Vedekos.

This is such an obscure puzzler I suspect it’s going to remain unsolved, but it never hurts to try. I’m still reading Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Губернские очерки (see this post), and a repentant scoundrel is talking about how he’d made his way home after he’d lost his ill-gotten gains and his life had come crashing down around him and he’d taken to bed with some sort of unidentifiable illness: “Голова не болит, а словно перед тобой в тумане все ходит. То будто кажется, что вдруг черти тебя за язык ловят, то будто сам Ведекос на тебя смотрит и говорит тебе: «И приидут вси людие со тщанием…»” [Your head doesn’t ache, but it’s as if everything before you is in a fog. Sometimes it seems as if devils are pulling at your tongue, sometimes as if Vedekos himself is looking at you and saying “And let all people come with zeal…”]. The only Google Books hits for Ведекос are from this passage, and the same goes for the Church Slavic expression in quotes. Does anybody have any idea who this Vedekos might be? If it helps, the scoundrel is from an Old Believer community, and the pre-reform spelling is Ведекосъ (i.e., no yat is involved).

Comments

  1. No idea but did find this hashtag: https://twitter.com/hashtag/vedekos?src=hash

  2. Yeah, there’s at least one company named Vedekos, but that doesn’t get us very far.

  3. Trond Engen says:

    I have an idea — the devil, for God’s sake — but I suppose you want more than that.

  4. Yeah, I had that idea too. Well, a devil, to be precise.

  5. Trond Engen says:

    No, the devil (there’s only one devil dancing on the head of this pin!). That’s how I read “as if Vedekos himself”.

  6. Yeah, that particular devil. I mean, if someone said “as if Mike Tyson himself were beating you up,” you wouldn’t conclude there was only one boxer in the universe, right?

  7. (I almost wrote “as if Mike Tyson himself were biting your ear,” but that would be mean.)

  8. As somebody with a vivid memory of watching the Tyson-Holyfield fight live, I can assure you that no amount of mean-spirited ridicule of what Tyson did that night is inappropriate.

  9. Trond Engen says:

    if someone said “as if Mike Tyson himself were beating you up,” you wouldn’t conclude there was only one boxer in the universe, right?

    No, but I would conclude that Mike Tyson was the brutal boxer par excellence. And Vedekos the devil above all other devils, i.e. the devil, Satan, also known as Lucifer, Beelzebub. Or at the very least some major local minion, like Mephistopheles.

  10. Trond Engen says:

    … but now that I’m thinking along the major minion track, he could of course be some other local entity taking prominence among the forces of chaos, like Woden is in charge of the Wild Hunt.

  11. January First-of-May says:

    The ending -os makes me think that Greek is involved in some way, and we should be searching for something named Vedek. But that doesn’t remind me of anything specific either.

    Incidentally, I agree that from the context it refers to some high-ranking demon (probably a variety of devil).

  12. I thought the same, and looked for Bedek and Bedekos, but nothing.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    Could be derived from вед “know”? Judging from my dictionary it has derivations with all sorts of connotations, from witchcraft to leadership.

  14. found Old Church Slavonic ведéкъ from Greek βεδεκ from Hebrew בָּדֶק
    the meaning is unclear, but judging from Russian and English translations of 2 Kings 12:6 where it is found, the word must mean “damages or hole” or something like that (in the context, the temple had ведéкъ which JKV translated as “damages” and the priests were asking for money to deal with it.)

    Hebrew word apparently also has meaning of “checking for damage or purity” (is that what Orthodox Jews mean by bedikos?)

    I have no idea how it got to be associated with the devil

  15. Could be derived from вед “know”?

    No, because that’s written with yat (вѣд-).

    found Old Church Slavonic ведéкъ from Greek βεδεκ

    OK, that sounds plausible, although you’d think there would be some attestation of its use for a devil or the like; how could Saltykov-Shchedrin have expected his reader to get the reference?

  16. Unsure if this helps (I don’t speak nor read Russian), but Google finds the following:

    Там “людие со тщанием приобретения ради, глыбоко в землю входят, ямы себе и пещере творяща”.

    It’s supposed to be somewhere in this book:
    http://imli.ru/upload/elibr/russliteratura/Robinson_A_N_otv_red_-_Razvitie_barokko_i.pdf

  17. It just occured to me that Vedekos actually might be an Old Russian/Church Slavonic rendering of Latin word Vindex (Vindicator, Avenger, Protector) which was an epithet of Jupiter in Roman pagan religion.

    And since Christians, especially sectarian ones like Old Believers, tended to equate pagan religion with Satanism, perhaps here it was used as an epithet for Lord of Darkness himself.

  18. Church Slavonic ведек means worn out, broken, but also crack, chasm. Maybe Vedekos is someone from a chasm. CS word is from Greek βεδεκ (mainly in 4 Kingdoms = 2 Kings 12)

  19. Sorry, missed SFReader comment.

  20. Despite the -os ending, the word is almost certainly not Greek since to my knowledge there are no words or names in Greek, ancient or modern, that begin with βεδ- (other than words of foreign origin, e.g. the Greek for Bedouin and Vedic).

