On the materials of the collections by Komitas and Mihran Toumajan


Hripsime V. Pikichyan-Candidate of Sciences in History
The article discusses the ceremonies described and notated in the collections of Komitas and Mihran Toumajan, Komitas’s adherent. Songs and dances, performed at the ceremony of decorating of the groom (the so-called Takvoragovk, Թագվորագովք, praising of the king), and the bride (the so-called Tsakhkots, Ծաղկոց) that includes bathing, henna ceremony, dressing, headdress, greeting, visiting the shrine, dowry praising and introducing the bride into the community, and subsequent farewell to the parental home and crossing the threshold. They are combined with musical, poetic and dance texts that are indispensable components of the wedding ceremony. It is to be singled out that like other rites passages, these ritual sequences begin with ritual purification. They end with the introducing the newlyweds to the higher cosmic forces/to the Most High and to the community.

The ritual events associated with the transformation of the groom and the bride are repeated and affirmed at the three main levels of the wedding ceremony with certain modifications. The first represents the introduction of the newlyweds to the community after the decorating, praising and greeting in order to gain the community’s blessing. The second is the church wedding ceremony while symbolizing the introduction of the king and the queen to the Creator, to receipt His blessing. The third takes place at dawn, when the newlyweds appear before the rising Sun to receipt its blessing.

At the semantic, symbolic, musical and poetic levels of the Tagvoragovk – the king – the first man – the cosmic tree – the cosmogonic order is emphasized. Meanwhile, in the ceremony of Tsakhkots such interpretation is not as definite. Accordingly, the ceremony of initiation of the groom-king involves the largest number of participants: all family members, male and female relatives, and proxi could participate at various ceremonies. As for the ceremonies associated with the bride, they were more limited; heterogeneity and a large number of participants are unusual for them (the participants are the godfather’s wife, the governess, the priest’s wife, and the female friends). The participation of men was prohibited, with the exception of the henna ceremony.

The cosmogonic roots of the rituals symbolizing the transfiguration of the bride and the groom mark various allegories and concepts found in their musical and poetic texts, associated with the interrelations between the cosmic models and elements (the sun and the moon and the stars, the day and the night, floral and fruit symbols/codes). This is also true regarding the distinctive topics of those ceremonies, as well as the characteristic question and answer structure resembling that of riddles (songs performed during shaving, dressing, the erection of the wedding tree, as well as describing the participants of the ceremony) and the performance style (a group-soloist dialogue). In the praising of the groom recorded by both Komitas and Toumajan, the influence of certain formal structures characteristic of epic and sacred songs is noticeable. This influence is available in “man – professional musical culture” interconnection, along with “woman – folk song – nature” associations which correlates with the existing in traditional culture ideas about the functions and roles of men and women.

One of the components of the traditional wedding in different provinces of historical Armenia was the visiting ancestor’s graves by the groom-king, the groomsmen, the godfather, the priest, and the musicians. In this way, the worship ancestors (existing in the traditional Armenian culture) was reaffirmed along with the idea of patrilineal continuity of the household. Meanwhile, the visit of the bride-queen and her female friends to the nearest sanctuary must be regarded within the context of the traditional approach to a woman’s role and her responsibility in maintaining the Christian life in the new family.

It may be stated that the rituals of the transfiguration of the groom-king and the bride-queen recorded by Komitas and Toumajan are very valuable not only in the terms of documenting and analyzing of the Armenian musical heritage, but also as a model, which demonstrates the function and the role of a man and a woman in traditional culture and in the mythological perception of the creation of the world.