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Yryn-ai-tojon


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East Asia

Literal meaning: ‘white creator lord’. According to the Yakuts, who dwell along the Lena River in Siberia, Yryn-ai-tojon was the supreme being, whose tethering-post was the pillar of the world, a gigantic tree. From the top of a mighty hill, in the ‘navel’ of the world, the cosmic tree towered upwards, its branches overreaching the seven floors of heaven, while beneath the earth its roots reached down into the subterranean abysses, where they formed the pillars of the houses of the earth spirits. The bark of the tree never cracked, nor did its luxuriant leaves ever wilt.

At the beginning Yryn-ai-tojon was moving above the primordial ocean when he noticed a bladder floating on the waters. In reply to his inquiry, the bladder announced it was the spirit of evil, the inhabitant of the ground hidden under the water. Then said Yryn-ai-tojon: ‘If there really is earth beneath the ocean, hasten and bring me a piece of it.’ The evil spirit left the bladder, dived, and returned with a handful of earth, which the white creator lord blessed, placed upon the ocean's surface, and seated himself on it. When the evil one tried to drown Yryn-ai-tojon by stretching out the land, he was amazed to discover that the more he stretched, the stronger it grew, so that at last there existed a whole continent.

The co-operation of good and evil in this myth about the formation of the world is by no means unique in Siberia or Mongolia. It is not, however, a creation myth, since the Yakuts believed ‘the universe has always been’. Another version of the story relates that the earth dropped or was let down from heaven. The Kirghis tribes, scattered over a wide area to the west of the Irtish River, held the view that originally there was no water at all. The primeval ox made the lakes and rivers by digging the ground with its horns. The water motif also finds expression in a legend of the Buriats, whose home is the shores of Lake Baikal. Powerful Ulgan, another name for Yryn-ai-tojon, created the land on the water, and placed under the earth disc, in order to support it, three great fishes. Hence, the occurrence of earthquakes was explained as the movement of a fish.

Subjects: Religion.


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