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A Journey in Southern Siberia, by Jeremiah Curtin, [1909], at

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DELQUEN Sagán Burkan, World White God, is the highest existence in the Universe. He is also called Esege Malan. In him are three spirits: Baronyé Tabin Tabung Tengeri, Zúm Dishín Dirlún Tengeri, and Sagadé U!gu!gun.

From the first spirit came the fifty-five Tengeris, from the second the forty-four Tengeris; the third has seven sons and seven daughters. Of the seven sons the eldest is Golói Qûn Shara Qúbun. The eldest daughter is Golói Qûn Shara Basagán.

Prayers are offered and sacrifices made to all the Heavenly Burkans as well as to the Highest Existence. People ask the World White Burkan for cattle, for grass, and for health. They ask the three other spirits, especially Sagadé U!gu!gun, far rain, good crops, and children.

When they ask the gods for children they offer Sagadé U!gu!gun twenty pots of tarasun; they pray in the yurta, tie a hair rope around the four posts, and hang wooden rattles (playthings) on them. These playthings are to persuade the child to come. They bring from the forest and place in the middle of the yurta a tall birch tree, the top of which comes out through the smoke hole. At the roots of the tree they put three sods of earth taken from a swamp. Up this birch tree prayers are supposed to go to the Heavenly Burkans. After the offering and prayers a cradle is made, and all its belongings prepared for the coming of the new child.

No pictures are ever made of the Highest Being, or of the first and second spirit. Pictures are made of the third spirit, Sagadé U!gu!gun, of his wife, Sanqali`n Qatĕ`n, of their eldest son, Golói Qûn Shara Qúbun, and of their eldest daughter, Goloi Qûn Shara Basagán.

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To the fifty-five Tengeris a sacrifice should be made three times in his life by every man who has the means. These sacrifices are as follows: the first sacrifice is fifty-five pots of tarasun, and five beasts,—one virgin mare, three virgin ewes, and one goat; the second sacrifice, fifty-five pots of tarasun, one virgin mare, five virgin ewes, and one goat; the third, fifty-five pots of tarasun, one virgin mare, seven virgin ewes, and one goat.

To Qoqodai Mĕgûn Qubi`n, the eldest of the fifty-five Tengeris, sacrifices are made frequently; the other fifty-four are simply mentioned with him.

Qoqodai Mĕgûn Qubi`n has nine sons and nine daughters. His eldest son is Qurĕndé Buqú Qubûn; the second, Qugén Mergĭn; the third, Qorsa!gái Mergĭn, the fourth, Boroldái Buqú. The eighteen sons and daughters have eighteen gray steeds. On these gray steeds they race and gallop over the sky, and make the awful thunder which we hear.

Of the forty-four Tengeris who are from Zúni Dishi`n, the second spirit of Delquen Sagan Burkan, the Highest Existence, seven are very important. These are Gutár Bai`n Tengeri, the eldest; Qap Sagán Tengeri; Togóto Bain Tengeri; Qásan Burún Qui Tengeri; Galta Ulan Tengeri; Qûng Germa Tengeri; Qair Qur Tengeri.

To the third spirit, Sagadé U!gu!gun, his wife, Sanqali`n Qatĕ`n, and their eldest son and eldest daughter, the sacrifice of a "fat, harmless ram" is made, and prayers are offered with libations of tarasun.

Buriats worship a heavenly spirit, a son of Bulage Iji`n, one of the fifty-five Tengeris. His name is Búir Sagán U!gu!gun. To this spirit and his wife, Qwir Sagán Qamagan, they make an offering of twenty-seven pots of tarasun, and two, or sometimes three, virgin ewes.

To the forty-four Tengeris offerings are made of tarasun, and thirty skins of various small animals,—three rabbit skins, five skunk skins, three ermine skins, seven squirrel skins, six small kid skins, and the skins of six small he-goats.

