Zoroastrianism in China


The Chinese referred to Zoroastrianism as the “heaven worshiping religion” pronounced xianjiào in Chinese. The Japanese term kenkyo is an exact translation of the Chinese description of the Zoroastrian religion. The Chinese even invented a new letter xianjiao meaning “heaven worship” to name Zoroastrianism. This invention of a new character for a foreign religion was quite unusual and showed that Mazda Worship or Zoroastrianism made quite an impression on the Chinese People. 

The designation of “heaven worship” most probably goes back to the Sacred Poetry or Songs/Gathas of Zarathustra, Yasna 30.5, second rhymed verse line where the Mindful Supreme God/Lord, Ahûrá Mazdá declares: that luminous heavens and galaxies are his solid bedrock, (See Varšt.mánsar commentary.)

Mazda Worship was viewed by Far Eastern People as Spiritual Alchemy, White Magic, a sort of shamanism with real effective spells, healing practices, and medicinal herbs. 

Zoroastrianism most probably arrived in Northeastern borders of China or modern western edges of Xinjiang, in the early 4th century with the arrival of Sogdian Zoroastrians from Central Asia during the Wei and Jin Dynasties (220–589 CE.) Apparently, the Sogdian Zoroastrians had NO intention to propagate Zoroastrianism in China. There were NO Chinese books on Zoroastrianism, in sharp contrast to Manicheans and Nestorians.

According to “History of the Monastic Community in the Great Song,” a Zoroastrian Magi Priest móg, (mùhù) visited the court of the Tang without bringing any translated books, whereas the Nestorians and Manichaeans did. Also, intermarriages between Zoroastrians and the local Chinese were the exception and most uncommon.

Zoroastrianism was viewed by locals as a fascinating, foreign religion and Zoroastrians were considered as definitely a unique, foreign ethnic group. But despite its foreignness, Chinese showed great interest in Zoroastrianism and introduced many of its external features into their folk beliefs. This was the prelude for the “Sinicized” Zoroastrian Inspired beliefs and rituals of future ages in the Far East. Many Yazatas or god beings of Sogdian variety of Zoroastrianism were assimilated into the pantheon of Chinese folk beliefs and some exotic Sogdian, Zoroastrian customs found their way as literary symbolism in Chinese folk literature later. 

There are only two currently known Zoroastrian Sogdian fragments. Both these fragments are in Sogdian, an Indo-European language and come from Dūnhuáng in Northeastern China. The first Zoroastrian fragment is a Sogdian translation of the famous Ašem Vohü formula (Praise of Excellence, Truth, Goodness) which is now at the British Museum, and the second fragment also in Sogdian, is about Zarathustra’s Questions to Ahura Mazda concerning the posthumous Soul, and if the righteous family/clan members are reunited in the afterlife! This fragment is now at the Kyoto National Museum in Japan.

Dunhuang where these Sogdian fragments were found, commands a strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road and the main road leading from Northern India via Lhasa in Tibet to Mongolia and Southern Siberia. Dunhuang controlled the entrance to Hexi Corridor which leads straight to the heart of the north Chinese plains and the ancient capital of Chang’an, known today as Xi’an. Chang’an was the capital of more than 10 Chinese dynasties in the past.

In addition to the Sogdian Zoroastrians, after the fall of the Sassanid Empire in 651 CE, Iranian Zoroastrians migrated to northern China. The Iranian exiles to China consisted of few Sasanian princes/nobles, many Zoroastrian priests, warriors and even farmers and artisans.

In 7th century, Peroz III, the second son of Yazdgird III (the last Sassanid Emperor who reigned between 632–651 CE) sought refuge in Chang’an, the ancient capital of China to seek military support from the 3rd emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Gao Zong, (649–683 CE.)

Around 678 CE Peroz III and his son Narseh successfully regained many Eastern Provinces of the Sassanid Empire. However, the Chinese were NOT genuinely interested in providing meaningful support to Sassanid Princes. Their real intention was to weaken the Central Asian Kingdoms that were allied with Tibet and Kashgar in Southern Xinjiang.

Peroz III lost many of his earlier conquests as a result and had No choice but to return to the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an where he passed away at 707 CE.

Narseh , his son successfully invaded Tokharistan (ancient Bactria, today’s Balkh in Afghanistan.) Narseh ruled as Monarch there for twenty years until his passing in 727 CE. The last member of the Sassanid royals mentioned in Classical Chinese is a Prince named Khosrow who passed away at Chang’an after 728 CE.

