The great Zoroastrian Winter Festival of Sadæ


Sadæ is the great Zoroastrian-Iranian winter festival that heralds the coming of spring, and the gradual warming of the waters, the earth and plants. Sadæ is celebrated forty days after winter solstice, on or about January 30th. 

The festival of Sadæ is celebrated by making huge bonfires near running water or a sacred spring, and by drinking red wine with noghl or sugar coated almonds. Noghl is made by boiling sugar in rose water, and coating roasted almonds in the mixture. 

The festival of Sadæ has been forgotten among the Parsi Zoroastrians of India, but Iranian Zoroastrians are still celebrating Sadæ as a major part of their religious observances. 

It is believed in folklore that on the night of Sadæ the winter comes out from hell (Biruni, Āṯār, tr. Sachau, p. 226; Qazvini, p. 80) and, according to Biruni, in the City Karaj this night is called šab-e gazina (the biting night).

The etymology of the word sadæ is generally derived from the numeral sat (one hundred). Interestingly, the Indo European languages are divided into “satem” languages, from the Avestan word satəm “hundred,” and “centum” or westerly languages after Latin word for hundred or centum. 

The memory of the 150-days or 5 months of winter divided by sadæ in two unequal parts of  100 days celebrated on sadæ, and 50 days from Sadæ Spring Equinox can still be found in popular sayings, such as “ṣad bae Sadæ, panjāh be Nauvrooz (One hundred days that is Sadæ, from here 50 more days left to Nauvrooz or Spring Equinox.) 

Since Sadæ is considered to be the coldest night of the year, and on Sadæ night the frost and freezing cold suppose to come out from hell, it is possible that sadæ is etymologically related to Avestan çared “cold.” Sadæ night is also called  šab-e gazina (the biting/frost night.) 

The great scholar Mary Boyce mentions a major fire festival still observed by Iranian Zoroastrians which falls hundred days before Nauvrooz or Spring Equinox. This festival is named Sadæ in Kermán and Hīrômbáii in Yazd. Mary Boyce (1968, pp. 201-12; Idem, 1983, pp. 800-1) concludes that  Sadæ festival honors of the Zoroastrian yazata/god being of Rapiṯwin, the lord of Summer and Mid-day, who rules over the warm part of the year (that is, the seven summer months) and then descends under the ground in order to reappear on the first day after Spring Equinox. The ceremonies of Rapiṯwin farewell and welcome are observed by the Zoroastrians. Rapiṯwin is believed to make the plants grow and the fruit ripen, and, while underground, Rapiṯwin heats the roots and the underground waters from beneath, thus protecting the plants from cold. Accordingly, the bonfires festival of Sadæ help Rapiṯwin “the Lord of Mid-Day” to heat the earth and plant roots during the most severe cold bites and freezes. That is why Zoroastrians light their Sadæ bonfires near running water, sacred spring or over an underground canal (qanāt). 

This practice is confirmed by a description of fire reflected in water as part of the literary pattern, as can be seen in the poems by Manṣuri-Samarqandi (Jašn-e Sada, pp. 58-59),. The ancient Sadæ festival poems provide an exquisite description of fire, which  frequently compares the energy of fires to a plant, a flower, a fruit tree, a stack of corn, or a garden blossoming in a winter landscape. This imagery seems to go back to even older mythological concepts connecting the plant life with fire energy, (See the Poetic Gathas Yasna 48.6 and Yasna 49.8 for example.)  

Point is that the folkloric motif of Winter-and-Spring combat, and of the return of an energetic god power is predominant in Sadæ bonfire rituals. Simone Cristoforetti (1995) also stresses the dragon-killing motif of the Sadæ mythology and its broadly understood “ambrosian” aspects as conceived by G.Dumézil in his early works (1926, 1929).

ardeshir

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The dual nature of “wolves, fairies, and mortal men in the Zoroastrian sacred lore, and tradition


The traditional accounts of Zarathustra’s life are contained in the 7th book of holy Denkart (Denkart literary means “explanatory works on the revealed wisdom/vision.” Denkart is the largest, and most ancient commentary work on the Avestan sacred lore. While Avestá is the poetic, revealed wisdom/vision of the Titans, Denkart is the cornerstone in understanding the Avestá, and traditional Zoroastrianism.) 

The 7th book of holy Denkart provides several accounts of noble animals protecting the seer/prophet Zarathustra during his infancy. We read specifically in Denkart 7.3.8ff  that a noble she-wolf vǝhrkąm took the young Zarathustra along with her own cubs, and protected him from all harms. 

