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THERE WAS A TIME WHEN TREES SPOKE...
Deities associated with sacred forests transformed and evolved according to different historical eras.
It is believed that the main original forest deity was Mezguasche (Forest-lady). Mezguasche is alleged to have originated during the matriarchal age amongst the Circassians, and she was responsible for the forest and fauna. Additionally, she was in charge for the growth of edible herbs and fruits. As the goddess of animals and fauna, she was also the patroness of hunt. A chant dedicated to Mezguasche, was recited to entreat her powers to call upon rain to water the plants. Although her name translates to the forest lady, it is speculated that she may have been also the moon lady or goddess, as she may have been also known as Mazaguasche (Moon Lady), which may confirm her linkage to the matriarchal era (Mizhaev, M. Pashti, M. 2012, p.205, 206).
The ancient ‘T’ is a symbol but not an object of worship, and that upper horizontal line symbolizes the high divine level, which is everywhere and above everything, and the vertical line symbolizes the world.
Mezithe (Forest-god), the god of forest and hunting patron of wild animal, appeared after Mezguacshe, and he was responsible for the process of hunt in the forest. Hunt was solely controlled by Mezithe, and no hunt was successful without his knowledge. He was depicted sitting on boar with two horns emerging out of his head. Sacrifice offerings were conducted for Mezithe and he was also known as T-hamedezh (Mizhaev, M. Pashti, M. 2012, p. 209-211).
Xadeguasche (Garden Lady) was the goddess of gardens and fields. A special ceremony was conducted for Xadeguasche known as Neghish-he Tih during early spring. The ritual involved the gathering of young men and girls to collect flowers and gift each other. It symbolized a new season and resurrection of the world (Mizhaev, M. Pashti, M. 2012, p.329).
Ax’in was also a main associate in the sacred forest. A patron of cattle and deity of special worship. There are theories to the origin of his name; one theory suggests that it originated from ancient Roman designation to the Black Sea region, Pontos Euxeinos. Ax’in was highly venerated, and was depicted seated on one of the cattle holding a long stick, and he also had animalistic features such as his feet resembled that of a cow’s hooves. At times he was depicted as a human, and other times as an animal. The Kabardian tribes described Ax’in as a human, but a very fearful looking one. The animalistic depiction is evidently the original ancient one, and it gradually shifted into a human. According to the Shapsigh, he was able to cross Tuapse River in one leap, and slept for one week and worked for another week, and that he had so much cattle that it covered a whole plain. A ritual conducted for Ax’in was held in autumn. It entailed a family taking one of the cattle out, and placing a round cheese on one horn and a round bread loaf on the other. The chosen cattle is let loose and would walk with the people along a path known as Cheml’rqwe the ‘Cow’s Route’. On this path the crowd would walk intermittently, stopping at certain points to perform a certain task. Sacrifice at one site, graze the sacrifice on the next site, cook and boil the sacrifice meat on the fourth site, and finally eat at a different location. The mass would gather around the sacred tree and perform the ritualistic Wdzh dance and chant to T-hepsch. On the day of Ax’in, a cow would voluntarily walk towards the sacred tree, and that particular cow was believed to be chosen by Ax’in to be sacrificed (Mizhaev, M. Pashti, M. 2012, p. 79-82).
Zaina’s collage art focuses on assembling many worlds into one, usually led by a protagonist; she focuses on mixing world cultures, architecture, motifs, archaeology, arts and nature into a single portrait.
Tree veneration is the essence of the Circassian way of life and Circassiansm, and it was the turning point which transformed the primitive human, into one with understanding and appreciation towards nature and his relation to it.
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