Tag Archives: Pagan

Armenian Traditions and Celebrations: Dzaghgazart (Palm Sunday)

Dzaghgazart, with the literal translation to English being “decorated with flowers”, is celebrated by Armenians around the world who follow the Christian Faith. The day has been declared to be the Day of Blessing the Children, in memory of the fact that during the entry of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, children were rejoicing and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” On Palm Sunday, the Armenian Church remembers the multitude that welcomed with palms, olive branches and cries of Hosanna (Glory to God!). The Church is decorated with palms and olive branches, which are distributed to the worshipers. According to the doctrine of the fathers, throwing clothes in front of Jesus symbolized freeing oneself of sins, while giving branches as gifts was a symbol of honors and ceremonies. The olive branch was considered to be the symbol of wisdom, peace, victory and glory. Giving olive and date branches to Christ who resurrected the dead Ghazaros is the symbol of victory over death.Later in the day, the Armenian Church holds the “Opening of the Doors” (Trnpatsek) service, symbolic of our entrance into Heaven.

In reality, the celebration in Armenia predates Christianity. It was a day of worship dedicated to the resurrection of nature and directly connected to the legend of Ara the Beautiful. When Ara died by the hands of the Assyrian Queen Shamiram’s army, she placed him atop a mountain, beseeching the Aralez gods to lick his wounds and give him back his life. This signifies the rebirth in nature, a testimony to the power of the Heavens. The worship centered largely around the tree of life, known as the Genats tree, which was found to be the predecessor of the Poplar and Sosin trees. Sacred Altars to the Gods were erected among these trees, creating a grove and Godswood. The worship of the sacred trees was so paramount that when Christianity disallowed for the existence of such worship, names such as Sos, Sosi, Soseh, and Chinar came about instead. The pagan Arorti religion would continue on and still exists to this day.

One of the traditions that still exists to this day and is connected to the worship of the sacred trees representing the Tree of Life is the tying of colorful cloth to the branches as prayers and wishes and dreams are offered to the Heavens. Furthermore, the trees are decorates with eggs, as a symbol of life and fertility, a celebration of rebirth.

Another part of the worship was related to the goddess Nouri (Nar, Houri, Nvart), who reigned over the rainy weather and the fertility of the soil. She was turned into a doll with a rainbow belt after Christianity was adopted and forced onto the population. Children would run around with their dolls of Nouri and plates for donations. The people would gather and would dance and sing after sacrificing a lamb to the purity and generosity of Nouri.

-Նուրի-Նուրին էկել ա,

Շիլա-շաբիք հագել ա,

Կարմիր գոտին կապել ա,

Ձու բերեք թաթին դնենք,

Եղ բերենք` սրտին քսենք…

Սրտին քսել means to win over

 

Another version of the song is sung as such: 

-Նուրի-Նուրին էկել ա,

Դուռն ի դռան կանգնել ա,

Շալե շաբիք հագել ա,

Կեշմե գոտիք կապել ա,

Ձու բերեք, թաթը դնենք,

Եղ բերեք` վարսը քսենք,

Ջուր բերեք` գլխին ածենք,

Աստուծանե ցող թող գա,

Գետնիցը` պտուղ դուս գա…

Լուսանկարը` Նազիկ Արմենակյանի

 

Trnspatsek (Opening of the Doors) information: http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net/wpblog/tag/palm-sunday/

Ancient/Pagan traditions and information: http://ankakh.com/2012/04/193031/

Revival of our Ancients

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This is as beautiful to my heart as any song of worship, for it is directed to a lesser known god of the Armenian pantheon predating Christianity. Tir or Deer (truthfully, I’ve always wondered if the Armenian Der doesn’t come from this god’s name) was the God of literature, science and art, but is also believed to have had a place at the very top of the pantheon.  Tir was an attendant incorporeal spirit, also known as Krogh (“writer”), whom Aramazd sent to earth to watch men and record in a book their good and evil deeds. After death, human souls were conducted by Tir to Aramazd, who used the information ascribed by the god to determine what should happen after death. In a village near Vargharshapat, there was a temple for Tir where the priests interpreted dreams after consulting his oracle.

The influence of Tir was great in Armenia, for he was a personification of hope and fear. There are traces of the cult of this god in the Armenian language. You can still hear, used as a curse, the expression, “May Krogh take you!”

