The Heritage and Youth of Chingis Khan

Per Inge Oestmoen

There came into the world a blue-gray wolf
whose destiny was Heaven's will.
His wife was a fallow deer.
They travelled across the inland sea
and when they were camped near the source of the Onon River
in sight of Mount Burkhan Khaldun
their first son was born, named Batachikan.

The seventh generation after Batachikan was Kharchu.
Kharchu's son was named Borjigidai the Clever,
and Mongoljin the Fair was his wife.
Their grandsons were the two brothers,
Duua the one-eyed and Dobun the Clever.
In the middle of Duua's forehead there was one great eye.
With this eye Duua could see a place so far away
it could take three days to reach it.

Doubtlessly the placement of these verses in the opening paragraph of the Secret History betrays their great significance. Note the deep symbolism inherent in the fact that the wolf and deer are mates. This signifies a symbolic union between the masculine attributes represented by the wolf: strength, courage and outgoing power, and the qualities imparted by the feminine nature of the deer: Softness, fine sensitivity and intuition. This setup, however, is much more complex than might be revealed by a superficial look. It is however clear that the wolf is seen as the primary active force in the Mongolian ancestry. Further: An extraordinarily significant message of the utmost subtlety is given to us in this Mongolian creation myth: Even though the wolf and the deer are the factual and archetypal predator and prey respectively, they here mate with each other. This is a unequivocal message to the world that the complexity of the relations of Universe and their meanings are much greater than what is visible at the surfaces. Our notions on "good" and "evil" and other similar categories need revision.

The wolf, though it plays the masculine role in the union described above, has many distinctively feminine qualities, and in Siberian and Inner Asian Shamanistic belief it is believed to be an intrinsically feminine animal. Upon reflection, we also see that consistent with this, the wolf shares many qualities with the deer, the main difference is that in this canine child of the wilderness, the qualities that characterize an animal of prey have been developed to the utmost, an almost preternatural, degree. Since it is Universal Law that a predator is always more physically and mentally gifted than the animals on which it preys, it follows that the intrinsic symbolic meaning of the wolf's high endowments is that of awesome excellence. No animal has greater sensitivity or intuition than the wolf, and its ability to move and adapt itself to any circumstance is unsurpassed. The wolf's powers of discrimination and its unfailing ability to sense any weakness in the physical or psychological makeup of its prey is matchless in the world. In a split-second it can change from being carefree and playful to a frenzy of irresistible power. Its strength is great, but it is typically a shy animal. Its relentless stamina and its ability to endure pain is such that it is scarcely believable. True to its furtive, perceptive nature, for all its physical prowess it invariably moves forward more by using cleverness and stratagem than brute force. The wolf is an extraordinarily intelligent creature, cautious yet courageous, often viewed as cruel and brutal but this is wrong. The truth is that it knows neither mercy nor hatred, its soul has the unforgiving purity of a diamond. In the old saying, the eyes are the mirror of the soul. No one who has had an encounter with a wolf has ever forgotten its awe-inspiring eyes. Immediately, those eyes reveal the detached blankness of the supremely confident, an imperturbable calm devoid of any tension. In the next moment one senses the relaxed yet alert, uncannily penetrating quality of the spirit behind, and with venerating amazement one realizes that this perspicacious creature possesses a vigorous yet composed, unconquerable force that is incapable of being tamed or subdued. Its loftiness of character is unmistakable. A close look shows it as refined and with a high degree of togetherness, compassion and solidarity in its social behavior. Simultaneously, selection within the group is prominent, and the best individual wolves, the alpha individuals, exercise firm albeit always caring leadership. They alone are allowed to mate and reproduce, and represent a standard towards which the other wolves aspire. Thus, both cooperation and competitive selection can be seen to contribute to outstanding characteristics. Significantly, canis lupus possesses mental as well as physical qualities far above those of the domesticated dog canis familiaris. For that reason its existence serves as a perpetual reminder of the superior healthiness of a natural lifestyle wherein the organisms are constantly challenged by the environment into developing excellent qualities.

