Central Asian Mythology

What Do We Mean By Central Asia?

To what extent, then, can we speak of Central Asian mythology?

We can only do so carefully, concentrating on the themes that form at least the indication of a common mythology. The search for Central Asian mythology is made more complex by the fact that the peoples of the area have for a very long time been Muslim, and before that Buddhist and Zoroastrian, though some remain shamanistic in some sense. When we speak today of Central Asian mythology, we generally mean the pre-Buddhist and pre-Islamic mythology of an area (and a mythology) that has attracted less attention than, for instance, Japan and China, to say nothing of the cultures of Europe and the Middle East. There are no parthenons, no temples of Ise or Karnak, no Eddas to help us. Much of what we know of Central Asian mythology comes through stories passed down as folk legends and or spoken of by present-day shamans, whose tellings have in all likelihood been “corrupted” by the influences of the religions which, over the centuries, have replaced the older mythology.


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