Ram’s horns on the painted mural tombs of western Japan

Painted tomb mural, Mezurashiizuka tomb, Fukuoka

Painted tomb mural, Mezurashiizuka tomb, Fukuoka (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A distinctive repetitive spiral form motif appears on the painted mural walls of tombs in Western Japan of the Kofun Period. Depicted in the photo of the tomb mural above, the “ram’s horn” symbol appears as a herald banner on a funerary “Boat of the Underworld” scene (a fairly universal motif and belief in ancient times).

Thought locally to represent warabi fernfronds, they are actually recognizable tamgas and cultural motifs from specific Turkic clans of ( Karakalpak, Kazakh, Qipchak) Central Asia, known as rams’ horns, though they have become common rug motifs along the migration trail blazed by the Turkic tribes through nations in antiquity times.

A closeup section of the Ozuka tumulus shows the repetitive motif of the ram's horn in an animalistic context rather than vegetative one

A closeup section of the Ozuka tumulus (Fukuoka, Kyushu) shows the repetitive motif of the ram’s horn in an animalistic context rather than vegetative one

The marked appearance of the ram’s horns pattern raises the intriguing and strong suggestion of the arrival of certain ancestral Turkic lineages related to the Qipchaks in Japan. This is especially distinctive in the light of the total absence of sheep and rams as an animal species in the Japanese archipelago.

The ram's horn motif on a 5th c. Armour, 国立中央博物館 suggests a male virility and valour motif

The ram’s horn motif on a 5th c. Armour ( 国立中央博物館) suggests a male virility and valour motif. The artefact is thought to be associated closely with the Korean Kaya confederation of tribes, some of which may thus have been of  Turkic lineages

On ram’s horn symbolism in Central Asia, the Azerbaijan Rug Project reported:

“THE ORIGIN OF THE DESIGN

The motifs of this type of rugs have pre-Islamic Turkic totemic sources. Many geometric devices used in Oysuzlu type of rugs can be found commonly in rugs of Turkic speaking people of Central Asia: Turkmen, Kyrghyz, Kazak* and Karakalpak.

Although the design is attributed to Oysuzlu by L. Kerimov, it is almost certainly known that the rugs with this specific design were produced in the villages of Lowland Bordjalou Region, not in Oysuzlu village of Tovuz District (Kazak Region).

The main feature of this design is having two interlocked grounds in the central field: the green and red areas in this example (background vs. foreground). The composition of the central field consists of the three hooked medallions and half hook-rimmed lozenges on the sides of the central field aligned on the vertical axis.

image

Rams' horn and cruciform motif

Rams’ horn and cruciform motif

The cruciform device inside the ketebe of the central medallion is often found in Kazak, Ganja, Bordjalou and even in some Kuba rugs in different forms. The device basically consists of a cross with the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns.

Here are the same type of hooked devices in various shapes used in so called “Sewan” rugs.

What does this motif represent for? It could well be representing a tamga – a mark used mainly by Turkic people representing an emblem of a particular tribe or a clan. They used tamgas to identify property or cattle belonging to a specific Turkic clan, usually as a stamp. Some tribes, like the Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep), put their tamga on their flags and stamped their coinage with it.

The Karakalpak Kochot Pattern

A considerable number of Kyrgyz and Kazak rugs contain a motif frequently described as Karakalpak kochot. The similarity of the Karakalpak kochot and Borchaly/Oysuzlu device is clear. Karakalpak kochot also consists of a cross, the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns. A very similar motif occurs in the embroidery of the Karakalpaks of the Aral delta (especially on the top of skull caps). In fact, this motif can be found in the applied art works of all Turkic People, from Central Asia to Iran, from Caucasia to Anatolia:

Karakalpak kolchot

Karakalpak kolchot

Koch or Kosh (qošqar) means a ram in all Turkic languages. As the name of this motif in Kyrgyz and Karakalpak is related to a ram, this suggests us the motif could be representing ram’s horn.

The hooked gül /inner medallion which is containing the ketebe and the cruciform device can be related to the early Central Asian forms and a number of Turkish rugs from Anatolia.”

*Kazakh or Qazakh: They are considered as a subtribe of Kypchak. The subgroups of Kazakh are Salahli, Kesemen, Poylu, Demirchiler etc.

Source: Some notes on the so-called ‘Oysuzlu’ design

Although these motifs are most associated with Kazakh-Turkic-Qipchak peoples today, they were also seen as tamgas belonging to the Sarmatians of the 1st c.-mid 2nd c. AD. (See The Tamgas Were Marks of Identification of the Hungarian Tribes and of their Religion (Michelangelo.cn). The immigrants buried in the Fukuoka tombs may have have a mixed Iranic(Sarmatian)-Turkic tribe (see Dybo on early Turkic contacts). Cockerel standards, terracotta and metallurgy motifs also proliferate from the 3rd c. tumulus mounds onwards, the cock is a well-known known Sarmatian standard and tamgas symbol. The ram’s horn has been adopted as a symbol on the flag of the Crimean Tartars, an ethnic native Turkic group who arrived in the Crimea in thr 15th c. (The earliest known appearance ram’s horn symbols may be the ones at Metsamor’s Karahunj astronomical observatories (around 3000 BC) indicating their possible early origins/presence in the Anatolian region). Deborah Houlding’s The origins of the constellations Taurus and Aries traces the origins of the Taurus-Aries connection with the horn symbolism to the Egyptian-Mesopotamian veneration of sun worship.

The Metal Age nomadic tomb and warrior armour technology point to Eurasia as a source of the Mezurashii tomb “Solar Boat of the Underworld”, however, the close resemblance of the Austronesian motif of their ubiquitous “Spirit Boats”  on the Mannungul jar and on the Austronesian boat-houses leaves a perplexing question as to how and where the two cultures may have intermingled and adopted the same cosmology of the Underworld. See the Mananggul jar from the Philippines in the photo below, which carries both the spiral motif and “Spirit Boat” motif in the same combination as that of the Fukuoka tombs, minus the (West Asian-Egyptian) solar imagery. image

Genetics research suggests that the roots of the Austronesians lie in the zone of South China, Southeast China and (Kampuansai et al.,; Min-Sheng Peng et al. etc., scroll down to the bottom of this page for links to articles on Austronesian origins). The spirit boat cosmology appears to be shared by the haplogroup O tree from the earliest subclades. More research needs to be conducted on the early interactions between the Eurasians and the Austronesians/Austric peoples and on the diffusion of the shared ideas and technologies.

 

Further reading:

Tamgas and runes, magic numbers and magic symbols, by H Nickel

Color Appearance Recognition of Mural in the Ozuka Tumulus in Sunlight and Taper Light (Masuda et al.) a joint report of the University of Tokyo, Kyushu National Museum, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

Sacred ram and the significance of the discovery of the 9000-year old ritual ram-arte by Niccolo Manassero

Chronology of the Turkic languages and linguistic contacts of the early Turks

Exploring the River of the Dead … (Heritage of Japan)

The Mannungul Jar as History Genetic history of Southeast Asian populations as revealed by ancient and modern human mitochondrial DNA analysis. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Dec;137(4):425-40. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20884

Insight into the Peopling of Southeast Asia from the Thai Population Genetic  Structure

Min-Sheng Peng, Tracing the Austronesian Footprint in Mainland Southeast Asia: A Perspective from Mitochondrial DNA

Kampuansai, Jatupol et al., Mitochondrial DNA variation of Thai-speaking populations in northern Thailand

Houlding, Deborah The origins of the constellations Taurus and Aries

 

Saruta-Biko and Saru-hijiri — They may have been Sarts, the earliest wandering ascetics to settle in Japan?

Sarutahiko Ōkami, in a somewhat comical depiction; taken from a late-19th-century Japanese painting Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sarutahiko Ōkami, in a somewhat comical depiction; taken from a late-19th-century Japanese painting Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the book Ascetic Practices in Japanese ReligionTullio Federico Lobetti identifies the earliest mountain ascetic practitioners of Japan as hijiri, who were inspired by Taoist medical texts (compiled by Mononobe no Kosen, Izumo no Hirosada, Abe no Manao) to undertake longevity practices.  An early ascetic practice spot was Mt Hira on the western shore of Lake Biwa, a movement founded by Soo in 859. Other well known early bastions of mountain ascetics were the Dewa Sanzan and the Yoshino to Kumano mountain range. The first hijiri is said to be Saru-hijiri. Another figure that would qualify as a hijiri mountain ascetic would be Saruta-Biko kami.

Sarutabiko is enshrined at the Tsubaki Grand shrine in Mie Prefecture, first among the 2000 shrines of Sarutahiko Ōkami, Sarutahiko Jinja in Ise, Mie and Ōasahiko Shrine in Tokushima Prefecture in addition to Ise Jingu.

Saruta-Biko is best known in mythology from the  Nihon Shoki texts as a sort of Guide-Mediator figure, the one who greets Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, when he descends from Takama-ga-hara.

The etymology of Saruta-Biko is obscure. According to Michael Ashkenazi (Handbook of Mythology), saruta, which is traditionally transcribed with kanji characters that suggest the meaning “monkey-field” as a sort of double entendre, followed by the Classical Japanese noun hiko meaning “a male child of noble blood, a prince.” So that Sarutahiko Ōkami’s embellished name could be roughly translated into English as “Great God, Prince Saruta.

He is depicted as a towering man with a large beard, jeweled spear, ruddy face, and long nose — a description which fits closely the Tajik-Uzbek-Sart peoples.  We suggest that both his role and the name Saruta is a strong cognate with the known term Sarta or Sart or Sartuul peoples of Central Asia (found in Russian Turkestan, Uzbekistan, Xinjiang, Buryatia, Tajiks of Afghanistan). He was probably one of the early founding fathers of a member of the wandering Sart/Sartuul tribes who had come into Japan either as a merchant or as a religious ascetic propagating Buddhism, and who had come to be regarded as a mountain hijiri sage.  He was probably coopted by Ninigi’s forces, probably out of respect for his known class as a Sart and status as a “sage” ascetic, a local guide with strong knowledge of the mountains, and probably as a go-between-translator-mediator for dealings with the locals.

Sart people of Tajik-Uzbekistan Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sart people of Russian Turkestan Photo: Wikimedia Commons

His role as mountain guide is suggestive that he may also have been a typical hottai “mountain opener” such as found in the yamabushi tradition and in Shugendo Lore (Gorai Shigeru), the miracle-performing mountain-opener is usually a sage monk, part of the triad of mountain kami, including the layman deity and the female deity of the mountain. Other Buddhist hijiri-openers of mountains are suggested in Shugendo Lore, to include Kukai, Shojo Daibosatsu, and Sanno, the Mountain King.

Taguchi castle in Kirishima said to be the remains of former residence of the Saruta-Biko kami, although Saruta-Biko is better known and associated with Ise, see Oracle of the Three Shrines: Windows on Japanese religion by Brian Bocking:

“At Yamada-ga-hara in the village of Numaki, in the Watarai district of Ise province, she came upon an old man and made enquiry of him. (The old man was Saruta-hiko-no-mikoto whose shrine now stands in the Ise shrine). The old man replied to her saying: “I have been here since the age of the gods. I have accepted the command of Tensho Daijin# to protect this holy shrine for the last two hundred and eighty thousand years. It is located by the Isuzu river and I will guide you there. ‘This is the Inner Shrine that we know today.
This old man’s nose was exceedingly long, at over five feet. Today when there are festivals in this province [the character known as] ‘the king’s nose’ first of all puts o a mask with a long nose. This has come to be understood as a custom dating from the age of the gods.
To continue, when the princess finally arrived and saw the village of Uji, she set up fifty bells on the heavenly reversed-sword. This is why it is called the Isuzu (‘fifty bells’ river. After this the princess returned home and built an identical shrine on the slope of Seta-Suzuka. Day and night she went to the Inner Shrine to make offerings and even though the road she had to travel was long in the extreme she never failed to retrun to this rustic shrine. This is what we know today as the Saigu (‘equal shrine’) (a saigu is a gu (shrine) extending four cho on all four sides). Follwing princess Yamato’s example, an imperial princess from every generation has transferred to this rural shrine in order to serve the Great Shrine [of Ise].
[#“Tensho Daijin was the pre-eminent deity among the five generations of earthly kami. Her parents were Izanagi no mikoto and Izanami no mikoto, last of the seven generations of heavenly kami.”]- pp 48~51 Brian Bocking, Oracle of the Three Shrines

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney notes the monkey-moon symbolism* (scroll down below to read more on this) or associations with Saru-Biko kami, see Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. Anthropologist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney lists three factors that identify Sarutahiko as a monkey deity: saru means “monkey”, his features “include red buttocks, which are a prominent characteristic of Japanese macaques”, and as macaques gather shellfish at low tide, the Kojiki says his hand got caught in a shell while fishing and “a monkey with one hand caught in a shell is a frequent theme of Japanese folktales”.

Turning to the other ascetic or sage figure, Saru-hijiri, who was identified as a hijiri mountain ascetic and given considerable detailed description in the Indian Buddhist tradition of the Nihon ryoiki (and classed as hijiri in elevated status together with Prince Shotoku):

“The title of bodhisattva is given to four other eminent eminent religious persons: Konsu, the Ascetic; Dhyana Master Eigo; Saru-hijiri and Dhyana Master Eigo. These persons were free from attachments to the world, led a disciplined life, engaged in missionary works, and except for Saru-hijiri, were venerated by the emperors. Their relationship with the Emperors reflects the development of the imperial practice of granting the title of bodhisattva (bosatsu) to eminent monks, the first record of which is found in 749. The exceptional case of Saru-hiiri leads to a consideration of what hijiri means in the Nihon ryoiki.

Hijiri may be defined as a charismatic leader of lay Buddhist movements in medieval Japan, particularly in the pure land school. Originally the concept of hijiri developed not under Buddhist but also Taoist and Confucian influences. In China, where legendary emperors such as the Yellow Emperor, Yao and Shun, or Laotsu and Confucious were veneraged as sages, Sakyamuni was accepted as another great sage and added to the list. Kyokai, in compiling the Nihon ryoiki, may be seeking to portray Japanese sages under the influence of Chinese hagiography.

The Nihon ryoiki identifies only two persons as hijiri: one is Saru-hijiri, and the other is Prince Shotoku.

As has been pointed out, Saru-hijiri, an extraordinary nun with a deformed body, shows strong influences of the Indian tradition. On the other hand, Prince Shotoku’s legend reveals a Taoist influence in the concept of a “hidden sage”.

[However, we show here that it was a strong concept of the Saka people that of sages and taking care to entertain those who might be disguised sages (see also John Mock's "Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan" which has strong cautionary tale about how to treat disguised mendicant sages).]

“Prince Shotoku’s ability to recognize saintliness in a beggar was greatly admired:

A sage is said to differ from an ordinary person in this way

We learn that a sage recognizes a sage, whereas an ordinary man cannot recognize a sage. The ordinary man sees nothing but the outer form of a beggar, while the sage has a penetrating eye able to recognize the hidden essence. It is a miraculous event.

In the Japanese religious tradition, no clear-cut distinction can be made between the sacred and secular. What I closest to “sacred” is sei, sho or hijiri, but its antonym is ordinary as understood by Kyokai. “Sacred” means “supreme pre-eminent, extraordinary.” No discontinuity exists. This is the basis for the doctrine of universal salvation . Each person has the potential to be a bodhisattva, although there are differences in the degrees of achievement, which is by no means predestined. The idea image of man is not a scholarly and virtuous monk, but one who lives an ordinary life yet reveals an extraordinary quality through such a life. In other words, he is in society and at the same time rises above society. Generally speaking, bodhisattvas are monks noted for their virtuous lives, while hijiri is a term applied to those who possess charismatic or miraculous qualities. The person who combined these two is Gyogi, the most admired figure throughout the Nihon ryoiki. He is the embodiment of compassionate love, wherein the two aspects are incorporated.”

 — Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist tradition: The Nihon Ryoiki of the monk Kyokai (Nakamura trans.)

 

Hijiri in Japanese finds its closest cognate in the Arab hijra, hijrah, hijirah words, from same root as for the word hijira and hijirah:
“The simple meaning of the word Hijrah (migration) is to move from one place to the other and take up residence there.”
– “What is the true meaning of hijirah?

Hijrah is known in conjunction with Islamic concepts, the Islamic calendar and the Prophet Mohamed’s flight:
“Hijrah refers to reviewing one’s entire cultural and traditional heritage to find what is wrong with it, and where therein corruption of ideas and misunderstanding lie.
In other words, Hijrah is identical to seeking repentance and purification of one’s soul. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“Hijrah will not cease until repentance becomes useless; and repentance will not become useless until the sun rises from the west” (Abu Dawud).” — Hijrah

The above are consistent with an idea that Saru-hijiri may have been descendant of a migrant wandering ascetic tribe that bore strong notions of purification.

Who were the Sarts or Sartuul?

“The Sarts, or Sartuul, were an Iranian-speaking people that was plentiful in Central Asia in medieval times. They formed the urban and professional classes in the Turkic and Mongolian empires. Their closest relatives are the Tajiks of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. Even today certain families in Mongolia and Siberia are recognized as being Sartuul, but most of them have become Asiatic looking due to centuries of intermarriage with Mongols.
The Sarts have been around forever in Central Asia. In more ancient times they were called the Sughd. They are the Iranian people in Turan (Central Asia) that are referred to in the Shahnameh. They traded with China and Mongolia for silks, fur, and lapis lazuli from the Sayan Mountains. They spread Zoroastrianism to Mongolia and Siberia in ancient times, and one of their Zoroastrian shrines has been found near Irkutsk in the Angara River valley. Thanks to them Hormasta (Ahura Mazda) is one of the chief deities of Mongolian shamanism. For this very reason the inscription in honor of the Uighur khan at Khara Balgasun is written in both Turkish and Iranian languages. They were scribes, missionaries, priests, and merchants in all of the Central Asian empires. Thus white Iranian peoples have always been part of the ethnic mix of Central Asia and lived along the Silk Road corridor. Thus in the Tarim basin the Persian technology of the karez (underwater canal) has allowed modern Uighurs to grow luxuriant gardens of grapes in one of the harshest environments in the world.
When the Uighur khanate fell in the 8th century the remnants of that people migrated into what is now Xinjiang, far from their original capital in what is now Arhangai Aimag. At that time the ruling family was Asiatic Uighur Turks and the bureaucracy and merchant class were Sarts. A Turkic-speaking government with Iranian-speaking subjects in the cities and Turkic-speaking subjects among the pastoralists in the countryside. Sort of reminiscient of the relationship between the Normans and Anglo-Saxons in England, for while the Tajik language (Tajik is a dialect of Iranian) is only spoken by a small minority of pure Tajiks in Xinjiang, the Uighurs of today speak a Turkic language with a large number of borrowings from Sogdian/medieval Persian. The Uighur khanate may have in part collapsed because the royal family embraced Manichaeism, a heretical Zoroastrian/Christian sect that spread among the Iranian population of Central Asia and which preached pacifism and vegetarianism–not exactly traditional nomadic values–as well as free sex. When the Uighur khanate in Mongolia collapsed and they migrated to the Tarim basin the Uighurs flourished for a few more centuries, converted to Red Hat Buddhism and then later Islam. During the twilight years of the Uighur kingdom the Sarts and their Turkic rulers gradually intermarried and thus acquired the mixed European/Asiatic appearance they have today. I think you will find that the more “white” looking Uighur occur mostly in the towns, while the nomads tend to be more strongly Asiatic in appearance, because Sarts did not intermarry with the nomads as much as with other city people.
The Sartuul of Mongolia, however, tend to be much more Asiatic looking since they are the remnants of Sarts who lived in the cities of the time of the Uighur Khanate that have now disappeared, but instead of migrating to Xinjiang they remained in what is now Mongolia and completely assimilated with the natives. If you read Ochirbat’s history of the Oirat Mongols you will find that almost all of the Oirat tribes have at least one Sartuul clan.
You must also look at the ethnic appearance in Central Asia in general–the closer you get to Afghanistan and Iran the more European they look. Compare the appearance of a Mongol with an Uzbek or Kazakh, these areas had proportionately larger Sart/Tajik populations historically and thus they have a more Iranian appearance. If you look at a map, you will see Kashgar is much closer to Kabul than to say, Huhhot or even Beijing. It is no wonder that the Persian influence both culturally and racially is strong there.
You must also consider that the Old Mongol script itself is derived from the Aramaic alphabet, the predecessor of the Arabic alphabet. This came about because the Sughd used the Aramaic alphabet and since they became the scholarly class in the Uighur khanate it is not surprising that it was adopted for the Uighur language and thus passed on later for use in the Mongol and Manchu languages.
Professor Winters of the University of Chicago has established that even as early as Harappan times there was extensive trade contact between Iran/Afghanistan/Indus Valley and southern Siberia/Xinjiang/Mongolia, especially for lapis lazuli and other precious stones. Some of the famous Harappan seals are made from stone mined in Siberia near Lake Baikal!
No doubt the Tarim mummies represent some of these early traders and their descendants. Regarding the plaid pattern, this is one of the easier patterns to weave using multicolored threads and it crops up in many cultures which are not necessarily related. While the fabrics from Xinjiang resemble the Celtic tartans they may not have a direct genetic relationship with them, just as the similarity between some Mayan and Tibetan fabric designs probably is not evidence of cultural contact. They are however relatively easy to weave and probably invented independently. The Turkic peoples of Xinjiang did have one thing in common with the Scottish use of tartans, however, in that certain of their silk weaving patterns were a mark of what village or clan the weaver (or wearer) came from, but these patterns are not plaids.
You must also remember that, contrary to how it is portrayed in Chinese movies, the Xinjiang area, like Tibet, was only intermittently under Chinese control before the modern period, and all of Central Asia as well as Tibet were rather “betwixt and between” with its own unique history which is still not well understood. Before Chinggis Khan and after the Mongolian empire began falling apart only a few generations after his death Central Asia was a patchwork of small khanates, emirates, trade cities, and vast expanses of land shared by nomadic groups, and after gradually drifting away from Mongolian control the Uighur region, while having lost the formal name Uighur, became Islamic and affiliated with various emirates that existed among the Turkic peoples of that region. Because Kashgar was the eastern gateway of the Khyber Pass and Wakhan Valley corridors of the Silk Road the Afghan influence was considerable.
This history of the Sarts and Uighurs is a good example of what a racial and cultural melting pot (or patchwork, better said?) that Central Asia is. Thanks to the relatively peaceful relationships between whites and Asiatics in this region it played an important role in the dissemination of knowledge and trade goods between East and West. It is unfortunate that in the modern era people like the Taliban and the more militant of the Chinese Communists have used race as a tool to divide and suppress peoples in Central Asia that had generally gotten along together peacefully for most of their history.”

Sartuls of Buryatia:

“The Sartul dialect of Buryat language, for example, is similar to Khalkha Mongol language of Mongolia. Dialect of the Khongodors (Tunkin and Alar) is closer to Oirat language of Western Mongolia (Dzungaria), which gave birth to the Kalmyk language. … The Uighurs, in turn, adopted their writing from the Sogdians of Central Asia. This East Iranian people of Sogdiana took their script from Aramaic syllabic writing system, which, in turn, was an adaptation of Phoenician. Phoenician was a precursor also to the Greek alphabet, as well as Hebrew and Arabian. The Sogdian writing comes from either from Aramaic or from the Greek alphabet. The Sogdians preserved Hellenistic traditions from the time of the conquests of Alexander of Macedon ( 4th Century before our era ) almost to Arab invasions in 8th Century of our era.

Large amounts of emigrants from Sogdiana streamed into Mongolia and Trans-Baikal. The Sogdians built a town on the north bank of Selenga river. Its name was Bai-Balyk, and it was built in 758 for the Uighur khan, according to the Finnish philologist Gustaf Ramstedt. In 19th Century, the Buddhist monastery Biy-Bulugiyn-Khure stood on the ruins of this town.

There are numerous excavations of Uighur burials around the Baikal area. A Sogdian settlement was excavated near Balagansk of Irkutsk region, where Unga flows into Ankara. Merited archeologist A. P. Okladnikov wrote: “ Sogdian colonists led settled lives at the mouth of Unga.” that was during the epoch of Orkhon Turks and Uighur Khanate, which was located around the Baikal.

The Uighur Khanate was destroyed by light-haired Yenisei Kyrgyz in 840. Afterwards, the Uighurs left our northern lands forever. The Sogdians, possibly, left with them. Eastern Turkestan became their new homeland (now Xinjiang in China.)” — Buryatia: In the depths of Siberian Runes

__________

From Origin of Sarts

There are several theories about the origin of the term. It may be derived from the Sanskrit “sarthavaha” (merchant, caravan leader), a term supposedly used by nomads to described settled townspeople. Or it may be a corruption of the Sogdian ethnonym “Soghd.”[citation needed]

The earliest known use of the term is in the Turkic text Kudatku Bilik (“Blessed Knowledge”), dated 1070, in which it refers to the settled population of Kashgaria[citation needed]. In that period the term apparently referred to all settled Muslims of Central Asia, regardless of language.

Rashid-al-Din Hamadani in the Jami’ al-Tawarikh writes that Genghis Khan commanded that Arslan Khan, prince of the Muslim Turkic Karluks, be given the title “Sartaqtai”, which he considered to be synonymous with “Tajik”[citation needed] (It is possible[original research?], however, that Rashid al-din, who was Persian, misunderstood the meaning of this, as “Sartaqtai” was the name of one of the Genghis Khan’s sons).

13-th century Mongolian source, “Secret History of the Mongols” states that the Mongols called people from Central Asia, most notably Khwarezm, as “Sartuul”. “Sar” in Mongolian means “moon“, hence sart or sarta would mean “ones with (flag with) moon”, since the Muslim people had Hilal symbol on their flags. One of the Mongolian tribes living in the Zavkhan province are descendants of merchants from Khwarezm, who resided in Harhorin. This tribe, still, is called Sartuul.

Sart is a name for the settled inhabitants of Central Asia and the Middle East, which has had shifting meanings over the centuries. Sarts, known sometimes as Ak-Sart (“White Sart”) in ancient times, did not have any particular ethnic identification, and were usually (though not always) town-dwellers. Since the 16th century and onward Mughal historians referred to the Tajiks of theKabulistan (now Afghanistan) and surrounding regions as Sarts

There are several theories about the origin of the term. It may be derived from the Sanskrit “sarthavaha” (merchant, caravan leader), a term supposedly used by nomads to described settled townspeople.[citation needed]. Or it may be a corruption of the Sogdian ethnonym “Soghd.”[citation needed]

The earliest known use of the term is in the Turkic text Kudatku Bilik(“Blessed Knowledge”), dated 1070, in which it refers to the settled population of Kashgaria[citation needed]. In that period the term apparently referred to all settled Muslims of Central Asia, regardless of language.

Rashid-al-Din Hamadani in the Jami’ al-Tawarikh writes that Genghis Khancommanded that Arslan Khan, prince of the Muslim Turkic Karluks, be given the title “Sartaqtai”, which he considered to be synonymous with “Tajik”[citation needed] (It is possible[original research?], however, that Rashid al-din, who was Persian, misunderstood the meaning of this, as “Sartaqtai” was the name of one of the Genghis Khan’s sons).

13-th century Mongolian source, “Secret History of the Mongols” states that the Mongols called people from Central Asia, most notably Khwarezm, as “Sartuul”. “Sar” in Mongolian means “moon”, hence sart or sarta would mean “ones with (flag with) moon”, since the Muslim people had Hilal symbol on their flags. One of the Mongolian tribes living in the Zavkhan province are descendants of merchants from Khwarezm, who resided in Harhorin. This tribe, still, is called Sartuul.

In the post-Mongol period we find that Ali Sher Nawa’i refers to the Iranian people as “Sart Ulusi” (Sart Ulus, i.e. Sart people), and for him “Sart tili” (Sart language) was a synonym for the Persian language. Similarly, when Babur refers to the people ofMargelan as “Sarts”, it is in distinction to the people of Andijan who are Turks, and it is clear that by this he means Persian-speakers. He also refers to the population of the towns and villages of the vilayat of Kabul as “Sarts”.

In the country of Kābul there are many and various tribes. Its valleys and plains are inhabited byTūrks, Aimāks, Afghans, and Arabs. In the city and the greater part of the villages, the population consists of Tājiks* (Sarts).[1] – Babur 1525

A political history of the Sarts.

On the evolving political identities of Neo sogdians, Sarts, Yaghnobi clans of Tajiskistan, see From Sogdian to Persian to Sart to Tajik-Uzbek, the reformulation of linguistic and political identity in Central Asian

“With the downfall of the Samanid Empire in 999 CE, Sogdiana came under the political domination of these same Turkic-speaking peoples. Over time, significant numbers of Turkic speakers settled in the region, intermarrying broadly within the local population. As a result, their language spread. But as it did, it was molded by the pre-existing Persian substratum, gaining a large number of Persian words and expressions; several of the resulting dialects even lost the distinctive “vowel harmony” that characterizes Turkic and, more broadly, Altaic languages. But the spread of Turkic speech did not result in the disappearance of Persian (or Tajik, in Turkic parlance). Instead, linguistic duality came to characterize much of the region. At the beginning of the 20th century, Persian/Tajik served as the main language of Bukhara and Samarkand, as the region’s lingua franca, and as the chief vehicle for administration and literature. In many of the smaller towns and farming communities, however, “Persianified” (or “Iranized”) Turkic dialects prevailed.
Persian/Tajik served as the main language of Bukhara and Samarkand, as the region’s lingua franca, and as the chief vehicle for administration and literature. In many of the smaller towns and farming communities, however, “Persianified” (or “Iranized”) Turkic dialects prevailed.
In a social environment in which bilingualism was common, the distinction between those who spoke Persian and those who spoke a Turkic language was generally of little significance. What mattered more was mode of life. The main distinction here was that between settled people, whether city-dwellers or farmers, and pastoral nomads. Those with a sedentary lifestyle were generally called “Sarts,” both by outsiders and themselves, regardless of their mother tongue.
In contrast were the Turkic peoples who largely retained a pastoral way of life, most notably the Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and Turkmen. Included in this group were the original Uzbeks, a group of historically nomadic people, ultimately of Mongol origin, who had forged a powerful state the 1500s, the Shaybanid—or Uzbek—Khanate. The relatively non-Persianified Uzbek language of this group (known as Kipchak Uzbek) was, and is, much more closely related to Kazakh and Kyrgyz than it is to the Turkic dialects of the settled Sarts (which are most closely related to Uyghur in northwestern China)

From an article on Xinjiang’s Taranchis and Sarts:

” In the multiethnic Muslim culture of Xinjiang, the term Taranchi is considered contradistinctive to Sart, which denotes towns dwelling traders and craftsmen. It of course excluded the ruling classes of the oases Muslim states, often calledMoghol/Mughal or Dolan because of the Doglat Mongol origin of the Chagatay-Timurid dynasties. However, from a modern perspective, Taranchi, Sart and Moghol Dolans cannot be considered three distinctive ethnic groups, but rather three different classes or castes in the same cultural-linguistic zone that was Chagatay-Timurid.”

