The Cherkess, also known as the Circassians, are a North Caucasian ethnic group native to the northwest region of the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. They are an ancient people, with a rich history and a unique cultural heritage. This article aims to provide an overview of the Cherkess beliefs, mythology, and rituals, focusing on their deities, heroes, and mythological creatures.

Beliefs and Mythology

The traditional Cherkess religion is a complex belief system that blends elements of nature worship, animism, ancestor worship, and totemism. Prior to the introduction of Islam in the region during the 17th century, the Cherkess people practiced a polytheistic religion with a pantheon of gods and goddesses, each associated with specific aspects of nature, human activities, and emotions.


  • Tha, also known as Tlepsh or Tlep, is the supreme god in Cherkess mythology. He is the creator of the universe and the god of the sky, thunder, and lightning. Tha is a benevolent deity, responsible for maintaining order in the world, and is often depicted as a wise and just ruler.

  • Psetha, also spelled as Psatha, is the goddess of agriculture and fertility. She is revered as the mother of all living things and is responsible for the growth of plants and the well-being of animals. Psetha is depicted as a beautiful woman, often holding a sheaf of wheat or a cornucopia.

  • Shible, also known as Shiblé, is the god of war and hunting. He is a fierce warrior who protects the Cherkess people from their enemies and aids them in battle. Shible is often depicted as a strong, bearded man, holding a bow and arrow or a sword.

  • Schybe, sometimes spelled as Schible or Sosruquo, is the god of the sun, light, and justice. He is responsible for the daily journey of the sun across the sky and is associated with the concepts of truth and fairness. Schybe is often depicted as a radiant, youthful figure, holding a flaming torch or riding a chariot pulled by fiery horses.

  • Mezyt, also known as Mezit or Mezita, is the goddess of love, beauty, and sensuality. She is responsible for fostering love and passion among the Cherkess people and is often invoked in matters of the heart. Mezyt is typically depicted as an enchanting, alluring woman, surrounded by flowers or accompanied by doves.

  • Badynoko, sometimes referred to as Bady, is the god of the underworld and the dead. He is responsible for the souls of the deceased and is often depicted as a dark, fearsome figure, wearing a cloak and carrying a staff or a scythe.

Heroes and Mythological Creatures

  • The Nart Saga is a collection of epic tales featuring a group of legendary heroes known as the Narts. These stories are shared among various Caucasian peoples, including the Cherkess. The Narts are semi-divine beings, born of the union between gods and mortals, who possess exceptional strength, wisdom, and courage.

  • The Waschxemaf is a mythical creature in Cherkess folklore, similar to the European dragon. It is a large, serpentine beast with the ability to fly and breathe fire. The Waschxemaf is often depicted as a malevolent creature, causing destruction and chaos, and is frequently challenged by heroes in Cherkess myths.

  • The Pshina is a mythological bird in Cherkess folklore, similar to the Phoenix in Western mythology. It is said to possess the ability to regenerate itself through the process of self-immolation and subsequent rebirth from its ashes. The Pshina symbolizes renewal, regeneration, and the cyclical nature of life.

  • The Tlepsh Hammer is a powerful weapon in Cherkess mythology, created by the god Tha and bestowed upon the Narts to help them in their battles against evil forces. The hammer is said to be indestructible and capable of producing lightning bolts when wielded by a worthy hero.

Rituals and Practices

The Cherkess people have a rich tradition of rituals and practices associated with their beliefs and mythology. Some of the most notable rituals include:

  • Khabze is an ancient code of ethics and social norms that governs Cherkess society. It emphasizes values such as respect for elders, hospitality, honor, and loyalty. Khabze is deeply intertwined with Cherkess mythology and is believed to have been established by the gods themselves.

  • The Cherkess people traditionally offered sacrifices to their gods as a way of expressing gratitude, seeking protection, or requesting favors. Animal sacrifices, such as sheep or goats, were performed during important religious ceremonies or before embarking on a significant endeavor.

  • Dance is an essential aspect of Cherkess culture, serving both as a form of artistic expression and a means of worship. Ritual dances were performed during religious ceremonies to honor the gods, invoke their blessings, and celebrate important events.

  • Ancestor worship is a central component of Cherkess beliefs, with deceased ancestors seen as intermediaries between the living and the gods. The Cherkess people honor their ancestors through various rituals, including the preparation of special meals and the construction of sacred shrines.

  • Totemism is a significant aspect of Cherkess spirituality, with certain animals, plants, and natural phenomena seen as embodying divine powers. Cherkess clans are often associated with specific totems, which serve as symbols of their collective identity and spiritual connection to the gods.