The history of the Sassanid and Sogdian Zoroastrians in China ends with the An Lushan rebellion (756–763 CE.)

An Lushan was a General in Tang Dynasty. Lushan is a Sinicized version of the Persian Roxšan “Luminous.” Lushan apparently had Sogdian Zoroastrian ancestry through his paternal line. In 755, An Lushan following 9 years of preparation, started the rebellion, proclaiming himself the ruler of a new dynasty, the Yan. The rebellion spanned from 16December 755 to 17 February 763 and was one of the deadliest wars in history.

Lushan declared himself to be a warrior of to the “god of the light.” This announcement appealed to the religious sentiments of the Zoroastrians, and the Sogdian forces constituted a significant part of Lushan armies.

The Chinese Tang Dynasty in contrast hired mercenaries from Abassid Caliph among others, to quash the rebellion which was finally suppressed after seven years of most deadly war. However, the damage to Tang dynasty was irreversible. China lost its status as a world empire.  

After the rebellion, the Chinese made sure that all Zoroastrians become Sinicized and lose their ethnic identity through forced intermarriages, (Chen 2001: 195–200.) And so ended the history of Zoroastrianism in China.

In 1980, Gikyō Itō in Japan claimed that some enigmatic words in Old Japanese are of Middle Iranian or Pahlavi origin.  This theory became so popular in Japan that the famous novelist Seicho Matsumoto (1909–1992) adopted it in his historical fiction, and some folk historians still argue that curious remains in ancient Japan must have Zoroastrian roots.

ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The ancient Zoroastrian and Indo-European roots of Nowrouz


The celebration of Vernal Equinox and arrival of spring is the most sacred and joyous of all Zoroastrian religious holidays. It is called Hamas.paθ.maædÿa in Avesta, the sacred lore of the Zoroastrians.  The Avestan term Hamas.paθ.maædÿa refers to the exact time at which “the celestial paths are at a midpoint and have the same distance/length from each other.” The Persian word Now.rouz, means literally “New Dawn/Day” and alludes to the first “fresh dawn/light” after the vernal equinox.

Interestingly, the ancient Roman calendar began also at the vernal equinox. This is evidenced by the name of the months September, October, November, December, that respectively mean the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th month which puts the beginning of calendar in spring. The celebration of vernal equinox in the old Roman calendar was attributed to Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome.

For Zoroastrians, celebration of spring equinox is a a recurrent reminder of Frašö-kereitî the “splendid, fresh new creation” of the worlds, a symbol of the coming eternal spring when Our “limited, temporal time” will evolve into the “long dominion and everlasting age of the Gods.”

When the eternal spring finally arrives, the worlds and all that is in them will be refashioned to the pristine, brilliant state in which it was envisioned by the supreme God/Titan Ahûrá Mazdá “the Wise Lord of Mind Powers and Vision.”

Ahûrá Mazdá establishes/creates the worlds by the powers of his wondrous mind, luminous vision, celestial music, and triumphant spirit. He and his Auspicious Immortals are embodied by eternal quest for excellence, betterment and superb artistry that will culminate in the frašö-kereitî, the “splendid, fresh new creation” of the worlds.  

The ten days before Vernal Equinox are dedicated to ancestors and Fravašis who are Valkyrie-like pristine prototypes or ideal images of all things. It is believed that the veil between our realm and higher dimensions is especially thin during last 10 days before equinox. These last 10 holy days of the year are referred to as Rözān Fravardîgán literally “bright points or luminous cracks for Fravašis.”

Families welcome their departed and heroic dead with prayers, consecrated nuts, cakes, other food offerings and by brightness of bonfires fragrant with incense. Especially on the eve of the 5th day before equinox fires are lit on rooftops or in front of the houses after sunset. People go door to door, covered in masked costumes to ask for consecrated nuts, sweets, foods and fruits.

The existence of similar observances among Celts celebrating Halloween and other Indo-European peoples suggests that these ancient rites go back to the very dawn of the Indo-European culture.The ancient bonfire ceremonies are still celebrated in the form of chahr-shanbae suri ceremonies where bonfires are lit during the last Wednesday night before arrival of Spring. However, the modern chahr-shanbae suri lacks its original Zoroastrian solemnity.

The Nowrouz banquet/table is a symbolic offering of decorated colored eggs, germinated wheat or lentil sprouts, hyacinth flower, silver or gold coins, mirror, candles, wine, incense, bowl of milk, spring water with thymes, apples or sour oranges, fried sweet bread and garlic cloves. However, the setting of the table and lucky items differs according to the taste of individual celebrants.  

