By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Armenian Legends and Festivals
Author: Boettiger, Louis A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Armenian Legends and Festivals" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)

          Research Publications of the University of Minnesota

                     Studies in the Social Sciences
                               Number 14


                        LOUIS A. BOETTIGER, M.A.

                Published by the University of Minnesota
                       Minneapolis, January, 1920

                             Copyright 1920
                                 by the
                        University of Minnesota


The author of the study which follows responded to the lure of
his task for both theoretical and practical reasons. He seemed,
because of his intimate personal relationship to Armenian life, to
be peculiarly qualified to study and interpret a cross-section of
that country's life. It is particularly urgent that we as Americans
have authentic studies of Armenia and Armenian social life. Heretofore
there has been a striking lack of such materials readily accessible in
English. Because of the not inconsiderable immigration which reaches
us from Armenia, and because also there has been a call for the United
States to act as mandatory for this country under the peace treaty,
we should penetrate more deeply into the Armenian heart than we have
been able to do so far, if we are to carry through successfully
our job either as assimilator or as friendly guardian. Moreover
there is incumbent upon the United States in particular the duty of
understanding a country like Armenia, since we have been foremost in
proclaiming the doctrine of the rights of small nationalities. Those
are the practical purposes from the standpoint of social politics
which have given rise to and confer full warrant upon this study.

Of no less importance, however, is the contribution which
Mr. Boettiger's study makes to theoretical sociology. He has sketched
out for us the picture of a refractory culture which refuses to
amalgamate with or yield to or be permeated by rival cultures. The
social history of this sturdy people offers us a very clear-cut
example of what really makes a society or a nation. Not mountains,
not dynasties, not blood, but common interests, common traditions,
common beliefs; in short, mental community.

The theoretical joins with the practical service of this study if
it can strengthen our understanding that only as our own blood and
that of our Armenian friends reach the place where they boil at the
same temperature, or are cooled by the same application of reason,
can we minister to each other or carry out the new partnership which
may lie immediately ahead of us in the reëstablishment of peace and
the reorganization of world comity.

    Arthur J. Todd



Introduction                                                       1-2

Part I. Legends

Chapter I. The geography of Armenia                                5-8

Chapter II. Ancient historical legends                            9-23

    Section 1. The legend, of Haic                                   9
            2. The legend of Ara and Semiramis                      10
            3. Historical background of the legend of Ara and
               Semiramis                                            11
            4. The legend of Vahakn                                 14
            5. The historic background of the legend of Vahakn      15
            6. The period of national integration                   17
            7. Legends of Artasches and Artavasd                    20
            8. Conclusions                                          22

Chapter III. Legends of the conversion to Christianity           24-38

    Section 1. Pre-Christian mythology and religion                 24
            2. Legends of Abgar, Thaddeus, and St. Bartholomew      27
            3. Legends of Rhipsime and Gregory                      29
            4. The Armenian church as a social force                34

Chapter IV. Locality legends                                     39-44

    Section 1. Ararat                                               39
            2. Khor-Virap and Erzerum                               43

Chapter V. Interpretation and conclusions                        45-48

Part II. Festivals

Chapter I. The Gregorian church                                  51-55

Chapter II. Pagan folk festivals                                 56-66

    Section 1. Vartavar and the Festival of Mihr                    56
            2. The Day of the Dead and Vartan's Day                 58
            3. Fortune-Telling Day                                  62

Chapter III. Christian folk festivals                            67-78

    Section 1. Christmas, Easter, and New Year                      67
            2. Special church ceremonies                            71

Chapter IV. Private festival occasions                           79-90

    Section 1. Baptism                                              79
            2. Betrothal                                            80
            3. Marriage                                             83
            4. Funeral                                              87

Chapter V. Summary                                               91-96

    Conclusions                                                     92

Bibliography                                                    99-100


The study which follows has a very definite objective apart from
the mere gathering of materials, namely, to interpret as far as
the subject-matter would permit, the social life of the Armenian
people. The legends and festivals described have thus been selected
from a larger mass of material with this principle in mind. I have,
therefore, omitted such as seemed to me to be of little or no social
value. Also, in full accordance with this plan, I have chosen to
include certain church ceremonies which give rise to such festivals,
and are of such social importance that I considered them an organic
part of my subject. Otherwise I think I have kept within the strict
confines as indicated by the title of this study.

It must, therefore, be evident that neither Part One on legends,
nor Part Two on festivals, is exhaustive, and this is necessarily
so, not only because of my selective plan, but also because much of
the work on this and kindred subjects has been done by the French,
and is available only on the continent. All of the sources used are,
however, original in two possible constructions of the term; that
is, they are the works of Armenians who have lived for many years in
their native land, or of foreigners, generally French or English, who
have traveled through the country and gathered their material first
hand. A large portion of this matter I have been able to check up
and add to through my wife, an Armenian, who lived in Constantinople
most of her life, and who is naturally versed in the folk-lore of her
native land. While this has been the chief source of my interest,
it is not the only one, for during my three years' work in Beirut,
Syria, I became acquainted with many Armenians.

To describe a legend, or a festival, and to tag it Armenian, is about
as purposeful and enlightening as to explain Plato's idea of social
unity to a person who has no picture of Greek civilization. I have,
therefore, found it necessary to fit these legends and festivals into
the particular settings that seemed to me most natural. The legends
that date from pagan times are meaningless apart from their historical
background; the church legends and festivals are without value apart
from their religious-historical setting, while such legends as those
of Ararat require a description of the natural environment to which
they belong. The conclusions and interpretation which this study gives
rise to, as well as the manner in which I have organized and attempted
to weave the material together into a unified fabric, are my own.

Most of the books used have been supplied by the Case Memorial
Library of Hartford Theological Seminary, and I owe the Reverend
M. H. Ananikian of that institution my thanks for his gracious
coöperation in suggesting materials and providing me with them. I am
also deeply indebted to Professor J. W. Beach for his painstaking
criticism and valuable suggestions, and for the corrections
and suggestions offered by Professor W. S. Davis and Professor
A. E. Jenks. To Professor A. J. Todd I am especially grateful,
for it was under his direction and supervision that this study was
carried out.

    Louis A. Boettiger





Armenia is a huge plateau, a westward extension of the great Iranian
highland, bounded by the Caucasus Mountains on the north, the Taurus
Mountains and Kurdistan on the south, the Persian lowlands on the
southeast, and the Black and Caspian seas. The average height of
the plateau is 6,000 feet. As it ends abruptly at the Black Sea on
one side, so on the other it breaks down in rugged terraces to the
Mesopotamian lowlands; on the east it sinks gradually to the lower
levels of Persia, and on the west to the plains of Asia Minor. The
chief mountain ranges run from northeast to southwest, rising above
the general level of the plateau to an altitude ranging from 8,000
to 12,000 feet and culminating in Ararat, the lofty summit of which
stands 17,000 feet above sea level. Broad, elevated, and fertile
valleys range themselves between the mountains, the main lines of which
are determined by the four chief rivers of the country, the Tigris,
the Euphrates, the Aras, and the Kur. All four rise in the plateau,
the two former emptying into the Persian Gulf, and the latter two
into the Caspian Sea. The Euphrates divides the country into what is
known as great and little Armenia, or Armenia major and Armenia minor,
Armenia major on the east and Armenia minor on the west. Although the
valleys are generally broad expanses of arable land, grass covered
and treeless, the gorges of the Euphrates and Tigris can not be
surpassed in grandeur and wildness. The winters are long and severe,
and the summers short, dry, and hot. In the city of Erzerum the range
of temperature is from -22° to 84°, and snow is usually present in
June. [1]

In consequence of the long and severe winters the villages are
built on gentle slopes of the hillsides in which the houses are
excavated. Robert Curzon, who traveled through the country about 1850,
has written the best description of them. [2] A rectangular plot of
ground about the size of an English acre is laid out and excavated to
a depth of seven or eight feet at the back side, decreasing gradually
with the slope of the hill to a depth of about two feet. After a
careful leveling of the ground, trunks of straight trees are cut
and arranged in rows for the support of the ceiling, which consists
of cross-beams interspersed by a wooden frame-work upon which the
removed soil is laid to a considerable thickness. The walls are made of
stone. In entering the habitation at the lower slope of the hillside,
one is obliged to descend three or four steps to the outer door,
which opens to a passage six to ten feet in length, at the end of
which is a second door, constructed of wood like the first. This door
swings to through the operation of a curious wooden weight passed over
a kind of pulley, in order to keep the outside cold from entering the
inner chamber. The inside of the door is usually covered with a rough,
red-dyed goatskin. Directly before the inner door is a wooden platform
raised some two feet above the ground and known in Turkish as the
"Salamlik," the hall of reception of the head of the family. Chairs
and tables it possesses none, only divans richly draped with Kurdish
stuffs placed against the stone walls that bound the two sides of
the platform. The floor is carpeted with tekeke, a kind of grey felt,
and the walls are decorated with swords, knives, pistols, and other
weapons. On the other two sides, the Salamlik is bounded by wooden
rails to keep away the sheep and cattle which occupy the greatest
proportion of floor space, and whose breathing helps materially to
keep the chamber warm. The other members of the household are confined
behind the stone wall where the space is sometimes split up into
two or more chambers for the various families of the patriarchal
household. One of these rooms is the common eating-room, and is
provided with an open hearth, fireplace, and chimney which leans
forward over the fireplace and draws up the smoke through a hole in
the turf-covered roof. A great stone is placed over the chimney to
keep children at play and grazing animals from falling through. In
traveling through the country on horseback, particular care must be
taken lest the horse step through an old chimney hole and break his
leg. The windows are funnel shaped holes through the ceiling spanned
with oiled paper.

Such is the Armenian household in which the people live day and night
during eight winter months of the year in the coldest section of the
country, as Erzerum and Mush. That many of the evenings were passed in
listening to the tales and gossip of a wandering minstrel, or to the
legends and folk-beliefs of the grey-haired members of the family,
there can be no doubt. That the national tradition was passed on in
this manner from the aged to the younger, to be again passed on in
their turn, is a matter of as much certainty as that part at least
of this same tradition has been preserved through the continually
recurring storms of the passing centuries. The recounting of national
legends and folk-lore is a chief means of amusement even in the warmer
sections of the country, where the climate makes a free community life
possible. How much more place, then, must it have had in these colder
sections where only the head of the family ever left the household
in winter-time, and then only in case of absolute necessity.

As has been suggested, this style of dwelling-place is not common to
all parts of Armenia. In some places the houses are built entirely
above ground, usually of stone, and sometimes, especially in the
case of the poorer inhabitants, of mud. Though the winters are not so
long or severe as in the district of Erzerum, they are nevertheless
sufficiently cold to require a fire six or seven months of the
year. The characteristic feature of every living- and dining-room is
the large "toneer" or circular fireplace dug out to a depth of three
to four feet in the center of the room. Here the fire is built in the
morning, usually with "tezek," the most common variety of fuel which
is a sun-baked mixture of straw and sheep or cow dung. The bread is
baked and the meals are cooked in the "toneer" and when it is time
to eat, the members sit about the open space, letting their feet
hang over the fire to keep warm. In the hut described by Montpèreux,
there was but a single opening in the roof which served for window
and chimney at the same time, and which was often carefully sealed
up with straw to keep out the cold. [3] This author has given a clear
picture of the common family fireplace and sleeping chamber in which
each person fell asleep as best he might upon rugs and skins, keeping
as near the "toneer" as possible. And if the traditions, legends, and
folk-lore that will make up the body of this thesis are the common
possession of the people, as I have reason to believe them to be,
in spite of drastic measures taken to suppress them, how better could
they have been told and retold than while lounging about the "toneer"
during long winter evenings before sleeping time? [4]

In what other respects the natural environment of the people moulded
the common life, one can only conjecture. That the cold winters
and deep river valleys have tended to the formation of isolated
communities, clannishness, and provincialism, as is contended by
some writers, has not generally been true. Tidal waves of conquering
civilizations have passed over the country too frequently to make
such an influence possible. [5] Furthermore the people are bound
together by a national religion, whose chief officials are chosen
by the lay members and priesthood of the many communities. [6] These
representatives to the national religious assemblies return to their
own people brimming with news and reports of political as well as
religious and social matters. Such facts together with a common
ancestry, a common tradition, and a common language have moulded
a nation, and not a thousand differentiated groups among a people
who were once a nation. They have tended to solidify and unify the
national character, and it is just this process of solidification
that gives significance to the whole fabric of beliefs, legends,
and festivals of the people.

As a nation, the Armenian people are exclusive, but this is an entirely
different matter. For three years I have had occasion to observe groups
of students belonging to different nations, chiefly Egyptians, Syrians,
Greeks, Jews, Persians, Turks, and Armenians, and the latter always
showed a most persistent determination to confine their friendships
and social intercourse to themselves. Perhaps this is due to the fact
that nearly all of the nations above mentioned have at one time or
another dominated the Armenians; perhaps it is due to the persecution
they have recently suffered, which, though it has been a sufficiently
important fact to result in serious social and psychological changes,
has by no means been characteristic of the history of the people,
as it has been, for example, of the Jews; or perhaps it is due to the
solidarity and oneness of the people as a whole. I am inclined rather
to the latter explanation, and may perhaps be able to prove it so.

Nevertheless, the singularity of the physical environment has placed
its irremovable stamp upon the people. The words that best describe
the country are not trees, hills, forests, gently flowing streams,
such words as commonly express American landscape, but rather,
gorges, mountain ranges, broad river valleys, treeless expanses of
country. There is space to make one think of other worlds and other
shores, and there are mountains suggestive of strength, that rise
majestic above the plateau, to fill one with awe and wonder. Religious
the people are naturally, but more than that, they are thoughtful,
reflecting, considering. No writer that I have read but has spoken
of the Armenian as intellectually alert and capable. That this
thoughtfulness, this robust element in their idealism is in part the
stamp of physical nature, there can be little doubt.




Armenians do not call themselves Armenians nor their country
Armenia. They are descendants of Haic, as the legend goes, who was
the son of Togarmah, the son of Japhet, who was the son of Noah, and
they call their country Haiasdan after the patriarchal progenitor of
their people. [7] Haic dwelt in the plain of Shinar and was a prefect
or director in the building of the tower of Babel. He was beautiful
as a god and strong as a giant, mighty in battle and especially adept
in spear throwing. In the days of his youth, Bel or Nimrod, who was
the patron god of Babylon, established himself over all and wished
to be worshipped. But Haic refused to obey, and taking his sons, who
numbered about three hundred, his daughters, his sheep and cattle,
he journeyed north until he came to the land of Ararat. Bel tried in
vain to persuade his rival to come back.

"Thou hast departed and hast settled in a chill and frosty region,"
urged the Assyrian god. "Soften thy hard pride, change thy coldness
to geniality; be my subject and come and live a life of ease in my
domain." [8]

But Haic refused the cordial invitation, which so much angered Bel
that the latter brought his army to force the Armenian hero into
submission. Haic, however, was victorious, for he slew Bel with an
arrow from his own bow. The place where Bel was buried is called
"Kerezman," meaning grave, and is pointed out to this day. Armenians
sing songs and tell stories of the great beauty and valor of Haic. He
died at the age of four hundred in about 2028 B.C. [9]

This oldest of Armenian legends, quaint and simple as it is in
accounting for the beginnings of a people, savours of the Old
Testament and is suggestive of the Assyrian invasion which took
place about the ninth century before Christ. It is significant that
the Armenians refused the protection of Bel, and that in the very
beginning of their legendary history, they insisted on standing
firm and maintaining their independence, for no single quality is
more characteristic of this people than a proud, haughty, even at
times disdainful independence. It is also suggestive that their
patriarchal hero was no saint, but a mighty giant, beautiful as he
was strong, whose greatest pride was in the throwing of a spear,
for his descendants have not been a peaceful people. To be sure,
they were the first nation to be converted to Christianity, which
would say little for their firmness and independence, were it not
that the priest with the cross was followed by a powerful king with a
sword at the head of an army that had learned to fight as the Romans
fought. [10] The songs that were sung in memory and honor of Haic
are seldom sung to-day unless it be in some remote village where the
civilization of the Turk has not yet pressed, and there are few such
villages if any. For many of them breathe of a national spirit not
beseeming a subject nation, and have been suppressed for many years.


Dating back to the Assyrian invasion which took place during the
seventh and eighth centuries before Christ, one of the oldest of
Armenian legends, that of Semiramis, queen of Assyria, and Ara, king
of Armenia, is told. [11] Ara was very beautiful, and Semiramis having
heard speech of his beauty for many years, wished to possess him. But
she dared do nothing for fear of Ninus, protector over Armenia. After
the death of Ninus, however, the queen sent messengers to Ara, with
gifts and offerings, with prayers and promises of riches, begging
him to come to her at Nineveh and either wed her and reign over all
that Ninus had possessed, or fulfill her desire and return in peace to
Armenia with many gifts. But when the messengers had been turned away
repeatedly, Semiramis became angry, and taking her army she hastened
to Armenia. The battle was fought on the plain of Ara, called after
him Ararat; and although the queen had given careful orders to her
generals to devise some means of saving the life of Ara, the Armenian
king was slain. She found the dead body among the others that had
fallen, and ordered her servants to place it in an upper chamber in
her castle. And when the Armenian army again arose to drive away the
foe and avenge the death of Ara, the queen said, "I have commanded
the gods to lick his wounds and he shall live again." She tried to
bring Ara back to life by witchcraft and charms, but the body began to
decay and she commanded her servants to cast the corpse into a deep
pit and to cover it. And having dressed up one of her men in secret,
she caused the following proclamation to be spread among the people:
"The gods have licked Ara and have brought him back to life again,
thus fulfilling our prayers and our pleasures. Therefore from this
time forth shall they be the more glorified and worshipped by us,
for they are the givers of joy and the fulfillers of desire." And
she erected a statue to the gods, making it seem as though they had
brought Ara back to life again. This news was spread over all the
country of Armenia, and having satisfied the people, she put an end
to the fighting. The twelve-year-old son of the king was taken by the
Assyrian queen and appointed ruler over Armenia. She called him Ara,
in memory of her love for Ara the Beautiful.

To Semiramis is attributed the building of the ancient city of
Van on the shores of the beautiful lake of Van, where she made
her summer residence until the time of her departure. [12] She
might well have lingered there, for the Armenians have a proverb,
"Van in this world, paradise in the next." Nevertheless, Semiramis
and Ara are mythical characters, although the latter is spoken of in
the history of St. Martin as having lived along about 1769 B.C. [13]
As regards the popular belief in the legend, however, there is not
the slightest doubt. This is proved by the fact that even to-day the
city is called "Sham-iram-agerd" by the Armenians, meaning the city
of Semiramis. Lynch says that Ara and Semiramis are Tannuz and Istar,
the Adonis and the Aphrodite of the Hellenic myth, and that the quest
of the Assyrian queen may be connected with the introduction into
Armenia of the worship of Istar whose name is mentioned in one of the
cuneiform inscriptions at Van. [14] However, the results of modern
scholarship are by no means conclusive on this point, as we shall see.


Moses' history was read by St. Martin who became exceedingly interested
in Van, and in the cuneiform inscriptions spoken of. It was due to
him that the French government dispatched a mission to Armenia in
1827, under the direction of a young German Professor, Friedrich
Edward Schulz. Schulz was murdered by the Kurds, a thing which
rarely happens in Armenia, and his work was left incomplete. He had
succeeded, however, in making copies of forty-two inscriptions, which
were published in 1840, and proved to be remarkably accurate. Shortly
afterward, orientalists made great discoveries in the Mesopotamian
valley, but the inscriptions at Van did not tally with any syllabaries
discovered up to that time, nor could they be translated in any known
language. A number of them were found to be Assyrian, but the great
majority were peculiar to Van, and entirely baffled the students. Not
until 1880 were they finally unravelled. M. S. Guyard discovered at
that time that the concluding phrase of many Vannic texts represented
an imprecatory formula found in exactly the same place in Assyrian
counterparts. This discovery enabled Professor Sayce, of Oxford,
to decipher the inscriptions at a rapid rate.

Among the important facts discovered were that the nation was a
rival nation of Assyria, and that its people were called Khaldeans,
or children of Khaldis, much in the same way as the Assyrians reflected
the name of their god, Assur. The country was a theocracy and Khaldis
was supreme. In the tablets, his wrath was invoked against whomever
should destroy them. The capital city was Dhuspus, modern Van, which
is the Disp, or Tsp of Armenian writers, and the Turuspa of Assyrian
annals. The Assyrians styled the kingdom Urardhu, or Urarthu, which
is the name appearing in the Bible in the familiar form Ararat.

The earliest inscriptions date back to the ninth century before
Christ, and as the language is neither Semitic nor Indo-European,
the people could neither have been Assyrians whose language was
Semitic, nor Armenians, whose language is Indo-European. The first
mention made of Urardhu was in the reign of Ashur-Nazir-Pal (885-860
B.C.) whose successor, Shalmanasar II (860-825 B.C.) was the first
Assyrian king to invade Armenia. [15] Raffi, however, (the son of the
famous Armenian poet) speaks of an account given by Assur-Nazir-Haban
(1882-1857 B.C.) of one of his victories. "They" (i.e., the people
of Ararat or Urarthu), he said, "fled to the impregnable mountains
so that I might not be able to get at them, for the mighty summits
were like drawn swords pointing to the skies. Only the birds of
heaven soaring on their wings could reach them. In three days I was
there spreading terror in places where they had taken refuge. Their
corpses like autumn leaves filled the clefts. The rest escaped to
distant inaccessible heights." [16] This, clearly, is a much older
record than any that Lynch found trace of, and although Raffi cites no
authority for the quotation, I presume that it has been taken from a
recent discovery. If this be true the Khaldeans were a very ancient
people. One of the tablets shows that King Memas was the principal
author of the magnificent canal which conducts the water of the river
Khoshab to the suburbs of Van, and which is to-day called "Shamiram-Su"
or river of Semiramis. [17] The line of Vannic kings is traceable as
far down as 644 B.C.

Most of these inscriptions are to be found on a huge isolated rock,
situated in the curve of the bay, and known as the "rock of Van." [18]
Among them are inscriptions left by Xerxes (485 B.C.), the Persian
conqueror whose father's empire (Darius, 521-486 B.C.) succeeded the
loose Scythian rule.

But the ancient Khaldean kingdom had already vanished when Xerxes'
victorious army overran the country, for shortly after the great influx
of Scythians and the break-up of Assyria, came another horde from the
west, perhaps to fill up the void left by the Scythian ravages. It is
at this time that the Armenian people are first heard from, and it is
this horde, therefore, that is regarded as the foundation stock of
the Armenian people. They seem to have been an Indo-European people
residing in the territory north of the Black Sea, for, coming from
the west they must have entered Asia from Europe by crossing the
straits. The ancient Khaldeans were assimilated to some extent,
but for the most part, they were driven to the north and south,
where they have left traces that have been recognized and recorded
by Xenophon and Herodotus. [19]

That the civilization and culture of the ancient Khaldeans were
utilized is beyond doubt. Their most ancient cities, Van, Armavir,
were foundations of Vannic kings, while recently it has been disclosed
that the city of Hajk, southeast of Van, shows some of the familiar
features of a Khaldean settlement. But their supreme god during the
pre-Christian era was not Khaldis, but the Persian Ormuzd, which
indicates that the Persians exercised an even greater influence.

How then could Semiramis ever have come to Van in quest of an Armenian
king, since it seems that the Scythians had already conquered Assyria
before the great influx of Armenian hordes? Nor does it seem that the
city of Van was built by the Assyrian queen, for the inscriptions
make no mention of her name. King Memas who, in the view of Lynch,
constructed the famous canal, was in all probability the author of
the garden city. The belief, according to Lynch, as already stated,
is that this legend is the Armenian version of the old Hellenic myth of
Aphrodite and Adonis, taken over during the domination of the Seleucid
dynasty which followed the conquest of Alexander about 325 B.C. [20]

But this is unreasonable. That a myth should be taken over by a subject
people and the characters rechristened is not difficult to understand,
but that the name of one of them should be applied to the ancient
city is very improbable to say the least. Furthermore, the legend is
flavored rather strongly with Persian voluptuousness, and is not at
all suggestive of Greek delicacy and refinement. Nor is the fact that
the horde overran the country after the destruction of Assyria in any
way conclusive, for if there were any assimilation at all, as there
must unquestionably have been, the Khaldean culture and history was to
that extent the actual possession of the Armenians. Even intermarriage
would perhaps be unnecessary, for what Irishman who has been in the
United States two months does not speak of Benjamin Franklin and George
Washington as his forefathers? It is to be noted also that to this day
the canal spoken of is called "Shamiram-Su" or river of Semiramis, by
all Armenians. [21] On the whole it seems to me conclusive, therefore,
that the legend of Semiramis and Ara has its roots in Armenian history,
and is not at all a version of the Hellenic myth.


The legend of Vahakn, king and god of Armenians, is very clearly
attributable to the Greek period, which followed the Persian conquest
under Xerxes. Vahakn was deified because of his great valor and made
the fire-god of the Armenian people. [22] He was called "Vishapakagh,"
uprooter of dragons, since he cleared Armenia of monsters and saved
it from evil influences. His exploits were known in the abode of the
gods as well as in Armenia. The most famous of them was the theft of
corn from the barns of King Barsham of Assyria, from whom he ran away
and tried to hide in heaven. Because of the ears he dropped in his
rapid flight, there arose the Milky Way which is called in Armenian
the "track of the corn stealer." [23]

Moses of Khorene writes as follows:

    Concerning the birth of this king the legends say,

        "Heaven and earth were in travail,
        And the crimson waters were in travail,
        And in the water, the crimson reed
        Was also in travail.
        From the mouth of the reed issued smoke,
        From the mouth of the reed issued flame,
        And out of the flame sprang the young child,
        His hair was of fire, a beard had he of flame,
        And his eyes were suns." [24]

    With our own ears did we hear these words sung to the accompaniment
    of the harp. They sing moreover that he did fight with the dragons,
    and overcame them; and some say that his valiant deeds were like
    unto Hercules. Others declare that he was a god, and that a great
    image of him stood in the land of Georgia, where it was worshipped,
    with sacrifices. [25]

The wife of Vahakn was Astghik, the goddess of beauty, a
personification of the moon, corresponding to the Phoenician and
Sidonian Astarte. This is suggestive of Greek influence, for Venus, the
Greek goddess of beauty, was also the wife of a fire-god, Vulcan. [26]

The flight of Vahakn before the Assyrian king is certainly more
suggestive of the fear in which the Assyrians must have been regarded
than of the valor of their god. The originators of the legend were
good psychologists, however, in regarding the instincts of fear and
of pugnacity as compatible. For even the slayer of demons must some
day face his superiors in strength, and when he does, will he not be
afraid? In fact he would be more afraid than another, for he could
not well impute more mercy to his superior than he himself had shown
to his inferiors.

