This text was published in the bookSacred Sites of Yssk-Kol: Spiritual Power, Pilgrimage and Art. by Aigine Bishkek:, 2009.Translated from Kyrgyz.

Kyrgyzchylyk is a word often heard when the conversation turns to pilgrimages, mazars and traditional practices connected with sacred places. While visiting mazars, sitting over the tea or meals, one often hears people talk about “kyrgyzchylyk”, “those who have kyrgyzchylyk”, or are “under the influence of kyrgyzchylyk”. Hearing this for the first time, one may ask: “What is thiskyrgyzchylyk?” A straightforward answer to this question is difficult, literally the word can ba translated as kyrgyzness, but out of context this cannot be understood.
In literature on Kyrgyz ethnography, history or folklore and even in dictionaries the word will not be found[1], although it is often used in everyday conversations. It may be that the word was used so naturally by even the researchers themselves that they did not see the need to explain it and study it.
The word kyrgyzchylyk consists of two parts: “Kyrgyz” and “chylyk”. The root “Kyrgyz” is an ethnonym, and “chylyk” a collective suffix. Together kyrgyzchylyk means the qualities and characteristics of being Kyrgyz. There are other words that have the same construction musulmanchylyk meaning muslimness tengrichylyk as tengriism, tuuganchylyk is kinship. The suffix carries neither a negative nor a positive meaning, koshomatchylyk means grovelingbut meimanchylyk means hospitality.
Kyrgyzchylyk, in its broader sense can be understood as all that is connected with traditional self-identification and of the Kyrgyz people and how this is manifested: in severe patriarchy that allows women much liberty, hospitality that requires knowing your position in society, in tight kinship networking and openness to the world.
The plurality of meanings of this word allows kyrgyzchylyk to vary in meaning in different contexts and depending on why, by whom and how it is being used. In the recent past, and in Soviet times kyrgyzchylyk took on a negative connotation and was associated with backwardness and ignorance.
However times have changed and with the coming of independence, the word has been allowed to be used in a different context and is now seen as closely connected with the philosophy of tengirchilik. It is used to talk of “a specific Kyrgyz way of looking at the world” and “a system of ideas and values characteristic for Kyrgyz people. The definition given by Mamyrasul Tajiev and Zulfia Ibraim kyzy can be considered the contemporary understanding: “Kyrgyzchylyk – kylym, karytkan, kaada-salttuu, ürp-adattuu, yrymduu, tübölüktüü, uchu-chenemsiz erkin önukkön kasiet” that is: Kyrgyzchylyk is an ancient, traditional, ritual, eternal, endless and mysterious ability.[2]
We came to our understanding of kyrgyzchylyk during our field research in Talas and Ysyk-Köl. The word was used in conversations alternatively with aruuluk or aktyk for an array of traditional knowledge and practices, held by people with extrasensory abilities. These people are called kyrgyzchylygy bar or aktygy bar that is a person yielding the power ofkyrgyzchylyk (aktyk). These powers are seen to come to a person naturally, they cannot be learnt or acquired.
The powers understood as part of kyrgyzchylyk are many. In our field research we encountered the bearers of aitymchylyk [q.v.],clairvoyance, bübülük, healing powers held by women healers, bakshychylyk, healing powers held by men, dubanachylyk,dervish powers, jaiychylyk, power to change the weather, kuuchuluk, exorcist powers, tüsh joruu, reading dreams, tölgöchülük,fortune telling with the help of objects, synykchylyk, the ability to mend broken bones, matyrchylyk, diagnosing a person’s state of health by feeling their pulse, tabypchylyk, healing with herbal medicine, blessings and prayers. The widely respected art of reciting the “Manas” epic is also called manaschylyk and is included in kyrgyzchylyk. The artists drawing and painting heroes of the epic referred to as kyrgyzchylygy bar[3] as wellas akyn-improvisors, musicians, people playing traditional music and master craftsmen of traditional musical instruments.The guardians of sacred sites are also bearers of this Kyrgyz ability.
