«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»
N.A.Nazarbayev

History of pre-Islamic beliefs in Kazakhstan

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Like other peoples who embraced Islam, Islam for Kazakhs is closely associated with ancient religious beliefs that emerged long before the advent of Islam.

We know little about the religion that existed in Kazakhs people before penetration of Islam. In recent years, some researchers have begun to call this religion Tengriism and portray it as a coherent philosophical system.

It was a polytheistic religion with the supreme God of heaven, and the name of «God» (Tengri), attached not only to him but also to the other deities. With the advent of Islam has become synonymous with the Kazakhs «Kuday» (God), that is, Allah. More information about other deities did not reach us, and the memories of them have to be sought in the cult of the saints, in shamanism, in family rites. So, the echoes of ancient Turkic deity of fertility cult Umay found in maternity rites of Kazakhs. Umay is a good spirit, the patron of babies.

In the middle of the last century, remnants of cosmological ideas according to which the universe consists of three worlds — heaven, earth and the underworld, were still alive among the people.

A relic of ancient ideas about supernatural beings that control the forces of nature can be believed Kazakhs an angel, who hit a whip clouds, thereby producing thunder and lightning.

Veneration of saints is closely associated with pre-Islamic traditions of Kazakhs. Ancient beliefs, for example, discern in caves’ cult. In Southern Kazakhstan was considered sacred cave Shak-Pak-Ata. Women with infertility came here to pray. Among the Kazakh saints there are ancestors of related groups. Saints-patriarchs typical are appropriate for the eastern regions of Kazakhstan. Holy ancestors are known in the southern regions. Up to now in South Kazakhstan region the graves of Baydybek-Ata batyr and his wise wife Domalak-Ana are still honored. According to the legend, Kazakh tribes such as Albans, Suan and Dulat were derived from their son.
Among the «pagan» characters included in the number of Muslim saints, Kazakhs most clearly retained its pre-Islamic features Korkyt — mythical first shaman, musician and singer, creator of a musical string instrument — kobyz.

The grave attributed to him was located on the banks of the Syr Darya.

The mythical nature of this character indicates the legends about its longevity, as well as some of the motifs of Kazakh folk legends which detected the relationship with the traditions of Siberian shamanism. Thus, according to one legend, Korkyt heard conversation of devils that discussed among themselves how to do kobyz.

He executed instructions spirits and managed to create a magic tool. In the Middle Ages image of Korkyt, who represented the legendary patriarch of the times, and a talented singer, was widely known legend of the Turkic-speaking peoples. Kazakhs’ worship to Korkyt is closely associated with shamanism. He was considered as the patron (feast) of shamans, who were often called upon him to help in the hymns. During the ritual many baksy (shamans) played kui (melody), which is supposedly was performed for the first time by Korkyt himself.

Shamanism — one of the most remarkable phenomena in the religious traditions of the Kazakhs, preserved from pre-Islamic era. Shamanism — a vast system of animistic beliefs and practices of different nations, characteristic of the tribal system. Common features for them is the presence of ancestor worship, as well as sending a shaman rituals that can fall into the special, ecstatic state, and in this state, on presentation of cult media in communication with the other world.
Shamanism is determined by the belief in a special relationship with the spirits of individuals. The spirits’ help was explained by the ability to treat people, to tell a fortune and to find missing things and cattle. Power over the phenomena of nature and the ability to perform miracles was attributed to shamans. Shamans had an important public position, while being priests. In the Kazakh steppes even after the spread of Islam shamans continued to maintain a big impact.
Shamans were mostly men, but there is evidence that women also were shamans. The main subject of the shaman’s ritual was kobyz — bowed instrument with two strings of horsehair, which was endowed with wonderful properties according to the folk beliefs. Some shamans banned to touch their instrument to outsiders. Since the mid-19th century kobyz was replaced by dombra. Another attribute of baksy was a stick (asa, asa-tayak) with iron rings and pendants at the top. Since the second half of 19th century the attributes such as a whip and a knife became the very important.
Shamans’ rituals involved communication with the spirits, so the calls of spirits had been started. Then he escorted a special chant the spirits. It was necessary to expel spirits, therefore this ritual was held.

