The Goddess DALY

 

Dali (also Daal or Dæl; Georgian: დალი) is a goddess from the mythology of the Georgian people of the Caucasus region. She is a hunting goddess who serves as the patron of hoofed wild mountain animals such as ibexes and deer. Hunters who obeyed her numerous taboos would be assured of success in the hunt; conversely, she would harshly punish any who violated them. She is most prominently attested in the stories of the Svan ethnic subgroup in northwestern Georgia.

She was usually described as a beautiful nude woman with golden hair and glowing skin, although she sometimes took on the form of her favored animals, usually with some marking to differentiate her from the herd. She was said to reside in a cavern high in the mountains, where she kept watch over the hoofed game animals who live on the cliffs. Dali was styled with a variety of regional epithets reflecting her different roles and associations.

Stories of the Svan people depict her taking human lovers and killing them out of jealousy, giving birth to sons such as the culture hero Amirani, and later clashing with her rival Saint George. Some myths depict her working alongside other forest deities, and she is sometimes accompanied by the legendary hunting dog Q’ursha. After the rise of Christianity in Georgia, Dali’s importance as a goddess waned, which was reflected in changes to stories told about her. Saint George was presented as having the power to overrule her, and she began to be conflated with a malicious nature spirit called the Dali.

Her story remains an important part of Georgian cultural consciousness, and she is often referenced with eponyms and literary allusions. Although younger people treat her as a figure from mythology, some older hunters still consider her to be a real figure one might encounter deep in the forest.

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