Vainakh religion

The Vainakh people of the North Caucasus (Chechens and Ingush) were Islamised comparatively late, during the early modern period, and Amjad Jaimoukha (2005) proposes to reconstruct some of the elements of their pre-Islamic religion and mythology, including traces of ancestor worship and funerary cults.[1] The Nakh peoples, like many other peoples of the North Caucasus such as especially Circassians and Ossetians, had been practising tree worship, and believed that trees were the abodes of spirits. Vainakh peoples developed many rituals to serve particular kinds of trees. The pear tree held a special place in the faith of Vainakhs.[2]

Comparative mythology

K. Sikhuralidze proposed that the people of the Caucasus region shared a single, regional culture in ancient times. Careful study of the Nakh and Kartvelian mythologies reveals many similarities.[3]

Jaimoukha (2005) adduces comparison with the Circassians, but also more generally with the Iron Age mythology of western Indo-European cultures, especially emphasizing parallels to Celtic polytheism.[4] such as the worship of certain trees (including, notably, a pine tree on the winter solstice, supposedly related to the modern Christmas tree, reconstructed calendar festivals such as Halloween and Beltane, veneration of fire, and certain ghost related superstitions.[4]


Jaimoukha (2005) on page 252 gives a list of reconstructed "Waynakh deities".

  • Deela or Dela - The supreme god[5]
  • Hela - God of darkness
  • Seela or Sela - God of stars, thunder and lightning.[5] 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. He was the one who chained Pkharmat to a mountain for stealing fire, and for this reason, on the Wednesday of his month in the old Vainakh calendar, it was forbidden to carry embers or ashes. During the era of Christianization in Chechnya and Ingushetia, he was ( like the Ossetian Watsilla and the Russian Ilya-Muromyets ) identified with the prophet Elijah, thus keeping his status. He is also, like the Greek Zeus, unable to control his desires for human women (much to the dismay of his wife, Furki), and one episode with mortal maiden resulted in the birth of a daughter goddess, Sela Sata.[6]
  • Sata or Sela Sata - either wife or daughter of Seela, according to different versions;[5][7] a goddess of artisanship and especially female crafts, corresponding to Northwest Caucasian Satanaya. Her face is described as shining like the sun with beauty.[8] She helps Pkharmat steal Sela's fire for the Earth's inhabitants by guiding him on the peak of Mount Kazbek.[8]
  • Maetsill - God of agriculture and the harvest and protector of the weak.[5]
  • Ishtar-Deela - Lord of life and death and ruler of the underworld[5] ("Deeli-Malkhi"), responsible for punishing the wicked.
  • Molyz-Yerdi - The war god[5] who brought the Waynakh victory.
  • Elta - God of the hunt[5] and animals and - before Maetsill took over his role - the harvest. He was blinded in one eye for disobedience by his father, Deela.
  • Amgali(-Yerdi) - A minor deity.[5]
  • Taamash(-Yerdi) - ("lord of wonder") Lord of fate.[5] Usually tiny in size but becomes gigantic when angered.
  • Tusholi - Goddess of fertility,[5] A greater protector of the people even than her father, Deela. She is believed to dwell in the sacred Lake Galain-Am. According to scholars, in earlier beliefs Tusholi was the dominant deity. People petitioned her for healthy offspring, rich harvests and thriving herds of cattle. In later times Tusholi was mainly the object of worship of childless women.[9][10] She had a holy day, Tusholi's Day, on which women would bring offerings of the horns of red deer, bullets and candles to her sanctuary on Mount Deela T'e, ( which non-priests could enter only with the explicit permission of the priesthood and within which it was forbidden to fell her trees). Nowadays her day is considered "Children and Women's day". The hoopoe, known as "Tusholi's hen" was considered "her" bird and could not be hunted except with permission from the high priest and for strictly medicinal purposes.[11]
  • Dartsa-Naana ("Blizzard mother") - Goddess of blizzards and avalanches.[5] She dwells on the snowy summit of Mount Kazbek around which she has traced a magic circle, which no mortal of any sense dare cross. Should any be foolhardy enough to so, Dartsa-Naana will cast them into the abyss and bring tumbling down the death-dealing snows of great Kazbek in her displeasure.[12]
  • Mokh-Naana - Goddess of the winds.[5]
  • Seelasat ("Oriole"). Protectress of virgins[5] (possibly identical to Sata / Sela Sata, see above).
  • Meler Yerdi - God of plants and cereal beverages.[5]
  • Gal-Yerdi - Patron of cattle breeders.[5] Worshipped on the Nakh New Year's Day, and offered metal orbs and candles, as well as animal sacrifices at times.[13]
  • Aira - Patron of eternal timeline.[14]
  • Mozh - Evil sister of the sun and moon. Mozh devoured all their other relatives in the sky, and now constantly chases her celestial siblings. Eclipses occur on the rare occasions when she catches up with them and takes them prisoner. Mozh will consent to release the sun and the moon only after it has been so requested by an innocent first-born girl.[12]
  • Bolam-Deela -[5] Not much is known about him/her. He/she may or may not have been equivalent to Deela-Malkh.[1]
  • Khagya-Yerdi or Maetskhali - Lord of the rocks.[1][5]
  • Mattir-Deela - Another little known deity.[1][5]
  • P'eerska - (Friday) The keeper of time.[1]
  • kars - (Sunday) Thought to float in sky within the stars.[1]

