Myth and History

20 12 2006

There are numerous historical and mythical stories about the mountains being associated with ‘white’, while the sea and low waters are linked with ‘black’.  Triglav is a fine example of pristine white, and to the East of my chosen land is the
Black Sea; but the karst is also a run from the white to the black.  Thought time and culture, white and black have been used to indicate a separation of thoughts – antipodes in contemplation of any type.  It has only been linked with Western concepts of ‘good-evil’ since the 17th century – and any reading of myth and ancient history should not use that overlay. In the Trebusca-Duuran system of divination (of which I shall write a book), the Caster Calls (painted ends of small sticks) is not used, as this would represent “absolute spirit with absolute power” – impossible for any human to handle.  We need only look to myth for the reason why. 

NIGHT MESSENGERS These thoughts relate to persons and events of mostly Turkic origin, but with involvement and acknowledgment of the Alan, Mongols, Chinese, Persian, Scythian and Thracian references.  I will pretend that all of these have a common legend source.  The earliest reference is about 5000 BCE.  The latest in the 11th century when the Marmaluk Sultan decreed, “the white and black need not ride together.”  Many scholars feel this reference is to the ‘Yin-Yang’ dichotomy.  I know better. 

The name of the people/event can be translated as “Night Messengers,” “Night Riders,” “Shadow Hawks,” “Dark Wind,” etc.  I used to use ‘NightRiders’, but this has unfortunate connotations of racist American history and ancient Chinese societies.  I once invented the name ‘Shadus’ for another purpose – I will use that. As noted earlier, documentation is virtually impossible as the Shadus were ‘invisible’ within the cultures directly related – nomadic Turkic clans/principalities.  These people rapidly adapted to local environments and survival exigencies with attendant ‘aculturalization’.  However, these clans had a need for communication and were bonded by a common language and spirituality (not religion).  The uniqueness of the structure of the Turkish language allowed/required a continuous return to base concepts and ‘purity’ of stories.  Additionally, nomadic people had enough problems warring with new cultures without fighting amongst themselves.  What evolved was a system of communication between the “princes” that was protected from any local squabbles or power plays.  These messengers were the Shadus, and they form an ideal convergence of need and function that is unique in history (my limited view). 

On the surface, the Shadus was a team of two riders.  One was the ‘ultimate warrior’ – invincible in battle.  The other was of the Güslerindeniçi – seers/wizards/shaman/priest.  Thus they represented both physical and spiritual power and, by agreement, untouchable by either military or religious forces.  They represented ultimate power and authority – a terrifying thing.  This ‘threat’ was rendered impotent by decree and custom that they could not interact with common people – not in speech, food, drink or touch.  They were culturally ‘invisible’.  Whether they rode only at night is debatable – but they were cloaked in darkness and were never seen nor referenced by any Turkic accounts.  However, other cultures like the Alan did speak of them.  One story relates that it had been 1500 years since an Alani had stopped a ‘dark-flyer of the Türqüsi on their divine horse with one head white the other black’.  The implication is that these ‘most fierce warriors in history’ would allow the Shadus to pass. Now the good stuff.  The reason for the Shadus’ power and effectiveness is founded in a puzzle.  It is known that they rode two horses, one white and one black.  Each was dressed completely in white and black with veiled hoods.  Each had crossed silk scarves across their chests in opposing color.  It is not clear which person rode which horse.  It is legend that it was never known which was the warrior, and which the shaman.  Thus how could you challenge them?  What man would risk his spirit or his might in making the wrong choice? 

In post-medieval times we have come to equate white with good and black with evil.  This was not so then.  Black often represented honor, valor and strength; while white stood for purity, chastity, etc. – but this distinction was not ‘religious’.  Consider that for any problem you can call on (or challenge) ultimate power in either physical or spiritual form – but that if you choose the wrong one, it is death (physical or spiritual).  Standing in front of you are two champions – but you have no way of knowing which is which – and they are inseparable.  You may choose to ‘not see them’ either.  Thus is the myth of the Shadus. Now, I will play ‘fast and loose’ with possible extensions of this myth (but they were real).  Consider: 

  • The ‘Yin-Yang’ depiction and represented dichotomy may derive from the Shadus
  • The Zarathustran construction of ‘duality’ that is now part of most modern theistic religions is based on the Shadus.
  • The use of the cross to symbolize sanctuary and protection is derived from the Shadus.  Indeed, Turkic clan members voted by crossing their arms before their faces – fists turned inward in negation or defiance; outward open palms for agreement.  Thus, the ‘open hand’ as a sigh of friendship (no weapon), and the modern handshake all could relate.  The Egyptian representation of ‘ka’ is two open, extended arms (life-force).  When the right arm is crossed against the chest it is a sign of physical support (also Roman).  When the left arm is crossed over it is a sign of piety, normally with bowed head.  To perform both actions together is a sign of fielty – complete commitment.  An acknowledgment of the Shadus.
  • The Gusari were a medieval extension of this myth to the extent they were used as couriers by European princes.  They owed allegiance to no man and embraced all religious practices, and were considered exempt from local laws.  They were often ex-knights and were hired as trainers of martial arts.  To announce their coming they sent forth a medallion of a white falcon on a black background; or a black trizub on a white background.
  • In medieval
    Turkey, performing magicians (safic) were not allowed to do anything resembling ‘arcane magic’ (mystical/occult).  Only the ‘seeing ones’ could do this, and they could not use ‘tricks’ to enhance their work.  The safic performed on patterned black and white rugs – the ‘seeing ones’ (Güslerindeniçi) carry a string of black and white beads.

I am sure you each can provide additional extensions.  Some of this may be ‘reverse engineering’, yet … 

Mongolian Shamans were depicted as dressed in white on a white horse, while the eversought ‘center tree’ was starkly black. The black and white tail feathers of raptors are always the most prized. 

Medieval knights in vigil wore only black and white, with a red sash to represent the blood of Christ (left to right) – in giving oath their sword was crossed right to left. I am going to suggest that ALL of our use of black and white symbolism, and that of the cross, originate from a single source that took visible, active form for more than 6000 years in the rides of the Shadus. 

or so it blends in the Valley of Whispers

The Duuran




2 responses

20 12 2006

Really fascinating reading, as always on these subjects.

26 12 2006
Heather Blakey

This is absorbing Ken. It is so good to see material like this being presented here, material that reinstates unique cultural differences that have been lost as the world has become a global village.

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