Cult rituals - "Atnigenoba"

Autumn works in Tusheti are preceded by a cycle of summer cult ceremonies – “Atnigenoba”. It starts on the hundredth day from Easter and continues for two weeks. In this period cult services were held in some calendar succession in all the villages. A host of “Atnigenoba” is “Shulta”, a cross servant elected by the village for a year. A few days before “Atnigenoba” starts, “Shulta” “hangs a pot” – to boil “aludi”. All the villages take part in it. A building is sacred and women of the menstruation age are not permitted to enter it. “Atnigenoba”, i.e. “Jvariskari” ritual ceremonies, is led by “Khelosani”, a cross servant. Only he has the right “to bring out” a cross banner and by ringing the bells to inform about start of “Atnigenoba”. After the banner is brought out, the “Khelosani” blesses “cod” with “aludi”, the cross community members, the guests, the men attending the ceremony cry thrice “be you blessed”. After that thay sit at sanctified feast table and the feast begins. Man sit separately from women. No “Atnigenoba” has ever been held without entertainment or feast. A horse race and “Korbeghela” are often held at “Atnigenoba”. Five men with their hands on one another’s shoulder stand in a circle, the other five stood on their shoulders. So turning slowly round they took “Korbeghela” From the cross place (place of their gathering) to “Jvariskari” (to the icon). Here they turn three times and separate “Korbeghela”. “Korbeghela” is a magic ritual of astral celestial deity. After a feast, ritual games of entertaining character are held. “Chataraoba” is frequently held. It is a ceremony of fight between men and women, taking prisoner and ransoming. The ceremony is dedicated to activation of male-female cosmic origins and is a magic ritual of world creation. After “Atnigenoba”, autumn works begin, a busy season of mowing, harvest gathering and storing. Those, who know the atnigenoba, tray to specially visit Tusheti in this period. Along with feasts, this celebration is a wonderful festival of folk art. Guest, who visit a Tushetian village in this period, are invited to the feast table by all means and Tushetians pay no attention as of what religion their guests are. Tushetians prefer to perform their cult activites without strangers. However, they sometimes invite guests to attend them, especially those visitors whom they know well and who more than once visited Tusheti.

Mariamoba - (day of St. Mary)

On August 28 (according to Gregorian calendar) Mariamoba is celebrated. This day is considered to be “Day of the dead”. All the families lay a table in memory of the dead. That day the rezidents of the village Omalo celebrate the days of “Elia Tsiteltisa”, deity of the sky-clouds and pray for good weather. Tsiteloba preceded field reaping.

Giorgoba (day of St. George)

It is celebrated on November 10. The day is dedicated to glorifing of St. Giorgi. It is an important date marking finish of previous economic cycle and start of the next. By that day harvest was usually stored. People left the villages for “Boslebi”, winter dwellings and kept cattle in stalls. Twenty week long winter started that day.


It is on december 9 (according to julia calendar) and marks turn of the sun towards summer. It is an archaic cult celebration representing astral concepts and beliefs. The sun female deity. The local population believed that on December 6 the sun set in its setting. If the sun finds a lamb there, the sun then stays there for three days and rises on December 9. If a snake – the sun jumps as long as a three day lamb and the days became immediately longer. On December 9 a feast table is laid in all the families. A hostess makes ritual “kadas” (biscuits) of the sun called “machkati”, “khavitsi” and all this along with “Zedashe” (church wine) and one candle is put on the tray. The hostess lights the melted butter with the lighted candle and sticks the candle on the window through which the sun looks into the room. She also puts there three ritual cakes – “machkati” and raises a glass to glorify the sun.

Tseltsdoba - (New Year)

On December 25 “tseltsdoba” started, a two-week holiday of the New Year. The “tseltsdoba” was led by “nate” – head of the New Year ceremonies and a host, a community representative elected for one year. In the evening of that day the family mother baked symbolic images of human beings and domestik animals and round dumplings with a hole as many as there were sons in the family. She hung them at the hearth. She also baked small round bread and put them under the pillow of each member of the family by one in the evening. She put dumplings on the top of the house and animal stall doors. “Gomlis deda”, a symbolic image of family hearth patron angel, was put in the ashes at the hearth. On the New Year morning a family hostess took a “tskaros kveri” (a spring dumpling) to the water spring along with with cheese, wool and water vessel. Before bringing water they would not utter a word to anyone. At the water spring they put the dumpling and said: “water, I have brought you a dumpling, give me my fate to take to the family”. They threw what they brought into the water pleading for abundance. On coming home they rolled the dumpling inside blessing the New Year, sprinkled unspoken water around the hearth and used this water for meals. Children washed with this water. Soon a person would appear to wish happy New Year, blessing the kind trace, he usually went to the heart fire, touching the embers and brushing the sparks off them, wishing abundance and multiplying to the family. In the morning mother of the family went to the cattle to wish happy New Year. She broke the dumplings and gave them to bulls and cows to eat. Before the sunset the “cod” was blessed with “alidi” and all the men attended it. “Nate” and his assistants took meals to “sajare” (village place of gathering), where the whole community in their best clothes gathered.

Didmarkhva - (Lent)

Lent, seven-week fast of Easter, is preceded by three-week “markhva-shemoi”. “kdini”, “khortsieli” (meat days) and “kvelieri” (cheese days). “kdini” week is the third week of January. “kdini” is a week of goblins and devils. In that period they freely crawl and try to make people mad. There were some magic rules and rituals to be conducted to protect from their pressure. To know the fate expected thet year people go out of the village at night in the “kdini” week and listen. This is called “sminaoba” (listening). Through the voices heard there people try to guess what their future is. In “kdini” week local people think the dead souls come back to this world and stay till Saturday of “khortsieli” week. They are met in their families by table laid for them. The family members go round the table with fire three times from left to right, light a candle and drink in memory of their dead. In Saturday of “khortsieli” week the souls leave this world. After them come devils and goblins, which people see off with fire-lit arrows. “khortsieli” week is followed by “kvelieri” week. On Saturday of “kvelieri” week “kaltgoroba” ritual is arranged. To get hold of ritual “kotri” girls and boys fight with one another. The year will be lucky for those who win. After that they run after one another and throw mud. No one should be left without mud, neither grown-ups nor children. After “kvelieri” week there starts a seven-week fast, which ends in Easter Christian celebrations called “akhvseba” by Tushetians. It should be mentioned that three weeks of “markhvashemois” and Lent with its prohibitions, days off, ceremonies of ousting of demons, purifying, and fighting with one another have much in common with a cycle of old oriental new year “akidu” – re-creation of the world and a mystery of time’s annual renewal.

Khargav - (“otsoba” –“ twenty weeks”)

On march 25 by julian calendar, after twenty weeks pass from giorgoba, “otsoba” starts on Annunciation day. That day there start spring works. “otsoba” is a day of turning from winter to summer. That day shows whether the year is lucky or unlucky, so a number of magic rules and rituals are performed. People never leave house in the morning without eating a piece of bread. That day they take cattle to pastures and with a rope tie on the tails wooden beads made of Tursa (uzani tree) brought from the forest without speaking to anyone. They are sure this will protect their cattle from an evil eye. That day people take out bull-plow and conduct “ugheldebis” ritual. They take ritual bread, candles and church wine. They make one furrow and stop, put lighted candles on the horns of both bulls and say a prayer with a glass of booze. Then they break the ritual bread on the yoke, give one half to one bull and the other half to the other bull, say toasts for victory and eat remaining ritual bread. Next day there start spring works.