Rune Kenaz, sacredness of pine tree, and the image of lighting the torch in Zoroastrianism

Rune *kenaz/kaunan symbolizes the “light of knowledge.” The original meaning of *kenaz though is “PINE” or the TORCH of flammable pinewood.

*Kenaz, from the Old Norse kaun is a cognate of the Old English cēn. The Old Indo Iranian term for PINE is a cognate as well, where k is replaced with s. The Russian word for pine sosná comes from the same ancient root, (See Didier Calin.)

An Old English rune poem says: Cen byþ cwicera gehwam, cuþ on fyre blac ond beorhtlic, byrneþ oftust ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.

The torch is known to every living man / by its pale, bright flame; it always burns / where princes sit within (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)

The Zoroastrian sacred lore uses the imagery of the torch, and lighting one flame from another, to indicate the immortal spark of the amešá/amertá spentás, the Auspicious or Brilliant Immortals of Ahûrá Mazdá.

The nature of the Immortal Gods is likened to the fire of the TORCH that takes many wondrous forms. The TORCH speaks in words of the eternal flame, the same message of “brilliant energy, inspiring creativity, and intense passion.”

The eternal flame is a long-standing tradition in ancient Zoroastrianism. The eternal flame in the Mazda worshipping religion of the ahuras, must be kept alive only by the burning of the sacred wood. Avesta talks of the ûrvázištá fire or fire that is hidden in ûrvar or trees, (Compare with Latin arbor “tree.”)

Cypress and Pine trees (káj in Persian) play a major role in the ancient Zoroastrian religion. For the evergreen trees represent eternal life, and pinecones specifically represent the continuity and renewal of vital energy and sacred knowledge.

Interestingly, the pine tree was the sacred tree of Roman Mithraism. Romans themselves called Mithraism as the Parsi or Persian Religion, and only knew it by the latter name. Mithraism became the most widespread religion in ancient, pre-Christian Rome. During the Roman holiday of winter solstice (Dec. 17-25th), the pine trees were decorated with shining ornaments according to the Mithraic rites.

Pine trees were also one of the symbols of the Germanic mid-winter festival of Yule.

In conclusion, I shall add that in ancient Druid rituals, pine was burned to commemorate the changing of seasons and to bring back the vitality/energy of the sun. This tradition is kept alive to this day in the Scottish countryside.


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Rune Uruz and Zarathustra’s Name

Rune *uruz literally means “auroch,” and symbolizes “virility, determination, primal raw energies associated with life force, and adventurous spirit.” In short, uruz is the “subconscious will power, passion of the untamed nature.”

Once aurochs ranged throughout much of Eurasia. They were the wild ancestors of the domestic cattle of our day. Aurochs were untamed, fascinating, and most powerful.

Ancient Indo Europeans believed in kinship with, and a mystical relationship between themselves and “strong, graceful, noble animals.” The second element in *Zaraδûštra’s name, Avestan ûštra is in fact a cognate of uruz.

Uruz “Auroch,” Old Norse úrr, Gothic urs, Old English úr, Old High English ūro/ ūrochso, Germanic ur, all go back to reconstructed Indo European*usrus or *usr (See Didier Calin.)

The cognate of uruz in Indo Iranian is Proto*ušra, Avestan ûštra, Pashto ūš, and may mean anything from the wild bovine aurochs to buffalo and/or Bactrian camel.

Another theory suggests that Avestan ûštra in Zarathustra’s name is related to Old High English ustrī “industry” and ustinōn “to function, be industrious, useful.”

The Bactrian camel is native to the steppes of Central Asia, and is the largest mammal in its native range. It is exceptionally adept at withstanding wide variations in temperature, ranging from freezing cold to blistering heat.

Bactrian camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, Indo Europeans from the Tarim Basin in northwestern China were depicted with their Bactrian camels in numerous ceramic figurines from the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907).

In Diodorus 1.94.2 Zarathustra called Zathrāstēs, is the name of the “Aryan prophet, law-giver” (cf. Schmitt, 1996, p. 94; Gnoli, 2000, p. 100).

The first part of the name *Zaraδûštra or Zaraθûštra, is a cognate of Ossetian Zœrond, and means “grey/white haired, old, albino.”

The name of ZĀL, the legendary prince of Scythians, and father of folk hero Rostam in Šāh-nāma seem to be an exact match for the first part of the ancient seer/prophet’s name. Zāl literally means ALBINO.

Like poet/prophet Zarathustra, Zāl is an extraordinary wise and mystical personality. The legendary, albino prince of Scythians appears as an avid scholar and learner who surpass others in astronomy, religion, art of war, horsemanship, archery, and other military skills.

