Georgian mythology

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Georgian mythology refers to the mythology of pre-Christian Georgians.

Georgian myths and legends are preserved mainly as popular tales. Many of them have eventually fused with Christian legends after the Christianization of Georgia seventeen centuries ago.

Cosmology[edit]

In pre-Christian Georgian mythology, the universe is perceived as a sphere, it comprises three worlds or levels, known as skneli (სკნელი):

  • Zeskneli (ზესკნელი) - the highest world, and the home of the gods. White is the color of Zeskneli.
  • The Earth - the middle world, home of mortals. Its center is divided into two regions, anterior (tsina samkaro, წინა სამყარო; or tsinaskneli, წინასკნელი) and posterior (ukana samkaro, უკანა სამყარო; or ukana skneli, უკანასკნელი); - beyond which the lands of Earth are divided by seven or nine mountains (or seas), which a hero can traverse only by first undergoing a spiritual transformation ( known as gardatsvaleba (გარდაცვალება - which is also the word for "death" ) and seeking the help of magical animals, such as the Paskunji, the Rashi and others. Red is the colour of this world.
  • Kveskneli (ქვესკნელი) - the lowest world or underworld, inhabited by the ogres, serpents, and demons. Black is the colour of Kveskneli.

These three worlds are connected by a world tree growing on the edge of the universe (or in other accounts a tower, chain, or pillar) - a common theme in the mythologies of many other cultures ( compare, for example, Yggdrasil, Égig érő fa and Iroko ). Beyond them and the universe is Gareskneli (გარესკნელი), "the world of oblivion", an endless void of darkness and eternity.

There are also two bodies of water and fire (respectively subterranean and celestial) with unique influences upon human life, the moon (considered a brother) and the sun (considered a sister) traverse these two realms regularly, but in opposite directions.

After Christianization, Zeskneli became associated with Heaven, Kveskneli with Hell, and spiritual travel between these worlds associated with death alone, to the exclusion of older, more shamanic conceptions of the otherworld journey.

List of mythic characters[edit]

A list of Georgian mythical characters includes:

Gods[edit]