    The Septuagint βεδεκ (2 Kings 12:5) is from Hebrew bā·ḏeq, a masculine noun meaning fissure, breach, leak (in a building) (Brown-Driver-Brigg’s definition).

  21. David Marjanović says:

    And since Christians, especially sectarian ones like Old Believers, tended to equate pagan religion with Satanism, perhaps here it was used as an epithet for Lord of Darkness himself.

    See also: perkele.

    BTW, there are still millions of American fundamentalists who retain the concept from antiquity that everything anyone has ever prayed to really exists and is (with one exception) an evil lying demon, so that worshipping them isn’t merely an act of ignorance, but (somehow) actively dangerous. They are not, as Dawkins put it, “atheists about all gods except one”.

  22. Nothing (or at least nothing immediately obvious to a glance) on
    Vedek
    Wedek
    Wedecus
    Wedecos
    Wedekos
    Wedekus
    Bedek
    Bedecus
    Bedecos
    Bedekus
    Bedekos

  23. …which makes me wonder if it’s a typo or something. Maybe it should be “Belenos”? I mean, you could mistake a л for a д and a к for a н…

  24. (Humbly inquire, could one of you lot please ask Mr Tyson to stop hitting me?)

  25. Lithuanian for ‘devil’ is ‘velnias.’

  26. “wonder if it’s a typo or something”

    It’s not an OCR error at least, if this 1965-edition PDF is anything to go by.

  27. Yeah, if it’s an error, it dates back to the first editions and was never corrected by the author in his lifetime, so that seems unlikely.

  28. I mean, a printing error. Of course it’s quite possible it was an error on the author’s part. It’s also possible he heard it from an Old Believer in Vyatka, wrote it down, and included it along with the other bits of folklore that liven up his text, in which case it may be a form so distorted by being passed down among generations of sectarians that its history will never be untangled.

  29. And it’s at least two and possibly three letter substitutions in one word, so fairly unlikely.

    And the equally hapax-legomenon Church Slavonic expression makes it even more of a puzzle! It certainly sounds as though it’s supposed to be a reference to something…

  30. Exactly, that’s why it’s so frustrating!

  31. The quote is suggestive of another nearby passage, II Kings 10:16: And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. I don’t know how that was translated in Church Slavonic though.

  32. Biblehub is usually good for these things, but unfortunately they don’t include Church Slavonic. But 2 Kings is online here, and the wording is entirely different.

  33. >Hebrew word apparently also has meaning of “checking for damage or purity” (is that what Orthodox Jews mean by bedikos?)

    לִבדוֹק (livdok) is to search/scrutinize/check/inspect in Hebrew. Bedikos are bits of white cloths which are used by Orthodox Jewish women to make sure that there is no more menstrual blood coming out of them so they can immerse in the mikvah(ritual baths) and become available to their husbands.

    Totally striking out on Vedekos so far in all my web searches…

  34. I could only find one english translation -Tchinovnicks; sketches of provincial life, from the memoirs of the retired conseiller de cour, Stchedrin [pseud.], Saltikow. Translated, with notes, from the Russian, by Frederic Aston. from1861 Its on google books.

    Saltykov-Schedrin is very under-translated.

    The Ведекос companies seem to be all Ukrainian and medicinal – I wonder if that’s significant

  35. Another bit of Russian liturgical texts questionably relevant. “Во дни оны, воставше Мариам, иде в Горняя со тщанием во град Иудов…” from Luke 1:39 “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda” (KJV), so it means тщание here is “in a hurry”. This is part of Annunciation and we might infer that archangel Gabriel giving Mary “good news” is replaced by this strange Vedekos, who is urging poor guy to go downward to hell. Or maybe not.

  36. Trond Engen says:

    Medicus? Except, how should that work?

  37. I could only find one english translation -Tchinovnicks; sketches of provincial life

    Thanks very much, I had been unaware of that translation!

    Saltykov-Schedrin is very under-translated.

    Yes, indeed.

  38. I’ll just note that вѣдѣ and какѡ are names of two letters of the Old Russian/Church Slavonic alphabeth and stand for В and К.

    So Vedekos might be reading out of ВК – whatever this abbreviation might stand for. /in Tsarist Russia, this most often meant Великий князь – grand duke/

  39. In my ignorance, let me try a crazy analogy.

    In the Vyatka governorate, Urzhumsky uyezd, there was a place called При мельнице Ведексеевской. This is now the village of Timino near Sernur. It seems that before При Ведексеевской мельнице it was При Ведесеевой мельнице, and that this was coming from the owner Федосей. (http://rodnaya-vyatka.ru/places/104922)

    Is it possible that the same mechanism that yields Ведексеев instead of Федосеев might also yield Ведекос instead of Федос for Theodosius?

    Surely there’s plenty of Theodosii to attribute a Church Slavonic invocation to. Maybe rather than a devil it could be the Old Believer’s equivalent of a vision of Saint Peter welcoming him at the gates.

