Like many another rich and ancient body of myth, that of the Georgians has been coloured by the belief systems of the many cultures with which it has come into contact over the millennia. The bedrock upon which it is founded is, by definition, the indigenous mythology of the Kartvelian peoples themselves, whose first emergence from the darkness of prehistory is believed by many scholars to occur with the founding of the Kingdoms of Diauehi, Colchis and Iberia. This said, the consensus of scholarly opinion is that the proto-Kartvelians (possibly to be identified with the Mushki) originated in Ancient Anatolia, where their religious ideas would have come into contact with those of the Hattians, the Hittite empire, the Hurrians and Urartu. Later influences include the mythologies of the Ancient Greeks, the Vainakh peoples and Iranians - the last-named comprising both the belief systems of the Northern Iranian nomad Scythians and Sarmatians (still preserved to some extent in the mythology of their descendants the Ossetians) and that of the Zoroastrian religion of the Ancient Persian empire, which has left such an enduring legacy among the nations of the Caucasus. (See also Iranian religions)
The evangelizing of Georgia was, however, far from uniform: while the lowland populations embraced Christianity in the fifth century, the highlanders of the mountain valleys in the Greater Caucasus range were converted only ten centuries later - and in a superficial way at that. It follows from this that accounts of pagan practices in the lowland Christian kingdom are poorly preserved in fragmentary form through brief passages in national chronicles and literary classics. Survivals of pagan beliefs and practices in the Georgian plains are thus, understandably, heavily influenced by Christianity, lacking in mythological unity and essentially folkloric.
The mountain Georgians, on the other hand, preserved a rich and well-organized [pagan] religious system to the beginning of the twentieth century, with differentiated cults that continued to be productive [thanks largely to the persistence of] a priestly class with an orally-transmitted body of knowledge.
In the beginning there existed only Morige Ghmerti and his Sister. She made him unhappy, so he cursed her. The sister became a demon. For every good thing that Morige Ghmerti created, the Demon created an evil thing to mar / oppose it. Woman too was a creation of the Demon, as were the lesser demons ( Georgian Devi (დევი) - see below ) , while man and the lesser gods were creations of Morige Ghmerti. The lesser gods grew weary in their unceasing fight with the demons and fled to the upper world of Zeskneli, leaving behind them men. The men however lacked the power to resist the demons, so the lesser gods ( Georgian Ghvtis Shvilni (ღვთის შვილნი) - see below ) hunted down the demons and drove them underground to the netherworld of Kveskneli. The demons left behind them the women who, like them, were part of the evil creation.
Men and women are thus only emanations of, or substitutes for, the gods above and the demons below, respectively. The same principle holds true for all created things : the entities and substances of the universe are divided into two antagonistic series, one wild and demonic, the other social and divine. The only entities or substances that are truly real are those of the upper world of Zeskneli and the lower world of Kveskneli. The middle world inhabited by humans is thus only a place of passage, mediation and meeting and the beings who people it have no essence in themselves, being only emanations of the divine or subterranean worlds, or else their unions.
This mountain Georgian creation myth recalls to some extent that of the Zoroastrians, in that it involves the marring of the good creation of a benign creator by an evil spirit ( compare Angra Mainyu's attempts to mar the creation of Ahura Mazda - see Bundahishn ). It differs radically, however, in its attribution of gender to the principles of good and evil and still more distinctively in its vision of a primordial heavenly harmony of twin creative principles as a brother and sister couple ( - disruption of which incestuous union sets in motion creation, with all its attendant woes).
In pre-Christian Georgian mythology, the universe is perceived as a sphere. It comprises three worlds or levels, known as skneli (სკნელი):
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 two of fire ( each 'element' having both a subterranean and a celestial form ) 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.
The mountain Georgian equivalent of the shaman is the Kadagi, a person ( of either gender ) who has become permanently possessed by one of the class of minor ( i.e. local / specialised ) divinities known most often by the name of Hat'i ( = 'sign' ), but also by those of Dzhuar ( = 'cross' ) and Saghmto ( = 'divinity' ). The Hat'i numbered several hundred at the turn of the nineteenth century and the word Hat'i could designate not only a divinity of this class but also its manifestation ( as image, object or real or imaginary animal ) and the place ( temple / sanctuary ) where it was worshipped. The Kadag would go into trance, both at religious rituals and at events important in individual or collective life, and his or her indwelling Hat'i would foretell the future in a special secret or sacred 'language of the Hat'i '.  ( See also Spirit possession ).
A second type of practitioner of shamanic type (exclusively female) was the Mesultane - the word deriving from Georgian suli 'soul'. A Mesultane - usually a woman, although sometimes as young as a girl of nine - was a female who possessed 'the faculty of visiting the beyond in spirit'. At certain times these females would plunge into 'a lethargy broken by mutterings', following which they would awaken and describe their 'journey', communicating the requests of the dead to particular individuals or to the community at large. From their ability to enter these trance states they would derive honours and prestige.
