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Sharks: Mythology, Spiritual Importance and More

Sharks have been an essential part of native cultures along the coasts across the world for 1000s of years. You can find them in tales as being human hybrids, Gods, monsters with superpower like abilities and more. Since I was a young kid I have had a special love and connection to the oceans and Sharks have always been special to me. In fact the Hammerhead shark is one of my spirit animals. I even have two tattooed as a part of my left sleeve who swim around my matron goddess Rán. I even had my own personal spiritual experience with a school of Hammerheads in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So today I want to dive deep into the world of Sharks in folklore, spirituality and more.

Once Upon a Time in St. Croix

It is a long story so I will try to be brief with this personal experience of mine. During my U.S. Coast Guard career I spent a tour in the U.S. Virgin Islands, specifically on the beautiful island of St. Croix. With two friends of mine we decided to go dive a shallow water shipwreck right off the coast in about 50 feet of clear blue Caribbean water. My two friends were geared up with SCUBA and I was free diving with my snorkel and fins.

My two friends dove down to go inside the shipwreck as I was swimming along a reef nearby when suddenly a school of Yellowfin Tuna swam by me at such a fast speed I was surrounded by bubbles. I was maintaining neutral buoyancy when suddenly out of the distance appeared a school of Great Hammerhead sharks! It was incredible to say the least. This species of Hammerhead can reach up to 20 feet in length and one swam by me that I would guess was between 12 to 15 feet. I was surrounded by at least two dozen. It probably lasted for 30 seconds but felt like a lifetime. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Sharks in Global Mythology

  • Greek

The Myth of Lamia: Lamia was the daughter of the sea god Poseidon. She had an affair with the king of the gods, Zeus. When Hera, Zeus’ wife found out about the affair she stole and murdered Lamia’s children, which drove Lamia mad. To help her get revenge, Zeus turned Lamia into a giant shark monster so she could devour the innocent children of others as revenge.

The Myth of Cetus: After Andromeda, the princess of Aethiopia’s mother Cassiopeia, was bragging that her daughter was more beautiful than the sea god Poseidon’s daughters. Poseidon decided to take revenge by sending a giant shark/whale monster name Cetus after her. Luckily for Aethiopia, the legendary hero Perseus was able to save the day and kill Cetus.

Akheilos: Akheilos is the son of Zeus and Lamia and was a lesser known sea god with a shark head and a fiery fish body. Akheilos was turned into a shark as punishment after boasting that he was more attractive than the god of beauty Aphrodite.

  • Hawaiian

Kamohoali’i: Kamohoali’i was the king of the sharks gods and guardian of the Hawaiian Islands. He could transform into both a human and a variety of different sea creatures to help people.

Ka-moho-ali’i swam in the area around the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe.

Ka’ahupahau: A shark goddess that was born a human. After being transformed into a shark god, she dedicated her life to protecting people from shark attacks.

Kane’apua: Was the trickster shark god, who could perform magical feats to entertain and delight all.

Keali’ikau ‘o Ka’u: Keali’ikau ‘o Ka’u fell in love with a human and gave birth to a green shark that would help people trapped at sea.

Kuhaimoana: Was a massive shark god that protected the Ka’ula islet and ensured fisherman had a bountiful catch.

Kane’i’kokala: Was a shark god that would save shipwreck victims.

  • Fijian

Dakuwaqa: was a major god of the Fuji islands. Dakuwaqa was half shark, half man. He would help fishermen avoid danger at sea, protect people from ferocious sea monsters, and would help ensure a bountiful catch. In the Cook Islands, Dakuwaqa was known as Avatea, and was also the god of the sun and the moon. In Tonga, he was known as Takuaka and was a warrior god that would protect people from other vicious gods.

  • Bahamian

Lascu: is a half-shark, half-octopus sea monster with a bad temper from Bahamian mythology. Lascu is responsible for sinking ships, drowning swimmers, and causing whirlpools. Lascu is said to be responsible for the blue holes, or sinkholes found along the island. It is said she will make a sinkhole whenever the residents of an island have angered her.

