), double Sun/Moon (275), lover pities lover (293), bruised bruise (295), a companion (296); DUALISM (Zoroastrian influence); two black slaves (609); two suns (936)—banner of Vakht’ang VI also portrayed two suns; two-headed spear of the Narts (Colarusso 119); two crosses (Nino 35), two stars (Nino 35); two wakes held among Chechens—first was for three days, beginning the day after the funeral; the second involved “bed rites,” and the riding of horses to the next village, the riders bearing gifts of apples and nuts suspended from forked sticks (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Three: 3-legged table of the type that one sat at for meals; all one had to do was tap on it and command it to bring food, and it would bring whatever was desired; unlike most tables, the top of this one was made of leather (Colarusso, p. 35), 3 idols mentioned in Nino story, liminality (mediating third); trinity including Warzameg, Yimis, Pshimaruquo [pšyәmahrәqwa] (Aptswaha, Colarusso 32); sameba (Trinity), samtredia (3 doves), samtskhe; 3 priests observe the sky in 120º segments (Simonia article); 6, 17, 69, 131, 156, 157 (metals), 163, 193, 194, 196 (2:1), 197, 200, 203, 285, 314, 320 (2:1), 321 (power, eye, form); those THREE are covered by the SEVEN PLANETS (1385); to each a scepter, purple and jeweled crowns (1533) + 3 gifts of 1000 units each (1534); Kabardan śə phonemically = śa (100); three magical whetstones (Colarusso 154); Shotrash makes him vomit 3 times, all the mother’s milk he ever drank (Colarusso 238); three crosses (Nino 35); SAMOTXE; The Svan Trinity (“the big God, the Virgin Mary, St. George”); horse led three times around the crypt; three-day wake, beginning with the day after the funeral (Jaimoukha, 2005); the Chechen code of ghillakkh (“decency”) had three components: yah (“pride” [lit. “face”]), bekhk (“duty”), and eh (“shame”) (Jaimoukha, 2005, pp. 134-135); among the Chechens, it was improper to inquire a house-guest’s purpose until he had stayed for three days (Jaimoukha, 2005); the angel “spoke three words to her, at which she fell down upon her face.” (Lang, 1976, p. 31); “Yevdomikov, known through the Caucasus as the Three-Eyed General (thanks to a scar between his eyes)” (Griffin, 2001, p. 166).
Four: The king sends messengers to “the four corners of the heavens” (V.T. 115). The Abkhaz word for four (pš-ba), is distinguished from the word for seven (bәž-bà) only by voicing. The Chechen word for four (Di‘) is unique in that it must agree with the gender-class of its noun (the initial consonant is variously realized as b, d, y, or v). The Georgian word for “paradise” (samotxe) appears to combine the roots for three (sami) and four (otxi). The Cross is described as “the four-armed” (Movses Dasxuranci, ii.30, p. 135).
Five: “When five years old I was like an opened rosebud” (V.T. 310, also 312); “five months had passed and he was returning.” (Abaza folktale, Colarusso, 2002, p. 229)
Six: One of the Georgian words for cannabis is ekvsunje (“six riches”)—very strange! “Six horsemen” (V.T. 193); P’arsadan possessed six kingdoms (V.T. 301). “The horse’s skull turned into dust, and six men appeared from it.” (Abaza folktale, Colarusso, 2002, p. 229)
Seven: (7 brothers, ii.14; 135); 183, 242, 275, 301, 302, 316; (Abkhaz bәž-bà) distinguished from 4 by voicing; (Chechen vworh; 7 and 8 are the only words in the language which contain the unvoiced Rh); 7th Heaven (608); 7 heavens (1285); 7 planets (1515); in Kabardan proverb (blə); plunged in water 7 times, hardened him 7 times (Colarusso p. 53); seven and eight layers (Colarusso 195); seven rivers (Colarusso 99); 7 women (Colarusso 101, 103 = Pleiades); seven furrows (Colarusso 238); among the Chechens, the blood-price for a murder was assessed in multiples of seven cows; a host received seven cows if his guest was murdered (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Eight: (Chechen barh, does NOT agree with gender-class [though 18 does]; 7 and 8 are the only words in the language which contain the unvoiced Rh); 8-day exposure of Circassian nobles on raised platform; EIGHT DAYS of wedding festivities (1444); 8 oxen (Colarusso 119); seven and eight layers (Colarusso 195); eight-fold stars and flowers are the most common decorative motifs in Daghestan (Chenciner, Ismailov & Magomedkhanov, 2006)
Nine: This is an extremely important number in some parts of the Caucasus. It appears frequently in Vepxis T’q’aosani: “nine heavens” (399, and see below); “nine eunuchs” (1167), “nine pearls” (1441), “nine trays of pearls and nine steeds” (1535). Turning to the Northeast Caucasus, we find that in one Abaza folktale, the Indo-European anti-hero Sotrash (“two stars”) is one of nine brothers (Colarusso, 2002). In Abkhaz, “nine” (žº-ba) is nearly identical to “ten” (žºa-ba ). However, the number nine finds its fullest expression in the Northeast Caucasus: the infamous sect of the “finger-cutters” required nine victims for their gruesome human sacrifices (three sets of three) (Movses Dasxuranci, ii.18, p. 31). In Daghestan, decorative patterns on furniture (spoon boxes) are sometimes arranged in nines (Chenciner, Ismailov & Magomedkhanov, 2006, p. 81), though eight is much more common. Among the Chechens, it was believed that “every-day opportunities to do good or evil presented themselves in nines.” (Jaimoukha, 2005, p. 131).
Ten: This number does not come up very often! Note that “ten” in Abkhaz (žºa-ba) is nearly identical to “nine” (žº-ba). I found only one reference in Vepxis T’q’aosani—“even a tenth of what he gave” (1533). In the Northeast Caucasus, the wrists of Daghestanian women are sometimes tattooed in a bracelet-pattern of ten spots; however, five, seven, and eight appear to be more common (Chenciner, Ismailov & Magomedkhanov, 2006). Obviously the number ten holds much less importance among the Caucasian peoples than it does among the Indo-Europeans!
Eleven: When I was in Ushguli, a village in upper Svaneti, I visited the home of a woman who was apparently a witch or “wise-woman.” While there, I photographed this strange 11-hour clock, which was painted on an exterior wall on the second story. At first appearance, it would be easy to dismiss this as a joke. However, its existence in this context (along with two crudely taxidermied goats, one visible here, posted at the ends of the balcony along lines of sight converging at the corner where the clock is) suggests something more profound. I have discussed the mathematics of this with my brother (Dave Grove) and with a friend (Daniel Stevens, who practices medicine in rural Nebraska). We have discovered, among other things, that an eleven-hour clock can be derived from a twelve-hour clock: the hands of a regular (twelve-hour) clock will coincide or overlap exactly eleven times in twelve hours, every 12/11 of an hour. The points on the clock-face where this occurs (all of them irrational numbers) correspond to the hours of an eleven-hour clock. If we think of a regular (twelve-hour) clock as an idealization of the solilunar cycle (two bodies rotating at a relative speed of 12:1), then these eleven syzygies will correspond to eleven New Moons. Also, eleven days is the difference between a solar year (365 days) and a lunar year (354 days). There is a great deal more to be said about this eleven-hour clock, but I will leave that for another time!