The items on the New year table start with the letter S in farsi. The S is an allusion to the Avestan word Speñtá meaning “auspicious, sacred, very bright and radiant” and refers to lucky items/symbolic foods that bring good luck and represent the Blessings of the Auspicious Brilliant Immortals in our lives and homes. In Zoroastrianism Godhood is “Good, Benevolent Genius” who only brings good fortune, prosperity, growth, healing, light and much wonder and joy into mortals’ lives.  

Decorated, colored eggs of the ancient Zoroastrians share the same roots with Ôstara eggs that represent fertility and regenerative powers. Ôstara eggs were later incorporated into Easter and Christianity. Also similar to many Eastern European folklore, Garlic is believed to have miraculous healing powers among Zoroastrians and is essential in warding off diabolic spirits.

Another most interesting Nowrouz food is samanü or samnoo, a sweet pudding made with germinated wheat sprouts, flour, and water. Samanoo symbolizes sweet life and rewards of patience. Samanoo is strikingly similar to an ancient Finnish Easter pudding called Mämmi. This unique Finnish sweet pudding called Memmi in Sweden, is an ancient desert that is known only in Finland, and among some Baltic people. Mämmi is made out of rye flour, water, molasses, orange zest that is left to sweeten naturally (just like samanoo) before being baked.

There are loanwords from Indo-Iranian, into the Uralic languages, and vice versa that date back to a time when Proto Indo Iranians still lived in Abashevo culture and had extensive trade with Volsovo culture of the Broze age that made many cultural and linguistic exchanges between Proto Indo-Iranians and the Uralic people possible.

The Proto Indo-Iranian and Uralic loanwords in their respective languages are primarily visible in words of agriculture, animal husbandry, spiritual life vocabulary and shamanism.   

The Spring Equinox Celebrations last 13 days. On the lucky 13th day, the decorated eggs and germinated wheat or lentil sprouts are taken outdoors to fresh streams, lakes or waterfalls, and are offered to the brightest and luckiest star Tištar or Tristar. Three knots are made in germinated wheat or lentil sprouts before offering them. Then a wish is made.  The three knots are symbolic of Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds, the supreme importance of keeping our disposition, energy, expression and actions, positive and luminous in the coming year ahead.  Tištar or Tristar of the Zoroastrian scripture appears in Moslem Koran as ash-shira, the Mighty Sirius Star.

ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fire, the greatest god power and the winter festival of sadæ


In the Zoroastrian sacred calendar, the 40th sunset after winter solstice is celebrated as the great festival of fire or sadæ. Sadæ is the joyous celebration of “chilliest, coldest” winter nights with huge bonfires and much joy.

In Zoroastrianism, fire is the primal force of Will Power and Genius, the bursting forth of life forces, and pure energy, the visible manifestation of Godhood. Ancient Zoroastrianism can best be defined as “sacred alchemy,” for its rituals and Sacred Verses are concerned with transmutation of the mundane into enchanting and finding the universal, curative elixir.  

Fire rites are at the center of this ancient Indo-European faith and fire is revered as a Yazata “god being/god force” that is independently hallowed. Fire also serves as a means for worshipping other Brilliant Immortals and hallowed god powers. According to the Zoroastrian sacred lore/Avesta, the ceremony offered to the fire not only goes to the fire, but also to the Gods, whose visible sign fire is, átarš.ciθrə̄s.ča yazatæ yazamaidæ.

In Zoroastrianism, there are 5 kind fires that shine/burn in the essence of “men, beasts, herbs/plants, clouds, and minerals.” Fire is in all things, in waters, earth and air. It is in minerals, herbs and beasts; it is in men, stars and Immortals.

 Zoroastrian veneration of fire has its origins in cult of “eternal hearth fire” and goes back to the very dawn of the Indo-European history.  The word for Fire “Āthar” means “hearth, heat,” and is related to Hittite hās, hāssan, “hearth, heat,” Latin āra “fire altar,” and ancient Greek aíthō “ignite, kindle.” All these words come from reconstructed Proto Indo European *hāhs.

Old English æled, Old Norse eldr, Norwegian eld/ild, Icelandic eldur, and *ailidaz all meaning “fire” come from the same Proto Indo-European root.

In the Zoroastrian eschatology, during the splendid, new creation of the worlds, “Frashö-kart,” a fiery flood of molten metal will cover the earth, and mortals will undergo a final judicial, fiery trial. The worlds will be purged, purified, and transmuted through fire. Because of its alchemical transmutation properties, fire is called the prodigy or son “puthra” of the supreme Wise God, Ahûrá Mazdá.