  • South American

The native tribal people of Brazil and Guyana, believed that the constellation Orion’s belt was actually the leg of a hunter named Nohi Abassi. After tiring of his mother-in-law, Nohi abassi trained a shark to eat her. What he did not know is his mother-in-law found out and disguised her other daughter as the shark. Instead of attacking the mother-in-law, his sister-in-law attacked him and sawed off his leg. That leg became the constellation.

  • Maori

Kawariki: was a princess who fell in love with a simple peasant boy Tutira. Her father, a sorcerer king was not happy and so he cursed Tutira, turning him into a shark. Rather than be defeated, the two still met in secret and would swim together at night. One day, there was a huge tsunami that destroyed the village and swept all the villagers out to sea. Tutira, as a shark, saved the villagers and brought them back to shore. Once Kawariki’s father realized the shark that had saved them was Tutira, he was so impressed with this heroic act, he turned Tutira back to a human and apologized by letting him marry Kawariki.

  • Zanzibar

The myth of the monkey and the shark is a simple fable about how a monkey living in a fruit tree and a shark became friends. The monkey would help the shark eat fruit from the tree and the two would talk. To repay the monkey, the shark offered to take him on his back to his home for a big feast. Turns out the shark only befriended the monkey because his king was sick and needed a monkey heart to cure him. When the monkey found out the shark’s goals, he tricked the shark into thinking he had left his heart back at the tree. The shark took him back to the tree where the monkey climbed up and mocked the shark for being stupid. The moral of the story, never trust a shark or a monkey. SOURCE

In #fijian #mythology, the deity of the sea known as Dakuwaqa is regarded as a shark-god. He was very popular with the fishermen because he would protect them from sharks and other dangerous creatures at sea. When Dakuwaqa was going to Kadavu Island to conquer it, he was attacked by an octopus. After a great battle, the octopus managed to pull out its teeth and restraining him with its 8 arms to prevent the massive attack by the demon. He was a helper during sea disasters but  was also a killer. Today, many parts of Fiji claim to have remnants of his former home and that he once lived among them. The village of Rukua in Beqa for instance has a cave where Dakuwaqa once lived with his two daughters. He is often described as a muscular man with an upper torso that’s usually associated with a great white shark but he can also alter his appearance due to his abilities of shape shifting. According to other legends, he can grow to 60 feet long and has the head and tail of a whale with a brown spotted or mottled back.
The Tiburones  are said to be flying sharks, with razor sharp teeth, crushing jaws, and able to circle their prey from the air. ‘Tiburon’ is Spanish for ‘shark’, most English translations of the Ibalon use this name for the creature (Triburon). In Bikol, these creatures are known as Pating na Pakpakan. In the Ibalon epic, they were tamed by the warrior-hero Handyong. SOURCE

The Cook Islands

From the Cook Islands comes the popular legend of Tekea the Great, the king of all sharks.

One of the most popular tales is that of Ina and the Shark. Though there are many versions of this story, it basically says that Ina was a beautiful, young maiden in love with the god of the Ocean, Tinirau. Tinirau lived on a floating island and asked Ina to come and see him. But she needed transportation across the waters and an unnamed shark offered to help her. She hopped on his back and they were off.

Afterwards, she became hungry and she wanted to break open one of the coconuts she had carried along. She hit it against the shark’s head to open it, denting his head in the process. The angry shark threw her off and she would have drowned (or he would have eaten her). Luckily, Tekea the Great came to her rescue and carried her to meet Tinirau.

Anyway, the islanders believe the knock on the head was how sharks got the indentations on their heads. SOURCE

I own a copy of this amazing book and one chapter covers the story of Nanaue, the Shark-Man of Hawai’i folklore and it is a book I highly recommend. You can purchase a copy HERE.

The Shark as a Spirit Animal SOURCE

Shark teeth have long been a symbol of strength and manhood.

Sailors and surfers often wear them for good luck and protection from drowning. In the Middle Ages people donned a shark tooth to protect them from poison in foods and beverages, which could easily translate into safeguarding us from toxic situations.

