Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘Mongols’


Supernatural Tactics of the Mongols

The Mongols even resorted to supernatural means to assure their success. They asked Tenggri, or Heaven, for his favor on the battlefield, in the same way that Muslim and Christian armies appealed to their god. But the Mongols also employed other supernatural tactics, of which the most important was weather magic, conducted by a shaman known as the jadaci.

Several accounts mention the use of weather magic. The jadaci used special rocks known as rain stones, thought to be imbued with the power to control weather, in order to summon rainstorms, or even snowstorms in the summer, which caught the enemy ill-prepared. The Mongols, who had lured their opponents away from their base, took shelter during the storm and then attacked while their foes were disoriented. A prime example of this tactic was recorded during the war against the Jin after Chinggis Khan’s death. Bar Hebraeus relates that Ögödei resorted to using rain stones after he saw the size of a Jin field army. After he had lured the Jin away from any support, he called upon his jadaci to summon a storm. The ensuing downpour, in the normally dry month of July, lasted for three day and three nights. The Jin army was caught in the open and drenched while the Mongols donned rain gear and waited the storm out. They then turned around and ambushed the Jin army, annihilating it.

Other sources indicate that Tolui, rather than Ögödei, was the general involved in this episode. Tolui had retreated after encountering a much larger Jin force, and after the Jin had attacked his rearguard he summoned a Turkic rainmaker to perform his magic. Rashid al-Din recorded that ‘this is a kind of sorcery carried out with various stones, the property of which is that when they are taken out, placed in water, and washed, cold, snow, rain and blizzards at once appear even though it’s the middle of summer.’ The rain continued for three days, changing on the final day to snow accompanied by an icy wind. The Jin troops were exposed to this severe weather while the Mongols found shelter. After four days of snow, the Mongols attacked and destroyed the bewildered and weakened Jin troops.

Timothy May, The Mongol Art of War, pp. 81-82

This is the first explicit reference I have found of the use of magic in warfare.

Silk Shirts Lessen Arrow Wounds

After the conquest of northern China, the Mongols were issued silk shirts to wear under their clothing. Silk is tough and will generally follow an arrowhead into the wound without breaking. The silk can then be tugged gently from the wound, drawing out the arrowhead without enlarging the injury.

Erik Hildinger, Warriors of the Steppe, Chapter 7, p. 121

Furthermore, as the silk did not break or tear, no foreign matter was left in the wound. This greatly reduced the chance of dying from infection.

Hunnic Bow and Mongolian Release

The Byzantine horsed archer was an expert, capable of loosing arrows from either side of the horse while at full gallop, either shooting a fleeing opponent, or defending himself by a ‘Parthian’ shot over the horse’s rearquarters if he himself was fleeing. The method used was a full draw to the right ear which imparted greater poundage to the arrow. The penetrative quality of Roman equipment used at the battle of Callinicum was due to the adoption of the Hunnic bow and the Mongolian release. The Mongolian release, which uses a thumb lock, is faster, whereas the Mediterranean release, using the fingers to draw, is slower and with an oriental bow the fingers would be crushed. Procopius says the bow used by the Persians at Callinicum was much weaker and the arrows unable to pierce armour, even though the rate of delivery was greater.

Ann Hyland, The Medieval Warhorse, p. 22

Emphasis mine.

Outpouring from the Steppe

The dominant theme of the half millennium which began about the year 1000 [C.E.] was the outpouring of Turkish and Mongolian peoples from the Eurasian steppe. Infiltration or conquest by these barbarian nomads affected almost the entire civilized world. Only the poor and peripheral areas, scarcely worth the exertions of conquest, such as Japan or the medieval European west, escaped political dominion by steppe warriors. In geographical scope only the conquests of the bronze-working charioteers of the eighteenth to fifteenth centuries [B.C.E.] can compare with this ethnic inundation.

Paul Coles, The Ottoman Impact on Europe, p. 11