Naberezhnye Chelny, 2000

Chapter III Deities

Pp. 71–95

Sky God – Tengri. The ancient Türks believed that 17 Deities – Tengri, Yer-Sub, Umai, Erlik, Earth, Water, Fire, Sun, Moon, Star, Air, Clouds, Wind, Storm, Thunder and Lightning, Rain and Rainbow, ruled our Universe. Mongols believed that 99 Deities-Tengris, ruled our Universe. From ancient and medieval written sources (Türkic, Mongolian, Chinese, Byzantian, Arabian, Persian etc.), it is clear that between Türkic and Mongolian deities the superiority belonged to Tengri. The faith in Tengri of ancient Türks and Mongols was continuous, and it was preserved partially by the Altai peoples to the present time. The Türkic peoples named the Sky God almost identically: Tatars – Tengri; Altais – Tengri, Tengeri; Turks – Tanri; Khakases – Tigir; Chuvashes – Tura; Yakuts – Tangara; Karachai-Balkars – Teyri; Kumyks – Tengiri, Mongols – Tengeri, etc.

In the beliefs of the ancient Türks and Mongols all existing on the Earth is subject to Tengri – the incarnation of a celestial beginning, the Creator of a Universe, the ‘Spirit the Sky’. It was Tengri who first of all appeared as a Supreme deity located in a celestial zone of the Universe, ruling the fates of entire peoples, and their rulers, the Khagans, Khans etc. In the Orkhon stone inscriptions was imprinted the belief expressed by Bilge-Khagan of the role of Sky – Tengri: ‘All human sons are born to die in time, as determined by Tengri’.

The Kuk-Tengri (Blue Sky) is a non-material Sky, as opposed to the usual, visible sky. The appearance of Tengri is unknown. The words ‘Tengri’ and ‘Sky’ for the ancient Türks and Mongols were synonyms. The epithet ‘Kuk’ was also given to some animals, such as a horse (kuk at), ram (kuk teke), bull (kuk ugez), deer (kuk bolan), dog (kuk et), wolf (kuk bure). This epithet was not for a hue of the animal (skewbald), but it’s belonging to Sky, Kuk – Tengre, i.e. of a divine origin.

Yer (Earth) and Tengri (Spirit of the Sky) the Türks perceived as the two sides of a single beginning, not opposing each other, but mutually complimentary. A man is born and lives on the land. The Earth is his habitat. After the death the Earth swallows him. But the Earth gives the man only a material shell, and to be creative and to differ from others, living on the earth, at birth Tengri gives a Kut (Soul) to the man, and takes it back after death. There is an element of dualism here, but Tengri is supreme. It is known from Chinese sources that ancient Türks believed the lifetime of the man was at the will of Tengri. Bilge-Khagan said of the death of Kul-Tegin: ‘Human sons are all born to die in time, as set by Tengri’. And consequently the Türks addressed to Him for the help, and if the call was to Yer, Tengri was also always mentioned. Tengri could be mentioned without the Earth, but not Yer without Tengri. Tengri was considered a father, and Yer a mother.

Tengri acts freely, but He is fair, He awards and punishes. The well being of the persons and peoples depends on His will. Expressions ‘Tengri – jarlykasyn’ – Let Tengri award you, ‘Kuk sukkan’ (damned by the Sky) and ‘Kuk sugar’ (the sky will damn) were preserved from ancient Türkic times until now and are connected to faith in Tengri.

The Omnipresent Tengri was worshipped by lifting hands upwards, and giving low bows, praying for Tengri to give good mind and health, to help in good deeds; and nothing else. And Tengri assisted those who revered Him and also were active themselves. Tengri was God of the Sky, and was superior in the Universe. His greatness was emphasized by an addition to His name of the title ‘Khan’.

Further in the monument in honor of Kul-Tegin is: ‘Tengri (Sky), ruling my father Ilterish-Khagan and my mother Ilbilgya-Katun from the (celestial) heights, ennobled them (above the people)’. ‘As Tengri (Sky) gave them strength, the army of Khagan my father was like a wolf, and his enemies like sheep’.1

Tengri gives Khagans (Khans) wisdom and authority. We read on the monument in honor of Bilge-Khagan: ‘After the death of my father, at the will of Türkic Tengri (Sky) and Türkic sacred Yer-Sub (Earth and Water), I became Khan’. ‘Tengri who gives the states (to Khans), put me, it should be thought, as Khagan, so that the name and glory of the Türkic people would not disappear’.

After Khagans ascended to the throne, he became the state Patriarch for the people and for the nobility. He is esteemed as a son of Tengri. Tengri gives Khagan to his people, and punishes those who sinned against Khagan, ‘instructing the Khagan, attends to state and military affairs’.2 Crimes or offences against their Khagan were punished by Tengri (or by His will), for He gave the authority to Khagan. By Tengri a man became Khagan, and lived under His protection for as long as he himself was in accord with Tengri, was in His favor. There was a system of election of Khagan and during the election, the Beks felt and spoke, that Tengri Himself points to the candidate. A legitimate Khan was looked at as ‘Tengri-like, begotten by Tengri, a wise Türkic Khagan’. Election of Khagan was done with full responsibility. The Khagan (Khan) should be brave, clever, honorable, vigorous, fair, be in all features a real Bozkurt (wolf), be respected by the people and by the nobles. With help of these qualities Khagan unified all subordinated Türkic peoples and clans into a united nation–army, and stood to lead them. Only very energetic Khans knew how to keep under control this force, dangerous for the enemies. Khagan (Khan) had to take care of the people and Motherland. The care consisted not only of feeding and clothing his people; his main task was to raise the greatness of the Türks and the national glory.

On the ancient stone carvings of the 6-9 cc., found by the scientists on the banks of Orkhon and Tola rivers, in Altai region and in Tuva, the Türkic Khans – batyrs (mighty Heroes) left to their descendants these words: ‘Forward, to the sunrise; right, to the noon; back to the sunset; left, to the midnight... For the Türkic people I did not sleep nights and days, did not rest... Let not the Türkic people to vanish! Let not vanish the name and glory of the Türkic people!’ ‘My silver people increases the freedom, wealth, possessions... ‘ But when Khagan ruled improperly, it was said that Tengri reclaimed his capacity, requests him to be de-elected. Usually the Khagan perished incidentally, i.e. went to Tengri.

The sources of the ancient Türks, especially the Türkic inscriptions, contain facts, from which it is possible to extract data about punishment by Tengri of the individuals and sometimes of the whole people, with death and other retributions for some or other crimes or offences.

The forswearers swearing by Tengri were subject to a heavy punishment by Him; as was punished disobedience to Khagan, let alone attempts to overthrow him, switch to the enemy side, etc. Because Khagans usually lived in harmony with Tengri and were set on the throne by Him. Death of criminals, with whatever circumstances it occurred, was caused by the will of Tengri; Tengri punished Khagan and even the whole nations by death, captivity etc., if they conflicted with Tengri. The disobedience to a deity or resistance to His will was inevitably punished by death.

