Since ancient times, various magical and mythical qualities have been attributed to salt in different cultures. However, salt had a dual nature. Sometimes it was considered a symbol of life and happiness, and sometimes it was associated with death and suffering. Salt is a mineral without which life would stop. Too much salt could be fatal. Salt was the white gold of the ancient world and was considered a treasure everywhere. All the customs and traditions that have survived to this day show how important salt is in the lives of Armenians.
Bread and salt
According to an ancient Armenian tradition, guests were welcomed with bread and salt. Bread was considered sacred and salt had a sanctifying property. The Armenians referred to inhospitable and ungrateful people as “people without bread and salt”. Faithful and close friends were called “friends who share bread and salt together”. From ancient times to the present day, this dish has occupied a special place in Armenian cuisine and is considered a symbol of friendship and goodwill. People who shared bread and salt together became allies. Breaking this friendship was considered a sin. It was the same with the oath given on bread and salt – it was indestructible and had enormous power.
Salt and the goddess Anahit.
Salt has always been considered one of the most important minerals. There are many sayings and myths about salt. For example, in Armenian mythology, salt was a gift from the goddess Anahit. The salt cult was closely associated with fertility. Salt was an inseparable part of the goddess Anahit, and together they were condescending mother and child.
The ancient Armenians sprinkled salt on newborns. Also, there was the custom to purify a person or a house from evil spirits with salt. Salt was a sacred seasoning and was kept in special salt cellars in different colonies of Armenia. These utensils were mostly made of clay and wood, in the shape of people and animals. The most popular salt cellars were in the shape of women and were associated with the cult of the goddess Anahit.
These salt cellars mostly represented pregnant women. They were associated with fertility and continuity of life. In the past, such dishes were kept in the most important corner of the house – in a baking room called tonratun.
Salt in Armenian fairy tales. Salt and fairy tales
Salt has found its unique expression in Armenian fairy tales. In one of the old folk tales, when the king asks his daughters how much they love him, the little sister replies, “Even the best food for me does not taste good without salt; I love you as much as salt.” This expression makes the king very angry. He tells the girl that if she loves him as much as salt, then salt is what she will get. He gives her a bag of salt and tells her to leave the house. At the end of the tale, the younger girl manages to convince the king how important salt is.
In another fairy tale, the hero had to guard the immortal apple tree all night. He injured his finger and sprinkled salt on it to stay awake all night because of severe pain.
There are also episodes where the hero, who is running away from the beast, sprinkles salt behind him, and mountains appear in these places and help the hero escape from the beast.
Of course, in these tales, salt is not used for its intended purpose. Here it fulfills a cult function. Salt is considered the taste of life. When salt is not enough, everything around loses its meaning.
The Salt Road
In the Middle Ages, in countries where there was not enough salt, one kilogram was equal to one kilogram of gold. Salt was considered an expensive and profitable commercial item.
In the territory of the Armenian Highlands, since ancient times, salt mines were used in Koghb, Nakhchivan and Kaghzvan. Turuberan, Vaspurakan and Aghdznik provinces were also rich in salt mines. The Salt route found in medieval sources was connected to the Koghb mine. Unlike the Silk Road, this route did not cross the territory of Armenia, but started from here, spreading to neighboring countries
This road was frequented until the beginning of the 20th century. The village of Koghb was famous for its salt reserves. It was located in the province of Chakatk in Greater Armenia. The village is located at the foot of Bardogh or Koghbasar mountain. Starting from the village of Koghb, the salt road entered Kharbeklu or Yervandashat through the Araks river, then, along the left bank of the Akhuryan valley, extended in the direction of Bayandur-Alexandropol-Shishtapa-Gorelovka-Bogdanovka. The extension of the salt road had two branches: one extended to Tsalka and Tbilisi, the other to Javakhk and Kutaisi. In the 19th century, more than eighty thousand tons of rock salt were transported along this route to different parts of the Caucasus.
Salt also had healing properties. This explains the old habit of covering the baby’s body with salt. In the past, babies were trained in this way to prepare them for the difficulties of life.
One of the manifestations of the healing properties of salt is speleotherapy, which is widespread in the world, including Armenia.
In 1987, the first caving center was opened in Armenia. Just being indoors can help to overcome a number of diseases.
To this day, when Armenians set the table, the first thing they put on it is salt, which symbolizes its importance and vital significance in Armenian life. Salt in the life of Armenians is an element that will never lose its importance and strong properties.
From the FB pages of Kozibeyokian Hratch and Gayane Emizian
Article source: https://www.armgeo.am/en/armenian-salt/