This most ancient account of Zarathustra’s legendary infancy clearly hints at a dual nature for wolf vǝhrká in the Zoroastrian sacred literature. Wolf is not just a symbol of thievery, thieves taiiüm…vǝhrkǝm or vicious, two-footed mortals, but wulf also has a noble warrior nature, and embodies bravery and honor. 

In Shah-námæ (The Great Persian Epic Poetry rooted in the Avestá, and Zoroastrian Mythology,) GURG.IN (Modern Persian for Wulflike,) is the name of one of the heroes during the reigns of Kay Kāvus and Kay Ḵosrow. GURG.IN is the head of the warrior Milād clan, and is also one of the eleven, fierce warrior-heroes in the story of the Davāzdah roḵ (twelve citadels, towers,) where he kills his Turanian adversary. 

The ancient, enchanted forests of northeastern Iran are also named after wolves and the area is known as land of the wolves, called Gurgān/Gorgán .

The statement of Greater Bün.dahišn (Basis of or Primal Creation book) in chapter 23.1 that wolf is a creation of the evil spirit, seem to be a later accretion, and not part of the original material. Wulf simply does not meet the definition of ḵrafastar or “reptilian monsters.” 

We come across the same dual nature reserved for fairies in the Zoroastrian sacred lore or the Avestá. Fairies pairikás often appear at the end of the formula daæva.nąm mašiiá.nąm.ča yáθvąm pairikan.ąm.ča that is “diabolic deities, mortal men, sorcerers, sorceresses, and fairies.”

According to Vendī.dád or the “Anti-demonic Law,” Fairies, pairikás must be fought, for they are the opponents of Fire, Water, Earth, Ox, and Plant.  It is also said that fairies pairikás fled when Zarathustra uttered the most sacred and powerful ahüna vairya formula. The latter account reminds one of the jinns’ response upon hearing bismillāh in the later Islamic lore (Donaldson, 1930, p. 186.)

Yet, despite this mostly negative background the term fairy parîg, appears as a benign, proper noun in Yašt 11.6 of the Avestá. 

Also, in the Pahlavi Vendī.dád (viii.31, 35; xiii.48) and Nērangestān (pp. 39v.15; 178r.8), Fairy, parî is the name of a venerable, female commentator of the Avesta. Such a name is a rare evidence for the existence of female commentators among Zoroastrian theologians.

To this day compound names of fairy parî, are very popular among Female Zoroastrians in names such as Parîzád, born from a fairy, parîvaš like a fairy, parîčehr, have the appearance of a fairy, and many other compound names containing parî. 

Other benevolent appearance of fairy occurs in the Pāzand Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (Messina, 1939, p. 40), where a noble woman from the legendary line of Hôšang is compared to a Fairy, parî (čūn parî.). 

In the Great Epics of Shah-námæ (rooted in the Zoroastrian Mythology and the Avestá) fairies, parî are always charming and pleasant figures. Fairies appear in several stories such as the “Reign of Jamšîd,” “Zál and Rūdāba,” and the story of “Bîjan and Manîjæ.”

In the Zoroastrian folklore, fairies parîs are referred to as az mā behtarān “they who are better than us” which reminds one of “the good people” of European fairydom.

The often repeated Old Avestan formula of daæváiš.čá

 mašiiáiš.čá that groups “mortal men” right after the “diabolic deities” points to a dual nature for mortal men as well. While men suppose to be the allies of the Titans ahûrás, and join in their struggle to manifest an age of eternal spring and splendid, pristine creation, the race of men have often been the instrument of the diabolic forces throughout their history on this good earth.   

I shall conclude by the following beautiful verse from The Persian Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám who was himself a big fan of the ancient Zoroastrian religion of his forefathers: 

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,

Some letter of that After-life to spell

And by and by my Soul return’d to me,

And answer’d, “I Myself am Heaven and Hell.

This verse appears at the beginning and end of a film/novel unlike any other, one in which beauty, wit and horror are intermingled in a unique cautionary tale, the movie and masterpiece DORIAN GREY.

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Hearth Fire in Zoroastrianism


The 9th month of the Zoroastrian sacred calendar, that is the last month of fall/autumn is dedicated to “hearth fire, and altar,” áθar/áthar. The great festival of fire ADAR.GAAN literally “singing hymns of praise to áthar/fire,falls on November 24th of the seasonal Zoroastrian calendar. 

Veneration of the “hearth fire, and altar” goes back to early Indo-European/Aryan times. Yet, the veneration of fire seem to be much more prominent, and play a more central role in Zoroastrianism than any other Indo-European faith. 

