Ketevan Sikharulidze # 12
Deities Reincarnated in Evil Spirits in the Caucasian Mythology
Keywords: Folklore; Mythology; Caucasian; Demonology; Goddess; Ritual; Fertility; Abundance; Trial; Housewife.
In the Caucasian mythology (as well as in notions of other peoples) demonic creatures are found who are heterogeneous and differ from each other by the quality of evil too. The main content of demonic creatures (imps, watchers…) unambiguously personifies evil and tries to harm people. They live in the “outer” world (dense forests, ravines and other inaccessible places), where they wait for a lonely traveler and try to seize him. Sometimes a man manages to capture an evil soul by cutting off his nails or hair and takes him home as a servant. As a rule, an evil soul manages to return his property and takes revenge on his capturer.
Among demonic characters we can emphasize those who are not clearly marked as being evil souls and thus do not completely correspond to this category. These are female creatures who are also settled in the “outer” world but at the same time try to penetrate the “inner” space of people. For this purpose they have a love affair with men and thus come closer to a mortal world. The fact that a man is married does not hinder them. On the contrary, observation on materials has shown that more often they select married men and this seems to bear some meaning. These women are of extraordinary beauty, with a shining body and wonderful long hair. By these and other qualities they resemble Dali who also was in a love affair with a hunter.
A vast material is found on this topic in the Caucasian folklore the main structure of the plot is common for all cases.
According to Georgian folktales a Forest Queen meets a man in the forest and demands love from him. Refusal will destroy the man so he bargains with her by using his fingers without uttering a word (because if he does, he will go mad) and reduces the period of time to be spent with her to one year (Georgian folklore 1991: 352). Often during this love confinement he is prohibited to have an affair with other women even with his official wife. It is noteworthy that the Forest Queen does not meet her lover in the forest but goes to his village and the place of their meeting is a cattle-shed or a barn. Both places, as symbols of fertility, were the most respectable for the peasant. These were the first places to what the head of family was congratulating New Year. If the lovers peacefully part after the agreed date the Queen rewards the man and his family with good and abundance.
This is not only the Forest Queen’s gift. The characteristic sign of personages of this type is extraordinary fertility and abundance. Those who enter a family voluntarily, perform household duties willingly (unlike evil creatures with cut off nails seized by force). They make the household chores quickly and with quality which can not be achieved by a mere mortal. It can be said that they repay to the wife for taking her husband away. At the same time they reveal their supernatural essence by such an action.
Among these images a character of Khevsurian legends – Samdzimari (Condolence) should be mentioned. She is mentioned as the sister of Kakhmat Giorgi and is also asked for something. Samdzimari is fond of dressing in a dandyish manner and wear ornamentation among which beads are most important (According to some scientists, her name is derived from the name of this item – “mdzivi” (beads) – “Samdzivari”). She appears to men as an earthly woman and brings luck to everybody with whom she has close relationship. She fills a family with abundance because one touch of Samdzimari multiplies products (Ochiauri 1954: 455).
A personage of Tushetian folklore – Tebzhorika is characterized by the sign of abundance. She is inclined for men and enters into a love affair with them. Everything made by her is of high quality and she brings abundance to a family. Tebzhorika is able to transform foam taken out of water into butter.
The Lakis residing in Dagestan have a legend about so-called demonic characters. One of them is called Mantuli and the other – Sukhalukhu. They are dressed in ragged clothes and wear glass beads made of low quality material. In fact these beads are very valuable but they appear such to people. Both of them voluntarily go to a family and bring wealth there. Both Mantuli and Sukhalukhu make household chores with an astonishing quickness and abundance (Mythology… 1984: 111). Love affairs of women with the man of the family are not mentioned in Lakian legends but this detail will be easily restored considering the analogies.
According to Kumikhian legend, a wood-goblin woman Albasli became close to a hunter Baday. They used to meet each other in the man’s house. Baday became rich and built a huge house for himself. But this fact did not make his young wife happy. She could not understand who did her work at home instead of her. Then she saw it was Albasli with wonderful hair.
The affair of these women with men may have either happy or tragic end. This often depends on shrewdness of the housewife or more exactly, the result will be dependent upon whether the housewife is familiarized with traditions and customs of this community. If a woman knows how to act, then her husband’s lover will leave good and abundance to this family. The main condition is to keep the secret (as in case of Dali and the hunter) and the housewife is responsible for keeping the secret. Nobody must know about the love affair except the family members. Otherwise the situation will be doomed to a pitiable result.