Khagans themselves were fearful of the punishment by Tengri, even though they declared that He gave their authority. Chinese chronicles describe a case when one of the Türkic Khagans decided not to fulfill his promise to give his daughter as a wife to the emperor of the Northern Chjow dynasty. Later, however, he rescinded this intention, and only because he was afraid of a punishment by Tengri. The idea of a sin in a Christian or Islamic sense did not exist. Good and bad, goodness and evil, happiness and misfortune during the earthen life depended on Tengri, and reward and punishment followed immediately after offences. Tengri power over man ended after his death.

Mongols also worshipped Sky – Tengri. The information about Mongols’ Supreme Almighty God is written in ‘Secret Story’. There Tengri is also named Eternal Sky. Gengiz-Khan, addressing to his sons, says: ‘Eternal Sky will multiply your strength and power and will pass to your hands Togtai’s sons ‘. And later: ‘with the help of Eternal Sky shall we transform our commonwealth state’.3

Gengiz-Khan said that Tengri (Eternal Sky) requires not only a pray, but also activity: ‘... You, Djurchedai, have struck an enemy. You overturned them all: Djurginians, and Tubeganians, and Dunkhaits. And one thousand of selected guards of Khori-Shilemun. When you advanced to the main central regiment, then with arrow – uchumakh you wounded rose-faced Sangum in a cheek. That is why Eternal Sky opened for us gates and paths’.

As we see, Eternal Sky – Tengri not only assists, but also requires action of the worshipers, that is in addition to the pray the actions are also needed. Does it explain the startling successes of the ancient Türks in international arena?

Sky God – Tengri received in the Middle Ages a Persian name Khodai and later the missionaries of world religions tried to identify Him with the Christian God or Moslem Allah. But even such mighty religions as Islam and Buddhism failed to erase from the memory of the Türks and Mongols the name of Sky God – Tengri. Thus the great Sky God – Tengri never became neither God, nor Allah. Even now Moslem Türks in speech and writing use Tengri instead of the Allah.

Times and rules of sacrifice ritual to Great Kuk Tengri. The Chinese testimony about rituals of Kuk Tengri are few and brief. The ‘Chjoushu’ chronicles about ancient Türks say: ‘In the 5-th month Türks usually slaughter sheep and horses to sacrifice to Tengri’. Another record: ‘Each year Khagan led nobles to the cave of his predecessors with offerings, and in the middle decade of the 5-th month they gathered at river Tamir to sacrifice to God Tengri’.4 The ancient Türkic peoples carried the ritual of sacrifice to Great Kuk Tengri through the centuries, and preserved it among Altai peoples. Likewise, Khakases organize the annual prayer to Tengri in the middle of June. It coincides with the time of prayer recorded by the Chinese sources, in the modern calendar falling between 5 and 10 of June. Tatars also preserved the celebration in the beginning of summer, but only in a truncated form and under a name Saban-Tui, and Buryats living in Transbaikalia and Siberia, have it under a name Subarkhan.

During a period of almost 15 hundred years (2 c. BC to 14 c. AD) in Türkic and Mongolian Khaganates, Khanates and Empires were organized annually on a statewide scale grandiose public warships – sacrifices to Great Sky God Tengri. Leading these warships to Sky God Tengri were Khagans and Khans themselves, since the authority of the Khagan was considered given by Tengri, and therefore he was a Patriarch of the state for the people and nobility.

In the beginning of a summer, at the time determined by Khagan, tribal leaders, Beks, famous commanders and Noyons etc. gathered in the Horde (capital). Together with Khagan (Khan) they went to the sacred mountain to sacrifice a colt to Great Tengri. The prayer to Tengri on this day was held throughout the whole state. Thousands of people from nearby auls (villages) and cities gathered at sacred mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and springs. It was an impressive show. Tens of thousands of fires burnt near birches on sacred grounds, where were sacrificed horses, sheep, lambs. The purpose of warship was to pray for a crop, condition of cattle, abundance of milk, health and smarts for the people, help in just deeds. The prayer was held without women and Kams. They ended with a common celebratory feast, fun, various games, competitions, and races. Unfortunately the modern Tatars have retained only this materialistic part of a holiday (Saban-Tui).

The written evidence about Altai peoples, and especially about the Central Asia Türks, not only records a wide spread worship to Tengri as a highest Deity, but also underlines the solemnity of the sacrifice ceremony. Also testifies about the large role in the past of Tengri religion between Türks and Mongols the preservation of its ancient name among modern peoples, even among those who accepted Islam, Lamaism, and Christianity.

With abandonment by Türkic and Mongolian Khanates of the religion of ancestors (Tengrianizm), and with acceptance of the world religions the grandiose All Türkic worships to Tengri on the state scale ended. A local tribal worships proliferated in these conditions. The ritual side of Tengri worship began to weaken, and then vanished and turned to a vestige.

The recorded rituals of the ancient Türkic peoples in the past had various functions. And consequently the ritual rites varied. Ones were accompanied by sacrifices. Others were limited only to prayer. The collective ritual sacrifice to Tengri was made as an act of Creation. The ritual was meant to reconstruct Cosmos in the most sacred point of its space, at a world tree. The ritual was conducted on a spring morning in a place associated with a center, on a mountain between four sacred birches. The ritual accentuated the East: in this direction from the trees was set up a large sacred fire. The East, spring and morning corresponded with the beginning of space and time, with a place and time of the sunrise. The East in the ritual became a starting point in the ‘creation’ of the world. Then, strolling in the direction of sun, each mountain and river were worshiped, not only those within sight, but also those invisible, but real. Invoking names of the mountains, rivers etc. replicated a symbolical creation of space. In the direction from center to periphery it was ‘filled’ with objects. The replication of Cosmos was done cyclically; people in order turned to the sides of the World and thus closed the Earth circle. Following the path of the sun closed the circle of times. Thus the ritual physically re-created and embraced the space. At the beginning of circling the sides of the World a rope was tied to the eastern birch. Having made a complete circle, it was stretched around other birches and tied at the other end to the extreme western birch. The rope, stretched between four birches, visibly replicated the enclosed space with a boundary, a sign of steadiness and stability. The same symbology of the semantic center, enclosing four-cornered spaces, defined the forms of many ritual structures, ‘memorial fences’ of the ancient Türks. In mythological tradition the world is reliable if the same coordinates coincide for all its spheres. It becomes repeatable, reproducible and, as a consequence, ‘controllable’ by people.

A known scientist-researcher L.P.Potapov studied the ancient beliefs of the Türks for more than a half-century in the field in the Altai territory. He collected and recorded the most valuable materials about the preserved worship and sacrifices to Tengri by Kachines and Beltirs, nowadays commonly called Khakases. The first description will be about the Kachines.

‘Prayer was organized on the top of a specific mountain, next to a sacred birch (bai kaen). If no naturally growing birch was there, it was dug out with the roots, brought here and replanted. If it did not take root, the next year another birch was brought and replanted.

