Etymology of Gageriveh

From the eighteenth century on, travellers’ accounts, rare histories, folklore collections, community studies of the Bakhtiari and external observers have agreed on the centrality of mortuary rituals in the region and on the pivotal role that women play in them. [1] The ballads and hymns that the women sing and recite in lamenting those dear to them, especially at ceremonies for great men (khan [2], kalantar [3], shekalu [4]), have maintained an important sociopolitical and symbolic significance for the Bakhtiari. It can be concluded from my interviews and ethnographic field observations conducted with the Bakhtiari, as well as the words of the Gageriveh, that such rituals were originally held exclusively for the great men of the tribe who had shown outstanding courage and bravery or had enjoyed an impressive social status. Today, however, they are held for men, women and even children.

Funeral ritual of A. Jafar Quli Rostami (women’s Gageriveh, Lali, Khuzestan, Iran, April 2004) ©P.Khosronejad

Among the Bakhtiari, Gageriveh is the name given to the song sung by a choir of tribal women to mourn a death among their beloved. In most cases, Gageriveh is a private oral ritual that allows women and their female audience to raise questions of life and death and to express their sorrow in a shared communal act. “They remind the bereaved that while death has occurred, annihilation has not.”[5] The word Gageriveh is used among the Bakhtiari with different pronunciations and meanings: Gah Gerive – the time of weeping; Gu Gerive – say and weep; Gow Gerive – weep, brother; Gor Gerive – even the wolves weep in sadness; and Gav Gerive – even the bulls weep in sadness. Gerive, the common element, means ‘weeping, crying and sobbing’. Perhaps the closest pronunciation to the original is Gu Gerive, combining gooy, meaning ‘say, talk, recite’, and Gerive, meaning ‘sobbing, tearing’, to imply the act of talking about the deceased, weeping and crying in his memory.

[1] For more information, see: Khosronejad 2006. [2] Literally, ‘chief’. [3] Literally, ‘sheriff’. [4] Literally,  ‘a hunter’. [5] Lifton 1983, 3

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