Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Here are my thoughts/speculations on where I believe is the possible origin of shamanism, which may have begun sometime around 35,000 to 30,000 years ago seen in the emergence of the Gravettian culture, just to outline his thinking, on what thousands of years later led to evolved Asian shamanism, in general, and thus WU shamanism as well. In both Europe-related “shamanism-possible burials” and in Gravettian mitochondrial DNA is a seeming connection to Haplogroup U. And the first believed Shaman proposed burial belonged to Eastern Gravettians/Pavlovian culture at Dolní Věstonice in southern Moravia in the Czech Republic, which is the oldest permanent human settlement that has ever been found. It is at Dolní Věstonice where approximately 27,000-25,000 years ago a seeming female shaman was buried and also there was an ivory totem portrait figure, seemingly of her.

And my thoughts on how cultural/ritual aspects were influenced in the area of Göbekli Tepe. I think it relates to a few different cultures starting in the area before the Neolithic. Two different groups of Siberians first from northwest Siberia with U6 haplogroup 40,000 to 30,000 or so. Then R Haplogroup (mainly haplogroup R1b but also some possible R1a both related to the Ancient North Eurasians). This second group added its “R1b” DNA of around 50% to the two cultures Natufian and Trialetian. To me, it is likely both of these cultures helped create Göbekli Tepe. Then I think the female art or graffiti seen at Göbekli Tepe to me possibly relates to the Epigravettians that made it into Turkey and have similar art in North Italy. I speculate that possibly the Totem pole figurines seen first at Kostenki, next went to Mal’ta in Siberia as seen in their figurines that also seem “Totem-pole-like”, and then with the migrations of R1a it may have inspired the Shigir idol in Russia and the migrations of R1b may have inspired Göbekli Tepe.

I am looking into the seeming connections between totem poles, ceremonial poles, spirit poles, sacred poles, god/goddess poles, deities associated with poles (like an old woman or man that holds up the earth on a pole in mythology), sacred trees, pole star, axis mundi, maypole, Native American sun dance with poles, etc. I see lots of connections between Eurasia and Native American mythology and religious beliefs.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

refrefrefrefrefref, ref

Trialetian culture (16,000–8000 years ago) the Caucasus, Iran, and Turkey, likely involved in Göbekli Tepe. Migration 1?


Haplogroup R possible time of origin about 27,000 years in Central Asia, South Asia, or Siberia:

Trialetian sites

Caucasus and Transcaucasia:

Eastern Anatolia:

Trialetian influences can also be found in:

Southeast of the Caspian Sea:

  • Hotu (Iran)
  • Ali Tepe (Iran) (from cal. 10,500  to 8,870 BCE)
  • Belt Cave (Iran), layers 28-11 (the last remains date from ca. 6,000 BCE)
  • Dam-Dam-Cheshme II (Turkmenistan), layers7,000-3,000 BCE)” ref

“The belonging of these Caspian Mesolithic sites to the Trialetian has been questioned. Little is known about the end of the Trialetian. 6k BC has been proposed as the time on which the decline phase took place. From this date are the first evidence of the Jeitunian, an industry that has probably evolved from the Trialetian. Also from this date are the first pieces of evidence of Neolithic materials in the Belt cave.” ref

“In the southwest corner of the Trialetian region it has been proposed that this culture evolved towards a local version of the PPNB around 7,000 BCE, in sites as Cafer Höyük. Kozłowski suggests that the Trialetian does not seem to have continuation in the Neolithic of Georgia (as for example in Paluri and Kobuleti). Although in the 5,000 BCE certain microliths similar to those of the Trialetian reappear in Shulaveris Gora (see Shulaveri-Shomu) and Irmis Gora.” ref

“The genome of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer individual found at the layer A2 of the Kotias Klde rock shelter in Georgia (labeled KK1), dating from 9,700 years ago, has been analyzed. This individual forms a genetic cluster with another hunter-gatherer from the Satsurblia Cave, the so-called Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) cluster. KK1 belongs to the Y-chromosome haplogruoup J2a (an independent analysis has assigned him J2a1b-Y12379*).” ref

“Although the belonging of the Caspian Mesolithic to the Trialetian has been questioned, it is worth noting that genetic similarities have been found between an Mesolithic hunther-gatherer from the Hotu cave (labeled Iran_HotuIIIb) dating from 9,100-8,600 BCE and the CHG from Kotias Klde. The Iran_HotuIIIb individual belongs to the Y-chromosome haplogroup J (xJ2a1b3, J2b2a1a1) (an independent analysis yields J2a-CTS1085(xCTS11251,PF5073) -probably J2a2-). Then, both KK1 and Iran_HotuIIIb individuals share a paternal ancestor that lived approximately 18.7k years ago (according to the estimates of full). At the autosomal level, it falls in the cluster of the CHG’s and the Iranian Neolithic Farmers.” ref

Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) is a Neolithic archaeological site near the city of Şanlıurfa in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. Dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, between c. 9500 and 8000 BCE, the site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive stone pillars – the world’s oldest known megaliths. Many of these pillars are richly decorated with abstract anthropomorphic details, clothing, and reliefs of wild animals, providing archaeologists rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period..” ref


“24,000-23,000-15,000 years old Venus figurines of the Mal’ta–Buret’ culture, found in Siberia, Russia.” ref

Mal’ta burials, artifacts, and statuettes with special note of the elongated “totem-pole-like” figurines. With number 27, that seems the most “totem-pole-like” figurine of them all. The closest European site for Venus figurines would be Kostyonki, and research is being conducted to try to find connections with Mal’ta. The suggested similarity between Mal’ta and Upper Paleolithic civilizations of Western and Eastern Europe coincides with a long-held belief that the ancient people of Mal’ta were related to the Paleolithic societies of Europe. These similarities can be established by their tools, dwelling structures, and art. These commonalities draw into question the origin of Upper Paleolithic Siberian people, and whether the migrating peoples originated from Southeastern Asia or quite possibly from Europe.” ref

“On the other hand, one can argue that as a group the Mal’ta Venus figures are rather different from the female figurines of Western and Central Europe. At first glance what is obvious is that the Mal’ta Venus figurines are of two types: full-figured women with exaggerated forms, and women with a thin, delicate form. Some of the figures are nude while others have etchings that seem to indicate fur or clothing. Conversely, unlike those found in Europe, some of the Venus figurines from Mal’ta were sculpted with faces. Around 30 female statuettes of varying shapes were discovered at Mal’ta, at the Angara River, and near Lake Baikal in Irkutsk Oblast in Siberia. They are about 23,000 years old and stem from the Gravettian. Most of the figurines were tapered at the bottom, and it is believed that this was done so they could have been stuck into the ground or placed upright some other way. Placed upright they could have symbolized the spirits of the dead, akin to “spirit dolls” used nearly world-wide, including Siberia, among contemporary people.” ref

Spirit Dolls

“Kököle (also called Kökö and Kököle-ish) are ‘spirit dolls‘ of the Zuni Indians. Some live up in the mountains where they search for food, however most live in the “Great Village” at the bottom of the mythical Lake of the Dead. The Lake of the Dead exists on another plane of existence beneath Spring Lake at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River. Offerings of food are thrown into the rivers just upstream of this junction so that the whirlpools can carry them down to the spirits of the dead. Down below in the “Great Village,” the Kökö live happy lives and dress always in beautifully ceremonial garb, visiting the living only occasionally to bring good luck and rewards for their devotion.” ref

“For those Kököle who live in the mountains, however, they perpetually starve because no one can wash offerings down to their plane. These Kököle in the mountains and the woods are often angry and bring nothing but sorrow to those who encounter them. In the original Zuni Indian myths, the Kököle were the spirits of children who were drowned after the emergence of people from the underworld as told in the Zuni Creation Story. These children remain in the “Great Village” always; however, the rest of the Kököle in the mountains are people who have died, come back to life, and then returned to the underworld. For them there is no rest and no food.” ref

“Kököle also include the spirits of the recently dead. The Kököle of the recently dead frequently leave the “Great Village” to make rain, bring good crops and even bless children with strong lungs. Of the recently dead, those who return upon the death of their loved ones will take them back to the “Great Village”. Husbands will in this way join their wives and wives their husbands, but children who return to visit their loved ones will be cast out of the Lake of the Dead, to become Uwanammi or water monsters. These children become angry and instead of gentle rain they bring violent storms in their discontent tantrums, attempting to rain their way back into the Zuni river and hence back to the “Great Village”. Kököle dolls are not made as idols or fetishes, but rather as teaching tools for children and as fertility charms for older brides.” ref

“A kachina (/kəˈnə/; also katchina, katcina, or katsina; Hopi: katsina [kaˈtsʲina], plural katsinim [kaˈtsʲinim]) is a spirit being in the religious beliefs of the Pueblo people, Native American cultures located in the south-western part of the United States. In the Pueblo cultures, kachina rites are practiced by the Hopi, Hopi-Tewa, and Zuni peoples and certain Keresan tribes, as well as in most Pueblo tribes in New Mexico. The kachina concept has three different aspects: the supernatural being, the kachina dancers, and kachina dolls (small dolls carved in the likeness of the kachina, that are given only to those who are, or will be responsible for the respectful care and well-being of the doll, such as a mother, wife, or sister). Kachinas are spirits or personifications of things in the real world. These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year. The local pantheon of kachinas varies from pueblo community to community.” ref

“A kachina can represent anything in the natural world or cosmos, from a revered ancestor to an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept; there may be kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, as well as many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having human-like relationships: families such as parents and siblings, as well as marrying and having children. Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use his particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. The central theme of kachina beliefs and practices as explained by Wright (2008) is “the presence of life in all objects that fill the universe. Everything has an essence or a life force, and humans must interact with these or fail to survive.” ref

“In many ways the Kachina rites are the most important ceremonial observances in the Hopi religious calendar. Within Hopi religion, the kachinas are said to live on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona. To the Hopis, kachinas are supernatural beings who visit the villages to help the Hopis with everyday activities and act as a link between gods and mortals. According to Susanne and Jake Page, the katsinam are “the spirits of all things in the universe, of rocks, stars, animals, plants, and ancestors who have lived good lives.” These spirits are then impersonated by male dancers wearing costumes and masks for ceremonies during the first half of the year.” ref

“The first ceremony of the year, the Powamu, occurs in February and is associated with the bean planting, the growing season, and coming of age. The last katsina ceremony, Niman, occurs in July and is associated with the harvest, after which the katsinam return to their home in the San Francisco Peaks. Hopi kachina dolls, tihü, are ceremonial objects with religious meaning. The most important Hopi kachinas are known as wuya. In Hopi, the term wuya often refers to the spiritual beings themselves (said to be connected with the Fifth World, Taalawsohu), the dolls, or the people who dress as kachinas for ceremonial dances. These are all understood to embody all aspects of the same belief system.” ref

“Religious ceremonies are central to the Zuni agrarian society. They revolve around the winter and summer solstices, incorporate the importance of weather, especially rain, and ensure successful crops. According to Tanner, “Father Sky and Mother Earth are venerated, as are the welcome kachinas who bring many blessings.” The Zuni believe that the kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake which is reached through Listening Spring Lake. According to Clara Lee Tanner, “…kachina involves three basic concepts: first, a supernatural being; second, the masked dancer (and the Zuni is a kachina when he wears the mask), and third the carved, painted, and dressed doll.” ref

“This is located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River. Although some archaeological investigations have taken place, they have not been able to clarify which tribe, Zuni or Hopi, developed the Kachina Cult first. Both Zuni and Hopi kachinas are different from each other but have certain similarities and features. In addition, both Zuni and Hopi kachinas are highly featured and detailed, while the kachinas of the Rio Grande Pueblos look primitive in feature. The Hopis have built their cult into a more elaborate rite, and seem to have a greater sense of drama and artistry than the Zunis. On the other hand, the latter have developed a more sizable folklore concerning their kachinas.” ref

“Many Pueblo Indians, particularly the Hopi and Zuni, have ceremonies in which masked men, called kachinas, play an important role. Masked members of the tribe dress up as kachinas for religious ceremonies that take place many times throughout the year. These ceremonies are social occasions for the village, where friends and relatives are able to come from neighboring towns to see the dance and partake in the feasts that are always prepared. When a Hopi man places a mask upon his head and wears the appropriate costume and body paint, his personal identity is lost and the spirit of the kachina he is supposed to represent takes its place. Besides the male kachinas are many female kachinas called kachin-manas, but women never take the part of male or female kachinas. The most widely publicized of Hopi kachina rites is the “Snake Dance”, an annual event during which the performers danced while handling live snakes.” ref

Kachina dolls are small brightly painted wooden “dolls” which are miniature representations of the masked impersonators. These figurines are given to children not as toys, but as objects to be treasured and studied so that the young Hopis may become familiar with the appearance of the kachinas as part of their religious training. During Kachina ceremonies, each child receives their own doll. The dolls are then taken home and hung up on the walls or from the rafters of the house, so that they can be constantly seen by the children. The purpose of this is to help the children learn to know what the different kachinas look like. It is said that the Hopi recognize over 200 kachinas and many more were invented in the last half of the nineteenth century. Among the Hopi, kachina dolls are traditionally carved by the maternal uncles and given to uninitiated girls at the Bean Dance (Spring Bean Planting Ceremony) and Home Dance Ceremony in the summer.” ref

“These dolls are very difficult to classify not only because the Hopis have a vague idea about their appearance and function, but also because these ideas differ from mesa to mesa and pueblo to pueblo. “There are two different accounts in Hopi beliefs for the origins of kachinas. According to one version, the kachinas were good-natured spirit-beings who came with the Hopis from the underworld. The kachinas wandered with the Hopis over the world until they arrived at Casa Grande, where both the Hopis and the kachinas settled. With their powerful ceremonies, the kachinas were of much help and comfort, for example bringing rain for the crops. However, all of the kachinas were killed when the Hopis were attacked and the kachinas’ souls returned to the underworld.” ref

“Since the sacred paraphernalia of the kachinas were left behind, the Hopis began impersonating the kachinas, wearing their masks and costumes, and imitating their ceremonies in order to bring rain, good crops, and life’s happiness. Another account says that the Hopis came to take the kachinas for granted, losing all respect and reverence for them, so the kachinas returned to the underworld. However, before they left, the kachinas taught some of their ceremonies to a few faithful young men and showed them how to make the masks and costumes. When the other Hopi realized their mistake, they remorsefully turned to the kachinas’ human substitutes, and the ceremonies have continued since then.” ref

Totem Poles

The Shigir Sculpture, or Shigir Idol, is the oldest known wooden sculpture. It was carved during the Mesolithic period, shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, and is twice as old as Egypt’s Great Pyramid. The wood it was carved from is approximately 12,000 years old. The sculpture was discovered at a depth of 4 m (13 ft) in the peat bog of Shigir, on the eastern slope of the Middle Urals, near the village of Kalata (modern Kirovgrad) and approximately 100 km (62 mi) from Yekaterinburg. Investigations in this area had begun 40 years earlier, after the discovery of a variety of prehistoric objects in an open-cast gold mine. It was extracted in ten parts that when combined reconstitute a sculpture 2.8 m (9.2 ft) high. The sculpture, dated to 11,500 years ago, may have stood more than 5 m (16 ft) high in total. It is the most ancient monumental wooden sculpture of its kind known in the world.” ref

“Typically, wood degrades in most environments and does not endure for archaeological discovery so readily as other materials such as stone and metal – unless in peat. A decorated antler was found near the Shigir Idol and dated to the same period, giving credence to the estimated age of 11,500 years. Researchers note that, while any direct parallel to this find is not yet known, nevertheless, the contextualization can be assisted by some very limited evidence of wooden objects from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. The geometric decorations, such as simple lines and zigzags of the Idol are commonly found in Late Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic decorations. Thus, various elements of the Shigir sculpture are consistent with the record of Late Glacial to Early Mesolithic art in Eurasia.” ref

“The sculpture is carved from larch. As identified from the annual rings, the tree was at least 159 years old when felled. Stone tools were used for carving the markings. The top portion is a head with a face with eyes, nose, and mouth. The body is flat and rectangular. Geometrical motifs decorate its surface, including zigzag lines and depictions of human faces and hands. Horizontal lines at the level of the thorax may represent ribs, and lines broken in chevrons cover the rest of what often is described as the body; however, along with the face at the top, several faces are visible at various points along the sculpture. The arrangement resembles a totem pole.” ref

“Scholars have proposed various theories about the carvings’ meaning. Svetlana Savchenko, a researcher at the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum, suggested that the decoration tells the creation myth those who carved it believed in. Other researchers at the museum have suggested that the markings could have served as a navigational aid or map. Professor Mikhail Zhilin, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow, guessed that the statue could depict mythological creatures such as forest spirits. Scholars noted that the Shigir Idol’s decoration was similar to that of the oldest known monumental stone ruins, at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. Scientists had previously believed that complex art comparable to the Shigir Idol began in sedentary farming populations in the Middle East around 8,000 years ago.” ref

Göbekli Tepe is a Neolithic archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. Dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, between c. 9500 and 8000 BCE or 11,500 to 10,000 years ago, the site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive stone pillars – the world’s oldest known megaliths. Many of these pillars are richly decorated with figurative anthropomorphic details, clothing, and reliefs of wild animals, providing archaeologists rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period. The 15 m (50 ft)-high, 8 ha (20-acre) tell also includes many smaller buildings, quarries, and stone-cut cisterns from the Neolithic, as well as some traces of activity from later periods.” ref

“The site was first used at the dawn of the Southwest Asian Neolithic period, which marked the appearance of the oldest permanent human settlements anywhere in the world. Prehistorians link this Neolithic Revolution to the advent of agriculture, but disagree on whether farming caused people to settle down or vice versa. Göbekli Tepe, a monumental complex built on the top of a rocky mountaintop, with no clear evidence of agricultural cultivation produced to date, has played a prominent role in this debate. Evidence indicates that the inhabitants of Göbekli Tepe were hunter-gatherers who supplemented their diet with early forms of domesticated cereal and lived in villages for at least part of the year. Tools such as grinding stones and mortars and pestles found at the site have been analyzed and suggest considerable cereal processing. Archaeozoological evidence hints at “large-scale hunting of gazelle between midsummer and autumn.” ref

Pre-Pottery Neolithic villages consisted mainly of clusters of stone or mud brick houses, but sometimes also substantial monuments and large buildings. These include the tower and walls at Tell es-Sultan (Jericho), as well as large, roughly contemporaneous circular buildings at Göbekli Tepe, Nevalı Çori, Çayönü, Wadi Feynan 16, Jerf el-Ahmar, Tell ‘Abr 3, and Tepe Asiab. Archaeologists typically associate these structures with communal activities which, together with the communal effort needed to build them, helped to maintain social interactions in PPN communities as they grew in size. The T-shaped (totem-pole-like) pillar tradition seen at Göbekli Tepe is unique to the Urfa region, but is found at the majority of PPN sites there. These include Nevalı Çori, Hamzan Tepe, Karahan Tepe, Harbetsuvan Tepesi, Sefer Tepe, and Taslı Tepe. Other stone stelae—without the characteristic T shape—have been documented at contemporary sites further afield, including Çayönü, Qermez Dere, and Gusir Höyük.” ref

Layer III (oldest layer)

“At this early stage of the site’s history, circular compounds or temene first appear. They range from 10 to 30 m (33 to 98 ft) in diameter. Their most notable feature is the presence of T-shaped limestone pillars evenly set within thick interior walls composed of unworked stone. Four such circular structures have been unearthed so far. Geophysical surveys indicate that there are 16 more, enclosing up to eight pillars each, amounting to nearly 200 pillars in all. The slabs were transported from bedrock pits located approximately 100 m (330 ft) from the hilltop, with workers using flint points to cut through the limestone bedrock. The pillars are the oldest known megaliths in the world.” ref

“Two taller pillars stand facing one another at the center of each circle. Whether the circles were provided with a roof is uncertain. Stone benches designed for sitting are found in the interior. Many of the pillars are decorated with abstract, enigmatic pictograms and carved animal reliefs. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The reliefs depict mammals such as lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelle, and donkeys; snakes and other reptiles; arthropods such as insects and arachnids; and birds, particularly vultures. At the time the edifice was constructed, the surrounding country was likely to have been forested and capable of sustaining this variety of wildlife, before millennia of human settlement and cultivation led to the near–Dust Bowl conditions prevalent today. Vultures also feature prominently in the iconography of Çatalhöyük and Jericho.” ref

“Few humanoid figures have appeared in the art at Göbekli Tepe. Some of the T-shaped pillars have human arms carved on their lower half, however, suggesting to site excavator Schmidt that they are intended to represent the bodies of stylized humans (or perhaps deities). Loincloths appear on the lower half of a few pillars. The horizontal stone slab on top is thought by Schmidt to symbolize shoulders, which suggests that the figures were left headless. Whether they were intended to serve as surrogate worshippers, symbolize venerated ancestors, or represent supernatural, anthropomorphic beings is not known. Some of the floors in this, the oldest, layer are made of terrazzo (burnt lime); others are bedrock from which pedestals to hold the large pair of central pillars were carved in high relief. Radiocarbon dating places the construction of these early circles around 9000 BCE. Carbon dating suggests that (for reasons unknown) the enclosures were backfilled during the Stone Age.” ref

Layer II (second oldest layer)

“The creation of the circular enclosures in layer III later gave way to the construction of small rectangular rooms in layer II. Rectangular buildings make more efficient use of space compared with circular structures. They often are associated with the emergence of the Neolithic, but the T-shaped pillars, the main feature of the older enclosures, also are present here, indicating that the buildings of Layer II continued to serve the same function in the culture, presumably as sanctuaries. Layer II is assigned to Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB). The several adjoining rectangular, doorless, and windowless rooms have floors of polished lime reminiscent of Roman terrazzo floors. Carbon dating has yielded dates between 8800 and 8000 BCE. Several T-pillars up to 1.5 meters tall occupy the center of the rooms.” ref

“A pair decorated with fierce-looking lions is the rationale for the name “lion pillar building” by which their enclosure is known. A stone pillar resembling totem pole designs was discovered at Göbekli Tepe, Layer II in 2010. It is 1.92 metres high and is superficially reminiscent of the totem poles in North America. The pole features three figures, the uppermost depicting a predator, probably a bear, and below it a human-like shape. Because the statue is damaged, the interpretation is not entirely clear. Fragments of a similar pole also were discovered about 20 years ago in another site in Turkey at Nevalı Çori. Also, an older layer at Göbekli features some related sculptures portraying animals on human heads.” ref

Layer I (youngest layer)

“Layer I is the uppermost part of the hill. It is the shallowest but accounts for the longest stretch of time. It consists of loose sediments caused by erosion and the virtually-uninterrupted use of the hill for agricultural purposes since it ceased to operate as a ceremonial center. Around the beginning of the 8th millennium BCE, Göbekli Tepe lost its importance. The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry brought new realities to human life in the area, and the “Stone-age zoo” (Schmidt’s phrase applied particularly to Layer III, Enclosure D) apparently lost whatever significance it had had for the region’s older, foraging communities. However, the complex was not simply abandoned and forgotten to be gradually destroyed by the elements.” ref

“Instead, each enclosure was deliberately buried under as much as 300 to 500 cubic meters (390 to 650 cu yd) of refuse, creating a tell consisting mainly of small limestone fragments, stone vessels, and stone tools. Many animal and human bones have been identified in the fill. The site was accidentally or deliberately backfilled sometime after 8000 BCE: the buildings were buried under debris, mostly flint gravel, stone tools, and animal bones. In addition to Byblos points (weapon heads, such as arrowheads etc.) and numerous Nemrik points, Helwan-points, and Aswad-points dominate the backfill’s lithic inventory.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Possible Clan Leader/Special “MALE” Ancestor Totem Poles around 13,500/11,600 years ago?

Not only are there a set of arms and hands on a few of the “T” shaped pillars, mainly the center pillars, which, to me, may represent clan leader’s ancestors, but there I one pillar seeming to express what, to me, could be a totemistic story done on what looks sort of like a totem pole pillar from Layer II, dated to around 10,800-10,000 years ago, and it appears to involve a woman squatting, potentially giving birth. This could be related to a birth with what may be a child coming out with head and arms showing as well as snakes on either side pointing to the child. And of even more interest, one stone slab holds a crude carving a naked woman squatting with her legs spread and genitals open, possibly also referencing childbirth but it could be of a somewhat sexual nature and this expression of design seems to be somewhat new in the archaeology record.

Menhir (could this be like a stone totem pole?)

A menhir (from Brittonic languages: maen or men, “stone” and hir or hîr, “long”), standing stone, orthostat, or lith is a large upright stone, emplaced in the ground by humans, typically dating from the European middle Bronze Age. They can be found individually as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Menhirs’ size can vary considerably, but they often taper toward the top. They are widely distributed across Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are most numerous in Western Europe; particularly in Ireland, Great Britain, and Brittany, where there are about 50,000 examples, and northwestern France, where there are some 1,200 further examples. Standing stones are usually difficult to date. They were constructed during many different periods across prehistory as part of the larger megalithic cultures in Europe and near areas.” ref

“Where menhirs appear in groups, often in a circular, oval, henge, or horseshoe formation, they are sometimes called megalithic monuments. These are sites of ancient religious ceremonies, sometimes containing burial chambers. The exact function of menhirs has provoked more debate than practically any other issue in European prehistory. Over the centuries, they have variously been thought to have been used by druids for human sacrifice, used as territorial markers, or elements of a complex ideological system, used as mnemonic systems for oral cultures, or functioning as early calendars. Until the nineteenth century, antiquarians did not have substantial knowledge of prehistory, and their only reference points were provided by classical literature. The developments of radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology have significantly advanced scientific knowledge in this area.” ref

“The word menhir was adopted from French by 19th-century archaeologists. The introduction of the word into general archaeological usage has been attributed to the 18th-century French military officer Théophile Corret de la Tour d’Auvergne. It is a combination of two words of the Breton language: maen and hir. In modern Welsh, they are described as maen hir, or “long stone”. In modern Breton, the word peulvan is used, with peul meaning “stake” or “post” and van which is a soft mutation of the word maen which means “stone”. In Germany and Scandinavia the word Bauta is used (e.g., de:Bautastein and no:bautastein) and this occasionally makes its way into English with the term “bauta stone.” ref

“Almost nothing is known of the social organization or religious beliefs of the people who erected the menhirs. Their language is also unknown. It is known, however, that they buried their dead and had the skills to grow crops, farm and make pottery, stone tools and jewelry. Identifying the purpose or use of menhirs remains speculative. Until recently, standing stones were associated with the Beaker people, who inhabited Europe during the European late Neolithic and early Bronze Age—later third millennium BC, c. 2800–1800 BCE. However, recent research into the age of megaliths in Brittany strongly suggests a far older origin, perhaps back to six to seven thousand years ago.” ref

“Many menhirs are engraved with megalithic art, some with anthropomorphic features. Other common carvings are identified as images of stone axes, ploughs, shepherds’ crooks, and yokes; and are named after these motifs. However, these identifications are not secure except for those of the stone axe images, and the names used to describe them are largely a matter of convenience. Some menhirs were broken up and incorporated into later passage graves, where they had new megalithic art carved with little regard for the previous pictures. It is not known if this re-use was deliberate or if the passage grave builders just saw menhirs as a convenient source of stone (Le Roux 1992).” ref

“During the Middle Ages, standing stones were believed to have been built by the giants who lived before the biblical flood. Many of the megaliths were destroyed or defaced by early Christians; it is estimated that some 50,000 megaliths once stood in Northern Europe, where almost 10,000 now remain. In 2019, four menhirs and nearly 1,000 small and big dolmens were found in India at the Pothamala hills at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. It is believed that practitioners of megalithic religions travelled via the sea, as the mass majority of menhirs are located on coasts, islands, and peninsulas.” ref

  • Asherah pole – Canaanite sacred tree or pole honoring goddess
  • Baetylus – Type of sacred standing stone
  • Carlin stone – Name of many stones in Scotland
  • Carnac stones – Set of megalithic sites in Brittany, France
  • Ceremonial pole – Stake or post used in ritual practice
  • Cove (standing stones) – Tight rectangular group of stones
  • Cromlech – Ring of standing stones
  • Deer stone – Megaliths found largely in Siberia and Mongolia
  • Dolmen – Type of single-chamber megalithic tomb
  • Fulacht fiadh – Burned mound from the Bronze Age in Ireland
  • Gowk stane – Standing stones and glacial erratics in Scotland
  • Henge – Type of Neolithic earthwork
  • High place – Mainly Israelite or Canaanite elevated shrine
  • Inuksuk – Inuit built stone landmark or cairn
  • Kigilyakh – Natural tall rock pillars in Yakutia
  • Ley line – Straight alignments between historic structures and landmarks
  • List of largest monoliths
  • Megalith – Large stone used to build a structure or monument
  • Moai – Monolithic human figures on Easter Island
  • Napakivi – Standing stones in Finland
  • Nature worship – Worship of the nature spirits
  • Obelisk – Tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • Obelix – Cartoon character in the French comic book series Asterix
  • Orthostates – Man-made large stone slabs set in upright position
  • Matzevah – Sacred pillar (in the Bible) or Jewish headstone. Also matzeva/mazzeva/maseba/masseba/massebah.
  • Statue menhir – Standing stone carved into a human shape
  • Stone circle – Ring of standing stones
  • Stone row – Linear row of standing stones. Also stone alignment.
  • Stone ship – Stones set in the shape of a boat in north European burials. Also ship setting.
  • Stone slab – Flat, thin, and big stone
  • Trees in mythology – Significance of trees in religion and folklore ref

What’s a Totem Pole?

