Customs and ceremonies of Chechens

Nokhchalla is an ability to build the relations with people, without showing the superiority at all, having even been in a privileged position. On the contrary, in such situation it is necessary to be especially courteous and friendly not to wound anybody’s self-esteem. So, being on horseback has to the first greet pedestrian. If the pedestrian is more senior than the rider, the rider surely has to descend from a horse. Nokhchalla is a friendship for the rest of life, in days of grief and in days of pleasure. Friendship for the mountaineer – concept sacred. The carelessness or discourtesy in relation to the brother will say goodbye, but in relation to the friend – never!

Nokhchalla is a special honoring of the woman. Emphasizing respect for the relatives, the man descends from a horse directly at entry into the village where they live. Here a parable about the mountaineer who asked on a lodging for the night for the house on the suburb of the village once, without knowing that the hostess was at home one. She could not refuse to the guest, fed, put him to bed. Next morning the guest understood that in the house there is no owner, and the woman sat all night long in a lobby at the lit lamp. Washing hurriedly, it incidentally touched the hostess’s hand with a little finger. Leaving the house, the guest a dagger chopped off this finger. So only the man who is brought up in the spirit of a nokhchall can protect honor of the woman.

Nokhchalla is a rejection of any coercion. The Chechen since ancient times since boyish years was brought up by the defender, the soldier. The most ancient type of the Chechen greeting which remained and nowadays, – “Come free!” The internal feeling of freedom, readiness to defend it is a nokhchalla.

At the same time the nokhchalla obliges the Chechen to show respect for any person. And the respect of subjects bigger, than is farther than people on relationship, belief or an origin. In the people speak: the offense which you caused the Muslim can be forgiven because the meeting in the Doomsday is possible. The offense caused to the person of other belief because such meeting will never be does not say goodbye.

Nochkhalla is what the Chechen voluntarily follows to. In this concept – a formula of what has to be the real Chechen.

The pre-Islamic folk customs connected with holidays of an agricultural calendar

Rain ceremony

The peasant always lives cares of a harvest. Therefore a drought – his enemy. On an ancient Chechen belief, a well-tried remedy against a drought – a snake. It is known that snakes creep out especially willingly in rainy days, from here and there was a belief in their communication with desired heavenly moisture. To cause a rain, Chechens killed and suspended snakes. In national representations also the crow therefore to cause a rain, it was necessary to destroy carrion crows a nest was considered as the messenger of bad weather. Among the known ancient Chechen ceremonies there is a rain prizyvaniye – propakhivany beds of the dried-up small river. This ceremony was executed separately by women and men. Men gathered in the yard of the successful and esteemed in the village person, were put to a plow and dragged it up and down beds of the small river. At the same time all diligently poured over each other water. Women, having come to the small river, two-three times dragged a plow on its bottom, at the same time fell in water and poured over each other, and also tried to push off to the small river of the passing men. Then women, “plowing the river”, went on the village, and presented them with money or products. The pagan sense of sacrifice was made by a ceremony of a prizyvaniye of a rain at which the teenager was dressed up as a sheaf of a green grass. It was driven on streets of the village by crowd of youth in the sheepskin coats turned inside out. At the same time all had fun as it was not visible who is hidden under a grass. Masked too almost saw nothing as the head it was closed by the elder branches which are hanging down to the earth, either a hemp sheaf, or the bag with openings for eyes covered with a grass. Was considered that the throwing of stones to the river accompanied with reading a prayer also helps to cause a rain. The water which washed stones will begin to flow to the sea and will return a rain from there. Usually man’s part of the population participated in mountain Chechnya in this ceremony. Old men led by the mullah prayed, and the youth collected stones naked children. Stones were put about the competent inhabitants able to read the Koran who whispered over them a prayer, and then put them aside. After that the youth dumped stones in water. Sometimes these stones were put in a sack and lowered in water. Upon termination of a ceremony cut sacrificial animals and arranged the general meal.