  • Adgilis Deda (ადგილის დედა) - A fertility and livestock goddess who is revered by the people who live in the mountainous areas of northeastern Georgia, such as Khevsureti, as a patron of places and their travellers. She is portrayed as a beautiful lady with silver jewellery, she later became associated with the Virgin Mary when the area was converted to Christianity. Her name means "Mother of Locality".
  • Ainina and Danina (აინინა და დანინა) - A pair of goddesses who are mentioned in The Conversion of Kartli and the mediaeval Georgian Chronicles.
  • Apsat (აფსათი) - A male god of birds and animals in Svan mythology.
  • Armaz (არმაზი) - Chief of the gods; central figure in Kartli’s (Iberia) official religion established by King Pharnavaz of Iberia (4th century, BC). According to the legend, an immense statue of Armaz was destroyed by lightning after St. Nino’s prayer. Armaz is also the name of an ancient fortress near Mtskheta that dates from the same period.[citation needed]
  • Barbale (ბარბალე) - The goddess of cattle and poultry fertility, the sun, women's fertility, and healing.[1] Worshippers honour her in the Barbalesadmi festival with solar symbols, which occurs at the winter solstice, her name is similar to the Sumerian and Akkadian epithet "bibbiru", which means "shining, splendour".
  • Batonebi (ბატონები) - Spirits of disease. Their name means "the masters". If anyone is infected by the Batonebi, their family will prepare special food and candies, and place presents under trees to appease the Batonebi; in rural areas of Georgia, "Batonebi" are used as a term to refer to infectious diseases.[1]
  • Beri-Bera (ბერი ბერა) - An agricultural god of fertility, harvests, and animals who is worshipped in eastern Georgia. His festival is held at the end of the year.[1]
  • Bochi (ბოჩი) - Thought to be the patron saint of cattle. The first written documentation of this deity comes from Euthymius of Athos. According to historian Ivane Javakhishvili, the name "Bochi" is related to words for "male goat."
  • Dali (დალი) - The goddess of the hunt. She is also known as Dæl, she was believed to have extraordinary beauty, with long golden hair and radiant white skin. She dwells high up in the mountains where she watches over and protects wild animals, she sometimes shared animals with hunters, as long as they respect her rules by not hunting more than their needed amounts or taking aim at animals that are her manifestations. In some myths, she entered in intimate relations with a hunter, and warned him not to reveal their relationship at the risk of death from being turned to stone, like those who failed to keep their promises to her along with their hounds. Ochokochi (ოჭოკოჩი) was so infatuated with her, that he often tried to pursue her, but the mortal hunters who visit her forests often thwart his attempts to catch her, she is the mother of the hero Amiran. In Samegrelo, she is named as "Tkashi-Mapa", the Queen of the Forest.[1][2]
  • Gatsi and Gaim (გაცი და გაიმი) - Gods in the official Iberian pantheon according to the medieval annals.
  • Ghmerti (ღმერთი) - The supreme divinity and the head of the pantheon of gods. He is the all-powerful Lord of the Universe and its Creator, he lives in the ninth sky, where he rules from a golden throne. His children include the moon (as his son), the sun (as his daughter), and the Ghvtis Shvilni who protect people against evil, he is also addressed as Morige Ghmerti (მორიგე ღმერთი, "God the Director") and Dambadebeli (დამბადებელი, "The Creator"). His name is later used to refer to God the Father in Christian belief.[1]
  • Kamar (ყამარი) The daughter of the god of the sky. She is a symbol of divine fire, her beautiful appearance caused Amiran to abduct her from heaven.[1]
  • Lamara, Lamia (ლამარა, ლამია) - Goddess of the sky.
  • Mamber (მამბერი) - The lord of wolves who was worshiped in Svaneti and other mountainous regions.[1]
  • Michpa (მიჭპა) - The patron god of cattle and other domestic animals who was worshiped in Svaneti during winter.[1]
  • Mindort-batoni (მინდორთ ბატონი) - The god of valleys, fields, and wild flowers. Humans had to ask for his approval before they can explore or cultivate on his fields, his daughter, Mindort-brdzanebeli, is the beautiful goddess of flowers.[1]
  • Mindort-brdzanebeli (მინდორთ ბრძანებელი) - The goddess of flowers. She is the daughter of the god Mindort-batoni, she flutters over plants, feeding on their pollen.[1]
  • Ochopintre (ოჭოპინტრე) - A spirit of the forest and protector of wild animals. The first part of his name (ocho, ოჭო) is connected to the ancient pagan god Bochi, the second part (pintre, პინტრე) to the Greek god Pan. Born with the legs and horns of a goat, he assists the goddess Dali in herding the animals. Hunters usually made sacrifice in his name since no one could hunt the animals without his help, the fate of a person entering his forest was believed to be fully in his hands.[1]
  • Tamar (თამარი) - Goddess, was called "eye of the earth" and rode a serpent.
  • Tetri Giorgi (თეთრი გიორგი, White George) - Popular character in Georgian mythology; a warrior and a moon god. Later Tetri Giorgi became one of the names of St. George in eastern Georgia.[citation needed]
  • Tevdore (თევდორე) - God of agriculture and horses. After Christianization, he became associated with St. Theodore. In feudal times the special festival of Tedoroba was organised to honor him and ensure a bountiful harvest.[1]
  • Tskarishdida (წკარიშდიდა) - A mermaid-like goddess of rivers, lakes and fish, in Mingrelian folklore. She uses magic powers against humans.[1]
  • Zaden (ზადენი) - God of fertility in the official pantheon established by Pharnavaz I. He was believed to be as powerful as Armaz, he was added into the official pantheon by Parnajom in the second century BC, and had a statue of him erected at a fortress near Mt. Zedazeni, near Mtskheta, his statue was said to have been destroyed with the statues of other gods through the prayers of St. Nino, the worship of him declined after Christianization.[1]

Demigods, heroes, and notable people[edit]

  • Amiran (ამირანი) - Mythic hero and titan, son of Dali. Equivalent of the Greek Prometheus.[1]
  • Iakhsar (იახსარი) - A mythic hero who aided Kopala in his adventures to slay demons and monsters, and was deified and venerated as a popular deity.[3]
  • Ghvtis Shvilni (ღვთის შვილნი) - A group of demigods who protected humans, assured good crops and milk yields, fought against devis and kudiani witches. Amiran, Giorgi, Iakhsar, and Kopala were among them, and they fought alongside Iakhsar and Kopala to drive out the devis from the land, and to help Giorgi to raid the impregnable fortress of the kajis to plunder their treasures, cattle, and women.[1]
  • Kopala (კოპალა) - A mythic hero, mighty warrior, and a demon killer. He is a lightning god, he and Iakhsar led a campaign to drive out the devis who were persecuting humans on the land. His weapons include a mace and an iron bow made for him by the blacksmith god Pirkusha (პირქუშა). Only he can have to power to defeat the most stubborn demons, who were believed to seize anyone's soul and cause madness, and he cures the victim's insanity in the process,[1] the locals of the mountainous areas of Khevsureti and Pshavi revere him.
  • Kviria (კვირია) - A hero and a son of the gods who served as a mediator between Ghmerti and humanity. He is invoked as the protector of human society and an instrument of divine justice; in some regions of Georgia, he was also believed to be a deity of fertility and the harvest, while in the mountains of western Georgia he was worshiped as the supreme deity. The festival of Kviratskholovba (კვირაცხოვლობა) was celebrated to honour him.[1]
  • Natsiliani (ნაწილიანი) - Humans who received magic gifts or divine signs (natsili, ნაწილი) from the gods. Their signs are usually located on their shoulder-blades and glowed with magic light, empowering their bearers, these signs must be kept hidden, as their bearers will lose their powers if they revealed them.[1] Certain signs can only be given by their respective gods.

