Mythology | KHEVSURETI

Mythology

Among the monuments of Khevsur oral literature held in high regard are the epics and legends on mythological themes, the essence of which is an imaginative description of the origin and adventures of local deities (khvti’shvili in Georgian).

According to the ancient plots, the Pantheon of celestial powers is presided over by the supreme god Morige (“morigeghmerti”, i.e. “moderator god” in Georgian), who is not principally engaged with the administration of the country (he has assistants, the inferiors enjoying the corresponding authority to do these things) and as is obvious from his title, he only maintains order in this world. “The Pshavis and Khevsurs, – wrote Ivane Javakhishvili*, – call their supreme god “Morige”…”

In times immemorial the most part of Pshavi and Khevsureti was captured by evil powers, the so-called “dev-kerpebi” (evil-spirits). The demons ruled over the territory and put the local population through torture and annihilation. There was no one who would be able to defeat the evil spirits and existing system and order in the country was under threat of collapse. It was then that the presiding supreme god Morige gave human forms to Yakhsar and Kopalaand, along with the other deities, charged them with the duty of freeing the place of people’s settlement from demons and liberate human beings from their tyranny. The creatures formerly existing as human beings (“nakhortsvilari”) and elevated to the ranks of deities destroyed the tormenting evil spirits completely and marked the beginning of peace and harmony on earth…

Along with the devis of threatening appearance, the so-called qajis (the same demons), knowing the secret of smithery, were considered to be the other deadly enemies of the human race. The place of their habitation was called Qajeti (i.e. the land of qajis). The khati (Georgian for “icon”) of Khakhmati known by the name Giorgi Naghvarmshvenieri decided to wage war against the qajis and made for Qajeti accompanied with the other deities of Khevsureti and GakhuaMegrelauri, the mkadre (“servant”) of the Gudani Cross. The celestial warriors smashed up the forge in Qajeti, killed the qajis, razed to the ground their habitation and returned home with a good deal of treasure. Namely,they fetched: a bowl, a golden panduri (stringed instrument), a horn, a rack, a nine-tongue bell, a sieve and an anvil, i. e. all of the objects regarded as necessary for the existence and normal functioning of society. In addition, they captured the female qajis: Samdzimari, Mzeqali, Asheqali and Simenqali.

Out of them the most noteworthy is Samdzimari, the only popular female deity in Khevsureti, who does not keep away from intimate connection with the mortal man – Kholiga Abuletauri (Saghira, according to another version), and who is not alien to the supernatural ability of changing the image. Her epithets are “kheli” (“Georgian for “wild”, “unruly”) and “kelghiliani” (“having a necklace on the neck” in Georgian), pointing out this creature’s lack of timidity, her attractiveness and cheerful disposition.

The most prominent members of Khevsur Pantheon are: the Gudani Cross the Warrior (“beribuqnaiBaaduri”), “Tergvauli the White Mountain Hawk” and Pirqushi the Smith (“tsetskhlisaliani”, i.e. “be marked by fire flame”). The merit of each of them, the kind deeds performed by them are invaluable in Khevureti’s sacral history. If it had not been for the assistance, protection and guidance of the deities sent to perform different missions on earth, perhaps the same chaos and uneasiness would have reigned on the soil of Khevsureti as in the immemorial, prehistoric age, when demons dominated under the sun.

The Khevsurs believed in the existence of the so-called adgilisdeda (word for word translation of the notion is “the mother of the place”) – the deity controlling a certain geographical region, and Ochopintre – god of fauna, patronizing forest animals.

It was the prevalent belief of the Khevsurs that simultaneously with the birth of a human being his or her fortune star came into being. And with the death of a man his star fell from the sky as well. The following small fragment of a Khevsur verse evidences that there could be no doubt about the reality of a fortune star:

“A, is maskvlavachemia”           There it is, my fortune star,
Martorodavatsazeda…”              Shining solely in the sky…”

Astral symbols, in general, intensively figure in popular mentality. From this point of view, noteworthy is the Khevsurs’ belief about the three suns. A folk poet esteems the powerful kin of the Kurazishvilis, as there are three suns, those of generosity (puradobismze), bravery (mamatsobismze) and gun-shooting (toposnobismze) that rises daily in their name.

“Mindi rom dabadebul, tsazesammzemdgar”, “When Mindi was born, three suns were shining in the sky”, – in these words a Khevsur folk taleteller describes unusualness of the birth of Mindi, a mythical hero, elevated to the ranks of the gods. Khogais Mindi is a remarkable person of Georgian mythology, who later became a prototype of the main character of the epic “The Snake-Eater” by the outstanding and exceedingly original Georgian poet Vazha Pshavela. Another interesting example of the creative interpretation of the same hero’s extraordinary life is “Khogais Mindia” by Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, a great Georgian classical novelist.

The mythical heroes of Khevsur origin are Torghva Dzagani (according to a version, a natural child of Prince Alexndre Batonishvili) and Mamuka Qalundauri. They differ from other far-famed heroes of good name thanks to the phenomenon of “natsilianoba” (god’s likeness). “Natsilianoba” is an exceptionally rare occurrence and can be determined as “possession of the god’s share”, i.e. existence of supernatural substance in a mortal being. Folk poetry traces the uniqueness of both of them in abundance of astral symbols: “Didebulebadautqves, “Distinctiveness of his was evident to all, Bechebsunakhesjvario, His shoulders, bearing the sign of the cross Marjvninmzecerebuliqho, With the sun on the right hand, Martskhnike – mtvarisnalio.”And the moon – on the left hand.”

Khevsur mythology offers an exceptionally impressive representation of the great beyond: at the entrance to the better world the aged judges stand and seal the fate of a newcomer according to the deeds performed by him or her in this world. It is their responsibility that the departed be sent either to the heaven or to the underworld. In the abode of the spirits (“suleti”) there is a lake of boiling tar with a hanging hair’s-breadthbridge thrown across it. The innocent people safely cross the bridge and those who are sinful, fall into the bubbling lake and disappear. According to another version, the recently deceased get into a nine-storey castle located in the very centre of the next world. The sinless occupy the upper storeys. As for the sinners, they stay on the lowest floor.

 

 

 

 

* Ivane Javakhishvili, a great Georgian historian, the founder of Tbilisi State
University