Lashin, Circassian woman warrior / marriage resister

The legend of Lashin, Circassian wonder woman, and Kitai Khan. "In this version of the classic tale of the medieval strongwoman, Lashin (referred to as 'Lashqin' [«Лашкъын»] by our bard) does duel with a Russian wrestler, as opposed to the Mongol strongman Qaisin." (The modern illustration above shows her more as a warrior than a wrestler.)

"The Mongol khan, Kitai, after a whirlwind tour of occupation and pillage, came to the frontiers of Circassia some time in the 13th century. The Adiga amassed an army to repel the invading army. (In other versions it was the Kalmyk horde that had to be contended with.) The Khan elected not to wage war against the Circassians; instead, he challenged one of their braves to a duel with his top wrestler, Qaisin. 

"The Circassians picked up the gauntlet and chose a female commoner, Lashin, to do battle with the Mongol gladiator. According to legend, Lashin’s father-in-law saw her lift a cow in anger and throw it some distance away. Fearing for his son, he decided to get rid of her, and when the opportunity arose, he volunteered his daughter-in-law for the challenge.

"At any rate, Lashin was disguised in male garb so as not to raise a hubbub. The legendary duel took place near river Chegem at a place still known as ‘Lashinqey’ («Лашынкъей»).* Lashin possessed extraordinary strength and she managed to prevail upon her foe within the hour. The Khan acknowledged the defeat, but he could hardly hide his ire. To rub a sore wound, the Circassians revealed the identity of their champion and dared Kitai to try again, this time against one of their real men! The Khan wisely decided to cut his losses and politely declined the offer. He presented the Circassians with many presents and went back home brooding." Men don't like to lose, but especially not to women.

"Mount Lashinqey is situated near the western edge of the Lashinqey settlement (aka Tox’wtemischey [«Тохъутэмыщей»]) on the left bank of the River Chegem in Kabarda.

"There is a rich literature on the exploits of Lashin. See for example: Ziramikw Qardenghwsch’, АДЫГЭ IУЭРЫIУАТЭХЭР II. Adige ’Weri’watexer II [Circassian Tales, Vol. 2], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1969 (1970), pp 90-3."

There's audio of a traditional Adyghe storyteller recounting the legend of Lashin / Lashqin, in comments, for those who understand Circassian / Cherkess / Adyghe, or its close relative Kabardian.

Above, the old women are helping Lashin put on chain-mail armor, but she is still wearing women's platform clogs, similar to those worn by Ottoman women, and in turn by Venetians.

Here's more, showing Lashin rejecting suitors who come looking to marry her (relying on Google Translate from Hebrew):


"As I recall, wrestling education was an integral part of the Circassian tradition and I also wrote about this in a post on 'Bana'. After publishing that post about the traditional Circassian martial art, several women asked me if it was an art that was the property of men only or if women also trained in it. I remember that I promised them to write about the subject, but it's been a while, and now it's time to pay off the debt.

"In the post about Bana, we mentioned that wrestling by its nature emphasizes physical strength, and Circassians in general preferred agility and skill over the use of force. And as a principle, the Circassian women were brought up so that their strength would be in their intelligence and the sharpness of their thoughts. The traditional division of the peoples of the world into men at the front and women at the rear was not particularly different among the Circassians. At the same time, there are quite a few examples of Circassian women warriors in history, and it would be more than reasonable to argue that in order for the Circassian woman to survive in the conditions of life in the Caucasus, she had to ride and fight no less well than men.

"One of the most interesting characters in the Circassian legends is the character of 'Lashin'. She is a generic character that appears both in the 'Epic of the Narathites' (the stories of Circassian mythology) and in the later folklore stories, and it enters the slot of the satirical-mocking character. In mythology - like the other women - she appears as an equal among equals and not as a secondary character, and in folklore she functions as someone who is supposed to sneer at the enemy.

"One of the famous stories is the story of the insult of all the Naraths who came to woo her - because they don't deserve her! Lashin refuses all the Narath heroes while listing their shortcomings, but when she turns to woo the Narath Ashmez he himself refuses her courtship, and she immediately puts him on her 'black list' while hurling insults at him. This story is performed to this day by Circassian choirs all over the world [link to an operatic performance with an English translation here; And a link to a more beautiful performance in my opinion, at the end of the post.]

"In folklore, the figure of Lashin appears when the Circassians face enemies superior to them in strength. In one of the stories it is said that after a long journey of destruction and looting, the Mongol Khan reached the borders of Circassia in the 13th century. The Circassians organized an army to repel the Mongol invader (in another version, it is the Kalmyk invader) and went to the battlefield. Knowing the reputation of the Circassians as fearless warriors, the Khan chose not to wage a direct war against them but instead, he challenged one of the Circassian braves to a duel with his senior wrestler - Khasin. The Circassians accepted the challenge and after much thought, jointly chose Lashin to face the Mongolian champion.

"According to the legend, one of the days when she was working in the yard, Lashin's father-in-law saw her pick up a cow in anger and throw it some distance. 'If my son argues with this daughter-in-law and the matter escalates,' the father thought to himself, 'she could easily break his joint.' At that moment he decided to get rid of her no matter what and when the opportunity arose he donated her immediately. In order not to cause a commotion or ridicule on the other side, Lashin disguised herself as a man and happily went to the duel.

"Lashin showed extraordinary strength and she managed to subdue the Mongol champion within an hour. With no choice, the Khan acknowledged his defeat while struggling to hide his humiliation. To add salt to the wounds, the Circassians revealed the identity of their 'champion' and here it is a woman. The Mongolian Khan thought to himself - 'If their women fight like this, what will happen to us when we fight against their men?!'" Also near the settlement that bears its name to this day - Lashinkai (and under another name - Tuhatmishki) and according to legend, Lashin is buried on a hill not far from there.

"Another legend with a few minor changes, places Lashin in the Russian-Circassian war. Perhaps as a last call to this mythological figure to sneer at their bitter enemies who took their nation to the brink of extinction.

"To this day, the Circassians call their daughters Lashin (or Lashina), thus keeping her legend alive. It is interesting to note that if we change the first syllable in the name of Lashin «Лашин» a minimal change, we will get the word L'shin «Лъешын» which in Circassian language means: to be strong.

'Another interesting thing is that one of the characters in the DC comics is the warrior Lashina. Although she is not on the side of the 'good', her important qualities according to the world of DC are that she extends many years, has superhuman strength, is immune to any disease and resistant to any conventional damage. Also, Leshina is known as someone who did intensive training in unarmed combat. I wonder where they got those features exactly…

"So if you know a Lashina or two, not necessarily by name, maybe also by character, share this post with them."

This map show Circassia north of the Caucasus mountains, partly in the region known as the Kuban, a river valley where the Sarmatians lived circa 500-200 bce. Greeks considered it Amazon country (Sarmatian is the Latin form of Sauromatian, the people Herodotus said were descended from the Amazons and Scythians. Their archaeology is full of priestesses and women warriors. More info here, not specifically about the Kuban, but the Sauromatians.

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