Lucy Mary Jane Garnett.

The women of Turkey and their folk-lore online

. (page 22 of 70)
Online LibraryLucy Mary Jane GarnettThe women of Turkey and their folk-lore → online text (page 22 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


being, and, indeed, until the funeral is over, lest one
should leap across the narrow street and over the bier.
If, notwithstanding all these precautions, a cat should
succeed in leaping over the coi-pse, it is a sign that
the deceased has been excommunicated by one of
the clergy, and great is the distress of his relatives
until a priest is discovered who will admit the ex-



248 THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [chap. vii.

communication in order to obtain the ransom required
for removing the ban.

Accoiding to vulgar behef, the psalms and hymns
vv^hich are chanted by the side of the grave are
prolonged in order to give the soul of the departed
time to go to Jerusalem and prostrate itself before
the tomb of Jesus Christ. This act of devotion
performed, it returns to the body, embraces it, and
then wings its way to heaven. The Armenians
seem to have borrowed this notion of the soul
•accompanying the body on its way to the grave
from their Mohammedan neighbours, with whom it
is a fixed belief

On the eighth day after the funeral, the relatives
visit the grave, from which they take small portions
of earth, and drop them down each other's backs
between the clothes and the flesh, in the strange
belief that the parents, children, brothers, or sisters
of the deceased may thus obtain for themselves the
remainder of the life which he has not been permitted
to enjoy.

Easter Monday is the day ordained by custom for
visiting the graves of deceased relatives. After
weeping and lamenting a while over the remains of
their lost ones, the mourners dry their tears, and,
retiring to the shade of some spreading plane-tree,
forget their sorrow under the influence of the good
things which they have provided for their annual
picnic.



CHAPTER VIII.

ARMENIAN WOMEN : THEIR BELIEFS AND SUPERSTITIONS.

Although the great majority of the Armenians are
members of the ancient Gregorian Church, the Pope
has, since the sixteenth century, had a considerable
number of adherents belonging to this nation ; and
the labours of the American missionaries in Armenia
have resulted in the formation of numerous Protes-
tant communities.

The history of the Gregorian Church may be
divided into three periods. The first, however, from
34 to 302, is mainly legendary ; the second, from
302 to 491, begins with the establishment of Chris-
tianity in Armenia b}' St. Gregory, and terminates
with the rupture with the Gi'eek Church of which
the Armenian had until that time formed a branch ;
and the third period extends from that event to
the present day. To the first period belongs the
legendary correspondence between Jesus and Abgar,
king of Edessa and of the surrounding countries, an
account of which is given both by Eusebius and
Moses of Khor'ni. This king, having heard of the
miracles performed by Christ, and desiring to see
and be cured by him of a disease with which
he was affiicted, sent to him a letter which, in the
version of Eusebius, runs thus :



2 so THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [chap. vui.

" Abgarus, king of Edessa, to Jesus the good
Saviour, who appeareth at Jerusalem, greeting :

" I have been informed concerning thee and thy
cures, which are performed without the use of medi-
cines or herbs.

" For it is reported that thou dost cause the bhnd
to see and the lame to walk, that thou dost cleanse
the lepers, and dost cast out unclean spirits and devils,
and dost restore to health those who have been long
diseased, and also that thou dost raise the dead.

" All which when I hfeai'd I was persuaded of
these two things :

" Either that thou art God himself descended from
heaven, or that thou art the Son of God.

" On this account, therefore, I have written unto
thee, earnestly desiring that thou Avouldst trouble
thyself to take a journey hither, and that thou
wouldest also cure me of the disease from which I
suffer.

" For I hear that the Jews hold thee in derision,
and intend to do thee harm.

" My city is indeed small, but it is sufficient to
contain us both."

The reply to this epistle Moses of Khor'ni
attributes to St. Thomas, who was deputed by his
Master to write the answer. It is as follows :

" Happy art thou, O Abgarus, forasmuch as thou
hast believed in me whom thou hast not seen.

" For it is written concerning me, that those who
have seen me have not believed in me, that those
who have not seen might believe and live.



CHAP. VIII.] AEMENIAN WOMEN. 251

" As to that part of thy epistle which relates to
my visiting thee, I must inform thee that I must
fulfil the ends of my mission in this land, and after
that be received up again unto him that sent me ;
but after my ascension I will send one of my dis-
ciples, who will cure thy disease, and give life unto
thee and all that are with thee."^

The seeds of the Christian faith are said to have
been sown in Armenia hj St. Thomas and St.
Bartholomew ; and, according to TertuUian, a Chris-
tian church flourished in this country so early as
the second century.