The chief duty of áθar.ván/átharván priests is/was to keep the flame of the clan, and the spark of the Titans alive and thriving. Remains of “fire altars,” or elevated fire-holders of the Zoroastrian type, are known from Pasargád from the time of Cyrus the Great; and it is very likely that one of these altars was the Achaemenid dynastic, hearth fire, (Achaemenids were the First Ancient Persian Imperial House.) 

The Letter of Chief Priest Tansar (ed. M. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1936, p. 22, tr. M. Boyce, Rome, 1968, p. 47) establishes that the Parthian dynasty, (The ancient Persian Imperial dynasty following the Achaemenids) allowed their vassal kings to found dynastic fires; and that the Arsacids’ own dynastic fire was most likely the one mentioned by Isidore of Charax (Parthian Stations 11) as burning at Asaak in northeastern Iran. A general term attested for a fire temple in the Parthian language was átaröšan (preserved in Armenian as atrušan.)

The Yasná Haptaŋ.háiti liturgy, (Literally “Seven Chapters of prayers/yearnings, and joyous blessings”) is a most ancient Zoroastrian celebration of all the good, material creation which consists of priestly offerings to fire and waters. 

Strabo (Geography 15.3.15) writes of “temples of the magi” in Cappadocia in his day (around the beginning of the Christian era). Some were “temples of the “Airyan Gods” and “pyratheia,” i.e., fire temples, “noteworthy enclosures; in the midst of these there is an altar, on which there is a large quantity of ashes and where the magi keep the fire ever burning. And there, entering daily, they make incantations to the Gods for about an hour, holding before the fire, their twig bundles (barsôm.)

Avestan áθar/áθarš is a cognate of Old Irish áith “fireplace,” Welsh odyn “oven,”  Umbrian atru “open fire,” English atrium (from Latin,) and Persian átaš “fire.” 

In the Zoroastrian sacred lore Avestá, fire is a yazatá-, that is, “an adorable god” as well as a visible means for worshipping Godhood. Fire’s twin function in the Zoroastrian worship is mentioned at the beginning of the Vispa.ratü “all the right formulas, rites” as follows:

átrəm.ca ia ahûrahæ mazdā̊ puθrəm yaza.maidæ 

átarš.ciθrə̄s.ca yazatə̄ yazamaidæ

Fire, the prodigy, son of Ahurá Mazdá, we adore, 

Fire, the visible yazatá/adorable god, we adore.

In one Avestan hymn, fire is invoked as “the magnificent, great god” (mazištayazata-):

nəma.sə tē ātarš mazdā̊ ahurahe hu.ā̊ mazišta yazata.

Homage/Bow to you fire of Ahura Mazdā, the discerning, magnificent god.

Hearth Fire shares this title of “being great, magnificent” only with Miθra (Yt10.142 mazišta yazata, “magnificent, great god”) and Ahûrá Mazdá (Yt10.76 yō mazištö yazata.nąm, “the greatest, most magnificent of all the Gods.”) 

In the poetic gathas/songs of the seer, prophet Zarathustra, fire is the visible sign of ašá/arθá, “excellence, right order, higher truth.”In the Gathas/Poetic Songs, fire illuminates, clarifies, and is in ceaseless fight against all that is opposed to ašá/arθá, “excellence, truth.” This warrior nature of the fire, and its ceaseless fight against all that is opposed to “higher order/truth” is symbolized by the enthronement and consecration of the “Victorious Fire” or Átarš Vahrám the highest grade of earthly fires in the Zoroastrian ritual. The priests escorting the Victorious Fire carry swords and maces; and after the ceremony some of the weapons are hung on the sanctuary walls of the fire temple to symbolize the victorious battle of light against darkness. 

The other Zoroastrian god of Fire, nairiiö.saŋha literally means “Manly, Brave, Teachings.” Avestan nairiiö.saŋha is the messenger of the Titans/Gods, and corresponds with Prometheus (The god of forethought in Greek mythology,) as well as with the Vedic samsa narya, See (RV 1.185.9a.) 

The Gathas/Poetic Songs of Zarathustra also talk of “judicial ordeal with fire” (Yasna 47,) and the “fiery flood of molten metal” which will cleanse the worlds at frašö.kereitî “the splendid, fresh new creation of the worlds,” (See Yasna 51.9.) Zoroastrian Frašö.kereitî, the Splendid, fresh, new Creation” is the more ancient version of Ragnarök in Norse mythology.

