Kamcha. Nogai Power Symbol

The Nogays are a Turkic-speaking ethnos that was formed in the relationship between Tatars, Pechenegs, Mongols and some other nomadic tribes. They got their name thanks to the Golden Horde beklyarbek Nogai. During the period of the rise of Nogai, the Bulgarian kingdom depended on him, he fought with Byzantium and went on campaigns together with the Russian princes to Lithuania and Poland, ravaged Shirvan and Derbent.

Kamcha.  Nogai Power Symbol

Nogay in traditional Caucasian Circassian coat

After a long wandering from Central Asia and Siberia to the Black Sea coast of the North Caucasus, many Nogais settled on these lands. So, the largest Nogai community in Russia settled in the Caucasus – in Dagestan, Stavropol Territory and Karachay-Cherkessia. Naturally, the very way of life dictated not only a special attitude towards horses in the course of the nomad, but also towards the main tool of the rider – the whip. For the Nogai, the whip became not just a tool, but a truly spiritualized weapon.

Kamcha as it is

Kamchu began to weave immediately after a son was born in the family, and during the birth itself, the paternal kamcha was hung over the woman. Sometimes, during labor pains, women were even flogged with quamcha, so that the fetus would come out faster. Kamcha itself was a fairly short whip with a handle no more than forty centimeters in length, to which a leather whip was attached. At the same time, during the weaving of the whip, conspiracies were constantly spoken so that the kamcha would bring good luck to the owner.

The whip of an ordinary Nogai

The length of the whip itself was approximately the same as that of the handle, but there were exceptions. The weaving was the most diverse – it could be serpentine or it was a weave of four, ten or even forty separate lashes. The material used was leather, for example, goat leather. The skin was kept for up to three weeks, cleaned of wool, cut into strips, dried and only then cut into thin strips. The lash was attached to the handle using a rod braided with ribbons, also made of leather, often cowhide. A tamga, a generic family sign, something like a seal, was necessarily applied to the handle. Therefore, it was easy to understand from the kamcha who was standing in front of you. And, of course, a lanyard was attached to the handle so that the kamcha would not be knocked out of the hands during the battle. It took from several days to a couple of weeks or more to create the kamcha.

Of course, Kamcha was decorated and modernized in every possible way. At the end of the lash, fluffy leather tassels were placed, or, on the contrary, a weighting agent made of metal was braided – then Kamcha resembled a wolf. True, the treatment of her changed, they tried not to lash the horses with such a quamcha.

Only men who received it upon reaching 12 years of age had the right to wear kamcha among the Nogai. Since then, losing kamcha was considered almost a crime before the family. She also served as a real biographical book of its owner. Every major event, every achievement in the life of the owner was necessarily depicted on the handle. And woe to that rider, whose kamcha all his life wore only an orphan tamga. Sometimes Kamcha was passed from father to son, but this was more related to noble families, when Kamcha was already becoming a symbol of power, but more on that separately.

There was a special place for Kamcha in the house. And since she was very often used as a weapon, entering a visit with her in her hands was tantamount to a challenge to a duel or a serious insult.

Weapon, symbol of power and magic

Kamcha, in addition to its natural functions, also played the role of a weapon. Trained Nogai fighters could easily knock the enemy rider out of the saddle with the help of kamcha, and sometimes even kill him. For this purpose, a metal weighting agent was woven into the end of the kamcha. After long training, an experienced Nogai rider could hit the enemy from the first blow. And if the enemy was wearing a helmet, then a well-aimed blow could (not without difficulty, of course) break his nose or knock out his eye. Kamcha with a weighting agent was also used during hunting. One blow to the head of the animal, and all that remained was to skin the carcass. The handle itself was periodically made heavier.

They also used kamcha during the resolution of various disputes, when the situation became desperate. The disputants sat down, took each other by the left hand and rested their feet on the enemy. In their right hand they had only kamcha. Wielding it, they began to whip the opponent mercilessly until someone lost consciousness or lost strength.

Many sayings are associated with kamcha, which open up this weapon from new sides. For example, there was a saying that “whoever has a strong Kamcha, has a conscientious wife”. On the one hand, kamcha here tacitly figured as a symbol of the masculine principle, and on the other hand, negligent wives at that time were admonished not with a kind word, but with a tough deed. There were also romantic sayings saying that the honor and justice of a man is contained in kamcha. But dry prose and reality was far from sentiment.

Kamcha was a symbol of power among the Murzas, Beys and Nuradins (aristocratic titles and military-administrative ranks). And, of course, the Kamcha of the noble Nogai had little in common with a simple shaft with a leather lash. Kamcha of a high-ranking Nogay was made of completely different materials. The handle was made of ivory, silver and even gold. She was adorned with precious stones. The leather for the whip was taken from the most exotic and was of different colors, so the tassel at the end of the quamcha seemed like some kind of deadly flower.

One of the catch phrases attributed to a certain Dildebai from Zhetysu (a region in Central Asia near the Balkhash and Issyk-Kul lakes) read: “Even if the people do not respect me, they will respect my whip.” What can I say? Can not argue.

Such an attitude towards kamcha could not but lead to the rewarding of this weapon with magical properties. And since the Nogais of the North Caucasus closely communicated with the Circassians and adopted their customs, their world of various superstitions was unusually rich and wide. Beliefs in shaitans, jinn, sorcerers and spirits were widespread. The Nogays even believed in the existence of a water serpent, which, rising from the water, touched the clouds with its head. To protect them from all this army of evil spirits, the Nogai not only sewed a piece of incantatory prayers from the Koran into their clothes on their backs, but also did not part with kamcha. Kamcha sometimes hung over the bed in order to protect the family from evil supernatural creatures. And if an evil spirit, for example, a genie, “settled” in a person, then the flogging was provided for him.

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