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Heaven’s Lord or Guardian Heaven

The Heaven’s Origin

Chinggis and his relatives of a supreme or Tenger origin, who had glorified their own Heaven as “Eternal Heaven”, were considered as sacred, or angels, with white bones and bodies. So they were protected from lightning. Moreover, other people, who worshipped any holy spirit of Chinggis Haan or his relatives, or who worked closely with them, were also protected. Thus, they should indicate their presence with great shouting to show their Heaven’s origin during natural calamity such as thunderstorms.

     Rashid-ad-Din wrote that “People of Kian and Nohos |dogs| origins cursed lightning and they did not eat beef from a cow which had been struck by lightning, but they desired to pass by its body”. Moreover, in the beginning of the twentieth century, only men of Chonos |wolves| origin prepared beef that was struck by lightning, on a wooden |birch| stand of Heaven in order to be devoured by a Heaven animal such as eagle and falcon. People of Sharnuud origin, who worshipped the spirit of Tsagaadai, the second son of Chinggis Haan, and his queen Tsankhulan, shouted during thunder lightning:

I am a descendant of the Mighty Sharnuuds,

With thirty three Heavens-Hormust, so,

Strike me, if you want someone with a skin cloak,

Strike my horse, if you want well-fed one!

     However, none-aristocrats never said these words to the Heavens. They were also strictly forbidden to talk to each other in a loud voice, to use anything shiny or made of metal, or to go out naked or in white clothing during a thunderstorm. Thus, in regard to Heaven, beliefs varied according to social status. The nobles and aristocrats tried to maintain near equality with Heaven. In contrast, ordinary people believed themselves to be humble servants who should worship Heaven accordingly. Consequently, it becomes clear that current ritual customs treating the Heavens with the greatest reverence have been passed down from the common people rather than the nobility.

Blue Heaven 2

The Number and Levels of the Heavens

There are numerous references to Heaven in sources such as The Secret History and Rashid-ad-Din’s Sudaryn Chuulgan, but there is no mention of the number and level of Heavens. Perhaps the Mongols of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had no specific beliefs in this respect. However, through analysis of Nanai’s shamans, A.B.Smolyak became the first researcher to suggest a more detailed conception of heaven’s strata and quantity. The Nanais considered that Heaven has nine levels or strata. Moreover, Shamaness Tsevenii Horol of White Huular origin |1900-1978|, Zegviin Tseveen |1892-1965| and Dugaryn BArii |1898-1973| of Black Darhad origin said in the nineteen fifties and sixties that:

Heaven has many strata. The most powerful spirits, who are generally invisible to modern Shamans like us, are located in the upper levels. But the weak ones, the spirits of Shamans who died in the last five to ten years, are visible on the lower 4strata. They are susceptible to calamities such as the Socialist Revolution of the twenties, so they are the first victims. now they are not visible at all.

     It seems that Mongolian Darhad and Huular Shamans had a similar conception of the levels of Heaven to the Nanais. It is also similar to the conception of some Tureg tribes such as Evenkh, Altai and Tuvan Shamans. However, the Shamans of Altai and the Tuvans had a significant influence over the Huular and Darhad shamans, who dwelled mostly to the west of Lake Hovsgol. This is not to say, however, that Darhadian and Huular Shamanism copied the beliefs of Tuvan Shamans. The Darhad and Huular shamans of Mongolian Tureg origin believed in the ancient Mongolian Shamanist idea of the three Continents. Consequently, they considered that each of these three Continets was subdivided into three Heavens. The shamans of Central Asia, including original Mongolian tribes such as the Black and Great Darhads, Sharnuud, Chonos, and Mongolized Tureg ones such as black, red, green and white Huulars had a similar world-view. This might be preserved from ancient forms of Mongolian Shamanism. A legend, which was found and published by D.Mansan, says, “In the beginning, the upper nine Heavens had only Angel, a younger sister…”