Vepxis T’q’aosani may also contain an allusion to this: “meanwhile three years save three months had passed” (181). Three years less three months is 33/36, or 11/12. The number eleven is often associated with the Zodiac (instead of twelve), owing to the fact that at any given time, only eleven of the twelve signs are visible (since the Sun always occupies one of the signs, the Sun’s glare renders it invisible). This fact is suggested by a verse from Vepxis T’q’aosani: “the sun hides even the planets” (1387). A well-known passage from Genesis is also relevant: “behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (Gen. 37:9). A Northeast Caucasian reference to the number eleven is found in the History of the Caucasian Albanians: “Now the brave Juansher fought for seven years in those painful battles until, having received eleven grievous wounds, he took leave of them and retired to the province of Atrpatakan . . .” (Movses Dasxuranci, 2.18). In Abkhaz, the word for “eleven” (žºè-y-za) is highly irregular, preserving the archaic Northwest Caucasian word for “one” (za). Since Svaneti and Abkhazia are continguous, this fact may have some relevance to the strange “clock” I saw in Ushguli.
The number eleven has various unsavory associations: in his English Physitians Guide: or a Holy Guide (1662), John Heydon writes, “Of the signification of the Number eleven: How by it we know the bodies of Spirits, and their natural constitutions” (Chap. XIII); in one of his alchemical recipes, Heydon instructs the practitioner to “take of our Earth through eleven degrees eleven grains” (p. 140). In Jewish thought, eleven was the number of the spices which were used to prepare the incense (ketores) for the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:34-36). The Tabernacle also was furnished with eleven curtains (Ex. 26). Eleven was associated with Lilith, Adam’s first wife (Gen. 1) who became a demon. In Jewish Qabbalism, there were said to be eleven “averse sephiroth,” corresponding to the ten Sephiroth. (Westcott, 1890) “11 was always interpreted in medieval exegeis ad malam partem, in a purely negative sense. The sixteenth-century numerologist Peter Bungus went so far as to claim that ‘11 has no connection with divine things, no ladder reaching up to things above, nor any merit.’ He considered it to be the number of sinners and of penance. Medieval theological works often mention ‘the 11 heads of error.’” (Schimmel & Endres, 1994, p. 105) [this appears to go back to Augustine, De anima et eius origine, book iii, where the errors of Vincentius Victor are classified under 11 headings] In the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, Tiamat (chaos) is supported by 11 monsters. In Schiller’s Piccolomini, the astrologer Seni declares: Elf ist die Sünde. Elfe überschreiten die zehn Geboten. (“Eleven is sin. Elevens transgress the Ten Commandments”).
Twelve: “twelve slaves” (V.T. 70, 74, 83, 91); the “living column” (svetitskhoveli) “stood twelve cubits above its pedestal” (Lang, 1976, p. 31). This number suggests biblical influence.
Thirteen: Saint Nino and twelve women wept and prayed, resulting in the miracle of the “living column” (svetitskhoveli), which floated in the air above its base (Lang, 1976); this is clearly influenced by the biblical accounts of Jesus and His twelve disciples). It is very interesting that the number thirteen appears to have little significance in the Caucasus, either good or bad. It appears that eleven may have a function there similar to that of thirteen in Western culture (see above).
Fourteen: Abkhaz žºә-pš (“fourteen”) is distinguished from žºә-bž (“seventeen”) only by voicing; Chechen De:tta (“fourteen”) must agree with the gender-class of its noun (so also 24, 34, etc.).
Fifteen: “I was fifteen years old” (V.T. 321); this references an important turning-point and is associated with puberty.
[Sixteen] (no occurrences)
Seventeen: Abkhaz žºә-bž (“seventeen”) is distinguished from žºә-pš (“fourteen”) only by voicing.
Eighteen: In Chechen barhi:tta (“eighteen”) must agree with the gender-class of its noun; yet barh (“eight”) does not require such agreement!
Nineteen: In Chechen, “nineteen”(t’q’ayesna) is anticipatory to “twenty” (t’q’a) , but is entirely unrelated to the word for “nine” (i:ss). According to Matsiev (1995), the Chechen numbers 19 and 20 “have a different origin” from the other numbers. (p. 25)
Twenty: Vigesimal numbering systems are common throughout the Caucasus and are used by peoples of all three of the indigenous linguistic phyla. In Georgian, for example, oci is “twenty,” ocdaati is “thirty” (lit. “twenty-and-ten”), ormoci is “forty” (lit. “two-twenties”), ormocdaati is “fifty” (lit. “two-twenties-and-ten”), samoci is “sixty” (lit. “three-twenties”), and so on. Languages of the Northeast Caucasian and Northwest Caucasian phyla have similar systems. However, in Chechen, the word for “twenty” (t’q’a) is unrelated to the word for “two” (ši’). According to Matsiev (1995), the Chechen numbers 19 and 20 “have a different origin” from the other numbers. The number 20 and its multiples are commonly used in Georgian to express abundance: “one-hundred-score beasts were slain,” of which one hunter “slew more than 20” (V.T. 81); “his suffering increased twenty-fold (V.T. 139); “twenty days he journeyed” (V.T. 146).
Twenty-One: Among the Chechens, the blood-price for the murder of a member of a small clan was 21 cows (63 cows if he was a member of a large clan (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Thirty-Seven: “They stood the tree up on its base at the southern door of the church, where the breezes wafted its fragrant scent about and unfolded its leaves. There the tree stood for thirty-seven days, and its leaves did not change colour.” (Lang, 1976, pp. 34-35) In the context, this seems like an entirely arbitrary number; yet in Southeast Asia, 37 is an important mandalic number, representing a central point surrounded by four cardinal points, which are in turn surrounded by 32 points (or each surrounded by eight points). This is the number of the nats in the pre-Buddhist Burmese pantheon, and is represented as 100101 in binary notation. (Crump, 1990, pp. 70-71)
Forty: The Georgians conclude 40 days of mourning with a feast (personal observation). The number 40 appears frequently in Vepxis T’q’aosani, e.g. “forty doors” (1341); “forty rooms” (1343); “forty treasuries” (1348). The use of this number by the Christian Georgians and not by the North Caucasians suggests a biblical influence.
Fifty: Saint Nino assembled a congregation of 50. (Lang, 1976)
Ninety: “Fate has increased my grief ninety-fold, one-hundred-fold” (V.T. 178)
Ninety-Nine: This was the number of the Narts (at least in Northwest Caucasian folklore). (Colarusso, 2002)
One-Hundred: “They talked simply of one-hundred things” (V.T. 136); “Hazard kills equally, be it one or one-hundred” (V.T. 163); A Circassian folktale refers to “100 oxen with one horn, 100 oxen with two horns, and 100 oxen with three horns” (Colarusso, 2002, p. 93). Other Northeast Caucasian occurrences include “100 pork sausages” (p. 38), “100 sins” (pp. 104-105), “100 dogs” (p. 155), and a forest of 100 trees (p. 99). “Fate has increased my grief ninety-fold, one-hundred-fold” (V.T. 178); “one-hundred times” (V.T. 231); “tears a hundred-fold more” (V.T. 244, 266); “O heart a hundred times kindled” (V.T. 299); “one hundred treasures” (V.T. 325, but compare this to the Georgian word for cannabis [ekvsunji], “six treasures”).
Three-Hundred: 300 oxen (Colarusso, 2002); one of the Tbilisi Metro stations is named in honor the the samasi aragveli (“300 of the Aragvi”), three hundred soldiers from the Aragvi district who fought a delaying action against the invading Persian army in 1795. They fought to the last man, after which the city was sacked.
Six-Hundred: “100 oxen with one horn, 100 oxen with two horns, and 100 oxen with three horns” (Colarusso, 2002, p. 93) = 600 horns.
