Tag Archives: Armenian

Armenian Proverb About Reputation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian (but grew up in Lebanon)
Age: 54
Occupation: Driver
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: February 14, 2020
Primary Language: Armenian
Other Language(s): Arabic, Turkish, English, and Spanish

հոգի գնա, ոչ թե անունը

Transliteration: hogi gna, voch’ t’e anuny

Translation: The soul can rise, but the name stays.

Better to die than to have your image/name tarnished.

Background Information: Armenian proverb used by Armenians around the world.

Context: I was told this proverb by the informant when I was interviewing him about his culture. I was specifically interested in learning about Armenian proverbs because of the wide use of them in the Armenian culture.

Thoughts: I think that this proverb definitely provides a glimpse into the Armenian culture. It shows how paramount image can be in Armenian society. It would be better for your soul to leave your body than to have a bad reputation. I think it is interesting to note the matter of fact quality of this proverb. It lacks much use of figurative speech and is very straightforward about its motive/meaning.

Armenian Legend of Akhtamar

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Ախթամար

Transliteration: Akhtamar

Translation: Oh Tamar

Description by Informant:

There was an Armenian Princess named Tamar who lived at Lake Van which is a historic lake in Armenia. She was in love with a common man (a peasant). According to legend, the guy would swim from the island to mainland to see Princess Tamar. Tamar would hold a light for him so he could see as he swam in the lake to come see her. One day her father finds out and follows her. As she was holding the light, her father approached her and smashed the light. Therefore, leaving the man in the middle of the lake without any light and direction to swim. Legend says that he died in the lake crying “Akhtamar, Akhtamar!” (Oh, Tamar Oh Tamar!). Those words can be heard to this day at night at the lake. The island was later renamed Akhtamar.

Background Information: This is a famous legend in Armenia, especially near the city of Akhtamar. The legend is kept alive through memorates by people who allege that they have heard the words Akhtamar near the lake.

Context: The informant told me about this legend during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian legend that she knows about.

Thoughts: Legends are often told as a way to tell us what to believe. The island of Akhtamar is no longer a part of Armenia as it has been occupied by Turkey. I think this legend is used as a reminder that this land was once Armenia’s and that in a sense it still is to this day because you can “hear” the remnants of the past through the commoner’s voice crying for his love Tamar.

Armenian Pomegranate Symbol

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Նուռ

Transliteration: Noor

Translation: Pomegranate

Description: In Armenian mythology, pomegranates symbolize fertility and good fortune and the guarding of the evil eye. At a wedding, a bride throws a pomegranate and breaks it into pieces. The scattered seeds symbolize that the bride will bear children. Also it is believed that women who want to have a son, should eat bread made from dough made with pomegranate seeds.

Background Information: This is a very popular symbol/tradition in Armenia. The pomegranate has become a symbol for Armenia. If you ever visit Armenia, you would find pomegranate symbolism every where you turn.

Context: The informant told me about this symbol during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition/folk symbols that she knows about.

Thoughts: I think that fertility and good fortune is very valued in Armenian culture. After the attempted genocide by Turkey, it has become very important for Armenians to repopulate and keep the Armenian culture alive and strong. I think the use of the pomegranate was done as a way to remind Armenians about their heritage, strength, and ability to persevere.

Armenian Sacrificial Ritual

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 54
Occupation: Driver
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: February 14, 2020
Primary Language: Armenian
Other Language(s): Arabic, Turkish, English, and Spanish

Name of Ritual : Matakh (մաթախ)

Description: The Ritual involves the sacrifice of a goat or a cow. They use the blood from the sacrifice to put a cross on a child or a person who has gone through a difficult ordeal. The blood needs to stay on for one day. After the sacrifice, they must cook the meat and distribute it to 7 houses.

Background: The informant is of Armenian Lebanese descent and has lived in America since their adolescent years. They say that this ritual is very common among Armenian communities around the world. This is usually done if someone has struggled with a harrowing ordeal such as cancer, an accident, or family death. This is done as a way to be thankful for surviving the ordeal and somewhat asking for better times and continued peace. The informant says that this ritual has origins in Paganism although they couldn’t elaborate more on that topic due to lack of knowledge on it.

Context: The informant told me this during a conversation about folklore at dinner.

Thoughts: I definitely can relate to this piece because I am also of Armenian descent and I myself have took part in Matakhs. It is definitely a sacred ritual that is done during very hard times. This is done among families and is very personal. I think it is interesting that this ritual has a pagan origin. I did not know much about its origin and would not have attributed it to paganism because Armenians are very devout Christians. I think this shows how Pagan rituals have carried onto Christian traditions.

Traditional Armenian Dish

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian Armenian
Age: 27
Occupation: Artist
Residence: Pasadena
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/4/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian

Պասուց Տոլմա

Transliteration: Pasus Tolma

Translation: Lent’s Stuffed cabbage

Description: Pasus Tolma is a popular Armenian dish which is a lent classic meal that most Armenians eat not only for lent but also year round. Pasus Tolma can be see seen on the table’s of any Armenian gatherings such as birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other gatherings, but it is the most popular dish before Easter when people are on the lent diet. Pasus Tolma is cabbage leaves stuffed with beans, lentil’s, garbanzo beans and bulgar. Best served cold.

Background Information: Pasus Tolma is a popular traditional Armenian dish prepared primarily for lent but can be served at many different gatherings.

Context: The informant told me about this dish during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian traditional recipe that she knows about.

