Religion of the Huns
The Huns were never converted to Christianity by their Roman contemporaries. Indeed, the Huns remained Pagan throughout the entire time that they were mentioned in the historical chronicles. Archaeological and literary evidence shows that the Huns practiced a form of shamanism often called Tengerism. Tengerism is an animistic belief system in which all things have spirits. This includes everything from animals and plants, to rocks and rivers. When the spirits needed to be consulted, the Huns would turn to a spiritual specialist called a kam (shaman). Chroniclers of the time state that the Huns would never go to battle without consulting a shaman first. Shamanist rituals were involved in all aspects of the political and military realms including ratifying treaties and any diplomatic endeavors. Shamans were held in very high regard and wore special ceremonial regalia including feathered headdresses with an eagle on the front.
There were two types of shamans among the Huns. Black shamans and White shamans. (Black and White does not mean evil and good, but indicates what shamanic tradition they followed). Each played a different role in the Empire.
Black shamans were the most powerful of all the shamans. They were warrior shamans and were the models of courage and discipline. Historically, Black shamans had fulfilled roles in both times of peace and in times of war. In wartime, they boosted the soldiers’ morale and did ceremonies to help in battle. The power of the army was connected to the Black shamans, so these shamans were heavily recruited in times of war. During times of peace, Black shamans served as advisors and conducted foreign policy by making peace and alliances. During the time of the Hun Empire, all treaties were ratified by shaman ceremonies.
White shamans were shamans of peace and had a special relationship with the spirits of nature. Their main focus was on pacifying angry spirits and helping mankind to live in balance with nature. White shamans also performed divination and blessings. One thing that they couldn’t do was a shaman’s curse. While Black shamans dealt with foreign affairs, White shamans dealt with local affairs and served as administrators and concerned themselves with the day to day lives of the people.
Tengerism is still practiced today by many Central Asian Turks, Mongols, and Siberian peoples
The Huns spiritual worldview saw the world divided into four sacred directions. The four sacred directions each had a color associated with it. Black was north, red was south, blue was east, and white was west. Hun nations were each associated with one of these colors and directions. Black and blue were considered superior to red and white. Please note that as nations migrated, their designated direction may not correspond with their associated color.
Animals held special significance. Bears symbolized peace while wolverines symbolized war. Birds of prey such as eagles and hawks were often the symbols of Hun royalty. Horse skulls were placed in front of people’s yurts to keep evil spirits away.
The Huns buried their dead with their valuables and weapons. Like all steppe nomads, the horse held immense significance. Horses symbolized power and wealth. The more important the leader, the more horses would be buried with them. These horses would travel to the next world with their owner.