Eight-Hundred: 800 spoonfuls of mush (Colarusso, 2002).
One-Thousand: “a thousand times more” (V.T. 292); “multiply a thousand-fold” (gaat’anist’aneba, V.T. 297); “1000 gems, 1000 pearls, 1000 steeds” (V.T. 1534).
Two-Thousand: “one-hundred score” animals slaughtered (V.T. 81).
Three-Thousand: “1000 gems, 1000 pearls, 1000 steeds” (V.T. 1534).
Ten-Thousand: “ten-thousand-fold more” (V.T. 266); “ten-thousand knives cut my heart” (V.T. 346). Use of this number by the Christian Georgians probably reflects the influence of the Greek myrias (“ten-thousand, myriad”).
Ten-Million: “ten-thousand times a thousand soldiers” (V.T. 44).
Pigs = 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 30, 30 = 120 x 30 = 3600 (Colarusso, 38)
Measures of Time
Three Days: 339, 341
Seven Days: A plain that takes seven days to cross (V.T. 183)
One Month: 182, 191, 197 [= 35/36], 936 (Sun absent for one month in winter)
40 Days: Georgians hold a major commemoration on the 40th day after a death
Two Months: 184 [= 34/36 or 17/18]
Three Months: 181
Eight Months: baby sees self in mirror (Jaimoukha, Chechens, 150)
Nine Months and Nine Days: gestation of Sawseruquo (Colarusso p. 53)
One Year: 116, 166, 324; one year anniversary of death (Georgians)
Two Years: Among the Chechens, the second anniversary of a death was the occasion of a major celebration (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Three Years Less Three Months: 181
Three Years: 131, 156, 163, 284; third anniversary of a death ended the wearing of mourning garb (Jaimoukha, 2005).
Five Years: 310, 312; ABREK (k’ai q’ma; dik k’ant)
Seven Years: 316; Movses Dasxuranci 2.18 (p. 112-13)
Fifteen Years: 321
500 years: (Colarusso 228 [Abaza])
780 years: This was the period of one calendrical round, according to the Georgian chronicon (Hewitt, 1996b)
1000 years = giants’ lifespan: (Colarusso 228 [Abaza])
Days of the Week
For the Georgians, Sunday was first day of the week); Among the Northwest Caucasians, Monday was the first day of the week (Colarusso, 2002, p. 396). Monday was also the first day of the week among the Chechens.
it appears that 1721 is more or less analogous to 1611
See what field-work reveals (Ganja, Ksiani, Kutaisi)
18th century events unknown for isolated areas
Space and Dimensionality
K.C.C. re. one, two, three dimensions (sparks)
Liminality: 257, 311 (sunrise), 345 (threshold) + ABREK (wikipedia); childbirth in isolated huts (Chechens), (Khevsurs); Among the Chechens, the path to the village cemetery was marked by a line of high stone monuments; the graves are marked by carved stone stelae (chartash) (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Hell: The Georgian word for “hell” is jojoxeti (literally “lizard-land”). In Circassian folklore, the realm of the dead is ruled by arxºan-arxºanәz (“the old one who glides in coils”). “In some variants of this saga, this name was applied to a giant serpent or dragon that lives underground. By some accounts he is a “lizard man,” a quasi-human reptilian demon.” (Colarusso, 2002, p. 33). According to the first chapter of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, the earth is like a mirror which reflects the heavens, and hell lies in the depths of this same mirror. Hell has a physical location at the center of the earth, and comprises four concentric circles, the outermost circle being designated as Abraham’s Bosom (abrahamis c’iaghi, cf. Luke 16:22-23), the second as Limbo (limbo, the abode of unbaptized infants—a Roman Catholic idea which clearly suggests Western influence), the third as the Mercy Seat (salxinebuli, cf. Ex. 25:17) or Purgatory (gansac’mendeli), and the innermost circle as Eternal Hell (sauk’uno jojoxeti). The writer delineates the precise diameters of each of these circles in Georgian leagues (aghaji). While parts of this scheme are clearly reminiscent of Dante Alighieri and other Western writers, the association of hell with mirrors probably originated in the Caucasus (see below, “Mirrors”).
Sun & Moon = female/male; full moon; matriarchal; mama/deda; this may be related to a deliberate reversal, perhaps a social revolution against matriarchy. First, the Georgian mze (“sun”) is nearly identical to the Abkhaz a-mza (“moon”). Second, the Georgian words mama (“father”) and deda (“mother”) appear to be arbitrarily reversed. Third, the Georgian week begins with Sunday, while (most, if not all of) the North Caucasian peoples count Monday as the first day of the week. This may even tie in somehow with the numerous mirror-reversals seen in the illustrations of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia.
Sun = life; 1513
ECLIPSE: 122, 125, 211, 277, 292
Number of the heavens (9 or 7): [Arriaga]; 7th heaven (608), 9 heavens (399); (1167): He commanded NINE Eunuchs to stand guard at the door that peer of the SUN [astrological conceit?]; in wrath the WHEEL [borbali] of the SEVEN HEAVENS has turned upon us (1285); to them also in wrath turned round the WHEEL [borbali (wheel, whirlwind, arrow)] and CIRCLE (simgrgvle) of HEAVEN (1391).
Georgia was considered a single country, even though it was usually politically disunited (three kingdoms of Kartli, Kakheti, and Imereti; principalities of Mingrelia [Samegrelo], Guria, Svaneti, and Samtsxe), and several languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan, Laz) were spoken by the Kartvelians. The Svans were known for their savagery, the Mingrelians for their vivacity.
The Northwest Caucasians were notorious as slave-traders; their emporia at Anapa, Sochi, and Sukhumi kept the Ottomans supplied with slaves and concubines. Circassian women were especially desired for their beauty and for their luxuriant hair. The northeast litoral of the Black Sea was known as the “Slave Coast” (find reference) and was the terminus of a complex network of slave-trading routes which extended to inland to the Northeast Caucasians (also notorious slave-traders) and to the Caspian Sea, where they purchased captured Russians from the Turkmen pirates raiders; the Turkmens also sold Russian captives as slaves to Khiva and Bukhara, where there were more than one million Christian slaves at the time of the Russian conquest of the region (1866-73). Most of the North Caucasus, including the Nogai Tartars and other Altaic nomads, was tributary to the Kabards, the eastern branch of the Circassians, who had created a centrally-organized feudal state.
The Northeast Caucasians fall into two groups: the Nakh or North Caucasians (including the Chechens and Ingush), who generally coexisted peacefully with the Georgians (the two races have been in contact for many centuries, with significant linguistic and cultural interchange); and the Muslim Daghestanians, who were the nemesis of the Georgians. The mountain fastnesses of Daghestan are inhabited by no fewer than 31 different linguistic groups, many of which preserve extremely archaic cultural features. For some reason, Daghestan was perennially overpopulated, resulting in pressure on their neighbors. Since at least the 17th century, men from Daghestan migrated to Baku and other towns in Azerbaijan as laborers, while at the same time they perpetrated annual raids against the Christian Georgians to the west. The Avars, Lezghins, and Didos were especially the scourge of Kakheti, where the churches were loopholed to serve as places of refuge against their raids. These mountaineers traveled in small, mobile bands, pillaging the countryside and seizing Christian captives as slaves.
Between the Northwest Caucasians and the Northeast Caucasians lay the territory of the Ossetians, who controlled the Dariel Pass and the approaches to Russia. The Georgians regarded the Ossetians as thieves and swindlers of the worst sort. The Soviets used the Ossetians to police the city of Tbilisi, since they had no loyalty to the local population (find reference).