*On moon symbolism of Saruta-Biko, and Saru-hijiri, the moon is a symbol closely associated with Uzbekistan and Buryatia (from which populations of Sarts and Sartuul people can be found):

The moon is a symbols of Uzbekistan. The crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, is common, though its appearance on the national flag is meant not as a religious symbol but as a metaphor for rebirth. The mythical bird Semurg on the state seal also symbolizes a national renaissance. In the early part of its history, the inhabitants of the area were from Iranian stock and spoke an Eastern Iranian language called Khwarezmian. During the final Saka phase, there were about 400 settlements in Khwarzem c. 500 B.C.

Subsequently the Iranian ruling class was replaced by Turks in the 10th century A.D, and the region gradually tuned into an area with a majority of Turkic speakers. The city of Khiva was first recorded by Muslim travellers in the 10th century, although archaeologists assert that the city has existed since the 6th century.

Other resources:

Slavomír Horák, In Search of the History of Tajikistan What Are Tajik and Uzbek Historians
Arguing About?
Russian Politics and Law, vol. 48, no. 5, September–October 2010, pp. 65–77. ISSN 1061–1940/2010 DOI 10.2753/RUP1061-1940480504 – Tajiks were turkic or iranian speaking uzbeks according to the uzbeks. Mountain Tajiks refer to Takjiks from the Pamir-Hindu Kush region

Khwarezm has been known also as Chorasmia, Khwarezmia, Khwarizm, Khwarazm, Khorezm, Khoresm, Khorasam,Harezm, Horezm, and Chorezm. In Avestan the name is Xvairizem, in Old Persian Huwarazmish, in Modern Persian خوارزم (Khwārazm), in Arabic خوارزمKhwārizm, in Old Chinese *qʰaljɯʔmriɡ(呼似密), modern Chinese Huālázǐmó (花剌子模), in Kazakh Хорезм, in Uzbek Xorazm, in Turkmen Horezm, in Turkish Harezm, in Greek Χορασμία and Χορασίμα, by Herodotus.

The Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi in his Muʿǧam al-buldan wrote that the name was a compound (in Persian) of khwar(خوار), and razm (رزم), referring to the abundance of cooked fish as a main diet of the peoples of this area.[2]

C.E. Bosworth however, believes the Persian name to be made up of (خور) meaning “the sun” and (زم) meaning “Earth”, designating “the land from which the sun rises”,[3] although the same etymology is also given for Khurasan. Another view is that the Iranian compound stands for “lowland” from kh(w)ar “low” and zam “earth, land.”.[1] Khwarezm is indeed the lowest region in Central Asia (except for the Caspian Sea to the far west), located on the delta of the Amu Darya on the southern shores of the Aral Sea. Various forms of khwar/khar/khor/hor are commonly used also in the Persian Gulf to stand for tidal flats, marshland, or tidal bays (e.g., Khor Musa, Khor Abdallah, Hor al-Azim, Hor al-Himar, etc.) The name also appears in Achaemenid inscriptions as Huvarazmish, which is declared to be part of the Persian Empire.

Some of the early scholars believed Khwarezm to be what ancient Avestic texts refer to as Airyanem Vaejah (“Ariyaneh Waeje”; later Middle Persian Iran vij).[4] These sources claim that Old Urgench, which was the capital of ancient Khwarezm for many years, was actually Ourva, the eighth land of Ahura Mazda mentioned in the Pahlavi text of Vendidad.[5] However, Michael Witzel, a researcher in early Indo-European history, believes that Airyanem Vaejah was located in what is now Afghanistan, the northern areas of which were a part of ancient Khwarezm and Greater Khorasan.[6] Others, however, disagree. University of Hawaii historian Elton L. Daniel believes Khwarezm to be the “most likely locale” corresponding to the original home of the Avestan people, and Dehkhoda calls Khwarezm “مهد قوم آریا” (“the cradle of the Aryan tribe”). Like Soghdiana, Khwarzem was an expansion of the BMAC culture during the Bronze Age which later fused with Indo-Iranians during their migrations around 1000 BC. Early Iron Age states arose from this cultural exchange. List of successive cultures in Khwarzem region 3000–500 BC. Read more: http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/Uzbekistan.html#ixzz38rXBvCWD

Comparing Soul Trees and Trees of Life

 

The Soul Tree, Jomon Period, excavated in the Tama Hills, Kanagawa, reconstruction of original context

The Soul Tree, Jomon Period, excavated from the Tama Hills, Kanagawa, reconstruction of original ritual context

The above photo shows an excavated site belonging to the Jomon Period in Japan. The comma-shaped gemstones hung on the tree are called ‘maga-tama‘ in Japanese, ‘maga’ meaning ‘curved’ and ‘tama’ meaning jewel, which is also synonymous with ‘soul’.  (Of course, we cannot be sure that is what they were called during Prehistoric Jomon times)  However, maga-tama gems have been fairly common finds in Jomon Period, often seemingly in an altar setting beside a phallic item in the pit dwelling, although large numbers are excavated from Yayoi and Kofun Period tombs. The specific context of the funerary and ritual setting is significant and lends a number of possible interpretations of the abstract symbolism represented by the ritual setting (see  below – the scenes below are adjacent to the “Soul Tree” located to its right).

photo (6)photo (5)

Firstly, the maga-tama jewels hung on a tree in a funerary setting, are seemingly suggestive that each tama is symbolic of a soul (see definition below) The concept of a =departed ancestor on the Soul Tree is known in specific parts of the world (which we will examine below).

Secondly, the reconstructed scene based on the actual topography of the excavated site, faces a mountain with special astronomical sightings such as the appearance of the sun upon the mountain peak. This setting is suggestive of yet another set of fairly complex ideas at work (in Wakhan-Afghanistan as well as in Persia, the Nowruz Spring Festival/New Year would not begin till the sun had mounted the peak over the mountain and the people would pay their respects to their ancestors the night before, lighting bonfires(ancestor worship).

The ceramic pottery suggest a scenario where a feast and food offerings were made to ancestors, (a scenario which looks a lot like an ancient version of the Persian-Eurasia-wide New Year or spring festival). This setting leads us to infer that there was a symbolism of, and a belief in a Tree of Souls, and ancestor veneration practices among the Jomon people of the Kanto area. A Soul Tree concept is the concept of an ancestral tree to which the deceased or departed have ascended to find their rest.

There was a continuity in the magatama material culture from the Jomon through the Kofun ages.    But was there also a continuity of ideas?

Jomon Period magatama bead, Kiusu no. 4 site, Chitose city, Hokkaido

Jomon Period magatama bead, Kiusu no. 4 site, Chitose city, Hokkaido

Tama – the Soul or Human Spirit

The entry in the Encyclopedia of Shinto defines “tama” thus:

“A general term for spirit or soul in ancient times. In addition to human spirit, it also refers to spirit or spiritual force in nature. A human soul is considered a spiritual entity that comes from outside and dwells in the body, endowing the individual with energy and personality. The word tamashii (spirit, soul) presumably had an original meaning of the “function of tama.” Mitama (御魂、御霊) is an honorific term of tama. When it is written with the characters 神霊 (mitama), it refers to a spirit of a kami. Later on, the spelling of 御霊 came to be used exclusively for goryō, a spirit that brings hazards to a human society.”

The tama representing the soul or spirit of a person is a belief recognizable from the design motif found in crowns of the Kofun Period (possibly earlier) through to today’s Japanese. While the magatama beads attached to golden crowns are shared with the early Koreanic kingdoms, particularly, that of the Silla, the magatama found during the earlier Jomon Period are not similarly found on the Korean peninsula, thus suggesting a different provenance and associated cultures.

Tree worship and tree motifs are frequently said to be a universal phenomenon, however, we would like to show that within the broad notion of the Sacred or Magical Tree, there are in fact distinctive categories and different concepts, and important distinctions and different characteristics will help identify the cultural sphere the object and mytheme belongs to, and the stage of evolution and complexity of the belief, practice or myth, will lend a perspective on the historical events and times associated with the associated myth and mytheme.

For example, the Jomon Soul Tree idea is not only distinctive, the concept of a Soul Tree is significant in identifying the material culture it is associated with (i.e. stone and wood) and the distinct geographical locations where the Soul Tree beliefs exist, and may juxtaposed alongside of those cultures. It can be distinguished from the later material culture (bronze and gold leaf technology) which has the Tree of Life, central to the World Tree and Tripartite World cosmogony…and consequently with the cultural spheres from which metallurgy arrived.

The Jomon Soul Tree is also clearly a concept distinguishable from other ideas such as the Tree of Fortune; Fertility Tree, Dying Tree or Vegetative Deity, Tree of Knowledge, Cosmic Tree or Solar Tree, etc.. Each of these motifs are distinctive enough and we may be able to identify the associated cultural spheres of each of these. It may also prove useful and worthwhile to compare the Soul Trees found in other cultures, which may throw light on the general origins of and migrational paths taken by the Jomon people, before settling in Japan.

Other cultures with concepts of Soul Trees or cultural beliefs of a people or tribe descended from a tree include:

Indo-China: Vietnam appears to also have a complex Soul Tree, one that however, also includes Genesis-like two-tree motif which explains how mankind lost their immortality after the burial of man at the foot of wrong tree. Their Bahnars’ myth goes like this:
“They say that in the beginning when people die, they used to be buried at the foot of a certain tree called Long Blo, and that after a time they regularly rose from the dead, not as infants. But as fully grown men and women. So Earth peopled very fast, and all the inhabitants formed but one great town under the presidency of our first parents. ..[the crowdedness vexed a certain lizard ] and the wily creature gave an insidious hint to the grave diggers. “Why bury the dead at the foot of the Long Blo tree? Said he; ‘bury them at the foot of the Long Khung, and they will not come back to life again. Let them die outright and be done with it.’ The hint was taken, and from that day men have not come to life again.” – Oppenheimer “East of Eden,” p. 397
Iranian: The first human couple, Maschia and Maschiana, issued from the ground (according to some versions out of a rotting corpse ) in the form of a rhubarb plant (the Rheum ribes), which was at first single, but in process of time became divided into two. Ormuzd imparted to each a human soul, and they became parents of mankind.”
Gold Decorative Pieces Achaemenid Period, 5th - 4th century, B.C. In the collection of the Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran

A Tree of Life flanked by a pair of animals, among the gold decorative pieces, Iran, Achaemenid Period, 5th – 4th century, B.C. In the collection of the Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran

India: Mahabharata: An enormous Indian fig-tree from whose branches hung little devotees in human form. The Malabar speak of a tree whose fruit were pigmy men and women. The Khatties of Central India are said to be descended from Khat “begotten of wood” who at the prayer of Karna sprang from the staff fashioned from a branch of a tree. One Indian superstition is that peepal trees are the abode of ghosts and spirits. The legendary ‘Munja’ ghost is also believed to reside in the peepal tree.

According to Hesychius of the Greeks:
“The  human race was the first fruit of the ash, and Hesiod relates that it was from the trunks of ash-trees that Zeus created the third or fourth bronze race of men. The oak was particularized as the favored tree of another tradition. “Whence art thou?” Inquires Penelope of the disguised Ulysses ” for these are not sprung of oak or rock, as old tales tell”
Germanic and Nordic traditions, according to the Eddas,
“when Heaven had been made: Odin and his brothers walking by the sea shore came upon two trees. These they changed into human beings, male and female. The first brother gave them soul and life; the second endowed them with wit and will to move; the third added face, speech, sight and hearing. They clothed them also and chose their names  Ask for the man ‘s and Embla for the woman’s and they sent them forth to be parents of the human race.” – Odin and the Eddas
Interestingly, the Scandinavians are now thought to have received influences from their Central Asian interactions with Scythian-Sarmatians, and with the Altai tribes: see David K. Faux “The Genetic Link of the Viking – Era Norse to Central Asia: An Assessment of the Y Chromosome DNA“, Archaeological, Historical and Linguistic Evidence, 2004 – 2007. The shared concepts may be less surprising in view of the genetic links.

In the European tradition of Saxony,  Thuringians too, children are spoken of as growing on a tree. There were traditions in Latvia, Lithuania, and northern Germany of the world tree as a distant oak, birch, or apple tree with iron roots, copper branches, and silver leaves. The spirits of the dead lived in this tree.

In Damascus, Syria, they have a creation myth where their progenitor was a tree out of which everything descended and came – Bushmen, zebras, oxen …. In the Arabic tradition, the Arabs say there is a talking tree growing at the Eastern most point of the world which bore young women on its branches instead of fruit.

The Semitic tradition. While the Biblical Genesis Tree of Life or more correctly, the Tree of Knowledge is best known, the Kabbalah writings speak at length of a Soul Tree of the Hebrews – see Origins of the Kabbalah by Gershom Gerhard Scholem

God has a tree of flowering souls in Paradise. The angel who sits beneath it is the Guardian of Paradise, and the tree is surrounded by the four winds of the world. From this tree blossom forth all souls, as it is said, “I am like a cypress tree in bloom; your fruit issues forth from Me.”(Hos.14:9). And from the roots of this tree sprout the souls of all the righteous ones whose names are inscribed there. When the souls grow ripe, they descend into the Treasury of Souls, where they are stored until they are called upon to be born. From this we learn that all souls are the fruit of the Holy One, blessed be He.

This Tree of Souls produces all the souls that have ever existed, or will ever exist. And when the last soul descends, the world as we know it will come to an end.

Rabbinic and kabbalistic texts speculate that the origin of souls is somewhere in heaven. This myth provides the heavenly origin of souls, and in itself fuses many traditions. First, it develops themes based on the biblical account of the Garden of Eden. It also builds on the tradition that just as there is an earthly Garden of Eden, so is there a heavenly one ….

As for the Tree of Life in Paradise, its blossoms are souls. It produces new souls, which ripen, and then fall from the tree into the Gulf, the Treasury of Souls in Paradise. There the soul is stored until the angel Gabriel reaches into the treasury and takes out the first soul that comes into his hand. After that, Lailah, the Angel of Conception, guards over the embryo until it is born. Thus the Tree of Life in Paradise is a Tree of Souls. See “The Treasury of Souls,” p. 166. For an alternate myth about the origin of souls, see “The Creation of Souls,” p. 163. For the myth of the formation of the embryo see “The Angel of Conception,” p. 199.

Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, known as the Ari, believed that trees were resting places for souls, and performed a tree ritual in the month of Nisan, when trees are budding. He felt that this was the right time to participate in the rescue of wandering spirits, incarnated in lower life forms. The Ari often took his students out into nature to teach them there. On one such occasion, upon raising his eyes, he saw all the trees peopled with countless spirits, and he asked them, “Why have you gathered here?” They replied, “We did not repent during our lifetime. We have heard about you, that you can heal and mend us.” And the Ari promised to help them. The disciples saw him in conversation, but they were not aware of with whom he conversed. Later they asked him about it, and he replied, “If you had been able to see them, you would have been shocked to see the crowds of spirits in the trees.”

The core text of this myth comes from Ha-Nefesh ha-Hakhamah by Moshe de Leon (Spain, 13th century) who is generally recognized as the primary author of the Zohar. It is possible that de Leon symbolically identified the Tree of Souls with the kabbalistic “tree” of the ten sefirot. Tikkunei Zohar speaks of the ten sefirot blossoming and flying forth souls. (See also the diagram of the sefirot on p. 529.)

Not only is there the notion of a Tree of Souls in Judaism, and the notion that souls take shelter in trees, but there is also the belief that trees have souls. This is indicated in a story about Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav found in Sihot Moharan 535 in Hayei Moharan: Rabbi Nachman was once traveling with his Hasidim by carriage, and as it grew dark they came to an inn, where they spent the night. During the night Rabbi Nachman began to cry out loudly in his sleep, waking up everyone in the inn, all of whom came running to see what had happened. When he awoke, the first thing Rabbi Nachman did was to take out a book he had brought with him. Then he closed his eyes and opened the book and pointed to a passage. ..

Sources: Sefer ha-Hezyonot 1:23; Shivhei Rabbi Hayim Vital p. 66; Siddur Sha’ar Shamayim.    The  Kabbalistic writings “Tree of Souls

  The Turkic Tree Kazakh:

“Baiterek is the world tree. It is one of the embodiments of the universe and model of world. It is met in all myth traditions, including the Kazakh mythology. Baiterek (literally – original poplar, mother poplar), the World Tree, connects all three levels: upper-heaven with nine or seven layers, middle and lower ones, having seven or nine layers of the universe. Its individual parts represent the parts of separate worlds: roots represent the underworld, crown is the middle world, branches and leaves are the upper world. Etymology of ‘Terek’ (variants: darak, darau, dara, tarak) comes apparently from *Tir – life.

Baiterek is the original life. Most often, actually the one story found in many fairy tales is as follows: The hero finds himself in the underworld, and after a long journey reaches a large tree where he helps the chicks of giant bird Alyp Karakus (Simurg) killing a snake or dragon aydakhar. In gratitude, the bird delivers the hero to the earth’s surface. Tree is the world tree, and bird and snake are representatives of opposing worlds – the upper and lower worlds. Their perpetual opposition involves a middle world representative – a man, a hero of the tale.

Baiterek – the world tree – is the center of the universe. It is the door, the gate between the worlds, and usually the sacred actions occur under such tree. Baiterek is also at the center of the horizontal model of the world. The horizontal structure of the world: on the right of the tree is the moon, on the left – the sun and the star (ayyn tusyn onynnan, zhuldyzyn tusyn sonynnan).

The Kazakh epic Kobylandy and dastan of Kashagan ‘Aday tegi’ mention the world tree as a tree with golden leaves (in the epic it has the golden and silver leaves), in dastan of Kashagan, it is referred as a tree of all fruits.

There are data on two world trees or poles, standing in parallel. The image of the world tree symbolizes the marriage, succession from generation to generation, genealogical tree. The Turkic people had widespread belief that people take the babies under the trees (comparing with version of genealogical legend about Aday), or that the ancestors’ souls live in the tree, branches and leaves. The branches of shaman tree, according to the ideas of Turkic-Mongol people, host the souls, preparing for a new birth.

Kazakh shamans believe that the world tree appears as a material thing – ‘asa tayak’ as well as the pole put into the ground near the tomb of holy person-‘aulie’. The symbolism is clear in this case: the pole – Bagan shall symbolize the world tree, by which the soul of dead shall rise into the sky, and by which it can go down. For the same reason the Kazakhs are put on tunduk spear after they die.

‘Baiterek’ word is used in the tribal sign system of the Kazakhs. For example, a generic slogan and one of the mythical ancestors of the tribe Kangly is Baiterek. Among the Turkic people, the myth traditions of world tree image are preserved well enough by Sakha Yakuts. It is called al-luk-mas or pay kayyn. (Kayyn – katyn)” Baiterek   Source: Book of Serikbola Kondybay. Kazakh mythology

Source: Book of Serikbola Kondybay. Kazakh mythology

Source: Book of Serikbola Kondybay. Kazakh mythology

James George Frazer in his book “The Golden Bough” wrote of the ubiquity of the idea and belief among many ancient tribes all over the world, that one’s soul could be hidden in an object, totem animal, plant or tree, outside of one’s own body (akin to the shintai concept of the Japanese). He mentions the tamaniu concept of the Melanesians:

“Among the Melanesians of Mota, one of the New Hebrides islands, the conception of an external soul is carried out in the practice of daily life. In the Mota language the word tamaniu signifies “something animate or inanimate which a man has come to believe to have an existence intimately connected with his own… . It was not every one in Mota who had his tamaniu; only some men fancied that they had this relation to a lizard, a snake, or it might be a stone; sometimes the thing was sought for and found by drinking the infusion of certain leaves and heaping together the dregs; then whatever living thing was first seen in or upon the heap was the tamaniu. It was watched but not fed or worshipped; the natives believed that it came at call, and that the life of the man was bound up with the life of his tamaniu, if a living thing, or with its safety; should it die, or if not living get broken or be lost, the man would die. Hence in case of sickness they would send to see if the tamaniu was safe and well.”

The “tamaniu” is not only phonetically similar sounding but in meaning possibly finds a cognate in mi-tama, magatama, tamashi concepts of the Japanese, so that it may be able to find a genetic connection or an interaction sphere of cultural borrowing of ideas as well. When considering the jade material culture – the East Asia is markedly far more sophisticated from early times, and although it is the magatama jade and female figurines of the Jomon are popularly considered to have emerged from the Hongshan culture, it is abundantly clear however, that Japan did not follow in producing any of the same forms of jade items or figurines at all.

All that we can ascertain is that the early Jomon earring forms were identical to those on the Southern Chinese coast, and that some populations of the Jomon period received extensive migrations from Siberia which is evident from the shared genepool. These areas contiguous areas to Japan, therefore have been sources for Jomon tree myths and beliefs. The Bronze Age culture and gold crowns with Tree-of-Life with bird-and-boat motifs are most likely a heritage that came with the Bronze Age metal-workers, via the Silk Road, sponsored by some elite royals of Saka-lineages and/or Koreanic Sillan families. Their concept of a Cosmic World Tree of Life, however,  would only have complemented or built upon the previously existing body of tree myths and beliefs already owned by the indigenous or earlier waves of settled populations.

The Melanesians who are upstream (or older) in the ancestral or phylogenetic tree of the haplogroup C (Y-DNA)-bearing migrants who went northwards to Japan and to East Asia (Mongolians, Siberians, Koreans) after passing through the Indian subcontinent and Melanesian Island Southeast Asia (see p. 4, map A, Wang and Li paper). There is a Melanesian belief in the dual composition of the tama soul called “konpaku” (which looks a lot like the Taoist dual “maga-tama” embryo). According to one interpretation of the Chinkon sai rite:

Kon- A Sinic term that refers to the soul. In ancient China kon was related to yang (of yin-yang dualism) and to the dimension of mental activity, while haku was related to yin and the somatic, physiological dimension. Thus, the soul had a two-layered structure. Accordingly, when a person died it was believed that these two components returned respectively to the heavens and the earth. Concerning their relationship to the Japanese conception of soul (tama), the kon (tamashii) of konpaku was indicated as corresponding to it. This was according to an interpretation of chinkon (pacifying spirits, see chinkonsai) found in the regulations dealing with personnel (shokuinryō) in the article for Shintō administration (jingikan jō) of the ritsuryō legal code, which was revised in the first half of the eighth century. On the other hand, konpaku was used as another term for mitama in a tenth century work called the Wamyōruijūshō. Subsequently, other interpretations were also offered, such as konpaku being the combined spirit of blessing (sakimitama) and the spirit of auspiciousness (kushimitama). — Konpaku, The Encyclopedia of Shinto

The concept of the jade jewel or stone as repository for the soul is also significant in the exploitation and demand for jade and other semi-precious stones. Although jade as an elixir (grounded into powder) or as magical amulet is better known in the Chinese civilization, the association of green jadeite with the stone being a repository of life force is also a known reason for Chinese (and Khotanese) jade exploitation.

An alternative explanation is that Japanese tamashi might also be cognate with the also similar-sounding Indian Brahma Kumaris(origin: India) and Sikkh word, atma for soul, believed to be life-sustaining spiritual light or “spiritual spark”, and in the former, to reside in the forehead of the occupied bodies, and “The pure root of the tree is Brahman, the immortal, in whom the three worlds have their being, whom none can transcend, who is verily the Self” (Katha Upanishad 2:3:1)  (see The Universal Tree)

However, according to  “Legend in Japanese art“ at p. 355, the Jade Stone called Benwa or Tama is mentioned in a tale:

“The Jade Stone found by BENWA (PiEN Ho) is also called Tama, and it plays a part in the wars between the Chinese Kingdoms of Wu and Yueh, which is set forth in the Goyetsu gun dan (443, et seq.). In the eighth century B.C. Pien Ho found an eagle standing upon a large block of jade; he took the stone to the ruler of Ts’u, whose advisers pronounced it to be valueless, and gave it back to the man, but first of all they cut off his right foot. Benwa returned to the King Shan mountains and put the stone back in its proper place, when the same eagle came again to perch upon it. In the meantime the King had died, and the man went again to Court with his stone to present it to the new ruler, and this time his left foot was cut off. A third King came to the throne, and on seeing Benwa weeping by the gate of the Palace,  inquired into the cause of his grief, and had the stone tested, when it was found to be a perfect gem.*”

This stone was at last carved and made into a jewel called the Ho SHI CHI PIH, which finally passed into the hands of the King of Chao, Bun O; 3E (298-266 B.C.). This King had a devoted counsellor in the person of LIN SIANG Ju (Rinshojo)  and when the envious ruler of Ts’in offered fifteen cities in exchange for the stone, this crafty person advised Bun O to surrender the stone and accept the land in exchange. But soon after he went to the Court of Ts’in and requested that the jewel be sent back to Chao. Ts’in hesitated, but Rinshojo took the stone, saying: “Do you fail to see its defects?” walking the while away from the King until he came to the end of the hall. He then dropped his cap and exclaimed: “Unless you return this stone to my master I shall break it to pieces; not only have we jewels, but also courageous men, such as none could be found in Ts’in!” The King of Ts’in yielded to his demands.

In some versions, he is said to have invaded Chao, and requested the stone as a ransom for the fifteen cities, but to have given way before Rinshojo’s boldness””… See Comparative survey of moon symbols and beliefs, and the likely derivation of “tamashii” jewel or soul  [Note that in Zhuzhou, shishi (which is close in sound to the Japanese word for rock, "ishi"), is a Mongolic word associated with megalithic tomb stone]

***

Beliefs in tree worship, tree of life (immortality) and World Tree/Pillar cosmologies may be divided into these categories:

1) Creation myths of a race or tribe originating from trees, (many examples of Tree of Souls follow below)

According to the Altai Turks, human beings are descended from trees. According to the Yakuts, White Mother sits at the base of the Tree of Life, whose branches reach to the heavens where it is occupied by various creatures that have come to life there (Source: Turkic mythology) The central importance of the Tree of Souls to the Turks is dwelt on as revealed from ancient traditional rug motifs and the people who make them:

The Siberian Turks, who preserve most rudiments of ancient Turkish culture, believe in the ties between a man and a tree which they envision as a kind of umbilical cord. They believe, that when an old tree dies, it means that an old man had died somewhere, and when a young tree falls down, it indicated the death of a youth. After death, according their beliefs, the human spirit returns to the tree. Similar notions are current among the Kazaks and the Turkmen of Mangyshlak, who believe that there is a tree in heaven, every leaf of that tree belonging to someone on Earth. When a man dies, his leaf falls off (Karutz, s.a. page 134). It explains certain burial rites connected with trees. Small toothless babies were regarded as creatures completely belonging to Nature, therefore, Siberian Turks used to dispose of their dead bodies, wrapping them in birch bark, and hanging them on trees. Birch bark, the symbol of proximity to Nature, emphasizes that a baby has nothing to do with the culture of men, but instead belongs to wild nature. According to shamanistic beliefs, a six moth old baby still remembers the tree on which his spirit used to reset in the shape of a bird (Sovetskaya ethnograpfiya, 1974, No. 2, p 109). The placenta of a new born baby is buried below a tree. The tree was regarded as a place where reincarnated souls from the clan lived, growing in the shape of leaves, fruits or most often in the shape of birds. Each clan or tribe has its own kind of tree. Spirits of different animal species were also believed to be growing on their own special trees. The archaic cultures of hunter tribes of the Russian East present even more integral notions of incarnating spirits. According to their beliefs, a female demi-god named Omi, the mistress of all kinds of vital forces, lives in Heaven.

A female deity of a similar name, May, which is common to all Turkic peoples and which performs similar functions – patronage of childhood, childbearing, endowing ikhakans with charisma, luck in battle, etc. – probably represents the same personage. In Heaven animal species are ripening on their own tree which belongs to goddess the Omi. Anthropogenic myths about trees, the ancestors of human being, are popular among the peoples of this region.

The forefather of the Nanay people was born by a tree. He was also the first human named Hado or Hodai (Sistemniya issledovaniya vzaimosvyazi drevnih kultur Sibriri I Severnoi Ameriki, 1995, p. 114) [These sound like homonyms for Hoori and Hoderi brothers in the royal genealogy of the ancient Japanese texts]…Other myths tell about the creation of the shaman tree by a demi-god, who is at the same time a shaman himself, and a married couple, who are a brother and a sister born by a tree. Stories of a married couple, the forefathers of mankind, are widespread in Eurasia. In the legendary genealogy of the Oghuz people, the Oghuz name, two trees, the golden one and the silver one, are mentioned.

A clan generation tree of the Namay people from Eastern Siberia

A clan generation tree of the Namay people from Eastern Siberia, traditional rug motif (Source: Galina Serkina)

A newly consecrated Buryat shaman had to run around a tree (Potapov, 1991, 123). Moreover shamans used a tree during their mysteries (Radlov, 1989, p371). Each shaman was a keeper and protector of his clan or tribe. Shamans had their own tree upon which they placed the souls of all the people they protected (potapov., 1991, p423). Such trees were guarded by spirits-protectors assisting shamans. The Yakuts regarded their shamans as trees. His limbs were called “branches”, not arms or legs (Xenofontov, 1992, p. 77) …

The “vak-vak” tree

Now, let us turn to the “talking trees”. In the past, the peoples of Tuva and Altai ascribed to trees certain human abilities (Traditsionnoye mirovozzreniye tyurkov yutshnoi Sibiri, 1990, pp. 68, 79) Trees, according to their beliefs, were conscious of pain, they slept at night, and they could die as humans. The Turks of the Near East called them “talking trees” (danisan agac). In western scholarly works, they are also mentioned under the name “vak-vak”.. The theme of the vak-vak trees is founded upon the notions of the hunter tribes of Siberia that human souls grown on trees. As for the word, vak, it has originated from the Indo-European “bhag”, meaning “tree, ok”. It is known that the ancient Indo )Aryans worshiped oaks. (the Russian word “Bog” (God) also derives from the same stem.( The Yakut “bagah” is evidently related tot the Inod0Euriopean “bhag and “bak”. “Bagah in the Yakut language has two meanings, “tether and pole, pillar”. A similar word “bakan/bagana” of the Turkish languages has almost the same meaning “pole of the tent” (Potamin, vol IV 1883, p. 14). Both these objects played an important part in the rites of birth and fertility. The tether and the pole are the ritual substitutions of the mythical Tree. Turkish speaking peoples making a sacrifice to their gods used to stretch an animal skin on a tree (pole). The existence of a similar custom among the Tyugo people is testified by Chinese sources.

