Tats - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religion. In confessional terms, the Tats may be divided into two groups: Muslims, who are the majority (Sunnites in northern Azerbaijan and in Daghestan and Shiites in the southern districts of Azerbaijan), and Armeno-Gregorians (the villages of Kilvar and Matrasa). The Tat-speaking Mountain Jews (a portion of whom presently call themselves "Tat") observe Judaism. In daily life a large number of superstitions survive. One was forbidden to pour water on a fire in a hearth: it was believed that a son would then die. It was not acceptable to give away leavening for bread: it was believed that all prosperity would vanish from the house. Sacred places— pirs, normally the graves of holy persons—were revered. In times of drought a ceremony was conducted to bring rain, and in times of protracted rains a ceremony was performed to bring out the sun. Various rituals were to be carried out on the holiday of Novruz bairam, the beginning of spring. On this day people were not allowed to work—they were obliged to go visiting; arrange entertainment; color their hands, feet, and hair with henna; and pour rose water on each other.

Arts. A distinctive Tat style was most apparent in carpet weaving (ornamentation, color range). Toward the beginning of the twentieth century the traditional geometrical ornamentation began to be replaced by a stylized floral ornamentation. In the Soviet period carpets have appeared with stylized depictions of birds, animals, and portraits of notable political figures. Tat folklore has largely been lost. Performances of folk poetry were being given only in the Azerbaijani language as early as the 1920s. Funeral lamentations were performed in two languages (Tat and Azerbaijani), and only lullabies were sung in Tat. The traditional folklore was better preserved among the Tats of the Kuba District.

Medicine. Traditional treatments involved herbs and cauterization. The curative sulfur springs were popular. Births were attended only by midwives ( mamo ).

Death and Afterlife. Among the Muslim Tats burials were conducted according to Muslim ritual. A ceremony of mourning was carried out over the deceased: women struck their faces and chests, tore their hair, scratched their faces, and performed the traditional lamentations. Upon interment the body was placed on its right side with the head toward the south in the direction of Mecca, and a mullah read the Quran. Funeral feasts with entertainment were conducted on the seventh day, the fortieth day, and the anniversary. Close relatives observed mourning, wearing black clothing and not shaving their beards. A widow observed mourning for not less than a year.

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