Zāl is a revered advisor under kávi kings (warrior priest kings,) and is regarded as the last bastion of hope. In Avesta, Zaraδûštra is the wise advisor to kávi Vištaspa.

In the Avestan lore Zaraδûštra is the ultimate ratü “one who has the knowledge of riddles. Zāl in Šāh-nāma is also known for his skillful explanation of riddles (Zaehner, pp. 242-44, 444-46.)


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Rune Thurisaz, Frost Giants, and the severe cosmic winter in Zoroastrianism

In the runic alphabet of the ancient Germanic tribes of Northern Europe there is a rune called *þurisaz/thurisaz “frost giant.”

Thurisaz is a protective rune that is depicted as the hammer of THOR. The rune symbolizes “striking powerful blows, delivering heavy defeat” against the “frost giants/anti-Gods, monsters, and demons of chaos and freezing cold.”

All mythologies have their anti-Gods. In the Zoroastrian and Germanic lore, Anti Gods/devils are frost monsters representing “bleakness, freezing cold, and lack of energy/intensity of passion.”

While in most religious traditions Hell is a “fiery abyss,” in the Zoroastrian faith, hell is a “frozen, nauseating wasteland, devoid of life-force/energy.”

Thurisaz “frost giants” of the Germanic lore come from the Old Norse þurs Old English þyrs: Gothic Þaúrnus Old High German durs, Old English þorn “thorn” (See Didier Calin.)

Thurisaz *þurisaz thus means something like “thorny, injurious, sore.” The ancient Indo Iranian term for “spikey/green leaves, grass, thorny bushes,” like Khotian Punjabi tarra is a cognate. Likewise, Finnish tarna “sedge, grass” is a borrowing from the early Indo Iranian.

On the symbolism of THORNS, we read in the Zoroastrian sacred texts that: “On nature of plants it says in daæná (Luminous spiritual vision,) that before the coming of the evil spirit, vegetation had no thorn about it; and, afterwards, when the lord of all flaws enetered, it became covered with thorns.”

The term used for “thorn” in the Zoroastrian text is Xár literally “sore,” referring to “ache, injury and poisonous conditions.”

Concerning FREEZING COLD/WINTER, we read in the first chapter of the Avestan book of “laws/formulas against diabolic forces/demons” vî-dæv-dátá:

“The first of the good lands and countries that I, Ahûrá Mazdá created, was the Airyana Vaæja “Cradle of the Airyá, the Noble Ones” by the Vaηûhi Daitya “the good, bountiful” river.

Thereupon came angra mainyu “evil, decayed spirit/mind” who is “pôuruu-mahrkö” full of death,” and he counter-created the serpent in the river and zyãm “WINTER,” a formation of the demon-gods daævö-dátem.

Ten are the winter months in Airyana Vaæja, two the summer months, and in winter there the waters are freezing, the earth is freezing, and the plants are freezing.”

Airyana Vaæja “cradle of the Noble Ones,” is the holy land of Zoroastrianism. It is the birthplace of the ancient poet/prophet Zarathustra, and the original homeland of proto Indo Europeans.

In the ancient Avestan texts the theme of the “final battle and splendid renewal of the worlds” is an integral component, a subject that is distinctively and uniquely shared with the ancient Norse Scandinavia.

The motif of the severe cosmic winter, as immediate prelude to the “titanic final battle” in Zoroastrianism, and Yima’s underground var, the underground shelter in Airyana Vaæja where the pristine seeds of all the living will be safeguarded, also can closely be compared with the Norse fimbulvetr/fimbulwinter.


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The abode of the Immortals, wide vision, and the eye that sees all in the poetic gathas

WELKIN “clouds, heaven, abode of the Gods” is an old English word that brings to mind a quote from Shakespeare’s King John Act 5, Scene 5: “The sun of heaven, methought, was loath to set / But stay’d and made the western welkin blush.”

The word welkin has been used in English since at least the 12th century, and it derives from Proto Indo European *welk, *welg “wet, moist.” The German word wolke “CLOUD” comes from the same root.

This brings to mind the primal Greek God personifying “sky/heaven,” Uranus Ouranós. The sky god Uranus comes from *vorsanós “rain-maker,” and belongs with Vedic varṣá, Avestan varəš “to rain,” deriving from Reconstructed Proto Indo European root *ṷérs “to rain, moisten.”

Middle Iranian várûn Persian bárán “rain” are cognates, and go back to the same ancient Indo European root.

