Cosmogony, Death, and Eschatology
Whether the early Armenians had a distinct cosmogony or not we find that in the Zoroastrian stage of their religion, they held the world and all that is therein to be the work of Aramazd, who, by Agathangelos, is plainly called the creator of heaven and earth. The invisible world for them was thickly populated with occult powers, gods, angels (Hreshtak, from the Persian firishtak, "messenger"), spirits, demons and demoniac monsters of many kinds. Human life, its events and end, were predestined either by divine decrees (Hraman,  Pers. Farman) which were unchangeable and unerring, or through their mysterious connection with stars, constellations, and the zodiacal signs. We do not know positively, but it is very likely, that the stars were thought to be the fravashi (double, the external soul or self) of human beings. In modern folklore whenever a shooting star drops, a human being dies. In a word, the old Armenians were thorough-going fatalists. This view of life was so deeply rooted, and proved so pernicious in its effects, that the early Christian writers strenuously endeavored to destroy it by arguments both theological and praetical.
Man was composed of a body (marmin) and a soul (hogi or shunch, "breath," GXXX). Uru, the Iranian urva, may have originally been used also in the sense of soul, but it finally came to mean a phantom or a ghostly appearance. Ghosts were called uruakan, i.e., ghostly creatures. That these spirits received a certain kind of worship is undeniably attested by the old word uruapast, "ghost-worshippers," applied by Agathangelos to the heathen Armenians. The linguistic evidence shows that originally the soul was nothing more than "breath," although this conception was gradually modified into something more personal and substantial. It was never called a "shade," but in Christian times it was closely associated with light, a view which has a Zoroastrian tinge. Death was the separation or rather extraction of the soul--a more or less subtile material--from the body, through the mouth. This has always been conceived as a painful process, perhaps owing to the belief that the soul is spread through the whole body. The "soul-taking" angel and the "writer" (2) are nowadays the principal actors in this last and greatest tragedy of human life. After death the soul remains in the neighbourhood of the corpse until burial has taken place. The lifeless body usually inspires awe and fear. It is quickly washed and shrouded, and before and after this, candles and incense burn in the death-room, perhaps  not so much to show the way to the disembodied and confused soul (Abeghian) as to protect the dead against evil influences. They may also be a remnant of ancestor-worship, as the saturday afternoon candles and incense are. Death in a home necessitates the renewal of the fire, as the presence of the dead body pollutes the old one. In ancient times the weeping over the dead had a particularly violent character. All the kinsmen hastened to gather around the deceased man. The dirge-mothers, a class of hired women, raised the dirge and sang his praises. The nearest relatives wept bitterly, tore their hair, cut their faces and arms, bared and beat their chests, shrieked and reproached the departed friend for the distress that he had caused by his decease. It is very probable that they cut also their long flowing hair as a sign of mourning, just as the monks, who, technically speaking, are spiritual mourners (abegha from the Syriac abhila did) at the very beginning of their taking the ecclesiastical orders. The dead were carried to their graves upon a bier. We have no mention whatever of cremation among the Armenians. On the open grave of kings and other grandees a large number of servants and women committed suicide (as happened at the death of Artaxias) to the great displeasure of his ungrateful son, Artavasd. The fortified city of Ani in Daranaghi contained the mausoleums of the Armenian kings. These were once opened by the Scythians, who either expected to find great treasures in them or intended by this barbarous method to force a battle with the retreating natives.
The hankering of the spirits for their ancient home and their "wander-lust" are well known to the Armenians. The many prayers and wishes for the "rest" of the departed soul, as well as the multitudinous funeral meals and food-offerings to the dead, show the great anxiety with which they endeavored to keep the soul in the grave. The gravestones were often made in the form of horses and lambs, which perhaps symbolized  the customary sacrifices for the dead, and even now they often have holes upon them to receive food and drink offerings. Even the rice-soup in which the pitaras (ancestral souls) of the ancient Indians (Hindus) delighted is recalled by the present of rice which in some localities friends bring to the bereaved house on the day following the burial.
Like the Letts, Thracians, Greeks, and many other peoples, the Armenians also passed from a wild sorrow to a wilder joy in their funeral rites. This is proved by the boisterous revels of ancient times around the open grave, when men and women, facing each other, danced and clapped hands, to a music which was produced by horns, harps, and a violin (4). There was and is still a regular funeral feast in many places (5).
It is very difficult to give a clear and consistent description of the Armenian beliefs in regard to life after death. There can be no doubt that they believed in immortality. But originally, just as in Greece and other lands, no attempt was made to harmonize divergent and even contradictory views, and contact with Zoroastrianism introduced new elements of confusion. The ordinary Armenian word for grave is gerezman, which is nothing else but the Avestic garo-nmana (" house of praise," i.e., the heavenly paradise as the place of eternal light, and as the happy abode of Ahura Mazda (6). The use of this important word by the Armenians for the grave may be simply a euphemism, but it may also be expressive of an older belief in happiness enjoyed or torture suffered by the soul in the grave, very much like the foretaste of paradise or hell which is allotted to the Mohammedan dead, according to their deserts. If this be the case, the departed soul's main residence is the grave itself in the neighbourhood of the body. This body itself is greatly exposed to the attack of evil spirits.