Originally the wolf does not belong to the steppe, it is a forest animal. In spite of its unequaled ability to adapt to different environments, its true home is the deep forests. It is spiritually and physically connected with the Taiga, with the Dark, Cold, Northern and Feminine Siberian forces from which the Mongols drew so heavily and effectively.

It should be understood that the deer is of no less importance than the wolf, the reddish-brown deer stands for the principles of Mother Earth, without which no fertilization, growth or birth of new things can take place. Those principles are receptive and less active, hence when it comes to active endeavor in history they do not command the same degree of attention as the male, active principle as represented by the wolf, and it is imperative to bear in mind that this does not imply any order of importance. Both principles are, according to the Old Mongol spiritual understanding, equally indispensable forces in Universe.


We saw that the union of these two "travelled across the inland sea." To understand this, we need to know a little about the geographical location of the setting of the Mongolian ancestral myth. The "inland sea" or Tenggis as it is called in the original language, is the Old Siberian and Mongolian name for the Bajkal Sea, the world's deepest lake, boasting unique qualities, in its depths live animals and plants not found anywhere else on Earth. When one travels across Lake Bajkal from Northern Siberia towards the East, one will reach the Onon some five hundred kilometers to the east of this sea. When the wolf and the deer are depicted as passing across the sea, a sea journey is described. A journey is always a symbol of transcendence and expansion of consciousness, all the more so when it takes place over this most fluctuating, changeable, life-giving element. Watery qualities are given consistent emphasis. This is strengthened because their destination was the river Onon. Here we must notice that it is the source of the water that was sought. Going to the source implies an added emphasis. Moreover, a source constitutes a real as well as a symbolic matrix, a place from where things are born. These symbolic images further illustrate the essential position of feminine qualities in the spiritual universe of the Mongols. We are told that the qualities of water are of the utmost importance for this people. Water, as already mentioned, stands for feminine principles, fertility, renewal and birth. At thesame time, it possesses invincible destructive and transforming powers; water has the ability to dissolve and destroy virtually everything, hence it is also the supreme obliterator. The depth of water is universally symbolic of the deepest and most hidden secrets of existence itself. Unquestionably the symbolic and factual presence of the deep, inscrutable and mystic Lake Bajkal together with a total closeness to Nature that is the privilegium of natural people gave the Mongols a natural longing for and accompanying capability towards seeking the hidden and underlying forces of existence and Universe.

Thereafter Mount Burkhan Khaldun is introduced. The mountain is part of female Earth, but because it stretches itself to Heaven, it becomes a male aspect of the Earth, thus it represents highly masculine qualities: striving to reach high levels, the mountain is a prime symbol of the ultimate of endeavor, of the highest possible achievements. The Mountain with its lofty summit and difficulty of access is a symbol of the ultimate of attainment, archetypally it signifies the search for excellence within each and everyone of us. Its place in the Mongolian ancestral myth as a place where the first offspring of the wolf and the deer was born is indicative of a strong predisposition towards high endeavor and great achievements, something that found its culmination and confirmation in the work of Chingis Khan.


All this means that the Mongols possessed a spiritual treasury wherein was contained the insight in the need for joining the qualities of the feminine and of the masculine, or to put it in another terminology: Yin and Yang. The mystical qualities of water must have served as a source of inspiration for this people, teaching them about the endurance, softness, adaptability and resultant forcefulness and if need be, mercilessness, of the feminine principles. Nevertheless they also developed a strong masculine element, illustrated not only in their worship of mountains, but also shown by their reverence for Eternal Blue Heaven. (Mongolian: Koeke Moengke Tengri, the foremost of the spirits of Heaven) Heaven/air is by nature masculine, and in Mongolian spiritual belief, its ruling spirits are the masculine Tengri, as opposed to the other elements, that are all ruled by feminine spirits, called Etugen. Here we have another old symbolism. The masculine Heaven acts upon the feminine Earth, and initiates fruitful action and change.