The great scholar George Dumézil has considered Ouranós to be the same as Váruṇa the chief god/asura of the Vedic pantheon. Váruṇa is the god embodying “vault of the sky, celestial oceans and rain water.”

Dumézil’s equation of Ouranós with Váruṇa has since been deemed as incorrect. Váruṇa is currently linked with the root *ver “to speak” (Latin verbum “word.”) Váruṇa is the “master of the sacred word, formulas, and rules/laws of the cosmic order.”

Váruṇa is noted for being “all seeing,” and has been brought into connection with the ancient Lithuanian Vélinas, Latvian Velns, the Gaulish Vellaunos, and Hittite Walis, all the latter supposedly deriving from the root *wel “to see.”

The *wel root also comes in connection with the German prophetess Veleda, where it refers to vatic “seeing.”

The passage in the poetic gathas dealing with the “eye that sees all, knows all” is the first rhymed verse line of Yasna 33.13. The gathic term is vôuruu čašánæ. In the Rig Veda, Váruṇa is called urucákśas-, 1. 25. 5.

Avestan vôuruu comes from the root *ver/*wer (*vérhus) “vast, wide, limitless, all encompassing.” It is believed that the *wel root is unknown to Indo-Iranian.

Vôuruučašánæ is an epithet of Ahûrá Mazdá. For the Mindful lord witnesses everything, watchful, and intent, with his eye’s beam (Yasna 31. 13,) he is not deceived, the ahûrá who sees all’ (Yasna 45. 4.) In the poetic Avestan hymns, the sun is called the eye of Ahûrá Mazdá.

At the same time, in the Avesta, Mithra “friendship with the Immortals,” is said to have ten thousand ears and ten thousand eyes, he is all knowing and cannot be deceived.

In the gathic poetry and the sacred Zoroastrian literature, Godhood is the eternal quest for excellence, and heaven is where there are new horizons, and visionary power.

There is perhaps a Germanic parallel in the Hildebrandslied, where Hiltibrant begins a speech with the words wettu Irmingot obana ab heuene. This corresponds to the position of Odin in the Eddas. Odin has the highest seat among the gods, and from it he surveys all the worlds the sense would be ‘let Irmingot know it from above in heaven. (Irmingot is an epithet of Odin, and is equivalent with Gathic/Avestan Airyaman)


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The ancient Zoroastrian nation state Erán-shahr, and a plurality of ethnic groups within the ancient Persian Empire

The ancient Iranian system of government can be understood under the term Éránshahr. The word ērān is derived from middle Iranian ehrih “honor, nobility, German Ehre.” It goes back to Avestan airya “noble.” The term for “state, realm, dominion” in middle Iranian is shahr. The term airya daiŋhvö “lands, realms, kingdoms of the Aryans” is repeatedly mentioned in the Avestan hymns.

Érán is attested in the title of Ardeshir I, founder of the Sassanid dynasty on his investiture relief at Naqš-e Rostam. Ardeshir is called in Middle Iranian šāhān šāh ērān, and in Parthian šāhān šāh aryān “King of kings of the Noble Ones/the Aryans.”

The great trilingual inscription of Shāpūr I at the Kaʿba-ye Zartôšt in the Pars Province, contains the term Éránshahr (Parthian Aryānšahr.)

The king declares in middle Iranian Ērān.shahr xwadāy hēm, Parthian Áryānšahr xwadāy ahēm, Greek egō . . tou Arianōn ethnous despotēs eimi “I am the god-ruler of the realm of the Aryans.”

Éránshahr properly denoted the “realm, dominion, country, nation state” of the ancient Iranians, and goes back to the Avestan airyanām.

Shāpūr refers to his son Naresh as: ēr māzdēsn Narseh, šāh Hind, Sagestān, Parthian ary māzdēzn Narseh, “the Aryan, Mazda-worshipping Narseh, king of (northern) India, and the Scythians.”

Other Sassanid rulers from Ardeshir I onwards called themselves “the Noble/Aryan Mazda-worshipping king of kings of the Aryans érán/airán and the Non-Aryans an-érán/an-airán.”

The towering mountain fortress of the Iranian Plateau and the vast steppes of Central Asia were designated as the realm/lands of the Indo Iranians or ancient Aryans.

Other ethnic groups were limited to their respective homelands within the ancient Persian Empire, free to worship, and practice their laws and customs under the Mazda worshipping rule of the Éráns.

The ancient Iranians, as Indo-Europeans, never forced “Ahûrá Mazdá and his brilliant Immortals” on the alien tribes and peoples of their vast Empire.