“symbolizes the world center, where Heaven and earth touch, where all times and places converge. They may be honored by tying on pieces of cloth. The lone birch, the “shaman tree”, is called ongonmodon, for these trees are believed to be the home of the shamans’ helper spirits, Ongon. Trees are also symbolic of the World Tree, which is usually visualized as a birch or willow. The Buryat have wooden ovoo (shrine) which are also a symbol for the World Tree. Another type of ritual tree is the serge, which is made from a young birch.Some of them were once souls of human beings, ancestors from a time so long ago. A mountain or tree of great majesty will be said to have suld, which is the same word that is used to refer to the soul which remains in nature after death. Unusual rocks or trees are believed to have a strong spirit and are respected or given offerings of tobacco or liquor. Mountain spirits are considered to be very powerful, and are prayed to in order to provide good hunting and abundance of natural food plants. These ceremonies are usually held roughly around the times of the equinoxes and solstices and are usually performed by the elders of the local clan or tribe. Mountain spirits and other powerful Gazriin Ezen are worshipped at special shrines called ovoo, which are tall piles of rocks and tree branches, roughly conical in diameter.”

The Buryat Mongols believe:

[Buriat] “A red silk rope is led from the patient to a birch tree set up outside the yurt. The soul of the patient is supposed to come back along this rope … . Outside the yurt a man holds a horse, as … this animal perceives first the arrival of the soul and quivers.”

A long, red ribbon with a copper button at the end is fastened to this arrow. Then the ribbon is … tied to a branch of birch tree that had been stuck there [outside the yurt] into the earth. The red ribbon serves as the path of the soul. … A man is sitting near the tree branch and keeps the … horse of the patient. … the horse feels the presence of the returned soul and begins to tremble and neigh.”

2) A general belief in trees or vegetation as abode of spirits, tree spirits or tree demons (sometimes flanked by animals)

In the Heian period dictionary, the Wamyō Ruijushō,  tree gods are mentioned and called “Kodama” (古多万). In Aogashima in the Izu Islands, shrines are created at the base of large sugi trees in the mountains and are worshipped under the name “kidama-sama” and “kodama-sama”, thus the surviving beliefs of tree spirits can be seen. Also, in the village of Mitsune on Hachijō-jima, whenever a tree is cut, there was a tradition that one must offer a festival {offering s-i-c] to the tree’s spirit “kidama-sama” . On Okinawa Island, tree spirits are called “kiinushii,” and whenever a tree is cut down, one would first pray to kiinushii and then cut it. Also, when the there is the echoing sound of what sounds like a fallen tree at the dead of night even thought here are no actual fallen trees, it is said to be the anguishing voice of kiinushii, and it is said that in times like these, the tree would then wither several days later. The kijimuna, which is known as a yōkai on Okinawa, is also sometimes said to be a type of kiinushii, or a personification of a kiinushii (source: Kodama).
In a broad swathe from India through to Southeast Asia and from the Southeast Asian Islands through to Melanesia, the concept of the vegative tree or vine deity as progenitor is extremely common.
The Kayans:

 “By far the most common, however, are those myths, which trace mankind to some miraculous source, an origin from plants or trees being perhaps the most frequent of these. For the most part we have from the eastern and southeastern islands only the statement that the ancestor or ancestors of mankind burst from a bamboo or tree, although in some instances the tales are more precise. Thus in the Ceram-laut and Gorrom Islands it is said that in the beginning a woman of great beauty, called Winia, came out of a tree together with a white hog, the woman climbing into a tall tree, while the hog remained at its foot. After a time a raft floated ashore, on which was another woman, Kiliboban by name, who had drifted here from New Guinea and who became the comrade of the hog. Later a man (of whose origin nothing is said) came by and took off his clothing to go in fishing, but the two women saw him and laughed at’ him, whereupon, surprised that any one else was in the vicinity, the man sought for the source of the laughter and found Kiliboban, whom he straightway asked to be his wife. She, however, refused, but directed him to the tree in whose top Winia was concealed; so he climbed the tree forthwith, found the lovely damsel there, and taking her to be his wife, became by her the ancestor of mankind.

… the island of Nias, lying off the western coast of Sumatra. According to myths from this island, there was in the beginning only darkness and fog, which condensed and brought forth a being with-out speech or motion, without head, arms, or legs; and in its turn this being gave existence to another, who died, and from whose heart sprang a tree which bore three sets of three buds. From the first two sets six beings were produced, two of whom made from the third set of buds a man and a woman—the ancestors of mankind

In Amboina and Buru, the first human beings came from a tree after a bird had sat upon it and fructified it. In the latter island, according to one myth, the first to appear was a woman, who built a fire near the base of the tree, which it warmed, whereupon the tree split in two, and a man came forth who married the woman. A variant makes the man the first to appear. In Wetar the first woman came from the fruit of a tree; and far to the north, among the Ami, one of the wild tribes of Formosa, we find the same belief, for it is said that in the beginning a being planted in the ground a staff, which took root and became a bamboo on which two shoots developed, a man issuing from one of them and a woman from the other. Coming farther west to Celebes, traces of the idea are found in Minahassa, where, according to one myth, a tree-trunk floated ashore, and from it, when it was broken open by a deity, a man (in reality a god) came forth. A similar tale from the Tagalog, in the Philippines, is reported, in which two hollow bamboos floated ashore on the first land; these were pecked open by a bird, whereupon a man issued from the one and a woman from the other, the two thus be-coming the ancestors of mankind. The belief appears again in Borneo in a tale from the Kayan, where the tree and vine of miraculous origin produce the ancestors of the different tribes; and a variant also occurs in southeast Borneo. Lastly we find in Nias 7′ that man originated from the fruit of the tree, tora’a, which grew, according to one account, upon the back of one of the first beings derived from original chaos; or according to another, from his heart after his death.” – “Myths of origins and the Deluge of Indonesia

The Southeast Asians possess many myths about spirit trees (see Thai spirit houses and spirit trees) and about people (Laos, South China, Tai, etc.) emerging from a gourd or vine (see Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The Theme of Chaos (hun-tun), N. J. Girardot pp 206-213;  Myths, Lao Literature Home Page, chap 2)  Mention of the sacred gourd is among the earliest recorded royal genealogies (Kojiki) of Japan as well as in folktales (see Demon at Agi Bridge).
In Oppenheimer’s Eden in the East analysis:
“Austro-Asiatic areas show not only the earlier versions but also a greater variety of mechanisms in the inclusion of early forms of the perverted message and the trees of life and death. The last point of diversity gives further evidence that the area of origin of these myths was on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean.”

Vines figure prominently in the myths of Southeast Asia, particularly gourd (usually along with a deluge sub-motif) stories:

“The legends of the Kayan, Kenyah, and Bahau of central Borneo. According to the Kayan, originally there was nothing but the primeval sea and over-arching sky; but from the heavens there fell into the sea a great rock, upon whose barren surface, in course of time, slime collected, from which were bred worms that bored into the rock. The sand produced by this boring collected, eventually covering the rock with soil, and after many years there fell from the sun upon this land the wooden handle of a sword which, taking root, grew into a great tree; while from the moon fell a vine which clung to the tree and rooted itself in the rock. From this mating of the tree and vine were born two beings, a boy and a girl, who wedded in their turn and became the ancestors of the Kayan..”Myths of origins and the Deluge of Indonesia:

3) Specific Sacred Tree identification or association with specific deities – or tree associations with kings/princes/holy men/heroes with divine or semi-divine status (the distinction between the two categories may be blurred or one category evolves into another)

Examples of this type of tree belief … are too many to list all. In Japan, most shrines and temples have a “Shinboku” or “divine tree,” a tree regarded as sacred, as the symbol of sacred territory or a place in which the kami dwell” (see Encyclopedia of Shinto). Norse mythology:

The sacrifice of Odin (1895) by Lorenz Frølich

Odin was regarded as “guide of souls” and originally the leader of the war band. One of Odin’s names is Hangatýr, the god of the hanged. The ascetic ritual of hanging from the world tree, Odin’s practice of seidr, his familiar animals (Sleipnir, Huginn and Muninn) and his connection to ecstatic inspiration are highly suggestive of an origin in a shaman leader. With new later influences upon the warring society, Odin’s shamanistic role may have become less prominent, while remaining one of his attributes, so that he became revered in medieval society as a wise king of the gods and bringer of victory.

4) Magical trees with bounty of magical fruit (that can bring healing or have an amulet function to ward off evil), or fruits de la mer (the Fishing Tree) or Bronze Age Golden Tree or the Eastern variant: Tree of Gold, Fortune or the Money Tree

- Greek-Argos: Hera (see below) The deity who gave the fruits of the land, depicted with a pomegranate in hand

Juno, with Pomegranate

The Golden Tree The idea that trees are associated with treasure hoards, and therefore gold or fortune are naturally strongly associated with cultures that were involved with bronze, gold smithing technology (see Sarmatian gold; Silla Korea and the Silk Road: Golden Age, Golden Threads) and coin-minting.

However, a Jewish tale tells of The Golden Tree in the dream of a Jewish king, who regrets banishing his favorite wife, and has to travel to India to find her under a Golden Tree … and who, upon their return, plants a branch of the holy golden tree in his palace garden. The Golden Tree motif is often regarded a trait of Scythian crowns, but it is in fact traceable to the spread of gilt and goldleaf technology across Central Asian and a number of East Asian cultures, see this gallery of Scythian crowns

Crowns of a tree-like (or some say, an Iron Mountain motif) pattern are seen in Japanese tumuli, of a type found in larger numbers in the 5th-6th c. Sillan kingdom of Korea. The Tree of Life (Golden Tree or Tree with golden leaves motif) is thought to be an especially dominant motif of Bronze Age Scythian specifically Indo-Saka peoples, from Iran, Afghanistan in Central Asia diffusing to the Korean peninsula and to Japan in conjunction with gilt-working technology. The motif is particularly associated with princely crowns of Central Asia:

Images of the Tree of Life were as varied as the many cultures which depicted it, appearing in the art of both settled and nomadic cultures throughout ancient Eurasia. From the 8th-7th century BCE pectoral of Ziwiye, to the famous 1st century CE Sarmatian crown from Khokhlach, however, the importance and significance of the Tree was instantly recognizable, revealing a common thread of belief throughout the cultures and across the ages. This stunning pectoral illustrates the tree in its fullest magnificence, bursting with blossoms, its bottom branches hung heavy with fanciful leaf-shaped pendants. Double layers of six-lobed petals frame semi-precious stones, while nearly one hundred stones in vibrant orange and turquoise accent more than thirty dangling pendants.

Images of the Tree of Life were as varied as the many cultures which depicted it, appearing in the art of both settled and nomadic cultures throughout ancient Eurasia. From the 8th-7th century BCE pectoral of Ziwiye, to the famous 1st century CE Sarmatian crown from Khokhlach, however, the importance and significance of the Tree was instantly recognizable, revealing a common thread of belief throughout the cultures and across the ages. This stunning pectoral illustrates the tree in its fullest magnificence, bursting with blossoms, its bottom branches hung heavy with fanciful leaf-shaped pendants. Double layers of six-lobed petals frame semi-precious stones, while nearly one hundred stones in vibrant orange and turquoise accent more than thirty dangling pendants.

From the animal style of artefacts of the tomb the Ziwiyeh material are thought to have come from the tomb of a Scythian prince, or a Median chieftain. However, Ziwiyeh was most probably a stronghold of the Manneans, an indigenous people of the Zagros Mountains, mentioned in Assyrian records. To the north of this region Scythians followed their traditional life-style, with horse-borne warrior-elites maintaining their social position through rich booty acquired on raids Source: J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

This crown was excavated from Grave Six in Tillia Tepe, Afghanistan and is estimated to be from the first or second century A.D. thus predating the Korean or Japanese crowns

This crown was excavated from Grave Six in Tillia Tepe, Afghanistan and is estimated to be from the first or second century A.D. thus predating the Korean or Japanese crowns

Reconstructed crown of remains from Kofun tumuli

Reconstructed crown of remains from Kofun tumuli, Tokyo National Museum (Source: Wikimedia)

Japanese crown of the Kofun Period

Japanese crown of the Kofun Period

The Japanese gilt crown’s tree motif is similar to the Korean ones such as the one below, from which a genealogical connection is often inferred to exist between the respective royal houses by scholars:

5th - 6th gold crown from Geumgwanchon

5th – 6th gold crown from Geumgwanchon, S. Korea

Compare the bird-tree motif of this Japanese crowns …

Excavated from the Fujinoki tumulus

Excavated from the Fujinoki tumulus, Japan

With the remarkably similar Nanay (Eastern Siberian) tree motif below:

A clan generation tree of the Namay people from Eastern Siberia

A clan generation tree of the Namay people from Eastern Siberia, traditional rug motif (Source: Galina Serkina)

The traditional festive occasion silver headdresses of the Dong women of China still feature designs that are remarkably similar to “Scythian” gold crowns with bird, blossom, leaf or fish motifs included in the design.

Elaborate headdresses of the Dong ethnic peoples of China

Elaborate headdresses of the Dong ethnic peoples of China

Stories of the ‘Tree of Plenty‘ are said to belong to the region along the north coast of New Guinea, eg the Garus people tell the story of a Banag tree which had all kinds of fruits and roots hanging from it ‘like a supermarket’. The children partake of the fruit, but parents cut down the Sacred tree of Plenty, and when the chopped up bits of wood chips from the tree get distributed, the tree becomes available to others.

The sacred tree myths of this region tend to also be coupled with the quarreling brothers motif as well as a generative snake motif, as well as the concept that the tree has to be cut down or destroyed in order for the fruit or root crops to be distributed (Oppenheimer p.413)  This Tree of Plenty may be the precursor of the Bronze Tree of Fortune or Money Trees seen in China and India.

Relics of a bronze tree believed to be able to bring wealth unearthed from the Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220) family tombs in Guanghan city, China's Southwest Sichuan province, Oct 11, 2013.[Photo/CFP]

The Chinese Money Tree. Relics of a bronze tree believed to be able to bring wealth unearthed from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) family tombs in Guanghan city, China’s Southwest Sichuan province, Oct 11, 2013.[Photo/CFP]

more.. Unearthed from Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) family tombs in Guanghan city, China’s Southwest Sichuan province, Oct 11, 2013.[Photo/CFP]. The money tree symbol is a particularly unique icon belonging to the Han dynasty culture, see History of the Money Tree. Compare the above, earlier bronze money tree with the later one below

Bronze Money Tree on Earthenware Stand Eastern Han dynasty 1st-2nd century A.D

Bronze Money Tree on Earthenware Stand
Eastern Han dynasty
1st-2nd century A.D

A great deal of light is thrown on the meaning behind the symbolism of “The Bronze Money Tree” by the Kaikodo Asian Art studio:

“Money Trees provided promise of eternal happiness and wealth in the afterlife through the power of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, who presided over the Realm of the Immortals at Kunlun. Here she resides within each of the major branches (fig. 1). She sits regally in full frontal posture on her tiger-dragon throne, surrounded by her adoring court, as she is often represented in various arts of the Han including bronze mirrors and ceramic tomb tiles as in one illustrated here (fig. 2), or in the mirror catalogue 44.

Below the goddess, a potpourri of figures tread on the metal ledges, slopes and outcroppings of the branches: equestrians on their mounts, archers crouched with bows and arrows aimed at their prey, hunters, musicians, and dancers. The figures occupy areas of space created by the meandering bronze bones or skeleton of each branch, just as figures on Han ceramic hill jars or on tomb tiles occupy the “space-cells” formed by overlapping hillocks (fig. 3). The composition is also reminiscent of the fantastic creatures perched on swirling lines in Han lacquer painting, creating a sense of space by virtue of their presence (fig.4). Each branch is completed by constellations of large coins, similar to actual Han dynasty coins in design and must have shone as brightly as stars or suns when such trees were first produced, in preparation for burial where they would ensure both wealth and a paradisiacal afterlife in the presence of the Queen Mother.

The large branches of this tree are very similar to a number of successfully restored Money Trees, the one illustrated here notable for its towering height (fig. 5).[1] While Money Trees have been found in a number of provinces, excavations in Sichuan province have shown that area to have been the major center of production. It was furthermore the heartland of the cult of Xiwangmu during the Han period and also the provenance of the tomb tiles illustrated above.[2] The marriage of the goddess—who promises eternal life and good fortune—with a physical and material manifestation of that promise in the form of replicas of hard currency seems fitting enough in itself but is also supported by historical logic. During the 1st century A.D., the local government in Sichuan—a province in the southwest already experiencing great economic prosperity at the time—was given the right by imperial authority to mint coins that were then circulated throughout the land. It is not hard to imagine how this activity contributed to the development of what was clearly one of the most desirable of funerary items during the late Han in Sichuan.

Another source for the origins of the Money Tree can be found in Xiwangmu’s own garden wherein grows a very special peach tree that bears the fruit of immortality. Among the finds from the Marquis Yi of Zeng’s spectacular 5th century B.C. tomb discovered in Suizhou, Hebei province, was a painted lacquer chest with representations of heraldic trees, stiff and symmetrical, flanked at the top by birds or beasts (fig. 6). These trees are depictions of the Fusang Tree from which the Archer Yi shot down nine contender suns. The spiky orbs hanging from the Fusang Tree and the representations of coins on the Sichuan money trees are strikingly similar. More interestingly, the Zeng lacquer painting brings to mind a Han-dynasty textile from Noin-ula, in Mongolia, which was published and discussed many years ago by William Willets (fig. 7).[3] Willets connected this image with the Tree of Life which he noted was believed to grow in a paradise inaccessible to ordinary mortals, bearing fruit capable of prolonging life. He goes on to describe the Tree of Life as part of the stock of world myth, reaching from Mohenjo-daro to Assyria to Europe and spanning an immense length of time. Representations of that tree are stiff and heraldic and the trees are flanked by two birds or beasts, as they are in the lacquer painting. One might then consider elements in the arts of Sichuan province that suggest influence from the West—the Indian-style que towers, the explicit sexuality sometimes present in the sculpture of that province that also has an Indian flavor, or very early images of the Buddha that appear on the trunks of some Money Trees and Money Tree bases in the Eastern Han period (see cat. 46). The concepts and designs resulting in the creation of Han dynasty Money Trees were inspired by multiple sources, each contributing something to their designs and to their efficacy in the afterlife”

A final word on the Turkic Tree symbolism:

The influence from Central Asian Turkic and Saka nomads for whom the tree motif is central, is elaborated upon by Galina Serkina in her treatise on rug motifs:

“It is known that the tree occupied a semantically important position both in the world-outlook and in the ritual of the Turks. In the epics of Turkish speaking peoples the tree was the center of life which functioned as an orientation point in time and space: many epic themes concentrate around the tree, principal events and decisive encounters of epic heroes take place there.

The preservation of archaic cultural elements is most noticeable in those spheres of everyday life for which women are responsible, where mothers, the keepers of the hearth, transfer them to their daughters. The world of female artifacts is consequently more durable: these are objects playing a vital role in the rites of the cycle of life, their principal idea being fertility and rebirth (for example marriage rites). Similar sacred objects are immune to any changes in their shape or decorum. Female dress always preserves the pattern of ancient garments. Thus the bridal headdress of the Central Asia still preserves the shape of the ancient Sacae [Saka, Scythian] hats….

Tree patterns decorated garments of women reaching the age of fecundity. Chinese court ladies of the Tang period wore head dresses with tree decoration introduced by the empresses of the Uyghur origin. The process of cultural integration between China and Central Asia is not limited to the historical period, its roots go back to remote antiquity. In this connection it is worthwhile to mention the subject of one Chinese embroidery (ill. 74, Rudenko, 1968) from the Pazyryk barrow (southern Siberia); phoenixes and pheasants sitting on or flying around the otung tree.

The Chinese poet of the Tang period, Li Bo states that the nature of the phoenixes allows them to live only on the “otung” tree. [This recalls the otun shrines of Wakhan-Afghanistan, which are branches decorated with cloth stuck on top of a stone cairn, the custom said to be derived from the Saka invaders] As we can see, this statement indicates the presence of some vague ties between trees and birds. Another Chinese author (Li Shih, Chen who lived in the 12th century, was not quite aware of the meaning of the term ”otung”. For some reason, not explaining why, he tied it with the word for ”coffin”, referring to the 3rd century BC lexicon “Er-ya”. The earliest known case of the word “otung” appearing in Chinese sources is dated to the 2nd century AD. In ancient times, the word “otung” was disyllabic and was written in two characters. This means that it was most probably borrowed from some other language [This is the opinion of Prof. Leo Menshikov, a Russian sinologist.] I believe there was some reason for the untraceable association between the words “otung” and”coffin” reflected by ancient authors. We know that Central Asian nomad used to bury their dead below trees and to leave the corpses of children and shamans on trees (Viktorova, 1980, p. 1250). It is possible to suggest therefore that the embroidery from Pazyryk presents “the tree of souls”, its image re-worked beyond recognition by the creative fantasy of the Chinese people.”- Traces of Tree Worship in the Decorative Patterns of Turkish Rugs by Galina Serkina

5)  Tree of Life with healing or life-extending (i.e. immortality)or other properties (knowledge) fruit

With sub-motifs (often a triad) of

a. serpent and

b. bird and

c. other players such as the quarreling siblings)

a. An example of the serpent mythme or motif is to be found among the Sioux of Upper Missouri:  The original parents, like the trees from which they developed, at first stood firmly fixed to the earth, until a monster snake gnawed away the roots and gave them independent motion, just as in Paradise the serpent destroyed the harmony and mutual trust which united Adam and Eve.

Traditional Persian and Slavic myths both told of a tree of life that bore the seeds of all the world’s plants. This tree, which looked like an ordinary tree, was guarded by an invisible serpent-dragon that the Persians called Simarghu and the Slavs called Simorg. For fear of cutting down the tree of life by accident, Slavic peoples performed sacred ceremonies before taking down a tree. The Persians cut no trees but waited for them to fall naturally. The Simorg creature evolved and took many forms, and somewhere between Kazakhstan, Iran and Western China, the Simorg became a Dragon-Peacock, and eventually a Phoenix at the top of the Chinese bronze tree (see my article “Will the real firebird step forward?“).

Trees—or the fruit they bore—also came to be associated with wisdom, knowledge, or hidden secrets.

Two sacred trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—appear in the Near Eastern story of the Garden of Eden, told in the book of Genesis of the Bible. God ordered Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, not to eat the fruit of either tree. Disobeying, they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and became aware of guilt, shame, and sin. God cast them out of the garden before they could eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, which would have made them immortal. Thereafter, they and their descendants had to live in a world that included sin and death (Myth Encyclopedia)

The Tree of Life myths from the Bronze Ages to medieval times, are usually featured amidst these complexes of motifs as well:

i. The bird-tree-snake triad in the Lost Homeland/Paradise …is probably the most recognizable motif of Near Eastern mythology and Biblical references: Lilith is related to the bird (bird-goddess) motif in the “Eden” garden, see Lilith in Sumeria and Babylonia

“Lilith’s flower was the lilu, or lily, or “lotus” of her genital magic, which represented the virgin aspect of the Triple Goddess. A Sumerian king list dating from this time states that Lugalbanda, father of the great hero Gilgamesh, was a Lillu-demon. This statement cal also be read as a veiled reference pointing to Gilgamesh, who was reputed to be two-thirds divine and one-third human, to have the sacred blood lineage descending from the sexual rites of the Goddess.”

A Babylonian terracotta plaque from 2300 BCE depicts Lilith as a Bird Woman and Lady of the Beasts. She is beautiful, with a slender nude body, wings that fall behind her like an open veil, and powerfully clawed owl feet. Her head is adorned with a crown of multiple horns worn by all great deities, and she holds the ring and rod symbols of power. Surrounded by lions as her protectors, and owls depicting her nocturnal wisdom, she is the animal soul of the world, who is associated with every living creature that creepeth and all the beasts of the field. The literal meaning of Lilith’s name is “screech.” She was associated with the screech owl of the night, and later as a demon of screeching.” But we are informed of the Lilith-and-willow-tree association in Lilith: The Mother of Musical Worship (Graves, Patel) where Lilith “appears earlier as ‘Lillake’ on a 2000 BC Sumerian tablet from Ur containing the tale of Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree. There she is a demoness dwelling in the trunk of a willow tree tended by the Goddess Inanna (Anath) on the banks of the Euphrates.” (On her evolved characterization as seductress, see also The Story of Lilith the Seductress) The bird-serpent-tree triad motif in the Biblical garden or paradise setting as a package is not seen in Japan and as such is not given treatment here (please refer to Stephen Oppenheimer’s “Eden in the East and Trees of Paradise” and Elizabeth A. Newsome’s “Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World” that do the job remarkably well.)

ii. The sun-crow-sun-bird or rooster or phoenix bird in tree (a Eastern variant on the above Near Eastern mythologies).

The ten suns-equals ten sun-birds roosting on the mulberry tree and archer Yi Chinese myths are given very full treatment by Sarah Allen. We return to this motif later in the section on immortality. The bird on a tree-mast or prow of a boat is extremely abundantly found between the Yayoi and Kofun periods in Japan, in either funerary or shrine contexts (eg Ise Grand Shrines)  see our article examining rooster symbolism in Japan. [See next section iii for further treatment of this theme]

In the Turkic account of the Oghuz who invaded Europe:
“…the baby Oghuz, as soon as he was born, demanded cooked meat and wine, and started to talk [the prodigious, unusual cultural hero archetype signifying divine birth and status]…his loins were like those of a wolf, his shoulders like those of a sable and his chest like that of a bear: his whole body was covered in hair. Soon he hunted a unicorn, luring it first with a stag, secondly with a bear and third with himself. One day, when he was praying to God, a blue light came down from the sky, with a beautiful maiden in its middle. Oghuz fathered three sons on her, called Sun, Moon and Star. Then one day he went hunting, and found another beautiful maiden in a hollow tree in the middle of a lake. Oghuz fathered three more sons on this maiden, called Sky, Mountain and Sea. …Oghuz … sent his sons Sun, Moon and Star hunting to the east and his sons Sky, Mountain and Sea hunting to the west. The first trip found a golden bow, which Oghuz divided into three  ieces, giving these to the three brothers and telling them to shoot arrows right up to the sky. Then the second trip found three silver arrows which Oghuz duly distributed among them, telling them to be like arrows. He summoned a great assembly to the right of which he had a tree erected, topped by a golden hen, with a white sheep at its foot; and to the left he had erected a tree topped by a silver hen, with a black sheep at its foot. To the right sat the first triad to the left second. Oghuz then divided his kingdom between them (The hens and sheep of course symbolize the sun and the moon and day and night we shall find extremely similar materials ….the Book of Grandfather Korkut (Kitab-i Dede Korkut). This is a collection of twelve stories about the early Oghuz Turks, and this clearly reflects their life in Inner Eurasia (… put together in the early early fourteenth century and re-edited there in the sixteenth: thus it presents Isclamicized Turks fighting against Georgians and other Christians along the Black Sea coast. Beneath the Islamic overlay, however plenty of ancient Turkic myth and religion can be discerned….” Animal and Shaman: Ancient Religions of Central Asia by Julian Baldick  pp. 57-58

iii. The immortality grove and location in Paradise, or Other World or Foreign Land The sacred grove is everywhere it seems, Zeus was born under a poplar in Crete; Rhea’s cypress grows out of her temple; Hermes is reared under a urslane tree; Hera is brought up under a willow in Samos; Apollo was born from an olive (or palm); Romulus and Remus under a Ficus ruminalis by the Tiber; Vishnu under a bamiyan and Buddha under a sal-tree, and died there too.  Other famous tree-deity associations include: Dodona: Zeus=oak;  Rome: Jupiter=oak; Arcadia: Artemis=nut-tree and cedar, etc, etc, etc. One of the most vivid and well-known accounts of an immortality grove must be that of the Xi Wangmu, the shamanic great goddess of China (Max Dashu) and her legendary peach grove. Xi wangmu or Queen Mother of the West lives in a

“In a garden hidden by high clouds, her peaches of immortality grow on a colossal Tree, only ripening once every 3000 years. The Tree is a cosmic axis that connects heaven and earth, a ladder traveled by spirits and shamans.

Xi Wang Mu controls the cosmic forces: time and space and the pivotal Great Dipper constellation. With her powers of creation and destruction, she ordains life and death, disease and healing, and determines the life spans of all living beings. The energies of new growth surround her like a cloud. She is attended by hosts of spirits and transcendentals. She presides over the dead and afterlife, and confers divine realization and immortality on spiritual seekers”

The influence of the Xi wangmu Peach Tree – (or perhaps that of a common source prototype tradition) upon Japan can be seen as the Peach Tree symbol appears in the earliest recorded Japanese myths (below).

“Yomi, or Yomi-tsu-kuni (Land of the Darkenss) yomotsukunu. is ruled by Tsuikiyomi-no-Mikoto. The grotesque female inhabitants of Yomi are known as omo tsu shiko me (gly femlae of the world of the dead) also known as Shiko-Me. In some versions Yomi is ruled by Tsukiyomi. ruler of moon and the night. Yomotsukuni is the god of the realm of the dead. Yomi is referenced in the legend of Izanagi and Izanami and Okuni-nushi and Susanow0…
The Peach Tree of life grows on the border of Yomi. The peach is a symbol of the mother goddess Izanagi who threw three peaches at Izanami’s pursuers in Yomi. The Chinese also have a gigantic sacred Peach Tree presided over by Xi wangmu. — Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities,  Charles Russell Coulter、Patricia Turner

Taoist immortals motif can be seen engraved on Kofun bronze mirrors, and to a rarer extent in statuary in the tumuli as well. The paper, Stone Ritual Items and the Stones of Okinoshima Island in the Fifth Century(by SHINOHARA Yuichi) traces the influence of Chinese ideas of immortality, jade or nephrite symbolism and Taoism upon the Kofun culture:

“Under the influence of ancient China, the ancient Japanese placed a high value on the materials and colors of precious stone objects in making prestige goods and treasured items. Green jasper and fine green tuff came to be used as the materials for such objects probably because the tradition of using jadeite since the Jōmon period was influenced by the ancient Chinese tradition of using nephrite. The problem is that no material stone has been found to fill the transitional gap between these hard stones to soft talcose materials for precious stone objects. In fact, green jasper and talc even coexisted for some time. This phenomenon suggests that both were used for precious stone objects and that the material and color failed to serve as criteria for differentiation. Interpreting this puzzling state of affairs requires considering the special importance attached to where the material stone came from. The source mattered especially for the Japanese, a people who has traditionally had a special concept of stone; from them, the materials for treasures and sacred treasures must come from a sacred place. Among such sacred places were Mt. Kasen in Izumo (the eastern portion of present-day Shimane prefecture), which produced green jasper. The ancient Japanese believed that Mt. Kasen was a divine mountain and that the green jasper produced there was sacred stone because it was the product of the divine will. In addition, the places that produced the material for precious stone objects were likely considered to be special places that served as a gate to the Taoist immortal world, as has been discussed earlier. The notion of branding production areas emerged as a result.