The Abakanian Kachines (Troyakov Ulus etc.) organized worship to Tengri on a mountain Saksor, on the right bank of Uybat (influent of Abakan). The inhabitants of various seoks (localities where particular kins lived. – Translator’s note.) gathered there. But it was organized and conducted by Kachines of one seok, in accordance with the agreement reached at a previous gathering. Neither women, nor girls were admitted here. Even the female domestic animals (mare or sheep) could not be here. The sacrificial lambs were usually male of white hue, but with black head or black cheeks. They were sacrificed in various quantity (3-15 heads), depending on number of the participants desiring to bring their animal as a sacrifice to Tengri. Men coming to the prayer attached to their headdresses two ribbons, white and blue. After arrival at the mountain the ribbons were removed, incensed with a medicative herb, called in Kachinian ‘yerben od’, and attached to the branches of the sacred birch. During worship could not be worn hats and there was no tobacco smoking.

Prayer went on without involvement of Shaman (Kam). Led it a selected old man who knows algys, i.e. the words of Tengri litany, named Algyschan kizi. He was dressed in felt clothes and high female cap. Behind a sacred birch (on the west), at some distance, was a sacred fire. Between it and the birch was a little table, hastily assembled of birch branches; cups, dishes, and spoons made from bark were left there. The worship started without any sacramentation, with appeal to the sacred birch and food alms. Simultaneously the procession encircled trice the birch (as orbits the sun), striding in such order: first went Algyschan kizi; then two worshippers (one with a cup of vine, another with a cup of kumys); behind them the householders leading their sacrificial lambs (with right leg folded), each holding a birch branch; then, crowding, followed all others. Algyschan kizi was saying blessings and appeals to sacred birch, the followers were splashing with spoons vine and milk on its top, and all others were bowing to it. After a third circle they stopped, drank from the cups the rest of vine and milk (everyone one sip) and went on to slaughter the sacrificial lambs. It was done in an ancient way (osot sogarcha): tumble the animal down on its back, cut the hide at the breastbone, squeeze the hand into the slot and tore up an aorta. The blood could not be spilled to the ground when the animals were butchered. Meat was cooked and the broth with pieces of meat was put on the little table; vine, milk, and cheese were also placed there. Then again circled the birch three times carrying the little table. After each round Algyschan kizi threw to Tengri pieces of meat (from the broth), cheese, sprayed vine and milk, throwing it all over the top of the birch and asking Tengri for a well being. Simultaneously everybody raised their hands to the sky, bowed and exclaimed: Tengre! Tengre! Here are some algys phrases recited by the old man:

Sacred is the birch with nine leaves. Tengri!

Nine lambs we offered up, Tengri!

We ask for a rain, Tengri!

We ask for a crop, Tengri!

Let the life be prosperous. Tengri!

With the last circle around the sacred birch the prayer ends and a ritual meal started. After the meal, all remaining meat, bones, skin of the sacrificial lamb (with head and legs) were burnt in a sacred fire. After prayer there were no games on the mountain. Before departure they agreed which seok and who from it specifically would host the following prayer. After a descent from the mountain the games and entertainment begin.

As to the praying to Tengri of the Beltirs, it had some specific features. It was organized by Beltirs in the basin of river Teya, in the upper rivulet Sari-Khol, and had an expressed clannish character. In preparation to it, vine was made, various products prepared for a ritual meal and a lamb for the sacrifice (eight lambs, and a ninth was especially for Tengri). The supplier of the latter lamb braided at home an eight yards’ rope and bought a dead eagle or a bercut (golden eagle. – Translator’s note). The bird was plucked ahead of the prayer; householders going to the prayer took the feathers. At home they made bands from feathers for a headdress – ul durbe. The grown-up sons living with parents did not wear a band. To the band in addition to feathers were also added red, black and white ribbons. The feathers and the ribbons were alternatively attached to the band, so that a first was upwards, and next hung down. This attractive band was put on a headdress at the time of departure for prayer, first performing an alas – incensing it with grass ‘yerben’. On the prayer day a man selected for the delivery of the sacrificial animal left the house early in the morning, with a band on the hat. Following tradition, he had to arrive the first at the site of the prayer and start the sacred fire at once. Therefore he was called tutchan kizi. Reaching the top of the mountain, he approached the four birches growing there, unsaddled his horse, spread shabrack (kichim) and laid his hat with the band on it, then using only flint started a fire near the birches (in the space assigned for prayer). Not far from the main fire (ulug ot) was set a second, ‘a small fire’ (kichi ot). The first fire was intended for burning a sacrificial animal, second for cooking meat of the other eight lambs slaughtered at the prayer for a ritual meal. The prayer participants soon started showing up. Only men could come. Every householder on arrival removed his hat with a band and laid it on shabrack, next to the hat of the tutchan kizi. To come up the mountain was possible only on colts and geldings. Arriving on mares left them at the foot of the mountain and ascended on foot or joined some rider. Not only women and girls could not come to the mountain, but even to be near it on the day of prayer, where, for example, were left mares. The arriving men (independent homeowners, and also those who arrived without carriages, and the visitors from others seoks and tribes) sat to the south of the small fire. Everyone was without a hat. Having settled down, they started to drink araka and slaughter lambs. The sacrificial lamb was slaughtered by the ancient way, the others as usual, by cutting the throat. Sacrificial lamb’s meat was cooked on the main fire, the others – on a small fire. The cooked meat of the sacrificial lamb was put in a separate wooden dish (tepsi), and the meat of the other eight lambs was put in a second tepsi. During the meat cooking one of the Beltirs, who knew the words of prayer to Tengri, approached a pile of headdress uldurbe and attached them to a long rope (chilpag). He braided it with the ul durbe bands, then went to the opposite (eastern) sacred birch and attached the end of the rope to it, and then, holding in the hands the second end of the rope, went south for the full length of the rope. East of the small fire were tueses (vessels made from birch bark. – Translator's note.) with araka (one tues from each master), with a special attendant. Behind the man with chilpag (chilpag tutchan kizi) there were two Beltirs with tepsi. The leader of the prayer prayed to Tengri, and a man standing behind him sprinkled sacrificial vine at the Sky with a bark spoon. The men holding dishes with steaming meat extended hands, and a man with chilpag raised the rope and waved it as a fan. Everyone was bowing. The old man leading the prayer called out by the name the prominent large and small mountains and rivers, turning from the east to the south, west, north and again to the east, and for each of them the prayers raised boiled meat, waved chilpag, sprinkled vine, and bowed. After the ritual of revering Tengri and treating of mountains and rivers, they ate the meat of the lamb, drank araka, and burnt on the first fire the meat of the sacrificed lamb, together with guts, skin and bones, until nothing was left. Chilpag was tied to all four birches. The bird with plucked feathers was left on the birch where chilpag was tied in the beginning of the prayer. The bird was left there to dry up.