In Hawaii a story tells us that a young, brave warrior fought the God of the Sea. He won, and for his reward he received a necklace of shark teeth. So again we see them symbolic value of safety.

In this part of the world people consider the Shark spirit as a type of Ancestor or Deity known by the name Aumakua.

In Polynesia people wear a row of dots around their ankle to protect from Shark bites (or in this case whatever’s nipping at your heels). Shark as a Spirit Animal could be letting you know to watch for those who would try to bring you down by “cutting your legs out from under you”.

In the animal kingdom, males are often presumed to be the most dominant, but in the ocean, does this presumption hold water? Scientists search for answers to understand if the biggest and baddest sharks of them all are female. From the great white sharks of South Africa to the tiger sharks in the Maldives, scientist teams seek to uncover the ultimate rulers of the waves.

People born with a Shark Totem have amazing energy and deep emotions. Now, this may sound odd considering Sharks pretty much have only one facial expression that we are aware of. But, with Water as their element, of course they are creatures of the dreamscape and the real of psychic awareness.

In this, Sharks are not void of emotion but, rather, complete masters of it. They do not wear their emotions on their fins but you may rest assured they “feel” a great deal.

Wherever Shark people swim it seems like opportunity is only a cresting wave away. Shark people have intense drive and enthusiasm. You come by it naturally. Remember, Sharks never stop moving.

You may find yourself wanting to travel and find challenging adventures. In the pursuit of your goals, those with Shark as a Totem Animal will torpedo fearlessly forward until they’ve caught the bait.

Symbolic Meanings of the Shark

  • Comprehension
  • Family Safety
  • Sure Movement & Action
  • Personal Power
  • Leadership
  • Work Ethic
  • Advancement
  • Past Life Awareness
  • Transformation
  • Shape Shifting
  • Productivity
  • Independence
  • Bravery
A team of shark scientists from Florida International University, are on an expedition to try and find the world’s biggest great hammerhead.

So as you can see there is a LOT regarding the world of Sharks in worldwide coastal culture and I could have kept going on but instead I feel it can conclude here but with some further resources I looked into that I highly recommend checking out. Sharks are given such negative representation by Hollywood and even in media yet Sharks are one of the most important species regarding the ecosystem of the oceans of the world and must be respected and protected. I can only hope that doing my part with this blog post will help others realize how essential they are not just in the balance of nature but in our spiritual lives as well.

Further Resources

Hawaiian Shark Mythology

Sharks in Hawaiian mythology

Sharks in Mythology

Unveiling the Mystical Connections: Sharks and Indigenous Mythology

Sharks, Sawfishes, and Rays: Their Folklore

Takuaka – The Myth of the Shark God

Shark Folklore Around The World: Myths And Legends

Fiji’s Shark Legends

In Photos: How Ancient Sharks and ‘Sea Monsters’ Inspired Mayan Myths

The Shark spirit animal : Symbolism and meaning

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The Akhlut of Inuit Folklore

Creatures of folklore from indigenous cultures around thew world is one of my many fascinations. From the Rougarou of Cajun folklore to the Selkies of Irish folklore and many in-between. However I must say my absolute favorite has to be the Akhlut of Inuit folklore and for two specific reasons which its makeup of being a hybrid of a Wolf and Orca. I briefly touched on the Akhlut in my Orca blog post but today I wanted to go into more detail on this fierce creature who hunts the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.

In Inuit folklore, the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk or akh’lut is an orca-like composite animal that takes the form of a wolf when on land, and is sometimes depicted as a wolf-orca hybrid.

In 1900, the American naturalist Edward William Nelson described the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk among a number of other mythical and composite animals:

“It is described as being similar in form to the killer whale and is credited with the power of changing at will to a wolf; after roaming about over the land it may return to the sea and again become a whale. While in the wolf form it is known by the above name, and the Eskimo say they know that this change takes place as they have seen wolf tracks leading to the edge of the sea ice and ending at the water, or beginning at the edge of the water and leading to the shore. … These animals are said to be very fierce and to kill men.”