The vein of humor is too rich to be left unnoted. If the Greeks could
laugh at their gods, and even mock them, the Armenians could also
make sport of them. For what could be more delightfully humorous than
the picture of a bearded god, a slayer of dragons, whose hair was
of flame and whose eyes like suns, stealing corn from the Assyrian
king and dropping the ears from his shoulders in his hasty flight
across heaven? The character thus brought out, together with the
richness of imaginative quality, especially in the song of his birth,
the wholesome and unveiled anthropomorphism (wholesome because it is
unveiled), and the correspondence between the Greek fire-god Vulcan
whose wife was Venus, the goddess of beauty, with the fire-god Vahakn
whose wife Astghik was also goddess of beauty, stamp the legend with
its unmistakable origin in Greek mythology.


The Greek period from which this legend dates began with the defeat
of the Armenian king Vahy, who was overcome by Alexander the Great
somewhere about 328 B.C. [27] The Greeks chose their own representative
to rule over the province, who at the time of Alexander's death was
Seleucus. Historians have taken the name of this governor to indicate
the dynasty of Greek supremacy which followed; i.e., the Seleucid
dynasty. This method of the Greeks of selecting their own man to
govern a subject people, which was of course in pursuance of their
policy of superimposing their own culture upon all subject nations,
was contrary to the policy of the Parthians, Romans, and Persians,
who allowed the Armenians to maintain their national independence
provided they permitted the use of their armies and duly paid their
taxes. And it is this policy of the Greeks that accounts for the fact
that large portions of Greek mythology and religion were taken over
by the Armenians.

Although the period of political supremacy was short-lived, the
influence of Greek culture continued to permeate the social life
of the people through the reign of the Arsacid kings. [28] In 246
B.C. Arsaces, a Parthian, made himself master of the Parthians,
Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and lastly Armenians. [29] His grandson,
Arsaces the Great, conquered as far as India, and after seating himself
securely upon the throne of Persia, placed his brother Valarsace upon
the Armenian throne, so founding the Persian and Armenian Arsacid
dynasties (150 B.C.). [30] The Persian Arsacidae became extinct in
A.D. 226 when they were overthrown by the Persian Sasanidae, whereas
the Armenian Arsacidae line continued up until A.D. 428, when the
Armenian kingdom was divided between Persia and Rome by Shapuh,
the Persian monarch, and Theodosius II. [31] This makes a period
of 578 years (150 B.C.-A.D. 428) during which Armenia was governed
by her own line of kings, and enjoyed the liberties of national
independence. To be sure after the conquest of Lucullus and Pompey
(66 B.C.) Armenia became tributary to Rome, but the right of succession
remained with the Armenian royal family, even during Roman supremacy,
so that the national life was in no manner interfered with. [32] The
greatest Armenian king of the Arsacidae line was Tigranes the Great,
who extended his domains by conquest and established himself in his
capital, Tigranacerta, with a court of matchless splendor. [33] He
is spoken of by historians as a king of kings, and as having ruled
with a pomp, splendor, and pride never before known. Defeated by
Pompey within the walls of his own capital city, his kingdom became
tributary to Rome.


The continuity of the period of the Armenian Arsacidae makes it the
time when the process of national solidification and unification was
carried out to the point that made Armenia a nation, and beyond this
point. Raffi asserts that the introduction of Greek culture during
the Arsacid dynasty not only changed the religion of Armenians,
but also so affected their language and customs that they became
different from the Persians, which is proof that a process of social
readjustment was going on. [34] It was during this period that the
wandering minstrels spoken of by Langlois journeyed from one end of
the nation to the other, singing their songs, repeating the national
legends, relating the news of the world and the court gossip which
probably made up the largest portion of it.

    Les chants de l'antique Arménie rappellent principalement des
    événements la plupart héroiques et légendaires, accomplis à des
    époques très différentes, ce qui donne à penser qu'ils ont dû être
    composés à diverses reprises, par des rhapsodes dont les noms
    ne nous sont point parvenus. Les sujets traités dans ces chants
    demontrent clairement qu'ils n'ont été inspirés ni à des prêtres
    païens, ni à des poètes qui auraient vécu sous leur influence,
    en vue d'être recités dans des fêtes religieuses ou en face des
    autels. Au contraire, on reconnait de prime abord que ces chants
    sont l'oeuvre de bardes nationaux, ayant un libre acces dans les
    palais des souverains et à la cour des satrapes. C'est ce qui
    fait supposer que ces poèmes sont peutêtre dûs à des ménestrels,
    à la solde des rois et des nobles et ayant pour emploi de célébrer
    leurs vertus et leurs prouesses. [35]

This is putting the case conservatively, for Moses speaks often of
"les chantres" and "les chants." They traveled as far as Persia and
returned, for it is related by the Italian Countess Evelyn Martinengo
how a wandering minstrel, who had just returned from that country,
was entertained by an Armenian patriarchal family living in the
kind of underground habitation described in the beginning of this
thesis. [36] No one was ever more welcome than the minstrel. He was
assigned to the guest chamber usually prepared especially for him,
and always the best chamber in the household. His head and feet were
washed for him by the wife of the patriarch, and at meal time all the
delicacies of the household were spread before him. All guests were
welcome, but no guest more welcome than the minstrel. They must have
listened to his tales in a kind of petrified awe, and heard him sing
his songs in speechless enjoyment.

It was a practice among the minstrels of the time to compete with
each other in public, and it is related how two minstrels entertained
by a Persian prince were led out upon an open grass plot and seated,
one facing the other. Five thousand people made a circle around the
competitors while the rivals contended in song and verse, riddle
and repartee. Each began where the other left off, until finally one
failed to perceive the drift of his adversary, and answering at random,
the spectators proclaimed him beaten. The triumphant bard was led to
the vanquished, whose lyre was taken from him and broken. Robed in
a prince's mantle, the victor was taken to the highest seat in the
banquet hall.

That the people were the judges of the contest, indicates how well
they must have been acquainted with the current folk-songs, legends,
and tradition. How generally and frequently the custom of minstrel
competition was practiced throughout Armenia is not known, but it
certainly is proof, besides Moses' own statements to the same effect,
that the national legends and folk-songs were the possession of the
common people. And what is more important, this same body of legends,
folk-songs, and tradition did more than any other one thing to weld
the sentiments of the people into a single national sentiment, which
crystallized into a real patriotism, a real loyalty and devotion
to any cause that was a national cause, because it was the natural,
spontaneous expression of the life and thought of the people, and no
mean, artificial thing superimposed from outside. [37]

There are other reasons for giving this period the social importance
that I have ascribed to it. The conversion of the people to
Christianity about the third century after Christ was achieved in
no sentimental fashion, but, as I believe, in a manner in which it
alone could have been done, namely, at the point of the sword of their
own king, Tiridates, who was converted from paganism to Christianity
by Gregory the Illuminator. The traditions in connection with this
important event will be told later. Suffice it to say at this point
that the whole process of conversion was carried out so thoroughly
and completely, that it may be described as a national volte-face,
and therefore did not result in the disintegration, civil strife,
and social chaos that would unquestionably have been the result
had the process been carried out by means of peaceful penetration
and propaganda.

The third and last argument in support of the social and national
importance of the period of the Arsacid kings is in respect to the
alphabet which was compiled by St. Mesrob Maschtotz. St. Mesrob was
a former secretary of the king, and desired to extirpate the last
remnants of paganism in the province of Akoulis, but in the absence of
an alphabet he was unable to carry out any scheme of propaganda. He
therefore besought the king, Vramschapouh, to put an end to this
state of things and the latter, in response to the request, placed
all available material at the disposal of the saint. The task was
accomplished in 404, somewhat at the expense of the future devotees
of the language, for the alphabet contains thirty-eight letters. [38]
Nevertheless, most of the sounds of foreign languages were represented,
making it particularly useful as a foundation language for other
languages. St. Mesrob, with a body of translators trained by himself
and St. Sahak, then proceeded to the translation of the Bible,
which was not completed until 433. Liturgies and song-books quickly
followed. To be sure the effect of the invention of the alphabet and
the distribution of the various religious publications that followed
were not felt during the period of the Arsacidae, for the Bible was
not published until after the break-up of the kingdom in 428, when it
was divided between Persia and Rome. But the important point is that
the time had come when the need for an alphabet was making itself very
strongly felt, and this could not have been true of a diversified,
heterogeneous population.

For the three reasons above mentioned, i.e., first, the work of
minstrels, second, the Christianizing of the nation, and third,
the invention of the alphabet, all occurring during the successive
reigns of the Arsacid kings, I should ascribe to this period (150
B.C.-A.D. 428) the integration of the Armenian people into a national
unit. [39] Christianity must have come as a disrupting force, as a
terrible shock, necessitating a complete social readjustment, but the
fact that the readjustment was made shows that the people were ready
for it. For better or for worse the yoke of Christianity was fastened
to the neck of the people, and with it they had to replow the social
soil. The job was a good one, for the Armenian church has been the
chief power during the last ten or fifteen centuries in keeping alive
the streams of national life, and in holding the people together in
the face of invasion and repeated attempts at proselytization by the
Persians and by the Greek and Roman Catholic churches.


The legends of Artasches and Satenik, and of Artavasd, the son of
Artasches, belong to the Arsacid period, for Artavasd and Artasches
are Armenian kings of the Arsacid dynasty, according to Moses. [40]
The Alans who, according to the legend, were a neighboring people
residing in the mountain region in the vicinity of Georgia, spread
themselves over Armenia while Artasches, the Armenian king, collected
a great army and forced the Alans to retreat across the river Kur
where they pitched camp. The son of the Alan king was taken captive
and brought to Artasches, which forced the former to seek peace on
whatever terms the Armenian king might wish, provided only his son
was returned in safety. But Artasches refused, whereupon the sister
of the captured boy came to the river bank, and standing upon a great
rock spoke to the camp of Artasches by means of interpreters saying:
"Oh brave Artasches, who hast vanquished the great nation of Alans,
unto thee I speak. Come, hearken unto the bright-eyed daughter of
the Alan king and give back the youth. For it is not the way of
heroes to destroy life at the root, nor for the sake of humbling
and enslaving a hostage to establish everlasting enmity between two
great nations." [41] Artasches, having heard of these sayings went
to the river bank and having seen that the girl was beautiful,
and listened to her words of wisdom, wished to marry her. His
chamberlain considered it a wise stroke of policy, and therefore
went to the Alan king, soliciting the hand of the princess for his
master, whose oaths and assurances of peace he vouched for, together
with the promise to return the boy. The king of the Alans answered,
"From whence shall brave Artasches give thousands upon thousands,
and ten thousands upon tens of thousands in return for the maiden?"

Writes Moses:

    Concerning this, the poets of that land sing in their songs:

       "Brave King Artasches
        Mounted his fine black charger,
        And took the red leathern cord
        With the golden ring.
        Like a swift winged eagle
        He passed over the river
        And cast the golden ring
        Round the waist of the Alan Princess;
        Causing much pain to the tender maiden
        As he bore her swiftly back to his camp."

    Which being interpreted meaneth that he was commanded to give
    much gold, leather, and crimson dye in exchange for the maiden. So
    also they sing of the wedding:

       "It rained showers of gold when Artasches became a bridegroom,
        It rained pearls when Satenik became a bride."

    For it was the custom of our kings to scatter coins amongst the
    people when they arrived at the doors of the temple for their
    wedding, as also for the queens to scatter pearls in their
    bride-chamber. [42]

The couplet quoted is still sung by the Armenians, and it is still
customary for the bridegroom to scatter money on his way to the
church, and though it may be for queens to scatter pearls, the
Armenian bride is not to be outdone. She is given a partly opened
pomegranate which she throws at the door of the bridegroom upon the
arrival at the bridegroom's home after the ceremony at the church,
the bits of pomegranate scattering themselves about as pearls.

After fifty-one years of a very prosperous reign, Artasches, who was
very much beloved by his people, died. The funeral procession was a
most magnificent one, and many of the people killed themselves, out
of love for their dead king, according to the custom of the time. And
when the body was laid in the grave they threw precious jewels, gold,
and silver after it. Nor did the lamenting and suicide stop after
his burial, for upon the grave of their dead king the nobles and
the people continued to kill themselves. So great was the slaughter
that Artavasd, son of Artasches, and king after his father's death,
addressed the spirit of his dead father, saying, "Behold, thou art
taking all with thee; dost thou leave me to rule over ruins and the
dead?" The words given by Moses of Khorene are: "Now that thou art
gone, and hast taken with thee the whole land, how shall I reign over
the ruins?" [43] Whereupon the spirit of Artasches cursed him and said,

        "When thou ridest forth to hunt
        Over the free heights of Ararat,
        The strong ones shall have thee,
        And shall take thee up
        On to the free heights of Ararat.
        There shalt thou abide,
        And never more see the light." [44]

These words together with those of Artavasd spoken to his father's
spirit were sung by the singers of the time. [45]

One day while out hunting Artavasd was seized by some visionary terror
and lost his reason. Urging his horse down a steep bank he fell into
a chasm where he sank and disappeared. Old women told how he was
confined in a cavern and bound with iron chains which his two dogs
gnawed at daily in order to set him free. But somehow at the sound
of the hammers striking on the anvils, the chains were continually
strengthened, and it was customary among the blacksmiths of the time
to strike the anvil three or four times to strengthen, as they said,
the chains of Artavasd. And so the tradition was kept up by singers and
blacksmiths; the blacksmiths and old women having consigned the jealous
king to the world's nethermost regions, while the singers left him
to the solitude of Ararat in accordance with the curse of Artasches.


Such are the ancient legends of Armenia, in their respective historical
settings: the legends of Haic, of Semiramis and Ara, of Vahakn,
of Artasches and Satenik, and of Artavasd. All of them antedate the
Christian era, and some of them by many centuries. Each one of them
is told by Moses of Khorene. But as to origin and probable historic
roots Moses was silent, for he was writing a history. He constantly
laments the absolute dearth of material and sources and begins his
accounts of these legends with the words "This is as it is told,"
or "the singers say," indicating that his only sources for them
were the songs and reports current among the people during his own
time. The legends of Haic and of Semiramis and Ara are told by Moses
as though he believed them historic fact, but of course Moses had no
materials to serve as a basis of criticism. He is careful to quote
Mar Apas Catina as his only source for this material. The other three
legends are regarded as such. Artavasd is spoken of as an historical
king who lost his reason while riding horseback and fell into a deep
chasm. The practice of suicide at the death of Artasches, his father,
was a pagan custom. The curse of the spirit of the dead father, the
chains, the dogs, and the anvils were of course recognized as the work
of ingenious fancy. In view therefore, of the questionable character
of Moses' sources these legends have very little historic value. They
do, however, have a high social value inasmuch as the common knowledge
of them among the people was the only ultimate source at the disposal
of the historian.

The second conclusion is that these legends formed a very important
part of the larger mass of tradition and songs that served to cement
the people into a nation. Just how important, it would be difficult
to say, but the fact that they were current at the time Moses wrote
indicates that they were current and passed on from generation to
generation during the whole period of the Arsacidae kings. And as
the people had no alphabet during this whole period, they must have
been passed on by song and word of mouth. This was a time of special
activity on the part of the minstrels and singers, and therefore
the development of the national consciousness characteristic of the
period must have been brought about in a large measure through the
medium of these legendary beliefs.

Furthermore these legends are known by the Armenian people to-day
and are taught in the schools that are not too severely under the
rules of Turkish and Russian censorship. Naturally enough, they are
a source of great pride since they breathe national independence and
loyalty. But of course, the Turks and Russians have suppressed all
public singing of songs, and public teaching of history and legend
that may possibly be construed as partaking of the national spirit.

It may be argued that these legends slumbered between the covers
of Moses' history during the centuries known as the dark ages, and
that they had no social value until the contagion of the European
spirit of the Renaissance awoke the legends and the people at
the same time. But the mere dearth of record is no proof of this
Rip Van Winkle theory. There is at least one reliable authority
sufficient to disprove it, viz., Grigor Magistros, a scholar of the
eleventh century who wrote that he heard the Artasches epic sung
by minstrels. [46] Besides the unreasonableness of the supposition,
there is the added fact of an independent Armenian kingdom known as
the Bagradouni dynasty, whose capital seat was at the famous city
of Ani. This kingdom included greater Armenia and continued from
A.D. 887 to 1079. [47] But 1079 does not mark the end of Armenian
independence though it marks the destruction of Ani, for Reuben,
a member of the royal family, made his way into Cilicia in the year
1080, and rallying a handful of Armenians about him, overpowered the
Greeks and founded what is known as the Rupenian Kingdom of Cilicia,
which continued during a period of 300 years. So that here again is a
period of very nearly five hundred years (889-1380), during which time
the Armenian people enjoyed national political independence. [48] And
this during the very period of the dark ages, about which we know so
little! We could not, therefore, for a moment suppose the traditions
and legends to have had no social importance during these centuries,
for such an assumption would be in flat contradiction to the witness
of Grigor Magistros, and to the facts of Armenian history.




The second body of legends which I wish to consider is
chiefly concerned with the introduction of Christianity into the
country. These, together with the traditional beliefs centered about
the chief geographical feature of the land, Mt. Ararat, constitute
a group bearing a very distinct religious stamp. For this reason,
and also because they have a later origin, they are to be marked
off very distinctly from those already taken up. In view of their
religious bearing I shall introduce them with a brief account of the
various forms of pagan worship that preceded the Christianization of
the people.

The chief religious influences have been the Assyrian, the Persian,
and the Greek. It seems, however, that a kind of monotheism prevailed
before the gods of any of these were taken over. The very ancient
Armenian kings planted groves of poplars around their cities and the
worship was carried on in these groves. [49] An altar was placed among
the trees, where the first male descendant of the royal family (and
perhaps other families) offered sacrifices to the one God, while the
priests derived oracles from the rustling of the leaves. Even now the
poplar groves are held in uncommon regard. This is a survival of the
old belief that they were the dwelling place of God, and of the later
practice of consecrating children in them. The belief that God dwelt
among the leaves must have been suggested by the slightest trembling
of the leaves, even at the gentlest breeze, and one can well imagine
the people looking up at them in the impressive silence of the forest
with an awe and wonder no other environment could possibly induce. The
Armenian for poplar, "Sossi" is used to-day as a name for girls, and
the poplar tree, although not held sacred by Armenian people to-day,
is certainly regarded with great reverence. [50]

The influence of Persian worship is more clear. Aramazd, the architect
of the universe, lord and creator of all things, was the chief
Armenian god, and is unquestionably the Persian Ormuzd named in the
inscription of Xerxes on the rock of Van. Armenians have given him
the title of "father of the gods," and the qualifications "great,
and strong, creator of heaven and earth, and god of fertility and
of abundance." The Greeks identified him with Zeus. [51] There were
numerous sanctuaries erected in his honor, and at the annual festival
celebrated in his name, white animals, especially goats, horses,
and mules, were sacrificed and their blood used to fill silver and
golden goblets. [52] Tir, or "Grogh" meaning in Armenian "to write"
was his attendant spirit, whose chief business it was to watch over
mankind, recording their good and evil deeds. [53] Upon the death of a
person "Grogh" conducted the soul of the departed before his master,
who opened the great book, and balancing the good and evil deeds,
assigned a reward or punishment. Grogh is also the personification
of hope and fear, and the expression "may Grogh take you" is still
very commonly used among the people, especially by servant girls
and those whose language has not undergone the purification of a
season of "Sturm und Drang." It is interesting to note that this
and some other expressions owe their survival to usage among women
rather than among men, which is not difficult of explanation when one
considers the social restrictions that women are generally subject
to. "Viele Seiten des alten heidnischen Glaubens sind in dem heutigen
Volksglauben, besonders bei den tiefer stehenden Volksschichten, bei
alten Bauerinnen, als überbleibsel der Vergangenheit erhalten." [54]

The god Mihr represented fire, and was the son of Aramazd. [55]
He guided heroes in battle, and was commemorated by a festival held
in the beginning of spring. Fires were kindled in the open market
place in his honor, and a lantern lit from one of these fires was
kept burning in his temple throughout the year. [56] It is still a
festival among the people, although it has a different significance,
and will be described more in detail later on. This is practiced not
only by the Armenians, but also by the Syrian Maronites who reside
in the Lebanon. I have seen the mountainsides literally aglow with
a thousand fires in celebration of a Christian festival that has
its roots in the pagan ceremony in honor of Mihr. The practice of a
continually burning lantern was also carried over by some branches
of the Christian church.

Both Persians and Armenians were worshippers of Mihr (fire-worship),
although there was a very distinct difference between the two. The
Armenian sacred fire was invisible, whereas the Persian was material
and kept up throughout the whole year. It is for this reason that
the Armenians called the Persians fire-worshippers. The only visible
fire-god worshipped by the Armenians was the sun, to which temples
were dedicated, and after which the Armenian calendar month "Areg" was
named. [57] The "Children of the Sun" as they were called, offered the
most persistent opposition to the introduction of Christianity, and a
community of them continued their worship in the face of persecution
after Christianity became the religion of the state. The phrase "let
me die for your sun," and the oath "let the sun of my son be witness,"
are language survivals of this particular worship.

The Greek worship, introduced first during the Seleucid dynasty, and
emphasized and encouraged by the line of Arsacidae kings up to the
introduction of Christianity, exercised an even stronger influence
than the Persian. Many of the Greek divinities were rechristened
and adopted by the people. Chief of these was Anahit, "Mother of
Chastity," known also as the "Pure and Spotless Goddess," who was the
daughter of Aramazd, and corresponded to the Greek Artemid and the
Roman Diana. [58] She was also regarded as the benefactress of the
people. Writes Agathangelus: "Through her (Anahit) the Armenian land
exists; from her it draws its life, she is the glory of our nation and
its protectress." [59] Images and shrines were dedicated to her name
under the titles, "The Golden Mother," "The Being of Golden Birth." A
summer festival was celebrated in her honor at which a dove and a
rose were offered to her golden image. The day was called "Vartavar,"
meaning "the flaming of the rose." The temples of Anahit and the golden
image were destroyed with the conversion of the people to Christianity,
but the festival has continued as a regular church festival under
the same name "Vartavar" though of course with a different meaning.

The second and third daughters of Aramazd were Astghik, the goddess
of beauty, and Nane, or Noone, the goddess of contrivance. [60] The
former was the wife of Vahakn, the mythical king-god, the legend in
respect to whom has been told, and corresponded to the Phoenician
and Sidonian Astarte. It is stated by Raffi that the goddess of
contrivance was a necessary power to womankind, for then as now woman
had to make big things out of small. Sandaramet, the wife of Aramazd,
was an invisible goddess and personification of the earth. Her master
sent rain upon her, and brought forth vegetation. Later she became
the synonym for Hades. Perhaps the best summary of Armenian worship
as existing before the Christian time is that given by St. Martin.

    La religion Arménienne était probablement un mélange des opinions
    de Zoroastre, fort alterés par le cult des divinités grecques. On
    voyait dans les temples de l'Arménie un grand nombre de statues
    de divinités, auxquelles on faisait des sacrifices d'animaux,
    ce qui ne se pratiquait point dans la religion de Zoroastre, qui,
    à proprement parler, n'admettait pas l'existence d'autre divinité
    que le temps sans bornes, appelé Zerwan. [61] Les plus puissants
    des dieux étaient Aramazd (Ormuzd), Anahid (Venus), Mihir (Mihr),
    ou Mithra. On y adorait encore d'autres divinités inférieures.

Anahit, however, was goddess of chastity, and did not therefore
correspond to Venus. [62]


The first connection that Armenians had with Christianity occurred
in the reign of King Abgar, whose capital was at Edessa (now Ourfa)
during the time of Christ's teaching in Palestine. [63] The story
is legendary and very popular. Abgar was called a great man because
of his exceeding meekness and wisdom. As the result of several
severe military campaigns, the health of the king began to give
way. This led to complications which developed into a very painful
disease. It was at this time that Abgar sent two of his messengers
to the Roman governor, Marinus, to show the Roman a treaty of peace
that had been made between Ardasches and his brother of Persia, who
had quarreled and had been reconciled by their kinsman Abgar; for the
Romans suspected that Abgar had gone to Persia in order to collect
and direct a Persian-Armenian army against the Romans. [64] To clear
himself of all suspicion, therefore, those two messengers were sent
to show the treaty of peace to the Roman governor. On their return
the messengers went up to Jerusalem in order to see Christ, having
heard of his wonderful deeds. And when they returned to their king,
Abgar, they told of the works of Christ, at which the king marveled,
and believed him to be the very Son of God. The king, because of his
sickness, sent Christ a letter asking him to come and heal him of
his disease. The letter is quoted as follows:

    The letter of Abgarus to our Saviour Jesus Christ. "Abgarus,
    a prince of the world, unto Jesus the Saviour and Benefactor,
    who hast appeared in the City of Jerusalem, Greetings.

    "I have heard of thee, and of the healings wrought by thy hands,
    without drugs and without roots; for it is said that thou givest
    sight to the blind, thou makest the lame to walk, and thou cleanest
    the lepers; thou curest those who have been long tormented by
    diseases, and raisest even the dead. And when I heard all this
    concerning thee, I thought that either thou art God come down from
    heaven that workest these things, or the Son of God. I have written
    unto thee, that thou shouldst trouble thyself to come unto me,
    and heal me of my disease. I have heard also that the Jews murmur
    against thee, and think to torture thee. My city is a small one,
    but it is beautiful, and it is sufficient for us twain." [65]

The messengers delivered the message to Jesus in Jerusalem, to which
the gospel bears witness in the words, "There were some amongst the
heathen that came up to him." But Jesus could do no more than to send
a letter in reply.

    The answer to the letter of Abgarus, written at the command of our
    Saviour by the Apostle Thomas: "Blessed is he who believeth on me,
    though he hath not seen me. For it is written concerning me thus:
    'they that have seen me believed not on me, but they that have not
    seen me shall believe and live.' And concerning that which thou
    hast written unto me to come down unto thee, it is needful that I
    fulfill all that for which I was sent; and when I have fulfilled
    it I will ascend unto Him that sent me. And after my ascension I
    will send one of my disciples, who shall heal thee of thy disease,
    and give life unto thee and unto all that are with thee." [66]

This letter was duly delivered to Abgar, with the image of the Saviour,
which was still kept in Edessa at the time of Moses' writing. The
legend concerning the image is somewhat as follows. One of the three
messengers sent to Jesus with the letter of Abgar was an artist who
was told to paint a portrait of Jesus in case the latter found it
impossible to take the journey. The artist tried in vain to paint a
good picture, and having noticed him, Jesus took a handkerchief and
passing it over his face a most exact likeness was stamped upon it,
which he gave to the artist to be given to the king.

The quaint ending of Abgar's letter is worth the whole legend. What
could be simpler or more seductive than the invitation, "My city is
a small one, but it is beautiful, and it is sufficient for us twain."

The tradition of the Armenian church, or the Gregorian church, as it
is more commonly called, acknowledges St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew
as the original founders, who are therefore designated as the first
illuminators of Armenia. [67] Concerning the recognition of the
tradition of St. Bartholomew, which includes his apostolic journeys,
his preaching, and his martyrdom in Armenia, all Christian churches
are unanimous. The name Albanus given as the place of his martyrdom, is
the same as the name Albacus, hallowed by the Armenian tradition. His
mission covered a period of sixteen years (A.D. 44-60). There is
difference of opinion, however, in regard to the dates.