A list of such beings includes:
Adgilis Deda (Georgian: ადგილის დედა) — literally, the "mother of locality" or "place-mother" — is a deity in the pre-Christian Georgian pantheon, especially revered by the mountaineers of northeast Georgia, such as the Khevsurs, as a protective spirit of a place (genius loci) and also as a deity of fertility of humans and livestock alike.
The ancient Georgians believed that each place — mountain, hill, ravine — had a "mother" which they called the "place-mother". She was portrayed as a beautiful lady with silver jewelry who patronized not only the location but also the foreigners who travelled in this area. With the advent of Christianity, this cult became closely associated with that of the Virgin Mary (Mother of God). They share some common features of rituals and Adgilis Ghvtismshobeli ("Mother of God of the Place") is still worshipped as a patroness of the community among the Georgian highlanders.Ainina and Danina
Ainina and Danina (Georgian: აინინა და დანინა) or Ainina and Danana (აჲნინა და დანანა) are a pair of pre-Christian female deities worshipped in ancient Kartli—Iberia of the Classical sources—as claimed by the medieval Georgian chronicles. Beyond these later records no evidence is available for the existence of these cults.According to the 11th-century History of the Kings and Patriarchs, part of the compiled Georgian Chronicles, the idols of Ainina and Danana were erected by Saurmag, the second king of Kartli, on the road to the royal city of Mtskheta. The earlier, 7th-9th-century source Conversion of Kartli, reports Saurmag was responsible for establishing the cult of Ainina, while his son-in-law and successor Mirvan created the idol of Danina. The reigns of Saurmag and Mirvan are, retrospectively, placed in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.Modern historians presume Ainina and Danina/Aynina and Danana are a corruption of the two names of one and the same deity, Danina/Danana being formed of the Georgian conjunctive particle da + Nana. Nicholas Marr saw in the Georgian names the reflection of the Iranian Anahita and non-Iranian Nan-As, while Michael Tseretheli believed they were influenced by the Sumerian Inanna, a counterpart of the Akkadian Ishtar.Amirani
Amirani or Amiran (Georgian: ამირანი) is the name of a culture hero of a Georgian epic who resembles the Classical Prometheus. Various versions of the myth reveal a process through which the myth was transformed over time, but the legend itself is traced between 3,000 and 2,000 years BC at the beginning of the first Iron Age, as in the myth Demiurge
Amirani defies God by introducing to the human kind the use of metal, and just like Prometheus, he is punished and chained on Caucasus with his cursed dog Q'ursha. Similar to the Prometheus myth, an eagle eats his liver in the day, but it heals itself every night.Apsat (mythology)
Apsat (also Avsati or Æfsati) was a male deity of birds and animals in the mythology of the peoples of the Caucasus of Georgia. His name may come from the Abkhaz language word a-psaåf, meaning "bird", or possibly from the name of the Christian saint with whom he was popularly associated, Saint Eustathios. Some sources regard him as responsible for all hunted game, while others consider him to watch over fish and birds specifically. In some cycles, he is the primary hunting deity, while in others, he is part of a pantheon of hunting deities. A few sources connect him with thunder and lightning.Armazi (god)
According to the medieval Georgian Chronicles, Armazi (Georgian: არმაზი) was the supreme deity in the pantheon of pre-Christian Caucasian Iberia.Georgian literary tradition credits the first king of Kartli, Pharnavaz I of Iberia (assumed to have reigned c. 302-237 BC), with the raising of the idol Armazi – reputedly named after him – on a mountain at his capital, and the construction of a Armazi fortress.
The Life of Nino (9th or 10th century) describes the statue of Armazi as "a man of bronze standing; attached to his body was a golden suit of chain-armour, on his head a strong helmet; for eyes he had emeralds and beryls, in his hands he held a sabre glittering like lighting, and it turned in his hands."
The same account asserts that its subject, a 4th-century female baptizer of Georgians Saint Nino, witnessed the celebration of a great feast of dedication for the idol, and as she began praying, the idol was burnt by lightning.Beyond the medieval Georgian annals, composed five or more centuries after Christianization, there are no records of the pre-Christian Georgian pantheon.
Modern scholars are divided as to the origin of the name Armazi. It would appear to be connected to the Zoroastrian supreme god Ahura Mazdā (Middle Persian Ohrmazd, Armenian Aramazd) and contemporary archaeological evidence does suggest the penetration of Zoroastrianism in ancient Georgia.
On the other hand, Giorgi Melikishvili proposed the identification of Armazi as a local variant of Arma, the god of the moon in Hittite mythology.
