Tengri, Khuday, Deos and God
TÜRKIC BURIAL RITUALS
The first aspect that attracts attention in this chapter is its Bibliograhy section. The referenced sources were published in 1878, 1883, 1894, 1906, - lacuna - 1975, 1975, 1980, 1980, and 1988. In the 3/4 of the 20th century not a single study worth mentioning was published on the subject. Decidedly, that happened not for a lack of talented scientists. It was not only a result of the 1944 Stalinist prohibition to study histories of the subjugated native people in the USSR, but even a larger cause that led to the Stalinist excesses as much as the racistic inclinations of the pre-war Germany led to the excesses of Hitlerism. A reader may appreciate the work of the enthusiasts who studied and published their so valuable now reports at the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The cultural and physical devastations inflicted on the many native peoples who lived under Soviet regime in the 20th century largely robbed the scientists of today from the wealth that was accessible at the turn of the 20th century.
A reader may also be grateful to R.Bezertinov for assembling the material into a concise description. Though some historical references may contradict facts established by literary sources and present-day archeology, neither the general canvas, nor the details can be distrusted.
Page numbers are shown in blue at the beginning of the page.
TENGRIANIZM – RELIGION OF TÜRKS AND MONGOLS
Chapter 5. Views about spirits. Extract - TÜRKIC BURIAL RITUALS
Among the Türks the burial of a deceased body into the earth turned into a complex
funeral ceremony. It was subdivided into 5 stages – 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 40th days, and an anniversary. The
parting and funeral ritual for the deceased was developed by ancient Türkic priests in great
detail, but even among the same ethnic groups were local nuances. The purpose of the memorial
ceremonies was to ease the suffering of the deceased, both spiritual, in longing for the home and
relatives, and physical, in the decomposition and conversion of bodily tissue into ashes. The funerals were
arranged in accordance with the social status of the deceased during their lifetime, age, sex,
place of death, season and the cause of death. Ancient Türks provided the deceased with everything
necessary in the future life and travel to the country of the dead: clothing, utensils,
food, riding horse, working tools, etc. Selecting things for the deceased was guided by sex and age. The
burial inventory matched the social status and occupation which the deceased had held.
In the complex of ceremonies after the funerals of the deceased, the main belief the ancient Türks held was a conviction about meeting with the deceased on the third, seventh, fortieth days, and the last time in one year. At these parting meetings, a ritual feeding of the deceased was performed, and verified that the deceased proceeded into the country of ancestors. The Kam conferred (with the deceased) whether any mistakes made at the funerals could be corrected, and spied if it would be necessary to fear the deceased, if the deceased were pleased with how they were sent off to the country of deceased, where are located the relatives who died earlier. By the 10th century AD, a uniform complex of funeral ceremonies was established, closely associated with the religious views of the ancient Türks.
A characteristic feature of the ancient Türkic tradition was a desire to live in harmony with the nature. The traditional Türkic consciousness saw the life as a continuous process of a birth - death - birth (birth and death of a physical body). A birth is met with joy, the death with bitterness. In human life these situations come again and again, with an inevitable permanency. These situations were viewed as the moments of invasion by a mythical beginning in the microcosm of ordinarity. After a death of a human a chaos arises for some time (or increases a threat of a chaos). Everybody was coming closer to the "other world". The usual world was loosing its conventional outlines. In antiquity such situations were a source of a greatest emotional stresses, displacing the accents and objects, affecting the yesterday stability and reliability, and the whole world, they were showing a new face.
When people died, in their home gathered relatives, together with unrelated inhabitants of the aul. The children of the deceased could remain at home, but were forbidden to touch the deceased. The eyes of the deceased were closed, because of a belief according to which the open eyes were foretelling a close death of a relative. The deceased were dressed the in their usual clothing - underwear, outer garments, and laid on a felt spread. The men were laid on the left half of the yurt, the woman on the right half. Then a sheep was slaughtered. Day and night the fire in the fire ring burnt unabated. Meat was cooked, tea boiled, and everyone who came to the yurt was fed. For the deceased, next to the fire ring was set a dish filled with food.
Tyn, Sür, and Kut
The Türks believed, that with death of a human a tyn, located in the nasopharynx, in the
lungs, and in heart cavity, departs to the upper world together with the last breath of the dying. A sür,
which guards the remains of the deceased, remains in the tomb of the deceased until the body
decayed completely, and if someone out of greed would disturb the peace of the dead, the sür would
be avenging that person, keep disturbing, appear in a dream and in reality, until his kut took him
away. Sür and kut, leaving the body of the deceased, cannot yet comprehend the death of the
physical body. Therefore the people in the house spoke only good things about the deceased, because
the kut was nearby, and heard everything.
One of the important customs was an obligatory ritual mourning of the deceased by his close relatives. It begun with the moment of death, and with pauses continued until the body was carried out. Mourning over the deceased was performed by women. Close relatives during the mourning wore their hair loose. Mourning was accompanied by lamentations in the form of continuous singing (saryn). Crying and lamentations about the deceased were called sygyt, and the mourners were called “sygytchy" 13 In the lamentations, the relatives tried to say something pleasant for the deceased, because with his kut present, the deceased hears and understands everything what is happening around.
From the moment of the death, even before the body was carried out, a number of prohibitions went in force. From the home of the deceased, starting from the expiration moment and down to the departure into the other world, nothing was allowed to be given to anybody, no objects, food, etc. It was not allowed for the fire in the stove to be extinguished. From that moment was not allowed to pronounce the name of the deceased. The prohibition to say the name of the deceased was connected with the belief that if the deceased hear their name mentioned, that disturbs the deceased.
The deceased was buried on the next day after the death. Before carrying the body out, the deceased was "fed". A wife of the deceased (or a husband of the deceased) would tie a ram to the yurt before that, and waited till it bellows. When it has happened, the ram is slaughtered immediately, and carved up along its joints. Cutting bones was forbidden, because it was believed that the deceased would be offended as it was his bones that were cut. The best pieces of meat were stashed on a stone slab and burnt near the yurt of the deceased. The feeding went through the fire. At that time one of the relatives addressed the deceased with the words: "You have died, do not cry, you are not the first who died: eat meat, drink araka, drink tea" .14
After the end of the ceremony, a wall of the yurt was raised or a section of the yurt was disassembled, on the left half for men, and on the right half for women, and the body was carried through the opening.15 The deceased was carried with the head first, and the lattice in the yurt was lowered or sealed at once.16 That was done to ensure that the kut of the deceased would not find a way to return to the home. The deceased was never carried out toward the sunset, because that side was believed to be bad.
After the body was moved out from the yurt, it was taken to the burial place on a horse. The Türks never
manually carried the body of the deceased to the burial place. The body was usually transported on
the deceased's favorite saddle horse, loaded upon the saddle. Behind the saddle usually sat someone
accompanying the body.
A deceased woman was transported on a horse only if she had a personal horse and a saddle.17 There also were other ways of transportation, like for example a sledge, a carriage, a drag stretcher, etc. The diseased were placed with the head first in the direction of the travel. One relative was guiding a harnessed horse by the reigns, without getting into a saddle. Only men went to the burial place. If the burial was at a distance from the aul, people went on horseback, if it was nearby they went on foot.
The depth of a tomb was approximately two meters. At the bottom of the tomb was carved a lateral niche for the deceased and offerings (catacomb grave). The deceased were lowered into the grave on a felt spread. The body was placed in the lateral niche prepared at the bottom of the grave, and within the niche beside the body were left the outer garments removed from the body. In the grave the body was placed with the head to the west. The lateral niche of the catacomb, where the body was laid, was covered with boards. This small room became a home. The deceased’s horse, slaughtered near the grave, was buried together with the deceased, and also were buried the clothes, saddle, arrows, bows, metal caldrons (all provisions for the trip), etc. Buttons were stripped from the clothes. A fur collar was removed from a fur coat. Objects with sharp edges, like a knife, an axe, scissors were not left with the deceased. If a knife, a needle or scissors were left with the deceased, they were first broken. Damaging the household objects and clothing was transforming things into their opposite. In addition, removing buttons, collar and other details of clothing from the dead by those alive symbolized a departure from the light world. With women were buried sheep, slaughtered near the grave, and female objects for sewing, etc., that belonged to the deceased. In the children's tomb were left toys made from the birch bark. After everything was arranged in the grave, everyone present at the funeral threw three handfuls of earth into the grave. Then the grave was filled in. The sledge, carriage or drag stretcher, on which the deceased was brought over, were broken and left on the grave, there were also left the shanks of the shovels used during the funeral. Only iron parts of the tools could be taken back from the burial place.
After burying the deceased, participants mounted their horses and circled three times around that
place (in the direction of the sun), symbolically closing it, while a senior relative was sowing that site with
seeds of wheat and barley. After that the senior relative sprayed araka (alcoholic
drink) on all four sides, and then everybody drank araka from the same cup, served by the same
senior relative.18 After the funeral, upon return to the aul of the deceased, the participants,
before entering the yurt, washed their hands and face from a wooden bucket filled with spring water mixed
with milk, then they fumigated themselves with juniper smoke. Such cleansing was a preventative
maneuver. It was done so that the deceased would not return to go after those who buried him.
After the funeral, in the yurt of the deceased, was assembling a gathering. The yurt was also cleansed inside and outside, and fumigated with juniper smoke. Then everybody sat down for a meal, during which was served the meat of the ram, and araka, etc. After the meal, the yurt of the deceased was usually disassembled and moved to a new place, again to prevent the deceased, before the final arrival to the country of the dead, from finding the relatives.
Customs and ceremonies after the funeral. In the ancient times, the Türks followed the following custom. After the burial of the deceased, if it was a man, the end of his spear (naiza) was sunk into the ground, with its blade protruding above the yurt through an opening carved in the fabric of the arch. A flag was laced to the tip of the spear, for a young man a red one, for the middle aged man black, for an old man a white one. Thus, the naiza stood for the deceased for one year. During shuttles from pasture to pasture, naiza was also transferred, it was carried in front of the horse (with the tail trimmed by one quarter) of the deceased, which headed the procession. 19
On the anniversary date of the death, the deceased's horse was slaughtered and served to the visitors. Relatives, friends, etc. first gathered in the yurt. Then they began a ceremony of breaking the naiza. The breaking was done by a most estimed participant, mostly by an old man. He brought along a djigit (young, fit man) who on his order was to snap it. The widow and daughters, defending the naiza, grabbed its shaft, and would not give up. At that time some young people, standing on the horses outside the yurt, and held firmly the top of the naiza, while the djigit in the yurt grabbed the rod in the middle, and snapped it. That started a crying of the women. The men exited the yurt and disperced to their homes. 20 The naiza, broken in half, was then stuck at the head of the tomb, or in another tradition was burnt together with the flag .21
Then there was another tradition. After a death of a husband, a widow would unbraid her plait, and
decked up in inside out clothes. In that fashion she dressed for forty days. For a year she would
not wear isirgas (earings) and rings. Such transformations demonstrated an imaginary death of a
woman, and her transition into another state. This boundary condition was retained for 40 days until, in
the beliefs of the ancient Türks, the kut of the deceased has left the land of the living.
Accidentally dressed into inside out garment still scare the Türks today. For not to be attributed to the other world, and to restore a broken balance, the clothes are promptly turned to normal. By this act a person attributes self to the terrestrial light world. In addition, for the house not be attributed to the other world, the mirrors in the dwelling of the deceased were covered for 40 days with a cloth.
During the initial time after the funerals, the Türks placed iron objects on all window sills and by the doors, for example an axe, a knife, etc. That was done to prevent the kut of the deceased from penetrating into the house. After the death of a woman, these objects remained there for seven days, and after a death of a man they remained for forty days. The days after the funerals were filled with alarm. An investigation was carried out in the mornings, to find out whether the kut of the deceased visited the relatives. If a person who was able to see the spirits saw the kut of the deceased, or if somebody saw the deceased in a dream, or if in the night courtyard a favorite dog of the deceased was restless, any of that served as an evidence that the kut of the deceased had visited the house. The ancient Türks believed that if someone saw in a dream a recently departed relative who was calling him, that means that the dreamer is awated in the country of dead, and he will soon die.
On the third day after the death the body started decaying. Seeing it, the kut and sür of the deceased became nervous. They still did not believe in the death of the physical body, but an anxiety set in them. To calm them down, was organized a feast day. The relatives and close friends of the deceased went to visit the grave. They took along meat, koumiss and araka. After conversation at the grave, they fed the deceased through the fire with meal and araka. The feasting for the kut of the deceased continued in his house. After feasting, kut and sür of the deceased apparently calmed down.
If a kam was taken along, he conversed with the kut of the deceased. The kam, setting a fire on the altar, placed pieces of mutton, while uttering: "You have died! Do not cry, don’t be sad! Here is everything needed for your feeding: meat, araki, millet, tea" (placing it all on the altar). The deceased responded through the lips of the kam: "What are you saying? In fact, I am alive, I am among you". - "How come are you alive? Those alive have a shadow. Look back, you really have no shadow". Then the deceased became reconciled with his state.
On a seventh day after the death the belly of the deceased inflated and ruptured. For the kut of
the deceased it was a most disturbing time. Again, like on the third day, the relatives
and friends of the deceased gathered, with sacrificial food: meat, tea, meat soup, koumiss, araka, and
went to visit the grave. After a conversation at a grave, and sacrifices through fire, and eating, they
retuned to the house of the deceased, where the participants of the ceremony finished the feast. The kut
of the deceased grew calm, seeing and understanding the irreversibility of bodily decomposition,
and left for a long journey.
On the fortieth day after a death the body tissue started separating from the bones. The relatives did not sleep all night long, waiting for the kut of the deceased, who was returning from a long trip. By the fortieth day, he should have passed through all the places where he went during his lifetime. If a person had traveled much, was in a war, his kut could only come back by the morning. This way, the whole of the human life can be compressed within forty days, due to the high traveling speed of the spirit (the spirit moves like the wind, without touching the ground). The life can be repeated in another embodiment, it is only necessary to "visit" again the space traversed during the life, "collecting himself". So, the space and time appear "inherent" within a person, like any of his social and cultural characteristics. Such understanding of a life path creates a special relation to the native land. 22
Kut and sür of the deceased, seeing that the tissue separated from the bones, and finally convinced that the body would never be restored, and consequently they would never come back inside of it, started howling like wolves. To calm them, was organized a feast and farewell for the departure to the country of dead. On that day a kam was invited. After sacrifice at the tomb, the kam arranged a special kamming, believed to be difficult for him, because the kut had to be accompanied to the country of dead, and safeguarded on the long and dangerous road, and in addition the kam had to watch that a kut of somebody's of the living people did not join him, because quite often they are walking around after exiting from the body of a person. After a final transfer to the country of the dead, the kut becomes a spirit (a spirit of ancestors). If on the 40th day the departure feast could not be organized, the kut could turn into a malicious spirit and harm the people.
By the first anniversary of the death the body tissue had completely decayed and the bones were cleared of the soft tissue. On that day, in the beliefs of the ancient Türks, the spirit of the deceased was coming back for the last time, to look at the remains of what once was its former body. On that day the relatives and friends gathered and went to the grave of the deceased, to feed his spirit. After feeding through the fire, and conversing at the grave, people were returning back home, where a feast was arranged for them, and the spirit of the deceased was sent off to the country of the dead. This concluded the post-burial ceremonies and and send-off to the country of dead. After the anniversary, the mourning clothes were removed. From then on, the relatives of the deceased could wear ornaments, attend weddings and other family celebrations, and enjoy them, and celebrate family holidays in their own house.
The funeral ceremonies for small children were simpler. The ancient Türks did not deposit
any objects for domestic use into the child tombs, since they did not use them, in the world of dead they
have no need for them.
Only the favorite toys were left in the grave. One of notable details of child burial was that in the grave was buried the child’s umbilical cord, as a guardian talisman saved in dried condition. The feast for the kut of the deceased was performed only once, on the seventh day, or it was not done at all.
Among some Türkic tribes the suicides were buried separately, instead of a common cemetery. The Kams were buried separately from the simple people, as far as possible from the dwellings.
Between the 10th and 20th centuries AD, the burial ceremonies among the Türks began absorbing innovations. They were connected with the impact on the life of nomads by the new factors, as they started settling in the cities and auls, and engaged in settled agricultural economy. During the same period the Türks and Mongols began succumbing to the dogmas of the world religions. Each doctrine, the Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, had its own funeral ritual. After the Türks lost of their statehood, new peoples settled on their lands, and they also influenced funeral ritual. The city cemeteries began to be organized not by tribal or national group, but by religious affiliations. Not a small impact also had the climatic conditions in which the Türks lived.
In addition to the usual pit grave burial, widespread everywhere where Türks live, other types of burials came into tradition, for example, in Central Asia appeared surface and underground sepulture burials. In Yakutia, Khakassia, Tuva, Altai emerged four kinds of burials: pit grave; surface; coffins on columns for elevated or air burial; a cremation with the subsequent burial of ashes into the ground.
The pit grave burials, in turn, differentiated into a burial in clothes only, or in a coffin. The surface
burials were mostly in Tuva, where Lamaism was spread, under its teaching the lama solely, or
together with relatives, was choosing a place, and the deceased, wrapped up in only a cloth, was left on the surface. Leaving the corpse,
the relatives were quickly returning home, where was arranged a feast for
the deceased. On the 49th day after the death the relatives of the deceased assembled, and went to that
place where the corpse was placed on the ground, and examined the body. If traces of birds were
found on the body, then according to the Lamaism concept it was considered to be a good fortune, and
place was considered to be pure. If the traces of birds were absent, it was believed to be a bad
sign. It was believed that the soul of the human was transferred into those animals that touched
the corpse. After inspecting the corpse, a fire was set close by, sacrifices were made to the
deceased, if a kam was present, with the help of kamming the deceased was calmed and a farewell was
said to him, because on that day he should depart to the country of dead. Apparently, the Lamaism
has strongly commingled with Tengrianism.
A third group that belongs to the surface or "air" type of burial had three variations. In one of them the burial was on a wooden scaffold or platform, installed on four legs made out of from sticks. In the second version it is a wooden casket made from boards in a form of a box or a small house, with double-sloped roof. And in the third type the deceased were buried on a tree. The cremation with the subsequent burial in the ground is described above.
With the change in the burial ceremony under the influence of the world religions, also changed the timing for the sacrifice to the deceased. For example, among the Christian Türks, it was taking place on the third day, and the day of the burial coincided with feast day for the deceased, and the following feast days were 9th, 40th, and anniversary day. Among the others (Lamaists) the feast days were on the day of death, and on the 49th day. Among the third group the feast days were the 3rd, 7th, 20th, and anniversary days. In those places (for example in Central Asia) where the feeding of the deceased was on the 20th day, it was noted that the 20th day was clearly understood as the fortieth day moved to the twentieth day, because a full day was counted (day and night separately) for two days. The move was initiated to expedite the fortieth day, which the deceased is eagerly awaiting for, because he painfully suffers and that accelerated feast would relieve him from sufferings. There also are some Türks who, in addition, perform the feeding of the deceased on the 51st day, believing that on that day the joints of the deceased’s skeleton separate, and his spirit is suffering from it.
