Welcoming the Blessed Spirits with Bonfires and the 10 days of Introspection and Reflection before Spring


The last ten days before Vernal Equinox/New Year are a time of reflection and introspection among Zoroastrians. Not only we thoroughly clean and beautify our homes, but must come clean mentally/spiritually, about our motives and actions before the new year/spring arrives. 

The last ten days before the new year are called the lesser and greater Five (days) or Panjæ. The Greater Five or gáthá/song days, are the immediate five days before the Vernal Equinox. 

Bonfires are lit before the beginning of the gáthá/song days to welcome the visit of the blessed spirits. The bright flames not only impart joy and pleasant warmth but shall illuminate our paths for the year ahead. 

This bonfire tradition has been preserved in the happy festival of Chahrshanbe suri or the “Feast of Bonfires” celebrated during the “last Wednesday night” before the arrival of Spring. 

Fire not only illuminates but PURIFIES, and in Zoroastrianism Purity is the greatest thing after the gift of life per the poetic songs/gathas of seer-prophet Zarathustra. During the ten days of pætat “reflection and introspection,” we shall purify ourselves of wrong choices and sins that have made us less vibrant and lessened our life and energy. 

The word for sin in Persian is gónáh, in Middle Persian is wináh, and in Avestan is aæna, from the root nas “to decay, rot, go bad, become spoiled/rotten.  The Indo-European root is *nek-. 

In Zoroastrianism, sins fall under two main categories, sins against one’s own soul, úrván, and sins against creation and other living creatures. Furthermore, sins are classified based on the intention with which they were committed. 

Here are some grave sins in Zoroastrianism that make our spirit/life energy deteriorate: To lose hope in Ahûrá Mazdá’s great wisdom, mind powers, and wondrous abilities. The Mindful, Wise Lord is the Master of Eternity and there is always hope, and a way in his wondrous dominion.

To have undue fear of Ahûrá Mazdá and his Immortals is a fatal sin. Only demon gods terrorize their followers, and rule over them through fear, cruelty, and malice. Zoroastrianism teaches “reverential AWE and LOVE” for Ahûrá Mazdá and Yazatas instead of fearing Godhood. The law/nature of Godhood is pure light, extraordinary powers, and goodness. 

According to Zoroastrian principles, putting the world’s potentials into full use is a must. To contaminate, abuse nature and deny the nature’s blessings is a big sin with severe consequences in the afterlife. 

Failing to till the land and planting seeds to grow is a major offense in Zoroastrianism. Speñtá Ármaiti is the Auspicious and bountiful, goddess of nature and the earth. To accuse the earth/nature of infertility is a direct offense against her. 

Postponing a virtuous action and laziness are other great sins in Zoroastrianism. “It has been acknowledged by the luminous vision/religion that Ahûrá Mazdá told Zarathustra: do not ever postpone a good deed that you intend to do and do not think of delaying it, you might not be given another chance to accomplish it later.” 

Asceticism, fasting and abstaining from the blessings of Godhood are considered ingratitude towards Ahûrá Mazdá. Zoroastrianism strongly enjoins mortals to take pleasure in the joys and the gifts of life without diverting from healthy moderation. A Zoroastrian scholar priest once stated that “Other religions fast by avoiding food, in our religion, avoiding impurities/sins is equal to fasting.” 

Cruelty to animals, Killing Beasts of Burden and Hunting are considered among the gravest sins. In the ancient commentaries of the poetic songs of Zarathustra, we are constantly advised that those who are cruel to animals will NOT pass the luminous portal/bridge to higher dimensions. According to an Avestan passage in Höm Yašt (Hymn to the elixir of Immortality,) the ox and the horse curse their cruel owners to die without issue, have their lines broken and suffer from infamy. 

In other Zoroastrian religious literature, priests are specifically banned from hunting.  Only the commoners who are exceedingly poor and lack food may hunt under very special circumstances. The ancient plates depicting Zoroastrian Kings enjoying hunting, only shows such rulers lack of orthodoxy and their lukewarm dedication to the Zoroastrian religion. 

In Zoroastrianism, animals are sentient beings, and the living world has a SOUL. Reverence for nature and elements is fundamental to Zoroastrianism. 

Lying is a detrimental sin in Zoroastrianism. In a dialogue between Ahûrá Mazdá and seer-prophet Zarathustra, the Mindful, Wise Lord counts three abominable sins: one who is blind to truth, one who is deaf to truth, and one who is vengeful to others.”

