2019, Volume 16, Issue 1

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Nadezhda R. Oinotkinova
Institute of Philology of the Siberian Branch of the RAS
Novosibirsk, Russia

On the Origin of Some Theonyms of the Shaman Pantheon of the Altaians

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 200–212 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.1.011

Received 13 January 2018

Abstract: The paper gives a first look on theonyms, or proper names of deities, representing the shaman pantheon of the Altaians, figuratively called the “iron-head black guys”: Temir-kaan, Kömurkaan, Köö-kaan, Kerey-khaan, Padysh-Kerey, Piy Maatyr (Bai Maatyr). Understanding their origin, features, and functions is imperative to produce the most concise and informative interpretation of the name of a deity to be included into its definition in ethnolinguistic or linguisticcultural dictionaries. The research builds on the material of shamanic texts of the T urkic ethnic groups of Southern Siberia both published and retrieved from the archives. Studying the genesis of these proper names, the author identifies two major extralinguistic factors: the mythologizing of natural objects and the mythologizing of historical personalities. The inner form of theonyms Temir-khaan (from temir ‘iron, made of iron’, khaan ‘khan’), Kömur-kaan (from komÿr ‘coal, made of coal’), and Köö-kaan (from köö ‘soot’) suggests the reference to the underground world (‘dark, black,’ ‘strong, iron’), which appeared as a result of onymization. The name’s meaning here is quite transparent and retains a motivational link to the generic appellatives. This naming pattern also echoes some peculiar features of the archaic culture, like deification of metal and iron, which were mostly used for making various tools, labor equipment, and armor. The motif of a hero born from iron, steel or stone illustrates the convergence between the images of the deities of the underworld found in shamanic texts of the Altaians and other epic traditions and mythologies. Some other theonyms appeared due to the deification of historical figures, the Khans, who played an important role in the history of the Turkic peoples. Thus, the theonyms Kerey-kaan, Temir-kaan, Piy Maatyr could well arise as a result of transonymization, i.e. moving from the category of personal names to the category of theonyms.

Keywords: onomastics, theonyms, mythonyms, shaman pantheon of Altaians, shamanism


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