In holy Denkart 7, the same distinction is made between érán/airán and an-érán. However, it shall be stressed that each ethnic group was considered EQUAL on its own merit in the ancient Persian Empire, and in the Zoroastrian texts.

Diversity in the ancient Persian Empire meant favoring cultural identity of each individual ethnic group within their vast Empire, but with strict boundaries existing between themselves and other alien nations/groups.


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The second hymn of the gathas, animal welfare and the spirit/will to enhance life

The second song/hymn of the poetic gathas start with the words šma.ibiiá géuš ûrvá gereždá “To You (the Multiplicity of Immortals,) the soul of the primeval cow géuš ûrvá (personification of all animal life,) lamented/grieved gereždá.

The “primeval cow” géuš of Zoroastrianism as proto type/progenitor of all animal life is almost identical to the primordial cow called Auðumbla in the Norse ancient sagas.

The second gathic song/hymn is called šma.ibiia as it narrates the lament of the animal soul to the Sacred Immortals. The poem starts with šmá, and ends with the word yüšmá both referring to “YOU in PLURA,” addressing the manifold nature of Godhood.

The Persian word shomá comes from the Avestanšmá and goes back to reconstructed Proto Indo European *sué. German has a similar formal expression for “You in Plural” Sie.

The religious poetry of the sacred songs/gathas reveal a multiplicity of ahûrás (cognate with the Norse æsir.) however, with a clear recognition that ultimately the many Immortals are ONE in Mazdá the “supreme god of “mind power, imagination and inspiring creativity.”

Mazdá and the Primordial Greek Musues “inspiration for music, sciences and the arts” have the same linguistic derivation/root, and convey almost the same idea.

In the poetic gathas, Mazdá and his ahûrás who embody “imagination, inspiring creativity, discovery, new horizons, and overcoming of adversity,” are continuously in struggle with añgrö, “the lord of defects” and his host of diabolic demons, (See Yasna 45.2.)

The “blemish giver” añgrö comes from a root that means “rigidity, stagnation and rot.” This festering/putrefaction of the “spirit, mind power” is the anti God in Zoroastrianism. While the “passion, fire, vigor, energy of mind/consciousness” is Godhood.

In the second gathic hymn, géuš tashan the “artisan of the Immortals, the fashioner/sculptor of life” inquires of ašá/arthá the will, spirit/mind power mainiiuu, which strives to EXCEL and introduce “order, superb artistry” into cosmos, concerning a champion/proponent for the spirit of animals.

Avestan taša/tashan “to fashion, shape, form” is a cognate of ancient Greek *tétk̑ōn, Greek τέκτων téktōn, Vedic tákṣan (See Didier Calin) and Germanic Þahsuz/thahsuz, all going back to reconstructed Proto Indo European *teḱs “to weave, compose, fashion, form.”

Mazdá the supreme god of “mind power, imagination and inspiring creativity” declares that the ails of animal life on earth can only be healed through an inspired seer who communicates the wisdom/speech of vôhû man, See Yasna (29.7.)

Vôhû Man is “goodness, full energy, brightness of consciousness, mind, spirit,” and is the realm/home of the ahûrás, (See Yasna 39.3 and Yasna 44.9.)

In Zoroastrianism, the Immortals are “innately good, luminous and are only givers of good things.” The very “mind, spirit, disposition” manö of Godhood is “goodness, genius and luminous vision.”

This “goodness, full energy and brightness of the spirit/mind” is denoted with the words vôhü, vaŋhuu and vaŋhéuš (Proto Indo European *wesu-) in the poetic gathas.

In the Vedas, vásu-pati “lord of good things” is an attribute of the gods, occurring some 15 times in the Rig Veda. In the Rig Veda, there is also a class of deities, known as the Vasus (Vásavah,) the Good/Bright Ones. The Germanic Visigoths the “Good Goths,” also known as Alanic Goths derive their name from this same ancient root.

In Zoroastrianism, Godhood is the brilliant force that overcomes adversity, and always fashions/sculpts a more splendid creation. Godhood NEVER sanctions animal sacrifice/cruelty, plagues and misfortune. Instead Godhood is odyssey of consciousness/mind-power, and the “superior wisdom” to overcome afflictions and limitations.

No ancient Indo European poet is more keenly alive to the joyous things in life: the praises of youth and vigorous energy, of prosperity and good fortune, and of all that is sublime, noble, pure and beautiful in nature, than the seer/prophet Zarathustra.

