Translation: Qudaiberdiev, “Qazaq Has No Month Names”

There are no month names in Qazaq

“Saryarqa,” Issue 25, March 22, 1918. 

Our names for the months come from the names of stars [astrology]. We understand the stars’ names as connected to the time of the year in which a person is born. That’s why sometimes we argue whether “it’s this or that month.” For example, half of us say “Qangtar” and half say “Aqpan” for the star [astrological sign] of one born on the 15th of December.

In my opinion, our ancient ancestors (the ancient Turks) may have had names for the months. However, what those names were has been lost and the names of the stars we have mixed up. Those who have heard about the old months from old scholars have written to “Saryarqa.” We say that maybe the old Turks didn’t need to name the months. They named twelve stars [astrological signs], which made a year. Then they gave a name to each year in twelve, called a “mushel.” There is also a name for each “mushel.” After five times, or sixty years, the system repeats. So the Turks only paid attention to descriptions of the moon phases, as in “a new moon,” “an old moon,” “a full moon.”

Now let’s get to the stars’ names. In our country there are many different names for the stars. For example, please look at the names of the months (from stars) in Issue 173 of the “Qazaq” newspaper in 1916, written out by the honored Hussein Ali mulla: in order, the months are Äz, March, Otzhaqpas, Kökek, Shilde, Sarsha, Qyrküyek, Mizan, Qarasha, Qazan, Qangtar and Aqpan, so that the name of one of them was unknown (March). However, here we call them, in order: Kökek (March), Mamyr, Mausym, Shilde, Tamyz, Mizam, Qazan, Qarasha, Zheltoqsan, Qangtar, Aqpan and one month.

Do you see the problem!? And how amazing it is that a Qazaq hearing these two can name another list of months! We see that the names of the highest stars come loosely from Arabic. For example, Mizan, Mamyr (Ma’mur), Mausym (Mausim) – these three are from Arabic. In the proverb that goes “Қараша-қауыс, кәрi-құртаңды тауыс,” “Қауыс” is from Arabic. Also, in the proverb “Сәуiр болмай тәуiр болмас,” the word “Сәуiр” is Arabic, and there are similar examples for the rest. My point is this: We should find old Turkic names for the months to use in Qazaq. If such names cannot be found, the people must get used to the Arabic names. If so, I think that all stars should be appointed to name only one month and the order of the stars [in astrology] must be kept in mind.

Қазақша ай аты жоқ

“Сарыарқа”. 1918 22 Март. No. 25.

Бiздiң ай аты деп жүргенiмiз – жұлдыз аты. Жұлдызға қойған атты сол кездегi туған айға қоя саламыз да, ай аты деп ұғынамыз. Сол себептi кейде “бұл бәлен ай” деп таласамыз. Мысалы, декабрь жұлдызының он бесiнде туған айды жартымыз “қантар”, жартымыз “ақпан” деймiз.

Менiң ойымша, бiздiң ескi тұқымда (ескi турiкте) ай аты болса керек. Бiрақ ол ескi аттар не бiржола ұмытылды, не жұлдыз аттарына араласып кеттi-ау деймiн. Осы айтылған ескi айлар туралы бiлетiндерiн ескi құлақты қариялар, оқымыстылар “Сарыарқаға” жазса екен. Ескi түрiктерде ай аты болмай қоймаса керек дегенiмiз: олар он екi жұлдызға ат қойып – бiр жыл жасап, он екi жылға ат қойып – бiр мүшел жасап, бес мүшелге ат қойып – алпыс жылдық бiр айналыс жасап отырған түрiк, “жаңа ай”, “ескi ай”, “толған ай” деп отырған түрiк не қылып ескерусiз қалдырсын.

Ендi жұлдыз атына келейiк. Бiздiң әр жерде жұлдыз аты әр түрлi. Мысалы, 1916 жылғы 173-нөмiр “Қазақ” газетiнде ардақты Хасенғалидың Байеке молдадан жазып алған ай (жұлдыз) атын қараңыз: әз, март, отжақпас, көкек, шiлде, сарша, қыркүйек, мизан, қараша, қазан, қаңтар һәм ақпан, ендi бiреуiнiң атын бiлмейдi. Aл бiздiң жақта: көкек (март), мамыр, маусым, шiлде, тамыз, мизам, қазан, қараша, желтоқсан, қаңтар, ақпан һәм бiрдiң айы.

Көрiңiз бе, атында қанша шатақ! Және бұл екеуiн естiген басқа түрлi ат қоюшы қазақтар мұны қандай таңырқар екен! Онан соң жоғарғы жұлдыз аттары арабшадан алынғаны көрiнiп тұр. Мысалы, мизан, мамыр (мағмур), маусым (маусим) – үшеуi де арабша. Мақалдағы “Қараша-қауыс, кәрi-құртаңды тауыс” дегендегi “қауыс”, “Сәуiр болмай тәуiр болмас” дегендегi “сәуiр” арабша, тағы сондайлар толып жатыр. Мақсұт: қазақша ай атын ескi түрiкшесiн iздеп таппақ. Ол табылмаса, амалсыз арабша ай атына халықты жаттықтыру керек деп бiлемiн. Һәм жұлдыз атын тамам бiр атпен ретiн бұзбай атау керек деп ұғамын.

