Summary of the Origin of the Altaic Tribes Myth

Altaic (Turkic) Creation Myth

In geography, the term Altaic designates the region that corresponds to Central Eurasia in historic terms (“The Scope and Importance of Altaic Studies,” p. 194). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Altai Mountains “extend approximately 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in a southeast-northwest direction from the Gobi to the West Siberian Plain, through Chinese, Mongolian, Russian, and Kazakh territory” (Encyclopedia Britannica,

b.Earliest Writing and language of the peoples

The origins and the peoples that consisted of the basis for the Altaic civilization are disputed among scientists, anthropologists, historians and linguists. There are two major trends that characterize the theories involving the Altaic languages and people. The original theory regarding the languages in this group considered that there were three main language subgroups: the Turkic, the Mongolian and the Tungus. The theories of the Altaic languages and people later added to these three main subgroups three more, as the Altaic culture spread towards the territories inhabited by the Japanese, the Koreans and the Ryukyu (Encyclopedia Iranica, The latter were found to be genetically related to the former.

Denis Sinor emphasized the importance of the Altaic studies, both from a linguistic and historical perspective, in the larger context of the Asian studies. There field of Altaic studies has generated many debates regarding the origins and sort of relationships between the original Altaic peoples and the Altaic languages and the subsequent process that led to the enlargement of the are and people that came to be known under the name of Altaic people or people whose native language was Altaic.

In 1998, Lars Johanson and Eva Csato edited a book named the Turkic Languages which gathered the works of different authors whose works on the subject converge toward the conclusion that the Altaic languages are related more probably through genetics than through other types of interaction. Researchers have established with some certainty that there was an original group, that as presented before included those who spoke Turkic, Mongolian and Tungus that spread trough Korea and Japan, and also through Finland, coming to dominate even in China for a few dynasties.

d. Earliest political structures

The origins of the Altaic peoples are lost in the darkness of history because they led nomadic or semi-nomadic lives, with a tribal organization of their society. According to Peter B. Golden “recent research posits an Altaic language “comunity” — ehatever its origins — c. 4000-3000 BC, from which ancient Turkic emerged c. 3000-500 BC” (the Turkic Languages, p. 16).


The poems of the Altaic Epic related to the creation myths are adapted by Gene Doty from the prose translation by Gulten Yener and published on Gene Doty’s home page. They contain the literary version of the origins of the Altaic Poeples.

b. Summary of the Origin of the Altaic Tribes Myth

God Ulgen is the creator of earth, sky and the people between earth and sky. Because people forgot the creator, they opened the gats to Erlik who was thrown into darkness by God. God left the people on earth alone and moved to the sky together with his messengers. A family, husband Ay-Atam, wife Ay-Va and two daughters thought of leaving the people who had become ugly and dark as the earth and the evil they served. The four members of the family, led by moon and star left the evil world and walked to a new world. The reached the Altai mountains and met there in a cave Dogonay, a friend, and his wife Ace, and their children. They had left humanity and dwelled in the cave in the Altai Mountains because of the original sin committed by Ace. Ay-Atam’s family joins them in the mountains. Ay-Atam continues to have dreams that are of devine inspiration. He dreams of being the tree from God, the blessed tree that will give birth to all the branches of the Altai people. Ay-Atam and Dogonay discuss the significance of Ay-Atam’s dream and Dogonay who also had the revelation regarding Ay-Atam’s divine mission, advises him to find partners that are deathless instead of his mortal sons. Bozkurt, the creature from the highest peak of the mountain, lets two drops of blood transformed into light to fall from his eyes into the tower where they closed the two girls. They became thus two stars. In this form, they unite with Bozkurt and become one, then climbed the clouds toward Mount Hulin, as a ball of light.

c. Analysis

The Altaic epic, the Myth of Creation, the Origins of the Turkish People, are poems abounding of symbolism, like most creation stories. They share different parts that are common with the Myths of Creation from other religions, like Mosaic and Christianity, while remaining highly original. The creation myth in this Altaic epic shares with the two afore mentioned religions the part where God leaves the earth and the people alone because they are no longer with him, and also the opposite of God, the evil whose coming into existence is enabled by people’s Godless conduct.

David Leeming points out that the creation stories of the Altaic peoples spring from the shamanistic religion the people for the region shared and their further religious development that brought them in contact with most of the main monotheistic religions of the world. The Altaic Myth of Creation is the continuation of the cosmogony myth and it introduces the part where a new better world is created through the communion of two women with the creature on the highest peak on the Altai Mountains.

The Altaic Creation Myth, in Gulten Yener’s version, translated by Gene Doty, places the beginning of creation in a setting with water. There is the primordial water and God Kara-han that is flying alone over the water. The following verses are not trying to elucidate the mystery of the lonely God, but just raising more questions. The flying God is not free through his flying ability above the water and water represents both a source of freedom and a source of chaos. The space is represented as the potential savior for the God who could be lost into the depths of the water.

The lonely God Kara-han appears to be far from the perfect god we are used to from the Jewish, Islamic or Christian creation myths. Not only is this God alone, but he is also afraid and needs to be saved. He will encourage himself as a human would do, reminding himself of the fact that he was God. God will be reminded by the very creature, Ak-ana, water’s sister he created, of his creation. She is the element that will drive his enemy, loneliness, away from his through her words. She will teach him in the story what to do to escape loneliness: to create. God Kara-has will listen to the sister of the water, his own forgotten creation and will create Er-kishi: “double and dark”(the Altaic Creation Story).

