Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Carpe Diem #386, Tengri, the Spirit of the Steppes

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Tengri was the chief deity worshipped by the ruling class of the Central Asian steppe peoples in 6th to 9th centuries (Turkic peoples, Mongols and Hungarians).  It lost its importance when the Uighuric kagans proclaimed Manichaeism the state religion in the 8th century. Tengri was the main god of the Turkic pantheon, controlling the celestial sphere.

The most important contemporary testimony of Tengri worship is found in the Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions, dated to the early 8th century. Written in the so-called Orkhon script, these inscriptions record an account of the mythological origins of the Turks. The inscription dedicated to Kul Tigin includes the passages (in the translation provided by the Language Committee of Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan): "When the blue sky [Tengri] above and the brown earth below were created, between them a human being was created. Over the human beings, my ancestors Bumin Kagan and Istemi Kagan ruled. They ruled people by Turkish laws, they led them and succeeded" (face 1, line 1); "Tengri creates death. Human beings have all been created in order to die" (face 2, line 9); "You passed away (lit.: 'went flying') until Tengri gives you life again" (face 2, line 14).

Khan Tengri, an important mountain in Tengrism

"Tengrism" is the term for a revival of Central Asian shamanism after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 
In Tengriism, the meaning of life is seen as living in harmony with the surrounding world. Tengriist believers view their existence as sustained by the eternal blue Sky, Tengri, the fertile Mother-Earth, spirit Eje, and a ruler who is regarded as the holy spirit of the Sky. Heaven, Earth, the spirits of nature and the ancestors provide every need and protect all humans. By living an upright and respectful life, a human being will keep his world in balance and maximize his personal power Wind Horse.
It is said that the Huns of the Northern Caucasus believed in two gods. One is called Tangri han (that is Tengri Khan), who is thought to be identical to the Persian Aspandiat and for whom horses were sacrificed. The other is called Kuar, whose victims are struck down by lightning.
Tengriism is actively practised in Sakha, Buryatia, Tuva and Mongolia in parallel with Tibetan Buddhism and Burkhanism.

Nazar, "The Evil Eye"

Tengrism, is also an theme in one of the novels by Paulo Coelho. In his novel "The Zahir", he's on a quest to find his beloved wife who has left him without letting him know where she is. His wife, in the novel a war-correspondent, has left him to find herself back. He meets Michael, a young charismatic man, who is telling stories about love and performs rituals with a few other friends of him. During the story Paulo and Michael become friends and finally they decide to go on a quest together. Michael returning back to his Mongolian roots taking Paulo with him. As they arrive in Mongolia Paulo learns about Tengrism and finds his beloved wife back somewhere in a village on the steppes.

As we already have find out during our journey with the Trans Siberian Railroad ... Tengrism uses Shaman-rituals and initiations and it also is familiar to Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism is one of the main backgrounds for haiku and that's why we will soon start our pilgrimage on the Japanese Isle of Shikoku. This pilgrimage is similar with the Hajj of the Muslim. The Muslim have to go to Mecca, a Hajj, once in their lifetime. To Buddhists that's why they go on a pilgrimage along the 88 temples/shrines situated on Shikoku once in a lifetime. It follows the path of the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi or 'Kukai'.

Shikoku, O-Henro sign

flying high
above Khan Tengri
cry of an eagle

cry of an eagle
resonates through the temples -
Shikoku Island

Shikoku Island
pilgrimage to Enlightenment -
becoming a Henro

Not a strong set I think, but I think it says what the post says in just a few words. With this post we have entered the realm of the Pilgrim ... our first step to become a Henro (Shikoku pilgrim).

This episode will be open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and it will remain open until January 30th 11.59 AM (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, Pilgrim, later on. Have fun, be inspired and be prepared to start our pilgrimage along the 88 temples/shrines in tribute to Kobo Daishi on Shikoku Island.


  1. luv today's readings and prompts

    much love...

  2. What a superb post...one of the very best of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai. By the way, I did notice the blue sky in your haiku yesterday.... and mentioned it to Ese, to let her see how much is in your haiku. That is the sign of a great haiku. Maybe when you look at it, you say, 'oh, that's nice!' but then you look again, and say 'wow! Look what he did!'

    1. Thank you for your kind words Managua ... and thank you for the gorgeous words you share here about my yesterday haiku ... thank you ... humbly

  3. Wonderful.. I was enchanted by the blue sky.. really great poems here today... Here the skies are blue... but we work inside all day.

  4. Wow, Kristjaan. I am not finding time these days to write in response to the prompts very often, but I am so enjoying reading them! Thank you for all this research and writing, I am learning a lot, and so so interesting stuff. Jessica