There are also marked traces of a belief in a Hades. The Iranian Spenta Armaiti (later Spentaramet), "the genius of the earth," occurs in Armenian in the corrupt form of Santaramet  and only in the sense of Hades or Hell. The Santarametakans are the dwellers in Santaramet, i.e. the evil spirits. Even the Avesta betrays its knowledge of some such older and popular usage when it speaks of the "darkness of Spenta Armaiti " (7). The earth contained Hades, and the spirit of the earth is naturally the ruler of it. Nor is this a singular phenomenon, for the earth goddesses and the vegetation gods in Western Asia and in the Graeco-Roman world have this indispensable relation to the underworld. Demeter the Black of Arcadia, or her daughter and duplicate, Persephone, forms the reverse side of Demeter, the beautiful and generous. Sabazios (Dionysos) in the Thracian world was also an underworld ruler ( as Zalmoxis? ). The Armenian language possesses also the word ouydn as the name of the ruler of Hades. This is clearly Aidonreus, or Hades. But it is difficult to ascertain whether it is an Armenized form or a cognate of these Greek names.
Another word which the Armenian Old Testament constantly uses in the sense of Hades is Dzhokh, from the Persian Duzakh, used for Hell. However, as the Christian expression gayank, "station," came into use for the place where, according to the ancient Fathers of the church, the souls gather and wait in a semi-conscious condition for the day of judgment, both Santaramet and Dzhokh became designations of Hell, if indeed this had not already happened in heathen times.
There is some uncertainty in regard to the location of Hades. It may be sought inside the earth at the bottom of or, perhaps, below the grave. But, on the other hand, a saying of Eznik about the wicked who have turned their faces towards the West, although directly alluding to the location of the Christian Hell and devils, may very well be understood also of the pagan Hades. For we know that Hell is a further development of Hades, and that the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Egyptians all sought Hades, sometimes in the earth, but more usually  in the West. For all of them the setting sun shone upon the world of the dead. And we have already seen how a bit of modern Armenian folklore calls the setting sun, " the portion of the dead" (8). The life led in the grave or in Hades, however sad and shadowy, was held to be very much like the present. The dead needed food, servants, etc., as the food offerings as well as the compulsory or voluntary suicides at the graves of kings clearly show.
The Armenian accounts of the end of the world are based directly upon the Persian. First of all, the people knew and told a popular Persian story about Azdahak Byrasp (Azdahak with the 10,000 horses). According to this version Azhdahak Byrasp was the ancestor of the first ruler of the Persians. He was a communist and a lover of publicity. For him nothing belonged to anyone in particular and everything must be done in public. So he began his career with a perfidious but ostentatious goodness. Later he gave himself to astrology and he was taught magic by a familiar (?) evil spirit, who kissed his shoulders, thus producing dragons on them, or changing Azdahak himself into a dragon. Now Azhdahak developed an inordinate appetite for human flesh and for spreading the lie. Finally Hruden (Thraetona, Feridun) conquered and bound him with chains of brass. While he was conducting him to Mount Damavand, Hruden fell asleep and allowed Azhdahak to drag him up the mountain. When he awoke he led Azhdahak into a cave before which he stood as a barrier preventing the monster from coming out to destroy the world (9).
But both among the Armenians and among their northern neighbours, there arose local versions of this Zoroastrian myth, in which the traditional Azhdahak yielded his place to native heroes of wickedness and the traditional mountain was changed into Massis and Alburz. In old Armenia the dreaded monster was Artavazd, the changeling son of King Artaxias. At the burial of his father, when a multitude of servants and wives  and concubines committed suicide (or were slain?) on the grave, the ungrateful and unfeeling son complained and said: "Lo! Thou hast gone and taken the whole Kingdom with thee. Shall I now rule over ruins? " Angered by this re- proach, Artaxias made answer from the grave and said :
When thou goest a-huntingIn fact, shortly after his accession to the throne, when he went out to hunt wild boars and wild asses, he became dizzy and falling with his horse down a precipice, disappeared. The people told about him that he was chained in a cave of Massis with iron fetters which were constantly gnawed at by two dogs. When they are broken he will come out to rule over the world or to destroy it. But the noise of the blacksmith's hammer on the anvil strengthens those chains; therefore, even in Christian times, on Sundays and festival days, the blacksmiths struck their hammers on the anvil a few times, hoping thereby to prevent Artavazd from unexpectedly breaking loose upon the world.
Up the venerable Massis
May the Kaches seize thee
And take thee up the venerable Massis.
There mayst thou abide and never see the light.
It is also worth noting that the story about the serpents standing upon the shoulders of Azdahak and teaching him , divination was told in Greek Mythology, of the blind Melampos and possibly of Cassandra and her clairvoyant sister, while the Armenians of the fourth century of our era asserted it of the wicked King Pap, whose fame for magic had reached even the Greek world.
Any story about a catastrophic end of the world may reasonably be followed by the description of a last judgment and of a new heaven and a new earth. But unfortunately the old records completely break down on this point.. The old Armenian  knows the Persian word ristaxez, "resurrection," as a proper name (Aristakes). Modern Armenian folk-lore has a vivid picture of the chinvat-bridge which it calls the hair-bridge (10). There is the word "kingdom" for the heavenly paradise which is called also drakht (from the Persian dirakht, "tree"). The picture lacked neither fire nor Devs for the torments of the evil doers, while Santaramet and Dzhokh, once meaning Hades, had also acquired the meaning of Hell. But out of these broken and uncertain hints we cannot produce a connected picture of the Armenian conception of the events which would take place when the. world came to an end. Christian eschatology, thanks to its great resemblance to the Zoroastrian, must have absorbed the native stories on this subject. However, as a branch of the Thracian race, the Armenians must have had a strong belief in immortality and brought with them a clear and elaborate account of the future world such as we find in Plato's myth of Er (11).
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