Animal and Shaman

Ancient Religions of Central Asia

216 pages

October, 2012

ISBN: 9780814771655



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Julian Baldick was Reader in the Study of Religions at King’s College, London. He is the author of Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism, among other titles.

All books by Julian Baldick

Animal and Shaman presents a comparative survey of the ancient customs and religions of Central Asia. The Pre-Christian and Pre-Muslim peoples of the region, such as the Huns, Scythians, Turks, Mongols, Manchus, Finns and Hungarians, shared a number of traditions and rituals. Characteristics observed by anthropologists today may be traced directly back to an ancient past.

In ancient times there were remarkable commonalities in the forms of worship and spiritual expression among the different peoples of Inner Eurasia, all largely based on the role of animals in their lives. The harsh physical climate of the region led to an emphasis on hunting and animals, in contrast to the fertility rites common in more agriculturally hospitable areas. These characteristics have survived not only in the legends of the region, but have also found their way into the mythologies of the West. Baldick proposes that the myths, rituals, and epics of Central Asia served as possible foundations for such great works at the Odyssey, the Gospels, and Beowulf, which seem to have precursors in Iranian and Inner Eurasian tales.


  • "A wide-ranging, comparative study which draws on archaeological, literary, and ethnographic sources from the first millennium BCE to the present to discern common features in the ancient customs and native religions of Inner Eurasia."

    —Ken Teague in Asian Affairs