“A totem pole or monumental pole is a tall structure created by Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples that showcases a nation’s, family’s or individual’s history and displays their rights to certain territories, songs, dances, and other aspects of their culture. Totem poles can also be used as memorials and to tell stories. Carved of large, straight red cedar and painted vibrant colours, the totem pole is representative of both coastal Indigenous culture and Northwest Coast Indigenous Art. Archeological evidence suggests that the northern peoples of the West Coast were among the first to create totem poles before the arrival of Europeans. The practice then spread south along the coast into the rest of British Columbia and Washington state. First Nations credited with making some of the earliest totem poles include the Haida, Nuxalk (Bella Coola), Kwakwaka’wakw, Tsimshian, and Łingít. The Coast Salish people also make carvings out of cedar, but they are not really totem poles. The Coast Salish carve planks of wood that attach to the interior or exterior of their ceremonial houses.” ref

Totem poles (Haida: gyáaʼaang) are monumental carvings found in western Canada and the northwestern United States. They are a type of Northwest Coast art, consisting of poles, posts, or pillars, carved with symbols or figures. They are usually made from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by First Nations and Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast including northern Northwest Coast Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian communities in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth communities in southern British Columbia, and the Coast Salish communities in Washington and British Columbia. The word totem derives from the Algonquian word odoodem [oˈtuːtɛm] meaning “(his) kinship group”. The carvings may symbolize or commemorate ancestors, cultural beliefs that recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. The poles may also serve as functional architectural features, welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for the remains of deceased ancestors, or as a means to publicly ridicule someone. They may embody a historical narrative of significance to the people carving and installing the pole. Given the complexity and symbolic meanings of these various carvings, their placement and importance lies in the observer’s knowledge and connection to the meanings of the figures and the culture in which they are embedded.” ref

“Eddie Malin has proposed that totem poles progressed from house posts, funerary containers, and memorial markers into symbols of clan and family wealth and prestige. He argues that the Haida people of the islands of Haida Gwaii originated carving of the poles, and that the practice spread outward to the Tsimshian and Tlingit, and then down the coast to the Indigenous people of British Columbia and northern Washington. Malin’s theory is supported by the photographic documentation of the Pacific Northwest coast’s cultural history and the more sophisticated designs of the Haida poles. Totem poles are the largest, but not the only, objects that coastal Pacific Northwest natives use to depict spiritual reverence, family legends, sacred beings, and culturally important animals, people, or historical events. The freestanding poles seen by the region’s first European explorers were likely preceded by a long history of decorative carving. Stylistic features of these poles were borrowed from earlier, smaller prototypes, or from the interior support posts of house beams.ref

“The arrival of Europeans altered the construction of contemporary poles, as they introduced new materials and carving tools to Indigenous peoples through trade in the 19th century. Colonization also threatened the very existence of totem poles. Beginning in the 19th century, the federal government sought to assimilate First Nations by banning various cultural practices in the Indian Act, including the potlatch, which is the ceremony during which totem poles are often erected. Until the potlatch ban was lifted in 1951, totem poles were displaced and appropriated by Europeans, taken away from their homes and brought to museums and parks around the world. Christian missionaries also encouraged the cutting down of totem poles, which they saw as obstacles to converting Indigenous peoples.” ref

“Different First Nations have their own methods of designing and carving totem poles. The Haida, for example, are known to carve creatures with bold eyes, whereas the Kwakwaka’wakw poles typically have narrow eyes. The Coast Salish tend to carve representations of people on their house posts, whereas the Tsimshian and Nuxalk tend to carve supernatural beings on their poles. In general, however, poles are skilfully carved of red cedar and are usually painted black, red, blue, blue-green and sometimes white and yellow. While paint was not used much in the past as part of the design, it is commonly used today. Poles vary in size, but house front poles can be over one metre in width at the base, reaching heights of over 20 m and generally facing the shores of rivers or the ocean.” ref

“Animal images on totem poles depict creatures from family crests. These crests are considered the property of specific family lineages and reflect the history of that lineage. Animals commonly represented on the crests include the beaver, bear, wolf, shark, killer whale, raven, eagle, frog, and mosquito. The crest animals represent kinship, group membership and identity, while the rest of the pole may represent a family’s history. Some poles also feature supernatural beings or humans, each with their own particular importance and significance to the nation or individual who commissioned it and to the person who carved it. The cultural appropriation of totem poles by Europeans over the years has created and popularized the false idea that poles display social hierarchy, with the chief at the top and the commoners at the bottom. In fact, depictions of people are not usually found at the top of a totem pole and in some cases, the most important figure or crest is at the bottom. Totem poles do not depict a nation’s social organization in a top-down method; rather, they tell a story about a particular nation or person’s beliefs, family history, and cultural identity.” ref

Types of Totem Poles

“There are various types of poles, each with their own purpose and function. Some, for example, are specific to death and burial practices. Memorial poles are erected in memory of a deceased chief or high-ranking member. The poles depict the member’s accomplishments or family history. Mortuary poles also honor the deceased. Haida mortuary poles include a box at the top where the ashes of the chief or high-ranking member are placed. Some poles are used to depict families and lineages. House posts, placed along the rear or front walls of a house, are poles that, on the one hand, help to support the roof beams and, on the other hand, tell about family lineages. Similarly, house front or portal poles are monuments at the entrance of a home that describe family history. Totem poles are important expressions of specific Indigenous cultures along the Northwest Coast.” ref

“Totem poles can symbolize the characters and events in mythology, or convey the experiences of recent ancestors and living people. Some of these characters may appear as stylistic representations of objects in nature, while others are more realistically carved. Pole carvings may include animals, fish, plants, insects, and humans, or they may represent supernatural beings such as the Thunderbird. Some symbolize beings that can transform themselves into another form, appearing as combinations of animals or part-animal/part-human forms. Consistent use of a specific character over time, with some slight variations in carving style, helped develop similarities among these shared symbols that allowed people to recognize one from another. For example, the raven is symbolized by a long, straight beak, while the eagle’s beak is curved, and a beaver is depicted with two large front teeth, a piece of wood held in his front paws, and a paddle-shaped tail.” ref

“Welcoming poles do what their name suggests — welcome visitors. First Nations sometimes erect poles as a means of greeting important arriving guests during a feast or potlatch. The Hupacasath First Nation has well-known welcome figures on its territory. With arms outstretched, the figures carved into the poles welcome and guide the guests during their travels. Another type of greeting pole is the speaker’s post — a carved figure of an ancestor. An appointed speaker announces the names of visitors from behind the post. In a sense, this allows the ancestors, speaking through the appointed speaker, to also welcome the guests. Legacy poles commemorate important and historic events. Shame poles or ridicule poles are less common elements of the tradition, but traditionally were used to mock and criticize neighbors for being insulting, offensive or for not paying back debts. These poles were also used by chiefs to belittle their political rivals.” ref

“Eighty sculptures in and around Ketchikan, Alaska, tell the ancestral stories of Indigenous clans. According to Tlingit mythology, long ago a Raven wished to marry Fog Woman, the daughter of Chief Fog-Over-the-Salmon. The chief granted his permission, and Fog Woman and Raven lived happily for two seasons. But in the winter, a food shortage left the couple hungry every night. Raven struggled to bring home food, so Fog Woman wove a basket that she filled with water. After washing her hands in the basket, Raven could see salmon—the first salmon ever created—swimming inside.” ref

“Fog Woman continued to produce salmon, and for a time, the couple lived happily once again. But eventually they began to fight. Raven’s anger took hold and one day he hit Fog Woman on the shoulder with a piece of dried salmon. Fog Woman would not stand for the disrespect and left the house with Raven chasing after her. Every time Raven attempted to reach out and grab her, his hands went right through her, as if she were made of fog. Fog Woman ran into the water, and all the salmon she’d dried followed her. Raven never saw her again—but every year, salmon come rushing back into the water in Ketchikan. She feeds the community all these years later.” ref

Today, this legend is memorialized in the most prominent totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska: the 55-foot-tall Chief Johnson pole. The current iteration of the pole, which is a replica built by Tongass Tlingit carver Israel Shotridge in 1989, sits outside the former home of Chief George Johnson, beside Ketchikan Creek, the ancestral fishing grounds of the Tongass Tlingit. The original pole (carved by an unknown person and now in storage at the Totem Heritage Center) was raised in 1901 and stood until 1982, when it was removed to make room for the replica. Johnson was chief of the Gaanaxadi clan in the Tongass tribe from 1902 to his death in 1938.” ref

“Chief Johnson’s is just one of the more than 80 standing totem poles, the world’s largest collection of them, scattered around Ketchikan in southeastern Alaska—and more are added every year as artists carve and erect them to honor respected community members. Indigenous peoples have been carving totem poles in the Ketchikan area for thousands of years, says Kathy Dye, deputy director of communications and publications at Sealaska Heritage, an organization dedicated to sharing Southeast Alaskan Native culture.” ref

“Totem poles are part of a long, rich tradition in Ketchikan,” says Anita Maxwell, director of the Ketchikan Museums, which includes the Totem Heritage Center. “We’re on Lingit Aani (Tlingit land) and totem poles are an important part of Tlingit culture. [And] we are on Revillagigedo Island in the midst of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, a prime location for the large red cedar trees used to carve totem poles.” ref

“Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Coast began carving totem poles long before Europeans arrived. The poles were meant to decay and go back to Earth, so tracing the tradition back to its exact origin is difficult. The carvings are typically located in western Canada and the northwestern U.S. Aside from Ketchikan, large collections can be found in Juneau, Alaska, and Kitwanga, Alert Bay and Haida Gwaii, all in British Columbia in Canada. The totem poles in Ketchikan represent the ancestral traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people.ref


It is easy to see the presence of carved and sculpted poles in the upper Pacific Rim on the map above. This seems to suggest that human migration brought the artistic pole tradition along with the indigenous peoples. Hawaiian poles may be related to those of Oceania.” ref

Playground of the Gods

While these wooden totems bear a striking resemblance to First Nations artwork of British Columbia, their actual origins lay on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean. PERCHED ATOP A MOUNTAIN, WITH spectacular views of Vancouver and her surrounding environs, Playground of the Gods was envisioned and realized by Toko Nuburi, an Ainu woodcarver. The Ainu are an indigenous people native to northern Japan (as well as Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, both part of Russia). At the heart of their traditional territory is the Japanese island of Hokkaido; on the southeastern coast of Hokkaido is the city of Kushiro, home of Toko Nuburi and sister city to Burnaby, British Columbia.” ref

“Toko — already an internationally renowned artist, with commissioned works around the world — visited Burnaby as part of a special delegation from Kushiro in 1985. During the visit, he happened upon a mountaintop visit that inspired him. After successfully pitching his idea for a large wooden sculpture, Toko and his son Shusei began work on the project in 1989, using facilities and logs provided by the city of Burnaby. Playground of the Gods (or Kamui Mintara, in Japanese) was completed and unveiled in 1990, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the special relationship between the two cities. Playground of the Gods draws on Ainu animist tradition, with animal totems representing the gods descending to create the world, while the smaller surrounding poles represent the Ainu’s intertwined relationship with the divine. The overall overlapping associations among humans, gods, animals, and nature symbolizes the friendship between Burnaby and Kushiro.” ref

The indigenous Ainu people carved various poles on Hokkaido, the northernmost part of Japan. The carvings have been found to be similar those carved by the Ainu on Sakhalin Island and Kuril Island, both located in the north of Russia. Ainu totem poles have been carved for many centuries and some of them are done in a highly realistic manner, depicting three-dimensional bears, whales, and owls without folded tails and wings seen in the Pacific Northwest type. But an Ainu pole in Tsuruga Wings Ryokan in Akan, Japan. Ainu poles often include three-dimensional carvings. “Totemism as artistic expression of traditional cultural ecology: a comparative analysis of the use of ritual and totem poles among the peoples of Siberia and the Pacific Northwest.” — Jordan, Bella Bychkova. Papers from the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographersref

It is easy to see from the map below that parts of Siberia lie very near Japan and that human migration likely carried arts like that of carved poles between these areas. The Sakha people have long bred cattle and horses, so these animals are vital to their society and appear depicted on Sakhan Island ritual poles, including those of the Ainu. As the USSR began to clamp down on religion after the October Revolution of 1917, shamanism associated across Siberia and Sakhan ritual poles were markedly changed into a more secular culture. Their religious significance was diminished. The Ainu constructed a type of totem pole in the north of Japan are important because Northern Asians are linked to North American Natives.” ref

“The term “totem pole” is a white term and culturally not considered correct when applied to any indigenous carved or sculpted pole. The carvings are not religious, but many foundation stories tell of the dual nature of a founder. For instance, Raven took the form of the bird in the equivalent of a Dreamtime accepted by Pacific Northwest groups, but appeared as a man on Earth. “Carved poles did not originate in the Pacific Northwest, but were constructed many centuries earlier around the Pacific Rim in the East. The Pacific Northwest pole traditions likely migrated with the people groups that came to the Western Hemisphere.” Archeological evidence proves that indigenous poles have been and continue to be fashioned around the Pacific Rim, in Polynesia, and in faraway places like Russia, Madagascar, and Africa. These poles have histories in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea; all the nations up the Pacific Rim to Siberia, China, Japan, North and South Korea; and in British Columbia, nearby islands, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.ref

“Carved and sculpted poles are found in parts of Africa and Madagascar and many of these are funerary or memorial poles in honor of the dead. In Madagascar, we find tall and short stone sculptures installed at graves and many, but not all, of the figures are graphically erotic in nature. The Malagasy people continue the monument pole art today, with many fewer erotic depictions. However, the Malagasy retain a ceremony in which, after a period of years, they dig up bodies, wrap them in clean cloth, and dance with them in a festival of sorts. Southeast Asia and Oceana (or “Oceania” in the 21st century) are home to a variety of interesting artistic wooden poles. These are located predominantly in:

  • Auckland, New Zealand: These poles have been carved by the Maori.
  • Northern Australia near Darwin NT, Australia: Aboriginal coffin poles contain bones of aboriginals’ ancestors, elders, and families. This is similar to memorial poles in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Papua New Guinea, north of Australia.ref

“Monument poles related to human death have been found in Korea and Australia. Archeologists and cultural anthropologists largely feel that these poles pre-date those found the Pacific Northwest. Such monument poles are known as mortuary, funeral, or coffin poles; and they are made of either stone or wood. Korean mortuary poles serve as grave markers, while Australian coffin poles contain the remains of people. In parts of the Pacific Northwest, a box traditionally is made to contain the remains of the head of the family that owns a carved cedar pole. The box is fitted into the back of the pole like a drawer. After one year, the decayed remains traditionally would be placed into a new box and placed into the opening in the back of the family pole.ref

Anthropomorphic wooden cult figurines of Central and Northern Europe

Anthropomorphic wooden cult figurines, sometimes called pole gods, have been found at many archaeological sites in Central and Northern Europe. They are generally interpreted as cult images, in some cases presumably depicting deities, sometimes with either a votive or an apotropaic (protective) function. Many have been preserved in peat bogs. The majority are more or less crudely worked poles or forked sticks; some take the form of carved planks. They have been dated to periods from the Mesolithic to the Early Middle Ages, including the Roman Era and the Migration Age. The majority have been found in areas of Germanic settlement, but some are from areas of Celtic settlement and from the later part of the date range, Slavic settlement. A typology has been developed based on the large number found at OberdorlaThuringia, at a sacrificial bog which is now the Opfermoor Vogtei open-air museum.” ref

“The Dagenham idol is a wooden statue of a naked human figure, found in Dagenham, East London, England in 1922. The statue has been carbon dated to around 2250 BCE, during the late Neolithic period or early Bronze Age, making it one of the oldest human representations found in Europe. The statue is made of Scots pine and stands 18 inches (46 cm) high. It has two legs but no arms; hips and buttocks narrowing to a waist and then broadening to shoulders; and a rounded head. There are straight markings cut across both legs. A hole in the pubic region can be interpreted as indicating a female, but with the insertion of a phallic peg (now lost) would indicate a male. There appears to be damage to the left eye: while there may not be a direct link, the damage is similar to Odin‘s sacrifice of an eye at Mímir’s Well in return for wisdom in Norse myth; Coles (p.332) suggests “one-eyed Odin can be noted as possible successor to the wooden figures of ambiguous sex and odd left eyes, if no more”. The statue was found in marshland on the north bank of the River Thames to the east of London, south of Ripple Road in Dagenham, during excavation for sewer pipes in 1922, now on the site of Ford Dagenham. It was buried in a layer of peat about 3 metres (9.8 ft) below ground level, near the skeleton of a deer. The statue may have been buried with the deer as a votive fertility sacrifice.” ref

The oldest of the figures is the Mesolithic find from Willemstad in the Netherlands and the latest is 13th-century, but most date from between c. 500 BCE and 500 CE. They are found as far west as Ireland (although at least one found in Britain, the Strata Florida figure from Wales, was imported) and as far east as Gorbunovo Moor in Russia. By far the majority were preserved in wetlands of some sort; however, only one figure—from the late Bronze Age settlement at Wasserburg Buchau, near Bad Buchau in Baden-Württemberg, Germany—has been found in the lake village culture of the Alps. The earliest evidence of anthropomorphic wooden cult figures in areas that would later have Germanic-speaking inhabitants is from the Bronze Age. The Broddenbjerg idol, an ithyphallic forked-stick figure found in a peat bog near Viborg, Denmark, is carbon-dated to approximately 535–520 BCE. or around 2,535 to 2,520 years ago.ref

 “The Braak Bog Figures, a male and female forked-stick pair found in a peat bog at Braak, Schleswig-Holstein, have been dated to the 2nd to 3rd centuries BCE but also as early as the 4th century. In areas with Germanic-speakers, figures have been found in an area extending from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany to Norrland in Sweden, but the vast majority have been preserved in bogs or other moist environments, so it is impossible to know how widespread the practice actually was. One figure has been found on dry land, in a ditch complex on a hillside at Bad Doberan, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The great majority of the figurines are markedly more abstract than other artistic artefacts of their time. The 5th-6th century seated figure from the Rude-Eskilstrup bog in Munke Bjergby parish, Zealand, Denmark, is unusually detailed: it has a triple neck-ring or collar, a kirtle and a pronounced chin or beard, and resembles a bronze figure found at Bregneburg on Funen.ref

“It has been suggested that this figure may have stood in a heathen temple and been placed in the bog at the conversion.Furthermore, post holes have been identified such as that which forms the focal point of the “grandstand” at the 6th to 7th-century Anglo-Saxon royal hall site of Yeavering. With a side length of 56 centimetres (22 in) and a depth of approximately 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in), it indicates a pillar of considerable size, presumably a cult pillar of some sort. The Old Norse term for a god áss (the singular of Æsir; derived from the Common Germanic root *ans, *ansuz and also recorded for Gothic as the Latin plural Anses by Jordanes) has a homonym meaning “pole” or “beam”. Jacob Grimm proposed that as the origin of the “god word” and the etymology was accepted by some scholars; it would suggest that the word is derived from god-images in pole form, but relating it to the Indian asuras as a term of Indo-European origins is equally plausible. Some of the wooden figures take the form of a simple pole or post, sometimes set up in a heap of stones.ref

Other more or less contemporary texts also attest to wooden cult figurines in Scandinavian paganism. Christian missionary writings refer disparagingly to wooden “idols”, such as the figure of the god Freyr in Gunnars þáttr helmings. The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok describes a god on Samsø in the form of a 40 feet wooden pole shaped to look like a man that tells that it was set up by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok in order to perform sacrifices for victory. In Ibn Fadlan‘s early 10th-century account of the Volga Vikings, he writes that as soon as they come into harbour, they leave their ships with food and alcoholic drink and offer them at a tall piece of wood with the face of a man carved in it, which is surrounded by smaller similar figures. Such an arrangement has been found at sites such as the Oberdorla sacrificial bog. The mentions in Icelandic sagas of Öndvegissúlur carved with the images of gods, in particular Thor and Freyr, and of other idols, may be related but have been influenced by Christian concepts since the sagas were written down in the 12th to 14th centuries, centuries after the heathen period.ref

It is impossible to determine the exact purpose of the figurines, or their relationship to the named Germanic gods and goddesses, with whose worship they overlap; examples are found dating to as late as the Viking Age. We cannot determine how typical those which have happened to survive and be found, or their locations, are; and our surviving written sources of information on Germanic paganism are likewise incomplete. They have been interpreted, in particular by Behm-Blancke, as the site of fertility sacrifices, based on the indications of male and female sexual characteristics and the frequent association with potsherds and the bones of animals and, at Oberdorla, of humans. They may originate in a phallus cult, although there are few indications of such a cult in Germanic paganism. Alternatively, since the veneration of pillars extends beyond the Germanic cultural area, they may originate in the belief in the world pillar (as seen in the Saxon Irminsul and the Old Norse Yggdrasill) and thus derive from an archaic tree cult. Heiko Steuer has suggested that in the case of the male and female Wittemoor figures, which stood on either side of a plank causeway through a marsh, there may have been a secular decorative motive in addition to the spiritual luck-bringing and warding (apotropaic) functions.ref

“A xoanon (/ˈz.ənɒn/ i, Greekξόανον; plural: Greekξόανα xoana, from the verb Greekξέεινxeein, to carve or scrape [wood]) was a wooden cult image of Archaic Greece. Classical Greeks associated such cult objects, whether aniconic or effigy, with the legendary Daedalus. Many such cult images were preserved into historical times, though none are known to have survived to the modern day, except as copies in stone or marble. In the 2nd century CE, Pausanias described numerous xoana in his Description of Greece, notably the image of Hera in her temple at Samos. “The statue of the Samian Hera, as Aethilos [sic] says, was a wooden beam at first, but afterwards, when Prokles was ruler, it was humanized in form”. In Pausanias’ travels he never mentions seeing a xoanon of a “mortal man”. Some types of archaic xoana may be reflected in archaic marble versions, such as the pillar-like “Hera of Samos” (Louvre Museum), the flat “Hera of Delos” or some archaic kouros-type figures that may have been used to represent Apollo.” ref

“A different type of cult figure in which the face, hands, and feet were carved of marble and the rest of the body made of wood is called acrolith. The wooden part was usually covered either with cloth or gold leaf. For Strabo, the “carved” xoanon might also be of ivory; Pausanias, however, always uses xoanon in its strict sense, to denote a wooden image; at Corinth Pausanias noted that “The sanctuary of Athena Chalinitis is by the theater, and near it is a naked xoanon of Herakles, said to be by Daidalos. All the works of this artist, though somewhat uncouth to look at, nevertheless have a touch of the divine in them.” Similar xoana were ascribed by the Greeks to the contemporary of Daedalus, the equally legendary Smilis. Such figures were often clothed in real textiles, such as the peplos that was woven and ceremonially delivered to Athena on the Acropolis of Athens into historic times. The wood of which a xoanon was carved was often symbolic: olivewood, pearwood, Vitex, oak, are all specifically mentioned. In Athens, in the Erechtheum, an ancient olivewood effigy of Athena was preserved. The Athenians believed it had fallen to earth from the heavens, as a gift to Athens; it was still to be seen in the 2nd century CE. On the island of Icaria a rustic piece of wood was venerated for the spirit of Artemis it contained or represented (Burkert).” ref

Günter Behm-Blancke classified the anthropomorphic figurines into four groups based on the finds at Oberdorla:

  • Type 1. Poles or posts, sometimes equipped with a phallus, as at Oberdorla; a variant form from Possendorf, Weimar, (now lost) has a carved head and attached raised arms.
  • Type 2. Formed from a forked stick, with a head carved out at the top. Those found at Oberdorla are all female; in North Germany and Scandinavia, ithyphallic male figures are also found, such as the Broddenbjerg idol from near Viborg, Denmark and the more artistically developed male and female Braak Bog Figures from Schleswig-Holstein. Sizes range from approximately 1 to 3 metres (3 ft 3 in to 9 ft 10 in).
  • Type 3. Carved from a broad plank cut in silhouette with blank faces, males with rectangular bodies, females with breasts or shoulders indicated by a slanted cut, broad hips and vulva. Found at Oberdorla and at the Wittemoor timber trackway (corduroy road) in Berne, Lower Saxony, these are thought to have had an apotropaic (protective) purpose.
  • Type 4. Carved from a squared piece of timber with an inclined head and a base, similar to a herm. One of this type was found at Oberdorla, in a late La Tène context.ref

Celtic-speaking areas

“Relatively few figurines have been found in areas of Celtic-speaking settlement, and because of overlap with Germanic-speaking settlement, particularly in the North Sea region, it is sometimes difficult to assign a figure to one or the other group of people. A fragment of an anthropomorphic figurine made of oak dating to the 2nd century BCE was found in a possibly sacrificial shaft inside a Viereckschanze enclosure in the Schmiden section of Fellbach in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It originally depicted a person, apparently seated, between two rams, with hands around their rumps; only the hands survive from the human figure. Lucan‘s Pharsalia refers to a sacred grove near Massilia (Marseille) which was a location of human sacrifice and had stone altars and rough-hewn wooden idols. In a stone replica of a xoanon found at Euffigneix in Haute-Marne, France, the sculptor has reproduced the knot-holes as eye-like openings on the sides.ref

“Two maple-wood columns with torcs found in the cultic enclosure of Libenice near Kolín, in Central Bohemia, date to the Roman period. A 3-metre (9.8 ft) oak sculpture of a “guardian deity” wearing a cowl was found in the old harbour basin of Geneva, Switzerland. And primitively carved wooden stelae have been found at sites of worship of goddesses of water-sources, such as the so-called Pforzheim Sirona. An oak statue belonging to the La Tène culture was found at the mouth of the River Rhone in Lake Geneva, near Villeneuve, Vaud, Switzerland. It is 1.25 metres (4 ft 1 in) tall and clothed in a tunic. It was dated by means of three Celtic silver coins of the 2nd century BCE which were in a fissure in the statue, and is thought to depict a late 2nd to mid-1st century Celtic deity, apparently associated with the river or the lake. Finally, a wooden figure 58 centimetres (23 in) was found in Montbouy, west of Orléans in central France. It is presumed to be male and the location of the find, in the well of a Roman temple, suggests it served a devotional purpose; the style of the figure resembles that of pre-Roman figures from North Germany.ref


“To date twenty-three anthropomorphic figures are known from Ireland, dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Iron Age. The figures come from eleven wetland sites across Ireland. They include two paper figures: One from the Golden Bog of Cullen, County Tipperary, found in the late-late eighteenth century, and a second from Ballybritain, County Londonderry, found in the 1790s. In 1930, Adolf Mahr published the discovery of a prehistoric anthropomorphic figure found during turf cutting in a bog at Ralaghan, County Cavan, Ireland, called Ralaghan Man. It has a genital opening containing a piece of white quartz, which may represent a vulva or may have been an attachment point for a penis. In 1934, the first archaeologically excavated figure was identified during excavations at Lagore crannog, County Meath by Hugh O’Neill Hencken. The figure is one of two explicitly anthropomorphic figures in the corpus, the remainder being more stylized. It is 0.47 m tall and consists of a heart-shaped face, a square torso without arms, and two simple legs ending in feet. A slight bump in the pubic area is interpreted as indicating male genitals. The Lagore figure is the earliest to have been found in Ireland and dates to 2135–1944 cal. BCE. The latest is the Gortnacrannagh Figure dating to cal. CE 252–413 (1715±28 BP; UBA-43937), from a fen flanking the Owenur River in County Roscommon.ref


In 1880, an almost lifesize female figure carved out of an oak log was found near Ballachulish in Scotland. The genitalia are emphasised and pieces of quartz have been inserted as eyes. The figure had been deposited in a ritual context with other objects, within an enclosure marked off with woven branches, similar to cultic finds on the continent. It has been carbon-dated to between 700 and 500 BCE.ref

Slavic-speaking areas

The several wooden anthropomorphic figures found in the West Slavic settlement areas around the Elbe, for example the temple finds from Groß Raden (now part of Sternberg) and Ralswiek and those from Neubrandenburg, all in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Altfriesack (now part of Fehrbellin, Brandenburg) possibly depict deities. Saxo Grammaticus describes the Temple at Arkona as containing a great four-headed idol, far taller than a man. However, Slavic anthropomorphic figures do not occur until the 10th century, presumably under the influence of neighbouring cultures. Sebastian Brather distinguishes between idols in plank and pole form. He regards the former as primarily votive in purpose, like those described by Saxo and by others including Thietmar of Merseburg, but their identification with specific deities can only be speculation. Also, as with Celtic and Germanic, Slavic paganism was not universally standardised but included decentralised, local cult centres and practices, of which the wooden images would have formed a part. Leszek Słupecki considers the figure from Fischerinsel near Neubrandenburg one of the most significant Slavic idols. Dated to the 11th–12th century, it takes the form of a two-headed male bust mounted on a column of hewn oak, and is 178 centimetres (5 ft 10 in) high. The beard, eyes, and nose are emphasised. It is the only multi-headed sculpture extant from a Slavic region, but the location of the find does not indicate any sort of temple or shrine.ref

Totem-Like-Poles in Asia

“Totem Poles from China? While studying more about Contemporary Chinese Yunnan art, Conroy Wyman Shum was intrigued by numerous depictions of totem poles that represent the diverse cultures of the minority tribes, (including the Wa and Yi cultures) that live in Southern China.  Contemporary Chinese artists like He Neng and He Deguang, who developed their heavy color art styles while living in Yunnan during the Cultural Revolution, captured totem poles in their paintings. It would seem atypical to associate totem poles with China, but rather, more commonplace to imagine many of the artistic examples of figures, animals, and other symbols carved in wooden totem poles by the Native Americans and Eskimos of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.  But are there any possible connections between those from Asia vs those from the Americas? Determining whether or not the Native American and Eskimo totems have been influenced from Asia will rely on the dedication of anthropologists, archaeologists and other scientific researchers as more discoveries are found and the evidence is evaluated by these experts.” ref

“What modern day technologies have revealed through DNA testing at least, is that the Eskimo and Native American population show a strong connected lineage to those living in Asia, and particularly to the indigenous people from Australia and Melanesia.  A vast number of researchers agree that the indigenous people of the Americas crossed the Bering Straits (ice bridge), that involved at least several separate migrations. Discoveries supporting a possible connection, include the trove of artifacts that were discovered in 1986, by workers in Southern China (Sichuan Province which neighbors Yunnan).  The discoveries provide some evidence that totem poles likely existed long ago.  These mask-like artifacts which were posted on the top of poles, were made of bronze, and associated with the ancient Sanxingdui civilization, a culture dating back 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. As we continue to make more discoveries and develop a deeper understanding of humanity, I have to ask, isn’t our human history fascinating?” ref

Huabiao (simplified Chinese华表traditional Chinese華表pinyinhuábiǎoJyutpingwaa4 biu2Pe̍h-ōe-jīhôa-piáu) is a type of ceremonial column used in traditional Chinese architectureHuabiao are traditionally erected in pairs in front of palaces and tombs. The prominence of their placement have made them one of the emblems of traditional Chinese culture. When placed outside palaces, they can also be called bangmu (simplified Chinese: 谤木; traditional Chinese: 謗木; pinyin: Bàng mùlit. ‘commentary board’). When placed outside a tomb, they can also be called shendaozhu (Chinese: 神道柱; pinyin: Shéndào zhùlit. ‘spirit way columns’).” ref

“Extant huabiao are typically made from white marble. A huabiao is typically made up of four components. At the bottom is a square base which is decorated with bas-relief depictions of dragons, lotuses, and other auspicious symbols. Above is a column, decorated with a coiled dragon and auspicious clouds. Near the top, the column is crossed by a horizontal stone board in the shape of a cloud (called the “cloud board”). The column is topped by a round cap, called the chenglupan (承露盤) “dew-collecting plate” (see fangzhu). At the top of the cap sits a mythical creature called the denglong (Chinese蹬龙), one of the “Nine sons of the dragon“, which is said to have the habit of watching the sky. Its role atop the huabiao is said to be to communicate the mood of the people to the Heavens above.” ref

Classical texts in China attribute the beginning of the huabiao to Shun, a legendary leader traditionally dated to the 23rd-22nd century BCE. Some say it developed from the totem poles of ancient tribes. The Huainanzi describes the feibangmu (simplified Chinese: 诽谤木; traditional Chinese: 誹謗木; pinyin: Fěibàng mù), or bangmu for short, literally “commentary board”, as a wooden board set up on main roads to allow the people to write criticism of government policies. However, tradition holds that by the mid-Xia dynasty, the king had moved the bangmu in front of the palace, in order to control public criticism. During the notorious reign of King Li of Zhou, the king would monitor those who wrote on the bangmu, and those who criticised the government would be killed. The practical use of the bangmu gradually diminished as a result of such practices.ref

“In the Han dynasty, the bangmu became merely a symbol of the government’s responsibility to the people. These were erected near bridges, palaces, city gates and tombs; the name huabiao arose during this time. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the Liang dynasty restored the institution of the bangmu, by installing boxes next to the bangmu. Those wishing to air grievances or to comment on government policies could post their writings in these boxes. However, by this time, the column itself was no longer treated as a bulletin board. It is thought that, in their use on spirit roads, the huabiao replaced the ornate que towers, which were commonly used during the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE). During the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, a pair of huabiao were featured as part of the performance.ref

In order to understand totems you need to have an understanding of the belief system in which totems belong.  In ancient times many indigenous people had a belief system that was built around or had a great reverence for nature.  They did not believe they were above the animals.  They believed they lived on the same level as the animals and plant life and that each life form had positive characteristics for them to emulate.  Each individual clan and tribal group would take a few animals and/or plant life forms for their clan identification.  These clan members then identified with these animal/plants and endeavored to follow the perceived positive characteristics of these totems in the daily lives.  Many scholars on this subject go out of there way to say that totems were not “worshipped.” ref

“They were revered. These early people had gods but the totems were not on the god level. For example, Pangu is a god The raven is a totem. The modern name given to the basic variation of this belief system is Pantheism. In the west Pantheism is commonly thought of as the worship of nature. “The early Taoism of Laozi and Zhuangzi is also pantheistic”. In understanding why these ancient people spent so much time, energy, and resources on creating these huge totems (geoglyphs) and other art forms one must understand the concept of this faith and philosophy. The tie-ins between this belief system with the Native American tribes and the ancient Chinese are indeed remarkable. How could it be a coincidence?” ref

Korean totem poles (Jangseung) were used traditionally to protect villages from evil spirits. Today, they are still used for this purpose, plus to promote tourist sites, used for social activism, to express resistance against political or environmental issues and as the subject of art. In the pre-modern era when scientific development was limited, Shamanism governed Korean society. Modern science reveals that past methods were not necessarily unscientific, as they had their own benefits. However, it’s clear that the knowledge and awareness of pre-modern people were very different from those of today. More than most countries, Korean people believed in a variety of gods. They thought that things they could not see, and things they could not manage by their own abilities, were caused by the control or blessing of the gods.” ref

“For example, in the house, Korean people believed that there were gods on the site, in the master bedroom, the kitchen, the pots, the storehouse, and the toilet, hence there were rituals for each of these gods. If you went outside the house, there were Cheonsin (Gods of the Heaven) in the sky, Jisin (Gods of the Earth) in the ground, Sansin (Mountain Gods) in the mountain, and Dongsin (Village Gods) in the villages. At the village entrance acting as guardian spirits were the Sinmok (a large sacred tree), the Nuseokdan (a mound of rocks), and the Jangsin (Tall Gods) or Sotdae (a pole signifying celebration and prayer for a good harvest). It was believed that outside the village, the spirits that couldn’t go to the afterlife and the gods that transmitted smallpox and other contagious diseases watched for an opportunity to go after the residents.” ref

The role of each of the gods differed slightly. Mountain Gods or Village Gods protected the peace of the village, the Gods of the Heavens had the important role of listening to individual prayers, and the Sinmok or the Jangsin kept away misfortune and evil spirits, acting in the role of a gatekeeper. Regardless of the gods, in the past the Korean dynastic kingdom of Joseon (1392–1910) made roads that connected the capital and the provinces together, with signposts erected at regular intervals. There was a system of providing restaurants and accommodation for the convenience of government officials and travellers. The signposts that were erected at this time were called Jangseung.” ref

“Whenever there was a war, a sudden change of weather, or an outbreak of contagious disease, people suffered or died. At this time, the scariest god in Joseon was the Mamasin – the smallpox goddess. Before the introduction of vaccination, the people of Korea lost many children due to smallpox. Therefore, they were more scared of the smallpox goddess than of any other god, and conducted many rituals to stop the Mamasin. The Joseon people believed that the Mamasin came from the south of China and went through the north of the Korean Peninsula to then be dispersed throughout the whole country. They believed that the Mamasin could use the signposts to find the houses with children inside, so they carved a scary face of the Jangsin (god who protects the village) on the signposts to drive out the Mamasin.” ref

“Additionally, they drew pock marks on the face of the Jangsin at the entrance to the village as if the Jangsin had been infected with smallpox. And as a part of the 1894 reforms, Joseon abandoned the old system and through the adoption of the Western postal system, government-run bases and totem poles disappeared quickly, and now only their names have been passed down. However, the Jangsin that protected the villages are still maintained by the villagers, and the villages that used to call the gods by different names now call them Jangseung, or Totem Poles.” ref