Thunderer’s holiday Cela

On an ancient pre-Islamic national Chechen legend, at creation of the world fire was only in one center, and an owner of this center was god Cela. Once the thief made the way to him to steal fire. Having become angry, Cela threw into him a brand from which pieces of coal fell to the ground. And if not these pieces of coal, the earth would remain forever cold. Esteeming powerful god, Chechens began to call lightnings – a torch Cela, and a rainbow – onions Cela. His name was called month May, its day of week – Wednesday. This day it was forbidden to give from a home to someone even one piece of coal, it was impossible to throw out ashes also. In the territory of Chechnya ruins of the temples and sanctuaries devoted to god Cela remained. Far ancestors of modern Chechens validly called this god “pious Cela”, “light, sensitive Cela”, “god of stars, a lightning and fire”. In those days the person who died of a lightning stroke was very esteemed and buried in a crypt from a hewn stone in full arms and sitting. The place where it was killed with a lightning of people or an animal, was considered as sacred. The water brought from god’s sanctuary Cela was considered curative. Priests gave it to drink the patient on a spoon and treated this water of an eye. The Chechen national holiday in honor of the Thunderer Cela separate elements reminded a holiday of Christians in honor of Ilya prophet. For celebration one of environments of month Cela – during the period was taken away from May 22 to June 22. The holiday ceremony at a sanctuary included gifts to god Cela and prayers. Approximately such: “The sky often force to rattle. Force the sun it is salutary to heat. Spill a rain oil, grow seeded. Do not allow to blow to fast wind in the fall”. Other option of a prayer: “Cela, preserve people from troubles, harm, preserve our crops from a hail, a flood, yield to us a rich harvest”.

Holiday of the goddess Tusholi

The cult of the goddess Tusholi was widespread in an extreme antiquity. Tusholi is the goddess of spring, fertility and a child-bearing. The holiday in honor of the goddess took place on the last Sunday of the first month of spring. By this day the main messenger of spring – a bird a hoopoe arrived. Chechens called it “Tusholi’s chicken” and esteemed as a sacred bird. She could not be killed, unless only with the permission of the priest in the medical purposes. As a good sign was considered if the hoopoe builds a nest on an attic or somewhere in the yard. Dated the choice of brides for Tusholi’s holiday. The senior generation in every possible way promoted the marriages concluded this month, considering that they – the happiest. Esteeming Tusholi as the patroness of fertility and a chadorodiya of the woman asked the goddess:” Tusholi, give us the grace. Make so that not given rise gave birth to children, and been born leave in live. Send us a plentiful harvest, send a rain oil, the sun medicinal”. In the ancient time Tusholi’s holiday was connected with ceremonies which were carried out in sanctuaries where priests stored an idol of the goddess and a special banner. The staff for a banner was cut down only in a reserved grove where it was impossible to go without the permission of the priest and it was not allowed to cut trees and to graze cattle. People brought in a sanctuary in honor of a holiday gifts: cervine horns, bullets, wax candles. Gifts were consecrated by the priest dressed surely in white. During distribution in Chechnya of Islam the cult of the goddess Tusholi was officially forbidden. But Tusholi’s holiday remained as a national female and children’s holiday.

Plow exit holiday

The holiday of an exit of a plow took place in the fourth day of the Holiday of spring. He was marked out within two days. The first day was devoted to ritual plowing of the field and sowing. Traditional order of this day: zapryaganiye of oxen, farewell to the plowman, carrying out a ritual furrow, sowing, public meal, pleasure part. The plowman chosen for ritual had to conform to the following requirements strictly: to be “bearing abundance”, to be “an honest toiler”, to be “a person of an easy and happy hand”. Not everyone agreed to this honourable work, being afraid of charge of fellows villager in case of a crop failure. It is interesting that along with the listed qualities the plowman chosen for ritual had to possess also some other signs: for example, to be average completeness and hairy. Oxen for ritual plowing were specially decorated. Their neck and horns were oiled, cut wool around horns, drove in into them from a malefice copper plugs, on horns and a tail hung red ribbons. With water pailfuls (in advance having left the house) the plowman’s wife met the procession going to the field. And the participants of a ceremony who were coming back home were tried to be sprinkled surely water. It became as wishes of good weather and a plentiful harvest. For the second day of a holiday jumps and various competitions were arranged. It was accepted also that each family before the main plowed land and sowing suited the small victim – distribution to three houses of various products of a phytogenesis.