 The title of mazišta- yazata “the greatest, most magnificent god” is given to fire in the Zoroastrian sacred poetry. Fire shares this title of mazišta- yazata “the greatest, most magnificent god” only with Mithrá, the “Mediator of Immortals and Lord of Reciprocity” and the “Supreme God of Mind Powers” Ahûrá Mazdá himself. In the sacred literature of the Zoroastrians or Avesta, we read concerning the Supreme Titan/God Ahûrá Mazdá that he is the “most magnificent, greatest of the hallowed gods,” yö mazištö yazatanám, (See Yasht 10.76.)  


Bonfires of Sadæ reminds us that while we aare in the midst of the coldest, chilliest days of winter, spring and life forces will burst forth. The worlds entire will also be transmuted by fire before the eternal spring of frašö-kart. The Gods within will be unleashed and the elixir of immortality will give unbounded health and energy to the followers of light.  ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rapithwin, the lord of brightness, and radiance


Rapithwin is the the “lord of brightness and radiance,” the source of sustenance, strength and abundance.”  In traditional Zoroastrian terminology, Rapithwin is an idyllic time when the invincible sun is at the zenith of her power, the time of highest radiance from noon till 3 o’clock.                                                  

It was at Rapithwin that Ahûrá Mazdá first manifested the material creation from the realm of ideas/thoughts through a “heartfelt desire,” and it will again be Rapithwin when another Yasna, “yearning, burning desire” will set in the splendid, fresh, new creation of the worlds, Farshökart. 

It is “true, heartfelt desire,” Yasna, that purifies, hallows, and brings about manifestation. The root of the word Yasna is reconstructed Indo-European Hieh2g-nô. 

Rapithwin comes from ancient Indo-European peitu-/pitu, and is a cognate of Lithuanian pietis. The word means “food, sustenance, energy,” and referred originally to “midday or afternoon meal.” In the sacred Avestan lore, the connection between “brightness/light” and “sustenance“ is evident in the Avestan formula/blessing for food in Yasna 37.1.                                                       

During the Ayāθrima thanksgiving festival in mid October when the cattle are beautifully decorated, and brought back home to their shelters, the warmth and radiance of Rapithwin is believed to go underground to give energy to the roots of plants and waters during cold winter months. It is with coming of vernal equinox/spring that Rapithwin symbolically returns. At every “Victorious Fire,” Ātaš Vahrama yasna is solemnized in honor of asha, “excellence, genius composition, ahüric art, truth” at high noon or time of Rapithwin, on the day of Vernal Equinox, and Yasna Celebrations are continued at midday for the next two days.

The ultimate goal of rapithwin yasna celebration is to unleash the miraculous force of menög, “the invisible realm of mind power, spirit, imagination, ideas,” and thereby transmute the imperfect reality into wondrous and ever better. 

The sacred Avestan verses of Yasna are most significant for their mąθric power, for they not only unleash the “mind energy, genius essence, spirit” of the god powers from the subconscious dimension but also reveal the pristine creative, will/wisdom, that will set in motion the splendid renewal, remaking of the worlds. It is their mąθric power that blesses and imparts the brilliance of the Immortals on the patron of the Yasna ceremony, his/her wider community, and the departed souls.

ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Festival of Waters in Zoroastrianism


October 26 is the festival of waters in the Zoroastrian seasonal calendar. The waters in the Zoroastrian sacred poetry are closely associated with pristine spirits, brilliance, and the vital, female god force known as Ahûránî.

The name Ahurānī is derived from Ahûrá with a feminine suffix -ānī: “female titan or goddess (of the waters.)” Ahûránî denotes the god force in the waters from lakes, to springs, from rivers to snow, and rain (See Yasna 68.6).

The invoker priest “zaôtar or züt“ in the Zoroastrian most sacred yasna rite, offers Ahûránî milk and butter (Y. 68.2). Milk and butter are mixed with the fragrant essence of flowers, and are offered to the waters.

Making the offering of the holy water is the culminating rite of the most sacred Yasna ritual in Zoroastrianism. The preparation and consecration of holy water is at the center of the rituals of the second part of the Yasna ceremony.

Yasna literally means “yearning, longing.” The twigs and the sap of fresh pomegranate leaves are pounded in a mortar together with milk and spring water. The belief that by making an offering to the waters which give life to all living things, the waters themselves are made “stronger,” purer and more abundant, and are invested with great power and god energy, hence the designation āb-zöhr.