In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, (See Avestá, Yasna 17,) Five fires are invoked.  First is the fire called bərəzi.sava “fire of ascending weal, good fortune,” (Avestan bərəzi is a cognate with German Berg.) Second is the fire of vohü friyána the fire of passion, love that burns in the bodies of men and animals. Vohü friyána means literally “good friendship, love.” Third is the ûrvāzišta “the most joyful,” fire that is in “trees, plants” ûrvar (Compare with arbor;) fourth is the lightening fire that is in the clouds called vazišta “forceful, full of vigorous energy,” and lastly spə̄ništa “the most auspicious fire, the holiest, most sacred fire” which burns in the presence of Öhrmazd (middle Persian for Ahûrá Mazdá, the supreme God and source of Godhood himself.) 

The Zoroastrian vazišta “fire of lightening that is in the clouds” corresponds closely with the Old Norse gold fire of the sea and the fire of waters See Old Norse Skáldskaparmál 41. Also we read in Beowulf “it is by night a weird wonder to see fire on the flood fyr on flode …..I shall reward you with winding gold, (See Didie Calin Dictionary of Indo European Poetic and religious Themes page 96.)

ardeshir 

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Sky made of Precious Stones, and the Heavenly abode of Immortals in the Zoroastrian Sacred Lore


We read in the Zoroastrian sacred lore that every mortal’s duty is to know these five things; One is this: “What am I, a man or a demon? Where have I come from, from Heaven or from the abyss? What do I stand by, by the virtues of the Gods or by the vices of the demons? Whom do I follow, the Good or the wicked? Where shall I go back, to HEAVEN or to hell?” 

To Fiery Heaven or the Stony Skies (Ásmán) is dedicated the 27th day of the Zoroastrian month. The substance of the heavens is described as made of “precious stone” asénö, also almást “solid diamond,”(See Pahlavi  Yasna 30.5, Dēnkard, p. 829.15; Dādistān ī dēnīg, question 90.)

We also find in ancient Greek poetry reference to Akmon, as the father of Ouranos, (the personified Heaven/Sky.) If Greek κμων was an old word for HEAVEN, like Ásmán in the Avestan speech, it might have been that Akmon and Ouranos (as personifications of “Heaven/Sky”) were harmonized by making Akmon the father of the Ouranos, with both  terms either preceding or substituting for *Dyēus (Sky/Day.) 

It appears that the notion of “stony sky made of precious stones, and a solid, shinning firmament” was part of the Indo-European world view. Many scholars have concluded that reconstructed Indo-European *h2emōn meant both “stone” and “heaven/sky.” The source of the idea may have been the observation of fiery meteorites falling from the sky.

All cognate words for Avestan Ásmán in other languages mean either “heavenly stone or  Sky:” Vedic ásman, Lithuanian akmuõ are such examples. The Vedic ásman– “thunderbolt” is used among others of Indra’s weapon, and in Lithuania the Baltic God of Thunder Perkūnas’ thunderstone is called Perkūnas’ akmuõ. In the Zoroastrian sacred Lore Ásmán is also a mighty weapon of the Gods/Titans against diabolic forces.   

In view of some scholars, Germanic *hemena– (from which come Gothic himins, Old English heofon, HEAVEN, German HIMMEL) derives from the same ancient root. 

Zoroastrian sacred literature relates that Öhrmazd (Middle Iranian for the supreme God/Titan of ancient Zoroastrianism, Ahûrá Mazdá) formed his creatures out of “endless light” and kept them in his own body for 3,000 years, where they developed and were excelled by him. Finally he manifested each creature, in its proper right order, in the external universe. Accordingly the supreme God/Titan brought forth the HEAVENS from his HEAD.  

In the Avestan cosmographical account found in the hymn to the God/Titan of “Righteous REIGN,” RAŠN Yašt, the LEVELS páyag (literally footsteps,) of HEAVENS are as follows: the star station (stárö,) the moon station (mávn,) the sun station (hvaré,) then comes “the realm of the boundless lights” (anaγra.raôcā.) The realm of Boundless lights are the beginning point of “the most wondrous mental existence” or PARADISE, (vahištem manö, also vahištem ahüm);  the step above is the Highest Heaven or the House of Music/Songs of the Gods, (garö nmánæ.)

According to the accounts of Bün.dahišn (Basis, Foundations of Creation,) From the point of fixed stars in the star station, Heavens are impervious to the attacks of the “beaten, evil spirit” ahriman, and his host of diabolic demons. 

We read in the Poetic Gathas of seer/prophet Zarathustra: “Excellence chose the most brilliant, auspicious mind power, and the hardest, most precious stones/heavens, as his garb/vesture, ašem mainyüš spéništö//ýé ɦraoždištéñg asénö vastæ. 