To frighten and drive the cause of diseases spirits shamans waved knives, beat patients with whip. A number of actions had no direct «therapeutic» purpose. To convince the audience that spirits really came to shamans, led their actions and give a special effect, shamans showed different stunts. They jumped out of the dome tent, squeezing the body with ropes and licked hot objects. One of the most common tricks was sticking a knife into the body. Shamans pierced both themselves and other people with the knife. Belief in the efficacy of rites patients helped the body’s fight against disease. In addition, it is undeniable that the shamans owned and medical experience.
One of the main features of the Kazakh shamanism — merge it with Islam. By the 19th century features of shaman cult have disappeared, is contrary to Islam. Muslim clerics willingly decries activities of shamans, however, Islamization of shaman cult did not give serious grounds for his criticism.
Muslim clerics willingly decries activities of shamans, however, Islamization of shaman cult clergy did not give serious grounds for his criticism.
With shamanic practices and combined activities of various kinds sorcerers, soothsayers, sorcerers. Voodoo practice consisted lots of different techniques designed to restore human health or to protect against disease. Since the disease was due to various reasons, including the effects of spirits, evil eye or witchcraft, voodoo and then treatment was not only methods based on the action of herbs, diet, heat, massage, but primarily through the ritual of treatment based on the magic-animistic beliefs. At the same time undertook to treat people and shamans and medicine men, and people who know how to make simple ritual actions.
Variety of magical-animistic rites was related to the health of mother and child. Ritual acts were committed in the hope to get rid of infertility, which was considered a kind of illness caused by spirits or witchcraft.
Actions designed to protect from evil forces, and the wedding was filled with ritual. Magical-animistic actions had to provide to offspring, prosperity and peace in the family.
The cult of ancestors occupied a prominent place in the beliefs of the Kazakhs. In difficult moments Kazakhs call upon the name of their ancestors. In their honor, sacrifice animals, go to worship to their graves. Events such as the kind of separation into two independent, making peaceful position between two rival clans, the victory over the enemy, etc., were marked by the Kazakhs sacrifice to ancestral spirits white mare or even white stallion.

Kazakhs treated graves with honor. People used to repent at the graves and swear on them. The traveler, who would travel at night in the desert, according to the custom recommend stay overnight near the graves, because here no one dare to commit violence on him. If the traveler had a wish, he asked the help of the spirit of the deceased to make it come true. Everyone feared anger of aruahs (spirits). Special reverence had spirits of outstanding people. Their names were pronounced in particularly difficult cases. This custom once spawned a battle watchword (uran). For example, the name of Khan Abylay was the battle watchword.
In the spirit of an ancestor beliefs Kazakhs patronizing any person, usually presented in the animal form. In the legends of Dzhiydebay, one close to the Khan Ablay brave men argues that «in front of batyr was red fox- it was his spirit».

Ancestor worship and clearly emerges in the funeral and memorial rites. Not only living relatives in need of patronage, had gone to another world; dead also depended on living, committed by established rules funerals and memorial ceremonies.

In the 19th century obsequies of Kazakhs held in accordance with the requirements of Shariah, however, there are numerous remnants of pre-Islamic traditions.
Like other peoples of Central Asia, the Kazakhs funerals and memorials were a public event, and they took a direct part of the deceased kin. As soon as it became aware of the death of man, honorable old village walked into the house of the deceased and proceeded to organize the funeral. Burying of the deceased was on the day of death.
Before reading the funeral prayer (zhanaza) to all the guests of honor were presented expensive gifts and money.
In addition to handing out gifts zhyrtys — scraps of fabric as a gift to the deceased for his part in the wires to the light. Zhyrtys was given in the cemetery. The older form of this custom — tearing clothes of the deceased, as reported by some authors the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Storage shred tissue is a bond of living with the deceased. According to the beliefs of the Kazakhs, beneficial power of the deceased (Kasiet) is transmitted to the survivors. This custom was in force not only in the funeral rites. For example, in the election in Ablay Kazakh khans took him up on the rug, and then by removing the rich coat, tore it into shreds.
Kazakhs sought to bury a person in his family cemetery, near relatives and ancestors. With the spread of Islam family cemeteries began to focus around major Muslim shrines.

