Adyghe Habze

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The Adyghe "hammer cross" representing god Tha.[1]

Adyghe Habze, also Circassian Habze or Habza (Adyghe: Адыгэ Хабзэ /adəɣa xaːbza/ ; derived from хы khy, meaning "order", plus бзэ bze, meaning "speech"), also spelled Khabze, Khabza or Xabze, also called Habzism,[2] defines[3] the original ethnic religion, philosophy and worldview of the Adyghe or Circassians, an ethnic group of North Caucasian stock inhabiting areas of Caucasia: the republic of Adygea, and the bordering republics of Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria (the Kabard subgroup), all three within the domains of Russia. The Adyghe Native Religion was influenced by Hellenic religion and philosophy at the time of Greek colonisation in the Caucasus.

The belief system takes its name from the Circassian epic Nart Saga, originally orally transmitted, which has heavily contributed to the shaping of Adyghe values over the centuries. Although historically Islamised, the period of the Soviet Union contributed to a severe weakening of Islam in the area, and especially among the Adyghe-Circassians. With the fall of the Soviet regime, the revival of Habzism was supported by Adyghe intellectuals as part of a rise in nationalism and cultural identity in the 1990s,[4] and more recently as a thwarting force against Wahhabism and Islamic fundamentalism.[5]

The movement has developed a following especially in Karachay-Cherkessia (12%) and Kabardino-Balkaria (3%), according to 2012 statistics.[6] On the 29th of December 2010 a prominent Kabard-Circassian ethnographer and Habze advocate, Arsen Tsipinov,[7] was killed by radical Muslims, who warned him months earlier to stop publicizing the rituals of the original Circassian faith.[8][9]


"Habze" (Хабзэ) is an Abkhazian compound made up from хы "khy", meaning "vast" or "universe", plus бзэ "bze", meaning "speech", "word", "language".[10] Thus its meaning is roughly "Language of the Universe" or "Word of the Cosmos", comparable to the concept of Dharma.


A wheel, representing the articulation of the universe from the center, Tha.

The Habzist theology is monistic, with utmost prominence given to the god Tha (Тхьэ, tħa), Thashkhue (Тхьэшхуэ, tħaʃxʷa, also known as Theshxwe) or Thashkho (Тхьашхо), who begets the universe.[3] First of all, Tha expresses himself generating the Word or cosmic Law (Khy), the primordial pattern from which all the beings form naturally, developing by internal laws.[3] Enlightenment for men corresponds to an understanding of Tha's Law.[3]

Thashkhue is omnipresent in his creation (coagulation); according to Adyghe cosmological texts, "his spirit is scattered throughout space".[3] In Adyghe hymns Tha (Thashxue) is referred to as "the One everyone asks, but who doesn't ask back", "the multiplier of the non-existent", "on whom everyone places their hope, but who doesn’t place hope on anyone", "from whom the gifts come", "His amazing work", "the One who permits heaven and earth to move".[3]

Everything is One (Псори Зыщ, Psora Zysch, or Псори Хыщ, Psora Hysch), and is one with the Tha.[10] The material-manifested world is in perpetual change, but at the same time there is a foundation that always remains unshaken. That is the originating principle of the world and its Law.[10] The always-changing world and its basis is compared to a rotating wheel (дунейр шэрхъщи duneyr sherhschi, мэкlэрахъуэ meklerahue): although the wheel is constantly rotating (changing), it has its central hub around which it revolves, which remains still.[10]


Worship to Tha, as well as requests to him, are expressed through rites and rituals called Thaleu ("request to Tha"), and can be in the form of hohu (hymn-prayers). The conduction of Thaleu traditionally doesn't require the construction of man-made structures. Therefore, the ceremonies take place in special locations, often in sacred groves called Thalauple or Thaschag mez.[3]

The location where Thaleu are celebrated is marked with a symbol in the form of a "hammer cross", representative of the utmost divinity.[11] The elders of the families, communities, and villages conduct the ceremonies.[3] The priest officiating rituals or practices is called Thamada (Adyghe: Тхьэматэ, Kabardian: Тхьэмадэ). This person is a key figure in Circassian culture who is often an elder but also the person who carries the responsibility for functions like weddings or circumcision parties. This person must always comply with all the rules of Habze in all areas of his life.

Adyghe Khabze (Adyghe: Адыгэ Хабзэ), being the native Circassian religion, philosophy and worldview, is the epitome of Circassian culture and tradition. It has deeply shaped the ethical values of the Adyghe, being based on mutual respect and above all responsibility, discipline and self-control. Adyghe Habze functions as the Circassian unwritten law yet was highly regulated and adhered to in the past. The Code requires that all Circassians are taught courage, reliability and generosity. Greed, desire for possessions, wealth and ostentation are considered disgraceful ("Yemiku") by the Habze code. In accordance with Habze, hospitality was and is particularly pronounced among the Circassians. A guest is not only a guest of the host family, but equally a guest of the whole village and clan. Even enemies are regarded as guests if they enter the home and being hospitable to them as one would with any other guest is a sacred duty.

Circassians consider the host to be like a slave to the guest in that the host is expected to tend to the guest's every need and want. A guest must never be permitted to labour in any way, this is considered a major disgrace on the host.

Every Circassian arises when someone enters the room, providing a place for the person entering and allowing the newcomer to speak before everyone else during the conversation. In the presence of elders and women, respectful conversation and conduct are essential. Disputes are stopped in the presence of women and domestic disputes are never continued in the presence of guests. A woman can request disputing families to reconcile, and they must comply with her request.


An important element of the Circassian Native Religion is the belief in the soul (psa) of the ancestors, who have the ability to observe and evaluate the affairs of their offsprings.[3] The concept of physical pain or pleasure in the Hereafter (Hedryhe) is absent — the soul is granted spiritual satisfaction or remorse for one's chosen path in life in front of himself and his ancestors.[3]

Therefore, the goal of man's earthly existence is the perfection of the soul, which corresponds to the maintenance of honour (nape), manifestation of compassion (guschlegu), gratuitous help (psape), which, along with valor, and bravery of a warrior, enables the human soul to join the soul of the ancestors with a clear conscience (nape huzhkle).[3] The souls of the ancestors require commemoration, whereby funeral feasts are arranged (hedeus); sacrifice or memorial meal preparations (zheryme) are practiced and distributed for the remembrance of the dead souls.[3]

See also

Caucasian religions
Indo-European religions


  1. Хабзэ. Т-дамыгъэ / Т-символ
  2. «Хабзисты». Кто они?
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Khabze: the religious system of Circassians.
  4. Paul Golbe. Window on Eurasia: Circassians Caught Between Two Globalizing "Mill Stones", Russian Commentator Says. On Windows on Eurasia, January 2013.
  5. Авраам Шмулевич. Хабзэ против Ислама. Промежуточный манифест.
  6. Arena - Atlas of Religions and Nationalities in Russia •
  7. Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst. Vol. 3, No. 4. 21-03-2011. p.4
  8. North Caucasus Insurgency Admits Killing Circassian Ethnographer. Caucasus Report, 2010. Retrieved 24-09-2012.
  9. Valery Dzutsev. High-profile Murders in Kabardino-Balkaria Underscore the Government’s Inability to Control Situation in the Republic. Eurasia Daily Monitor, volume 8, issue 1, 2011. Retrieved 24-09-2012.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 What is Khabze?
  11. T-symbol.


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