This is in keeping with Ivane Javakhishvili's argument of a pre-Christian Georgian moon cult, which fused with the Christian St. George (Tetri Giorgi), Georgia’s patron saint since the Middle Ages.Caucas
Caucas or Kavkasos (Georgian: კავკასოსი) was the purported ancestor of Caucasians. His story is narrated in the compilation of the medieval Georgian chronicles, Kartlis Tskhovreba, taken down from oral tradition by Leonti Mroveli in the 11th century. The legend has it that he was a son of Targamos and, thus, brother of Haos, Movakos, Lekos, Heros, Kartlos (known to be ancestor of Georgian people), and Egros took their origin.
Caucas' son Dzurdzuk is said to be the ancestor of modern Chechens and Ingushetians.Gatsi and Gaim
Gatsi (Georgian: გაცი) and Gaim (გაიმ; or Ga, გა) were, according to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the deities in a pre-Christian pantheon of ancient Georgians of Kartli (Iberia of the Classical sources). The Georgian hagiographic work "The Life of St. Nino" reports that when St. Nino, a 4th-century female Christian baptizer of Georgians, arrived at the city of Mtskheta, she saw that on the right side of the chief idol of Armazi "there stood another image, made of gold, with the face of a man. Its name was Gatsi, and on the left of it was a silver idol with a human face, the name of which was Gaim." Another passage from the medieval chronicle relates that Gatsi and Ga(im) were believed to have governed "all of mysteries."Beyond the passages from the medieval Georgian annals, we lack contemporary records and archaeological evidence about these cults, however. Both these deities, reportedly brought by the semi-legendary ruler Azoy from his original homeland Arian-Kartli, may have been a version of the Anatolian Attis and Cybele.Kamar
Kamar may refer to:
Kamar language of India
Kamar (deity) of Georgian mythologyKartlos
Kartlos (Georgian: ქართლოსი) is the eponymous ancestor of the Georgians (Kartvelians) in Georgian mythology, more specifically of the nation of Kartli (Caucasian Iberia).
Kartlos is introduced in the medieval Georgian Chronicles (Kartlis Cxovreba), presumably recorded from oral tradition by Leonti Mroveli in the 11th century.
The legend has it that he was a son of Targamos and, thus, brother of Haos, Movakos, Lekos, Heros, Kavkasos, and Egros from whom other Caucasian peoples took their origin. Kartlos united his people to become their chieftain and founded the city of Kartli.
The sons of Kartlos are listed as: Mtskhetos, Gardabos, Kakhos, Kukhos, Gachios, Uphlos, Odzrkhos, Javakhos, the respective eponymous founders of Mtskheta, Gardabani, Kakheti, Kukheti, Gachiani, Uplistsikhe, Odzrkhe, and Javakheti.Kevin Tuite
Kevin Tuite (Irish: Caoimhín de Tiúit; born April 3, 1954) is a full Professor of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal. He is a citizen of both Canada and Ireland. His special interest is in Caucasian linguistics, and he has occasionally published on the topic of Georgian mythology.Kopala
Kopala (Georgian: კოპალა) is a traditional hero or demigod revered in the highlands of Pshavi in Georgia. It is said that he once was in a boulder-throwing contest against a number of devebi, or ogres, to see who could throw a boulder the farthest. The ogres' champion picked up a boulder and hurled it across the valley to the mountain on the other side of the Aragvi river. Kopala tested a boulder, but decided it was too light. So he picked up another boulder, pressed it against the first, and threw them both across the valley. These nearly failed to surpass the ogre's throw, but at the crucial moment the god "Kviria" struck the boulder with his whip, causing it to fly further than the ogre's boulder, and it landed on top of the ogres' fortress of Tsikhetgori. As a result of their defeat in an ensuing battle which Kopala fought with his companion "Iakhsar", the surviving ogres retreated underground allowing mankind to settle in the area unmolested.Lamaria
Lamaria (also Lamara or Lamia; Georgian: ლამარია) is a goddess in Georgian mythology, specifically of the Svan ethnic subgroup. Like many other deities of the Svan pantheon, her name is derived from a Christian figure; in her case, Mary, mother of Jesus. Lamaria is the goddess of the hearth, protector of cattle, and a protector of women – particularly during childbirth. She also ensured the fertility of a village's grain fields. She was also known as a patron of beekeeping, although that function was later assigned to the Svan interpretation of St. George.Lamaria is generally categorized today as a goddess of female functions and spaces. She was venerated by women either inside their homes in the absence of men (the "interior of the interior"), or in small shrines in uninhabited spaces outside a village's boundaries (the "exterior of the exterior"). This was in contrast to religious rituals performed by men for male functions, which were either performed at public rituals inside the home, or within remote churches far up mountainsides (the "exterior of the interior" and the "interior of the exterior", respectively). Offerings made to Lamaria included cloth, jewelry, and beads. Sometimes, portable hearths were used for outdoor rituals involving Lamaria.Lamaria was also sometimes