Concerning the above verse in the Poetic Gathas (Yasná 30.5, 2nd rhymed verse line,) we read in the Varšt.mánsar commentary: that Ásmán the SKY is my garb/ancient vesture, which was established as the stone above all stones that is, every precious jewel is set in it; good thoughts, good words, and good deeds are my fuel, and I love those who are there in Brilliant Heaven through good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.

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Avestan Titans and the Vedic Gods


The Primeval God-powers or Ahûrás/Titans of ancient Zoroastrianism do NOT correspond directly to Vedic deities themselves but are identifiable with the formidable powers/brilliant qualities of the Vedic Gods. In cases, that there is a direct connection to a Vedic deity, the Vedic God at hand is mostly a fading, marginal, almost forgotten god being in the Vedas.

In the poetic Gāθās/Songs of Zarathustra, Mazdá Ahûrá is the supreme ahûrá, the source of Godhood, and the progenitor of of all the Primeval Titanic energies.                                   

Mazdá is Ahûrá par excellence in Zoroastrianism, because he is “the genius power of mind to create, establish, summon into being.”

Mazdá Ahûrá of the Gāθās/Poetic Songs of Zarathustra have become Ahûrá Mazdá of later Zoroastrianism. Vedic Varuna has often been equated with Ahûrá Mazdá but the ancient Várshtmánsar commentary of the Gāθic Songs (in Yasna 32,) strongly contradicts any such comparison between Ahûrá Mazdá and Varuna.

However some of the superb qualities  that make Varuna, “ásura/god- power par excellence” in the Vedas are interchangeable with Mazdá Ahûrá of the Gāθās.

For example in Rig Veda 8.6.10, we read that Varuna is medhām “intelligent, mindful, insightful” as to r̥tá “rhythms, and formulas of the cosmic order, ”r̥tásya jagrábha. The epithet of Varuna here, Medhā “intelligent, mindful, wise,” is a cognate of Mazdá.

In Rig Veda 7.087.04a, Varuna is also called medhira “full of intelligence, mind-power and wisdom.” The epithet medhira corresponds to Gāθic hû-mánzdrá in Yasna 30.1, 3rd rhymed verse line.

There is NO ásura medhā in the Vedas, however the closest term to Avestan Ahûrá Mazdá is the ásurasya māyáyā in RV 5.63.7 namely the “magic of the ásuras, the magical substance, mind stuff of the Gods,” namely the power of mind to create, establish, manifest into reality.

Among the other Primeval Titanic energies in the Gāθās, known as the “Auspicious Immortals” in later Zoroastrianism, are aṣ̌á/arthá (right fit, precise order, excellence,) and vohü manö (good, genius mind, creative thinking.)

Aṣ̌á/Arthá (right fit, precise order, excellence,) is etymologically and semantically related to Vedic ṛtá.  Both aṣ̌á/arthá and ṛtá are intimately linked with brilliance, illumination and fire. But unlike Avestan aṣ̌á/arthá, Vedic ṛtá does NOT appear as a primordial god being or primeval titanic power in the Ṛgveda.                                                                                                                                 

Also, the distinct opposition between aṣ̌a and druj (Truth/Right Order verses deceit, lie; Vedic drúh,) that is of fundamental importance in the Gāθās, is absent from the Vedas. So is the opposition between the followers of right order, excellence (aṣ̌avan) and the followers of duplicity, falsehood (drәgvaṇt,) and the distinct contrast between the primordial gods/titans, ahûrás, and the daævas, which, contrary to their Vedic cognates (deva), appear as anti-gods/diabolic powers in the Avestan Lore.

The Vedic Vasus or Vásavah (the Good, Brilliant Ones, Wealth Givers) that are a class of deities headed by Indra, correspond in very general terms to the Primordial Titanic Energy of vohü manö (good, genius mind, brilliant, creative thinking) in the poetry of the Gāθās.

Indra, however is an arch demon in the Zoroastrian texts starting with the Avestan Vīdēvdād (10.9; 19.43). Interestingly, it is the Avestan “Good, Superb Order” (Aša Vahišta), who is assigned with the task of annihilating Indra. The annihilation of Indra at the hand of “superb order/artistry of the Immortals, asha vahishta” is mentioned in the Gāθic Várshtmánsar commentary of Yasna 48.1.  In the Várshtmánsar commentary of Yasna 32,  Indra is the arch demon that “freezes the minds of the creatures from living in “excellence, right fit, precise order of ashá.”                         

Among the other Primordial Titanic powers or Auspicious Immortals, Ármaiti (perfect focus, serene contemplation/meditation) has a Vedic Cognate, arámati. However, arámati is already a fading goddess in the Vedas.