Holiday of spring

From an extreme antiquity Chechens dated the beginning of agricultural year for day of the vernal equinox – on March 22. This day was an important spring holiday. During preparation for it in economy directed special purity. Women carefully cleaned everything, washed, bleached the house from within and outside, cleaned the yards. All bronze and copper ware was rubbed to gloss and exposed to the yard, considering that red color of copper calls the sun. In a holiday everything, including babies, rose till the dawn and left to the yard, towards to a rising sun. This holiday assumed abundance of food for all. Orphans, lonely old men had to be fed not only house, but also. This day especially nourishingly fed cattle, on the street scattered grain for birds, on an attic and in all dark corners of the house threw crumbs. Was considered also that if to update clothes for a holiday, then it will help to go all year in new. Festive entertainments took place at the fires symbolizing the sun in the evening. Fires could be family or for all street and even for all village. They were kindled by young people, trying that the fire was more and more brightly. Through fires young men and adult men jumped, showing bravery and at the same time “being as if cleared” by fire.

New year

History of traditions of a New Year’s holiday goes back to an extreme antiquity. Then updating of fire in the center was important New Year’s ritual. On new fire all had to be welded and baked necessary for a holiday. One more ritual – laying of the long, not split log in the center. Length of a log determined holiday duration. In that house where the log, having burned through, was reduced to such sizes that it is possible to close a door behind it, the party with plentiful food, drink, dances, representations of clowns or actors began. As logs were shortened in all centers sooner or later, the holiday came to each house. New Year’s logs were prepared in advance: the tree, most often an oak, dried on a root. Use of fruit trees was considered as a great sin. Far ancestors of Chechens believed that the evil spirit therefore, being protected from it, displayed in sheds and premises as charms iron objects on New Year’s Eve becomes more active. The plentiful New Year’s table, on national representations, was a guarantee of wellbeing of a family in the coming year. For this purpose nourishingly fed on New Year’s Eve all live, up to mice. By a holiday baked hleba from wheat flour. Most important – big ritual bread – had the disk form with the radial lines going from the center. Besides, pies with various stuffing were concerned: for the senior in a family – a squared shape, for guests – round. In rich hleba put coins, grain grains, a wool piece on which guessed: who with what will be rich in new year. Also other fortune-telling was on New Year’s Eve accepted. For one of them specially chosen person went to a sanctuary. There it lay on a stomach all night long, having put an ear to the earth. Next morning this person interpreted that he heard. It is interesting that Russians have a similar guessing also. On the night of Christmas the Russian peasant goes on the intersection, draws a circle and drops an ear to the earth. If he “hears” noise of the loaded sledge, it by bumper-crop year if not loaded – to a crop failure. Unique ancient Chechen guessing – on a mutton shovel. When guessing looked at light through a shovel and on spots on a bone forecast a harvest, the weather and even family events (weddings, childbirth, a funeral). Similar to this guessing it is known in culture of Chinese. Night on New Year’s Eve was considered especially favorable for fortune-telling about a marriage. For one of them the girl baked three very salty small small loafs; put two of them under a pillow, and ate one. On a sign, future husband – the one who will pump to the girl in a dream water. On New Year’s Eve in the Chechen villages masked – young people or teenagers walked in fur coats inside out, in felt masks with horns or with the persons smeared with soot. Custom to ryaditsya and kolyadnichat, by the way, international – it remained in many countries of Europe and in America to this day. And here jumps in the third day of a New Year’s holiday were purely Chechen custom. Prizes relied the first three winner equestrians: a saddle horse, a saddle, a bridle and a lash or something from clothes. For modern Chechens the New Year’s holiday is not connected with a national agricultural calendar. It does not enter also Islamic tradition. On New Year’s Eve people just gather at a table to say goodbye with lived year and to meet new on which pin the dreams and hopes for the best.

