Dwelling and Cult in the Life and Culture of the Ancient Georgians

Dwelling and Cult in the Life and Culture of the Ancient Georgians

Paata Bukhrashvili (Ilia State University, Georgia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3115-0.ch014

Abstract

As a consequence of long-term organic integration with their homeland, a characteristic lifestyle developed among the Georgians. This is particularly evident in the richly variegated customs, traditions, and norms of everyday behavior. To a significant degree they are conditioned by thousands of years of adaptation to the environment, and its associated biocultural and socio-economic forms. From the earliest times these complexes of economic-cultural relations implied the possession of the land by social units – families – on the basis of juridical norms founded upon blood relationship. Such relations were firmly grounded upon common tribal shrines, through which was acknowledged the tribal territory's chief patron and regulator. It follows that each land-owning family of the tribe, on the basis of vassalage to the shrine, was directly responsible before the shrine, and, accordingly, the moral comportment of each tribal member was marked by deep and honest respect for the deity.
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Background

As a consequence of long-term organic integration with their homeland, a characteristic lifestyle developed among the Georgians. This is particularly evident in the richly variegated customs, traditions and norms of everyday behavior. To a significant degree they are conditioned by thousands of years of adaptation to the environment, and its associated biocultural and socio-economic forms. From the earliest times these complexes of economic-cultural relations implied the possession of the land by social units – families – on the basis of juridical norms founded upon blood relationship. Such relations were firmly grounded upon common tribal shrines, through which was acknowledged the tribal territory’s chief patron and regulator. It follows that each land-owning family of the tribe, on the basis of vassalage to the shrine, was directly responsible before the shrine, and, accordingly, the moral comportment of each tribal member was marked by deep and honest respect for the deity. There formed, accordingly, such moral and spiritual principles, that to act against the collective’s system of values was tantamount to opposition to the divine patron itself. The gravest punishment for insult to the deity and the tribe was expulsion, which meant permanent separation from one’s flesh and blood, one’s family. From this it follows that the highest goal of each tribal member was service to one’s own tribe and village, and therefore to one’s homeland, motivated by awe of the divinity. It was precisely this fear of God that grounded the highest form of love, upon which developed the entire diverse spectrum of pan-Georgian or intra-regional customs, traditions and practices, many of which are continued to the present day.

The ethnic group is a specific unity of individuals, which depends not only on common genetic origins and spiritual-cultural unity, but also a shared historical fate.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Svaneti or Svanetia: (Suania in ancient sources; Georgian: ??????? Svaneti) is a historic province of Georgia, in the northwestern part of the country. It is inhabited by the Svans, an ethnic subgroup of Georgians.

Nicholas Yakovlevich Marr: (Russian: ??????´? ?´???????? ????, Nikolay Yakovlevich Marr; Georgian: ??????? ??????? ?? ????, Nikoloz Iak'obis dze Mari; 6 January 1865 [O.S. 25 December 1864] – 20 December 1934) was a Georgia-born historian and linguist who gained a reputation as a scholar of the Caucasus during the 1910s before embarking on his “Japhetic theory” on the origin of language (from 1924), now considered as pseudo-scientific, and related speculative linguistic hypotheses.

Tamar the Great: (Georgian: ????? ????) (c. 1160 – 18 January 1213) reigned as the Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, presiding over the apex of the Georgian Golden Age. A member of the Bagrationi dynasty, her position as the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right was emphasized by the title mepe (“king”), afforded to Tamar in the medieval Georgian sources.

Vakhtang Ilyich Kotetishvili: (Georgian. ??????? ????? ?? ???????????, October 24, 1893, Georgia - January 17, 1937) folklorist, essayist, literary critic, critic, historian, artist, scholar, sculptur journalist and public figure. Ancestor of Georgian folklore.

Genotheism: Phenomenon linked to the consolidation of the family as social organization.

Georgiy Spiridonovich Chitaya: (Georgian ?????? ??????; 10 [23] November 1890, Poti —1986, Tbilisi. Georgia) Georgian ethnographer, academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR (1969), founder of the Tbilisi Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. He studied the ethnogenesis, material and spiritual culture of Georgians and other peoples of the Caucasus.

Pshavi: (Georgian: ?????) is a small historic region of northern Georgia, nowadays part of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti mkhare, (“region”), and lying chiefly among the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains along the Pshavis Aragvi River and the upper reaches of the Iori River in the neighbouring region of Tianeti to the south-east.

Mtiuleti: (Georgian: ????????; literally, “the land of mountains”) is a historical province in eastern Georgia, on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It primarily comprises the White Aragvi Valley, and is bordered by Gudamakari on the east, Khando on the south, Tskhrazma on the west, and Khevi on the north.

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