After the prayer the men discussed, who will arrange a sacrificial lamb and start sacrificial fire on the mountain in the next year. When a person was chosen, a large wooden cup of araka was poured and given to him to drink. The ceremony ended before the evening, and all departed home.

It is possible to analyze some of the elements of the prayer to Tengri based on the factual material of its ritual side. The ritual part of the prayer is sated with ancient Türkic features. Except for timing and periods, and also the general character of the prayer, we shall point to the epithet of the deity: ‘Kuk Tengri’ – ‘Blue Sky’. It is a distinctive aspect of ancient Türkic and Mongolian ritual terminology, carried through the centuries and preserved with Altai peoples, despite of their complex ethnic history’.5

Yer-Sub. The word Yer-Sub for ancient Türks had two meanings. One is a Great Deity. Another is the visible world, an image of the native Land. In the believes of the ancient Türks and Mongols the Great Deity Yer-Sub existed in the middle section of the Universe, and of Her residence was on Khangan Plato (more exactly, on a mountain Lanshan at the upper course of Orkhon river, in modern Mongolia); this place the ancient Türks called Otüken homeland. The Türks depicted Yer-Sub Deity as a voluptuous beautiful woman. The Yer-Sub Deity patronized Homeland (Land and Water) where lived Türks and Mongols. Except for the Man, the nature and all alive on the Earth and in the Water subordinated to her. Therefore Türks esteemed Yer-Sub Deity as a highest deity after Tengri, which found a reflection in ancient inscriptions. Yer-Sub is mentioned together with Tengri in Orkhon inscriptions under a name of yduk Yer-Sub (sacred Earth and Water). One of the records says: ‘Türkic Tengri and Türkic sacred Yer-Sub said in Heaven: ‘Let not vanish the Türkic people! Let them be a Nation!’. It is possible to conclude, based on ancient monuments, that dominating role in determination of the fate of the people, and of whole nations, the ancient Türks attached to Tengri, and a force had Yer-Sub’s decisions that had consent of Tengri. Sometimes on an order from Tengri Yer-Sub punished people for their sins. But she was considered mainly as a kind Goddess, she patronized and defended the Türks in consent with Tengri. To appease Yer-Sub, in all lands where lived Türks, in preparation for cattle brooding were made sacrifices every spring, and the farmers did it before the beginning of the fieldwork. Sacrifices were also conducted in autumn, after completion of agricultural work. During Türkic Khaganates sacrifices to Yer-Sub had a nation-wide character. They were conducted in the upper flow of the river, on the banks of a lake. A reddish hue horse was sacrificed with appeals for fertility of the cattle, crop, health and well being of the Türks.

With the disintegration of the ancient Türkic states, with the loss of state centralization, with the splitting of tribal and territorial subdivisions, the rituals of reverence to Yer-Sub began to be conducted in a narrower territorial, local forms. As in ancient times, they were conducted in the upper rivulets and on a shore of the lakes. Mostly were sacrificed white rams, their hide was not burnt, but hung out (with head and legs in it) on a tree, under which a prayer was conducted. After the sacrifice ritual they had feasts, mass celebrations, gave presents to each other.

The ancient Türks called the visible world occupied by people Yer-Sub (Land-Water) or the place of Middle Earth, emphasizing its focal, central location. Each clan, each tribe owned their territory. This territory had fields, meadows, mountains, pastures, summer and winter hamlets, hunting grounds. The boundary of the economically employed territory outlined the world, in which members of a clan or tribe lived generation after generation. This Yer-Sub (Land-Water) was theirs, beyond its boundaries were possessions of others, and further away were places little generally known. Their own limited Yer-Sub was the not just a settled space, but a copy of the world as a whole. For each clan their land is a center of the world, center of the Earth, a focus of the order and harmony.

The native land is not only a geographical concept: it is a space emotionally perceived by a man. It is the land of the clan, the land of fathers, here the man was born, has grown. That is why this Yer-Sub, the Native Land, is not for sale, under any circumstances it can’t be given away, but should be defended. People die in fight for it, because in other lands people would not have the protection of Tengri, or Yer-Sub, and so no happiness.

Umai (Ymai, Mai, Omai). In the believes of the ancient Türks and Mongols Umai was a female Deity associated with benevolent deities and spirits. She was considered to be a favorite wife of Sky God Tengri, living in the heavenly zone. Like Yer-Sub, Umai directly deferred and performed assignments for Tengri. If Yer-Sub ruled over all alive on land and in the water, Umai was giving a special divine power to the people.

It is impossible to picture an image of Umai. Living in the heavenly zone, she radiates rays down to Earth, which penetrate into a man and as hot sparks live in him to his death. This spark supports in the man his vital energy and physical force, but it is neither spirit, nor Kut (luck; mercy, fortune; spirit. – Translator's note.). It is a divine power linking the man to the heavenly zone and it is sent by Tengri for his magnanimity. If the spark perishes, so perishes the man, he dies... Thus, everything spiritual and physical in our Universe was subjected to the two Deities Yer-Sub and Umai.

For the ancient Türks, Umai appeared as highly revered female Deity, who patronized all Türkic people. She participated, together with Tengri and Yer-Sub, in reaching a victory by the Türkic forces over an enemy. In the Orkhon inscription in honor of Tonyukuk there are such words: ‘Tengri, (Goddess) Umai, Sacred Yer-Sub, they, it should be believed, gave (us) victory’. In Orkhon inscriptions there is a comparison of the Khagan spouse with Umai: ‘...Her majesty my mother Katun, comparable to Umai...’. This testifies to the reverence of this Goddess by the highest ruling ranks of the ancient Türks, and first of all by the representatives of the divine authority on the Earth – the Khagans.

The ancient Türks did not sacrifice domestic animals to Goddess Umai. They prepared dairy and meat dishes and with solemn ceremonies dedicated them to Her.

After disintegration and fractionation of the ancient Türkic states and the detachment of the ancient Türkic population of Eurasia, the Goddess Umai began to be considered only as a protector, from bad spirits of the earthly world, of pregnant women and small children. The reverence to Umai (Ymai, Mai) Deity remained fresh in the memory of the Altai Türks until recent times.

And today a part of the modern Altai Türks thinks so. ‘When the Kut of the child reached the Earth, he was weak and helpless, and therefore together with him Umai descended from heavens, and guarded him even in the womb of the mother. It was necessary, for the malicious spirits, penetrating the human, could penetrate the womb of the pregnant woman and ruin the child, resulting in abortion. At the approach of delivery Umai helped the child to arrive, entering sometimes in a struggle with a malicious spirit, who interfered with delivery and pulled the child to itself. So were explained late and heavy deliveries. Umai helped to properly cut the umbilical cord. She not only safeguarded the child, but also looked after him, washed his face, cleaned eyelashes. Umai entertained the kid, educated him and talked to him in Her own way. They well understood each other. Sometimes the child, lying in the cradle, suddenly started to smile or laugh in a dream, and sometimes did it while awake. But sometimes child cried in a dream, slept restlessly, for Umai at that time left him.

