History of Tengriism
Tengriism is an ancient religion that mainly stems from Central Asia and is thought to be one of the most ancient religions that has graced the planet. Incorporating elements of Animism, Shamanism, Totemism and Ancestor Worship, it was the main belief of the Turkic race, which comprised of the Hungarians, Siberians, Mongols, Huns and Xiongu.
Tengriism is a monotheistic religion in that followers in one god only, who is Tengri (also known as Tangra, Tangri, Tanri depending on whcih scripts you read and which country you reside in) who was thought to be the God of the Sky, so naturally Tengriists are known for their worship of the sky. This is backed up by a couple of points to note that Mongolians to this very day still worship Munkh Khukh Tengri which stands for “Eternal Blue Sky” and in modern day Turkey, Tengriism is known as the Gok Tanri religion, translating as Sky God religion.
One of the few passive religions still in existence, it is not widely followed across the globe and remains centred around Central Asia, still being practiced in countries such as Mongolia, Turkey and Kazakhstan. It differs from most religions in the sense that there is no existence of preaching and recruitment of followers to join the religion. Instead, Tengriists follow a more ‘laissez-faire’ approach, allowing the religion to grow and change over time and with its followers.
There are those, however, who strongly believe that Tengriism should be followed more commonly and are looking spread the good word among local populaces, to ensure that the religion’s roots of the Turkic race are withheld. Such individuals include Krygyz politicians, notably Dastan Sarygulov who is the current Secretary of State in Kyrgyzstan and who runs an International Scientific Center of Tengriist Studies in the hope of unifying the Turkic people once more under a common belief.
Tengriism, as mentioned, worships the sky, however followers also have huge respect for the environment in general, for example if a member defiles water, they are immediately condemned since their belief is that water is a gift from Tengri and that they should live in harmony with the environment.
They believe that their existence is allowed and sustained by Tengri, the fertile Mother Earth, spirit Eje and the Holy Spirit of the Sky. Together they provide every need and protection a human could ever desire and by those humans respecting Tendri and their world, balance and power will remain in existence and nothing will go wrong.
As with most religions, they differ in their belief of how the universe was created and Tengriism is no exception to this ruling, however there are two main theories that exist in Tengriism of the creation.
The first belief is that their god, Tengri, created a companion called Kishi, who had higher aspirations than Tengri. Kishi became arrogant and fell deep into the sea and called upon his creator, Tengri, for assistance. Tengri obliged by forcing great volumes of earth to rise from the sea through which the Cosmic Tree grew which allowed lesser gods and the inhabitants of the world to exist. It is thought that Yer, the Earth Spirit, existed in harmony with Tengri and together they created man, Yer granting materiality and Tengri granting the soul, but taking it away again upon death.
The other belief is that Tengri is a pure white goose that flies over and endless expanse of water, representing time. Below Tendri and beneath the water lies Ak Akna, also known as White Mother, who calls out to Tendri for him to create something and in his loneliness Tendri creates Er Kishi, a companion. Er Kishi and Tendri together create the world, however Er Kishi has bad intentions and intends to draw the darkness out of people. As a result, Tengri positions himself in heaven in an attempt to guide the people of the world by creating sacred animals that he sends down to live among them.
There are many deities, however the ones discussed below are thought to be the main ones worth mentioning…
Tengri is obviously the main deity and is married to Mother Earth. They sent their sons, the Gokturk Khans to rule there and were granted the Kut, the mighty spirit to aid in their ruling. Tengri controls the celestial sphere and is the creator of all.
Yer-Sub (Land Water) resides on the Khangan Plato (also known as the Lanshan mountain in Mongolia) and is despicted as a voluptuous and beautiful woman. Nature and all living beings are beneath her and she is highly regarded as the next important deity to Tengri. Yer-Sub had the ability to punish people for their misdemeanours through natural disasters.
Umai also obeyed Tengri and lived in the skies, radiating down to man and lived in him as a spark, providing energy and force. Once this spark depletes, so does the person, resulting in old age. She became to only be thought of as a protector of pregnant women once the Turkic states migrated. The thought is that she is present at the birth of a child to ensure that evil spirits are kept at bay and both baby and mother remain healthy.
The Earth Mother can only be controlled by Tengri, being his wife and mother to his children. She controls crops and is a force of nature, with mortals being the offspring of the combination of Earth and Tendri.
The Water Goddess is believed to be The Earth Mother’s older sister and is greatly respected, being the entrance to another realm. Without her existence, life isn’t possible and all things living depend on her.
The Sun God, Koyash is the son of Tengri and the Earth Mother. He is worshipped every morning by Tengriists, bowing to his power and vital force, his rays transmitting Tengri into infants.
The Fire God, Koyash is the grandson of Tengri and is associated with life in general, growing and warming humans, coloring the earth and acting as a healer.