After returning from the funeral procession in the house of the deceased raised mourning flag. Depending on the age of the deceased, was a different color flag (white for the elderly, black, black with a white or black with red for the middle-aged, red for young). A piece of cloth tied to the end of the spear, which was put vertically inside the yurt at the gratings; end it protruded out through the slit in the felt covering the yurt.
In addition to the flag was adopted to make the image of the deceased (tul). By the end of the 19th century this custom has become obsolete: clothing, saddle and armor deceased hung directly on lattices yurt.

Image of deceased — is widespread in the ancient custom of the past. Ritual purpose spear is closely linked with the image of the deceased: a year later, after the magnificent repast, both items were removed from use, the spear broke defiantly.
Slaughtering the horse for the deceased — custom known to wide range of ancient peoples, including the Scythians. Horse was buried with the deceased, so that the soul of the deceased dispatch riding. In ancient times, the tradition of the late crop horses’ tail was emerged.
Another ancient custom has been preserved among the Kazakhs in the 19th century is jumps in the day of his death a wealthy man. In historical writings, this ritual was first mentioned in connection with the funeral of Attila.

Annual commemoration (as — refreshments, zhyly — anniversary) were the main memorial ceremony and final cycle. They are family of the deceased invited many guests.
Procedure for a great feast was as follows: on the first day of the pit dug for lesions on the second day of slaughter; the third was treated meats; fourth — performed jumps; the fifth — accompanied guests. Observers struck a crowded memorial feasts and huge costs, generous prizes.
The dead horse dedicated to deceased accounted for refreshments.

The most impressive part of the commemoration is racing. While galloping horses, arranged competitions fighters marksmen rifles, group foot race. At the end of the race were awarded prizes, and then any of the respected elders broke mourning flag pole; assorted other honorable people mourning the yurt. They both were awarded gifts, usually a horse and a bathrobe. Mourning for the widow stopped, and she could marry someone of the brothers or relatives of her husband.
Relic of the pre-Islamic cult ranching can be considered respectful attitude towards milk. In the Middle Ages Kazakhs widely celebrated spring holiday of the first kumys preserving the role of ritual drink.
In herding rituals used cleansing power of fire. Leaving the winter on the new pasture, the cattle were driven between two bonfires and trace drove themselves to all the troubles are behind us. Arriving at the summer parking, Kazakhs sacrificed to the spirits of ancestors and reading prayers from the Quran asked happiness and wealth. Sacrifice of animals — a long tradition of pastoralists, occupied an important

Like many of the peoples of Central and Southwest Asia, the Kazakhs spring festival celebrated New Year — Nauryz. It was not only an agricultural festival. The awakening of nature caused hope for fertility in the broadest sense of the word.
Islam got many original features by preserving the remnants of pre-Islamic religious traditions, in all spheres of national life of Kazakhs. During the 19th and especially in 20th centuries the influence of Islam in Kazakh society has significantly increased.

Many studies of prerevolutionary researcher about Kazakhstan dedicated to the study of religious beliefs Kazakhs. One of the most remarkable works of that time was an article outstanding Kazakh ethnographer, geographer and traveler, explorer history and culture of the peoples of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Middle Shokan Ualihanov (1835–1865), whose work has received international fame. In «Traces of shamanism among the Kirghiz» (note to Kazakhs called Kyrgyz revolution), the scientist gives an idea about the nature of shamanism as a phenomenon, has served under the first half of the 19th century, the basis for the mixing of Muslim beliefs with ancient conceptions of Kazakhs.

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