Part of the Altai Türks, on the child reaching the age of six months, invited a Kam for a special sacramentation to Umai-ana (ana – mother), with a sacrifice of a young bull. During sacramentation they asked Umai to safeguard and to look after the baby, and attached to the cradle as a talisman a small model of a bow with an arrow, symbolizing the weapon Umai used for malicious spirits trying to attack the child. The complete care and the constant presence of Umai near the child continued until he learned not only to walk freely, and run, but mostly until he understood speech well, and spoke fluently. It happened at approximately 5-6 years of age. Now the child was completely included into his social environment, first of all in the circle of the parents and relatives, was being accustomed to work, played with children of his age, etc. At this point his connection with Umai-ana completely stopped.’6 When a child reached this age, a special kamlation (sacramentation. – Translator’s note) to Tengri was organized at the request of the parents, with a sacrifice of a domestic animal, and with an appeal for longevity for the child, because Tengri endowed the Kut (soul) to the child.

‘A part of Altai-Sayan Türks preserved Umai as a patroness of pregnant and small children. Here was well preserved a concept about archaic attributes of a deity personifying a female side of the human reproduction, as a patroness and defender of pregnant and newborn from malicious spirits of the earthly world. The babies, just born in the earthly world by the will of Heavenly Deities, were especially sensitive to malicious spirits.

Children saw and felt the malicious spirits in the dwelling, unlike the adult people, and certainly with exception of a Kam. The representation of a female biological beginning was also mirrored in the name Umai, which (equally for Türks and Mongols) meant the womb of the mother, uterus, placenta, and even cut off umbilical cord. It underlined the specificity of Umai functions as a deity of popular reproduction. It was Her, that the childless or unprolific spouses, and women, whose children died in infancy, and the like, asked for children.’7 Kams revered Umai at difficult deliveries, the women called Her Umai-ana – ‘mother Umai.’

The concept of placenta and umbilical cord under a name Umai (Mai, Ymai, Omai) are not alien to both modern Altai-Sayan Türks and Mongols. Believing that Umai will remain in the umbilical cord and will permanently patronize the child, customarily the umbilical cord was buried in the yurt near a hearth. Revering Umai, the Türks in many families made a symbolical small bow with arrow or spindle, to serve as a talisman for the babies. The bow with arrow was for the boys, spindle was for the girls. These amulets were attached to the dwelling, near the usual place where was a cradle with child. They were made at the first placement of the newborn into the cradle, with the invited Kam, and removed when children grew up and did not use a cradle any more.

The modern Volga Tatars do not revere Umai deity. This reverence was preserved in the pre-Islamic Tatar dastans (poetic tales) and legends, in language and in customs. In Tatar language are many well-known words derived from roots um, ym, im, am, expressing female womb or link between the mother and child ym, ymsynu, ymyn amu, yyumalau, im-gek, imu, imezu, imezlek, -imi, -imchak, am, amyi, mai etc.

Today the Türks do not know about Umai deity, and therefore, do not recognize Her. But with it they did not become neither spiritually, nor materially richer. The divine birth of the child, childcare have simply turned to a usual reproduction, but even that is not for themselves, but as a service to other peoples.

Erlik. The ancient Türks and Mongols considered Erlik a Deity of the Underground World. He is a leader and potentate of the underground world, where is no sun, nor moon. In the Orkhon-Yenisei monuments Erlik is mentioned in transcription Erglik. The ancient Türks also called him Erlik-Khan.

The appearance of Erlik is described in the appeals of Kams. Erlik is described as an old man with athletic built. His eyes and eyebrows are as black as soot, the beard is parted and reaches his knees. The moustache is similar to tusks, curling behind the ears. The horns are like the roots of a tree, and the hair is curled.

With a name of Erlik the Türks connected the worst disasters, for example epidemics and illnesses of the people and cattle. He caused these illnesses to force man to give Him a sacrifice. In normal times and especially with an illnesses, a man felt a painful fear of Erlik, and was afraid to say His name, calling Him the instead Kara-Name, i.e. something black.

The ancient Türks and Mongols believed that Erlik had a family. The sons of Erlik helped Him to rule the underground world, where there are lakes, rivers and seas. Erlik has several daughters. In the ancient Türkic myths the number of them is from two to nine. They are described as idle, sexually promiscuous, desirous to lure to their beds Kams when they descend to the underground world in time of sacramentation, and to snatch the sacrifices that Kams bring to Erlik.

Ancient Türks believed that Erlik was closely connected with Kams. Ancient legends said that Erlik taught the first black Kam sacramentation. Sacramentation to the underground world was done only by black Kams (kara kam), white Kams (ak kam) never went to the underground world. Though Erlik was a deity managing the underground world, he caused an evil rarely. He did not control the death of the people and did not take away their Kut, but only accepted in his kingdom the material body of the diseased. The ancient Türks believed that the Kut, after the body being burnt, returned to Sky, or after being buried went to the land of diseased, to the world of ancestors, instead of the care of the Master of Hell (Erlik’s) as it is in the doctrines of the world global religions. In the Erlik kingdom were live malicious spirits – Kermeses who sometimes rose to the land under the sun to harm people. Especially many of them come at sunset.

Sacrifices to Erlik were conducted at night, by slaughtering domestic animals with some defect (broken horn, lame, etc.), as it was believed that the underground, the invisible world is a contrast to the visible world.

The Earth. The great Sky God Tengri was a dominating deity in the Universe and, undoubtedly, was believed to be a father, a ruler. The deity Earth was considered to be a mother and a wife of Tengri. She appears as a force of nature, She is one of the main deities, only Sky was higher. Therefore ancient Türks and Mongols highly esteemed deity Earth. In ancient mythologies there is a theory that on the Earth people appeared from a marriage of deities Tengri and Earth. In Orkhon monuments there is a record: ‘In the beginning there was a blue sky above, and below a dark land, and human sons appeared between them. The sky sanctions life, it fertilizes, but the birth is given by Earth, Who is a natural incarnation of ‘body’s bottom’. People are born, live and die on the land. After a death the land swallows them. Land grows the grass, cereals and trees, including the Sacred Tree that connects the worlds. The people revere the Earth as a giver of crops and abundance, as a source of treasures that give the material happiness to humans.

In the spring, before the beginning of the production year, and in the autumn, after finishing the work, as a sign of gratitude for the abundance of food and happiness of the people, the ancient Türks and Mongols made a sacrifice to deity Earth. Milk, kumys and tea were sacrificed to her; pleads for fertility of the land, rich crop etc. were addressed to Her.

Water. Ancient Türks believed deity Water was born earlier than deity Earth. Therefore She was believed to be a senior sister of Earth. Per ancient mythologies it was believed that the beginning of the Earth started from Water. From the bottom of Water ‘a heavenly duck’ lifted sand, clay, silt, from which the Earth was created.

The closest deity for Water was Rain. The Rain helped grow children and grandchildren of Water – sea, river, lakes and springs. She was hostile to deity Fire.