Old Avestan/Gāθic Ameretát is the Titanic energy of “Immortality, Deathlessness,” and corresponds to Vedic term Vishve Amritás, “All the Immortals.” However, a powerful, personal, primeval Titanic energy embodying “ deathlessness, agelessness, becoming forever vigorous, and Immortal like the Gods” is not present in the Vedas, nor is there a connection between Immortality and sacred trees in the Vedic texts.

The Old Avestan/Gāθic primeval titanic power Haurvatát, “source of every healing, wholeness,” is compatible with minor Vedic deity Sarvátāti, “intactness, perfection.”

The major Gāθic god-force of “harkening, listening to the melody of the Immortals,” Sraôšá, corresponds to the Vedic concept of Shruti, (listening, hearing wisdom of the Gods.) But here again, Avestan Sraôšá has a colorful, personal aspect that is entirely absent in the Vedas.

In the Avesta or the sacred literature of Zoroastrianism, it is Sraôšá that reveals, and communicates the Gāθic manθrás, “powerful poetry/most effective mind formulas” to Zarathustra.

Avestan Miθra and Vedic Mitra both personify “friendship/love” for the Immortals, “our duty toward, and reciprocal contract with the God powers.” Yet, the Avestan Miθra has a much more colorful, formidable, personal, and heroic aspect to him than the Vedic Mitra.

Furthermore, the relation/reciprocity between man and Immortals/titanic energies (personified as Miθra in the Avesta) is much more “personal, immediately present, and mutual” in the Gāθās and the rest of the Avestan lore.                                           

Powerful epithets of Miθra such as “having strong arms and carrying a wondrous club” can not be found in Vedic Mitra. However, same epithets appear as virtues/powers of the The Vedic Indra.                                                           

Gāθic Vәrәthra-Jan (Yasna 44,) the later Avestan Vәrәthragna is the god-force of VICTORY, TRIUMPH, and the SMASHER OF OBSTACLES.  The Great Yazata of “Victory, Triumph,”  is highly revered in Zoroastrianism. Vedic Vṛtrahán (Smasher of Obstacles) is a cognate.

Yet again, we clearly see that the great Zoroastrian god force of “Victory, Triumph” Vәrәthragna, corresponds to a very powerful attribute of Indra rather than to the Vedic Deity himself.

Avestan Vata, “Wind, air, atmosphere,” also called Vaiiu (Vāyu,) has domains and functions in common with the Vedic deity of Wind. Yet, the dual nature of “air, wind, atmosphere” in the Avesta is entirely absent from the Vedas nor does the Vedic deity of “atmosphere, wind” partake in any great eschatological battles between good and evil.           

The Gāθās conclude with the “ideal of noble fellowship,” Airyemá Išyö. The Avestan Airyaman personifies “Nobility, Honor, Restoration to Life.” In the Várshtmánsar commentary of the concluding hymn to the Gāθās, the eschatological importance of Airyaman, “noble fellowship” is highlighted.  While the Vedic Aryaman is a cognate, but again the great eschatological role of the Avestan god-force of “honor, nobility,” is absent in the Vedas. It seems that Avestan Airyaman shares much more in common with the roles and functions of the Old Norse Irmingot  and the Irish Éremón.                                                   

The god beings that share most the cognate functions and roles in both Vedas and the Avesta are “the water-titan” Apąm Napāt, the “messenger of the Immortals,” Avestan Nairiiö-saŋha, Vedic Narāśaṃsa, the god-hero of healing Θrita (Trita), the goddess of dawn Ušah (Usạs.)

To the top of the list shall also be added Ātar and Agni, the god beings of fire, or Arәdvī Sürā Anāhitā “Mighty Lady of Pure Waters,” and Sarasvatī, who both confer rain, fertility, and eloquence.

The hymn to FIRE lies at the heart of the most sacred Yasna ceremony. Yasna consists of 72 sacred hymns, and the hymn to FIRE is right in the middle or at hymn 36. 

Yasna means literally “to yearn, long for,” and are hymns in praise of the fire, the waters, and Haoma “elixir of forever, eternal life,” that are placed around the Old Avestan core of the most powerful Gāθic manθrás. 

Haoma is the “elixir of forever/eternal life.” Vedic Soma, “Drink of the Gods” is a cognate. The status of Haoma in the Gāθās is disputed among scholars. But based on tradition and many scholarly views, it is CLEARLY NOT Haoma that Zarathustra reviles in his sacred poetry but the bloody sacrifices and killing of innocent animals that accompanied the Haoma preparation ceremonies before the dawn of Zoroastrianism.