“Today, there are still many villages who erect the Jangsin and hold ancestral rituals. The Jangseung retained its purpose as a signpost, either to promote tourist areas or in its original meaning of preventing bad things from happening, and now it is used symbolically at various citizens’ campaigns or resistance movements. The Jangseung traditionally had the function of protecting villages by blocking bad energy, and it became a piece of traditional culture that was popular with students, because the students’ opinions could be carved on the body of the pole. Jangseung are now being used for four main purposes. Firstly, for hundreds of years, the Jangseung that were erected with the purpose of protecting the villages as the Jangsin are still being preserved. Secondly, Jangseung are used to claim traditionality and to promote tourist sites.” ref

“Thirdly, Jangseung are used by social activists as a way to express resistance against political or environmental problems, for instance at universities. Finally, there are Jangseung that are produced by applying the idea of traditionality as the subject to create works of art. In the world, from the past to the present, wood or stone monuments have been erected with a purpose in mind, but now it is undeniable that globally, these forms of culture are declining. However, Korea is preserving and producing this culture more than most other countries. There are similarities and differences between the Korean Jangseung and the totem poles that are found in North and South America and Oceania, and one would think that more research needs to be done on these cultural similarities and differences in the future.” ref

Ceremonial Poles

ceremonial pole is a stake or post utilised or venerated as part of a ceremony or religious ritual. Ceremonial poles may symbolize a variety of concepts in different ceremonies and rituals practiced by a variety of cultures around the world. In many cultures, ceremonial poles represent memorials and gravemarkers. In The Evolution of the Idea of God, Grant Allen notes that Samoyeds of Siberia, and Damara of South Africa plant stakes at the graves of ancestors. Ceremonial poles may also be raised during celebrations and festivals, as with Gudi Padwa in Indian State of Maharashtra and the maypole dance in Europe. In some cultures, they may represent sacred trees or tools wielded by deities. They may also symbolize the axis mundi or world tree. In religious ceremonies, they may be venerated as idols or representations of tutelary deities.” ref

“According to Zelia Nuttall in The Fundamental Principles Of Old and New World Civilizations, tree and pole reverence to Anu in ancient Babylonia-Assyria may have evolved from the fire drill and beam of the oil press, stating that it was extremely probable that the primitive employment of a fire-stick by the priesthood, for the production of “celestial fire,” may have played an important role in causing the stick, and thence the pole and tree, to become the symbol of Anu. The Buryats and Yakuts of Siberia place hitching posts called serge at the entrances to yurts or houses to indicate ownership and for shamanistic practices.” ref

“The Miao people in southwestern China raise ceremonial “flower poles” (花杆) during the Huashan (花山) festival. A jangseung or “village guardian” is a Korean ceremonial pole, usually made of wood. Jangseungs were traditionally placed at the edges of villages to mark for village boundaries and frighten away demons. They were also worshipped as village tutelary deitiesKay Htoe Boe is a Karenni ritual dance and prayer festival, held by the men in the Kayan community in Myanmar (Burma). In the Kayan creation story, the Eugenia tree is the first tree in the world. Kay Htoe Boe poles are usually made from the Eugenia tree. Kay Htoe Boe poles have four levels, named for the stars, sun and moon, and the fourth level is a ladder made with a long white cotton cloth.ref

“An Asherah pole is a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic mother-goddess Asherah, consort of El. The relation of the literary references to an asherah and archaeological finds of Judaean pillar-figurines has engendered a literature of debate. The asherim were also cult objects related to the worship of the fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of either Ba’al or, as inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom attest, Yahweh, and thus objects of contention among competing cults. The insertion of “pole begs the question by setting up unwarranted expectations for such a wooden object: “we are never told exactly what it was”, observes John Day.ref

Though there was certainly a movement against goddess-worship at the Jerusalem Temple in the time of King Josiah, it did not long survive his reign, as the following four kings “did what was evil in the eyes of Yahweh” (2 Kings 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19). Further exhortations came from Jeremiah. The traditional interpretation of the Biblical text is that the Israelites imported pagan elements such as the Asherah poles from the surrounding Canaanites. In light of archeological finds, however, modern scholars now theorize that the Israelite folk religion was Canaanite in its inception and always polytheistic, and it was the prophets and priests who denounced the Asherah poles who were the innovators; such theories inspire ongoing debate.ref

“Presently in the Indian subcontinent central poles are features of temple settings such as Hinglaj Mata (Sindh), Khambadev (Maharashtra), Nimad (Madhya Pradesh), Gogaji (Rajasthan), and Khambeshvari (Odisha). Ceremonial poles are also prominient in festivals, ceremonial dances, and celebrations such as Gudi Padwa, Kathi Kawadi, Jatara Kathi, and Nandi Dhwaja. According to the Adi Parva, part of the Mahabharata, a bamboo festival named Shakrotsava was celebrated in the Chedi KingdomUparichara Vasu was a king of Chedi belonging to the Puru dynasty, and he was known as the friend of Indra. During his reign, his kingdom introduced the Shakrotsava festival, which involved planting of a bamboo pole every year in honor of Indra, after which the king prayed for the expansion of his cities and kingdom. After erecting the pole, the celebrants decorated it with golden cloth, scents, garlands, and various ornaments.ref

“A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. The festivals may occur on May Day or Pentecost (Whitsun), although in some countries it is instead erected at Midsummer. In some cases, the maypole is a permanent feature that is only utilized during the festival, although in other cases it is erected specifically for the purpose before being taken down again. Primarily found within the nations of Germanic Europe and the neighbouring areas which they have influenced, its origins remain unknown, although it has been speculated that it originally had some importance in the Germanic paganism of Iron Age and early Medieval cultures, and that the tradition survived Christianisation, albeit losing any original meaning that it had. It has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the tradition is still observed in some parts of Europe and among European communities in North America.ref

“The fact that they were found primarily in areas of Germanic Europe, where, prior to Christianisation, Germanic paganism was followed in various forms, has led to speculation that the maypoles were in some way a continuation of a Germanic pagan tradition. One theory holds that they were a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, as there is evidence for various sacred trees and wooden pillars that were venerated by the pagans across much of Germanic Europe, including Thor’s Oak and the Irminsul. It is also known that, in Norse paganism, cosmological views held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil. The floor of the Mære Church, Norway, was excavated in 1969 and found to contain the remains of a pagan cult structure. The nature of that structure was not clear. Lidén felt this represented the remains of a building, but a critique by Olsen in the same work suggested this may have been a site for pole-related rituals. A recent review of the evidence by Walaker concluded that this site was similar to the site in Hove (Åsen, also in Nord-Trøndelag) and was therefore likely the site of a ceremonial pole.ref

“In New Zealand Māori mythology, Rongo – the god of cultivated food, especially the kūmara (sweet potato), a vital food crop – is represented by a god stick called whakapakoko atua. In the Cook Islands Cult figures called staff-gods or atua rakau from Rarotonga, apparently combine images of gods with their human descendants. They range in length between 28 inches (71 cm) and 18 feet (5.5 m) and were carried and displayed horizontally.ref

Chemamüll (‘wooden person’, from Mapuche che ‘people’ and mamüll ‘wood’) are Mapuche statues made of wood used to signal the grave of a deceased person. The chemamüll are carved wooden statues, usually more than 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) tall, that represent the stylized body and head of a human being. Statues may have male or female features. The Mapuche used whole logs of either Nothofagus obliqua, a hardwood, or laurel for their chemamüll. The Mapuche made chemamüll in pre-Columbian times in a manner similar to headstones. According to testimony in books, chemamüll helped the deceased’s soul reunite with its ancestors. This sculpture stood by the deceased during the funeral and was then erected over the grave.” ref

Spirit Poles

Puzzling Prehistoric Posts: The Enigmatic Spirit Poles of Eurasia

“Totem poles are often seen as quintessential features of the Northwest Coast of America. Simon Fraser University lists ten types of American totem pole, which indicate their diversity and how the term “totem” can be misleading when applied to them. Over in Eurasia, there is a similar idea – spirit poles. Three common types of totem poles are: Memorial Poles, Welcome/Potlatch Figures, and House Posts. A Memorial Pole is one that is raised after the death of a chief or high-ranking person. The motives and symbols carved on it memorialize significant events in the life of the person.” ref 

“Welcome/Potlatch Figures are raised and put in sight of guests arriving by water for a feast or gift-giving meeting. These anthropomorphic poles are usually depicted in welcoming postures. Related to Welcome/Potlatch Figures are Speakers Posts, which describe ancestral figures with open mouths. Speakers stand behind these poles and articulate as part of a greeting ceremony. Both these forms can be accompanied by a larger pole known as a Commemorative Figure, decorated with symbolic designs and family crests, standing outside the meeting house.” ref 

“A House Post is humanoid and architectural. Depending on the type of house, House Posts come in singles or doubles and support the beams of the roof. In addition to their appearance as supernatural beings, House Posts can also feature carvings signifying lineages and histories. The Hamatsa secret society relates a sacred legend in their ceremonies about an encounter with House Posts and the origin of the totem pole. When two brothers got lost on a hunting trip, they found a strange house with red smoke oozing from its roof. When they entered nobody was there but one of the house posts was a living woman. She warned them about the owner of the house, a dreadful man-eating giant with man-eating birds for his companions. When the giant returned, the brothers defeated him and took bird and bear masks and the first pole from the house.” ref 

“Northwest Coast poles are world renowned for their towering sizes and high degree of artistic workmanship. They are also part of a living tradition so that their meanings can be related. Whether or not the term totem is misapplied to them, they are essentially columns which represent ancestral or supernatural beings with extra ornamentations of cultural significance. Determining the age of pole traditions is difficult since they are often made of wood, which is not a material amenable to preservation; if left exposed to the elements they perish over the course of decades and centuries. Totem poles, however, reach back into prehistory and are not specific to America.ref 

“The anthropomorphic sculpture known as the ‘Shigir Idol’ was named after the peat bog situated in an open-air gold mine, a site from which other prehistoric artifacts have been found, including arrowheads depicting waterfowl, a wooden bear head, amulets made of bear fangs, and an antler staff-head depicting a mythic beast combining wolf, boar and bear. Naturally, the meaning of its symbolic elements has attracted different ideas; including encoded creation myths of the indigenous Ural peoples, or a navigational tool. Indigenous memory-systems specialist, Lynne Kelly, examines the use of totem poles as devices for storing knowledge without apparent writing systems, which becomes interesting in this respect.ref  

“Its series of vertical faces may represent divinities or different chapters concerning one. Notable is a recurring sevenfold symbolism, which includes seven identifiable human-like faces. The sculpture itself might have been a forest spirit, marker of a cosmic borderland, or even a “keep out” sign. The figure does not lack what we might term outré character. There are clear prehistoric links between Siberia and Anatolia/Turkey. Other sculptures like the Shigir Idol have not been found, but it was most likely not a cultural anomaly. Its Late Glacial age led the research team to compare it with the earliest monumental anthropomorphic pillars of Gbekli Tepe, Southeast Anatolia, which are surprisingly contemporaneous in established date (9,600 BC). It is tempting to ask if the creation of these monuments was influenced by changing environmental conditions to which people at the close of the Ice Age were exposed. A “totem pole” with more similarity to the schemes of the Northwest American genre, but made of stone rather than wood, was also found in a later layer of Gӧbekli Tepe. It depicts three main motifs – two of which have been destroyed. On account of its ears and eyes, Klaus Schmidt suggested the upper had depicted the head of a bear.ref 

Other research traces a continuity of shamanic ideas and images between prehistoric Siberia and Anatolia. Confronting the lack of early written sources among sub-Arctic shaman groups, the archaeologists Harald Haarman and Joan Marler examine material culture from the Ice Age settlement of Mal’ta west of Lake Baikal. In their analysis, this portable art, which includes figurines of waterfowl and bears, diadems, bracelets, and symbolically marked plaques, presents a “refrigerator” of mythic prototypes around which belief systems of northern shamans crystallize. Dating from 23,000 BCE onwards, the Mal’ta iconography is, for them, a repertory of basic motifs which, despite stylistic variations and changes in material, define an enormous longevity of ideas across an interconnected zone of prehistoric culture which embraced Siberia and Anatolia/Turkey.” ref 

“While there is no evidence of monumental forms on the scale of the Shigir statue, they note the spirit poles of later Altaic communities which mark sacred spaces and entrances to communities. These are the same poles which eventually moved westward to both sides of the Bering Strait. Though cultural elements change with unequal speed, the most stable are those which are considered sacred, despite cultural appropriations. The indigenous mythology of North America has long been regarded as “moderately Siberian” and this would include its pole traditions which, anthropologically, continue from prehistoric origins.” ref 

Sacred Poles

“Archaeological investigations, carried out just 100 meters north of Stonehenge suggest that a series of giant totem-pole-like timber obelisks had been erected there some 5,500 years ago, thus before the famous stone monument of Stonehenge had been built. The oldest decorated wooden object ever found in Britain has been discovered near Stonehenge. But only the holes where the probable wooden obelisks had once stood have ever been found – and archaeologists therefore had no idea what the Stone Age ‘totem poles’ might have looked like. However, investigations some 28 miles north-east of Stonehenge have now revealed a large fragment of a decorated timber monument which might provide clues as to what the pre-Stonehenge ‘totem poles’ may have looked like. The metre-long fragment (originally probably part of a large decorated wooden obelisk or other structure) was only very recently radiocarbon dated – and has been shown to be the oldest decorated wooden object ever found in Britain. Discovered near the Berkshire village of Boxford, it was made around 6,640 years ago and therefore dates from the same Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) era in which the Stonehenge area probable ‘totem poles’ were made. It’s conceivable that both had once stood upright as highly visible wooden monuments – but had eventually been placed in watery final resting places as offerings to nature spirits or ancestors.” ref

“Omahas today call their Sacred Pole Umoⁿ’hoⁿ’ti, the “Real Omaha.” He is a physical object, a cottonwood pole—but he is also a person with a life of his own. His life touched the lives of the Omahas when they moved from a homeland east of the Mississippi to their present location on the Missouri River several hundred years ago. He continued to stand for their tribal identity during the good times when they controlled the trade up and down the Missouri River. He was with the Omahas through years of war and epidemic disease. He accompanied them on the great tribal buffalo hunts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Then, when the Omahas were forced to abandon their buffalo hunting way of life in the 1870s, elders of the tribe were uncertain about how they could continue to honor Umoⁿ’hoⁿ’ti. They knew that to avoid being forcibly removed to Indian Territory they would have to learn the ways of the Americans under whose jurisdiction they now found themselves.” ref

“In 1888 a young man named Francis La Flesche approached the Sacred Pole’s last keeper, Yellow Smoke, with a proposal. Francis was one of the first Native Americans to become a professional ethnographer. He began his study of Omaha culture in collaboration with Alice Cunningham Fletcher, a researcher and writer from Harvard’s Peabody Museum. He reports his conversation with Yellow Smoke in a 660-page comprehensive ethnography, The Omaha Tribe, which he and Fletcher coauthored in 1911. “Why don’t you send the ‘Venerable Man,’ ” La Flesche asked Yellow Smoke, “to some eastern city where he could dwell in a great brick house instead of a ragged tent?” After thinking about the proposal, La Flesche reports, Yellow Smoke agreed. So it was that in 1888, Umoⁿ’hoⁿ’ti came into the care and keeping of the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After the transfer, Yellow Smoke told Fletcher and La Flesche the story of the Pole’s origin. The ethnographers recorded what he said in the Twenty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, The Omaha Tribe (1911:217-228).” ref

“When the Omahas still lived in wooded country near a lake,” Yellow Smoke said, “their chiefs met in council to devise some means by which the bands of the tribe might be kept together and the tribe itself saved from extinction.” While they were in council, a young man, the son of a chief, was hunting in the woods. At night he lost his way. He stopped to rest and to find the “motionless star” (the pole star) for his guide. Suddenly, he was attracted by a light. When he approached the light he saw that it was “a tree that sent forth light. He went up to it and found that the whole tree, its trunk, branches, and leaves, were alight, yet remained unconsumed.” The young man watched the luminous tree “until with the rising of the sun the tree with its foliage resumed its natural appearance.” He remained by it throughout the day. “As twilight came on it began to be luminous and continued so until the sun rose again. When the young man returned home he told his father of the wonder.” The young man’s father told the chiefs of all the tribes:

My son has seen a wonderful tree.
The Thunder birds come and go upon this tree,
making a trail of fire that leaves four paths on the burnt grass that stretch toward the Four Winds.
When the Thunder birds alight on the tree,
it bursts into flame and the fire mounts to the top.
The tree stands burning, but no one can see the fire except at night.” ref

“Then they cut the tree down “and four men, walking in a line, carried it on their shoulders to the village.” They made a tent for the tree and set it up within the circle of lodges. “The chiefs worked upon the tree; they trimmed it and called it a human being. They made a basketwork receptacle of twigs and feathers and tied it about the middle.” They placed a large scalp lock on top of the pole for hair. “Then they painted the Pole and set it up before the tent, leaning it on a crotched stick which they called imongthe (a staff).” When the people were gathered, the chiefs stood up and said:

You now see before you a mystery.
Whenever we meet with troubles we shall bring all our troubles to Him (The Pole).
We shall make offerings and requests.
All our prayers must be accompanied by gifts.
This (the Pole) belongs to all the people, but it shall be in the keeping of one family in the Honga clan.” ref

“MIGRATION STORY: Long ago, there came a time when our ancestors needed to move from the West. Our ancestors appealed to our wise hopayi’ (prophets) to find a solution. Our hopayi’ held a special consultation. They sat around the council fire and deliberated for many hours, and, most importantly, they sought guidance from our Creator, Abaꞌ Bínniꞌliꞌ, who created all things and sat above the clouds and directed the destiny of all. Once they concluded their deliberations, they told our ancestors they should seek a home in the direction of the rising sun in the East. Their guide to the new land would be Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’, a pole made sacred by Abaꞌ Bínniꞌliꞌ.” ref

“At the end of each day’s journey, the people should stick Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ into the ground so that it stood perfectly straight. Each morning, the sacred pole should be carefully examined, and whatever direction it was leaning in would be the way they would travel. They were to repeat that procedure until Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ no longer leaned in any direction. When that happened, our ancestors would know it was a divine sign from Abaꞌ Bínniꞌliꞌ that their journey was over, and they had reached their Homeland. As they discussed the journey, it was decided they should split into two groups to make traveling safer and easier. The brave young minko’ Chiksa’ would lead one group, and his equally brave brother Chahta, also a minko’, would lead the other.” ref

“During the next few days, the families busied themselves by packing their belongings and making other necessary preparations for the trip. At last, the eve of departure arrived. That evening, the hopayi’ stuck Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ into the ground and retired for the night. The next morning, at the break of day, the sacred pole was carefully inspected and found to be leaning toward the east. So, with Chiksa’ at the head of one of the parties, and Chahta at the head of the other, the group set out in the direction of the rising sun. It was a sight to behold, this great caravan of people traveling on foot carrying all their possessions, each knowing with certainty that somewhere a home awaited them and that the sacred pole would lead them to it.” ref

“Far in front of this procession ranged a large white dog, Ofi’ Tohbi Ishto’. He darted to the right, then to the left; he was everywhere, always on the alert. The people loved the big creature very dearly. He was their faithful guard and scout, and it was his duty to sound the alarm should enemies be encountered. Travel was slow and laborious. Sickness was a constant companion, and the tribal doctors, alikchi’, kept busy digging into their medicine bags. But when Sinti’, the snake, struck any one of them, Ofi’ Tohbi Ishto’ was quickly summoned and only needed to lick the wound to make the victim well again. Even with the extraordinary healing powers of our alikchi’ and beloved Ofi’ Tohbi Ishto’, the ugly hand of death reached down into the travelers and took away loved ones at will.” ref

“Then, one day, just as the sun was setting, the two parties came upon a scene beyond their imagination. It was a great river, the likes of which they had never seen before. The unexpected sight overwhelmed them. For a long time, the astonished people stood on the riverbank and stared in awe at the mighty watercourse. Today, that great river is known as the Mississippi. That night the families sat around their campfires and talked joyfully to one another. Many of the people believed their promised land had been reached and felt sure the sacred pole would confirm their belief at daybreak. But at sun up the next day, the people saw that the Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ still leaned toward the east, and they knew that home was somewhere on the other side of the wide river before them.” ref

“The people hurriedly set about constructing rafts, and soon the crossing was underway. Almost immediately, a serious mishap occurred that left our ancestors grief-stricken. The raft carrying their beloved white dog broke into pieces in the middle of the river. Ofi’ Tohbi Ishto’, who had managed to climb onto a piece of broken timber, could not be reached. The people could only helplessly watch as he was swept downstream and out of sight. That was the last they ever saw of their faithful guard and scout. Many days were required to ferry all the people and their belongings to the opposite side, but, in time, they all arrived safely. After crossing the mighty river and getting several days of rest, the group became somewhat excited — and uneasy, too — for they had never before seen the sacred pole behave in such a strange manner. At last, Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ grew very still and stood perfectly straight.” ref

“At this point, the two brothers — Chiksa’ and Chahta — had their first difference of opinion. Minko’ Chahta was quite convinced the perfectly upright pole was the divine sign from Abaꞌ Bínniꞌliꞌ and they had reached their Homeland. Minko’ Chiksa’, on the other hand, was not at all pleased with the way the sacred pole had wobbled around, and he felt confident their Homeland lay farther toward the rising sun. The two brothers and the hopayi’ held discussions about the matter, but at the end of several hours, opinions remained unchanged. Seeing that talking was getting them no place, Minko’ Chiksa’ pulled the sacred pole from the ground and commanded all those who believed their Homeland lay farther to the east to pick up their packs and follow him.” ref

“That was the beginning of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. From that day on, the people that followed Minko’ Chiksa’, who were relatively few compared to the significant number who remained in camp, were referred to as Chickasaws, and those who stayed with Minko’ Chahta were called Choctaws. After leading the Chickasaws farther eastward, Itti’ Fabassa’ Holitto’pa’ reversed its direction and guided the people westward. There, the sacred pole stood straight as an arrow. The Chickasaw people then knew with certainty that at last, they had found their Homeland and that their long journey was at an end.” ref

Religion of the indigenous people of Siberia

Its features are not different from those of any other religions. Its followers believe that they are dependent on higher, superhuman powers, which they have to submit themselves to, and which they have to offer sacrifices to. The designation ‘nature religion’ is used in general terms in order to describe the religion inherent to peoples without script. This belief is closely connected with the simple social structures of such peoples, families or communities. Their highest representative usually is a tribe leader, but it may also be a clan elder performing the functions of a priest. Spirits are ancestors (ancestral cult) or animated nature (plants, animals, etc.) as well as natural phenomenons (sun, moon, stars, fire, water, etc.); animism. Some sort of magic, witchcraft and sorcery are also part of many nature religions; for example, to heal diseases and illnesses or if people are convinced that a neighbor has put a curse on their families.” ref

“The access to religion is in most cases based on actions: only powers/spirits that are able to help and also willing to help will experience worship. The concept of a supreme god (heaven god) as a creator of the universe may be found in numerous of their narrations (myths and epics); these deities do play an important role also in different cultures, such as “The creation of the world”. Today the designation “nature religion” is not used any more in the field of ethnology; instead, there is made a distinction between shamanism, animism, ancestral cult, etc.” ref 

These indigenous Siberian peoples do have their original understanding of traditional religions in a cultural point of view in common; they share the belief in animated nature as well as the existence of entities in all natural objects with their owner spirits, distinguished into heaven and earth-water spirits, and a supreme heaven god (Tengri). Shamans contacted them by traveling to them, by sending these souls to them, or allowing them access to their bodies. When this happened, they were in a state of ecstasy, visualized by means of ritual-like dances and drum sounds, the whole event originally supported by intoxicating herbs such as juniper and toadstool (only recently there has also been used alcohol for this means).” ref

Yer su (Gazriin Ezen) are earth-water spirits that live in a particular mountain, lake, river, rock, tree, etc.
Chotgors are responsible for physical as well as psychological diseases and illnesses.
Otsoors are suld souls of ancestors living in nature.
Ongons (Totems) – ancestral spirits that now live in a place or house assigned especially to them. They may also live in figures carved from wood (fetish) or simply in jewellery (lucky charms, amulets).
Burkhans are very powerful and dangerous spirits that are rather hard to control.

“Within the communities the shamans were often worshipped like “saints”, and not only occasionally they exerted more influence than the leader of the tribe. This position was backed by their knowledge of herbs as cures and the role they played in the preservation of tribal traditions. Herbal medicine, however, was essentially restricted by the establishment of the type of medicine the Buddhist monks practiced. A shaman also had the duty to help people overcome the mountain (their life). They were especially skilled in dealing with these spiritual worlds. Within the social communities, they held different positions and hence were respected as healers of illnesses and diseases, fortune tellers, and masters in the celebration of rituals. They also succeeded in preserving their cosmology with the conception of the three worlds, an upper, a middle, and a lower world that are linked by the World Tree in the form of a larch and by the World River. The treetop was the gate they passed when traveling into other worlds. When people were born, their souls came from the upper world, the place of origin, into the world center, the life on earth. Consequently, the lower world was the realm of the dead. They also believed in souls being reborn.” ref

“Man has three souls, and when the “suld” soul leaves man, this means his end, and the soul remains in nature, with the two other souls wandering around and being reborn. The ami soul changes into a bird and flies to the World Tree. The sun’s soul travels on water. 
The cosmology of Mongolian shamanism and its eight customary rituals are based on the view that apart from the visible world, the shaman interacts with many other worlds or the universe, and that the establishment of contacts with the spirits constitutes an important part of the shamans’ work. They worship Eternal Heaven (Munkh Tenger) and Mother Earth (Etugan), see below, as well as the ancestors deceased and nature spirits. This means that every person is responsible for his/her own actions, and Tenger sees all that is done and is the ultimate judge and the shaper of destiny.” ref

“As in most of the prehistoric religions, also tengerism has, apart from the real word, this upper world (heaven realm with the tengers – heaven gods) and a lower world, which are linked by the navel of the world (the world axis). In tengerism this umbilical cord is the so-called World Tree or World River. Tengerism is an original and old belief practised by the Turk people and the Mongols, but initially it was described by the designation “shamanism”. Nowadays, shamanism is only used to describe other old beliefs and also nature religions of the most diverse cultural circles all around the world.” ref 

“In earlier times tengerism was the belief practiced by Turk and Mongolian tribes in Siberia and Central Asia. The belief is based on the heaven god Tengri and comprises animism, shamanism, ancestral worship as well as a special form of totemism with influences taken from the understanding of Chinese universism. The people could pray directly to these tengers or nature spirits and did not really need the help of a shaman for this.” ref

“The oldest written proofs for the worship of the heaven god Tengri may be found in old Chinese writings, which did not only deal with the Chinese people themselves but also with their neighboring and enemy peoples. In there, you may see that the Hsiung-nu already in the 4th century before Christ did worship Tengri (Tengri; Blue Father-Heaven, supreme heaven god). They believed that the blood of their rulers was ennobled by the god Tengri. According to a legend, the holy she-wolf Asena was their ancestor.” ref

“There are also found a great many Old-Turk inscriptions on stone plates in the steppes dating from the 6th century; they give evidence of the old Turk’s belief. The Göktürks (Kokturks), the first Turk herd, left a lot of written evidence to their descendants; especially information on their culture, their belief and their politics. These Kül-Tengin stelen (written on with Orchon runes; 7th century) is the source of the Tengric creed. Information may also be found in writings by the Persians and Arabs. The Yakuts called tengerism ayy.” ref

“Animism (from Latin anima = soul, breath) is used for generally script-less religions, which were in its purest form only inherent to societies of hunters and gatherers to describe them as original religion. Animism is based on the assumption of a generally animated nature, on the concept of the personification and animated status of all appearances in nature. There are two things that follow from animism: one is totemism (ancestral worship) and the other one is the use of helping spirits.” ref
“Totemism – is an attitude, according to which individuals or a group of people (clan, family) do have permanent relations with animals, objects and appearances (the totems), which they are convinced to be related to in an emotional or mystical or family-like (descent) sense. Frequently, the totem is an animal, but it may also be a plant, rock or mountain. The religious community believes that the totem represents their mythical forefather or creator. The totem is put under taboo, especially the prohibition to eat it/her/him – to oppose its/her/his will. These fundamental ideas originated in a conception which was rather logical for the hunters and gatherers as well as the nomads and which is related to an animistic view of the world. This results in the idea that souls with human-like wishes and attitudes live in objects and phenomenons (totems). They are seen as animated and powerful entities having the power to punish when taboos are broken (for example, lack of success in hunting). They may be appeased by means of magic, by offering sacrifices.” ref
“Totem also means “clan, family sign or also personal tutelary spirit”. The Turk people see the wolf, their forefather as the most important totem. In their creation stories, there is given the legend that it was the wolf that fathered them.” ref

“In tengerism, the meaning of life is for a human being to live in balance with everything found beneath heaven, this is, with his environment. Man is in the center of the worlds and sees his existence between the eternal Blue Heaven-Father, Mother Earth supporting and nourishing him, and the Creator Ruler, the son of heaven. With a well-balanced way of living, man keeps his world in balance and radiates his own personal power “windhorse” towards the outside. The universe, the nature spirits and the ancestors make sure that man is not in need of anything, and they protect the people. If the balance is out of control due to actions by evil spirits (illness, natural catastrophy, etc.), it is the shaman’s duty to restore this balance.” ref

“Windhorse = soul – The personal mental power of a human being is often called windhorse, this being situated in a person’s chest. This increases with the accumulation of spiritual merit and living life in balance. It is the ability to use the powers, which the spiritual self naturally possesses, without limitations given by the physical body.” ref

“In general, this tradition was linked to the belief in life on earth and in life on the other side. Souls were seen as being only brief appearances in bodies living on earth that, later on, returned to their homeland. This concept of the ontological distinction of Earth into a world of spirits and the world of Earth (bone-like existence) was common among Siberian as well as Iranian and Indian peoples; they also performed a cult in which, after death, the body became food for vultures by abandonment of the corpses. This cult is still celebrated today among the Parsi people in India.” ref 

“This cult of the dead and the cure of the ill constituted an important feature of shamanistic belief. Their thinking was characterized by the assumption of life on the other side in contrast to the physical world with the soul being able to free itself from the body (soul with rebirth). In the case of illness, the shaman had to make out the person’s soul which had either run away or had been caught by spirits by force, and bring it back home: If the patient is possessed by evil spirits, the shaman had to expel them from the body, frequently by calling helping spirits in order to be given support in exorcist ceremonies. Rituals and also hunting spells were intended to reconcile the hurt souls of animals.” ref

“The skilled mastership of instruments was the basis for the ceremonies performed in public and the prerequisite of the acrobatics performed by the actors in trance with their audience. If one did not succeed in mastering something extremely extraordinary, he was not respected among the people living in his village. The purpose of these actions was to expose oneself to hurt and death by not surpassing the line of death by a hair’s breadth – was this the secret purpose of these techniques of ecstasy? The state of ecstasy in which the shaman leaves his body in order to find souls wandering around or to search for the soul of fatally ill people in the lower world definitely requires a complete diastasis from one’s own body; this is nearly publicly shown as the shamans want to make plausible the inner ability of soul searching and trans-somatic traveling?” ref

“During ecstasy, the soul is able to leave the body, and shamans send this soul to the world of spirits and gods, into the other worlds: this is the type of soul that practices the so-called shamanic soul-flight or soul-ride. The Shaman’s transformation – zoomorphic – into the animal is connected with his helping spirit or his guard spirit. In most cases, the imitating of animals is classified as a dance, such as a bear, an elk, a seal, a wolf, a hare, a deer, etc. In case of the imitating ritual dance, there is the transformation into zoomorphic spirits into which the shaman changes himself on his journey.” ref

“The ritual dance is intended to help the shaman reach ecstasy. The shamans themselves create all the melodies performed during the spell. For some peoples the sound imitations act as the call signs – the uttering sounds of different animals or of birds can be imitated by means of different whistling techniques. Text forms of speech acts do not really exist and lose their meaning outside the ritual context. They are validated not only by the text, which, apart from certain phrases, is mostly improvised, but also by being spoken, by the act itself. After the ceremonial act the shaman has to gather together with all the spirits.” ref

“Siberian shamanism, moreover, is involved in the cult of the dead, in the celebration of ancestors and mountains, and in rituals of animal sacrifice. As a conclusion, one could say that the deepest meaning or message of Siberian animism was to bring human and nature into balance. In every single ritual veneration was the act performed first; if there was to be drunk a special drink, it was tradition to first pour some of it apart to offer it to Father Tenger, Mother Earth (Yer – Gazar Eej) and the ancestors. Women regularly performed Kumys or Tea sacrifices by walking around the tent and pouring the drink three times into all four dirctions of the world. Sacrifices for mountain spirits, calls for help in plight or religious festivals were performed at different places, and it was allowed to perform them without the help of shamans.” ref   