St. Gregory, called " The Illuminator," the inaugu-
rator of the second period, was a prince of the
reigning family of the Arsacidse, who, having been
converted to Christianity, was eager for the conver-
sion of his countrymen. In his missionary work be
endured many persecutions, the accounts of which
were embellished by the early Christians with mar-
vellous details. According to the popular story, as
Tiridates the king was sacrificing to the heathen god-
dess Anahid," he remarked a young man among the
surrounding crowd who appeared to take no part in
the solemnity. The king ordered him to be brought
up to the altar, and commanded him to complete the
sacrifice. Gregory refused, and was in consequence
subjected to the most cruel tortures, which he bore

' Curzon, Armenia, p. 213.

- I am told that a fragment of the statue of this Goddess was discovered
about four years ago by a peasant of Erisa (Erzicginan), who sold it for ;£^io.
The head proved to be of massive gold, and the purchasers re-disposed of
it for ;£■ 1 0,000.



252 THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [chap. viii.

with superhuman patience and fortitude,' and was
finally cast into a dungeon so damp, dark, and loath-
some as to be a fit habitation only fi^r bats or
serpents. But here, for thirteen years, St. Gregory
svirvived, forgotten and neglected, save by a poor
widow — according to other authorities, an angel —
who brought him a daily supply of bread and water.
Another manifestation, however, of the king's
rutliless cruelty resulted in the release of St.
Gregory. There lived at that time at Rome a noble
and beautiful maiden, named Ripsimeh (Rosina),
who, with her nui se and seventy other virgins, had
taken a religious vow. Her beauty had attracted
the attention of the Emperor Diocletian, who wished
to marry her. lo. order to escape the Imperial solici-
tations, Ripsimeh, with her nurse, Gaianeh, and her
seventy companions, fled from Rome, and finally,
after many wanderings, arrived at the capital of
Armenia, Vagharshabad. Having succeeded in dis-
covering her retreat, Diocletian gave Tiridates the
option of sending her back to Rome or marrying her
himself; and when the king beheld the beauty of
Ripsimeh, he was minded to avail himself of the
Emperor's permission. The fair Roman, however,
remained faithful to her vow, and the king, infuriated
by repeated refusals, commanded that not only she,,
but all those who had come in her train, should be
first tortured and then executed. The wrath of
Heaven towards tlie perpetrator of this crime was

1 An account of the tortures inflicted upon St. Gregory was subse-
quently given by Agatliange, secretary to Tiridates, in a -work which has,
I believe, sur^■ivcd both in Armenian and Greek.



CHAP. VIII ] ARMENIAN WOMEN. 253

shown by the mfliction on Tiridates and his courtiers
of the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar — for they
lost their reason and became as the beasts of the
field. The king's sister, Khosrovitouhd, having,
after this terrible event, been repeatedly visited in a
dream by an angel who told her that St. Gregory
only could restore her brother to reason, finally sent
men to the dungeon, with orders to release the
Christian if, perchance, he were still alive. The
Saint was found not only alive, but strong and
healthy, and his prayers on behalf of the afflicted
king and his nobles were speedily answered. The
first use Tiridates made of his newly recovered
reason was to kneel to St. Gregory and beg his for-
giveness. After assuring the penitent monarch not
only of his own forgiveness, but of that of Heaven,
the Saint solemnly asked him, " Where are the
Lambs of God ? " The dismembered bones of the
martyrs, which had been scattered in the fields, were
reverently collected and accorded honourable burial,
and over the place of their sepulture St. Gregory
watched and prayed all. that night. During his
vigil a wonderful and glorious vision appeared to the
holy man, and was at the same time explained by
an angel, who also commanded him to build a church
over the sacred relics. The spot is now occupied by
the monastery and cathedral church of Etchmiadzin,
the seat of the Catholicos, or Patriarch, of the
Armenian Church. St. Gregory was consecrated
Bishop of Etchmiadzin by Leontius, the Bishop of
Cesarsea, and, owing to this circumstance, it long
remained customary for the Primates of the Armenian



254 THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [cii4.p. vm.

Church to receive investiture at the hands of suc-
ceeding Bishops of the capital of Cappadocia.

