Bashkir Legends about the Earth, heavenly bodies and natural phenomena
Folk-tales and legends are of not only informative but also aesthetic value. Their realistic significance is in their historicism and world outlook reflected in them.
The world outlook as reflected in Bashkort legends is represented by mythological plots where the traces of totemic, animistic and demonological beliefs of ancient people found their expression.
The elements of totemic beliefs, the cult of animals and birds are most clearly revealed in ethnogenetic, ethnonymic legends of mythological character.
In syncretic unity with totemic views animistic beliefs were evolving, the origin and development of which were stipulated by living conditions of ancient people, their mentality, historical, cultural and religious factors.
The traces of animistic beliefs come to the fore in cosmogonic legends. The plots about heavenly bodies and natural phenomena make the basis of such legends. They retained the features of very ancient mythological beliefs of their links with animals and earthly people. Thus, according to legends, spots on the moon are roes and a wolf constantly chasing them (according to other versions Ц a girl with a yoke); the constellation of the Great Bear are seven beautiful girls, who got scared on seeing the king of davs (monsters Ц F.N.), jumped to the top of the mountain and found themselves in heaven; or seven wolves (СTwo Wolves in HeavenТ, СThe Moon and ZekhraТ, СSeven Stars Ц Seven GirlsТ); the North Star is an iron rod, and two neighbouring to the Great Bear stars are two horses tied to the iron rod. But the wolves cannot catch the horses because at dawn the horses as well as the wolves must disappear. Similar beliefs are typical of many Turkic-Mongol peoples. G. N. Potanin noted that the basis for emergence of such myths in part are observations of the visible trajectories of planets and stars in the sky, as if trying to reach each other like a hunter1 . Along with it one can observe in this motifs peculiar reflections of views of cattle-breeding peoples including Bashkorts.
Typical of cosmogonic legends is anthropomorphic treatment of images of heavenly bodies. In some legends the Moon personifies a male gender, in other ones Ц a female one. Twofold character has the Sun.
Of archaic character is a mythological legend about two Suns in the sky and a marksman Ural-batyr, who brings cosmic space to order (СHow the Moon and the Urals Came into BeingТ). Though there are later additions, the mythologem and some details of the plot bear resemblance to ancient Asian myths (legends of marksmen E, Khado, Oadzymy) and myths of North Indians (the tale of Coyote2 ).
The mentality of ancient man finds reflection in legends, explaining the origin of natural objects, the shapes of landscape.
During folklore expeditions there were recorded fragments of Bashkort cosmogonic legends that the Earth stands on a huge bull or a big pike (or just a fish) and movements of this bull cause earthquakes3 .
Other Turkic peoples have similar legends (Kazakhs, Kirghizes)4 . Mongols identified the Earth with a bull5 . The Udmurt legend СA Bull in the GroundТ where earthquakes are explained by movements of a mythical animal has much in common with the Bashkort legend6 . The traces of worshipping a pike (legends of Kokshag king Ц a pike with a crown) are recorded among the Mari people7 . The appearance of such legends was conditioned by ancient imaginative thinking connected with labour activities of people of the epoch of tribal order.
Several samples of cosmogonic legends are published below.