 White Moon Festival
“It is a tradition of the Mongols and Buryats to celebrate the White Moon Festival two lunar months after the new moon following the winter solstice. The year Sagaalgan, also known as Tsagaan Sar, begins with the White Moon Festival (at the next new moon after the 21st of December), on the 27th of February. This is the beginning of spring season in their homeland. It also has great significance from a shamanic point of view – it is the day when all the spirits go to the upper world. On the occasion of the White Moon Festival, they light up 14 incense sticks, of which 7 are intended for the Man with the Seven Tears (Big Dipper) and 7 for the Pleijades (winter stars).” ref

“Another solstice festival takes place when day and night are equally long; this is called the Red Sun Festival which takes place at the full moon following the 21st of June. But celebrations may also be performed in connection with other rituals. Days when the moon covers the Pleijades are good days to honour the Spirits of the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper.” ref

Pleijades – (winter stars – Old Turkish: Ülker) – in October, the winter stars rise and announce the dark season. People thought that very powerful heaven spirits lived there. The Pleijades: Mushin have an important place in the Buryat-Mongolian cosmology. In the earliest times it is said that the Tenger of the western direction met the Pleijades to discuss how to help mankind against disease and death. During this meeting they created the Eagle, the first shaman. The Pleijades – Mushin also play an important figure in the epic Geser.” ref

Big Dipper – the Great Bear – the seven brightest stars – the 7 Ubgen  Doloon Uvged are honored also at the White Moon Festival.” ref

Altan Hadaas – Pole Star, people believed that the sky was attached to the Pole Star and that the sky rotates around this star. Turk peoples in Siberia held the compulsory family holiday “fire-feast“ every month at new moon. An absolute taboo was to stir up fire with sharp metal objects or to put rubbish on it.” ref

“Turk peoples in Siberia held the compulsory family holiday “fire-feast“ every month at the new moon. An absolute taboo was to stir up fire with sharp metal objects or to put rubbish on it. Rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices by the calender year: Spring, summer and autumn festivals, cults for animals, burial ceremonies, and slaughtering rituals are sacrifices to determine certain rules and taboos, rituals for water spirits (los) – rituals for making rain – rituals on owoo – rituals for fire – sacrifices for telling the future, sacrifices offered to spirits. Such festivities always went hand in hand with feasting, drinking, and reciting epics.” ref

“The most regular sacrifices are the autumn slaughtering or the winter slaughtering, the ceremony for hunting (Antlers – hunting horn); these ceremonies are connected with the killing of animals (very strong rules and taboos – blood must not touch the ground; bones must not be broken – the zuld (tsuld) must not be separated*), the sacrifice to the new moon. *Zuld – the head, throat, lungs and heart, which is collectively called zuld is the residence of the ami (body soul). When an animal is killed for a sacrifice, the hide and the zuld are hanging up on poles pointing to Heaven. Apart from these seasonal ceremonies, there is also a Thanksgiving ceremony, which each family must perform once or twice a year on different occasions.” ref

– “Ceremonies of the northern tribes of the Chukchee (Tshuktshen), Kamchatkan or Asiatic Eskimos, and Yakuts. Bloody and bloodless sacrifices are offered during these ceremonies. Their performance for the welfare of the community and the incantations are the main basis of their rites. They sacrifice to the sea in order to ensure good fortune in subsequent sailing on sea-ice in winter. Early in spring there follows the ceremony of the boats.” ref 

– “Ceremonies of the Maritime Koryak; whale festival, the putting away of the skin-boat for the winter, launching the skin-boat, wearing masks in dance.” ref

– “Reindeer Koryak; ceremony on the return of the herd from summer pastures, the fawn-festival. Koryaks  – live on the peninsula Kamchatkan in the farthest east of Russia. There are groups who live as nomads and breed reindeer as well as settled groups who live on hunting and whaling. – Itelmens, Chukchee (Tshuktshen), and Evens are also indigenous peoples living in this region.” ref

– “Ceremonies common to both Koryaks and Yakuts (Sakha); bear-festival, wolf-festival, practices in connection with fox hunting. Yakuts (Sakha) – originally migrated from the Orchon River and the region of Lake Baikal to the basins of the Middle Lena, the Aldan and Vilyuy Rivers, where they mixed with other indigenous peoples such as the Evens and Evenks. – The Yakuts in the north are semi-nomads, hunters, fishermen and reindeer breeders. – The group in the south raised cattle and horses. Both groups live in yurts.” ref

“In these particular worlds (the upper, lower, and the middle world) there exist human souls, spirits, and deities. The communities and the shamans perform ceremonies and sacrifices for them. There are spirits who are owners of mountains, lakes, regions, etc., at which places they arrange ceremonies for and pray to them. Guardian and helping spirits are used by the shamans for their journeys, flights or rides to the other places or into the upper and lower world. Evil spirits (burkhans or monsters) are very dangerous, and only powerful shamans are able to deal with them, and they use the guide given by a powerful helping spirit. Every clan or family has its own spirits or deities who they honor and pray to.” ref

– “Representations of deities and spirits such as in fetishes (Ongons – spirit houses – totems) are made of wood, metal, or bone and can be also children’s dolls. People and shamans wear many of these (amulets – lucky charm). It is to be noted that they bring the owner luck, protection, well-being and health.” ref

Daban-Sagan-Noyon, the owner of the whole earth is represented as an old man with grey hair. His host play an important role in celebrations.” ref

– “Ceremonies of prayer and honor to spirits are arranged at places such as the World Tree, Serge or Barisaa. Trees growing in unusual places are especially powerful, such as the lone birch, the “shaman tree”, the home of the shamans’ helping spirits (Ongons). Trees symbolise the world center, where heaven and earth touch, and these are places for prayers and symbolize the homes of spirits. Toroo – the top of the World Tree, which is usually visualised as a birch or willow or the open ring of the yurt / ger, is the entry gate for shamans on their journeys to the other world.” ref

Barisaa “Prayer tree, is an important site of worship in Siberia and Mongolia – a barisaa, a shaman’s shrine next to a tree is the home of the nature spirits, it is a sacred tree which establishes the contact between the spiritual and the physical world. It is a convergence point of all worlds, times, and potentialities. For this reason, a prayer offered with true intention accompanied by a small offering or ribbon is especially effective.” ref
Buyan “The act of giving creates buyanhishig (power) and increases a person’s windhorse (soul). Spiritual merit strengthens one’s own spiritual power and neutralizes bad karma. Buyanhishig can also be accumulated through selfless acts of generosity and kindness and works to restore balance where things have gone wrong. Depending on how a person behaves, the buyan (the personal psychical power) increases or decreases. If a person breaks taboos, either by respectless behaviour towards his ancestors or by senseless killing of animals, the nature spirits will get angry, and the buyan (power) decreases.” ref 
Arshaan “Energized water (medicine water) with magical power granted by the spirits. Drinking arshaan water brings this energy into the body and is good for health. (Today, unfortunately, people also like to drink vodka!).” ref
Hurai “A magic word, when said with the accompanying circular movement (yohor dance) of the hands, it literally brings down energy from Father Heaven or from other spirits.” ref
Suld “One of the three human souls, it is a non-reincarnating soul that remains on earth as a nature spirit after death.” ref
Ariulga “This ceremony is performed in order to clean everything from bad or evil influence, with the help of the nature spirits of the community where this ritual takes place.” ref

“The shamanism of the Turk people, the Buryat, and the Mongolian people is essentially one and the same. Heaven Tengers (heaven gods), humans, the nature (animals and plants), fire and water, those are the elements of our life; as well as the sun and the moon, like Tenger’s eyes. The sun is the fire, and the moon is the water. Humans have realized that clean air and pure water are the most important things. They have understood that it is important to keep the world in balance. Tegsh means ‘being in balance’. After many years of repression by the Soviets, the shamans are now free and have been practicing their power again since 1990.” ref

“The Mongolian Shamans’ Association plays a historic role in the continuation of these traditions at the occasion of the annual Ulaan Tergel (Summer Solstice) celebration. Although shamanism experiences a revival nowadays, there are hardly any genuine shamans in the original sense of the word anymore, but some elements of shamanism, however, have been kept alive, such as, for example, some sacrificial rituals. But sometimes the ceremonial actions are only performed for touristic purposes.” ref

“The “Age of the Gods” is, according to the myths, a more or less clearly defined period of time between the origin of the world and the beginning of mankind. “Travel descriptions” of shamans often comprise motifs of legends of origin as well as those of belief legends. A shaman needs to move about in the shamanic world and to communicate with spirits; this is expressed as certain abilities or skills normally attributed to animals, birds, fish, or supernatural creatures that are characterised in legends. Oral tradition, and a great part of the narratives influencing beliefs can be classified as legends – mythical time of creation stories. Supernaturalness is still manifested in the shape molded by oral tradition.” ref
“Raven Creation story, Creator Ulgen, Evil God Erlik Khan, Kaira Khan, Creator Ak Toyun, Geser Epic, Creator Kors-Torum – Evil God Yanykh-Torum, etc. When we speak about the borderline between legends and memories, we must stress that it is not very clear when exactly a memory might develop into a legend. This was especially true in Siberia where the archaic beliefs and the mythology, the heroic epic as well as the narrative tradition have preserved the identity of the ethnic minorities. This meant that shamanism was among the elements of traditional culture to be eradicated – magical power.” ref
“Various beliefs of the Siberian tribes can be observed by means of their mythology and their rituals. You will find, not only in Mongolia but rather in all northern areas and a part of Central Asia, this way of observing the outer world, the nature, and the inner world, the soul (animism). After the introduction of Buddhismus, the Mongolian called their old religion “The Black Faith” (Khara Shadjin) and Buddhism “The Yellow  Faith” (Shira Shadijin). Male or female shamans are practically limited to ceremonies performed within the family. Ceremonies on the level of communities are performed by specialists and professionals, who are representants like priests (powerful).” ref

Ainu Fairy tales about Haadas (Pole Star) are known under the name of Pokna Mushiri. They were especially famous among all of the tribes in Siberia. The people believe that the story about the existence of a matriarchy system is probably true. Japanese people consider the Ainu their ancestors. The Ainu (human being) call themselves also Utari (companion). Initially, they settled in Hoppö Ryödo Mondai (older name: Ezo), today’s southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands. Their traditional lifestyle was based on men going hunting and fishing and performing the respective rituals and women working as farmers and gatherers and also female shamans (they worshipped the ancestors, cured illnesses and diseases, recited myths and epics with dances). The Bear festival was a typical ceremonial for the Ainu.” ref

Altaian shamans (kams) from the Turk tribes in the southern part of the Altai mountain range have preserved – with great strictness – the ancient shamanistic ceremonial forms.
In southern Siberia, the Altaic peoples, the Turkish branch of the Oirates, which includes the Teleuts and the Telengites, also settled in today’s Altai Republic in Russia and believe that every mountain, every lake and every river has its own spirit owner (nature animism). They erected an ovoo (stone shrine) and placed the sacrificial objects near springs or special trees. The cult of springs and the use of arshaan (energy water) for all celebrations, especially that of medicinal springs was intertwined with the cult of the trees growing around the springs.” ref

Buryats – For them the appreciation of nature is based on shamanism. They are convinced that human beings and nature have always formed a unity. They do not see nature simply as shelter and home for the people and basis for man’s well-being but rather as the starting point of all his ethical and moral ideas. For the Buryats the Baikal was a living and holy entity, which touched the universe; and if somebody did something to the Baikal it was as if somebody harmed the entire universe. Nobody would ever have dared to hunt at holy shamanistic places, and as a consequence, it is still possible to admire many species of fauna and flora there. The Buryats were also very careful with woods and grounds. For example, “the digging up of land and other crimes against nature” were forbidden on penalty of death, at least according to a collection of rules and regulation by Genghis Khan. Even the shape of their shoes represents the Buryat’s and Mongolian’s appreciation of nature: the top of the boots point upward in order to not harm earth at all.” ref

Evenks (old name: Tunguses) are an indigenous people comprising numerous regional groups and clans. Most of them have settled scatteredly on a wide area in Mongolia and in China. They speak a Manchu-Tungusish language. Evenks belong to the Baikal or Paleo-Siberian group of the Mongolian type, originating from the ancient Paleo-Siberian people of the Yenissei River up to the Okhotsk Lake.” ref

Finno-Ugrian peoples live on the eastern side of the Ural, at the lower course of the river Ob in Russia. Shamanism was never as strong there as among the Turk-speaking peoples in the southern part of Siberia. Paganism has survived until now in connection with the traditional methods of healing with the help of sorcery water (medicinal water).” ref

“Khantys – Khants (old name Votyak, Ostyak) speak an Ugrian language belonging to the Finno-Ugrian branch of the Uralic language. Together with the Mansi, they are called Ob Ugrians, being related with the Hungarian people. Originally they were horse breeders at the upper Irtysh, and in the 11th century, they migrated to these regions and became hunters and reindeer breeders.” ref
“Mansi (historical name Voguls) work as hunters, fishermen and reindeer breeders and belong, like the Khantys, to the Ugrian language group.” ref

“The northern area has been inhabited by the nomadic Finno-Ugric people speaking Khantys and Mansis since early times. Explorers from Novgorod encountered these indigenous peoples in the 11th century and exacted tribute from them in the form of furs of reindeers and other wild living animals. The area was part of the Khanat of Sibir and was annexed by the Russian Prince in the 16th century. The area features swampy lowland with major oil and natural-gas deposits, and taiga coniferous forest. The middle course of the River Ob crosses the area. Industries include oil and natural gas extraction and lumbering; fishing, fur trapping and farming, reindeer herding, and grain and potatoes cultivation.” ref

“The songs of the Samoyedes (Nganasans and Nenets) or Mansi (Finno-Ugric group) were only collected in the middle of the 19th century, in the form of drinking songs. They are similar to the Red Indians of Northern America and the Inuits living in Alaska. It is believed that the latest migrations took place no later than 8000 BCE. Lullabies, songs describing the personal characteristics of a child, healing songs, also personal family songs (in the form of autobiographies), heroic epics, and folk tales were collected.” ref

Samoyedes – are an undergroup of the Uralic people.
“Nganasans are the people living farthest north in Eurasia. They live north of the Arctic Circle on the area of the peninsula Taimyr. The Samoyedes are descendants of the Tungusic tribes of the Evenks and like them reindeer breeders and semi-nomads.” ref
“Nenets live on the island Jamal and own huge reindeer stock. They live as nomads all year long, staying in winter in the southern taiga and wandering in the warmer but mosquito-rich summer months through the tundra to the coast of the Arctic Ocean.” ref

Kirghiz / Kirgiz / Kyrgyz – In 1997 there was founded a Tengeric society in Bishkek and the Tengir-Ordo Foundation for research into tengerism. (Dastan Sarygulov was its director; he was also member of the Kirghiz parliament).” ref

Korea which is situated between China and Japan has an autonomous culture, an important feature character being the fact that shamanism represents the oldest stratum in folk religion with a mix of the ideologies of Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism. The institution of a king-shaman can be traced back to the Silla Kingdom (8th century). Shamanism has been seen as a traditional expression of national culture, with its most outstanding representatives being considered a ‘national treasure’ and being used to build up a strong national identity.” ref

Manchuria, today a region of the People’s Republic of China, which is inhabited by different nationalities. The Manchu nationality is one of the larger minorities in today’s China (four and a half million) and has an especially strong historical awareness because the emperor (ruler) of the last dynasty came from this province. In addition, they live in a compact group in the Jilin province, and shamanism has very ancient traditions here: there is a special form of clan shamanism, and some of the shaman’s most important functions are connected with the large family gatherings.” ref

Shors and Khakas people believe in the existence of mountain spirits (tag-azi) and water spirits (shug-azi). Every clan has its own mountain spirits, who protected the members of the clan. Every three years sacrificial ceremonies were held on that mountain. In order to express their respect, every Shor gave a libation to the spirit owner of the mountain or river, when he or she was near the mountain or river. They made an ovoo of stones and dry branches for them, too, on the riverbanks, and near the fords. This looked like a hut, and they placed the sacrificial objects on it: stones, rags, horsehair, etc. Before crossing the river, they usually performed a sacrifice.The Khakas people traditionally practised nomadic herding, agriculture, hunting and fishing. They live in the middle of the Yenissei River area, around the Minusinsk basin.” ref

Tuva – a renaissance of shamanism can be observed since 1995. The revival is to be noted as shamans and lamas work to represent the spiritual health of the people. The two forms of practice, the spiritual and herbal medicine have co-existed peacefully. M. B. Kenin-Lopsan played a considerable part in keeping this interest alive. He is not only an ethnographic collector but also a writer and president of the social organization known as Düngür (The drum used by Tuva shamans is called düngür). The members of the federation are healing shamans and work in Kyzyl.” ref

Yakuts (Sakha – Sasa) – the shamans were the ones who preserved their traditions, the old beliefs in oral epic tradition and recital mythology – today the Sakha (Yakut) population has ceased to speak the language of their ancestors, but they have began to represent their ethnic poetic tradition and have started to work again as healers. Yakuts believe that this god was a grey-haired, loquacious, old man in perpetual motion.” ref

Uyghurs (Uygur, Uighur) – means: the confederation of the nine tribes (nine clans) – this Turk speaking tribes have lived in the ancient time in Central Asia around the Altai mountain range (East Turkistan – Orchon Khanat) during the Wei Dynasty (386 – 534 CE) and later along with the Göktürks (Kokturks) in the Khanat Göktürk (630 – 684 CE). After the collaps of the Uyghur empire (840 CE), they resettled to the Tarim Basin. They have been urban-dwellers, farmers with agriculture and practised minor and metalsmiths with iron ore from the Yenissei. The Uyghurs skillfully make things of silver and gold, vases and pitchers. Traditional medicine has always had a very high standard, and you can still find at street stands herbal medicine being offered, or the owners of the stands arrange a diagnosis for you.” ref

“Today they live in the autonomous region Xinjiang in China; and in 934 CE they converted to Islam. The Yellow Uyghur (Yugor) in the Gansu province of China had had a manchieism system, later Buddhism was to follow; there has also been practised shamanism known as the cult of the sun. In their folk tales, the sun and the moon have bodies with a soul. The sun and the fire have originally been one and the same god; and only later they were divided into two deities.” ref

Shaman Rock

“If one ventures along the bay to the Shaman Rock, one of the nine most holy places in Asia. Unsurprisingly it is the most revered place on the island, a site of legends, rituals, and miracles. 13 totem poles stand tall at the entrance, guarding the sacred rock, representing the 13 deities of Olkhon and bearing colorful ribbons, known as ‘Khadag’, placed by pilgrims and flapping in the wind. This is a recent ritual and is actually born from a misunderstanding of tradition. ‘Khadag’ are supposed to be presented at Tsaagan Sar (Lunar New Year), and are used for spiritual rituals. Today it is common to see them placed on shrines and hanging from trees (unfortunately and ironically strangling the life out of the latter) both here and throughout Mongolia. The different colours symbolising different aspects of the environment. Blue for the eternal sky, green for the earth, yellow for religion, red for fire, white for milk.” ref

Shamanka is a rock, on Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia. It is in Pribaikalsky National Park, and is near Khuzhir, the largest city on Olkhon Island. The rock connects to Olkhon Island, though depending on perspective, can appear an island. The height of the part of the rock closest to the shore is 30 metres (98 ft), and the height of the far part is 42 metres (138 ft). In the near-bank part of the rock is the Shaman Cave, which formed via weathering and erosion. The length of the cave is about 12 metres (39 ft), and the width is from 3 metres (9.8 ft) to 4.5 metres (15 ft). The height of the cave is from 1 metre (3.3 ft) to 6.5 metres (21 ft). On the western side of the surface of the back of the rock there is a natural brown rock formation resembling a dragon.” ref

“BENEVOLENT supernatural beings are called by the Chukchee vairgit, i. e. ‘beings’. The most important are the ‘benevolent beings sacrificed to’ (taaronyo vairgit), those to whom the people bring sacrifices. They live in twenty-two different ‘directions’ of the Chukchee compass. The chief of these beings is the one residing in the zenith, which is called ‘being-a-crown’ (kanoirgin), or ‘middle-crown’ (ginon-kanon). Mid-day, the Sun, and the Polar Star are often identified with the ‘middle-crown ‘. The Dawn and the Twilight are ‘ wife-companions’, several of the tales describing them as being married to one wife. The ‘directions ‘ of the evening are together called ‘Darkness’. Sacrifices are made to them only on special occasions, and are often mingled with those offered to the kelet (‘evil spirits’) of the earth.” ref

“The sun, moon, stars, and constellations are also known as vairgit; but the sun is a special vairgin, represented as a man clad in a bright garment, driving dogs or reindeer. He descends every evening to his wife, the ‘Walking-around-Woman’. The moon is also represented as a man. He is not a vairgin, however, but the son of a kele of the lower worlds. He has a lasso, with which he catches people who look too fixedly at him. Shamans invoke the moon in incantations and spells. Among the stars, the pole-star is the principal vairgin, and is most often referred to as unpener, the pole-stuck star’, a name, .which, Mr. Bogoras asserts, is universal throughout Asia. There are several other vairgit beneficent to man, which Bogoras supposes to be merely vague and impersonal names of qualities. ‘They represent a very loose and indefinite personification of the creative principle of the world, and are similar to Vakanda or Great Manitou of the Indians,’ he says.” ref

“Tenan-tomgin (‘Creator’, lit. ‘One who induces things to be created’); Girgol-vairgin (‘Upper-Being); Marginen (‘World’, literally ‘The Outer-One’)., Yaivac-vairgin (‘Merciful-Being’); Yagtac-vairgin (‘Life-giving Being’); Kinta-vairgin (‘Luck-giving Being’). These do not receive special sacrifices, but are all, except ‘Creator’, mentioned at the sacrifices to the Dawn, Zenith, and Midday. The ‘Luck-giving Being’ is sometimes represented as a raven, but the Creator is never so represented by the Chukchee (as he is among the Koryak), although he is sometimes known as ‘the outer garment of the Creator’. The Chukchee, however, have many tales about Big-Raven, whom they call Tenan-tomgin.” ref

“Besides these ‘Beings’, the Reindeer Chukchee have also a ‘Reindeer-Being’ (Qoren-vairgin), who watches over the herds; and the Maritime people have their ‘Beings of the Sea’ (Anqa-vairgit), of whom the most important are Keretkun and his wife, sometimes called Cinei-new. ‘They live on the sea-bottom or in the open sea, where they have a large floating house. They are larger than men, have black faces, and head-bands of peculiar form, and are clad in long white garments made of walrus-gut adorned with many small tassels.'[1] Another sea-spirit is the ‘Mother of the Walrus’, living at the bottom of the sea, and armed with two tusks like a walrus. Besides her, there is still another sea-spirit like a walrus, which is believed to work harm to people, crawling into their houses at night. These walrus-beings do not receive regular sacrifices, and sometimes assist the Shaman in the capacity of kelet. Keretkun, however, is the recipient of sacrifices at the autumn ceremonials. The Asiatic Eskimo have sea-deities similar to those of the Maritime Chukchee.” ref

“The Chukchee classify the winds also as ‘Beings’, whose names are mentioned in incantations, the local prevailing wind being always regarded in a given locality as the chief of these ‘Beings’. Spirits of tents and houses are called ‘House-Beings’ (Yara-vairgit). They are attached to houses, not to people, and if a house is destroyed they cease to exist with it. If the inhabitants of a house abandon it, the house-spirits turn into very dangerous earth-spirits. A small share of every important sacrifice is placed for them on the ground in the corners of the sleeping-room.” ref

“Chukchee View of the Universe. According to the Chukchee belief there are several worlds, one above another. Some reckon five such worlds, others seven or nine. A hole, under the pole-star, forms a passage from one world to the other, and through this hole shamans and spirits pass from one to another of the worlds. Another way to reach the other world is to take a step downwards in the direction of the dawn. There are also other worlds’ in the ‘directions’ of the compass, one under the sea, another small dark ‘world’ vaguely described as being above, which is the abode of the female kele-birds. Some of the stars also are distinct ‘worlds’ with their own inhabitants. The sky, they say, is a ‘world ‘ too, and touches our earth at the horizon, where at four points there are gates. When the wind blows these gates are believed to be opening.” ref

“In contrast to the Chukchee and the Eskimo, who have whole classes of Supreme Beings (vairgit, Chukchee; kiyarnarak, Asiatic Eskimo), the Koryak, as Jochelson thinks, have a tendency to monotheism; although he considers it ‘possible that all names now applied by them to one deity may have formerly been applied to various beings or phenomena of nature, and that, owing to their intercourse with the Russians, a monotheistic tendency of uniting all names of the various deities into one may have developed’.[3] That the Koryak conception of one Supreme Being is not indigenous, or at least not very old, may be judged from the very vague account of his nature and qualities which was all that Jochelson was able to obtain from these people, and also from the fact that he takes no active part in shaping the affairs of men. He is, of course, a benevolent anthropomorphic being, an old man with a wife and children, dwelling in the sky. He can send famine or abundance, but seldom uses his power to do either good or evil to men.” ref

“Jochelson says that the abstract names given to him are hardly consistent with the conception-distinctly material, as far as it goes-which the Koryak seem to have of his nature. Some of these names are: ‘Naininen (Universe, World, Outer one); Inahitelan or Ginagitelan (Supervisor); Yaqhicnin or Caqhicnin (Something-Existing), called by the Paren people Vahicnin, by those of Kamenskoye, Vahitnin, or by the Reindeer Koryak, Vahiynin (Existence, also Strength); Gicholan (The-One-on-High); Gicholetinvilan (The-Master-on-High) or simply Etin (Master); Thairgin (Dawn). In Tale 113 we meet with the name Kihigilan (Thunder-Man) for the Supreme Being.” ref

“The Supreme Being is propitiated for purely material reasons, such as the procuring of a food-supply by hunting land and sea animals, the picking of berries and roots, and the tending of the reindeer herds. If the Supreme Being ceases to look upon the earth disorder at once begins; e.g. Big-Raven is unsuccessful in his hunting when Universe (Naininen) has gone to sleep (Tale 9). In like manner, failure, to offer sacrifices may bring some such misfortune on a mail. In one of the tales (111), when young Earth-Maker (Tanuta), the husband of Yineaneut, Big-Raven’s daughter, fails to make the customary sacrifice to Inahitelan’s (Supervisor’s) son Cloud-Man (Yahalan) at his wedding, Supervisor forces Yineaneut, or rather her soul, to the edge of the hearth, where her soul is scorched by the fire, and she wastes away.” ref

“Though the Supreme Being does not interfere actively in the affairs of men, their souls (uyicit or uyirit) go to him after death and hang in his dwelling on posts or beams, until the time comes when they are to be re-born. The duration of the future life of each soul is marked on a thong fastened to it, a short thong indicating a short life. Supervisor dwells in the clouds or the sky or the heaven-village. His wife is known variously as Supervisor-Woman, Rain-Woman, or Sea-Woman. His son, Cloud-Man (Yahal, or Yahalan), is the patron of young couples, and if a lover, young man or woman, desires to conquer the heart of the one beloved, this is accomplished by beating the drum; and the propitiation of this patron is also the reason why the bridegroom sacrifices a reindeer to Cloud-Man after marriage.” ref

“Jochelson found only one tale (9) relating directly to the Supreme Being, though there are references to him in some others. In this tale, which is full of coarse details, Universe sends heavy rain upon the earth from the vulva of his wife. Big-Raven and his son are obliged to change themselves into ravens, fly up to heaven, and put a stop to the incessant rain by a trick. This tale must not be told in fine weather, but only to put an end to rain or a snow-storm. As stated above, the Supreme Being sends Big-Raven to order human affairs. The native name for Big-Raven is Quikinnaqu or Kutkinnaku, which are augmentative forms of the words for ‘raven’. He is also known as Acicenaqu (Big-Grandfather), or Tenantomwan (Creator).” ref

“The tales about Big-Raven form part of the Pacific Coast cycle of raven myths, for we find this figure in the mythology of the north-western Amerinds as well as in that of the Siberians of north-eastern Asia. But, among the Koryak, Big-Raven plays a part also in the ritual of their religious ceremonies. ‘Creator’ is really a misnomer, for this being did not exercise any truly creative function: he was sent by the Supreme Being to carry out certain reforms in the already organized universe, and was therefore, so to speak, a reorganizer and the first man. He is also a supernatural being and a powerful shaman; and his name is mentioned in almost every incantation in shamanistic performances. ‘When the shamans of the Maritime Koryak commence their incantations they say, “There, Big-Raven is coming!” The Reindeer Koryak told me that during shamanistic ceremonies a raven or a sea-gull comes flying into the house, and that the host will then say, “Slaughter your reindeer, Big-Raven is coming!” ref

“The personage known by this Dame turns into a bird only when he puts on a raven’s coat. The ordinary raven also figures in the mythology as a droll and contemptible character, a scavenger of dogs’ carcasses and of excrement. One of the tales (82), about the swallowing of the sun by Raven (not Big-Raven) and the rescue of the luminary by Big-Raven’s daughter, recalls a tale of the setting free of the sun told by the Indians of the North Pacific coast. The Koryak do not count it a sin to kill a raven. Various contradictory accounts are given of the origin of Big-Raven. Some say that he was created by the Supreme Being; others that they do not know whence he came, although ‘the old people’ knew it. Most of the Koryak tales deal with the life, travels, and adventures of Big-Raven, his wife Miti, and their children, of whom the eldest, their son Ememqut, is the best known.” ref

“In these tales, Big-Raven sometimes appears as a being of very low intelligence, who is often outmatched in cunning, not only by his wife, but even by mice. foxes, and other animals. Transformations, especially of the sexual organs of Big-Raven and his wife (allusions to which figure very largely throughout), supernatural deeds, and indecent adventures, form the subject of the greater part of the tales. ‘The coarseness of the incidents does not prevent the Koryak from considering the heroes of these tales as their protectors.'[1] Many of the tales serve no other purpose than the amusement of the people.” ref

“In spite of the frivolous character ascribed to Big-Raven in some of the tales, he is said to have been the first to teach the people how to catch sea and land animals, the use of the fire-drill, and how to protect themselves against evil spirits. He lived on earth in the manner of the Maritime Chukchee, but some of his sons were reindeer-breeders. It is not certain how he disappeared from among men. According to some, he and his family turned into stones; others say that he wandered away from the Koryak. Traces of his having lived among them are still pointed out by the Koryak: on a sea-cliff in the Taigonos Peninsula are some large stones which are said to have been his house and utensils. His foot-prints and the hoof-marks of his reindeer are to be seen, say the Koryak, in the village of Kamenskoye.” ref

“The Koryak, in common with other Siberian peoples, believe in another class of supernatural beings, known as owners or ‘masters’ (etin) of certain objects in which they are supposed to reside. Jochelson thinks that this conception among the Koryak is ‘not vet differentiated from a lower animistic view of nature’. He finds the idea more highly developed in the inua of the Eskimo, the pogil of the Yukaghir; and especially so among the Neo-Siberians, e. g. in the Yakut icci and the Buryat ecen or isin. That the conception of a spirit-owner residing in ‘every important natural object’ is not so clear and well defined among the Koryak as among the other tribes mentioned, Jochelson considers to be proved by the vague and incoherent replies he received in answer to questions about the nature of these ‘owners’.” ref

“The Koryak word for ‘master of the sea’ is anqakcn-etinvilan (anqa, sea). A Reindeer Korvak who had gone to the sea for summer fishing, and had offered a reindeer as a sacrifice to the sea, on being asked by Jochelson whether his offering was made to the sea or to the master of the sea, replied, ‘I don’t know. We say “sea” and “owner of the sea”; it’s just the same.’ Similarly Some of the Koryak say that the ‘owner’ of the sea is a woman, and others consider the sea itself as a woman. Certain hills, capes, and cliffs are called apupcl (apa, ‘father’ in Kamenskoye dialect, ‘grandfatlier’ in that of Paren). These are protectors of hunters and travellers, but it is doubtful whether the term is applied to the hill itself or to the spirit residing in it.” ref

“The sky is considered as a land inhabited by a stellar people. The sun (‘sometimes identified with The-Master-on-High’), the moon, and the stars are animated beings, and sacrificial offerings are made to the sun. ‘Sun-Man (Teikemtilan) has a wife and children, and his own country, which is inhabited by Sun people.’ Marriages are contracted between his children and those of Big-Raven. Mention is also made in the tales of a Moon-Man (or woman), and a Star-Man. The Koryak ‘guardians’ and ‘charms’ serve as protectors to individuals, families, or villages, whereas such greater supernatural beings as The-Master-on -High, Big-Raven, and the malevolent kalau are deities or spirits of the entire tribe-excepting those kalau that serve individual shamans. ‘Guardians’ form a class of objects that avert evil from men. Those about which Jochelson was able to obtain information include the sacred implements for fire-making, which comprise a fire-board (gicgic or gecgei), a bow (eyet), a wooden drill (maxem, ‘arrow’), and a headpiece of stone or bone (ceneyine).” ref

“The fire-board is of dry aspen wood, which ignites easily, and has holes in it for receiving the drill. It is shaped roughly to resemble a human being. The consecration of a new fire-board to the office of protector of the hearth and herd is accompanied with the sacrificing of a reindeer to The-Master-on-High, the anointing of the fire-board with the sacrificial blood and fat, and the pronouncing of an incantation over it. It would thus appear, Jochelson thinks, that the power to direct some vaguely conceived vital principle residing in a crude inanimate object to an activity beneficial to man lies in the incantation pronounced over it. thin upper end of the drill. ‘The headpiece is held by one person, the board by another, while the bow is turned by a third person,’ the drill rotating on its thick lower end in one of the holes of the fire-board. The charcoal dust produced by drilling is collected in a small leathern bag, for ‘it is considered a sin to scatter’ this dust.” ref

