The Door and Threshold in Armenian Folklore

The following is an excerpt from the last part of Paul Essabal(ian)’s article, The Door and Threshold in Armenian Folklore, published in 1961:

“The foregoing has illustrated the significance of the door and threshold in the fight against devils and in seeking family welfare and prosperity. In the Armenian vocabulary the latter factor is dominant. 


Armenian դուռն (durn) “door,” with -n suffix is preferred in the classical language… 


We note among the many derivatives of durn: 


Draci (“neighbor”) (dur- + ethnic suffix -aci). 


Dranik (“palace boy, court boy, door keeper”). 


Andranik (“first born”). Dumezil postulates as the original meaning “coproprietor of the door” (i.e., “with the father of the family”), supposing that the prefix an- is derived from IE sem-. Observe, however, that one the first-born son had this function, while andranik is used for both sexes and for animals, too, as well as the compounds such as andrankacin (“andranik” + “born”) where the meaning “coproprietor” seems improbable. The emphasis is placed on “the first one.” The prefix an- should rather be compared to the prefix in an-ari (“giant”): ari (“strong”); an-dorr (“quiet”): doyl (“loose”). Hence an-dranik (“he who precedes, or opens the door = uterus”) : dranik (“door keeper”). Durn is used in the sense of “uterus” in the Armenian church songs in connection with the Virgin Mary; cf., “closed door through which nobody but Israel’s God went in”; “Heavenly bride and sealed door.” Opening the door is a magic act of good omen in Armenian folklore, and an andranig is a good sign that many other children will follow. Children are vital to every Armenian, and childlessness is considered to be the worst possible evil that can befall a person. It is not good either, if the offspring consists merely of girls. In both cases the bride is held responsible, and her situation in the family becomes unbearable if she cannot give birth to a son. On the other hand, when the first-born is a boy, his birth is celebrated as a festive event. Therefore andranik as a proper modern Armenian name is masculine, a form of linguistic magic… 


The folkloric factor concerning “door” is expressed in a formal prohibition: “The Armenians in Vaspurakan do not use the word goce or p’ake, (both: “close! shut!”) in the sense of shutting the door, but prefer shiné (literally: “build!”) because the shutting of a door is equivalent to the destruction of the home. They also avoid using the verbs gocel or pakel for church doors; they say instead of khatshuac (“crucified, i.e., barred with cross”), meaning “closed”. Though pakel is taboo, and an-pakel, with the same meaning, is not, and it is used in the same province for door closing because an- sounds like a privative suffix (but its meaning shows it is not, cf. ari: an-ari). The choice of the verb shinél (“to build”) for “to close” must have some connection with magic. Its stem shen “built, prospering” has been borrowed from middle Iranian, and is used in the wish: shén mnas (“be happy, wealthy, prosperous!”)… 


Finally we observe that goc and pak (both: “closed”), are the attributes used with bakht (“luck”) for saying that “one has no luck.” Bakhts goc e means “I have no luck” (lit. “my luck is closed”)…


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