Yasna 68 is dedicated to the veneration and praise of waters in the Zoroastrian sacred hymns. But the most powerful formulas relating to Ahûránî are Yasna 38.3-5, where the waters are invoked as source of abundance, and worthy of worship. Similarly, the beautiful, long hymn to the Undefiled, Mighty Lady of waters,” Arədvī Surā Anāhitā” is dedicated to the praise of the waters.

ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tolkien and Zoroastrianism


In a remarkable letter, Tolkien writes: “I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own, not of the quality that I sought, and found in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff. Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing.“

By his own criteria, Tolkien was determined to create a mythology for England,  inspired by Old English and Old Norse mythological accounts.  A most interesting, subtle, link between Tolkien’s mythology and that of the of the ancient  Indo-Europeans, can be seen in an early version of the tale of the awakening of Men appearing in the outlines to “Gilfanon’s Tale” in The Book of Lost Tales specifically as regards to Ermon, Avestan Airyaman, Vedic Aryaman.

Tolkien was utterly immersed in ancient Indo-European mythology in all its forms. He noticed the great similarity specifically between Norse mythology and ancient Zoroastrianism. Gaps that existed in Old English and Old Norse tales, he has subtly filled with Zoroastrian themes. He was very familiar with Franz Cumont works. Cumont pointed out many similarities between the Old Norse Mythology and ancient Zoroastrianism. Cumont correctly pointed out that the Vedas depict a world very similar to Greek myths while ancient Zoroastrianism and Norse mythology remarkably show identical themes and world views.

Tolkien also held the Rawlinson and Boseworth of Anglo Saxon Studies Professorship till the end of his life. Thus, he must have been particularly familiar with Rawlinson works when it came to Avestan studies. Tolkien seem to be not just thinking of Old Norse mythology as inspiration for his recreated mythology but complimented it with ancient Zoroastrianism as the purest form of ancient Indo-European worldview as it was firmly believed by the likes of Pike, Rawlinson and Cumont. Tolkien specifically calls Gandalf Mithrandir. Was he thinking of Mithra as Arbiter of the Gods when he was giving Gandalf this name?

Also the cosmic battle of light and the brilliant gods against deformation and evil seem to have a very clear source in the Zoroastrian tradition. No other Indo-European faith equates evil with deformation, clumsiness and stupidity as Zoroastrianism does. We see this in Tolkien depiction of orcs and their tortuous existence.

Tolkien was also fascinated with Finnish mythology, and Finnish Great epic poetry of Kalevala. Although he never visited Finland, he learned Finnish and incorporated a lot of themes from Kalevala into his reconstructed mythology. It is very likely that Tolkien knew of the influence of Uralic and Uralic mythology on ancient Indo Iranians and Zoroastrianism. An influence that is more evident than in any other Indo-European ancient religion and language.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic but the Catholic themes that run in his stories/reconstructed mythology, themes like the fall of men and elves clearly go back to the dawn of the Indo-European religious poetry specifically ancient Zoroastrianism. So in conclusion, Tolkien tried to recreate a mythology for English people. But his fascination with Finnish/Uralic Mythology, and his backdrop of Old Norse Motifs made him compliment it with inspirations from ancient Zoroastrianism that resembled Old Norse greatly, and had substantial borrowed elements from Ancient Uralic that fascinated him.

ardeshir

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The great autumnal festival of Mehregan


Zoroastrian festival of Mehregaan is an autumnal harvest festival dedicated to Mithra. It is a six days, most joyous holiday that starts on October 2nd, and concludes on October 8th. The festivities of Mithra are closely associated with autumnal equinox.

The close association is due to the fact that autumnal equinox is linked to the concept of reciprocity and harvesting. In the sacred lore of the Zoroastrians, the Avesta, Mithra is hailed as the “Lord of the wide pastures and meadows.” The Avestan Mithrá-, Vedic Mitrá- comes from reconstructed Indo-European root *meit- and is cognate with Latin mūtō, Gothic maidjan, Latvian mietot.

Mithra appears in the Poetic Gathas, Yasna 46.5, 2nd rhymed verse line in the form of mithrö.ibyö in the sense of “reciprocity, mutual friendship, camaraderie.” Mithrá is reciprocating the Immortals bond by fulfilling our duty/destiny. The festival of Mithra is known as Mehrgān/Mehregān in modern Persian. We must pay our debts, return the favors, fulfill our promises, and make sure we have a clean record during this holiday.                                                                                                                                                         

The Zoroastrian autumnal celebrations were once so joyous and elaborate, with festive lights, banquets, and music that the word Mehrgān/Mehregān has been borrowed into Arabic as Mehrajān referring to “joyous festivity” in general.  