“Evil spirits are called kalau (sing. kala), corresponding to the Chukchee kelet. In the time of Big-Raven they were visible to men, but now they are usually invisible. In most of the myths which refer to them they are represented as living in communities like human beings. They are very numerous, and have the power of changing their size, so that sometimes they are very large and then again very small. Sometimes they seem to be ordinary cannibals and not supernatural beings at all. When the kalau are visible they appear sometimes in the form of animals, or as dogs with human heads, or as human beings with pointed beads. ‘Their arrows are supplied with mouths, and they can be shot without the use of a bow, and fly wherever they are sent.” ref

“Some of the kalau live underground and enter the houses of men through the fire on the hearth; others dwell on the earth, in the west. Although invisible, they can make their approach felt. ‘Thus, when Big-Raven’s children begin to ail, he says: “The kalau must be close by.” Kalau are divided into Maritime and Reindeer kalau. Some live in the forests, others in the tundra. Human beings are the spoils of their chase, as reindeer and seals are those of human hunters. The kalau of diseases form a special class, and the most prominent of these evil spirits have special names. We do not find among the Koryak a class of spirits well-disposed towards men, who will fight with the kalau. There is no generic name for good spirits. But the natural enemies of the kalau appear to be Big-Raven and his children.” ref

Deities of Siberia

The deer in Japan has a solar symbolism and significance as an ancient ancestral clan symbol, with attached ancestral shrine legends. These notes are meant for further investigation in possible genetic or cultural connections with northern sources of Siberian/North Asian legends as well as their Scythic nomadic material traditions. The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia will be of interest to all those who desire a deeper insight into the iconography of what is known as Scytho-Siberian art. During the second half of this century, much archeological fieldwork has been carried out in North and Central Asia and adjacent regions. As a result it has become evident that the Early Nomadic culture, which incorporated certain seminomadic elements, controlled the vast steppe and mountainous regions from China in the east, from Persia and Greece in the west, and from the edge of the Siberian Taiga in the north. This research has also traced the outlines of the ancient cultures of South Siberia in such areas as present-day Gorno-Altayskaya Autonomous Oblast’ (A.O.), Tukvinskaya A.O., Khakasskaya A.O. and the area around Lake Baikal. Archeological evidence for these cultures is found in thousands of rock carvings, rock paintings, stone mounds, and altars, as well as in the monumental stelae found within funerary or other ritual complexes from the Neolithic down to the Bronze Age, and further into the first millennium BCE.” ref

Anapel- Koryak/Siberian – Known as “Little Grandmother,” this goddess of the Koryak people of Siberia is Matron of Reincarnation. She presides over birth and reincarnation. It is said that when a child is born, the father ties a stone on a string and attaches it to a stick. Then, holding the stick horizontal to the ground, he recites all the names of his and his wife’s dead relatives. When Anapel makes the stone swing at one of the names, they know that the child is the reincarnation of that relative.” ref

“Ajysyt- The mother goddess of the Yakuts of Siberia, Ajysyt was seen to be present whenever one of her people gave birth, and she brought with her the soul of the child, so that a complete human being could be brought into existence. She was also seen to reside on a mountain with seven stories, where she wrote every new birth into a golden book, and controlled the fate of men. Ajysyt is said to have appeared to a white youth who, having encountered a clamlake of milk beside the cosmic tree, gave praise, and was then witness to the vision of the goddess from the roots of the tree. Ajysyt offered the youth milk from her breasts, and he drank, and found his strength increased a hundredfold.” ref

Among the Nenets people of Siberia, Nga was the god of death, as well as one of two demiurges, or supreme gods. According to one story, the world threatened to collapse on itself. To try to halt this cataclysm a shaman sought the advice of the other demiurge, Num. The shaman was advised to travel below the earth, to Nga’s domain and call upon him. The shaman did as told and was wed with Nga’s daughter. After that point he began to support the world in his hand and became known as “The Old Man of the Earth.” In another myth, Num and Nga create the world, collaborating and also competing with each other — the myth is an example of dualistic cosmology.” ref

“The most widespread account of the creation among the Finno-Ugric peoples is the earth-diver myth. In the north it is known in an area extending from eastern Finland to the Ob River, and in the south it is found, for example, among the Mordvins. This myth, which is well known in North America and Siberia, is fairly constant in form among the Finno-Ugric peoples. In the Mordvin variant, God sits on a rock in the middle of the primeval sea and spits into the water; the saliva begins to grow and God strikes it with a staff, whereupon the Devil comes out of it (sometimes in the form of a goose). God orders the Devil to dive into the sea for earth from the bottom; at the third attempt, he succeeds but tries to hide some of the earth in his mouth. While God scatters sand, the earth begins to grow and the Devil’s deceit is unmasked, and the earth found in his cheek becomes mountains and hills. The eastern Finnish myth contains an interesting detail: God stands on the top of a golden statue and orders his reflection on the water to rise, and this becomes the Devil.” ref

“Etiological (explanatory and expanding) continuations of the basic myth are common. The Devil demands for himself a piece of earth the size of the end of a stick, and from the hole that results vermin emerge—mice, fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and other such living things. Indo-Iranian influence has been seen in the dualism of the myth—setting God against the Devil—since religious dualism is most significant in Indo-Iranian religion. A water bird may be older than the Devil. It also occurs, however, without the dualistic emphasis. Thus, in an account by the Yenisey Khanty, the great shaman (a medicine man with psychic abilities) Doh glides above the primeval sea among the water birds, asks the red-throated loon to dive for earth from the bottom of the sea, and with the earth makes an island. A rarer, but apparently ancient, myth is found among the Mansi: the god of the skies lets earth come down from heaven and places it on the surface of the great primeval sea.” ref

“The world made from an egg is a myth best known in equatorial regions, though the most northerly points of its distribution are in Finland and Estonia. A water bird or an eagle makes its nest on the knee of Ilmatar, the virgin goddess of the air, who is floating in the water. It lays an egg, which rolls into the water, and pieces of it become the earth, the sky, the moon, and the stars. Myths concerning the creation of man are found in the north among the Mansi and in the south among the Volga Finns. The common element among all such myths is that man, on the brink of achieving perfection, had his hairy covering transferred to the dog by the Devil, whose spit blighted man and made him subject to disease and death. In Finland the variant of yet another anthropogonic (origin of man) myth has been found: a hummock rises from the sea, a tree stump thereon splits open, and the first human couple steps forth.” ref

“Finno-Ugric cosmographic (world-describing) concepts include the following well-known mythological themes: a stream or sea encircling the round world; a canopy of the heavens, the central point of which is the North Star (a kind of nail on which the sky rotates); a world pole supporting the sky; a world mountain and a world tree rising in the middle of the earth; animals carrying the earth; and the nub of the earth and the nub of the sea (an abyss that swallows ships). From these and from other materials, more or less coherent cosmographies have been formed in different places; the central components are the sky, the earth, and the underworld. Among the Ob Ugrians and the Nenets is found a myth of the seven- or nine-storied heaven.” ref

“The cosmogonic (concerning the origin of the world) and cosmographic myths have had important ritual functions and have provided the basis for cosmology (the ordering of the world). When, in incantations and prayers, numerous natural, cultural, and social phenomena derive from these basic myths, it is not a matter of giving an explanation but of finding the connection with the decisive primeval events that gave the world its lasting order. A pillar representing the world pole has been worshipped by the Sami and the Ob Ugrians, especially as a symbol of the world order.” ref

God Poles

“God poles, simple wooden representations of deities, were common among Germanic, Slavic, and Norse people, serving as focal points of reverence among people whose relationship with their Gods was shaped by the land and water around them.” ref

Ainu home and Japanese traditional homes to this day still have a symbolic “spiritual pillar” or “supporting pole”, as well as an origin myth that echoes the Churning of the Milk and central pole myth. The origin myth of Amaterasu-o-mi-kami has her parents, Izanagi and Izanami, who are the progenitors of all the gods, standing on the “bridge of heaven” (a rainbow) and stirring the ocean with a long pole. The places where they stirred the bottom up became the 8 main islands of Japan. If you remember the opening ceremonies for the Nagano Olympics, you will remember that the world was shown the ancient art of raising a large pole using ropes. Such a pole could be used in building a large structure. When Izanagi and Isanami were married, they walked around the main pole.” ref

“As the story goes, Izanami, the female, was too anxious for the union and she walked around and met Izanagi first. This was considered inappropriate, and they had to do it over again. The gaikokubashira or main pole of a house, is a term used to describe someone who quietly supports the people around them. In a traditional Japanese house, there is a raised platform half-way across the back of the parlor, the zashiki or receiving room. This platform is about 8 inches high and usually there are sliding doors and a storage area over it under the ceiling. This is the place of honor in a home where you hang a scroll to match the season and put a flower arrangement and maybe a special ornament. This tokonoma has a decorative pole to the right of it that is made of special wood, highly polished and given respect. There are many grades of wood used for this supporting pole and the trees used are specially grown for this purpose.” ref

“The name Gadjeri (Gadjari, Kadjeri) is known over a wide area of northern Australia. It means “old woman,” implying status and not necessarily age. Gadjeri is also the “sacred mother,” or “mother of us all,” and the theme of birth, death, and rebirth is pervasive throughout all of the myths concerning her. She symbolizes the productive qualities of the earthof all natural resources, including human beings. But it is people, and not natural species, who came from her uterus in the creative era of the Dreaming. Among a number of language groups from the Roper River westward, she is called Kunapipi (or Gunabibi), which means “uterus,” “penis incision” (and, by extension, “vagina”), and “emergence” (referring to rebirth). In that same area she is also called Mumuna or Mumunga, a bull-roarer that, when swung, is her voice. In the northwest, on the Daly River and at Port Keats, as in the central-west part of the Northern Territory, she is also a bull-roarer named Kalwadi, although the term Gadjeri is more generally used; at Port Keats her local name is Mutjingga (“old woman”).” ref

“In the southeastern Kimberley and southward into the Western Desert, she is known as Ganabuda. Mostly the Mother is a single mythic being, but in some cultural areas she may be identified with two females of equivalent characteristics, while the term Ganabuda may refer to a mythic group of women. Gadjeri is often associated with two or more of her daughters, the Munga-munga, or Manga-manga, who play an important role in the mythic constellations of men and women in both secret-sacred and open-sacred ritual activities. The Munga-munga are sometimes referred to as the Kaleri-kalering, a name also used for a group of mythic men. The Mother’s husband is Lightning or Rainbow Snake.” ref

“Baldwin Spencer (1914, pp. 162, 164, 213218) first mentioned the term Kunapipi as the name of a bull-roarer used by people living in the areas of the Katherine and Roper rivers. The myth he recorded relates to a “big man” named Kunapipi who carries about with him woven bags containing spirit children. At one place he removes male children and places them on grass in an enclosed area surrounded by a raised mound. After decorating them as circumcision novices, he divides the children into two groups (moieties) and into subsection categories and gives them “totemic” affiliationsinstituting present-day social organization. He also carries out circumcision and subincision rituals that attract visitors from outlying areas. When the rituals are over he kills and eats some of the visitors, then vomits their bonesnot whole bodies, as he had expected. Two men who escape from him go in search of their relatives, and together they all return to kill Kunapipi. When they cut open his belly, they find two of his “own children,” who are recovered alive. Spencer recounts an additional myth relating to a woman whose Dreaming is Kunapipi and who possesses a Kunapipi bull-roarer: She too is responsible for leaving spirit children at particular places. Together with a number of other women of the same mythic affiliation, she performs rituals. These are observed by a mythic man who sees that the women have a bull-roarer and takes it from them. As a result, the women lose their power to carry out this form of secret-sacred ritual.” ref

“Actually, Spencer seems not to have been referring to Kunapipi as a male at all, but as a female. In the Alawa language group, Gadjeri is said to have emerged from the sea to rest on a sandbank at the mouth of the Roper River (Berndt, 1951, p. 188) and then to have proceeded upstream. In one Mara version, Gadjeri, as Mumuna, eats men who were enticed to her camp by her daughters, the Munga-munga. She swallows them whole but vomits their bones; she had expected them to emerge whole and to be revived. This happens on a number of occasions with different men, each time without success. Eventually, she is killed by relatives of the men she has eaten (Berndt, 1951, pp. 148152). A crucial point here is the one made by the Aborigines who told this myth: “They didn’t come out like we do, they came out half and half.” That is, in Kunapipi ritual men enter the sacred ground, which is the Mother’s uterus, and leave it reborn. The myth here emphasizes not cannibalism but the dangerous nature of this ritual experience.” ref

“When the Kunapipi cycle entered eastern Arnhem Land, it was adapted to local mythology (see Warner, 1958, pp. 290311; Berndt, 1951, pp. 1832ff.). In western Arnhem Land, two mythic Nagugur men, smeared with blood and grease, are credited with bringing the Kunapipi ritual complex. As they travel about the country they carry with them a Rainbow Snake (Ngalyod, in female form) wrapped in paper bark. In the rituals carried out in this area, a trench (ganala ) symbolizes the Mother’s uterus and is identified with Ngalyod; snake designs are incised on its inner walls (Berndt and Berndt, 1970, pp. 122123, 138142).” ref

“W. E. H. Stanner (1960, pp. 249, 260266) gives a Murinbata (Port Keats) version of the Old Woman, or Mutjingga, myth. She swallows children whose mothers have left them for her to look after. Once the mothers return, they find the children missing and search without success; two men, Left Hand and Right Hand, eventually find Mutjingga hidden under the water. When she emerges, they kill her, open her belly, and remove the children, still alive, from her womb. They clean them, rub them with red ocher, and give them headbands, which signify that an initiation ritual has taken place. Although the myth differs from the Mara account in content, it is symbolically the same. Stanner, however, interpreted it as pointing to a “wrongful turning of life”; to him, the killing of Mutjingga was a kind of “immemorial misdirection” which applied to human affairs, and living men were committed to its consequences (see Berndt and Berndt, 1970, pp. 229, 233234). Evidence from other cultures does not support the contention that “a primordial tragedy” took place in the myth. On the contrary, its format is consistent with that of other Kunapipi versions: It concerns the symbolism of ritual death and rebirth. Mutjingga is also linked in myth, but not in ritual, with Kunmanggur (Rainbow Snake), whom Stanner (1961, pp. 240258) regarded as “the Father,” complementing Mutjingga as “the Mother.” In Port Keats, Kunmanggur dies in order to ensure that fire is available to human beings.” ref

This pervasive theme of birth, death, and rebirth receives constant emphasis in the central-western Northern Territory Gadjeri. In drawings, for instance, the Mother is depicted with men and women “flowing from” her into a “ring place” (the sacred ground). She may also be shown as a composite structure of poles and bushes, decorated with meandering designs of feather down and ocher and wearing a pearl-shell pubic covering suspended from a hair waistband (see Berndt and Berndt, 1946, pp. 7173). Furthermore, unlike many other deities or mythic beings, she does not change shape: She is not manifested directly through a natural species. Human birth is transferred to the nonhuman dimension through divine intervention, made possible through human ritual; that is, human ritual releases the Mother’s power to make species-renewal possible. The central-western Gadjeri complex is quite close to the mainstream Kunapipi cultic perspective of the Roper River, except that the Mother’s death is mentioned only obliquely in the central-western interpretation. For example, in regard to subincision, which is an integral part of her ritual, it is said that the blood which results from the regular opening of the penis incision is symbolic of that shed by the Mother when she was killed. But blood is also life-giving, and through this the Mother lives on spiritually and physically in her daughters, the Munga-munga.” ref

Heaven at the North Pole is Described in Many Cultures

Vedas have described that Gods reside at north direction and one day for them is equivalent to one year for humans.
This was based on idea that north pole has six months of sunlight and six months of darkness, which makes it day and night for one year. Varaha Mihir, one the most famous Indian astronomer (around 6th century CE), identified North Pole as the location of Meru in his celebrated work Panch-siddhāntikāMore than half a dozen World Mythologies locate their sacred lands at the North Pole.” ref

  • “Japanese and Chinese Mythologies describe the Palaces of their Gods directly below the Pole Star and at the same time in the middle of the Earth (just like Meru). They talk of Meru as SHUMISEN and believe it connects the three realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell.
  • Norse myths place their ‘Land of Immortality‘ at the North Pole and their legends talk about a World Tree called YGGDRASIL that connects Heaven, Earth and Hell just like Meru.
  • Greeks believed in a fabled perfect land which they called HYPERBOREA (above the North-wind), where the sun shines twenty-four hours a day, indicating a location within the Arctic Circle.
  • Lettish tales describe many dawns in their Heaven, a phenomenon observed only at the Poles.
  • Celtic Mythology talks of a Heaven with more than 6 months of continuous winter again suggesting a polar location.” ref

“Zoroastrian Avesta revered by the Persians (Parsis), mentions the Aryanam Vaijah the ancient land of Aryans as the Best-of-all-places and situated up in the North, above the other six world zones. At the beginning of the current age, the god Ahura Mazda warned of an impending fierce winter (Ice Age?!?) and advised its denizens to migrate to other locations. Surya Siddantha mentions a Meru in the middle of Earth, a Sumeru at the North Pole and a Kumeru at the South pole. Which means that the structure called Meru stretches from pole to pole and Hell exists at South Pole, just like Heaven at North Pole. Meru does not refer to a mountain at all but instead is an allegory for the Earth’s Axis of Rotation.” ref

“Ancient scriptures describe Meru as the Central Pivot of the Universe, sort of like an Axis mundi, and claim that the ENTIRE COSMOS revolves around it, with the Sun, Moon, and Stars paying obeisance while circum-ambulating the Holy Mountain. Interestingly there is a Mount Meru in Tanzania, which roughly corresponds to the geographic Center of the Earth. The Mountain is even worshipped by the local tribes as an abode of Gods. In the neighboring country Kenya, we also find a town with the same name. Another ancient Sanskrit text, the Narpatijayacharya mentions Sumeru as being present in the middle of the Earth, but not visible to humans.” ref

The North Pole and the Pole Star

“Standing at the North Pole, all directions face south. This view of looking down from the North Pole over the whole world was first imagined in the Renaissance. The North Pole played an important role for astronomers and philosophers long before globes were popularised, however. For thousands of years, humans have noticed that the stars in the sky seem to rotate around a seemingly unmoving point, with a nearby ‘pole star’. Ancient Greeks, medieval Arabs, and Renaissance astronomers celebrated it as the central axis of the universe, with all of the heavens rotating around this point. The pole star, currently Polaris, lies in nearly direct line with the Earth’s axis of rotation, ‘above’ the North Pole. The pole star’s seemingly fixed place high in the sky became associated with flight and the Greek god Apollo, an emblem for generations of imperial rulers, from Alexander the Great to the Hapsburg emperor Charles V, Bravo writes. “It was an important symbol of both their worldly power and its heavenly authority,” he says.” ref

“The high Arctic region was home to the Inuit, traditionally a society of extended family groups who could move quickly in order to stay with the animals they depended on. Unlike Peary and other polar explorers and philosophers, the Inuit place far less importance on the Pole Star, or indeed the entire concept of ‘north’. At very high latitudes, Nuutuittuq, as it is called by the Inuit, is so high in the sky that it is not helpful as a bearing. Instead, traditional Inuit societies relied more on stars or groups of stars low to the horizon to orient themselves as they criss-crossed a vast network of trails over the tundra and sea ice. The knowledge to navigate these trails was encoded in narrative stories, passed down from one generation to the next, sometimes in the form of myths or legends. The movements of the stars and constellations also had myths or legends to explain their movement, as part of the Inuit navigation tradition. The Inuit people live on the coasts of three oceans – Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific – spanning almost 25 degrees of latitude, from the Labrador coast up to Northwest Greenland and the Canadian Arctic archipelago. However, for all of the differences in landscape, dialect and vocabulary, their world is held together through these stories containing a complex knowledge of place.” ref

“A pole star or polar star is a star, preferably bright, nearly aligned with the axis of a rotating astronomical body. Currently, Earth’s pole stars are Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris), a bright magnitude 2 star aligned approximately with its northern axis that serves as a pre-eminent star in celestial navigation, and a much dimmer magnitude 5.5 star on its southern axis, Polaris Australis (Sigma Octantis). From around 1700 BCE until just after 300 CE, Kochab (Beta Ursae Minoris) and Pherkad (Gamma Ursae Minoris) were twin northern pole stars, though neither was as close to the pole as Polaris is now. In classical antiquityBeta Ursae Minoris (Kochab) was closer to the celestial north pole than Alpha Ursae Minoris. While there was no naked-eye star close to the pole, the midpoint between Alpha and Beta Ursae Minoris was reasonably close to the pole, and it appears that the entire constellation of Ursa Minor, in antiquity known as Cynosura (Greek Κυνόσουρα “dog’s tail”) was used as indicating the northern direction for the purposes of navigation by the Phoenicians.” ref

“The ancient name of Ursa Minor, anglicized as cynosure, has since itself become a term for “guiding principle” after the constellation’s use in navigation. Alpha Ursae Minoris (Polaris) was described as ἀειφανής (transliterated as aeiphanes) meaning “always above the horizon”, “ever-shining” by Stobaeus in the 5th century, when it was still removed from the celestial pole by about 8°. It was known as scip-steorra (“ship-star”) in 10th-century Anglo-Saxon England, reflecting its use in navigation. In the Vishnu Purana, it is personified under the name Dhruva (“immovable, fixed”). The name stella polaris was coined in the Renaissance, even though at that time it was well recognized that it was several degrees away from the celestial pole; Gemma Frisius in the year 1547 determined this distance as 3°8′. An explicit identification of Mary as stella maris with the North Star (Polaris) becomes evident in the title Cynosura seu Mariana Stella Polaris (i.e. “Cynosure, or the Marian Polar Star”), a collection of Marian poetry published by Nicolaus Lucensis (Niccolo Barsotti de Lucca) in 1655.ref

Polaris is a star in the northern circumpolar constellation of Ursa Minor. It is designated α Ursae Minoris (Latinized to Alpha Ursae Minoris) and is commonly called the North Star or Pole Star. With an apparent magnitude that fluctuates around 1.98, it is the brightest star in the constellation and is readily visible to the naked eye at night. The position of the star lies less than  away from the north celestial pole, making it the current northern pole star. The stable position of the star in the Northern Sky makes it useful for navigation. Although appearing to the naked eye as a single point of light, Polaris is a triple star system, composed of the primary, a yellow supergiant designated Polaris Aa, in orbit with a smaller companion, Polaris Ab; the pair is in a wider orbit with Polaris B. Because Polaris lies nearly in a direct line with the Earth’s rotational axis “above” the North Pole—the north celestial pole—Polaris stands almost motionless in the sky, and all the stars of the northern sky appear to rotate around it. Therefore, it makes an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation and for astrometry. The elevation of the star above the horizon gives the approximate latitude of the observer.” ref

“The celestial pole was close to Thuban around 2750 BCE, and during classical antiquity it was slightly closer to Kochab (β UMi) than to Polaris, although still about 10° from either star.  Thuban with Bayer designation Alpha Draconis or α Draconis, is a binary star system in the northern constellation of Draco. A relatively inconspicuous star in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, it is historically significant as having been the north pole star from the 4th to 2nd millennium BCE. In the ancient Finnish worldview, the North Star has also been called taivaannapa and naulatähti (“the nailstar”) because it seems to be attached to the firmament or even to act as a fastener for the sky when other stars orbit it. Since the starry sky seemed to rotate around it, the firmament is thought of as a wheel, with the star as the pivot on its axis. The names derived from it were sky pin and world pin.” ref, ref

“It was about the same angular distance from β UMi as to α UMi by the end of late antiquity. The Greek navigator Pytheas in ca. 320 BCE described the celestial pole as devoid of stars. However, as one of the brighter stars close to the celestial pole, Polaris was used for navigation at least from late antiquity, and described as ἀεί φανής (aei phanēs) “always visible” by Stobaeus (5th century), also termed Λύχνος (Lychnos) akin to a burner or lamp and would reasonably be described as stella polaris from about the High Middle Ages and onwards, both in Greek and Latin. On his first trans-Atlantic voyage in 1492, Christopher Columbus had to correct for the “circle described by the pole star about the pole.” ref

Astronomers usually call the Little Bear constellation Ursa Minor (Latin for ‘little bear’). In North America, the shape is called the Little Dipper. By far the most important and famous star in Ursa Minor is the North or Pole Star, known as Polaris. This is the star at the very end of the bear’s long tail. The reason Polaris is so important is that it is almost directly above the North Pole. This means you can use it like a compass to find north. Also, the angle of the star above the horizon gives you your latitude (north-south position on the Earth’s surface). For years, sailors relied on the Pole Star for navigating at sea, with the help of instruments like quadrants and astrolabes.” ref

“The ancient Greeks realized that Polaris did not mark the pole exactly. We now know that the earth’s axis moves slowly backwards and forwards over thousands of years, so the star nearest the pole changes over time. About 5000 years ago, a star called Thuban was the Pole Star. In about 5000 years’ time, a star called Alderamin in the constellation Cepheus will be nearest the pole. Eventually, in about 28,000 years, Polaris will be the Pole Star once again – for a time. There are many different legends about the Pole Star in different cultures. In Arabic mythology, it is an evil star that killed the great warrior of the sky. The dead warrior now lies in the coffin of the ‘Funeral Bier’ constellation – the Arabic name for the Great Bear. In Norse mythology, the Pole Star is the jewel on the end of the spike that the gods stuck through the universe and around which the sky revolves. To the Moguls (Mongolian empire) it was the peg holding the world together.” ref

Polestar Deity Kui Xing

The Pole Star, a popular religious figure associated with the Lord of Literature (Wen Chang Dijun), was the tutelary spirit presiding over the civil-service examinations. Depicted as a demonic figure (the name of the star is a homophone for the word for “eminent,” which is composed of the ideograph for “demon” and the ideograph for “dipper”), the Pole Star had a cult that became particularly important in Ming times, when the number of examination candidates competing for the limited number of available official appointments made divine help all the more welcome. This dynamic figure shows the god in the act of adding the final dot to the Big Dipper constellation over which he presides. The deity, his robes swept backward by a cosmic wind, balanced on one foot (now missing) while holding aloft a brush (also missing). In his left hand, he grasps an ingot of gold or silver, symbolic of the emoluments forth-coming from examination success.” ref

God of Heaven and the Celestial Pole

“Chinese traditional theology, which comes in different interpretations according to the classic texts, and specifically Confucian, Taoist, and other philosophical formulations, is fundamentally monistic, that is to say, it sees the world and the gods who produce it as an organic whole, or cosmos. The universal principle that gives origin to the world is conceived as transcendent and immanent to creation, at the same time. The Chinese idea of the universal God is expressed in different ways. There are many names of God from the different sources of Chinese tradition. The radical Chinese terms for the universal God are Tiān  and Shàngdì 上帝 (the “Highest Deity”) or simply,   (“Deity”). There is also the concept of Tàidì 太帝 (the “Great Deity”).  is a title expressing dominance over the all-under-Heaven, that is, all things generated by Heaven and ordered by its cycles and by the stars.” ref

“Tiān is usually translated as “Heaven”, but by graphical etymology, it means “Great One” and a number of scholars relate it to the same  through phonetic etymology and trace their common root, through their archaic forms, respectively *Teeŋ and *Tees, to the symbols of the squared north celestial pole godhead (Dīng). These names are combined in different ways in Chinese theological literature, often interchanged in the same paragraph, if not in the same sentence. Besides Shangdi and Taidi, other names include Yudi (“Jade Deity”) and Taiyi (“Great Oneness”) who, in mythical imagery, holds the ladle of the Big Dipper (Great Chariot), providing the movement of life to the world. As the hub of the skies, the north celestial pole constellations are known, among various names, as Tiānmén 天門 (“Gate of Heaven”) and Tiānshū 天樞 (“Pivot of Heaven”).” ref

“Other names of the God of Heaven are attested in the vast Chinese religio-philosophical literary tradition:

  • Tiāndì 天帝—the “Deity of Heaven” or “Emperor of Heaven”: “On Rectification” (Zheng lun) of the Xunzi uses this term to refer to the active God of Heaven setting in motion creation;
  • Tiānzhǔ 天主—the “Lord of Heaven”: In “The Document of Offering Sacrifices to Heaven and Earth on the Mountain Tai” (Fengshan shu) of the Records of the Grand Historian, it is used as the title of the first God from whom all the other gods derive.
  • Tiānhuáng 天皇—the “August Personage of Heaven”: In the “Poem of Fathoming Profundity” (Si’xuan fu), transcribed in “The History of the Later Han Dynasty” (Hou Han shu), Zhang Heng ornately writes: «I ask the superintendent of the Heavenly Gate to open the door and let me visit the King of Heaven at the Jade Palace»;
  • Tiānwáng 天王—the “King of Heaven” or “Monarch of Heaven”.
  • Tiāngōng 天公—the “Duke of Heaven” or “General of Heaven”;
  • Tiānjūn 天君—the “Prince of Heaven” or “Lord of Heaven”;
  • Tiānzūn 天尊—the “Heavenly Venerable”, also a title for high gods in Taoist theologies;
  • Tiānshén 天神—the “God of Heaven”, interpreted in the Shuowen Jiezi as “the being that gives birth to all things”;
  • Shénhuáng 神皇—”God the August”, attested in Taihong (“The Origin of Vital Breath”);
  • Lǎotiānyé (老天爺)—the “Olden Heavenly Father.” ref

“Tian is both transcendent and immanent, manifesting in the three forms of dominance, destiny, and nature of things. All these designations reflect a hierarchical, multiperspective experience of divinity. In the Wujing yiyi (五經異義, “Different Meanings in the Five Classics“), Xu Shen explains that the designation of Heaven is quintuple:

  • Huáng Tiān 皇天 —”August Heaven” or “Imperial Heaven”, when it is venerated as the lord of creation;
  • Hào Tiān 昊天—”Vast Heaven”, with regard to the vastness of its vital breath (qi);
  • Mín Tiān 旻天—”Compassionate Heaven”, for it hears and corresponds with justice to the all-under-Heaven;
  • Shàng Tiān 上天—”Highest Heaven” or “First Heaven”, for it is the primordial being supervising all-under-Heaven;
  • Cāng Tiān 蒼天—”Deep-Green Heaven”, for it being unfathomably deep.” ref

Atlas: god that holds up the earth (similar to poles/trees seen in other myths holding up the earth?)

