Vol. 43 (2023)
Mythology. Ritual. Symbol

Considerations on the Svan Versions of Amiraniani

Mary Khukhunaishvili-Tsiklauri
Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Published 2023-12-14


  • Amirani,
  • Dali,
  • hunting,
  • tiger,
  • tail

How to Cite

Khukhunaishvili-Tsiklauri, M. (2023). Considerations on the Svan Versions of Amiraniani. Literary Researches, 43, 215–230. https://doi.org/10.62119/lr.43.2023.7764


Comparative analysis of the versions of the legend confirms that it is a quite complex epic story. there are not only many layers created and precipitated during the course of time, but the story from the beginning was created in the form of episodic legends and each of them even being relatively independent had the interconnection, where is indisputably presented the Georgian mythology.

Legend of Amirani is divided into three cycles: the birth of Amirani, his exploits and the punishment of Amirani. The motif of the birth of Amirani ought to be derived from the legend about hunting goddess Dali giving birth on the crag. The story of the parturient Dali underlay the round dance song which is one of the oldest Georgian (Svan)round dance songs together with
“Amirani’s Round Dance” or so called „Hunting”. The traces of Dali’s cult is found in Eastern Georgia,too. It must be noted that the name of ” God” or “Deity “is phonetically close to the name of the Georgian deity Dali among the nations living in the Northern Caucasus .Hence,we can suppose that at some time“ Dali” was the common Caucasian Goddess with higher rank and functions.

The results of the investigation of the versions of the Legend of Amirani we have carried out revealed the attempts of Patriarchy, Astral and Christian religions to diminish the role of Dali as of Amirani’s mother. The subject of our nvestigation are three Svan versions of the epos. The tale describes adventure of king Iva’s sons Visipi, badri and Chalam Kalami. While hunting they came
across the balled-up bull skin roaming like wind on the mountain, which they could not capture. King Iva told the sons that it was Angel’s son wrapped up in the ball that wanted to transform into a human being and advised them not to touch it as it could turn up badly. They ought to capture the bouncing skin-ball in a silk net (being apotrophaic to avert evil)which his godfather Christ God had given him, then to take it to Jordan spring and immerse it in the spring water. So they did, brought the skin at home, opened it and a child jumped out, glowing like a candle. He began leaping without stopping all night toward the ceiling. The next day he came down and sat down before the hearth. Christ God came, baptized the child and named him Amirani. King Iva declared Amirani his son. In one month Amirani matured. He noticed that the king was blind in one eye, he demanded to know the reason. Iva for testing Amiran’s bravery sends him to bring meat of giant grasshopper and honey of man-sized bees. Amirani defeated them with the help of tiger’s tail that he inherited from his mother after birth and brought meat and honey to the king. In world mythology grasshopper symbolizes abundance, fertility and longevity, honey is associated with divinity, is celestial meal, a life sap of the Sun. Iva names his enemy, Urad Dev, who took away his eye.

In Georgian traditions names of many pagan spirits or deities under the influence of Christian religion were changed into the name “Angel”, the same happened to Dali. So under the “Angel’s “child Dali’s child is meant. According to the versions dying goddess giving birth of prematurely born Amirani asked to wrap the child in the animal skin for ending his growth. Thus the child wrapped in the balled– up skin was Dali’s son.

From the versions of the legend among Amirani’s mythical weapons were known diamond or golden knife, short sword that he inherited from his mother or during christening was given to him by the Sun or the Christian Saint. In the world mythology sword, knife are attributes of the sky deities representing male solar symbols. Tiger’s tail as Amirani’s weapon and a tiger was unknown motif not only in the epos of Amirani but generally in the biography of Goddess of hunt Dali, that brings forward the necessity
of investigation of the history of the mythological origin of the Goddess. It must be noted that the ancient image of the master of beasts was zoomorphic having form of tiger, tur, bird or serpent. Later the zoomorphic image became anthropomorphic.

In the world mythology tiger was worshiped as a symbol of fertility, lord of the forest and protector of the people against demons. Tiger ‘s skin was a cloak of Bacchus and Dionysus, it was a sacred animal of Shiva. Tiger and dragon symbolized Earth and Heaven, tail meant power.

In Georgian traditions and legends, in hunting and ceremonial poetry there are kept totemistic beliefs on tiger. For Georgians tiger was a sacred animal and was great sin to kill it. Killed tiger was mourned and given a warrior’s funeral with armor and weapon placed by its body. In the versions of the famous hunting ballade “ The Young Man and the Tiger” are revealed mythological images of the tiger fighting against the young hunter with its tail and the Dalis (the community of deity Daly)waiting for taking the hunter’s
soul for killing their sacred animal.

Prof. K. Sikharulidze in her book on the Caucasian (Iberian –Caucasian) mythology discussing Dali’s problem, thinks that several Caucasian mythological characters (among them goddess Dali)and motifs are keeping in touch with the elements of the mytho-religion system of Asia Minor and supposedly are originated from there. Such is the image of Mother Goddess that was established in Asia Minor and spread from there over Aegean and Mediterranean seas and in the Caucasian cultures, too. It must be noted that
the cult of the Mother Goddess that embodied fertility developed after the transformation of totemism in the early agricultural society, when together with the Goddess appeared certain species of the animals in the epoch of the developed totemism having the function of the defender and the protector. The scientists as an example name the Mother Goddess of Catalhoyuk of
Anatolian Civilization (around 6000 B.C.). The sculptural figure depicts the Goddess seated on the throne and giving birth. She is accompanied by her sacred animals, two leopards from the both sides. If we share K. Sikharulidze‘s opinion Dali’s biography must be discussed in the same mytho-religion direction together with her sacred animal, tiger.