Turkish Goddess Umai  

Posted by Stella Clark

Turkish Goddess Umai Cover
Umai was a female Deity associated with benevolent deities and spirits. She was considered to be a favourite wife of the Sky God, Tengri. Like Yer-Sub, Umai obeyed Tengri. If Yer-Sub ruled over all the living on land and water, Umai was the giver of special divine powers to mankind. Umai lived in the skies and radiated down to the Earth. Her rays penetrated man and dwelled in him like a spark until he died. This spark accounted for man's vital energy and physical force, but it was not Kut (spirit). It was rather a divine power linking man to the heavens, sent by Tengri. Once the spark perished, death followed. Thus, everything spiritual and physical in our Universe was subject to two Goddesses, Yer-Sub and Umai. The Turks did not sacrifice domestic animals to the Goddess Umai, but dedicated carefully prepared dairy and meat dishes in solemn ceremonies. Umai protected the Turkish tribes and participated, together with Tengri and Yer-Sub, in the victory of their forces over an enemy. In the Orkhon Inscriptions honouring Tonyukuk we read: "Tengri, Umai and Sacred Yer-Sub, it should be known, gave (us) victory." In the inscriptions there is also a comparison of the Khagan's wife to Umai: "...Her majesty, my mother Katun, is comparable to Umai..." This testifies to the reverence of this Goddess by the highest ruling classes, especially the representatives of divine authority on Earth, the Khagans.

After the disintegration of the ancient Turkic states and the migrations of the ancient populations of Eurasia, the Goddess Umai began to be considered only as a protector of pregnant women and small children, from malevolent earthly spirits. The reverence to Umai (Ymai, Mai) remained fresh in the memory of the Altai until recent times. Today, some Altai testify that when the Kut of a child reaches the Earth, he is weak and helpless, and therefore Umai descends with him from the heavens, and guards him even in the womb. This is necessary, for the malicious spirits penetrate the body and the womb of the pregnant woman, ruining the child and causing abortion. As delivery approaches, Umai helps the child arrive, entering sometimes in a struggle with a malicious spirit, who interferes with the delivery and pulls at the child. This is how late and difficult deliveries are explained. Umai helps to properly cut the umbilical cord.

She protects the child, educates and talks to him, for they understand each other well. When a child cries during a dream and sleeps restlessly, Umai is said to have left him. Many families make a small bow and arrow (boys) or spindle (girls), to serve as talismans. These amulets are attached to the dwelling near the cradle. They are made when the newborn is first placed in the cradle and removed when the child no longer needs it. On the child reaching the age of six months, a Kam is invited for a special ceremony to Umai-Ana (Mother Umai), involving the sacrifice of a young bull. During this they ask Umai to safeguard and protect the baby. A talisman is attached to the cradle, i.e., a small bow and arrow, symbolising the weapon Umai uses against malicious spirits. The complete care and the constant presence of Umai near the child continues until he learns to walk, run, understand speech and speak fluently. This happens at approximately 5-6 years. When the child becomes accustomed to his social environment, especially his parents, relatives and later his playmates, his connection with Umai-Ana ends.6 When a child reaches this stage, a special ritual is performed for Tengri, which involves the sacrifice of a domestic animal. Appeals are made for the child’s longevity. The name Umai also referred to the womb, placenta and cut umbilical cord. This underlined Umai’s functions as a Goddess of reproduction. It was to Her that barren couples prayed for a child.7 These concepts are not alien to both modern Altai-Sayan Turks and Mongols. Some still believe that Umai remains in the umbilical cord to protect the child. The umbilical cord may be buried near the hearth. The modern Volga Tatars do not revere Umai, but she is remembered in the pre-Islamic Tatar dastans (poetic tales) and legends, in their language and customs.

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This entry was posted on 19 April 2008 at Saturday, April 19, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .

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