The traditions about St. Thaddeus vary. Some suppose him to have
been the brother of St. Thomas, and according to these, he traveled
to Ardaze by way of Edessa. There is an anachronism, however,
in this tradition which would transfer the mission of Thaddeus to
the second century. According to a second tradition he is not the
brother of Thomas, but one St. Judas Thaddeus, surnamed Lebbeus, who
also is said to have established a sanctuary of worship at Ardaze,
a circumstance admitted by the Greek and Latin churches. The Armenian
church places the time of this mission as a period of eight years
from 35-43. That this has been done to lay a strong foundation for
the claim of apostolic origin may be suspected, especially in view
of the belief that apostolic origin is essential to every Christian
church, in order, as stated by Ormanian, "to place her in union
with her Divine Founder." The church, however, has us at its mercy,
for conclusive evidence one way or another is lacking. Nevertheless,
the fact of Thaddeus' mission to Armenia wherever and whenever it
might have occurred, is undisputed. [68]

The matter is not especially important except to theologians with
their doctrines of "apostolic origins." What is perfectly clear is
that both these men did their work in comparative silence, and that
they did not make very much headway, for if they had there would
have been less doubt concerning the traditions. The great work
was done by King Tiridates, and Gregory, who converted him about
A.D. 301. The traditions concerning these men are among the most
cherished possessions of the Armenian church.


These traditions have their historical setting in the reign of
Tiridates, and of Chosroes the father of Tiridates. [69] Just as
there was an Arsacid dynasty in Armenia, dating and originating in
the Parthian conquests and supremacy, so also was there an Arsacid
dynasty of Persia. The Persian king at the time of Chosroes was a
kinsman of the latter, called Ardavan, who was overthrown (A.D. 227)
by a Persian prince of the province of Fars, named Ardashir. [70]
His dynasty, a very powerful one, known as the Sassanid dynasty,
supplanted the Arsacid dynasty of Persia. Chosroes of Armenia,
fearing future difficulty with the new Persian monarch, ardently
supported his dethroned kinsman. The next year (228), therefore,
he led a huge army beyond the frontiers of Persia, and laid waste
her provinces to the gates of Ctesiphon. [71] The war was continued
for ten years, during which time the Armenian capital, Vagharshapat,
was filled with the booty of successful raids. The reigning Caesar,
Severus, also alarmed by the success of the new Persian king,
headed a Roman army against Ardashir. Realizing the jeopardy of his
position, the Persian resolved to put Chosroes out of the way by
whatever means possible. A Parthian of the royal blood, Anak by name,
consented to execute his king's desire, and went with his family to
Vagharshapat as a refugee. A friendship sprang up between himself and
his future victim, enabling him to execute his purpose, which he did
in company with his brother while preparation was being made for a
spring campaign. But the murderers were cut off in their escape by
Armenian horsemen and precipitated into the Araxes, while the dying
king gave orders to massacre the family of Anak. Only two of the
children were rescued, one of whom was Gregory, the Illuminator,
founder of the Armenian national church, called also the Gregorian
church. The child Gregory was taken to Cesarea where he was educated
in the tenets of Christianity. [72]

Ardashir died shortly after the murder of his foe, and thus failed
to follow up his advantage except for a few raids into Armenian
territory. Tiridates, a child at this time, was the oldest son of
Chosroes, and as heir to the Armenian throne was the chief obstacle in
the way of the ambitions of his uncles, whose treatment of the young
king compelled him to take refuge in Rome where he was educated. [73]
Having distinguished himself by personal bravery in a Gothic campaign,
his nation's dominions were restored to him by the support of a
Roman army, for during his absence Armenia was invaded by Shapur,
the successor of Ardashir. The Persian king had taken advantage of the
disputes of Tiridates' uncles. The remainder of the story is legendary.

Gregory had been informed in the meantime of his father's deed,
and seeking to make such amends for it as he could, he journeyed
to Rome, where he attached himself as a servant to the exiled king,
Tiridates. The latter, after his victory over the Persians and his
re-accession to the Armenian throne, entered the temple of Anahit
in company with his faithful servant Gregory, to offer sacrifices of
thanksgiving. A feast followed the ceremony, at which many guests were
present, and Tiridates, who must have known of Gregory's attachment to
Christianity, commanded the latter to make an offering of garlands to
the great goddess. Gregory refused. The king was angry. "How dare you,"
exclaimed the king, "adore a god whom I do not adore?" Persuasion
and finally torture were used to coerce the pious and firm-minded
youth, but to no avail. In the meantime, Tiridates had been informed
as to Gregory's identity, i.e., that he was the son of his father's
murderer, whereupon the king commanded that Gregory be cast into a
deep pit where he was left to perish. [74]

For thirteen years Gregory languished in his well, and was only
saved from death by the ministrations of a widow who resided in the
castle of Artaxata just by the pit. This was done in great secret,
for Tiridates had issued an edict which admonished his subjects to
beware of the resentment of the gods, of Aramazd, Anahit, and Vahakn,
and following the practice of the Romans, to lay hands on all offenders
against the gods, chief of whom, evidently, were the Christians. They
were to be bound hand and foot, brought before the gate of the palace,
and if found guilty their lands and chattels were assigned to their
accusers. [75]

While Christians were being robbed, and Gregory was slowly perishing
of misery in his prison well, there arrived at Vagharshapat a Roman
virgin of exquisite beauty, named Rhipsime, in company with her nurse
Gaiane, and thirty-three followers who were also virgins. They had fled
from the Emperor Diocletian, who had selected Rhipsime for his spouse,
after a most careful search of his kingdom for the most beautiful of
women. [76] Rhipsime, unfortunately had taken a vow of chastity, and
there was nothing to do but to flee. Meanwhile an ambassador from Rome
arrived at the court of the Armenian king bearing a letter in which
Tiridates was informed of the flight of the virgin to his land, and
bidden to discover the refugees, to send Rhipsime to Rome, and to kill
her companions. The emperor added, however, in truly generous fashion,
that he might himself marry her if he was overcome by her charms.

The band was found, Rhipsime was recognized, and the king sent an
escort of litters to bring them to his court. As Diocletian suspected,
the Armenian king also fell in love, for the maiden, having refused
the pomp of a royal equipage, was forced to appear before him
in court. The Armenian's suit was likewise a failure. Rhipsime
would marry, provided he became Christian, which the king took as
mockery. Again the girl succeeded in escaping, but she was tracked,
overtaken with her companions, bound with cords, and put to death with
great cruelty. Both Rhipsime and her nurse Gaiane are commemorated on
the calendar of saints, and at Etchmiadzin, the religious center of
the nation, there are three edifices; the largest and most important
bears the name of St. Gregory, while the other two respectively bear
the names of the two saints, Rhipsime and Gaiane.

Agathangelus relates the legend in his Histoire du Règne de Tiridate
but unfortunately the book has been tampered with and now contains much
questionable material. [77] There are mentioned ominous thunderclaps,
openings of heaven, divine voices exhorting Rhipsime to stand firm
in her faith, and the transformation of Tiridates into a grass-eating
boar which was the punishment for his great crime. The sister of the
king, Khosrovitukht, had a vision, in which she was told that the only
remedy was to send for a prisoner named Gregory, who had been cast
into a well some thirteen years before. A rope was let down into the
cavern, and to the astonishment of all, there emerged a human form,
blackened to the color of coal. It was none other than Gregory. He also
saw visions and heard divine voices speak through curious openings in
heaven. Strange columns of fire and flaming crosses of light appeared
to him in the places where Rhipsime and Gaiane suffered martyrdom;
and there appeared a great deal more to him which is recorded, even as
there must have appeared yet more which is not recorded. The result of
all of this was that Gregory ordered the construction of two chapels,
one to be erected in honor of Rhipsime, the other in memory of Gaiane,
both of which are still standing in Etchmiadzin. Etchmiadzin means,
"the place where the Only-Begotten descended" for it was at this
place that Gregory beheld his miraculous vision. Having prayed for
the healing of the king, the horns fell from the royal head, and
Tiridates, now a Christian, shared in the work of constructing the
chapels. [78] He ascended Ararat and returned with huge blocks of
stone which he laid at the portals of the chapels in expiation of his
sin. It was customary among Armenians to place huge blocks of stone
at the entrance of a church by way of offering. Dubois de Montpèreux
saw a number of such stones, six or seven feet high, in front of the
cathedral at Etchmiadzin, but Lynch found no trace of them. [79]

Such are the legends of Gregory and of Tiridates' conversion to
Christianity. In all justice, the highly imaginative material
which was probably the work of an enthusiast, and in all certainty
a surreptitious insertion in the work of the historian, should
be distinguished from the less fanciful material concerning the
imprisonment of Gregory and the martyrdom of the virgins, which though
legendary, may probably be connected with the events of history.

Although Dubois de Montpèreux recognizes that all traditions point to
the conversion of Armenia as having taken place before the conversion
of Constantine (in 312), he does not consider this as probable, for
Tiridates, as a tributary king, and imitator of the Romans in all
things, could not have had the courage to take so important a step
except in following out the policy of the emperor. [80] Gregory,
according to the view of Dubois, remained in his prison well until
Constantine accepted Christianity, when the Armenian king called for
him and was converted as a matter of diplomacy after listening to
his exhortations.

But this is not accepted by modern writers, any more than it was by
the ancient historians. Bryce places the conversion at 302, and states
that the so-called conversion of Constantine happened either twelve
or thirty-seven years later, according as one reckons to the battle
of the Milvian Bridge, or his baptism. [81] Armenia, therefore,
was the first country that adopted Christianity as a religion of
state, a matter of no small pride to the Gregorians, and it has been
maintained as the national religion ever since in a form so intact as
to surpass the dreams of the most ultra-conservative. And this, too,
in the face of attacks by Persian fire-worshippers who attempted
to force their religion upon the people, Greek and Latin popes,
Mohammedan khalifs, and Turkish sultans. Ormanian, former Armenian
patriarch at Constantinople, who gives the date as 301, considers the
existence of the churches of St. Rhipsime and St. Gaiane with their
inscriptions as positive proof, and mentions also the testimony in
the writings of Eusebius, who cites the war of the year 311 which
the Emperor Maximianus, the Dacian, declared against Armenians on
account of their, at that time, recent conversion. [82] The critical
studies made since the journey of Dubois (1837) are conclusive at
least in this, that the conversion of Tiridates and of the nation
could not have taken place later than the year 302, and there is no
doubt therefore of the claim that the Gregorian church is the oldest
national Christian church of the world.


The conversion of the people followed close upon the conversion of the
king, for Gregory was a temple-building priest not without ambition,
and the king was an acknowledged hero. The business of converting
the nation was not a matter of priests and preaching as suggested
by Dubois; [83] as indicated before, it was rather a matter of fire
and sword. Ormanian supposes that it was due to the work of the
Christian communities already established, whose work was stimulated
and encouraged by the king's conversion. [84] "Indeed," he says, "the
almost instant conversion of the whole of Armenia at the beginning
of the fourth century, can not be explained but by the preëxistence
of a Christian element which had taken root in the country." And
again, "The first nucleus of the faithful, by its steadfast energy,
at length succeeded in gaining the mastery over both obstacles and
persecutions." This does not seem to me to be correct, for in the
first place the Christianity of the first, second, and third centuries
was not the Christianity of Gregory; it was one of the many forms of
worship killed by Gregory; and in the second place there are sufficient
records to prove the wholesale destruction of pagan temples, images,
idols, and inscriptions as carried out by the king and saint, and of
the use of the sword in forcing the people to change their faith. [85]

First, then, what was the Christianity of the first centuries? It
is clear that the ideal was one of communal simplicity of life. That
it was opposed to all hierarchies and established priesthoods there
can be no question. The irksome round of daily toil was idealized
in the fellowship of a common faith, the central point of which
was the indwelling of the Spirit of God. Hence baptism was the
all-important event, for through baptism the Holy Spirit descended
into the human heart even as into Christ when he was baptized by
John in the Jordan. Jesus was no God come to earth in human form by
a miraculous conception; he was the son of Joseph and Mary. Feeling
his kinship with God he was baptized, which ceremony was merely
symbolic of the Indwelling Spirit. These early Christians have been
called adoptionists, for the ceremony of baptism is said to represent
the adoption of the individual by God, or by the Holy Spirit, both
expressions having been used synonymously. Simple and pure, it seems
that the adoptionists came as near carrying out the spirit of the
teachings of Jesus as any Christian sect that ever existed. [86]
But how utterly opposed, how perfectly contradictory to the brick
and mortar religion of Gregory! That the adoptionists were objects
of persecution by the orthodox church is a certainty, and it was
very probably this sect that was referred to in "that stubborn
heresy of their native land" mentioned so frequently by Armenian
writers. The following picture was clearly set forth in a disputation
between two Armenian church-men occurring at the close of the third
century. "Tell me," says Archelaus, "over whom it was that the Holy
Spirit descended like a dove? Who is this one whom John baptized? If
he was already perfect, if he was already the Son, if he was already
Virtue, the Holy Spirit could not have entered into him. A kingdom
can not enter into a kingdom." [87] What is also to the point is the
celebrated formula of Nice (325) at which the nature of Christ was
defined as essentially and continuously divine. "Christ a very God,
begotten of God, but not a creature of God; Son of God, of one nature
with God; who came down from heaven and took flesh, and became man,
and suffered and ascended unto heaven; who was before he was begotten,
and who has always been." The decision was in absolute contradiction to
the adoptionist faith, and it was legislated by this august council,
that the members of such faith, who were called Paulicians, after
their leader Paul of Samosata, should be rebaptized before admission
to the church. [88] The recalcitrants were driven to the mountains,
where they increased in number as in strength until the persecution
of the ninth century. Both Agathangelus and Faustus of Byzantium were
silent concerning these people, and, one suspects, advisedly so.

Such was pre-Gregorian Christianity. How ridiculous to suppose that the
conversion of the nation was due to the firm roots already established
by the Christians when the Christians themselves had to be converted!

On the contrary, it was the right of might that established the new
religion. The troops of the capital city were led by the king and
priest in such an image- and temple-smashing campaign as was never
before seen. Proceeding down the Araxes valley, the temple of the
god Dir was levelled to the ground; the temple of Anahit was stoutly
defended but to no avail; the temple was burned. One after another
of the most famous sanctuaries were destroyed; temples of Aramazd,
of Mithra, of Nane, and of Anahit, many of which were defended by the
vanquished until overpowered. [89] Shrines of Vahakn and of Astghik
were laid to waste to be replaced by Christian churches which grew
up over the ruins as if overnight; and if a temple was destroyed, it
was only to build a Christian church in its stead. So construction
followed in the wake of destruction, the old was supplanted by the
new, and when all armed resistance was beaten down, the king and
priest continued the work by preaching.

When the work was fairly under way the ambitious priest journeyed to
Cesarea in Cappadocia where he got himself ordained. This Gregory was
no meek-spirited adoptionist. He was the son of Anak, of royal blood,
ambitious, zealous, suffering and doing all things to gain his ends.

In view, therefore, of the actual character of preëxisting
Christianity, and of the methods employed in converting the people, how
can one reasonably suppose that the "instant conversion of the whole
of Armenia to Christianity can not be explained but by the preëxistence
of a Christian element which had taken root in the country"?

The state-authorized religion, however, did take root in the country,
and became inextricably interwoven with the self-consciousness of
the nation. It became the organ of national expression, and for many
centuries has been the very backbone of the people. If the molten
metals of national life had hardened during the reign of the Arsacidae
kings they were at the time of the conversion in a molten state, ready
to be remolded. This did not require much time. Old festivals were
carried over intact, except that they were given a new meaning. The
old national traditions, legends, and folk-lore were in the common
possession of the people, and there was no reason for discouraging
them. In fact the Armenian church even more than the state encouraged
them, for it recognized in them a source of solidarity and national
unity, as essential to the life of the church as its hierarchies,
liturgy, and calendar of saints. So much then was old; part of the past
carried over into the present to be carried over into the future. What
then was new? First the legends and traditions, already mentioned,
imbedded in the immediately past events of the new order. Legends of
Abgar, of Gregory, of Thaddeus, of Rhipsime, of Tiridates, passed like
magic fire from person to person, creating a common sentiment which
made the foundations of the new church absolutely secure. How firmly
this foundation was established is indicated by the reaction of the
church to the decisions at the Council of Chalcedon, where the dogma
of the dual nature of Christ was affirmed, in perfect contradiction
to the Nicæan dogma, and by the reaction against the Persian proposals
to accept fire-worship as the state religion.

I shall consider the second point first. As already stated, the year
428 marked the end of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. The nation was
divided between Persia and Rome at this time, largely as a result of
internal dissensions. In the year 450 the Persian king sent a letter
to the Armenian princes, setting forth the excellence of fire-worship
and the foolishness of Christianity, and summoned the Armenians to
accept the Persian religion. [90] A council of bishops and laymen was
held and a reply of unanimous refusal was drawn up. "From this faith
no one can move us, neither angels nor men, neither sword nor fire,
nor water, nor any deadly punishment." [91] A rather impertinent
reply from a subject nation to one which dominated it; but thoroughly
characteristic of the Armenians. The Persians did use fire and sword,
and defeated the Armenians in the plain of Avarair under Mount Ararat
(451). But they did not gain their end. An old historian wrote of the
battle, "swords of slayers grew dull, but their necks were not weary,"
and the Persian high priest having seen the utter hopelessness of
his project wrote, "these people have put on Christianity, not like
a garment, but like flesh and blood." [92]

Already, only one hundred fifty years after the conversion, the
foundation of the church was secure. This of course was made possible
by the completeness of the work of its founders; but this in itself
would not have been sufficient. A common favorable sentiment had
been created, which grew up under the natural conditions of life,
and inasmuch as the legends described are part of the common beliefs
of the people, it may be inferred that they played an important rôle
in the formation of this sentiment. The church, on the other hand,
has incorporated these legendary beliefs in its ritual and ceremony,
and in that way has given them the necessary sanction by which they
are passed on from generation to generation. They thus form part of
the permanent social tradition of the Armenian people.

The security of the church at this early time (450) was indicated
not only by the reaction of the nation to the Persian proposals of
fire-worship, but also by the reaction to the decision of the Council
of Chalcedon, at which, as stated, the dual nature of Christ was
dogmatically affirmed, in contradiction to the dogma established at
the Council of Nicæa (325), accepted by the Armenian church. But at
the time of the Chalcedonian council, the Persian difficulties were
taking place, the battle of Avarair having occurred during the same
year, and it was not until 491 that the Armenians held a synod of
their own which assembled at Vagharshapat, in order to take decisive
action. [93] The decisions of the Council of Chalcedon were rejected
and the action was repeated at subsequent synods. Of the three sees
or patriarchates, the Roman at Rome, the Greek at Alexandria, and
the Byzantine at Constantinople, the latter was gaining in power,
and it was at the Council of Chalcedon that the precedence of the see
of Constantinople was recognized. Naturally, neither the Roman nor
Greek sees acknowledged the decision of the council, but later both
Greek and Latin churches revoked their opposition, and recognized it
as the fourth OEcumenic Council. But the Armenian church would have
nothing to do with Chalcedon, in spite of Greek and Latin approval,
and since that time she has stood alone, absolutely independent
of Greek and Latin churches. Ormanian states: "She set herself to
resist every new dogmatic utterance said to emanate from revelation,
as well as any innovation which could in any way pervert the primitive
faith." [94] The "primitive faith" may be a slight stretch of point,
but the fact that the Armenian church adopted an absolutely independent
policy, which separated her from all other Christian churches, and
to which she has steadfastly adhered in spite of persistent Greek and
Latin influence and efforts at domination, is in clear support of my
assertion that the social foundations of the church were firmly and
securely established as early as 450, only one hundred fifty years
after the work of Gregory and Tiridates.




There is a third and last body of Armenian legends more closely related
to the second group discussed than to the first, and yet marked off in
some respects from the second as well. They have a distinct religious
stamp like those we have just finished describing, and they are all
related in some way to the stories of the Old Testament. The legend of
Haic is related to the Old Testament, for Haic was the great-grandson
of Noah, but it clearly belongs to the first group taken up, for the
reason that it has to do with the origin of the Armenian nation. The
first body, including Haic, and the legends of Semiramis and Ara,
Vahakn, Artasches and Satenik, and Artavazd, are all concerned
with ancient Armenian kings, real or mythical, and all go back to
a time before the introduction of Christianity. Vahakn was deified,
but that does not exclude him since he was first a king. The second
group, including the legends of Abgar, Rhipsime and Gaiane, Gregory,
Thaddeus, and Tiridates, are all concerned with historical figures,
real or supposed, and there is no doubt about their historic reality,
with the exception of Rhipsime and Gaiane. But what marks them off from
the other groups is that they are all concerned with the introduction
of Christianity into the country. Those of the third group have no
historic value whatever. They are legends based upon legends that date
back to a period even more remote than the legend of Haic, and their
social value does not approach that of the first two groups. They
are all connected in some way, either with the Old Testament legend
of Noah, or with the legend of the origin of man. No traveler ever
passed through Armenia without hearing of one or more of them.

"In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark
rested upon the mountains of Ararat." [95] Every Armenian, and others,
too, believe that this is the Ararat of Armenia, or Masis as it is
called, and it is true that there is absolutely nothing to disprove
such a belief. James Bryce has given a careful consideration to
the question, and states in conclusion that full liberty is left to
the traveler to consider the "snowy sovereign of the Araxes plain"
to be the true Ararat. [96] There are several points that may be
noted. First, there is nothing in the statement of Genesis to show
that the Ararat mentioned was a mountain called by that name; it seems
rather that Ararat was a section of country, for the passage states
that the ark rested "upon the mountains of Ararat." In the second
place, the mountain is not called Ararat by Armenians, but Masis. And
thirdly, there is no independent Armenian tradition of the flood so
far as is known, for it can not be shown that the modern tradition
is older than the Christian era.

These facts would be conclusive evidence that Armenian Ararat is
not the traditional Ararat of the Old Testament, were it not, first,
for the fact that there was in the region of the mountain a province
of Airarat which in all probability corresponds to the biblical
Ararat. Secondly, the biblical Ararat unquestionably corresponds
to the Assyrian Urarthu which is the section of country about Lake
Van and Mount Ararat. So that, although not absolutely conclusive,
the Armenian tradition enjoys a very high degree of probability.

In this connection the legend of the village of Nakhitchevan is worth
noting. It is situated just to the north of the mountain on the left
bank of the Araxes. Armenians believe it to be the place where Noah
first landed, and as proof, the name of the village, which means,
"the first place of landing," is cited. One might suppose the name to
have been given by the Christians after the conversion to Christianity,
were it not that Ptolemy places in the same spot a city named Naxuana
which is the exact Greek for the Armenian name. Also Josephus, fifty
years before Ptolemy speaks of the place, as quoted by St. Martin:
"Les Arméniens appellent ce lieu l'endroit de la descente parce
que c'est là que l'arche trouva un endroit de salut, et qu'encore
actuellement les indigènes montrent ses débris." [97] Tavernier who
traveled through the country along about 1700 speaks of Nakhitchevan as
the "oldest city of the world" and gives the tradition. [98] But many
Jews, who undoubtedly gave the village its name, lived in Armenia,
long before the Christian era.

Situated on a broad plain four or five thousand feet above sea
level, Ararat rises majestic and solitary to a height of 17,000
feet. There are no lesser peaks or ranges to destroy the grandeur
of the effect. Except for its companion, Little Ararat, which rises
beside it on a common base to a height of 12,840 feet, it stands
alone as monarch of the broad plain it surveys. Little Ararat is in
the form of a perfect cone, whereas Ararat is broad-shouldered and
dome-shaped, supported by huge buttresses and capped with snow a
considerable distance down the slope through the entire year. It is
truly symbolic of strength and majesty.

Such is the mountain about which a thousand legends cluster. Marco
Polo says of the mountain: "There is an exceeding great mountain
on which it is said the ark of Noah rested, and for this cause
it is called the mountain of the Ark of Noah." In 1254, a little
before Marco Polo's time, a Franciscan friar, William of Rubruck
passed by the mountain upon which the ark is said to have rested,
which mountain, he said, could not be ascended, though the earnest
prayers of a pious monk prevailed so far that a piece of the wood
of the ark was brought to him by an angel, which piece, he said,
is still preserved in a church near by as a holy relic. He gives
Masis as the name of the mountain and adds that it is the Mother of
the World. According to a Persian tradition it is called "Cradle of
the Human Race." Still more interesting is the account by Sir John
Maundeville, part of which runs as follows: "Fro Artyroun go men to an
Hille, that is clept Sabisocolle. And there besyde is another Hille,
that men clepen Ararathe: but the Jews clepen it Taneez, where Noas
Schipp rested: and zit is upon that Montayne and men may see it a
ferr in clear wedre: and that Montayne is well a myle high. And sum
men seyn that they have seen and touched the Schipp; and put here
Fyngres in the parties where the Feend went out when that Noe seyd
'Benedicta.' But they that seyn such Wordes seyn here Willie, for a
man may not gon up the Montayne for gret plenties of Snow that is alle
weys on that Montayne nouther Somer ne Winter: so that no man may gon
up there: ne never man did, sithe the time of Noe: Saf a Monk that be
the grace of God brought one of the Plankes down, that zit is in the
Mynstre at the foot of the Montayne. And beside is the Cytes of Dayne
that Noe founded. And faste by it is the Cytee of Any, in which were
1000 churches. But upon that Montayne to gon up this monk had gret
desir; and so upon a day he went up and when he was the third part
of the Montayne he was so wery that he mighte not furthere, and so
he rested him and felle to slep, and when he awoke he fonde himself
liggyie at the foot of the Montayne. And then he preyde devoutly to
God that he wold vouch saf to suffre him gon up. And an angelle cam
to him and seyde that he scholde gon up; and so he did. And sithe that
Time never non. Wherefore men scholde not beleeve such Woordes." [99]

The legend of the monk is usually given in a form which confirms still
more the sacredness of the mountain. St. Jacob, as the monk was named,
tried three successive times to climb the mountain. Each time he fell
asleep intending to resume his journey the next morning, only to wake
up finding himself at the same point he had started from the preceding
day. An angel came to him after the third time, and told him that God
had forbidden mortal foot ever to tread on the sacred summit, but that
he should be given a fragment of the ark in which mankind had been
preserved as a reward for his devout perseverance. [100] This treasure
is still preserved at Etchmiadzin and the saint is commemorated by
the little monastery of St. Jacob, which till 1840, when a tremendous
shaking of the mountain showered the little monastery with rocks of
destruction, stood above the valley of Arghuri on the slopes of Ararat.

The little village of Arghuri, the single village on the mountainside,
was the city of Noah's vineyard, and contained a little church which
is said to hallow the spot where Noah first set up an altar. [101]
But this village, too, was completely destroyed by the avalanche of
1840. Not the slightest trace of it remains, though only three years
before its destruction, Dubois de Montpèreux visited the little city
and described it together with the church of Noah, Noah's vineyard,
and the monastery of St. Jacob. [102] In the garden of the city were
planted pear trees, apple, plum, cherry, apricot, peach, and nut
trees. This very garden was the site of the first vine on which the
old patriarch became drunk, and the inhabitants showed Dubois some
bits of creepers to prove it. "Dieu," they said, "pour punir les
ceps qui avaient ainsi entrainé le pauvre patriarche dans le péché,
les condamna a ne plus porter de raisins." Naïve, yes, but very
sweetly so. And the church, the people said, marked the place where
Noah offered his first sacrifice after the deluge. Except for the
garden of Arghuri, wrote Dubois, this great mountain was absolutely
destitute of verdure; an old stunted willow, wound about with snow and
ice was the only other exception to this. According to the legend,
it marked the spot where a board of Noah's ark had taken root and
sprung up into a living tree which the people venerated. One was not
permitted to take away even the smallest of its feeble branches.