– Edward William Nelson

Nelson attributed stories of the creature to the orca (akh’lut), and explained wolf tracks appearing to lead into the sea as the result of ice breaking away from the edge. He identifies other composite animals among Inuit folklore, including a white whale that can transform into a reindeer, and says that belief in the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is prevalent among Inuit along the shore of the Bering Sea. SOURCE

Akhlut are known for their ferocity, and they hunt humans and animals alike.

The Akhlut is from Inuit mythology and is considered a rather vicious beast.  As you can see, it has orca traits as well as four legs.  This is because this aggressive spirit takes the form of an orca, but transforms into a wolf in order to hunt on land.  You can tell one has been around when you find wolf tracks leading to or from the icy water.  This is pretty much it as far as physical traits since it is fairly elusive.  There are times where it is described as a hybrid of a wolf and orca like above.

There are many origin myths for the Akhlut, but this is the one I found most often.  A man became obsessed with the sea and wanted to stay there.  It reached the point where the people of his village could not recognize him, so they made him leave.  He ‘hungered for revenge’ and joined a pack of wolves to survive.  He may have worked with the wolves to attack villagers, but that wasn’t consistent.  Anyway, his love of the ocean returned after he fed and he dove in to transform into an orca.  Now, he remains in that form, but returns to land and becomes a wolf whenever he is ‘hungry for revenge’.  It does appear that this eventually evolved into hungry for food over time. SOURCE

In this exhaustive story collection, the rich tradition of Inuit storytelling becomes accessible to the rest of Canada for the first time. Unipkaaqtut is the Inuit word meaning “to tell stories.”
This definitive collection of Inuit legends is thoughtfully introduced and carefully annotated to provide the historical and cultural context in which to understand this rich oral tradition.
Read about the origin of thunder and lightning, the tale of the man who married a fox and many animal fables from the North. Fascinating and educational, this little-known part of Canada’s heritage will captivate readers of all ages. As a work of historical and cultural preservation, this text will be invaluable to those studying Inuit.

What Always comes back into these stories though, is that there are footprints of a wolf to be found going to, or from the ocean, without any signs of the wolf leaving, or going to the ocean. There are, however, some simple explanations for this. First of all, the chunk of ice the arctic wolf was coming from/ going to, simply broke off. Either with the wolf still on it, or with the wolf already having left, but a few meters away. The second solution is somewhat more mysterious, and still some kind of myth. It says that sometimes, when alder arctic wolves are being rejected by a pack, they would commit suicide by jumping in the cold, icy water and drown themselves. This is rather odd, however, because survival instinct should prevent them from doing that, because it’s very strong with animals. The third explanation is that the wolf jumped into the water, swam a little bit, and came onto shore a few meters away. However, this would mean that the wolf would need a reason to swim, because it’s not really nice to swim at the north pole, and it can be rather dangerous, so this theory also has his flaws. SOURCE

Discover the world of Inuit mythology! In this video you will delve into the rich culture and beliefs of the Inuit peoples of North America. Discover their gods and spirits, their legends and myths that have been passed down from generation to generation. In this video you will learn the history of the Inuit gods, such as Sedna, the goddess of the sea and marine animals, and Nanook, the god of bears and hunting. We will also explore Inuit spirits, such as the Tupilak, spirits that could be summoned to harm others. In addition, you will discover the fascinating Inuit legends, such as that of Igaluk, the god of the moon and Malina, goddess of the sun. You will also learn about the legend of the Tunita or Dorsett, who according to legend, were the first inhabitants of their land and are described as having the musculature and strength of a polar bear.

So as you can see there is little known about this fearsome creature of the Arctic but even with what is known the Akhlut is not only my favorite creature of folklore but actually one that really resonates me on a personal and spiritual level especially due to the origin story of the Akhlut. In the future I do plan on featuring other creatures of Inuit folklore along with creatures of folklore from around the world.

Further Resources

Akhlut

Akhlut, Hunter From the Depth

What is the origin of the akhlut’s name?