Vepxis T’q’aosani is set in “Arabia,” which is used to represent Georgia (V.T. 32, 177, 279). Parts of the poem take place in India, described as being ruled by seven kings (V.T. 301, 326, 1535).
Many Georgians served in the army of Nadir Shah when he invaded India, and participated in the sack of Delhi (1739) (find reference). Georgians also fought for the Persians in Afghanistan, where Giorgi XI of Kartli was the Persian sipah salar (“commander-in-chief”). Giorgi XI was treacherously killed at a banquet near Qandahar (21 April 1709), and his nephew Kaikhosrau perished in Afghanistan with his entire Persian-Georgian army of 30,000 (October 1711). Badakshan (northeast Afghanistan) was renowned for its rubies (V.T. 176). For the Georgians, Persia was perhaps the most important foreign country; as Irakli Simonia puts it, the Persians have always had “a very strong cultural profile.” Georgia was Zoroastrian for several centuries before the advent of Christianity (circa 327). Both Kakheti and Kartli were usually vassals of the Shah, while Western Georgia (the kings of Imereti and the princes of Mingrelia (Samegrelo) and Guria) were within the Ottoman sphere of influence. Both Giorgi XI and Vakht’ang VI served the Shah as sipah salar (“commander-in-chief”). In order to serve the Shah, Georgians had to go through the motions of conversion to Islam; however, there are stories of Georgian cavalrymen passing through the Shah’s domains, loudly cursing the Prophet for all to hear—since they were the backbone of the Persian army, they were able to get away with this (find reference). Indeed, the assassin of Giorgi XI sent the Cross and book of Psalms found on the king’s body to the Shah, as proof of his defection from Islam (1709) (George XI of Kartli, 2009). The Azeri Khanates (about 26 small states, including Baku, Ganja, Sheki, Shamakha, Qarabagh, and Talysh) were generally subject to the Shah; the Georgians had traditionally claimed Ganja, however, and were sometimes able to exercise political control in that direction. The Azeris are Shi’ites of Iranian race, but came to speak a Turkic language.
During most of the early modern period (16th – 19th centuries), Western Georgia (Imereti, Mingrelia, Guria) were the Turkish sphere of influence, while Eastern Georgia (Kartli, Kakheti) were the Persian sphere of influence. Turkey was also the principal market for slaves from the Caucasus.
The Armenians were generally friendly with the Georgians and had a large community in Tbilisi; indeed there were more Armenian churches there than Georgian ones. There was a degree of tension between them owing to the fact that the Georgians were Eastern Orthodox and the Armenians were Monophysites. In addition, the disgraceful failure of the Georgian and Armenian armies (numbering 40,000 altogether) to coordinate their efforts at Ganja in support of Peter the Great’s invasion of the Caucasus (1722) has never been forgotten—each side continues to blame the other for the disaster which ensued (find reference).
The Maghreb (North Africa) is referenced (V.T. 1166) in the context of “a couch of gold, of maghribuli (Moroccan) red. Rome is referenced from time to time, as in V.T. 1534, “one-thousand gems born of a Roman hen,” concerning which Marjorie Wardrop’s footnote reads, “Teimuraz says there is a legend that Roman hens lay gems” (p. 250). Biblical geography also influenced Georgian thinking: “Gabaon” (Gibeon) is mentioned (V.T. 320); Georgian knights fought in the Crusades, and made pilgrimages to Jerusalem: “Whenever they come on pilgrimage to the Lord’s Sepulchre, they march into the Holy City with banners displayed, without paying tribute to anyone, for the Saracens dare in no wise molest them. They wear their hair and beards about a cubit long and have hats on their heads.” (Jacques de Vitry, circa 1180, quoted by Lang, 1976, p. 11). One of the Georgian words for the Milky Way was “the way to Jerusalem” (Simonia, 2003).
Syria (al-Sham) had the reputation of being a region where knights went to perform acts of valor (find reference).
Egypt was of great importance to the Caucasus because of the large number of mamluks (slave-warriors) from the Caucasus who had been settled there, where they often succeeded in ruling the country. These included Christian children from Georgia who were sold to the Ottomans (usually by North Caucasian slave-raiders, sometimes by Georgian traitors), as well as Circassians, who were sometimes sold by their parents to relieve their poverty. It was the Mamluk army who opposed Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798.
The Georgian manuscript known as Kosmos (N883), dating to the 18th century, gives the names of heavenly bodies in several languages, including Armenian, Greek, Latin, Turkish, and “Dalmatian.” It is not clear who these Dalmatians were, but the sea-going Uskoks and Ragusans traded throughout the Mediterranean, often in association with the Venetians.
Spain was known to the Georgians, who preserved a memory of the “Western Iberians,” whom they believed were their kin (find reference). I have met several Georgians who were deeply interested in the Basque language, which they believed was distantly related to Georgian; and in Svaneti, I met a young Basque who had decided to visit Georgia with that same assumption.
Sweden figures in Georgian history because Aleksandre, son of King Archil of Imereti (known as Aleksandre Archilovich), who had traveled in Western Europe with Peter the Great, studied military science in Holland, and became a general of ordnance in the Russian army, was captured by the Swedes at Narva in 1700. He was imprisoned in Sweden until 1710, and died at Riga in the following year (Lang, 1957).
Xat’aeti (“Cathay,” i.e. China) is mentioned in Vepxis T’q’aosani (196) as a distant and exotic place.
The Georgian word gmiri (“hero, giant”) apparently derives from the ancient Cimmerians, who passed through the Caucasus in the 8th century B.C. (V.T. 290, 333). There are also various Caucasian traditions of extinct or mythical races: the Chints, who lived somewhere north of the Caucasus, and the associated Isps and Marakunts (Colarusso, 2002). Kajeti is mentioned in Vepxis T’q’aosani (319, 1391), as the land of the mythical kajebi (jinns); this brings to mind the numerous “mythical” races referenced in Vedic literature.
Vepxis T’q’aosani contains many interesting expressions like “the bounds of the earth” (109), “the four corners of the heavens” (115), “within the bounds of the sky” (127), “all the face of the earth” (141, 267), “all beings under the heavens” (190), which illustrate Georgian assumptions about geography. The Northeast Caucasians, on the other hand, had a markedly different set of concepts for this. Circassian folklore refers to “the edge of the earth,” but affirms that the earth has no edge or boundary. The cosmology of the Northeast Caucasians distinguished three parallel worlds—the one we know, “the life that lies under the earth,” and “the life that is in the heavens.” These three worlds were all interconnected and accessible through the roots and branches of a “world tree” which was personified as a female being, “Lady Tree” (Colarusso, 2002, p. 100), a conception which is very similar to the Norse Yggdrasil, or World Tree.
Proper Names & Allusions:
Georgian literature is filled with biblical allusions, of course. In addition, Vepxis T’q’aosani mentions Dionysius the Areopagite (“Dionisi the Wise,” 176), and contains several allusions to famous characters from Islamic literature: Vis and Ramin (182), and Rostom (192). It also alludes to the Sirens mentioned in the Odyssey (329).
