The Altaic Creation Story
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The Altaic Creation Story

Adapted by Gene Doty from the prose translation by Gülten Yener

Copyright 2001 by Gene Doty and Gülten Yener


"Umay Goddess."
By the contemporary Turkish artist, Can Göknil. Used by permission of and copyright by Can Göknil.
  1. Endless Water
  2. God Need Not Fear
  3. Ak-ana Emerges
  4. Loneliness Flees

Endless Water

Now there is no earth,
there s only water, only endless water
clear to the four corners of nothing.
If Snake drank this water,
Death would fall from him;
if Scorpion, dead, drank it,
he would live again, rise
in a spatter of light.

The water shakes with the silence
of unknown sounds,
sounds that haven't yet been heard.
All this endless, all this useless water!
The Snake that drank would be deathless--
but there is yet no Snake, no Scorpion.

Within this brightness,
within this blankness,
is only God Kara-han,
the Gander flying lonely, [1]
flying lonely above the water.

Above the waters, twisting mist
scented with colors not yet seen,
God Kara-han flies white and lonely;
No sound yet nor breath
but the eternal flutter
of the Gander's flight, the ham-sa,
ham-sa of his beating wings.

The empty, lonely, quaking waters
became a mist, a mist that entered,
thin and warm, the Gander s heart;
the Gander's wings drove him on--
will Time come to free him from flight?

Nothing.
No song.
No love.
Deadly chains, loose and broken,
rings in the water,
rings of disorder.
Will Space come to free the Gander,
to free God Kara-han from watery chaos?

Endless rings of ringing water
spread then to Time,
Time whose mouth is a blood-soaked rose.
God Kara-han,
godly Gander, flew in fear
of the unknown depths,
of unseen drunken, unseen enchanted,
unseen things in the lonely water.

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God Need Not Fear

The godly Gander flew without stop,
flew without rest, flew without clinging
to any place;
flying so,
flying without love, without trust,
God Kara-han trembled
in his godly flight,
and his trembling churned, it shook, the water,
the water flared, then folded darkly,
the water swelled and flowed to the pace
of God Kara-han's flight:
"I am God,
I need not tremble.
I am God,
I shall not fear."

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Ak-ana Emerges

Yet the water did not calm,
it stirred within itself,
the water within the waters
moved and parted, the waters folded open
and from the deeps of the deeps,
a voice, a breath, a breath of voice
rose and crooned: [2]
"Kara-han,
God
Kara-han,"
the voice spread to the ends
of the endless water:
"Oneness becomes you
God Kara-han,
Oneness is godly,
O godly Gander."

God Kara-han's eyes trembled like water,
his wings stretched down
to the water's mouth:
"Who are you, speaking?
Where are you, speaking?
I who am God,
I ask,
who are you, speaking?"

Time escaped the Gander's wings,
rushing forth, breaking loose;
the water sang a crown for Time;
Time fell naked to the open water.
The opened water wavered brightly
and bright Ak-ana rose in brightness,
rose from the water's quaking mouth.

Time was silence.
God Kara-han's open mouth
was like the water Time opened.
Ak-ana's brightness
brought the ends of endless water
close to her, close to her beauty.
Her beauty flattened the water,
confused the Gander:
"Who are you?
I who am God
do not know you.
Are you spirit? Are you person?
Who are you,
bright and shining?"

Together they shone,
together the brightness of Ak-ana
and God kara-han shone:
"I am Ak-ana, water's sister,
I am your creature whom you forget."

Had the endless water
been endless wine,
God Kara-han would not have been more drunk.
Ak-ana's voice was the breeze
of summer evenings,
her eyes were deeper than water,
longer than Time:
"You, God Kara-han,
even you can forget,
have forgotten water's sister.
Before you flew,
I was not.
Then I saw your flight,
your bored and lonely flight."

"Speak, bright woman;
in your voice, loneliness is mist
that fades in the sun;
in your eyes boredom is beauty's shadow.
Bright woman, speak!"

Ak-ana's voice shivered bitterly:
"You are God,
single and godly,
Oneness becomes you,
but Oneness is lonely,
Singleness boring."

"I who am God
am God, yes, but who calls me God,
who knows I am who am God?
Endless waters,
above them I fly;
endless nothing,
below it I fly
There is no bottom to which I dive.
So what is it worth
that I am god?

"Answer me.

"When I saw you,
Time flew from my wings,
and Time and Water and I
now are ringed by loneliness."

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Loneliness Flees

Ak-ana whispered:
"Create."

Water shivered, Time trembled
water and Time crushed loneliness between them,
loneliness fled at the word Create.
Eternity echoed in her voice,
her voice singed the Gander's wings:
"Create!
Create!
Create!"

The water wavered inward,
the water folded and Ak-ana sank again,
her brightness sinking in the deeps,
yet she left behind the sigh,
heard everywhere, the sigh:

"Create!
Create!
Create!"

God Kara-han created Er-kishi,
created Er-kishi, double and dark.


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