Things that go bump – Akhlut

Sedna: Inuit Goddess of the Sea

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Chechnya: The Folklore, Mythology and Ancient Religions

If you have followed my blog over the past two years you will know how fascinated I am by ancient culture, mythology, folklore and indigenous traditions. Some I have shared are very well known and some not so much. Today I want to dive into a place and people that unfortunately most are not aware of have a rich history regarding their spiritual beliefs that is on a small scale as far as I have researched still exists. That place is the land of Chechnya and its people. So let’s get into it and I hope you enjoy what I am about to share with you.

Introduction

The Chechens (/ˈtʃɛtʃɛnz, tʃəˈtʃɛnz/Chechen: Нохчий, Noxçiy, Old Chechen: Нахчой, Naxçoy), historically also known as Kisti and Durdzuks, are a Northeast Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples native to the North Caucasus. They are the largest ethnic group of the North Caucasus and refer to themselves as Nokhchiy; singular Nokhchi, Nokhcho, Nakhchuo or Nakhtche). The vast majority of Chechens today are Muslims and live in Chechnya, a republic of Russia. The North Caucasus has been invaded numerous times throughout history. Its isolated terrain and the strategic value outsiders have placed on the areas settled by Chechens has contributed much to the Chechen community ethos and helped shape its national character. Chechen society has traditionally been egalitarian and organized around many autonomous local clans, called teips.

A teip (also taip, teyp; Nakh [ˈtajpə]family, kin, clan, tribe) is a Chechen and Ingush tribal organization or clan, self-identified through descent from a common ancestor or geographic location. It is a sub-unit of the tukkhum and shahar. There are about 150 Chechen and 120 Ingush teips. Teips played an important role in the socioeconomic life of the Chechen and Ingush peoples before and during the Middle Ages, and continue to be an important cultural part to this day. Teips being sub-units of tukkhums, members of the same teip are traditionally thought to descend from a common ancestor, and thus are considered distant blood relatives. Teip names were often derived from an ancestral founder. As is also true of many other North Caucasian peoples, traditionally Chechen and Ingush men were expected to know the names and places of origin of ancestors on their father’s side, going back many generations, with the most common number being considered as 7. Many women also memorized this information, and keener individuals can often recite their maternal ancestral line as well. The memorization of the information serves as a way to impute clan loyalty to younger generations. Among peoples of the Caucasus, traditionally, large scale land disputes could sometimes be solved with the help of mutual knowledge of whose ancestors resided where and when.

The Chechens, who call themselves noxchii (singular noxchi or noxchuo ) and their land Noxchiin moxk (“Chechen land”), are the largest indigenous nationality of the North Caucasus. They speak a language of the Nakh-Daghestanian, or East Caucasian language family that is native to the Caucasus, and have lived in or near their present locations for millennia. Chechnya is a small territory of about 5,000 sq. mi. (13,000 sq. km.) corresponding to about 85 percent of the historical Chechen lands (the rest is in today’s Daghestan), with some non-Chechen steppe land added in the north. The lower North Caucasus foothills and adjacent plain including the capital city of Grozny (Soelzha-ghaala “Sunzha City” in Chechen, a name still much in use despite its official renaming to Djohar in 1996) are the most densely populated part of Chechnya. The Chechens numbered just over a million in mid-2000 according to a Danish Refugee Council census. Somewhat over half of the world’s Chechens live in Chechnya; most of the others are scattered throughout Russia, several tens of thousands live in Kazakhstan and nearby, and a few tens of thousands in JordanTurkey, and Syria. Continue reading HERE.

Chechens: Culture and Society is an ethnography that elaborates the lived experiences of Chechens, focusing primarily on relationships and socio-cultural norms within the context of the current conflict in the Chechen Republic.

The Mythology and Folklore

Although the Vainak peoples (Chechens and Ingush) of the North Caucasus were Islamized relatively late in the early modern period, Amjad Khaimuka (2005) explores their pre-Islamic religion and mythology, including traces of ancestor worship. I propose to rebuild some of the elements. and a funeral cult. The Nak, like many other peoples of the North Caucasus, such as the Circassians and Ossetians, practiced tree worship and believed that trees were the abode of spirits. The Vainak have developed many rituals for offering specific types of wood. The pear tree held a special place in Vainakh beliefs.