“The archaic iconographic representations of Atlas show him either supporting the sky from the inside, i.e., from between the earth and the sky, or holding the celestial globe from the outside. While the Homeric Atlas fits the former representation, the Hesiodic Atlas seems to fit the latter better. This latter representation is similar to the one present in the Hindu traditions and, therefore, must be older, contrary to the usual assumption that it first emerged in Hellenistic times.” ref

In Greek mythology, Atlas is a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens or sky for eternity after the Titanomachy. Atlas also plays a role in the myths of two of the greatest Greek heroes: Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology) and Perseus. According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, Atlas stood at the ends of the earth in extreme west. Later, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa and was said to be the first King of Mauretania (modern-day Morocco and west Algeria, not to be confused with the modern-day country of Mauritania). Atlas was said to have been skilled in philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. In antiquity, he was credited with inventing the first celestial sphere. In some texts, he is even credited with the invention of astronomy itself.” ref

“Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Asia or Clymene. He was a brother of Epimetheus and Prometheus. He had many children, mostly daughters, the Hesperides, the Hyades, the Pleiades, and the nymph Calypso who lived on the island Ogygia. Traditionally historical linguists etymologize the Ancient Greek word Ἄτλας (genitive: Ἄτλαντος) as comprised from copulative α- and the Proto-Indo-European root *telh₂- ‘to uphold, support’ (whence also τλῆναι), and which was later reshaped to an nt-stem. However, Robert S. P. Beekes argues that it cannot be expected that this ancient Titan carries an Indo-European name, and he suggests instead that the word is of Pre-Greek origin, as such words often end in -ant.” ref

Axis Mundi

“In astronomy, axis mundi is the Latin term for the axis of Earth between the celestial poles. In a geocentric coordinate system, this is the axis of rotation of the celestial sphere. Consequently, in ancient Greco-Roman astronomy, the axis mundi is the axis of rotation of the planetary spheres within the classical geocentric model of the cosmos. In 20th-century comparative mythology, the term axis mundi – also called the cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, center of the world, or world tree – has been greatly extended to refer to any mythological concept representing “the connection between Heaven and Earth” or the “higher and lower realms”. Mircea Eliade introduced the concept in the 1950s. Axis mundi closely relates to the mythological concept of the omphalos (navel) of the world or cosmos.” ref

“Items adduced as examples of the axis mundi by comparative mythologists include plants (notably a tree but also other types of plants such as a vine or stalk), a mountain, a column of smoke or fire, or a product of human manufacture (such as a staff, a tower, a ladder, a staircase, a maypole, a cross, a steeple, a rope, a totem pole, a pillar, a spire). Its proximity to heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious (pagoda, temple mount, minaret, church) or secular (obelisk, lighthouse, rocket, skyscraper). The image appears in religious and secular contexts. The axis mundi symbol may be found in cultures utilizing shamanic practices or animist belief systems, in major world religions, and in technologically advanced “urban centers”. In Mircea Eliade‘s opinion: “Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Center; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.” ref

There are multiple interpretations about the origin of the concept of the axis mundi. One psychological and sociological interpretation suggests that the symbol originates in a natural and universal psychological perception – i.e., that the particular spot that one occupies stands at “the center of the world”. From the center, one may still venture in any of the four cardinal directions, make discoveries, and establish new centers as new realms become known and settled. The name of China — meaning “Middle Nation” (中国 pinyinZhōngguó) – is often interpreted as an expression of an ancient perception that the Chinese polity (or group of polities) occupied the center of the world, with other lands lying in various directions relative to it. A second interpretation suggests that ancient symbols such as the axis mundi lie in a particular philosophical or metaphysical representation of a common and culturally shared philosophical concept, which is that of a natural reflection of the macrocosm (or existence at grand scale) in the microcosm (which consists of either an individual, community, or local environment that shares the same principles and structures as the macrocosm).” ref

“In this metaphysical representation of the universe, mankind is placed into an existence that serves as a microcosm of the universe or the entire cosmic existence, and who – in order to achieve higher states of existence or liberation into the macrocosm – must gain necessary insights into universal principles that can be represented by his life or environment in the microcosm. In many religious and philosophical traditions around the world, mankind is seen as a sort of bridge between either: two worlds, the earthly and the heavenly (as in Hindu, and Taoist philosophical and theological systems); or three worlds, namely the earthly, heavenly, and the “sub-earthly” or “infra-earthly” (e.g., the underworld, as in the Ancient Greek, Incan, Mayan, and Ancient Egyptian religious systems). Spanning these philosophical systems is the belief that man traverses a sort of axis, or path, which can lead from man’s current central position in the intermediate realms into heavenly or sub-earthly realms. Thus, in this view, symbolic representations of a vertical axis represent a path of “ascent” or “descent” into other spiritual or material realms, and often capture a philosophy that considers human life to be a quest in which one develops insights or perfections in order to move beyond this current microcosmic realm and to engage with the grand macrocosmic order.” ref

“In other interpretations, an axis mundi is more broadly defined as a place of connection between the heavenly and the earthly realms – often a mountain or other elevated site. Tall mountains are often regarded as sacred and some have shrines erected at the summit or base. Mount Kunlun fills a similar role in China. Mount Kailash is holy to Hinduism and several religions in Tibet. The Pitjantjatjara people in central Australia consider Uluru to be central to both their world and culture. The Teide volcano was for the Canarian aborigines (Guanches) a kind of axis mundi. In ancient Mesopotamia, the cultures of ancient Sumer and Babylon built tall platforms, or ziggurats, to elevate temples on the flat river plain. Hindu temples in India are often situated on high mountains – e.g., Amarnath, Tirupati, Vaishno Devi, etc. The pre-Columbian residents of Teotihuacán in Mexico erected huge pyramids, featuring staircases leading to heaven. These Amerindian temples were often placed on top of caves or subterranean springs, which were thought to be openings to the underworld. Jacob’s Ladder is an axis mundi image, as is the Temple Mount. For Christians, the Cross on Mount Calvary expresses this symbol. The Middle Kingdom, China, had a central mountain, Kunlun, known in Taoist literature as “the mountain at the middle of the world”. To “go into the mountains” meant to dedicate oneself to a spiritual life.” ref

“As the abstract concept of axis mundi is present in many cultural traditions and religious beliefs, it can be thought to exist in any number of locales at once. Mount Hermon was regarded as the axis mundi in Canaanite tradition, from where the sons of God are introduced descending in 1 Enoch 6:6. The ancient Armenians had a number of holy sites, the most important of which was Mount Ararat, which was thought to be the home of the gods as well as the center of the universe. Likewise, the ancient Greeks regarded several sites as places of Earth’s omphalos (navel) stone, notably the oracle at Delphi, while still maintaining a belief in a cosmic world tree and in Mount Olympus as the abode of the gods. Judaism has the Temple Mount; Christianity has the Mount of Olives and Calvary; and Islam has the Ka’aba (said to be the first building on Earth), as well as the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock). In Hinduism, Mount Kailash is identified with the mythical Mount Meru and regarded as the home of Shiva; in Vajrayana Buddhism, Mount Kailash is recognized as the most sacred place where all the dragon currents converge and is regarded as the gateway to Shambhala. In Shinto, the Ise Shrine is the omphalos.” ref

“Sacred places can constitute world centers (omphaloi), with an altar or place of prayer as the axis. Altars, incense sticks, candles, and torches form the axis by sending a column of smoke, and prayer, toward heaven. It has been suggested by Romanian religious historian Mircea Eliade that architecture of sacred places often reflects this role: “Every temple or palace – and by extension, every sacred city or royal residence – is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a Centre.” Pagoda structures in Asian temples take the form of a stairway linking earth and heaven. A steeple in a church or a minaret in a mosque also serve as connections of earth and heaven. Structures such as the maypole, derived from the Saxons Irminsul, and the totem pole among indigenous peoples of the Americas also represent world axes. The calumet, or sacred pipe, represents a column of smoke (the soul) rising from a world center. A mandala creates a world center within the boundaries of its two-dimensional space analogous to that created in three-dimensional space by a shrine. In the classical elements and the Vedic Pancha Bhoota, the axis mundi corresponds to Aether, the quintessence.” ref

“Plants often serve as images of the axis mundi. The image of the Cosmic Tree provides an axis symbol that unites three planes: sky (branches), earth (trunk), and underworld (roots). In some Pacific Island cultures, the banyan tree – of which the Bodhi tree is of the Sacred Fig variety – is the abode of ancestor spirits. In Hindu religion, the banyan tree is considered sacred and is called ashwath vriksha (“Of all trees I am the banyan tree” – Bhagavad Gita). It represents eternal life because of its seemingly ever-expanding branches. The Bodhi tree is also the name given to the tree under which Gautama Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, sat on the night he attained enlightenment. The Mesoamerican world tree connects the planes of the underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial realm. The Yggdrasil, or World Ash, functions in much the same way in Norse mythology; it is the site where Odin found enlightenment. Other examples include Jievaras in Lithuanian mythology and Thor’s Oak in the myths of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis present two aspects of the same image. Each is said to stand at the center of the paradise garden from which four rivers flow to nourish the whole world. Each tree confers a boon. Bamboo, the plant from which Asian calligraphy pens are made, represents knowledge and is regularly found on Asian college campuses. The Christmas tree, which can be traced in its origins back to pre-Christian European beliefs, represents an axis mundi.” ref

“The human body can express the symbol of the world axis. Some of the more abstract Tree of Life representations, such as the sefirot in Kabbalism and the chakra system recognized by Hinduism and Buddhism, merge with the concept of the human body as a pillar between heaven and earth. Disciplines such as yoga and tai chi begin from the premise of the human body as axis mundi. The Buddha represents a world center in human form.[26] Large statues of a meditating figure unite the human form with the symbolism of the temple and tower. Astrology in all its forms assumes a connection between human health and affairs and celestial-body orientation. World religions regard the body itself as a temple and prayer as a column uniting earth and heaven. The ancient Colossus of Rhodes combined the role of the human figure with those of portal and skyscraper. The Renaissance image known as the Vitruvian Man represented a symbolic and mathematical exploration of the human form as world axis.” ref

“Secular structures can also function as axes mundi. In Navajo culture, the hogan acts as a symbolic cosmic center. In some Asian cultures, houses were traditionally laid out in the form of a square oriented toward the four compass directions. A traditional home was oriented toward the sky through feng shui, a system of geomancy, just as a palace would be. Traditional Arab houses are also laid out as a square surrounding a central fountain that evokes a primordial garden paradise. Mircea Eliade noted that “the symbolism of the pillar in [European] peasant houses likewise derives from the ‘symbolic field’ of the axis mundi. In many archaic dwellings the central pillar does in fact serve as a means of communication with the heavens, with the sky.” The nomadic peoples of Mongolia and the Americas more often lived in circular structures. The central pole of the tent still operated as an axis, but a fixed reference to the four compass points was avoided.” ref

“A common shamanic concept, and a universally told story, is that of the healer traversing the axis mundi to bring back knowledge from the other world. It may be seen in the stories from Odin and the World Ash Tree to the Garden of Eden and Jacob’s Ladder to Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. It is the essence of the journey described in The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The epic poem relates its hero’s descent and ascent through a series of spiral structures that take him through the core of the earth, from the depths of hell to celestial paradise. It is also a central tenet in the Southeastern Ceremonial ComplexAnyone or anything suspended on the axis between heaven and earth becomes a repository of potential knowledge. A special status accrues to the thing suspended: a serpent, a rod, a fruit, mistletoe. Derivations of this idea find form in the Rod of Asclepius, an emblem of the medical profession, and in the caduceus, an emblem of correspondence and commercial professions. The staff in these emblems represents the axis mundi, while the serpents act as guardians of, or guides to, knowledge.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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The Center of the World “Axis Mundi” and/or “Sacred Mountains” Mythology Could Relate to the Altai Mountains, Heart of the Steppe

“Golden Mountains of Altai is the name of the Altai and Katun Natural Reserves, Lake Teletskoye, Belukha Mountain, and the Ukok Plateau. The region represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones in central Siberia, from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, subalpine vegetation to alpine vegetation”. The Altai region is made up of four primary sites and landscapes: Mount Belukha, the Ukok Plateau, the Katun River, and the Karakol Valley. Mount Beluka is regarded as a sacred site to Buddhists and the Burkhanist. Their myths surrounding this portion of the mountain range lent credence to their claim that it was the location of Shangri-la (Shambala). The Ukok Plateau is an ancient burial site of the early Siberian people. Moreover, a number of myths are connected to this portion of the Golden Mountains. For example, the plateau was thought to have been the Elysian fields. The Katun River is an important religious location to the Altaians where they (during celebrations) utilize ancient ecological knowledge to restore and maintain the river. The Karakol Valley is home of three indigenous villages where tourism is greatly managed. While the Golden Mountains of Altai are listed on the World Heritage List under natural criteria, it holds information about the nomadic Scythian culture. The permafrost in these mountains has preserved Scythian burial mounds. These frozen tombs, or kurgans, hold metal objects, pieces of gold, mummified bodies, tattooed bodies, sacrificed horses, wood/leather objects, clothes, textiles, etc. However, the Ukok Plateau (in the Altai Mountains) is a sacred site to the Altai people, so archeologists and scholars who are looking to excavate the site for human remains raise controversy.” ref

Altai Mountains

“The Altai Mountains (also spelled Altay Mountains), are a mountain range in Central and East Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together, and where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their headwaters. The massif merges with the Sayan Mountains in the northeast, and gradually becomes lower in the southeast, where it merges into the high plateau of the Gobi Desert. It spans from about 45° to 52° N and from about 84° to 99° E. The region is inhabited by a sparse but ethnically diverse population, including Russians, Kazakhs, Altais, and Mongols. The local economy is based on bovine, sheep, and horse husbandry, agriculture, forestry, and mining. The controversial Altaic language family takes its name from this mountain range.” ref

“The name comes from two words: al meaning “gold/reddish/yellowish” in Mongolic language, and -tai meaning “mountain” in Turkic languages too; thus, literally, the “Golden Mountain”. That matches their old Chinese name 金山, literally “Gold Mountain”. Also, the word altın/altun/al which means gold is a cognate word for Turkic and Mongolic languages. The mountains are called Altain nuruu (Алтайн нуруу) in Khalkha Mongolian, altai-yin niruɣu in Chakhar Mongolian, and Altay tuular (Алтай туулар) in the Altay language. They are also called Алтай таулары or التاي تاۋلارى‎ in Kazakh; Altay dağları in Turkish; Altajskije gory (Алтайские горы) in Russian; Altay Taghliri (ىالتاي تاغلىرى‎ or Алтай Тағлири) in Uyghur; ā’ěrtài shānmài in Chinese (阿尔泰山脉 simplified, 阿爾泰山脈 traditional, or اَعَرتَىْ شًامَىْ‎ in Xiao’erjing); and Arteː shanmeː (Артэ Шанмэ) in Dungan.” ref

“In the north of the region is the Sailughem Mountains, also known as Kolyvan Altai, which stretch northeast from 49° N and 86° E towards the western extremity of the Sayan Mountains in 51° 60′ N and 89° E. Their mean elevation is 1,500 to 1,750 m. The snow-line runs at 2,000 m on the northern side and at 2,400 m on the southern, and above it the rugged peaks tower some 1,000 m higher. Mountain passes across the range are few and difficult, the chief being the Ulan-daban at 2,827 m (2,879 m according to Kozlov), and the Chapchan-daban, at 3,217 m, in the south and north respectively. On the east and southeast this range is flanked by the great plateau of Mongolia, the transition being affected gradually by means of several minor plateaus, such as Ukok (2,380 m) with Pazyryk Valley, Chuya (1,830 m), Kendykty (2,500 m), Kak (2,520 m), (2,590 m), and (2,410 m). This region is studded with large lakes, e.g. Uvs 720 m above sea level, Khyargas, Dorgon, and Khar 1,170 m, and traversed by various mountain ranges, of which the principal are the Tannu-Ola Mountains, running roughly parallel with the Sayan Mountains as far east as the Kosso-gol, and the Khan Khökhii mountains, also stretching west and east.” ref

“The Altai mountains are home to a diverse fauna, because of its different habitats, like steppes, northern taigas, and alpine vegetation. Steep slopes are home to the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica), whereas the rare argali (Ovis ammon) is found on more gentle slopes. Deer are represented by five species: Altai wapiti (Cervus elaphus sibiricus), moose (Alces alces), forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus valentinae), Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), and Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus). Moose and reindeer, however, are restricted to the northern parts of the mountain range. The wild boar (Sus scrofa) is found in the lower foothills and surrounding lowlands. Until recently, the Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) was found in the Russian Altai mountains, more specifically in the Chuya River steppe close to the Mongolian border. Large predators are represented by snow leopards (Panthera uncia, syn. Uncia uncia), wolves (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), and brown bears (Ursus arctos), in the northern parts also by the wolverine (Gulo gulo). The Tien Shan dhole (Cuon alpinus hesperius) (a northwestern subspecies of the Asiatic wild dog) also lives there. And until the 20th century, the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) was found in the southern parts of the Altai mountains, where it reached Lake Zaisan and the Black Irtysh. Single individuals were also shot further north, for example, close to Barnaul. Closely related to the Caspian tiger is the extant Amur tiger, which has the taxonomic name Panthera tigris altaica. The wisent was present in the Altai mountains until the Middle Ages, perhaps even until the 18th century. Today, there is a small herd in a nursery in the Altai Republic.” ref

“The Altai mountains have retained a remarkably stable climate-changing little since the last ice age. In addition, the mix of mammals has remained largely the same, with a few exceptions such as extinct mammoths, making it one of the few places on earth to retain an ice age fauna. The Altai mountains were home to the Denisovan branch of hominids who were contemporaries of Neanderthals and of Homo sapiens (modern humans), descended from Hominids who reached Asia earlier than modern humans. The Denisova hominin, dated to 40,000 years ago, was discovered in the Denisova Cave of the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Knowledge of the Denisovan humans derives primarily from DNA evidence and artifacts, as no complete skeletons have yet been recovered. DNA evidence has been unusually well preserved because of the low average temperature in the Denisova caves. Neanderthal bones and tools made by Homo sapiens have also been found in the Denisova Cave, making it the only place in the world where all three hominids are known to have lived.” ref

A dog-like canid from 33,000 years ago was found in the Razboinichya Cave. DNA analysis published affirmed that it was more closely related to modern dogs than to wolves. The Altai Mountains have been identified as being the point of origin of a cultural enigma termed the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon which arose during the Bronze Age around the start of the 2nd millennium BCE and led to a rapid and massive migration of peoples from the region into distant parts of Europe and Asia.” ref

The five highest mountains of the Altai are:

· Belukha, 4,506 m (14,783 ft), Kazakhstan–Russia

· Khüiten Peak , 4,374 m (14,350 ft), China–Mongolia

· Mönkh Khairkhan , 4,204 m (13,793 ft), Mongolia

· Sutai Mountain , 4,220 m (13,850 ft), Mongolia

· Tsambagarav , 4,195 m (13,763 ft), Mongolia ref

“Sacred mountains are central to certain religions and are the subjects of many legends. For many, the most symbolic aspect of a mountain is the peak because it is believed that it is closest to heaven or other religious worlds. Many religions have traditions centered on sacred mountains, which either are or were considered holy (such as Mount Olympus in Greek mythology) or are related to famous events (like Mount Sinai in Judaism and descendant religions). In some cases, the sacred mountain is purely mythical, like the Hara Berezaiti in Zoroastrianism. Mount Kailash is believed to be the abode of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, and is considered sacred in four religions: Hinduism, Bon, Buddhism, and Jainism. Volcanoes, such as Mount Etna in Italy, were also considered sacred, Mount Etna being believed to have been the home of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and the forge. The north face of Mount Kailash, a mountain in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China which is considered sacred by four religions.” ref

Greek and Inca

Mount Olympus is the highest mountain peak in Greece. It was once regarded as the “home of the Greek Gods/The Twelve Olympians of the Hellenistic World”. It was also considered the site of the War of the Titans (Titanomachy) where Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans. Mount Othrys is a mountain in Central Greece, which is believed to be the home of the Titans during the ten-year war with the Gods of Mount Olympus.” ref

Mount Ida, also known as Mountain of the Goddess, refers to two specific mountains: one in the Greek island of Crete and the other in Turkey (formerly known as Asia Minor). Mount Ida is the highest mountain on the island of Crete is the sacred mountain of the Titaness Rhea, also known as the mother of the Greek Gods. It is also believed to be the cave where Greek God Zeus was born and raised.” ref

“The other Mount Ida is located in Northwestern Turkey alongside the ruins of Troy (in reference to the Hellenistic Period). The mountain was dedicated to Cybele, the Phrygian (modern-day Turkey) version of Earth Mother. Cybele was the goddess of caverns and mountains. Some refer to her as the “Great Mother” or “Mother of the Mountain”. The mythic Trojan War is said to have taken place at Mount Ida and that the Gods gathered upon the mountaintop to observe the epic fight. Mount Ida in Turkey is also represented in many of the stories of Greek author Homer such as Iliad and Odyssey.” ref

Mount Athos, located in Greece, is also referred to as the Holy Mountain. It has great historical connections with religion and classical mythology. In Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox forms of Christianity, it is believed that after the Ascension of the Lord, the Virgin Mary landed on the island and came upon a pagan temple. It was there that the pagan practitioners converted from paganism to Christianity. The Virgin Mary then blessed the land and claimed it her own.” ref

“In classical mythology, Mount Athos is named after the Thracian giant who battled Poseidon, God of the Sea, during the clash of the titans and Gods. It is also said that Greek historian was given the task of creating a canal through the mountain after the failed journey of Persian leader, Xerxes. Over time, Alexander the Great has become associated with the mountain for his worldly powers. The myth states that Roman architect Dinocrates had wanted to carve Alexander the Great’s figure onto the top of the mountain in tribute to him.” ref

“The ancient Inca displayed a connection with death and their mountains. It is well known by scholars that the Inca sensed a deep reservoir of spirituality along the mountain range. Situating their villages in the mountains, they felt these places acted as portal to the gods. Ritual child sacrifices called Capachochas were conducted annually, where the most precious gift that could be given (innocent, blemishless, perfect human life) would be sacrificed to the gods. Tremendous effort would be taken as the sacrificial victims would be paraded alive throughout the cities, with multiple festivals and feasts taking place. The final destination would be the tops of some of the highest mountains near their villages, leaving these sacrifices to freeze in the snow. These would take place during great times of distress, during times of famine, violent periods of war, and even during times of political shift. This connection with the mountain as a sacred space is paramount. There would be no other place that would be sufficient or acceptable enough for the gods to accept these gifts. It is neither a surprise nor a coincidence that their honored dead were placed on the highest peaks of the mountains to express the shared connection between the sacred mountain, the gods, and the dead.” ref

Other religious beliefs

Machapuchare, a sacred Nepalese mountain, viewed from foothills. Various cultures around the world maintain the importance of mountain worship and sacredness. One example is the Taranaki peoples of New Zealand. The Taranaki tribe view Mount Taranaki as sacred. The tribe was historically sustained by this mountain’s waterways. As in other instances in Māori mythology, the mountain is anthropomorphised in various stories. For the tribespeople, Mount Taranaki has a deep spiritual significance and is seen as a life force. It is viewed as the place where life is given and to where people are returned after death.” ref

“In Korea, people have maintained ancient ways of worshiping mountain spirits. While they are not in fact worshiping the land itself, the gods associated with this worship are united to the land. These spirits are female entities to whom people pay tribute while passing by the mountains, asking for good luck and protection. People also travel to these mountains to ask for fertility. While people generally hold to these female deities for protection or to perpetuate life, one of their most important functions is to protect the dead. The ponhyangsansin is a guardian spirit that is protecting an important clan grave site in the village. Each mountain goddess has an equally interesting story that is tied to their accounts of war against Japan, and the historical legacy of their emperors. Each spirit learned difficult lessons and experienced some sort of hardship. These legacies in the mountains serve as a kind of monument to the history of Korea. While many of the accounts may be true, their details and accuracy are shrouded by time and ritual. While the inaugurations of new ponhyang san sin are not being conducted, fallen important clansmen and leaders are strategically placed in the mountains in order for these strong, heroine-like spirits may fiercely guard their graves. The history of Korea is in turn protecting its own future.” ref

“In Japan, Mount Kōya-san is the home to one of the holiest Buddhist monastery complexes in the country. It was founded by a saint, Kukai, who is also known as Kobo Dashi and is regarded as a famous wandering mystic; his teachings are infamous throughout Japan and he is credited with being an important figure in shaping early Japanese culture. Buddhists believe that Kobo Dashi is not dead, but will instead awake and assist in bringing enlightenment to all people, alongside the Buddha and other bodhisattvas. It is believed that he was shown the sacred place to build the monastery by a forest god; this site is now the location of a large cemetery that is flanked by 120 esoteric Buddhist temples. Approximately a million pilgrims visit Mount Kōya-san a year; these pilgrims have included both royals and commoners who wish to pay their respects to Kobo Dashi. Mount Fuji, known as Fuji-san in Japanese, is another sacred mountain in Japan. Several Shinto temples flank its base, which all pay homage to the mountain. A common belief is that Fuji-san is the incarnation of the earth spirit itself. The Fuki-ko sect maintains that the mountain is a holy being, and the home to the goddess Sengen-sama. Annual fire festivals are held there in her honor. Fuji-san is also the site of pilgrimages; reportedly, 40,000 people climb up to its summit every year.” ref

“Tibet’s Mount Kailash is a sacred place to five religions: Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Bon Po (a native Tibetan religion prior to Buddhism), Sikhism, and Ayyavazhi religions. According to Hinduism and Ayyavazhi, Mount Kailash is the home of the deity Shiva. In the Hindu religion, Mount Kailash also plays an important role in Rama’s journey in the ancient Sanskrit epic, Ramayana. Buddhists hold that Mount Kailash is the home of Samvara, a guardian deity, and a representation of the Buddha. Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash has supernatural powers that are able to clean the sins of a lifetime of any person. Followers of Jainism believe that Kailash is the site where the founder of Jainism reached enlightenment. Bon Po teaches that Mount Kailash is the home of a wind goddess. Followers of Sikhism believe the 1st Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak arrived at Mt. Kailash during the 3rd Uddasi (divine journey) and debated with the Siddhas.” ref

Mount Meru is a cosmic mountain which is described to be one of the highest points on Earth and is the center of all creation. In the Hindu religion, it is believed that Meru is home to the god Brahma, who is believed to be the father of the human race and all the demigods produced afterward. Indian cosmology believes that the sun, moon, and stars all revolve around Mount Meru. Folklore suggests the mountain rose up from the ground piercing the heavens giving it the moniker “navel of the universe”.” ref

“According to the Torah, and consequently the Old Testament of the Bible, Mount Sinai is the location that Moses received the Ten Commandments directly from God. The tablets form the covenant, which is a central cornerstone of the Jewish faith. Saint Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Sinai. It was founded by empress Helena, who was the mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. It was completed under the rule of Justinian two centuries later. The monastery was visited by the prophet Muhammed, who blessed it and promised: “that it would be cherished by Muslims for all time”. Today, the monastery is home to a group of Greek Orthodox monks, as well as a large collection of Byzantine art, illuminated manuscripts, icons, and books; the collection of icons, in particular, has been proclaimed one of the oldest in the world.” ref

“The Navajo possess a strong belief system in regards to the natural-supernatural world and have a belief that objects have a supernatural quality. For example, the Navajo consider mountains to be sacred. There are four peaks, which are believed to have supernatural aspects. The mountains each represent a borderline of the original Navajo tribal land. The mountain ranges include Mount Taylor, the San Francisco Peaks, Blanca Peak, and Hesperus Peak located in the La Plata Mountains.” ref

“Each mountain/peak is representative of a color, direction, and correlates with a cultural light phenomenon dealing with the cosmic scheme of the rising and of the setting sun. Directionally, the mountains are described in a clockwise motion following the movement of the Sun beginning with the eastern mountain of Blanca Peak. Blanca Peak is associated with the color white and the “Dawn Man” referring to the rising of the sun. Next in the south is Mount Taylor, which is associated with the color blue and the “Horizontal Blue Man” referring to the daytime. In the west is the San Francisco Peaks, which is representative of the color yellow and the “Horizontal Yellow Woman” and is associated with the setting of the sun. And finally in the north is the Hesperus Peak of the La Plata Mountains which is given the color black and belongs to the light phenomenon of the “Darkness Woman” representing the nighttime.” ref

Community identity

“History shows that mountains were commonly part of a complex system of mountain and ancestor worship. Having immortalized fallen brethren in the edifice, the people share a common allegiance with all the other people of a community. The meanings that were etched into the mountain and mound terrain connected the villagers. They were all subject to the same landscape and village history, which were bound together by their cultural significance. The history of ancestors could be told by simply pointing at specific mountains and remembering the stories that were passed down throughout the generations. The worship of ancestors and the mountains were largely inseparable. An interconnected web between history, landscape, and culture was thus formed. Examples of this would be the Hindu belief that Mount Kailas is the final resting place for the souls of the dead, as well as the large cemetery placed on Mount Kōya-san.” ref

“Sacred mountains can also provide an important piece of a culture’s identity. For example, Bruno Messerli and Jack Ives write, “The Armenian people regard Mount Ararat, a volcano in eastern Turkey believed to be the site of Noah’s Ark in the Bible, to be a symbol of their natural and cultural identity”. As a result of the mountain’s role as a part of a cultural identity, even people who do not live close to the mountain feel that events occurring to the mountain are relevant to their own personal lives. This results in communities banning certain activities near the mountain, especially if those activities are seen as potentially destructive to the sacred mountain itself.” ref


“To date, Kailash has never been climbed, largely due to the fact that the idea of climbing the mountain is seen as a major sacrilege. Instead, the worshipful embark on a pilgrimage known as the kora. The kora consists of a 32-mile path that circles the mountain, which typically takes five days with little food and water. Various icons, prayer flags, and other symbols of the four religions that believe Kailash is sacred mark the way. To Buddhists and Hindus, the pilgrimage is considered a major moment in a person’s spiritual life. Olsen writes, “One circuit is believed to erase a lifetime of sin, while 108 circuits is believed to ensure enlightenment”. As one of the most sacred mountains in the Middle East, mentioned in the Old Testament can be seen on the mountain’s summit, such as the area where Moses “sheltered from the total glory of God”.” ref

“Sacred Mountains are often seen as a site of revelation and inspiration. Mount Sinai is an example, as this is the site where the covenant is revealed to Moses. Mount Tabor is where it is supposed Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God. Muhammed is said to have received his first revelation on Mount Hira. The mountains’ roles as places of revelation and transformation often serve to attract tourists as much as they do religious pilgrims. However, in some cases, the financial revenue is overlooked and sacred mountains are conserved first due to their role in the community. Members of The Aetherius Society conduct pilgrimages to 19 mountains around the world that they describe as being “holy mountains”.” ref


“Sacred mountains are often viewed as the source of a power which is to be awed and revered. Often, this means that access to the sacred mountain is restricted. This could result in climbing being banned from a sacred mountain completely (as in the case of Mount Kailash) or for secular society to give the mountain a wide berth. Because of the respect accorded to a mountain’s sacred power, many areas have been declared off limit for construction and remain conserved. For example, a large amount of forest has been preserved due to its proximity to Mount Kōya-san. Additionally, sacred mountains can be seen as the source of something vital. This could be a blessing, water, life, or healing. Mount Kailash’s role as the source for four major rivers is celebrated in India and not simply seen as mundane. Rather, this also adds to its position as a sacred place, especially considering the sacred position of the Ganges river in Indian culture. Mountains that are considered home to deities are also central to prayers for the blessings from the gods reputed to live there. This also creates a sense of purity in the source of the mountain. This prompts people to protect streams from pollution that are from sacred mountains, for example.” ref

“Views of preservation and sacredness become problematic when dealing with diverse populations. When one observes the sacred mountain of the Sacramento Valley in the United States, it becomes clear that methods and opinions stretch over a vastly differing body of protesters. Shasta Mountain was first revered by the Native American tribe, the Wintu. Shasta was in effect a standing monument for the individuals of their cultural history. This bounded view of sacred mountains changed drastically during the 1800s. It is commonly assumed that sacred mountains are limited by a single society, trapped in a time capsule with only one definition to explain it: the indigenous tribe. Shasta’s glory had expanded to multiple regions of the world, communities of differing religions making their pilgrimage up to the summits of this glorious mountain. The Wintu tribe did not hold a monopoly on the sacredness anymore. There were others contesting to the meanings, adding new rituals and modifying old ones. With the advent of new technology and desires to turn this mountain into a skiing lodge, angry voices from all over the world rose up with variants of demands on why and how we should preserve this beautiful mountain.” ref

“Almost every day different religious practices such as nude bathing, camping out with magic crystals, yoga, and many “quasi-Christian” groups such as the I AM march their ways up to the tips of this mountain. With this activity the mountain pathways become clustered, cluttered, and littered. Even the pathways’ existence leads to erosion, and further slow degradation of the mountain. The Wintu tribe has voiced concerns and asked for support from the government to regulate the activities practiced on “their” mountain saying that “they are disturbed by the lack of respect” shown for this piece of land. It has become greatly debated if the more vulnerable and “spiritually desirable” places of the mountain should be closed and maintained only by the Wintu tribe, who see this land as a sacred graveyard of their ancestors, or open to all who seek spiritual fulfillment such as the modern-day group of the I AM.” ref

List of mountains

· “Adam’s peak – The second highest peak in Sri Lanka, regarded as a sacred by 5 religions – Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and native Chinese religion.” ref

· Áhkká – regarded by the Sámi people as a holy mountain

· Arunachala

· Black Hills

· Burkhan Khaldun  Khentii Province, Mongolia

· Ceahlău Massif – The most important peak is Toaca (1904 m altitude)

· Croagh Patrick  Mayo, Ireland

· Dakpa Sheri

· Emei Shan – China

· Jabal al-Nour

· Montserrat (mountain)

· Mount Athos – also known as the Holy Mountain, Greece

· Mount Aqraa (Zaphon)

· Mount Akhun – the sacred mountain of Ubykhia

· Mount Ararat – alleged by some to be the site of Noah’s ark and holy to the Armenian Apostolic Church ref

· Mount Carmel

· Mount Damavand

· Mount Everest

· Mount Fuji – Japan

· Mount Gerizim – as claimed taught to be the location of the Holies of Holies by God to the Samaritans” ref

· Mount Graham – considered by Apache to be sacred. Believed to be Stargate by some. Site of court battle between the Vatican Observatory, and Apache” ref

· Hua Shan – China

· Huang Shan – China

· Mount Kailash, sacred to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bön ref

· Mount Kenya, sacred traditionally to the Kikuyu ethnicity in Kenya” ref

· Mount Kilimanjaro, sacred to Chaga people who believe god Ruwa resides on the top” ref

· Mount Kinabalu – Known as “Aki Nabalu” which means “Revered Place of the Dead”. This mountain is regarded very sacred especially to the local Kadazan-Dusun people living in Sabah, Malaysia” ref

· Laoshan

· Mauna Loa/Mauna Kea – volcanic eruptions were thought to be a result from the Hawaiian Goddess of fire Pele (deity) when in an argument with her siblings” ref

· Mount Paektu – sacred to all Koreans, also a subject of the North Korean cult of personality, North Korea/China” ref

· Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and other mountains were sacred to the Inca locals” ref

· Nanda Devi – India, also known as Bliss-Giving Goddess, This mountain is considered the home of the goddess Nanda Devi by Hindus” ref

· Mount Makiling, Mount Arayat, and Mount Lantoy, of the Philippines, and their protectors, Maria Makiling being the protector of Mount Makiling” ref

· Mount Miwa – Japan

· Mount Murud – highest mountain in Sarawak. Regarded by the Lun Bawang people as holy mountain in their Christian faith” ref

· Mount Banahaw, Mount San Cristobal– The Holiest place in the Philippines, termed as the Yin and Yang mountain” ref

· Mount of Olives

· Phnom Kulen

· Mount Sahand

· Mount Shasta

· Mount Sinai

· Sulayman Mountain

· Mount Tacoma/Mount Rainier, decade volcano in Washington state. Various indigenous tribal myths surround Mount Tacoma (now called Mount Rainier), from creation myths where it rescued natives from flood to it being a “mother’s breast” that nourishes the land with fresh water.” ref