Modern customs and traditions

Man’s etiquette

The main standards of behavior of the Chechen man are reflected by the concept “nokhchall” – see section 1. But for separate everyday situations there are also traditions and customs which developed for centuries. They found reflection in the Chechen proverbs and sayings how the owner, the husband, the father has to behave…

Not verbosity – “I do not know, is not present – one word; I know, saw – one thousand words”.

Slowness – “The fast rivulet did not reach the sea”.

Care in statements and in estimates of people – “A wound from a checker will begin to live, the wound from language – is not present”.

Consistency – “Fieriness – nonsense, patience – good breeding”.

Restraint – the main characteristic of the Chechen man practically in all that concerns his household chores. On custom, the man will not even smile to the wife at strangers, will not take at the child’s strangers on hands. He very avariciously speaks of advantages of the wife, children. At the same time has to watch strictly that on the wife no man’s affairs and duties – “The chicken who began to sing in a cock way fell, burst”. The Chechen as on especially great insult reacts to strong language, especially if the woman appears in a curse. It is connected with the fact that the biggest shame if the woman from a family afforded any relations with the foreign man. In the republic though it is rare, but there were mob killings cases over women for loose behavior. The concept of man’s beauty of Chechens includes the high growth, big shoulders and a breast, a slender waist, leanness, a clip.” You recognize by gait what it”, – say in the people. Special, sign loading is born by moustaches – “If you do not behave as the man, do not carry moustaches!” For those who carry moustaches three bans are applied to this strict formula: not to cry with a grief, not to laugh for pleasure, not to run away at any threat. Here so moustaches regulate behavior of the Chechen man! And one more. Tell that going to be given in captivity of the leader of the risen Shamil’s mountaineers the faithful associate several times called to him. But Shamil did not turn back. When then it was asked why he did not turn back, he answered that it would be shot. “Chechens do not shoot at a back”, – Shamil explained.

Special figures – 7 and 8

In one of the Chechen fairy tales it is told about the young man Sultan who was looking after the girl of exactly 8 years. The baby, on the Chechen customs, cannot show a mirror to eight-months age. In Vainakh version of the myth about Adam and Eve the first man and the woman dispersed in different directions to find to themselves couple; Eve told that on the way she passed through eight ridges. The Chechen tradition assumes knowledge the woman of eight generations of ancestors on maternal and on the fatherly line. The knowledge of seven ancestors is obligatory for the man. These examples show that with the woman Chechens associate figure 8, and with the man – figure 7. The seven consists, in essence, of units. The eight consisting of four two (differently – from couples) reflects motherhood, the principle of generation similar. Thus, the digital symbolics shows the special, prevailing place of the woman which came from an extreme antiquity in society in comparison with the man. Same also the known Chechen proverb emphasizes: “The man spoils – the family spoils, the woman will deteriorate – all people spoil”. Chechens attach special significance to heredity on the female line. So, expression “maternal language” is used when note worthy behavior of the person, and expression “maternal milk” – when condemn for an unseemly act. To this day the Chechen has the right to take himself the wife of any nationality, but the Chechen’s exit in marriage for an inoplemennik is not encouraged.

Mutual aid, mutual assistance

At a meeting each Chechen first of all will ask: “How houses? Whether all are live, healthy?” When parting it is considered the rule of a good form to ask: Whether “My help is necessary?” The custom of labor mutual aid originates in deep old times. In those days severe living conditions forced mountaineers to unite for agricultural works. Peasants communicated one rope to mow clean a grass on a steep slope of the mountain; all village won from mountains sites under crops. In any misfortune, especially if the family lost the supporter, the village undertook care of the victims. Men did not sit down to a table while the part of food was not carried to the house where there is no male supporter. The greeting of the young man to the senior on age surely includes the offer of the help. In the Chechen villages it is accepted if the elderly person begins any work on economy, neighborly to take part in it. And often the begun business is downloaded by volunteer assistants. The tradition of mutual support developed in the people responsiveness on foreign misfortune. If in the house a grief, then all neighbors open wide open gate, showing thereby that a grief of the neighbor – his grief. If in the village someone dies, all fellows villager will come to this house to express condolences, to give moral support and if it is necessary – and financial support. Funeral efforts at Chechens are completely undertaken by relatives and fellows villager. The person, some time being absent in the village, after arrival obtains full information on the events which took place without it including about misfortunes. And first of all after arrival he goes to express condolences. “The neighbor nearby is better, than relatives in the distance”, “Than to live without love human, it is better to die”, “The unity of the people – indestructible fortress”, says the Chechen wisdom.