Spirits, creatures, and other beings[edit]

  • Ali (ალი) - An evil soul that haunts pregnant women, the elderly, and infants who happen to stumble into remote woods, caves, and ruins. Alis can be male or female (who are known as alkali); male alis appear monstrous, while female alis are temptingly beautiful.[1] Their name is related to the word for "flame" (ალი).
"Tarielis shebma devebtan". A miniature by Mamuka Tavakalashvili from the manuscript of Shota Rustaveli's "Knight in the Panther's Skin". H599. 199r. National Center of Manuscripts, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Devi (დევი) - Many-headed ogres whose heads can regenerate if any of them are cut off (compare Lernaean Hydra). These malevolent giants live in the underworld or in remote mountains, where they hoard treasure troves and keep their captives; in Georgian mythology, they live in a family, consisting usually of nine brothers. Bakbak-Devi (ბაყბაყ-დევი) was the strongest and the most powerful of the devis. To defeat them, heroes would outwit them by means of various tricks and games,[1] their name (a borrowing into the Kartvelian (language family) Georgian language from Indo-European ) is related to that of the daevas of Zoroastrian and Persian mythology, derived in turn from Proto-Indo-European *deiu̯ó 'god'.
  • Dobilni (translates as: Ones, who became sisters; დობილნი) - Spirits who usually appear as women, children, and animals to spread diseases. Dobilni towers (დობილთ კოშკი, dobilt koshki) were built in Khevsurian shrines to keep them at bay, some Dobilni are benevolent, such as Princess Samdzimar (სამძიმარი) of Khevsureti legend, who is invoked upon for the birth of healthy children, an easy childbirth, and women's health in general. Shrines to benevolent Dobilni were also invoked to bless cattle and for the protection of travellers.[1]
  • Gveleshapi (გველეშაპი) - Evil serpents[1] that ruled and lived in lakes, rivers, and water sources (compare Nāga). In folklore, they were associated with water-related disasters, and heroes fought against them. (See also Serpent (symbolism).
  • Kaji (ქაჯი) - A race of spirits who are often portrayed as magic-wielding, demonic metal-workers. They lived in Kajeti (ქაჯეთი), and had magic powers that they used against humans. Land kajis were malevolent, while river and lake kajis were friendly to humans. Female kajis were beautiful, and they either seduced heroes or helped them in their quests, they appear prominently in Shota Rustaveli's Vepkhistkaosani, in which kajis abduct one of the main characters and fight the heroes at Kajeti fortress. Their name is related to the Armenian storm and wind spirits, the kaj (Armenian: քաջ, k'aǰ; plural: քաջք k'aǰk').
  • Kudiani (კუდიანი) - A type of hideous hunchbacked witch, having large teeth and a tail, from the latter of which her name is derived (kudi, კუდი, "tail"). Kudianis can disguise themselves as humans in order to bewitch them, the leader of the kudianis, Rokap (როკაპი), often summons them to a special mountain (compare Brocken, Łysa Góra, Lysa Hora (Kiev) and Lysa Hora (folklore)) where they hold a festival similar to the European Walpurgis Night. [1]
  • Matsil (მაცილი) - Evil spirits from the underworld that plagued travelers and hunters. Folk tales mention about Kopala's quests to defeat them.[1]
  • Ocho-Kochi (ოჩოკოჩი) - A forest being in Mingrelian folklore who comes into conflict with hunters. Instead of hair on his chest, he has a protuberance in the form of a pointed bone or a stone-axe, which he uses to kill passersby by embracing them, he often chases Tkashi-Mapa, the beautiful Queen of the Forest, out of lust, but his uncouth advances are often thwarted by mortal hunters (with the worthiest of whom she prefers, on occasion, to mate).
  • Paskunji (ფასკუნჯი) - A phoenix-like being who helps heroes and humans. He lives in the underworld, and fights the serpents there. Heroes summoned him by burning one of his feathers, and he could transport them to other places and heal wounds and illnesses; in some myths, paskunjis were also hostile to humans and persecuted them.[1]
  • Rashi (რაში) - A magical winged horse. There are three types of rashis: land rashis are well disposed to heroes and humans and could perceive the future; sea rashis are more hostile, but can take humans to the bottom of the sea, while their milk was believed to cure many illnesses; and heavenly rashis have wings and can breathe fire, and are difficult to subdue yet loyal to their owners.[1]
  • Rokap (როკაპი) - An evil spirit, leader of the Kudiani (witches). Ghmerti punished him by chaining him to a column under the earth, where he devours human hearts brought to him by the Kudiani , every year, he tries to free himself, but he always fails.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]