The brand of Izumo-produced comma-shaped beads and cylindrical beads showed that they were excellent precious stone objects with high spiritual powers. In this context, the talcose rock and serpentine that had been formed in the process of nearby green jasper and fine green tuff being formed in Mt. Kasen assumed a major property that they occurred in the vicinity of such precious hard rocks. When the ancient Japanese entered the sacred mountain by following the course of a river to collect material stone, they found green jasper and talc from two outcrops rather close to each other. They treasured talc likewise because what mattered was not the hardness or color of the material but the fact that the material had been obtained from a sacred place. In view of the influence of precious stone objects, especially the Taoist immortality thought, it is reasonable to assume that these stone materials were treasured as a product of the Taoist immortal world or as a means to attain eternal youth and immortality. “

See also my article “Bamboo good luck symbols, charms, taboos and superstitions and fairytales from Japan and the rest of Asia” which lists the many bamboo fertility myths, myths about bamboo grove immortals or sages, bamboo-tree rites and taboo beliefs, which can, incidentally, be correlated to the regions of the world where bamboo vegetation is distributed. The Norse or Viking complex of myths combines a number of tree motifs into a complex of ideas: The Viking Valhalla palace flanked by the Glasir Grove, the Golden Tree called “Glasir and Gload” was in front of the palace Source: the Viking Glasnir apple grove.

The Glasir Grove located near the southern ridge of Asgard, was an orchard of apple trees that had leaves made of red gold; it was near both GIMLI and GLADSHEIMR. In the middle of this forest, the god Odin had a third palace. Many of the horses of ASGARD grazed here … (Bennett, Guerber)

In addition, Odin’s son, also recalling the “dying tree-and-disappearing deity”‘s motif, is Odin’s son Balder’s death which is replete with the Syrian symbolism of the god Bel’s descent into darkness and his wife Nanna (recalling Inanna), according to Timothy J. Stephany “Brother Gods of Light and Darkness: Origins of the Baldr Myth”  (2006):

“The relation of Baldr to mistletoe reinforces the relationship of the seasonal cycle with the god of  summer. The general conception of light is more accurate than either sun or summer. However as gods of light and darkness, Baldr and Hod would also be associated with both the daily sun cycle and the annual solar cycle.”

The Norse people also believed that a tree runs like an axis, or pole, through this world and the realms above and below it. They called their World Tree Yggdrasill. It was a great ash tree that nourished gods, humans, and animals, connecting all living things and all phases of existence. It was a great ash tree that nourished gods, humans, and animals, connecting all living things and all phases of existence, but it had an evil serpent gnawing away at its roots (Myth Encyclopedia)

Galina Serkina draws comparisons between the Norse god Odin and the Turkic god Odun:
“Turkic peoples are also aware of an ethno genetic myth about mankind (Radlov, 1989, p 357) or as a shaman ancestor generating from a tree. The name of the forefather is Odun. In modern Turkish languages, this word means “firewood, log, timber”. In the connection it is tempting to draw a parallel between this name and the name of  ” (W)odin, the head of the Scandinavian pantheon. [recalls similar sounding name of the semi-legendary Emperor Ojin title of Japan]  The shamanistic character of this deity is beyond doubt. He is not only closely connected with a tree (he gets the runes after hanging on a tree as a sacrificial offer), he brings back to life the tree prototypes of the first human beings. Rashid al-Din (vol1, part 1, 1952, p. 139) mentions the old legend of a sovereign born of a tree, also that the Kyrgyz people numbered the larch tree among their ancestors, and that one of their tribes was called “modon tree”: (Potomin, vol. 2, 1881, p. 161). The name of one of the rulers of the Huns-Mode is definitely associated with the word “modon tree”. The legend of a sovereign born out of a tree is possibly a vague recollection of the Hunnish ruler, in whose name ethno genetic myths, the tree cult and a real historical personage are merged.”

The mythology of early India, preserved in texts called the Upanishads, includes a cosmic tree called Asvattha. It is the living universe, an aspect of Brahman, the world spirit. This cosmic tree reverses the usual order. Its roots are in the sky, and its branches grow downward to cover the earth.(Myth Encyclopedia)

Extended motif of a Solar Boat journeying towards sun /solar-tree or homeland:

Etchings among some of the rock petroglyphs of Japan (numbering more than 3,000 according to the Japan Petroglyth Society) depict the enigmatic bird-on-the-tree-boat-mast motif shown in the photo below.
The Japan Petroglyph Society

The Japan Petroglyph Society Source

Whether the above petroglyphs  relate to a funerary context, or a purely solar motif is not known, but the funerary context of the next item is certain.

This unusual Japanese crown reconstructed from a Kofun period find, has an unusual added motif of the bird on top of the boat, both symbolic of the journey towards the sun.
Reconstruction from excavated tomb find in a Kofun tumulus

Reconstruction from excavated tomb find in a Kofun tumulus

The Japanese funerary boat symbolism above and cult of Solar boats transporting the departed souls, finds remarkable parallels with the Boats in the Underworld of the Egyptians and Greeks:

“The soul of the deceased faced an arduous journey as he traveled throughout the underworld to reach the field of reeds.  To achieve this, the ba (soul) must be able to reach the land of the gods, as this is where it will become immortal. The ba must travel on a solar bark, led by the god Ra, as it travels to and throughout the underworld. This ideology exists throughout Egyptian history, starting in the Naqada Period and continuing for thousands of years.

The funerary cult was [ initially] focused on the lunar deities. Osiris [also a phallic tree dying-and-resurrecting-deity, see Frazer's chapter "Osiris was a Tree spirit"], the moon god as well as god of the underworld, would take the deceased’s soul on his moon boat to the field of reeds. The field of reeds, a place for the souls immortality, could only be reached after passing the tests of various gods as well as avoiding the destruction by the evil ones. Over time, Egyptian mythology shifted towards a solar-based viewpoint with Ra as the sun god. Ra was essentially a mirror image of the moon god Osiris as he represented a stronger form of control over nature, while Osiris represented the uncontrollable chaos of nature. Every night on his solar bark, Ra would cross the underworld and emerge in the morning on his boat in the east….This bark would also carry the “Light of Consciousness” as it would travel hour by hour, waking up the dead. The destination of the solar boat was thought to be the modern constellation of Orion, which was the celestial home of Osiris. If the ba passed judgement, it would be allowed to reside in this celestial home.

Boats in the underworld also had the purpose of allowing the soul of the Pharaoh to cross various waterways on their journey to reach his place among the gods.” — Boats of the Dead

In Chinese mythology, Fusang refers to a divine tree and island in the East, from where the sun rises. A similar tree, known as Ruomu (若木) exists in the west, and each morning the sun was said to rise from Fusang and fall on Ruomu. Chinese legend has ten birds (typically ravens) living in the tree, and as nine rested, the tenth would carry the sun on its journey. This legend has similarities with the Chinese tale of the fictional hero Houyi, sometimes referred to as the Archer, who is credited with saving the world by shooting down nine of the suns when one day all ten took to the air simultaneously. Scholars have identified the bronze trees found at the archaeological site Sanxingdui with these Fusang trees, while others (Stephen Brennecke) with the Tree of Knowledge and Evil, given the fruit, serpent and bird symbols present on the tree. There is also an enigmatic hand with a triskele symbol on it.

Anne P. Underhill in her book “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology” has taken a totally different interpretation to the serpent, seeing it not as a serpent but as a dragon, interpreting it in the light of the ancient myth that dragons are said to pull the sun like a wagon across the sky, and that the dragons rely on the aid the tree to do so. There is a bird sitting on top of the bronze tree, Underhill refers to the myth of the ten suns as either bird avatars of the sun, or as suns that are  transported by the birds across the sky. In addition, she says that the eastern myths of the ten suns dating during the Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BC) are of a much later than the Sichuan myths that are no later than the late Shang period (c. 1600 BC to 1046 BC), deducing that the solar bird myths must have originated in the West rather than in the East as previously thought. Here, Underhill also mentions something possibly of significance – that the iconography of bird bodied, human-headed creatures probably represent the bird-headed clansmen.  The third bronze tree from pitK2 was noted to have three branches, each branch attached with a human-headed bird figurine.

One of the Sanxingdui bronze trees, Sichuan, China

One of the Sanxingdui bronze trees, Sichuan, China

This last inference of Underhill’s leads us to strengthened scenario that the Sanxingdui bronze trees represent a type of ancestral Soul Tree too.

iv) Sacred grove – the fertility tree or grove

Frazer’s “The Golden Bough” and Oppenheimer’s “Eden in the East” combined, really give seemingly exhaustive treatment and examination of the cultures that practise sacred grove and vegetative fertility rites, so I don’t propose to deal with those themes that have been covered in many tomes. Frazer mentions the ancient European practice of tree-planting at the birth of a child Imagery of trees associated with fertility is particularly strong among Siberians and Turkmen and among Austro-Asiatics, Austronesians and Island Southeast Asians.

“A photo of a tree in Anatolia, with pieces of cloth tied on to the branches, symbolizing talismans to ensure fertility in childless women. In Turkey, notions and tires where the tree holds a place of importance are especially evident in the eastern part of the country (Serebryskova, 1979, pp130-31). Childless Turkish women and girls of marriageable age make a pilgrimage to a tree growing in a lonely place somewhere near their village or close to a mazar – a sacred place connected with the name of a local saint. Models of cradles and dolls tied to the branches of trees materialized and the wishes of the childless pilgrims. Other such bloodless sacrifices were made in the form of pieces of cloth or fillets. Similar trees are scattered all over Asia (Araz, 1995, pp 230-231). Childless Kazakh women appealed to the spirit of the a tree standing alone on the steppes and offered him a sheep (Radlov, 1989, ppp 230-31). The roots of this selective attitude to trees lie in the East.

Yakut women believed that childless woman could conceive a child after spending a night under a larch-tree having an unusual crown. A personage from the Kyrgyz Manas epic, whose wife remained childless for many years, explained it by her “neither going to a sacred place, nor lying where an apple tree grows… Chorasmian Uzbeks used to bury a placenta umbilical cord or a fetus less than three months old under a fruit tree so that it could go to the place of its former being. In the shaman’s performances of the Uzbeks in Samarkand, the fruit tree served as the symbol of fertility among childless women (Doislrnskiye verovaniya I obryady v Sredny Azii, 1975, p 69). In Erzurum and in other parts of the Turkey, an apple branch was set in the room where a woman was giving birth to a child (Serebryakova 1979, pp 130-3`1). The Siberian Turks, who preserve most rudiments of ancient Turkish culture, believe in the ties between a man and a tree which they envision as a kind of umbilical cord.” — Traces of Tree Worship in the Decorative Patterns of Turkish Rugs (Galina Serkina)

The Sacred Branch procession

“The carrying of the sacred branch in solemn procession formed the essential feature in some of the most important religious festivals of Greece. At Daphenephoria, held every nine years at Thebes in Boetia in honour of Apollo, the chief post in the procession was held by the Daphephorus, or laurel-bearer, a boy chosen for his strength and beauty. He was followed to the temple of the god by a chorus of maidens, also bearing branches nad chanting a porcessional hymn and was regarded for the ocasion as the priest of Apollo who bore amongst his many other appelations that of Daphenphorus because he had brought the laurel to Delphi and planted it there.” – p. 47  The sacred tree or, The tree in religion and myth

In much the same manner,  we see in Japan a “festival with a similar name of keichinsai is held at Kashima Jinja in Kashiba City, Kitakuzushiro County, Nara Prefecture, on January 16. The primary focus of the ritual is the tōya watashi in which gohei of sakaki and shiraki (unfinished wood) are moved from the shrine to the tōya‘s residence” — “Gechinsai” Encyclopedia of Shinto. (The purpose of the ritual is the warding off of evil pestilent spirits. Rivaling the symbolism of the pine tree, the Sakaki is the sacred laurel and evergreen tree of Japan, used in many shrine rituals and festivals, see The Sakaki from Myth to Modern Japan (Renata Maria Rusu) and Sakaki: Sacred Tree of Shinto for all its deep symbolism and connections with central Kojiki and Nihongi myths, and the Amaterasu solar myth. We suggest that the Sakaki Tree is so named, because it originally signified that it was a tree of the Saka people, literally Saka-tree.

v)  Cosmic Pillar and Sacred Adonis fertility (submotif of dismemberment and disappearing/dying and resurrected deity motif); phallic tree symbolism; symbolism of the erecting of asherah poles or tree pillars or poles; tree ladder climbing practices

The most famous of practice in Japan is possibly that of Lake Suwa’s Suwa Taisha. The erecting of the sacred tree pillar here is said to have strong masculinity and virility symbolism.

“Tate Onbashira,” the finale after the month-long Onbashira Festival, is the erecting of the Onbashira (sacred pillar) at the corners of Maemiya Shrine and Honmiya Shrine of Kamisha. It takes place on both May 3-4 at Shimosha, on May 8-9 at Harumiya and May 10 at Akimiya. Photo: Suwa Sightseeing Federation

“Tate Onbashira,” the finale highlight after the month-long Onbashira Festival, is the erecting of the Onbashira (sacred pillar) at the corners of Maemiya Shrine and Honmiya Shrine of Kamisha. It takes place on both May 3-4 at Shimosha, on May 8-9 at Harumiya and May 10 at Akimiya.
Photo: Suwa Sightseeing Federation

Enshrined at the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine’s sacred grove are two large Japanese cedars and one Japanese cypress,  the God Trees or “Goshinboku ”.  They are over 1000 years old and are believed to stand guard over the shrine. Oyama (Yamamatsuri) Festival

At the Oyama Shrine in Fuse on Oki-Dogo Island in Shimane Prefecture which enshrines an old cedar tree on the first Day of Ox in April every year, the Obishime-no-shinji (fastening belt) ritual is held, in which the vine stem is put around the sacred tree seven and a half times. On the day before the festival, villagers perform the ritual called Obitachi-no-shinji (the belt cutting ritual), in which they go into the nearby mountain to cut out vine stems, which are put around the sacred cedar tree, and parade through the village carrying a large sakaki (a holy branch). This “Oyama-san” or “Yama-matsuri,”  festival is said to tell people of the coming of spring and to have been started by a mountain ascetic. (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.According to the historical record of the festival written in 1825 by a mountain practitioner in Fuse village, it seems that the festival had already been performed hundreds of years before. (Source: Nippon-Kichi)

vii. The pair of tree posts-gate, dokana and tori

More insights are to be had from Galina Serkina’s paper, Traces of Tree Worship in the Decorative Patterns of Turkish Rugs about the rites and symbolism surrounding a pair of gate-tree-posts:
“In the Shah name by Firdowsi, founded, as is well known, upon folklore and mythology, there is a story about a husband tree and a wife tree endowed with the power of speech. The reflection of similar ideas could probably explain the meaning of the Ancient Roman monument Sororium tigillum. Its pillars were representing the male deity, Janus and the female one, Soror. The last name is translated as “sister”. The semantics of the rites performed before it are almost similar to the “birth” rites widespread among the nomads of Central Asia. Kidan emperors performed special rites in front of two trees symbolizing a gate (E Lun-Liu, 1979, p. 527). The consecration of the emperor was also performed in front of trees. It imitated the process of childbirth. Each time the emperor passed below the tree branches, one of those who took part in the ceremony exclaimed, “A boy is born!” (ibid. p.525). Trees were also used in the consecration rites of Siberian and Central Asian shamans which imitated childbirth (pp. 51-52, Snesarev, 1969)”
At Sparta (as well as Kastoria, northern Greece), the veneration of the Castor and Pollux pair of deities was very ancient: a uniquely Spartan, aniconic representation of the twins was as two upright posts connected as it were by a cross-bar (sometimes by a loosely hanging garland); as the protectors of the Spartan army the “beam figure” or dókana was actually carried in front of the army on campaign.
Gates at Dodana, representing the twins in Greek mythology, Pollux and Castor

Dokana gates at Dodana, representing the twins in Greek mythology, Pollux and Castor

The Dioskouri twins were associated with the Indo-European tradition of dual kingship and were so appreciated that two princes of their ruling house were elevated to immortality. Sparta’s unique dual kingship reflects the divine influence of the Dioscuri. When the Spartan army marched to war, one king remained behind at home, accompanied by one of the Twins, thus securing political order in the realm of the Gods”. The tree was regarded by the Spartans as sacred to Castor and Pollux, and images of the twins were often hung in its branches. While elevated to deities in their own right, they usually accompanied greater deities and goddesses.

The “God-entertaining” cult ritual theoxenia and a domestic setting with amphora (of wine?) was particularly associated with Castor and Pollux, with the two deities were summoned to a table laden with food, whether at public hearths or individuals’ own home shrines where the offering was a meal offered to the house god and the house god was a snake that came to partake of it (hence the depiction of snakes ascending the dokana.

In another interpretation, the dokana represents the house while the Dioskouri twins are themselves the house gods, often represented by amphorae (Greek Popular Religion, Martin P. Nilsson). Strongly associated with sailors and horses, they are sometimes depicted arriving at a gallop over a food-laden table. The “table offerings” were a fairly common feature of Greek cult rituals normally made in the shrines of the gods or heroes concerned. was a characteristic distinction accorded to the Dioskouri. Still other interpretations are that they were seen as phallic pillars and ‘beams’ of the world (A.B.Cook), and guardians to a shrine or sepulchre (the same forgotten meaning for the torii and Korean shrine gates is proposed in these writings) see The Meaning of the “Dokana” by Margert C. Waites.

In the final analysis, Japan owns rich tree symbolism, with the different motifs falling into many of the above defined categories. There appears to be a continuity of ideas from earlier Jomon times with the Jomon Soul Tree and then later Tree of Life motif seen in crowns from Kofun tumuli emerged from pan-Asian cosmology and tree worship practices. The maga-tama jewels were symbolic of a prototype kind of ancestral “Soul Tree” of the Turkic type or of the Iranic or the Soul Tree of the kabbalistic writings. The sun positioning on the mountain peaks suggest ancestor veneration may have taken place perhaps during spring or autumn equinox, such as during the current Bon period or during the spring Nowruz spring New Year festivities.

Since the magatama pendant ornaments and amulets originate early on during the Jomon era, the origin of the practice must lie with some of the earliest waves of migratory peoples into Japan. Y-DNA haplogroups C and D and NO are shown by DNA analysis to have been the earliest colonizers of South East Asia and East Asia (Wang and Li 2013) and any of these lineages may have brought Soul Tree veneration beliefs with them possibly via the Eurasian steppelands with a later Bronze Age Hunnic-Xiongnu wave (from Ordos-Liaoning or alternatively, via Sichuan’s and other Chinese-Xiwangmu-Taoist-following enclaves to Japan), with the tumuli technology. The spread of ancestral tree(s) and tree worship is so widespread throughout SEA and Eastern Asia, some diffusion of motifs from these areas is possible too. According to Oppenheimer:

“Austro-Asiatic areas show not only the earlier versions but also a greater variety of mechanisms in the inclusion of early forms of the perverted message and the trees of life and death. The last point of diversity gives further evidence that the area of origin of these myths was on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean.”
However, the mythology of spirits inhabiting trees found among the aboriginal tribes of Southeast Asia, Island Southeast Asia and Melanesia appears to be different from the Bronze Age cosmology of the World Tree at the centre of a Heaven-Earth-Underworld of Eurasia and West Asia, despite the existence of the bird-serpent-tree motif.
Although Oppenheimer points out in his book that the region has the richest diversity of tree myths, and that all of the mythemes are to be found here, a puzzle remains to be solved: The question of why the Garden of Eden myth should crop up so far away from the Near Eastern and Biblical centres of the Eden Paradise. For example, Micronesia’s Gilbert Islands has a version where the two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of death are guarded by Naa Kaa, and men always gathered one tree and women under the other. But when Naa. Kaa was away one day, the men and women gathered and mingled under one of the trees. Naa Kaa returned and told the people they had gathered under the Tree of Death, and from that day on, they would all be mortal.
Oppenheimer’s answer is that the Eden idea arose in the East in island Southeast Asia and Melanesia, spreading to the west, see Stephen Oppenheimer’s Eden in the East ” pp. 414 to 440, in which he traces the evolution of tree worship and immortality ideas…along with posited genetic trails.
We have earlier distinguished the pre-Bronze Age Jomon Soul Tree category from the Bronze Age Tree of Life of the tumuli world type. It is clear, however, that Japan has a diverse range of tree motifs, that are very likely of equally diverse origins.
Keiji Imamura in “Prehistoric Japan New Perspectives upon Insular East Asia” wrote “I am tempted to call the Jomon period an arboreal neolithic”, perhaps he was closer to the truth than we know, for the Jomon (and for many eras after them) were truly arboreal every sense of the word, for they considered themselves children born of the Soul Tree, and upon death, journeying back up it.

***

Resources on Tree Worship Myths of Origins and the Deluge of Indonesia (originally published in the early 1900’s)

The sacred tree or, The tree in religion and mythby Mrs. J. H. Philpot, at pp. 23 and 73

Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, by Howard Schwartz, page 218

Tree worship (Jewish Encyclopedia) The Sacred Tree: Tree worship in Ancient Israel (Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, July 2014) Comparative survey of moon symbols and beliefs, and the likely derivation of “tamashii” jewel or soul

Traces of Tree Worship in the Decorative Patterns of Turkish Rugs by Galina Serkina (Excerpted from the 11th International Congress of Turkish Arts – Utrecht, the Netherlands, August 23-28, 1999 paper) The paper is an important revelation on the coherent transmission of mythical and shamanistic beliefs via the rug-making technology, and both the rugs and the people who make them, being an amazing visual resource and preserve of knowledge.

“Rugs, like all other artifacts in traditional societies, perform not just utilitarian functions but store and transfer information on the world-outlook o f their creators. Rugs like other kinds o cultural texts (ritual, mythology, images, structures, etc.) retain archaic features which tie the culture of the Turks of Asia Minor with Turkish cultures [ethnic Turkic peoples] of other regions. These features testify to their common sources. Traces of ancient beliefs reflected in carpet patterns of the Turkish of Asia minor reveal their pre-Islamic, shamanistic origin. Turkish prayer rugs (namzliks) were usually intended to be a bridal dowry. Most of them are decorated with tree patterns.

The attention of human societies has always been attracted by the reproduction of life – the principal function of Nature. The cycles of natural cosmic processes was perceived as a constant process of rebirth….

Fertility was the principal essence of life of any traditional society. The tree embodies it in the most concentrated form. For that reason the tree functioned as a sacred center not only in mythology but in rituals as well (the prototype of an altar).””

    ….

Sources and further readings:

Encyclopedia of Imaginary and Mythical Places by Theresa Bane (MaacFarland, 2014  p. 68 citing Bennett, Gods and Religions of Ancient and Modern Times, Vol. 1, 288; Grimes, Norse Myths, 260; Guerber, Myths of the Norsemen, 18

Who are the Turks and who are the Huns? compared with Hungarian-Turanian (Sumerian) hypothesis 

The Persian sphere of influence as seen in the Chinese New Year and Japanese New Year celebrations

White house haft seen.jpg

Nowruz, the Persian-Iranian New Year | Fire, the symbol of Nowruz (an ancient custom in common between Japan & Persia)

Although many Chinese New Year customs, such as the giving of money packets to children came to Japan during the Nara period in time of the Tang dynasty empire’s influence, there is evidence that the New Year practices of Nowruz were already being celebrated in Japan many centuries earlier, during the Kofun Period and possibly Yayoi Period (perhaps even during the late Jomon period), with the influx of nomadic tribes from the continent, some by way of Korea. The festival of Nowruz has been celebrated by many groups of people in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, but particularly by Persians and various other Iranian peoples. It is called Naw-wradz or Nuway-kāl by the Pashtuns, Navroz by Zoroastrians of the subcontinent, Nevruz in Turkic, Uyghurs who live in Northwestern China call it “Noruz”, and it is called Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In Kurdish communities located in parts of western Iran, the holiday is referred to as Newroz, which is a variety of the Persian word Nowruz. The variety Nawroz is also an Eastern Persian word and is also used in the Persian speaking regions of Central Asia. In the Pamir-Afghanistani Wakhan corridor, it is called Shohguni and in Japan, it is called Shogatsu. See how Nowruz is similarly celebrated by different cultures from Iran to Turkey to China in Navruz – A Celebration of Life

Nowruz,  the “New Day” celebration is recorded from the Achaemenian period around 500 BCE. The name Nowruz first appears in Pahlavi texts from the Sasanian period, as nōg rōz. It is a celebration of spring equinox, when the sun begins to regain strength and there is a renewal of growth in nature.  Zoroastrians believed in the existence of a cognitive spirit, mainyu in all things, tangible or intangible. …

Which day it started and the number of days it was celebrated was closely related to the calendar of the period. Persians adopted a 365-day calendar similar to the Egyptian one, after Cambyses’ conquest of Egypt in 525 BCE. After the Xerxes (486-465) calendar reform, the Persians continued using their devotional religious calendar of 360-day to correctly observe the feasts of obligation, particularly the six feasts assigned to the six creations that were represented by the six Amesha Spenta (Holy Immortals). The six with the feast dedicated to Ahura Mazda formed a heptad representing the first seven creations, sky, water, earth, first plant, first animal, first human and fire/sun together. The Holy Immortals protected six of the creations and Ahura Mazda was the protector of fire/sun. The symbols of the seven creations and their protectors still can be seen in the Haft Sin spread.

The sixth feast, celebrating humankind was a very important one. It included the major feast, Hamaspatmaedaya, which in turn was linked to the Fravashis Night, preceding Nowruz. This was a celebration where the souls of the dead ancestors were celebrated and remembered. The tradition of visiting the graves of the dead relatives before Nowruz amongst many modern Iranians is a continuation of the ancient remembrance. It was believed that the dead spirits will come back to visit their old homes and relatives. For this night fires were lit to indicate to the dead that people were ready to receive them. Gradually this became a very elaborate 10-day festival before Nowruz, known as Suri Festival, complete with bon fires, prayers, feasts, music … (Source: Nowruz and Chaharshanbeh Suri, Massoume Price)

Nowruz was a tradition that had widespread reach and adoption, and it survived (whilst lesser traditions were discarded by other nations) “precisely because Nowruz was associated from the outset with cultural memories of the splendor and divinely bestowed power of the royal courts of pre-Islamic Persia that it was attractive to rulers, from the Abbasid caliphs to the Pahlavis. Along with its many ceremonies, and most notably that of gift exchange, it provided the rulers with an alternative source of affirming and enhancing their power and prestige” Nowruz, Iranica Online.

In most of the Silk Road countries, Navruz announces the joyful awakening of nature after winter and the beginning of the agricultural cycle of cultivating, planting, and harvesting.

Navruz traditions are similar throughout the region, and have varied little over the centuries, except to embrace Islam. Unlike the western New Year traditions, Navruz is celebrated during daytime hours within the family circle. March 21 is the main celebration, but for the next 13 days it is common practice to visit friends and relatives, buy and plant seedlings of fruit trees and have cheerful gatherings in the fresh spring air. Traditionally, it is also a time to “clean up” one’s life.

People tidy up their homes, wash rugs and draperies, decorate with flowers, and buy new clothes that they will use for visiting. On the day of Navruz, all housekeeping – including the preparation of the meal, careful cleaning of the home and the arrangement of blossoming branches from apricot, peach, almond or pomegranate trees – must be completed before the rising of the morning star. Children enjoy the holiday because they often get presents of money, as well as blessings, from their elders. (Source: Navruz)

Nowruz – Pomp and Splendor at court

From Yāqut reports (Boldān, Cairo, VI, p. 258; cf. Moqaddasi, p. 431) we learn that during the rule of the Buyids(r. 949-83) Nowruz was customarily welcomed “in a majestic hall, wherein servants had placed gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers. He sat on a costly seat (masnad), and the court astronomer came forward, kissed the ground, and congratulated him on the arrival of the New Year. Then the king summoned the musicians and singers and invited his boon companions. They entered and filed in to their assigned places, and all enjoyed a great festive occasion. Beyhaqi describes the lavish celebration of Nowruz at the Ghaznavid (see GHAZNAVIDS) court (Beyhaqi, ed. Fayyāż, pp. 9, 12, 704, 751, 815), and some of the most beautiful descriptive opening passages of Persian courtly panegyrics … are in praise of Nowruz.Their simple yet melodious rhythms suggest that they may have been accompanied by music. The melodies known as the “Nowruzi” airs, apparently inherited from the Sasanian period, included the Great Nowruz (Nowruz-e bozorg), Nowruz-e Kay Qobād, the Lesser Nowruz (nowruz-e ḵordak or ḵārā), the Edessan Nowruz (Nowruz-e rahāwi, comprising the Arabian and Persian melodies), and Nowruz-e Ṣabā (Source: Nowruz, Iranica Online)

Ancient Persia: Influences on Ancient Chinese and Japanese Calendars (via Dr Kaveh Farrokh) By BEHROOZ o PIROOZ bashid and Dr. Masato Tojo The traditional Chinese calendar is called Kyūreki旧暦 (old calendar) and/or Noureki農暦 (agricultural calendar). Its first day of a year was Winter Solstice in 1700 B. C. It was greatly improved in the time of the Tang dynasty under the influence of Persia and India. The new calendar is called Tai-en-reki大衍暦. This is the basic form of Kyūreki. Here are its characteristic points: (a) Official first day of a year is Risshun立春 (315 Zodiacal degree). The reason why this day became the first day of a year is for the convenience of agriculture. This is the reason why it is called Noureki (Agricultural calendar). (b) Astronomical first day of a year is Spring Equinox (0 Zodiacal degree). (c) The center day of a month in Kyūreki (Tai-en-reki) approximately corresponds to the first day of Persian month (Table 1). Note that Spring Equinox (b) and center day of the first month in Kyureki (c) are developed under the influence of Persian and Indian astronomy and astrology. (d) Spring Equinox (Shunbun) is the day when people venerate their ancestors. This tradition is said to be Iranian origin (Farvardin). Table 1 Kyūreki (Tai-en-reki)

24 Solar Terms Nijūyon-sekki二十四節気

Season 季節

Month 月

Beginning day 節(せつ)

Center day of Month 中(ちゅう)

Spring 春

1一月

Risshun立春 Zodiacal degree: 315 Gregorian day: Feb 4th

Usui雨水 330 Feb 19th

2二月

Keichitsu啓蟄 345 Mar 6th

Shunbun春分 0 Spring Equinox Mar 21th

3三月

Seimei清明 15 Apr 5th

Koku-u穀雨 30 Apr 20th

Summer 夏

4四月

Rikka立夏 45 May 6th

Shōman小満 60 May 21th

5五月

Bōshu芒種 75 Jun 6th

Geshi夏至 90 Summer Solstice Jun 21th

6六月

Shōsho小暑 105 Jul 7th

Taisho大暑 120 Jul 23th

Autumn 秋

7七月

Risshū立秋 135 Aug 7th

Shosho処暑 150 Aug 23th

8八月

Hakuro白露 165 Sep 8th

Shūbun秋分 180 Sep 23th

9九月

Kanro寒露 195 Oct 8th

Sōkō霜降 210 Oct 23th

Winter 冬

10十月

Rittō立冬 225 Nov 7th

Shōsetsu小雪 240 Nov 22th

11十一月

Daisetsu大雪 255 Dec 7th

Tōji冬至 270 Winter Solstice Dec 22th

12十二月

Shōkan小寒 285 Jan 5th

Daikan大寒 300 Jan 20th

The time of the Tang唐(とう) dynasty (618-907) was a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Not only Confucianism儒教(じゅきょう) and Taoism道教(どうきょう), but also Buddhism仏教(ぶっきょう),Manichaeism明教(めいきょう), Zoroastrianism祆教(けんきょう), Nestrians景教(けいきょう) became officially recognized religions, and allowed to do every kind of religious activities freely. The fact that two of the five Tang’s official religions are Persian indicates how great the influence and the presence of Persia were. Actually there were many Persian high rank officials in Tang dynastyAn-roku-zan* was such a general who is well known in Chinese history (See Tang_Dynasty) An-roku-zan安禄山 (705-757): He was a general of Tang dynasty. He is a Sogdian born in Samarkand. Roku-zan禄山 (“lu-shan” in Chinese pronunciation) is transcription of his Persian original name “Roshn (light)

2. Japanese Calendar

Tang’s calendar was imported to Japan and adopted in 737 and used until 1872. When the Meiji Restoration 明治維新(めいじいしん)started, the new government adopted Gregorian calendar in 1872December 15th. It was forbidden to use old Chinese calendar by the law. New Year’s Day (Nou-roz) was changed to 1st day of January according to the Gregorian calendar.

