Turkic mythology

Turkic mythology embraces Tengriist and Shamanist and 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 numerous common points with Mongol mythology and both of them were probably originated in a proto syncretic Tibetan Buddhist and nationalist 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. Turks apparently practised all major religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Manichaeism, before the majority of Turks confessed to Islam. Turks often syncretised the other religion into their prevailing mythological understanding.[1]

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.

Irk bitig 07
The 10th-century Irk Bitig or "Book of Divination" of Dunhuang is an important source for early Turkic mythology

Gods in Turkic mythology

Deities are impersonated creative and ruling powers. Even if they are anthropomorphised, the qualities of the deities are always in the foreground. In the Turkic belief system, there is no pantheon of deities as in Roman or Greek polytheism. Many deities could be thought of as angels in modern Western usage, spirits, who travel between humans or their settlement and the highest deity, such as Kayra.[2]

İye are guadrian spirits responsible for a specific natural element. They often lack personal traits, since they are numerous.[3] Although most entities can be identified as deities or İye, there are other entities such as Genien (Çor) and demons (Abasi).[4]


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 good god and Uçmag ( a place like heaven or vallhalla), while Erlik took the position of the bad god and hell. The words Tengri and Sky were synonyms. It is unknown how Tengri looks. He rules the fates of entire people and acts freely. But he is fair as he awards and punishes. The well-being of people depends on his will. Tengri worship is first attested in the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions of 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 religions 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 grounds 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.[5]

Erlik is the god of death and the underworld.

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.


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.[6][7][8][9]

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.[10][11] 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.[12]

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.[13][14][15][16][17][18] A New Year's ceremony commemorates the legendary ancestral escape from Ergenekon.[19]

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.[20]Korkut Ata heritage (stories, tales, music related to Korkut Ata) presented by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in November 2018 as an example of multi-ethnic culture.[21][22]

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. The word "temür, temir or demir" means "iron".

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus are two brothers, who later founded Rome. They were left in a river and a female wolf suckled them out of the water. To establish Rome, they choose the place, they were breastfed by the wolf. It has been suggested, that this myth passed by Etruscans to Italy. However, it is very difficult to estimate how the Italy and the Rome myth are connected. [23]

Other legends

Modern interpretations

Decorative arts

5kr obverse
5-kuruş-coin features the tree of life.
  • A motif of the tree of life is featured on Turkish 5 Kuruş coins, circulated since early 2009.
  • The flag of the Chuvash Republic, a federal subject of Russia, is charged with a stylized tree of life, a symbol of rebirth, with the three suns, a traditional emblem popular in Chuvash art. Deep red stands for the land, the golden yellow—for prosperity.
Flag of Chuvashia
The Tree of Life, as seen as in flag of Chuvashia, a Turkic state in the Russian Federation