I will refer to a Lakian text as a sample the end of which is typical for legends of this type. A woman named Batty lived in the village of Akhari (Dagestan). While she worked in the field, Sukhalutu made all household chores (it is implied that she was the lover of Batty’s husband). She disclosed the secret to her neighbor and Sukhalutu strangled her child in the cradle (Mytholody… 1984: 111).
If a person behaves unreasonably, the forced guest liquidates his descendants and ruins the family. A happy end is also met in the legends. When a reasonable woman sees a creature lying next to her husband she washes her long beautiful hair in milk. In this case the grateful creature leaves the man alone and leaves abundance to the family. So, a wise wife will return her husband and achieve her family’s wellbeing as well.
According to a Tushetian legend, Tebzhorika had a love affair with a man. His wife saw a woman lying next to her husband and her hair lain on the floor. She lubricated her hair with butter. Tebzhorika asked the man: “What your wife has to do? I will do it instead of her to express my gratitude”. The husband told her that his wife had woven some fabric and arable land to be ploughed. She taught him to put a comb in the fabric and a sheave plait in the arable land. Since then Tebzhorika did not appear at the man’s house but they found the arable land ploughed.
All images named by us reveal signs of the deity of fertility. They may be either good or infuriated depending on how people treat it. They also resemble patron souls of family, angels of hearth which represent emanations of the goddess of fertility. Some of them live at the box for bread when they enter the house. This is confirmed by their abundance and the fact that after peaceful parting with a man they fill his family with wealth. Nothing is mentioned about any threat this wealth may pose to people. This is a present for respect and right treatment.
Except the signs of abundance the genetic connection with the deity of fertility is observed in other details as well. First of all, I am talking about the main plot - making a love affair with a man. This is one of the main episodes of the universal myth about the goddess of fertility – love affair with a mortal man. The initiator of this affair is the goddess. The response to this myth is the love story of Dali and the hunter. This is such a strong detail of the myth of the goddess that it is presented as the leitmotiv of the story of creatures transformed into demonological personages. It is noteworthy that the result of this affair completely depends upon the housewife. Here rudiments of the old myth and ritual are found when the pagan priests of the goddess of fertility were women and the angel of hearth was served by a housewife. That is why she chooses married man. So the revenge of the infuriated goddess was adequate to her function. She used to punish the man with infertility which is a precondition for ruining a family.
As we can see, these images reveal signs of abundance and fertility but in a perverted form. They often hear what other say the wrong way. They appear to people in ragged clothes and seem to wear glass beads made of worthless items. Thus they hide their actual face. Actually their beads are made of gold and valuable stones and maybe the ragged clothes are to cover valuable clothes. All signs indicate that they are disgraced old deities and victims of those devastating processes which accompany the change of religions. The new generation of gods deprived these deities of power. Being separated from the religious system they moved to thy sphere of demonology though some signs have remained in folk legends which were based on their functions. They settled in the underground which is an upturned space opposite to the earthly world. That is why their feet are upturned .The Earth is not their possession any more. That is why they can come out only in the dark and disappear in the daytime. Maybe they are inclined for people because they want to return the lost world by means of them (Sikharulidze 2006:161).
As a conclusion we can admit that folk tales had preserved rudiments of myth and ritual about fertility Goddess. The thing is in ritual connection of the man and Goddess. In fact, it was the relations of Goddess and housewife, in which man had a role of mediator. It was a trial of woman. Only after the trial, woman was given the rank of housewife. Her motherhood and generally the wellbeing of the family depended on the result of ritual “wedding” of the husband and the Goddess. We can conclude that this system and its rituals were common in all Caucasia, as in various Caucasian people’s tales this images and elements were almost similar.
Georgian folklore 1991: Georgian folklore, megrelian texts, Tbilisi, 1991 (in Georgian)
Mythology 1984: Mythology of people of Dagestan, Makhachkala, 1984 (in Russian)
Ochiauri 1954: Ochiauri T.: From the ancient history of Georgian believes, Tbilisi, 1954 (in Georgian)
Sikharulidze 2006: Sikharulidze K.: Caucasian mythology, Tbilisi, 2006 (in Georgian)
Volume 4, Issue 1