Erlik: Master of Death and Transformation in Turkic Mythology

Written by: King Solomon



Time to read 9 min

Erlik: The Dark Lord of the Underworld

Erlik is a prominent figure in Turkic mythology and Siberian shamanism, known as a formidable and complex ruler of the underworld. His presence looms large in the spiritual and mythological landscape of these cultures, where he plays a critical role in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Erlik’s character is multifaceted, embodying the darker aspects of existence while also serving as a necessary force for balance and justice.

His origins are deeply rooted in the ancient shamanistic traditions of the nomadic tribes that roamed the vast expanses of Central Asia and Siberia. These tribes held a deep respect for the natural world and its cycles, and their belief systems reflected a nuanced understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. Within this framework, Erlik emerged as a central figure, representing the inevitability of death and the importance of maintaining harmony between the forces of life and death.

Origins and Mythology

Erlik, also known as Erlik Khan, is the god of death and the underworld in Turkic and Mongolic mythologies. He is one of the oldest deities in these traditions, with his origins tracing back to the ancient shamanistic beliefs of the nomadic tribes of Central Asia and Siberia. According to myth, Erlik was once a creation of the supreme deity, Tengri, but was cast into the underworld due to his rebellious nature.

Erlik's mythology presents him as a complex figure whose influence extends beyond mere malevolence. His domain, Tamag, is depicted as a place of judgment where souls are sent after death. Erlik oversees the fate of these souls, determining their punishment or potential reincarnation. His rebellion against Tengri and subsequent fall mirrors the archetypal narrative of a powerful being challenging the supreme authority, which is a common theme in many mythologies. This fall from grace and subsequent role as a ruler of the underworld highlight Erlik's multifaceted character and his essential function within the cosmology of Turkic belief systems.

Symbolism and Attributes

Erlik symbolizes death, darkness, and the inevitability of the end. His attributes include the power to judge souls, control over disease and misfortune, and the ability to shape the destiny of the deceased. He is often depicted with fearsome features such as horns, a black beard, and a dark, ominous presence.

The symbolism of Erlik extends to his role as a mediator between the living and the dead. His dominion over disease and misfortune signifies his influence over the negative aspects of life, which are seen as necessary for maintaining balance. The dark, often terrifying depictions of Erlik serve to remind humans of the consequences of their actions and the inevitability of death. However, his role as a judge also suggests a form of order and justice within the chaos, underscoring the belief that even in darkness, there is a structure and purpose.


Attuning to Erlik involves embracing the darker aspects of existence and understanding the natural cycle of life and death. Invoking Erlik can aid in confronting one's fears, accepting mortality, and gaining insights into the mysteries of the afterlife.

Shamans and spiritual practitioners often seek Erlik's guidance to navigate the complexities of the human soul and its journey post-mortem. This attunement process can involve rituals and meditations that focus on accepting death as a natural part of life, thereby reducing fear and anxiety associated with mortality. By acknowledging the inevitability of death, individuals can find greater peace and purpose in their current lives. Attuning to Erlik also involves understanding the transformative power of death, which can lead to personal growth and enlightenment.


Saturn is the planet associated with Erlik, representing discipline, structure, and the inevitable passage of time. This connection underscores Erlik's role as a deity who governs the end of life and the transition to the afterlife.

Saturn's astrological influence is linked to themes of restriction, limitation, and the karmic consequences of one's actions. These themes resonate deeply with Erlik's function as a judge of souls, emphasizing the idea that every action has a consequence and that justice is an integral part of the cosmic order. The discipline and structure that Saturn brings are reflective of the order Erlik imposes in the underworld, ensuring that each soul receives its due according to the life it led. This planetary connection also highlights the importance of introspection and the acceptance of life's cyclical nature.


Lead, a heavy and dense metal, is linked to Erlik. Lead's properties of weight and permanence reflect Erlik's association with the underworld and his role in the finality of death.

Lead has long been associated with alchemical processes and transformation, symbolizing the slow but inevitable changes that occur over time. This aligns with Erlik's role in governing the transition from life to death and the purification of the soul. The permanence of lead reflects the unchangeable nature of death, while its transformative qualities underscore the potential for renewal and rebirth. In rituals, lead objects may be used to symbolize grounding and the acceptance of mortality, reinforcing Erlik's influence over the spiritual transformation that accompanies death.


Earth is the primary element associated with Erlik, symbolizing stability, grounding, and the physical realm. The element of earth reflects Erlik's dominion over the underworld and his connection to the cycles of life and death.

The earth element embodies the concepts of fertility, decay, and rebirth, all of which are integral to Erlik's mythology. As the ruler of the underworld, Erlik is deeply connected to the processes of decay and regeneration, which are fundamental to the earth's cycles. This association emphasizes the grounding nature of Erlik's influence, providing a sense of stability and continuity amidst the transformative processes of life and death. Earth rituals dedicated to Erlik may involve burying objects or performing rites that acknowledge the interconnectedness of all life forms, both living and dead.

Astrological Sign

Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, is the astrological sign connected to Erlik. Capricorn's attributes of determination, discipline, and pragmatism align with Erlik's characteristics and his role in judging souls and governing the underworld.

