Hunno-Bulgar Religion and Spirituality
The Spirituality of the Hunno-Bulgars was one of Altaic Shamanism which many Ancient Turkic Nomadic horsemen peoples were using ca. 350 - 860 AD. in the vicinity of the Black Sea, Pannonian Steppes, and areas north of the Caucasus Mountains. The Khazars used this form of spirituality frequently as well and the Hunno-Bulgars may have borrowed this from them or from earlier ancestors the Khazars and the Hunno-Bulgars had in common. The term 'Altaic' is used because of the original source of this form of shamanism being from the Altai Mountains. The main deity worshipped by the Hunno-Bulgars was Tangra who was revered above all else and was seen to dwell within the skies above the steppes. The Hunno-Bulgars also believed in many other spirits which proceeded from Tangra. The first of these is Obouzgan , which is a sacred heavenly bull of Tangra's. The significance of Obouzgan in terms of what he did is unknown. Obouzgan however is likely to have fallen into larger class of venerated animal spirits or totems called, Ongunar or simply Ongun if it is used in the singular form. The Ongunar represented different essences that the given animal spirits had through examples of story and song that were taught to the Bulgars by the eldest in a tribe. These stories and songs were also told by the Shaman of the tribe in great detail in that they were used as a source of amusement, but on the other hand told a person of the natural order of life around them on the steppes. This type of spirituality was very important to the Bulgars and while few were so fanatical as to walk about mumbling prayers all day, the vast majority were very much linked to what was taught through the Ongunar.
There are other dimensions to the Hunno-Bulgar framework of spirituality. The next was ancestor worship amongst the Bulgars as seen through the example of "Chur-Menia !" which is a prayer to one's forefathers asking them for help in battle. While Hunno-Bulgars did not actually worship their dead like deities, they revered them in a higher way than the living. Prominent spirits of long dead leaders were a favorite amongst the Bulgars such as Kana Subigi Attila, Kana Subigi Ernak, Kana Subigi Kubrat, Kana Subigi Krum, or Kana Subigi Omurtag, to call up before a fight was at hand.
Also seen amongst the Hunno-Bulgars, was their belief that divinity was present in the natural forces around them such as the rocks, the wind, the fire in front of their campsite, the rivers and streams. All had their own spirits that made them unique from one another. These spirits were divided further into male and female spirits which was decided on whether the spirit came from the domains of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, or Spirit. Not unlike the system of Mongolian Shamanism, one had probably male spirits, or Tengri which inhabited the Air and the Spirit. Between these, you had three groupings of female spirits, or Etugen which inhabited the Earth, Fire, and Water. Sacrifices were made to these natural forces on a sometimes daily basis (no less than within the lunar cycle) which consisted of Airag (fermented mare's milk), dried horse flesh, hand-made gifts, or blood which were delivered in a number of different ways. One could pour an offering upon the ground or into the fire, or throw it into a river. More complicated ways of delivery of sacrifice to the Etugen and the Tengri, would be burial or burning something first and then handing the ashes of the offering into the wind. It all had to do with the intent of the sacrifice.
Old Friends of The Kutriguri
Amongst the Sarmatian peoples which helped give rise to the Bulgars was worshipped a deity named, Senmerv. It is possible, that the Bulgars may have worshipped her as well. She was depicted as a large, winged, dog-like creature with the heads of both a bird and a dog. She was a fertility and mother goddess, and Guardian of the Tree of All Seeds. She like the Etugen of the Earth, serves as a foundation and a protector.
Also, favored by the Bulgars were the deities, Shar, San, Hya, Bya, Uo, Khe, and Non which were representative of the retrograde stars and celestial bodies in the sky. Those correspond to the Sun, the Moon, the planet Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and finally Venus which appear on the famous bronze rosette found in Pliska. This pantheon of Gods/Goddesses however played a lesser role to Tangra, or Tangran, or Edfu (who was considered the King of the deities). Edfu was called that by one Arab historian visiting the Bulgars in 850AD, El-Balhi, and it meant the Creator, "Radiant" or "Shining One" similar to the way God is called 'the Almighty' or Father. The visiting historian also noted that the Bulgars called one of the idols, Fa, but what Fa represented is a mystery.
Amongst the Huns and the Khazars to the East of the Bulgars Arklig, Yir, Sub, and Umay. Arklig personified strength in combat, authority during warfare, and prowess on the field of battle. Yir and Sub were seen as twin gods who held sway over the earth and water. In many contexts, these twins were spoken almost in a singular identity, Yir-Sub. Finally, Umay was seen a female goddess of fertility, whose name comes from the word 'placenta'. She was a very potent deity as wealth in a semi-nomadic society was dependent on how fertile one's herds were.
Amongst the Slavic peoples which surrounded the Hunno-Bulgars, was worshipped the deity, Perun. In the Slavic mindset, Perun was the head of all the deities, but not to the Bulgars who considered Tangra as the one, strongest of dieties. Nevertheless, its important to talk about Perun since the Slavs were intereacted with on a daily basis. Perun is sometimes depicted in idols and sometimes not as per the local custom of the Slaveni or Antic peoples.