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The Enarei, singular Enaree, were Scythian androgynous/effeminate priests and shamanistic soothsayers who played an important role in the Scythian religion.


The English name Enaree is derived from the Ancient Greek name recorded by Herodotus of Halicarnassus as Enarees (Εναρεες),[1][2] itself derived from the Scythian term Anarya, meaning "unmanly."[3] The term anarya was itself composed of the elements a-, meaning "non-," and narya, which was derived from nar-, meaning "man."[4]

The name Anarya was more accurately represented in Ancient Greek by Pseudo-Hippocrates as Anarieis (Αναριεις).[5][3]

Religious role[edit]

The Anarya were affiliated to an orgiastic cult of the goddess Artimpasa and of the Scythians' ancestral Snake-Legged Goddess in their forms strongly influenced by Near Eastern fertility goddesses, and the rites of the Anarya thus combined indigenous Scythian religious practices of a shamanistic nature, which were themselves related to those of indigenous Siberian peoples, as well as ones imported from Levantine religions.[6][7][8]


The Anarya may have used cannabis in their rituals, including both those of a communal and those of a funerary or psychopompic nature, thus being among the earliest spiritual practitioners to have used cannabis to achieve altered states of consciousness, implying that an ancient connection existed between gender non-conforming spiritual practitioners and the use of mind-altering substances.[6]

The Anarya may also have participated in Scythian funeral rituals, which included shamanic practises, and after the burial of the deceased, ritually cleansed themselves with the vapour of cannabis, which is attested archaeologically in Saka tombs from Siberia, which contained tripods, braziers, pelts, and charcoal containing remains of cannabis leaves and fruits, with one of the Pazyryk burials containing a pot, inside of which were cannabis fruits, as well as a copper censer used to burn cannabis.[6]


The Anarya also acted as seers and performed a particular form of divination which used the inner bark of the linden tree, unlike the methods of traditional Scythian soothsayers which used willow withies.[7] The method of divination of the Anarya consisted of cutting the inner linden bark into three pieces, and plaiting and unplaiting these pieces around their fingers to obtain answers.[9][6]

The Anarya were especially consulted when the king of the Scythians was ill,[10][6] which was itself believed by the Scythians to be caused by a false oath being sworn upon the king's hearth.[7] Once the Anarya had identified the suspect who had sworn the false oath, the said suspect would claim to be innocent. If the Anarya maintained the accusation, six more soothsayers were consulted, and if they upheld the original accusation, the suspect was executed by being beheaded. If the additional soothsayers declared the suspect was innocent, the process of consulting more soothsayers was repeated.[11]

If the soothsayers all found the accused to be guilty, the culprit was executed through beheading, and his property was divided among the Anarya who had found him guilty.[12]

If the larger number of soothsayers still declared the suspect to be innocent, the initial accusers were executed by being put into an oxen-pulled wagon filled with brushwood which was set on fire was made to be pulled by the oxen, who eventually also burned along with the wagon and the disgraced soothsayers; the sons of these Anarya were also all killed, but their daughters were spared.[11][12]


The Anarya may have worn additional regalia such as drums used in shamanic rituals and antlered headdresses similar to those found in Saka horse burials and those worn in more recent times by Siberian shamans.[11]

Sceptres capped with ornate pole tops, which have been discovered throughout the steppe from Mongolia to the Great Hungarian Plain were also used by the Anarya as symbols of authority: these pole tops often included rattles, and the oldest of these date from the 8th century BC, are from Tuva and the Minusinsk Basin, and are topped by a stag or ibex standing with its feet together as if perched on a rocky eminence. The more recent pole tops are more elaborate in design, such as one found in the Oleksandropilskiy kurhan [uk], which is in the shape of a goddess with her hands on her hips, and another one from the same kurgan in the shape of a griffin in a frame from which two bells hang, and a third from that same kurgan which splits into three branches each topped by a bird of prey holding a bell in its beak. The rattling and tinkling of the sceptres' bells invited the audience to the impending rites.[11]


The Anarya belonged to the most powerful Scythian aristocracy. They were born male, but wore women's clothing,[6] performed women's jobs, spoke like women,[9] and were believed by the Scythians to be inherently different from other males and that their androgyny was of divine origin; according to indigenous Scythian shamanic traditions, the Anarya were considered "transformed" shamans who changed their sex, which characterised them as being the most powerful shamans, due to which they inspired fear and were thus accordingly given special respect in Scythian society, and the Scythians ascribed their androgyny to a "female disease" causing sexual impotency.[7]