King of Kings: (desc. Jesse, David, Solomon): 114
1391: Then the measureless wrath of God struck Kadjeti. CRONOS, looking down in anger, removed the sweetness of the SUN; to them also in wrath turned round the WHEEL [borbali (wheel, whirlwind, arrow)] and CIRCLE (simgrgvle) of HEAVEN. The fields could not contain the corpses; the army of the dead was increasing [**Important astrological verse**]
In Khevi [a region of Georgia] they have a cult ceremony, the so-called “Astvaglakhoba”. On New Year’s Eve, three archpriests ascend to the
top of “Sameba” for the night. They sit in silence leaning against each
other’s backs and observe the sky until daybreak. In the morning they
sacrifice a new-born calf, have a feast, and then predict the weather, the
harvest, wars or diseases in the coming year. (S. Bekudadze, 1968; quoted in Simonia, 2008, pp. 215-216)
This passage demonstrates unequivocally that there was an indigenous Georgian tradition of predictive astrology. The two astrological works I have been studying are both translations of foreign texts, making it difficult to identify specifically Georgian astrological ideas. However, I do have a copy of Kosmos (N 883) which I have not yet begun to study, and there are at least ten other Georgian astrological and calendrical manuscripts which are likely to contain original Georgian material.
Luminaries, sect: 107 (lights of heaven); 944: Behold, the stars bear witness, even the seven confirm my words: the sun, Otarid, Mushtar and Zual faint for my sake; moon, Aspiroz, Marikh, come and bear me witness . . . (this is organized according to sect, with Mercury diurnal); this verse demonstrates that the doctrine of planetary sect was known in the Caucasus—very interesting because this was originally a Magian concept (pre-Islamic Persian Astrology). “Fortune-telling (pal) was a developed “craft” among the Vainakh [i.e. Chechens], who had special classes of people with vatic powers and a number of oracular devices, including a book of divinations (seeda-zhaina: literally “star book”), at their disposal. Diviners would spend the night in a sanctuary, lying face down and keeping their ears pressed to the floor to hear the deity’s revelations and convey them to an eager audience the next morning.” (Jaimoukha, 2005, p. 150). Are there any copies of this “star book” still extant? Unfortunately, several important collections of Chechen manuscripts and folklore were deliberately destroyed by the Russians during the 1994-96 war—greatly reducing the chances that I will ever lay eyes on an example of the seeda-zhaina! It is exceedingly ironic that in all of his publications, Dr. Irakli Simonia has chosen to replace the title of MS Q867 (Saet’lo Xiromant’ia [“Horoscopic Chiromancy”]) with his own designation, “Star Book,” in an effort to suppress the “superstitious” nature of the manuscript.
Sun = Life: 66; Mze deda chemi, Malkh nana ju sa, solntsa mat moia (Gould); “maker of good weather” (1513); banner of Vakht’ang VI portrayed two suns
“Engraved on the outside wall were mysterious indents and notches believed to be part of an elaborate solar calendar system, used in the mountains in the pre-Islamic era” (Karny, p. 162, with illustration—Daghestan)
Full Moon: 106, 274; mangi (G. “moon”, P. “pearl”): 120; 943: Come, O MOON, take pity on me; I shrink and am wasted like thee; the SUN fills me, the SUN, too, empties me; sometimes I am full-bodied, sometimes I am spare
Stars: 185, 6, 37 (star/moon); these lovers of STARS [mnatobta], excelled by none (1349, refers to the planets); PLEIADS [khomlni] (1387), assoc. with 7 women (Colarusso 101, 103); Ursa Major = zºaɣºabәna (“star family”, Circassian—Colarusso 78); Sotrash has eyes like 2 morning stars, “something black” (Colarusso 237 [Abaza]); miraculous crown of stars; “When daylight came, two of the stars separated from the others—one going eastwards and the other towards the west. The brighter of the two went gently towards a spot near a stream on the far side of the river Aragvi, and stood over the rocky hill out of which a rivulet had sprung from the tears of Nino. From there the star rose up to heaven.” One took up position over Mount Tkhoti by the pass of Caspi, after which it was lost to their sight; the other stood over the village of Bodbe in the district of Kakheti (Nino 35)
Planets: 134, 163*, 269, 275, 943 (7 planets); Saturn black, gloomy (938); CRONOS, looking down in anger, removed the sweetness of the SUN (1391); Jupiter the judge (939), Mars red with flow of blood (940), Venus (Aspiroz) (941), Mercury (942): save thee none other’s fate is like to mine. The SUN whirls me, lets me not go, unites with me and gives me over to burning; 1349 [mnatobta]; those THREE are covered by the SEVEN PLANETS [mnatobni] with a column of light (1385); the SUN hides even the PLANETS (1387); O SUN-like and MOON-like, to what PLANET do they liken thee! (what planet art thou/with what planet art thou?) (1513); they have the SEVEN PLANETS [mnatobni] to compare with that SUN (1515); Two sets of Georgian planet-names (Simonia)
Great Conjunctions: 1397 (They were like when Mushtar [Jupiter] and Zual [Saturn] are united ***)
Nodes: 1396 (The MOON was freed from the SERPENT to meet the SUN ***)
Rays: 109, 134, 202, others; 257, 275, 298, rays excelling the SUN (1385), 1441,1514
Separation: 138, 144, 145, 177, 179, 316
Milky Way: Colarusso 103 (Milky Foot-Path)
The abra stone (meteorite): Colarusso 290 [Abaza]
Vephxis T’q’aosani is a profoundly astrological work; at the very least, it provides a clear basis and apologetic for Georgian astrology. It may even be interpreted in the Narrative Mode. Its most striking feature is the copious repetition of phrases referring to the Sun and Moon (about 4:1 in their frequency). 269**
FATE (very important): 189, 315, 330, 1391 (God over astral influences); gifts fitting their fate (1534)
G-d: stanza one
Satan: stanza two [this sets up a clear Dualism, probably reflecting Zoroastrian influence]
Devi et al.: 98, 110 (eshma), 118 (unclean spirit), 130 (demon), 190 (jinn), 282 (kadj), 319, 1391 (Kadjeti = their country), 337 (Beelzebel)
NARTS, esp. the undead nart xx (Circassian, Colarusso)
Gmiri (heroes, giants, lit. = Cimmerians): 290, 333
Aptswaha (“The Prince of the Dead,” Pshimaruquo): highly-developed chthonic concept, very profound relation to time and space, connected to MIRRORS
The Narts (how many? Ninety-nine!): Sarmatian origin, with NEC accretions
Giants (one-eyed giant, “Nart Epos”; GMIRI ?=Ossetians
Svan inflatable banner, drums, banners at Mtskheta
The fields could not contain the corpses; the army of the dead was increasing (1391)
Yaminizh = personification of cholera (Colarusso, p. 52)
Giants (Colarusso passim, 139)
Little Spe people (Colarusso 139)
Wild-man of the Caucasus: za-mamun-nayšº-gºara (“a certain monkey-boy” came in, Colarusso 406-09, Ubykh, killed him); “a wild man [laxa-tәt], covered all over with hair, approached. The wild man looked around. He mistook the tree on which the cloak was draped for a man and threw himself on it.” (Colarusso, 2002, p. 409). “Generally such lore is nonmythical, the creature being known only to huntsmen, who consider it rare and dangerous.” (410-11).
Plants and Drugs
TREES (Tree-burial, Wishing-trees [Asherah], tree of the Narts, oak); Colarusso 102-103 re. veneration of trees; tree gave birth to Milky Way (Colarusso 103); There is a late-winter custom in the North Caucasus, widely observed among the Ossetians, neighbors of the Kabardians, of tying ribbons around the trunks of trees in sacred groves. Women and children are forbidden to enter the groves at this time. (Colarusso 227). “I shall give you the knowledge that you need. My roots run deep into the ground. I know the life that lies under the earth. My hair rises into the sky, and I know the life that is in the heavens. (Colarusso 100); miraculous tree (Nino 34-35); Among the Abkhazians, “there did exist in earlier centuries the unusual custom of hanging the bodies of the dead in trees, either wrapped in skins or in wooden boxes” (Hewitt, 1998, p. 211). One of my sources states flatly that the Caucasian peoples regarded trees as gods (find reference).
