The Chagatai people, a Turkic-Mongol group, were a significant part of Central Asian history. Their cultural and religious beliefs have been shaped by a variety of influences, including their nomadic lifestyle, Turkic and Mongol roots, and interactions with other cultures. This article aims to provide an educational, precise, and informative overview of the Chagatai people's beliefs, mythology, and rituals, with a focus on their deities, personalities, and stories.


The Chagatai people's beliefs are primarily rooted in Shamanism, Tengrism, and later on, Islam. Shamanism, an animistic belief system, involves the communication with the spiritual world through shamans who possess supernatural powers. Tengrism, a Central Asian form of monotheism, centers around the worship of Tengri, the sky god. The conversion to Islam took place mainly during the 14th century, under the influence of Sufi missionaries and the Mongol ruler Tamerlane, who established the Timurid Empire.


Chagatai mythology is rich in characters and narratives, influenced by their Turkic and Mongol heritage, as well as their interactions with other cultures in the region. The following are some key figures and stories in Chagatai mythology:

  • Tengri: The supreme sky god in Tengrism, Tengri is considered the creator of the universe and the ruler of all natural phenomena. The Chagatai people believed that Tengri determined the fate of humans and provided them with guidance through various signs.

  • Erlik: The god of the underworld, Erlik is responsible for the souls of the deceased. In Chagatai mythology, he is often portrayed as an antagonist, challenging Tengri and attempting to corrupt the souls of the living.

  • Umay: The goddess of fertility and motherhood, Umay is revered for her role in protecting women and children. She is often associated with the moon and is believed to have healing powers.

  • The Legend of Kökbörü: This epic tale revolves around a hero named Kökbörü, who sets out on a series of challenging quests to save his people from various threats. Throughout his journey, Kökbörü is aided by a magical, winged horse named Akkula. The story serves as an allegory for the Chagatai people's resilience and their ability to overcome adversity.


Rituals played a significant role in Chagatai culture, as they served to maintain harmony within the community and to ensure protection from supernatural forces. Key rituals include:

  • Shamanic rituals: Shamans, as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds, conducted rituals to heal the sick, communicate with spirits, and influence natural events. These rituals often involved chanting, drumming, and dancing, as well as the use of sacred objects such as amulets and talismans.

  • Sacrifices: Animal sacrifices were conducted to appease and honor the gods, particularly Tengri. The Chagatai people believed that these offerings would ensure the gods' continued favor and protection.

  • Birth and naming ceremonies: The Chagatai people placed great importance on the naming of a child, as they believed that the name would influence the child's destiny. Naming ceremonies were conducted shortly after birth and involved the consultation of shamans and the performance of rituals to bless and protect the newborn.

  • Funerary rituals: Funerals were seen as an important transition for the soul, as it journeyed from the physical world to the afterlife. Chagatai funerary rituals included the preparation of the body, the construction of a burial site, and ceremonies led by shamans to guide the soul to the underworld. These rituals were intended to ensure a peaceful journey for the deceased and to protect the living from any negative influences that could arise from an improper burial.

Unique Beliefs

  • Kut: The Chagatai people believed in the concept of "kut," a divine force or spiritual energy that could be bestowed upon individuals by the gods. The possession of kut was thought to grant a person exceptional abilities or wisdom, and it played a significant role in determining the legitimacy of rulers and leaders. The transfer of kut could take place through various means, including inheritance, ritual ceremonies, and divine intervention.

  • Sky Burials: A unique funerary practice among the Chagatai people was the sky burial, which involved placing the deceased on an elevated platform and leaving the body exposed to the elements and scavenging birds. This practice was rooted in the belief that the soul needed to be released from the physical body and returned to Tengri. Sky burials were reserved for shamans and other individuals believed to possess exceptional spiritual power.

Mythological Figures

  • Ay Ata: Known as the "Moon Father," Ay Ata was a lunar deity who played a significant role in Chagatai mythology and was associated with time, fertility, and wisdom.

  • Korkut Ata: A legendary figure in Chagatai folklore, Korkut Ata was a wise and revered shaman who was believed to possess extraordinary abilities, including the power to predict the future and heal the sick.

  • Tengri Bird: The Tengri Bird, a mythical creature in Chagatai mythology, was thought to serve as a messenger between Tengri and the people. It was often depicted as a large, powerful bird with the ability to control the weather and bring forth life-sustaining rain.