     So the Mongols used to pray to the Nine Heavens using milk or tea “deej” in the nine sockets of a “Tsatsal” |milk sprinkler, see foornote|. In this way, they considered that the nine deej |libations| reached the nine Heavens simultaneously. If the number of sockets was greater or less than nine, or the offering too small, then some of the Heavens would be offended. An ethnologist, painter, and lecturer at the Mongolian State University’s subsidiary in Hovd aimag, Mr.Baasankhuu compiled some interesting findings on milk sprinklers, which had been used in various localities of Mongolia. In Oirad they have thirteen sockets, in Sartuul ten and five in Tangud. Nine sockets are common among the majority of other Mongolian tribes. The number of sockets is related to the number of Heavens worshipped locally and also Buddhist influence, which appears to have changed the numbers in some cases.

     There is no record of the number of Heavens in the Secret History, but it is emphasized the only upper Heaven was given titles such as “Lofty Heaven’, “Han Tengger” and “Eternal Sky”. Since then, the number of Heavens has changed substantially. Citing examples about the Heaven’s name in Tibetan, Chinese, Persian, and Arabic, D.Mansan wrote, “The Secret History had no conception of Heaven. However, since then Mongols have believed in three, then nine Heavens, and, later, as many as thirteen and ninety-nine…”

     The changing number of Heavens was primarily related to the following causes: Firstly, many nations had close ties at various points in time and so there was a transfer of beliefs and customs. Secondly, the influence of religions such as Buddhism, which revere many Burhans of diverse natures, led Mongolian Shamans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to desire many Ongons and Heavens of their own. Consequently, the number of Heavens incresed to as many as two hundred.

     There is no mention of ninety-nine Heavens in The Mongolian Black Faith or Shaman Religion, published in Russia in 1846 by Dorje Banzarov of Mongolian Urianhay origin, who was born in Hiagt, a Mongolo-Russian frontier village. Thus, at that time, the Shamans of Outer Mongolia had no common belief in ninety-nine Heavens. 

     However, when Dorje Banzarov was compiling his work, Wandan Iumsunov |1823-1883| published a legend about ninety-nine Heavens, which was current among the Buriads in the north of Lake Baikal. They divided them systematically into fifty-five Heavens of the West |fifty fro praying and five for offerings| and forty-four Heavens of the East |forty and four respectively|. This conception of ninety-nine Heavens also reached the twenty Banners of Horchin, which was founded in the seventeenth century by the amalgamation of Aba Horchin from Barguujin and the Barga Mongolians, who emigrated from Russia to today’s Barga in the north-east of the People’s Republic of China. In Outer Mongolia, the conception of ninety-nine Heavens began to spread after the establishment of Dayan Deerh temple in 1864 as a Center of yellow Shamanism. Nevertheless, it is clear from historical sources, including S.Badamhatan’s work that the conception of ninety-nine Heaven’s did not spread into northwestern Mongolia, and the Hovsgol Lake surrounding regions in particular, until the twentieth century. Therefore, it seems that the belief in nine Heavens of Mongolian Shamanism is similar to the Only Heaven of the Secret History. According to D.Mansan, nine Heavens probably emerged from the belief in three Heavens during the seventeenth century. However, the conception of ninety-nine heavens probably emerged between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, under the influence of Buriadian Shamanism, when Buddhism had already spread throughout Mongolia.

     Moreover, the above-mentioned Buriad conception of “nine worshipping Heavens” was closely related to the original “Nine Heavens” of Mongolian Shamanism, which demonstrates the similarities of Central Asian Shamanism. In this regard, there are a number of relevant studies. According to T.M.Mihailov, M.N.Hangalov published the first proper study of ninety-nine Heavens on the basis of Wandan Yumsunov’s legend. Subsequently, Ch.Dalai of Mongolia, v.Khaisag, D.Mansan, and Mr.yonsog |both of China| have studied the belief in ninety-nine Heavens in Outer Mongolia, Horchin and Barga. Hagan Choloo of Taipei University produced a map showing the main sites of Barga and Horchin Shamans. D.Mansan and Mr.Yonsog collected and published the names of the ninety-nine heavens in their works.