It is also forbidden to celebrate New Year’s Day according to the old calendar by the law. They set its start year on 660 B. C. which is the beginning day of Emperor Jimmu神武天皇’s reign (He is the legendary first emperor of Japan. He is Japanese Jamshid). This calendar system is called Kōki皇紀. Gregorian 2010 is Kōki 2670. The first day of a financial year became April 1st in 1877 by adopting English financial year. Ideally it should be Spring Equinox, for the convenience of Gregorian calendar it became April 1st. Spring Equinox (Shunbun), which is the day when people venerate their ancestors and pray for the harvest in the Shintō shrines, became the day of veneration of Emperor’s ansectors and pray for the harvest in 1878.

2. Japanese Calendar

Tang’s calendar was imported to Japan and adopted in 737 and used until 1872. When the Meiji Restoration 明治維新(めいじいしん)started, the new government adopted Gregorian calendar in 1872 December 15th. It was forbidden to use old Chinese calendar by the law. New Year’s Day (Nou-roz) was changed to 1st day of January according to the Gregorian calendar. It is also forbidden to celebrate New Year’s Day according to the old calendar by the law. They set its start year on 660 B. C. which is the beginning day of Emperor Jimmu神武天皇’s reign (He is the legendary first emperor of Japan. He is Japanese Jamshid). This calendar system is called Kōki皇紀. Gregorian 2010 is Kōki 2670. The first day of a financial year became April 1st in 1877 by adopting English financial year. Ideally it should be Spring Equinox, for the convenience of Gregorian calendar it became April 1st. Spring Equinox (Shunbun), which is the day when people venerate their ancestors and pray for the harvest in the Shintō shrines, became the day of veneration of Emperor’s ansectors and pray for the harvest in 1878. After the World War II, the Gregorian calendar became the sole official calendar in Japan. The Kōki calendar was forbidden to use in public by the law. If one print to sell Kōki calendar, he will be punished by the law. The financial year and the other traditions remain untouched except one thing. It is Shunki-Kōreisai春季皇霊祭. Before the World War II, Spring Equinox Day is an official national holiday and called Shunki-Kōreisai. But after the World War II, it was forced to change its name to Shunbun-no-hi春分の日 by GHQ, and became a day to spend visiting family graves and holding family reunions. Still Spring Equinox Day and April 1st are important days for official and financial activities in modern Japan.   Note Among Japanese Shinto-occult groups and right-wing activists and ideologues, the Kōki calendar is still used today. …..

The long reach of the Persian Empire

At the time when Zen Buddhism were transmitted along the trans-Asian trade route known as the Silk Road, various religions such as Mithraism, the cult of Mitra and Anahita, Zoroastrianism (Mazda worship), the Greek polytheism, the cult of local heroes (Siyavush in Khorezm and Sogd), early Mahāyāna Buddhism, Hinduism and the Nestorian Christianity flourished along this route.. The major transmitters of Buddhism to China were the Iranian peoples of Parthia, Bactria, and Transoxiana, whose convenient position between east and west enabled them to serve as middlemen along the Silk Road. The latter group in particular, known as the Sogdians, established communities along the trade routes from Iran and India all the way into China. Actually many important features of Mahāyāna Buddhism display Iranian influences, such as the soteriological (salvation) function of Maitreya 弥勒 (the one who helps people toward salvation) and the Buddha-nature 仏性 (Manichaean particle of Light). Central deities also had Iranian origins (Table 1. 2). Mihr (Mithra), Anahita, Bhaga, Farrox, Mah, Haoma, Ohrmizd (Ahura Mazda), Yima and Zardusht (Zoroaster) were the gods in its pantheon. Mihr and Anahita worship were prominent. Ohrmizd was not the supreme god. Ohrmizd worship was a mere branch of it. (Aoki. History of Zoroastrianism, p194-204; Kyō. History of Zoroastrian Arts in China). Mithra was incorporated as the sole successor of Gautama the World Teacher. Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) brought Greek culture to Central Asia. This gave certain influence upon early Buddhism.

Buddhists developed Gandhāra style art, which was a merger of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and Indian arts. This development began during the Parthian Period (50 BC – AD 75). Gandhāra style flourished and achieved its peak during the Kushan period (60 BC-375 AD). It might have affected the rise of Maitreya cult too. Maitreya cult developed during the period from 2nd BC to 2nd AD under the reign of Bactria (265-125 BC) and Kushan (60 BC-375 AD). Sutras called “Maitreya trilogy” 弥勒三部経 (Jp: Miroku-sanbukyō) were also formed during this period. The state religion of Bactria was Mithraism. Kushan adopted this policy.

Maga-Brahmins

There is a legend of Mithra’s magi in the area (Afghanistan, Pakistan, north-west India) where Mahāyāna Buddhism was formed. It is a legend about the Maga-Brahmanas, atarvan Maga, Bhojaka or Sakaldwipiya Brahmins. They identify themselves as having Iranian roots, and assert that they inherit their by-name maga from a group of priests (cf. maga) who established themselves in India as the Maga-Dias or Maga-Brahmanas. Their major centers are in Rajasthan in Western India and near Gaya in Bihar. According to Bhavishya Purana and other texts, they were invited to settle in Punjab to conduct the worship of Lord Sun (Mitra or Surya in Sanskrit). Bhavishya Purana explicitly associates them to the rituals of the Zurvanism. (The members of the community still worship in Sun temples in India. They are also hereditary priests in several Jain temples in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Bhojakas are mentioned in the copperplates of the Kadamba dynasty (4-6th cent) as managers of Jain institutions.)

Who were the Maga-Brahmins – were they Persians, Iranians or Indo-Greek-Iranian-Sakas?

Miro, Miroku and Maitreya was according to tradition the son of Brahmayus and Brahmavati and the patron of workers in precious metals (see Maitreya – Mythology), and according to some accounts, a real historical person and the incarnation of the Future Buddha. The debate is hashed out in Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin’s “Acta Iranica“.

“The phonetic form of Skt. Maga suggests the word may have been borrowed from Iranian  quite early, from the Late Persian to the Early Middle Persian … we would have to go back to the time of Darius and Xerxes . On the other had, the introduction of an image of a sun god as ascribed by Samba would point to Greek rather than Persian influence . Thus the historical kernel of the Samba legend should more likely be dated to the syncretism of Greek, Iranian, Indian traditions under Alexander the Great and his early successors…”

Images of Lord Sun Mihir in India are shown wearing a central Asian dress, complete with boots. The term “Mihir” in India is regarded to represent the Maga influence. Here is the summary of Bhavishya Purana 133:

Krishna’s son Samba was afflicted with leprosy, which was cured after he worshiped Surya, Hinduism’s god of the Sun. In response, he built a temple to Surya on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, but no competent Brahmin could be found to take up the role of priest in the temple.

So Samba sought help of Gauramukha, the adviser of the yadu chief, Ugrasena.

Gauramukha responded with a suggestion that Samba go to Shakdvipa (see note on Mahabharata 6:11, below[a]) and invite their priests to worship Surya. Further, asked Samba, “tell me, oh Brahmin, what are the antecedents of these worshipers of the Sun?” To which Gauramukha replied… “The first of the Brahmins amidst the Shakhas was called ‘Sujihva.’ [...] He had a daughter of the name Nikshubha, who so enamored Surya that she was impregnated by him. Thus she gave birth to Jarashabda who was the founding father of all the Maga-Acharya. They are distinguished by the sacred girdle called the Avyanga that they wear around their waist.” And so Samba called on Krishna to send him Garuda, on whose back he then flew to Shakadwipa. He collected the Maga-Acharya, brought themback to India and installed them as priests of his Surya temple.

Of the pious representatives of 18 families Samba invited to resettle in the city of Sambapura, eight were Mandagas, and their descendants became Shudras. The other 10 were Maga Brahmins…

Zen is traditionally credited to be established at the Šhaolin temple 少林寺 in China by a Persian wandering monk Bodhidharma. He came to China to teach a “special teaching not-written in the scriptures”. The reason was that the teaching is so subtle that it is impossible to transmit it by the words. Zen Buddhism arrived in Japan as early as the 7th century, but did not develop significantly there until the 12th century. Zen has since been an important force in Japan. It has had considerable influence on Japanese culture, “reaching far beyond the temple and entering into cultural and social areas of all kinds, including gardening, ink painting, calligraphy, the tea ceremony, and even military strategies.” Zen priests played an important role in the political unrest of 16th century Japan, both serving as diplomats and administrators and preserving Japanese cultural life. There are about 9.6 million Zen Buddhists in Japan today. The Founder of Zen Buddhism is Bodhidharma 達磨 (470-543). He is the twenty-eighth patriarch after Gautama Buddha in the Indian lineage, and the first Chinese patriarch (i. e. the founder) of Zen 禅 Buddhism. There are two legends about his biography. One says he is a Persian, the other says Indian. Most Japanese scholars and Buddhist monks think he is a Persian. Bodhidharma is said to be a blue-eyed Persian 碧眼胡僧 (Hekigan-kosō) in Zen tradition. “Blue-eyed Persian” means Hellenized Persian, and/or a Persian who has much knowledge about western culture. Mithra’s magi are such Persians. For a well-known treatment of the theory of a secret Persian-originated Mithraic cult in East Asia, including Japan, see “Mithra in Japan, China and Korea” by Tojo, Masato, via In search of the Roman Mithra in Miroku and Maitreya. According to “Acta Iranica:

It is not the first phase of influence of Iranian Sun-worship in India (connected with the immigration of the Maga) but a distinct second phase which can be ascribed to the period of the invasion of the Sakas and Kushanas (beginning in the middle of the 2nd cent. B.C.). This second phase is characterized by the borrowing of the Middle Iranian Mihr (Mihire) ‘Sn’ into Sanskrit where it appears as Mihira is ‘SUn’. [Note here that it is the invasion of the Sakas (and Kushanas) that is attributed the greatest influence for the proliferation of sun worship. There are a multititude of solar shrines and festivals, ritual items in Japan (sakaki and sake) as well as the many common names and toponyms in Japan have the stem "saka" in it, suggesting a relic Saka cultural landscape in Japan.  That Japanese address each other as "san" is thus highly suggestive of the idea that they are all "children of the Sun" which is corroborated by what the indigenous Ainu called the later arrivals.].

As already perceived by Weber (1857, p. 104, Skt. Mihira is likely to originate in the Bactrian form of the name of the Iranian Helios. voz. Miiro (also written Miuro, Mioro, Miro etc.), which appears for the first time on the coin emissions of the Kushana rulerKaniska (1st half of 2nd cent.)

At least some indirect information as to the chronology of the borrowing of Bactria – Miiro (etc.) by the Indians can be found in a few Iranian names containing the element Mihira (Mira) and attested in early Indian inscriptions, such as the Kharosthi Inscription from Takht-i Bahi (Miraboyana) or a Kharosthi inscription from Baluchistan (Sahi Yolamira) or a couple of Brahmi Inscriptions from Mathura (Vakamihira etc.) etc). It is not unlikely that at the same time Mihira began to be used as a common noun meaning ‘Sun’ in Sanskrit. In In any case the name of the Hephthalite ruler Mihirakula (1st half 6th cent.) was understood by its bearer (and also by his contemporaries) as meaning ‘originating in the family of the Sun’. [Kalhana, Rajatarangini 1, 288 f. calls Mihirukula a son of vasukula and a grandson of Hiranyakula.] may be deduced from the inscription Mihiradata (=Mihiradatta) ‘given by the Sun’ found on one coin attributed by Gobl to Mihirakula and from the unusual spelling of the King’s name, using a Sun symbol combined with Skt. kula ‘family’ , on other coins. There also exist coins on which Mihirakula’s portrait is accompanied by a very little picture of the Sun God, and others on which we find the inscription Jayatu Tarani ‘the Sun (Tarani) shall be victorious’. From all this it becomes evident that Mihirakula’s name points to his having been a Sun worshipper. However, under Mihirakula’s reign, Sivaism was superimposed upo Sun worship…

As to the chronology it is remarkable that Mihira does not occur in the old and very popular list of 108 names of the Sun in the Mahabharata. it is found only in a later addition to that list known as Yudhisthira’s praise of the Sun, which is transmitted nly in a part of the northern and missing completely in the southern tradition of the Mahabharata. In this addition, Mihira apears in close vicinity to Mitra, which suggests the occurrences of Mihira in the indigenous dictionaries of synonyms, the restive articles of which  are of a similar type. The earliest among these dictionaries which seems to have drawn from lost works of Sanskrit literature is the famous Amarakosa by Amarasimha (before 6th ent.) who in a list of thirty- seven names of the Sun, mentions both Mihira and Mitra. At that time the etymological relationship between the loan-word Mihira and the inherited Mitra had undoubtedly long been forgotten, … As a matter of fact, the indigenous scholars connected Mihira etymologically with Skt., megha ‘cloud’ in which meaning it is used by the Jaina monk Somasdesvasuri . Mihira is explicitly derived from the same root as megha, namely form the root mih ‘to sprinkle let water upon’, by the grammarian Ujjvaladatta. (middle 13th cent.)

The famous Paris scholar Neriosangh is the only author of that period who had knowledege of the true provenance of the name or word. It was used by him as the Sanskrit equivalent of MP. Mihr which in the Pahlavi version of the Avesta renders the name of the Yazata Av. Miora (or Miura [recalling the toponym Miura Peninsula in Japan. Miro was the earliest form of Maitreya to arrive, followed closely by Miiroku and the later Maitreya, the earliest and most popular forms of Buddha to be worshipped in Japan. Miro is still a boy's name for Maitreya in Japan whereas Miroku is closer to the Koreanic form Mireuk].

In John Mock’s Persian studies on “Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan“, he describes and allows us to see the relic forms of the Persian Calendar and New Year observances in practice (the Wakhan corridor is where Persia had to pass before moving East to East Asia). He also suggests that the solar customs appear contemporaneous with the Saka arrivals as evidenced by rock carvings in the Scythic style of the 7th c. BC Saka as well as the East Iranic languages they left behind:

An annual observance takes place at the time of the Persian New Year (observed 16-18 March in Wakhan). The community marks the first day of the month of Aries (Hamal) as a day of celebration of Hazrat Pir Nosir Khusraw (i.e. Naser Khosrow). In Wakhan, the exact day, called shohgun [cognate with the Japanese shogatsu?], is determined through observation of the sun in relation to a fixed point on the mountains above the village, as seen from a fixed point within the village. According to the Yimit mukhi, “When the sun comes between those two rock peaks on the mountain, on that day we start the new year. That is our shohgun.” This observational system of calculating the agricultural calendar is used in other Wakhi villages in Tajikistan and Pakistan (Iloliev 2008a, 92)
When the hamal-bin sees the sun touch the point on the mountain, he goes and informs each household to prepare themselves and put on clean clothes. Community members wash, put on clean clothes, cook special food, and one or two hours before dawn, assemble at the shrine of Naser Khosrow for the ritual of Shohguni Nasiri Khusraw.

Source: “Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan”, Journal of Persianate Studies 4 (2011) 117-145 by John Mock

Cultural heroes named Taro/Taru and agricultural gods in elderly garb

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We highlight below an important paper by Susanne Formanek on the old age or Elderly couple motif in pre-Nara to Nara times, that gives us significant and valuable insights to the shamanic,  divinatory, oratory and ritual roles that the elderly played as evinced from local mythologies and folklore.

The excerpt provided here also serves as a launching point for us to establish common characteristics with certain Indo-European agricultural, weather-and-crop-growing rituals as well as Tartar myths, specifically:

- The role of the elderly couple Ashinanuchi and Tenuzuchi is seen as having a hand in the agricultural taaruji rites, while the story recalls the familiar Greek story (Deucalion and Pyrrha/Roman mythical old couple Baucis and Philemon from Tyana) and idea that any stranger might be a God in disguise.* The Greek idiom is, “were not apparent as entertaining angels” and “having entertained angels unawares (ἔλαθόν τινες ξεσίσαντες ἀγγέλους)” See Hom. Od. i. 96 ff.; iii.-329-370; xvii. 485. Comp. also the beautiful story of Baucis and Philemon as related by Ovid (Metam. viii. 626-724).
– Hittite myth of disappearing Taru plant-storm-deity – the name Taru recalls the name of the Japanese folk hero Taro (Urashima-Taro; Momo-Taro) who became in medieval times relegated to mere cultural heroes or adventurers journeying to another realm.
– The Hittite Taru’s slaying of Illuyankas recalls Susanoo’s slaying the Orochi serpent and it should be noted that the Urashima-Taro story of the visit to the Undersea palace and marriage to the Dragon-King’s daughter, is identical in certain aspects to the royal myth of “farmer” Hoori’s journey to the Undersea palace myth to recover his brother’s fishhook, can be seen in an agricultural-cum-weather-watery dragon context. In the Hittite version, the story are reenactments in a spring festival honoring Taru, the defeat of the monster-serpent Illuyankas by Taru. The alternative version of Telipinu, the son of Taru, and the retrieval of the deity’s eyes and heart when he married the monster’s daughter … predicated favorable crop-growing weather conditions, resembled Urashima Taro‘s retrieval of a magical (or sacred) fishhook and treasure-box upon marrying the Undersea Dragon-King’s daughter (see C. Scott Littleton’s “Gods, Goddesses and Mythologies” Vol. 10, p. 695) And to see a more complete list of Taru/Taro etymologies scroll down to the bottom @ endnotes.

- Taaru-ji agricultural rites can (as explained below by Formanek) then be understood within the paradigm of the recalling of disappeared weather-crop deities back from the Other World => Taru=>Taro also joins a class of disappearing, vanishing deities, or heroes (such as Amaterasu), whose disappearance mean failed harvests(either because of the sun’s or weather-storm god’s disappearance), for more on this see “Disappearing (reappearing) deities – a Near Eastern theme):

“Old Age in Nara and Pre-Nara Periods” Susanne Formanek associates the elderly couple motif with sacred marebito and New Year’s Day’s rites:

“Of gods and old people

One of the characteristics of old age in Japan most often alluded to is the close- ness of the aged to the ancestors as expressed in such sayings as “rokujû de senzo ni kaeru“, a closeness which in a setting of ancestor worship, where the souls of the dead are thought to ascend to the status of gods, endows the aged with a godlike image. Looking at the earliest written monuments of Japanese culture, old people are indeed first mentioned as holding the status of gods, or rather, gods appear in the shape of old people. When in the Dragon-Slaying myth Susanoo descends upon earth, the first beings he meets are an old man and an old woman, Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi, who present themselves as being earthly gods or kunitsu-kami. Such meetings of Heavenly Deities or their descendants and an Earthly God evoking the appearance of an aged human being one way or another, occur several times in the early myths. When the Heavenly Grandson Hononinigi is beginning his descent upon earth, he meets in his search for land a god named Koto-katsu-kuni-katsu-no-kami, of whom it is said that his other name is Shiho-tsutsu-no-oji. Although we do not learn anything about his appearance, he is equated to an old man by his name. His behavior, at least in the mentioned episode, in which he is presenting the Heavenly Grand- son with land over which he seems to reign rather confers on him, too, the char- acter of an Earthly God. This same Shiho-tsutsu-no-oji appears once more in a somewhat related episode, namely as the one who pointed out to Jinmu Tennô where the land the latter ought to extend his power to was situated, in other words, as an Earthly God who is able to bestow the land on those who are apt to reign over it.

There are still other gods who in their encounter with Heavenly Deities bear characteristics of old men, as for example Sarutabiko or Shihinetsuhiko. The latter first appears in the Nihon shoki as an Earthly God named Uzuhiko. Later on, when Jinmu Tennô’s progress is stopped by seemingly invincible indigenous enemies, this Shihinetsuhiko and a certain Ukashi disguise themselves as an old man and an old woman by putting on a kasamino (a kind of grass coat) and a mi (winnowing-tray) respectively. In this attire they break through the enemy lines to ascend Mount Kagu, thus bringing about the success of the whole enterprise…

Both the kasamino and the mi which serve to transform the young gods into an okina (old man) and anomina (old woman) are items which in Japanese folklore are heavily related to magic and religious practices. Especially the wearing of the kasamino connects this episode very closely with certain religious folk ceremonies held on New Year’s Day, where villagers descending from the mountains wearing a kasamino visit the houses of the people. The words they utter are considered as sacred benedictions or forecasts for the year to come. A related rite taking place in Yakujima in which the disguise consists of akasamino and masks representing old men with long white beards, has an even more striking resemblance with our episode. These rites have been related to the belief in the marebito, visitors from the realm of the dead, who appear on certain occasions in the villages to give benedictions to the living. In this context it should be noted that the item serving to transform Shihinetsuhiko into an okina, namely the kasamino, is the same which Susanoo wore when he was exiled to the nenokuni or Japanese Hades. By putting on a kasamino, one took on this unearthly character of a traveler coming from remote realms, alienated from the human world. This seems to reveal that the okina too was regarded as a being with such characteristics.

This similarity or closeness of the aged with the souls of the dead is also suggested by the word kamusabu as used in the Manyôshû. Meaning literally “to behave, act like a god“, this word is used to describe the transformation of the souls of the dead into gods as well as the ageing of things and of persons. The pertaining to or being connected with the other world which thus characterized the okina is also exemplified by the already mentioned Shiho- tsutsu-no-oji. In the Nihon shoki variants of the Yama-no-sachi legend he is the one helping Yama-no-sachi to reach the Palace of the Sea God which can be interpreted to be related to that other world beyond the sea where the souls of the dead went to. The whole episode seems to be a mythical relation of a kind of initiation rite in which the initiand is made to die a symbolic death to come back to life provided with the knowledge of the other world and may hint at the fact that in the remote past of Japan’s history old men played the part of the initiator in initiation rites of this kind. As to Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi, whose names have come to be interpreted as ‘spirit of the late’ and ‘of the early rice crop’ respectively[or 'Foot-Elder' and Hand-Elder' in folk kagura translation], they seem to be involved in the Dragon-Slaying myth in a kind of fertility rite and may thus be the antecedents of those characters wearing masks of old men and old women who in folk culture as taaruji and yasume perform the rites of the haru tauchi or taasobi in order to secure a rich harvest.

Unlike many scholars I would be very hesitant to conclude from the above- mentioned evidence that in the early periods of Japan’s history old people where considered to be living gods, as scholars have amply done. For one thing the equation old human being – god was for example no longer true for the compilers  of the Nihon shoki itself. When, apart from the mythical episodes, Earthly Gods appear in the shape of old men or old women, these are no longer deities a priori. Rather now a deity explicitly borrows the shape of an aged person to appear in the human world. This is the tendency which was to lead not much later under Buddhist influence to the legends in the Nihon ryôiki, where Buddhist gods manifest themselves to rescue humanity by incarnating themselves in old people who, after leaving a mysterious trace in the human word, vanish never to be seen again.

If it is safe to conclude that certain gods were imagined as bearing the shape of old people, there is still no way of knowing whether those okina and omina which we encounter in the early myths were meant to be real aged men and women, or whether those records simply were descriptions – transposed into the realm of myths – of religious rites involving the appearance of characters wearing old men’s masks, as is the case in the Shihinetsuhiko episode. This certainly would have had some bearing on how the elderly were regarded in general, but it is important that even in the mythical records the equation god = old human being is true only for certain Earthly Gods, who, in all the mentioned episodes, act as subordinates to the Heavenly Gods, the latter definitely showing the behavior of young people.

Furthermore there is textual evidence that old people may have performed important roles in certain religious practices as shown by the regulation whereby old women just as priestesses were exempted from submitting to the new Chinese hair style. But as far as the worship of the Heavenly Gods is concerned, growing old could on the contrary incapacitate for service. There is for example the case of Inishiki no mikoto who transferred the duty of guarding the sacred treasure of Isonokami to his younger sister when old age crept up on him, or that of Nunaki-no-iri-hime-no-mikoto who when showing signs of decrepitude was no longer able to do the worship of the Gods. In these cases senescence is obviously but a pretext, but one that must have afforded a plausible explanation. Still more striking although belonging to another context, is the Imperial Edict of Tenmu Tennô, which stated that old and sick persons who had up till then been housed in the temples now had to have quarters built for them outside the precincts in order not to pollute the holy places, thereby clearly equating decrepitude in old age with illness and assigning it the same polluting character, which does not combine well with the image of aged people as gods.

What brought about the association of old men and women with gods does not seem to have been the fact that in everyday life old people played such a dominating role that gods only could be imagined in their shape, but rather their unearthliness. This unearthliness, far from being contradicted by the polluting character of decrepitude, may on the contrary have been prompted by it, or rather it may be just another aspect of the same thing. Senile degeneration, being considered as nuisance at times (see below), could at other times by its association with death be helpful in connecting this world with the other world. It is remarkable that in the Shihinetsuhiko episode, the old man and the old woman, being disguised in the same way as Susanoo on his being exiled to the Neno-kuni, or realm of the dead, succeed in their task, not because the soldiers are overcome with respect at their awe-inspiring sight, but because they find them difficult to look at (ana miniku) and that their appearance is greeted with great laughter. Laughter in such a mythical setting of course does not only express the ridicule for the object, but also fear, in the same way as the expression ana miniku does not only mean ugliness, but rather a frightening quality which makes people shun its sight, so that this seems to me to be a rather clear illustration of the kind of abhorrence mixed with fear and admiration in which a seance was held at times.”

Suzanne Formanek’s effort to cast the masked elderly couple figures as part of sacred seasonal, agricultural or other marebito ceremonial rites is particularly borne out as there is the tradition of the wearing of kagura masks in connection with Ashinazuchi kagura plays, see the brilliantly photo-documented “Ashinazuchi kagura masks” by Ojisan Jake.

Margaret C. Miller, however, attributes the origin of the okina old man and woman figures in kagura dances to Greek influences, see The Origins of Theater in Ancient Greece and Beyond: From Ritual to Drama.”(p.317) and at p 315, Miller that it was the feudal courtiers who formalized the rites incorporating the early Sarugaku or Dengaku dances into paddy-rice field rice-planting inauguration ceremonies.

Apart from the clearly sacred visitor-from-the-other-realm and seasonal ritual nature of the Baucis and Philemon archetype figure, the Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi couple can be inferred to be a genealogical tradition or cultural figure inherited from Turkic-Mongol-Ashina-descended clans from the East Asian continent.  Support for this view may be found in genetics, a surviving Ashina clan population in Japan, as well as the practice and tradition of including an elderly couple in a genealogy or epic on founding histories, which is characteristic of the founding father histories of most of the Turkic-Mongol tribes, see excerpts below from the paper Motif of miraculous birth in Mongolian and Korean myths and epics by Prof. Dr Alexander Fedotoff, Int Journal of CAs studies, Vol 1 1996

“- Sagadai Mergen and His Sister Nogodai Sesen: Sagadai Mergen (СагаДай Мэргэн) and Nogodai sesen (НогоДай Сэсэн) were twins. They were born a long time ago in the family of an old man Gazar Boqoli (Газар БоЋоли) and an old woman Qagiar Qara Qamgan (Хагиар Хара Ћамган) (Toroev 1943);

- Qan Sakta Abqai (Хан Сакта Абхай) was born in the family of 75 years old man and 85 years old woman who prayed before three burqans Shebeli (Шэбэли) to give them a child (Dmitriev 1936);

-In this version of Buryat “Geser-saga” one can find a story about an old man Sengel (Сэнэл) who was 70 years old, and his wife Sengelen (Сэнгэлэн) whose age was 60. They had no children. Once upon a time, when the old woman gathered wild onion, she found unusual horse tracks. She followed in the tracks and reached the Mount Segte Sumer (Сэгтэ Сумэр), on the top of which she saw a huge figure. In her fright she fainted away. Later on, when she came to herself, she realized that became pregnant… Geser and his sisters were born in the same way…

- Abai Geser hubun…In this version the story about the birth of Abai Geser resembles the previous one: his parents Sengel-qan and Sengelen-qatan had no children; wild onion; Mount Segte Sumer – unexpected pregnancy; voice from the uterum; two brothers (instead of two sisters), born from arm-pits; the third boy – ugly and snotty. That was Geser who grew up very quickly and was permanently hungry (Abai Geser hubun…

- Abai Geser Bogdo qan: Abai Geser was born in the family of an old man Ser’el Sagan (Сэрьел Саган) and an old woman Senhir Sagan (Сэнхир Саган) who was 70 years old. Once she gathered wild onion and found a boy baby. The boy happened to be sick of diarrhoea, so the parents tried to get rid of him, but failed. The old parents decided the boy was given to them by Heaven (Abai Geser Bogdo qan – 5

(улгер) which means “story”, “legend”. Both terms are directly connected with ancient Oirat and Kalmuck epic, that is why one can define the epic genre preceded “Janggar” as tuul’-uliger (тууль-улигер) (Kichikov 1992:11). In the plot structure of such tuul’-uliger one can find different structural elements including those in which we are extremely interested:

- an old qan and an old qatun (an old man and an old woman) without heir;
– prayer for a child by childless couple;
– miraculous birth of the main character;
– a main character’s betrothed;

- miraculous growth and childhood of a main character (Kichikov 1978:5).

Let us analyse these elements, in particular the motif of miraculous birth and its submotifs in Oirat and Kalmuck epic and folkloric narrative works…

Oirats and Kalmucks have epic narrations which are not included into “Janggar-saga”. These narrations are characterized by such tuul’-uliger’s motifs as a childless couple, prayer for a child, miraculous conception, miraculous birth of a main character.