See also


  1. ^ JENS PETER LAUT Vielfalt türkischer Religionen p. 25 (German)
  2. ^ Turkish Myths Glossary (Türk Söylence Sözlüğü), Deniz Karakurt‹See Tfd›(in Turkish)
  3. ^ Turkish Myths Glossary (Türk Söylence Sözlüğü), Deniz Karakurt‹See Tfd›(in Turkish)
  4. ^ Turkish Myths Glossary (Türk Söylence Sözlüğü), Deniz Karakurt‹See Tfd›(in Turkish)
  5. ^ Türk Söylence Sözlüğü (Turkish Mythology Dictionary), Deniz Karakurt, (OTRS: CC BY-SA 3.0)
  6. ^ Bozkurt Legend ‹See Tfd›(in Turkish)
  7. ^ Book of Zhou, Vo. 50. ‹See Tfd›(in Chinese)
  8. ^ History of Northern Dynasties, Vo. 99. ‹See Tfd›(in Chinese)
  9. ^ Book of Sui, Vol. 84. ‹See Tfd›(in Chinese)
  10. ^ Findley, Carter Vaughin. The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-517726-6. Page 38.
  11. ^ Roxburgh, D. J. (ed.) Turks, A Journey of a Thousand Years. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005. Page 20.
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Oriental Institute of Cultural and Social Research, Vol. 1-2, 2001, p.66
  14. ^ Murat Ocak, The Turks: Early ages, 2002, pp.76
  15. ^ Dursun Yıldırım, "Ergenekon Destanı", Türkler, Vol. 3, Yeni Türkiye, Ankara, 2002, ISBN 975-6782-36-6, pp. 527–43.
  16. ^ İbrahim Aksu: The story of Turkish surnames: an onomastic study of Turkish family names, their origins, and related matters, Volume 1, 2006 , p.87
  17. ^ H. B. Paksoy, Essays on Central Asia, 1999, p.49
  18. ^ Andrew Finkle, Turkish State, Turkish Society, Routledge, 1990, p.80
  19. ^ Michael Gervers, Wayne Schlepp: Religion, customary law, and nomadic technology, Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, 2000, p.60
  20. ^ Miyasoğlu, Mustafa (1999). Dede Korkut Kitabı.
  21. ^ "Intangible Heritage: Nine elements inscribed on Representative List". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 2018-11-29. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  22. ^ "Heritage of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut, epic culture, folk tales and music". ich.unesco.org. Archived from the original on 2018-11-29. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  23. ^ Turkish Myths Glossary (Türk Söylence Sözlüğü), Deniz Karakurt‹See Tfd›(in Turkish)


  • Walter Heissig, The Religions of Mongolia, Kegan Paul (2000).
  • Gerald Hausman, Loretta Hausman, The Mythology of Horses: Horse Legend and Lore Throughout the Ages (2003), 37-46.
  • Yves Bonnefoy, Wendy Doniger, Asian Mythologies, University Of Chicago Press (1993), 315-339.
  • 满都呼, 中国阿尔泰语系诸民族神话故事(folklores of Chinese Altaic races).民族出版社, 1997. ISBN 7-105-02698-7.
  • 贺灵, 新疆宗教古籍资料辑注(materials of old texts of Xinjiang religions).新疆人民出版社, May 2006. ISBN 7-228-10346-7.
  • Nassen-Bayer; Stuart, Kevin (October 1992). "Mongol creation stories: man, Mongol tribes, the natural world and Mongol deities". 2. 51. Asian Folklore Studies: 323–334. Retrieved 2010-05-06.
  • Sproul, Barbara C. (1979). Primal Myths. HarperOne HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 978-0-06-067501-1.
  • S. G. Klyashtornyj, 'Political Background of the Old Turkic Religion' in: Oelschlägel, Nentwig, Taube (eds.), "Roter Altai, gib dein Echo!" (FS Taube), Leipzig, 2005, ISBN 978-3-86583-062-3, 260-265.
  • Türk Söylence Sözlüğü (Turkish Mythology Dictionary), Deniz Karakurt, (OTRS: CC BY-SA 3.0)

External links

Alp Er Tunga

Alp Er Tunga or Alp Er Tonğa ("Brave Soldier Tiger": Alp "brave, hero, conqueror, warrior", Er "man, male, soldier, Tom", Tonğa "Siberian tiger", Divanü Lugati't-Türk Veri Tabanı) is a mythical hero who was mentioned in Mahmud al-Kashgari's Divânu Lügati't-Türk (Arabic: دیوان لغات الترک Compendium of the language of Turks), Turkic mythology and Turkish literature.

In Turkic literature he is considered to be the same character as Afrasiab in the Persian Epic Shahnameh. He is sometimes mentioned as a khan of Saka (Scythia).

Altaic mythologies

Altaic mythologies include:

Turkic mythology

Mongol mythology

Tungusic creation myth


Alıp (Alp) is a Turkic term referring for

Title of nobles serving in military of Göktürk and Khazar qaghanates, Volga Bulgaria and some other states.