The celebrations of Miθra were also held around the autumnal equinox in the 7th month of the Achaemenian calendar known as  Baga.yadi “hallowing of the  god.”  The ancient Iranian word Baga for “god, giver of good fortune,” is a cognate of Slavic Bog, “god/God.”

In the Zoroastrian sacred rites, the celebration of equinoxes is connected with partaking of parahöm, “the consecrated elixir of life.” The ritual is symbolic of receiving life force and much vitality.  The rite symbolically re-enacts the time when the blessed spirits will partake of parahöm (elixir of life,) prepared from the all healing plant “White Höm.” All blessed spirits also join in a mystical communion meal prepared from the fat of the mythical bull, Haδayans. The sacred elixir/wine and communion meal shall confer deathlessness on resurrected bodies at the time of Frašō.kərəti, the “splendid recreation of the worlds.” 

Mehregan is the only time of the year that we are allowed to indulge in wine without moderation. Zoroastrian jurisprudence considers wine making and wine consumption a great virtue when is done in moderation. But during Mehregan we can be slightly drunk. According to Greek Historians, this was the only holiday among ancient Persians that rulers and judges could appear slightly drunk in public. 

Mehregan is the only time of the year that we are allowed to indulge in wine without moderation. Zoroastrian jurisprudence considers wine making and wine consumption a great virtue when is done in moderation. But during Mehregan we can be slightly drunk. According to Greek Historians, this was the only holiday among ancient Persians that rulers and judges could appear slightly drunk in public. 

On the thanksgiving table of Mehregan we shall offer wine, pomegranate fruit, other seasonal fruits dried nuts, fried sweet bread, and candles and incense as an offering.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

ardeshir                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Veneration of Immortals, and the Concept of Intercession in Zoroastrianism


The concept of making an appeal to the “Auspicious, Brilliant, Immortals,” “hallowed god powers,” “pristine archetypes,” and “luminous blessed spirits,” to INTERCEDE on behalf of mortals is among the prominent beliefs of the Zoroastrian faith. 

In Zoroastrian worldview, there is a boundless, bright realm of “creative ideas, powerful mind energies, pristine archetypes, blessed, luminous spirits, known as the world of ménög. The ancient Avestan commentaries define ménög as an “enchanting world of “Celestial Melodies, God Songs/Gathas, (gāhānīg,) and most brilliant ideas,” (See ancient commentaries of Yasna,28.1.)  

The brilliant realm of spirit/mind, ménög, and“pristine archetypes” is where the fate of the material manifestations, gétîg, is decided. Ménög, precedes the universe of manifestations, gétîg, and serves as the original model for the latter’s creation. Ménög is the root and source of gétîg, and gétîg is its fruit. 

However, as ménög reflects the changes brought about in gétîg, the “realm of thoughts, mind powers, ideas,” ménög, becomes dependent on the “realm of manifestations,” gétîg. This makes the material world of gétîg, the perfect place to trap, and overcome the flaws and imperfections of the broken spirit, ahriman, and his diabolic deities.  Since, gétig is a place of mixture, fiery trial, and removal of imperfections.   

The diabolic deities and the broken spirit are trapped within the world of mortal men, and are manifest in malformations in the physical. It is said regarding the battle against ahriman, the “broken, evil spirit,” and his demon-gods, there will never be a time in which mortal men will not exist in the material universe. Since, both the continued existence of evil, and the final overcoming of it depends on mortal men. When mortal men evolve into higher, spiritual, supermen; the “broken, evil spirit,” ahriman, and his demon-gods will cease to exist.

Everything that exists in the manifested universe has a ménög “ideal, spiritual,” as well as a gétîg “physical aspect.” Hence, the Yazatás, god powers that ought to be “hallowed/worshipped,” exist both in ménög and in gétîg, and INTERCEDE to ménögán ménög, “the highest, most sublime mind/spirit of all,” (a term that designates the Supreme God, Ahûrá Mazdá,) on behalf of mortal warriors of light. 

The word for INTERCESSION in the Middle Iranian Zoroastrian literature is jádag-göwîh. It appears in the ancient commentaries of Yasna 27.13c, 28.1 a, 34.2c, 45.6d, 49.6a, 51.2c of the Poetic Gathas. 

The Avestan terms associated with the concept of INTERCESSION are vahmæ “to venerate, revere as the source of all good,” and nəmaŋhá “praise/bow to unleash the spiritual/god powers hidden in the world appearances.” 

