- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
64

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH THE CAUCASUS TO THE VOLGA
64
Of great importance are the spirits (safa) of
forefathers, and the household spirit, the warden of
the hearth, who must be treated with special con
sideration. For him a ram is slam at stated times,
the blood being buried in the ground ; and for him
food is also set out from time to time, or for the
dead, often at certain spots in the forest. These are
ideas from the oldest times, even before heathen
dom, and are found among many peoples. They
are very like our own ideas about the good-man
(hauge-bonne), and to some extent the brownie. The
former is really the family’s founder, or the general
idea of all the dead forefathers, and for him good
food and Yuletide ale are set out under some tree
sacred to him; and drink may also be poured out
for him on the hearth.
Among the Ossetes as among the Georgian
mountain tribes—the Khevsurs, Pshavs, Tushes,
Shvans (Svanetians), and others—it is in holy
groves that the tribes gather for the worship of God
and at sacred festivals. These groves consist of
various kinds of leafy trees, and are usually found
in spots which otherwise are clear of forest. They
are evidently often old heathen places of sacrifice,
and in them the tribes have their holy places—altar
and churches. At the festivals animals are sacrificed
and the blood is smeared on the altar and on the
people ; beer is brewed, and great quantities of it
are drunk, together with spirits, while the sacrificial
animals are eaten. Women are forbidden, even at
the festivals, to go into these groves, or to touch
the holy trees. In some places there are groups of

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