All of this was blotted out so completely by the shower of falling
rocks and boulders that it is hard to imagine the places as ever
having existed. The primeval willow, the vineyard, the sacred church,
and the little monastery of St. Jacob have left not the slightest
trace. The bell of the old church is no more heard; the Christian
service is not chanted any longer on the sacred mountain of the Ark.

Of the numerous other legends associated with the mountain I shall
mention only two. One of them regards the summit of the mountain as the
site of Chaldean star-worship, and asserts that a pillar with a figure
of a star stood upon it. [103] According to the same legend, twelve
wise men stood beside the pillar to watch for the star of the East,
which three of them followed to Bethlehem. The other is in respect
to the spring situated above the spot where stood the monastery. A
bird, called by the Armenians tetagush, feeds on the locusts which
are such a plague to the country, and curiously enough, the bird
is attracted by the waters of the spring. When the locusts appear,
the people carry their bottles to the spring and filling them with
the peculiarly charmed water, take them back to their fields where
they are placed on the ground to attract the tetagush. The people of
Syria and Palestine were much in need of tetagush and Ararat spring
water during the spring and summer of 1915, for the swarms of locusts
not only devoured the crops but also the leaves and barks of the trees.


On the bank of the Araxes, in the plain of Armenia, and in full view
of Ararat are located the monastery of Khor-Virap and the chapel of
St. Gregory close beside it. An Armenian inscription is cut in the
walls of the portico of the monastery which marks the spot where a
monk, Johannes by name, appeared twice after his death saying that he
had seen Gregory the Illuminator. The chapel of St. Gregory covers
the traditional well into which he was thrown and imprisoned for
thirteen years by King Tiridates. Dubois descended into a sort of
tunnel, fifteen or sixteen feet below the pavement of the chapel,
which is part of an old fortress, and was shown the worn stones of
a niche where the saint prayed, as evidence of the thirteen years,
quite as though other pilgrims who knelt in the same place could
not have assisted somewhat the pious work of the saint. [104] The
spot is only a few steps from the famous temple dedicated to the
principal god of the Armenians, Aramazd, and it seems clear that
the pagan king intended to make a sacrifice to his gods in casting
the young fanatic into the well. The temple was called Achelichad,
meaning "many sacrifices" because of the many offerings here given up
to Aramazd. With the era of Christianity, the name Achelichad gave way
to the name Khor Virap, meaning dry well. Gregorius Magistros, already
mentioned, brought the body of the saint from Constantinople and placed
it in the bottom of the well, where it served to cure sick pilgrims.

There is a tradition that the Armenian city of Erzerum, not far
from the source of the Euphrates, marks the vicinity of the Garden
of Eden. The Persian king Khosref Purveez is said to have encamped
in the neighborhood and to have received a message from the prophet
Mohammed during his sojourn, in which he was offered the protection
of Islam if he would embrace the faith. But the king spurned the
proposal and tossed the letter into the Euphrates. Nature, horrified
at the sacrilege, dried up the flowers and fruits of the ancient
garden and even parched up the sources of the river itself. And so
the last relic of Eden became waste. [105]

In the same connection, there is a plaintive Armenian elegy, composed
in the person of Adam, who, sitting at the gate of paradise and
beholding cherubim and seraphim enter the garden, makes the following
defence: he did not eat the forbidden fruit until after he had
witnessed its fatal effects upon Eve, when, seeing her despoiled of
all her glory, he was touched with pity and tasted the immortal fruit
in the hope that the Creator, contemplating both in the same plight
might with paternal love take compassion on them. But in vain. "The
Lord cursed the serpent and Eve," pathetically cries Adam, "and I
was enslaved between them." The elegy closes most touchingly,--"When
ye enter Eden, shut not the gate of paradise, but place me standing
at the gate. I will look in a moment and then bring me back. Ah! I
remember ye, O flowers and sweet smelling fountains. Ah! I remember
ye, O birds, sweet singing, And ye, O beasts." [106]



Because these legends are for the most part based upon older legends,
and also because some of them are known only locally, they can not be
said to have played so important a rôle in Armenian social life as the
first two groups of legends. It would be a mistake, however, to suppose
that all of the Ararat legends have merely a local value. Ararat
is the center of the nation, the grand geographical feature of
the country, and many of the beliefs clustered about it are held in
common. In fact there is a very old belief which considers the sacred
mountain to be the center of the world, and to-day it is the common
point of meeting of the boundaries of Russian, Turkish, and Persian
Armenia. And this is no accident; it is because of the veneration
in which the mountain is held, and consequently, the realization
of the importance the mountain gives to any territory in which it
may be located. The belief that Ararat is the mountain of the Ark,
the legend of Noah's vineyard, and the legend of St. Jacob are very
commonly accepted. The primeval willow, the church of Arghuri, the
legend, or perhaps one should say, the superstition of the tetagush,
and the legend of the wise men in search of the star of the East,
enjoy a more restricted circulation. Furthermore, it is natural to
suppose that the legends centered in the destroyed city of Arghuri have
not been told as frequently as of old, and are therefore dying out
gradually, although they seem still to be very much alive. A legend
or tradition that is objectified in an old willow, in a monastery,
or in a garden, is likely to die out gradually with the destruction of
its object. But some of them will never die out, object or no object,
as for example the legend of the devout monk who tried to gain the
summit of Ararat in order to see the holy Ark. There is something in
his waking up each successive morning only to find himself at the same
point he had started from the preceding day, which will keep its hold,
whether there be a monastery erected in his name or not. And if the
vineyard has been destroyed the people may very soon find another. In
fact I should be surprised if in traveling through the mountain region
of Ararat, I was not shown the legendary vineyard. This, however,
would more likely be true of a legend that had a commercial value
to the community because of the frequency of travelers, which could
certainly not be said of Ararat legends. The same general valuation
may be placed upon the Erzerum legends. A legend of this sort is
not believed to be true, unless the legend upon which it is based
is commonly believed in, and it is certainly safe to suppose that a
majority of the Armenian people accept the Old Testament legends. This
is important, for when a legend is not a matter of implicit belief
by a people it has little social value. The elegy of Adam can not be
properly said to be a legend at all.

The preceding pages point out certain points of resemblance, and
certain points of difference between the two words, legend and
tradition, which require to be brought out at this point, first,
because of vague and loose current usage, and second, in order to
establish my own use of these terms. In the first place they are
beliefs, and here lies the secret of their social value. Let them
be disbelieved in and they may furnish material for entertaining
after-dinner conversation, but they no more have the power of welding
a people together into a nation, a caste, or a sect; they no longer
have the power of creating a common sentiment among a large number
of people or of creating a national consciousness.

And in the second place, both the tradition and the legend are passed
on from person to person, and from generation to generation. When a
tradition is defined as a belief that is handed down orally from father
to son, it is not at all differentiated from the legend which is also
a belief, and which may also be passed on orally from generation to
generation. Neither does a legend or a tradition change its character
when the meaning is represented by symbols cut in rock, inscribed on
papyrus, or written on paper. The event of inscription is very often
a part of their history.

But when it comes to a question of historic value we mark the
parting of the ways. A tradition, used in the sense with which we
are concerned here, is always rooted in an indisputable historic
fact. Consider the traditions of Islam that are centered about
the prophet Mohammed. They may have a thousand variations, may have
embodied falsehood after falsehood in the course of their transmission
from place to place, and from generation to generation, as most of
them unquestionably have, but they are traditions, nevertheless,
because they are associated with a character who is an undisputed
historic figure. The refusal of St. Gregory to offer garlands to the
goddess Anahit, and his imprisonment in the well during a period of
thirteen years is a tradition because the belief is associated with
a historic character. Compare this with the beliefs concerning Haic,
Vahakn, Semiramis and Ara, and the distinction is clear, for these
characters are all mythical. Artasches and Artavasd are generally
recognized as historical kings, and are so spoken of by Moses. As such
the beliefs concerning them should be classed as traditions. However,
Moses as a historian has been relegated to a secondary position by
Carrière, who gave the work a critical examination. This would make
the beliefs concerning Artasches and Satenik and Artavasd purely
legendary, unless further research establishes more reliable sources
of which we do not know. The first group therefore are legends.

In regard to the second group of beliefs all having to do with
the introduction of Christianity, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Gregory,
and Tiridates are unquestionably historic; Rhipsime and Gaiane are
mythical; the historic authenticity of Abgar is also questionable. We
should therefore speak of the legends of Rhipsime, Gaiane and Abgar,
and of the traditions of Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Gregory, and Tiridates.

The Ararat and Erzerum group are of course legends with one or two
exceptions. The belief concerning the scorning of the proposal of
Mohammed by the Persian king who was encamped on the Euphrates as
explaining the barrenness of the Garden of Eden certainly has to
do with an historic figure, and perhaps two. But it is a legend,
nevertheless, because both the prophet of Arabia and the Persian king
are accidental rather than fundamental to the belief. The fundamental
basis of belief is the legend of the Garden of Eden. The elegy of Adam
in explanation of his sinful conduct is neither legend nor tradition,
and the belief concerning the tetagush and the spring of Ararat is
a superstition. It results in a distinct type of conduct marking it
off from both tradition and legend.

I have stated my conclusions at various places, and it would be
pointless repetition to summarize them all. I shall therefore sum up
only the important ones. The first is that the legends and traditions
of Part One are an important part of a larger body of Armenian legends,
traditions, folk-songs, and folk-lore, and that their social value lies
in the power they have of creating a national sentiment. This national
sentiment is the direct result of a social process accomplished through
the medium of the traditions, legends, and folk-songs spoken of. An
analysis of the national sentiment of ancient Armenia would lead us
to the conclusion that it was made up of at least three elements:
first, a sentiment of loyalty to the state; secondly, a sentiment
of reverence amounting almost to worship for the past glory of the
nation; and thirdly, a sentiment of love for the country.

The last sentiment is an especially real experience to all
Armenians. Objectified as it was at first in the vast plains, the
broad river valleys, the mountain ranges, or simply in the soil that
brought forth its vegetation, it came to be objectified in a spirit
of independence and in the ideals of freedom and strength. These two
objects of the national sentiment of love, the one material, the other
immaterial, are not, however, to be dissociated in the social mind,
as I have dissociated them on paper. They are inseparable, the material
and the spiritual, and simply do not exist apart from each other. Only
the emphasis varies, symbolized in one case by the peasant's kissing
his native soil, and in the other by the far-away look toward the
summit of some distant mountain. And when this sentiment of love is
the most important of those sentiments that go to make up a national
sentiment, that is, when it dominates all the others, holding them
in subjection, there has come to be a national self. A continuous
stream of consciousness envelopes the national self, and inasmuch
as it implies a highly-organized and well-developed national self,
national-self-consciousness is the larger term. It may be objectified
and examined especially at a time of injustice from without, and even
at the time of an obvious act of injustice by the state which usually
results in civil strife. The latter case is illustrative of how one of
the sentiments that make up the national sentiment may be under the
domination of another, the sentiment of loyalty to the state being
subordinate to the sentiment of love for the country in this case.

That the national self is organic, i.e., that it is functional, a
vital, living thing which grows and dies is clearly brought out by
the second group of legends considered. This is the second general
conclusion. The legends and traditions mentioned in this group are
of course again part of a larger body, all of which have to do with
the introduction of Christianity into the country. The important
point is that from this larger body of beliefs there resulted a new
national sentiment, new because something had come to be incorporated
within it which was not there before. This something was a sentiment
of loyalty to the church, evidenced in the readiness to uphold and
protect the church with all its recognized encumbrances of hierarchies
and paraphernalia against all foreign intrusion, whether peaceful
or military in character. With the destruction of the state, this
sentiment of loyalty to the church largely absorbed the sentiment
of loyalty to the state. Reverence for the past glory of the nation
went on unchanged except in so far as the church intensified it as
a means of intensifying the whole national sentiment.

A loosely organized, heterogeneous group of people can not boast of
a national sentiment, nor of the united action necessary in times
of national crisis, as when a people go to war. This united action
is only possible where the diverse sentiments of a more or less
heterogeneous people have been woven into a national sentiment of the
kind spoken of. This weaving process, as I have shown, is essentially
a social process, and the materials by means of which it is carried
on are largely such as I have been describing, namely, the legends,
traditions, and folk-lore that have somehow grown up among a people.





As the materials of Part One are part of a larger mass of legends,
traditions, and folk-lore, the social value of which lies in their
power of creating a national or group sentiment, so the festivals
and ceremonies to be taken up in Part Two are part of a larger mass
of festivals, ceremonies, and rites whose social value lies in the
fact that they constitute a necessary vehicle of expression for this
same national sentiment. The festivals are a necessary counterpart
of the legends, as the latter are a necessary counterpart of the
former. Activity is one of the most fundamental of nature's laws. The
sentiment of love for an individual dies eventually in the absence
of some formal mode of active expression. But be the action ever so
little a thing, such as the laying of flowers upon the grave of the
dead, the visiting of a shrine, or the sight of some hallowed spot
of sacred memory, the sentiment is kept alive. To be sure a sentiment
may smoulder for a lifetime, even as a national sentiment may slumber
for centuries without a mode of expression, and then all of a sudden
burst forth into a flame, or awaken into life at a mere suggestion from
outside. Bereft of statehood, the sentiment of loyalty for the state
has slumbered for centuries within the breast of the Armenian people,
but how often, how too sadly often, has it not suddenly awakened into
hot, new life only to be pacified into slumber again. But the last
glow, the little flicker at the end is all that separates the living
embers from the dead ash.

How the Armenian church recognized the truth of this by putting
into operation a thousand various modes of action in which the new
national sentiment that it created has kept itself alive and fresh,
may well serve as an object lesson to many another church. She did
not make the mistake of imposing an entirely new body of festivals and
ceremonies upon the people; she utilized the past and carried over a
number of pagan festivals absolutely intact, which she clothed with
a new meaning slowly recognized by the people. These form the first
group to be considered. In the course of time she created certain new
festivals which constitute the second group. And then she identified
herself with all of the ceremonies of common life, such as betrothal,
marriage, and funeral ceremonies.

In this way the Armenian church has become absolutely and inseparably
identified with the life of the people, and the people in turn
have been held together into a nation which has continued to give
its artists and artisans to the world. [107] What is Armenia? The
national Gregorian church; much as Louis XIV, when asked "What is
the state?" replied, "I am the state." This is unquestionably an
exaggerated view, but not as much so as might be supposed, since
the social life of the people is so completely bound up with the
church. The only betrothal and marriage recognized is that sanctioned
by the church. Whenever there is a common danger, as has been the
case repeatedly during the past twenty years, the people flock to
the church for protection. Such secret revolutionary propaganda as
has been carried on has been done largely through the church. The
young Armenian who returns from his academic life in Paris, a
sceptic if not an unbeliever, and certainly opposed to the dogma and
ultra-conservatism of his church, does not alienate himself, for he
realizes his utter impotence in any kind of work for his people should
he do so. In spite of the division of Armenia into three slices,
Turkish, Persian, and Russian, the church has retained its hold,
and if the position of the people as subject to Turkey, Persia,
and Russia has placed her (the church) at a decided disadvantage in
coping with the ever constant influence and propaganda, schools, and
missionaries of the Greek, Latin, and Protestant churches, she has not
at all given in, for the number of Catholic Armenians amounts to only
3 per cent of the number of orthodox Armenians, while the number of
Protestant Armenians is only 1 per cent. [108] Considering, as I say,
the utter helplessness of the church in combating outside influences,
these figures indicate how closely the life of the people is identified
with her. Perhaps her very helplessness has been a source of strength.

These facts together with such little practices as I have mentioned
(and I might also note the custom of the Armenian peasant of crossing
himself daily at the altar of his community church before beginning his
day of toil) [109] are sufficient to show that the church has been the
chief means of keeping alive the currents of national life, that it is
a national church, and that it has identified itself with the common
life of the people. The festivals and ceremonies which constitute
the second part of my paper thus form the vehicle of expression of
the national sentiment, and are all connected with the church.

The participation of the laity in church matters, especially in
the election of its officials, is a chief reason for the essential
oneness of church and people. Priests, bishops, and patriarchs,
who constitute the three chief grades in the religious hierarchy,
are chosen by the people. [110] The approval of higher authorities
is necessary in most cases, but this only slightly detracts from
the importance of the rôle of the people. A married priest is the
religious head of every parish, and he is elected either by a direct
process of voting or by a deed of presentation. The religious council
of the diocese proceeds to examine the ability and qualifications of
the candidate, who is ordained if his examination proves successful;
if unsuccessful, a new candidate must be presented, for a bishop can
not of his own initiative ordain a priest. The laity have no voice
in the election of the celibate priesthood, which is only natural
since the celibate priests are not in any way connected with the
life of the community. Furthermore, they do not constitute a very
important element, for when Ormanian wrote in 1911, there were only
400 celibate priests as against 4,000 married priests. [111]

The married priest is very closely identified with his community. He
not only makes a regular practice of visiting the various households
of the parish, but he is sole confessor of the people. [112] As he
officiates at masses and church ceremonies and promotes a general
participation in the festivals, so also no betrothal, marriage,
baptism, or funeral can be sanctioned without his presence. He is as
well a kind of marriage agency, employment agency, and relief agency,
acting always of course in coöperation with the council of elders of
his parish. A priest called at the home of an Armenian lady I know,
and remarked casually that he was aware she had a daughter, whom he
was very anxious to see, for there were two young men of the community
who were very desirous to marry. So the people inform the priest of
their need and the priest does all in his power to help them. He does
not receive a regular compensation, being absolutely dependent upon
the voluntary offerings of his flock and the voluntary fees received
for official services rendered. [113] This works out sometimes to
his advantage, but more often not, depending generally on whether
his parish is poverty stricken or well-to-do.

There are several very curious usages practiced by the married
priest. He is recruited from all classes of society, but more often
there is a succession from father to son. [114] The conditions
demanded, besides parochial election, are acquaintance with
ecclesiastical and liturgical matters, an exemplary life, and the
consent of his wife. After his ordination he must fast for forty
days. He then prepares himself for his first mass by a life of retreat
in the church, restricting himself to a vegetable diet for twenty-four
hours. [115] The wife, who enjoys a certain precedence in society,
observes a customary abstinence in the absence of her husband. One week
or at least three days before the celebration of the mass, he keeps
away from home, passing the nights within the church. He may engage in
domestic or even professional work so long as this does not interfere
with the duties of his calling. Should his wife die, he may not marry
again unless he lays aside his priestly robe, nor may a priest ever
marry a widow. These practices are not dead letters, except that the
custom of sojourning within the church for three nights before mass
has, in Constantinople at least, been reduced to a single night.

The bishops are chosen as chiefs of dioceses by the council of the
diocese, six sevenths of whose members are laymen, the remainder
being ecclesiastics. [116] The patriarchs, including the Katholikos,
the supreme authority of the church whose seat is at Etchmiadzin, the
religious center of the nation, are chosen by an electoral assembly
of the religious heads (bishops or archbishops) and lay deputies who
are nominated by the dioceses as a whole. [117] The eight members
of the synod, which is an advisory body to the Katholikos, and the
seven oldest members of the congregation at Etchmiadzin have equal
share in voting. The electoral assembly, so constituted, chooses two
candidates, one of whom is selected by the Czar. The Czar, after his
selection is made, sends a deputy to meet the successful candidate,
who is decorated and escorted with due ceremony to Etchmiadzin where he
is officially ordained. There are only two patriarchates besides the
see of Etchmiadzin, i.e., those of Constantinople and Jerusalem. The
corresponding patriarchs are likewise chosen by a national assembly,
six sevenths of whose members belong to the laity. The patriarchs
of both Jerusalem and of Constantinople acknowledge the supremacy
of the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, who is thus head of the church,
though not infallible.

The site of Etchmiadzin is the old capital city, Vagharshapat, the
ruins of which are all but washed away; and it marks the spot where
St. Gregory in his vision saw the descent of Jesus Christ. Etchmiadzin
means, "Descent of the Only Begotten." The particular spot is
commemorated by the central altar of the Cathedral, which is the chief
church of the nation. This Cathedral is situated in the center of a
huge court bounded in the form of a large rectangle by the cells of
the monks, the long refectory building, the library, the theological
seminary, and the residence of the Katholikos. Outside this rectangle
are ranged buildings and open spaces, including the garden of the
Katholikos, the court for pilgrims, the printing establishment, and
dwellings for various uses, all of which is bounded by a huge wall
in the form of a still larger rectangle about 1,000 feet in length
and 700 feet in width. [118] The chapels of the martyrs are some
distance from the monastery, the church of St. Gaiane, commemorating
the spot of her martyrdom, being about one fourth of a mile distant,
while the church of St. Rhipsime, which likewise honors the spot of
Rhipsime's martyrdom, is about three fourths of a mile distant. The
buildings now standing can hardly be those built by the saint. [119]

Etchmiadzin has been for many years a place of pilgrimage for the
faithful. There is not only the sacred Cathedral where Jesus Christ is
believed to have appeared; there is also the chamber of holy relics
in the rear of the Cathedral which is perhaps the chief attraction
and glory of the place. The most important of the relics here kept
is a hand of St. Gregory, or rather right arm, "atch," as it is
called, now preserved in a silver case, and which was considered at
one time to be a necessary appanage of the patriarchal dignity. The
poor hand of the saint has been the cause of many peregrinations in
consequence. [120] One patriarch seized it and carried it off with him
in order to justify his claims. Another restole it and brought it back
to Etchmiadzin, while others have pretended possession of the holy
"atch," in order to make good their claims. It was with this relic
as well as with the holy chrism that consecrations were performed,
which made possession of it a necessary condition of the patriarchal
authority. Another much revered relic is the fragment of the ark,
which the angel who appeared to St. Jacob gave to him as a reward for
his perseverance in attempting so impossible a task as the climbing
of Ararat. Still another is the head of the "holy spear" which was
thrust into the side of Christ by the Roman soldier at Golgotha. [121]
There are others of lesser importance, some of which are believed to
possess the power of effecting cures.

Such in brief are the broader and more important facts relating to the
church, which has thus come to sanction the festivals and ceremonies
that make up the second part of this thesis. These, as I have said,
naturally divide themselves into three groups, first those that
have been taken over bodily from the past; second, new festivals and
ceremonies created by the church; and third the ceremonies of common
life with which the church has identified itself. In the first group
are included the midsummer festival of Vartavar, the spring festival,
the festival in commemoration of the dead, Fortune-Telling Day, and
the festival of Vartan's Day. All except the last have their origin
in pagan festivals; each one has been taken over by the church and
made its own.




Vartavar, meaning "flaming of the rose," was celebrated in pagan
times in honor of Anahit, goddess of chastity, at midsummer. The
central act of the festival was the offering of a dove and a rose to
her golden image. With the introduction of Christianity the temple
and the image were destroyed, and it may be noted that upon the site
of the Temple of Anahit in Vagharshapat was built the Cathedral of
Etchmiadzin. This would lead to the strange conclusion that in the
vision of St. Gregory, Jesus Christ descended upon a pagan temple. The
fact seems to be that this marvelous vision was seen by a pious monk
who published a life of St. Gregory some two or three centuries after
the Illuminator's death. [122] But the festival became the "Festival
of the Transfiguration of Christ," although the name Vartavar still
remains, and doves are still set flying. [123]

The festival is celebrated differently in various places. Upon the
mountains of Armenia every family brings a sheep for sacrifice, adorned
with colored papers and pigments, and as the sheep approach the shrine,
lighted candles are fixed upon their horns. [124] Sheaves of grain,
fruit, flowers, and doves are also brought as sacrifices, while dust
from beside the altar is carried home to children as a talisman to
help them to learn their A B C's. In the absence of a church on the
mountainside, which is usually the case, a large white tent with
crosses is put up beside some sacred spring, with which the country
abounds. The spring is necessary, for on this day the people amuse
themselves by throwing water upon each other. For this reason the day
is often called Armenian Water Day. After the doves are set flying,
the priest sprinkles the people, and they in turn sprinkle water over
each other. This practice probably dates to the legend of the deluge,
the Universal Baptism with which God cleansed His sinful earth. The
dove and the baptism are also suggestive of the baptism of Jesus by
John in the waters of Jordan. This part of the festival is probably
an addition to the pagan rite, for the sprinkling of the water is
symbolic of love and forgiveness; it is carried on with much laughing
and merry-making. The festival includes also a kind of fair, for the
people have to show what progress they have made during the year in
art and the various handicrafts. Races, competitions, and games are
held, and the victors are crowned with wreaths of roses, so that even
the rose continues to have an important place in the festivities as
it had in pagan days. The sprinkling of water, the games, the races,
show how happy a time the people must have on this day; the exhibition
of the year's accomplishment in handicraft and art points out the more
serious side; while the essential religious symbolism is very clearly
emphasized. What may also be noted is that there is entertainment for
all, old and young, serious and frivolous. The pious-minded may sit
on the mountainside contemplating the religious aspect of it all;
the gay and light-hearted may sprinkle water over each other; the
young and strong may run races and play games; men and women of a
practical turn of mind may visit the fair and note the progress made
during the year; and children may roll about on the mountainsides or
gather roses, for these are in full bloom at this time.

The pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the god of fire, was taken
over by the church to commemorate the bringing of the Babe Jesus to
the temple, where Mary sacrificed two doves according to the custom
of purification. [125] The ancient rite consisted of kindling fires
in the open market places in honor of the god Mihr, and of lighting
a lantern from one of the newly kindled fires, which was kept burning
in the temple throughout the year. As now celebrated, on February 26,
every young man who has been married within the year brings a load
of aromatic shrubs, making a huge pile of them in the yard of the
church. A religious service is held in the open air at evening-time,
after which the priest sets fire to the pile. All the villagers, men,
women, and children, dance about the fire, while boys and young men
show their agility and courage by leaping over it. When the flames
die down, each person carries home a glowing brand and places it on
the hearthstone for good luck.

The description of the festival by Abeghian shows how a general
celebration of this kind varies in particulars from place to
place. [126] On the afternoon of the 13th of February, [127] which
is the day before the church festival of the purification, a pile of
wood consisting usually of thorn-wood, cane, and straw is gathered
together in the churchyard. The entire community comes together in
the church on the night of the same day, each person provided with
a candle. After the vespers all stand about the pile of shrub and
wood, the newly married during the year making the first row. The
candles are lighted from the church light, and after the priest has
blessed the pile, it is set ablaze from all sides, after which the
candles are put out. As soon as the fire has died down, the candles
are relighted from the glowing embers which are regarded as sacred,
and carried home where they are used to light a pile of shrub and wood
that has been gathered on the roof of the house. The young people jump
over the fire while the young women and married women march around
it saying, "May it not itch me, and may I not receive any scabs,"
taking care just to singe the border of their dresses. The ashes,
as well as the half-burned wood-stuffs are preserved, or scattered
in the four corners of the barn, over the fields or in the garden,
for the ashes and flames of the firebrands are believed to protect
people and cattle from sickness and the fruit trees from worms and
caterpillars. In the homes of the newly married the festival is
celebrated with music and dance, the young couples especially making
it a point to dance about the sacred flames, while in some places
special food is prepared in honor of the occasion.