For any culture to move forward, I believe they need to know only acknowledge but embrace their history, the past that has shaped them and the legends on which their current religion and culture are based upon. Once the root has been forgotten or demolished, it is rather easy to extinguish a whole race.

Happy New Year!

I’m 2 days too late in the wishes, but that would be due to personal circumstances preventing internet access…

The holiday of Navasart celebrated on 11 August is the ancient Armenian New Year, symboling Haig Nahaped’s victory over the Babylonian tyrant Pel. According to  legend, about 4,500 years ago, the legendary forefather of the Armenians defeated Pel’s army, marking the dawn of the Armenian Kingdom.

The word itself is translate as nava=new and sart=year. It became one of the favorite pre-Christian holidays of the Armenian people. On that day festivities were held throughout the Armenian territory. Between the royal families and the common folk, everyone celebrated the holiday.

This holiday was devoted to the olden Armenian pantheon. It was believed that the gods came down to earth and bathed in the Aratsani river before retuning to the Heavens to participate in the Navasart festivities. In honour of these celestial beings, Armenians would sacrifice oxen and mark their foreheads with sacred symbols using the blood. According to fables of old, on that day the tables could sometimes collapse under the weight of the various dishes, sweets and dried fruit. Royal hunting and horse racing were important events during Navasart.

Unfortunately, the memory of this important holiday has been forgotten by all but a few who continue their celebrations. Certain Armenian events are also named after the new year, such as the annual Navasartian Games in Eastern USA.

Armenian Traditions: Vartavar

Although now a Christian tradition, Vartavar’s history dates back to pagan times. The ancient festival is traditionally associated with the goddess Astghik, who was the goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility. The festivities associated with this religious observance of Astghik were named “Vartavar” because Armenians offered her roses as a celebration (“vart” means “rose” in and “var” mean “rise”), this is why it was celebrated in the harvest time.  The word Vartavar has two meanings: “the flaming of the rose and “to sprinkle with water.

Vartavar is currently celebrated about 98 days (14 Sundays) after Easter. During the day of Vardevar, people from a wide array of ages are allowed to douse strangers with water. It is common to see people pouring buckets of water from balconies on the unsuspecting walking below them. The festival is very popular among children as it is one day where they can get away with pulling pranks. Even young wives enjoy drenching their husbands and mothers-in-law. It is also a means of refreshment on the usually hot and dry summer days of July.

According to one legend, the goddess Astghik spread love through the Armenian land by sprinkling rosy water. Since Vartavar has its roots in pre-Christian times, one of the best places to observe it is near the only left pagan temple in Armenia, in Garni, where it feels a lot more authentic. According to another legend, Vahakn, Astghik’s beloved, was once injured in a struggle with evil. She rushed barefoot to his aid but on the way hurt her feet while treading over the roses, her blood turning them red. This is how red roses came into being: the flower of love was born. She had her temple, where young and old alike would go on pilgrimage to praise her, sing songs, and offer bouquets of flowers and other gifts. On the other hand, Anahit was the goddess of “purity, kindness, nurturing, temperance, fertility, wealth, and fullness”. She was identified with water, as a cleansing and purifying agent. In the ancient Hittite language “ooard” meant “water” and “ar” – “to wash”. These were related to Anahit’s celebration.

The essence of the rituals is splashing with water. On that day water is considered to be curative and powerful, especially in divinations and the foretelling of futures. It was superstitiously believed to be a means of driving away evil. The accompanying traditional songs, dances, and games were supplications to the gods to give water to the dry earth. People would present roses to each other and loving couples would set pigeons free. If the pigeon flew over the young girls roof three times then it was an omen that the man would marry the girl in the fall.

In mountainous areas, the festivities took on a different form. It was more widespread to offer animals, the first fruits, and wheat husks to each other. Pilgrimages were organized, as were feasts and festivities.  Shepherds would gather colorful flowers to make bouquets. The foreheads of cows were also decorated with flowers. When children saw a cow with a cross of flowers on the forehead, they would start singing traditional songs. With two days worth of food, crowds would travel to holy springs, taking animals that had been decorated with flowers. The animals were offered to the gods, hoping to receive their grace. Young girls would take bouquets of flowers from one home to another, singing, dancing, and receiving presents. In the villages nooree (pomegranate) dolls walked around and eggs, flour, and butter were gathered.

