Dictionary of Turkic Pantheon

Dictionary of Turkic Pantheon

The word pantheon is used to refer to all the deities in a particular religion or mythology. Therefore, the Turkic pantheon means all the deities in Turkic mythology. Since Turkic mythology, which developed in the Eurasian steppes, is based on animism and nature worship, most of the deities in Turkic mythology emerged with the deification of nature elements by proto-Turkic communities living a nomadic and transhumance lifestyle.

Tengri

Tengri (𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃) is the name of the chief god in Turkic mythology. He is also known as Tangra, Tenger, Tengir or Kök Tengri. Although often identified with masculine qualities, he has no wife. He lives on the 18th floor, the highest floor of the sky.

Kök means blue and Tengri means sky in Old Turkic. Therefore, Kök Tengri actually means blue sky.

Tengri, who is identified with the sky, is the personification of the universe according to Assel Bekebassova.1 He lives in the sky and sees everything. In this respect, he is likened to Dyēus in proto-Indo-European mythology.

He lives in the sky and sees everything. In this respect, he is likened to Dyēus in proto-Indo-European mythology.

Tengri is symbolized with a circled cross (⨁). This sign is considered one of the symbols of Tengrism today.

Kayra

Kayra (𐰴𐰖𐰺𐰀), also known as Kayra Han, is the name of the creator god in Turkish mythology. According to some sources, he is the son of Tengri, but in many communities he is identified with Tengri. He punished Erlik for hiding soil in his mouth during the creation of the world and sent him underground.2

He lives on the 17th floor of the sky. He is the creator of everything except Tengri. He planted the nine-branched tree of life on the earth, and the nine people who descended from the branches of this tree formed the nine main races on earth.3

📝 The Tree Of Life In Turkic Mythology

According to Altai shamans, whoever is struck by the lightning that Kayra sends to the earth becomes a shaman.4

Ülgen

Ülgen (𐰇𐰠𐰏𐰤) is the name of a god associated with goodness and the sky in Turkish mythology. He is one of Kayra’s sons and lives in the 16th floor of the sky. He is usually depicted as an old and wise man with long hair and a long beard. It is believed that he sits on a golden throne on a golden mountain.5 In some sources, he is referred to as the creator of the Sun and the Earth. This shows that some qualities attributed to Kayra are attributed to Ülgen in some communities.

According to shamanic legends, Ülgen both created man and taught him fire. In both Turkic and Siberian mythologies, fire came from the sky.6

As far as it is known, Ülgen has seven sons and seven/nine daughters.5

The names of Ülgen’s daughters are unknown. However, they are seen as the muses of shamans and some shamans have drawings symbolizing them on their clothes.

Karakuş Han

He is also known as Karagus Han. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with birds. According to Yaşar Çoruhlu, karakuş (black bird) probably means eagle.7

Baktı Han

He is also known as Paktı Han. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with grace and bestowal. In the past, the Shor Turks used to hold ceremonies in his honor every autumn under the name of Paktıgan.

Pura Han

He is also known as Bura Han. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with horses. The horses that the shaman rides to ascend to the sky are gifted by Pura Han. These horses also protect the shaman from malevolent entities.

Burça Han

He is also known as Burçakan. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with wealth, prosperity, and peace.

Yaşıl Han

He is also known as Çeçil Han. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with nature and spring. He protects nature and adds a ring to the trees every year. The trees that shed their leaves in the autumn turn green again in the spring thanks to Yaşıl Han.

📝 Symbolic Meanings Of Green With Examples From Mythology

Kanım Han

He is also known as Er Kanım. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with honesty, integrity, and trust.

Karşıt Han

He is also known as Karzıt Han. He is one of the seven sons of Ülgen. He is associated with purity and cleanliness. It is thought that the word “Karşıt” derives from the Turkish word “kar” meaning snow.

Umay

Umay (𐰆𐰢𐰖) is the name of a goddess associated with fertility and abundance in Turkic mythology.8 In Northeastern Siberia, she is better known as Ayısıt.9 She is likened to the mother goddesses in other religions. She is usually depicted with three horns. She is dressed in white and has hair that reaches the ground. Sometimes she is also associated with light and the color yellow. It is believed that she is walking around with a deer.5

Umay is the protector of pregnant women and children. She is mentioned in both Kül Tigin and Tonyukuk inscriptions.

It was common practice among Turkic communities for childless women to seek help from Umay and offer her sacrifices.

Erlik

Erlik (𐰀𐰼𐰠𐰃𐰚) is a god associated with evil, darkness and death in Turkic mythology. He is one of the sons of Kayra. Although he is a brother to Ülgen, he is the complete opposite of him. Ülgen is associated with goodness and light, Erlik with evil and darkness; Ülgen lives in the sky, Erlik lives underground. All of the evil entities underground are under the control of Erlik.

In shamanic prayers, Erlik is usually depicted with disgusting and frightening physical features. His beard extends to his knees. His mustache resembles the teeth of a wild boar. His hair and eyebrows are pitch black. Its horns resemble tree branches. He lives in an iron palace in underground. His palace is guarded by two monsters named Abra and Yutpa.5 Despite the detailed descriptions, no painting or sculpture of Erlik is made.3

According to a legend in Siberia, mammoths were taken underground to work in the service of Erlik. Mammoths that try to escape to the earth are punished by freezing.10

📝 Mammoths In Mythology And Folk Beliefs

Erlik has nine sons and nine daughters.