“Veliamenov had faced trees so large and swarming with the enemy that he had compared each trunk to a fort. . . . The fallen beech trees that blocked Vorontsov were intermeshed with branches and inhabited by Chechens. . . . Perhaps the most powerful image was that which greeted the Kabarda regiment on the third day of the Biscuit Expedition : the barricades that stood before them, the fallen beech trees reinforced by the naked and mutilated corpses of their fellow Russian soldiers. These hybrid bulwarks of flesh and wood stand as a wretched symbol of Caucasian warfare. Shamil had long understood that the countryside provided more pragmatic assistance than Allah. Any man who felled a tree was first penalized an ox. At the second offence he would be punished with death, the same penalty as either cowardice or treachery, underlining the importance of the land. The body would hang in the centre of the man’s aoul for at least one week.” (Griffin, 2001, pp. 162-163). “When the leading troops arrived at the point where the track narrowed, they found that Shamyl had a surprise in store for them: the barrier of tree-trunks was piled high with the Russian dead of the day before, stripped, hideously mutilated and stacked one on top of the other. The barrier itself was not held by the enemy, but as the advancing Russians halted to stare in horror at this appalling spectacle, they found themselves caught in a withering cross-fire from strategically placed strong-points on either side.” (Maclean, 1976, p. 79)
“When the lightning strikes one tree, do all the others bow their heads and cast themselves down, lest it strike them also? Oh, ye of little faith, would that ye might take example from the green wood.” (Griffin, 2001, p. 163)
“I ought to anoint all my trees with oil” (Griffin, 2001, p. 163)
The Old Turkish Dede Korkut Kitabı (“Book of Dede Qorqut”) describes the mountainous region behind Trebizon as a dark, dense, and trackless forest, a place full of dangers (find reference). This was the beginning of a forested tract which continued into the Caucasus; indeed, both the Kartvelians and the Northwest Caucasians inhabited this northeastern part of Anatolia before withdrawing into the Caucasus.
PEAR TREE (important motif in Daghestanian art); the pear tree was considered the most sacred of trees by some of the Caucasian peoples (find reference). “Pears have been
cultivated in China for approximately 3000 years. The genus is thought to have originated in present-day
Circassian Warriors gathered beneath a Tree western China in the foothills of the Tian Shan, a mountain range of Central Asia, and to have spread to the north and south along mountain chains, evolving into a diverse group of over 20 widely recognized primary species.” (Wikipedia)—this corresponds to the migration pattern of the Caucasian peoples (Altais, Alborz, Caucasus).
ALOE of Eden = life: 50, 77, 120, 156 [=life], 275, 299, 319; the ALOE [alva] with faded branch, the pale MOON (1335)
Rose (infl. of Persian literature, cf. Gulistan of Sa‘di)
Herbal MSS: find 1983 journal article!
DRUGS (herbal, Medea, modern university students)
Beekeeping (taken up by retired abreks)
VINE: Then the Holy Queen stretched out her hand upon a vine-branch which grew close to Nino’s bed and cut it off and fashioned it into a cross and gave it to Nino, saying, “Let this be your protection. By it, you may overcome all your foes and preach your message. I will be with you and not abandon you.” After this vision, Nino awoke and found the cross in her hands. (Lang, Nino 21); Viticulture is supposed to have begun in Georgia.
“The HAZEL had special significance in Chechen folklore and was an object of pride for the master of the house. It was usually grown from a sapling taken from the father or grandfather’s tree—a self-propagating heirloom.” (Jaimoukha, p. 269)
BEECH: the Argoun forest and other forests of Chechnya were mainly beech trees.
OAK: Aptswaha (Prince of the Dead) was temporarily incapacitated by the roots of an oak (Hewitt, story #10).
Svaneti (describe goats, clock)
Lang (Code of Wakht’ang VI prescribed punishments for witchcraft and sorcery)
Witch (saga ii, 29), “The bitch-witch of the Flying Wagon” [kºәxarayna haabzәwәdә] (Colarusso 33)
The finger-cutters (i.18)
Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (preface; mirror-reversals; reflecting telescope?; sort out from Beltrano, E/W conceptions)
“A baby who saw itself in a mirror within the first eight months of its birth came to no good.” (Jaimoukha, Chechens 150)
(Rustaveli): 51 (Sun reflects Tariel); 189 (brightens the Sun); 291 (image of Sun)
(Rustaveli, Aptswaha); 311; the SUN approaches us, it hath given us the putting away of shadow (1335); Prince of the Dead
Yellow (amber, saffron): 138, 260, 276, 346
Crystal, Ruby, Jet
Red & White (Nart ii)
White = west, black = north (a long-standing Central Asian color symbolism that has spilled over into parts of the Caucasus, Colarusso 45)
Left/Right: finger-cutters story (i.18); when a Chechen warrior died, his horse was led three times around the crypt, after which its right ear was cut off and thrown into the crypt; during the 18th century, his widow’s right ear was cut off (Jaimoukha, 2005)
Up/Down: Aptswaha and walking-stick; “By night, when I come to you, the lance is always stuck in the ground in front of your house” (Colarusso 52); those going downhill must be the first to greet those who are coming up (Jaimoukha, 2005); Turpal Nokhcho, the legendary ancestor of the Chechens, was born with a piece of iron in one hand and a piece of chees in the other (Jaimoukha, 2005);
Hat on the head (Ossetians); bareheaded (69. 343); tying up the head with rope (252)
Head/Foot orientation (Aptswaha); to go barefoot was a great disgrace, and only a slave or a prisoner of war would do so [Abaza women of rank wore platform shoes with pillars at the ball of the foot and at the heel; symbolically renounces her status by smashing her shoes] (Colarusso 296)
mama—deda (transposition of terms; cf. Allen’s comments about a possible social revolution against matriarchy)
Sun = feminine, Moon = masculine (another transposition)
NWC: matriarchal, fostering, suckling; Amazons (amza = Moon)
Svan anxiety about chairs
Women may not touch a weapon (Colarusso 56)
Kunta Haji (founder of Qadiri movement, preached 1849-1864); his followers still consider it taboo to utter his name. (Jaimoukha, 268); it is forbidden for men and women to call their partners by their names, but alluded to them by the term “heenekh” (“someone”). It was anathema for a man to talk about his wife. In contrast, a woman had closer relationships with her brothers. (Jaimoukha, 130). Among the Chechens, when someone dies the neighbors leave their gates standing open as a symbol of shared grief (Jaimoukha, 2005)
“For five or six years Hadji Murad had prospered. Then, in 1840, another local leader, Akhmet Khan of Mekhtoulee, had denounced him to the Russians for double-dealing. He had been arrested, kept chained to a cannon by the detestable Khan of Mekhtoulee and then dispatched to Russian Headquarters under an escort of an officer and forty-five men.
It was winter and the passes over the mountains were deep in snow. Hadji Murad’s hands were tied as he plodded along through the snow and for good measure he was roped to a Russian. But he had not given up hope. Picking his moment carefully, he waited until he and his escort were passing along a narrow ledge above a yawning chasm. Then with a violent jerk he threw himself over the edge, dragging his guard with him in a sudden flurry of snow and loose stones.