Notes on the Translation

Zodiac Fountain
Zodiac Fountain outside Academy of Sciences in Almaty

Astrology and the Zodiac, while perhaps a laughable subject of study for many in the United States, provides much interesting insight in historical studies. While many dismiss astrology as useless superstition, the fact remains that many more people used to practice and study this field — and still many people continue today, around the world.

In this article, Shahkarim mentions not only the monthly zodiac, but also the 12-year cycle. This cycle is familiar to anyone eating at a Chinese restaurant, with a few exceptions. The tiger is called a барыс, which is a more general term for large cat, including both the extinct Aral tigers and the snow leopard. The dragon is sometimes called a snail, but there are competing versions of that animal.

There are many that have looked for patterns of particularly fortunate and unfortunate years. In other words, some argue that the Barys (Tiger) year is generally one that brings about enormous change. A typical set of example years (in Kazakhstan, findable on many internet sites): AD 570 (birth year of Muhammad), 1890 (birth year of Mustafa Chokai), 1938 (Stalinist purges), 1986 (“Zheltoqsan” uprisings in Almaty), etc. Now, one can easily suggest that it’s odd that Tiger years completely miss both World Wars, as far as citizens of the Russian Empire/Soviet Union were concerned.

Rabbit years are universally bad in this same system, being the years of Zhut (Жұт), famine, war, and other national catastrophes. The Bare Footed Flight of the Kazakhs supposedly began in 1723, a Rabbit year. 1963 was a Rabbit year, during which many livestock died. However, the great hero that united the Kazakhs, Ablai Khan, was born in 1711, a Rabbit year.

My point here is not to dismiss this system, but to point out that so-called “Mushel” years mattered in history at least as much as in contemporary Kazakhstan. Moreover, Shahkarim references the five-mushel-system, which I assume corresponds to the Five Element system (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) in Chinese astrology, minus the Yin and Yang variations.

The Calendar in Kazakhstan today seems to have followed Shahkarim’s suggestion: avoid Arabic names in favor of Turkic names for months. Some of the months’ names are descriptive (February is Aqpan, from Aq Iqpa, or White Drifts), while others are neologisms (March is named for vernal equinox holiday Nowruz). When Shahkarim suggested avoiding Arabic names, it’s not altogether clear if he meant the Arabic names of Astrological signs (in order in Kazakh spelling, starting with Aquarius): Dalu, Qut, Khamal, Kökek, Säuïr, Zauza, Saratan, Äset, Sümbile (actually Persian, not Arabic), Mïzan, Aqyrap, Qauys, and Zhädi.

Shahkarim also mentions the Arabic names of certain stars [Mizan, Mausym, Mamyr], but here I am confused. If he meant astrological signs, Mizan is the Arabic form of Libra. Mausym (mausum), also the source of English Monsoon, means season generally in Arabic, especially the difference between the rainy and dry seasons (in Kazakh: маусым, мерзiм, мезгiл). I am uncertain what Mamyr means, though perhaps it refers to al-bayt al-ma’mur, the heavenly version of the kaaba around which the angels worship. It is supposed to be directly over the kaaba in the heavens, so perhaps it is the name of a star? I have not found information that suggests or proves this directly.

List of Months/Astrological Signs:
English-Qazaq (Latin)-Qazaq (Cyrillic) – Arabic Astrological Sign (Cyrillic) – English Astrological Sign

  1. January – Qantar – Қаңтар – Дәлу – Aquarius
  2. February – Aqpan – Құт – Pisces
  3. March – Nauryz – Наурыз – Хамал – Aries
  4. April – Kokek OR Sauir – Көкек OR Сәуiр – Сәуiр – Taurus
  5. May – Mamyr – Мамыр – Зауза – Gemini
  6. June – Mausym – Маусым – Саратан  – Cancer
  7. July – Shilde – Шiлде – Әсет – Leo
  8. August – Tamyz – Тамыз – Сүмбiле (PERSIAN) – Virgo
  9. September – Qyrquiek – Қыркүйек – Мiзан – Libra
  10. October – Qazan – Қазан – Aқырап – Scorpio
  11. November – Qarasha – Қараша – Қауыс – Saggitarius
  12. December – Zheltoqsan – Желтоқсан – Жәди – Capricorn

For comparison:
Kazakh Month List A (Hussein Ali)

  1. Äz
  2. [March]
  3. Otzhaqpas
  4. Kökek
  5. Shilde
  6. Sarsha
  7. Qyrküyek
  8. Mizan
  9. Qarasha
  10. Qazan
  11. Qangtar
  12. Aqpan

Kazakh Month List B (Shahkarim)

  1. Kökek
  2. Mamyr
  3. Mausym
  4. Shilde
  5. Tamyz
  6. Mizam
  7. Qazan
  8. Qarasha
  9. Zheltoqsan
  10. Qangtar
  11. Aqpan
  12. ?

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