Regarding The Myth of "Abriskil"

The most significant Abkhaz Fold Literature is jointly represented in "NART" and "ABRISKIL" Tales.

Regarding The Myth of "Abriskil"

By Bagrat Shinkuba

The most significant Abkhaz Fold Literature is jointly represented in "NART" and "ABRISKIL" Tales.

The legend which emerged a long time ago and is about "Abriskil" who is known to have rebelled God Anchua and so punished, is known mostly in the Abjiwaa region of Abkhazia.

Even though Legend of Abriskil was first published in 1881 by I. Lihachov, the first noteworthy publication was in 1893 by Dirmit Gulya. Students of Institute of Abkhaz Language and Literature carried out considerable compilations. Although these compilations were very short and in bits, they have the perfection to reflect Abriskil's sufferings, troubles, goals and faiths, in short, his whole personality. In his book titled "Ahirchuachua", Bagrat Shinkuba, who prepared the final text said, "I have gathered all the variants. Among them, I combined the ones which were more orderly and more original and have the same style, and wrote "Abriskil" text. This text is neither more nor less than it should be. Only the best ones were gathered, similar ones were sorted, different ones were composed. Also, in order to produce a single text, I have used previously published texts beside my own compilations."

And Prof. Shalwa Inal-yipa, who carried out valuable studies about Abriskil, talks about the cave where Abriskil was chained; "The cave in Otap village, which is in Ochamchira region is called Abriskil cave. This cave is the biggest one in Caucasia and is two kilometers long. Above the cave, Mount Panayu can be seen. The little stream coming out of the cave is called Achwats, meaning "extracting horse dung". This water flows into the Duab River, and from there to Muk Water. In the cave, there are very beautiful stalactites arranged side by side. They are pointed and transparent as ice stalactites. As well as the wide flat places, there are 30-40 meters high walls inside. Also, many boneless small creatures have lived here for a long time.

In 1946, the trace of a bear which hasn't been seen for thousands of years was discovered. This trace is very important in terms of the ancient history of Abkhazia. Scientists say that people visit this cave since time immemorial and this place was once used as a shelter."

This cave, where Abriskil was chained, is called "Chilow". The word chilow means "place where there are horses", it also means "long cleavage" referring a cave.

In his book titled "Is Abkhaz Mythology Mature?", Abkhazolog Omer Buyuka who makes etymological analyses about Abriskil, Chilow and Promethe has made a fair compilation about the subject including what he has learned from people who came from Caucasia.

Also, there are rumors telling that in order to maintain the names of Achba and Low, which were the two famous dynastic family of Abkhazians, this place was called "Achba-Low" and in time these words transformed into "Ach-Low" and "Chilow".

In his book about Abkhaz Folk Literature written for university students, Associate Professor Sergey Zuhba makes evaluations comparing the Legend of Abriskil to Nart Epic. For him;

What is different with Abriskil compared to Narts is that, it isn't told with dance and songs. Abriskil is more recent than Narts. However, it was forgotten sooner. Yet, Abriskil is more human than Narts.

If Nart Sousruko tells the childhood of the humanity, Abriskil tells the youth. Abriskil is a political hero. In his time the equality was spoiled, dominant powers were emerged, they were believed to be the creations of supernatural events and gods, people who appear in animal dressings, hostile attacks from outside, raids, robberies, pillages began, moreover the giants who were the troublemakers of Narts still existed.

Abriskil is the hero of such an environment. Thus, he supports the folk and justice, he supports humans. However, the dominant powers who were considered to be above and their earthly messengers bother him. Some people and animals also support those above powers. However, Abriskil continues to be the friend of humans despite all these, he is a patriotic folk leader. He is in love with Abkhazia. He fights against everything that can harm his people, his nature. That's why he rebels against God Anchua. He almost competes with the God in order to win his people's confidence and to make them release their fears.

He doesn't have a personal desire. He doesn't have a big family, spouse and relatives as Narts. He only has his people and country. He is honest, kindhearted, benevolent, idealist, brave, diligent, dauntless, and does what he sets his mind on.

Abriskil symbolizes a period after Narts, the transition from matriarchal period to the patriarchal period. In Abriskil's time social classes emerged. God is the utmost power. However, Narts didn't have these formations. The pattern of the hero's being born in a divine manner, that is with "nashana" is specific to Narts. According to the scientific findings, the stories containing this pattern belong to the patriarchal age. Giants are always powerful but witless and they are defeated by intelligent and good men. Rash horses which fly and speak are devoted friends of their owners and share the same fate with their heroes. Abriskil also has a wand called "Labasha" and it is also a congenial companion just like the horse Rash. In Narts, old women are wise and guiding, but in Abriskil, they are witches.

That Abriskil is an enemy of Eshba (in some texts Ashuba) and Kachuba is not personal. He is also an enemy of people who are red headed and have blue eyes. He considers them inauspicious and drives them away.

Instead of personal desires and attitudes seen in Narts, we see social consideration and struggle in Abriskil. Abriskil's text doesn't state that God is the enemy of humans. Here God seems the enemy of Abriskil, who doesn't respect him, competes with him and tries to humiliate him. Anchua, the most powerful God of that time cannot easily capture and kill Abriskil and assigns this task to his agents. And they capture Abriskil by getting help of an old witch and trapping him but instead of killing, they chain him in a cave.

The folk who created the legend reflects Abriskil this way in their fantasies. They love and praise him because of his good deeds for people. However, they don't like his becoming arrogant and boastful in time. Especially they don't like his competing with God. That Abriskil was chained in the cave and tortured probably reflects those feelings of the people.

Some researches find chaining of Abriskil very pessimistic. On the contrary, Abriskil continues to struggle even when he was chained in the cave. His resistance reinforces the folk's struggle for independence. That's why they say "Abriskil is not dead". The resistance of the hero becomes a symbol for the people's liberation. People begin to live again without losing their hopes, with optimism and enthusiasm.

Promethe, which resembles Abriskil most among the stories containing the pattern of rebelling God, catches one's eye as the "Bravest, the most suffering but the most sacred" one. Within this context, it is not inaccurate to call Abriskil as Abkhazian Promethe.

Ancient writers like Apollon of Rhodes, Strabon, Flyostrat and Flavi Arryan wrote that Caucasians had heroes like Promethe for a long time. Flavi Arryan indicates a high hill near Dioskuria (Sokhum) city of Kolkhidians and says that they represent the Caucasian Mountains that Promethe was linked. In his tragedy called "Chained Promethe", Eshil writes that Promethe was chained on the Caucasian Mountains.

There are various views about Promethe's being Caucasian in the scientific world. Some of them write that the Promethe pattern comes to Caucasia from ancient Greece, others says that the legend of Promethe was initially born in Caucasia, then moved to Greece. Some of them say Promethe already existed in ancient Greece and these should be considered separately.

One way or another, the legend of Abriskil is a very original Abkhaz legend made a lot of scientists busy. That is the Abriskil portrait people keep alive in their hearts and minds. The people who told this portrait from father to son for hundreds of years now evaluates it in a modern view.

Abkhazians have had a family name called "Abriskil" since time immemorial and it still exists.

Source: Bagrat Shinkuba, Abriskil

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