Supernatural creatures and heroes

  • Pkharmat, demi-god Nart who stole fire from the cruel god Sela.[8][15] Equivalent of Greek Prometheus, and Georgian Amirani.[14][16] He is also equivalent to the Circassian Pataraz.[17]
  • Pkhagalberi tribe. Mythological dwarf race, Pkhagalberi translated as Haareriders. They were invulnerable to any kind of weapons their enemies the Narts had.[14]
  • Turpal, a free-roaming horse who came to help Pkharmat in his journey when he called him. "Turpal always roamed free, grazing among seven mountains, and drinking sea-water."[8][15][16]
  • Uja. A cyclops, faithful servant of Sela. He chained Pkharmat to the summit of Mount Kazbek.[8]
  • Ida. King of birds,[8] - a falcon who comes every morning to tear Pkharmat's liver.[8]
  • Spirit of Galain-Am Lake- a mythologic bull protecting sacred Galain-Am Lake from pollution and from unfaithful acts.
  • Melhun, the fallen angel.
  • Nart, a mythical race of giants. Separately from the mythology of other peoples of the Caucasus, in Waynakh mythology Narts could be both good and evil.
  • Almas, evil forest spirits. They can be both male and female almases. Almas-men covered with hair, a terrible kind, fierce and insidious; on the chest of them is a sharp axe. Female almases have an extraordinary beauty, but also evil, insidious and dangerous. Sometimes they seem terrifying creatures of enormous growth with huge breasts, thrown over his shoulders behind his back. Favorite theirs occupation - dance: throwing his chest behind his back, raising his hands up, they dance in the moonlight. Almases live in the woods, on the highlands. They are patronized by wild animals and sometimes come with a hunter in a love affair. Luck on hunting, according to legends, depends on the benevolence of an almas.[12]
  • Ghamsilg (or Gham-stag) was a witch who could leave her body and enter into an animal. If in her absence to turn the body, then, on his return from travels, it will not be able to return to his body and dies.
  • Djinim (Genie). In perceptions of Chechens and Ingush good and evil spirits are between angels and devils. Good and evil djinim together are in the same hostility as angels with devils. Through deceit or eavesdropping, they steal the innermost secrets of the future of man and tell their friends of the earth. Falling star - a star angels cast during eavesdropping. Contact with a djinim leads to insanity.[12]
  • Taram, invisible guardian spirits that protect his master from all sorts of disasters. On representations of the Nakhs, every person, every household (family), all natural objects had a Taram.[12]
  • Uburs, the evil, bloodthirsty spirits, entered into any animal. Close to the vampire in Slavic mythology (cf. Polish: upiór, Ukrainian: upir).[12]
  • Hunsag (or Hunstag), the patron spirit of the forest and forest animals. Hunsag seek to destroy every hunter, who met with him in the woods. From his breast sticks out the bone axe. The forest animals, birds, trees, grass rise to defend Hunsag.[12]
  • Batiga-Shertko a special figure with the ability to cross over to the underworld to inform a client of how deceased loved ones were doing there, often with an animal sacrifice as payment. The animal was believed to come into the possession of the deceased loved one.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jaimoukha, Amjad M. (2005-03-01). The Chechens: a handbook (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-415-32328-4. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
  2. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Page 113.
  3. ^ Sikharulidze, K. 2000. "The Fragments of Archaic Myths of Theomachy in North Caucasian and Georgian Folklores". Caucasian Messenger
  4. ^ a b Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens. Pages 8; 112; 280
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Jaimoukha, Arnjad M. (2005). The Chechens: A Handbook. Psychology Press. p. 252. Retrieved 3 December 2015 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Page 117
  7. ^ Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes.Mariel Tsaroïeva ISBN 2-7068-1792-5. P.197
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Berman, Michael (26 March 2009). "The Shamanic Themes in Chechen Folktales". Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 31–39. Retrieved 4 December 2015 – via Google Books (preview).
  9. ^ Мифологический словарь/Гл. ред. Мелетинский Е.М. - М.: Советская энциклопедия, 1990- pp.672
  10. ^ Мифы народов мира/под ред. Токарева С. А. - М., Советская энциклопедия, 1992-Tome 2 - pp.719
  11. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Page 119
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Первобытная религия чеченцев. Далгат Б.
  13. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens. Page 188.
  14. ^ a b c Lecha Ilyasov. The Diversity of the Chechen Culture: From Historical Roots to the Present. ISBN 978-5-904549-02-2
  15. ^ a b Hunt, David (28 May 2012). "Legends of the Caucasus". Saqi. Retrieved 3 December 2015 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ a b Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes.Mariel Tsaroïeva ISBN 2-7068-1792-5
  17. ^ Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Page 118