A noticeable and specific group of kyrgyzchylygy bar, are spiritual messengers. They have the ability to receive information from extraordinary sources, these are messages from the cosmic universe, from the worlds of the spirits, from herbs and plants, animals and others. This group has been particularly strong since the 1980’s, when they started to publish their books and prophecies. Today, one can find a lot of this kind of literature published in Kyrgyzstan. [4]
Therefore although kyrgyzchylyk is the general term for many different types of traditionally spiritual abilities all of them require certain criteria to be fulfilled. The first and most important is the kasiet that is the sacred power. All the bearers of traditional knowledge kyrgyzchylyk or aruuluk, claim the ability to yield kasiet and talk of their contact with higher powers. These higher forces have many names: koldoochuular [q.v]the patrons, küchtör the powers, korgoochular the protectors, eeler [q.v.]the hosts,arbaktar [q.v. under arbak]the spirits, Alla-Taala Allah and Jaratkan the Creator. To honour the source that has given them powers and to strengthen the link between the world of men and spirits, bearers of kyrgyzchylyk take care and attention to perform their traditional rituals regularly and accurately.
The idea that a person may have kasiet and the ability to yield this power is connected with the belief that times and worlds are interconnected. It is the idea that a person is strongly linked to the past and future. The links between the past-present-future can be read in tight connection. The visible and invisible worlds, the worlds of men and ghosts, of thought and emotions and of the bearers of powers and their hosts, all these exist in the kyrgyzchylyk (aruuluk) system.
In view of the many understandings of the term kyrgyzchylyk and its specific meaning described above that we have encountered in our field work we decided to call this phenomenon spiritual kyrgyzchylyk. For the bearers of the sacred abilities this is their spiritual mission, which they have been chosen to fulfill and it is the task of their lives.
Kyrgyzchylyk is also connected with a specific understanding of faith. On the one hand it is seen as a sacred quality that guards and develops ancient traditions and upholds the connections with the ways of life of ancient ancestors. On the other hand it is also connected with musulmanchylyk which is the totality of traditions and practices of Islam. Kultaev Alymbek, the guardian of Sumailuu-Too sacred mountain in Osh, sees kyrgyzchylyk and musulmanchylyk as one and the same thing and his opinion is shared by many bearers of the sacred ability. Most of the guardians and kyrgyzchylyk bar of the Ysyk-Köl oblast, whom we met during our field research considered themselves muslims, following all the rules and rites of Islam. We also met with this during our studies in Talas. However the past few years have seen the rise of Kyrgyz spiritual movements trying to underline the differences between the traditions of kyrgyzchylyk and Islam and to separate their faith from religion. They prefer to worship outside the limits of the main religions.
The power of kyrgyzchylyk can be recognized when it brings the bearers sicknesses that cannot be diagnosed by and for which modern medicine has no cure. The suffering of this person and often of their relatives is the way that kyrgyzchylyk forces a person to accept kasiet. This is the choice between the spiritual path and the life of an ordinary person, because kyrgyzchylykbrings with it service and much responsibility for the bearer of this traditional, spiritual knowledge. This power that cannot be denied is the subject of this sixth chapter.

[1] Examples of these will be Abramzon S.M. “Kyrgyzes and their ethnogenetical and historico-cultural links.” –Frunze: Kyrgyzstan, 1990; Akmataliev A. “Perrenial values of the Kyrgyz”. – Bishkek: Sham. 2000; Bayalieva T.. “Religious prejudices of the Kyrgyz people and their overcoming”. – Frunze: Kyrgyzstan, 1981; Bayalieva T. “Preislam beliefs and their prejudices among the Kyrgyz people”. – Frunze: Kyrgyzstan, 1975; Karasaev K. “Wise words”. – Frunze, 1987; Karataev О., Eraliev S. “A Dictionary of the Kyrgyz ethnography”. – Bishkek.:Biyiktic. 2005.
[2] Ibraim kyzy Z.,Tajiev M. „Tengir Ata”-Bishkek: Biyiktik, 2006, pg.43.
[3] Kyrgyzcylygy bar [Kyrgyz] having kyrgyzchylyk
[4] Examples can be found in: Begalieva O. Osnobye zakony razvitiya celovecestva [The basic laws of human development] Biiytik, Bishkek, 2003; Ömürbübü, Aalamdan Katar, [Ömürbübü, letters from the Universe] Bishkek, 2004; Dalbaev B., Kachynalieva S. Tüpkürdötu uluu cöz, [Great words from the Depth]in Kyrgyz Epikantyp Baiyyiyt? Sham, Bishkek, 2006, Volume 1. Kyrgyzdar düiynö epin jakshylykka alyp barat! Biiyktik, Bishkek, 2006; Ruhtar menen syrdashuu, Bishkek, 2008; Tezekbaev K. tengirge syiyynuu, Biiyktik, Bishkek, 2004, Volume 1.