Recently, the funeral ceremonies were becoming appreciably more uniform, and were altered according to the religious traditions, with a prevailing tendency to further Islamization, Christianization and Lamaization. But with the Islam condemning of the erection of any gravestone over the grave, and of the sacrifices on the 3rd, 7th, 40th days, and on anniversary day notwithstanding, the Türkic Moslems continue constructing gravestone memorials, surrounding the graves with stone or iron fences, and performing ritual feeding of the deceased.
Sometimes archeologists, during excavations in the auls, encounter an ancient cemetery. If inside the graves are
found objects belonging to the deceased inhabitants of that aul, the Moslem Türks, who were already
burying their dead in a shroud, tell the scientists that the remains in the ancient
cemetery are not their ancestors, but some pagans from other peoples, who apparently were living
in that place before them. So, because of the popular ignorance about the ancient Türkic customs, the scientists
may be mislead by the people who refuse to recognize their ancestors.
More than one thousand years have passed since the Türks abandoned the cremation tradition with subsequent burial into the ground. The pit burial ceremony, which replaced it, has been intermixing with the ceremonies of the world religions. During a millennium, in the Türkic lands appeared millions of city and rural cemeteries, where the remains of the physical body decay and suffer, and those alive serve them, ease these sufferings, and protect them from violation. Thus the alive people tied themselves to the cemeteries. The cemeteries occupy huge areas, people try to avoid them, and rarely visit these places, because they are known as places where the malicious spirits harmful to the people are congregating. Considerable material and energy are spent for maintenance of the remains of the deceased and the cemeteries. And with that is almost forgotten the most important element, that the spirit of the living is always raised and reinforced with the help of the spirits of the deceased ancestors, who are connected with us by invisible strings and are waiting for our call to them through the ceremonies established by the faith in Tengri.
The forces of Evil hunt not only the live people, but also the spirits of the deceased, because the energy of Reason,
better appreciated in the Cosmos, accumulates in them. Therefore, the
spirits of the deceased need support from the living. Only together, the living in the visible
world and the spirits of the deceased ancestors in the invisible world, can actively resist the
forces of Evil.
13. Diakonova V. Ï., " Funeral ritual of Tuvinians as Historico-Ethnographic source" L. 1975, p. 53.
14. Diakonova V. Ï., " Funeral ritual of Tuvinians as Historico-Ethnographic source" L. 1975, p. 51.
15. Adrianov A.V., "Voyage to Altai and Sayan mountains, made in 1881", Tomsk, 1883, p. 144.
16. Yakovlev E.K., "Ethnographic review of the population of S. Yenisei valley and explanatory catalogue of the Museum ethnographic department”, Minusinsk, 1906, p. 97.
17. Diakonova V. Ï., "Funeral ritual of Tuvinians as a Historico-Ethnographic source" L. 1975, p. 54,
18. Alexeev N.A. "Early religion forms of Siberia Turkic-speaking peoples", Novosibirsk, 1980, p. 211.
19. Altynsarin G. "Sketch of funeral and commemoration customs among Kirgizes", Orenburg department, Records of OORGO, Kazan,1980, issue 1, p. 119.
20. "Customs of Kirgizes in Semipalatinsk area", "Russian herald", M., 1878, p. 53.
21. Katanov N.F., "Funeral customs of Turkic tribes from ancient times till now", News of OAIE, Kazan, 1894, Vol.12. issue 2, p. 130.
22. Gemuev I.N., Editor, "Traditional views of Southern Siberia Türks", USSR Academy of Sciences, Siberian branch, Institute of History, Philology and Philosophy, Novosibirsk, 1988, p. 74
Tengri, Khuday, Deos and God