Jaimoukha (2005), page 252, contains a list of reconstructed ‘Vainak gods’. Dar (Chechen), Dar (Ingush) or Dara – Supreme God. Corresponds to the Greek Zeus, the Roman Jupiter, the Germanic Wodan, and the Circassian Teshwe. Gal-Yerdi or Gela – Sun god and patron of cattle breeders. Worship services were held on Nak New Year’s Day, with metal spheres, candles, and sometimes animal sacrifices. Hera – God of Darkness. Seela or Sela – God of stars, thunder and lightning. Sera is often portrayed as an evil and cruel deity in Vainak mythology. His skeins (loose bags made of animal skins) contained “nights” (stars, lightning, thunder). He lives on top of Mount Kazbek in a fiery chariot. It was he who chained Puharmat to the mountain for stealing fire, and for this reason it was forbidden to carry embers and ashes on Wednesdays in his month in the old Vainakh calendar. During the period of Christianization in Chechnya and Ingushetia, he (like Vatshira in Ossetia and Ilya Muromiets in Russia) was identified with Elijah the Prophet and maintained his status. He also, like the Greek Zeus, was unable to control his mortal lust for women (to the dismay of his wife Hulki), and as a result of his episode with a mortal maiden, his daughter, the goddess Sera Sata was born. Sata or Sera Sata – According to various versions, Sheila’s wife or daughter. Goddess of craftsmanship, especially female craftsmanship, equivalent to Satanaya in the Northwest Caucasus. Her face is described as beautiful and shining like the sun. She guides Pukarmat to the top of Mount Kazbek and helps him steal Serra Fire for Earth’s inhabitants. Maetsill – God of agriculture and harvests, and protector of the weak. Ishtar-Deela – Lord of life and death, ruler of the underworld (“Deeli-Malkhi”), responsible for punishing the wicked. Molyz-Yerdi – War god who brought victory to Vaynak. Elta – God of hunting and animals, and of the harvest before Maethir took over the role. He was blinded in one eye due to his father Dheera’s disobedience. Amgali (-Yerdi) – minor deity. Taamash(-Yerdi) – (“Lord of Wonders”) Lord of Destiny. It’s usually small, but when it gets angry, it becomes huge. Tusholi – Goddess of fertility, protector of those greater than her father, Deela. She is believed to live in the sacred Gullane Am Lake. According to scholars, Tushori was the primary deity in early beliefs. People petitioned her for healthy offspring, a bountiful harvest, and a prosperous herd of cattle. In later times, Tushori became an object of worship mainly for childless women. She had a holy day, Tushori Day, on which women brought offerings such as red deer horns, bullets, and candles to the sanctuary of Mount Dheerateh (except for priests and priests). could only be entered with explicit permission). (It was forbidden to cut down trees.) Her day is now considered “Children’s and Women’s Day”. The hoopoe, known as the ‘chicken of Tushori’, was considered ‘her’ bird and could not be hunted except with the permission of the high priest and strictly for medical purposes. Dartsa-Naana (“Mother of Blizzards”) – Goddess of blizzards and avalanches. She lives on the snowy summit of Mount Kazbek, drawing a magical circle around it, which no mortal of any sense dares to cross. If any would dare to do so, Datha Nana would cast them into the abyss and let deadly snow roll upon them in her mountain home. Mok Nana – Goddess of the wind. Seelasat – (“Oriole”) Guardian of the Virgin (probably identical to Sata / Sela Sata, see above). Meler Yerdi – God of plants and cereal drinks. Aira – Guardian of the Eternal Timeline. Mozh – The evil sister of the Sun and Moon. Shrikes have eaten all their other relatives in the sky and are now in constant pursuit of their celestial brethren. A rare eclipse occurs when she catches up with them and takes them prisoner. Mr. Moz agrees to release Sun and Moon only at the request of his innocent eldest daughter. Bolam-Deela – Not much is known about him/her. He/she may or may not have been equal to Dheera Mark. Khagya-Yerdi or Maetzkhali – Lord of the Rock. Mattir-Deela – Another lesser-known god. P’eerska – (Friday) Keeper of Time. SOURCE

Closed Captions in English is available for this video.

