On Sunday afternoon I was itching to get out of Yerevan as I do every weekend, but I didn't have any ideas per se of where to go. I made some calls to friends to see if they wanted to accompany me but they were preoccupied with whatever it was they were doing. Then I rang Karen the photographer who I've known for just about six years—he is usually occupied with his family but he managed to take the afternoon off. When I picked him up he asked whether I would be interested in going up to Gavar, a town near the shores of Lake Sevan, which I thought was strange as the idea had already come to mind.
On the way Karen remembered that there was a seer in the area, so he called a relative to find out exactly where. He was told that the person lives in the village of Batikyan and was well known there, so we could ask anyone on the street after we arrived to ask for directions. I reluctantly agreed.
I didn't understand at first who we were about to see, in other words what kind of person. I imagined some thin man in his late 60s taking the day off from farming his land overly excited about having guests and rambling on about various things after finding out a few tidbits about me, while a fairly new JVC television was showing the karaoke program everyone in rural areas loves to watch featuring people of mixed ages, mostly children, singing Armenian folk songs off key. Perhaps he would offer us coffee or vodka, I dreaded. The more I pondered the more turned off I became to the whole idea. While we were driving we did not see any signs for Batikyan, so we pulled over to ask where it was. A guy told us that we already drove through it, as the new name was Gandzak, which I remembered seeing on a sign a few miles back. Finding the home was simple enough, just off the main road, but when I saw several expensive cars parked out front I became disgusted, figuring that those who needed the most advice weren't even around, only fat cats from Yerevan or other regions wanting to know how much more successful they would become. The apartment it turned out was located in a two-story house, which seemed to have been very recently renovated and had a media satellite dish on the roof, two more indications of something peculiar that caused suspicion in me. There was a long line in which Karen was already waiting, then after about 10 minutes I told him that we should go, already fed up. We drove into town and found a greasy walled, filthy “café,” which was essentially a beat-up trailer, to have a coffee while he tried to convince me to take us back, as we wouldn't have another chance any time soon. He is a very good persuader; he always manages to talk some sense into me, to look at things no matter how absurd they appear on the surface from a different perspective. I concluded that he was right, so we returned there. Only a few people were left in the cue at around 5:30 pm. We waited about 15 minutes at the most, and while standing around we heard stories from the others about the soothsayer’s cures and predicted or sometimes instigated good fortune. I soon realized that it was a woman we were about to see, not a man, and her name was Varsig. She was very religious and believed she was granted her “gift” of spiritual, even medical healing by God. Depending on the case Varsig can pinpoint specific details about someone’s life, their loved ones, even things hidden in strange places. A guy I work with told me that when he visited her a few years ago she saw inside a stitched red pillow in his house was some kind of letter. Sure enough, he went home, opened the stitching of the pillow and found a miniature scroll tied with a piece of string. People were walking into her house and after five minutes or so strolled out beaming, thankful for what they heard it seemed. First Karen went in, and then I was the last to see her for the day.
When I entered the room it was fairly dark, with only some natural night illuminating the place coming from the glass door and the window where a portly woman wearing glasses sat in front of a desk. She seemed to have been about 50 years old. Against the right wall was a divan, and at the far end of the room another glass door led into a second room which was completely dark; I figured Varsig was in there. As I approached the door the woman, who I thought was Varsig’s secretary for some reason, instructed me to sit on a short worn wooden stool in the left corner. Then I immediately realized what was happening. I sat in the dim corner trying to get a decent glimpse of Varsig but it was difficult as her face was silhouetted by the light coming in from the window. All around her desk were various bric-a-brac—pictures of Jesus, strange facsimiles of religious artifacts, some books, one or two small rugs, and so forth. The stuff on her desk served as a sort of divider, as if I was there to give my anonymous confession or something. I was there for only a few moments but much of the visit seems a bit blurry now in retrospect, as I cannot remember the entire conversation or even what exactly happened. When I sat down Varsig made it clear from the onset in her monotone delivery that she did not accept men in general, but since I came from far away (she picked up on that fairly quickly as did ever single person in the village who took one glance at me) she would hear me, but I should not be insulted by her insisting that I never return to see her again. I said I was not—I didn’t want to be there in the first place.
The first thing she asked me I think was whether I came from Yerevan, and I said I did.
“And you have come from far away say that’s right. And you were married but you are separated say that’s right. But for how long?
“For some months now…”
“About eight months more or less say that’s right.”
“I see that you are tense I can tell from your eyes you seem troubled say that’s right and your home is stressed your family has seen much stress recently say that’s right praise be to God….”
It went on like this for a couple of more minutes. Every so often while chanting what she was apparently seeing she would utter “say that’s right” but did not even expect me to answer as she continued mumbling. It was difficult understanding her at times because she began to speak softly and way too fast. But people were there to believe in something; it seemed to me that it was her habit of constantly reminding her guests as to why they were there. And whatever she told was the “truth”—whether according to God, her, destiny, hope, luck, or possibly all of them, who can say? Varsig asked me if I had any questions for her—I told her that I came to hear what she had to tell me and that was all.
“Who is Samvel to you? Do you know anyone by that name?”
I was speechless. I know a couple of guys named Samvel but I hardly ever see them.
“He will come to you with good news say that’s right. What is your name?”
“Does anyone ever call you Christopher?”
“No, they call me Christian.”
“But they call you Chris or Christ say that’s right.”
“Do you want to live with your wife again? I do not foresee that you will.”
“You will marry again say that’s right and you will have children praise be to God it will happen. You are free to go.”
I guess her vision was a bit muddy by the time I visited with her—perhaps she was tired or something, but she did not reveal anything earth-shattering to me, certainly nothing important that I must know.
But I understood only today it was not important that she was telling me about things I already knew, it was that she had never met me before but was able to realize things about my failed marriage, my stress, and so forth within a two-minute time span, which was remarkable. Nothing miraculous has happened to me since yesterday afternoon, perhaps because I did not believe anything would per se. Nevertheless, I have no right to discount what others have confessed, what stories Karen and I heard about her miracles and visions. Faith is a personal virtue, an inexplicable uncompromising mass of energy; faith cannot be shattered by any external force or being, it originates in the soul and it dies there.
Labels: Personal Experiences