Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

Among the mountain folk there exist various beliefs concerning these monuments, such as the following: that at this spot some saint was either buried or was taken up alive to heaven, that he killed the ‘seven­ headed dragon’ there, or that something else extraordinary happened to him at that place. Usually the saint in whose name the monument was erected is considered the protector of the entire surrounding countryside, and when a traveller has successfully overcome any difficulty natural to the region— that is, has escaped an attack by brigands or wild beasts, or has safely crossed a mountain or river, or surmounted any other danger—it is all attributed to the protection of this saint. And so any merchant, pilgrim or other traveller who has passed through these dangers brings to the monument some kind of offering in gratitude.

It became an established custom to bring as an offering something which, as is believed there, would mechanically remind the saint of the prayers of the person who brought the offering.

Accordingly, they bring gifts such as a piece of cloth, the tail of an animal or something else of the kind, so that, with one end tied or fastened to the monument, the other end can flutter freely in the wind.

These things, moving in the wind, make the spot where the monument is placed visible to us travellers from a great distance. Whoever knows approximately the arrangement of these monuments can locate one of them from some elevated spot and make his way in its direction, and from it to the next, and so on. Without knowing the general pattern of their arrangement it is almost impossible to travel through these regions. There are no well-defined roads or footpaths and, if some paths do form of themselves, then, owing to the sudden changes of weather and the ensuing snowstorms, they very quickly change or are totally effaced. So if these landmarks were not there, a traveller trying to find suitable paths would become so confused that even the most delicate compass would be of no help to him. It is possible to pass through these regions only by establishing the direction from monument to monument.