WiP: “Soul food: The festival of Lipanali in Svaneti”

By Kevin Tuite, Université de Montréal

Date: March 13, 2019, at 18:30 pm
Venue: CRRC Georgia, 5 Chkhikvadze Str. (Former 5 Chavchavadze ave.), I floor.

On the evening of January 18th throughout Svaneti, banquets are laid out for the souls of the family’s ancestors, who are believed to visit their living descendants for a period of several days. The Banquet of the Souls, called Lipānǟli in the Svan language, is one of the few festivals that Svans celebrate when living far from their home villages, and even outside of Georgia. Banquets of the dead are observed elsewhere in the Caucasus (Sultak’repa (the Assembly of the Souls) in the Georgian province of Khevsureti; Badäntä among the Ossetians); and indeed around the world, including the European folk festivals in early autumn that were Christianized as All Souls Day, and commercialized as Halloween.

In this W-i-P talk, Prof. Tuite will describe the Lipanali festival in detail, with special attention to those features which can be compared or contrasted to banquets of the dead elsewhere. His discussion will be based on his own observations of Lipanali in the winters of 2005 and 2019; descriptions of the festival in published collections of Svan-language texts; and recently (re)discovered manuscripts in the archives of Evdokia (“Dina”) Kozhevnikova, a Russian ethnographer who lived in Svaneti in the 1920s and 30s.

Kevin Tuite is full Professor of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal. His special interest is in Caucasian linguistics, and he has occasionally published on the topic of Georgian mythology.

W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at 5 Chkhikvadze Str. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public. The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

PRIVACY POLICY: In order to assure the free and open discussion of ideas and sensitive issues, unless otherwise specified the WiP series holds to the Chatham House Rule: participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed, without the explicit permission of said speaker(s) or participant(s) in the press or other public media. Journalists may attend the sessions, but the contents are not for publication or broadcast without the explicit permission of the speaker(s). This is to enable all involved to openly discuss their views in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public and contribute to the broader scholarly and academic conversation.