The ancient Türks related to Water twofold. On the one hand they believed that water ‘is a commencement, initial state of everything existing, equivalent of primordial chaos,.. water is a medium, agent and basis of global grandeur and incipience. Water evenly bore with foreign and hostile. It is the possession of spirits and the entrance in another world. It is not accidentally that to wash the face with water in mythological tradition is conceptually equivalently to ‘die’.

But on the other hand, Water was greatly respected, as without the water the life on the Earth is impossible. Even a human consists of 80 percents of water. In the mother womb the child is surrounded and protected from everything by water. Türks named this water ‘vivifying water’. Water in unclean lakes and boggy pools, filled with stale muck, were called ‘dead water’.

The life, fertility and productivity of land depend on Water deity. Therefore sacrifices were brought, at the river sources and lakes, to Earth and Water, asking for good harvest, increase of cattle and well being in life.

Fire. Ancient Türks believed deity Fire was a grandson of Sky God Tengri and a son of the Sun. His brother was Lightning. Therefore, in spite of the fact that Fire was born and has grown on the Earth, after death It rises to the Sky as smoke, to again return to the Earth.

In Fire the ancient Türks saw an omnipotent deity, which arises, breathes and permanently varies. The Türks associated with Fire a birth, growth, development, and the life in general. As scientist N. Katanov wrote in his records, ‘In perception of the Tatars, the spirit of Fire grows and warms beings, and as soon as the spirit of Fire departs from the being, he dies, the body unites with the land, and the soul joins the multitudes of spirits, soaring above the Earth’.

The ancient Türks visualized in myths deity Fire as an image of a Red cow, Red bull, and Red cock. In other images, Fire was personified with by a female figure – Ut-Ana, Mother Fire. Ut-Ana was believed to be the mother of all people. When Fire whistled in the hearth, they bowed to the flame and invocated: ‘Fire, you are our Mother with 30 teeth, you are our mother-in-law with 40 teeth’.

In the yurt Fire was deemed to be a part of the sun (Heavenly Fire). The hearth in the center of the yurt was round in form (solar disk). Warmth, emanating from the sun and fire, their bright luminescence and the colors bore certain analogies between them. Sun and fire, and the link between them and the life, were extended to the woman as a forebear and guardian of descendants.

The Fire-hearth was protected and kept clean, a careless attitude could result in Him becoming angry and ‘leaving’ the yurt. Fire was believed to be a clan deity, but each family had also a family Fire, and to mix Him with Fire of other family, to borrow Him from the neighbors was a sin, it was even impossible to cook food in a utensil that has earlier been on another Fire.

Completely inadmissible was to desecrate Fire, i.e. to throw any garbage and leftovers, foully smelling substances, mix coals by a sharp object, to swing at and step over Fire, to push in fuel by a leg, to step on ashes, to spit: for spitting on lips would come blisters. It was prohibited to deviate from the daily ritual of feeding and treating Fire, giving slivers of food and drinks used by the inhabitants of the yurt. For sacrifice to Fire usually was used fat. Even ashes from the home hearth were taken somewhere to a secluded place, where neither people, nor animals would not go. For violation of these and other rules Fire punished inhabitants by various illnesses, deprived of the protection from malicious spirits, sometimes even burnt some or other things, and occasionally also the dwelling. A burned object was seen as the most terrible signal of Fire anger, and a special prayer with sacrifices was then organized. If it occurred on a hunt, the hunters abandoned hunting. When the burning wood in the hearth cracked or a whistling was heard, it meant Ut-Ana’s good mood, and the master should expect good news and visitors.

‘Once a year in a yurt were organized family prayers to Ut-Ana. The purpose of them was to ask for the family’s well-being: that nobody fell sick, the cattle was not lost and a good luck. a Kam conducted in a yurt a prayer to Ut-Ana. A white ram with a black head was given as a sacrifice. Before the sacrifice, simmered milk was poured upon the ram, it was decorated with multi-colored ribbons and released back to the herd, thus devoting it to Ut-Ana. After the slaughter of the sacrificial ram the right front part of the carcass and heart were burnt, and the remaining part with the hide were given to the Kam.

A required attribute at all Kam’s sacramentations was a birch, symbolizing link of the upper and lower world, and in the yurt its branches – sis were used. They, decorated with chalama (ribbons of blue, red and white color), were set in the floor around the hearth. After a sacrifice to Fire the Kam threw into the hearth pieces of fatty meat, the flames flashed with large blazes. In invocations to Ut-Ana the Kam usually said: ‘You, Fire, Mother of ours. You have 40 teeth, You are covered with red silk, and You have white silk bed. I did not step on white ashes. Small children and dogs did not touch you. I sacrificed the white ram, I gave the white lamb, I bow to you, Fire, give us, give us easier (life— Translator’s note)’.8

The sacrificial food for deities and spirits was prepared on flames. People ate the meat, and the Deities and Spirits were fed the smell of the roasted meat.

Fire had a cleaning quality. A desecrated thing was held above the flames for cleaning. The ambassadors arriving to Khagan were always led through a flame, between two fires, subjecting them to a fiery clean up. Leaving the winter quarters, the Horde passed between two fires. A man giving a public oath also had to be cleared by flames. For this purpose fires were set in two places, he was led between fires and had to kiss a sable or sword, and in the Middle Ages he had to kiss a mouth of a gun, with which a man was killed before. Only after that the man could give the oath.

“Fire was a patron of dwellings, a home sanctuary, therefore a bride, at the entrance to a new family, had to bow to Fire of the husband’s house, so that her family would be as happy as the ancestors. Women led the bride entering a new family to a yurt of the father-in-law. Indoors she did usual kneeling (entering into a yurt of the relatives older than her husband and accidentally seeing them, brides kneel every time). Then she was seated in the center on a tanned calfskin, so that the bride was soft, as a skin,... then poured fat into flames, and she bowed to the ground a few times, invocating, ‘Mother-Fire and Mother-Fat, award me with your favor!...’ At this time women pat her on the face with palms warmed in the flames”9. And the Kam, stretching his hands above the flames, invocated: ‘Lady Hearth Ut-Ana! By your will this flame is born. So let this flame be protection of the dwelling against malicious spirits, a barrier from human treachery, let the goodness to warm without burning, and the evil be eliminated without a trace. Let Fire last for thousands of years! Bless the hearth, Ut-Ana!’ After that the Kam declared the bride to be a wife of the groom and a full mistress of this hearth, and the groom to be a husband and a master of this yurt.

Fire was applied for treatment of various diseases. So, if a child or adult had crusts on the face (Russ. ‘fiery fly’ – Translator’s note), above them were made sparks by a flint. And Kam, addressing the crusts, said, ‘Why a sole branch of a tree does not move anywhere, why do you wander here and there? Let all the crusts together with fiery sparks fall from the face. Just as knoll does not move anywhere, you too do not move. Do not build your yurt here any more. Tfu, tfu to you. Do not come back here any more’.