Deafness and blindness to truth is to willfully deny the wondrous truth of Ahûrá Mazdá and his Immortals as well as ignoring the potential of mortal men to evolve into superb, higher beings. The third sin vengeance ends in the empowerment of ahriman and his minions.  

“Beware of destroying your enemy out of hatred because it would lead up to pain and ruin. Cleanse your thoughts of vengefulness, don’t destroy your enemy out of spite but RIGHT. Because he/she who practices no vengeance, will be rid of all worries when on the bright bridge/luminous portal.” 

“This also (is) revealed in the luminous vision/religion (Zoroastrianism,) that in this material world one – must not have any love for the wicked, for those who are wicked deceive the faithful. They take away from the good, their well-being and light by deception. When hardship come to the good, the wicked do not help them but take great joy in their misfortune.”

Another sin is to be Charitable towards the Undeserving! Doing Good and being generous without expecting a reward and/or Goodness for Goodness’s sake is what Zoroastrianism teaches. However, we read in the book of hundred doors/subjects that “If you practice generosity, be sure to direct your charity towards those worthy. And not to waste your charity on the undeserving because you would be considered a sinner if you did extend charity to the wicked.” 

Hospitality is an essential virtue in Zoroastrianism and inhospitality is a grave sin. A Zoroastrian shall never turn away a weary traveler. A parallel can be drawn here with the pagan people of Northern Europe who knew never to turn away a weary traveler for it just might be Odinn, the Mighty Allfather in disguise.

Another great offense is hoarding wealth without benefiting from the abundance to oneself or sharing the blessings with others. 

Wailing and lamenting the dead excessively is considered a sin in Zoroastrianism. The legacy of the departed shall be celebrated with dignity. Any rite or tradition that its focal point is death and negativity, is considered demonic in Zoroastrianism.  

Not Acknowledging One’s Child is another offense in Zoroastrianism.  It is the obligation of fathers to acknowledge their offspring. To disclaim one’s own child is an abominable sin. 

Respect for parents is of great importance in Zoroastrianism. Herodotus notes that “Persians believe that no one of Persian decent has ever killed his/her parents and if such a murder has ever taken place, the killer has turned out not to be the real child of his/her parents (Herodotus 2001: para 137). 

Finally, just as fire illuminates our paths and imparts us with radiance and joy, each Zoroastrian shall choose one of the Immortals of Ahûrá Mazdá as a Role Model in the spiritual realm, and a learned dastür (scholar priest) as a source of emulation and counsel in the material world. 

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Ármaiti, Perfect Mediation, Firm Foundation,


The festival of the Auspicious Ármaiti falls on February 18th in the Zoroastrian sacred calendar. Per our age-old tradition, every year, we write verses from the Avesta (“sacred songs/poetry” of the Zoroastrians) on a piece of parchment paper and affix the written charms to the door of the home on this auspicious day. 

The sacred verses act as an amulet for bringing blessings and good fortune of Heavens. At the same time, the powerful Avestan words act as protective shield against negative energies.  

Ármaiti is the “right or appropriate state of mind, precise focusing of thoughts for the act of manifesting.”  Her name often comes with the epithet Speñtá “Auspicious, Prosperous, Giving Success.” She is called Auspicious because through the powers of Áramiti’s “perfect meditation,” she manifests ideas from higher dimensions here on earth, providing blessings and prosperity for the material creation.

In the poetic songs/gathas of the seer-prophet Zarathustra, Ármaiti (Right Minded-ness) is the daughter (dûgedá) of the Mindful Lord Ahûrá Mazdá, who performs “good, master work(s)” hû šyaôthaná.

Ármaiti “thinks truth” and causes the magical order/truth of ahûrás/titans to be received here on earth. Since “perfect meditation” and manifestation are imbued in her very essence, Ármaiti is closely associated with “sacred space/ground.” 

In the Zoroastrian act of worship, Ármaiti is the “right state of mind/perfect meditation” of the aspirer as well as the correct disposition of the sacred formulas and rituals.” Thus, representing a fertile/hallowed ground for the fulfillment of the requested wish/desire. She is said to be the firm foundation/bearer of all living beings, (See The lawbook against demons, Vi.dæv.dad 2.10.) For that reason, she is honored as the genius/guardian of the earth.  As such, she can be compared with Demeter in Greek Mythology and Api, the genius of blessings and the earth in Scythian beliefs. 