Irlik Namun Qûn, a descendant of the forty-four Tengeris, had three sons, Uqûr Qara Bisheshi, Selmendé Saga Bisheshi, and Shandá Bukqû Bisheshi; each of these sons came to earth,

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and each has his dwelling-place in a mountain of the Buriat country.

At springs Buriats worship a heavenly power, a son of one of the fifty-five Tengeris, Bulage Iji`n, Buir Sagán U!gu!gun, and his wife, Qwir Sagan Hamagan. They make sacrifices at such springs,—twenty-seven pots of tarasun, two virgin ewes, and sometimes three.


First. The wheel, with an image inside representing Tumúr Shi`n Qulain Seji`n Bará, who was a holy Shaman of ancient times. People boil meat for him and in important cases sacrifice a goat. At marriage the bridegroom sacrifices a he-goat to this divinity, and a small pot of meal pudding as well as eight pots of tarasun, asking for health, happiness, prosperity, and children. The wheel is made of birch; from the bottom hangs a bunch of hair taken from under the belly of a he-goat. The figure is metallic and represents the sacred Shaman himself. The garment he wears is of red cloth, and is supposed to be a shuba or mantle. Two coral beads answer for eyes.

Second. On a square piece of black felt are represented the third spirit of the World White God, Sagadé U!gu!gun, his wife, Sanqali`n Qatĕ`n, and their eldest son and eldest daughter, as well as a tiny infant which represents the infant that people ask for in their prayers. In the pockets below the little tin pieces which portray these spirits meat is placed as an offering.

Third. A long piece of felt containing three virgin sisters (little tin figures on blue cloth), Munqugshin Basagán, Munqoden Basagán, and Boryúntēn Basagán. When these are consecrated the ceremony is performed by a Shaman. Three virgin ewes are offered, thirty pots of tarasun, and one big pot of meal pudding. Through these sisters the people ask of the World White God, or Esege Malan, land, cattle, and all that is necessary for prosperity.


In the first bag is the skin of an ermine. The skin is so dried and shrivelled as to be unrecognizable, and two little tin images


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represent Ugin Xubun and his wife. They were Shamans. People turn to them as to gods, begging for anything they wish for,—good crops, rain, etc.

In the second bag are two figures representing Qulebo and his wife. Both were Shamans. They are petitioned to intercede in all affairs pertaining to cattle-raising, buying and selling, etc.

In the largest gray bag are seven figures on two pieces of cloth; on one piece are five, on the other two. These represent Yûn Yiqé Qóta and his wife, Qazagar, and their two sons and one daughter. On the second piece of cloth are the son-in-law and one daughter-in-law. These have about the same attributes as those in the other bags, and are petitioned for similar things.

The long skin is that of a skunk, and represents the god who came down in the form of hail and entering a girl of thirteen was born and named Mindiú Qubun Iryil (see Origin of Shamans). All things are asked of him. He is very kindly and grants many prayers.

The two little beasts are ermines—two sisters who are represented in little metallic figures. The names of these sisters are Búlai and Budraganá; to them must be offered horse meat and two salmon as well as nine pots of tarasun. They are invoked in sickness, especially in cases of scrofula.


In the beginning there were Esege Malan, the highest god, and his wife, Ehé Ureng Ibi.

At first it was dark and silent; there was nothing to be heard or seen. Esege took up a handful of earth, squeezed moisture out of it, and made the sun of the water; he made the moon in the same way.

Next he made all living things and plants. He divided the world into East and West, and gave it to the highest order of gods. These gods are very strict, and people must sacrifice horses and rams to them. If angered, they punish by bringing sickness, especially to children. Some of the higher gods punish with disease or misfortune people who offend local gods. For instance, if a man calls to witness or swears by a local god,

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either he is punished by that local god, or judgment is rendered by one of the superior gods, for it is a great sin to swear by any Burkan, whether the man swears truly or falsely.