According to a legend, the ancestor of Chechens Nokhchuo was born with a piece of iron – a symbol of military valor – in one hand and with a piece of cheese – a hospitality symbol – in another.” Where the guest does not come, also the grace “, ” the guest in the house – pleasure does not come there”… The set of sayings, legends, parables is devoted at Chechens to a sacred debt of hospitality. Hospitality in rural life is especially brightly shown. For reception of guests in each house there is “a room of the guest”, it always on call – pure, with a fresh bed. Nobody uses it, even children are forbidden to play or be engaged in this room. The owner has to be always ready to feed the guest therefore in any times in the Chechen family specially postponed products for this case. The first three days the guest should not be asked about anything. The guest lives in the house as the honorary member of a family. In old times as a sign of special respect the daughter or the daughter-in-law of the owner helped the guest to take off footwear, outerwear. Warm and generous welcome is accorded by owners to the guest at a table. One of the basic rules of the Chechen hospitality – protection of life, honor and property of the guest even if it is connected with risk for life. The guest should not offer payments for reception, but he can give gifts to children. Chechens followed custom of hospitality always. Also showed it to any kind person, irrespective of his national identity.

In the family circle

Attitude towards seniors.

The unshakable rule of each Chechen family is respect and care of the senior generation, especially about parents. Parents live together with one of sons. In the morning the good daughter-in-law begins the work on economy on a half of old men. Only after that it starts another matters. Sons, coming back home in the evening, first of all go to parents to talk to them, to share the pleasures, cares. Not only the son, the daughter, but also all family members show care of old men. The grandfather is called “the big father”, and the grandmother most often – “mother”. Children can not satisfy a request of the father or mother – will forgive them for it. But inadmissibly to disobey the grandfather, the grandmother, other senior relatives or neighbors. Not to rise at appearance of old men or to sit down without their persistent invitation – means to show ill-breeding. The tradition does not allow the use of alcoholic drinks in the presence of any senior relatives. It is impossible to talk to seniors the increased tone or to behave freely. If parents do not live with one of sons, then children are expressly attentive in relation to them: for example, the best products constantly belong to the house of parents. In rural areas, as a rule, for old men put a separate lodge in the yard. It is long custom. There create to seniors in a family the most comfortable conditions for life corresponding to their requirements and age.

Related duties.

The Chechen families are having many children. In one yard or in one village often there live with the families several brothers. Rules of related relationship developed throughout centuries. Here what they in a general view. In a family any conflicts of a situation are resolved by the senior man in the yard or the woman. Mother of children, if they were offended, never has to complain to the husband. As a last resort she can address the husband’s relative. As a rule, it is accepted not to pay attention to children’s offenses and quarrels. The Chechen children know that the uncle will readily respond to any their request and will help. It can refuse to the child, but without very serious reasons will never leave meek a request of children of the brothers and sisters. Responsibility for strengthening of family bonds is conferred on the senior generation. Parents have to support the atmosphere of a consent in families of sons. The special correctness is required in relation to the daughter-in-law. The father-in-law is obliged to be delicate in relation to wives of the sons: at their presence it is impossible to take alcoholic drinks, to quarrel, break the dress code taken in the Chechen family.

Honor of a family.

At Chechens it is accepted to charge merits and shortcomings of the person to all his family. The unseemly act will force many relatives “to turn black the person”, “to hang the head”. Speak about worthy behavior usually: “Another could not be expected from people of this family”. Chechens impart to the children quality “яхь” which matters healthy rivalry – in sense “to be best of all”.

