The Woman of the Myths: the Satanaya Cycle, by John Colarusso

The Annual of the Society for the Study of Caucasia 2: 3-11., 1989 

Privotal to the entire Nart saga tradition is the multi-faceted figure of Lady Satanaya. There are other female figures whose identities stand fully apart from hers, but it is Satanaya who plays the most prominent role in the vast majority of myths, so much so that many female figures merge into her and her name is at times elevated to the status of a little conferred upon women to honor them. She is simultaneously a figure of beauty, eternal youth, passion and lust, devotion and treachery. She is the embodiment of profound wisdom and intelligence, while also being a sorceress and seeress. She is often within the same myth both a victim, usually of rape or seduction, while at the same time a manipulator and victimizer. In her figure have been drawn together a vast spectrum of themes ad features associated in the Caucasian tradition with the role of woman. Whatever complex mixture of Chivalric, Medieval, Classical and more ancient traditions may still be seen in the Nart corpus, whatever odd overlay and mixing of what we think of as Oriental and Occidental themes may emerge in the sagas, few traditions, either literary or cultural, afford woman such a central position and such a high status as does that of the Caucasian Nart sagas.
Preserved for us in this tradition is a glimpse of what some of the important female cults of the Ancient world may have been like, specifically those of Aphrodite and the Semitic goddess Ishtar, (Astarte, Ashtaroth). Indeed Satanaya shows a host of features that may be found in Aphrodite, but often only faintly limned in the Classical Greek accounts (cf. Friedrich 1978:9ff). Many details of these parallels emerge in the course of various myths involving a host of heroes and will be discussed in another work. Here I present only a few myths that involve Satanaya or a cognate figure, Psatina or Meghazash, either alone or as a central goal of a quest, and I discuss only major features. These have been grouped together as a Satanaya Cycle by the great Circassian folklorist, Asker M. Hadaghat’la (1968, vol. 1).

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