Alkarısı: The Lilith of Turkic Mythology

An evil woman in red. She might as well be called a witch. Some also liken her to Adam’s first wife, Lilith. She is famous for killing babies and puerperal women. In this respect, it can be said that she is in opposition to the Goddess Umay, the protector of children and pregnant women in Turkic mythology.

Who is Alkarısı or Albis?

Alkarısı is an evil woman believed in many communities of Turkic and Altaic origin. She is also known as Albis or simply Al (means red in Turkish) in some regions. However, there are also those who think that Alkarısı and Albis are different entities. The physical and psychological disorders caused by Alkarısı are called “Albasty”.

Alkarısı is a wicked woman dressed in red. However, in some regions it is said that she does not wear red, on the contrary, she is afraid of red. She is often portrayed as an ugly witch, but she is also depicted as a seductive woman. It is said that she lives in desolate places such as mountains, in wooded areas where she can easily hide, in lakes far from settlements and in tree hollows.

She was the Greatest Fear of Puerperants

Alkarısı haunts children and women who have just given birth. Her favorite food is the livers of babies. For this reason, she tries to kill small children, especially newborn babies. This is why the entity that women who have just given birth fear the most is Alkarısı. In fact, even animals such as cats and dogs were not allowed into the room of the woman who had just given birth, on the suspicion that Alkarısı might take the form of an animal.

However, folklorist Zekeriya Karadavut cited T. D. Bayaliyeva as a source and wrote that the Kyrgyz people brought eagles to the place where the woman gave birth, because they believed that the eagle kept the Alkarısı and evil entities away.1

According to the myths and tales of Turkic communities close to Southern Siberia, especially Kazakh Turks and Kyrgyz Turks, Alkarısı approaches people in the form of foxes and goats.2

The Way to Keep Alkarısı Away: Iron and Sacrifice

It is said in many localities that Alkarısı is afraid of iron. For this reason, iron objects such as knives or needles were put under the pillows of women who had just given birth.3

The use of iron as a protective material seems to be related to the sacredness of iron in communities of Turkish origin. In addition, it was claimed that the sound of the gun kept Alkarısı away.

Another way to keep Alkarısı away is to sacrifice a small ruminant animal. In this method, the liver of an animal like a sheep was served to Alkarısı. It was believed that Alkarısı who ate the liver of the animal would not harm the baby or the woman.

The Social Subconscious

Alkarısı is essentially an expression of human fears in the social subconscious. For this reason, evil entities like Alkarısı can be found in many communities.

See also: Eleven Scariest Creatures in Turkish and Altaic Myths

The fear of losing newborn babies and the psychological disorders that can be seen in postpartum women have been attributed to evil entities such as Alkarısı. Depressive behaviors triggered by imbalances in hormone levels are considered as symptoms caused by Alkarısı.

Beliefs in entities such as Alkarısı have been influential in Central Asia, Siberia, Caucasus and some parts of Anatolia until very recently. But today, it can be said that Alkarısı is mostly encountered in mythology books, movies and fairy tales.

  1. Kırgız Masallarında Mitolojik Unsurlar“, Zekeriya KARADAVUT[]
  2. “Aus Sibirien”, Wilhelm RADLOFF, 1893, ISBN: 9789757651666[]
  3. Türklerde Tabiat Üstü Varlıklar Ve Bunlarla İlgili Kabuller, İnanmalar, Uygulamalar, Ayşe DUVARCI, Başkent Üniversitesi, 2005[]