Face Music - Religion of the Turkish people in Altai

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

more information about Religion of the Turkish people in Altai - available in German

Shamans play an important part in the Altai region. They wear richly decorated costume and beat big drums on which the Altais paint a representation of the universe and its divisions.

Shamans mediate between the world of spirits and that of mankind. They know how to drive out the demons which settle in the human body and cause illnesses or, if they are holding the person's soul captive, to persuade it to release him or her, sometimes by making a sacrifice. In the minds of these people the human beings have several souls to lead them through the various phases of life. The loss of one such soul does not bring about an immediate but a long drawn-out death. The shamans can also banish the spirits into little idols, figurines made of wood or bone.

The Altais believe that the universe consists of several layers of Heaven above our Earth and of just as many layers of the Underworld beneath it, all inhabited by good and evil spirits. The highest Heaven, however, is reserved for the highest God of Heaven, as if the world were a mountain in the middle of the universe. They believe in spirits which take possession of people and in spirits of animals and of the dead.

Two major sacrificial festivals in the spring and in the autumn determine the course of the year. An animal, usually a horse, is slaughtered on these days and a banquet follows at which the animal's flesh is eaten and mare's milk drunk (kumys). This is when the popular wrestling matches and horse-races take place.

- map sketch Gorno-Altaisk

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