Various prophesies are made during the festival, for example, if the
flame and smoke blows to the east, it is a sign of a good harvest
for the coming year, if toward the west, a bad growth is expected.

In recent years the religious authorities at Etchmiadzin printed the
following prohibition in the church calendar: "It is forbidden to run
about the fire." But the festival is celebrated nevertheless. [128]
That it originates in the pagan festival held in honor of Mihr there
is little doubt, for the month of February corresponds to the ancient
Armenian month Mehakan, which, translated into modern Armenian,
Mihragan, means belonging to Mihr, or more loosely, the Festival
of Mihr.


The festival in commemoration of the dead is celebrated on the first
day after Easter, and may be regarded as a reaction against the
lenten fasts. Families of Armenians, loaded with picnic baskets,
packages of food, and bottles of wine, flock to their cemeteries
in great numbers. Priests are paid small fees for standing over
the graves of the dead to chant prayers for the salvation of the
departed souls. Over the graves of the recently dead stand the
bereaved relatives of the deceased, lamenting loudly and bewailing
a fate which they know must some day be their own. A more maudlin
spectacle could not be imagined. Here and there are seated groups
of families eating and drinking and laughing all the more heartily
for the enforced abstinence of the preceding weeks; while standing
beside this grave or that is a priest in black robe and high hat,
chanting a prayer for the dead, and incidentally earning his daily
bread. Eating seems to be the chief amusement; even the mourners eat
after they have faithfully mourned, and the priests too come in for
their shares after all possible fees have been earned. Altogether it
is a post-lenten festival in the full meaning of the term, and much
in contrast to the wholesome enjoyment and the light-hearted gaiety so
characteristic of Vartavar. It has been witnessed in Constantinople by
Armenians I know, who have given accounts to me. Whether or not it is
carried out in this manner in the villages and rural districts I am not
aware, but I should be very much surprised to learn that it was, for I
should certainly regard the festival in this form as a product of the
artificiality of city life. In the absence of wholesome amusements and
of the community solidarity characteristic of the Armenian village,
contact with city-bred folk would inevitably result in a shift of
standards of judgment and valuation, together with a break-up in
old habits of thought and life; and as the people have no common
play-ground, so to speak, except the poor denuded cemetery allotted
them by the Turkish government, one can well excuse the ugliness of
the spectacle. The Armenian has Vartavar, a real festival, and need
not look with shame upon this festival in commemoration of the dead.

This same offering of sacrifice for the dead is carried on in a
variety of ways. In Armenian villages the family of the deceased
prepares a lamb or a kid with rice, and on the day of the funeral
pieces of it are given to the attendants; given, as they say, and
taken, in sacrifice for the dead. The practice in Constantinople is
somewhat different, although the idea is exactly the same. Forty days
after the death of an individual, or perhaps on the anniversary of
the death, the bereaved family prepares a lamb or a kid with rice,
which is distributed to the people in small pots, and given, as they
say, in sacrifice for the dead. The Greek custom in this respect is
most absurd. At the head of the casket, which is left open, two men
march in the funeral procession carrying a wide tray filled with boiled
wheat and sugar, and trailing a piece of black crape. After the burial
this is distributed to the mourners in handfuls, again in sacrifice
for the dead. Libations set aside and poured out in Roman days are
illustrative of the same thing. That these practices are not Christian
but distinct survivals of pagan festivals and customs is very clear.

The above conclusions, namely, first that the festival as I
described it is an aberration of city life, and second, that although
identified with the church it is distinctly pagan in character, are
borne out by Abeghian, whose material, as an Armenian who for many
years lived in the little Armenian village of Astapat, is distinctly
first-hand. [129] Worship of the deceased, he says, begins immediately
after death. Each departed soul, and especially those of elderly
people, requires particular honor on the first day after death, and
during the ensuing year. It is for this reason a great misfortune for
an Armenian peasant not to have a child. A still greater misfortune,
however, it is to die in a strange land where there are none to care
for the departed soul. That a curious evolution has taken place in
these requirements is very clear. In the beginning, satisfactions
of a material kind were required, something to eat and to drink, and
accordingly the custom arose of placing bread upon the heart of the
dead, or sanctified bread in the cavity of the mouth and incense in
the nostrils. Then there arose the idea of facilitating the journey
of the departed into the beyond, and of making the future life
of the soul a happier one. For example, Armenians generally bathe
the bodies of their dead in blessed water, and wash the clothes of
the deceased on the day following burial for the purification of
the soul so that it may arrive spotless at its destination. Since
the soul has been cleansed of all sin through the symbolic washing
of the body and clothes, no more covering is required for the body
than a large white cloth. No other color is permissible. Should the
deceased be more than ten years of age, candles or oil lamps are
burned during eight days over the spot where the body was bathed
in order to lighten the way of the soul into the beyond. According
to old beliefs, the destination of the departed soul is a place of
darkness, and hence two candles are placed in the hands of the dead
immediately after the bath in order that he may recognize his friends
and relatives in the world beyond. At frequent intervals during the
first year, food and drink are brought to the cemetery, and placed
upon the grave. There is weeping, eating, and drinking at these times,
and what food is left over is always placed over the grave.

The souls of the righteous are thought of as luminous, the wicked as
black. Accordingly the blessed are called "spirits of light." [130]
In order to possess a bright soul one must have performed good works,
of which giving alms to the poor is considered the most important. Such
spirits are also called "generous," "charitable." It is a current
belief that the blackened souls become brighter through the good works
of descendants, as well as through their prayers. Offspring are thus
especially desirable, and the old Armenian liturgy, the Maschtotz
prepared by St. Mesrob, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet in
the fifth century, contains innumerable prayers for the dead. [131]
The prayers are short and their power is relative to the frequency
of repetition rather than to the length. Some sort of short prayer
is repeated with every thought of the dead, as for example, "May God
have mercy upon his soul"; "May his soul become lightened"; or only
"The illuminated soul."

Several days of the year are set apart for particular remembrance
of the dead. [132] At these times the departed spirits are supposed
to come down from heaven and to roam about the vicinity of their
graves or in the homes of their relatives. On the eve of these
days it is necessary to do honor to their memory with incense and
candles, which are regarded as offerings. The odor of the incense
is especially pleasant to spirits, for the incense-tree also blooms
in paradise. [133] Saturday night is very commonly devoted to such
intercession and worship. Incense is burned upon the hearth while
prayers are repeated, or a flame is ignited upon a plate which is
carried into all the corners of the house, or barn, or wherever it
is believed the departed spirit may be wandering. In some places it
is customary to maintain the "light of the dead" throughout the night
in order that the spirits may enter the house. If they find the house
dark in looking through the roof window, they make away, cursing. Water
is not drunk in the dark during these nights, for it is believed that
to do so would be to take it away from the thirsty spirits of the dead.

On the Day of the Dead the spirits are especially honored, for they
love most to wander in the neighborhood of their graves. People
actually feel themselves to be among the souls of the dead on this
celebration day. The latter are very happy to be thought of, and
are especially glad to have their graves blessed by the priests. But
to please them most one must bring wood and incense and leave it to
be burned over their graves. Three days the spirits remain upon the
earth, after which they return to heaven, their visit having been duly
honored. If they come to find themselves forgotten, they curse their
relatives and fly away in despair. Occasionally they come down to be of
service; especially is this true of the dead father and his living son,
for the former is especially remembered, and his grave is regarded
as holy. Armenians swear by the graves, or by the spirits of their
fathers, and call upon them for help in time of especial need. [134]

Tavernier described the same festival in his Voyages and noticed that
it was considered the greatest infamy to eat with a "Mordischou,"
the person who washed the dead. [135] No single festival and group of
relevant beliefs is more instructive in showing how much of Armenian
folk-belief and custom is the survival of paganism.

There is yet another festival of this group, which, however, is not to
be traced to paganism, and it would be a mistake to suppose that the
church is connected with it in the same way and to the same extent
as it is with the first three festivals considered. The festival is
called Vartan's Day, and although the church sanctions the festival
and sets apart a day for the celebration, it comes about as near being
apart from the church as any single festival. Vartan was the general
of the Armenian army defeated at the battle of Avarair, spoken of in
Part One, by the Persian fire-worshippers who endeavored to impose
their religion upon the Armenians at a time when part of Armenia
was under the domination of Persia, and the remainder tributary to
Rome. But though defeated in battle, the moral victory, as people
now use the term, was Armenian, for the battle proved the utter
failure of the Persians to convert the Armenian people to their
religion. [136] Vartan saved the nation for Gregorian Christianity,
and it is significant that the people look upon Vartan as saviour of
the nation rather than as saviour of their religion, showing how the
religion was and still is identified with the nation.

It is in his honor that the people hold a festival on the anniversary
day of the battle of Avarair. School children sing songs and
wreath Vartan's picture with red flowers. The belief is that this
peculiar kind of red flower sprang up from the blood of the Christian
army. Recitations and national patriotic plays are given, and as the
children participate in singing songs, reciting pieces, and rendering
plays, the older people participate in attending them. [137]

Besides the belief of the red flower there are numerous other beliefs
hallowed by the day. Nightingales that fly over the battlefield are
supposed to sing "Vartan, Vartan," and there is a species of antelope
with a pouch of fragrant musk under its throat which is said to have
acquired its fragrance by browsing on herbage wet with the blood of
Armenian heroes. [138]

Altogether it is the kind of festival to give expression to the
sentiment I have spoken of as love for the country, for its mountains,
rivers, and valleys, and for its ideals of freedom, independence,
and strength. In the presence of the state the festival probably
would be utilized to foster and give expression to the sentiment of
loyalty to the state. There would be specially chosen speakers to talk
of patriotism, waving of banners, and carefully designed methods of
instilling hatred for a real or supposed enemy, much as French school
children have been taught to hate Englishmen. But in the absence of
the state, the sentiment expressed must be a purer sentiment, loftier
and freer, and one can not but regret that Vartan's Day and similar
festivals have been suppressed by the Turkish government. And yet,
one could not reasonably expect otherwise.


Most charming and most picturesque of festivals is that participated
in by the romantic Armenian maidens on the early dawn of Ascension
Day. [139] On the eve of the same day the young girls who wish their
fortunes told, decorate a large bowl with specially selected flowers,
after which each girl casts a token, a ring, a brooch, a thimble,
into the bowl. Flowers of several kinds are then put in, and the
bowl is filled with water drawn from seven springs. Then they cover
it with an embroidered cloth and take it by night to the priest who
says a prayer over it. The most carefully and daintily prepared bowl
is then placed out in the moonlight, open to the stars where it is
left until dawn. At early daybreak of the next morning, the maidens,
furnished with provisions for the entire day, go out of the village
carrying their bowl to the side of a spring, the foot of a mountain,
or into an open field, gathering on the way various kinds of flowers
with which they deck themselves. Having arrived at their place of
festival, they play games, dance, and sing, after which they take
a beautiful little girl, too young to tell where the sun rises,
who has been previously chosen and gaily dressed for the occasion,
to draw the various articles out of the bowl. The face of the child
is covered with a richly wrought veil that she may not see what is
in the bowl, and she then proceeds to withdraw the articles which
she holds in her hand one at a time. While this is done some one of
the party recites a charm song, and the owner of each token takes
the song which accompanies it as her fortune. There are thousands
of these charm songs, most of which have been written especially for
the festival, of which I shall give but a few.


        Snowless hang the clouds to-night,
        Through the darkness comes a light;
            On this lonely pillow now,
        Never more shall sleep alight.


        Like a star whose brightness grows
        On the earth my beauty shows;
            Thou shalt long for yet, and seek
        My dark eyes and arching brows.


        Long and lone this night to me
        Passing slow and wearily;
            Passing full of sighs and tears--
        Love, what doth it bring to thee?


        Eden's smile my vineyard wore,
        Flowers bloomed, a goodly store;
            Handsome youth and ugly maid--
        This was never seen before! [140]

Thus each one carries its bit of prophesy, daintily and prettily
expressed, which when sung at the foot of some mountain, in the bright
eastern sunlight of the morning, while a little child is holding
tokens beside a bowl surrounded by the group of beflowered maidens,
makes as complete and charming a picture as one could well imagine.

Many curious beliefs, superstitions, customs, and legends are
directly related to Ascension Day. It is believed, for example,
that on the eve of this day the water of the springs, brooks,
and rivers lies peacefully motionless for a single moment during
the night. At the same moment heaven and earth, mountain and stone,
trees and flowers beckon and congratulate one another. First heaven
congratulates and kisses the earth, then one star beckons to another,
one flower to another, and so forth until all of nature's objects
have expressed their mutual good feeling. Even plants and "soulless"
objects receive the gift of speech and share their secrets one with
the other at this time. He who hides himself in a stone crevice of the
mountainside may listen to the conversation of stones and flowers,
and understand what they tell each other. They tell on this night
what sort of sicknesses they and the springs will heal, and many
people endeavor to attend at this moment, but only a few succeed. [141]

At midnight the waters are believed to have the power of healing, and
people bathe themselves in the streams. As the children are not to be
troubled during the night, water is warmed for them the next morning,
bits of grass are thrown in and the children are bathed. During the
magic moment the door of the cavern of "Maher," the revered hero god
who dwells upon earth, is opened: and one may enter to see him, his
steed, and the "wheel of the starred heavens" or the wheel of fate. In
one of the national epics (David of Sassun) Maher is represented
as the strongest of the heroes, and is supposed to dwell in a rocky
cave in the vicinity of Van [142] (probably the rock of Van). In this
cave all of the world's riches are heaped up, and the "wheel of the
world," the wheel of fate which constantly turns assigning to people
their destinies, stands there. Maher looks continually at the wheel
and if it should stand still, he comes out of his cavern to ravage
the world. The door of the cave is made of stone and covered with
cuneiform inscriptions. It is locked during the entire year except
for the night of the ascension of Christ, when it is opened during
the single magic moment. Whosoever perceives this moment may step
into the cave and take as much gold as he pleases. The idea of the
"wheel of fortune" is considerably extant, although it is not always
understood as separated from heaven and connected with Maher. [143]
That the idea of fate or of fortune is generally associated with the
day, not only by romantic maidens, but by the people, is very evident.

The flowing waters are believed to change into gold during the silent
minute, and if one places an object in the water and wishes at the
same time that it become gold, the object turns to gold. Accordingly
the young men and women go to the springs and rivers in order to
draw water, trusting their fates that they may select the happy
moment. Superstitions and magic are not lacking, for while one member
of a party seats himself upon a pair of fire-tongs in the fashion
of a rider, another performs likewise upon a long-handled spit. The
iron tools are also regarded as a necessary protection against the
calls that one hears behind after the water has been drawn, for if one
should look back perchance, he would surely fall under the influence
of the evil spirits. The oldest of the party carries a gourd flask
full of wheat and barley, which is poured into the stream towards
midnight with the words "I give you wheat and barley; you give me
everything that is good." Thereupon he fills the gourd flask with
water, and the party hurries homeward to discover the gold. [144]

The fortune-telling festival is given by Abeghian as he observed it in
his home village, and I shall give a free translation of his account
at this point because of a few interesting variations. In Astapet,
the festival is called the "Festival of the Mother of Flowers." On the
day before Ascension Day the girls and young women of the village
divide themselves into two groups, one to gather special sorts
of flowers from the mountainside, while the other goes to "steal"
water from seven springs, or seven rivers. The "thieves" must not
see each other, nor must the people of the village know aught of what
is happening. Having filled their vessels with water, each throws a
stone into the spring and then they turn back, taking care neither
to look about, to set down their vessels, nor to talk. They imagine
that the mountains, the valleys, trees, and meadows call out behind
them and if they should turn about they would be turned to stone. [145]

At night of the same day the "water thieves" and flower gatherers meet
together in a garden to prepare the "Havgir" or magic bowl in which
is poured the water from the seven springs, and in which seven stones
from the seven sources, together with leaves of the gathered flowers
are dropped. Each one who wishes her fortune told now throws in a charm
token, such as mentioned before. Those who are not present send their
tokens in order to have them thrown into the "Havgir" by others. The
bowl is then adorned with flowers, after which the "Vicak" meaning
destiny or fate, is prepared. This consists of two pieces of wood tied
together in the form of a cross, which is dressed and adorned with
jewels and pearls to make it appear as a newly-married doll-bride. The
"Vicak" is fastened to the "Havgir," and both are placed under the
stars, in order that these who are the real destinies, may work the
proper magic upon the charm tokens. [146] A few girls guard it during
the whole night against the young men who try to steal it.

Early the next morning the maidens gather together in the garden
laden with food baskets and prepared to make a day of it. The "Havgir"
and strangely fashioned "Vicak" are carried to a nearby spring, the
young girls decking themselves with flowers as they go. The spring
is decorated about with flowers, green leaves, and branches, and the
"Havgir" is placed in the middle, and then after they have prepared
everything and eaten, the oldest among them takes the "Vicak," kisses
it, gives it to another, who does likewise, and so it passes from
hand to hand. Finally a seven-year-old girl receives it. She sets
herself in the middle of the group and holds the "Vicak" while the
"Havgir" stands before her. The little girl is called "bride," is the
interpreter of the "Vicak" and is specially selected and dressed for
the occasion. When she has received the "Vicak" a red veil is passed
over both, and all is ready for the central event of the festival. A
charm song is sung by the group, and after each stanza the "bride"
draws a token from the vessel. The preceding verse reveals the fate
of the one to whom the token belongs. [147]

The fortune-telling festival of Ascension morning stands quite
alone. Bodeful of the future and suggestive of the past, it can
not but have a serious tenor, for there are maidens whose lovers
have not been born, as there are also sadder ones. Perhaps they do
not take their verses very seriously. Whether they do or not there
is always the charm of sunrise colors, and the out-of-doors that
makes it as beautiful as it is romantic. The best of the future,
their brightest hope, the best of the present, warmth of sunshine
and color, and the best of the past, their golden dreams of youth,
are brought together on this day and given a common expression in a
way that must charm them as it charms the observer. Festivals to be
perfect festivals must be out-of-doors and the day must be bright.



The second group of festivals comprises those newly created by the
church, such as the Blessing of the Grapes, New Year, Easter, and
Christmas. I wish also to include in this group a few of the peculiarly
characteristic church ceremonies which also have a distinct festival
value for the people, i.e., the ceremony of the "Washing of Feet"
on Maundy Thursday, "Khatchanguist" or the "Blessing of Water," the
consecration of the Katholikos, and the manufacture of the "holy oil."


The service of the church on any one of the festival days is
exclusively connected with the divine mystery, so called. These include
the Assumption, or Immaculate Conception, celebrated by the people
in the festival "the Blessing of the Grapes"; the miraculous birth,
which corresponds to the Christmas festival; the Transfiguration,
or the folk-festival Vartavar; the Redemption, to which the Easter
festival corresponds; and the Resurrection, including Ascension or
Fortune-Telling Day. There are other festivals celebrated by the
church, such as the festival of the Holy Cross, and of the Holy
Church, which I omit because there is not a corresponding social
expression. Grand mass is said at the church, and the particular
passages of scripture that have a direct bearing on the occasion
are read. The Armenian calendar is curious in that many of the
festivals occupy a succession of days; there are, for example,
39 days for the Resurrection, 3 days for the Transfiguration, 10
days for the Ascension, etc., which make up a grand total of 136
days in the year to which festivals are assigned. As there are 160
days devoted to abstinence, 117 of which are liturgical abstinence,
that is, days of penitence mentioned in the liturgy, there are left
only 112 days for the commemoration of saints, which have necessarily
to be grouped together, since there are more than 112 saints. [148]
Because, therefore, of the continuity of festival days, one could not
expect any one of the festivals to have any social value from the
standpoint of the church service. But there is never any conflict
between the services of the church and the festivities without,
which are thus sanctioned by the church and in many cases directed
and carried out by church officials. It has been noticed that the
blessing of the priest was secured for the magic bowl, before it was
placed underneath the stars on the eve of Ascension Day.

The festival of the Virgin Mary, or the "Blessing of the Grapes,"
is more actively participated in by the church. It may be designed
to keep the people from eating green grapes, but more probably was
intended to give a social expression to an otherwise dull and very
monotonous church ceremony. The people are all expected to maintain
a strict abstinence from eating grapes until the middle of August,
the day set apart for the festival. The grapes are then gathered
in great quantities, some of which are carried to the church and
placed on a large tray, which is set at the foot of the altar. After
the ceremony of the church, the priest turns to the tray of grapes
before him, which he blesses with his cross. The tray is then taken
to the door of the church, where each member of the congregation is
given a bunch as he passes out. The fast is thus broken with the
taste of "blessed grapes," and there is no end of grape eating on
that day. During the remainder of the day every woman named Mary,
or named with a possible attribute of the Virgin Mary, as "Kudsa,"
meaning "saintly," or "Dirouhi," meaning "Mother of the Lord,"
keeps open house for the friends who drop in to eat grapes and to
congratulate her. In rural places or villages where vineyards are
abundant, social groups may be seen eating grapes from the vines
while talking or playing as they are inclined. Grapes ripen earlier
in some parts of Armenia than in others, and where this is true the
festival is merged with the festival of Vartavar. [149]

For the festival of New Year's Eve no religious coöperation whatever
is necessary; it comes as near to being distinct from the church as
any of the Armenian festivals. The preparation consists largely in
making or purchasing gifts for the various members of the family,
in cracking bowls of nuts and getting all kinds of dried fruits
ready. Armenian and Greek New Year's Eve fall on the same night,
and in Constantinople there is much agitation and animation in the
streets. Singing and music fill the air, and as soon as dusk falls,
groups of boys, some carrying small lanterns, others provided with
tom-toms or hand-organs, begin the circuit of the streets. Thus they
go from house to house singing the New Year's song and playing their
hand-organs, receiving pennies as they go. After the boys have passed
along, the porters, watchmen, and firemen make a noisy procession down
the streets, they too playing hand-organs and stopping at one house
after another where they receive a drink, some sweets and nuts, and
most important of all, a tip. As midnight approaches, the excitement
increases; the pounding of the tom-toms becomes unbearable, all the
organs of the neighborhood are making music, and there is such a
noise of singing, shouting, and laughing as can be compared only to
a night of political election. Inside the homes of the better-to-do,
the children are put to bed for a time while the enormous New Year's
table is set. Besides several specially prepared New Year's dishes,
every home must be provided with a dish of every kind of fruit, dried
or fresh. Small candles are stuck around the plates, and the presents
are heaped up on a side table. At midnight the candles are all lit,
and the family ranges itself around the table while the eldest, usually
the grandmother, blesses all and prays. After the prayer she wishes
to all the best things for the coming year, for the young ladies good
husbands, for the young men prosperity and good wives, happiness for
the little children, and comfort and health for the older ones. These
wishes having been given, all kiss the hands of the older members of
the family, after which the children kiss each others' hands. The
presents are exchanged; fruits, candies, and nuts are partaken of,
and the fun goes on until dawn. [150] In the interior of Armenia,
two elders of the church go from door to door of the more fortunate
ones on the day before New Year, carrying bags which they fill with
the offerings received at every house. These are carefully parceled
out and at dusk are left at the doors of poor families who would
otherwise have no New Year's cheer.

The church makes up amply in the Easter festival for any lack of
participation at New Year. Forty-eight days of rigid lenten abstinence,
during which time no meat is eaten, precede the festivities of Easter
Day. The first two or three days of the Holy Week are given over to
housecleaning, which however must be finished by Thursday in order
that the people may attend the ceremonies at church which continue
until Easter Day. On Thursday afternoon "the Washing of the Feet,"
to be described later, commences, and the service continues until past
midnight. On Saturday all go to the bath, which is made an essential
part of the week's celebrations, and on the afternoon of the same day
the real Easter service, called the Lighting of the Lights, begins. The
church is first illuminated on Easter Eve, for on the three preceding
days of mourning and sorrow the altar shrine is kept closed and no
candles are lit. Even the congregation holds lighted wax candles while
the triumphal songs are chanted by the robed choir of little boys.

At the evening meal of the day before Easter the lenten fast is partly
broken by eating fish and boiled eggs, but no meat. [151] The denial
of the flesh recommences, however, at bedtime, for not a morsel is
eaten until Easter midday. Early dawn sees the people putting on their
new clothes, especially new shoes which are considered a necessity
on this day, and all, newly attired, go to church where communion is
celebrated. The church is usually filled with flowers and its most
brilliant ornaments are displayed, the service ending at midday in time
for the usual feast of stuffed roast lamb, the customary red eggs, and
the egg bread made only at Easter time. In the afternoon the men visit
from house to house and something dainty is always served, a cocktail
or a cup of coffee with sweets like Turkish delight or bonbons. The
formula repeated by the guest upon entering a house is always the same;
"Christ is risen from the dead," he exclaims, and is answered by the
host with the usual formula, "Blessed is the resurrection of Christ."

Perhaps the boys enjoy Easter most of all. Provided with red Easter
eggs, they collect in groups, whereupon there follows a most vivacious
competition to win each other's eggs by clashing them together. The
champion egg is used until it is broken, when a new champion is quickly
brought forth. This process continues as long as there are two or
more unbroken eggs, the game being won when all of the broken eggs are
in the possession of the boy who holds the champion egg. Picnic day,
or the "Day of the Dead," follows Easter Day, as I have described it,
and it is singularly strange that a "day of resurrection" should be
followed by a "day of the dead," when prayers are said and offerings
given in sacrifice for the departed. But people are not mindful of
such little incongruities; they are simple and carry out the festival
celebrated by their fathers, much as their fathers celebrated it.