In point of doctrine, there is very little difference
between the Greek and the Armenian Churches.
The Gregorians accept the articles of faith as promul-
gated by the seven (Ecumenical Councils, but reject
the Western addition of the Jilioque to the Nicene
Creed and deny the distinctive doctrines of the
Eomish Church.' The Liturgy used is said to date
from the first century, and to have been adapted from
that originally used by the early Church of Jerusalem.
St. Gregory remodelled it, and introduced into it the
Nicene Creed vrith the comminatory clause, and a
conclusion of his own. As regards the future life,
although the doctrine of purgatory is not explicitly
taught by the Church, the long and numerous prayers
appointed for the dead, the Masses performed for the
souls of the departed, and the almsgiving practised
with the same object, all testify to a practical belief
in an intermediate state. Popular belief is, how-
ever, very vague on this point, for, while it is denied
that any save the Virgin and Elias have yet seen the
face of God, the aid of saints and martyrs is invoked
as in the Latin and Greek Churches.

The fasts and feasts of the Armenians coincide
with those of their Greek neighbours, save for the
addition of ten national saints to the already large
number included in the calendar of the Orthodox

^ A priest at his ordination makes this profession of faith : " I believe in
Jesus Christ, one person and two natures, and in conformity with the Holy
Fathers we reject and detest the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon
and the letter of St. Leon to Flavian ; and we say anathema to every sect
which denies the two natures of Christ."



CHAP, viii.l AEMENIAN WOMEN. 255

Greek Church. The fasts are, however, observed by
the Armenians with much greater severity, neither
shell -fish nor olive oil being partaken of in Lent, and
the first meal of the day during that period being
deferred until late in the afternoon. The three
degrees of self-mortification are called respectively,
hakh, dzorn, and navagatik. In the first, meat, fish,
eggs, cheese, and other dairy produce is abstained
from ; in the second, nothing is eaten before sunset ;
and the third signifies total abstinence from food.
As in the Greek Church, no indulgences are granted
by the clergy for disregarding these ordinances,
excepting in cases of severe illness.

It is less easy than in the case of the Greeks
to ascertain to what extent the Church feasts of
the Armenians are survivals of Pagan festivals.
That some of them had their origin in the Nature-
worship of their Aryan ancestors there can, however,
be no question. The ancient festival of Vartevar —
the " Feast of the Blossoming Roses" — is, for instance,
now replaced by the three days' feast commemorative
of the Transfiguration of Christ. The advent of May,
too, is greeted with various observances, many of
them identical with those of the Greeks. The streets
of the Armenian quarter at Smyrna are, early on
May-day morning, alive with promenaders on their
way to greet the dawn of the merry month. Their
destination is a kafenS, or coffee-house, in appearance
like a small classic temple, standing in a large garden
on the banks of the Meles, close by the Bridge of
Caravans. It is too early yet for the long files of
not always patient camels, laden with huge bales of



256 THE WOMEN OF TUEKEY. [chap. viti.

raw cotton and other produce from the interior, and
conducted by a httle nigger boy on donkey-back,
from which the bridge and the road leading to it
derive their names. But the storks are astir in the
cypress-trees on either hand, which, over the graves
of departed Moslems, "uplift," as the great mystic
poet^ says, "their silent hands to Heaven."

Around little tables dispersed among the flower-
beds of the kofme garden they all presently gather to
breakfast on lettuces and kaUymeria — a kind of pastry
much in vogue at Smyrna, supplemented by tiny cups
of Turkish coffee. And having thus greeted the
flowery month, the company disperse, the women
and children returning to their homes, and the men
proceeding to the day's business.

The Armenian women of Symrna and the capital,
like the Greek, usually have an eikon, or, as they
call it, a hadguer, of the Virgin in their sleeping apart-
ments, before which they repeat their morning and
evening prayers. These holy pictures are also often
decorated with an aureole, a hand, or an arm of
silver, presented to Surp Mariam, or Saint Mary, in
gratitude for benefits supposed to have been ac-
corded through her intercession. An incident which
ocpurred while I was on a visit to an Armenian
family living at Bournabat afforded an interesting
illustration of the reverence paid to these represen-
tations of the patron Saint par excellence of women.
A fire had broken out at night in a neighbouring
house, and, on the alarm being raised, the two
daughters of my host, who slept in the only up-

1 Jelalu-'d-Dln er KCimi, The Harper, Eedhouse's translation, p. 147.



CHAP. VIII.] AEMENIAl^ WOMEN. 257

stairs room, hurried down, leaving all their trea-
sures behind them, but bearing in their arms the
two ('ikons, which, frightened as they were, they
had stopped to take down from the walls o^
their chamber. The danger past, we were again
dispersing to our several apartments, when my dear
old hostess, Kokona Mariem,' took up the pictures
from the table, and, kissing them with affectionate
reverence, ascribed to their sacred protection our
escape from the calamity which had overtaken her
neighbour.