Among these principal gods are the bird gods of the South-west. Many of them take the form of swans. They are very kind to good people. To these bird gods offerings are made twice each year. In the autumn a wether is offered, and in the spring mare's milk, tea, millet, and tobacco. Between these two higher orders and the Ongon gods there is a secondary order of Burkans of both sexes. Some of these descended from the higher Burkans, and others were in the old, old time people who by the favor of the divinities were made Shamans.



Our great story is from the sky,—the story of Gesir Bogdo. There are, as you know, people in the sky as well as here. They existed long before we did—no one knows how long. The oldest and chief of those people is Esege Malan.

Esege Malan had nine sons. The four elder sons said: "We will succeed our father." The four younger said: "No, we will succeed him." The fifth, or middle, son, a hero and very powerful, was on the side of the four younger brothers. His name was Mahai Danjin.

The four older brothers and the four younger began a dispute, and nobody knows how long it might have lasted had not Mahai Danjin interfered and sent the four older brothers down to the earth, to some place beyond the Frozen Ocean (Arctic), where they created wicked creatures, Mangathais, and vile serpents, some of which could fly around and swallow people. They also made immense and savage dogs to destroy things. This they did to spite their brothers who were ruling in the sky. They would allow no one to approach them, and to this day no man has been able to reach their dwelling-place.

As a result of the action of these four brothers, the earth became full of evil and great disorder, and continued so for many thousands of years—no man knows how long.

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Meanwhile Esege Malan, having ceased to rule, had built for himself a great, splendid fortress around the sky. One day while walking about and looking at the fortress he found a place broken. He immediately called a meeting to discover who was trying to destroy his work.

In the heavens there are ninety-nine Tengeri provinces, and this meeting was formed of one Tengeri from each province. They debated long, but were unable to find out who or what had made the breach in the wall of the fortress. At last Esege Malan sent for Zarya Azergesha, "Esh," who was a very wise man, but he was footless. He refused to come to the meeting because, having no feet, he was afraid of being laughed at. Then Esege Malan sent two Shalmos (invisible spirits), to hear what Zarya Azergesha (hedgehog) might say to himself.

They found him sitting at home, and he was talking, thinking that no one could overhear him.

"That Esege Malan," said he, "does not understand. He has ninety-nine Tengeris, and still he could not control his four sons, and they went down to the earth and are making so much trouble there that the tears of people have risen to the sky and are weakening the walls of the fortress. The people have prayed and made libations, have sprinkled their own blood toward heaven, and when that did no good they sprinkled their tears. How is it that Esege Malan does not know this? Why send for me to give him information? All this trouble comes from his four sons. They are to blame for the tears and the broken battlements."

When the Shalmos heard this they waited no longer, but went quickly to Esege Malan and told him what Zarya Azergesha had said. Then Esege sent down to the earth his grand-son, Gesir Bogdo, the son of Mahai Danjin the hero, sent him as a bird, and he flew over the earth three years, unable to alight, because of the dreadful odor from dead bodies of every kind.

At last Esege Malan sent flies which created maggots, and the maggots ate the dead flesh and purified the earth, and it was sweet and clean. Then the bird alighted on a broad steppe called Urundashéi, turned itself into a blue bull, and bellowed

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loudly in challenge. The four brothers in their home beyond the Frozen Sea heard the voice and said, "That is the voice of one of our relatives, one of our own people!"

Then one of the four turned himself into a pied bull and went to the steppe. The two bulls fought until the pied bull threw the blue bull, caught him on his horns and tossed him through the air so furiously that he fell to the earth on the other side of the Altai mountains. Then the pied bull raced after the blue bull to kill him, but the blue bull turned himself into stone and stood in his road. The pied bull rushed at the stone bull, but broke one of his own horns. Then, finding he could do the blue bull no further harm, he roared:

"Thou hast deceived me! Hereafter I shall be the enemy of all horned cattle!" And, defeated, he went back to his brothers.