Heaven’s Lord as a Heaven

Since the prehistoric period, Mongolian shaman has explained the origin of their tribes, clans, and people in relation to Upper Heaven and with the animals, such as wolf, white goose, and Gua Maral |Siberian stag| who were related to it. They worshipped these animals as Heaven’s Master/Lord or totem.

     However, Chinggis Haan named his own Heaven Lord or Guardian Heaven as “Eternal Heaven”.

     Meanwhile, the belief in Heaven’s Lord developed such that it came to be synonymous with a Shaman Ongon. Researchers of the nineteenth century found a similar concept to “Totem” in a Native American tribe that meant their origin or relationship. 

     According to shamans, on the one hand, the Blue Heaven was visible to everybody as a natural phenomenon that influenced the fertility of the land. On the other hand, human activity is conducted by the blessing of the Blue Heaven, and every person is cared for and protected by it, so they are considered as a force or spirit too. In this regard a shaman invocation says:

…During the change of generations up to a root,

Please bless me with white paths,

For which I am directing to the Visible World,

Worshipping Heaven’s Lord… 

     Shaman believers considered there are a number of activities necessary to ensure that their own Heaven did not desert them. Firstly, they had to be faithful and respectful to their Lord and grant it proper respect. Secondly, one’s property and livestock protected by his or her Heaven Lord should also be respected as sacred. 

     Since the emergence of Shaman belief, the Mongols worshipped Heaven or the sky as the main source of life, the source of intelligence, and the master of all things in the universe. Suchlike has been the main conclusion of every study on Mongolian Shamanism since 1846. In this regard, a Mongolian Shaman invocation for an Ingon’s annual worship says:

…Please watch over me at night, my Heaven,

Please be my companion by day, my Heaven,

For which I am offering you this seasonal dinner,

Offering you this annual thanksgiving,

By milk products of your bounty cattle, 

By chosen parts of their dairy products,

I beg the grace of your Majesty, Asar Heaven,

That no one will fall ill, 

That none of the cattle shall be lost,

That the family members will all be healthy,

That our relatives will all be at peace,

Until this time of the next year…

     After Chinggis Haan defeated the Taichuuds in 1202 on the Tsaityn Tsagaan Tal |steppe|, he prayed to the father of Heaven:

I became a leader through no power of my own,

I became a Haan thanks to the blessing of my father of Heaven,

I defeated my enemy thanks to the father of Heaven’s aid, 

I became a Haan not through my own power,

I became a Leader thanks to the father of Heaven’s grace,

I defeated my enemy thanks to the Heaven aid…

     In this regard Rashid-ad-Din wrote in his Sudaryn Chuulgan |Sutra’s Assembly|:

One who wishes to dry his felt sock in sunshine cannot, for it is customary not to leave them in the open in order to avoid Heaven’s wrath, such as being struck by lightning. Thus, they must be dried in a fully enclosed place such as indoors a ger or hut. Of course, it was one of the special customs of the Mongols, who live under the direct influence of diverse natural disasters such as thunder lightning, snow storm, fierce hail and so on. Moreover, any of these phenomena is considered by the Mongols themselves as a Heaven’s Wrath”.

     This is not just an ancient custom, for the Shaman of today is also strictly prohibited to leave any dirty clothing worn below the waist in the open. 

     For many centuries the Mongolian people have revered and valued bright blue sky, fresh air, and clean earth. If anyone is inactive in society and whose business is somehow unsuccessful, the Mongols considered him or her to have “deserted their Heaven”. It is generally accepted that anyone who has finished their childhood must have upset the Lus and Savdag Lords in some way. In this regard, the Shamans consider that any child, Heaven’s Lord. However, as the child becomes older and more involved in human transgressions |such as theft, sexual immortality, smoking, and drinking|, so his innocence is gradually defiled. In this way, everyone becomes filthy or wicked. 

