The Ingush people are a unique ethnic group indigenous to the North Caucasus region of Russia, specifically residing in the Ingushetia Republic. With a rich history dating back thousands of years, the Ingush have a diverse and complex system of beliefs, mythology, and rituals that have helped shape their identity and cultural practices. This article aims to provide an overview of these elements, emphasizing the pantheon of deities, their personalities and stories, as well as unique beliefs and mythological figures of the Ingush culture.

Ingush Religious Beliefs

The Ingush people have historically practiced a polytheistic religion, with a pantheon of deities that represent various aspects of life and nature. While some of these deities have analogues in other North Caucasus cultures, others are unique to the Ingush belief system. Prior to the conversion to Sunni Islam in the early 19th century, the Ingush people worshiped these deities through a combination of ritual practices, oral traditions, and storytelling.

Deities and Their Personalities

  • Tlepsh: The chief god in the Ingush pantheon, Tlepsh is the god of war, blacksmithing, and fire. He is often depicted as a powerful and stern figure, with a long beard and dressed in armor. Tlepsh is known to forge weapons and armor for the gods and heroes and is considered a protector of the Ingush people.

  • Khmara: The second most important deity, Khmara is the god of thunder, lightning, and the sky. He is responsible for maintaining balance and order in the world, and is invoked during times of drought or severe weather. Khmara is often depicted as a strong, bearded man riding a chariot pulled by goats.

  • Sela: The goddess of the earth, fertility, and agriculture, Sela is venerated for her nurturing and life-giving qualities. She is depicted as a motherly figure, associated with the harvest and the bounty of the earth.

  • Uastyrdzhi: The patron deity of travelers and warriors, Uastyrdzhi is depicted as a mounted horseman, carrying a banner or a sword. He is believed to protect and guide the Ingush people in their journeys, both physical and spiritual.

Mythology and Unique Beliefs

The Ingush mythology is a fascinating tapestry of tales and legends, featuring heroes, deities, and mythological creatures. The Nart Sagas, a collection of epic poems and stories shared by various North Caucasus cultures, including the Ingush, form the backbone of their mythology.

The Ingush people hold a unique belief in the concept of "Dzurdzuk," which is a mythical land inhabited by their ancestors. According to legend, Dzurdzuk was a paradise, protected by mountains and guarded by supernatural beings. The Ingush people believe that their ancestors were banished from this land as punishment for a grave sin, and their primary goal in life is to atone for that sin and return to their ancestral homeland.

Heroes and Mythological Creatures

  • Narts: The Nart heroes are a central part of Ingush mythology, and are considered semi-divine beings with exceptional strength and abilities. They are often depicted as warriors and protectors of the Ingush people, battling demons, giants, and other supernatural adversaries.

  • Barchoq: A creature unique to Ingush mythology, the Barchoq is a dragon-like serpent that inhabits the rivers and lakes of the North Caucasus. It is considered a harbinger of doom and is often invoked in tales to signify impending disaster.

  • Almas: The Almas is a humanoid creature akin to the Yeti or Bigfoot, believed to inhabit the remote mountainous regions of the Caucasus. Described as a wild, hairy, and powerful being, the Almas is said to possess immense strength and the ability to move through the forests and mountains with ease.

  • Pshezhey: The Pshezhey is a mischievous and cunning spirit, often associated with water sources such as rivers and springs. These supernatural beings are said to be able to shape-shift and use their powers to trick humans, often leading them astray or causing misfortune.

  • Dziu: The Dziu is a large, monstrous bird with a piercing cry, believed to dwell in the highest peaks of the Caucasus Mountains. It is said to prey on humans and livestock, swooping down from the sky to carry them off to its lair.

  • Kezanoi: The Kezanoi are a group of female spirits, often associated with the wild, untamed aspects of nature. They are believed to inhabit the forests and mountains and are known to seduce and lure men away from their homes and families.

  • Balaur: The Balaur is a many-headed, serpent-like dragon in Ingush mythology, similar to the Hydra in Greek mythology. This fearsome creature is said to possess the ability to regenerate its heads, making it extremely difficult to defeat. Stories often involve heroes battling the Balaur to protect their people or to complete a quest.


The Ingush people have historically practiced various rituals to honor their deities, celebrate life events, and maintain a connection with their ancestral traditions. Some of these rituals have been adapted or integrated into their practice of Sunni Islam, while others are preserved as cultural practices. Key Ingush rituals include:

  • Offerings and Sacrifices: The Ingush people traditionally made offerings and sacrifices to their deities, particularly Tlepsh and Sela, to seek their blessings and protection. These offerings often included food, drink, and animal sacrifices.

  • Ancestral Worship: The Ingush people hold a strong connection with their ancestors, and rituals to honor and remember them are an important part of their belief system. These rituals include commemorating the deceased in annual remembrance ceremonies, as well as maintaining ancestral burial grounds, known as "auls."

  • Life-Cycle Rituals: Ingush culture features various rituals marking significant life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths. These rituals serve to reaffirm the individual's place within the community and maintain the continuity of Ingush traditions.

  • Seasonal Celebrations: Ingush people also celebrate the changing of seasons, particularly the arrival of spring and the harvest season. These celebrations often involve feasting, dancing, and performances of traditional Ingush music and folktales.