Turkic mythology

The 10th-century Irk Bitig or "Book of Divination" of Dunhuang is an important source for early Turkic mythology

Turkic mythology embraces Tengriist and Shamanist traditions as well as all cultural and social subjects being a nomad folk. Later, especially after Turkic migration some of the myths were decorated with Islamic symbols. It has many common points with Mongol mythology. Turkic mythology was influenced by other local mythologies. For example, in Tatar mythology elements of Finnic and Indo-European myth co-exist. Subjects from Tatar mythology include Äbädä, Alara. Şüräle, Şekä, Pitsen, Tulpar, and Zilant. Besides Buddhism, Turkic mythology was influenced by Manichaeism.

Irk Bitig, a 10th-century manuscript found in Dunhuang is one of the most important sources for Turkic mythology and religion. This book is written in Old Turkic alphabet like the Orkhon inscriptions.

Gods in Turkic mythology


Kök Tengri is the first of primordial deities in the religion of the early Turkic people. He was known as yüce or yaratıcı tengri (Creator God) after the Turks started to migrate and leave middle Asia, and see monotheistic religions Tengrism was changed from its pagan/politheistic origins. The religion was more like zoroastrianism after its change, with only two of the original gods remaining. Tengri, representing the benevolent god and Uçmak ( a place like heaven or vallhalla), while Erlik took the position of the malevolent god and hell. The words Tengri and Sky were synonymous. It is unknown how Tengri looks like. He rules the fate of the entire people and acts freely. He is fair as he both rewards and punishes. The well-being of people depends on his will. Tengri worship is first attested in the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions in the early 8th century.

Other gods

Umay (The Turkic root umāy originally meant 'placenta, afterbirth') is the goddess of fertility and virginity. Umay resembles earth-mother goddesses found in various other world religion and is the daughter of Tengri.

Öd Tengri Is the god of time being not well-known, as it states in the orhun stones, "Öd tengri is the ruler of time" and son of Kök Tengri.

Boz Tengri Like Öd Tengri, he is not known much. He is seen as the god of the ground and steppes and is a son of Kök Tengri.

Kayra is the Spirit of God. Primordial god of highest sky, upper air, space, atmosphere, light, life and son of Kök Tengri.

Ülgen is the son of Kayra and Umay is the god of goodness. The Aruğ (Arı) denotes to "good spirits" in Turkic and Altaic mythology. They are under the order of Ülgen and doing good things on earth.[1]

Erlik is the god of death and the underworld. Also a god of the manly seem, since his name Erklik is also used for male. Later Erlik was used depriving him of this rather anti-hero status. The title Khan in his name is because of his ruler position (the ruler of hell).

Ay Dede is the moon god.

Gün Ana is the sun goddess.


As a result of the nomad culture, the horse is also one of the main figures of Turkic mythology; Turks considered the horse an extension of the individual -though generally dedicated to the male- and see that one is complete with it. This might have led to or sourced from the term "at-beyi" (horse-lord).

The dragon (Evren, also Ebren), also expressed as a snake or lizard, is the symbol of might and power. It is believed, especially in mountainous Central Asia, that dragons still live in the mountains of Tian Shan/Tengri Tagh and Altay. Dragons also symbolize the god Tengri (Tanrı) in ancient Turkic tradition, although dragons themselves are not worshiped as gods.

The World Tree or Tree of Life is a central symbol in Turkic mythology. According to the Altai Turks, human beings are descended from trees. According to the Yakuts, White Mother sits at the base of the Tree of Life, whose branches reach to the heavens where it is occupied by various creatures that have come to life there. The blue sky around the tree reflects the peaceful nature of the country and the red ring that surrounds all of the elements symbolizes the ancient faith of rebirth, growth and development of the Turkic peoples.


