“We congratulate all Aryans, all God fearing, all sons of Vahagn, all those who feel their roots in Mother Ararat with the New Year, the near approach of the Cosmic Spring and the 9,588th anniversary of Vahagn,” shouts Pagan priest Zhora, raising a dagger.
Easter week also brought a Pagan celebration to Garni Temple
It is the Pagan new year and about 100 Armenians have gathered near the temple in Garni March 21 to celebrate the birth of Vahagn, the God of Power and Fire.
All together they spell.
The heaven was in torments of childbirth; the earth was in torments of childbirth
And the crimson sea was in torments of childbirth
And from the torments of the sea,
A red reed came out,
And smoke came out from the rim of the reed,
And a flame came out from the rim of the reed
And from that flame, a red-haired youth runs out …
And they end their poem with the exclamation “Let Vahagn be praised!”…
On this day,the Sun enters the constellation of Aries, and the day and the night equal in duration: the Cosmic Spring begins.
For 16 years “The Oath of the Sons of Aryans” non-governmental organization celebrates in Garni the New Year on Areg 21 (in the ancient Armenian calendar March is called Areg). The group claims more than 1,000 members.
On this day the sons of the Aryans hold on to the Pagan ritual fixed centuries ago. And if someone appears suddenly nearby the temple of Garni he will think for sure the time has gone back for hundreds of years.
The Pagan priests of the order in golden, blue and white coats, with daggers hanging from their belts open the ceremony. Their hierarchy is differentiated with the colors of their coats: the one in a golden coat is the Supreme Priest; the one in blue is the President of the Priest Class and the one in white is the Priest.
Vahagn’s birth, torn from heaven and earth, is celebrated.
“He will be born to continue the tribe of his Aryan gods on Earth. And those Aryans who will believe and wait for Vahagn will get power,” shouts Supreme Priest Samvel. “And those, who will not believe, will remain in their undesirable illness and will be destroyed, for no gods are born from the ill.”
Then they burn Vahagn’s fire, make their daggers red-hot and plunge them into cups of wine.
“Praising the Gods of my tribe, with their help, I consecrate this wine…Drink it and get power,” says the Supreme Priest.
They met in the snow to honor the God of Fire.
Everybody tastes the consecrated wine.
They consecrate willow fronds and distribute among participants. The young fronds symbolize life.
Similar to other Pagan festivals, lambs are also sacrificed on this day This time the president of the “Union of Armenian Aryans” Armen Avetisyan made the sacrifice.
(Avetisyan stirred controversy in the National Assembly last fall, with a series of charges against various groups who were "dangerous" to Armenian purity. The word "Aryan" itself is frequently associated with racism in the West. The NGO, however, says for their use, it is simply a synonymn for "pagan".)
“I myself have an ode to Vahagn and I dream of time when my soul gets in touch with the soul of Vahagn – the Armenian god of Power. I wish Armenian gods return to the spiritual world of our nation, only they can return us to our roots and protect us from foreign gods,” says Armen Avetisyan.
An apricot tree was planted in the yard of the temple, holding on to tradition despite a heavy March snow. Pagan Armenians consider the apricot a tree of life and believe the energy of that tree protects Armenian families from evil.
The priests call on the gathered to decorate the apricot tree for the fulfillment of wishes.
“I participate in all the events taking place here since 1990,” says 35 year old Pagan, Edik. “Christianity has once been something like globalization. That is why we Armenians have also adopted it. But in truth the basics of our religion is Paganism. The Mother Temple of Etchmiadzin also has Pagan grounds and is built on the basis of the sanctuary of the god Mihr. We consider Paganism is a belief, and Christianity – a religion.”
Pagans and everybody else gathered were united not only by their belief, but also by their age. They insist they are 9,588 years old, the age they share with god Vahagn in whom the souls of all Armenian Aryans have been living.