Bar Hebraeus’ Chronography How the Mongols Cleaved to the Worship of Image

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Articles, Library | Comments Off on Bar Hebraeus’ Chronography How the Mongols Cleaved to the Worship of Image


Formerly the MONGOLS had no literature and no Faith (or, Religion) of their own, but they knew one God, the Creator of the Universe, and some of them confessed that heaven was God, and they called it so. [And this they did] until they ruled over the people of the UIGUR TURKS, and they found that there were among them certain men who were sorcerers and who were called ‘KAMAYE’ (i.e. Enchanters). We have heard many who testified concerning them, saying, ‘We heard the voice of the devils who held converse with them through the openings of the tents’. And the secret conversation with devils was not made complete until after they had been defiled by other men, because the greater number of them were women-men (sodomites?). And these men were wholly abominable, for when they wished to perform some act of their sorcery, every one who met them they seized by force that [they] might defile them. Therefore when the MONGOLS saw them, they also turned aside after them in their simplicity.

Afterwards when CHINGIZ KHAN heard that the SINAYE, that is to say, the KHATHAYE (i.e. CHINESE), had images (or, idols) and priests who were lords of wisdom, he sent ambassadors to them, and asked them for priests, and promised to hold them in honour. And when the priests came, CHINGIZ KHAN ordered them to make a debate on Religion (or, Faith) and an inquiry into it with the KAMAYE (Enchanters). And when the priests spake and read extracts from their Book, which they call ‘Nawm’ in their language, the Enchanters failed and were vanquished, and they were unable to reply because they were destitute of knowledge. And from this time the rank of the priests increased among the MONGOLS, and they were commanded [413] to fashion images, and to cast copies of them as [the priests] did in their own country, and to offer to them full sacrifices and libations according to their custom. And although they honoured the priests greatly, the MONGOLS at the same time did not reject the Enchanters. And both parties remained among them, each to carry on its own special work, without despising or holding the other in contempt. It is the reverse with the peoples who have the Scriptures and the Books of the Prophets, for every one who is present soundly revileth his fellow, and judgeth him [to be] an unbeliever (or, one who is not of the true Faith). Now in the Book of the priests which is called ‘Nawm’, together with the pagan proverbs which resemble those which ST. GREGORY THEOLOGUS brings to our memory, there are also good laws, as for example, an admonition against oppression and the infliction of injuries, and we must not return evil for evil, but good, and a man must not kill any small creature such as a louse or a gnat. And like PLATO they confess the transmigration of souls from body to body, [saying] that the spirits of just men, and righteous men, and well-doers when they die migrate to the bodies of kings and nobles, and the souls of evil and wicked men into the bodies of evil-doers who are tortured, and beaten and killed, and also into the bodies of irrational creatures, and reptiles and birds of prey. And when flesh is brought unto those men to eat, they ask the bringer of it, ‘Didst thou slay this beast on account of us; or didst thou buy it in the “bazar”?’ And if he saith, ‘On your account’, they will not taste it.