When meeting the Chechen mythology and Chechen pagan cults, their connection with the culture of Asia and Europe is clearly traced. This is explained by the fact that since the third century AD, the Caucasus has been the intersection of the routes of communication of many Eastern and European civilizations. Thus, in the language, cults and mythology of the Chechen Republic, in its everyday traditions, up to the present day, the features of the culture of the peoples of Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe are preserved. The same applies to the Chechen theater, music and dance culture of Chechnya. Due to the constant military actions on the territory of the Chechen Republic over many centuries, a significant part of the cultural heritage of the people was irretrievably lost. But the traditions turned out to be alive thanks to the Chechen people, who retained their cultural and ethnic identity.

The number of genres of modern Chechen folklore is impressive: it is the traditional Nart heroic epic and associated mythology, various fairy tales, legends, tales and legends, religious, children’s and ritual folklore, plays, songs and poems of the so-called tyullik and Zhukhurgov. Chechen mythology is not so rich, but it is interesting with relics of pastoral and agricultural cults and totemic beliefs, and the myth “How the sun, moon and stars happened” is just a fundamental work of cosmogony and a significant historical monument of folk culture.

The Vainakh symbol of Dela-Malx. on the stone is the Ingush symbol of sun/earth motion, as is on the flag of Ingushetia:
Dela-Malx was the main god. In ancient Vainakh traditions they days honoured were the winter and summer solstice, except it is in the opposite perspective… in December, the darkest day of the year, was celebrated the “birth” of the sun (positive sense) and in June, the lightest day of the year, was the “death” of the sun (almost negative sense), as the days would then become shorter.

The heroic epic of Chechnya is in many ways similar to that of the Balkars, Ossetians, Circassians and Karachais – both in form and content. Basically, it has three epic groups: legends about giants (cyclops, giants with two eyes and giants – the founders of clans), works about national heroes and traditions – legends that are not associated with the Nart epic, but have a heroic-epic typology. Here is a translation of an excerpt from a legend typical of the second epic group of works:

So only on the battle lined up both nations with the leaders,
Troy sons rush, with chatter, with a cry, like birds:
Creek is such a crane is distributed under the high sky
If, having avoided both winter storms and endless rains,
Screaming herds fly through the rapid flow of the Ocean,
Swearing threatening and killing men undersized, pygmies,
With terrible rage on whom from air heights attack.

Chechen fairy tales are very similar to works of a similar genre of other peoples of the North Caucasus and Europe. The plot is a fairy tale magic, domestic, tales of animals, where good always triumphs over evil, and the main character usually comes out the winner from various difficult situations. SOURCE

The Vainakh peoples (Chechen: вайн нах, Ingush вей нах “our people”) are the speakers of the Vainakh languages. These are chiefly the ethnic Chechen, Ingush and Kist peoples of the North Caucasus, including closely related minor or historical groups.

Vainakh Deities

The gods of the Chechen and Ingush peoples SOURCE

Necropolis in Itum Kale(Chechnya), and tower of Tsoi-Pheda protecting the peace of the dead

The following is a list of Vainakh divinities — from “Amaga-erda”, the protector of lakes, to the “Votshabi”, the spirits which watch over herds of aurochs. This list was copied from Mariel Tsaroieva’s amazing Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes (“Ancient Beliefs of the Ingush and the Chechens”, published in 2005), which I found in a remainders bookshop in Brussels. Ms Tsaroieva is of Ingush origin, and holds a PhD in History of Religion from the prestigious Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales in Paris. A former teacher of romance linguistics at the state universities of Chechnya-Ingushetia and Kyrgyzstan, she has published many articles and books on folklore and “geolinguistics”, both in Russian and in French.

