The Ancient Practice of Tengriism, Shamanism and Ancient Worship of the Sky Gods

The Ancient Practice of Tengriism, Shamanism and Ancient Worship of the Sky Gods


In ancient times, people in Central Asia practiced a religion known as Tengriism, which focused on living in harmony with the natural universe. While this religion was founded and most widely practiced during ancient times, there are groups that still practice Tengriism to this day.

Tengriism (sometimes called Tengrism, Tengerism, Tengrianism, or Tengrianizm) is a religion that revolves around the sun deity Tengri, and focuses on balance with nature. The actual founding date of Tengriism has not been confirmed, but it is believed to have begun sometime around the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3,300 B.C. through 1,200 B.C. It is considered to be one of the oldest religions, and incorporates characteristics of shamanism, animism, totemism, both polytheism and monotheism, and ancestor worship. Those who practice Tengriism hold the belief that their very existence is sustained by the eternal blue Sky (Tengri), the fertile Mother Earth (Eje), and the holy spirit of the sky.

Spelling of Tengri in the Old Turkic script

Spelling of Tengri in the Old Turkic script. Public Domain

Under Tengriism, the origins of the universe began with Tengri, and his self-created companion, Kishi. The two flew above the primordial deep together until one day, Kishi decided he wanted to fly higher than Tengri. Due to his arrogance, Kishi lost his ability to fly, and fell into the sea. He called out for Tengri to save him. Tengri brought forth rocks and earth from the sea, creating a primal mound to stand upon. From this mound grew the Cosmic Tree – the tree of life, and from its branches emerged people and lesser gods. He guarded against evil with dogs and snakes. Tengri lived in harmony with Yer – the earth spirit. Some say they were married, and that is what led to the creation of man. Yer gave man his physical body. Tengri gave man his soul at birth, and takes it back upon death.

A representation of the Tengriist world view on a shaman's drum

A representation of the Tengriist world view on a shaman's drum. Creative Commons

There are some variations in Tengriism among the many who have practiced over time. For example, Tengriist Mongolians believe in 99 deities, and Turkish Tengriists only believe in 17. Most commonly, the deities of Tengriism are believed to be Tengri, and sub-deities Yer, Umai, Erlik, Water, Fire, Sun, Moon, Star, Air, Clouds, Wind, Storm, Thunder and Lightning, and Rain and Rainbow. It’s believed respect for the deities will lead to prosperity and well-being. The main principles of Tengriism are:

  • Tengri is the one supreme god. He is the all-knower, and the judge of people’s actions, good and bad. He is unpredictable.
  • Tengri is the power behind all of nature, and all of nature is controlled by him.
  • There are many diverse spirits among Tengri, good and bad. They can reside in the heavens, the underworld, or as spirits of the land. They can harm people.
  • There is no one true religion of the world. A man may be any religion, and Tengri may still judge who is righteous.
  • All humans are weak, and there should be tolerance for shortcomings. There should be tolerance for different religions and beliefs. No one is perfect.

Tengriism played a large role in the Gok-Turk Empire and the Great Mongol Empire. Ghengis-Khan and many of his followers believed in Tengriism. It was also known for promoting tolerance of other religions, and unlike many religions, there has never been a push for Tengriism to dominate the religious landscape. Möngke Khan, of the Great Mongol Empire, said “We believe that there is only one God, by whom we live and by whom we die, and for whom we have an upright heart. But as God gives us the different fingers of the hand, so he gives to men diverse ways to approach Him.” (“Account of the Mongols. Diary of William Rubruck”, Religious debate in court. Documented by W. Rubruck in May 31, 1254.)

Letter of Arghun to Philip the Fair, 1289, in Mongolian language and classical Mongolian script.

Letter of Arghun to Philip the Fair , 1289, in Mongolian language and classical Mongolian script . In the center of the magnified portion, the sacred phrase 'Tengri-yin Kuchin' (Power of Tengri) is separate from the other sentences, forming a sacred pause. Wikipedia

Today, Tengriism is practiced in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Sakha, Buryatia, Tuva, Mongolia, and Turkey in parallel with Tibetan Buddhism and Burkhanism. A Tengriism movement began in Central Asia in the 1990s, and continues to spread today. This illustrates the durability of this ancient religion, and how it has withstood the test of time to remain something that today’s people can believe in, much like their ancient ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Featured image: Tuvan shaman Ai-Churek during a Tengi fire ceremony in Tuva, Russia. Wikipedia CC-BY-2.0-de


In the Beginning was Tengri: “Grace is the heart of belief” – Siberian Dragon. Available from:

Tengriism – Wikispaces. Available from:

Tengrism – Wikipedia. Available from:

Tengriism – New World Encyclopedia. Available from:

By M R Reese


The most Ancient Spirituality is Ancient Bulgarians'spirituality. Ancient Bulgarians were the first human beings on earth and they were enlightened sages, Godly people. They believed their Allfather to be God Absolute Ra - BaRa. From Bara the Absolute Spirit was created the Mother Godess of Energy BaRaKarati or called today in Hinduism Prakriti. From Prakriti the supreme Mother Godess came the matter and the material world. Ancient Bulgarians called Mother Godess BaRaMa and believed her to be the Mother Giving Birth. She had two more manifestations as Vishnu - Mother Holding Fruits, and Shiva - Mother of Transformation, death and New Life. In Bulgarian folklorique songs still songs religious hymns are sand consecrated to Mother Godess brama, Vishnu and Shiva. Those songs were collected in the last century by verkovich and were called Veda Slovena. Bulgarians still call themselves Ora / Hora meaning people of Ra God. Ancient Bulgarians had their Godly trinity consisted of God BaRa Allfather, Godess Ma of matter and naure and God Sun the Son called Bal or sebAzi, god of the light. Tengri must have been one of the many ancient Bulgarian zhretsi, priests of God Ra who spread ancient Bulgarians'spirituality around the globe. The very name tengri is of Ancient Bulgarian origin and means Ta Na Ga Ra (a man of earth and sky). That is also the meaning of the Bulgarian origin word angel.

First human spirituality is the Ancient Bulgarians spirituality from which all the other religions arose. The Allfather God of Bulgarians was Ra, the Absolute, depicted as the Allseeing Eye. From His Willing energy Ka(u,i)Ra the world appeared as MaRa, The Ancient Bulgarians' Godess of Matter. From the marriage of Ra and Mara appeared the man's soul as a God Son called BaL (Godly Light) and also SebAzi (Great self). Tangriism is a further development of Ancient Bulgarians' Spirituality, who spread around the globe and also in Asia after the Biblical flood in Black Sea in approx. 5504 BC. The very name Asia is given to the continent by the comig from Balkans ancient BalGaRians who called Asia to their God Son Azi / SebAzi (Self). Tangri-yin is also a Balgarian name meaning From (t,ot) Sky (n) and Earth (Ge) God Ra. Yin means Sky light into Bulgarian language. Kushi means People of will (Ku).

Like most religions before about 700 to 800 BCE, Tengriism practices “comsmic maintenance,” or religion to keep the skies in order and keep them from killing people.

Karl Jaspers called the age of new religions “the axial age,” religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Zororastrianism.  They changed their focus from the cosmos to the inner workings of people.

Religion went from concerns about society as a whole, to concerns about the individual person.  For me, I would prefer cosmic maintenance and world maintenance over “finding” onself through religion.


Tom Carberry

It may be that the origin of an ancient mushroom religion, as proposed by ethno-mycologists Robert Gordon Wassons, is rooted in the shamanism of the Siberian forest people and came to the New World as early as the Paleolithic. According to Wasson, the term shaman is not native to Mesoamerica or even to the New World but derives from the languages of Siberia. Siberian shamanism incorporates ecstatic trances brought on by a ritual of dance and the inducement of hallucinations, most commonly through the consumption of some hallucinogenic substance. The intention was to open communication directly with the spirit world, often through a form of animal transformation. The worship of animal spirit companions and the concept of human-animal transformation is so ancient, that the origins of these beliefs appear to predate the development of agriculture. Since these beliefs are also present throughout North and South America that they may very well have been brought there by the first hunters and gatherers to reach the New World. We find the first evidences of these shamanistic rituals in Mesoamerica in the art of the ancient Olmecs along with the development of agriculture, food production, and settled village life. The foundation of shamanism, was the sacred substances used in rituals to attain divine ecstasy, which became the foundation of nearly all the religions of Mesoamerica and South America.

We don't know much beyond biased secondary sources about the personality of Ghengis Khan; and like many ancient conquerors, he can seem eye wateringly violent. It does seem to be the case though, that the only things he discriminated against were traitors and the enemy ignoring demands. Oh and condescension, didn't go down well. At a personal level, culture/race or religion were treated with respect, if in a rough and ready form.  It always makes one think when looking at the history of ethics/moral philosophy, that circumstances relating to beliefs, traditions and individuals can throw up fascinating combinations of hard vs gentle approaches to life.

Early medieval Mongol society had all the tolerance discribed above but would regularly simply steal opposing clan's girls and women (and ponies) when a bit more genetic variety was needed. And if someone tried to stop them...

You had three days to surrender to Ghengis and if he said everyone was getting killed in your city he wasn't playing games...

All quite interesting because to modern thinking as a whole it seems contradictory. But then again, all societies right through to today will show some of this because they aren't being autocratically directed by one person. Two moustachioed atheist guys gave it a go in the twentieth century and managed to kill more people than all  religiously centred regimes put together!


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