An epic hero or a giant in Turkic folklore, usually noble. In some cases term is added to the name of a real person, such as Almış, Alp Ilutuer, Alp Arslan, Alpamysh. Alıp can also be found in the names of places.

Azerbaijani folklore

Azerbaijani folklore is the folk tradition of Azerbaijanis which has developed throughout the centuries.

Azerbaijani folklore is embodied explicitly in a large collection of narratives and implicitly in representational arts, such as vase painting and votive gifts.


Burkhanism or Ak Jang (Altay: Ак јаҥ) is a new religious movement that flourished among the indigenous people of Russia's Gorno Altai region (okrug) between 1904 and the 1930s. Czarist Russia was suspicious of the movement's potential to stir up native unrest and perhaps involve outside powers. The Soviet authorities ultimately suppressed it for fear of its potential to unify Siberian Turkic peoples under a common nationalism.

Originally millenarian, charismatic and anti-shamanic, the Burkhanist movement gradually lost most of these qualities—becoming increasingly routine, institutionalized (around a hierarchy of oral epic singers), and accommodating itself to the pre-existing Altaian folk religion. It exists today in several revival forms.

On the whole, the Burkhanist movement was shown to be a syncretistic phenomenon combining elements of ancient pre-Shamanist, Shamanist, Lamaist and Orthodox Christian beliefs. According to a Professor of Tomsk State University L. Sherstova, it emerged in response to the needs of a new people - the Altai-kizhi or Altaians who sought to distinguish themselves from the neighboring and related tribes and for whom Burkhanism became a religious form of their ethnic identity.


Ergenekon or Ergeneqon (Turkish: Ergenekon, Mongolian: Эргүнэ хун/Ergüne khun) is a founding myth.

Kosa (folklore)

Kosa (Turkish: Kosa or "Koça", Azeri Turkish: Qoça) or Qochaqan (Turkish: Koçagan) is a spring feast and festival Turkic and Altai folklore. Arranged for the god that called Kocha Khan (Turkish: Koça Han). So this is a blessing, fertility and abundance ceremony.


Kozar is a personal name with its origins in Turkic and/or Slavonic languages.

A founding myth among the Khazars, as related in texts such as the Khazar Correspondence and King Joseph's Reply to Hasdai ibn Shaprut, held that they were founded by Kozar, a son of the Biblical figure Togarmah (or Togarmas). In such texts, the brothers of Kozar are given varying names, including: Bulgar (founder of the Bulgars), Ujur (Uyghurs), Tauris (Tauri), Avar (Avars/Varchonites), Uguz (Oghuz Turks), Bizal, Tarna, Janur, and Sawir (the Sabirs). The medieval Jewish Joseph ben Gorion lists the sons of Togarmas as: Kozar, Pacinak (the Pechenegs), Aliqanosz (the Alans), Bulgar, Ragbiga (or Ragbina/Ranbona), Turqi (possibly the Göktürks), Buz (the Oghuz), Zabuk, Ungari (either the Hungarians or the Oghurs/Onogurs), Tilmac (or Tilmic/Tirôsz; the Tauri). In the Chronicles of Jerahmeel, they are listed as:, Cuzar (the Khazars), Pasinaq (the Pechenegs), Alan (the Alans), Bulgar (the Bulgars), Kanbinah, Turq, Buz, Zakhukh, Ugar (Hungarians or Oghurs/Onogurs), Tulmes (or Tirôsz; the Tauri)Another medieval Rabbinic literature|rabbinic work, the Book of Jasher, gives the names: Buzar (the Khazars), Parzunac (the Pechenegs), Elicanum (the Alans), Balgar (the Bulgars), Ragbib, Tarki (the Göktürks), Bid (the Oghuz), Zebuc, Ongal (the Hungarians or Oghurs/Onogurs), and Tilmaz (or Tirôsz - the Tauri).


Olonkho (Russian: Олонхо́, Yakut: Олоҥхо, Kazakh: Олонхо, Bashkir: Олонхо) is a heroic epic tale of the Yakuts and one of the oldest epic arts of the Turkic peoples. The term refers to the entire Sakha epic tradition as well as its central epic.