The Grey Wolf legend

The wolf symbolizes honor and is also considered the mother of most Turkic peoples. Asena is the name of one of the ten sons who were given birth by a mythical wolf in Turkic mythology.[2][3][4][5]

The legend tells of a young boy who survived a raid on his village. A she-wolf finds the injured child and nurses him back to health. He subsequently impregnates the wolf which then gives birth to ten half-wolf, half-human boys. One of these, Ashina, becomes their leader and establishes the Ashina clan which ruled the Göktürks and other Turkic nomadic empires.[6][7] The wolf, pregnant with the boy's offspring, escaped her enemies by crossing the Western Sea to a cave near to the Qocho mountains, one of the cities of the Tocharians. The first Turks subsequently migrated to the Altai regions, where they are known as expert in ironworkers, as the Scythians are also known to have been.[8]

Ergenekon legend

The Ergenekon legend tells about a great crisis of the ancient Turks. Following a military defeat, the Turks took refuge in the legendary Ergenekon valley where they were trapped for four centuries. They were finally released when a blacksmith created a passage by melting rock, allowing the gray wolf Asena to lead them out.[9][10][11][12][13][14] A New Year's ceremony commemorates the legendary ancestral escape from Ergenekon.[15]

Oghuz legends

The legend of Oghuz Khagan is a central political mythology for Turkic peoples of Central Asia and eventually the Oghuz Turks who ruled in Anatolia and Iran. Versions of this narrative have been found in the histories of Rashid ad-Din Tabib, in an anonymous 14th-century Uyghur vertical script manuscript now in Paris, and in Abu'l Ghazi's Shajara at-Turk and have been translated into Russian and German.

Korkut Ata stories

Book of Dede Korkut from the 11th century covers twelve legendary stories of the Oghuz Turks, one of the major branches of the Turkish Peoples. It originates from the pre-Islamic period of the Turks, in which Tengriist elements in the Turkic culture were still predominate. It consists of a prologue and twelve different stories. The legendary story which begins in Central Asia is narrated by a dramatis personae, in most cases by Korkut Ata himself.[16]

The legend of Timur

The legend of Timur (Temir) is the most ancient and well-known. Timur found a strange stone that fell from the sky (an iron ore meteorite), making the first iron sword from it. Today, the word "demir" means "iron".

Other legends

Modern interpretations

Decorative arts

5-kuruş-coin features the tree of life.
The Tree of Life, as seen as in flag of Chuvashia, a Turkic state in the Russian Federation

See also


  1. Türk Söylence Sözlüğü (Turkish Mythology Dictionary), Deniz Karakurt, (OTRS: CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Bozkurt Legend (Turkish)
  3. Book of Zhou, Vo. 50. (Chinese)
  4. History of Northern Dynasties, Vo. 99. (Chinese)
  5. Book of Sui, Vol. 84. (Chinese)
  6. Findley, Carter Vaughin. The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-517726-6. Page 38.
  7. Roxburgh, D. J. (ed.) Turks, A Journey of a Thousand Years. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005. Page 20.
  8. Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Princeton University Press, 2011, p.9
  9. Oriental Institute of Cultural and Social Research, Vol. 1-2, 2001, p.66
  10. Murat Ocak, The Turks: Early ages, 2002, pp.76
  11. Dursun Yıldırım, "Ergenekon Destanı", Türkler, Vol. 3, Yeni Türkiye, Ankara, 2002, ISBN 975-6782-36-6, pp. 527–43.
  12. İbrahim Aksu: The story of Turkish surnames: an onomastic study of Turkish family names, their origins, and related matters, Volume 1, 2006 , p.87
  13. H. B. Paksoy, Essays on Central Asia, 1999, p.49
  14. Andrew Finkle, Turkish State, Turkish Society, Routledge, 1990, p.80
  15. Michael Gervers, Wayne Schlepp: Religion, customary law, and nomadic technology, Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, 2000, p.60
  16. Miyasoğlu, Mustafa (1999). Dede Korkut Kitabı.


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/19/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.