In the second gathic song, the Mazda Worshipping faith is declared to be the defender, and loving steward of animals. Zarathustra is said to be the seer/prophet of the brilliant disposition/wisdom vôhü man.aŋhá of the Immortals. Vôhü Man.aŋhá is the very spirit/will to enhance life, and joyously celebrate growth, health, vigor and vitality.

This unequivocal rejection of all animal sacrifice, and absolute assertion of animal rights as well as animal stewardship in the poetic gathas, sets the teachings of the ancient Aryan prophet apart from almost all other ancient pagan Indo European beliefs.

To bless” in English means “to consecrate with blood,” for it comes from Old English blēdsian, blōd “blood = consecrate with blood,” See Didier Calin.)

However, the concept of any blood consecration is utterly rejected by the ancient poet/prophet of the Aryans, and is deemed as a vile offering, demanded by, and only fit for diabolic demons.

In Zoroastrianism, the will to enhance life, virtue, wisdom, and stewardship of animals/nature are the only acceptable offering to the Immortals. Animal welfare, and protection of the purity of nature/elements are fundamental principles in the noble faith of Zarathustra.

The later extensive animal welfare laws in Zoroastrianism are diluted versions of the laws introduced by the seer/prophet himself. Although, faint hint to animal sacrifice can be found in only 1 place in younger Avesta, and in 1 or 2 passages in holy Denkart, yet later Zoroastrianism has by far entirely discarded animal sacrifice, and has replaced it with cutting open of fruit offerings during the sacred rituals.

In Zoroastrianism, creation is to be cherished for its own sake, and animals are to be protected for their own sake. Zoroastrianism is certainly NOT anthropocentric, but centered on virtue, wisdom, goodness and will to become godlike through enhancing life.


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Celebration of Equinoxes, Solstices in Zoroastrianism, and the sacredness of nature

April 30th marks the beginning of the Zoroastrian “mid-spring” festival. The mid-spring festival lasts 5 days and culminates on May 4th. Maiδyö.zarəm literally means “middle of greenery and flowers,” and refers to the “bright golden green color of spring flowers and vegetation.” Compare Avestan zarəm.iia with Russian zelënyj “green.”

The word for SPRING in Avesta is however vanri, a cognate of Latin vēr and Old Church Slavonic vesna.

Maiδyö.zarəm is one of the 6 major thanks giving holidays of Zoroastrianism, along with Hamaß.paθ.maiδ.iia “Vernal EQUINOX” or the moment when the center/middle position maiδ.iia of the Sun and the celestial points/paths paθ are at the same hamaß or equal distance from each other; Maiδyö.šam “mid-summer;” and Maiδ.yaar “mid-year,” dating to the times that count of years were by winters.

Four of the thanksgiving holidays celebrate equinoxes and solstices, and the 2 others honor bountiful harvest, animal welfare and stewardship.

Maiδyö.zarem lies halfway between vernal equinox and summer solstice, and is the festival of the pure essence/nectar of flowers and plants. The Avestan epithet of maiδyö.zarem is paiian meaning milk, syrup, nectar,” a cognate of Lithuanian pienas “milk” Greek pion “fat, cream.”

During the mid-spring holiday rituals using the symbolic use of fire and bright flowers are performed to encourage growth, the abundance of milk and dairy products, and protect the cattle, crops and people from harm and negative energies.

Doorways, windows, equipment for milking, butter making and cattle themselves are decorated with bright flowers to evoke fire and youthfulness.

Like all other Zoroastrian rituals, bonfires are kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes are used in sacred rituals. Family hearths and sacred flames are re-lit from the bonfires. When the bonfire has died down, the ashes from it are thrown in the fields for increased energy, renewed vitality, and assuring future bountiful harvest.

No Indo European poet is more keenly alive to the praises of all that is sublime and beautiful in nature more than the Aryan seer/prophet Zarathustra.

Zoroastrian worship is closely connected to the celebration of the joyous things in life and the sacredness of pristine nature.

Central to the Zoroastrian belief is the assertion that each aspect of the material universe is a symbol of one of the Immortals. Thus the invocation invoked to each of the Brilliant Immortals is addressed to the material representation of the same Immortal in the material universe.

Zoroastrian faith has really no sacred icons, idols or any congregational worship. Instead worshippers, pay homage to lofty mountains, sacred springs, trees, holy waters, wind, hearth fire, celestial lights, stars, sun, moon and morning dawn.

Thus, the sacred poetry of the ancient Aryan poet-prophet as well as the Zoroastrian ritual worship, suggest a kind of poetical pantheism, and sees Godhood in all that is sublime and beautiful in pristine nature.



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