The Olonkho is still performed in the Sakha Republic. The poetic tales are performed by a singer and story-teller in two parts: a sung part in verse alternates with a prose part composed of recitatives. In addition to possessing good acting and singing skills, the narrator must be a master of eloquence and poetic improvisation. The epic consists of numerous legends about ancient warriors, deities, spirits and animals, but also addresses contemporary events, such as the disintegration of nomadic society. The Olonkhos, varying from 10,000 to 20,000 verses (or more) in length, are sung during a period of up to seven nights. "Nyurgun Bootur the Swift", the best-known, consists of more than 36,000 verses.

Given that each community had its own narrator with a rich repertoire, numerous versions of Olonkho circulated. The tradition was developed within the family context for entertainment and as a means of education. Reflecting Yakut beliefs, it also bears witness to the way of life of a small nation struggling for survival at times of political unrest and under difficult climatic and geographical conditions.

The political and technological changes in twentieth-century Russia have threatened the existence of the epic tradition in the Sakha Republic. Although there has been a growing interest in Olonkho since the Perestroika years, this tradition is endangered because of the very low number of practitioners.


Ongon (Mongolian; plural ongod, Turkish: Ongun, Azerbaijanese: Onqon) is a type of spirit in the shamanistic belief system of Mongolia. It is a common term in Turkish and Mongol mythologies. After death, all shamans become shamanic souls, ongod. Idols can be consecrated to them within three years of the shaman's death and can be placed in the home ("home ongon") or in another locale, such as a shelter out in the open ("field ongon"). The ongon is also the physical representation of that spirit, made by a shaman, which plays a central part in the ritual that invokes the protection of the spirit. One well-known such spirit is Dayan Deerh.The ongon is particularly important in black shamanism: the main function of the khar talynkh or black shaman is to bring people into contact with the ongon, whose spirit they call up "while drumming in a trance". In late-nineteenth century Mongolia, according to Otgony Purev, yellow shamanism revered ongon as well, and every three years yellow shamans gathered in Dayan Deerh monastery in Khövsgöl Province to "renew" these ancestral spirits.


Ötüken (Old Turkic: 𐰇𐱅𐰚𐰤: 𐰘𐰃𐰽 Ötüken yïš, "Ötüken forest", 𐰇𐱅𐰚𐰤:𐰘𐰼, Ötüken jer, "Land of Ötüken") is a legendary capital city in Turkic Khaganate. It has an important place in Turkic mythology and Tengrism. Otukan (Ötüken) is also one of the names given to Mother Earth.


Payna (Turkish: Payna, Azeri Turkish: Payna / Paynə, Altai: Пайне / Пайна) or Paynaqan (Turkish: Paynagan) is a winter feast and festival Turkic and Altai folklore. Arranged for the goddess that called Payna. So this is a blessing, fertility and abundance ceremony.


Sabantuy is a Bashkir, Idel-Uralian and Tatar summer festival, that dates back to the Volga Bulgarian epoch. At first Sabantuy was a festival of farmers in rural areas, but it later became a national holiday and now is widely celebrated in the cities. In 2012, Kazan Sabantuy was celebrated on June 23.

Saya (folklore)

Saya (Turkish: Saya, Azeri Turkish: Saya) or Sayaqan (Turkish: Sayagan) is a summer feast and festival Turkic and Altai folklore. Arranged for the god that called Saya Khan (Turkish: Saya Han or Zaya Han). So this is a blessing, fertility and abundance ceremony.


Tamag (also tamağ, tamuk, tamug or tamu) is the name of hell in ancient Turkic and Mongolian mythology. In Mongolian language it is called Tam. It is the place where the criminals go to be punished after they die. There are several depictions of Tamag, but the common point in almost all views is about fire. Erlik is the deity ruling hell and punishes the sinful people. Further there is another entity named Tami Han governing Tamag in Khakasian lore. Ancient Turks believed that Tamag is underground. Tamag is the opposite of Uçmag (heaven).