Artimpasa and the Snake-Legged Goddess to whom the Anarya were affiliated were themselves androgynous goddesses: Artimpasa was believed to have the power to turn men into women;[13] while the Snake-Legged Goddess was often represented with a beard.[14]

Central Asian origins[edit]

The traditions of "gender-crossing shamanism," whereby men obtain the power of prophecy and of becoming religious figures possessed by spirits by abandoning their masculinity, have been preserved until recent times by indigenous Siberians.[9]

The Greek Pseudo-Hippocrates later incorrectly ascribed the androgyny of the Anarya to the Scythians' practise of riding horses and wearing trousers.[6][7]

West Asian influences[edit]

During the 7th century BC, the Scythians expanded into West Asia, during which time the Scythian religion was influenced by the religions of the peoples of the Fertile Crescent. The Scythians believed that the androgyny of the Anarya originated during this period from a curse by the goddess Artimpasa to the perpetrators of the sack of the temple in Ascalon of the goddess Astarte, who was herself an androgynous vegetation-fertility goddess who was believed to have the ability to change men into women and women into men, and whom the Scythians identified with their own goddess Artimpasa; this curse was hereditary and was inherited by the descendants of the perpetrators of the sack. The transvestite androgyny of the Anarya was thus also typical of the cult of the Levantine celestial ʿAštart.[9][7]

The Anarya combined the traits of both the "transformed" shaman of the steppe peoples and the gender non-conforming priests of the West Asian Great Goddess, such as the Kelabim of ʿAštart, the Galli of Kubeleya, and the Megabyzoi or Megabyxoi of Ephesian Artemis.[6]


Given the hereditary nature of the Anarya and the belief that the curse of Astarte affected the looters of her shrine at Ascalon as well as their descendants, the Anarya appear to have lived their early lives as men, with their transvestite transformation happening late in their lives after they found out that they were no longer able to have sexual intercourse.[9][7]

Purported sexuality[edit]

It is unknown whether the Anarya practised ritual castration or merely refrained from heterosexual intercourse, although they were not celibate, and the writings of Pseudo-Hippocrates concerning them suggest that they may have also played the receptive role during anal intercourse with men.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herodotus. "105". Ἱστορίαι [The History] (in Ancient Greek). Vol. 1.
  2. ^ Herodotus. "67". Ἱστορίαι [The History] (in Ancient Greek). Vol. 4.
  3. ^ a b Ivantchik 2018: "referred to by Herodotus as enareës (ἐνάρεες; 1.105.4; 4.67.2), and more accurately by Pseudo-Hippocrates (Aër. 22) as anarieis (ἀναριεῖς, from the Scythian term anarya, "unmanly")"
  4. ^ Ivantchik 2016, p. 308.
  5. ^ Pseudo-Hippocrates. "22". Περί Αέρων, Υδάτων, Τόπων [On Airs, Waters and Places] (in Ancient Greek).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Conner 1997.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Ustinova 1999, p. 67-128.
  8. ^ Ustinova 2005, p. 78.
  9. ^ a b c d e Ascherson 1995, pp. 121–122.
  10. ^ Phillips 1972.
  11. ^ a b c d Cunliffe 2019, p. 265–290.
  12. ^ a b Parzinger 2004, p. 104-105.
  13. ^ Ustinova 1999, p. 78-80.
  14. ^ Ustinova 2005, p. 78-79.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ballabriga, Alain (1986). "Les eunuques Scythes et leurs femmes [Stérilité des femmes et impuissance des hommes en Scythie selon le traité hippocratique des airs]". Mètis: Anthropologie des mondes grecs anciens. 1 (1): 121–138. doi:10.3406/metis.1986.867.
  • Davis-Kimball, Jeannine (1999). “Priestesses, Enarees, and Other Statuses Among Indo-Iranian Peoples.” In: Proceedings of the Tenth Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference: Los Angeles, May 21-23, 1998. Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph Series number 32, edited by Karlene Jones-Bley, Martin E. Huld, Angela Della Volpe, and Miriam Robbins Dexter, 231-259. Washington, D.C.: Institute or the Study of Man.
  • Dumézil, Georges (1946). "Les « énarées » Scythiques et La Grossesse Du Narte Hamyc". Latomus (in French). 5 (3/4): 249–55. JSTOR 41516541. Accessed 21 Jan. 2023.
  • "The Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: "Natural" yet also "Divine"". In: Lieber, Elinor. Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003. pp. 351-369. doi:10.1515/9781474468541-025
  • "Scythian Priests and Siberian Shamans". In: Lincoln, Bruce. Apples and Oranges: Explorations In, On, and With Comparison. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. pp. 96-110. doi:10.7208/9780226564104-010.