Bloody Sheets: An Age-old Tradition Still Held in Georgia’s Regions

Definition of ‘Yenge’ – a supervisor of sexual inter-course of a new-married couple

What it means to be a Yenge

Yenge is an old Azerbaijani tradition. It is a person who supports a new-married girl to overcome the nervousness of the first-night after marriage. A Yenge is a woman who accompanies a bride to the groom’s home on the wedding day. She is responsible for her virginity and after the first night she leaves the home. As a rule, a relative of the bride is selected to be a Yenge and she must necessarily have experience of sexual intercourse with a man and, as such, young single woman cannot become Yenge as it is obligatory she teach the bride the rules of relations with her husband.

The Yenge waits at the bedroom door of the newlyweds and as soon as the couple finish their first sexual intercourse, she takes the bloodstained bedsheet in order to prove the virginity of the bride. Two days later the groom’s family has a celebration feast in which the relatives of the girl also participate. The Yenge shows the bloodstained sheet to the guests and the bride successfully passes the virginity ‘test’ in the presence of all relatives. Afterwards, the guests congratulate the new-married couple for the creation of a ‘decent’ family.

And it still exists…

We tried to collect information about the Yenge tradition from ethnic Azerbaijani people living in Georgia. According to the information provided, this tradition has almost disappeared among those Azeri families who live in Tbilisi for whom it now has only a symbolic nature.

One respondent, Dilshad Gurbanova, 35, said they did not have a Yenge for her wedding. “My relatives did not follow that tradition. Even if somebody has a Yenge at the wedding these days, she has a completely different function. The modern Yenge holds a mirror during the wedding and accompanies the bride to the beauty salon and wedding hall. Nobody follows rules about a bloodstained sheet nowadays. It’s in the past.”

Yet ethnic Azerbaijani journalist, Ayda Tagyeva, says that although this tradition has almost disappeared in the capital, it is still quite common in the Azerbaijani inhabited regions of Georgia. “Where the Yenge tradition has a symbolic character in Tbilisi, people living in the regions follow that tradition quite seriously.”

Faults in virginity test or victim of tradition?

Tagyeva told us the Yenge tradition often creates awkward situations. “Yenge women often act very rudely. They take advantage of the youth of the newlyweds and deliberately burst into their bedroom on the first night, embarrassing them in the act itself…”

A respondent who asked to remain anonymous- a young, educated lady -told us of her own experience: “I also had a Yenge on my wedding night. Neither I nor my husband wanted to have her but my husband’s relatives insisted on it. They suspected I wanted to hide something so we were forced to give in. I was not a virgin because we’d had sex before marriage. I talked with the Yenge and explained this to her and she suggested I go to a doctor who would restore my virginity. I refused. Finally she allowed that if I’d agreed with my husband, I could give her a few drops of my blood to stain the sheet with. All in all, she explained everything and we successfully avoided complications. However, not every Yenge acts like that. If you ever had a disagreement with her, she might not protect you and will reveal your secret. I wish the Yenge, bloodstained sheets and similar traditions did not exist at all. It would be a relief for young couples!”

Is a Yenge necessary?

In an era of the availability of numerous sex magazines, TV-programs, and a plethora of information online, is it necessary to have a woman to teach young couples how to behave on the first night?

Doctor and gynecologist Akhmed Namazov says it is. “As a doctor, I say that the Yenge tradition is one of the most valuable of our traditions and should exist by all means. We should be aware of the nature of our nation. Our girls cannot get sexual education in their families before marriage. It impacts their first intercourse after which they come to us, gynecologists or to psychiatrists, with numerous complaints. For that reason Yenge have significant roles. The couple trusts her, she teaches and explains everything and the young people avoid problems.”

Elnur Nazimbyel disagrees. “The Yenge institute is still very actively followed in the regions of Georgia and it is very shameful. It is not tradition; it is snooping into someone else’s bed. I have not married yet but I will definitely not allow anybody to do so at my wedding.”

Gulferi Mamedova said: “It is a big shame. We do not know what to do. I’ve even heard of underage girls being taken to the ceremony of the showing of the bloodstained sheet. Children are made ready from an early age to get married under supervision of a Yenge. It is destroying the future of our youth. It’s a disaster.”

What do the Yenges say?

Our respondent Mina Gulieva (name changed) is from Marneuli district. She is 55 and has often acted as a Yenge. She said the tradition is very important. “Sometimes girls and boys are very inexperienced. They do not know how to act. We, the Yenges, are authorized to teach them everything. It is a guarantee; how can one prove the virginity of a bride without a Yenge? Afterwards, the groom’s side may raise questions about the honesty of the girl. It will cause controversy between families.”

Mina recalled an incident during one of the weddings, when a Yenge was invited late. “I know one family where a girl was sent home two days after the wedding. The girl was very young. Reportedly, the Yenge had not warned her to leave the sheet untouched and she washed it, meaning it was impossible to prove her virginity. Nobody listened to the boy. It is our tradition.”

Gunel Movlud

04 February 2016 21:21