  40. It’s pretty clear that no matter where Vedekos got his name from, he is an emissary from hell. Just after the passage quoted by Languagehat

    В глазах у него свет и тьма, из гортани адом пышет, а на главе корона змеиная. […]Однажды даже вся преисподняя мне открылась: сидит Вельзевул на престоле огненном, а кругом престола слузи его хвостами помавают, а крыле у них словно у мыши летучей.

    Light and darkness were in his eyes, hell was burning from his throat, and on his head was a crown made of snakes.[…] Once, the whole hell was revealed to me; Beelzebub is sitting on the throne of fire and around it his servants are wagging their tails and their wings are like of a bat.

  41. OK. I looked at the text (not a bad idea, huh?) and Saltykov-Schedrin gave a lot of footnotes about his sources. In particular, he cites Андрей Иоаннов “Полное историческое известие о древних стригольниках” (Andrei Ioannov, Full historical account of old strigolniki). The word strigolnik doesn’t have a reasonable translation because no one knows its Russian etymology either. Unfortunately, this text is not online and I have no way to check whether there is any mention of Vedekos in there.

  42. Could that be a contamination of something with вед- ved- ‘lead’ (as in ведёт vedyot) + кос- kos- ‘athwart’?

  43. found another mention with slightly different spelling in “Обозрѣніе Пермскаго Раскола такъ называемаго “Старообрядства.” (Взглядъ на Пермское Старообрядство.).” January 1, 1863.

    “Родится онъ отъ колѣна Данова, отъ дѣвки жидовки, сирѣчь, отъ вѣры жидовской, и будетъ называться Іисусъ агнецъ неправедный, духъ лукавый, титинъ преисподній, невидимый, бѣсъ ведикосъ и злонаставникъ”

    “He [ie, the Antichrist] will be born from the tribe of Dan, from Jewess girl, that is, in Judaic faith, and he will be called Jesus – the Unholy Lamb, a sly spirit, titin of underworld, the invisible, demon Vedikos and teacher of evil”

    the entire sentence is description of theological beliefs of Perm Old Believers.

    We can confirm now that Vedekos/Vedikos is indeed a name of a demon, but we are no closer to finding out the etymology.

  44. – вед- ved- ‘lead’ (as in ведёт vedyot) + кос- kos- ‘athwart’?

    this actually fits the sentence rather well.

    “бѣсъ ведикосъ и злонаставникъ”

    “demon leading+athwart and teacher+of+evil”

    Problem solved?

  45. Hmmm. No chance it’s connected to the word коса (scythe), as in the traditional representation of the Grim Reaper?

  46. Trond Engen says:

    I’d think that Ru. кос- and коса are related through a similar metaphorical path as Eng. shear/shear and No. skjære “cut”/skrå “diagonal” and snei “cut-off piece; diagonal direction”

  47. The first thing I thought of is to check Slavic apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, of which there are many. Will do that when I get home. The second thing I thought of is vedek.

  48. Could that be a contamination of something with вед- ved- ‘lead’ (as in ведёт vedyot) + кос- kos- ‘athwart’?

    I agree with SFReader: that makes a lot of sense, and the dogged research by D.O. and SFReader has cleared up the history of the name. You guys are amazing — I’d given up hope of any resolution!

  49. >будетъ называться Іисусъ
    “He will be named Jesus”, at first sounded like a strange name for the Antichrist. Then I noticed that one of the reforms of Patriarch Nikon was the changing of the spelling of Jesus from Ісусъ to Іисусъ. Which the Old believers viewed as the work of the Devil.

  50. according to the book on Permian Old Believers, he shall be called Iisus Avvadon Napalion Bonapart Antichrist

  51. And he’ll use three fingers while crossing himself.

  52. I found a remarkable Hebrew source for “bedikos.” Unfortunately, this spam filter is too narrow to permit it.

  53. The Greek diabolos is in origin a compound meaning something like “throwing across” so anya’s suggestion of “leader astray” sounds reasonable — it’s a calque or loan-translation on the Greek.

    Caveat: I know no Slavic language so I’m just guessing.

  54. The Greek diabolos is in origin a compound meaning something like “throwing across” so anya’s suggestion of “leader astray” sounds reasonable — it’s a calque or loan-translation on the Greek

    Sounds about right. Amazing etymology sleuthing here! Wow!

  55. Wow indeed!

  56. David Marjanović says:

    The first thing I thought of is to check Slavic apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, of which there are many. […] The second thing I thought of is vedek.

    Opposite order for me!

    Permian Old Believers

    Older believers than the Triassic ones… 🙂

  57. Bedikos was apparently the name for a kind of question used in Sanhedrin legal proceedings.

  58. Trond Engen says:

    I almost forgot: Today is The Devil’s Birthday.

  59. Marja Erwin says:

    And while it’s possible that this refers to “the Devil,” it’s by no means clear that it does.

    “And let all people come with zeal…” seems like an odd thing to attribute to “the Devil,” unless the phrase were associated with the liturgical changes.

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