Turkic may refer to:

Turkic languages, a language family of at least thirty-five documented languages

Turkic alphabets (disambiguation)

Turkish language, the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages

Turkic peoples, a collection of ethno-linguistic groups

Turkic migration, the expansion of the Turkic tribes and Turkic languages, mainly between the 6th and 11th centuries

Turkic mythology

Turkic nationalism (disambiguation)

Turkic tribal confederations


Uçmag (also spelled: Uçmag, Uçmak, Ocmah, Uçmah) (pronounced: Utchmaq) is heaven in Turk- and Altaic mythology. It is the opposite of Tamag. The souls of the righteous people dwell in heaven after death.

Vattisen Yaly

Vattisen Yaly (Chuvash: Ваттисен йӑли, Tradition of the Old) is a contemporary revival of the ethnic religion of the Chuvash people, a Turkic ethnicity of uppermost Bulgar ancestry mostly settled in the republic of Chuvashia and surrounding federal subjects of Russia.

Vattisen Yaly could be categorised as a peculiar form of Tengrism, a related revivalist movement of Central Asian traditional religion, however it differs significantly from it: being the Chuvash a heavily Fennicised and Slavified ethnicity (they were also never fully Islamised, contrarywise to most of other Turks), and having had exchanges also with other Indo-European ethnicities,The Chuvash are not simply Finns Tatarized in language, but show evidence in face form, nose form, and in the scarcity of true blondism, that the Turkish influence did bring some mongoloid traits. Their religion shows many similarities with Finnic and Slavic Paganisms; moreover, the revival of "Vattisen Yaly" in recent decades has occurred following Neopagan patterns. Thus it should be more carefully categorised as a Neopagan religion. Today the followers of the Chuvash Traditional Religion are called "the true Chuvash". Their main god is Tura, a deity comparable to the Estonian Taara, the Germanic Thunraz and the pan-Turkic Tengri.The Chuvash Traditional Religion has an unbroken continuation, having been preserved in a few villages of the Chuvash diaspora outside Chuvashia until modern times. In the late 1980s and early 1990s together with the demise of the Soviet Union a cultural and national revival blossomed among the Chuvash, and its leaders gradually embraced the idea of a return to indigenous Paganism, also supported by Chuvash intellectuals. The identitary movement looked to movements in the Baltic states for inspiration.

The national movement, meanwhile embodied in a Chuvash National Congress, carried on its "national religion" idea during the 1990s. Intellectuals started to recover and codify ancient rituals and started practicing them among the population both in cities and countryside villages, declaring themselves the guardians of tradition and the descendants of elder priests.

Yer Tanrı

Yer Tanrı is the goddess of earth in Turkic mythology. Also known as Yer Ana.

With her father Gök Tengri and her brother and husband Kayra, she was the parent of Ay Tanrı, Umay, Ülgen, Koyash, and Erlik. As a fertility goddess, she was recognized as the giver of crops and abundance. In the Spring and in the Autumn — before the beginning of the agricultural season and after the harvest — she was worshiped with sacrifices of food.

Yer Tanry was considered to be both a mother and wife to Gök Tengri. She appeared as a force of nature. In ancient Turkic mythology there was a theory that mortals were the product of the union of Tengri and Yer (Earth). In the Orkhon inscriptions it says: "In the beginning there was a blue sky above, a dark land below, and human sons in-between." (Üze kök tengri asra yagiz yir kilindukda ikin ara kişi oğlı kılınmış.) The Turkic people revered the Earth Goddess (Yer Ana) as a giver of crops and abundance. In the Spring, before the beginning of the agricultural season and in the Autumn, after the harvest, as a sign of gratitude for the abundance of food and happiness, the ancient Turkic peoples and Mongols made a sacrifice to the Earth Goddess. Milk, kumys and tea were offered, and pleas were made for a fertile land and a rich yield.

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