Similar to other holidays, Vartavar also bore the character and symbol of fertility.  Young women who were engaged made khntoom (laughing), a small garden made of wheat or barley sprouts. A piece of wood with wings was placed in the center. An apple or pear (considered Vartavar fruits) was fixed to it and was decorated with cucumbers and roses.  An old woman (who took the role of Anaheet) twirled the plate and everyone danced around it. Finally, fruits and flowers were distributed to the people. Only after this ritual, were people allowed to eat apples and pears.  Presenting apples, flowers, and other gifts, was common. A special horse-riding game called passaloo was also played, during which the young men would try to throw their competitors into the water. Wrestling bouts and bullfights were also very common, accompanied by the songs and dance of the young females of the village.

Different regions in Armenia celebrated the harvest with different traditions. For instance, in the district of Koghtn it was customary to hold a ritual during this festival involving green wheat that had previously budded. In other regions, special rituals were directly connected with animal husbandry. The Armenian Meliks marked the day with feasts held in the fields and rituals dedicated to fertility-such as bringing fruits as gifts to future brides and grooms, throwing fruits on their heads, or sending them apples. Throughout much of Armenia, families enjoyed delicious harisa as part of the feast.

Armenian Calendar

Source: http://haytomar.com/calendar.php

According to the ancient legend, the beginning of the Armenian calendar is connected with the victory of Hayk Patriarch over the Babylonian King Bel. In the Middle Ages, Ghevond Alishan pointed out that it occurred in 2492BC on the 11th of August. It is thought that this date also began the Armenian calendar, just as Christ’s birth date begins the modern one.

Though some historians are suspicious about Alishan’s accounts, traditionally the year 2492 as the 1st day of the olden calendar is left mostly undisputed. On August 11, 2007, the 4500 Year was celebrated in Armenia.

The ancient pagan calendar went out of use in Armenia after the adoption of Christianity as an official religion in the IV century. During the next centuries, it gradually slipped into oblivion. Only in the Middle Ages did Alishan and a few other scientists remember it, striving to preserve the past for future generations.

In pagan times, Armenian,s like Greeks and Roman,s named the days of the week after the sun, the moon and the five known at those times planets.

1. Aregaki – Sunday
2. Lousni – Monday
3. Hradi – Tuesday
4. Paylatsoui – Wednesday
5. Lousntagi – Thursday
6. Arousyaki – Friday
7. Yerevaki – Saturday

Concerning months, Armenians were using 13 of them like Persians and Egyptians. 12 months had 30 days each, and the 13th month could hold 5 or 6 days depending on whether it was a leap-year or not.

1. Navasard – 30 days 8. Aregi – 30 days
2. Gor – 30 days 9. Aheki – 30 days
3. Sahm – 30 days 10. Mareri – 30 days
4. Treh – 30 days 11. Margats – 30 days
5. Qaghots – 30 days 12. Hrotits – 30 days
6. Arats – 30 days 13. Avelyats – 5(6) days
7. Meheki – 30 days

It is notable that in the Armenian Calendar the days of the nth had their distinct names as well. Each day was named after the gods of the Armenian pantheon.

1. Areg 16. Mani
2. Hrand 17. Asak
3. Aram 18. Masis
4. Margar 19. Anahit
5. Ahranq 20. Aragats
6. Madegh 21. Grgor
7. Astghik 22. Kordouiq
8. Mihr 23. Tsmak
9. Dzopaber 24. Lousnak
10. Mourts 25. Tsron
11. Yerezkan 26. Npat
12. Ani 27. Vahagn
13. Parkhar 28. Sein
14. Vanat 29. Varag
15. Aramazd 30. Gisheravar

24 hours of the day also had their sepparate names.

Nighttime hours Daytime hours
1. Khavarakann 13. Aygn
2. Aghjamughjn 14. Tsaygn
3. Mtatsyaln 15. Zoratsyaln
4. Shaghavotn 16. Tscharagaytyaln
5. Kamavotn 17. Sharavighyaln
6. Bavakann 18. Yerkratesn
7. Havtapyaln 19. Shantakaln
8. Gizkan 20. Hrakatn
9. Lusatschemn 21. Hourtapyaln
10. Aravotn 22. Toghantyaln
11. Lusapayln 23. Aravarn
12. Paylatsumn 24. Arpoghn