The week before Christmas is likewise devoted to a thorough
housecleaning by the Armenian housewife, and on the day before,
special dishes are prepared for the next day's feast. Again there
is the customary bath which is observed by all the members of the
household. On Christmas Eve the abstinence of the preceding days
is partly broken, usually with fried fish, lettuce, and boiled
spinach. Boiled spinach is the rule because it is believed that this
dish made up the supper of the Virgin Mary on the eve of Christ's
birth. At church special vespers are sung and there is much emphasis
laid upon special selections from the prophets which are also sung. An
hour before dawn the sexton alone, or with a group of choir boys,
goes from door to door singing what is called "the good tidings." It
is the signal for the faithful to awake, don their best clothes and go
to church again without eating breakfast. The holy bread and wine are
not to be profaned by the people having eaten a breakfast of ordinary
food, with the consequence that not a few faint during the service,
even as at Easter time. But the ceremony is finished by half past ten,
after which the women go home to prepare the midday feast while the
men visit the homes of their friends. The never-failing formula of
the guest upon entering the house of a friend is, "Christ is born and
manifested to-day," which is responded to by the host with "Blessed is
the manifestation of Christ." Each visit lasts about fifteen minutes
and sweets and coffee are served. At midday the Christmas feast is
partaken of, all make merry around the table, and in the afternoon
more calls are paid and received. The festivities are observed for
three days, the third being ladies' day, which is devoted by the
ladies to giving and receiving visits. They offer their salutations
and good wishes to each other, eating dainties even as the men. Shops
and business places of Armenians are usually kept closed for three
days. [152]

There is thus considerable similarity between Easter and the Christmas
festivities, which is probably due to more or less sameness in the
church ceremonies. These ceremonies, always well attended, are made
attractive to the people by beautiful displays of flowers, vested choir
boys, the charm of whose singing can only be understood by those who
have heard them; also by special singing, not by the congregation,
but by those who can sing, and with such enticing little additions
as the Lighting of Lights. The services are thus as much and as
real a part of the day's rejoicings as the feasts and social visits,
and if they are designed consciously or unconsciously to give active
expression to the sentiment of loyalty to the church one must admit
that the expression is a perfectly free and natural one. Abstinences
do not make the festivities attractive, to be sure, and there are
more unfortunate communities who can not afford so lavish a display
as others; but flowers need only to be picked from the fields, and
boys there are always, even in the poorest churches. The holiday
rejoicing has somewhat more of the serious blend which is to be
contrasted with the more perfect gaiety of New Year's Day, and is
probably due to the weightiness of its religious significance of which
one is constantly reminded, not only by the services at the church
but also by the salutations of visitors and the necessary replies,
always the same. But even the gaiety of New Year is not to be compared
with the perfect lightness and freedom of merriment that characterize
some aspects of Vartavar, nor do any of the Christian folk festivals
have the completeness of Vartavar.


Together with this second group of festivals including as they do
Christmas, Easter, New Year, and the Blessing of the Grapes, I wish
to include a short series of church ceremonies all of which have a
very distinct festival value, beside their value in being singularly
characteristic of the Armenian church. They are distinctly different
from the festivals of the preceding section, in that the festivities
are incidental to a ceremony peculiar to the Armenian church. The
"Washing of Feet," the "Blessing of the Water," the consecration
of the Katholikos, and the manufacture of the holy oil, are those I
desire to describe.

The "Washing of Feet" occurs on Maundy Thursday, three days before
Easter. [153] This day is the first of three successive days of
mourning spoken of, during which the altar is closed, and no lights
are lit. After the mass the bishop puts away his brocaded robes,
and kneeling in imitation of Christ washing the feet of His disciples
on the night of the betrayal, he washes the feet of the priests and
choristers, of whom there are usually eleven. Christ washed the feet
of twelve, but one of them was unworthy. The service then continues
until midnight, and while the ceremony is in progress, the lights are
put out one by one, to remain out until the "Lighting of the Lights"
on Easter eve. If the church is a parish church in which a priest
officiates, a number of little boys are ranged in order for the
"Washing of Feet," which in this case is performed by the priest,
who anoints the soles of their feet with oil after he has washed
them. Each boy is given a walnut shell and before he moves from his
place he carefully scrapes some of the oil into his shell, and carries
it home to place in the butter. If he does this it is believed that
the supply of butter will not fail throughout the year.

This same service was observed by a writer in the Survey, in a church
on East 27th Street, New York, rented by a company of Armenian folk
residing in that city. [154] The same symbolic "Washing of Feet" was
carried out on the evening of Maundy Thursday in much the same fashion
as it is carried out in the home-land. The symbolism, the pageantry,
the color of oriental Armenian worship, the silver-mounted Bible on
the altar in the center, the rising steps, the crosses, the lighted
candles, and the incense were all there. A white-robed choir with green
velvet copes filed in, singing long chants. The choir was followed
by two priests, and the priests by the bishop with his mitre, robe
of crimson and gold, and his ivory cross held in the right hand with
a kerchief of crimson silk. A shining crozier held in his left hand
marked his office as shepherd of the flock; a large jewel locket and
cross hung from his breast and was probably the gift of the Czar. The
choir chant that continues all the while was described as an intricate,
rhythmless tune, now passionate, now wailing and altogether "oriental,"
accompanied by a few older folk here and there who were humming in
unison with the choir and the leader, who was beating time. Beside
the humming the congregation took no part in the service except that
it stood up for the psalm and prayer. Suddenly a sound to the right
brought the observer's attention to an old woman lying prostrate
in the aisle. No one helped her, no one even seemed to notice her,
but presently she rose to a kneeling posture and lifted her eyes in
prayer to the altar. Again she prostrated herself, and again rose to
lift her eyes to the altar, which performance was repeated a third
time before the old woman took her seat. "Der Voghormia" meaning
"Lord have mercy upon us," was repeated ten times by the interceding
bishop in a voice loud and intense, and a second ten times, and a
third ten times. The chant quickened, and as the aged priest took the
Bible from its place and held it toward the audience the bishop gave
his benediction of peace to the "four corners of the earth." There
was another chant after which the washing of the feet commenced. With
deep seriousness the bishop placed his staff by the altar, laid aside
his mitre and brocaded robes, and beginning with the aged priest,
he knelt beside a bowl of water to wash his feet. Ten more of those
who came forward shared in the ceremony. "I can not so serve you
all," he said at the close of his address, "I am sorry. Take as
symbolic what is done." There was a short intermission, but before
ten o'clock the penitential service recommenced and continued until
midnight. The story of Christ's betrayal in the garden was read, and
the chants continued, wilder, sadder, and more wailing, accompanied
by murmurs and occasionally by low cries from the people. As midnight
approached the lights were dimmed one by one, and the emotion became
more intense. As the hour struck, the congregation rose, and with
clasped hands joined in a closing song and prayer. There were only
a few score people present.

The prostration of the old woman reminds one of the spiritually
wounded who lay prostrate over the floor during the times of the
Kentucky revivals, but the fact is there is nothing hysterical in
this particular phase of Armenian worship. The attitude is commonly
practiced by Armenians, especially among the peasant classes. They lie
flat touching their heads to the ground. [155] But the posture is more
peculiarly oriental than it is peculiarly Armenian. No sight is more
common in the countries of Islam than the faithful Moslem who spreads
his bit of carpet upon which he kneels with gaze fixed toward Mecca,
prostrating himself repeatedly as he murmurs his prayers.

Although the picture given by Dubois of a simple church service he
attended in Koulpe, Armenia, is not the ceremony of Maundy Thursday,
it has one or two strokes of native color that make it impossible to
omit. [156] The church was poor and simple, the walls were built of
stone cemented by clay or bad lime. Two rows of large beams neither
squared nor trimmed supported the earthen roof in the manner of
columns. At the farther end was a kind of niche, partitioned off by
means of soiled curtains, thus forming a sanctuary where stood the
priest, clothed in torn robe, to read the prayers. All of the little
boys of the village encircled him, kneeling and chanting or reciting
prayers, turn by turn. The eldest placed themselves outside of the
choir and knelt on straw mats or on sheep's skins which marked their
customary places, and kissed the earth, or murmured very low the words
of the priest, or responded to the chanting at high pitch. The women
held themselves apart, their faces half veiled, filling the back of
the church behind the men, and, with lowered heads, were the first
to leave.

The kneeling posture and the prostration is again clearly in
evidence, which together with what has been said is sufficient to
show that this attitude, especially among the common people, is a
very ordinary one and is therefore to be regarded merely as a very
generally recognized posture of worship, and not at all significant
necessarily of "conviction of sin" or a "feeling of penitence," which
is nevertheless suggested. The church at Koulpe must have been a very
poor one not to have benches, but it had its little chorus of boys,
and the people participated in much the same way as in the little
church in New York, although nearly a hundred years have passed since
Dubois attended the simple service.

"Khatchahankist," meaning literally, "repose of the cross," is the
second of the four church ceremonies I shall describe. The ceremony
might better be named "the Blessing of the Water," for that is what it
really consists of. In the towns of Turkey the churches devote one day
each week to the performance of this rite, but in other churches it
occurs at the end of a special mass, as for example on Ascension Day,
or on the commemoration day of St. Gregory. [157] There is always a
very great gathering on this occasion largely because of the various
superstitions connected with it. A large silver bowl of water is
brought and placed on a stand at the foot of the altar, after which
the officiating priest comes forward with relics of the Holy Cross, of
the saints, or a simple silver cross in his hand. The more frequently
used relics are those of St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. John the
Baptist, St. James of Nisibis, or St. George the Martyr. The priest
reads prayers over the water, which are answered by the chants from
the choir, after which he dips the relic or the cross into the water
three times, finally making the sign of the cross over the bowl. The
Lord's prayer is repeated, after which a ladle is placed on one side
of the vessel, while the priest kneels on the other, cross or relic
in hand. Now the people crowd about, cross their faces and kiss the
cross, and then take up the ladle to drink of the water thus blessed
especially for drinking purposes. It is used also for ablutions,
for popular belief endows the sacred liquid with curative power.

Some of the prayers that are repeated and the texts that are read
during this ceremony are well worth noting, for they illustrate the
candid interest of all participating. After the reading of the texts,
the deacon repeats the following proclamation: "Let us pray unto God
who loveth mankind and hath given for hope and refuge his victorious
holy cross, which is armor invincible against the inworkings of Satan,
to the end that whatsoever it touches, this water and all creatures. He
shall through the same vouchsafe both healing and mercy." The priest
then prays: "Bless, O Lord, this water, and hallow it with thy holy
cross, in order that the flocks and sheep which may approach and drink
of the same, may derive therefrom freedom from disease and sterility;
for from them we select sacrifices of fragrant sweetness and offer them
as victims to thyself." And again the priest prays: "Bless, O Lord,
this water with the life-giving powers of the cross that everyone who
shall drink thereof may derive therefrom a medicine of soul and body,
and a health from the diseases which afflict him." Again: "Bless,
O Lord, this water with thy holy cross, that it may impart to the
fields where it is sprinkled profitable harvests, and that all plants
and herbs may be more than ever increased in fruitfulness." [158]
The cross is then passed three times over the water with the words,
"Let this water be blessed and hallowed in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen." This is followed by a
short proclamation by the deacon and a closing prayer by the priest,
after which the assembled people receive of the magic water as above

This frank personal interest is characteristic of many of the church
ceremonies. For example in the sacrament of holy communion, incense
is offered with the prayer, "Do thou in its stead send upon us the
graces and gifts of thine Holy Spirit." [159]

Of central importance to the nation as to the religion is the ceremony
of the consecration of the Katholikos, the supreme authority of the
church, which is held in front of the Cathedral at Etchmiadzin. [160]
People from near and far gather together to witness this event,
and lest they should fail to see the central act of the ceremony,
the roofs near-by are all used for the greater advantage they give
to the observer. The banner of the Katholikos is set flying from
the belfry tower; in front of the entrance to the Cathedral is set
a wooden dais covered with carpets and costly embroideries whereon
the ceremony is performed; the procession is formed and all is then
in readiness. A service is held in the Cathedral, after which the
procession issues from the church, and the various state and church
officials including representatives from the Russian government,
the choir and deacons, all take their places about the platform. The
twelve bishops who reside at Etchmiadzin, and whose business it is
to wait upon the Katholikos, now appear gorgeously attired, escorting
the central figure of the day, over whose head two attendants carry a
richly embroidered canopy. The patriarch falls on his knees, his feet
beneath his body in full accordance with the ordinary posture. One
bishop now reads, after which another advances bearing in his hands the
image of a dove wrought in gold. It is the receptacle of the holy oil,
which is a mixture of the sacred oil blessed by St. Gregory, sparingly
used and carefully preserved in the treasury of the Cathedral, and
of the specially prepared oil consecrated in Sis in Cilicia. While
one bishop is pouring the holy oil from the neck of the golden dove
over the head of the patriarch, the other bishops gather around to
spread the oil about with their thumbs, making at the same time the
sign of the cross. A piece of cloth is now placed over his head, his
face being covered at the same time by a veil which is attached to
the cloth. After a brief interval the newly consecrated Katholikos,
followed by the bishops, officials, and procession, reenters the
church in order to complete the ceremony. When the procession again
files out escorting the pontiff to his residence, the choir sings,
and the Russian band plays. Festivities continue throughout the day
and into the night, including mainly the banquet with its toasts
and songs by the choir, and the concert furnished by the band in the
evening. The band is a foreign innovation, although the particular
band observed by Lynch consisted mostly of Armenians.

The holy oil used in the consecration consists for the most part of
the preparation manufactured in Sis, as stated, and with which there
is a special ceremony connected, which is of general importance,
for the oil is also used for the various necessary consecrations
of all the churches. In the church at Sis is treasured a gorgeous
silver bowl, decorated with turrets and pinnacles, in which "Muron"
as it is called, or holy oil is made every four years. Pilgrims
come from far to witness the event. The bowl, which holds about a
gallon of oil is placed outside the church, and in it are placed
a hundred and one kinds of flowers amid prayers and chants. [161]
These flowers are stirred with the arm of St. Gregory, after which
the lid is put on and the mixture made to boil. [162] The privilege
of lifting off the lid is auctioned, and it is said that £100 was
once paid for the distinction. The oil is then sold to the pilgrims,
all of whom take a phial of it along to their homes where it is used
in baptism, marriage, and burial ceremonies. It is also believed to
have wonderful medicinal properties.

The chief social value of these ceremonies lies in the fact that they
bring large groups of people together under unusual circumstances,
all of which adds importance to the various rites and festivities
of the occasion. Especially is this true of the consecration of the
Katholikos, which may occur twice or at the most three times in a
generation. For this reason and also because of the authority and
position of the Katholikos, not only as head of the church, but also
in a very real sense, as head of the nation, this ceremony is attended
by many pilgrims from the various sections of the country. Having
assembled, the occasion is thus made a great deal more of than if it
were an ordinary event. The day is a festival day in the full meaning
of the term. Besides the services there is the banquet, the special
choir, and the band. The relics kept in the treasury, which it is
probable that most people who come have not seen before; also the
holy churches of St. Gaiane and St. Rhipsime, which are visited by
small groups throughout the day; and most of all the sacred altar of
the Cathedral, where Christ descended in the vision of St. Gregory,
are special attractions. And then there is the library where many
ancient and precious manuscripts are exhibited, the institution of
the monastery, the garden of the Katholikos, the printing press, and
the seminary, all of which are of interest to the spectator. In fact
there is sufficient to induce the pilgrims to remain for a number of
days, which many of them do. The grounds are provided with a pilgrim's
court surrounded by guest chambers utilized at this time. Naturally
enough the various monuments suggest the traditions and legends with
which they are connected, such as the traditions of St. Gregory,
Tiridates, the legends of St. Rhipsime and St. Gaiane, and the other
legends associated with the introduction of Christianity. Although
centered about a religious ceremony which probably lasts no longer
than fifteen minutes, the occasion is thus made a festival, and is
about as important in fostering a real sentiment of patriotism and
of church loyalty as any other single festival.

The ceremony of the manufacture of the holy oil is not of such central
importance. It also, however, has the advantage of not occurring very
frequently, coming as it does only once in every four years. This
together with the general utility of the oil in all of the various
church ceremonies, plus the superstitions connected with it, is
sufficient to induce pilgrims to make the journey to Sis in Cilicia,
where the ceremony is held. It is again this assembly of pilgrims
that gives the ceremony a social importance. In a nation like the
United States where all parts are connected by railroads, telegraphs,
and telephones, such a pilgrimage would have comparatively little
social value. Except for government centers, there are no telegraphs
in Armenia, the telephone is known only in a few cities, and railroads
there are none. This lack of communication gives such ceremonies to
which pilgrimages are made a very special social value which they
otherwise would not at all have. The electoral assemblies spoken of
have the same value, and for the same reason. The Armenian is not a
person to be silent, and talks even when prudence is the better part
of valour. He criticizes, condemns, and praises openly, fearlessly,
and carelessly, and such a gathering of pilgrims, or electors, if
it means anything, would mean a wholesale exchange of facts relating
to current events, opinions, and rumors with reference to politics,
religion, and every phase of social and industrial life.

The Blessing of the Water can not be said to have so great a social
value, occurring as it does in some parts of the country once every
week. And yet this service is unusually well attended, largely because
of the superstitions connected with the blessed water. Religion here
appears to offer its biggest attraction to the less fortunate, such
as the rheumatic, the tubercular, the dyspeptic, the epileptic, and
the feeble-minded. But enough facts have been mentioned to show that
the Armenian church is something more than an institution of cure and
relief. It has identified itself too completely with the common life
by keeping alive the streams and cross currents of social activity
to admit of such a supposition.

The ceremony of Maundy Thursday, or Washing of the Feet, is, of
the four I have mentioned, of the least social importance. But it
is generally attended, especially by the women who are compelled
by the ban of custom to complete their house-cleaning before this
service begins. And then too, it is the commencement of the Easter
celebration, and as such has a distinct festival value. I have
reviewed them therefore in the order of their social importance. The
consecration of the Katholikos first; second the making of holy oil;
third, the Blessing of the Water, and finally, the Washing of the Feet,
which complete the second group of festivals.




The third group of festivals comprises those connected with the common
life of the people, including the ceremonies of baptism, betrothal,
marriage, and funeral. The church is vitally related to each of them,
and they are of importance here because of their social value, which
I shall again endeavor to point out.

First after birth, the most important event in the life of every
Armenian child is that of baptism, for the belief is that the
unbaptized child has no soul. The infant is therefore generally
baptized on the day after birth, and when this is impossible always
within eight days of birth. If the child is sick there is all the more
reason to hurry; in this case the essential parts of the ceremony are
performed in the home, the remainder being celebrated at the church at
some later time. The very first thing to be done therefore after the
birth of a child is to make the necessary preparations for baptism,
which are very elaborate in the case of the first-born, especially if
the child is a boy. [163] A girl is always better than no child at all,
but not much better. A godfather and godmother are selected, presents
are exchanged between them and the parents of the child, invitations
are sent to friends and relations, and at a fixed time the assembled
people form a procession to the church, led by the midwife holding the
child. The godfather pays all expenses, and therefore such splendor as
the ceremony may have in the way of special ornaments for the altar,
numbers of priests, and a large choir, is determined by him. After the
group has properly assembled at the church, the priest takes the child
from the midwife and gives it to the godfather. The profession of faith
follows immediately and then the priest turns to the west to abjure the
devil and to the east to invoke the Trinity. [164] Having placed the
hem of his chasuble upon the babe, the priest proceeds to the sacristy
reciting a psalm, and followed by the people. The central event now
takes place. The baptism consists of three immersions in the name of
the Holy Trinity. First water is poured over the head of the child,
after which the whole body is plunged into the water. Confirmation is
administered right after the ceremony of immersion, and takes place
upon the altar of the church proper, before the image of the Blessed
Virgin. The forehead, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, back, breast
and upper part of the feet of the infant are anointed with holy oil,
and two wax tapers are placed in the hands of the godfather while
carrying the child. The priest then takes the tapers and the babe,
consecrates and confirms him by three profound inclinations before
the altar, gives candles and child back to the godfather and blesses
both. Now the child may be called by its Christian name, which is
usually that of a saint. [165] Led by the priest and the singing
choir, the procession now starts back to the home of the little one,
still carried by the godfather who continues to hold the candles. When
he reaches the door of the mother, she kneels and prostrates herself
before him. He in turn delivers the child to the mother's arms who may
now kiss it for the first time, the child not having been kissed by
any one from the moment of birth to the delivering over to the mother
by the godfather after baptism. Others may now also kiss the babe,
and each endeavors to be the first, for there is a superstitious value
attached to the first kiss following the mother's after baptism. The
priests and the family of the godfather spend the evening in the
child's home. They are served constantly by the father who does not
himself sit down. For forty days the mother must keep her room, and
walk only in such parts of the house as are exposed to the sun. [166]
Having completed the fortieth day she and her babe are taken to
church by the grandmother. [167] On this occasion the young mother
must bring an offering, which in times past was a rich Persian rug,
but is now merely a package of tapers. She waits at the door of the
sacristy until the priest comes and leads her in before the high altar
where both mother and child receive a blessing. After this ceremony
she must visit the godfather and kiss his hand in token of gratitude.

If a funeral passes during the first forty days of the child's life,
the little one must be snatched up from the cradle and be carried
upright. People now come to offer their felicitations. The greeting
of the guest is always, "May God raise the child in the shadow of its
parents," to which answer is given, "May God bless you according to
your desire," or "May your tongue be always in good health."


It is the popular belief among Armenians that the practice of
early marriages dates from the proclamation of a Persian shah of
the sixteenth century, to whom part of Armenia was tributary. [168]
This edict was intended to wipe out Christianity, and provided for the
marriage of Armenian boys and girls with Persian children. In order to
evade the edict, the Armenian parents ran secretly from house to house
for several nights marrying off their children to each other. The
custom on the part of the parents of arranging for the marriage of
their children without the knowledge of the latter is supposed also
to be rooted in this event. Whether the explanation be true or not,
it certainly is not uncommon for children to marry at sixteen in the
interior of Armenia, and it is still generally true that arrangements
for the marriages of children are made without the knowledge of those
most concerned. [169] The girl does occasionally exercise choice, but
when the unfortunate suitor is not desired by the parents the feeling
of obligation on the girl's part, simply because she has lived at her
father's table, is sufficient to induce her to submit. [170] And the
same may be said of the young man, although the greater independence
of a son gives him a little more ground for acting contrary to his
father's wishes, than in the case of the daughter. But even when the
choice of the children is accepted, the arrangements and ceremony of
betrothal are always carried out by the parents.

These arrangements are something as follows. The parents of a young man
consult his grandparents, and choose a young girl who to them seems
eligible. They then inform a woman match-maker of their decision,
and it is her business to sound the ground, so to speak, before a
proposal is made, since a refusal would ruin the boy's reputation. The
matchmaker is often a professional woman, and can therefore be relied
upon not to make a bungle of the job. Among other things, she finds
out what gifts the bridegroom-to-be must make to his future bride,
which can of course be done only after the proposal has met with a
favorable response on the part of the parents of the girl. "What can he
offer his bride," is the all important question from the standpoint of
the girl's family. Among the rich, but in times past, gold bracelets
bejeweled with diamonds or strings of gold pieces for adorning the
head or neck were common varieties of gifts. To-day silver plate, or
expensive heirlooms are given. After these matters have been decided
upon, preparations are made for the ceremony of betrothal, usually
held in the evening. The friends of the young man are notified to
meet together in his house at an appointed hour with the priest who
is given a ring which he blesses. The procession of the bridegroom's
friends headed by the priest now starts for the house of the bride. All
are provided with lighted wax candles which they hold in their hands
as they proceed down the streets accompanied by the sound of violin,
clarinets, drum, and joyful singing. Sometimes a detour is made in
order to lengthen the procession.

Having arrived at their destination, the father and mother of the
girl pretend to know nothing whatever of the reason for the coming
of the guests, and conversation proceeds for a considerable time
without the slightest allusion to the matter of chief moment. The
priest finally makes the following statement amid profound silence:
"According to the law of the supreme Creator, and following the
usages of human society, we have the happiness of demanding the
hand of Miss X, for Mr. Y." The father of the girl pretends not to
wish to accept, stating that she is too young, or that her mother
is very desirous to keep her at home. But upon further pressing on
the part of the parents of the boy, the acceptance is given. It is
now the turn of the girl to be consulted; she, however, is nowhere
to be found. The priest searches, and when finally discovered she
does not speak a word. The former, however, knows, and offering his
hand he says, "If you consent, kiss the hand," which is straightway
done, for the girl has been informed beforehand that the kiss is to
be forthcoming. This part of the procedure takes place apart from
the crowd, and is followed by the presentation of the ring and the
benediction which must take place before the public. But since custom
forbids the girl to appear during the entire evening, a brother or
a sister comes forward and kneels before the priest to receive the
ring. The rest all kneel at the same time, and the priest gives the
benediction. The ring is carried by the child to the fiancée, the
health of the couple is drunk in rose-syrup, and congratulations and
compliments are exchanged. Whatever else is eaten or drunk, rose-syrup
must be at hand, for this is essential and peculiar to the ceremony.

All this while the young man is within the walls of his own
home. Custom forbids him to appear at the house of his bride-to-be
until the wedding day, and if perchance the two should meet, he must
turn his head away while she hides herself. Towards ten o'clock the
party breaks up, and each guest is given a wax candle. All try to steal
something from the house before leaving, such as a bottle, a glass,
or a spoon, and if the thieves are not caught before they leave the
house, the articles are returned only at the price of a supper from
the head of the family. The party now returns to the home of the future
bridegroom, accompanied by the friends and relatives of the girl. The
procession formed, there is the same lighting of wax candles received
from the host, brightening the otherwise darkened streets, and the same
music and singing to triumph over the silence of the night. The young
man must stand upright before his future father-in-law all through the
visit. For him the great moment comes when the brother of his fiancée
takes him aside and offers him a glass of syrup prepared by her own
hands. The whole night is passed in song and amusement. During the
following fortnight both families receive visits of congratulation,
and at every visit the host or hostess must offer the syrup drunk at
the betrothal ceremony.


Elaborate and gay as are the festivities of betrothal, the celebrations
of marriage are so much more so that one is inclined to look upon the
essential religious ceremony as a pretext for the merry-making. [171]
The interval of a month which ordinarily intervenes between engagement
and marriage is devoted to making the necessary preparations for
the wedding. The bridegroom must get ready the promised ornaments,
a white wedding-dress for his bride, a fine veil to cover her face,
and a pair of shoes, a rather strange combination of gifts. One
wonders also why the necessary gloves and silk stockings are not
included. The young lady on her part prepares her trousseau including
garments of various sorts, bits of jewelry, a wooden chest filled with
her clothing, a mirror, a nuptial bed with the necessary accessories,
and a few cooking utensils; altogether an outfit quite as varied and
singular as the gifts of the bridegroom, but certainly practical
and sensible enough. Two days before the wedding, which usually
occurs on a Sunday afternoon, invitations are sent out to friends and
relatives, and musicians are secured. On the eve of the ceremony, the
godfather invites the bridegroom with his friends to a Turkish bath,
where they go to the accompaniment of music and singing. This part
of the celebration is full of laughter and song, and is continued on
the forenoon of the next day in the home of the bridegroom, when the
barber comes to shave him in the presence of the guests and musicians,
who sing and play as on the preceding evening at the bath. The occasion
is one of importance for the barber, who brings all sorts of perfumes
which are purchased by the guests and poured over the bridegroom;
he receives not only a large fee for his service but also a double
price for the scented extracts. The young man is then dressed up
while the priest and choir children who have arrived sing canticles.

In the meantime very similar festivities occur in the home of the
bride, participated in by her young girl friends and relatives,
except that they are not characterized by the same spirit of loud
laughter and rejoicing. On the eve of the wedding the girls gather
around her to sing melancholy songs, in considerable contrast with
the gay, spirited music and singing taking place in the Turkish
bath at the same time. Having shared the sadness, they place a rose
leaf on the palm of each hand of the bride, which is covered with
henneh, a green Persian powder made into paste, after which each
hand is carefully bandaged up. So the poor sad girl must go to bed,
to sleep if she can. On the next morning her friends again arrive
to take the bandages off her hands, to dress her, and to sing and
dance about her. Except for the print of the rose leaf, the henneh
leaves the hands orange red, which is supposed to be beautiful. The
songs and dancing are again of a decidedly melancholy tone. Her white
dress, together with the coat of the bridegroom, must be blessed by
the priest, a ceremony which the church functionary performs alone,
both articles being sent to him early in the morning. Preliminary to
the day's events, and before breakfast, both bride and bridegroom,
being previously confessed, go separately to church, where they take
communion. This done, the festivities described follow, bride and
bridegroom are dressed, and all is in readiness for the ceremony
which occurs in the late afternoon or evening.

