Letters home from Georgia

Winter 2006

Letter II, 23 January 2006

Greetings once again from Georgia -- Paata, Berucha and I, accompanied by our friend Nino C'erediani, just returned from the Upper Svanetian village of Lat'al. We spent five days with Nino's family during Lipanal, the Festival of the Dead Souls. At this time, each household plays host to the souls of their ancestors, and prepares a series of banquets in their honor. Here are a few pictures from Lat'al, mostly from the first night of Lipanal (18 Jan.), when the family elder goes to the graveyard to invite the souls home for several days of feasting. Fortunately, the souls don't eat very much, and there were tons of leftovers.
Enjoy the pictures, and keep those research dollars coming!


PS Some of you may already have about the pipeline explosion that has interrupted the flow of gas from Russia to Georgia. So far -- fingers crossed -- the heat & power have not been cut off, and efforts are underway, we are told, to obtain fuel from Azerbaijan & Iran. Compared to the chilly weather in Svaneti (about -10 C at night), Tbilisi is rather balmy, staying a few degrees above or below freezing.

0. Nino, Paata & your unworthy servant in front of Matsxwar Church, where Nino's ancestors are buried.

1. Our host Dato C'erediani (Nino's father) in the stable shared with his cousin Siko's family

2. The invitation of the souls took place at Dato's father's gravesite. The bowl contains home-brewed apple vodka, bread and a lit candle.

3. After Dato invited the souls to come home with him, he poured a libation on the grave and drank a shot of vodka. Then he invited Paata & me to do the same.

4. While we were at the churchyard, Dato's wife & daughters set out a banquet for the souls. The first night's feast consists of Lenten food (no animal products used). After we returned from the cemetery, beeswax candles were affixed to the plates, bread loaves, jars of vodka, etc.

5. Dato poured a few drops from each jar and bottle onto the floor.

6. Dato and daughter Maiko turned each plate of food counterclockwise, to show that it is available for consumption by the souls.

7. On the third night, Dato was joined by his cousin Sik'o

8. Our hostess Valia

9. The neighboring village of Lenjer. As in Lat'al and the Svan villages further up the valley, each household or kingroup has its own defense tower (most were built 5-6 centuries ago).

10. An unusual 14th-c. fresco on an outside wall of the Lashtxwer church in Lenjer, depicting a scene from the popular medieval ballad of Amiran. Amiran is shown slaying the horned ogre Baq'baq'-dev.



retour en haut / back to top