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Erlik

by Dr Anthony E. Smart
The Siberian spirit of evil. The Altaic Tartars speak of his birth thus: once Ulgan saw a piece of mud with human features floating on the ocean. The high god gave a spirit to it, and named the creature Erlik. But the friendship of Ulgan and Erlik did not last long, for the pride of the latter obliged his banishment to the depths, where he became the lord of the dead. Erlik claimed the dead as his own, leaving the living to Ulgan. When the creator commanded the first man to bring up a piece of earth from the depths of the primeval ocean, Erlik hid a piece in his mouth, hoping to create a world of his own. When it started to expand though, like the piece Ulgan threw on the surface of the water, the evil spirit was almost choked. Seeing Erlik's plan, Ulgan commanded him to spit out the earth, which he did: it became marshlands.

The Altaic Tartars ascribe the creation of man to Erlik, relating how, when a demiurge had created the first human beings, he found it impossible to give them a life-giving soul. He therefore ascended to seek the help of Kudai, the supreme god, and while he was gone he left a naked dog watching over his creation. Erlik approached the dog and offered to give it a coat of golden hair in return for the 'soulless ones'. The dog agreed, and Erlik spat on the half-finished humans, then left. When the demiurge returned with the souls and saw what Erlik had done, he turned the bodies inside out, and this is why we have spittle in our intestines.

Erlik also killed the messenger Maidere of the god and taught the people the ways of sin. He often assumes the shape of a bear.


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