Prods Oktor Skjaervo derives vahmæ from the root vaf “to weave sacred poetry/praise.” While Almut Hintze derives vahmæ from vohü “superb, good.” 

The idea is to see the “boundless, infinite, superb” in the mundane, and venerate it as sacred, and source of all good. When we revere the “ideal, spiritual, divine archetype” in the world of transient forms, we awake the Titans within, and unleash their hidden powers, and powerful pleas on our behalf. The concept is very similar to Old Norse Vé and making natural shrines to the original gods. 

ardeshir 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pætat, Fravarti, and Parsi New Year


The last 10 days before the Zoroastrian new year are dedicated to “the spirits of valiant warriors/ancestors,” known as fra.varti. According to Bernfried Schlerath, the word is derived from the root √var- “choose,” with *fravarti being an acclamation—a “choosing forth—” of “pristine archetypes, heroic ancestors” who are specially honored during these 10 days.  

Alexander Lubotsky of Leiden University, in his “Indo-Iranian Lexicon” considers an etymological connection between fra.varti, and the Old Norse Valkyrja “chooser of the slain/heroic dead.”  In Yašt/hymn 13 (verse 70) the valiant spirits of fravarti are conceived as Valkyrie-like beings who are said to “swoop down like an eagle.” 

These “valiant, hero ancestors,” in the “hymn/yašt” dedicated to them, are conceived as “pristine archetypes,” supporting Ahûrá Mazdá in times of yore to brilliantly order the worlds, and still having great powers in perpetuating the creations, prospering the waters and plants, and protecting sons/descendants in the womb (verses. 1-11). Fra.varti are said to be a vast host of “many hundreds, many thousands, many tens of thousands” (Yašt. 13.65,) whose bravery and power to help in battle are particularly celebrated, (verses 49-52, 96-144.)

Zoroastrians believe that “archetypes/heroic ancestors” visit our earthly realm during these most auspicious 10 days. Hence, these sacred days become a period of pætat, or a time to “return to one’s roots.” 

Pætat comes from the verb paitî- whose literal meaning is “go back (to), step, move towards.” Pætat is a time to make amends with god-powers, archetypes, ancestors, and set right the wrong. These most auspicious days of Pætat are a time to CHOOSE, and sincerely confess the noble faith (ērīh,) and it supreme magnificence/greatness mehīh. The Zoroastrian religion is equated with érîh, Avestan airyá, as the pristine, noble faith of the ancient Indo Iranians, and even older ancient Indo-Europeans.

To honor the valiant spirits of archetypes/ancestors during Pætat, a thorough house cleaning is performed. More importantly we are instructed to purify our hearts, and make amends to family, friends, community and our neighbors. The most elaborate treatment of this subject appears in chapter 8 of the Šāyist nē Šāyist (literally suitable and not suitable.)  In this respect, Šāyist nē Šāyist admonishes “pure intent, honest admission, rejection of the wrong, and a strong will/commitment not to do the injurious offense again.”

We read throughout the Zoroastrian literature  “to do the worship and invocation of the Yazad/Gods with pure intent/vision (pad nigerišn.) According to Šāyist nē Šāyist the “pure thoughts/ideas” (pad menišn) suffice in and of themselves to render the wrongdoer righteous (8.13.) In Zoroastrianism, mental activities are considered injurious or auspicious in and of themselves, even when actions are not involved. Numerous Middle Persian, Zoroastrian texts command the Zoroastrian faithful to “never think an evil/negative thought.”

Zoroastrian tradition maintains that the boundless lights of Ahûrá  Mazdá shine more brightly on these holy days. Hence, they are a great time for “showing excellence, charity” ashö-dád. It is a time to generously help the less fortunate. Wealthier Zoroastrians establish “charitable trusts, foundations” during this time. It is traditional to perform Gáhán.bár “religious thanksgiving celebrations” for 30 years at any such donated land or established charitable foundation or trust. 

Each Zoroastrian family prepares a beautiful table/banquet decorated with candles, wine, sugar cone, fruits, hearty fried bread “sirög,” eggs, milk, a bowl of fresh water with some dried oregano, and incense. Prayers shall be done at this table of “offerings and libations.”

Presently, Zoroastrian also decorate their table with picture of their beloved departed ones. Some invite Priests to do the prayers for them at their home. Another most important ritual is kindling seven or nine bonfires on rooftops, in alleys or in courtyards.

