The Story of a Dove That Saved Lives – Sisian, Armenia

The Story of a Dove

There is an unusual monument to a dove in the town of Sisian in the south of Armenia. On a small square, there is a stone wall with forty small fountains. A large serpent is carved beneath them, and a girl is standing on a high pedestal in front of the wall. This monument has been erected by the grateful residents of the town.

How it happened – An episode from the life of the village that became a legend

At the time, the weather wasn’t rich in precipitation – little snow fell in winter, it rained rarer than usual in spring, and the summer was hot and arid without a single drop of rain in two months.

The rivers were shallow. The peasants were worried – the crops were dying in the fields, the sun had burned all the grass, and the villagers were afraid that they would not be able to feed their livestock. Instead of a cool breeze from the mountains, a sultry wind blew. Rain was vital.

The elders remembered their childhood and how their grandfathers performed a rite that caused rain. The method that has been tested for centuries was this – you needed to sacrifice a ram on a sacrificial stone.

They decided not to hesitate and begin the rite. The boys went to the yards, and the peasants gave whatever products they could – grain, flour, eggs, cheese, and dried beans.

The collected products were sold on the market and the money then spent on buying a ram. Early the next day, the whole village dressed up as for a holiday and with songs and dances headed to the sacrificial stone.

The most experienced cooks carried large pots. The housewife of each family took lavash and a bowl for the sacrificial meat. The path to the sacrificial stone was difficult – the stone was high in the mountains, at a spot where a mountain river originated.

The sacrificial stone was considered sacred. From under the stone beat a spring. This water was crystal clear, cold, and tasty. And although the route was long, people walked with a good mood, hoping that nature would take pity, a rain would begin, and that the fields would quench their thirst.

The villagers reached the cliff with its large and comfortable flat surface. Further to the stone ascended those who were the hardiest. On the flat surface of the cliff, boys and girls formed a circle and led a dance, accompanied by music played by musicians. In the meantime, men were building a fire, while women were bringing water from the spring.

Near the sacrificial stone, the men slaughtered the ram and said the necessary words, raising their request to heaven. Having finished, they descended from the stone and joined their fellow villagers.

They gave the meat to the women and kindled the fire. After washing the meat, women cut it into portions and placed it in the largest pot that they had with them.

Then, men placed the pot with the meat on the fire. In the meantime, young people were having fun, singing, dancing, and playing different games. Many took the opportunity to know each other better – the village guys were looking for brides. The children played, the others talked, watching the youth.

Suddenly, a white dove flew in from somewhere and landed on the branch of a nearby tree. It seemed that it was watching the villagers.

“Enough time has passed,” one of the cooks said and lifted the lid of the pot. The dove suddenly began to circle above the cooks. Women did not pay any attention to it at first. The cooks turned the meat over, and the smell of tasty boiled meat emanated from the pot.

“We should sample it,” one of the cooks said, and the other tried to get a piece of meat from the depths of the pot with a ladle. At that very moment, something incredible happened – the dove swiftly descended towards the pot, leaving the cook barely any time for putting the lid down.

The cooks tried to drive the dove away from the pot, but it continued to stubbornly circle over them. It seemed that the dove was ready to fall into the pot.

“What’s happening?” the villagers roared. People got flustered. The sounds of music fell silent. Everyone gathered around the fire.

“Move away from the fire!” commanded the oldest and most respected of the villagers, “Let’s watch the behavior of the bird.”

As soon as people moved away from the fire, the bird calmed down and returned to its spot on the tree branch.

“See, the bird is worried when we approach the fire!” someone exclaimed.

“More precisely, when we try to get meat out of the pot,” noted the elder. There was tense silence – everyone was waiting for what this respected person would say.

“We are all hungry and very much hoped to eat sacrificial meat because it is the most delicious,” the old man said slowly and sighed heavily, “But the behavior of this divine bird is alarming, it is not by chance. It may well be that it warns us about something serious. You must obey my decision.”

“Yes, of course, we believe you,” said the men.

“Take a bucket of water,” the elder ordered one of the men, “And put out the fire.” The man quickly executed the order.

“Remove the lid from the pot.” This order was also carried out.

“Pick up the pot.” The pot was picked up.

“Turn it over and dump the contents onto the ground.” The murmur of discontent passed through the crowd, but the men carried out this order as well. Pieces of meat fell to the ground. Finally, a serpent coiled into a ring fell out from the pot. The snake was large and, judging by its color, poisonous.

“Ah!” an exclamation came out of everyone, “How did the snake manage to crawl and settle in the pot?” people wondered.

All this time, the dove sat quietly on its branch. Everyone looked up at her involuntarily.

“Our savior!” enthusiastically exclaimed one of the women.

“Let’s not make any guess on how the snake got into the pot. It is necessary to bury this meat somewhere out of harm’s way so that a person, a beast, or a bird doesn’t get poisoned accidentally,” the elder said, “As far as possible from the stream, dig a pit and bury it all.”

The men immediately got down to business. One of the women crumbled the lavash that she had brought with her and approach the tree with the dove. “Eat, little dove, our savior!” The woman stretched out her palms full of lavash crumbs.

The villagers returned home, discussing the incident. Everyone was sure that the white dove appeared for a reason.

“Holy is the place, and the dove flew in to warn us!”

In the evening, the men gathered near the house of the elder and talked for a long time about the unusual behavior of the dove and about the dying harvest. No one wanted to go home. All looked hopefully at the sky, where clouds began to gather.

That same night, the saving rain began. People, from young to old, ran out of their homes, happily bouncing and jumping in the rain.

“Heaven heard us,” the old man said, smiling.

Karin Andreas

Armenia, Sisian, monument to the dove/. Karin Andreas personal archive

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