It is four o’clock at night. Not even in the morning, because the dawn will be here in five hours. I literally feel the freezing breath of the Caucasian winter slowly taking over my body. Piece by piece. Finger by finger. Cold.
We encircle a tiny lake. A man by a man. It is a bit warmer together. Men, women, young, old. Someone dressed in a down jacket, someone else in a T-shirt. Some people are chattering teeth from the cold, while others does not seem to be impressed by frost at all. Winter shoes, flip-flops, adidas. Gloves, hats and bathrobes. And towels.
We are waiting.
Father Anubi stands out from the crowd. A long black cassock, an equally black beard. And eyes. I see such shiny, illuminated with good, indescribable energy eyes only in Caucasian monks. He holds a large, richly decorated cross in both hands. He has been speaking vividly for an hour now. Despite the cold, he manages to keep everyone’s attention. My lame Georgian language skills catches a few words. Shishi (შიში) -fear and michwars ( მიყვარს) – love, are the most frequent.
Love is supposed to overcome the fear tonight in a small Georgian village at the one of the ends of the world. The moon witnesses us that the way to purification leads through this small frozen lake. Dzamas Cheoba. ძამას ხეობა – the day of remembrance of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Today, on January 19th, we can wash away our guilt by immersing sinful bodies in icy water, in a hole that has just been cut out.
Father Anubi finish his sermon and with a song on his lips, guided by several dozen pairs of eyes, moves towards the water. He is the personification of faith and lack of anxiety. Only his voice shakes slightly when he enters icy water. He will stand in it for the next 30 minutes, make sure that each of the faithful immerses himself with his head 3 times in the freezing water.
The crowed walk after the Father, as if they were in trance.. One by one, in a queue, they quietly enter the ice-hole, dive in icy water without a question. Only after the emerge they look as if they have awaken. Someone runs out, someone catches a towel hanging on a nearby branch, someone else tries to warm up his hands. They run to cars parked nearby, hide from the cold, which suddenly crept into their wet bodies. After 30 minutes the ritual is over, a small frozen lake at the Georgian end of the world is taken over by the omnipresent winter again.