The (Orthodox) Christian Circassians celebrate Saint George’s Day (Даущджэрджий и махуэ) on 6 May. Saint George is the patron saint of the Circassian Orthodox Christians. Circassian folklore has preserved vestiges of the veneration of Saint George and the associated rites and rituals. The Circassians of Mozdok, who are mostly Christian, still mark his feast day.
Saint George, the Saviour of the Fair Damsel
Dawischjerjiy, Awishijer, Awischjerjiy (Даущджэрджий, Аушыджэр, Аущджэрджий) was the God of courage and bravery in the Circassian Pantheon during the Christian era in Circassia. He is the Circassian version of Saint George, later identified with Jesus Christ.
Dawischjerjiy was also the “Patron of the Hunt”. Prayer songs of the hunt were addressed to the patrons of the activity, namely (the pagan) Mezithe (Мэзытхьэ) and (the Christian) Dawischjerjiy (Saint George). The pagan-Christian duality in Circassian folklore shows itself most vividly in the musical lore. In fact, the penetration of Christianity into the Circassian ethos goes much deeper than mere “scissors placed crosswise on the chest of the deceased”. The rituals of veneration of Saint George (as a patron of the hunt) survived well into the 19th century in Circassia.
The theme of Saint George rescuing the damsel in distress is common to the medieval legends of the Circassians, Georgians, English, Ossetians, and other peoples. Saint George is considered to be the patron saint of both the Georgians and English, and the Circassians during the Christian era. It is known that there had been active interactions between the Circassian and Georgian civilizations throughout the ages.
Listen to “The Song of the Hunt: The Song of Saint George” («ДАУЩДЖЭРДЖИЙ И УЭРЭД»; [“Dawischjerjiy yi Wered”]). The words are presented in both (Kabardian) Circassian and English. This is mediæval Kabardian. The prayer-chant is addressed to Saint George (V. H. Bereghwn and Z. P’. Qardenghwsch’, 1980, pp. 70-7; includes the music sheet). This is perhaps one of the earliest surviving musical compositions glorifying Saint George as the saviour of the “damsel in distress”.
It is roughly 1,400 years old, from the time when the Circassians were first Christianized by the Georgians. It seems that the theme of the evil Dragon had not been fully developed by that time. It is amazing how the Circassians have managed to preserve many aspects of their culture and heritage despite their calamitous history, especially in the 19th century.