The people swear by the hearth-fire just as also by the sun. Fire was and still is the most potent means of driving the evil spirits away. The Eastern Armenian who will bathe in the night scares away the malignant occupants of the lake or pool  by casting a fire-brand into it, and the man who is harassed by an obstinate demon has no more powerful means of getting rid of him than to strike fire out of a flint. Through the sparks that the latter apparently contains, it has become, along with iron (2), an important weapon against the powers of darkness. Not only evil spirits but also diseases, often ascribed to demoniac influences, can not endure the sight of fire, but must flee before this mighty deity. In Armenian there are two words for fire. One is hur (3), a cognate of the Greek pur, and the other krak, probably derived, like the other Armenian word jrag, "candle," "light," from the Persian cirag ( also cirah, carag). Hur was more common in ancient Armenian, but we find also krak as far back as the Armenian literature reaches. While Vahagn is unmistakably a male deity, we find that the fire as a deity was female, like Hestia or Vesta. This was also true of the Scythian fire-god whom Herodotus calls Hestia. On the contrary the Vedic Agni and the Avestic Atar were masculine.
The worship of fire took among the Armenians a two-fold aspect. There was first the hearth-worship. This seems to have been closely associated with ancestor spirits (4), which naturally flocked around the center and symbol of the home-life. It is the lips of this earthen and sunken fireplace which the young bride reverently kisses with the groom, as she enters her new home for the first time. And it is around it that they piously circle three times. A brand from this fire will be taken when any member of the family goes forth to found a new home. Abeghian, from whose excellent work on the popular beliefs of the Armenians we have culled some of this material, says that certain villages have also their communal hearth, that of the founder of the village, etc., which receives something like general reverence, and often, in cases of marriage and baptism, is a substitute for a church when there is none at hand. Ethnologists who hold that the development  of the family is later than that of the community would naturally regard the communal fire as prior in order and importance.
A very marked remnant of hearth and ancestor worship is found in special ceremonies like cleaning the house thoroughly and burning candles and incense, which takes place everywhere on Saturdays.
The second aspect of fire-worship in Armenia is the public one. It is true that the Persian Atrushans (fire-temples or enclosures) found little favor in both heathen and Christian Armenia, and that fire, as such, does not seem to have attained a place in the rank of the main deities. Nevertheless, there was a public fire-worship, whether originally attached to a communal hearth or not. It went back sometimes to a Persian frobag or farnbag (Arm. hurbak) fire, and in fact we have several references to a Persian or Persianized fire-altar in Bagavan, the town of the gods (5). Moreover, there can be little doubt that Armenians joined the Persians in paying worship to the famous seven fire-springs of Baku in their old province of Phaitakaran. But usually the Armenian worship of the fire possessed a native character.
The following testimonies seem to describe some phases of this widely spread and deeply rooted national cult.
In the hagiography called the "Coming of the Rhipsimean Virgins" (6) wrongly ascribed to Moses of Chorene, we read that on the top of Mount Palat (?) there was a house of Aramazd and Astghik (Venus), and on a lower peak, to the southeast, there was "a house of fire, of insatiable fire, the god of incessant combustion." At the foot of the mountain, moreover, there was a mighty spring. The place was called Buth. "They burnt the Sister Fire and the Brother Spring."
Elsewhere we read, in like manner: "Because they called the fire sister, and the spring brother, they did not throw the ashes away, but they wiped them with the tears of the brother (7).  Lazare of Pharpe, a writer of the fifth century (8), speaking of an onslaught of the Christian Armenians on the sacred fire, which the Persians were endeavoring to introduce into Armenia, says: "They took the fire and carried it into the water as into the bosom of her brother, according to the saying of the false teachers of the Persians." The latter part of his statement, however, is mistaken. So far as we know, the Persians did not cast the sacred fire into the water, but allowed the ashes to be heaped in the fire enclosure. When the floating island (sea-monster) upon which Keresaspa had unwittingly kindled a fire, sank and the fire fell into the water, this was accounted to him a great sin. The above was rather a purely Armenian rite. It would seem that it was a part of the Armenian worship of the Sister Fire to extinguish her in the bosom of her loving brother, the water, a rite which certainly hides some nature myth, like the relation of the lightning to the rain, or like the birth of the fire out of the stalk in the heavenly sea. Whatever the real meaning of this procedure was, the ashes of the sacred fire imparted to the water with which they were "wiped" healing virtue. Even now in Armenia, for example, in Agn and Diarbekir the sick are given this potent medicine to drink which consists of the flaky ashes of oak-fire mixed with water. W. Caland reports the same custom of the ancient Letts in his article on the Pre-Christian Death and Burial Rites of the Baltic People (9). As the oak in the European world is the tree sacred to the god of the heavens and the storm, we may easily perceive what underlies the ancient custom.
But it is not clear whether the Armenians (like many Western nations) had several fire-festivals in the year. We have, however, the survival of an indubitable fire-festival--which originally aimed at influencing the activity of the rain-god--in the annual bonfire kindled everywhere by Armenians at Candlemas, or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, on the  13th of February, in the courts of the churches. The fuel often consists of stalks, straw, and thistles, which are kindled from a candle of the altar (10). The bonfire is usually repeated on the streets, in the house-yards, or on the flat roofs. The people divine the future crops through the direction of the flames and smoke. They leap over it (as a lustration?) and circle around it. Sometimes also they have music and a dance. The ashes are often carried to the fields to promote their fertility. It is perhaps not entirely without significance that this festival falls within the month of Mehekan (consecrated to Mihr), as the Armenian Mithra had distinctly become a fire-god (11). Another fire-festival, rather locally observed, will be mentioned in the next chapter.
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