The Armenian women of the interior are not re-
quired to attend the public services of the church
more regularly than are the Grreek women. In
Armenia during the first year of her married life a
young wife goes to church only twice — at Easter
and at the Feast of the Annunciation. At Smyrna
and Constantinople, however, in this as in every
other i-espect, the women enjoy much greater free-
dom, and follow the example of the Catholic and
Protestant women among whom they hve.

The wives of the Derders^ or inferior clergy, like
those of the Greek Papades, enjoy no social rank, but
live, in the country, like the rest of the peasant
women, and, in the towns, like the wives of artisans.
The Derders are allowed to marry once only, and the
higher clergy, though they may have married before
entering the Church, must, when ordained, be either
bachelors or widowers. The office of Derder is
usually hereditary, and though a son of one of these
parish priests may, before he is called upon to succeed

' The common pronunciation at Smyrna of Mariam — i.e., Mary.

R



258 THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [ohap. viii.

his father, be engaged in a lucrative calling, he is
obliged to relinquish it in order to take upon himself
the sacred office, for which he is often unfitted both
by education — or, rather, want of education — and by-
inclination. Very poor indeed are the generality
of the inferior clergy, their incomes being drawn
solely from the small annual contributions of their
parishioners, the fees paid for special services, and
such small gains as may be derived from the manu-
facture and sale of tapers and other religious com-
modities. A few pence are also paid to the priest by
each family at his periodical " Blessing of the House,"
which takes place at Easter, and consists of the
repetition of a prayer, accompanied by the burning
of incense and the aspersion with holy water in the
sala, or central room of the house. Wealthy families
have this ceremony performed also at the New Year,
and sometimes they have every room in the house thus
blessed,' though, as myinformant added," Us paient de
ce luxe." One New Year's Day, when I came in for
my share of the benediction, the Derder having sat
down after the ceremony to chat with the ladies and
partake of a cup of cofiee, the youngest daughter
went ofi" to the larder, whence she emerged with a
quantity of the sweet biscuits always prepared for
' seasons of festivity, with which she proceeded to fiU
the pockets of his rusty black jupbe, saying to me in
English as she did so : " These are for his wife and
children ; he is so dreadfully poor that I am sure
they have none at home."

' On the completion of a new house every room is blessed by the priest
before the family take up their abode in it.



CHAP, vm.] ARMENIAN WOMEN. 259

Besides the ordinary pilgrimages which the
Armenian, like the Greek, women make to the
shrines and churches of saints and martyrs, a few
undertake the longer pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Among the Christian, as among the Moslem, national-
ities of Turkey, the accomplishment of this act of
religious duty entitles the person who has performed
it to the Turkish title of Hadji, which is prefixed to
his, or her, name. An Armenian lady of my acquaint-
ance had a servant, the daughter of a priest, whom
she never addressed without this title, although it
lengthened her name of " Antaram " to five syllables ;
and by her fellow-servants she was naturally treated
with even greater respect.

The internal arrangements of the Armenian
churches differ from those of the Greeks and Latins.
The floor of the chancel, or sanctuary, is raised
several feet higher than that of the rest of the build-
ing, and the altar is again raised above the floor of
the sanctuary. A large curtain conceals from the
congregation, at certain periods of the service, both
chancel and altar. During the whole of Lent this
curtain is kept drawn, and the services are performed
behind it. This custom is said to typify the expulsion
of Adam and Eve from Paradise. A second and
smaller curtain screens the altar only, and is drawn
during the celebration of the Eucharist, and at the
conclusion of the services. On the altar stand a
crucifix, with candlesticks on either side, the Gospels,
in gorgeous binding, covered with an embroidered
napkin, and a copy of the Prayer-book. The sacra-



26o THE WOMEN OF TURKEY. [chap. vm.

mental bread and wine also remain perpetually in a
tabernacle upon the altar, and tapers are kept con-
tinually burning before them. There are no stalls in
the choir ; the inferior clergy sit cross-legged on mats
or rugs spread on the floor, the bishops and other
dignitaries only being honoured with chairs. In
some churches a gallery is provided for the women,
approached, as in the Greek churches, by an outer
staircase ; in others, the women occupy one side of
the nave, as in Catholic churches. Except in the
town churches there are no seats for the congregation,
who sit either on the matted floor, or on cushions
they bring with them.

