Turkish Fire God  

Posted by Stella Clark

Turkish Fire God Cover
Fire was a grandson of Tengri and the Sun. His brother was Lightning. The Turks associated Fire with birth, growth, development, and life in general. N. Katanov states, "In the perception of the Tatars, the spirit of Fire grows and warms beings. As soon as the spirit of Fire departs from the being, it dies. The body unites with the land, and the soul joins the multitudes of spirits, soaring above the Earth." A red cow, red bull, or rooster represented Fire. In other representations, Fire was Ut-Ana (Mother Fire). Ut-Ana was believed to be the mother of mankind. When Fire whistled in the hearth, they bowed to the flame and invocated: "Fire, you are our Mother with 30 teeth, you are our mother-in-law with 40 teeth." Fire was deemed to be like the Sun (Heavenly Fire) and the hearth in the centre of a yurt was purposely made round. Warmth, emanated from both Sun and Fire, as did light and colour. Sun and Fire were linked to Woman, who bore and guarded the descendants. The Hearth was protected and kept clean, a careless attitude could result in the Fire God becoming angry and leaving the yurt. Fire was associated with the clan, but each family also maintained a family Fire, which was united with that of other families. However, borrowing Fire from neighbours was considered impious.

Desecration of Fire was forbidden. This included throwing rubbish, leftovers or foul smelling substances onto it; stoking coals with a sharp implement; stepping over it or stepping on ashes. Ashes from the hearth were taken to a secluded place, where neither people, nor animals would go. To spit on a flame meant that one’s lips would become blistered. It was prohibited to deviate from the daily ritual of tending the Fire and offering it food and beverages. If these rules were violated, the Fire would punish the inhabitants by burning possessions or the dwelling itself, or depriving the inhabitants of the Fire God's protection against malicious, illness-causing spirits. A burnt object was seen as a terrible sign of Fire’s anger and a special prayer with sacrifices had to be made. If it occurred whilst on a hunt, the hunters abandoned their forays. When the burning wood in the hearth crackled or whistled, it meant that Ut-Ana was happy and the master of the house expected good news and visitors.

Once a year family prayers to Ut-Ana were organised. Their purpose was to ask for the family’s health and fortune. A Kam conducted the household prayer to Ut-Ana. A white ram with a black face was often given as a sacrifice. Before the sacrifice, simmering milk was poured upon the ram and it was decorated with coloured ribbons, before being released back into the herd. In this way it was devoted to Ut-Ana, before being slaughtered. The right front part of the carcass and heart were burnt and the remaining parts given to the Kam. A required component of all the Kam’s ceremonies was birch, which symbolised the link between the upper and lower worlds. Birch branches (sis) decorated with chalama (ribbons of blue, red and white) were placed on the floor around the hearth. After a sacrifice to the Fire God, the Kam threw pieces of fatty meat into the flames, which would then intensify. In invocations to Ut-Ana, the Kam usually said: “You, Fire, Mother of ours. You have 40 teeth. You are covered with red silk, and have a white silk bed. I did not step on white ashes. Small children and dogs did not touch you. I sacrificed the white ram, I gave the white lamb, I bow to you, Fire, grant us an easier life.”8 The sacrificial food for deities and spirits was prepared on flames. People ate the meat, and the Deities and Spirits fed on the smell of the roasted meat.

Fire had a cleansing quality. A desecrated object was held above the flames for cleansing. Ambassadors visiting a Khagan were always led between two fires. Leaving the winter quarters, the Horde also passed fires. Before a man give a public oath he had to be purified by flames. For this purpose fires were set in two places and he had to pass between them.

“Fire was a patron of dwellings and a home’s sanctuary. A bride on arriving at her husband’s household had to bow to the Fire on entering the dwelling, so that her family would be as happy as the ancestors. Women led the bride entering a new family to the yurt of her father-in-law. When inside, she usually knelt… She then poured fat onto the flames and bowed a few times, invoking, ‘Mother-Fire and Mother-Fat, award me with your favor!...’”9 The Kam, stretched his hands over the flames, calling: "Lady Hearth Ut-Ana! By your will this flame is born. So let this flame protect the dwelling against malicious spirits and act as a barrier against human treachery. May the goodness warm without burning and may evil be eliminated. Let Fire last a thousands years! Bless this hearth, Ut-Ana!" After that, the Kam declared the bride to be a wife and a mistress of the hearth and the groom a husband and master of the yurt.

Fire was applied for the treatment of various diseases. If a child or adult had facial lesions, sparks were made over them using flint. The Kam, addressed the lesions, "Why does not a single branch move? Why do you wander here and there? May all the crusts together with the fiery sparks fall from this face... Do not build your yurt here any more… Do not return." With the help of Fire, the Kam treated a child from 'milk disease' (sic), a disease of the oral mucous membrane. The treatment consisted of the Kam laying the child on its back and burning a piece of a birch bark on its chest, leaving a small mark. The same procedure was conducted for the treatment of excessive salivation. The diseases which could be cured by flames included rheumatism, which in the opinion of the ancient Turks, was caused by carelessly walking into old encampments. The Mongols believed the same, as they had a legend that the Khonkirat people suffered leg-pains because they descended from the Yergena-Kun valley and had trampled on the land of other peoples.10 It was believed that ashes also had medicinal properties. So, a bleeding wound was covered with hot ashes, which accelerated healing. Hot ashes smeared across the belly with one’s right hand were a cure for abdominal pain.

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This entry was posted on 28 November 2007 at Wednesday, November 28, 2007 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .

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