Currently the Parsi new year is celebrated on August 16, and the ten most auspicious days start at August 6th. Nauv.rooz Bal Celebrations on August 17, in the lush Caspian mountains are extremely similar. After the Arab conquest, and following  Zoroastrian decline 3-4 centuries after the invasion, Surviving Zoroastrian communities in remote mountains, and high deserts slowly lost track of leap year calculations, and their new year ceremonies over few centuries moved to mid-summer instead of the Avestan appointed Spring Equinox celebrations.

ardeshir    

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Old Avestan riddle poems and the essence of the Immortals


The Váršt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 28.7 states that through the melodious songs of mąθrá “poetic thought, sacred word,”  Zarathustra, ( and those who follow his luminous vision,) connect to the “very own/self” of Mazda, the “Lord of Mind, Inspiring Creativity, and Wisdom. The ancient commentary above reminds Me of this quote: “I saw the power of the word (poetic thought) solid and indescribable. As its feet lapped the waves of ages past.”

Hence, Godhood is inextricably linked — even incorporated within mąθrá “mind formulas of the realm of bright thoughts/ideas.” Lordship of Mazdá, and the Goodwill of the Gods, may best be experienced through the “poetic thought” mąθrá, and the “power of vision, discovery and learning,” daæná, that are bound together for all eternity.

The “effective wisdom” of ḵratü expressed through “sacred verse” mąθrá becomes the “power” of the spirit, of ardor, inspiration, which animates the prophet- poet, and the noble believer/warrior of light. 

The riddle poems of the Old Avestan Songs/Gathas are the very objects and subjects which express Mazda’s “creative will” ḵratü.  Gathas/Songs are meticulously concise, powerfully expressive, and have a sacred rhythm or profound beat to them. They are one of the best known examples of using enigma in ancient Indo-European sacred poetry. 

Gathic or Old Avestan is a sonorous, imposing, melodious language well suited to poetry and effective oration. Spoken rhythm is all-important to its poetic form.

Old Avestan mąθrás are enigmatic “meditations/reflections” on the wondrous nature of Mazda, the Supreme Titan/God of Mind Energies, inherent brilliance of the Auspicious Immortals (Mazda’s Titans or Ahûras,) their magic and superb skills, the splendid creating anew, and brilliant end destiny of the worlds, battle against diabolic deities who are the forces of chaos, limitation and obstruction in present creation, and mortal mens’s role in the colossal battle to bring about the Eternal Spring of the Titans/Primeval God Powers.    

The belief underlying all of Old Avestan poetic verse/mąθrá, is that the slightest details of these sacred poem riddles have a meaning that is both profound and significant. Every detail is noteworthy, and is capable of being discovered by further insight. The ancient Zoroastrian methods of exegesis espouse the fundamental belief that every letter, word, or other detail in the Gathas/Poetic Songs has a decipherable meaning, and vast depth. The enigmatic style of the Old Avestan sacred verse has served as an additional proof to their omni-significant interpretation.

The Gathas/Old Avestan sacred verse is considered to be complete and self-sufficient, and therefore contain the answer to every inquiry that can possibly be raised. Their Zand (literally Gnosis, “Insightful Knowledge”)  exercises the method of inclusiveness, whereby the original meaning of the poetic thought is expanded by word and sound play to include matters that are not explicitly expressed.

In Yasna 57.8 Zarathustra is said to have recited the Gathas/Sacred Songs  “together with their insightful knowledge/gnosis, together with answers to questions” (maṯ.āzaiṇtīš maṯ.paiti.fraså.) 

The popular term Kashf-ul-Asrar among early and later Moslem theologians, (literally “Revelation of The Divine Secrets,”) seem to be a verbatim translation of “Avesta and Zand,” the sacred lore of the ancient Zoroastrians. The literal meaning of Avesta (Pahlavi abesta􏰎g) seem to have to do with the “wisdom and praise” of the GodPowers, with Zand referring to the “gnosis/insightful wisdom” of the sacred poetry. 

The Zoroastrian sacred tradition divides Avesta into 3 parts: The poetic thought or enchanting “Gathic Songs” (gáhánīg), “legal” (dádīg), and “Young Avestan quotations of Old Avestan mąθrás” for utmost efficiency in prayers/ritual” (hádá-mántrīg.) 

In conclusion, I shall add that according to Holy Denkart, Zoroastrian jurisprudence could be reinvented according to the exigencies of the age. Also, according to Yasna 28.7 ḵšajā.”kingship” is reserved for masters of mąθrá or the Philosopher Kings.

ardeshir

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment