The Historical Roots of Two Traditions in the Culture of Mongolian-Speaking Peoples

Tatiana D. Skrynnikova

The Historical Roots of Two Traditions in the Culture of Mongolian-Speaking Peoples

(63rd Annual Meeting Ulaanbaatar, 2021)

The sources of coexistence of two cultural types on the territory of South Siberia and Central Asia should be looked for in the early ethno- and culturogenesis of the peoples, belonging to the Altaic linguistic family. The studies in traditional culture of the Mongolian peoples allows to distinguish two traditions in it existing since the IV millennium BC: Eastern-Asian tradition and South-Western-Asian tradition, determined by migrating of the old Iranian and Indo-Arian population in the region where Turk- and Mongolian-speaking peoples arose.

The culture of slab tombs had been forming in the east (the Mongoloids). The most characteristic feature of the slab tombs is their form: right-angled or square which is the Earth symbol or sign. When ideas about the Heaven as Supreme Deity had penetrated Eastern Asia, the cult of Supreme Divine Couple HeavenEarth was formed and still is actual. Besides, on the ancient Turkic monuments on the territory of Mongolia (east) only Heaven (tengri) and Earth (yer/yer sub and Etugen) are marked as supreme deities

In the west under the Indo-European influence the central position was being occupied by the Sun deity, accompanied by two deities (or groups of deities) – right/left, good/evil. The names of the Sun deities (Ekhe-Yuuren-tengri, Öbgen-Yuuren-tengri, Oyor-Munke-tengri, Oyor-Sagan-tengri) of the Buryats, and Yakutian Yurung-Aiy-Toion) go back to old Iranian name for Sun – yir/yor.

This is evident from the archeological monuments (deer stones, petroglyphs with vehicles or sunheaded animals, kereksurs, mong. khoshoo chuluu or turk. kochai chula) and from the cross at the bottom of the shaman tree zagal-mai. These attribute can be interpreted in the similar way: bridge by which is carried sur or draught animals on which is carried sur (= turk. kut: sacral substance of the Sun-nature).

In the social sphere the agentive ritual code is markedly different. In the eastern Mongolian world both secular and ritual functions are acted by a secular leader. L.P. Potapov cited “Zhow shi”: “Every year Khagan led noble people to the ancestors’ cave for bringing offerings, and in the middle ten-days of the fifth month they gathered together on the Tamir-river for sacrificing to the god of the Heaven”. In the western tradition: a king/warrior executes secular functions and these of ritual character are acted by a priest (white shaman). It is worth to mark that this is typical also for the Turkic peoples of Altai and South Siberia and may be for Euro-Asia in total.