· Tai Shan – China

· Teide – sacred mountains for the aboriginal Guanches of the Canary Islands

· Temple Mount

· Jabal Thawr– the mountain cave where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr hid from the Quraish during the migration to Medina

· Uluru – also known as Ayers Rock, Australia

· Mount Vesuvius

· Wudang Shan – China

· Mount Zion

· Mount Ecclesia – a high mesa with a holy solar temple, spiritual healing ceremonies, and a record of spiritual visions

See also

· World mountain

· Sacred natural site ref

Sacred Mountains of China

“The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into several groups. The Five Great Mountains (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: yuè) refers to five of the most renowned mountains in Chinese history, and they were the subjects of imperial pilgrimage by emperors throughout ages. They are associated with the supreme God of Heaven and the five main cosmic deities of Chinese traditional religion. The group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism (四大佛教名山; Sì dà fójiào míngshān), and the group associated with Taoism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism (四大道教名山; Sì dà dàojiào míngshān). The sacred mountains have all been important destinations for pilgrimage, the Chinese expression for pilgrimage (; ; cháoshèng) being a shortened version of an expression which means “paying respect to a holy mountain” (; ; cháobài shèng shān).” ref

The Five Great Mountains

“The five elements, cosmic deities, historical incarnations, chthonic and dragon gods, and planets, associated to the five sacred mountains. This Chinese religious cosmology shows the Yellow Emperor, god of the earth and the year, as the center of the cosmos, and the four gods of the directions and the seasons as his emanations. The diagram is based on the Huainanzi. A Han Dynasty tile emblematically representing the five cardinal directions.” ref

“The Five Great Mountains or Wuyue are arranged according to the five cardinal directions of Chinese geomancy, which includes the center as a direction. The grouping of the five mountains appeared during the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BCE), and the term Wuyue (“Five Summits”) was made popular during the reign of Emperor Wudi of the Western Han Dynasty 140-87 BCE. In Chinese traditional religion they have cosmological and theological significance as the representation, on the physical plane of earth, of the ordered world emanating from the God of Heaven (TianShangdi), inscribing the Chinese territory as a tán (壇; ‘altar’), the Chinese concept equivalent of the Indian mandala.” ref

“The five mountains are among the best-known natural landmarks in Chinese history, and since the early periods in Chinese history, they have been the ritual sites of imperial worship and sacrifice by various emperors. The first legendary sovereigns of China went on excursions or formed processions to the summits of the Five Great Mountains. Every visit took place at the same time of the year. The excursions were hunting trips and ended in ritual offerings to the reigning god.” ref

“The emperors, starting with the First Emperor of Qin, formalized these expeditions and incorporated them into state ritual as prescribed by Confucianism. With every new dynasty, the new emperor hurried to the Five Great Mountains in order to lay claim to his newly acquired domains. Barring a number of interruptions, this imperial custom was preserved until the end of the last dynasty, when, after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Yuan Shikai had himself crowned as emperor at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. But just to be safe, he also made an offer to the god of the northern Mount Heng.” ref

“In the 2000s formal sacrifices both in Confucian and Taoist styles have been resumed. The Five Great Mountains have become places of pilgrimage where hundreds of pilgrims gather in temples and caves. Although the Five Great Mountains are not traditionally canonized as having any exclusive religious affiliations, many of them have a strong Taoist presence, thus the five mountains are also grouped by some as part of “Sacred Taoist Mountains”. There are also various Buddhist temples and Confucian academies built on these mountains.” ref

“Alternatively, these mountains are sometimes referred to by the respective directions: the “Northern Great Mountain” (北岳; 北嶽; Běi Yuè), “Southern Great Mountain” (南岳; 南嶽; Nán Yuè), “Eastern Great Mountain” (东岳; 東嶽; Dōng Yuè), “Western Great Mountain” (西岳; 西嶽; Xī Yuè), and “Central Great Mountain” (中岳; 中嶽; Zhōng Yuè).” ref

“According to Chinese mythology, the Five Great Mountains originated from the body of Pangu (盘古; 盤古; Pángǔ), the first being and the creator of the world. Because of its eastern location, Mount Tài is associated with the rising sun which signifies birth and renewal. Due to this interpretation, it is often regarded as the most sacred of the Five Great Mountains. In accordance with its special position, Mount Tài is believed to have been formed out of Pangu’s head. Mount Heng in Hunan is believed to be a remainder of Pangu’s right arm, Mount Heng in Shanxi of his left arm, Mount Song of his belly, and Mount Hua of his feet.” ref

Nature conservation

“In ancient times mountains were places of authority and fear, ruled by dark forces and faithfully worshipped. One reason for such worship was the value of the mountains to human existence as a spring of welfare and fertility, as the birthplace of rivers, as a place where herbs and medicinal plants grew, and as a source of materials to build houses and tools. A basic element of Taoist thought was, and still is, an intuitive feeling of connectedness with nature. As early as the fourth century, the Taoists presented the high priests with the 180 precepts of Lord Lao for how to live a good and honest life. Twenty of these precepts focused explicitly on the conservation of nature, while many other precepts were indirectly aimed at preventing the destruction of nature. Respect for nature has been a key component of Taoism from the very outset and, in its own right, explains why the Five Great Mountains are considered sacred. In addition, Taoists consider mountains as a means of communication between heaven and earth and as the place where immortality can be found. The sanctity of the Five Great Mountains is the reason why even today these mountains still host an exceptional diversity of plants, trees, and animal species.” ref

East Great Mountain: Tài Shān

Main article: Mount Tai

“Tranquil Mountain” (泰山) Shāndōng Province, 1,545 m (5,069 ft) 36°15′N 117°06′E ref

West Great Mountain: Huà Shān

Main article: Mount Hua

“Splendid Mountain” (华山; 華山) Shaanxi Province (Shănxī), 2,154 m (7,067 ft) 34°29′N 110°05′E ref

South Great Mountain: Héng Shān (Hunan)

Main article: Mount Heng (Hunan)

“Balancing Mountain” (衡山), Húnán Province, 1,290 m (4,230 ft) 27.254798°N 112.655743°E ref

North Great Mountain: Héng Shān (Shanxi)

Main article: Mount Heng (Shanxi)

“Permanent Mountain” (恒山; 恆山), Shānxī Province, 2,017 m (6,617 ft) 39°40′26″N 113°44′08″E In the course of history, there had been more than one location with the designation for Mount Heng, the North Great Mountain. The Great Northern Mountain was designated on the original Mount Heng with the main peak known as Mount Damao (大茂山) today, located at the intersection of present-day Fuping County, Laiyuan County, and Tang County in Hebei province.” ref

“Mount Heng was renamed Mount Chang (常山) to avoid the taboo of sharing the same personal name as Emperor Wen of Han. The appellations Heng and Chang were used extensively in the past to name various districts in the region, such as Changshan Prefecture (常山郡), Hengshan Prefecture (恒山郡), and Hengzhou (恒州).” ref

“While it was customary of the ethnic Han emperors to order rites to be performed regularly to honor the Five Great Mountains, the location of the original Mount Heng meant that for much of the eras of fragmentation, the region was either under non-Han rulers or a contested area. The shrines built to perform the rites were neglected and damaged from time and natural disasters. The decline was especially acute after the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty when the local population fell sharply after the wars.” ref

“This created opportunities for Ming Dynasty officials who were natives of Shanxi to spread rumors that the spirit of Mount Heng had abandoned the original location and settled on Xuanwu Mountain in Hunyuan County in Shanxi. Between the reigns of Emperor Hongzhi and Emperor Wanli, they kept petitioning the emperors to declare the change and decree for the rites for the Northern Great Mountain to be shifted there. In 1586, Emperor Wanli opted a compromise by re-designating the Xuanwu Mountain as Mount Heng, but ordered the relevant rites to continue to be performed in the historic Beiyue Temple. The movement for the change persisted after the demise of the Ming Dynasty and into the Qing Dynasty. Finally, Emperor Shunzhi consented to have the rites to be moved to Shanxi as well.” ref

Center Great Mountain: Sōng Shān

Main article: Mount Song

“Lofty Mountain” (嵩山), Hénán Province, 1,494 m (4,902 ft) 34°29′5″N 112°57′37″E ref

The Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism

Wǔtái Shān

Main article: Wutai Shan

“Five-Platform Mountain” (五台山), Shānxī Province, 3,058 m (10,033 ft), 39°04′45″N 113°33′53″E Wutai is the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri or Wenshu (Traditional: 文殊) in Chinese.” ref

Éméi Shān

Main article: Emei Shan

“High and Lofty Mountain” (峨嵋山), Sìchuān Province, 3,099 m (10,167 ft) The patron bodhisattva of Emei is Samantabhadra, known in Chinese as Puxian (普贤菩萨).” ref

Sacred Trees

“A sacred tree or holy tree is a tree which is considered to be sacred, or worthy of spiritual respect or reverence. Such trees appear throughout world history in various cultures including the ancient Hindu mythologyGreekCeltic and Germanic mythologies. They also continue to hold profound meaning in contemporary culture in places like Japan (shinboku), Korea (dangsan namu), India (bodhi tree), and the Philippines, among others. Tree worship is core part of religions which include aspects of animism as core elements of their belief, which is the eco-friendly belief that trees, forests, rivers, mountains, etc have a life force (‘anime’ i.e. alive) and need to be conserved and used in a sustainable manner.” ref

“In the Dharmic (Indian-origin) religions, such as HinduismBuddhismJainism and Sikhism, the ecology, such as trees, rivers, fauna, and mountains, is sacred and revered objects of worship. There are numerous sacred groves of India. In Hindu belief, the Kalpavriksha is a wish granting tree. In addition to the Panchvati trees described below, other sacred trees include species such as the Akshayavat (sacred fig tree), Banana leafKadambaParijaat, and Sandalwood. The Bodhi Tree (banyan) is specially revered, and there are numerous large banyan trees in India. Matsya Purana, a Hindu text, has a Sanskrit language shloka (hymn), which explains the importance of reverence of ecology in Hinduism. It states, “A pond equals ten wells, a reservoir equals ten ponds, while a son equals ten reservoirs, and a tree equals ten sons.” ref

“Sacred trees, called shinboku, are a deeply ingrained part of a Japanese culture that has historically viewed itself as being united with nature, rather than separate from nature; thus, recognizing the sacredness of trees, stones, mountains, forests, and the elements has been a relatively constant theme in Japanese culture for thousands of years. In the present day Japan, shinboku are trees inhabited by kami (spirits or deities) and can readily be found in many of the 100,000 Shinto shrines existing in throughout the country. Although any tree can technically become a shinboku through a Shinto ritual process of inviting a kami to inhabit it, most shinboku are particularly large or aesthetically interesting examples of endemic species such as camphor, ginkgo, or Japanese cedar. The oldest shinboku are estimated to be several thousands years in age. Because shinboku are viewed as being literal sanctuaries, inhabited by kami, they are protected as a physical and spiritual embodiment of the divine nature. In most cases, Shinboku can be easily identified by the straw or hemp rope called a shimenawa which is typically wrapped around the tree; the rope acts as both a sign of the tree’s sacredness, and also as a protective barrier between the spirit world and the human world. In addition to individual shinboku, shrines and Buddhist temples are often surrounded by sacred forests called Chinju no Mori, which are considered sacred forests where kami, including spirits of ancestors, dwell.ref

“In Korea, species such as Zelkova serrataPinus koraiensis, and Ginkgo biloba, have been considered a symbol of protection for villages since ancient times, and can still be found planted at central points in cities, towns and villages around the country. The trees, referred to as dangsan namu (god tree) often stand next to small pavilions, serving both as shaded informal gathering points, and spaces for traditional rituals and ceremonies involving prayer and offerings to the tree. The oldest of these trees are estimated to be in excess of 1,000 years in age, and are protected as natural monuments by Korean law. Bathala, the indigenous religious beliefs of the Philippines practiced in pre-colonial Philippines, is a mix of Hindu-Buddhist and native belief in spirits such as anitosIndigenous Philippine shrines and sacred grounds host the sacred trees.” ref

World Tree

The world tree is a motif present in several religions and mythologies, particularly Indo-European, Siberian, and Native American religions. The world tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld. It may also be strongly connected to the motif of the tree of life, but it is the source of wisdom of the ages. Specific world trees include égig érő fa in Hungarian mythology, Ağaç Ana in Turkic mythology, Andndayin Ca˙r in Armenian mythology, Modun in Mongol mythology, Yggdrasil in Norse mythology, Irminsul in Germanic mythology, the oak in Slavic, Finnish and Baltic, Iroko in Yoruba religion, Jianmu (Chinese: 建木; pinyin: jiànmù) in Chinese mythology, and in Hindu mythology the Ashvattha (a Ficus religiosa).” ref

Professor Amar Annus states that, although the motif seems to originate much earlier, its first attestation in world culture occurred in Sumerian literature, with the tale of “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld“. According to this tale, goddess Innana transplants the huluppu tree to her garden in the City of Uruk, for she intends to use its wood to carve a throne. However, a snake “with no charm”, a ghostly figure (Lilith or another character associated with darkness) and the legendary Anzû-bird make their residence on the tree, until Gilgamesh kills the serpent and the other residents escape. In fragments of the story of Etana, there is a narrative sequence about a snake and an eagle that live on opposite sides of a poplar tree (şarbatu), the snake on its roots, the eagle on its foliage. At a certain point, both animals swear before deity Shamash and share their meat with each other, until the eagle’s hatchlings are born and the eagle decides to eat the snake’s young ones. In revenge, the snake alerts god Shamash, who agrees to let the snake punish the eagle for the perceived affront. Later, Shamash takes pity on the bird’s condition and sets hero Etana to release it from its punishment. Later versions of the story associate the eagle with mythical bird Anzû and the snake with a serpentine being named Bašmu.” ref

“Scholarship states that many Eurasian mythologies share the motif of the “world tree”, “cosmic tree”, or “Eagle and Serpent Tree”. More specifically, it shows up in “Haitian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Norse, Siberian and northern Asian Shamanic folklore”. The World Tree is often identified with the Tree of Life, and also fulfills the role of an axis mundi, that is, a center or axis of the world. It is also located at the center of the world and represents order and harmony of the cosmos. According to Loreta Senkute, each part of the tree corresponds to one of the three spheres of the world (treetops – heavens; trunk – middle world or earth; roots – underworld) and is also associated with a classical element (top part – fire; middle part – earth, soil, ground; bottom part – water). A similar imagery is attested in Hittite literature: a snake encircles the base of a tree, an eagle perches atop it, and a bee occupies its middle, which Craig Melchert considers to be a version of the “world tree” or “tree of life” motif.” ref

“Its branches are said to reach the skies and its roots to connect the human or earthly world with an underworld or subterranean realm. Because of this, the tree was worshipped as a mediator between Heavens and Earth. On the treetops are located the luminaries (stars) and heavenly bodies, along with an eagle’s nest; several species of birds perch among its branches; humans and animals of every kind live under its branches, and near the root is the dwelling place of snakes and every sort of reptiles. A bird perches atop its foliage, “often …. a winged mythical creature” that represents a heavenly realm. The eagle seems to be the most frequent bird, fulfilling the role of a creator or weather deity. Its antipode is a snake or serpentine creature that crawls between the tree roots, being a “symbol of the underworld”. Like in many other Indo-European cultures, one tree species was considered the World Tree in some cosmogonical accounts.” ref

“In Norse mythologyYggdrasil is the world tree. Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy. The Æsir go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations: one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the harts Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór, the giant in eagle-shape Hræsvelgr, the squirrel Ratatoskr and the wyrm Níðhöggr. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasil, the potential relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, and the sacred tree at Uppsala.” ref

“In BalticSlavic and Finnish mythology, the world tree is usually an oak. Most of the images of the world tree are preserved on ancient ornaments. Often on the Baltic and Slavic patterns there was an image of an inverted tree, “growing with its roots up, and branches going into the ground”. The sacred tree of Zeus is the oak, and the one at Dodona (famous for the cultic worship of Zeus and the oak) was said by later tradition to have its roots furrow so deep as to reach the confines of Tartarus. This oak tree connects the heavens above and its roots grew into the Earth, to reach the depths of Tartarus. This oak tree is considered by scholarship to symbolize a cosmic tree, uniting three spheres: underworld, terrestrial and celestial. Scholarship recognizes that Baltic beliefs about a World Tree, located at the central part of the Earth, follow a tripartite division of the cosmos (underworld, earth, sky), each part corresponding to a part of the tree (root, trunk, branches).” ref

“It has been suggested that the word for “tree” in Baltic languages (Latvian mežs; Lithuanian medis), both derived from Proto-Indo-European *medh- ‘middle’, operated a semantic shift from “middle” possibly due to the belief of the Arbor Mundi. According to Slavic folklore, as reconstructed by Radoslav Katičić, the draconic or serpentine character furrows near a body of water, and the bird that lives on the treetop could be an eagle, a falcon or a nightingale. Scholars Ivanov and Toporov offered a reconstructed Slavic variant of the Indo-European myth about a battle between a Thunder God and a snake-like adversary. In their proposed reconstruction, the Snake lives under the World Tree, sleeping on black wool. They surmise this snake on black wool is a reference to a cattle god, known in Slavic mythology as VelesFurther studies show that the usual tree that appears in Slavic folklore is an oak: for instance, in Czech, it is known as Veledub (‘The Great Oak’). According to scholar Aado LintropEstonian mythology records two types of world tree in Estonian runic songs, with similar characteristics of being an oak and having a bird at the top, a snake at the roots and the stars amongst its branches.” ref

“The imagery of the World Tree is sometimes associated with conferring immortality, either by a fruit that grows on it or by a springsource located nearby. As George Lechler also pointed out, in some descriptions this “water of life” may also flow from the roots of the tree. The World Tree has also been compared to a World Pillar that appears in other traditions and functions as separator between the earth and the skies, upholding the latter. Another representation akin to the World Tree is a separate World Mountain. However, in some stories, the world tree is located atop the world mountain, in a combination of both motifs. A conflict between a serpentine creature and a giant bird (an eagle) occurs in Eurasian mythologies: a hero kills the serpent that menaces a nest of little birds, and their mother repays the favor – a motif comparativist Julien d’Huy dates to the Paleolithic. A parallel story is attested in the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, where the thunderbird is slotted into the role of the giant bird whose nest is menaced by a “snake-like water monster.” ref

“Romanian historian of religion, Mircea Eliade, in his monumental work Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, suggested that the world tree was an important element in shamanistic worldview. Also, according to him, “the giant bird … hatches shamans in the branches of the World Tree”. Likewise, Roald Knutsen indicates the presence of the motif in Altaic shamanism. Representations of the world tree are reported to be portrayed in drums used in Siberian shamanistic practices. Some species of birds (eagle, raven, crane, loon, and lark) are revered as mediators between worlds and also connected to the imagery of the world tree. Another line of scholarship points to a “recurring theme” of the owl as the mediator to the upper realm, and its counterpart, the snake, as the mediator to the lower regions of the cosmos. Researcher Kristen Pearson mentions Northern Eurasian and Central Asian traditions wherein the World Tree is also associated with the horse and with deer antlers (which might resemble tree branches). Mircea Eliade proposed that the typical imagery of the world tree (bird at the top, snake at the root) “is presumably of Oriental origin”. Likewise, Roald Knutsen indicates a possible origin of the motif in Central Asia and later diffusion into other regions and cultures.” ref

“Among pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, the concept of “world trees” is a prevalent motif in Mesoamerican cosmologies and iconography. The Temple of the Cross Complex at Palenque contains one of the most studied examples of the world tree in architectural motifs of all Mayan ruins. World trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which represented also the fourfold nature of a central world tree, a symbolic axis mundi connecting the planes of the Underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial world. Depictions of world trees, both in their directional and central aspects, are found in the art and traditions of cultures such as the MayaAztecIzapanMixtecOlmec, and others, dating to at least the Mid/Late Formative periods of Mesoamerican chronology. Among the Maya, the central world tree was conceived as, or represented by, a ceiba tree, called yax imix che (‘blue-green tree of abundance’) by the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. The trunk of the tree could also be represented by an upright caiman, whose skin evokes the tree’s spiny trunk. These depictions could also show birds perched atop the trees.” ref

“Directional world trees are also associated with the four Yearbearers in Mesoamerican calendars, and the directional colors and deities. Mesoamerican codices which have this association outlined include the Dresden, Borgia and Fejérváry-Mayer codices. It is supposed that Mesoamerican sites and ceremonial centers frequently had actual trees planted at each of the four cardinal directions, representing the quadripartite concept. World trees are frequently depicted with birds in their branches, and their roots extending into earth or water (sometimes atop a “water-monster”, symbolic of the underworld). The central world tree has also been interpreted as a representation of the band of the Milky Way.” ref

“A common theme in most indigenous cultures of the Americas is a concept of directionality (the horizontal and vertical planes), with the vertical dimension often being represented by a world tree. Some scholars have argued that the religious importance of the horizontal and vertical dimensions in many animist cultures may derive from the human body and the position it occupies in the world as it perceives the surrounding living world. Many Indigenous cultures of the Americas have similar cosmologies regarding the directionality and the world tree, however, the type of tree representing the world tree depends on the surrounding environment. For many Indigenous American peoples located in more temperate regions for example, it is the spruce rather than the ceiba that is the world tree; however, the idea of cosmic directions combined with a concept of a tree uniting the directional planes is similar.” ref

The world tree is also represented in the mythologies and folklore of North Asia and Siberia. According to Mihály Hoppál, Hungarian scholar Vilmos Diószegi located some motifs related to the world tree in Siberian shamanism and other North Asian peoples. As per Diószegi’s research, the “bird-peaked” tree holds the sun and the moon, and the underworld is “a land of snakes, lizards and frogs”. In the mythology of the Samoyeds, the world tree connects different realities (underworld, this world, upper world) together. In their mythology the world tree is also the symbol of Mother Earth who is said to give the Samoyed shaman his drum and also help him travel from one world to another. According to scholar Aado Lintrop, the larch is “often regarded” by Siberian peoples as the World Tree. Scholar Aado Lintrop also noted the resemblance between an account of the World Tree from the Yakuts and a MokshasMordvinic folk song (described as a great birch).” ref

“The imagery of the world tree, its roots burrowing underground, its branches reaching upward, the luminaries in its branches is also present in the mythology of Finno-Ugric peoples from Northern Asia, such as the Ob-Ugric peoples and the Voguls. The symbol of the world tree is also common in Tengrism, an ancient religion of Mongols and Turkic peoples. The world tree is sometimes a beech, a birch, or a poplar in epic works. Scholarship points out the presence of the motif in Central Asian and North Eurasian epic tradition: a world tree named Bai-Terek in Altai and Kyrgyz epics; a “sacred tree with nine branches” in the Buryat epic. Finnish folklorist Uno Holmberg reported a tale from the Kalmuck people about a dragon that lies in the sea, at the foot of a Zambu tree. In the Buryat poems, near the root of the tree a snake named Abyrga dwells. He also reported a “Central Asian” narrative about the fight between the snake Abyrga and a bird named Garide – which he identified as a version of Indian Garuda.” ref

“The Bai-Terek (also known as bayterekbeyterekbeğterekbegterekbegtereg), found, for instance, in the Altai Maadai Kara epos, can be translated as “Golden Poplar“. Like the mythological description, each part of tree (top, trunk and root) corresponds to the three layers of reality: heavenly, earthly and underground. In one description, it is considered the axis mundi. It holds at the top “a nest of a double-headed eagle that watches over the different parts of the world” and, in the form of a snake, Erlik, deity of the underworld, tries to slither up the tree to steal an egg from the nest. In another, the tree holds two gold cuckoos at the topmost branches and two golden eagles just below. At the roots there are two dogs that guard the passage between the underworld and the world of the living.” ref

“Among the Yakuts, the world tree (or sacred tree) is called Ál Lúk Mas (Aal Luuk Mas) and is attested in their Olonkho epic narratives. Furthermore, this sacred tree is described to “connect the three worlds (Upper, Middle and Lower)”, the branches to the sky and the roots to the underworld. Further studies show that this sacred tree also shows many alternate names and descriptions in different regional traditions. According to scholarship, the prevalent animal at the top of the tree in the Olonkho is the eagle. Researcher Galina Popova emphasizes that the motif of the world tree offers a binary opposition between two different realms (the Upper Realm and the Underworld), and Aal Luuk Mas functions as a link between both. A spirit or goddess of the earth, named Aan Alahchin Hotun, is also said to inhabit or live in the trunk of Aal Luuk Mas.” ref

“In Chinese mythology, a manifestation of the world tree is the Fusang or Fumu tree. In a Chinese cosmogonic myth, solar deity Xihe gives birth to ten suns. Each of the suns rests upon a tree named Fusang (possibly a mulberry tree). The ten suns alternate during the day, each carried by a crow (the “Crow of the Sun“): one sun stays on the top branch to wait its turn, while the other nine suns rest on the lower branches. Serbian scholarship recalls a Serbian mythical story about three brothers, named Ноћило, Поноћило и Зорило (“Noćilo, Ponoćilo and Zorilo”) and their mission to rescue the king’s daughters. Zorilo goes down the cave, rescues three princesses and with a whip changes their palaces into apples. When Zorilo is ready to go up, his brothers abandon him in the cave, but he escapes with the help of a bird. Serbian scholar Pavle Sofric (sr), in his book about Serbian folkmyths about trees, noted that the tree of the tale, an ash tree (Serbian: јасен), showed a great parallel to the Nordic tree as not to be coincidental.” ref


“A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. The festivals may occur on 1 May or Pentecost (Whitsun), although in some countries it is instead erected at Midsummer (20–26 June). In some cases, the maypole is a permanent feature that is only utilized during the festival, although in other cases it is erected specifically for the purpose before being taken down again. Primarily found within the nations of Germanic Europe and the neighboring areas which they have influenced, its origins remain unknown. It has often been speculated that the maypole originally had some importance in the Germanic paganism of Iron Age and early Medieval cultures and that the tradition survived Christianisation, albeit losing any original meaning that it had. It has been a recorded practice in many parts of Europe throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods, although it became less popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.ref

“The symbolism of the maypole has been continuously debated by folklorists for centuries, although no definitive answer has been found. Some scholars classify maypoles as symbols of the world axis (axis mundi). The fact that they were found primarily in areas of Germanic Europe, where, prior to Christianisation, Germanic paganism was followed in various forms, has led to speculation by some that the maypoles were in some way a relic of a Germanic pagan tradition. One theory holds that they were a remnant of the Germanic reverence for sacred trees, as there is evidence for various sacred trees and wooden pillars that were venerated by the pagans across much of Germanic Europe, including Thor’s Oak and the Irminsul. Ronald Hutton, however, states that “there is absolutely no evidence that the maypole was regarded as a reflection of it.” It is also known that, in Norse paganism, cosmological views held that the universe was a world tree, known as Yggdrasil. Some observers have proposed phallic symbolism, an idea which was expressed by Thomas Hobbes, who erroneously believed that the poles dated back to the Roman worship of the god Priapus. Ronald Hutton has stated, however, that “there is no historical basis for his claim and no sign that the people who used maypoles thought that they were phallic” and that “they were not carved to appear so.” ref

Sun Dance (a religious ceremony that involves poles)

“The Sun Dance is a ceremony practiced by some Native Americans in the United States and Indigenous peoples in Canada, primarily those of the Plains cultures. It usually involves the community gathering together to pray for healing. Individuals make personal sacrifices on behalf of the community. The Sun Dance was one of the prohibited ceremonies, as was the potlatch of the Pacific Northwest peoples. Canada lifted its prohibition against the practice of the full ceremony in 1951. In the United States, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) in 1978, which was enacted to protect basic civil liberties, and to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights and cultural practices of Native Americans, EskimosAleuts, and Native Hawaiians. The Sun Dance is practiced annually in many First Nations communities in Canada. The Cree and Saulteaux have conducted at least one Rain Dance (with similar elements) each year since 1880 somewhere on the Canadian Plains.ref

Sun Dance, most important religious ceremony of the Plains Indians of North America and, for nomadic peoples, an occasion when otherwise independent bands gathered to reaffirm their basic beliefs about the universe and the supernatural through rituals of personal and community sacrifice. Traditionally, a Sun Dance was held by each tribe once a year in late spring or early summer, when the buffalo congregated after the long Plains winters. The large herds provided a plentiful food source for the hundreds of individuals in attendance. The origin of the Sun Dance is unclear; most tribal traditions attribute its conventions to a time deep in the past. By the end of the 19th century, it had spread with local variations to include most of the tribes from the Saulteaux in Saskatchewan, Can., south to the Kiowa in Texas, U.S., and was common among the settled agriculturists and the nomadic hunting and gathering societies of the region.” ref

The most elaborate versions of the Sun Dance took place within or near a large encampment or village and required up to a year’s preparation by those pledging to dance. Typically the pledges’ spiritual mentors and extended families were heavily involved in the preparations, as they were obligated to provide most of the necessary supplies for the ritual. Such supplies generally included payments or gifts to mentors and ritual leaders, often in the form of elaborately decorated clothing, horses, food, and other goods. As the community gathered, specific individuals—usually members of a particular religious society—erected a dance structure with a central pole that symbolized a connection to the divine, as embodied by the sun. Preliminary dances by a variety of community members often preceded the rigours of the Sun Dance itself, encouraging supplicants and ritually preparing the dance grounds; one such preliminary was the Buffalo Bull Dance, which preceded the Sun Dance during the complex Okipa ritual of the Mandan people.” ref

Those who had pledged to endure the Sun Dance generally did so in fulfillment of a vow or as a way of seeking spiritual power or insight. Supplicants began dancing at an appointed hour and continued intermittently for several days and nights; during this time they neither ate nor drank. In some tribes supplicants also endured ritual self-mortification beyond fasting and exertion; in others such practices were thought to be self-aggrandizing. When practiced, self-mortification was generally accomplished through piercing: mentors or ritual leaders inserted two or more slim skewers or piercing needles through a small fold of the supplicant’s skin on the upper chest or upper back; the mentor then used long leather thongs to tie a heavy object such as a buffalo skull to the skewers. A dancer would drag the object along the ground until he succumbed to exhaustion or his skin tore free. Among some tribes the thongs were tied to the centre pole, and the supplicant either hung from or pulled on them until free. Piercing was endured by only the most committed individuals, and, as with the rest of the ritual, it was done to ensure tribal well-being as well as to fulfill the supplicant’s individual vow.” ref


“The Paleolithic dog was a Late Pleistocene canine. They were directly associated with human hunting camps in Europe over 30,000 years ago and it is proposed that these were domesticated. They are further proposed to be either a proto-dog and the ancestor of the domestic dog or an extinct, morphologically and genetically divergent wolf population. There are a number of recently discovered specimens which are proposed as being Paleolithic dogs, however, their taxonomy is debated. These have been found in either Europe or Siberia and date 40,000–17,000 years ago. They include Hohle Fels in Germany, Goyet Caves in Belgium, Predmosti in the Czech Republic, and four sites in Russia: Razboinichya Cave in the Altai RepublicKostyonki-8, Ulakhan Sular in the Sakha Republic, and Eliseevichi 1 on the Russian plain.” ref

1. 40,000–35,500 years ago Hohle FelsSchelklingen, Germany
2. 36,500 years ago Goyet Caves, Samson River Valley, Belgium
3. 33,500 years ago Razboinichya Cave,  Altai Mountains, (Russia/Siberia)
4. 33,500–26,500 years ago Kostyonki-Borshchyovo archaeological complex, (Kostenki site) Voronezh, Russia
5. 31,000 years ago Predmostí, Moravia, Czech Republic
6. 26,000 years ago Chauvet CaveVallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche region, France
7. 17,300–14,100 years ago Dyuktai Cave, northern Yakutia, Siberia
8. 17,000–16,000 years ago Eliseevichi-I site, Bryansk Region, Russian Plain, Russia
9. 16,900 years ago Afontova Gora-1, Yenisei River, southern Siberia
10. 14,223 years ago BonnOberkassel, Germany
11. 13,500 years ago MezineChernigov region, Ukraine
12. 13,000 years ago Palegawra, (Zarzian culture) Iraq
13. 12,800 years ago Ushki I, Kamchatka, eastern Siberia
14. 12,790 years ago NanzhuangtouChina
15. 12,300 years ago Ust’-Khaita site, Baikal region, Siberia
16. 12,000 years ago Ain Mallaha (Eynan) and HaYonim terrace, Israel
17. 10,150 years ago Lawyer’s Cave, Alaska, USA
18. 9,000 years ago Jiahu site, China
19. 8,000 years ago Svaerdborg site, Denmark
20. 7,425 years ago Lake Baikal region, Siberia
21. 7,000 years ago Tianluoshan archaeological site, Zhejiang province, China ref

1. 40,000–35,500 years ago Hohle FelsSchelklingen, Germany

“Canid maxillary fragment. The size of the molars matches those of a wolf, the morphology matches a dog. Proposed as a Paleolithic dog. The figurine Venus of Hohle Fels was discovered in this cave and dated to this time.” ref