     The Shamans considered that every kind of natural and religious item such as game spoils, incense, or medicinal plants and sutras |Holly Books| are clean and therefore sacred. If someone “filthy” wants to take any of them, they should defile them first. Putting it under one’s gown or placing another “dirty” one’s soiled hat on it achieves this. Subsequently, wrapping the object in a white cloth ritually makes the object the defiler’s property. If this procedure is not followed, the Shamans believe that Heaven would take it back because it is still that Heaven’s property.

     Thirdly, Mongolian Shamanist believers have to adhere to the customs of the Heaven Lord. So they have to make offerings and libations of all kinds of fresh food and drink for their Heaven. Rashid-ad-Din wrote in his work, “The Mongols say if someone sheds milk on the ground, his herd of horses will be struck by lightning. If there were shed arhi |milk vodka|, a herd of cattle or their ger would be struck by lightning. So, they consider it taboo to conduct these actions”. Those customs have survived up to now and one that shed milk, arhi or tea has to anoint it to his forehead, shoulder, and inner skirt with the index and middle fingers. This confesses the sin before the Heaven Lord.  

     In addition, Heaven is the meaning of life for every Mongol, so they believe that the Heaven Lord influences their instincts. The final condition is that the individual should react to these instincts. When the Mongols satisfy all of these conditions, they believe that they will be successful in everything they do. When people insult Heaven Lord, then success eludes them and they are led to downfall and death.

     In the Mongolian Secret History, there are many characters who were able to receive influence and power from Heaven Lord by their instinct such as Temuujin, Tiv Tengger Zayran, Horchi, and Dei Setsen. By observation of the ages and works of people under the clear influence of Heaven Lord, they could correct mistakes and mend their ways.

     In his childhood, hiding in the forest, Temuujin managed by instincts favored by Heaven to evade the encircling Taichuud for nine days. Thereupon, he lost his self-control; driven by hunger he was unable to stay in Heaven’s favor. So, he left the forest and was immediately captured. This confirmed that Temuujin was not yet strong enough to receive the full influence of Heaven. Tiv Tengger Zayran also did not possess the necessary psychological training, so he too lost his patience and suffered the consequences. Nevertheless, Heaven Lord helped Temuujin and gave him good friends such as Boorchi and Mukhulai. Under the guidance of the Oulun-mother, her children were well-behaved, cheerful, patient, courageous, and friendly. Because of Chinggis Haan gained the wisdom necessary to receive the favor of Heaven Lord. Thanks to this, he was able to defeat his enemies.

     Heaven Lord is a spirit of fortune |”Hii-Mori” “Wild invisible horse”|, who knows the future. In 1202, Chinggis Haan’s Heaven foresaw the attack of the Taichuuds and helped him to defeat the enemy by sending the enemy’s guardian Heaven, a black male mountain goat, to Chinggis, who killed it immediately. Afterward, his armies defeated the enemy with the case. Moreover, it is said that Chinggis foresaw the victories of his companions in a dream on a mountaintop. 

     Thus, Chinggis Haan was able to feel the Heaven Lord’s influence before events took place, so people had respected the wisdom and magical powers. Borokhul, who was one of the “Nine Paladins” of Chinggis Haan, confirms this: 

…Let the magic body of Trusted Lord

Never be touched by a blade…

     On the basis of the belief in Heaven Lord, Mongols divided Heaven into many types, including the Heavens of property, of the father, mother, husband, wife, livestock, and other domestic animals. If children misbehave, their parents are distressed because their Heavens might leave them, shortening their lives. If a man or woman offends his/her spouse then the spouse’s Heaven may be angered and abandon them. Misuse of property can cause Heaven to desert the owner. Thus, people first have to establish which Heaven has been offended. Afterward, they have to invite a Shaman to their household to appease the offended Heaven by calling it on its mercy and protection. For example, to mollify the dog’s Heaven, a family has to carry out Shaman worship. For this ritual, a rectangular white cloth is spread out to the door side of the fire-health. On the cloth is the dog tethered by a red thread to the right leg of the fire hearth-trivet. In front of the dog is a bowl of offerings prepared by the Shaman to be eaten by the dog. In this case, there are specific ritual duties from all the members of the household. 

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