Capricorn is often associated with ambition, resilience, and a strong sense of duty, traits that mirror Erlik's authoritative and disciplined nature. The sign's emphasis on practicality and hard work resonates with Erlik's function as a meticulous judge of souls, ensuring that justice is served according to one's actions. This astrological connection underscores the importance of facing life's challenges with determination and integrity, as well as the inevitability of facing the consequences of one's deeds. For those seeking to align with Erlik's energy, embracing Capricorn's disciplined approach can provide strength and guidance.


Traditional offerings to Erlik might include black candles, lead objects, and symbols of mortality such as skulls or bones. These offerings honor Erlik's connection to the underworld and his role as a judge of souls.

Offerings to Erlik are often designed to acknowledge his power and seek his favor or protection. Black candles symbolize the darkness of the underworld and the transition between life and death, while lead objects represent permanence and transformation. Symbols of mortality, such as skulls or bones, serve as reminders of the impermanence of life and the importance of living with awareness and integrity. These offerings are typically made during rituals that seek to honor the dead, invoke protection, or gain insights into the afterlife, reinforcing the connection to Erlik and his dominion.

Relation and Symbiosis with Other Demons and Deities

Erlik's relationships with other deities and spirits in Turkic mythology highlight the complex interplay between forces of good and evil. As a ruler of the underworld, Erlik interacts with various deities associated with life, death, and the afterlife, maintaining the balance of these realms.

Erlik's symbiotic relationships often involve cooperation and mutual respect with other deities who oversee different aspects of existence. For example, his interactions with spirits of disease and misfortune highlight his control over these forces and his role in maintaining the natural order. These relationships emphasize the interconnectedness of all spiritual beings and the necessity of balance between opposing forces. In some myths, Erlik's role as a judge is complemented by deities of healing and protection, illustrating the dynamic interplay between creation and destruction, life and death.

Cultural Relations

In various cultures, Erlik is seen as a powerful and fearsome deity, embodying the darker aspects of existence. His mythological tales have been interpreted through different lenses, reflecting the values and beliefs of each culture.

Erlik's influence extends beyond Turkic and Mongolic traditions, with similar deities appearing in other mythologies around the world. These cross-cultural connections emphasize the universal themes of life, death, and the afterlife, highlighting the shared human experience of confronting mortality and seeking meaning in the cycle of existence. For instance, comparisons can be drawn between Erlik and deities such as Hades in Greek mythology or Anubis in Egyptian mythology, each governing the realms of the dead and symbolizing the inevitable journey all souls must undertake.

Movies and Literature

Erlik has appeared in various forms in literature and film, often as a symbol of death and the underworld. His mythological roots provide rich material for storytelling, emphasizing themes of judgment, mortality, and the afterlife.

In literature, Erlik's character has been explored in works that delve into the mysteries of death and the human soul. Films and television shows have also drawn on Erlik's myth, using his fearsome attributes to create compelling and thought-provoking narratives. These portrayals often highlight the challenges and complexities of navigating the afterlife, reflecting the enduring fascination with Erlik's role as a guardian of the underworld. Modern adaptations may depict Erlik as both an antagonist and a wise, albeit harsh, teacher, emphasizing the moral and existential lessons inherent in his mythology.


One common misconception about Erlik is that he is purely malevolent. In reality, Erlik's mythological and spiritual roles are more nuanced, embodying both protective and challenging aspects. Understanding Erlik requires recognizing his multifaceted nature and the balance he represents.

Erlik's portrayal as an evil deity overlooks the complexity of his character. While he governs the underworld and judges souls, his role is not inherently malevolent but rather a necessary part of the natural order. Recognizing Erlik's protective qualities helps to reframe him as a guardian who maintains the balance between life and death. This nuanced understanding allows for a deeper appreciation of Erlik's significance and the lessons he offers about mortality and the afterlife. Acknowledging the duality of Erlik's nature helps dispel the simplistic view of him as merely a source of fear and instead highlights his role in the broader cosmic balance.

Erlik remains a powerful and complex figure in mythology and spirituality. His role as the ruler of the underworld and judge of souls symbolizes the inevitability of death and the importance of balance within the natural order. By exploring Erlik's attributes and cultural significance, we gain deeper insight into his role and the lessons he offers.

Erlik's enduring presence in myth and spirituality continues to captivate and inspire, providing rich insights into the nature of death, judgment, and the afterlife. His multifaceted nature serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all aspects of existence and the importance of respecting the balance between life and death. Whether viewed through the lens of mythology, spirituality, or cultural interpretation, Erlik's legacy endures, offering valuable lessons and inspiration for those who seek to understand the complexities of life and the mysteries of the afterlife.


Autor: Takaharu

Takaharu, master of Terra Incognita, stands as a towering figure in the mystical realm, specializing in the intricate knowledge of demons, Olympic spirits, and Greek deities. With over 30 years of dedicated practice, his expertise is unparalleled, making him a revered teacher at the Coven of Terra Incognita. His profound wisdom and experience illuminate the path for those drawn to the esoteric arts, guiding aspirants through the complex landscapes of the unseen. Takaharu's teachings are more than lessons; they are gateways to understanding the ancient forces that govern our world and unlocking the profound mysteries that lie beyond the veil of the ordinary. His leadership in the coven not only educates but also empowers individuals to explore the depths of their spiritual potential. Join the Coven

Terra Incognita, School of Magic

Spirits & Deities from all over the World

Leave a comment