Mongolia is a country I have been fascinated for a very long time and a place someday I hope to visit. Mongolia is so rich in history, culture and spirituality. Lesser known by most, which is unfortunate, is Mongolian Shamanism. This is a subject I touched on in my blog post regarding the Tengriism which is the native religion of Siberia, Mongolia and throughout the Asian Steppe. Even the great Genghis Khan (ca. 1162–1227) himself was a believer in Tengri and attributed his success and rise to power due to his devotion to Tengriism. So now I wish to dive into specifically what Mongolian Shamanism is all about, at least what is known because the unfortunate truth is with modern society taking a strong hold in Mongolia, the native religion is slowly disappearing. So I wish to at least do my part in sharing with you what I have gathered to help preserve this fascinating spiritual practice.
Mongolian Shamanism is an ancient ethnic religion, tradition and moreover, a way of life. It is a way to connect with nature and all of creation. As all ancient spiritual practices are rooted in nature, shamanism is the method by which we can strengthen that natural connection. It is also centered on the worship of the Tenger “Tengri” (Heaven, God of Heaven, God)
Shamanism is the universal spiritual wisdom inherent to all tribes and it is memory of tribes and nations, preserving the traditions throughout the centuries. Mongolian shamanism is an all-encompassing system of belief that includes medicine, religion, a reverence of nature, and ancestor worship.
It is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with spiritual world. A shaman is someone who is regarded as having access to the world of spirits and enters into a trance state during a ritual and connects with spirits of their ancestors. Shamans perform a variety of functions depending upon their respective cultures; healing, leading a sacrifice, preserving the tradition by storytelling and songs, fortune-telling, and acting as a psychopomp (literal meaning, “guide of souls”). A single Shaman may fulfill several of these functions. In this way the Shaman helps to maintain balance and harmony on both a personal and planetary level.SOURCE
Ovoos or aobaoes (in Mongolian “heap”) are large rock ceremonial altars in the shape of mounds that are traditionally used for worship in the indigenous religion of Mongols and related ethnic groups. Every ovoo is considered to be the representation of a god. There are ovoos dedicated to heavenly gods, mountain gods, other gods of nature, and also to gods of human lineages. In Inner Mongolia, the ovoos for worship of ancestral gods can be private shrines of an extended family or kin, otherwise they are common to villages (dedicated to the god of a village). Pilgrims passing by an ovoo traditionally circle it three times in clockwise direction while making prayers. They often make offerings by adding stones to the mound, or by hanging blue ceremonial silk scarves, called khadaq, symbolizing the Tengri mountain spirits. Some pilgrims also leave money, milk, incense sticks, or bottles of alcoholic beverages.SOURCE
For many years I have been fascinated with the ancient history and culture of Mongolia, specifically regarding the great Genghis Khan and what he created. Along my reading and watching documentaries about Khan I came across the native religion of Mongolia and the Asian Steppe known as Tengriism. Khan himself was a Tengrist. It was the major belief of the Xiongnu, Xianbei, Turkic, Bulgar, Mongolian, Hunnic, and Altaic peoples before the vast majority accepted Buddhism, Islam, or Lamaism. Primarily it revolves around the “Sky God”, known as Tengri. Tengri embodies the “celestial sky” who is timeless and infinite. However Tengriism is far deeper in its complexities and is in no way monotheist. In fact there are many other deities, spirits and other creatures in Tengriism. One of the most beautiful things about Tengriism is how openly welcome the people of this native faith are regarding other native faiths (Paganism/Heathism).
Another observation of mine are some striking similarities I noticed between Tengriism and Norse Paganism such as the complexities of their Gods and Goddesses as well as the absolute passion they have for their traditions, kinship and rituals. A dear friend of mine who is a Völva in Iceland goes to a large international festival every year where representatives of native religions from around the world are invited to and as she has shown me in photos, the Norse Pagans are always mingling with the Tengrists from Mongolia. To go even deeper into my own resonance with Tengriism and Mongolia itself, I discovered going way back through my own bloodline someone at some point had relations with someone native to Mongolia.
I even went so far as to make a personal wall altar dedicated to Tengriism and its Gods and Goddesses which you can see lower down in this post.
The Turkic/Tengri (Mongolian) Gods and Goddesses
Major Gods and Goddesses
Gok Tengri – God of Sky. Creator of everything. Tengri was the main god of the Turkic pantheon, controlling the celestial sphere. And this god is Mongolia’s traditional god.
Kayra (or Kaira) – Supreme God of universe. He is the Spirit of God and creator god in Turkic mythology. Son of the sky deity (Gok Tengri).
Erlik or Erklik-Erklikhan – God of the dead and of the underworld. One of the original gods in the pantheon, he kept his existence in Tengriism, as the evil deity (Like in Zoroastrianism).
Ulgan (or Ulgen) – God of benevolence. Son of Kaira. He is a Turkic and Mongolian creator-deity.
Mergen – God of wisdom. Son of Kaira. He is a Turkic deity of abundance and knowledge.
Kyzaghan – War god of the European Huns. The first Turks did not have a war god. Kyzaghan is the son of Kayra and the brother of Ulgan.
Umay or Umai – Goddess of fertility. She is the goddess of virginity and as such related to women, mothers and children.
Kubai – Goddess of birth and children. She protects women who give birth. She gives the children souls.
Koyash or Kuyash – Sun God. Koyash is the son of Gok Tengri “Sky God” and the Earth Goddess.
Ak Ana – Goddess of creation. Ak Ana, is the primordial creator-goddess of Turkic people. She is also known as the goddess of the water.
Ay Ata – Moon God. According to the mythology, he is a moon god and he have been living in sixth floor of the sky with Gun Ana.Gun Ana – Sun Goddess. She is the common Turkic solar deity, treated as a goddess in the Kazakh and Kyrgyz mythologies.
Yel Ana – Goddess of winds. In Hungarian folklore she is referred to as the “queen of wind” too.
Yel Ata – God of winds. In Hungarian folklore he is also referred to as the “king of wind”.
Burkut – Eagle God. The eagle god Burkut symbolizes the sun and power.
Öd Tengri or Öd-Ögöd – God of time. İs seen as the impersonation of time in Turkic mythology. Generally seen with the horse of time and Ödlek.
Boz Tengri – God mostly seen as the god of the ground and steppes.
Aisyt – Goddess of beauty. She is also the mother goddess of the Yakut people from Siberia.
Su Ana – Goddess of water. Su Ana is said to appear as a naked young woman with a fairy-like face.
Su Ata – God of water. He appears as an old man with a frog-like face, greenish beard, with his body covered in algae and muck.
Od Ana – Goddess of fire. Also referred to as goddess of marriage. In Mongolian folklore she is referred to as the “queen of fire”.
Od Ata – God of fire. In Mongolian folklore he is referred to as the Od Khan “king of fire”. He is a fire spirit in the shamanistic traditions of Mongolia.
Yer Tanry – Earth Goddess / God. As a fertility goddess, she was recognized as the giver of crops and abundance.
Etugen – Earth Goddess. Her name originates from Ötüken, the holy mountain of the earth and fertility goddess of the ancient Turks.
Hurmuz or Kurmez – God of souls. Also he is a god in Mongolian mythology and shamanism, described as the chief of the 55 gods.
Jaiyk – God of rivers. He is a god in Turkic pantheon, previously known as Dayık in Altai mythology. He lives at the junction of 17 rivers.
Alaz – God of fire in Turkic mythology. Also known as Alas-Batyr or sometimes Alaz Khan.
Baianai – Hunting Goddess. She is also the Yakut goddess of forests and joy.
Other Gods and Goddesses
Adaghan – Mountain God. He protects the mountains and the creatures that live there. His name means sacrifice acceptor.
Akbugha – God of medicine. He is the god of health and healing in ancient Turkic tradition. He has a white serpent.
Shalyk – Hunting God. He was the Turkic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness and protector of forests.
Inehsit – Goddess of childbirth and labour pains. She was the divine helper of women in labour has an obvious origin in the human midwife.
Qovaq – God of the sky. He brings up a new sun every day; for that reason, he is hunted by Yelbehen to stop her and cause total darkness.
Uren – Goddess of the harvest. She presided over grains and the fertility of the earth.
Zarlık – Goddess of Judgement. She was the goddess of justice, fair judgements and the rights.
Zada – Wind God. He is the ruler of the winds, and owner of Yada Tashy (Wind Stone).
Ukulan – Water God. He is the chief of the rivers, springs, streams and fountains.
Izıh – God of wild animals. He is especially the god of freed animals.
Chokqu – Goddess of good wishes. She fulfills wishes.
Talai or Dalai – God of Oceans. He was the personification of the World Ocean, an enormous river encircling the world.