With the help of Fire Kam treated child from milk disease (disease of the mucous membrane of a mouth, when it becomes covered by a bright-white film). The treatment consisted of the Kam laying the child on the back and burning on his chest a piece of a birch bark, in the place of the burn remained a stain-mark. The same procedure was conducted for the treatment of salivating.

‘To the number of diseases cured by flames belonged rheumatism – pain in the legs, which, in the opinion of the ancient Türks, was caused by careless walking in places of old encampments. Mongols thought precisely the same, because they had a legend that Khonkirat people suffered pains in the legs because they came from Yergena-Kun mountain valley and stomped the good of other peoples under their feet.

The treatment by fire was such: from the seven parts of a cattle body were cut pieces, thrown into flames and then a sick place (rheumatism) was heated with them. The ritual to clear the illness with the sacrificial fire was such: a tin scoop was thrown into flames, heated red-hot, then filled with oil and a blue cloth was sunk in there, when it all was ignited, the scoop was brought under the nose of the patient and cold water was poured, producing a terrible steam. This treatment was called ‘jelaushek’ (spell by a wind).’10

It was believed that the ashes also had medical property. So, a bleeding wound was strewed with hot ashes, which accelerated the healing. At sudden pain in the stomach a man took hot ashes by the right hand and a few times smeared it across a bare stomach.

Sun. (Koyash). Sun for the ancient Türks was an esteemed God. The ancient Türkic mythologies said that the Sun is the son of Tengri, and His mother is Earth. Therefore, it circles between the father and mother. The ancient Türks and Mongols worshipped power and vital force of the god Sun. It was not possible to imagine life without energy and influence of the Sun.

In antiquity was a ritual of greeting sunrise. Huns, coming out in the morning from aul (village. – Translator’s note), welcomed the ascending sun and bowed to Him. Praying Türks turned to the sunrise. They worshipped Sun because Tengri and His assistant Kun (Sun) supervise the created world by means of the Sun rays which are strings linking the spirits of plants with the Sun.

The ancient Türks knew a solar ray as a transmission medium for embryo of life sent by Tengri to the man. A vivid example is the genealogical legend of the birth by a shamaness, from a Türkic ancient noble clan Ashide, of the son An-Lushan, later famous, who rebelled against Tan dynasty of imperial China. At his conception a ray of light penetrated the yurt. It is possible to also recollect the ‘famous pra-mother of the Mongols, Alan-Goa, who originated the clan of Gengiz-Khan, conceiving from a ray which penetrated the yurt through a smoke hole.’11

The ancient Türks associated the movement of the sun in the sky with a flight of a fiery bird, winged horses, etc.

Winged horses as a symbol or personification of the Sun were widely spread in the cosmogonic myths of the Türkic peoples. In addition to the horse and birds with the symbol of Sun were also connected such animals as ram, deer, bull.

The huge number of domestic artifacts decorated with signs and symbols of solar ornament, found on all the territory of Eurasia, testifies to a wide distribution of the cult of the Sun between the Türks. Such signs are pictured in large numbers on ceramic vessels and female earrings.

Moon (Ai). Ancient Türks’ mythology regarded Moon as a daughter of Sky God Tengri and Earth. Ancient Türks perceived goddess Moon dually: Moon frightened them and at the same time they loved Her.

The moon was represented as a Lady and as a symbol of the night. The night is darkness, when the malicious spirits emerge from all holes. All feasts and jamborees of malicious spirits occur at night. The rituals and hypnotic sessions of witches were always conducted according to the phases of the Moon and, mainly, in a full moon. At night the illnesses amplified, causing more often deaths at this time. Robberies, murders are done mainly at night. On the other hand, the Türks trusted the magic force of the Moon. She was a sole night lantern. To please Moon those born during full moon were given names as such: Aisylu, Aituly, Ainir, Aizirek, Ainaz, etc.

From ancient times the Türks noticed that woman and moon have the same secret force. The female cycles, her mysterious bleedings, coincided with the monthly phases of the moon. Female pregnancy lasts about nine lunar months, and more often women deliver during a full moon.

Three phases of the moon also had their signs. It was believed that at ‘ai naazy’ (new moon) the moon symbolized a young girl, who grew day to day. She is pure and modest. At ‘ai toly’, ‘tuly ai’ (complete moon) Moon personified a mature woman – mother. In this period she is good-natured and favorable. At ‘ai karty’ (old moon) the Moon aged, became wise, but at the same time quarrelsome and malicious. Before death Moon reigned in absolutely dark night, She was not visible. In these three nights, it was believed, life and death meet together. After the meeting they separate, to meet again in a definite period. The old Moon died, a new one was born, and together with Her a new life, new cycle, new round was born, and so on indefinitely.

Stars. The ancient Türks and Mongols revered stars. For them were brought sacrifices. The Star deities, in the opinion of the Türks, influence the human happiness, richness, cattle, and others, and each star corresponds to a Kut of a man on the Earth, and when the man dies, his star also falls on the Earth.

A happy man, protected by a fate, was called ‘a man with a star’. The ancient Türks knew many stars, but the most popular, which they continuously encountered in practical life, were:

1. A Polar star – Timer Kazyk (iron stake) was a reference during night travels. The name Iron Stake, probably, was given due to a visual immovability and, consequently, two close stars moving around it, like horses on a cord tied to a stake, were named ‘two white horses’. According to the cosmological ideas of ancient Türks, the sky looked like a cupola of a yurt. The Polar star was called ‘A Smoke hole of the Sky’, a mythological center the Sky ostensibly serving as a pass to other worlds. The history of its creation is:

There was a time, when the Sky and the Earth came in disorder. The Sky pressed on Earth, and the Earth split. A great Chaos came to the Universe. Black storm grasped the Earth, the ashes of earth mixed up with clouds, the thunder roared, lightning flashed, hailstones fell the size of a duck egg.

People, animals and birds perished, only groans were heard above the Earth, fear and confusion, suffering and grief reigned.

Mountains moved, rivers were overflowing, fire clinched forests and steppes. The moon, sun and the stars lost their tracks, and were swept in a chaotic spinning.

Three years reigned Chaos, three years lasted the disaster, until the Lord the Sky, god Tengri in great anger hammered into Universe a golden stake.

The golden stake of the god Tengri secured the Sky and the Earth, and became an axis of the world, around which hold the path the moon and the sun, stars and comets. And the end of the stuff can be seen at the night in a dark sky, people named it a Polar star.

2. Big Bear was called Seven Elders. They were given as offerings kumyz, milk and animals. Seven Elders kept a stolen daughter of Pleiads.

3. Pleiads – Urker. The Türks noticed a forward movement of Pleiads to Big Bear and thought that Pleiads pursued Seven Elders to free the daughter. The Türks determined by Pleiads the time of night and the seasons.