Comparative Analysis of the Motif of Miraculous Birth in Mongolian (Buryat and Oirat- Kalmuck) Myths and Epic

So, the analysis of mythic and epical narrative works of Mongols, Buryats and Oirat- Kalmucks shows that in the most of these works the motif of miraculous birth is usually connected with the follow submotifs: old parents; early orphanism; ugly look of the main character; supernatural might and strength demonstrated by him in childhood. It is worthmentioning that the age of the parents decreases simultaneously with the evolution of heroic fairy tales into heroic epic. Nevertheless, childless parants do not make prayer for a heir very often. As a rule, an old woman becomes pregnant in unusual way, and the father of the son is Heaven. The link between the child and Heaven is expressed not only in his unusual way of birth, look and might, but in the birth of his several brothers and (or) sisters who immediately after the birth fly up to Heaven. This is typical to almost all versions of Buryat “Geser-saga”. Divine origin of the main character is underlined in Mongolian version of this epic. Birth of a child with golden chest and silver buttock is an universal motif for the whole Turkic-Mongolian archaic epic. This motif corresponds to the motif of invulnerability (metal body), miraculous symbols (steel navel-string, iron cradle, white snare, arrow, magic stone, etc.). This side by side with the motif of the birth of the main character with a clot of blood in his hand symbolizes his future heroic deeds and supernatural status. This motif is widely spread in Mongolian epic and in historiographic works, as well. One the other hand, the epic character of Mongolian epic quite often looks ugly, suffers from heavy diarrhoea and troubles his parents. All these features put him very close to fairy tale’s character – a foolish boy with mediocre look. As a child the main character grows up very fast and demonstrates his supernatural qualities. Undoubtedly, the miraculous birth connected with Heaven; unusual look; fantastically quick growth are rather archaic features which prove the mythic origin of the main character. Perhaps, oral and written mythic texts created in Mongolia area, but not survived till nowadays, were incorporated into heroic epic and heroic fairy tales a long time ago.”

[Note that the childless elderly couple motif appears in the Korean founding historical myths such as the "myth about T'arhae isagwum goes that once upon a time a king of Silla married the daughter of the King of Chwoknywoguk, but she bore no sons to succeed to the throne. After offering prayer for a son for seven years she brought forth a large egg from her womb. The king decided that the birth of an egg was a bad omen. He ordered a large box to be made, put the egg into it together with seven treasures and two servants, and placed it on a boat. During the long journey a boy was born from the egg and grew up to be a strong boy. An old fisherwoman pulled the boat to the sand beach, opened it and to her surprise discovered a handsome boy. After the death of King Norye T'arhae succeeded to the throne as the first king from the Swok clan (Ibid.; Kim Busik 1959)"]

Endnotes: Motifs and mythemes with global connections

*The Greco-Roman stories of Deucalion-Pyrha and Baucis-Philemon aside, the notion of hospitality’s sacred nature was widespread in the ancient world.

There is the Biblical story (i.e., part of a genealogy) of Lot and his wife had feasted them, two strangers were revealed as “two angels” (Genesis 19:1; the story is in the previous chapter). Like the story of Baucis and Philemon, Lot and his family were told to flee to the mountains and not look back, before God destroyed the city that he was living in. In addition, Hebrews 13:2 reads “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” [ The "don't look back" or "don't look" submotifs or mythemes have also traveled together to the East, suggesting a total cultural package.]

Similar to the Japanese idea of marebito(visiting gods), the idea that unidentified strangers in need of hospitality were gods in disguise appears to have been ingrained in the first century culture of the Hellenistic world and the Middle East. Less than two generations after Ovid’s publication, Acts 14:11-12 relates the ecstatic reception given to Paul of Tarsus and Barnabas as they ministered in the city of Lystra: “The crowds shouted, ”The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes.”

Linda Thompson suggests Sarah and Abraham are an archetype of the elderly couple who entertained the divine in “The Origin Tradition of Ancient Israel: the Literary Formation of Genesis and Exodus 1-23“( at p. 91 of her work) – she states that the Biblical narrative about childless and elderly Abraham and Sarah is one example of pentateuchal historiography of scribes at work in having building into the Hebrew narrative cosmopolitan ideas contemporaneous to the Hebrew society — because of the explicit detail written that Abraham entertained the deity Yahweh by the Oaks of Mamleke, as a result of which they were blessed by a divine child who would be the founder of a nation.

The similarity in motifs and genealogical formula suggests an interaction between Western and Eastern spheres. Which raises a tantalizing notion that there might be a genetic connection for the transmission for the “genealogical narrative formula” but if it existed what might it be? And how would that have been transmitted, through a class of Brahmin-like priests? Bards, epic storytellers, or musician troubadours? Dancers? (Favoured by Margaret Miller above)  Shamanic wizards? Scribes (unlikely as most of the  nomadic tribes surveyed here didn’t have writing till later)

Here, we came across some strange “coincidences” in the names Habiru having popped up in Japan in the form of the existing Habiru clan and also in Puyo of a northern king called Haeburu, who was also according to one version, a son of Korean founding king Tan’gun – see Fedotof’s paper – this suggests to us that some of the Habiru people, proto-Hebrew stock) may have been assimilated into the ranks of the early Mongol nomadic populations(as their shaman?). Chronologically, the Greek-Roman ideas would have been contemporaneous with and drawn upon for Hebrew scribal historiographical work some years B.C., while Mongol historiography emerged around 6th c. at about the same time or a little earlier than Japan’s Nihongi and Kojiki texts.

Robert Wolfe writes in the “From Habiru to Hebrews: The Roots of Jewish Tradition” of his conclusion that the Hebrew people and Jewish traditions arose out of the Habiru people from the evidence that points to the Habiru presence at Shechem and key Abraham narrative events centred at Shechem:

“Although references to the Habiru have been unearthed all over the Middle East, far and away the most important source of information about them is the large collection of clay tablets unearthed at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt towards the end of the 19th century. Many of these tablets consist of letters written in Accadian cuneiform hieroglyphics during the 14th century BCE and sent to the Pharaoh in Egypt from various Egyptian puppet rulers in Canaan. The letters are filled with complaints about the Habiru, who are said to be leading a rebellion against Egyptian rule in Canaan and plundering the cities of those local rulers who still remained loyal to the Pharaoh. And in one such letter, reproduced on page 200 of Shechem by G. Ernest Wright, appears a threat by Abdu-Hiba, the ruler of Jerusalem, to align himself with the Habiru unless he receives more support from the Pharaoh. In particular, Abdu-Hiba threatened: “Now shall we do as Lab’ayu, who gave the land of Shechem to the ‘Apiru?”

Labayu is mentioned in many letters: he was the ruler of Shechem and the main rival of Abdu-Hiba for control of the hill country of Canaan. Whether he actually “gave the land of Shechem” to the Habiru is not clear. Perhaps Abdu-Hiba exaggerated, perhaps not. The important point is that his letter shows that the Habiru exercised a considerable degree of control over the region of Shechem in the 14th century BCE. And the reason why this point is important is because Shechem was without a doubt the main political and religious center of the Hebrews throughout their early history.

Numerous indications of the significance of Shechem for the Hebrews may be found in many of the books of Tanach, the Hebrew word (acronym actually) for what is commonly called the Jewish Scriptures or the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis, Shechem is the place where Abraham first sets foot when he arrives in the land of Israel and where he builds a sacred altar. In the Book of Joshua, Shechem is the place where Joshua convokes the Hebrews just before his death in order to enter into a solemn covenant to remain faithful to God. In the Book of Judges, Shechem is the place where Abimelech, the very first would-be king of the Hebrews, goes in order to declare his candidacy. And in the First Book of Kings, Shechem is the place where Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, is forced to go in order to try to get the Hebrew tribes assembled there to accept him as king. When the tribes decide to elect Jeroboam instead, Jeroboam makes Shechem the first capital of the kingdom of Israel. Even if some of these references are wholly or partially legendary, they still show that for the authors of Tanach, Shechem was thought to be a place which had a special meaning for the early Hebrews.”

For more evidence of this, see “The Habirus and the Hebrews: From a social class to an ethnic group” by Stuart A. West, Dor 7, 3 (1979) 101-107, and other writings on the Habiru.

The Japanese Habiru / Abiru clan (阿比留氏 Abiru-shi) said to be of West Asian descent, was a Japanese clan which served the Kamakura shogunate as local officials on Tsushima. It is believed the clan may have been derived from the Taira clan. In 1246, the Abiru rose up against their superiors, the Dazaifu authorities, headed by the Chinzei Bugyō, which oversaw the governance of Kyūshū for the shogunate. Koremune Shigehisa, at the request of Dazaifu, put down the rebellion and put an end to the Abiru clan.  Source: “宗 氏.” 戦国武将出自事典。Harimaya.com. Accessed 29 Sept 2007. The tragic Abiru clan history is part of the Tsushima island history, see the Tsushima Island homepage.

@Etymology notes: The root forms below suggest the archetype of the conquering hero has an Anatolian-to-Indo-European origin

Hittite: Taru plant-storm-deity; Tarhunta Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta); Hattian – Taru. From the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”

Turk: Taru (a Turkish name noted in the Hexaglot glossary of the Codex Cumanicus)

Korean: T’arhae; Taru (King of. Paekche is mentioned in Samguk sagi,vols. 23-26.)

Japanese:  taaruji [lit. Taaru-old man]; Kin-Taro; Taro (as in Japanese folk heroes: Urashima-Taro; Momo-Taro) Taro is a common name for elder son

Ainu: Retaruseta The Ainu, the indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaido, knew the Hokkaido wolf as the high-ranking god Horkew Kamuy. In Hokkaido’s Tokachi and Hidaka regions, there flourished versions of a myth about a white wolf that mated with a goddess, or sometimes a Japanese court lady, and the offspring from this union became the ancestors of the Ainu people. Several regional versions of this origin myth exist, and some feature a white dog rather than a white wolf. The difference between wolves and dogs appears to have been less important to the Ainu, since both wolves and dogs inhabited much the same space in their classifying imagination. One version of this myth from Shizunai, in the Hidaka region, explains that the god of the mountain Poroshiri-dake, Retaruseta Kamuy (the white-wolf god), could not find a suitable mate, even though he searched the entire island. So Retaruseta Kamuy summoned his divine powers, seeing all the way to lands across the seas, and in time spotted a mate in a distant country. Again drawing on his divine powers, he coerced the woman to get in a small boat, cross the seas, and once on the island become his wife. From this union, it is said, the Ainu people were born.

[Note: A Sino-Korean or Altaic origin of the word has been proposed by Korean scholar Han-Woo Choi who suggests a common Altaic root for the Turkic, Mongolian and Korean forms, and some kind of relationship with a primitive religion or shamanism, as well as with metal-working cf. Korean tarku-/tarho-/taru- "to heat a piece of iron in the flames". An Altaic source is also being considered for the derived forms 'Tar+khan', = Tarkhan (Old Turkic Tarqan; Mongolian: Darqan or Darkhan;Persian: ترخان‎, Tarxān; Chinese: 達干, Dá-gān, Ta-kan; Arabic: طرخان‎; alternative spellings Tarkan, Tarkhaan, Tarqan, Tarchan, Tarxan, Tarcan or Targan) -- these are all ancient Central Asian titles used by various Indo-European (i.e. Iranian and Tokharian) and Altaic (i.e. Turkic, Mongolic, incl. Hunnic and Xiongnu) peoples, especially in the medieval era, and prominent among the successors of the Mongol Empire. However, as far as I know, nobody has yet considered the more obvious root - an origin in the Hittites or Indo-Hittites...as we have demonstrated there are clear origins of Taru in the weather-storm-agricultural deities of the Hittites, who were also earlier than all the Mongol-Turkic tartars in the use of iron-work, and in so should have been the source of the concept of a conquering Taru, from which all derivative forms and titles emerged.]

Finally, the Deucalion-Pyrrha, Momotaro versions, it has been suggested demonstrates another variant of the Elderly Couple motif where it occurs in a Deluge or Flood (does watery sea/river setting count?), with the hero or hero infant (alone or with family) laid out in a boat or ark or floating chest/jar/vessel, floating gourd or peach, often sealed or covered, and where the abandoned or exposed hero is rescued or arrives to safety on a mountain setting, see Flood Stories from around the world. On the other hand, perhaps, Momotaro does not really fall in the Deluge archetype but instead into Moses-in-the-basket-infant exposure-down-the-river-type, since Stephen Oppenheimer points out that in Deluge myths, “none of these legends ever recount the ‘hero’ of their particular tale returning to his former home. One simple explanation for this might be that the original homelands no longer existed.” Urashima-Taro and Momotaro are heroes who journey to foreign lands but they do return home, so these presumably form a slightly variant category, closer to that of the Moses- and Sargon-archetype of hero who suffered infant exposure, set out in a basket or vessel and out to water (see Otto Rank)

Further reading:

Ashinazuchi in legend and genealogy

Obayashi, Taryo “Japanese Myths of Descent from Heaven and Their Korean Parallels”  Asian Folklore Studies’ Vol. 43,1984, 171-184

Antoni, Klaus “Momotarō (The Peach Boy) and the Spirit of Japan: Concerning the Function of a Fairy Tale in Japanese Nationalism of the Early Shōwa Age”“, Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 50,1991:155-188  Fairytales with conquering hero archetypes such as Momo Taro or Tametomo often follow a narrative where the hero goes to some foreign barbaric “Devil’s Island” or foreign land where he must subdue the human-heating demon inhabitants. These tales were prone to being hijacked as propaganda during WWII. [Related: Culture War and Propaganda in Japan]

Momo Taro, the Peach Boy

The Myth of the Birth of the Hero by Otto Rank

Notes: The Saka-Sakai of Japan are related to the Sakha (aka Yakuts)- Saka-Scythians of Siberia afterall

A 2011 study “Mapping human genetic diversity in the Japanese archipelago” published in Advances in Anthropology, vol. 1, no. 2, showed Y haplogroups C and N are the third and fourth most carried genes by Japanese populations, suggesting branches of the Saka had migrated into Japan. Many places in Japan are named Saka, and family names and clans called Saka or Sakai or Saka are found in Japan, the sacred tree of the royals, in the Kojiki and Nihongi, is known as the Sakaki, i.e. The tree of the Saka, and their drink offering to the gods is the sake, lit. drink of the Saka. The N1c haplogroup, was identified in the study excerpted below as the marker of the Saka (Yakuts today). This gene and all the forms upstream and downstream of it are found in low frequencies.
The Kofun period Saka show similar traits to the Saka people elsewhere, they revered their horses, as shown by the extraordinary amount of horse paraphernalia found in the tombs, including numerous horse terracotta figurines, often symbolically lining a “spirit way” to the Underworld. Remains of live horse sacrifices have also been uncovered.

BMC Evol Biol. 2013 Jun 19;13:127. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-13-127.
Autosomal and uniparental portraits of the native populations of Sakha (Yakutia): implications for the peopling of Northeast Eurasia.
Fedorova SA1 et al.

Abstract
BACKGROUND:
Sakha–an area connecting South and Northeast Siberia–is significant for understanding the history of peopling of Northeast Eurasia and the Americas. Previous studies have shown a genetic contiguity between Siberia and East Asia and the key role of South Siberia in the colonization of Siberia.
RESULTS:
We report the results of a high-resolution phylogenetic analysis of 701 mtDNAs and 318 Y chromosomes from five native populations of Sakha (Yakuts, Evenks, Evens, Yukaghirs and Dolgans) and of the analysis of more than 500,000 autosomal SNPs of 758 individuals from 55 populations, including 40 previously unpublished samples from Siberia. Phylogenetically terminal clades of East Asian mtDNA haplogroups C and D and Y-chromosome haplogroups N1c, N1b and C3, constituting the core of the gene pool of the native populations from Sakha, connect Sakha and South Siberia. Analysis of autosomal SNP data confirms the genetic continuity between Sakha and South Siberia. Maternal lineages D5a2a2, C4a1c, C4a2, C5b1b and the Yakut-specific STR sub-clade of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1c can be linked to a migration of Yakut ancestors, while the paternal lineage C3c was most likely carried to Sakha by the expansion of the Tungusic people. MtDNA haplogroups Z1a1b and Z1a3, present in Yukaghirs, Evens and Dolgans, show traces of different and probably more ancient migration(s). Analysis of both haploid loci and autosomal SNP data revealed only minor genetic components shared between Sakha and the extreme Northeast Siberia. Although the major part of West Eurasian maternal and paternal lineages in Sakha could originate from recent admixture with East Europeans, mtDNA haplogroups H8, H20a and HV1a1a, as well as Y-chromosome haplogroup J, more probably reflect an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia through Central Asia and South Siberia.
CONCLUSIONS:
Our high-resolution phylogenetic dissection of mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups as well as analysis of autosomal SNP data suggests that Sakha was colonized by repeated expansions from South Siberia with minor gene flow from the Lower Amur/Southern Okhotsk region and/or Kamchatka. The minor West Eurasian component in Sakha attests to both recent and ongoing admixture with East Europeans and an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia.
PMID: 23782551 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3695835 Free PMC Article

Sakha – an area connecting South and Southeast Siberia is vital for understanding population settling migrations of Northeast Asia.

“Phylogenetically terminal clades of East Asian mtDNA haplogroups C and D and Y-chromosome haplogroups N1c, N1b and C3, constituting the core of the gene pool of the native populations from Sakha, connect Sakha and South Siberia. Analysis of autosomal SNP data confirms the genetic continuity between Sakha and South Siberia. Maternal lineages D5a2a2, C4a1c, C4a2, C5b1b and the Yakut-specific STR sub-clade of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1c can be linked to a migration of Yakut ancestors, while the paternal lineage C3c was most likely carried to Sakha by the expansion of the Tungusic people. MtDNA haplogroups Z1a1b and Z1a3, present in Yukaghirs, Evens and Dolgans, show traces of different and probably more ancient migration(s). Analysis of both haploid loci and autosomal SNP data revealed only minor genetic components shared between Sakha and the extreme Northeast Siberia. Although the major part of West Eurasian maternal and paternal lineages in Sakha could originate from recent admixture with East Europeans, mtDNA haplogroups H8, H20a and HV1a1a, as well as Y-chromosome haplogroup J, more probably reflect an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia through Central Asia and South Siberia.

“The study concluded that its high-resolution phylogenetic dissection of mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups as well as analysis of autosomal SNP data suggests that Sakha was colonized by repeated expansions from South Siberia with minor gene flow from the Lower Amur/Southern Okhotsk region and/or Kamchatka. The minor West Eurasian component in Sakha attests to both recent and ongoing admixture with East Europeans and an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia.

With an area of more than three million square kilometers – roughly one third of that of Europe – the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) dominates Eastern Siberia. The southern part of Sakha extends to southern Siberia, which has served as an entry region into northern Asia [1,2]. Southern Siberia connects Sakha with the Inner Eurasian steppe belt, which stretches from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea and has enabled human With an area of more than three million square kilometers – roughly one third of that of Europe – the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) dominates Eastern Siberia. The southern part of Sakha extends to southern Siberia, which has served as an entry region into northern Asia [1,2]. Southern Siberia connects Sakha with the Inner Eurasian steppe belt, which stretches from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea and has enabled human movements across large distances from east to west and vice versa. The northeastern part of Sakha overlaps with former Beringia, which connected Asia and America during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), permitting human migration to the Americas [3,4]. Because Sakha, particularly the Lena valley, served as the main pathway to the arctic coast and, beyond that, America, during Paleolithic times [5], an understanding of its settlement history is important to elucidate the colonization of Northeast Eurasia as well as the peopling of the Americas.
Ancient tribes inhabiting this area since the Neolithic regarded as the presumable ancestors of different contemporary circumpolar ethnic groups speaking Paleoasiatic and Uralic languages, while Tungusic-speaking tribes spread all over Siberia at a later time [5,10]. The ancestors of Turkic-speaking Yakuts, under Mongol pressure from the south, moved from the Baikal region up the Lena valley, arriving at the middle reaches of the Lena and Vilyuy presumably during the 11th-13th centuries [5,10,11]. In the 17th century Yakutia was incorporated into the Russian Empire.

The first genetic studies of the native populations of Sakha based on haploid loci (mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and non-recombining part of Y chromosome (NRY)) primarily focused on the peopling of the Americas [12,13] and as a “by-product”, detected a very strong bottleneck in Yakut male lineages [14]. Native Siberians, including populations from Sakha, continually receive attention in relation to the colonization of the Americas [15-18], whereas phylogenetic analyses of their uniparental data have added valuable information about the The first genetic studies of the native populations of Sakha based on haploid loci (mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and non-recombining part of Y chromosome (NRY)) primarily focused on the peopling of the Americas [12,13] and as a “by-product”, detected a very strong bottleneck in Yakut male lineages [14]. Native Siberians, including populations from Sakha, continually receive attention in relation to the colonization of the Americas [15-18], whereas phylogenetic analyses of their uniparental data have added valuable information about the colonization and re-colonization of northeastern Eurasia. The analysis of Siberian mtDNA pool has provided evidence to rule out the existence of a northern Asian route for the initial human colonization of Asia [19], and revealed that the present-day northern Asian maternal gene pool consists of predominantly post-LGM components of eastern Asian ancestry [20,21]. The most frequent Y-chromosome haplogroup in northern Eurasia – N1c – most probably arose in present day China and spread to Siberia after the founder event associated with the human entry into the Americas [22]. Two other Y-chromosome haplogroups dominant in Siberia – C3 and Q1 – are more ancient in northern Asia [17,23].

Genetic studies focused on the Yakuts have shown their strong genetic similarity to South Siberian/Central Asian populations [19,24-28]. MtDNA and Y-chromosome variation in Tungusic sub-groups from different part of northern Asia (Sakha, Middle Siberia and the Russian Far East) has revealed the common shared origin of Evenks and Evens [29]. In addition, more data of Arctic Siberian populations have shown a genetic discontinuity between Yukaghirs, the oldest population in Sakha, and the adjoining Chukchi, descendants of the latest inhabitants of Beringia [30]. Most of the existing mtDNA data from Sakha populations were obtained by the examination of hypervariable segment I (HVSI) sequences and a limited number of coding region markers, thus permitting to determine the main haplogroups only. However, analyses of large data sets of eastern [31,32] and northern Asian complete mtDNA sequences [19-21,30,33,34] have significantly refined the topology of the mtDNA phylogeny, providing new informative markers for large scale population studies. This was an essential prerequisite to clarify the events that led to the re-colonization of Siberia, as most of the newly defined sub-haplogroups common in Siberia have been dated as post-LGM [20,21,35].

A global study encompassing 51 populations, carried out at the level of 650,000 genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) [36], revealed that the Yakuts were closest to the Han Chinese, Japanese and other, less numerous East Asian populations. Even so, Yakuts stand out among East Asian populations due to two distinct signals: the first signal, a minor one, brings Yakuts together with Amerinds, probably reflecting the deep shared ancestry of Siberians and Native Americans, and the second signal is explained by an overlap with the major genetic component in European populations. Analysis of a dataset complemented by eleven more Siberian populations differentiated Siberians from East Asian populations [37]. Furthermore, this analysis separated Koryaks and Chukchi from the rest of the Siberians, demonstrating a close genetic proximity of Yakuts and Evenks. However, the population coverage of Siberia is still limited in genetic studies. For instance, the second Tungusic-speaking population of Sakha – Evens – was not represented in previous analyses. Moreover, Siberian populations have so far not been in the focus of autosomal SNP variance pattern analyses.

In the present study, we combined detailed phylogenetic analyses of the maternal and paternal lineages of the native populations of Sakha with the analysis of a genome-wide sample of more than 600,000 SNPs to better define the genetic relationships between Sakha, South Siberia, East Asia, Northeast Siberia, and Europe, with an emphasis on clarifying the genetic history of the native populations of Sakha. We applied phylogenetic analysis to 829 mtDNAs and 375 Y chromosomes from five populations of Sakha (Yakuts, Evenks, Evens, Dolgans and Yukaghirs) and Dolgans of the adjacent Taymyr Peninsula, and implemented FST, principal component analysis (PCA) and ADMIXTURE to autosomal SNPs in a sample set combining 40 newly genotyped Siberian individuals, published data on Siberia [36,37] and relevant global reference populations [36-38].

92% of mtDNAs fall into eastern Asian haplogroups, while western Eurasian lineages constitute a minority. The prevalent haplogroup in Sakha is C, which comprises 43% of the variation in our sample. Haplogroup C is represented mainly by lineages of two major sub-haplogroups – C4 and C5. The only exceptions are the mtDNAs of one Central Yakut, one Dolgan and two Evens which fall into clade C7a1c, the only Siberian branch of the otherwise Northeast Indian specific haplogroup C7. The majority of C clades present in our sample (C4a1c, C4a1d, C4a2, C4b1, C4b3, C5a1, C5b1a, C5b1b and C5d1) are also common among native populations from South Siberia and the Lake Baikal region [20], confirming genetic continuity between Sakha and the southern regions of Siberia. In our sample there are two Evens and one Yukaghir with Koryak-specific maternal lineages – C4b2 and a sub-clade of C5a2 defined by back mutation 16189C and designated as C5a2a in [20]. These C lineages together with G1b, all characteristic of Northeast Siberian populations – Koryaks, Itelmens [39] and Chukchi [30] – , make up only 2% of our sample. Although all native populations from Sakha have uniformly high frequency of haplogroup C, they differ in the proportions of the sub-haplogroups. Yakuts are characterized by a prevalence of C4a1c, C4a2 and C5b1b, whereas Evenks, otherwise very similar to Yakuts, have a higher frequency of the C4 sub-clade defined by the transition T3306C and designated here as C4b9. The sub-haplogroups C4b3a, C4b7 and C5d1 are common for both Evens and Yukaghirs.

The second dominant haplogroup in Sakha is D, encompassing 30% of the mtDNAs in our sample. Haplogroup D4 is represented by a diverse set of low frequency clades, whereas D5 consists almost exclusively of D5a2a2, which reaches its highest frequency among Central and Vilyuy Yakuts (Figure 1). Analyses of ancient DNA from Yakut burials (15th-19th century) have revealed similar frequencies of D5a2a2 [40-43]. This raises the possibility that the lineage was brought to the Lena, Amga and Vilyuy valleys by the ancestors of the Yakut people. The presence of D5a2a2 among other populations of Sakha is probably due to gene flow from the Yakuts.

The minor haplogroup Z is represented in our sample by two sub-haplogroups – Z1a was found among Evens, Yukaghirs and Dolgans, whereas Z3 is present among Northern Yakuts and Evenks (Figure 1). Four Z lineages were characterized based on mtDNA complete sequences and represented in a wider phylogenetic context (see Additional file 2). One Even mtDNA shares the transition A11252G with Yukaghirs, forming the clade designated here as Z1a3. The second Even lineage clusters together with Yukaghir and Nganasan into the clade determined by two transitions, G7521A and G8251A, and denoted here as Z1a1b. The time-depth of Z1a (~9,400 years ago) together with Arctic-specific clades Z1a1b, Z1a2a and Z1a3 nested in Z1a (see Additional file 2 and Additional file 3) hints at the possibility that Z1a might have been present in the northern regions of Siberia at least since the Neolithic times. One Yakut lineage falls into the sub-haplogroup Z3a, described so far only in Tibeto-Burman speaking tribal populations of northeastern India [44]. These populations originally descended from ancient tribes of northwestern China and subsequently moved to the south, admixing with southern peoples. Another Yakut Z3 lineage shares the transition G5460A with one Chinese mtDNA (see Additional file 2). Two Northern Yakuts and one Evenk carry this lineage, but none of the rest of Siberian mtDNAs (see Additional file 3). Taken together, these facts suggest that the Z3 lineages have been carried to Sakha relatively recently, most probably by Yakut predecessors.

Besides East Asian maternal lineages, the mtDNA pool of the native populations of Sakha contains a small (8%), but diverse set of western Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups, mostly present among Yakuts and Evenks (Figure 1). The most common western Eurasian haplogroups in Sakha are H and J.

A rare mtDNA haplogroup, R3, was identified in Northern Yakuts by full sequencing. As R3 shares one coding and two control region substitutions with haplogroup R1, it would be more parsimonious to represent R1 and R3 as deep-rooted branches of haplogroup R1 (see Additional file 4). Although np-s 16311 and 16519 are hypervariable and therefore the status of these substitutions in defining R1 is controversial, the transition at np 1391 is much more stable and the motif (1391C-16311C-16519T) consisting of these three substitutions should possess sufficient phylogenetic status. We have designated the former R1 as R1a and the former R3 as R1b. In addition to the Yakut haplotype, R1b encompasses lineages from West Bengal, Armenia and Finland.

Y-chromosome profiles of the native populations of the Sakha

The characteristic features of the genetic portraits of native populations from Sakha are much more clearly expressed by paternal lineages (Figure 2, see Additional file 5) than by mtDNA. Yakuts exhibit remarkably low Y-chromosomal genetic diversity because of a striking prevalence of the pan-North-Eurasian haplogroup N1c in their gene pool. Almost all N1c lineages in our sample cluster into a Yakut-specific STR-defined branch (Figure 3, see Additional file 6) established by earlier studies [22,45,46]. The fact that this branch also comprises lineages from the Evenks, Evens and Dolgans may hint at a limited male gene flow from Yakuts to neighboring populations. The Yakut-specific branch stems from a haplotype most common in Tuvinians and Tofalars from the east Sayan region that is found also in some other Siberian and eastern European populations. The sub-cluster of N1c (N3a1 in [46]), which encompasses the Yakut-specific branch, had its first expansion in South Siberia at the boundary of Pleistocene and Holocene [46]. The Yakut-specific clade started to diversify only ~1.6 kilo years ago (kya). Four N1c chromosomes in our sample fall into a cluster comprised mainly of Buryats [46]. It might hint at a gene flow from the predecessors of Buryats in the Lake Baikal region. Besides N1c, Yakuts as well as Dolgans, Evenks and Evens harbor N1b (Figure 2), which achieves its highest frequency in Nganasans [47] and is common among Tofalars, Khakassians, Tuvinians and Shors from South Siberia [46].

Haplogroup C3 is present at 30-40% in Evenks, Evens and Yukaghirs, at 13% in Northern Yakuts and Dolgans and has a minor frequency among Vilyuy and Central Yakuts (Figure 2). The Evenk and Even gene pool encompasses C3c STR haplotypes (see Additional file 5) that partly overlap with those found in more southern populations: the Mongolic-speaking Buryats and Mongolians, the Turkic-speaking Tuvinians and Altaian Kazakhs as well as the Tungusic-speaking Manchus [23,48]. The sub-haplogroup C3d present among Yakuts is very frequent among Buryats, Sojots and Khamnigans from the Baikal region [23]. The C3* lineages of Evenks (see Additional file 7) coincide with the haplotype common among Mongolians [49], probably hinting at a relatively recent male gene flow from Mongols to Evenks. In contrast, the Yukaghirs’ C3* lineages are closest to the Koryak gene pool (see Additional file 8 and Additional file 9). This finding points to the possible common ancestry of at least some paternal lineages in these neighboring populations.

The general pattern of geographic dispersal of haplogroup Q in Siberian populations is very variable, ranging from high frequency in some populations (Kets and Selkups) to low frequency or total absence in others [17,47]. It could point to the effect of pronounced genetic drift that affects small and diffusely located populations, especially in case of the Y chromosome due to its effective population size being at least four times smaller than that of autosomes. In this context it is not surprising that haplogroup Q was not represented in our Yakutian data set (Figure 2).Typical European and Near Eastern haplogroups R1, I, E1b1b1a and J are present in Sakha at low frequencies. Haplogroup O, common in South-East Asia, was found in only one Yukaghir and one Dolgan (Figure 2).

