Central Asian mythology
Little is known of pre-Buddhist, pre-Muslim Central Asian mythology. But from shamanistic practices remaining among several groups—for example, the Samoyed and Buryat peoples—it seems clear that there were stories of spirits in both Heaven and Hell with whom shamans (see Shamanism) could communicate in order to practice certain cures. One myth—again judging from such peoples as the Samoyeds and Buryats—would seem to have been an earth-diver creation (see Earth-Diver Creation) in which an animal is sent by the creator to find an earthly substance in the depths of the primal waters. Often a devil figure assists the creator in this venture and sometimes tries to usurp his position in the universe. There also seem to have been myths of the separation of sky and earth and the resulting loss of direct communication between humans and gods. The Samoyeds and others still have a sun god, a moon cult, and many spirits. For many Central Asians, the world was held up by a giant whose feet were in Hell. Hell was a place populated by spirits who sent evil to the world. The indigenous peoples of Siberia possess complex pantheons and creation stories and, like most Central Asians, are shamanistic (see Siberian entries).