The bride must ride to church on horseback, and having arrived she
is dismounted, and later remounted without touching her feet to the
ground, which rather cumbersome performance is accomplished through
the help of a brother or relative, who also rides the bride's steed
while the ceremony takes place within, for the horse is not to
be left riderless. The procession to the church is accompanied by
musicians. Before the rail which separates the choir from the body
of the church, two wooden chairs are placed, upon which the couple
sit down while the people present kneel on the mats covering the
floor. When the time comes for the blessing of the priest, the couple
arise, step inside the choir space, and stand facing each other between
the high altar and two witnesses, their foreheads touching. In this
position they receive the sacrament of matrimony, answering in the
affirmative the questions of the priest regarding their duties to
each other and to their children. Of the bride is demanded perfect
faithfulness to conjugal duties, entire obedience to the husband
of whom care, patience, wisdom, and love are required. The priest,
taking the right hand of the bride and placing it in the hand of
the bridegroom, says, "According to the divine order God gave to our
ancestors, I give thee now this wife in subjection. Wilt thou be her
master?" "Through the help of God I will," answers the bridegroom. The
priest then asks the woman, "Wilt thou be obedient to him?" to which
is answered, "I am obedient according to the order of God." These
questions are repeated and replied to thrice, in evident implicit
belief that once would not be sufficient. Finally, the priest ties
to each of their heads a cord and cross, which is again removed by
him late at night in the home with special ceremony, and it is only
after this performance that the couple may enter the nuptial chamber.

After the ceremony at the church the procession starts back for the
home of the bridegroom's father, the bride riding upon her horse,
musician playing, and choir boys singing. The water-carriers, who
have supplied drinking water, break their jars noisily before the
bridegroom, drenching his marriage costume and giving rather an abrupt
signal to the godfather whose business it is to tip them. Noisily
the procession moves along the streets until it arrives at the
gate of the house. In days past it was the custom at this point in
the ceremony to place a sheep ready to be sacrificed at the feet
of the young couple, the poorer people contenting themselves with
chickens. The butcher put his knife to the neck of the sheep saying,
"May God thus put all your enemies under your feet, Amen, Amen." Then
pieces of coin mixed with raisins, pistachios, and other bits of nuts
or dried fruits are showered over the people from the windows above,
while the godfather leads the bridegroom within to the crowd of men,
and the godmother leads the bride to the women, everybody trying
to kiss the cross on their heads. The bride is then placed in the
seat of honor and in her arms is laid first a little boy, and then a
little girl, so that the first child may be a boy and if perchance
the will of God be otherwise at least a girl. Each guest now comes
to the bride to place at her feet a fruit in season. The bridegroom
is called "the prince of the feast" and must never quit his seat of
honor. If he does leave his chair he must place an object belonging
to him upon his seat, and if he should at any time omit to do so,
the assembly makes the godfather pay the necessary forfeit, which is
usually a dinner. Towards nine, the guests take their leave, having
eaten and sung to their uttermost desire. [172]

Living in the home of her patriarchal father-in-law, the young
wife is subject to the severest restraints. She must wear a lightly
fitting veil enclosing her face below the eyes, without which she
can not appear even in the house. [173] She wears a close fitting
bodice fastened at the neck with silver clasps, full trousers of
rose colored silk gathered in at the ankles by a filet of silver;
her feet are bare, a silver girdle of curious workmanship loosely
encircles her waist, and a long padded garment, open down the front,
hangs from her shoulders. Not a single word must she utter to any
member of the household, except when alone with her husband, and then
only such as may be absolutely necessary, until she has given birth
to her first child. Then she may speak to her nursling, after a while
to her mother-in-law, later to her own mother, and by and by to the
young girls of the household, but never in all her life may she have
word with a young man not a relative. During her first year of married
life, she may not go out of the house except for two visits to the
church. Every morning and at the end of each meal she must pour water
over the hands of her father- and mother-in-law, and for a certain
time after marriage, when visitors come, she must kiss their hands,
except of course, for men, before whom she may not even appear. [174]
Apart from these troublesome restraints the young wife is treated
with the utmost solicitude, and in some parts, even the peasant
wife is not allowed to do outdoor work. In the mountain villages of
Persian Armenia, however, the women do all the tilling in the fields,
wearing their veils over their mouths as they work. [175] The author
here quoted states that husbands never see the mouths of their wives,
who not only must not speak during the first year of married life,
or until a child is born, but also may not converse freely with their
husbands until six years of married life have elapsed. [176]

In such fashion the sanctity of the marriage relation is strictly
guarded, and as one would suppose, illegitimate births are unknown in
Armenia. Intermarriage among relations is forbidden, and until recent
years, divorce has been unknown. [177] As for the taboo on speech,
it is calculated not so much as an inducement to the production of
offspring as to preserve harmonious relations between the various
members of the patriarchal household. Even the patriarch with all
his authority would find difficulty in preserving proper decorum of
speech and manners in so heterogeneous a household, if every newly
acquired daughter-in-law were given a free rein in the use of her
tongue. As the neophyte is made to understand his position by a
brutal initiation, so the young wife is kept from assuming command
over the female household by the placing of a moral valuation upon
the silence which alone is compatible with the essential modesty
regarded as the first and chief of virtues among wives. In the
household of the patriarch there is a great deal to be done in common,
and unfortunately the occasion for mutual aid is not sufficient to
bring about the desired coöperation. Hence singleness of command and
authority is a necessary condition, not only of efficiency, but also
of peace, for it can not be supposed that so many daughters-in-law
would work together in harmony. It would be a mistake, therefore,
to regard the customary silence as an inducement to child-bearing.

Identifying itself with the common events of life, such as birth,
marriage, and death, the church has not only given a religious meaning
to these occasions but has also sanctioned and even encouraged the
festivities that accompany them. These festivities have up to this
point been occasions for rejoicing, with the single and significant
exception of the melancholy singing of the bride's friends on the
eve and day of her wedding. There is a perfect naturalness about
all the merry-making and festivals so far considered, and this is
no less characteristic of the funeral celebrations now to be taken
up. The description of these will conclude my treatment of the last
group of festivals, which are more properly festival-ceremonies,
or ceremonies that have been made the occasion of festivity.


The funerals, as one would naturally suppose, are more ceremonious,
more ritualistic, and although there is now generally a minimum of
festivity connected with them, this has not always been so. [178]
When the condition of a sick person is beyond hope, the priest is
notified and the person is given confession, communion, and extreme
unction. After death the eyes and mouth are closed, the body washed and
dressed up in the newest and cleanest clothes to be had, and the arms
crossed on the breast. [179] Two candles are kept burning until the day
of the funeral, one at the foot and one at the head of the coffin. Sad,
wooden bells are sounded, and guests are invited to pay their last
respects. Coffee is served to them, but without sugar, as a sign of
grief. Mourning women are secured, who eulogize the departed and weep
and lament until the priests begin their chanting. The corpse is now
taken to the church in a special coffin which is covered with a black
velvet cloth adorned with small white crosses, among the wealthy, but
among the poor the body is wrapped in linen and laid in a simple bier,
carried by relatives and friends. At the head of the procession, which
marches very slowly and chants on the way, there are carried a great
cross and two lighted torches, followed by the priests and then by
the coffin. The passer-by must stop and cross himself many times. At
the church the coffin is laid down, and if the relatives are wealthy
each person in the church is provided with a small wax candle which
is kept lighted during the service. While the ceremony proceeds the
body is blessed with holy water and perfumed with incense, after which
the procession re-forms to accompany the body to the cemetery. The
chanting is kept up all the way. At the cemetery the body is lowered
into its last resting-place, and the priest, after making the sign of
the cross on the four corners of the grave, throws three shovelfuls
of earth into it and three more on the coffin. The people imitate
by throwing three handfuls of dust, and the ceremony completed, all
return to the home of the deceased where they partake of steaming
broth prepared by the neighbors and friends, and recite prayers for
the soul of the dead. This latter practice, as said before, is a pagan
survival, as is also the chanting of mass for the departed, which
occurs three days later, at which time broth is again distributed,
but this time to the poor as a sacrifice to the dead. The grave is
blessed on the third day, again on the ninth, at the close of the
third month, and for the last time, at the close of the year.

The funeral of a priest is performed with much splendor. [180]
The procession makes a circuit of all the churches, and stopping at
different places, portions of the gospel are read. If the priest be
of high rank, as an archbishop, or a bishop, he is carried in an open
coffin and in a sitting posture, dressed up in official vestments, in
which position he is interred in the courtyard of the church. Farmers
send sheep to be killed and given to the poor as a sacrifice. The
Greeks in Constantinople also carry their dead in an open coffin,
but this is because a Greek official who was a refugee prisoner in
Constantinople at the time of the war of the Turks with the Greeks,
endeavored to get himself carried out of the country by feigning death
and boxing himself up in a coffin. But the Turks discovered the ruse
and it was enacted by the sultan that thereafter all Greeks must be
carried to their graves in open coffins. The custom in respect to
the Armenian bishops, however, has no connection with this.

In some parts of Armenia, as for example in Erzerum, the snow lies
so deep in winter-time that burial is well-nigh impossible. During
spring-time, with the melting of the snow, coffins have been found
perched up on tree tops. This was related by an Armenian boy I know
of, who lived in the vicinity of Erzerum. Curious customs of the past
have left their marks. In Tarsus, for example, there are Armenian
graves ranged about a tree which is asserted to have been planted
by St. Paul, each provided with a stone upon which has been carved a
symbol of the deceased, for the merchant, a representation of weights
and measures, for the blacksmith, an anvil and hammer, for the scribe,
an inkstand and pen, and for the industrious housewife, a distaff
and spindle. In the cemetery of Nakhitchevan is a large building
in which the mourners have a great repast after the funeral, and in
certain other graveyards, Dubois found innumerable pieces of broken
pitchers and crockery, which were probably broken, as the custom is,
to ward off the evil spirit of the dead.

These four ceremonies complete the third and last group of festivals
described. I have called them ceremonies because fundamentally that is
what they are, but they are to be distinguished sharply from the many
church ceremonies I have not so much as mentioned, by reason of their
festival or social value which alone makes them proper subject-matter
for this thesis. The relation between these ceremonies as revealed in
the common procession, as well as in the religious ceremony necessary
to each is due largely to the fact that they have to do with the
most ordinary, and yet most extraordinary of life's events, birth,
betrothal, marriage, and death.

Reviewing them from the standpoint of their social or festival value,
it is obvious that the marriage celebration easily takes first place,
the betrothal festivities second, baptism and funeral third. There is
the rather uncouth, perhaps, but none the less spontaneous gaiety of
the friends of the bridegroom, not only on the eve of the wedding-day
when they go to the bath, but also on the morning of the wedding-day
when the unfortunate youth is assuredly cured of any addiction he
might have to the use of perfumes. I should imagine that the music
would begin to bore the young men by the time the barber arrives,
since the musicians also accompany the rejoicing of the night before,
and yet it may be said that there could be nothing more convenient
or ingenious devised to carry over a lull in the merry-making, for
after all, the young men could not well be singing, joking, laughing,
and teasing all the time. In striking contrast is the melancholy
rejoicing of the party of young women at the home of the bride. But
where there is dancing and singing there can not well be weeping,
although no doubt it is more natural for the bride to be thoughtful
on her wedding-day, than for the bridegroom, for it is the former
who leaves her home to spend the rest of her days in a very new,
very strange, perhaps even unkindly world. There is still another
reason for the melancholy, in that the girl must know she is bidding
farewell forever to the delights and joys and freedom of childhood,
for although to-day she may speak and sing and make merry, to-morrow
morning she must be silent and prepared to pour water over the hands
of her father- and mother-in-law. Henceforth it is for her to be
submissive, obedient, docile, uncomplaining even at heart, for what
use will it be to complain, and though her most cherished dreams
may be of motherhood, does she not also have spirit, and why must
it be broken? Is she then only a chattel to be sold into everlasting
bondage? It is all too evident, even to the dullest of brides, that
the happiness of childhood is forever past, and the brighter one can
hardly fail to feel that she has been bartered for the bit of gold
about her waist or neck.

There is then the very highest of social value to be attributed to both
of these festivities, and largely because in each group of people,
the young men on one side, the young women on the other, there is
perfect community of feeling, mutual understanding, and freedom
of thought and expression. In comparison with these gatherings,
the mixed assembly at the house of the bridegroom after the marriage
ceremony is of little importance. The succession of events covering a
period of nearly thirty-six hours, of which only a few, and perhaps
none at all, are spent in sleep by the members of the bridal party,
must certainly begin to have its effect by the time the little baby
doll is placed in the lap of the bride.

The betrothal party is always out for a good time, for they realize
that the merry-making is to be an all-night affair. There is the
procession with its candles lighting up the darkened streets, the music
and singing filling all space, the humorous little artificialities in
the house of the bride,--real enough, at least ceremoniously, from
the standpoint of the family,--the syrup, the attempted stealing of
utensils, the return procession, the singing, music, and dancing at
the home of the young bridegroom-to-be, without stop until dawn. All
of this makes a rather complete occasion, even for young people.

Baptism and funeral rites come nearest being pure ceremonies. But
even the baptismal rite has its procession to and from the church
participated in by all the friends and relatives of the family, and
though the event is an occasion neither for rejoicing nor for sorrow,
it is important enough, occurring as it does but once in the lifetime
of each individual. There are, to be sure, the social calls that follow
the ceremony. But the event can not be said to have any attraction
for the young; and if this is true of baptism, it is still more true
of funerals. Nevertheless there is the distinct psychological value
of each, calling up as they do various associations, as the baptism
of this one, or the death of another one, and thus keeping alive
the deepest experiences of life. If they are crude and offensive
to more delicate tastes, it must be remembered that a belief is
represented in the concrete fashion essential to the simple mind,
a mode of representation necessary to the best of intellects even
though on another plane.



Such are the festivals treated in the second and last part of this
thesis. Is it true that they form a vehicle of expression for the
national sentiment created by the large mass of social material
of which the legends of Part One are a considerable and important
portion? Again it will be necessary to remind ourselves of the
chief sentiments included within Armenian national sentiment, i.e.,
the sentiment of loyalty to the church, the sentiment of reverence
amounting almost to worship for the ancient glory of the nation,
and the sentiment of love for the country. It would be ridiculous
to suppose that every festival was designed to give expression to
some one of these sentiments. But that these sentiments are given
very clear, very real outward expression in the great majority of the
celebrations described, should be so evident at this point as to make
further exposition unnecessary. In the summer Festival of Vartavar,
the spring Festival of Mihr, Vartan's Day, and in the consecration
of the Katholikos there is the proud and reverent looking back to the
times when Armenia was an independent nation; the festival ceremonies
of the third group, baptism, betrothal, marriage, and funeral, though
they are not positive expressions of the sentiments of loyalty to the
church, are yet so completely interwoven with the church and dependent
upon it that one is compelled to regard the feeling as something to be
taken for granted, while in most of the festivals of the second group,
Christmas, Easter, Maundy Thursday, and the Blessing of the Grapes
especially, the sentiment is given a more positive expression. As for
the sentiment of love for the country, that is identified especially
with Vartavar and Vartan's Day. It is evident, therefore, that each
of these festivals and festival-ceremonies forms a medium more or
less evident as the case may be, for the expression of one or more or
all of the sentiments that make up Armenian national sentiment. Some
of them are not to be classified as readily as this, as for example,
the festival of Ascension morning, or Fortune-Telling Day, in which
the dominant sentiment is one of romantic love, or in the Blessing
of the Water, where the desire for a gain in health or wealth is the
main psychological fact.

Each one of these festivals, however, is a great deal more than the
putting into activity of some of the above sentiments. In many of them
the play-instinct is clearly evident, while in a few such as Vartavar,
the whole self, with all its sentiments, instincts, tendencies,
and emotions, is given the fullest and most unrestrained freedom. A
festival, if it is anything, is a letting loose of the reins;
there is nothing to hinder, nothing to keep back, nothing to hide,
nothing to fear, and the self reaches out in a higher consciousness of
fullness and completeness of living. As such it would be the greatest
of fallacies to suppose any one of the festivals to be restricted to
a particular sentiment. Nevertheless, it is clear, that the festivals
do constitute vehicles of expression for the sentiments that make up
Armenian national sentiment.


The general conclusions to which this study unmistakably gives rise are
in respect to the national traits of the Armenian people. These traits
have been brought out both explicitly and implicitly in connection with
the various legends and festivals considered, and it is my purpose,
therefore, to summarize and substantiate them at this point. They
include, first, the superstitiousness, second, the conservatism,
third, the self-sufficiency, and lastly the familism of the people.

First of these qualities, superstitiousness, may be ascribed in large
measure to geographical isolation. The country to be sure, is so
situated as to form a highway from Europe to the Mesopotamian valley,
and from Asiatic Russia to the Mediterranean, and although it has been
overrun by Assyrians, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Persians, Turks,
Egyptians, and still others, yet we must speak of it as isolated,
for the science that has brought remote countries into contact has
not affected Armenia to any considerable degree. Subject to a backward
nation, lacking all modern means of communication, the country is shut
off and the plows of civilization have not yet furrowed the social
soil of superstition. How general these superstitions are is brought
out especially by the festivals described, many of which have given
rise to a superstition or a group of superstitions. From Vartavar,
there came the belief that the dust from the sacred altar served as a
talisman for children learning their A B C's; the spring fire festival
gave rise to the practice of taking home a glowing brand for good luck;
there is the belief that the blessed water will cure various diseases,
and that the oil scraped from the anointed foot with a walnut given by
the priest after washing the feet at the ceremony of Maundy Thursday,
will keep a supply of butter throughout the year. And then there are
the beliefs in the miraculous power of the holy oil, manufactured with
due ceremony every four years at Sis; in the healing power of the
various sacred relics kept at Etchmiadzin and other places, and ten
thousand others. There are also beliefs not of a religious character
as the above, such as the one in regard to the tetagush, the little
locust-eating bird, which is supposed to be attracted by Ararat spring
water. The same superstition obtains in other parts of the country with
the difference that the inconvenience of obtaining Ararat spring water
makes it necessary for the people to believe in the peculiar efficacy
of other springs. These illustrations are sufficient, and although it
could hardly be proved that Armenians are more innately superstitious
than the Anglo-Saxon ancestors who believed only a few generations
ago in the power of the malignant eye, and that an innocent person
might pass through fire unharmed, yet their superstitious nature and
beliefs are present-day facts explained most completely on the ground
of comparative isolation from the rest of the world.

Second of the national characteristics of the people clearly
brought out by this study is their conservatism. This may also be
traced in large measure to their secluded condition, but in larger
proportion is it due to the solidarity and national consciousness,
which naturally consider innovations as foreign, and intrusions of
foreign cultures, ideals, customs, and manners as hostile. That this
is true is indicated conclusively by the fact that in Constantinople,
where Armenian culture has naturally come in conflict with that of the
Greek, the Turk, and the European, the Armenians have not at all given
up their ways to imitate any of the three peoples mentioned. To be
sure they have not adhered rigidly to the old beliefs and practices of
the interior. Comparison has resulted in substitution, and conflict
between the rational and irrational, the utile and the inutile,
has meant displacement, but invariably by something distinctly
different from the usages and practices current among Turk or
European. That is, Armenians are themselves centers of imitation
by fellow Armenians who, though they follow the lines suggested by
their fellow countrymen, scorn to imitate even the European, whose
superiority is generally recognized in Constantinople. The Armenian,
recognizing no superior, has merely modified his own practices, usages,
manners, and customs to suit his changed environment. And therefore
I say that the characteristic Armenian conservatism is due rather to
a strong feeling of nationality than to isolation.

The conservatism of the church has been an important element. Refusing
to have anything to do with the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon,
the church became independent and has maintained a policy of the most
rigid ultra-conservatism ever since. Says Ormanian:

    The Armenian church would have nothing to do with this transaction
    (Chalcedon) which was prompted by a design that had no bearing
    on theology. She remained firm in her original resolve, and ever
    maintained an attitude of ultra-conservatism. She set herself
    to resist every new dogmatic utterance said to emanate from
    revelation, as well as every innovation which could in any way
    pervert the primitive faith. [181]

That this same spirit is reflected in the social life of the people
is something one would naturally expect, in view of the important
influence of the church over the entire life of the people. As the
father of the Alan princess replied when requested to give the hand
of his daughter to Artasches, "From whence shall brave Artasches give
thousands upon thousands and ten thousands upon tens of thousands unto
the Alans in return for the maiden?" so to-day the first question
that is asked when the hand of a young Armenian girl is requested
in marriage is "What can he give for his bride?" The practice of
wife purchase has only changed in that the required riches are given
to the bride instead of to the father of the bride. Occasionally a
young man is pressed to the point of mortgaging property in order
to obtain the necessary funds, and it has been known that in many
such cases the young bride found her treasure gone shortly after
her marriage, her master having taken it to pay off his mortgage. So
parents arrange for the marriage of their children, the young wife is
delivered up to her husband as the obedient and submissive servant,
children are baptized after they have scarcely opened their eyes, and
church ceremonies are conducted much as they have been for generations.

The self-sufficiency of the Armenian people has been indicated in
the repeated failures of missionary religions and foreign cultures to
alter appreciably the native folkways and mores. In spite of political
subordination to Islam, the Gregorian church has held tenaciously
to its ideals and has successfully maintained its independence. The
distinctive social tradition,--which includes the political and the
religious traditions,--has remained intact in the face of recurrent
invasion, vassalage, and persecution. The Armenian will not be
assimilated. Death is preferable to the loss of those intangible
realities that make the people a distinctive group. When Haic, the
patriarchal progenitor of the race, was invited to "soften his hard
pride," and to return to the kingdom of the god Bel, the alternative,
war, was chosen. In the year 450, when the Persian fire-worshippers
invited the Armenians to change their faith, the answer again
was war. The reply to the decision of Chalcedon illustrates the
same spirit. Likewise through the centuries of the immediate past
the ever recurring answer to the Turk has been war. Powerless to
assimilate the Armenian people, the Turk has had to annihilate or be
annihilated. The self-sufficiency of the people thus reveals itself
in the will to maintain the distinctive social tradition, regardless
of cost or sacrifice.

The characteristic familism reveals itself not only in the customs of
family life, but also in the very nature of the Armenian. In Russian
Armenia there is a very active propaganda carried on by Russian girls
to secure Armenian husbands because of the domesticity of the latter,
which is in striking contrast to the adventurous unfaithfulness of
the Russian husband, whose house becomes his prison, from which
he therefore flees, leaving his wife and children to shift for
themselves. The discontented Russian may be a more attractive lover
for his "Wanderlust" and restlessness, but he is a less attractive
husband for the same reason. An Armenian husband belongs in his home,
where he lives in the hope that some day he may be the father of
a huge household of married sons and grandsons. A young Armenian I
know spoke to me of his wish that some day his father might collect
the scattered sons and unite them and their families in a single
household. This desire is so general among Armenians as to make it
evident that the family is the all-important social unit. No reputation
is so great as that carried by a good family name, nor is there any
so damning as that which goes with a bad family name. And why is the
young bride kept silent for years if not to ensure the all-essential
family-unity, family-solidarity, and family-continuity,--that is,
continuity of family tradition, manners, and customs? And why is
the "patria-potestas" well-nigh unlimited if not for precisely the
same reason? Nor is the taboo upon the young bride, according to
which she may not speak to any young man not a relative during her
entire life of marriage, of no significance in this connection. It too
precludes family disruption, or blemish on the family name. Divorce and
infidelity are very rare, all family differences having no tribunal
outside the patriarch, who considers his greatest misfortune to be a
lack of family integrity or oneness. Thus a son who has been swayed
by Protestantism dares not clash with his father, and has no choice
but to run away, while a daughter whose wishes are contrary can
be disobedient only at the cost of breaking the family connection,
to prevent which she is usually ready to make any sacrifice. All of
this is no accident. Forced to dwell within the circle of the family
group for seven, eight, or nine months during the year without so much
as opening his door, because of the severity of winter, the life of
the patriarch is inevitably centered in his household, and therefore
also the self of each member is merged into the larger unit. This
familism throws additional light on some of the conclusions I have
insisted upon, for nothing so fosters conservatism as a substantial
family solidarity; what could be more instrumental in passing on the
national sentiment, and finally, what could be more favorable to the
development of the self-sufficiency, the independence of Armenian
character? In speaking of "familism and the well-knit family" Ross
says; "Worshippers of the spirit of the hearth, they are more aloof
from their fellows, slower therefore to merge with them or be swept
from their moorings by them. It seems to be communion by the fire-side
rather than communion in the public resort that gives individuality
long bracing roots. The withdrawn social self, although it lacks
breadth, gains in depth, etc." [182]

Any socially well-knit people possessing a distinctive social
tradition, and characterized by a highly developed national
consciousness, may make its contribution to the world's work, if
it is given the necessary freedom. As the period of the Arsacidae
kings brought forth the golden age of Armenian literature, so greater
achievements may follow the political independence that is hoped for,
and for which Armenians have valiantly struggled. Lord Bryce writes
of the Armenian race, "It is the only one of the native races of
Western Asia that is capable of restoring productive industry and
assured prosperity to the now desolate region that was the earliest
home of civilization." In the past, the energy of the people has
been wasted in ceaseless conflict. Given a guarantee of territorial
integrity, and participation in the affairs of government with the
hope of future autonomy, the energies of strife will be diverted to
the work of peace. Not until then can the high calling expressed in
the words of Lord Bryce be realized.


Abeghian, A. Der armenische Volksglaube. Leipzig. 1899.

Agathange. Histoire du règne de Tiridate. In Langlois, Collection
des historiens de l'Arménie.

Anonymous. Easter service. Survey 36:167.

---- Armenian folk-lore. Fraser's Magazine (n.s.) 13:283-97.

Arnot, Robert. World's great classic series. Section on Armenian
literature and folk-lore. New York. 1901.

Bent, J. T. Travels amongst the Armenians. Contemporary Review 70:695.

Blackwell, Alice, S. Preface to Seklemian's tales. New York. 1898.

Boyadjian, Z. C. Armenian legends and poems. London. 1916.

Brightman, F. E. Liturgies eastern and western. Oxford. 1896.

Bryce, J. Transcaucasia and Ararat. London. 1896.

Cesaresco, E. M. Folk-songs. London. 1886.

Chikhachev, P. A. Reisen in Kleinasien und Armenien. Gotha. 1867.

Clark, W. Armenian history. New Englander 22:507, 672.

Conybeare, F. C. Armenian church. Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th ed.

---- Armenian language and literature. Ibid.

---- Key of truth. Oxford. 1898.

---- Rituale Armenorum. Oxford. 1905.

Curzon, Robert. Armenia. London. 1854.

Dubois de Montpèreux. Voyages. Vols. 2, 3. Paris. 1839-43.

