2021, Volume 18, Issue 3

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Bair S. Dugarov
Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies
of the Siberian Branch of the RAS
Ulan-Ude, Russia

Theophoric Names in the “Heavenly” Prologue of the Buryat Epic Cycle Geseriada

Voprosy onomastiki, 2021, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp. 110–122 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2021.18.3.036

Received on 28 January 2021

Abstract: Amongst other epic interpretations of religious mythology, the famous poems of Homer and Hesiod certainly rank the highest. Hesiod’s Theogony can be considered the most complete and consistent source on the history and genealogy of the Greek gods, as well as the theophoric naming tradition related to the Olympic pantheon. Typologically, the same can be said about the Buryat epic cycle Geseriada which has a detailed prologue in each of its variants, describing the world of the higher deities of Buryat mythology or Tengris (from the Turkic-Mongolian Tengri ‘heaven, celestial’) in connection with the main character’s heavenly genesis. It brings to our attention the names of the celestials as such, totaling to a symbolic sacred number of 99 deities, of which (according to the dualistic principle) 55 are western gods, 44 are eastern ones. This paper gives the first look on the most characteristic theonyms within the pantheon, reflecting its uranic backbone and structure and also communicating the essence of this deity through its meaning and etymology. For example, the names suggest the importance of the large clan if the thunderstorm tengris, led by Huhedei Mergen ‘Heavenly Shooter,’ whose name reflects the status of the Thunderer. It should be noted that many epithets of Tengris have later evolved into separate name variants. In this vein, the epithets altan ‘golden,’ shara ‘yellow,’ dulete ‘fiery’ indicate their belonging to the class of solar deities. The most archaic layer of names associates with the eastern gods of matriarchal origin, attributed to the celestials of the older generation. There are also Turkic names in the pantheon, most likely, dating back to the ancient times of the Turkic-Mongolian ethnolinguistic community.

Keywords: theonyms; prologue of Geseriada; mythological pantheon; Buryat mythology; cult of heaven; tengri; sacred tradition.


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