Dæmonologia Tuvinica – Names and Concepts of “Intermediary Beings” in Tyvan Language and Culture

Michael Knüppel

Dæmonologia Tuvinica – Names and Concepts of “Intermediary Beings”
in Tyvan Language and Culture

(65th Meeting Astana, 2023)

Although the Altaic languages in general are particularly rich in terms and names of deities, spirits and mythical beings, this aspect of the history of religion is of comparatively little interest in onomastics. In dictionaries, such terms are usually left out, apart from the names of various “main deities”, or only a few such names and terms are recorded. Onomastic works also largely refrain from including the names of so-called “Zwischenwesen” (“intermediary beings”), as they have been collectively referred to since the publication of B. Lang’s article of the same name in 2001. More detailed information on individual terms and the concepts or entities behind them (sometimes also groups of “intermediary beings”) can only be found in special studies or text editions. The rather limited treatment of this terminology also applies to Tuvan, which knows the wealth of such terms simply due to the fact that in its linguistic area, where the world of Turkic languages meets that of Mongolian, both shamanism and northern or Vajrayāna Buddhism are represented.

On the one hand, these terms are of Turkic origin and are sometimes already documented in Old Turkic – be it autochthonous Turkish terminology or borrowings from the languages of Buddhism and Manichaeism (e.g. Sanskrit, Sogdian, Tocharian A and B), which had already influenced this region in Old Turkic times – or adoptions from the world of Lamaist or Vajrayāna Buddhism. In addition, there are terms that we can regard as “specifically Tyvan”, i.e. names and designations that are either only documented in Tyvan or have a meaning or merely a connotation exclusively for the speakers of Tyvan that are not otherwise documented.

In keeping with the overarching theme of this year’s PIAC, the speaker here turns to a hitherto largely untouched subject – Tyvan as a source of onomastics in the history of religion and comparative religion.