For day nine of our mini marathon, we are going to inspect a God/Deity that hails from multiple religions and is very hard to find. Erlik can be encountered in Turkic mythology (prior to the rise of Islam), Siberian mythology, and Mongolian Mythology. Basically he can be seen in any of the cultures between Russia and China, or at least that general area. Sadly, he will be the second malevolent death being who deserves to be unappreciated much like our Mayan friend (Ah Puch).
So let us begin from the very start. I want to be able to say everything I know about Erlik, since this is a difficult religion to research, but I need to be able to do this with any reader being able to understand. I doubt most of us have any prior knowledge, but I will try and not over explain unnecessary parts so that those can be their own posts in the future. This East Asian Mythology is very heavily founded on shaman and their mystical abilities to reach the gods. I just want to point that out because their position (against/with to certain gods) is very important.
Ulgan was the second highest entity in the Turkic mythology. He represented Goodness, Abundance, Nature, and Water. He created the Earth and the Heavens and was the patron god of Shamans. Ulgan was more omnipotent then most of the previously mentioned beings, more akin to the Christian God then to the Greek Zeus. Anyways, Erlik was the very first man to be created by Ulgan. One day with the creation of the Earth complete, Ulgan saw a peiec of mud floating in the water that seemed to have human features. So he gave a soul to the mud, and sculpted a body creating Erlik. After assisting Ulgan to create humanity, he turned against him and revolted. Ulgan banished Erlik, for trying to gain more power, to the ninth layer of the Earth where Erlik became God of the Underworld. (Interesting note, Erlik was made of mud. Second interesting note, though this has many similar counter parts to the Christian religion, Erlik was not meant to be a more godly being as he was the first man. This is not unlike Satan who was an angel).
The myth of Erlik’s “revolt” was not as evil and war-like as Satan’s. In the East Asian mythology, Ulgan creates the earth by having mankind slowly bring soil from the ocean’s depths and piling it on the ocean’s surface. As man and gods were creating the land, Erlik stole a piece of land and hid it in his mouth, but it began to grow. Erlik almost choked to death, and spit out the land. This created marshlands/swamps and revealed the plan to Ulgan.
What kind of confuses me is that shamans describe Erlik as a pig face on a man’s body, but Erlik is also said to be the first man so surely he looked like man. I think over time, his evil led to an evolution of the description of his facial characteristics. I mean surely we see this in other stories. Lucifer was an angel who most likely looked like other descriptions of angels (some of which are horrifying but that is for another post), but he changed slowly into our modern being with horns, goat feet, and a tail. In other depictions of Erlik’s appearance, Erlik was shown as bearded older man with thick eyebrows and a mustache, but his body was extremely well-built and ripped.
Erlik has nine daughters and nine sons. His daughter are known as the Dark/Black Girls. They help their father by tempting the shamans with their beauty, so then the shaman can not gain the grace of Ulgan. Erlik also have evil spirits assistants that bring misfortune, disease, ailment, and death to mankind and bring the souls of sinners to the underworld (psychopomps). His nine sons are the God of Darkness, God of Chaos, God of Evil, God of Disaster, God of Defeat, God of Informants (he knows all deeds done by man and can find the wicked), God of Conflict, God of Mining, and God of Bravery. Two of the these Gods do not follow their fathers evil foot steps, mining and courage are good things in society.
As the God of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead, Erlik is the teacher of sin. He desired sacrifices (probably because he wanted recognition of his power), and if no one gave him those sacrifices, he would go to the graveyards of loved ones and steal the body so as to enslave them. People sacrificed to him out of fear. He also comes to Earth to tempt souls so that he may find those that can be corrupted and drag them to the Underworld.
After Erlik, Ulgan created many more men. Yet, his eighth man, Maidere, was the savior/messenger-god that would come to Earth and teach mankind about sins. When Maidere came to Earth, Erlik killed him which ended the chance for mankind to know the truth. This is why the shamans, who can reach the gods and learn the truth, are so prominent.
In one myth, Maidere made woman out of earth, but he could not give her a soul. So he left to ask Ulgan to give her life, and while he was gone, a dog was left to guard her. Erlik came to earth and bribed the dog with food. The dog let him see the empty doll, and Erlik played seven notes on his flute in her ear. When Maidere came back, he found that woman had a soul, but that she had horrible temperment and was easily corrupted. For the dog’s treason, Maidere punished the entire species to be inferior and mistreated by man. (Now I have two personal problems with this tale. One: it paints women as being inherently bad. Two: It gives an excuse for animal mistreatment. But these are personal problems).
There is a second version of this story. In this tale, Maidere is creating mankind. He leaves, just like before, to get some souls, and just like before, he leaves the dog to guard. When Erlik bribes the dog, he does so with golden hair. He visits the unifinshed person and spits on their body. Maidere returns to find that his creation was ruined. Instead of remaking it or trying again, he does the only sensible thing (at least maybe to a procrastinating high schooler) and turns them inside out. This is why man has liquids in his body.
What I have yet to figure out is whether or not all souls go to his underworld or if the heavens are not just for the pantheon of gods.
I hope that was enjoyable. Read more on Erlik and see a gross picture of him here; http://www.goddesses-and-gods.blogspot.com/2010/01/erlik.html
Sorry no picture. It is hard to find one of him, and he is really ugly. If you really want to see one, check out the link at the bottom.