The ancient metropolitan church and monastery of
Etchmiadzin, before mentioned, have been restored
again and again, and have recently, I am told, been
considerably enlarged. The monastery was formerly
■celebrated for its extensive library, which contains,
however, at the present day, only some seventeen or
eighteen hundred volumes, consisting chiefly of
Armenian manuscripts. Among the relics treasured
in the monastery are the lance which pierced the
side of Jesus, brought to Armenia by the Apostle
Thaddeus ; a piece of the True Cross, presented to
Tiridates by Constantine the Great ; the head of St-
Eipsimehj and the hands of St. Thaddeus, St.
Gregory, and St. James of Nisibis. St. James was
the finder of the remains of Noah's Ark, which he
presented to the Fathers of Etchmiadzin. Climbing
■one day the steep sides of Ararat, the saint, overcome
with fatigue, laid himself down to rest, when in a
vision an angel appeared to him, and pointed out the



CHAP. VIII.] ARMENIAN WOMEN. 261

spot where the fragments of the Patriarch's vessel
were concealed.

Many strange legends are current among the
people concerning this centre of Armenian worship.
One of these relates that on the spot where the
church and monastery now stand rose three rocks in
a triangular form, under each of which was a cavern,
whence the voices of spirits issued, giving answers to
questions after the mode of the Oracles of Delphi.
But Jesus Christ, intending to have his name wor-
shipped in that place, descended in person from
heaven, and, taking the Cross on which he suffered,
struck a blow on each rock, upon which they sank
into the ground, and the diabolical spirits were dis-
placed. Another version states that Jesus permitted
these spirits of the earth to keep their abodes in the
Cixvities of the rocks on which the convent is built,
in order that they might serve the holy monks, its
inmates, as slaves and drudges ; and that they still
invisibly perform their allotted tasks, washing the
dishes, sweeping the floors, and fulfilling all the
offices of good servants.

The Armenians, in common with the rest of the
Christian woi'ld, have adopted Nicholas of Damascus'
identification of their Mount Massis, " the Mother of
the World," with the Ararat of the Deluge. According
to Lenormant,' however, the word Ararat, or Ararad,
originally signified, not the mountain-peak of Massis,
but the whole country watered by the Araxes, whence
came the name of Alarodian s, given by Herodotos to
its inhabitants. St. Jerome, too, applied the name of

' Oriffines de VSistoire, torn. ii. , I" partie, p. 2, &c.



262 THE WOMEN OE TURKEY. [chap. viii.

Ararat exclusively to the plain at the foot of the
mountain. The story told by Berossos of the
stranding of the ship of Xisouthros, the Koranic
story of Noah and the Deluge/ and other tradi-
tions, agree in localising the mountain-peak on
which the vessel rested in Kurdistan, to the south-
west of Lake Yan ; and the Chaldean epic poem of
Ourouk describes the vessel as resting on the mountain
of Nizir in this region. The inhabitants of Cappa-
docia also claim for their Mount Ai-gseus the honour
of having been the resting-place of the Ark.

The mountain of Massis, or Ararat, which is also
called by the people of Erivan Mouthen AscJikark,
the " World of Darkness," appears to have been from
the remotest antiquity invested by the inhabitants of
the surrounding country with a supernatural charac-
ter, easily accounted for by the frequent volcanic
disturbances which have from time to time changed
its aspect. As the Greek gods were located on
Olympus, so the summit of Massis was regarded as
the abode of supernatural beings whose mysterious
proceedings produced the awe-inspiring convulsions
which seemed to shake the mountain's very founda-
tions.^ On the introduction of Christianity, the



1 Mohammed makes Noah disembark on El Djoudi, which he calls " the
Kurd moantain," situated to the south-west of Lake Van. — Lenormant,
Origines, &c., tom. ii. p. 5.

- In an ancient Armenian poem, the hero-king, Aitaxes, in his anger, thus
addresses his son Artabazes :

"If, when thou foUowest the chase, thou approachest the mountain,
great Massis,

Then shall the Famous Ones seize thee and bear thee away upon Massis.

There shalt thou bide, and for ever be hid from the gladdening sunshine."



CHAP. VIII.] ARMENIAN WOMEN. 263

location of the resting-place of the Ark on this already-



Online LibraryLucy Mary Jane GarnettThe women of Turkey and their folk-lore → online text (page 22 of 70)