2. 36,500 years ago Goyet Caves, Samson River Valley, Belgium

The “Goyet dog” is proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. The Goyet skull is very similar in shape to that of the Eliseevichi-I dog skulls (16,900 years ago) and to the Epigravettian Mezin 5490 and Mezhirich dog skulls (13,500 years ago), which are about 18,000 years younger. The dog-like skull was found in a side gallery of the cave, and Palaeolithic artifacts in this system of caves date from the MousterianAurignacianGravettian, and Magdalenian, which indicates recurrent occupations of the cave from the Pleniglacial until the Late Glacial. The Goyet dog left no descendants, and its genetic classification is inconclusive because its mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) does not match any living wolf nor dog. It may represent an aborted domestication event or phenotypically and genetically distinct wolves. A genome-wide study of a 35,000-year-old Pleistocene wolf fossil from northern Siberia indicates that the dog and the modern grey wolf genetically diverged from a common ancestor between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago.” ref

3. 33,500 years ago Razboinichya Cave,  Altai Mountains, (Russia/Siberia)

The “Altai dog” is proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. The specimens discovered were a dog-like skull, mandibles (both sides), and teeth. The morphological classification, and an initial mDNA analysis, found it to be a dog. A later study of its mDNA was inconclusive, with 2 analyses indicating dog and another 2 indicating wolf. In 2017, two prominent evolutionary biologists reviewed the evidence and supported the Altai dog as being a dog from a lineage that is now extinct and that was derived from a population of small wolves that are also now extinct.” ref

4. 33,500–26,500 years ago Kostyonki-Borshchyovo archaeological complex, (Kostenki site) Voronezh, Russia

One left mandible paired with the right maxilla, proposed as a Paleolithic dog.” ref

5. 31,000 years ago Predmostí, Moravia, Czech Republic

Three dog-like skulls proposed as being Paleolithic dogs. Predmostí is a Gravettian site. The skulls were found in the human burial zone and identified as Palaeolithic dogs, characterized by – compared to wolves – short skulls, short snouts, wide palates and braincases, and even-sized carnassials. Wolf skulls were also found at the site. One dog had been buried with a bone placed carefully in its mouth. The presence of dogs buried with humans at this Gravettian site corroborates the hypothesis that domestication began long before the Late Glacial. Further analysis of bone collagen and dental microwear on tooth enamel indicates that these canines had a different diet when compared with wolves (refer under diet).” ref

6. 26,000 years ago Chauvet CaveVallon-Pont-d’Arc, Ardèche region, France

50-metre trail of footprints made by a boy of about ten years of age alongside those of a large canid. The size and position of the canid’s shortened middle toe in relation to its pads indicate a dog rather than a wolf. The footprints have been dated by soot deposited from the torch the child was carrying. The cave is famous for its cave paintings. A later study using geometric morphometric analysis to compare modern wolves with modern dog tracks proposes that these are wolf tracks.” ref

7. 17,300–14,100 years ago Dyuktai Cave, northern Yakutia, Siberia

Large canid remains along with human artifacts. And from a nearby site dating to around 17,200–16,800 Ulakhan Sular, northern Yakutia, Siberia held a fossil dog-like skull similar in size to the “Altai dog”, proposed as a Paleolithic dog.” ref

8. 17,000–16,000 years ago Eliseevichi-I site, Bryansk Region, Russian Plain, Russia

Two fossil canine skulls proposed as being Paleolithic dogs. In 2002, a study looked at the fossil skulls of two large canids that had been found buried 2 meters and 7 meters from what was once a mammoth-bone hut at this Upper Paleolithic site, and using an accepted morphologically based definition of domestication declared them to be “Ice Age dogs”. The carbon dating gave a calendar-year age estimate that ranged between 16,945 and 13,905 years ago. The Eliseevichi-1 skull is very similar in shape to the Goyet skull (36,000 years ago), the Mezine dog skull (13,500 years ago) and Mezhirich dog skull (13,500 years ago). In 2013, a study looked at the mDNA sequence for one of these skulls and identified it as Canis lupus familiaris i.e. dog. However, in 2015 a study using three-dimensional geometric morphometric analyses indicated the skull is more likely from a wolf. These animals were larger in size than most grey wolves and approached the size of a Great Dane.” ref

9. 16,900 years ago Afontova Gora-1, Yenisei River, southern Siberia

Fossil dog-like tibia, proposed as a Paleolithic dog. The site is on the western bank of the Yenisei River about 2,500 km southwest of Ulakhan Sular, and shares a similar timeframe to that canid. A skull from this site described as dog-like has been lost in the past, but there exists a written description of it possessing a wide snout and a clear stop, with a skull length of 23 cm that falls outside of those of wolves.” ref

Afontova Gora is a Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Siberian complex of archaeological sites located on the left bank of the Yenisei River near the city of KrasnoyarskRussia. Afontova Gora 3 carries are at the root of the classic European blond hair mutation, as massive population migrations from the Eurasian steppe, by a people who had substantial Ancient North Eurasian ancestry, entered continental Europe. Afontova Gora has cultural and genetic links to the people from Mal’ta-Buret’ culture. In a 2016 study, researchers determined that Afontova Gora 2, Afontova Gora 3, and Mal’ta 1 (Mal’ta boy) shared common descent and were clustered together in a Mal’ta cluster. The individual showed close genetic affinities to Mal’ta 1 (Mal’ta boy). Afontova Gora 2 also showed greater genetic affinity for the Karitiana people an indigenous people of Brazil, than for the Han Chinese.” ref

“Since the term ‘Ancient North Eurasian’ refers to a genetic bridge of connected mating networks, scholars of comparative mythology have argued that they probably shared myths and beliefs that could be reconstructed via the comparison of stories attested within cultures that were not in contact for millennia and stretched from the Pontic–Caspian steppe to the American continent. The mytheme of the dog guarding the Otherworld possibly stems from an older Ancient North Eurasian belief, as suggested by similar motifs found in Indo-EuropeanNative American and Siberian mythology. In SiouanAlgonquianIroquoian, and in Central and South American beliefs, a fierce guard dog was located in the Milky Way, perceived as the path of souls in the afterlife, and getting past it was a test. The Siberian Chukchi and Tungus believed in a guardian-of-the-afterlife dog and a spirit dog that would absorb the dead man’s soul and act as a guide in the afterlife. In Indo-European myths, the figure of the dog is embodied by CerberusSarvarā, and Garmr. In Zoroastrianism, two four-eyed dogs guard the bridge to the afterlife called Chinvat BridgeAnthony and Brown note that it might be one of the oldest mythemes recoverable through comparative mythology. A second canid-related series of beliefs, myths and rituals connected dogs with healing rather than death. For instance, Ancient Near Eastern and TurkicKipchaq myths are prone to associate dogs with healing and generally categorised dogs as impure. A similar myth-pattern is assumed for the Eneolithic site of Botai in Kazakhstan, dated to 3500 BCE, which might represent the dog as absorber of illness and guardian of the household against disease and evil. In Mesopotamia, the goddess Nintinugga, associated with healing, was accompanied or symbolized by dogs. Similar absorbent-puppy healing and sacrifice rituals were practiced in Greece and Italy, among the Hittites, again possibly influenced by Near Eastern traditions.” ref

10. 14,223 years ago BonnOberkassel, Germany

The “Bonn-Oberkassel dog“. Undisputed dog skeleton buried with a man and woman. All three skeletal remains were found sprayed with red hematite powder. The consensus is that a dog was buried along with two humans. Analysis of mDNA indicates that this dog was a direct ancestor of modern dogs. Domestic dog.” ref

11. 13,500 years ago MezineChernigov region, Ukraine

Ancient dog-like skull proposed as being a Paleolithic dog. Additionally, ancient wolf specimens were found at the site. Dated to the Epigravettian period (17,000–10,000 years ago). The Mezine skull is very similar in shape to the Goyet skull (36,000 years ago), the Eliseevichi-1 dog skulls (16,900 years ago), and the Mezhirich dog skull (13,500 years ago). The Epigravettian Mezine site is well known for its round mammoth bone dwelling. Taxonomy uncertain.” ref

12. 13,000 years ago Palegawra, (Zarzian culture) Iraq

The fossil jaw and teeth of a domesticated dog, recovered from a cave in Iraq, have been found to be about 14,000 years old. The bone was found in a shallow cave with a number of stone tools suggesting that its keepers were hunters. The scientists who found and studied the bone speculated that the animal served either as a hunting dog in the field or as a watchdog back at the cave or perhaps as both.” refref

13. 12,800 years ago Ushki I, Kamchatka, eastern Siberia

Complete skeleton buried in a buried dwelling. Located 1,800 km to the southeast from Ulakhan Sular. Domestic dog.” ref

14. 12,790 years ago Nanzhuangtou, China

31 fragments including a complete dog mandible.” ref 

Nanzhuangtou, dated to 12,600–11,300 years ago an Initial Neolithic site near Lake Baiyangdian in Xushui CountyHebeiChina. The site was discovered under a peat bog. Over 47 pieces of pottery were discovered at the site. Nanzhuangtou is also the earliest Neolithic site yet discovered in northern China. There is evidence that the people at Nanzhuangtou had domestic dogs 10,000 years ago. Stone grinding slabs and rollers and bone artifacts were also discovered at the site. It is one of the earliest sites showing evidence of millet cultivation dating to 10,500 years ago. Pottery can also be dated to 10,200 years ago.” ref 

“At a nearby location of Lingjing (Henan, China) was found bird carving, with a probable age estimated to 13,500 years old. The carving, which predates previously known comparable instances from this region by 8,500 years.” ref 

Damien finds both the dogs likely from Siberia and possibly the bird mythology that came to inspire the bird art.

 “N moved from southern China 20,000 years ago involving the earliest pottery, then spreading pottery into Siberia starting around 14,000 years ago, and N has experienced serial bottlenecks in Siberia and secondary expansions in eastern Europe. Haplogroup N-M46 is approximately 14,000 years old. In Siberia, haplogroup N-M46 reaches a maximum frequency of approximately 90% among the Yakuts, a Turkic people who live mainly in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. However, N-M46 is present with much lower frequency among many of the Yakuts’ neighbors, such as Evenks and Evens. The haplogroup N-M46 has a low diversity among Yakuts suggestive of a population bottleneck or founder effect. This was confirmed by a study of ancient DNA which traced the origins of the male Yakut lineages to a small group of horse-riders from the Cis-Baikal area.” ref

15. 12,300 years ago Ust’-Khaita site, Baikal region, Siberia

Sub-adult skull located 2,400 km southwest of Ulakhan Sular and proposed as a Paleolithic dog. Also a somewhat close find at 12,450 years old mummified dog carcass. The “Black Dog of Tumat” was found frozen into the ice core of an oxbow lake steep ravine at the middle course of the Syalaah River in the Ust-Yana region. DNA analysis confirmed it as an early dog.” ref The Archaeology of Ushki Lake, Kamchatka, and the Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas: The Ushki Paleolithic sites of Kamchatka, Russia, have long been thought to contain information critical to the peopling of the Americas, especially the origins of Clovis. New radiocarbon dates indicate that human occupation of Ushki began only 13,000 calendar years ago-nearly 4000 years later than previously thought. Although biface industries were widespread across Beringia contemporaneous to the time of Clovis in western North America, these data suggest that late-glacial Siberians did not spread into Beringia until the end of the Pleistocene, perhaps too recently to have been ancestral to proposed pre-Clovis populations in the Americas.” ref

16. 12,000 years ago Ain Mallaha (Eynan) and HaYonim terrace, Israel

Three canid finds. A diminutive carnassial and a mandible, and a wolf or dog puppy skeleton buried with a human during the Natufian culture. These Natufian dogs did not exhibit tooth-crowding. The Natufian culture occupied the Levant, and had earlier interred a fox together with a human in the Uyun al-Hammam burial site, Jordan dated 17,700–14,750 years ago.” ref

17. 10,150 years ago Lawyer’s Cave, Alaska, USA

Bone of a dog, oldest find in North America. DNA indicates a split from Siberian relatives 16,500 years ago, indicating that dogs may have been in Beringia earlier. Lawyer’s Cave is on the Alaskan mainland east of Wrangell Island in the Alexander Archipelago of southeast Alaska.” ref

18. 9,000 years ago Jiahu site, China

Eleven dog interments. Jaihu is a Neolithic site 22 kilometers north of Wuyang in Henan Province.” ref Most archaeologists consider the Jaihu site to be one of the earliest examples of the Peiligang culture. Settled around 7000 BCE or around 9,000 years ago, the site was later flooded and abandoned around 5700 BCE or around 7,700 years ago. At one time, it was “a complex, highly organized Chinese Neolithic society”, home to at least 250 people and perhaps as many as 800. The important discoveries of the Jiahu archaeological site include the Jiahu symbols, possibly an early example of proto-writing, carved into tortoise shells and bones; the thirty-three Jiahu flutes carved from the wing bones of cranes, believed to be among the oldest playable musical instruments in the world; and evidence of alcohol fermented from rice, honey and hawthorn leaves.” ref

19. 8,000 years ago Svaerdborg site, Denmark

Three different sized dog types recorded at this Maglemosian culture site. Maglemosian (c. 9000 – c. 6000 BCE or around 11,000 to 8,000 years ago) is the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe. In Scandinavia, the culture was succeeded by the Kongemose culture. It appears that they had domesticated the dog. Similar settlements were excavated from England to Poland and from Skåne in Sweden to northern France.” refref

20. 7,425 years ago Lake Baikal region, Siberia

Dog buried in a human burial ground. Additionally, a human skull was found buried between the legs of a “tundra wolf” dated 8,320 years ago (but it does not match any known wolf DNA). The evidence indicates that as soon as formal cemeteries developed in Baikal, some canids began to receive mortuary treatments that closely paralleled those of humans. One dog was found buried with four red deer canine pendants around its neck dated 5,770 years ago. Many burials of dogs continued in this region with the latest finding at 3,760 years ago, and they were buried lying on their right side and facing towards the east as did their humans. Some were buried with artifacts, e.g., stone blades, birch bark, and antler bone.” ref

21. 7,000 years ago Tianluoshan archaeological site, Zhejiang province, China

In 2020, an mDNA study of ancient dog fossils from the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins of southern China showed that most of the ancient dogs fell within haplogroup A1b, as do the Australian dingoes and the pre-colonial dogs of the Pacific, but in low frequency in China today. The specimen from the Tianluoshan archaeological site is basal to the entire lineage. The dogs belonging to this haplogroup were once widely distributed in southern China, then dispersed through Southeast Asia into New Guinea and Oceania, but were replaced in China 2,000 years ago by dogs of other lineages.” ref


Abstract: The present study was an attempt to understand how it might occur in East Eurasia that pottery was invented there immediately in the form of a mature innovation. According, to the researcher’s vision, the only reasonable answer, consistent with the present-day ideas about how culture and technologies evolve, is that the initial knowledge and skills critical for this genius invention were accumulated in the West of Eurasia and then somehow transferred to the East, where they became the basis for the invention of ceramic vessels. So that, in this article, researchers represent how this vision agrees with the current data and why this topic deserves research attention.” ref

The microblade technique is an important technological innovation in the Late Pleistocene, and its geographical distribution and diffusion, as well as the relationship between technological changes and paleoclimatic variability in the Last Glacial Maximum, has given rise to heated debates. Northern China contains a large number and range of microblade sites, though the lack of a robust chronology for archeological sites is a limiting factor for ongoing research. Here, we report multidisciplinary investigations at Caodiaoniu (CDN19), a new microblade site in the Lvliang Mountains of the northern Chinese Loess Plateau. Radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating indicates that the depositional sequence spans from 31,500 to 15,900 years ago. The microblade technology dates to between 30,500 and 19,200 years ago, representing one of the oldest microblade sites in northern China and one of the most complete Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 cultural sequences. Human occupations at Caodiaoniu correspond with cold and dry environmental conditions. The evidence from Caodiaoniu is consistent with observations of wide-ranging cultural and technological exchanges between North China and the eastern Eurasian steppe.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Based on the seeming evidence, I speculate that around 14,000 years ago, it could be possible Siberian Shamanism (along with dogs and a bird carving, different but yet possibly related to the bird carvings in Siberia dating from 24,000 to 15,000 years ago) was transferred to China, after “N” DNA reached Siberia bringing them pottery. Bird sculptures through ethnographic comparison at 24,000–15,000 years old Mal’ta with objects used by Siberian shamans, suggest a fully developed shamanism.

refrefref, ref, ref, ref

“The arrival of haplogroup R1a-M417 in Eastern Europe, and the east-west diffusion of pottery through North Eurasia.” https://indo-european.eu/2018/02/the-arrival-of-haplogroup-r1a-m417-in-eastern-europe-and-the-east-west-diffusion-of-pottery-through-north-eurasia/

Ancient North Eurasian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_North_Eurasian

Ancient North Eurasian/Mal’ta–Buret’ culture haplogroup R* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mal%27ta%E2%80%93Buret%27_culture

“The arrival of haplogroup R1a-M417 in Eastern Europe, and the east-west diffusion of pottery through North Eurasia.” ref 

R-M417 (R1a1a1)

“R1a1a1 (R-M417) is the most widely found subclade, in two variations which are found respectively in Europe (R1a1a1b1 (R-Z282) ([R1a1a1a*] (R-Z282) and Central and South Asia (R1a1a1b2 (R-Z93) ([R1a1a2*] (R-Z93).” ref

R-Z282 (R1a1a1b1a) (Eastern Europe)

“This large subclade appears to encompass most of the R1a1a found in Europe.

  • R1a1a1b1a [R1a1a1a*] (R-Z282*) occurs in northern Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia at a frequency of c. 20%.
  • R1a1a1b1a3 [R1a1a1a1] (R-Z284) occurs in Northwest Europe and peaks at c. 20% in Norway.
  • R1a1a1c (M64.2, M87, M204) is apparently rare: it was found in 1 of 117 males typed in southern Iran.” ref

R1a1a1b2 (R-Z93) (Asia)

“This large subclade appears to encompass most of the R1a1a found in Asia, being related to Indo-European migrations (including ScythiansIndo-Aryan migrations, and so on).

  • R-Z93* or R1a1a1b2* (R1a1a2* in Underhill (2014)) is most common (>30%) in the South Siberian Altai region of Russia, cropping up in Kyrgyzstan (6%) and in all Iranian populations (1-8%).
  • R-Z2125 occurs at highest frequencies in Kyrgyzstan and in Afghan Pashtuns (>40%). At a frequency of >10%, it is also observed in other Afghan ethnic groups and in some populations in the Caucasus and Iran.
    • R-M434 is a subclade of Z2125. It was detected in 14 people (out of 3667 people tested), all in a restricted geographical range from Pakistan to Oman. This likely reflects a recent mutation event in Pakistan.
  • R-M560 is very rare and was only observed in four samples: two Burushaski speakers (north Pakistan), one Hazara (Afghanistan), and one Iranian Azerbaijani.
  • R-M780 occurs at high frequency in South Asia: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Himalayas. The group also occurs at >3% in some Iranian populations and is present at >30% in Roma from Croatia and Hungary.” ref

R-M458 (R1a1a1b1a1)

“R-M458 is a mainly Slavic SNP, characterized by its own mutation, and was first called cluster N. Underhill et al. (2009) found it to be present in modern European populations roughly between the Rhine catchment and the Ural Mountains and traced it to “a founder effect that … falls into the early Holocene period, 7.9±2.6 KYA.” M458 was found in one skeleton from a 14th-century grave field in Usedom, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The paper by Underhill et al. (2009) also reports a surprisingly high frequency of M458 in some Northern Caucasian populations (for example 27.5% among Karachays and 23.5% among Balkars, 7.8% among Karanogays and 3.4% among Abazas).” ref


The transmission of pottery technology among prehistoric European hunter-gatherers

The transmission of pottery technology among prehistoric European hunter-gatherers

Although isolated cases of innovation cannot be excluded, a continuous process of adoption with the earlier occurrence of an antecedent tradition in western Siberia or central Asia, Siberia fit better though both are consistent with an ultimate origin for these traditions in the Far East.

An interesting potential dog genetic lineage is connected to a group of ancient canids date to more than 47,000 years ago had separated from the other ancient canids including wolves. Genetic studies of modern dog and wolf populations show origins in East/South Asia and/or the Near East to multiple areas of domestication and/or hybridization with regional wolf breeds.

A 33,000-year-old emerging dog from southern Siberia in the Altai Mountains seems to demonstrate an early domestication. The oldest similar emergence of this behavior seems to be demonstrated a pre-Natufian burial site in Jordan Uyun al-Hammam dated to around 16,500-year-old with elaborate human burials with grave goods as well as include evidence for unique human-animal relationships, seeming to show foxes where used similar to modern dogs demonstrating that the dog like domestication features were not unique to the later Natufians.

Moreover, dog genetics is one way to further demonstrate human migration as well as its oven accompanying religious transfer. While most dogs buried at this time were individual others were placed back-to-back in pairs. Moreover, a general genetic analysis of modern dogs suggests a general origin in southern China approximately 16,000 years ago. The Natufian culture existed in the Levant roughly from 14,500 to 11,500 years. It seems two different human burials at the Ain Mallaha Natufian settlement and Hayonim cave sites include dogs which likely suggest dogs were domesticated by at least by around 12,000 years ago.

In addition, at Ain Mallaha there is a widespread influence of the culture and as always, the presumed religious transfer can be estimated by the presence of obsidian from Turkey and shellfish from the Nile-valley as part of the artifacts found. Furthermore, generally by around 12,000 years ago domestic dogs are presumed to be found from the Levant, Cyprus, Iraq, Northern China, and the Kamchatka peninsula in Far Eastern Russia. A 12,000-year-old tomb in northern Israel held a fifty-year-old woman was buried with a puppy close to her head with her left hand on it seemingly expressing a religious or an emotional connection, possibly some kind of shaman burial. By around 8,000 years ago at Svaerdborg in Denmark there are already three differently sized dog types found.

1234, 5, 6, 7

Dogs have played a role in the religion, myths, tales, and legends of many cultures. In mythology, dogs often serve as pets or as watchdogs. Stories of dogs guarding the gates of the underworld recur throughout Indo-European mythologies and may originate from Proto-Indo-European religion. Historian Julien d’Huy has suggested three narrative lines related to dogs in mythology. One echoes the gatekeeping noted above in Indo-European mythologies—a linkage with the afterlife; a second “related to the union of humans and dogs”; a third relates to the association of dogs with the star Sirius. Evidence presented by d’Huy suggests a correlation between the mythological record from cultures and the genetic and fossil record related to dog domestication.” ref

The Ancient Egyptians are often more associated with cats in the form of Bastet, but dogs are found to have a sacred role and figure as an important symbol in religious iconography. Dogs were associated with Anubis, the jackal headed god of the underworld. At times throughout its period of being in use the Anubieion catacombs at Saqqara saw the burial of dogs. Anput was the female counterpart of her husband, Anubis; she was often depicted as a pregnant or nursing jackal, or as a jackal wielding knives. Other dogs can be found in Egyptian mythology. Am-heh was a minor god from the underworld. He was depicted as a man with the head of a hunting dog who lived in a lake of fire. Duamutef was originally represented as a man wrapped in mummy bandages. From the New Kingdom onwards, he is shown with the head of a jackal. Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. Khenti-Amentiu was depicted as a jackal-headed deity at Abydos in Upper Egypt, who stood guard over the city of the dead.” ref

Dogs were closely associated with Hecate in the Classical world. Dogs were sacred to Artemis and AresCerberus is a three-headed, dragon-tailed watchdog who guards the gates of Hades. Laelaps was a dog in Greek mythology. When Zeus was a baby, a dog, known only as the “golden hound” was charged with protecting the future King of Gods. In Homer‘s epic poem the Odyssey, when the disguised Odysseus returns home after 20 years, he is recognized only by his faithful dog, Argos, who has been waiting all this time for his return.” ref

In Hindu mythology, Yama, the god of death, owns two watchdogs who have four eyes. They are said to watch over the gates of Naraka. The hunter god Muthappan from the North Malabar region of Kerala has a hunting dog as his mount. Dogs are found in and out of the Muthappan Temple and offerings at the shrine take the form of bronze dog figurines. The dog (Shvan) is also the vahana or mount of the Hindu god BhairavaYudhishthira had approached heaven with his dog who was the god Yama himself. Dogs are also shown in the background in the iconography of Hindu deities like Dattatreya, many times dogs are also shown in the background in the iconography of deities like Khandoba. In Valmiki Ramayana there’s a tale about a dog receiving justice, passed by king Rama.” ref

“In ancient Mesopotamia, from the Old Babylonian period until the Neo-Babylonian, dogs were the symbol of Ninisina, the goddess of healing and medicine, and her worshippers frequently dedicated small models of seated dogs to her. In the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, dogs were used as emblems of magical protection. There is a temple in Isin, Mesopotamia, named é-ur-gi7-ra which translates as “dog house”. Enlilbani, a king from the Old Babylonian First Dynasty of Isin, commemorated the temple to the goddess Ninisina. Although there is a small amount of detail known about it, there is enough information to confirm that a dog cult did exist in this area. Usually, dogs were only associated with the Gula cult, but there is some information, like Enlilbani’s commemoration, to suggest that dogs were also important to the cult of Ninisina, as Gula was another goddess who was closely associated to Ninisina. More than 30 dog burials, numerous dog sculptures, and dog drawings were discovered when the area around this Ninisina temple was excavated. In the Gula cult, the dog was used in oaths and was sometimes referred to as a divinity.” ref

“In Persian mythology, two four-eyed dogs guard the Chinvat Bridge. During archaeological diggings, the Ashkelon dog cemetery was discovered in the layer dating from when the city was part of the Persian Empire. It is believed the dogs may have had a sacred role – however, evidence for this is not conclusive. In Zoroastrianism, the dog is regarded as an especially beneficent, clean and righteous creature, which must be fed and taken care of. The dog is praised for the useful work it performs in the household, but it is also seen as having special spiritual virtues. Dogs are associated with Yama who guards the gates of afterlife with his dogs just like Hinduism. A dog’s gaze is considered to be purifying and to drive off daevas (demons). It is also believed to have a special connection with the afterlife: the Chinwad Bridge to Heaven is said to be guarded by dogs in Zoroastrian scripture, and dogs are traditionally fed in commemoration of the dead. Ihtiram-i sag, “respect for the dog”, is a common injunction among Iranian Zoroastrian villagers.” ref

“In Norse mythology, a bloody, four-eyed dog called Garmr guards Helheim. Also, Fenrir is a giant wolf who is a child of the Norse god Loki, who was foretold to kill Odin in the events of Ragnarok. In Welsh mythologyAnnwn is guarded by Cŵn Annwn.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey 

“How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different animisms.” ref

My thoughts on Religion Evolution with external links for more info:

“Religion is an Evolved Product” and Yes, Religion is Like Fear Given Wings…

Atheists talk about gods and religions for the same reason doctors talk about cancer, they are looking for a cure, or a firefighter talks about fires because they burn people and they care to stop them. We atheists too often feel a need to help the victims of mental slavery, held in the bondage that is the false beliefs of gods and the conspiracy theories of reality found in religions.

“Understanding Religion Evolution: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, Paganism & Progressed organized religion”

Understanding Religion Evolution:

“An Archaeological/Anthropological Understanding of Religion Evolution”

It seems ancient peoples had to survived amazing threats in a “dangerous universe (by superstition perceived as good and evil),” and human “immorality or imperfection of the soul” which was thought to affect the still living, leading to ancestor worship. This ancestor worship presumably led to the belief in supernatural beings, and then some of these were turned into the belief in gods. This feeble myth called gods were just a human conceived “made from nothing into something over and over, changing, again and again, taking on more as they evolve, all the while they are thought to be special,” but it is just supernatural animistic spirit-belief perceived as sacred.


Quick Evolution of Religion?

Pre-Animism (at least 300,000 years ago) pre-religion is a beginning that evolves into later Animism. So, Religion as we think of it, to me, all starts in a general way with Animism (Africa: 100,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in supernatural powers/spirits), then this is physically expressed in or with Totemism (Europe: 50,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in mythical relationship with powers/spirits through a totem item), which then enlists a full-time specific person to do this worship and believed interacting Shamanism (Siberia/Russia: 30,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in access and influence with spirits through ritual), and then there is the further employment of myths and gods added to all the above giving you Paganism (Turkey: 12,000 years ago) (often a lot more nature-based than most current top world religions, thus hinting to their close link to more ancient religious thinking it stems from). My hypothesis is expressed with an explanation of the building of a theatrical house (modern religions development). Progressed organized religion (Egypt: 5,000 years ago)  with CURRENT “World” RELIGIONS (after 4,000 years ago).

Historically, in large city-state societies (such as Egypt or Iraq) starting around 5,000 years ago culminated to make religion something kind of new, a sociocultural-governmental-religious monarchy, where all or at least many of the people of such large city-state societies seem familiar with and committed to the existence of “religion” as the integrated life identity package of control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine, but this juggernaut integrated religion identity package of Dogmatic-Propaganda certainly did not exist or if developed to an extent it was highly limited in most smaller prehistoric societies as they seem to lack most of the strong control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine (magical beliefs could be at times be added or removed). Many people just want to see developed religious dynamics everywhere even if it is not. Instead, all that is found is largely fragments until the domestication of religion.

Religions, as we think of them today, are a new fad, even if they go back to around 6,000 years in the timeline of human existence, this amounts to almost nothing when seen in the long slow evolution of religion at least around 70,000 years ago with one of the oldest ritual worship. Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago. This message of how religion and gods among them are clearly a man-made thing that was developed slowly as it was invented and then implemented peace by peace discrediting them all. Which seems to be a simple point some are just not grasping how devastating to any claims of truth when we can see the lie clearly in the archeological sites.

I wish people fought as hard for the actual values as they fight for the group/clan names political or otherwise they think support values. Every amount spent on war is theft to children in need of food or the homeless kept from shelter.

Here are several of my blog posts on history:

I am not an academic. I am a revolutionary that teaches in public, in places like social media, and in the streets. I am not a leader by some title given but from my commanding leadership style of simply to start teaching everywhere to everyone, all manner of positive education. 

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Low Gods “Earth” or Tutelary deity and High Gods “Sky” or Supreme deity

“An Earth goddess is a deification of the Earth. Earth goddesses are often associated with the “chthonic” deities of the underworldKi and Ninhursag are Mesopotamian earth goddesses. In Greek mythology, the Earth is personified as Gaia, corresponding to Roman Terra, Indic Prithvi/Bhūmi, etc. traced to an “Earth Mother” complementary to the “Sky Father” in Proto-Indo-European religionEgyptian mythology exceptionally has a sky goddess and an Earth god.” ref

“A mother goddess is a goddess who represents or is a personification of naturemotherhoodfertilitycreationdestruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother. In some religious traditions or movements, Heavenly Mother (also referred to as Mother in Heaven or Sky Mother) is the wife or feminine counterpart of the Sky father or God the Father.” ref

Any masculine sky god is often also king of the gods, taking the position of patriarch within a pantheon. Such king gods are collectively categorized as “sky father” deities, with a polarity between sky and earth often being expressed by pairing a “sky father” god with an “earth mother” goddess (pairings of a sky mother with an earth father are less frequent). A main sky goddess is often the queen of the gods and may be an air/sky goddess in her own right, though she usually has other functions as well with “sky” not being her main. In antiquity, several sky goddesses in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Near East were called Queen of Heaven. Neopagans often apply it with impunity to sky goddesses from other regions who were never associated with the term historically. The sky often has important religious significance. Many religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, have deities associated with the sky.” ref

“In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a “father”, often the father of a pantheon and is often either a reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of “sky father” may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an “earth mother“. “Sky Father” is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity name as the Greek Zeûs Pater and Roman Jupiter and Germanic Týr, Tir or Tiwaz, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity’s name, *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr. While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, there are exceptions (e.g. In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the sky mother and Geb is the earth father).” ref

Tutelary deity

“A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture, or occupation. The etymology of “tutelary” expresses the concept of safety and thus of guardianship. In late Greek and Roman religion, one type of tutelary deity, the genius, functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) iKorean shamanismjangseung and sotdae were placed at the edge of villages to frighten off demons. They were also worshiped as deities. Seonangshin is the patron deity of the village in Korean tradition and was believed to embody the SeonangdangIn Philippine animism, Diwata or Lambana are deities or spirits that inhabit sacred places like mountains and mounds and serve as guardians. Such as: Maria Makiling is the deity who guards Mt. Makiling and Maria Cacao and Maria Sinukuan. In Shinto, the spirits, or kami, which give life to human bodies come from nature and return to it after death. Ancestors are therefore themselves tutelaries to be worshiped. And similarly, Native American beliefs such as Tonás, tutelary animal spirit among the Zapotec and Totems, familial or clan spirits among the Ojibwe, can be animals.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Austronesian beliefs such as: Atua (gods and spirits of the Polynesian peoples such as the Māori or the Hawaiians), Hanitu (Bunun of Taiwan‘s term for spirit), Hyang (KawiSundaneseJavanese, and Balinese Supreme Being, in ancient Java and Bali mythology and this spiritual entity, can be either divine or ancestral), Kaitiaki (New Zealand Māori term used for the concept of guardianship, for the sky, the sea, and the land), Kawas (mythology) (divided into 6 groups: gods, ancestors, souls of the living, spirits of living things, spirits of lifeless objects, and ghosts), Tiki (Māori mythologyTiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne and represents deified ancestors found in most Polynesian cultures). ” ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Mesopotamian Tutelary Deities can be seen as ones related to City-States 

“Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as