Monday, February 21, 2011

Who is Otshirvani in Mythology

Mythology has always played an important role in the history of the cultures in this world. Not only were they the explanations of how the world and everything in it came to be, they were moral guides to live your life by, the means to record the history of your culture and a form of entertainment.

In all of the cultures in the world, ancient Greek myths are probably the best well-known, with Egyptian, Roman and Norse myths coming in behind her. However, if we look at the mythology of other places, like Siberia, we find not only similarities, but fascinating accounts of gods, goddesses, monsters, men and divine creatures.

In Siberian mythology, Otshirvani was a god of light. He was sent by the supreme god to fight Losy, a serpent of monstrous appearance and temperament who killed all mortal beings by covering the world with poison. Taking the form of a gigantic bird, Otshirvani swooped down and seized Losy in his claws and threw him against the world mountain, killing him instantly.

Another myth that concerns Otshirvani is regarding immortality amongst mortals. This myth is found among the Buriats of Siberia. In it, Otshirvani “wished to sweeten life for mankind and animals, so he let the sun and the moon prepare the water of life, but Arakho drank it up and soiled the cup. Having inquired the beast's dwelling place from the moon, Otshirvani hurried there and cut him in two. The forepart, having thus become immortal, pursues the moon. The Arakho who causes eclipses of the sun and the moon and who has only a head but nobody is known also among the Mongols”.

The logical implication of this story is that in illo tempore Otshirvani made the sun and the moon prepare a cup of the waters of life, a drink of which would make men immortal, but probably on the way down from heaven the waters of life were drunk and the cup soiled by Arakho, so that men lost the precious chance to obtain immortality.

Like with many deities, Otshirvani has his roots in another culture. He was a distortion of the Indian Bodhisattva Vajrapani and originates in India where the monster's name is Rahu. Arakho and Alkha are corrupt variants of this name. Despite this, Otshirvani is an interesting character in the mythology of the world and deserves attention.


Waida, Manabu (1977) Symbolisms of the Moon and the Waters of Immortality, History of Religions, The University of Chicago Press.

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