Äbädä – Spirit of forest. It is an innocent spirit in Tatar mythology, that looks like an old woman. Äbädä also is represented in mythologies of Siberian peoples. He protects the birds, trees, and animals of the forest.
Al Basty – Female daemon spirit. She is an ancient female spirit, the personification of guilt, found in folklore throughout the Caucasus mountains, with origins going as far back as Sumerian mythology.
Archura – Forest monster. Archura usually appears as a man, but he is able to change his size from that of a blade of grass to a very tall tree. He protects the animals and birds in the forest.
Ardow – Spirit of water. Ardows are spirits of human souls that died drowning, residing in the element of their own demise. They are responsible for sucking people into swamps and lakes as well as killing the animals standing near the still waters.
Azmych – Road spirit. He is an evil-spirit that causes disorientation and leads a person aimlessly around and round. The term also refers to lose one’s way.
Basty – Spirit of nightmares. Basty is best known for its shapeshifting abilities and it is an evil spirit or goblin in Turkic folklore which rides on people’s chests while they sleep, bringing on bad dreams (or “nightmares”).
Bichura – A household spirit in Tatar / Turkic folklore. Traditionally, every house is said to have a Bichura. It has also been said that Bichura can take on the appearance of cats or dogs. It wears red dresses.
Cadı – A witch or a woman who practices witchcraft. The stereotypical Cadı is commonly portrayed as wicked old woman who has wrinkled skin, pimples, and pointy hats. They also have warts on their noses and sometimes long claw-like fingernails.
Chak – A folk devil. He was specifically busy corrupting peasants. While sometimes shown in any rustic setting, he was usually pictured standing on or near a willow tree at the edge of a swamp.
Chesma iyesi – cat-shaped spirit that lives in wells or fountains and tempts youths to drowning.
Çor – A jinn-like creature, responsible for mental disorders.
Erbörü – A creature like Werewolf. It is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf).
Erbüke – A creature like Shahmaran. An Erbüke is often depicted as a wise and benign man with the features of a man above the waist and those of a serpent below the waist. He is held to be king of the snakes.
Hortdan or Hortlak – A monster, who goes out from graves. The Hortdans are creatures of Azerbaijanese mythology, as a representation of evil spirits, the spirits of the dead.
Irshi – A fairy-like spirit. She is generally described as a beautiful girl) appearance and having magical powers. Although they are often depicted as young, sometimes winged, tall, radiant, angelic spirits.İye – A spirit assigned to a specific element, animal, lineage or place.
Karakoncolos – A malevolent creature. Bogeyman. According to Ottoman Turkish myths, they appear on the first ten days of ‘the dreadful cold’, when they stand on murky corners, and ask seemingly ordinary questions to the passers-by.
Kormos – ghost of the deceased
Khyrtyq – A female swamp demon. In Turkic mythology she is known for being malicious and dangerous. She was said to live in thickets near rivers, streams and lakes.
Mhachkay – Akin of vampire. It is a creature a bit similar to vampire in Turkic (and especially Tatar) folklore. People who were born with two hearts and two souls were believed to be Mhachkay.
Neme – A spiritual being. They are mythical creatures originated in Turkic folklore. Nemes are elves very similar to other ones but they keep watch over forests, mountains, caves and underground.
Orek – Animated corpse like zombie. In Turkic folklore it is an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft.
Shurala – Forest daemon. According to legends, Şüräle lives in forests. He has long fingers, a horn on its forehead, and a woolly body. He lures victims to a thicket and tickles them to death.
Susulu – Mermaid in Turkic mythologies. She is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. She is the daughter of the Sea King.
Ubir – A monster like vampire. It is a mythological or folkloric being in Turkic mythology who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether it is undead person or being.
Uylak – A witch or spirit, that infested with people. An Uylak can turn into any animal or any object. He is capable of shapeshifting into a horse, a moth, or a wolf. He is also resistant to Archura’s enchantments.
Yarbogha – A creature like bull. Yarboghas are half-man, half bull; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a bull should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful.
Yaryond – A creature like Centaurus. The centaurs are half-man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful.
Yuxa – Queen of serpents. According to popular beliefs, every 100-year-old snake is transformed into Yuxa. In fairy tales, Yuxa is described as a beautiful damsel who would marry men in order to beget offspring.
Zilant – Serpent-like dragon. Since 1730, it has been the official symbol of Kazan. This winged snake is mentioned in legends about the foundation of Kazan. Zilant should be distinguished from Aq Yılan (White Snake), which is the king of snakes.