The Meaning of the Symbols on the Shaman Drums

shaman drum

In the belief of Tengri, the shaman acts as a religious man, but in different sources, these people are engaged in witchcraft. The most important object required to perform the ritual is the drum. The Altai and the Saha’s call these drum as “the Tungur.” (“Tungur” means tambourine and shaman drum.) The drum has been used by the Turks since the earliest periods of history. Chinese archives also indicate that the shaman drums have been used by Turks since the earliest periods of history. [1]

The shaman drum mainly is made of beech and cedar tree. In the same way, the inner stem of the drum is made of beech and cedar tree, too. The trees are used for shaman drums because they are considered sacred by the Turks. Moreover, the skin forming the surface of the drum can not be chosen randomly. Researchers state that the skin of deer or mountain goat is mostly used. After the drum is made, pictures with symbolic meaning are made on the surface of the drum. [2]

The surface of the drum reflects the cosmic universe. The drum is divided by horizontal and vertical lines. In addition, the horizontal and vertical lines can point to four main directions (North, South, West, East). The horizontal line divides the world into two more parts: the sky and the earth. [3]

I explained the meaning of the symbols on the shaman drum which consists of the main cosmos of Turkish mythology.

turkish shaman drums
The Turk  Shaman Drum
  1. It establishes the connection between the earth and the sky and it divides the earth into two main parts as well as divides the earth into four parts. In some of the shaman drums which are found in archaeological excavations were observed that the World Tree was used instead of these lines.
  2. Steel or rattle entered between earth and sky.
  3. “Ucmag”- Ucmag means the heaven where believers’ soul goes by flying.
  4. The hell where Erlik Khan has ruled.
  5. The sky is composed of 17 floors. Shaman only comes through sacrifice and a soul. Horses are the most important sacrificial animal in the belief of  Tengri. It is also believed that horses will bring souls to the skies.
  6. In the Turks, birds are sacred. It is also referred to as living beings who can connect between the sky and the earth. These are the soul birds that help shaman.
  7. The deer are sacred creatures in the belief in the Tengri. One of the most important sacrificial animals of the shamans to bring the shaman in the sky.
  8. If 3 lines are under the tree, they are the symbol of a mountain; if they are near the sky, they are the symbol of a rainbow.
  9. The number of people can be 6, 7, 8, 9. These are the souls that help the shaman. If there are seven people in the figure, these are the daughters of Tengri. (Tengri’s name is Mr. Ulgen in the belief of Tengri.) The people in the figure help to bring the shaman to the sky.
  10. The sky in which Mr. Ulgen lives. The moon, the sun, and the stars located there, too.


[1] Sadettin Gomec,  Shamanism and Old Turkish Religion, Pamukkale University Journal of Education, v.4, p.43
[2] Yasar Coruhlu, Turk Mitolojisinin Ana Hatlari, p.96
[3] Yasar Coruhlu, Turk Mitolojisinin Ana Hatlari, p.99
[4] Image 1 Online Link:
[5] Image 2 Metin OZ,