The names of Erlik’s daughters are not known. However, they are known as fun-loving, evil spirits that lead shamans astray.

Temir Han

He is also known as Temür Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with iron. It was Temir Han who taught people the art of blacksmithing. In the epic of Manas, Temir Han is the name of a wealthy ruler.

Karaş Han

He is also known as Karış Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with darkness. When the end of the world comes, he will emerge from the underground before Erlik.11

Matır Han

He is also known as Patır Han and Batur Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with courage and fearlessness.

Şıngay Han

He is also known as Çıngay Han and Sınzay Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with turmoil, disorder and anarchy.

Kömür Han

He is also known as Kümür Han and Kömir Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with coal and evil. It is believed that he commands evil entities. It is said to mediate between Erlik and the dark shamans.

Badış Han

He is also known as Badış Biy. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with disasters and epidemics. In the past, some Turkic communities used to hold Badış Han responsible for natural disasters on earth.

Yabaş Han

He is also known as Cabaş Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with doubt and mistrust. He creates discord among people.

Uçar Han

He is also known as Uçar Kan. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with bad news and espionage.

Kerey Han

He is also known as Kirey Han. He is one of the nine sons of Erlik. He is associated with sedition. He sets people against each other.

Kuyaş

Kuyaş (𐰴𐰆𐰖𐱁) is a deity associated with the Sun in Turkic mythology. He symbolizes the masculine aspect of the Sun. He is also known as Koyaş. He is the personification of the Sun. As a matter of fact, Kuyaş/Koyaş means Sun in Tatar.

In Turkic mythology, Kuyaş symbolizes heat, Ay Ata symbolizes cold, Ülgen symbolizes goodness and Erlik symbolizes evil. All four of them are the sons of the creator god Kayra.

Gün Ana

Gün Ana (𐰚𐰇𐰤: 𐰀𐰣𐰀) is a kind of goddess associated with the Sun in Turkic mythology. She symbolizes the feminine aspect of the Sun. She lives on the seventh floor of the sky. In some shaman prayers quoted by Wilhelm Radloff, prayers were made to Gün Ana.2

Ay Ata

Ay Ata (𐰖: 𐱃𐰀) is a deity associated with the Moon in Turkic mythology. He lives on the sixth floor of the sky. In a shaman prayer quoted by Wilhelm Radloff, he is addressed as “Ay Ata in the sixth heaven“.2 Ay Ata’s name in Northeast Siberian Turks is Ajy Tangara, he flies over the tree of life in the guise of an eagle.12

According to a legend written in the late 13th or early 14th century, the name of the first human being was Ay Atam.13 But, the influence of the Near Asian mythologies is evident in this legend.

Mergen

Mergen (𐰢𐰼𐰏𐰤) is a deity associated with wisdom in Turkic mythology. He symbolizes intellect and rational intelligence. He lives on the seventh floor of the sky with Gün Ana.

Wilhelm Radloff wrote that three deities emanated from Kayra Han: Ülgen, Kızagan and Mergen.2

Mergen is usually depicted as a young man on a white horse holding a bow and arrow. He is powerful, but this power comes from wisdom rather than physical attributes.

Kızagan

Kızagan (𐰴𐰃𐰔𐰍𐰣) is a deity associated with war and power in Turkic mythology. He is one of the sons of Kayra and according to Wilhelm Radloff, he lives on the ninth floor of the sky.2

Kızagan, symbolized by the red color, is the protector of soldiers and warriors. The defeat of a large army with a small number of soldiers used to be interpreted as the help of Kızagan.

Elbis

Elbis (𐰀𐰠𐰋𐰃𐰾) is a divine/spiritual entity associated with war and ruthlessness in Northeast Siberian Turkic and Altaic myths. He is also known as İlbis or Yelbis. In wars, he was asked for help in order to defeat the enemy.14

Despite having similar characteristics with Kızagan, Kızagan is hierarchically superior to him. In addition, the Elbis was later demonized in some communities influenced by Islam. The reason for this is thought to be the similarity between the word Elbis/İlbis and the word Iblis, the name of the devil in Islam.



  1. Archetypes of Kazakh and Japanese cultures“, Assel BEKEBASSOVA, News of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Series of Social and Human Sciences, Vol 6, 2019, ISSN: 2224-5294^
  2. “Aus Sibirien”, Wilhelm RADLOFF, Salzwasser-Verlag GmbH, ISBN: 9783846024003^^^^^
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  8. Двенадцать лекций по истории турецких народов Средней Азии“, Vasily BARTOLD, 1993^
  9. “Folklor ve Mitoloji Sözlüğü”, Özhan ÖZTÜRK, Phoenix Yayınevi, ISBN: 9786055738266^
  10. “Mythology and Turkic Literature of the Middle Ages”, Pardaeva Dilfuza RAIMOVNA, Middle European Scientific Bulletin, Volume 19, December 2021^
  11. “Tarihte ve Bugün Şamanizm: Materyaller ve Araştırmalar”, Abdülkadir İNAN, Altınordu Yayınları, ISBN: 9786057702357^
  12. “The Dictionary of Mythology: An A–Z of Themes, Legends and Heroes”, J.A. COLEMAN, Sirius, ISBN: 9781788285605^
  13. “Die alttürkische Mythologie”, Jean Paul ROUX, Klett-Cotta, OCLC Number / Unique Identifier: 38975415^
  14. “Мифологический словарь”, Редактор: Е.М.Мелетинский, Советская энциклопедия, 1990, ISBN: 5-85270-032-0^
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