by Tim Baber
The Mongol hero Genghis Khan was of course a real person, who died in 1227 after winning many victories and siring many children. (With his appetite for Mongolian virgins, some say he was quite literally the father of his nation, which DNA tests appear to substantiate.) His “surname” Khan is really a title or honorific name, a khan referring to a great ruler, the word being cousin to our “king”. This in turn seems to derive from a word meaning “head” – cf Celtic ceann, head or skull, and the Scots dialect word ‘ken’ meaning to know. In modern English, head is still a word with a double meaning, both literal and figurative, going back to the idea the head controls the body. Collecting heads or skulls as trophies was a common practice, and the idea of oracular heads or skulls is a common one across various cultures – from the Celtic Bran the Blessed to the South American crystal skulls pursued by Indiana Jones. The horse connection is suggested by the fact the term for horse in European languages, cabal (as in caballero, Spanish 'horseman') seems to be from the same root, cf words such as cap and capital, and of course a group of men who act together to obtain power are also known as a cabal. (That horse’s head used as a frightener in The Godfather may have its roots in far older ideas.)
The forename Genghis or Chingis, derives supposedly from Mongolian ching, meaning the strong or fearless, which would fit our shamanistic, animalistic interpretation. However it is not the name he was born with - that was Tie Muzhen, usually spelt Temudjin, said to mean the finest iron or steel. Genghis was part of the name he took on when he became leader of his people. At the same time he named the various tribes collectively the Mongols, and their combined territory as Mongolia. Genghis is suspiciously similar to Hengist and its variants. Could Genghis Khan mean something like Horse Lord? No exact equivalent to the Germanic hengist, stallion, is known in Mongolian, perhaps because the Mongols had so many different words for horses. The Mongolian wild horse for example is called takhi, which actually means spirit - perhaps in the sense we would use the phrase “free spirit.” It may be there was an equivalent expression akin to hengist, which was kept secret as it was part of a shamanistic belief system. This may also be the case with the Saxon name, as the Saxons did not ride horses into battles, but used them in ceremonies. “Hengist” may not have been the Saxon leader’s “real”, i.e. birth name.
The Mongols’ association with horses could scarcely be stronger. Their lifestyle of necessity centred around their horse herd. They rode them for war, hunting and travel, and to pull the train of baggage carts holding their homes, the felt tents called yurts or ghers. They milked the mares, and used stallions in shamanistic ceremonies to determine future leaders. Genghis himself died age about 65 after falling from his horse while on campaign. The only account we have says his body was wrapped in a felt blanket and taken by cart to a secret
location (which may have been a shamanistic “power” site). The funeral procession was led by a traditional "spirit banner" - a spear whose shaft was adorned with hairs from the mane of his favourite horse - believed to hold the warrior’s soul. The tracks the grave party left were supposedly obscured by being trampled over by horses - also the rumoured fate of anyone who later got too close to the tomb.
Genghis or Chingiz was followed by two other empire-building leaders. His 14th-C. descendant the Mongol leader Timur (full name Tamed Chingizid Khan, also known by his nickname Tamerlane or Timur the Lame), restored the Mongol Empire after it crumbled following Genghis’s death, expanding it westward as far as Damascus. Timur’s descendant the 14th-15th C.Timurid prince Baber (also spelt Babar or Babur), whose name meant “The Tiger,” founded the Mogul dynasty and Baburid empire. Described as a scholar as skilled with the pen as he was with the sword and the bow, Baber conquered Samarkand, Afghanistan and most of India. His descendants ruled there until Britain’s defeat of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the name of the dynasty Baber founded living on in our modern word mogul, as in “Hollywood mogul.”
The Mongols’ links to the West were long obscured by their being depicted as a barbaric horde, from Herodotus’s descriptions of Scythian burial customs involving human sacrifice through Voltaire’s condemnation of Genghis as a “destructive tyrant.” Their absorption by the Soviets meant Genghis was a forbidden topic. Even as late as 1961, when Mongolia was admitted as a UN member, a scholar who organised a monument and a seminar to commemorate Genghis was arrested and dismembered with an axe. Other scholars who had shown an interest were imprisoned and their relatives made homeless. It was only in 2004 a study was published on Genghis’s far-reaching influence, by an American anthropologist, Jack Weatherford. His 2004 study Genghis Khan And The Making Of The Modern World notes that Genghis was a bridge-builder, both literally and figuratively:
The only permanent structures Genghis Khan erected were bridges. Although he spurned the building of castles, forts, cities, or walls, as he moved across the landscape, he probably built more bridges than any ruler in history. He spanned hundreds of streams and rivers in order to make the movement of his armies and goods quicker. The Mongols deliberately opened the world to a new commerce not only in goods, but also in ideas and knowledge. The Mongols brought German miners to China and Chinese doctors to Persia. The transfers ranged from the monumental to the trivial. They spread the use of carpets everywhere they went and transplanted lemons and carrots from Persia to China, as well as noodles, playing cards, and tea from China to the West. They brought a metalworker from Paris to build a fountain on the dry steppes of Mongolia, recruited an English nobleman to serve as interpreter in their army, and took the practice of Chinese fingerprinting to Persia. They financed the building of Christian churches in China, Buddhist temples and stupas in Persia, and Muslim Koranic schools in Russia. The Mongols swept across the globe as conquerors, but also as civilization’s unrivalled cultural carriers.
Read more at http://msbnews.co.uk/genghis/genghis.htm