Beyond the Altai that stone bull stands to this day. But Gesir Bogdo, its spirit, went back to Esege Malan and created heroes to fight the Mangathais, the evil animals, and the serpents of the North. He had a son named Buqû Noyon. Buqû Noyon had seven sons and one daughter, whose name was Irgí Súban. Irgí Súban married Shandu Buqú Besbesh, the grand-son of Irlik Nomun, the eldest of the four brothers of the North, and thus the family of Esege Malan was at last pacified.

Solobung Yubún, the Morning Star, is a great personage. He is the favorite son of Esege Malan. If Buriats want many cattle they sacrifice a ram at dawn of day, pray to Solobung Yubún, and for three successive nights dance till daybreak.


After Esege Malan had straightened out all things, Ehé Tazar, Mother Earth, went to visit him, and they spent several days very pleasantly. When Ehé Tazar's visit was ended and she was ready to go, she asked Esege Malan to give her the sun and the moon, and he gave them gladly; but he soon found that it was very difficult to get them for her. He called a thousand Burkans together and asked how he was to accomplish the feat, and though they studied long and seriously over it they could not tell him. Then Esege Malan sent for Esh (the hedgehog),


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and Esh went up to the sky to the dwelling of Esege Malan.

Esege Malan had three daughters who often came down to the earth, removed their clothing, turned themselves into swans, and sported in the sea. It happened that the three were at home when Esh came.

Esege had told his daughters that Esh was a queer fellow, that he was lame and hairy, but he was very wise, and they must not laugh at him. Notwithstanding this, when Esh walked in Esege's daughters looked sidewise and laughed; they could not help it, he was so droll. He saw them laugh and said to himself, "Esege Malan has called me up here for his daughters to laugh at and ridicule!" He was terribly angry, and left so quickly that Esege had not time to say a word. Esh knew, however, what Esege wanted, for the messenger had told him. He came down from the sky very quickly, but two Shalmos (invisible spirits) followed, sent by Esege Malan to listen and hear what Esh said as he traveled. For Esege knew that Esh was raging, and he thought that he might say something about the sun and the moon.

The first thing Esh saw as he came to earth was a herd of cows and bulls. When they caught sight of him they were frightened, put up their tails and ran. Esh, angry that they should be frightened at him, cursed them, saying:

"May the hair rope never leave your nostrils, and the yoke never leave your necks!" And so it has been.

He went farther and came to a herd of horses. They were frightened also, raised their tails, and ran away. Zarya, terribly angry, cursed them, saying:

"May the bit never leave your mouths and the saddle never leave your backs!" And so it has been.

The Shalmos followed him always, listening to what he said. After a time Esh began to talk to himself and abuse Esege Malan. "What sort of a ruler is that Esege Malan?" asked he. "What sort of a master of the world? He manages everything, fixes everything. He has given away the sun and the moon, but does not know how to get them! If he is so wise, why does he not come to visit Mother Earth, and when the

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visit is ended and he is ready to go, ask her for the hot dancing air of summer and the echo, habra yirligin and darbon. She would give them to him gladly, but how could she get them for him?"

When the Shalmos heard this they followed no farther, but went to the sky very quickly and told Esege Malan all that Esh had said.

Esege waited until a sufficient time had passed; then he came to return Mother Earth's visit, and while they were walking around he said: "When you came to visit me I gave you the sun and the moon, now I ask for a present. Give me the hot dancing air of summer and echo." She gave them, but try as she would she could not get them for him.

When she found that it was impossible to get them, and no one could tell her how to do it, Esege said:

"Let the sun and the moon remain where they are and the hot dancing air of summer and echo stay here!" And so it is that though the sun and the moon belong to the earth, they are in the sky, and the hot dancing air and the echo, though they belong to Esege Malan, remain with Mother Earth.

Next: Gesir Bogdo. No. I