Ritual Dolls of Abkhazians

Since ancient times, in different nations there were ceremonial dolls and talisman dolls. During Abkhazian ceremony “Dzioua” (“Dzioua” is the name of the deity), which was conducted for rainmaking, a doll played a role of sacrifice offered to the deity of water Dzioua.

Many scholars and travelers wrote about this rite. N.Janashvili in his work “Abkhazia and Abkhazians” in 1894 described this ceremony as follows: “During the severe summer drought all rural girls in their best clothes come together near the river. After getting into three groups, they prepare a float made from twigs, lay some straw, make a doll and dress it in woman clothes. When all these preparations are finished, they bring a donkey, cover it with a white sheet, put the doll on it and go to a place where the float is waiting; the rest of the girls go on both sides of the procession singing a special song. After reaching the river, they take the doll, put it on the float, light the straw and let the float down the river…”

However, Vsevolod Miller, who visited Abkhazia in 1907, marked some changes in the carrying out of this rite. He wrote that this rite now became a child’s game: children, mostly girls, make a doll, bring it to the river and drown it.

Abkhazians also had a ritual doll, which treated a person who got “in power” of the deity of the earth, which was expressed in common weakness. If a person lost the use of his or her legs, they said that the earth did not let him or her and performed a special ritual. In 2003, in the village Achandara I recorded one variant of this ritual. For the healing of the patient on a clean part of the estate, which was rarely visited by people and cattle, they organized a praying called “For the Queen of the Earth.” They invited a prayer, who should be a “clean” woman who baked great churek (pie) with cheese made ​​from corn flour. Then she referred to the “Queen of the Earth” asking for healing and release of the patient. For this ritual, they made from hazelnut rods a life-size doll, dressed her in a bright dress and buried instead of the patient. At a time when the doll was taking for burial ceremony the prayer started crying, imitating a funeral crying, and the relatives of the patient took him away and he should not look back. It is believed that after this ceremony, the patient would get much better.

Currently Abkhazians as before, perform their Rainmaking rite. On a hot summer day women and children come together, make a doll in the form of shovel and dress it in bright clothes. Then they take it to the river and drown. At the same time they refer to the deity of water with the song “Dzioua, Dzioua. Daughter of our master wants to drink. We give her for some water. We won’t give her for less but give her for much water.” However, there are other versions of this song.

Rainmaking rite is being committed every year in many villages of Abkhazia and to this day. For example, Tsargush family from the village Achandara annually conducts this ceremony. Mostly women are involved in it. They refer to the deity of water with the song and throw a “dzioua” doll into the water. And more often than not, in the evening of the ceremony day the weather changes and the long-awaited rains come.

Diana Akhba,
Specially for “Abaza Country”

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