Thoughts: As an Armenian I am also aware of this dish and have participated in its consumption during lent. The name Pasus Tolma literally translates as a Lent version of Tolma which is a popular Armenian dish that is comprised of cabbage leaves stuffed with meat. I understand why this dish would be used in lent as Georgian Christians do not eat meat during lent so they had to make a vegetarian version of the popular dish Tolma. This is a folk religious tradition/recipe because it is not an official meal for lent. It was made by the people as a way to find something to eat during lent. It is also folklore because of its multiplicity and variation. Some versions use rice instead of bulgar and other iterations have different legumes instead of garbanzo beans and lentils.

Armenian Superstition About Newborn Babies

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian Armenian
Age: 27
Occupation: Artist
Residence: Pasadena
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/4/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Explanation: Armenians have some superstitious custom not to show or introduce a newborn baby to friends, neighbors, or extended families for the first 40 days. It is believed that this is done for the safety and medical precaution for the baby, but it can also be done to protect the baby from the evil eye/ evil spirits.

Background Information: Widely popular Armenian custom for newborn babies. Almost every Armenian follows this precaution when they have a baby.

Context: The informant told me about this custom during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition/custom that she knows about.

Thoughts: As an Armenian myself, I have observed this custom being practiced in my own family when a member has had a baby. I think it is done to make sure that the baby is safe and healthy. Im sure it was done in the past because of the high infant mortality rate in the Armenian villages due to disease and malnutrition. This has translated to modern day even though, the chances of disease and malnurtrition in babies is much lower than before. I think the health of babies is so crucial for Armenians because of how important it is for them to continue on the Armenian culture/ heritage due to the Turkish attempt at genocide against Armenians in the early 20th century.

Armenian Proverb About a Fox

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian Armenian
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/3/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Երբ աղվեսը չի կարողանում հասնել խաղողի, աղվեսը ասում է, որ դեռ հասունացած չէ

Transliteration: Yerb aghvesy ch’i karoghanum hasnel khaghoghi, aghvesy asum e, vor derr hasunats’ats ch’e

Translation: When the fox cannot reach the grape, the fox says that the grape is not ripe yet.

Explanation: When some people cannot reach their goals, they would always make excuses to justify why they haven’t.

Background Information: Popular Armenian proverb usually used by Armenians in Armenia.

Context: The informant told me about this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian proverb that she knows about.

Thoughts: I think this proverb shows that Armenians value hard workers and do not believe in making excuses as to why you have not succeeded in your dreams and goals. I believe that a fox was used in this proverb because of the fox being a symbol of trickery and slyness. I think the fox is used to show that by making excuses you are trying to get away with not having to work hard and being able to actualize your aspirations.

Armenian Tradition on Saint Sarkis Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Armenian, Russian

Explanation: Saint Sarkis day is celebrated on January 11th every year. St. Sarkis is believed to be the warrior patron of love and youth. There is a tradition where it is believed that an Armenian girl who is single should eat a homemade extremely salty cookie on St. Sarkis day. The saltiness of the cookie will make them very thirsty but they should not drink water so that when they go to sleep thirsty they will have a dream where a man will bring them water. In the dream, the guy who gives her a glass of water will be her future husband.

Background Information: Armenian tradition practiced on St. Sarkis day by young Armenian girls who want to see who their husbands will be.

Context: The informant told me about this proverb during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition that she knows about.

Thoughts: I believe that as the patron saint of love and youth, a good way to celebrate St. Sarkis Day is to incorporate love and youth into the holiday. I think this tradition also shows the importance and pressure that is put on Armenian women to be marriage minded. It could have roots in misogyny as there is no salty cookie for males to eat and see their future wives. I believe that this is done because women have always been expected to be submissive, strive for marriage and children, and to put other aspirations to the side. I think that this idea has changed a lot in the Armenian community, but traditions like these give a glimpse into what society was like a long time ago.

Armenian Vardavar Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Վարդավառ

Transliteration: Vardavar

Translation: Flaming Rose

Description: Annual festival that Armenians celebrate on July 8th. Name literally means to sprinkle with water and the flaming of the rose. The legend comes from goddess of love named Astghik who spread love across Armenia by sprinkling rose water across the land. The god Vaghan is the person who defends love against evil. After the adoption of christianity this tradition was recognized as Vardavar where everyone in the neighborhood, streets, parks, etc splash water on each other. Anyone in the neighborhood is fair game.

Background Information: This is a very popular holiday/festival in Armenia that is celebrated by everyone in Armenia ranging from little children to elderly. It is a community affair.

Context: The informant told me about this festival during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian tradition/holiday that she knows about.

Thoughts: This holiday seems to have roots in pagan traditions but has managed to carry on to present day. I think this holiday does a great job at showing the spirit of the Armenian people and brings a joyous part of the year that many look forward to. I believe that through all that the Armenian people have gone through, Vardavar is a testament to the strength of Armenia’s culture and heritage.

Armenian Proverb about Judgement

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Russian Armenian
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/3/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Մի՛ հաշվեք շնորհալի ձիու ատամները

Transliteration: Mi՛ hashvek’ shnorhali dziu atamnery

Translation: Don’t count the teeth of a horse that is gifted

Explanation: Do not judge gifts you recieve by it’s price, quality, brand, etc. Just appreciate that someone was nice.

Background Information: Common Armenian proverb used across the diaspora.

Context: The informant told me about this proverb during a video call in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian proverb that she knows about.

Thoughts: I think this proverb is trying to say that you should not judge people or objects based on how nice you think they are. You should just appreciate without expecting greatness. I think this can show that Armenians think that materialism is not important and should not be used to judge the worth of a person.