The smooth transition from Sakha to South Siberia and on to East Asia contrasts with the discontinuity between Sakha and Northeast Siberia.

The PC analysis demonstrates the clustering of populations from Sakha close to Tuvinians and Buryats from southern Siberia as well as to Mongolians from Mongolia, whereas they are separated from the neighbouring Chukchi and Koryaks (Figure 5). It is remarkable that Nganasans who live in relative isolation on the Taymyr Peninsula are situated near the populations of Sakha in the PC plot. Evenks and Yakuts together with some Dolgans, Evens and Yukaghirs cluster close together, while the rest of the Dolgans, Yukaghirs and a few Yakuts are dispersed between Siberian/Central Asian and one Yukaghir even among East European populations. The majority of Evens form a distinct cluster near the Yakut/Evenk and Nganasan groups.

Additional Mantel tests applied to mtDNA and Y chromosome data of 22 Altaic-speaking populations (see Additional file 15) show a correlation between mtDNA variation and geography (r = 0.55, P < 0.001), whereas Y-chromosome variation exhibits a weak partial correlation with linguistic data (r = 0.18, P = 0.014) (see Additional file 14). Isolation by distance is the most plausible explanation for the positive correlation between maternal genetics and geography. Patrilocality and a patrilineal clan structure combined with strict exogamy common among Altaic-speaking populations [52] could cause a greater degree of female than male admixture and/or the adoption of languages by females to a greater extent than by males. The correlation between paternal genetics and linguistics hints at the concordant spread of genes and languages, but this has not been the sole process, because linguistic data explain only 3.3% of the Y-chromosome variance. When the Chukchis and Koryaks, representatives of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family from Northeast Siberia, were added to the analysis, a considerable partial correlation between autosomal and linguistic variation appeared (r = 0.55, P = 0.002) in addition to the correlation between genetics and geography. Both linguistics and geography explain approximately one third of the genetic variance. The results of the Mantel test based on mtDNA data are very similar (see Additional file 14). In contrast, there is no correlation between paternal genetics and geographic distances or linguistic diversity.

Discussion

In the following section, we discuss (1) the role of South Siberia in the formation of the existing genetic variation in Sakha, (2) the genetic discontinuity between Sakha and Northeast Siberia, and (3) the origin of the West Eurasian component in the gene pool of the native populations of Sakha.

The PCA plot and FST values based on autosomal SNP data demonstrate the genetic proximity of the populations of Sakha to the geographically and linguistically neighboring populations from South Siberia, particularly Tuvinians and Buryats. The ADMIXTURE analysis reveals that the genetic heritage of the populations of Sakha in its great majority is characterized by Siberian-specific ancestry components which stem from East Asia. The Siberian components, comprising the component denoted by lemon yellow that achieves its highest proportion in Yakuts and the one denoted by lavender represented most clearly in Evens, connect the inhabitants of Sakha with southern Siberian populations. Similarly, phylogenetic analyses of uniparental data show that East Asian mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups form the main part of Sakha gene pool, and the majority of maternal and paternal lineages found in Sakha (Figure 1 and ​and2)2) are nested in the larger genetic variation of South Siberia [19,20,23,46]. In addition, a fair number of mtDNA haplogroups (C4a1c, C4a1d, C4a2, C4b1, C4b3, C5b1a, D4i2, D4j2, D4j4, D4j5, D4j8, D4o2) as well as Y-chromosome haplogroups C3c and N1b common in Sakha have been dated to the Siberian Neolithic [20,23,35,46], the beginning of which coincided with the period of climatic optimum in the Postglacial. These results all suggest that a substantial part of maternal and paternal lineages in Sakha might stem from Neolithic expansions in South Siberia, having been carried to Sakha afterwards at different times by different peoples. Y-chromosome haplogroup C3c, the most frequent among Evenks and Evens in Sakha (Figure 2, see Additional file 5), might have arrived with the ancestors of the Tungusic peoples. This scenario is supported by the observation that C3c is much more frequent among various Tungusic-speaking peoples from Siberia and northern China than in their neighbors [47].

MtDNA haplogroups Z1a and C4b could represent traces of more ancient migrations in northern Siberia, as these haplogroups have been dated as older and, furthermore, their known sub-clades are found almost exclusively in Arctic populations (see Additional file 2 and Additional file 3) [20,35]. Z1a stretches all over Siberia, but three distinct sub-clades (Z1a1b, Z1a2a and Z1a3) are represented mainly in the northern regions. Interestingly, all three clades encompass the Yukaghirs – nowadays a very small population residing in northeastern Sakha and Chukotka. Z1a1b includes Nganasans from the Taymyr Peninsula and Evens from Sakha besides the Yukaghirs. Analyses of autosomal data confirm the genetic relatedness of Nganasans, Yukaghirs and Evens (Figures 5 and ​them further east, where they ended up being surrounded by the Chukchis, Koryaks, Evens and the ancestors of Yakuts. Remarkable gene flow between the Yukaghirs and Evens is revealed by mtDNA analysis – in our sample, 71% of maternal lineages are shared between the Yukaghirs and Evens. In addition, the Yukaghirs have acquired a few maternal lineages (Z1a2a, G1b, C5a2a) from the Koryaks.

The clearest and most abundant traces in the Sakha gene pool have been left by the most recent migrations. The prevailing Y-chromosome haplogroup among the Yakuts, N1c, makes up over two thirds of paternal lineages in our sample. The Yakut-specific branch comprises also lineages from Evenks, Evens and Dolgans, most probably due to male gene flow from the Yakuts. The fact that the ancestral STR haplotype of the Yakut-specific clade is present among the Tuvinians, Tofalars and Sojots from the eastern Sayan regions [46] could point to the putative “homeland” of Yakutian N1c predecessors. In addition, at least one maternal lineage, the sub-clade of C4a1c

Sakha as an extension of South Siberia
The PCA plot and FST values based on autosomal SNP data demonstrate the genetic proximity of the populations of Sakha to the geographically and linguistically neighboring populations from South Siberia, particularly Tuvinians and Buryats. The ADMIXTURE analysis reveals that the genetic heritage of the populations of Sakha in its great majority is characterized by Siberian-specific ancestry components which stem from East Asia. The Siberian components, comprising the component denoted by lemon yellow that achieves its highest proportion in Yakuts and the one denoted by lavender represented most clearly in Evens, connect the inhabitants of Sakha with southern Siberian populations. Similarly, phylogenetic analyses of uniparental data show that East Asian mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups form the main part of Sakha gene pool, and the majority of maternal and paternal lineages found in Sakha (Figure 1 and ​larger genetic variation of South Siberia…

addition, a fair number of mtDNA haplogroups (C4a1c, C4a1d, C4a2, C4b1, C4b3, C5b1a, D4i2, D4j2, D4j4, D4j5, D4j8, D4o2) as well as Y-chromosome haplogroups C3c and N1b common in Sakha have been dated to the Siberian Neolithic [20,23,35,46], the beginning of which coincided with the period of climatic optimum in the Postglacial. These results all suggest that a substantial part of maternal and paternal lineages in Sakha might stem from Neolithic expansions in South Siberia, having been carried to Sakha afterwards at different times by different peoples. Y-chromosome haplogroup C3c, the most frequent among Evenks and Evens in Sakha (Figure 2, see Additional file 5), might have arrived with the ancestors of the Tungusic peoples. This scenario is supported by the observation that C3c is much more frequent among various Tungusic-speaking peoples from Siberia and northern China than in their neighbors [47].

MtDNA haplogroups Z1a and C4b could represent traces of more ancient migrations in northern Siberia, as these haplogroups have been dated as older and, furthermore, their known sub-clades are found almost exclusively in Arctic populations (see Additional file 2 and Additional file 3) [20,35]. Z1a stretches all over Siberia, but three distinct sub-clades (Z1a1b, Z1a2a and Z1a3) are represented mainly in the northern regions. Interestingly, all three clades encompass the Yukaghirs – nowadays a very small population residing in northeastern Sakha and Chukotka. Z1a1b includes Nganasans from the Taymyr Peninsula and Evens from Sakha besides the Yukaghirs. Analyses of autosomal data confirm the genetic relatedness of Nganasans, Yukaghirs and Evens (Figures 5 and 6 These results support the scenario that the ancestors of Yukaghirs originate in the Taymyr Peninsula in Neolithic times. In the middle of the second millennium BC, the Yukaghir ancestors spread from the Taymyr Peninsula to the east, under pressure from immigrating groups [10]. In the first half of the second millennium AD, the expansion of Evenks cut the Yukaghirs off from Samoyedic-speaking groups and forced them further east, where they ended up being surrounded by the Chukchis, Koryaks, Evens and the ancestors of Yakuts. Remarkable gene flow between the Yukaghirs and Evens is revealed by mtDNA analysis – in our sample, 71% of maternal lineages are shared between the Yukaghirs and Evens. In addition, the Yukaghirs have acquired a few maternal lineages (Z1a2a, G1b, C5a2a) from the Koryaks.

The clearest and most abundant traces in the Sakha gene pool have been left by the most recent migrations. The prevailing Y-chromosome haplogroup among the Yakuts, N1c, makes up over two thirds of paternal lineages in our sample. The Yakut-specific branch comprises also lineages from Evenks, Evens and Dolgans, most probably due to male gene flow from the Yakuts. The fact that the ancestral STR haplotype of the Yakut-specific clade is present among the Tuvinians, Tofalars and Sojots from the eastern Sayan regions [46] could point to the putative “homeland” of Yakutian N1c predecessors. In addition, at least one maternal lineage, the sub-clade of C4a1c defined by the back-mutation C16298T, may have migrated together with the Y-chromosome haplogroup N1c. This clade, represented in contemporary (see Additional file 1) as well as ancient Yakuts [43], has also been found among the Tuvinians [19]. Close similarities between the Yakut and Turkic languages spoken in the Altai-Sayan region [53], as well as some other aspects of the Yakut culture (e.g., pastoralism, clothing, festivals) [54], point to ancestral ties between the Yakuts and the southern Turkic peoples. These facts suggest that the Yakuts originate from the Altay-Sayan region. On the other hand, some mtDNA (D5a2a2, M13a1b, A8, G2a5) and Y-chromosome haplogroups (C3d, the Buryat-specific cluster of N1c) in the Yakut gene pool are shared with Mongolic populations (Buryats, Khamnigans, Mongolians) from the Baikal area and Mongolia [20,21,23,46]. This fact is consistent with the hypothesis proposed on the basis of archaeological findings, postulating that the Yakuts originate from the ancient Turkic-speaking Kurykan people from the Lake Baikal region. Estimates of the expansion time of the Yakut-specific clade of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1c support the hypothesis: the clade started to diversify ~1.6 kya, about the same time (6th – 10th century AD) when the culture of the Kurykans flourished on the shores of Lake Baikal. The second expansion of the clade, dated to ~0.9 kya, might coincide with the migration of the Yakuts´ ancestors to the middle reaches of the Lena River in the 11th-13th centuries AD. Thus, taking into account the aforementioned facts, the Yakut ancestors most probably originated from the Altay-Sayan region and settled for a time in the Lake Baikal area before migrating northwards along the Lena River.

General discontinuity beteeen Sakha and Northeast Siberia

Although the genetic heritage of the native populations from Sakha as well as Northeast Siberia lies in its great majority in the common East Asian gene pool, analyses of autosomal as well as uniparental markers revealed the genetic divergence between these neighboring regions. The core of the mtDNA gene pool of the native people of Sakha consists of a number of haplogroup C and D sub-lineages (see Additional file 1). The Koryaks and Chukchis harbor only a few topmost clades of these two haplogroups (C4b2, C5a2a, D4b1a2a and D2a) [30,39], but these lineages are uncommon or even absent in Sakha. The prevailing haplogroups among Chukchis – A2a, A2b and D2a [30] – were not found in Sakha, while G1b, Y1a and Z1a2, common among the Koryaks [39], are present in Sakha at low frequencies. The Koryak-specific maternal lineages found in Sakha most probably suggest a recent limited maternal gene flow from Northeast Siberia. In contrast, the Y-chromosome haplogroups N1c and C3 prevalent in Sakha (Figure 2) are also represented in Northeast Siberia [47,55]. However, the Koryaks [23] and the populations of Sakha (see Additional file 5) do not share Y-STR haplotypes of haplogroup C3, and the N1c haplotypes detected among the Koryaks and Chukchis are quite distinct from those of other Siberians [22,46]. In addition, the presence of the Y-chromosome haplogroup Q1a3a [Q(M3)] among the Chukchis [55] distinguishes them from the populations of Sakha, where this haplogroup has not been found. These results point not so much to recent male-mediated gene flow between these neighboring regions but rather to multiple separate migrations from the same source area. The PCA plot (Figure 5) and FST values (Figure 4) based on autosomal SNP data also show that the Koryaks and Chukchis are distant from the populations of Sakha. However, ADMIXTURE analysis reveals also a deep-rooted shared ancestry of the inhabitants of Sakha and extreme Northeast Siberia (Figure 6). The genetic data are in good accordance with archaeological findings that demonstrate direct cultural contacts between Kamchatka, Chukotka and Yakutia during the late Paleolithic and Neolithic, and suggest a period of relative isolation for the extreme Northeast only since the second – first millennia B.C. [56].

The strong positive partial correlation between genetic and linguistic variation shown by the Mantel test (see Additional file 14) suggests that the same past population processes have shaped linguistic as well as genetic divergence between Sakha and the Kamchatka-Chukotka region. The present study, as well as previous ones [26,29,43], have revealed the main features of the gene pool of the native populations of Sakha to have been shaped by migrations from South Siberia, in particular by relatively recent expansions of Tungusic- and Turkic-speaking peoples. The Chukchis and Koryaks, inhabitants of the Kamchatka-Chukotka region, are considered to be the descendants of the Neolithic indigenous people of Northeast Siberia [56]. The Chukchi and Koryak languages, together with Kerek and Alutor, form the closely-knit Chukotkan group in the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family [57], the speakers of which inhabit extreme Northeast Siberia. The Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages have no generally accepted relation to any other language family, but sometimes they are classified together with the Nivkh, Yukaghir and Yeniseian languages among the Paleosiberian languages that are believed to represent a remnant of a much richer linguistic palette of Siberia that existed before the Altaic, Uralic and Indo-European languages expanded across most of Siberia [58]. The prevalent mtDNA haplogroups among the Chukchis – A2a, A2b and D2a [30] – are shared with Greenland Eskimos, Aleuts and a few native populations of North America [15,33,59,60] due to either recent female-mediated gene flow from Eskimos/Aleuts or deep shared ancestry. Similarly, analysis of autosomal SNP data reveals an ancestry component shared between the Chukchis and Greenland Eskimos (Figure 6). MtDNA haplogroups G1b and Y1a, common among the Koryaks [39], and G1b, common among the Chukchis [30], connect them with the Nivkhs from the Sakhalin Island [34]. ADMIXTURE analysis also points to genetic connections between the Chukchis, Koryaks and Nivkhs (Figure 6). In addition, quite a strong relationship The strong positive partial correlation between genetic and linguistic variation shown by the Mantel test (see Additional file 14) suggests that the same past population processes have shaped linguistic as well as genetic divergence between Sakha and the Kamchatka-Chukotka region. The present study, as well as previous ones [26,29,43], have revealed the main features of the gene pool of the native populations of Sakha to have been shaped by migrations from South Siberia, in particular by relatively recent expansions of Tungusic- and Turkic-speaking peoples. The Chukchis and Koryaks, inhabitants of the Kamchatka-Chukotka region, are considered to be the descendants of the Neolithic indigenous people of Northeast Siberia [56]. The Chukchi and Koryak languages, together with Kerek and Alutor, form the closely-knit Chukotkan group in the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family [57], the speakers of which inhabit extreme Northeast Siberia. The Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages have no generally accepted relation to any other language family, but sometimes they are classified together with the Nivkh, Yukaghir and Yeniseian languages among the Paleosiberian languages that are believed to represent a remnant of a much richer linguistic palette of Siberia that existed before the Altaic, Uralic and Indo-European languages expanded across most of Siberia [58]. The prevalent mtDNA haplogroups among the Chukchis – A2a, A2b and D2a [30] – are shared with Greenland Eskimos, Aleuts and a few native populations of North America [15,33,59,60] due to either recent female-mediated gene flow from Eskimos/Aleuts or deep shared ancestry. Similarly, analysis of autosomal SNP data reveals an ancestry component shared between the Chukchis and Greenland Eskimos (Figure 6). MtDNA haplogroups G1b and Y1a, common among the Koryaks [39], and G1b, common among the Chukchis [30], connect them with the Nivkhs from the Sakhalin Island [34]. ADMIXTURE analysis also points to genetic connections between the Chukchis, Koryaks and Nivkhs (Figure 6). In addition, quite a strong relationship between the Nivkh and Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages has been shown [57]. MtDNA haplogroups C4b2 and C5a2a form a part of the “C world” common in South Siberia and Sakha, but their autochthonous nature and coalescence time (~1.2 kya and ~2.6 kya, respectively [20]) hint at a period of isolation from the rest of Siberia. Considering the facts discussed above it is probable that large-scale expansions of Tungusic and Turkic peoples in Siberia, which replaced and/or assimilated ancient aboriginal people in Sakha, as well as the relative isolation between Sakha and Northeast Siberia in the subsequent period, are responsible for the formation of a genetic discontinuity between these neighboring regions.

Origin of the West Eurasian component of the genepool of the native population of the Sakha

Although the genetic heritage of the native populations of Sakha is mostly of East Asian-ancestry, analyses of autosomal SNP data as well as haploid loci also show a minor West Eurasian genetic component. The patchy presence of the “European” (blue) component in the ADMIXTURE plot (Figure 6), most pronounced in Yukaghirs, probably testifies to recent admixture with Europeans. In addition, the presence of European-specific paternal lineages R1a-M458, I1 and I2a among Yakuts, Dolgans, Evenks and Yukaghirs likely points to a recent gene flow from East Europeans. Although only individuals with self-reported un-admixed ancestry for at least two generations were included in the study of haploid loci, mistakes in ethnic self-identification cannot be entirely excluded. One of the main sources of gene flow has likely been Russians who accounted for 37.8% of the population of Sakha in 2010 [61]. The migration of Russians (at first mainly men) to eastern Siberia started already in the 17th century, when Yakutia was incorporated into the Russian Empire [62].

The mtDNA haplogroup J detected in the remains from a Yakut burial site dated to the beginning of the 17th century [41], long before the beginning of the settlement of Russian families in the the 18th century [63], clearly points to more ancient gene flow from western Eurasia. The presence of haplogroups H8, H20 and HV1a1a among the Yakuts, Dolgans and Evenks (Figure 1) also suggests gene flow other than from Russians, because these haplogroups are rare (H8 and H20) or even absent (HV1a1a) among Russians [64-67], but are common among southern Siberian populations as well as in the Caucasus, the Middle and Near East [19,68-70]. Moreover, the HVSI haplotypes of H8, H20a and HV1a1a in our sample exactly match those in the Buryats from the Buryat Republic [19]. Similarly, the Y-chromosome haplogroup J in Dolgans and Evens very likely testifies to gene flow through South Siberia, as it is present among native South Siberian populations [47,71]. The scenario of ancient gene flow from West Eurasia is supported by ancient DNA data, which show that in the Bronze and Iron Ages, South Siberia, including the Altai region, was an area of overwhelmingly predominant western Eurasian settlement [72,73], and the Indo-European migration even reached northeastern Mongolia [74]. To summarize, the West Eurasian genetic component in Sakha may originate from recent admixture with East Europeans, whereas more ancient gene flow from West Eurasia through Central Asia and South Siberia is also probable.

Conclusions

The analysis of haploid (mtDNA, NRY) and diploid loci of genome provides further evidence that the genetic heritage of indigenous people of Sakha lies in its great majority in the common East Asian gene pool while West Eurasian influence has been minor. The Turkic-speaking Yakuts retain traces of related populations from the Altai-Sayan region as well as distinctive maternal and paternal lineages, either originating from the Mongolic peoples in the Lake Baikal area or influenced by the long timescale residence in Sakha in close proximity to the Tungusic-speaking Evenks. Genetic data fit well with the linguistic and historical evidence regarding the origin of Yakuts. The Yukaghir gene pool harbor traces of more ancient migration(s) in the arctic regions of Siberia, complemented by recent admixture with Europeans. The Evens, linguistically very close to the Evenks, have also acquired genetic inputs from their geographic neighbors, the Yukaghirs. The European component in Sakha may originate from recent admixture with East Europeans and/or from more ancient gene flow from West Eurasia through Central Asia and South Siberia. The genetic proximity of the native populations of Sakha to South Siberians and the genetic divergence between them and the Chukchis and Koryaks, shown by the present study, suggest that the region of Sakha was colonized by multiple migrations from South Siberia with only minor gene flows from the Lower Amur/Southern Okhotsk region and/or Kamchatka.

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Further readings on the Saka:

Burial Mounds Preserve Culture of Ancient Nomads in Kazakhstan
by Archaeology Newsroom, 5 Sep 2012

Although little is known of the lives of the nomadic tribes, who 2,500 years ago roamed the Asian steppe land in today’s Kazakhstan, the region’s semi-arid climate has provided the perfect temperature and humidity in the ground’s permafrost for the preservation of rare organic artifacts. Richly woven textiles, gorgeous gold-leaf covered wooden horse tack ornaments and other rare organic artifacts, normally not preserved in other areas of the Ancient Near East and Central Asia, have been excavated in burial mounds, or “kurgans”—some more than 100 feet in diameter—that uniformly dot the Kazakhstan landscape, a vast landlocked country, larger than all of western Europe and sharing borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

More than 150 artifacts and works of art excavated from these sites are on display in a new exhibition “Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan,” which opened at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on Saturday, August 11. The works represent some of the most significant archaeological discoveries made in Kazakhstan over the past few decades, and the show marks the first time that the ancient visual arts of Kazakh culture have been showcased in a Washington, D.C.-based museum.

Since the tribes moved about the countryside with each change of the season, few physical evidences or traces remain of the culture. No centralized city centers or trade routes could be found or documented. Instead to understand how the nomads lived and died, archeologists mainly rely on the kurgans, where elite members of the society were interred with their goods and even with their horses.

What is beginning to emerge from the excavations is the evidence of a highly sophisticated culture, one that maintained communication networks and strategic migratory routes. But also evidenced is the fact that the Saka people, as the nomadic tribes were called in ancient Persian sources, had a close, almost sacred bond, with their horses. Not an entirely surprising fact, since nomadic cultures throughout the millennia have depended on domesticated animals for both transportation and food. But archeological evidence uncovered from Saka burial mounds indicates that horses were treated as divine beings.

Since the ground’s pervasive layer of permafrost keeps the organic contents of a kurgan at a constant temperature, preventing decay, archaeologist Alexander Nagel, the show’s curator, says that researchers must take extreme measures to protect artifacts during excavation. Oftentimes, entire sections of the excavated site are packaged and removed from the ground intact. The tomb is then transported to a climate-controlled laboratory where researchers carefully examine the kurgan’s contents.

In one unearthed kurgan, a man was interred with a woman—who was presumed to be his mother—in a large sarcophagus, surrounded by 13 horses that were sacrificed for the burial. Three of the horses were decorated to resembled supernatural creatures, and wearing leather masks with wooden horns painstakingly decorated with gold leaf

In life, horses were outfitted with saddles and bridles as extravagantly decorated with ornate gold-laden garb similar to the rich costumes of their riders, often Saka nobility. As for the nobles, gold ornaments were sewn into intricately woven textiles and diadems, golden headbands signifying royal descent, graced the heads of the richest tribe members. Metal shaping tools were used to form incredibly minute and precise details on the golden ornaments, and semi-precious stones such as carnelian and turquoise were carefully applied as accents.

The craftsmanship was appreciated far beyond the borders of today’s Kazakhstan. Carvings sculpted into the palace walls of ancient Persia depict the arrival of foreign Saka delegations to present Persian kings with trade items. On the façade of the Apadana, a fifth century building at Persepolis in southwestern Iran, a carving depicts a procession of Saka people bringing jewelry and other ornaments as tributary to the Persian King.

Horse tack ornaments and jewelry carved from Kazakh trees has surfaced in many archeological finds spanning many territories in Eurasia, suggesting that the Saka people were heavily integrated in the ancient trade network.

Yet as much as researchers can glean from the physical remnants of the ancient nomads, much about their way of life is still shrouded in mystery. Local Kazakh animals, such as red deer, snow leopards, wolves, ravens, ibexes and Bactrian camels are frequently seen in jewelry and small altars made of stone or bronze. In some depictions, snow leopards were given wings, suggesting they might have been deified just as the horned horses were. The ibex appears again and again in ancient artifacts and still today remains a symbol of supernatural power in Kazakhstan.

“Scholars are just beginning to learn more about the rituals practiced by the Nomadic tribes,” Nagel says. “We do know that later on, shamanism was practiced and that it continued into the modern 19th century.”

“Central to the Sackler exhibit is the depiction of how the nomadic tribes interacted with their landscape,” says Nagel. The show reveals physical evidence of how the nomadic tribes traversed large expanses to participate in regional trade networks and to herd domesticated sheep and goats through seasonal changes.

Kazakhstan archaeologists discover Saka princess tomb, 5 Jun 2013

The burial site of the high-ranking young woman was discovered during reconstruction of Taskesken-Bakty road in Urdzhar region of East-Kazakhstan oblast. An expedition made of professors and students of Semipalatinsk and Pavlodar pedagogical institutes discovered the stone tomb-chest with remains of the young woman at the depth of 1.7 meters under a burial mount.

Objects found in at the burial site certify that the woman was from a distinguished tribe. According to the archaeologists, the golden headpiece that looks like Kazakh Saukele (national headgear of women) is the most valuable item for the research. “The pointed golden head wear with zoomorphic ornaments has the top that looks like the arrows and is decorated with a spiral made of golden wire and jewels. A similar head wear used to be part of the official costume of the Saka tribe chieftains. It is quite possible that the woman was a daughter of a king of Saka Tigrakhauda tribe,” Timur Smagulov said.

According to him, it is quite possible that young Tomiris who later became a warrior-queen used to wear a similar head wear. According to the expedition’s members, ceramic and wooden vessels, as well as bones of a sacrificial sheep were also discovered in the tomb. Pieces of blue and green clothes remained on the woman’s remains. Golden earrings and a stone altar were found next to her head.

“According to the preliminary information, the tomb of the “Urdzhar princess” is dated 4th or 3rd century B.C.,” Smagulov said. According to him, a similar tomb discovered in Issyk burial mount (the “Golden Man”).

 

Gaya and Buddha devotes several chapters describing the pre-Buddhist Saka culture and sacred landscape and rituals of the Saka people living in the land of Gaya (which includes Bodh-Gaya, from which their Shaka (i.e. Saka prince Buddha came to meditate under the sacred tree). Many of the Gayan features resemble the sacred landscape of Japan. It is theorized here that the Gaya or Kaya of the Korean peninsula and the Saka of Japan are related to the Saka of Gaya of north India.

The god(dess) of iron and tatara ironmaking traditions

There is a shrine dedicated to Kanayago Photo credits:  Hitachi Metals Yasugi factory.

There is a shrine dedicated to Kanayago Photo credits: Hitachi Metals Yasugi factory.

Excerpted from Tatara,

“The god of metals was believed to be a woman, very envious, and no woman was allowed in the furnace area. The workers were all men and their wives could not wear any makeup during the operation so as not to incur jealousy of the goddess. … The furnace is compared to the vagina in which steel is given life.
(That’s why it is Goddess rather than God who takes care of metals). The kind of iron sand which is easily reduced and put into the furnace at the beginning is called ‘komori ‘iron sand meaning ‘nurse’ iron sand, which is helpful in every way in producing steel from other kinds of iron sand. The best part of produced steel is called ‘Tamahagane’ and its quality is on the world top level, and used for such sharp edges as Japanese swords. The furnace is built from soil.” For more comprehensive information see the Tatara home page by Hitachi Metals Ltd.

More is written about the history of tatara and the Kanayago patron goddess of iron:

“Tatara was likely imported into Japan from Korea by way of Shimane Prefecture, and seeing as the San’in region is rich with titanium magnetite, a necessary ingrediant for iron production, it took hold here very early on in Japanese history. Way back in ancient Japan–specifically 713AD, two years after the compilation of the Kojiki (originally ordered by Emperor Temmu) was completed, Empress Gemmei ordered the compilation of the Fudoki. While the Kojiki is like a history book (which we would now consider a book of Shinto mythology), the Fudoki were like encyclopedia, conducted in each province to chronicle geography,  plant and animal species, the lifestyles of the people, and significant historical events (many of which we would now refer to as myths). Most of the Fudoki no longer exist, but the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki remains mostly in tact. Therefore, we know a lot more about life in 8th century Izumo than about any other part of Japan. It includes many details about tatara.

Because we have so much information about its history and because it was practiced in Izumo province for hundreds of years, there are a number of museums, blacksmith family residences, archeological digs, ruins, and sword museums around the towns of Okuizumo, Yasugi, and Unnan. Okuizumo is best known for this because the The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords has rebuild a tatara there called Nittoho-Tatara, and forges swords using traditional means once a year a so. …

There is patron god of Tatara, though many of the popular local myths say she is a goddess. This is Kanayago, the kami that is revered throughout Japan for teaching craftsmen how to making iron. Having particular influence over Western Japan, she wanted to settle in the mountains there, so she descended upon a particular spot in southwestern Yasugi where a heron perched upon a katsura tree, a very brief hike up the hill from Kanayago-jinja, the head shrine of all Kanayago shrines.”

However, one of the best authorities on the subject is the Hitachi Metal’s “The history of the tatara” website which informs us that a couple, a male and female pair of deities tied to the Yamato royal line, named Kanayama-hiko-no-mikoto and Kanayama-hime-no-mikoto, are ritually venerated at the tatara:

“Kanayago-kami (the deity Kanayago) is enshrined at tatara in the Chugoku mountains. While the main shrine dedicated to this deity (whose name is written with characters that literally mean “child of the metal worker) is located at Nishihida in the city of Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture. Devotion to Kanayago-kami is widespread, centered on the Chugoku region but extending from Kyushu and parts of Shikoku to the distant Kanto region and parts of Tohoku. The ritual deities celebrated at present are Kanayama-hiko-no-mikoto and Kanayama-hime-no-mikoto with origins in the Yamato line (see section 2.1.3 for background), but originally it was Kanayago-kami, more familiarly called “Kanayago-san” throughout the region. Worship of Kanayama-hiko and Kanayama-hime (male and female, respectively) dates almost certainly to early modern times. This is believed to have been aimed at increasing the authority of the shrines.

The story of Kanayago-kami is as follows.