The original  Haoma plant was most likely Peganum harmala [Flattery & Schwartz, 1989,] but later in ritual practice it was  replaced by ephedra (very similar to Mormon Tea.) During Yasna ceremony a sacred drink is prepared by the priests reciting powerful manθrás in honor of Haoma and other god beings. During the ceremony the ephedra twigs are mixed with pomegranate twigs, holy water, and milk/ cream. 

The early first part of the Yasna ritual and its preparatory service (where the sacred drink is not mixed with milk/cream) consists of pounding the consecrated liquid, and filtering the mixture.  

Compared with Vedic Soma, the Avestan Haoma has no direct relation to the legitimacy of the sovereigns and rulers, and symbolizes “nectar of Immortals, and life drops.” 

In the Avestan sacred lore, it is xvarәnah (fiery glory, divine charisma or good fortune) that gives legitimacy to rulers and sovereigns. However, this fiery glory of xvarәnah must be EARNED or captured, and is not an entitlement. The divine charisma of xvarәnah resides in depth of the oceans, and is cast on earth for the benefit of the living world by the Invincible Sun.

ardeshir 

 

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Ancient Zoroastrian practices regarding Hair cuttings, Nail parings, and ancient Norse parallels


The treatment of hair cuttings and nail pairings in traditional, ancient Zoroastrianism is a very controversial subject among modern Zoroastrians. The ancient Zoroastrian customs surrounding hair cuttings and nail pairings are especially a thorny theme for great many Iranian Zoroastrians who prefer to deny such rites and ancient customs, and dismiss them as frivolous superstitions.

However, the ancient Zoroastrian practices with regard to special treatment of hairs and nails seem to go back to the very beginning of the Indo-European creation myths.

In Vi-daæv-dát 17 (laws/formulas against demons) 1-6, Zarathustra asks the Wise Lord, what is the act for which a certain demon, aôša (literally “scorching, destruction” is let loose in the world. The Wise Lord replies, when one arranges and cuts his hair and clips his nails, and then lets them fall into holes in the earth or into furrows without proper rites and formulas, demons come forth, and from these improprieties monsters come forth from the earth.

When you arrange and cut your hair and clip your nails, you should bear it ten steps from righteous men, twenty steps from the fire, thirty steps from the water, and fifty steps from the baresman (bundle of sacred twigs.)

Then you should dig a hole. To that hole you should bear the cuttings. Then you should pronounce these victorious words/formula Zarathustra: “Now for me may Mazda make the plants grow by means of ašá”(excellence, truth, radiant right.) You should then plow 3 or 6 or 9 furrows for xšathrá vairya (chosen dominion, kingship, power,) and you should recite the ahüna vairya formula 3 or 6 or 9 times.

There is much that is fascinating in this Vi-daæv-dát passage: the need to carry potentially impure hair cuttings and nail pairings away from sources of pure life (righteous men, fire, water, and sacred twigs), the use of furrows to mark off sacred space, and the instantaneous begetting of serpents and monsters from hair and nails that are improperly disposed of.

In Norse mythology we encounter an identical idea. We read in GYLFAGINNING 55 of the Poetic Eddas:
… Then (at the time of Ragnarök) the Fenris wolf is loosed, and the high sea dashes upon the land, for the Midgard serpent turns about with a giant’s rage and assails the land. Then it happens that the ship called Nagl-far “Nail-Ship” is loosed. It is built from the nails of dead men, and therefore it is worthy of a warning: if a man dies with uncut nails, then he increases the material for the ship Naglfar greatly, which æsir and men would wish to be slow in being built. And in this wave, Naglfar becomes sea going, and the monster who steers Nagl-far “nail-Ship” is called Hrym.

Nagl-far, the “Nail-ship’s,” basic idea is the improper disposal of hair or nails which threatens the well being of the cosmos-does go back to the Indo-European period, as can be seen from the comparison with ancient Zoroastrianism.

The text of In Vi-daæv-dát 17 prescribes the recitation of a victorious formula for the hair cuttings and nail pairings before they are properly buried in earth, namely “Now for me may Mazda make the plants grow by means of ašá(excellence, truth, radiant right.)

The sacred formula prescribed is the heart of the Vi-daæv-dát passage. In particular it is a quote from the poetic gathas of Zarathustra (Yasna 48.6 3rd rhymed verse line), which has been put to a creative magic use.

The gathic formula becomes a potent magic spell here by which the proper disposal of hair and nails leads to the growth of vegetation. What we have here is the subconscious association of hair and nails with the plant world, and we have the right formula to dispose of hair and nails by burying them properly in the earth.

In the creation myth of the ancient Indo-Europeans, the worlds are established by the primordial, pristine offering, Yemó “Twin,” the worlds are built up. Yemó’s skull became the heavens, his eyes the sun and moon, and his blood the seas; and, his hair became the plants and trees.