Simultaneously the Mongols kept the feminine side of their spiritual consciousness, stemming from the period when their forebears lived in the forests of Siberia. The Mongolian ancestral myth is, like any myth, an intriguing blend of symbolism and actual historic fact. Since these passages are placed on the opening lines of the secret history of the Mongols, constituting the story of their creation, it reveals much about their spiritual foundation, and indeed of the spiritual foundations of Chingis Khan. These lines are a clue to the riddle of how the Mongols, this small people, could achieve what is normally deemed impossible. We are given an overview of the essence of their function in the world, their intuitive wisdom and knowledge of the guiding principles behind Universe itself. At the root of all this lies the awareness that the feminine and masculine principles and forces have to be united to fulfill their spiritual and practical potentials. In the case of the Mongols, this is seen most clearly: The essential feminine qualities, stemming from the dark, cold Siberian element of their origins, gave them their extraordinary intuitive insight, adaptability and endurance. On the other hand, without masculine energies and principles, corresponding to the Southern, Turkic steppe element, it would not have been feasible to initiate their political action in the world, because this initiatory action is a main function of the developed masculine principle.


Now a basis for discussion may be put forward: A crucial shift of spiritual emphasis took place, when the Mongols and other Inner Asian peoples gradually changed from mostly worshipping essentially female Earth and forest spirits/deitiesinto becoming worshippers of the Tengri, that is masculine Air and Sky spirits, and this coincided with the development of aggressive energy and expansionist policies. This is of course a tendency that can be traced long back, one only need to recall the Huns' activities between 210 BC and 453 AD to get a general idea of the mechanism's manifestations. It is the spiritual aspect of this complex development that is handed down to us through the Mongolian ancestral myth. The Siberian element travels over the Bajkal, a transformation takes place, illustrated by the first Mongol, Batachikan, being born under the auspices of Burkhan Khaldun, thus representing the new, masculine principles while still also carrying the old, since Siberia remained the primordial source from where all began. Subsequent history was to provide superabundant attestation of how powerful a combination this is.

The account above is also demonstrated by the historical facts. In early Mongol history, that is before Chingis Khan's time, the tribes were basically divided into two main groups. These were:

1. The Northern peoples of the forest, who inhabited the Taiga region, encompassing Siberia and its great rivers Yenisei, Irtysh and Lena down to and including the area around Lake Bajkal.

2. The pastoral nomads of the steppe/grassland, whose domain was precisely the area south of Lake Bajkal, that is the entire land between the westernmost part of the Altai range and lake Buir Nur at the Chinese border in the Southeast.


The first group of people, the forest tribes of Siberia, corresponds to the Siberian wolf and deer before the travelling across the sacred Bajkal, the second group, the pastoralists, live in the area where the wolf and the deer arrived; thus this people represents the transcendence and development signified by that crossing.

Thus we see a geopolitical illustration of the spiritual principles described before. These two main groups of Mongolian people represented respectively the feminine Siberian forest, and the masculine steppe element. It was the work of the genius of Chingis Khan to combine these two worlds, so as to harness the full power of that unification. The further connection with the world of science and learning, which Chingis also wanted to incorporate into his political ideal, would come later, with his campaigns in China and acquisition of Yeh-lu Chu'tsai as his shaman and most important counselor.

Another noteworthy detail is Duua the one-eyed, who was equipped with a great eye in the middle of his forehead. This is the third eye, also known as the third eye of Shiva and Buddha, (In Sanskrit: Urna.) because these were said to possess a third eye and the qualities that go with it. Not that the Mongols were Hindus or Buddhists, this parallelism reflects a shared collective unconscious within Asian cultures. It is stated that Duua was "one-eyed." Probably this is a literary effect, included to emphasize the predominance of the qualities of the Third Eye as a spiritual possession of the Mongols. The third eye manifests itself on sculptures of Shiva as a bony, almond-shaped appearance protruding exactly in the middle of the forehead. It symbolizes unity, balance, an ability to perceive phenomena in their whole, freedom from contradictions and splittings, the capability of looking beyond the present existence and instead see everything from the viewpoint of eternity, and in general all forms of transcendent knowledge. It is believed among spiritually minded people that a full development of our third eye corresponds to a state of universal consciousness that can lead Man to the highest state of Being which can be manifested in human form.

When the Third Eye is described as a component in the ancestry of the Mongols it tells us that the awareness of the necessity of, and the concomitant ability, to see everything from the viewpoint of Eternity is part of the heritage of the Mongols and of Chingis Khan.