Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
One of the Baku Maiden Tower legends, and probably the most popular, tells of a young maiden who has a suitor she dearly loves. The maiden's father, the king, wishes himself to marry the maiden. Distraught, she begs her father to wait till he builds her the tallest tower in the land.
This may have been in hopes that her lover would return from far away lands in time to take her away. Unfortunately, the king had the tower built long before the lover returned. In despair, the maiden climbed to the top of the tower and flung herself off to her death in the sea below.
The lover returns, learns of the sad tale and kills the maiden's father. He then learns that mermaids had saved his beloved from certain death. The maiden and her lover then married and lived happily ever after.
Baku, Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east. The Baku Maiden Tower mysteries are as enigmatic and dark as the tower itself is.
This ancient structure, known locally as Gyz-Galasy (Maiden Tower), has a vague and perplexing history. The actual truth of why it stands there so imposing and formidable may never be known.
Exactly when the Maiden Tower was built is still in dispute with scientists and archaeologists. One estimate sets the date of construction as far back as 6 BC. The range of dates that the Maiden Tower could have been built span 2000 years.
It is a strange and perplexing structure, the use of which could have served many different purposes. This is how folklore and legends grow -- take an ancient, mysterious, and strange building and rumors turn into lore and legends.
When first looking at this fantastic and unusual work of construction, one may think that the tower was built in a simple style. Taking a closer look shows a much more complex structure that is shrouded in mystery.
The tower was built into solid rock which slopes down towards the Caspian Sea. It is a massive structure of local limestone and measures over 16 meters (53 feet) in diameter and eight stories, almost 92 feet, high. That is not very tall by today's standards, but the tower is taller than all other ancient structures in that area. Enormously thick walls start at 16 feet at the base and narrow down to 13 feet at the top.
A winding staircase to the top is set into the thick wall. On each floor is a small set of stairs that lead up to a window. The placement of these windows line up with the rising sun during the Winter Solstice.
The space in these stair ways to each window are too narrow and limited for a human to stand upright. It is like a crawl space. One set of stairs leads up to a door which has a lock -- this door when opened leads to the open air outside. This mysterious doorway also faces southeast. Opening the door on December 21 will show a view of the sunrise on Winter Solstice.
The windows allow light in that travels down the stairs and lights up a niche on the opposite wall of each floor. Were sacred objects placed in those niches or more likely oil lamps? If so, by whom?
It is believed that the tower could have been an astronomical observatory or fire temple. This is quite possible due to the existence of a shaft, visible at the back of niches in the second and third storeys, which has been established to extend 50 feet below ground level. Upon examination, this shaft showed no evidence of being constructed for the use of a sewer or a conduit for natural gas to keep eternal flames lit. So what was the shaft there for?
On the third floor is an opening to a well which is almost 69 feet deep and ends in an underground cistern where fresh, not sea, water was found.
At the northern wall of the tower is a stone block that has the appearance of a sacrificial altar, with a pan-like indentation on top. The shape of this stone and the channel that leads from the "pan" to a drainage hole is evident of sacrifice and the ability to draw blood away from the area of the stone where an animal was secured and down to a bowl to collect the blood.
The tower faces east, towards the Spring Equinox. This could be another indication of sacrifice as offerings for new birth and a promising new year.
Petroglyphs, rock carvings, and sacrificial holes that have been found in significant points of direction in relation to Maiden Tower suggests the possibility that the whole area, especially the tower, is steeped in ancient ritualistic tradition which may date back to prehistoric times.
Female and male stele monuments and carved rocks found nearby at a burial site indicate early worship of the Earth Mother Goddess and her counterpart, a sky god.
To me, it seems very likely that the tower is where novices, young maidens, stayed when in training to become a priestess of an ancient culture, possibly Pagan or Wicca n.
The Maiden Tower has not yet given up her secrets. For two, maybe three millennia, she has remained silent.