Tag Archives: Armenian

First Tooth Party—Armenian

Agra Hadig

Tooth Wheat

First Tooth Party

Agra Hadig is a party that celebrates a baby’s first tooth. Mary had one when she got her first tooth as well. She told me that the “wheat” of “hadig” denotes a special food that is made with boiled wheat, cinnamon, dried cranberries, and roasted walnuts. Another popular feature of this event is when the baby is set on a table and “they just put random things around it, to see what it picks up.” This is their way of predicting the baby’s future, and according to Mary, it works. “I picked up a pen, and I like to write,” said the communication major, “and my sister chose the money, and it came true, because—it’s not that she likes money—but she really likes to save money.” Sometimes, the adults will ritualistically tear the baby’s shirt. This is done so that all the rest of the baby’s teeth will come out easily and without pain.

I believe this tradition may have occurred because the historical Armenians might have been wary of enthusiastically celebrating and embracing a new baby until it was somewhat certain that it was healthy and will survive reasonably long. I believe this, because Agra Hadig seems to so closely resemble other traditions of other cultures in which they also delay the celebration of a baby’s life until after a certain point. Koreans hold a huge celebration for a baby’s 100th day—it was thought that if a baby could make it past 100 days, it has a good chance of living on. I’ve also heard of Eastern European peoples who set that date on a baby’s 40th day. The Armenians, then, seem to have thought that the growth of the first tooth is a sign of health.

The ritual of discerning the baby’s disposition by watching it choose from a number of symbolic objects is also done in the Korean 100th day celebration. I would say that this is a show of hope and enthusiasm for the baby’s long life lying ahead. ‘Now that we know this baby is healthy,’ they seem to be thinking, ‘let us speculate a bit about its future!’

About its reliability as a divination method—it seems to work upon the assumption that people’s lifelong personality and dispositions are inherent and static from birth. It also seems to suggest that humans have an almost instinctual, perhaps unconscious understanding of the meaning of the symbolic objects. That a born writer can somehow sense the significance of a pen the day he is born—or the day his tooth is born. There is also a hint of determinism, that idea that the destiny of a person is already somewhat determined before they realize it. I do not know much about Armenian thought, but I must say I would not be surprised if they had some belief in these things—destiny and static personality.

Another thought I must add. I wonder if conditioning does not play some part in this. According to my mother, I, too picked a pen, and my brother picked money. Though she is not blatantly superstitious, she does not seem to altogether dismiss belief either. I often would hear her say, “and you see? You’ll be an intellectual, but you can’t save a dollar—not like your brother. He is too impatient to study, but he hoards every penny.” Well, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard her say something like this to us much before we were old enough to actually reveal a scholarly disposition versus a financial flair. I also have to wonder if I had picked the money, and my brother, the pen, would not my mother be saying instead, “and you see? You love to spend your money—but your brother is always impatient to learn more!”

I would wager to guess that constant reinforcement and conditioning by the parent with specific expectations plays no small role in the occasional (and dubious) accuracy of this particular version of the personality test.


Annotation: Dresser, N. (1999). Multicultural Celerations: Today’s Rules of Ettiquette for Life’s Special Occasions. University of Virginia: Three Rivers Press, pg. 55

Protective Eye Amulet-Armenian

Wearing an ‘eye’ as a means of protection against harm, jealousy, and ill-will

Protective Eye Amulet

Right after baptism, some Armenian babies are clothed in all white, with a blue eye pinned to their clothes. Adults will wear it as well, as it is supposed to act as a protective “mirror” that reflects curses and evil back at its source and away from its wearer. According to Mary, the powers of the eye will be greatest if it is a gift from someone else—“that’s much more effective than if you just get one for yourself” she said. Mary showed me her eye, which she always pins to her bra. I was not able to get a picture of it, but it looked very similar to the one in this photograph (Mary spoke of the eye only in terms of pins or brooches, however, and did not mention necklaces). Mary’s brilliant blue eye was set in a golden plate. She said hers was very strong because it was a gift from her mother. She told me that because there is no one who cares more for one’s welfare than one’s mother, an eye from one’s mother is the strongest kind. Mary learned of this from her mother and her grandmother, but told me that many Armenians believe this. She also added that it was not at all a matter of religion.

When I heard of this, saw the gorgeous pin, and watched my friend explain to me the power of her pin with unwavering conviction, I was intrigued—it was not only until much later when I did some research that I found out just how widespread and thoroughly studied a tradition this was, known as the evil eye. Mary, however, did not mention to me that she believed in any people who could cast the evil eye (a belief that seems to resemble the Azande’s ideas of magic)—instead, she seemed to believe that her eye was meant to ward off general negative energy and evil influences. She used the word devil a lot, but said “it doesn’t have to mean the real devil, but just, you know, evil.”

It was also an interesting detail that she believed that the effectiveness of the amulet increases depending on who gave it to her, and on the degree of sincerity with which it was given. To me, this is a very interesting, almost modern, twist on this ancient superstition. It is almost implies an “it is the thought that counts” attitude. It is an idea that suggests that the power lies not so much within the eye-resembling object itself, but within the love of a mother or sincere friend. This, to me, suggests influence by contemporary metaphysical thinking.


Annotations:

Elworthy, F. T. (2004). The Evil Eye: The Classic Account of an Ancient Superstition. Courier

Dover Publications.

Dundes, A. (1981). The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook. Garland Pub.