Elisée Vartabed. Histoire de Vartan et de la guerre des Arméniens. In
Langlois, Collection.

Emin, M. Movses--Khorenatzi yev Hayotz Hin Veber. Tiflis. 1886.

Faustus of Byzance. Bibliothèque historique. In Langlois, Collection.

Fortescue, E. F. K. The Armenian church. London. 1872.

Gelzer, H. Armenia. New Schaff Herzog Encyclopaedia.

Gibbon, Ed. Decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 3. New
York. 1910.

Hodgetts, E. A. B. Round about Armenia. London. 1896.

Langlois, Victor. Collection des historiens de l'Arménie. Vols. 1,
2. Paris. 1867-1869. Contains translations of various historians
dating from 2nd century before Christ to 5th century after Christ.

Lidgett, Elizabeth S. An ancient people. London. 1897.

Lynch, H. F. B. Armenia. Vols. 1, 2. London. 1901.

MacDougall, W. Social psychology. Boston. 1916.

Mar Apas Catina. Histoire ancienne de l'Arménie. In Langlois,

Mesrob, St. Maschtotz. Constantinople. No date given.

Moise de Khorene. Histoire de l'Arménie. In Langlois, Collection.

Ormanian, M. The Armenian church. London. 1912.

Radloff, W. Volksliteratur türkischen Stämme. St. Petersburg. 1866.

Raffi, A. Article on Armenia. In Boyadjian, Armenian legends and poems.

Rockwell, W. Publications of Hakluyt Society. Series 2, IV, and other
references under "Armenia."

Ross, E. A. Social psychology. New York. 1917.

St. Martin, J. Mémoire sur l'Arménie. Paris. 1818-1819.

Seklemian, S. Golden maiden and other tales. New York. 1898.

Stubbs, W. Lectures on mediæval kingdoms. Oxford. 1887.

Tarde, G. Les lois sociales. Paris. 1898.

Tavernier, J. B. Voyages en Turquie en Perse et aux
Indes. Vol. 3. Utrecht. 1712.

Terzian, P. Religious customs among Armenians. Catholic World 71:305,

Trowbridge, T. C. Armenia and Armenians. New Englander 33:1.

Ubicini, J. H. A. Letters on Turkey. London. 1856.

Villari, Luigi. Fire and sword in the Caucasus. London. 1906.

Wilson, C. W. Armenia. Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th ed.


[1] Detailed descriptions of geography and geology may be found
in Lynch, Armenia; St. Martin, Mémoire sur l'Arménie, 2. Summary
descriptions may be found in the New Schaff Herzog and Britannica

[2] Robert Curzon, Armenia.

[3] Dubois de Montpèreux, Voyages 3:400.

[4] There is a belief that the toneer is sacred. "Nur der alte T'onir,
der offen Backofen, der von den Iraniern entlehnt ist und am fünften
Jahrhundert schon gebraucht wird, gilt überall in Armenien als
heilig." Abeghian, Der armenische Volksglaube p. 3.

[5] Surrounded as Armenia was with almost all of the ancient
civilizations, including the Parthians, Scythians, Medes, Assyrians,
Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, she was inevitably involved
in continual warfare, while the central situation of the territory
made it a common stamping ground for hostile armies. Langlois 1:ix.

[6] Ormanian, The Church of Armenia pp. 151-54.

[7] Mar Apas Catina. Langlois' Collection des Histoires de l'Arménie

[8] St. Martin, Mémoire sur l'Arménie 1:281.

[9] Mar Apas Catina. Langlois 1:15-18.

Moses of Khorene. Langlois 3:63-64.

[10] St. Martin 1:306.

[11] Ibid. 1:282-3. Moses of Khorene 2:67-69.

Mar Apas Catina 1:26-27.

The first Arsacidae king of Armenia, Valarsace, whose reign began
in 149 B.C. found the kingdom in general disorder and was the first
to organize the country along national lines. As a Parthian he was
unacquainted with the history and institutions of the people, and
desiring to build upon the established foundation, such as it was,
he sent a Syrian scholar, Mar Apas Catina by name, with a letter to
his brother, Arsace, king of Persia, requesting the latter to allow the
Syrian access to the royal archives with the view of finding a history
of Armenia. Mar Apas Catina found an old MS containing a history
of ancient Armenia which bore the name of no author, and which was
translated from Chaldean to Greek by order of Alexander the Great. It
was translated into Syriac by the Syrian scholar for the benefit of
Valarsace, but the MS has been lost, and there is not the slightest
trace of it anywhere. It must have been in existence however, during
the fifth century after Christ for Moses of Khorene used it as his only
source for Armenia's ancient history, in writing his general history
of Armenia. The old MS being lost, the translation by Mar Apas Catina
and the first part of the history of Moses are given as identical
to each other in Langlois' collection of Armenian historians. The
ancient history contains the legends of Haic, of Ara and Semiramis,
and of Vahakn, some of the songs of heroes, still sung, and other
matter which is strictly speaking not historical. As a history,
therefore, it is unreliable and unauthentic, but from the standpoint
of the social historian it is invaluable, for a belief is as important
a fact to sociology as the dethronement of a king is to history.

[12] Boyadjian, Armenian Legends and Poetry p. 33.

[13] St. Martin 1:409.

[14] Lynch 2:65.

[15] Lynch, Armenia, chapter entitled "Van."

[16] Raffi, article in Boyadjian's Armenian Legends and Poetry, p. 125.

[17] Lynch, chapter on Van.

[18] Moses of Khorene 2:69.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Lynch 2:65.

[21] Moses of Khorene 2:68, 69.

[22] St. Martin 1:285.

[23] Raffi p. 129. Abeghian pp. 49, 50.

[24] Moses of Khorene 2:76. Translation from Moses, Boyadjian p. 10.

Mar Apas Catina 1:40.

[25] Mar Apas Catina 1:41. Moses of Khorene p. 76.

Moses of Khorene, called the Herodotus of Armenia, has written the best
known history of the Armenian people. The work has been translated
into Latin, Italian, French, German, and Russian. Moses lived in the
fifth century, two centuries after the conversion of the nation to
Christianity. He belonged to the second order of translators in the
school of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob, and was sent to Syria, Egypt,
Greece, and Rome in order to complete his studies. Upon returning to
his country he found everything in disorder. St. Sahag and St. Mesrob
were dead, the king had been overthrown, and he chose the life of
solitude. Sometime later he was chosen bishop and requested by an
Armenian prince, Sahag Bagratide, to write a history of his country,
which task he took up with great enthusiasm. The translation of Mar
Apas Catina was his only source for Armenian ancient history. He
carefully differentiates hearsay from fact, never fails to stamp
a fable or legend as such, and generally quotes his authorities
where he has them. Considering the limitation of his materials, and
the time in which he wrote, Moses wrote a really remarkable book,
although the verdicts of a few critics have been unfavorable.

[26] Raffi p. 129.

[27] Lidgett, An Ancient People. St. Martin 1:409. Mar Apas Catina
p. 41.

[28] The influence of Greek culture is chiefly indicated by the fact
that the pagan divinities were Greek and that many temples were erected
to these gods and goddesses all over the country. (Agathange, Histoire
du Règne de Tiridate. Langlois 1:164-70.) Secondly, there were formed
by St. Sahag and St. Mesrob in the fifth century after the conversion
of the nation to Christianity, schools of translators, who studied in
Greece, Egypt, and Rome and whose chief works were translations from
the Greek. With the conversion (301) came the necessity for a written
language, the characters of which were invented by St. Mesrob in
404. Thereupon were organized the schools of translators whose chief
study of necessity was Greek, and whose translations and original
works have given to the fifth century the title of "Golden Age of
Armenian Literature." (Langlois 1:xxi-xxvi, 2:vii.)

[29] St. Martin 1:288, 289. Mar Apas Catina 1:41.

Moses of Khorene 2:81.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 3:393.

Moses of Khorene 2:155.

[32] Ibid. pp. 88, 89.

[33] St. Martin 1:291. Moses of Khorene p. 88.

[34] Raffi p. 126.

[35] Langlois 1:ix, x. These songs of which Moses of Khorene very
frequently speaks are classified by Langlois into songs of the first
order, the second order, and the third order. The first are relative
to the prowess of Armenian kings and gods; the second concern a long
series of military exploits accomplished against the Assyrians, Medes,
and Persians; the third refer especially to traditions in connection
with the Assyrians. The birth-song of Vahakn is an illustration of
the songs of the first order (p. x, xi). Flint in his History of the
Philosophy of History, p. 42, speaks of this period of minstrelsy
as necessarily preceding the use of letters everywhere. "The myth
and legend interest primitive man more than real fact. His vision is
more largely of the imagination than of the sense of judgment. It is
an error to regard the rude minstrelsy which generally preceded the
use of letters as essentially historical."

[36] Countess Evelyn Martinengo Cesaresco, Essays in the Study of
Folk-Songs, chapter on Armenia.

[37] The battle of Avarair under the leadership of the celebrated
Vartan, where Armenia defended her national ideals against the
intrusion of Persia, is proof of this.

[38] Ormanian p. 22. Moses of Khorene p. 158.

[39] There are further proofs that may be cited. The history of English
and French literature shows that the golden age of their literature
followed a period of social integration along national lines. And
it is true that the golden age of Armenian literature dawned with
the closing decades of the Arsacidae dynasty, and continued several
decades beyond. And finally, when Valarsace, the first Arsacidae,
ascended the throne of Armenia, finding everything in a state of
disorder, he organized the country along national lines. Dividing
the kingdom into provinces he placed his governors at the heads
of them; he organized a standing army, appointed guardians of the
granaries, established courts of justice, a royal guard, and minutely
regulated court life. What is most interesting is that he appointed two
reporters, one to remind him in his anger, "le bien à faire," the other
to remind him of the necessity for doing justice. Ibid. pp. 82-85.

[40] St. Martin 1:300. Moses of Khorene pp. 105-6.

[41] Ibid. p. 106.

[42] Boyadjian p. 49. Moses of Khorene p. 106. Moses as translated by
Langlois, relates the story as legend, for after telling the tale, and
quoting the songs he writes, "Voici maintenant le fait dans toute sa
verité comme le cuir rouge est trés-estimé chez les Alains, Artaschés
donne beaucoup de peaux de cette couleur, et beaucoup d'or en dot,
et il obtient la jeune princesse Satenig. C'est là la lanière de cuir
rouge garnie d'anneaux d'or. Ainsi dans les noces, ils chantent des
légendes, en disant,

        'Une pluie d'or tombait
        Au marriage d'Artaschés;
        Les perles pleuvait
        Aux noces de Satenig.'"

Moses likewise relegates the legend and songs of Artavasd to their
proper places.

[43] Moses of Khorene p. 111.

[44] Translation from Moses by Boyadjian p. 65.

[45] Moses of Khorene p. 111.

[46] Raffi p. 42.

[47] St. Martin 1:appendix.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Clark, New Englander 22:507, 672. Raffi p. 127.

[50] That trees are worshipped even to-day, and that certain
superstitions are bound up with them is clearly shown by Abeghian. "In
den Gegenden Armeniens, wo das Land mit Wäldern bedeckt ist, werden
viele sehr alte und grosse Bäume für heilig gehalten und ähnlicher
Weise wie die Quellen verehrt. Man brennt vor ihnen Lichter. Weihrauch,
opfert ihnen Hähne und Hammel, küsst sie, kriecht durch ihren
gespaltenen Stamm durch, oder lässt magere Kinder durch ihre Löcher
schlüpfen, um die Einwirkung der bosen Geister aufzuheben. Man glaubt
dass vom Himmel Lichter auf die heiligen Bäume kommen, oder Heilige
sich auf denselben aufhalten. Auch die Bäume geben Gesundheit, einige
heilen alle Krankheiten.... Um von Bäumen Heilung zu bekommen soll man
ein Stück von seiner Kleidung abreissen und damit den Baum umwickeln
oder es auf den Baum nageln. Man glaubt dadurch seine Krankheit auf
den Baum zu übertragen." Abeghian pp. 58, 59.

[51] Agathangelus p. 127. Emin, Recherches sur le Paganisme Arménien
p. 9.

[52] Raffi, article in Boyadjian's Armenian Legends and Poetry.

[53] Tir is mentioned only once by Agathangelus (p. 164) and he is not
mentioned by any other Armenian writers (Langlois 1:164). Emin compares
him to the Greek Hermes or Mercury, probably because Agathangelus
speaks of him as the recorder or reporter of Aramazd. (Emin p. 20,
note 1.)

[54] Abeghian p. 4.

[55] He corresponds to the Persian Mithra and is hence of Persian
origin and not Greek. The Greek translation of Agathangelus
regards him as analogous to Vulcan, which Emin considers to be
incorrect. (Agathangelus p. 168; Emin p. 20.)

[56] Raffi, article in Boyadjian's Armenian Legends and Poetry.

Seklemian's Tales. Preface by Blackwell.

[57] "Und auch heute pflegt man stellenweise niederzuknieen und zu
beten: 'O du göttliche strahlende Sonne! Dein Fuss ruhe auf meinem
Antlitz! Bewahre meine Kinder.'" u. s. w. Abeghian p. 43.

[58] Although the Greeks have identified Anahit with their goddess
of chastity, Artemid, the Armenian goddess is not of Greek, but of
Assyro-Babylonian origin according to Emin. Her name "Anahato" in
ancient Persian means "Spotless." Agathangelus p. 126; Emin p. 10.

[59] Agathangelus. Langlois 1:127.

[60] Raffi p. 129.

Both Nane and Astghik are mentioned by Agathangelus who speaks of the
latter as the Aphrodite of the Greeks. (Agathangelus p. 173.) Emin
likens Nane to Venus. The fact is that very little is known of
either. (Agathangelus p. 168; Emin, p. 16.)

[61] St. Martin 1:305, 306.

[62] In the reigns of Artasches I and Tigranes II, many Greek
statues were imported from abroad, and the latter king not only
constructed temples for the worship of Greek divinities, but also
ordered all to offer sacrifices and to worship newly acquired gods
and goddesses. (Moses of Khorene pp. 86-88.)

[63] St. Martin 1:295.

[64] Moses of Khorene p. 95.

[65] Moses of Khorene p. 96.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ormanian p. 3.

[68] There is another legend of St. Thaddeus, according to which
he converted Abgar and his whole court to Christianity, curing the
king of his disease at the same time. (Moses p. 97.) Abgar, who died
shortly afterword, divided his kingdom between his son and nephew. The
former at once resumed the pagan worship while the latter was forced
to apostatize. But the preaching and martyrdom of St. Thaddeus at the
hand of Sanatruk, the nephew, is recorded by Faustus of Byzantium,
one of the most reliable of early Armenian historians. (Faustus of
Byzantium. Langlois 1:210. See also Lynch, Armenia 1:278, and Moses
of Khorene pp. 98-99.)

[69] Lynch 1:286.

[70] St. Martin pp. 302, 303.

[71] Agathangelus. Langlois 1:115.

[72] St. Martin p. 303.

Agathangelus p. 122.

[73] St. Martin p. 304. Agathangelus p. 121.

[74] Agathangelus pp. 126-33.

[75] Ibid. p. 135.

[76] Lynch 1:256. Agathangelus p. 139.

[77] Critics have distinguished Agathangelus, the historian,
from Pseudo Agathangelus, the meddler, who evidently had religious
interests at stake. The former lived in the fourth century, and was
secretary to Tiridates, who unquestionably commissioned him to keep
the records of the events of his reign. He is spoken of by Moses and
other ancient historians as sincere and reliable. It is thus assumed
that the original work has been destroyed or lost, and that the Greek
and Armenian texts now existing are the work of an interpolater who
desired to weave the straggling skeins of religious sentiment into
a single garment by establishing an historic and literary sanction
to the religious events of the period of the conversion. There are
many indications of this, chief of which is the highly imaginative
style of narrative, undoubtedly designed with the particular intent
of capturing the minds of the people. (Langlois' introduction to
Agathangelus 1:99-108.)

[78] Langlois in his footnotes states that the chapel consecrated
to St. Gaiane was constructed by the Katholikos Ezdras in the year
630. and repaired in 1652. The church of St. Rhipsime was built by the
Katholikos Gomidas in 618, and repaired in 1653. The main cathedral
was built by St. Gregory. They are situated in Etchmiadzin. (Dubois
3:213. Langlois 1:160, 162.)

[79] Lynch 1:291, note.

[80] Dubois 3:276.

[81] Bryce pp. 314, 315.

[82] Ormanian p. 13.

[83] Dubois 3:276.

[84] Ormanian p. 8.

[85] Agathangelus pp. 164-66.

[86] See Conybeare's translation and annotation of the Key of
Truth, the book of the Paulicians (Adoptionists) of Thonrak. This
book contains the baptismal and ordinal service of the Adoptionist
church. (Especially pp. vi-xcxii.)

[87] Conybeare p. xcvii. The original is given by Conybeare as follows:
"Dic mihi," says Archelaus, "super quem Spiritus Sanctus sicut columba
descendit. Quis est etiam qui baptizatur a Ioanne si perfectus erat,
si Filius erat, si vertus erat, non poterat Spiritus ingredi; sicut
nee regnum potest ingredi intra regnum."

Lynch 1:279.

[88] Ibid. 1:282.

[89] Lynch 1:294.

Agathangelus pp. 164-66.

[90] St. Martin 1: appendix.

Elisée Vartabed, Histoire de Vartan. Langlois 2:190-91.

[91] Ibid. p. 195.

[92] Lidgett, An Ancient People.

The detailed events of this struggle against the Persians are
told in the Histoire de Vartan et de la Guerre des Arméniens, by
Elisée Vartabed who belonged to the second order of translators and
served under General Vartan during the war, the history of which he
narrates. After the sad ending of the series of dramatic incidents that
made up this struggle for religious freedom, Elisée sought solitude
and lived on herbs and roots in a mountainside cave which came to be
known as the "cave of Elisée." Because of a growing social intimacy
he was obliged to find a second cave in a more remote section of the
country, where he completed his work and died. His history is written
in the style of a religious mystic, is full of dramatic imagery,
and has come down as an Armenian classic. (Langlois 2:179-82.)

[93] Lynch 1:313.

Ormanian p. 35.

[94] Ibid. p. 36.

[95] Genesis 8:4.

[96] James Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat p. 210.

St. Martin 1:264.

[97] St. Martin 1:267-68.

[98] Tavernier, Voyages 1:43.

[99] Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat, chapter on Ararat.

[100] Dubois 3:465.

[101] Arghuri means "Il sema la vigne." St. Martin pp. 266, 267.

[102] Dubois 3:465-68.

[103] Bryce, chapter on Ararat.

[104] Dubois 3:468.

[105] Countess Evelyn Martinengo Cesaresco, chapter on Armenian
folk-songs. Fraser's Magazine (n.s.) 13:283-97.

[106] Fraser's Magazine (n.s.) 13:283-97.

[107] Ormanian p. 224.

Bertrand Bareilles, preface to the French edition of Ormanian p. xviii.

[108] Ormanian p. 243.

[109] Ibid. p. 177.

[110] Ubicini, Letters on Turkey.

Ormanian pp. 151, 152.

[111] Ibid. p. 173.

[112] Ibid. p. 141.

[113] Ubicini, Letters on Turkey.

[114] Ormanian p. 170.

[115] Ibid.

Ubicini, Letters on Turkey.

Tavernier 1:498, 499.

[116] Ormanian p. 152.

[117] Ibid.

[118] Lynch, chapter on Etchmiadzin.

Dubois 3:362, 363.

[119] See p. 30 of this thesis, note 32.

[120] Ormanian p. 74.

[121] Ibid.

For the relation of the church to the Turkish and Russian Governments
see Lynch 1:269, also Ubicini, Letters on Turkey.

[122] That is, Pseudo Agathangelus.

[123] Raffi p. 128.

[124] Ibid.

[125] Seklemian's Tales. Preface by Blackwell.

[126] Abeghian pp. 72-74.

[127] The 13th of February according to the old style calendar
corresponds to the 26th of February of the Latin calender.

[128] Abeghian p. 72.

[129] Ibid. p 20.

The remainder of the paragraph is a free translation of selected
parts of pp. 20-22.

[130] Abeghian p. 22.

[131] Maschtotz, St. Mesrob. One third of the book is devoted to
this purpose.

[132] Ormanian p. 189.

[133] Abeghian p. 23.

[134] Ibid. This and preceding paragraph are a free translation from
selected sentences of pp. 23 and 24.

[135] Tavernier 1:507-9.

[136] Elisée.

[137] Lidgett, Ancient People.

[138] Ibid.

[139] Raffi p. 158.

[140] Translated by Miss Boyadjian, Armenian Legends and Poetry.

After the first and third lines of the charm song, the following line
is sung, which I give in the German of Abeghian:

    "Liebe Rose meine, liebe, liebe."

and after the second and fourth lines:

    "Liebe Blume meine, liebe, liebe." (Abeghian p. 65.)

There are thousands of similarly constructed folk-songs treating
a variety of subjects current among the people, many of which have
been collected by an Armenian by the name of Tcheras, whose book,
unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain. Miss Boyadjian has
collected a few of them in her Armenian Legends and Poetry. However,
I shall mention only such as are relevant to the festivals to be

[141] Abeghian pp. 61-62.

[142] World's Great Classic Series. Section on Armenian literature,
with introduction by Robert Arnot. See David of Sassun pp. 57-79.

[143] Abeghian p. 51, 52.

Emin, Ancient Armenian Legends.

[144] Abeghian p. 62.

[145] These beliefs are analogous to those in connection with the
bringing of healing water, or the water of perpetual life, the source
of which is guarded by monsters, snakes, and scorpions. The hero steals
cautiously to the source in order not to be observed by the watchmen,
fills his vessel with water and hurries away, for the mountains and
trees call out to warn the guardians of the source who awake and
follow the hero. (Ibid. p. 63.)

[146] This part of the festivities is also accompanied with song. In
Astapet the following song is sung by way of introduction:

    "Holt einen grossen Meister,
    Lasset ihn den Hochzeitsrock meines geliebten zuschneiden
    Die Sonne sei der Stoff
    Der Mond diene als Futter.
    Stellt aus Wolken die Einfassung her,
    Wickelt aus dem Meer Seidengarn,
    Befestigt die Sterne in einer Reihe als Knopfe,
    Näht die ganze Liebe hinein." (Abeghian p. 64.)

[147] Abeghian pp. 63-66.

[148] Ormanian pp. 189-90.

[149] For the ritual side of this festival, the church ceremony known
as the Blessing of the Crops, or the Blessing of Harvest, and the
prayers in connection therewith, F. C. Conybeare's Ritual Armenorum,
and St. Mesrob's Maschtotz may be consulted. The social side I have
gotten from my wife who has taken part in the festival several times.

[150] A very common custom, especially in the interior villages of
Armenia, is to give a lighted candle and an apple or orange in which
small silver coins have been stuck, as gifts to the children. This
is done by the eldest member of the family, usually the grandmother,
at the time the younger ones come up to kiss her hand and receive
her blessing.

[151] For a description of the Easter and Christmas fasts, see
Tavernier, Voyages 1:497-98.

[152] The festivals of New Year's Day, Easter, and Christmas, I
have described as related to me by my wife who has celebrated them
in company with others in Constantinople. Such variations practiced
in the interior of Armenia as I am aware of, I have indicated.

[153] F. C. Conybeare, Ritual Armenorum pp. 213, 294.

[154] Survey 36:167. Anonymous.

[155] Tavernier, Voyages 1:496.

[156] Dubois 3:441.

[157] Ormanian p. 177.

[158] F. C. Conybeare, Ritual Armenorum p. 224.

[159] Brightman, Eastern Liturgies, chapter on Armenian Liturgy. For
an interesting variation of this ceremony see Tavernier 1:502.

Closely related to this ceremony is that of the blessing or purifying
of a well. A well is not used until a priest has first blessed it,
or if the water of a well becomes impure, it is necessary to purify it
by the blessing of a priest. The latter takes a cross and a Bible and
having requested the people to draw a pail of water which is thrown
away, a second pail is drawn, over which the priest reads a psalm. The
water is then blessed with the cross, incense is burned over the well,
and the pail of water is emptied back. (Maschtotz.)

[160] Lynch 1:203, 204.

[161] Contemporary Review 70:695. J. T. Bent.

Tavernier, 1:500, 501.

[162] The people believe that the holy relic causes the mixture
to boil.

[163] Catholic World 11:301. Paul Terzian.

[164] According to Maschtotz the devil is abjured and the Trinity
invoked at the gate of the church. In the course of the ceremony
the priest unclothes the babe and asks the godfather, "What seeks
the child?" The godfather answers, "Faith, Hope, Love, and Baptism,
to be cleansed from his sins and to be freed from the devils." The
three immersions are symbolical of the three days of burial of
Christ. (Maschtotz.)

[165] In the description of baptism as witnessed by Tavernier, red
and white threads were laid about the neck of the child at this point
in the ceremony. They represent the blood and body of Christ and are
probably believed to keep away the evil eye. Beads and various other
charm tokens are commonly used for this purpose. (Tavernier 1:500.)

[166] This is probably because evil spirits dwell in darkness, while
the beneficent are light.

[167] The similarity to the old Hebrew custom may be noted.

[168] Paul Terzian, Catholic World 71:305.

[169] Tavernier says that frequently two pregnant women who are on
very friendly terms, will engage their future offspring, trusting to
fortune that one will be a boy and the other a girl. (Tavernier 1:505.)

[170] In fact when there is a variance of choice between parents
and daughter it is common for the girl to regard the decision of her
parents as being her fate. "Wenn eine junge Frau mit ihrer Heirat,
die sie, nach dem Willen der Eltern geschlossen hat, unzufrieden ist,
so singt sie:

    'Was soll ich meinem Vater und meiner Mutter sagen?
    Das war auf meine Stirn geschrieben.'" (Abeghian p. 54.)

[171] Paul Terzian, Catholic World 71:305.

[172] It is very evident that the expense of these festivities is a
considerable item in the budget of the bridegroom's father. But it is
a matter of social pride and respectability to live up to a certain
standard of established usage. Accordingly many families involve
themselves in life-long incumbrances, not only in the betrothal and
marriage festivities but also in the ceremony of baptism, simply to
come up to a recognized norm of expenditure. (Tavernier 1:504, 505.)

[173] Cesaresco, chapter on Armenian folk-songs.

[174] Paul Terzian, Catholic World 71:508.

[175] Bent, Contemporary Review 70:701.

[176] Tavernier states that in Persian Armenia a man frequently lives
with his wife ten years without ever hearing her voice or seeing
her face. Of course she does not sleep with her veil over her face,
but she is always careful to blow out the candle before she removes
the veil, as she is to rise before daybreak in order to put it on
again. (Tavernier 1:507.)

[177] Trowbridge, New Englander 33:1 ff.

[178] Paul Terzian, Catholic World 71:509.

[179] This statement is in contradiction to a previous statement that
the body of the dead is merely wrapped in white cloth after it has
been washed; (see page 60) the use of the white cloth is common among
Gregorian Armenians.

[180] Paul Terzian, Catholic World 71:509 ff.

[181] Ormanian p. 36.

[182] Ross, Social Psychology pp. 88-89.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Armenian Legends and Festivals" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.