We read again in Norse mythology, poetic edda, GRÍMNISMÁL 40:
From Ymir’s flesh
The earth was made,
And from his blood the sea,
The mountains from his bones, The trees from his hair,
And from his skull, the heaven.

A very similar parallel is found in an eschatological Zoroastrian passage from bün.dahišn 30.6. The context is that Öhrmazd (Middle Iranian for Ahûrá Mazdá) is explaining why bodily resurrection is possible:

“Observe that, when that which was not was then produced, why is it not possible to produce again that which was? For at that time, one will demand the bone
from the spirit of earth, the blood from the water, the hair from the plants,
and the life from fire, since they were delivered to them in the original, pristine creation.”

In the eschatological bün.dahišn text above, the cosmogony is explained in reverse. The whole idea is that if proper disposal serves to create the cosmos, then improper disposal can create chaos out of cosmos.

Like almost every idea and ritual in Zoroastrianism, our practices and beliefs go back to the primordial Indo-European days. Though at times, they might appear strange or unfamiliar to us today, nevertheless they have deep meanings for subconscious mind, and teach us the subtleties of subconscious symbolism and myths in myriad ways.

ardeshir

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Creation in the Poetic Gathas, and Ancient Zoroastrianism


Unlike the Book of Genesis, which is the religious sourcebook of Judeo-Christian Civilization, in the Poetic Gathas of Zarathustra, the Cosmos has already been made, and consists of the world of “thoughts, imagination, mind energy” mainyü, and the world of “physical form” called literally the world of “bones and flesh” astvatö.

The process of “manifestation” into physical form involves: “power of thoughts/mind,” “focusing,” “establishing,” and “fitting into the right place.” This “perfect fitting, work of art” is called apa in the archaic Avestan, and is a cognate of Vedic ápas, Latin opus, Old Norse efna “work.”

In the Poetic Gathas, hvapa “Superb Artisan,” fashions Cosmos out of mind stuff, (See Yasna 37.2, 2nd rhymed verse line, Yasna 44.5, 2nd and third rhymed verse lines, Yasht 5.85.)

The supreme God Ahûrá Mazdá, at the primordial yasná “desire, yearning,” thinks the realms of light, and superb order (See 31.7, 1st rhymed verse, and Yasna 31.19, 1st rhymed verse line.)

The ahûrás “Artisan Gods” formulate the mind formulas (See Yasna 29.7, 1st rhymed verse line,) and set in place the pristine existence.

The word for “Creator” Avestan dátár, Vedic dhátár, comes from the ancient root dheh “to set, establish.” Cosmic Order is “set in place, established” through ašá/arthá “excellence, right fit, truth of the Immortals.”

In Zoroastrianism, this artistic power “to establish, set in the right place” is a splendid, wondrous God force, and universe is a battleground between the forces of Excellence/Order of the Brilliant Immortals, and chaos of the diabolic forces.

In this world of physical forms, the battle is fought between the warriors of light, and those who follow drûj “lies, darkness, deception” that distorts the cosmic quest for excellence/order.

The climatic battle is fought between those who bring out the invincible sun, the powers of light, virility and life, and the creatures of darkness who try to prevent the sun/dawn from rising, (See Yasna 32.10, 2nd rhymed verse line, Yasna 43.16, 4th rhymed verse line, Yasna 46.3, 1st rhymed verse line, Yasna 50.2, 3rd rhymed verse line, Yasna 50.10, 3rd rhymed verse line.)

The splendid remaking of the cosmic order after periods of chaos is according to ratü “right formulae” or “blueprint” of the pristine manifestation ahûna vairiia (will to become godlike.)

The “right formulas of mind/consciousness” are taught by Ármaiti, “Perfect Calm/Meditation,” (See Yasna 43.6, 4th rhymed verse line.) The marvelous regeneration of the worlds by Ahûrá Mazdá is achieved through the combined efforts of the Gods, and righteous men supporting the quest for eternal excellence, cosmic order, and truth.

In conclusion, it be shall emphasized that Creation in Zoroastrianism is NOT ex nihilo, or creation out of nothing. All the words that come in connection with “creation” refer to “cutting, sculpting, fashioning, forging, and fitting into the right place.”

Avestan thwöreštar “creator” is the superb artificer who cuts/hews, and creates works of art. Another common term for Creator tašan means “artisan, builder carpenter.” Avestan tašan combines the notion of “weaver” with that of “builder.” Greek tékton is a cognate. Cosmos has already been there, Godhood only fashions cosmos into ever more splendid excellence.

ardeshir

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