It was inconceivable that either guard or prisoner should have reached the bottom alive. Peering over the edge, the men of the escort could see nothing. On reaching General Headquarters the officer in charge of them had reported the loss of his prisoner and of one of his own men and been reprimanded for his carelessness. It never netered anyone’s head that Hadji Murad could still be alive.
In fact, thought the Russian soldier had been killed outright, Hadji Murad had somehow survived his fall. His skull was cracked and a leg and some ribs broken, but he was still alive. First cutting the Russian’s throat for good measure, he painfully dragged himself to the nearest aul. There he lay up until he was strong enough to move on.” (Maclean, 1976, p. 66)
Abrek is a North Caucasian term. It originates from abræg, the Ossetian for a robber. Once it was used for a person who vowed to avoid any pleasures and to be fearless in fight. A vow could last for five years. During that period an abrek renounced himself from any contact with friend and relatives.
Later it was spread to the anti-Russian guerillas at the post-war North Caucasus, as well as for all illegals. Those abreks were widely popularized as the defenders of the motherland and paupers. Abrek lifestyle also included a lonely life in the unexplored wilderness. Becoming aged, abreks of the West Caucasus usually devote themselves to beekeeping. Last abrek killed by the Soviets, 1979.
Chapter 18. The foundation of schools for the evil-born sons of sorcerers; the discovery of the unclean sect of finger-cutters [matnahatk’] and their death
Vach’agan, crowned by God, commanded that the sons of the witches, sorcerers, heathen priests, finger-cutters, and poisoners be assembled and placed into schools to be given religious instruction and taught the Christian way of life in order to confirm the heathen tribes of their fathers in the faith of the Trinity and true worship of God. He ordered all the boys to gather together in his private village called Rustak, established grants, and placed a head-master over them, and commanded them to study Christianity. When he went into the village to perform a service of commemoration for the saints, he would sit in the school, gather the sons of the sorcerers and heathen priests around him, and command the crowd which encircled him, some of whom held books and others writing-tablets in their hands, to read aloud together. And he was happier than a man who had uncovered a rich booty. He began to investigate the wicked sect of finger-cutters, for both [the other sect referred to is possibly that of the poisoners which was liquidated at the same time] are murderous sects. Whilst he was making these inquiries, God, who loves mankind, willed that the wicked sect should be delivered form the country by the godly king. For a long time, ever since Vach’e had learned of their wickedness in Albania, other kings had either been unable to capture them or had remained indifferent. The accursed and wicked Persian marzpans often caught them, howeve,r but they released them again in exchange for bribes. But one day, when they were performing the evil act of finger-cutting in a cave in a wood on the banks of the river Kur and had bound a boy to four sticks by his thumbs and big toes and were flaying him alive, another younger boy chanced to walk along a nearby path. Hearing the groaning, he went in and saw the evil acts of the murderous criminals; and they pursued him with the intention of seizing him also, but he ran away and dived into the Kur. There happened to be a tree on an islet in the middle of the river, and he made for this and climbed it without the criminals finding out. He recognized the men, escaped, crossed the river, and hastened to relate everything to the king. When the king heard this, he offered up prayers and thanksgiving to Christ, lover of Man, and commanded the clergy to fast and to pray that this wicked idolatry might be uncovered and extirpated form the country, for Satan had such a hold over the minds of his minions that it had never yet been possible to make the members of the evil sect confess. The king ordered the arrest of the men who had been seen committing the murder and many other men who were known by repute, but when they put them to the test with many beatings and cruel tortures, they were unable to make the criminals confess. He ordered a mixture of scalding vinegar and borax to be poured up their nostrils while they were laid out on the ground, and their eyes turned white and rolled in their heads, but even throughout that dreadful torture they denied everything and would not confess. Since God had made it possible, however, as we said above, to efface the evil sect from the kingdom through the king, the latter cleverly devised a method whereby to make them confess, and he ordered them to be taken to the scene of the murder. First of all, he commanded one of them who was younger than the rest to be released, and to him he solemnly swore as follows: “I shall not command you to be put to death if you confess and truthfully reveal to us the details of this devil-worship.” And falling on his face, the young man began to divulge the secrets of the evil sect: “The devil appears in human form and orders three ceremonies (dask’) to be held, each one comprising three men; these are not to be wounded or slain, but while still alive are each to have the skin and thumb of the right hand removed and drawn with the skin over the chest to the little finger of the left hand; the little finger is then to be cut and broken off inside [the skin]. The same is to be done to the feet while the victim is still alive, and then he is to be slain and flayed, arranged and placed in a basket. When the time appointed for the wicked service arrives, a folding iron chair is set up, the feet of which are in the shape of human feet, and which many of us saw brought there. A valuable garment is placed upon the chair, and when the devil comes, he dons this garment, sits on the chair, and taking a weapon, he examines the skin of the man [var. “taking the skin of the nine men”] together with the fingers. If one is unable to acquire the stipulated [victim], he orders the bark to be stripped from a tree and an ox or a sheep to be offered to him, and he eats and drinks with the evil congregation. A saddled and harnessed horse is held ready, and mounting the horse, he gallops it to a standstill; then he becomes invisible and disappears. This he repeats every year.” [*The horse played an important role in Caucasian ceremonies. In the present passage the horse is doubtless the sulis cxeni (soul-horse) intended to accompany the soul fo the victim in the after-life]
He pointed out a man and woman belonging to the wicked sect, and others confessed in the same manner. The king then commanded the man who had told him all this as follows: “Your life is spared in accordance with my oath. Now, however, do to them as they did to others.” And the man performed the things to which he had confessed upon many of them in the presence of the royal camp, while half of them were taken off to their own villages and were slain in like manner in each place. And the king commanded many poisoners to be killed, for that sect adhered to the form of worship in which the Devil would each year order a man to be given the poison and killed; and if one was unable to give it to a stranger, the devil would torment him until he gave the deadly poison to one of his own family. There were other idolatrous sects who maintained that there was one demon who made those refusing to worship wickedness blind, and another who gave them spots; and if any should betray another, the witchcraft of evil demons would bring upon him the afflictions of blindness and spots. These were seized by the king and removed from the world in dire torment. Others also he purged form the kingdom of the Albanians like a brave and virtuous husbandman tending his fields with compassion and love, uprooting the thistles and tares and scattering and sowing the good seed to bear fruit thirtyfold and sixtyfold and an hundredfold. Then almighty and merciful God, observing the beauty of the noble conduct of this man and beholding with what diligence he strove to do the will of God, bestowed upon him the relics of the most holy martyrs in Christ from the place where the spiritual and ineffable treasure lay hidden. [pp. 29-32]
Nino asked a certain Jewish woman what all this meant. She answered that it was their custom to go up into the presence of their supreme god, who was unlike any other idol. When St. Nino heard this, she climbed up with the people to see the idol called Armazi, and placed herself near it in a crevice in the rock. There was a great noise, and the king and all the people quaked with fear before the image. Nino saw the standing figure of a man made of copper. His body was clothed in a golden coat of armour, and he had a gold helmet on his head. His shoulder-pieces and eyes were made from emeralds and beryl stones. In his hand he held a sword as bright as a lightning flash, which turned round in his grasp, and nobody dared touch the idol on pain of death.
They proclaimed, “If there is anyone here who despises the glory of the great god Armazi, or sides with those Hebrews who ignore the priests of sun-worship or worship a certain strange deity who is the Son of the God of Heavne—if any of these evil persons are among us, let them be struck down by the sword of him who is feared by all the world.”