4. Venus – Shepherd’s star. By the rise of this planet the Türkic shepherds brought herds to the aul (village) corral.

5. A morning star – Chulpan12. The Türks named children in honor of favorite stars.

Air. The Byzantian historian Th. Simocatta wrote that ‘the Türks worship fire, water, earth, sky and air’.13

Ancient Türks believed that deity Air supervises the life between Sky and Earth. Air, as well as all other deities, accedes to Great Sky God Tengri. Without Air the life on the Earth is not possible. Therefore in ancient Türkic mythologies deity Air had properties of life, of a vital force. Life entered through breath. Stop breathing, and without air comes death. In the myths sometimes inhaling life revived dead heroes.

Thunder and Lightning. Ancient Türks believed that Great Sky God Tengri controlled Thunder and Lightning. By His order deity Thunder and Lightning punished malicious forces. The Türks believed that a thunder is an angry voice of Tengri, and lightning are heavenly arrows, which strike malicious spirits. A house struck by lightning was not extinguished and nobody would come near it until it completely burned down. A house struck by lightning was believed to deserve the anger of Tengri. No new house was built on that place; it was believed that there would be no happiness. The beliefs of the ancient Türks prohibited a use of a tree struck by a lightning, not only in construction, but also as fuel. Splinters from the tree which undergone an impact of a lightning were used as medical means. A patient was fumigated with coals of a tree struck with lightning. The Türks noticed, that the lightning does not struck sacred birches, because they have links with Sky. A man killed by a lightning was considered ‘sacred’. In a place hit by a lightning were brought sacrifices to spirits.

Wind. In ancient Türkic mythologies deity Wind mainly symbolized mischievous, brawling, sometimes a violent character. Nobody could imagine how Wind looks, but in some myths His image is shown similar to the unbridled horse. The Türks called, and do it until today, the thoughtless people or horses ‘born of a wind’.

Ancient Türks believed that deity Wind directly reports to Great Spirit Tengri. Because of His restless character Wind cannot get along with deities Earth, Water, and, sometimes, with spirit Fire. He permanently clashes with them and does not let them rest. When angry, in the winter He sends to the Earth snowstorm, and, in the summer, hurricane, bringing misfortune to the people, animals and nature. Therefore, running into hurricane, the Türks spat three times: ‘tfu, tfu, tfu’. The ancient Türks believed that some spirits of illnesses appeared as a wind and struck people. If, during a hunt, the wind destroyed a tent of the hunters, they stopped hunt and immediately went home, believing that hunting would not be successful. They returned back to hunt a bit later, first arranging a small prayer, addressed to the master of a forest or a mountain where they hunted.

Western and northern winds were considered ‘bad’. In the autumn they brought bad weather: rain, snow, clouds covering the sun. In January and February are some very windy days, therefore they are called ‘Jil aiy’, months of wind. ‘Do not admit malicious spirit, do not admit evil wind,’ addressed to Umai Altais. The ancient Türks perceived the wind as a touch of the other world and its breeze was believed to be a reason for discomfort, especially, if the wind was an ‘envoy of the lower world’.

Wind, as one of the elements of nature, creates a situation of change. It brings not only clouds, storm, but in mythological plots it also brought diseases. Certainly, a violation of stability in itself was not a trouble yet, but the wind could become a trouble. Therefore possession of wind, skill to control weather was one of the characteristics of strong Kams, Yadachi and other sacral persons. Their interference was required in situations when elements could turn into a trouble for a man.

The ancient Türks esteemed Him, despite the negative effects of the Wind. In honor of deity Wind and in reverence to Him, per Chinese chronicles, the Türks constructed a temple under a name ‘Dispersing the clouds’. The Türks visited this temple before a military campaign, made a sacrifice and asked for a victory.

A light air movement produced with a fan was part of the Tengrian ritual. The sense was that blowing a light wind was considered as showing up of spirits, to whom this or that request was addressed.

As it is known, one of the main movements of a Kam during sacramentation with tambourine or a fan was a fast spinning on feet. This movement symbolically represented a whirlwind. Kam turned clockwise. The same rotation made the faithful around the sacred birches, fire etc during a sacrifice. People trusted the spirit of Wind, a personifying force of the nature, which gave them energy. At the same time the Türks had the idea of a whirlwind as an evil spirit, if the rotation was counter-clockwise. Such a whirlwind could steal the Kut of a man.

Tornado. Ancient Türks saw Tornado as a malicious deity. The tornado was not so much frightening as inducing admiration as a deity personifying the force of nature.

Clouds. Ancient Türks believed that deity Cloud directly subordinated to Great Sky God Tengri. Thunder and Lightning were His brothers. A violent wind sometimes mischieved and drove Cloud in a boundless Sky. White clouds were forerunners of a sunny day. Black clouds were forerunners of a rain. No Clouds was for hot, droughty weather.

Rain. The most esteemed deity for the Türks was Rain. Both the harvest and the well being of a man depend on Him. In May a sacrifice was made to deity Rain. After the sacrifice started the ‘rain celebration’.

By ancient mythologies, the ancient Türks portrayed Rain as a human. He lived in the Sky, but was more connected with Earth deities. His brothers were Thunder and Lightning, Cloud, Wind, and sister Water on Earth. The sources of water on the Earth especially esteemed deity Rain. By the ancient believes, if a spring flows with a murmur, it means that there will be a drought. The most esteemed and sacred for ancient Türks was the first rain in the beginning of the spring – Leysen, which is in many myths and legends of the Türks. The ancient Türks believed in His vivifying, curative properties and used water as medicines. Türks – Tatars till today give names to the children in honor of the first spring rain.

Rainbow. Ancient Türks believed that Rainbow was a sister of Rain. After a spring warm rain Rainbow had a habit of milking the sheep, tied with a cord into a row by the necks. This row people from the Earth see as beautiful semicircles.


Chapter III. Deities

1. Malov.S.E. Monuments of Ancient Türkic writing, M.L., 1951. Pp 37-39.

2. Klyashtorny S.G. Mythological scenarios in Runic monuments // Turkological Collection. M., 1981. P. 131.

3. Magazine Baikal. Sacred Tale. Ulan-Ude, 1989. No.6

4. Liu Mau-Tsai. Op.cit Bdl. S.42.458.

5. Potapov L.P. Altaic Shamanism. L. 1991, Pp. 264-267.

6. Potapov L.P. Altaic Shamanism. L. 1991, Pp. 37-38.

7. Potapov L.P. Altaic Shamanism. L. 1991, Pp. 291.

8. Gladyshevsky A. Newspaper ‘Soviet Khakassia’, 22 November 1991.

9. Chokan Valikhanov, Selected Works, M., 1986. p. 305.

10. Chokan Valikhanov, Selected Works, M., 1986. p. 226.

11. Rashid ad-Din, Collection of Chronicles, M., 1952, Vol. Book 2, p 14.

12. Chokan Valikhanov, Selected Works, M., 1986. p. 306.

13. The Byzantian Historians. Trans. S. Destunis, SPb., 1860, p. 376 (In Russian.)

Translated by Norm KISAMOV

Tatarstan main page | Turk history page