Religion | KHEVSURETI

Religion

The system of religious belief of the Khevsuris is a symbiosis of Orthodox Georgian Christianity and paganism. A variety of deities, i.e. polytheism evidences that in the distant past the Khevsuris they were devotees of pre-Christian faiths and beliefs. They believed in the divinity of the sky – the abode of the deities (“khvtishvilebi”) patronizing clouds, martial arts (“lashkroba”), piracy (“mekobreoba”), hunting (“monadireoba”), fertility (“shviliereba”) and animals (“saqoneli”). The Khevsuris worshiped sacred places, kinds of earthly domains possessing heavenly powers, locally known as sabrdzanisebi or jvar-khatebi. They presented oblations at a fixed time of the year, decorated the community and village sanctuaries (“salotsavi”) with the antlers and the horns of the turs… Temi (“community”) was considered to be sakmo (“belonging”) to the jvar-khati and each meteme (“member of the community”) was his kma (“serf”). The supreme administrative organ of temi was “darbazi” (“audience”), the members of which discussed common matters, both home and external, and passed sentences.

The supernatural beings occupying different hierarchical levels enjoyed unequal powers. They, in their turn, had their own assistants known as mtsevrebi, iasaulebi, dobilebi.

Sabrdzanebeli (“sanctuary”) of jvar-khatebi was considered to be a holy place. No one but khevisberi (the elder of a community) had the right to approach the so-called “kvrivi” in the central part of the object of worship. Besides that women were strictly forbidden from overstepping the fixed boundary and come near the sanctuary.

A union of people, who served the sanctuary, was known as “dastur-khelosnebi”. It was considered their prerogative to lead the festive rituals. The so-called khelosani, i.e. one who administered religious rites was elected at the discretion of jvar-khatebi in the following way: one of the deities chose someone from a community and after instilling some illness in his body, forced him to be at his service.

The subordinate to khutsesi was dekanozi . There were also several inferiors: chanchkhi (one who ploughed the land of khati domains and was occupied with farming), medroshe (“flag-carrier”), mezare (“bell-ringer”), megandzuri (keeper of treasury), diasakhlisi (housekeeper of khati), etc. Khutsesi, the same khevisberi was not only a religious leader, but he also was charged with the duty of solving martial as well as legal problems.

Among the servants of cult a distinguished person was qadagi, one of the high priests, who performed the duties of a mediator between the parish and the deities. He, as a rule, was considered to have the gift of prophecy. With the purpose of regulating the religious and public matters the qadagi would sit in a primitive hut and establish contact with the celestial forces. Having communicated with the deities, he warned people about their will.

One more clergy of a somewhat different category, “mkadre”, was also mentioned. He was “caught” by the khati. The deity appeared before him as the image of a bird, fire or cross and in reality spoke to him. Several distinguished mkadres are known: Minani, Gaidauri, Baskhajuri, Gakhua Megrelauri, Mgela Jabushanauri, Saghira Chincharauli…

In Khevsureti, atenghenoba is the most important and illustrious festival held late in July. Quite a large number of people, not only the locals but also those, who have moved to the plain, gather to take part in their traditional ritual.