  • Amjad Jaimoukha The Chechens: a Handbook (Routledge/Curzon, 2005) pp. 109–111 and appendix pp. 252–253

External links

Caucasian Imamate

The Caucasian Imamate, also known as the Caucasus Imamate (Arabic: إمامة القوقاز‎ `Imāmat al-Qawqāz), was the state established by the imams in Dagestan and Chechnya during the early-to-mid 19th century in the Northern Caucasus, to fight against the Russian Empire during the Caucasian War, where Russia sought to conquer the Caucasus in order to secure communications with its new territories south of the mountains.

Caucasian neopaganism

Caucasian Neopaganism is a category including movements of modern revival of the autochthonous religions of the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus. It has been observed by scholar Victor Schnirelmann especially among the Abkhaz and the Circassians.

History of Chechnya

The history of Chechnya may refer to the history of the Chechens, of their land Chechnya, or of the land of Ichkeria.

Chechen society has traditionally been organized around many autonomous local clans, called taips. The traditional Chechen saying goes that the members of Chechen society, like its taips, are (ideally) "free and equal like wolves".Jaimoukha notes in his book Chechens that sadly, "Vainakh history is perhaps the most poorly studied of the peoples of the North Caucasus. Much research effort was expended upon the Russo-Circassian war, most falsified at that." There was once a library of Chechen history scripts, written in Chechen (and possibly some in Georgian) using Arabic and Georgian script; however, this was destroyed by Stalin and wiped from record (see - 1944 Deportation; Aardakh).

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.


Paganism (from classical Latin pāgānus "rural, rustic", later "civilian") is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism. This was either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not milites Christi (soldiers of Christ). Alternate terms in Christian texts for the same group were hellene, gentile, and heathen. Ritual sacrifice was an integral part of ancient Graeco-Roman religion and was regarded as an indication of whether a person was pagan or Christian.Paganism was originally a pejorative and derogatory term for polytheism, implying its inferiority. Paganism has broadly connoted the "religion of the peasantry". During and after the Middle Ages, the term paganism was applied to any unfamiliar religion, and the term presumed a belief in false god(s). Most modern pagan religions existing today—Modern Paganism, or Neopaganism—express a world view that is pantheistic, polytheistic or animistic; but some are monotheistic.The origin of the application of the term pagan to polytheism is debated. In the 19th century, paganism was adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-descriptor by practitioners of Modern Paganism, Neopagan movements and Polytheistic reconstructionists. Modern pagan traditions often incorporate beliefs or practices, such as nature worship, that are different from those in the largest world religions.Contemporary knowledge of old pagan religions comes from several sources, including anthropological field research records, the evidence of archaeological artifacts, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regarding cultures known to Classical antiquity.

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