In the distant past, Kanayago-kami decided from the heavens to a place called Shiso-no-kori (Shiso County) in the province of Harima (in what is now southern Hyogo Prefecture, in the San’yo district). She taught the people there how to make iron, and made an iron kettle out of rock. Since then, that place has been called Iwanabe (“rock kettle”), which is in the vicinity of the town of Chikusa, Shiso County, Hyogo Prefecture. However, as there were no mountains nearby where she could live, Kanayago-kami declared, “If I am to be the deity who rules the western reaches, I will proceed to the west and live in a suitable place there.” So saying, she climbed on a white heron to travel to the mountains of Okuhida in Kurota in Nogi County of the province of Izumo (around Nishihida in Shimane Prefecture). The heron alit upon on a katsura tree to rest, and Kanayago-kami then taught the technique of making iron in that region to the members of the Abe clan.

Since then, Kanayago-kami has continued to be worshipped by the descendents of the Abe clan. The Abe clan involved itself not only with priestly affairs, but also with traveling around to instruct others in tatara techniques.

There are a variety of curious taboos associated with Kanayago-kami. Among them:

Kanayago-kami hates dogs, ivy, and hemp. She favors wisteria.
According to the legend in Hino County, Tottori Prefecture, a dog howled at Kanayago-kami when she descended from the heavens. The deity tried to escape by climbing a vine, but the vine broke. She was attacked by the dog and died as a result. The version of the story told in I’ishi County, Shimane Prefecture, is that, rather than ivy, she became entangled in hemp or flax and died. The legend in Nita County, Shimane Prefecture, holds that the ivy did indeed break, but she then grabbed onto a wisteria tree and was saved. She may be a deity, but in this humorous story she is a rather human character. Such legends are the reason why dogs are not allowed near tatara and hemp is not used for any tatara tools or equipment. Also, katsura trees are not burned in tatara because they are regarded as divine.

Kanayago-kami hates women.
Kanayago-kami is a female deity so she hates women. A murage will not enter the tatara when his wife is menstruating. He shuts down his tatara temporarily just before and after his wife gives birth. If work is at a point that he cannot put it aside, it is said that he will not go home nor look at the face of his newly born child. It is also said that murage are especially strict about not getting into a bath if a woman has used it.

Kanayago-kami likes corpses.
The disciples of Kanayago-kami did not know what to do with their tatara when she died so suddenly. It is said that just as they were praying to and beseeching her for help, just when the iron could not be brought to birth no matter what they did, they received an oracle calling for them either to stand a dead body up against the tatara’s four supporting pillars (Nita County) or bind the bones of a murage to the four pillars (the village of Yoshida, Shimane Prefecture). There similarly appears to have been no taboos about death in tatara in other locales, either. They apparently made coffins in tatara when a person died in Aki or Yamagata in Hiroshima Prefecture, while in Futami county in the old Bingo province (around Hiroshima today) people would carry a coffin around the tatara when holding a funeral.

Actually, it is unclear as to whether or not Kanayago-kami is meant to be a male or female deity, but in the tatara the deity has been said to be female. Masaya Abe, a descendent of the Abe clan and chief priest at Kanayago Shrine, writes, “Kanayago-kami is usually held to be a female deity. However, that is because it was a woman who enshrined it. The deity was originally a youthful male.” Details about Kanayago-kami turn up in various stories, including those related to such other deities as Yawata-kami, Ama-no-hiboko, Takuso-susano-no-mikoto, and Kanayama-hiko-no-mikoto. In all cases, Kanayago-kami was the patron deity of blacksmiths, worshipped from the start by people involved in metalwork. These artisans spread devotion to Kanayago to many locations, and the present form of that worship was probably created by the Abe clan.

Festivals are held at the shrine Kanayago-jinja in the spring around the middle of the 3rd month and in the autumn early in the 10th month, the dates being determined according to the Chinese zodiacal calendar. In the past, the Kanayago festival at Hida was an event to which tatara masters and blacksmiths would come from distant provinces, as well as from Izumo and the neighboring province of Hoki.”

Another authoritative source, the Encyclopedia of Shinto relates that the Kanayago goddess is a Kajishin kami, at the centre of an ancestral cult of the blacksmith community:

” A kami of smithing and of metal forging enshrined by people who work in those industries. In premodern times, blacksmiths (kaji) included both those living sedentary lives in towns, and those who, together with bellows-makers (tatarashi) and metal casters (imoji), would join itinerant iron-working occupational groups called kanaya that traveled from village to village. In either case, such individuals were viewed as having a quasi-religious character due to their ability to control the magical power of iron.

Among these people, the kami Kajishin was worshipped both as an occupational ancestral deity (sojin) that transmitted to humans the techniques for iron smelting and smithing, and as a tutelary of the process of production and processing. At the heart of the cult of Kajishin was the goddess Kanayago no kami. The origins of this kami are not clear, but according to the Kanayago engishō, Kanayago no kami was the offspring of the union of Kanayamabiko no mikoto and Kanayamahime no mikoto. According to the legendary history related by the Kanayago no kami saimon (found in the Kayago no kami hissho), Kanayago no kami first descended from the Plain of High Heaven to the district of Shisō in the province of Harima. Climbing astride a white heron, Kanayago flew to a mountain forest in the district of Nogi in the province of Izumo, and there she transmitted the secret techniques of iron manufacturing to a man named Abe, who would later become priest (shinshoku) of the shrine Kanayago Jinja.

Portrayed as a female kami, taboos regarding Kanayago include blood pollution and the presence of women, and she is said to fear dogs. On the other hand, this kami does not appear to make a taboo of the pollution of death.

The cult of Kanayago no kami spread mainly in Japan’s Western Honshū region, and the shrine Kanayago Jinja in the town of Hirose (Shimane Prefecture) is regarded as the major shrine to the kami. Other kami worshiped as Kajishin include a number of deities appearing in Kojiki and Nihongi, including the blacksmith Amatsumara (Yamato no kanuchi Amatsumara), Ishikoridome, and Amenomahitotsu no kami. Of these, Amenomahitotsu appears in the Nihongi’s episode of the descent of the heavenly grandchild (tenson kōrin) in the guise of Kanadakumi, and also appears in the Harima fudoki with the similar name Amanomahitotsu no mikoto.

The kami continues to be worshipped today at the shrine Amenomehitotsu Jinja in the city of Nishiwaki, Hyōgo Prefecture. Local legends regarding the kami remain in this area, and they generally relate that the deity has only one-eye, in accordance with its name (ma-hitotsu = “one eye”). At some point, the kami Inari also came to be regarded as a tutelary of smithing, and some locales continue to celebrate both Inari and Kanayago no kami during the “Bellows Festival” (Fuigo matsuri) observed on the 8th day of the 11th lunar month.”

Notwithstanding that blacksmithing and forging traditions were established first on mainland Japan, some of most detailed information on the key deities is surprisingly to be found on Okinawa Island to where blacksmithing was introduced:

 “Since iron is not produced in Okinawa, the development of steel making and blacksmithing techniques lagged behind other advanced areas. Thirst for iron and its riches may have well been the source for Okinawan legends regarding the advent of iron and blacksmithing techniques. Seemingly, however, it remains presumable, only through folk tales, as to when, from where, and how the aspired skills in steel making and the art of blacksmithing came to Okinawa…

In Okinawa, ex-blacksmith families own most of the “blacksmith divinity” images. These are mostly in the form of hanging scrolls. Okinawan Blacksmiths{by Hiroaki Fukuchi (福地曠昭) Kaifu-sha 1989} has numerous remarks from blacksmiths interviewed. However, description of the images themselves remain scarce. Quoted below is Mr. Koji Asaoka (朝岡康二) refering to Akaya (阿嘉屋), one of the blacksmith families, which once flourished in Kumoji, Naha:

Originally, the balcksmith family Nareira (宮平) headed the “Mindakari (新村渠) Kanja (Blacksmith) Family”. Akaya, a family of court painters, up until the great-grandfather’s generation, joined Nareira in the mid Meiji Period (latter 19th century), whereby Akaya acquired the blacksmithing technique to reestablish itself as the blacksmith family Akakaji (阿嘉鍛冶). The first master of Akakaji painted and gave out freely many hanging scrolls with the Blacksmith Divinity image to his fellow workers. He had a natural talent for painting, as his ancestors used to be court artists. Although many of these hanging scrolls have been scattered about and lost, several former blacksmith families in Okinawa preserve them. The blacksmith divinity hanging scroll uses the complete mainland style that you would find in Kanayama-ko (金山講) hanging scrolls used in blacksmiths’ self-support gatherings i.e. Kanayama-ko, Japan. In short, Kanayama-sama (金山様) divinity is painted in the center, as Yokoza (横座) the bellow operator sits on the left, while Sente (先手) the assistant sledgehammer swings down from the right. Excluding minor differences, the basic composition was shared all over Japan. Notably, however, the blacksmithing images (Mainland Japanese style) are completely irrelevant to the blacksmithing procedures practiced in Okinawa.

In Japan, the Kanayama-sama divinity hanging scroll would be found in alcoves (床の間) on occasions of Kanayama-ko self-support gatherings. In Okinawa, however, the image is believed to have been used in annual bellows festivals, as self-help groups equivalent to the Kanayama-ko were never formed by Okinawan blacksmiths. (Ref. Koji Asaoka, Ironware Culture of Japan-Comparative Ethnology of Blacksmith, Chapter Four: Okinawan Blacksmith and Ironware Culture, p.184)
Fuchiyue (鞴祭: bellows’ festival) is respected by Okinawan blacksmiths as the hallmark of annual events. It is commonly celebrated on November 8th according to the lunar calendar, in Japan, whereas in Okinawa it is celebrated, by some, on November 7th, or for two days (November 6th and 7th) or for three days (November 7th to 9th).

During Fuchiyue the image of the bellows divinity is respectfully placed in front of the bellows, as sledgehammers, iron holders and other blacksmith tools are put as offerings. Prayers are offered to banish fire, accidents and injury throughout the year. Special dishes are prepared and shared within the neighborhood. In some cases blacksmith families visit and worship Okuma Kanja-ya (奥間鍛冶屋), the first legendary blacksmith enshrined in Okinawa, just as blacksmiths on Miyako Island would visit Funadatedo (船立堂), the sacred praying spot for blacksmiths.

According to Asaoka, the introduction of boxed bellows from mainland Japan, more specifically Sakai, Osaka, relates, particularly, to the attachment that Okinawan blacksmiths have formed to their bellows festival. Fuigo-cho (吹子町) the bellows ”manufacturers” quarter of commercially advanced Osaka is believed to have manufactured standardized boxed bellows for nationwide distribution. Asaoka states that because many Okinawan legends of blacksmith divinities speak not only of iron and the advent of steel-making techniques, but also of the introduction of boxed bellows, this proves that boxed bellows were accepted technologically advanced devices. Bellows festivals in the Ryukyu Archipelago have maintained considerably different ritualistic styles when compared to other village festivals, such as Tanetori-sai (種取祭), seed-sowing ceremonies and bountiful harvest thanksgiving ceremonies (豊年祭). Thus Asaoka retains that Okinawan bellows festivals originated on the mainland and, once introduced to Okinawa, were quickly diffused throughout the Ryukyus.
(Ref. Asaoka, Study of Ironware Culture in the Archipelago of the Ryukyus, pp. 188, 204, 257)

Images of Blacksmith Divinity and the Goddess/God Kanayago (金屋子)
Mainland Japan

In the northern Tohoku area of Japan, during blacksmith self-support gatherings, Kanayama-ko, alcoves or tokonoma (床の間) were adorned with “blacksmith divinity” hanging scroll images. Found in midwestern Chugoku, Japan, instead, would be the “Goddess Kanayago” and pictorial stories on “the birth of steeling technique”. During the Edo period, the scrolled images and pictorial stories were worshipped by tatara steel laborers, blacksmiths and casting workers all over Japan, mainly at iron producing mines.
Blacksmith divinities in ancient Japanese myth included Hinokagutsuchino-kami (火之迦具土神), Kanayamahikonomikoto (金山毘古命/金山彦命), Kanayama-himegami (金山毘売神/金山姫命), Amenomahitotsukami (天目一箇神) and more. On the otherhand, Inarigami (稲荷神), originally a god of rich harvest, was altered to a god of fire, eventually becoming a blacksmith divinity. This occurred, presumably, through the sacred rite of “Ohitaki” (御火焚) for an abundant harvest in the Kyoto and Kinki areas.
The word “tatara” originated in India, meaning blast furnace. In Japan, “tatara” appears in the names of ancient goddesses in Kojiki (古事記) and Nihonsyoki (日本書紀) e.g. Seyatatara-hime (勢夜陀多良比売), Hototataraisusuki-himenomikoto (富登多多良伊須須岐比売命) or Himetataraisukiyori-hime (比売多多良伊須気余理比売). According to myth, Izanaminokami (伊邪那美神) had her private parts (mihoto) seared as she delievered her baby Hinokagutsuchino-kami, and was, thereafter, banished to the netherworld (黄泉). It may well be in this light that the word “hoto” frequently appears in the names of ancient goddesses. Furthermore a wind way bamboo kiro (木呂竹) is inserted from the hole “hoto” to connect the bellows to the basin of a mud furnace, whereby a correlation between “tatara” and the goddesses is also suggested.
Kanayago Shrine in Nishihida (西比田), Hirose Town (広瀬町), Nogi County (能義郡), Shimane Prefecture, is an established center of worship for Kanayago, the goddess/god of steelmaking and blacksmithing. According to the stories of her advent and the origin of the shrine (which dates back to the Edo period), a snowy egret carried Kanayago on its back and flew from Harima Province to a Japanese Judas tree in Kuroda Forest, Nishihida village, Nogi County, Izumo Province.
Since Kanayago has also been worshipped as a child-loving goddess, tatara steel workers in Kamisaibara Village (上斎原村), Tomata County (苫田郡) Okayama Prefecture, for example, are known to have shown their faith in Kanayago (originally the tatara steel workers guardian deity) by inviting children to their homes every New Year (January 1st to 3rd) to tell them the old tales and legends. (Ref. Akinori Maruyama ,“Goddess Kanayago and Children: Folklore from a Tatara Village”)
In contrast, Kanayago’s hatred of adult women (who menstruate and bare children) was a source for the taboo against menstrual blood (赤不浄) as a symbol of uncleanness. However it is frequently noted that the uncleanness of death, which is symbolized by the color black (黒不浄), was readily accepted or even favored in these legends.
Mandarin oranges were believed to have been an offering at the bellows festival, much like as done by public bath owners and glue makers, each of whom were fire-relevant by trade, who gave away rice cakes and oranges to children. According to a legend in Yamaguchi Prefecture, an ugly one-eyed blacksmith deity got away from a barking dog by climbing up a mandarin orange tree. Fierce concentration at their furnaces frequently cost tatara steel workers the loss of an eye. The fact created one-eyed blacksmith divinities legend which in its turn are considered to have been diverted to single-eyed ogres of legend, oni (鬼). It is, presumably, in this context that toponyms such as Onimura (鬼村) and Onigashiro (鬼ヶ城) are often located close to iron mines. [Compare these one-eyed oni with the Greek myths of Cyclopes who were also one-eyed skilled blacksmithing giants who made the trident for Poseidon, thunderbolts for Zeus, and who were imprisoned deep in the heart of the Tartaros Earth Pit by the Sky god Uranus, until freed by Cronus.]

Mandarin oranges were believed to have been an offering at the bellows festival, much like as done by public bath owners and glue makers, each of whom were fire-relevant by trade, who gave away rice cakes and oranges to children. According to a legend in Yamaguchi Prefecture, an ugly one-eyed blacksmith deity got away from a barking dog by climbing up a mandarin orange tree. Fierce concentration at their furnaces frequently cost tatara steel workers the loss of an eye. The fact created one-eyed blacksmith divinities legend which in its turn are considered to have been diverted to single-eyed ogres of legend, oni (鬼). It is, presumably, in this context that toponyms such as Onimura (鬼村) and Onigashiro (鬼ヶ城) are often located close to iron mines.

Images of the Goddess/God Kanayago are largely categorized into the following three styles:

A) A Goddess on a Fox
A goddess in a Chinese dress, wearing a long, thin scarf (領巾) rides on a white fox, with a sword in one hand and a gemstone in the other. In other instances, she may have a magic cane, or wear a jewelled crown and armor, holding a pouch in one hand. The fox wears a jewel in its tail, and may sometimes have a hoe in its mouth. The goddess in Chinese dress, who wears the long, thin scarf (領巾) and carries the sword and gemstone, resembles, in appearance, Dakini (荼吉尼天), the harvest divinity. However Dakini is recognized as the original Buddhist form (honji 本地) of Inari-gami in accordance with the philosophy of honji suijaku (本地垂迹) a theory expounding the correspondence of Shinto and Buddhist deities. Imaginably, Inari-gami and Dakini, both of whom came to be accepted and worshipped as fire and blacksmith divinities, could have been confused to be represented both in the same scene.

B) A Goddess and Two Attendants (Male and Female)
Mainly found in hanging scroll images, which depict the story of the origin of Kanayago Shrine or scenes of steel-making and blacksmithing. Frequently a long-haired woman in sacerdotal kimono, attends a holy area located close to a mountain top and sanctified with a set of hallowed straw ropes (注連縄). A lady of the court in a red hakama and over-robe would be found on the right and a nobleman on the left, both may be standing or seated, ready to serve the goddess. A white fox may accompany the two attendants. At the foot of the mountain, there is a smith’s yard with the foot-pedaled bellows humming with steeling and refining. Court-attired noblemen and blacksmiths (in their medieval hats, eboshi, and aprons, hitatare) would be found laboriously at work.

C) Sampo-kojin (三宝荒神) Image
A series of monochrome hanging scrolls in wood block print, which Kanayago Shrine issued and distributed from the end of the Edo to the early Meiji periods, would find the Kanayago deity seated on a lotus pedestal as Sampo-Kojin. In northern Tohoku, Sampo-kojin as a standing figure is frequently painted on hanging scrolls as a blacksmith divinity. Composition-wise, Sampo-kojin often stands erect on the boxed bellows and blacksmiths are working underneath. Oni, the ogres, are also at work in the smith’s yard, sending wind to the bellows or hammering down as Sente, the assistant hammers.

Sampo-kojin

Sampo-kojin

Okinawan Images of Blacksmith Divinity

 The four blacksmith divinity scrolls that we were able to view during our field studies in the Yanbaru (山原) area, northern Okinawa, had basically the same composition, although they differed in the details. They belong to Type C, as mentioned above, in which the blacksmith deity is expressed as Sampo-kojin (三宝荒神). Furthermore, the four scrolled images show three Oni (鬼), ogres, that are assisting as Sente (先手), a woman in kimono, who is operating the bellows as Hakozashi (箱差し) or Fuigozashi (鞴差し) and a man wearing formal headwear (烏帽子) and an apron (直垂), working as Yokaza (横座). During the forging of iron, the boxed bellows would be found in totally different positions in Mainland Japan, Okinawa and China. At least in the latter medieval period (the Kamakura and the Muromachi eras) in Mainland Japan, it is believed to have been a common practice that Yokaza alone, without Fuigozashi, operated the bellows. On the other hand, it was a characteristic on Okinawa to have Fuigozashi sit behind Yokaza and operate the boxed bellows, as Yokaza worked without touching the bellows. The first job that an apprentice, in an Okinawan blacksmith’s yard, would be assigned to was Fuigozashi. If so, even though Meuchi (前打 i.e. Sente) and Yokaza are painted in different positions, the four hanging scrolls do not contradict with blacksmithing practices in Okinawa, because they depict how Yokaza and Fuigozashi played distinguishable roles from each other, as Asaoka indicates. Most hanging scroll images from Iwate and Gifu Prefectures (Mainland Japan) have also been found to differentiate between Yokaza and Fuigozashi.
However, the female Fuigozashi (bellows operators) that are in blacksmithing images in hanging scrolls from Okinawa (fig.21,23,24) are rarely found elsewhere. As we have discusssed, most blacksmith divine images in Okinawa are believed to be copies of the originals (that are presumed to have their roots in, and have come to Okinawa from, Mainland Japan, or have been drawn, relying upon information that had been passsed on by word of mouth. Akakanja would have made models of such originals for the many blacksmith divinity hanging scroll images that they created. It is, therefore, not totally deniable that changes might have been made by the painters to reflect more of the real blacksmithing practices in Okinawa.
Although the three headed Sampo-kojin-like figure was depicted frequently as the blacksmith deity in the hanging scrolls that we viewed (fig.24), the balcksmith deity in Okinawa is also imagined as a goddess at times(fig.23). It may be possible to assume the influential role that the myth of the Goddess Kanayago from Izumo Province had while crossing over the sea to Okinawa. We found an example in which a Sampo-kojin-like Blacksmith Divine is represented by three female faces while wearing feminine clothing, whereas Sampo-kojin should be represented by wrathful faces. This image was likely adopted by local painters to fill the gap between the faith of the people and the diffusion of painted images.
Did the images of blacksmith divinities accompany the bellows when they were introduced onto Okinawa from Mainland Japan, or could the images have possibly taken different routes? The question entails further progress in these studies, as well as the discovery of more blacksmith divine images from Okinawa which have hitherto been unseen.

 The widespread practicing of bellows festivals was, presumably, fueled by the orders and policies issued by the royal government of the Ryukyus, according to Asaoka (Ironware Culture of Japan–Comparative Ethnology of Blacksmithing, p.257). Blacksmith divinity scrolls could well have been one of the most significant ritual tools that popuralized the bellows festivals. In the 20th year of the King Sho Shitsu (尚質: 1667), the dynasty of the Ryukyus started the “Stationed Blacksmith System” (在村鍛冶制) administered by Ko shoken (向象賢). As Kaji-yaku (blacksmith officials) assigned to villages were non-craftsmen, the system is considered to have spurred the presence of Akakanja and other specialized blacksmith families, as well as that of traveling blacksmith (廻村鍛冶) which was to emerge later. The roles of the Kaji-yaku are assumed to have shifted from blacksmithing to the management of the bellows festivals and smiths’ yards. (Ref. Asaoka, Ironware Culture of Japan– Comparative Ethnology of Blacksmithing, pp. 152, 193, 224, 249).

 In Okinawa the Blacksmith Divinity is worshipped at many uganju (praying spot). Also blacksmith tales are sung in ancient ballads like “Kajiyadi Fu”. Believed to have brought forth the advent of farming with iron farming tools, the balcksmith divinity is also identified with the farming deity. (Ref. Hiroaki Fukuchi, Okinawan Blacksmiths, pp. 255 to 266). According to legend the Kunigami Aji (国頭按司 chief of Kunigami Village), Kaniman (金万・金満), who was the second son of Okuma Ufuya(奥間大親, the head of Jana Village in the Urasoe quarter, and a younger brother of King Satto (察度王), was believed to have founded the Okuma Kanja Blacksmith family. For helping Kanemaru (金丸), the future King Sho En (尚円), Okuma Kanja was said to have had his second son authorized as Kunigami Aji. The presence of Okuma Kanja continues to date as the ancestor of all Okinawan blacksmiths. Having the power attained through blood-related Monchu (門中) clans and the privileges, such as tax exemptions, and abounding riches, received through such ties, this glorious story of how one family member was promoted to Kunigami Aji is considered to have been suitable for the descendants of blacksmiths. Furthermore, they connected the legend of Okuma Kanja to the myth of the farming divinity and the advent of farming, through which Kaniman was, likely, idealized and idolized as a great ancestor and founder of blacksmith families. Today, Kaniman Aji and his wife are enshrined as founders of Uekaneshi Tunchi (上兼次殿内) or Kaniman Tunchi (金万殿内), in Kaneshi, Nakijin Village (今帰仁村), where the image of the blacksmith divinity has been traditionally recognized as that of Kaniman-sama(fig.35).

Source: Explanation of Blacksmith Divinity

Notes:

Although the word “tatara” is said to have its origin in India, it is more likely to have a Volga-Ural region origin as Tartar identity is synonymous with a Turkic (or Mongol-Turk) identity, as not only is are the blacksmithing and forging skills of the “Tartars” legendary, the region is among the earliest metallurgical centers of the world, and is also the origin of the one-eyed Cyclopian-ogre tales. … Alternatively, the blacksmith migrant arrivals in Japan were Saka nomads hailing from from Northern India (Saka-stan, having sojourned there from the Caucasus) in which case, the oral tradition of the origins of the tatara-production may prove to be true after all. The Hittites were said to have been the earliest (or among the earliest) iron-workers, and both India and the Volga-Ural region were known to have had Hittite populations, from whom the Tartars could have learned iron-making.

The tale of that a “snowy egret carried Kanayago on its back and flew from Harima Province to a Japanese Judas tree in Kuroda Forest, Nishihida village, Nogi County, Izumo Province” is likely a euphemistic funerary reference to the death of the original ancestral chief, as birds were often the shaman priest’s helpers on their journeys in the Other World in prehistoric times.

The tatara culture is said to have been brought into Japan by Kaya lineages, who first established themselves in the enclaves of Kibi(Okayama), Kawachi province (Osaka), Takeuichi in Yamato, Ikenokami site of Fukuoka. They are said to have arrived in such notable numbers initially that they were called the Imaki-kun, the “now arriving khans” (ima meaning now, ki, coming and “kun” synonymous with the “khan” title used by nomads of continental Eurasia (the Korean cognate was “han”) – Source:Young Sik-Lee, Recent research  trends on the history of Kaya of Korea, Int Journal of History of Korea, vol. 1 2000

Read more about the swordsmithing apprentice Pierre Nadeau’s life here and on the making of a traditional Japanese sword at his Soulsmithing Blog

See also Turks, Tartars and Mongols of European Russia and What it means to be a Turk

And detailed descriptions out of the Khorasan or Kharezm court of who the Turks and Tatars are to be found at:

The Shajrat ul atrak, or genealogical tree of the Turks and Tatars

The haplogroup N/Tat-C “controversy” is finally over. This haplogroup N is distributed throughout Northern Eurasia. It is the most common Y-chromosome type in Uralic speakers (Finns and Native Siberian). This lineage most likely originated in northern China or Mongolia and then spread into Siberia where it became a very common line in western Siberia. See:

Rootsi et al., A counter-clockwise northern route of the Y-chromosome haplogroup N from Southeast Asia towards Europe, European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication 6 December 2006; doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201748
“…detailed analysis of hg N suggests that its high frequency in east Europe is due to its more recent expansion westward on a counter-clock northern route from inner Asia/southern Siberia, approximately 12–14 ky ago. The widespread presence of hg N in Siberia, together with its absence in Native Americans, implies its spread happened after the founder event for the Americas.The most frequent subclade N3, arose probably in the region of present day China, and subsequently experienced serial bottlenecks in Siberia and secondary expansions in eastern Europe. Another branch, N2, forms two distinctive subclusters of STR haplotypes, Asian (N2-A) and European (N2-E), the latter now mostly distributed in Finno-Ugric and related populations. These phylogeographic patterns provide evidence consistent with male-mediated counter-clockwise late Pleistocene–Holocene migratory trajectories toward Northwestern Europe from an ancestral East Asian source of Paleolithic heritage. …
14 N2-individuals from Turkey, data from Cinnioglu et al6 (updated in this study), belong to the Asian subcluster N2-A, suggesting that the clade N2 might have geographically expanded from Siberia westward by at least two different flows: one northwest through the Volga-Ural region, giving rise to N2-E, probably mainly via the Finno-Ugric group, and the other, N2-A, southwest together with Turkic languages.”

Cyclopes (Encyclopaedia Mythica)

On the similarity between metallurgical traditions of extreme west-east ends of Eurasia, we may come to an understanding by tracing the early metallurgical centres to the taiga and forest-steppe zone to the north. An important network of contacts stretched from the Ural mountains to the Altai, giving rise to a common north-Eurasian metallurgical tradition at first based on the hollow casting of bronzes (and later iron – see  (See: Korya.Bronze). This was the ancestor to both of the Chinese bronze-casting tradition for ritual vessels of the Shang and Zhou periods, and of advanced types of hollow-cast weapons and tools (spearheads, axes) in northern Europe. Due to the spread of the kurgan civilization, the impact on Chinese technology was the incorporation of the steppe chariot-complex in the later Shang period (See: Shang period). Contacts between the western and eastern ends of Eurasia were thus established across the intervening region at the time of the Bronze Age civilizations in each area, and account for certain common features, despite the very different character of these societies.

 

The Comparative Lexicon for Metals

(Copper technology began in East Anatolia by 6500 BC with some researchers suggesting a possible origin in the Vinca Culture..)

Copper:

Sumerian KAxUD.BAR (or) UDxKA.BAR (or) SI.BAR … also URUDU
Latvian varš (pronounced “varsh”), dim. VARiņš… also Latvian RUDU- “copper colored”, RUDVARIS (var. RUDU VARA)
Lithuanian      varis viz. varias  
Old Prussian wargien  
Latvian svars “weight” *sa-VARS 
Akkadian    SIPARRU 
Hebrew      SEPER
Urdu/Hindi  Tanba

Gujerati      Tabu

Pali                Tamba

Tibetan      zangs

Southern Min  Tang

Hakka            Thung

Chinese        Tong

Japanese      Dou

Vietnamese  Đồng

Thai                ทองแดง thongdaeng

Iron

Latvian          Dzelzs

Lithuanian   Geležis

Altaic:

Azerbaijani Dəmir

Chuvash      Timĕr 

Kazakh         temir 

Khakas         Timîr

Kirgiz            Temir

Turkic           Demir 

Turkmen      Ütüklemek, Demir 

Uighur          tömür

Uzbek           Temir

Mongolian  tömör

Hakka           Thiet
Chinese        Tie / Tit
Southern Min Thih
Japanese     Tetsu
Korean         Ceol 
Thai               lek
Tibetan        lcags 
Gujerati (India) lokha’ḍa 
Tin lead
Turkish Kalay  Used in most of the Balkan as well as in the Altaic languages
Baltic  Alavas (Baltic)The Baltic Alavas is used in Eastern Slavic languages (Russian Олово). In Western Slavic languages this is the name for Lead.
Altaic

Azerbaijiani Qalay
Chuvash     Тăхлан [Tăhlan]
Kazakh       Къалайы [k"alajy]

Mongolian  Цагаан тугалга [cagaan tugalga]

Turkish       Kalay

Uighur قەلەي [qäläy]
Uzbek         Qalay
Europe:
Georgian     kala
Sino-Tibetan:
Hakka           Siak
Chinese        錫 [xi / sik]
Japanese スズ [suzu]
Korean      주석 [juseog]
Thai       ดีบุก [dībuk]
Vietnamese    Thiếc 
Gold
Germanic      Gold 
Bengali            Gold
Gujerati          Sonu
Latvian           Zelts 
Russian          Zoloto
Lithuanian    Auksos
Armenian      Oski
Khakas            altin
Uighur             altun
Uzbek              Oltin
Hakka                kim
Southern Min Kim
Japanese          kin
Chinese             金jin / gam
Korean              금geum
Source: Krogt; Salonen; Kassiteros at Eedle’s homepage.