The list reads as follows:

The Gods of the World

“diala” — the god-father

“tusholi” — the goddess-mother

“kurkhars” or “tshugul” — the hairstyle of Ingush women

“tq’a” — the god of the universe

“nana latta” — mother earth

“h’al-erda” — the sky-god

“mago-erda” — the god of magic and of wisdom and knowledge

“eshtar” — the god of the afterlife


The Astral Divinities

“malkha” — the sun-god

“but’ ” — the moon-god

Seela or Sela – God of stars, thunder and lightning. Sela is often portrayed in Vainakh myth as an evil and cruel god. His skein (a loose bag made of animal skin) held the “night” (stars, lightning and thunder). He lives on the top of Mount Kazbek with his fiery chariot.


The Gods of Nature


“seli” — the god of (thunder-)storms and lightning

“dardza-nana” — the goddess of snowstorms

“mikha-nana” — the goddess of the winds

“khi-nana” — the goddess of rivers and springs

“amaga-erda” — the protector of lakes

“hagar-erda” or “hirga-erda” — the aurochs-god or the rock-god

“amgali-erda” and “saniba-erda” — the tribal gods

“kherkh-erda” — the god of fruit-trees (also protector of great trees, with the “naj-gantskhoi”, the spirits which protect “naj”, “oak trees”)



The Gods of Various Domains of Rural Life

“elta” — the god of hunting

“votshabi” — the spirits which protect herds of aurochs

The “Masters of the Woods” and their daughters or sisters, the “almas”

“tamij-erda” — the god of stock-breeding

“mat-tseli” — the god of agriculture and of justice and equality

“matir-diala” or “matar-diala” — the god of haymaking

“mats-khali” — the god of renewal (of crops)

“boalam-diala” — the god of plants (vegetation) and of travellers



The Gods of Social Life

“susan-diala” — the protector of women and of maternity (i.e. the protector of mothers)

“agoi” — the protector of girls

“orkhus” or “orkhush” — the god of fecundity and procreation

“dika-seli” — the god of goodness and kindness

“arda” — the god of boundaries (or of boundary-markers?) and of clan possessions



The Gods of Work and Handicrafts

“sela-sata” — the protector of handicrafts and know-how

“p’harmat” — the blacksmith-god

“malar-erda” — the god of intoxicating drinks (i.e. the god of alcohol)

“moloz” — the god of war


The Gods of Disease

“una-nana” — the goddess of contagious diseases

“higiz” or “hegiz” — the goddess of smallpox



Some Forgotten Gods of Antiquity

“ami” and “h’ur-ami” or “fur-ami” — perhaps the god of good tidings and the goddesses of the winds, respectively

“baini-seli” — the god of agriculture, perhaps, now replaced by “mat-tseli”; apparently related to the Georgian Mokheve (i.e. the inhabitants of Khevi, the valley of the Terek between the Djvari Pass and the Daryal Gorge)

“falkhan” — probably related to Mago-erda, the god of wisdom and knowledge

“suvsa” — probably the ancient goddess-mother

“sampai-tsuge” or “siampai-tsuoge” — probably the ancient god of trees or of forests; sometimes worshipped as the rain-god

In Conclusion

I really enjoyed putting this post together and learned quite a lot regarding this subject and plan to look more into the traditions and folklore of the people of Chechnya. I found a real treasure trove of resources which I will include for those of you who want to learn more about the amazing folklore and mythology which originated from the ancient people of such a fascinating culture.

Further Resources

Chechen native religion

The legend of the “Hordune-Din” (the “Sea Stallion”)

The Pagan Religious Practices of the Chechens and the Ingush

The Shamanic Themes in Chechen Folktales

The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush: A Study in Alpine Linguistic and Ethnic Geography

The Diversity of the Chechen culture: from historical roots to the present

Chechen Fairy Tales, Fables and Stories

The Abrek in Chechen Folklore

Dancing Through Mythological Threads: Unraveling the Symbolism of Chechen Dance