The origins of Vardavar of Archaic Armenia high in the mountains

In archaic Armenia, the kite – a symbol of lightning that fertilized the Earth – was venerated. Powerful discharges of particles, accompanied by thunder and lightning, were seen as the divine act of insemination from the heavens.

The legend of the opened skies gave birth to a tradition associated with the New Year (August 11). This ritual reenactment of a blessed rain during the heat of summer was originally accompanied by a ceremony of mass water dousing and the release of a vishap – a serpent embodying the water element.

Hoping for prompt rainfall, the people performed a dance incantation. This holiday was among the most popular in pagan Armenia and was called Vardavar. The ritual was likely widespread throughout the Middle East region.

Notably, the term “Vardavar” was discovered in the Hittite lexicon, and its translation – “spill water” – is of interest. Upon the adoption of Christianity, the festival was adapted to align with the day of the Transfiguration (the 14th Sunday after Easter).

The roots of Vardavar not only reach back into the millennia, but they also originate high in the mountains. On the slopes of Serpent Mountain, one can find a petroglyph of a kite that is over five thousand years old.

Vigen Avetisyan

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