Adat in modern Chechnya

Adat (from Arab “custom”) – usual (unwritten) laws of Muslims. Norms of an adat developed at the time of the tribal relations. The adat governed community life, the matrimonial relations. Said-Mahomed Hasiyev in article published in the newspaper for the Chechen diaspora “Daymekhkan аз” (“the Fatherland Voice”). C-M. Hasiyev writes: “There are adats ennobling the dignity of the person, helping it to become better. They are resisted by adats which Chechens call mountain and pagan (lamkersta). The main part of society does not adhere to them. There is an example connected with a national legend. Somehow Zelimkhan doomed met the woman captured by a grief on the mountain road. He asked that he happened.” Took away the baby from me”, – the woman answered. Zelimkhan was let on searches and soon saw two men who carried the child. Abrek long asked to return mother’s child, conjured God, ancestors, but is ineffectual. When it passed to threats, men cut the baby daggers. For it Zelimkhan killed them. On the Chechen adats it is impossible to raise a hand not only against the baby, but also against the minor teenager, against the woman, against the old man. They do not enter a revenge circle. However those who follow mountain and pagan adats can kill for revenge even the woman.

Attitude towards the woman

At Chechens female mother has the special public status. The man only the host, and it since ancient times is a hostess of fire, and the most terrible Chechen damnation – “that went out in your center a flame”. Only the woman can stop a duel of men because of blood feud. If where blood flows, there is a woman, deadly fight can stop. The woman can stop hostility, having removed a scarf from the head and having thrown it between battling. Once the deadly enemy touches a hem of any woman, the weapon directed to it will be removed in a sheath: now it under its protection. Having touched lips the woman’s breast, any automatically becomes her son. To stop quarrel, the woman allowed the children to take out a mirror to cut – it worked as a ban on civil strife. By tradition, the man, preserving the woman, always goes ahead of it. At this custom ancient roots: in old times on a narrow mountain track there could be very dangerous meetings – with the robber, a wild animal… The man went ahead of the woman, and was ready to protect her any minute. Chechens welcome women only standing. If by there passes an elderly woman, a debt of any person to rise and greet the first. Disrespect for mother and her relatives is considered a shame. For the son-in-law honoring of relatives of the wife is considered virtue for which god without court can send to paradise.

Wedding ceremony

The Chechen wedding ceremony is series of representations which enter singing, dance and music. When for the bride go and fellows villager, relatives bring her to the house of the groom, friends music sounds. At this stage of a wedding there are also other representations. So, for example, relatives of the bride detain the wedding train, partitioning off a way a felt cloak or the rope stretched through the street, – it is necessary to pay repayment to pass. Other pantomimes occur in the house of the groom. On a threshold of the house the felt carpet and a broom are in advance put. At an entrance the bride can step over them or clean from the road. If cleans, so she is clever; if steps, so it was not lucky the guy. And here the bride is put in an honourable corner at a window under a special wedding curtain, to it given on the child’s hands – someone’s son firstborn. This wish that she gave birth to sons. The bride caresses the child and gives him something as a gift. Guests come to a wedding with gifts. Women give matter cuts, rugs, sweets. Men – money or rams. Men surely hand a gift. Then the magnificent feast begins…. After an entertainment – again representation. To guests bring the bride from whom they ask waters. All tell something, joke, appearance of the girl, her task – not to get to talking in reply, discuss verbosity – an immodesty sign. The bride can only suggest guests to drink water and to wish all good health. For the third day one more representation will be organized. The bride with music and dancings is conducted to water. Attendants throw into flat cake water, then shoot them, after that the bride, having gathered waters, comes back home. It is an ancient ceremony which has to secure the young woman against water. It will go every day on water, and water allured already an entertainment and “killed”. This evening marriage registration is made. Also the groom participates in it entrusted the father of the bride. The mullah on behalf of the father agrees to the introduction of his daughter in marriage, and next day the bride becomes the young hostess of the house. On the Chechen custom, the groom should not be shown at own wedding. He does not participate in wedding games, and has fun in the company of friends at this time

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