Once, God created Er-kishi, there were two opposites: light and dark, white and black that first coexisted “in the peace of unspoken love / flying in the joy of endless being” (the Altaic Creation Myth). Soon, the moment comes when God asks himself if his creation was the answer for loneliness, the original enemy he feared. Er-kishi will revolt and act on his own will, hoping to prove not only that he could exist without God, but that he could also rise above his creator. As a result of his rebellion, God lets him fall, taking the ability to fly away from him. The episode with the creation of the earth follows Er-kishi’s punishment. The Earth is thus born from an act of rebellion of the evil against the light of God. The female initially created by God who reminded him of his ability to create in order to save him from loneliness interferes one more time and makes the rock in the deep waters, to supply the place for Er-kishi to stand in the water.

Er-kishi becomes the supplier of the dirt God sent him to bring from the water in order to create a world flat and wide as the bottom of the water. At this point, Er-kishi seems convinced of the Godly powers of his opponent, but his judgment will be clouded again soon. As he doubts God’s ability to exist and create without him, he tries to conceal some of the dirt in his mouth and thus create a world of his own. He will be punished again and fall into darkness. Unfortunately, he will have already created through the dirt he spit from his mouth a part of the earth.

The themes developed by the authors in these creation myths are starting with the imperfection theme. The Altaic myths introduce a God that is imperfect through two main features: his loneliness and the lack of humanity. Next, there comes the theme of dualism. The idea of imperfection continues with God’s first created man: Er-kishi. He is not only imperfect, he becomes the opposite of God, the symbol of light. Thus, the authors introduce the second theme: the duality. Er-kishi is double. He aspires to a Godless existence and tries to topple God, thinking he is better than God, but he receives his punishment soon enough and is thrown into the depths of the earth. On the other hand, the authors are masterfully explaining the idea that the earth was the result of a revolt. In this myth, God is not perfect, he forgets, fears, needs a female creature in the water to remind him of his creative capabilities and offer him a solution to the loneliness he feared. In this myth, the earth originates from water, since is made from the dirt brought from the bottom of the water. It also involved God, the symbol of light, Er-Kishi the symbol of darkness and Ak-ana, the female creature who reminded God of her existence and thus of his creative power. The myth is also underlining the idea that nothing can exist outside God. God might be forgetful and fearful sometimes, he may create imperfect beings, but he is also the symbol of light and reunites good and evil.

Once the two daughters of Ay-Atam and Ay-Va fulfill their destiny and become one with Bozkurt, the creature from the highest peak of the Altai mountain, a deathless creature, they become the ancestors of the Altaic peoples.

Comparison of the Altaic Creation Myth with Popol Vuh

Popol Vuh, a series of mythologies of the ancient Maya, like the Altai Myths of creation, has cosmogony stories as well as stories related to the origin of the kingdom, the relationship between the kings and God etc. The creation myth in Popol Vuh introduces the divinity in the same setting: waters. but, unlike in the Altaic Myth of Creation, the God is not one, but there are several Gods and they are not flying above waters, but they are in the water. These gods will also create men, after a few unsuccessful attempts. The similarity between the to creation myths consists in the fact that in Popol Vuh, the creation of the first people is also associated with the darkness. but, they will be directly the ancestors of the first Maya tribes.

The two creation series contain a part about the genealogy of the people who originated them. The Altaic, respectively the Mayan tribes are presented as the result of a successful attempt to create humans, that followed other unsuccessful divine creation acts. The difference between the two is that in the case of the Quiche Maya, the first successful humans are created by the gods in a repetitive manner and as a consecutive trial act. The fact they this time the gods succeeded to make people who will be worth of their protection appears to be the result of a random act. On the other hand, in the case of the Altaic creation myth, the first tribes who will live with God in mind and will thus be worthy are the result of a union between two human beings and a deathless thus divine creature. The daughters of the man who had divine revelations and chose to leave the Godless world he came to live in become stars in an act of becoming reunited with the primordial matter.

The two creation series are sharing another common feature that is also shared by the creation myths of other religions: the role plaid by the word in the creation process. Ak-ana, the female creation of God Kara-han tells him: “Create, Create, Create!.” The gods in the Mayan myth are also using the word as the generator of human life: “And the Forefathers, the Creators and Makers, who were called Tepeu and Gucumatz said: “The time of dawn has come, let the work be finished, and let those who are to nourish and sustain us appear, the noble sons, the civilized vassals; let man appear, humanity, on the face of the earth.” Thus they spoke” (the Popol Vuh).

The creation myths of various peoples, like the two presented above, attempted to describe the origins of the cosmos, of the earth and the humanity as well as the genealogy of a particular people and the relationship between those who led these particular people and God or the Gods, depending on the religion. There are features such as themes, motifs and symbols that transcend religions and can be traced in many creation myths across the globe and features that differentiate one religion from another as well as one people from another.

Doty, Gene; Gulten Yener. Altaic Epic. Poems from the Turkish Epic. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Goetz, Delia; Morley, Sylvanus G. The Popol Vuh. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Johanson, Lars; Csato, Eva. The Turkic languages. 1998. Taylor & Francis

Sinor, Denis. The Scope and Importance of Altaic Studies. Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol 83. No.2. (Apr-Jun. 1963). Pp. 193-197

Delahoyde & Hughes Orpheus. The Mayan Creation Myth. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Altaic Languages. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Altaic Languages: Encyclopedia. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Altaic. Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

Migrations, Racial Mixing and the Evolution of Cultures. Retrieved: Oct 20, 2009. Available at:

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