Tag Archives: Armenia

Bread In Armenia

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Performance:

AD: “This one time, I didn’t know this, but this one time, I like grabbed some lavash and I threw it into the trash, like really hard after dinner because it was like moldy and old. And I was like being stupid, and joking around with it, so I was like “PHEW!” and it landed in the trash and my mom gasped and my sisters gasped at me, and I felt… weird, and I felt like everyone was looking at me and that was because the bread… I was not supposed to do that with bread. Since it is very sacred in Armenian homes, especially lavash, uhm, you are supposed to treat them with respect because if you do not it is… a sign of like, disrespect, uhm, bad fortune, and like not caring about the things that are provided to you.”

M: “Is this bread specifically?”

AD: “Yes, bread specifically, like lavash bread, and like, like hats bread.”

M: “Why do you think it’s specifically bread?”

AD: “Because bread is so like common in Armenian tradition, and like most other cultural traditions, it is like the staple food that people eat when there is like no other food. It’s like, it is sacred in a way.”

M: “Ok, can you tell me about some of those kinds of breads you mentioned?”

AD: “Uhm, lavash bread is like the Armenian national bread, it is like a flat bread, that like, it is made by elder women in villages, in like a big pit that they have. Usually outside, in like a yard or a small hut or something, where they press the bread flat against the wall, and then cook it and eat it that way. And then there’s like hats, which is just regular bread. But there’s like specific kinds of hats, like matnakash, which is like bread where the dough has been, had a finger pulled through it, like a finger pulls through the dough, like a cooks finger, and it makes perforations in the bread. Yeah, that’s how you make it.”

Thoughts:

I think it is interesting and actually very important that it is bread specifically that is held to this sacred standard in Armenia. Sure, other foods may be more difficult to produce or cost more, but by holding the most basic and one of the most easily accessible food items to such esteem, it ensures that a family is thankful for even the smallest of things when it comes to putting food on the table and it seems to be to be a very good-natured and humbling tradition in this way.

Grogh – Armenian Pagan Spirit and Curse Word

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Performance:

AD: “There’s this thing in Armenian that it’s like a pretty common curse that people will say, like my mom says it a lot when she gets angry and stuff, uhm, or like… uhm like y’know something bad happens or whatever. It’s “grogh”, right? And there’s different ways to say it, there’s like “groghi tsotsu” or “groghu kez tani”. Uhm, so “grogh” means “writer”, so when you say that word you are refferring to an old pagan Armenian spirit, the Grogh, who was like a scribe that I think traditionally uh, had the names of people who would ever be born and who were going to die, like their lifespans in a book, so he was a symbol of death right? And he would take people when they died. He was basically an Armenian pagan form of the grim reaper. Uhm, so when people say “grogh” or “groghu kez tani”, that means “let the scribe take you” or “groghi tsotsu” that means “in the arms of the scribe”. So yeah.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

AD: “It’s strange. Like I guess, I dunno, it’s like a common word, it’s like the equivalent of being like “damn”, but it’s like so specific, and like it’s not like “grogh” is also not used in vernacular, it also just means “writer”, like it’s a common word, so it’s strange that it also is a curse.”

Thoughts:

I think that this word “grogh” is very similar to the English “damn” in many ways. It’s used in pretty much the same contexts, with the use of the word singularly being often an expression of frustration, or with more words being added to transform it into an insult such as “groghu kez tani” meaning “let the scribe take you” being very similar to the English “damn you to hell”. I think that the etymology of the word itself, originating as the name of a spirit or deity in Armenian paganism and over time becoming a word that simply means “writer” makes sense when compared with other examples of words with similar etymological origins, such as “atlas”, which now just refers to a map but once referred to the titan that held up the sky. 

Trndez – Armenian Festival/Holiday

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Performance:

AD: “There’s like this holiday in Armenia called “Trndez” and it’s celebrated usually around Valentine’s Day, I think it’s on Valentine’s Day actually, uhm, and like… It involves people jumping over fires, and I’m not exactly sure what the origins of this are, it’s definitely like, pagan, but how it goes is that everyone jumps over the fire… Like a small fire, in a pit that you make, uhm and one by one people will like dance around the fire and then jump over it. And couples go together, a lot of people will go single. It’s still a very common practice, it’s pretty much embraced within the church… which is interesting, like it’s pretty common as a religious event.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

AD: “I think it’s really nice. I think it’s one of the coolest things we have. Like, in terms of cultural holidays, I dunno, there’s something fun about it, it’s very like spontaneous-feeling, there’s a lot of energy to that holiday in particular.”

Thoughts:

Jumping over a fire is actually a pretty common tradition present in a number of cultural holidays. For example, in Iran, it marks the start of a new year, with the fire being seen as cleansing or purifying. Interestingly, a search for articles on these types of rituals or holidays primarily returns articles like this one [here], about large numbers of burn injuries as a result of such practices. 

Johari HG, Mohammadi AA. Burns 2010; 36(4): 585-6; author reply 586.

“Bhaghnikt Anush Lini” – Armenian Saying

Informant’s Background:

My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Context:

The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.

Translation:

  • Original Script: Բաղնիքտ անուշ լինի:
  • Transliteration: “Bhaghnikt Anush Lini”
  • Translation: “Have a fresh shower” or “Have a sweet shower”

Performance:

AD: “So there’s thing that’s like pretty common in like Armenian families that like my parents don’t really do that often but sometimes it happens. So there’s this thing in Armenian culture where after a shower you-or before a shower they will say like “Bhaghnikt Anush Lini” which means like… Uhm, it’s like a blessing for the shower, like they’re blessing the water from, like, the bathroom so that you have a nice fresh shower.”

M: “Where do you think it originated from?”

AD: “Uhm, probably like pagan beliefs that have just like carried over, over the years in like y’know the sanctity of water and stuff in Armenian culture, and in most cultures. It’s probably just a carry-over from those years.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

AD: ” It’s, uhm, a very common saying, and I don’t think I’ve heard any other saying that’s quite like it, so that’s interesting. It’s a way of giving thanks, and like, asking for good fortune, right? I think that’s very nice.”

Thoughts:

I don’t really feel I have much to say about this one. It seems to fit in well with some of the other traditions I’ve collected from this informant, as it seems that based on my collection many Armenian traditions are based around giving thanks for “small” things, such as bread in a previous article of mine, so this fits very nicely in with that category of traditions.

Katch Nazar

Context: This tale was performed in the apartment of the informant to an audience of 3 people.

Background: This tale was told to the informant by her father, who is Armenian.

“There is like this old dude in an Armenian village who calls himself, “Katch Nazar” Katch meaning Ferocious, or Strong. Nazar being his name. He says that he has killed 1000 beings. People are confused, and they ask how he, an old man, could have killed 1000 beings? He replies that he felt itchy in his sleep, and reveals that the 1000 beings which he killed were flies, not people.”

This joke shows uses wordplay to set up, and then defy the audience’s expectations by playing with the meaning of the word Katch.