associated with or considered equivalent to Barbol, another goddess of feminine and domestic functions. Some scholars have suggested that both originate from the same pre-Christian deity. The French scholar Georges Charachidzé believed Lamaria was derived from an Indo-European deity, possibly the Ossetians or their ancestors, the Alans. He viewed Lamaria as a hearth goddess similar to the Roman goddess Vesta. In contrast, linguist Kevin Tuite viewed her as a multi-faceted figure displaying Vestal traits as well as associations with remote wilderness, like the Khevsurian goddess Samdzimari.There was a festival in lower Svaneti called the "tower feast" which involved Lamaria. The festival revolved around a snow tower built by participants. A sacred tree would be placed at the top of the tower, and a figurine of the goddess would be attached to the top of the tree. The figurine was given a dagger and a wooden phallus, and its face was covered. A round dance would be performed and the tree shaken until the figurine's face covering fell off. Then the village's children would race to climb the tower and make the Lamaria figurine fall to the ground. Anthropologist Kevin Tuite noted that the ritual had significant elements of liminality.List of hunting deities
A hunting deity is a god or goddess in mythology associated with the hunting of animals and the skills and equipment involved. They are a common feature of polytheistic religions.List of nature deities
In nature worship, a nature deity is a deity in charge of forces of nature such as water deity, vegetation deity, sky deity, solar deity, fire deity or any other naturally occurring phenomena such as mountains, trees, or volcanoes. Accepted in panentheism, pantheism, deism, polytheism, animism, totemism, shamanism and paganism the deity embodies natural forces and can have characteristics of the mother goddess, Mother Nature or lord of the animals.Ochokochi
Ochokochi (ოჭოკოჩი) is a figure from Georgian mythology, particularly the Colchian and Mingrelian ethnic groups. Instead of hair on his breast, he has a protuberance in the form of a pointed bone or a stone-axe. He attacks passers by, whom he kills by embracing them.
He is infatuated by the beauty of the Queen of the Forest, Tkashi-Mapa, after whom he chases. However, his attempts to catch her are often thwarted by the hunters who visit her forest.Q'ursha
Q'ursha (Georgian: ყურშა; also Qursha or Kursha) is a legendary dog from Georgian mythology. Although he appears in a number of different stories, he is best known as the loyal companion of the culture hero Amirani. His name means "black-ear", a common Georgian name for dogs. He was said to be born of either a raven or an eagle, and is sometimes depicted as having eagle's wings as a result. Apart from his wings, Q'ursha was sometimes described with other special features: colossal paws, "lips of gold, and eyes as big as sieves". He was attributed supernatural abilities such as a thunderous bark, a leap "as big as a great field" and an infallible ability to track prey.Q'ursha was the subject of the popular Georgian folk song "O my Kursha!", which dates back to at least the 18th century. The Georgian poet Davit Guramishvili, born in 1705, mentioned a desire to hear it in a poem describing his youth.Tamar (goddess)
In Georgian mythology, Tamar was a Georgian goddess who controlled the weather patterns. Tamar enslaved "Dilis Varskvlavi", the Morning Star, who was master of winter; whenever he escaped, snow began to fall, but annually she captured him and brought summer back to the land.
She was called "eye of the earth" and was an eternal virgin who rode through the air on a serpent saddled and bridled with gold.
Nowadays, many women are named after her as she was such an important part of Georgian culture.Togarmah
Togarmah (Hebrew: תֹּגַרְמָה) is a figure in the "table of nations" in Genesis 10, the list of descendants of Noah that represents the peoples known to the ancient Hebrews. Togarmah is among the descendants of Japheth and is thought to represent some people located in Anatolia. Medieval traditions variously claimed Togarmah as the mythical ancestor of peoples in the Caucasus and western Asia, including the Georgians, the Armenians and some Turkic peoples (i.e. Oghuzes, Khazars and Bulgars).Zaden
Zaden (; Georgian: ზადენი, translit.: zadeni) was, according to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the god of fruitfulness in a pre-Christian pantheon of the ancient Georgians of Kartli (Iberia of the Classical sources). King Parnajom of Iberia (109-90 BC) is reported to have built a fortress at Mount Zedazeni to house the colossus of Zadeni which, along with other pagan idols, are said to have been destroyed through the prayers of St. Nino, a 4th-century female baptizer of Georgians.
Beyond the passages from the medieval annals and the surviving toponym of Zedazeni (from Zeda Zadeni, i.e., "Upper Zaden"), we lack contemporary records and archaeological evidence about this cult, however. Zaden is surmised by several modern scholars to have been a Georgian version of the Luwian Santas or the Hittite Sandon, but the identification with Yazata of Zoroastrianism has also been suggested.
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