When they had spoken these words, they all worshipped the idol in fear and trembling. On its right there stood another image, made of gold, with the face of a man. Its name was Gatsi, and to the left of it was a silver idol with a human face, the name of which was Gaim. These were the gods of the Georgian people. [Georgian Life of Saint Nino, Lang 23-24]
Now in the Book of Nimrod, which King Mirian possessed, he read the story of the building of the tower, when Nimrod heard a voice from heaven saying, “I am Michael, appointed by God to be commander of the east. In future times a King will come from heaven to be a despised member of a despised race. But the terror of His name will put an end to worldly pleasures. Kings will forsake their realms to seek for poverty. He will heed you in your sorrow and deliver you.” Then Mirian saw that the evidence of the Old and New Testaments was confirmed by the Book of Nimrod.” (28-29)
+ check syllable type against Voynich MS; Voynich = Iberian?
Projects for Future Research
1. Libraries and Manuscript Sources
a. National Centre of Manuscripts, Tbilisi:
• Obtain additional pages from Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (hand-copy, at least; possibly more digital reproductions can be obtained).
• Get Tamara Abuladze (curator of Persian and Arabic manuscripts) to show me the MS of ‘Ali Qushji used by Vakht’ang VI, and the extant MSS works written by the king.
• Look at the “Complete Time-Keeper” and other astrological MSS, including A24 (written by Efrem Mtsire, ca. 1100, on the 12 signs), A442 (15th century, calendrical), A684 (11th century, cosmological), A718 (14th century, descriptions of lunar days), A889 (late 18th/early 19th century, astrological), H503 (1808, re. Moon, stars, includes an ephemeris), S5237 (19th century, science of the Sun and Moon), 19th century version of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, look through the Institute’s catalogue and Kevanishvili’s catalogue (1951).
• Inventory available Astrological, Geomantic, and Herbal MSS
• Any Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, or Armenian Astrological MSS?
• Has anyone heard of the Chechen seeda-zhaina (“star book”)?
• archival or published information on Aleksandre Archilovich (imprisoned in Sweden, d. 1713)
• Try to get introduced to Zaza Aleksidze (expert on Old Albanian literature)
• Obtain digital reproductions of additional MSS if possible
b. National Parliamentary Library, Tbilisi:
• Law-Code of Vakht’ang VI (considered a “holy book” among the Khevsurs)
• L.Z. Sumbadze, Gori (Moscow, 1950)
• Brosset, Histoire de la Georgie (2 vols.)
• works on Caucasian folklore, superstition, Georgian calendar
• archival or published information on Aleksandre Archilovich (imprisoned in Sweden, d. 1713)
c. Institute of Manuscripts, Baku:
• get to know Dr. Farid Alakbarli, who will introduce me to the Director, Dr. Mammad Adilov
• Inventory available Astrological, Geomantic, and Herbal MSS
• Any Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, or Armenian Astrological MSS?
• Has anyone heard of the Chechen seeda-zhaina (“star book”)?
• Obtain digital reproductions of MSS, if possible.
d. Matenadaran (Institute of Ancient Manuscripts), Yerevan
• Try to get an introduction through Dr. Paul Crego (Library of Congress).
• Inventory available MSS, as above; obtain digital reproductions if possible.
e. Bodleian Library, Oxford
• Try to get access to relevant MSS in the Wardrop Collection (Books and Manuscripts from the Caucasus) [I am hoping to study the catalogue of the Wardrop Collection before I leave]
f. Swedish National Archives
• archival or published information on Aleksandre Archilovich (imprisoned in Sweden, d. 1713)
2. People to Visit
• Buba Kudava (visit, have him tell me about Tao-Klarjeti, discuss his photographs of ruined churches there; see what his wife Nino has to say)
• Irakli Simonia (visit, ask questions, discuss future collaboration; see if he can introduce me to other professors)
• Nino Khonelidze (arrange Georgian lessons with her aunt, maybe going through Vepxis T’q’aosani or Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani).
• Have Nino Khonelidze introduce me to astrologers (snowball survey)
• Call various people who gave me their phone-numbers (snowball survey re. astrology, superstitions, mirrors, ghost-stories, herbs and drugs) [informal questionnaire?]
• Tamar Abuladze (try to cultivate some level of friendship, discuss future collaboration)
• Genadi Gvenetadze (?) [dangerous and inconvenient person]
• Study the “cult of personal arms” in the Caucasus—try to ascertain what percentage of people are armed (concealed weapons, guns in trunk, guns at home).
3. Localities to Visit
• Any and all old churches (to study architecture for astrological symbolism): Mtsxeta, Tbilisi, Ananuri, Ilkorta, Gremi and elsewhere in Kakheti)
• Svaneti (see what I can learn about Svan cosmological and astrological ideas; already have ties here through Tony Hanmer and Dali; visit Dali “the witch” in Ushguli, especially ask her about the 11-hour clock and the taxidermied goats, mirrors)
• Batumi (try to get introduced to the Abkhazian community there)
• Pankisi Gorge (start with Kist House of Culture in Duisi; try to get introduced to the Chechen community there)
• Ksiani Valley (Ilkorta Church, see if Maia has connections there; try to collect folk-memories of Shanhse of Ksiani [early 18th century] who rebelled against Vakht’ang VI, and the military operations of that period; try to get introduced to Ossetian-Georgian community in the vicinity).
• Khevsureti and Tusheti (study the architecture, churches, and cemeteries of the region, esp. the death-house in Shatili, for astrological symbolism)
• Kutaisi (examine churches for astrological symbolism; try to collect folk-memories of the murders of Queen Darejan of Imereti (1679) and King Simon of Imereti (1701).
• Gori (try to collect folk-memories of 17th century siege of Goris-tsixe)
• Ganja, Azerbaijan (try to collect folk-memories of the period of Georgian rule, esp. the campaign of Vakht’ang VI ).
• Etchmiadzin, Armenia (study the church complex for astrological symbolism)
• Zestaphoni (visit police station where Lt.-Col. Akaki Eliava was killed [9 July 2000], try to interview people who witnessed it)
• Jikhashkari (try to find the house where Zviad Gamsakhurdia died [31 Dec 1993], try to interview people who witnessed it)
• See what towns and localities I can access via “snowball” procedure
• Visit and photograph old cemeteries in Tbilisi and elsewhere
• Study the Georgian bee-keeping tradition
• Armenia and Azerbaijan (various localities may become accessible)
**Depending on what happens, we have to be flexible; we may have the opportunity to visit Daghestan, Iran, or Eastern Turkey if the situation changes.
4. Ongoing Research and Development (can be pursued from here)
• Continue to develop my spoken Georgian, Abkhaz, Chechen
• Continue working on Russian (perhaps enroll in the course this fall)
• Learn to read Armenian; keep working on Persian
• Start learning Svan language
• Learn about the Georgian calendar system and year-designations
• Finish going through Vepxis T’q’aosani for cosmological ideas
• Continue learning about Georgian folklore and superstitions
• Continue reading and translating Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni and Saet’lo Xiromant’ia
• Start reading Kosmos [ms N883]
• Find the article on a Georgian Herbal MSS which I read in 1983
• Learn about compass directions and their color-associations in various cultures
• Read Vepxis T’q’aosani in Georgian
• Read and translate Tamar Abuladze’s Vaxt’ang Meekvsis Mtargmnelobiti Moghvasheoba
• Collate the numbers, days of the week, months, directions, in all the Caucasian languages.
• Continue reading the Nart Sagas and other Caucasian folklore
• Study Svan proverbs
• Study Vaxushti’s Kartlis Cxovreba (18th century Georgian history and geography)
• Study two articles about Armenian astrological works, learn about the corpus of Armenian literature.
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