The supreme importance of thoughts, meditation, and memory as the basis of all reality is expressed by the root *men in Indo-European sacred poetry as seen in numerous ancient Indo-European languages, not least in Avestan and Scandinavian mythology (See Vôluspa and Beowulf for example.) 

Ármaiti is the firm foundation and mother of all creation. Through her union with Heaven or the Wise Lord of the Sky, living worlds came into being including the prototype of the highest, intelligent mortal life called Gayö.mart.

After the assault of the broken spirit and his host of demons from a parallel universe, this highest mortal intelligence/life (Gayö.mart) was succumbed to death. But before that, Gayö.mart semen sunk into the mother earth, a rhubarb plant grew in that spot from which came the first human/mortal couple Mašyæ and Mašyānæ (See Bd 6F.8-9; Bd 14.2-7; WZs 3.71-72). 

Here, it is worth quoting a passage from Bün-dahišn (Basis of Creation 14.5-6:) ka Gayömard andar bæ widērišnīh töhm bæ dād, hān töhm pad röšnīh ī Xvaršēd bæ pālūd hēnd, u-š dö bahr Neryösang nigāh dād, ud bahr ēw Spendarmet padīrift ud cehel sāl andar zamīg büd. pad bawandagīh ī cehel sāl, rēwās karb … Mašyæ ud Mašyānæ az zamīg abar rust hēnd,

When the highest mortal life (Gayömart,) was passing away, his semen dropped out, this semen was filtered through the light of the Sun, then, Neryōsang (the Divine Messenger) kept two parts of it, and Spendarmet (the Auspicious Ármaiti, the guardian of the Earth) accepted one part, and for forty years it was in the Ground/Earth. After the completion of forty years, Mašyæ and Mašyānæ (the first human/mortal couple) grew from the earth in the form of rhubarb plants.”

The above description of the creation of humankind, and the union between Higher Dimensions/Heaven and Perfect Meditation/ Firm Foundation/Mother Earth, Ármaiti, has become the basis of most vicious attacks against Zoroastrianism by Early Christian zealots and many Molsem clergy throughout the history. They have referred to the above narrative to condemn all the ancient Zoroastrian marital unions as degenerate, lustful, and inherently immoral. 

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The Winter Festival of Sadæ and the Discovery of Fire


The Zoroastrians celebrate their major winter festival called sadæ on the fortieth day after the winter solstice. It is believed that fortieth (also known as “čellae” in Persian) is the most freezing night of winter. The festivities start on January 24th, culminate on January 30th, and conclude on February 3rd.

Persian historians and chronicles after the islamic age, derive the word sadæ from the Persian numeral sad (one hundred.) However, that appears to be nothing more than folk etymology.

Sadæ called saræ in villages of Northeastern Iranian Province of Khorasan, most likely comes from Avestan sareta “cold, freezing.” Lithuanian šalti and Latvian salt “to freeze” are cognates. The original Indo-Iranian root must have been *sarH1 and the reconstructed Proto Indo-European root is *kélH “to freeze.”

In the ancient Iranian myth, the discovery of fire, the age of industry and knowledge, is said to have begun on the winter festival of sadæ

It is narrated that by the Wondrous Providence and Foresight of the Ahûrás (The original God Powers, Titans,) the epic hero Hūshang wandered into a mountain cave. Upon seeing a snake, the epic hero tried to strike the reptilian creature with a firestone. The pyrite stone hit the walls of the cave and sparked a sacred fire. From that light/flame, human civilization, and technology begun. 

Hūshang’s name in the sacred poetry of the Zoroastrians/Avestá is Haô.šyaŋha literally the founder of “happy dwellings, good settlements.” “According to the ancient Iranian myth, Hūshang has introduced the arts of metallurgy, building, and constructing, and the science of cultivating the soil and growing crops. 

In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, because of his discovery of fire and his learned powers,Hūshang is remembered as victorious over demon gods and the followers of lie. 

His surname Para.δāta translates into “he who has established the prime principal or law.” The Zoroastrian priests understood this as “he who through innovation/discovery has established kingship, dominion,” (See Pahlavi Vendidād.) Vendidád literally means “laws/rules against demon gods.” It is a Zoroastrian sacred book of elaborate purity laws and exorcism. Vendidad starts with the golden age, and how creation was contaminated by lie, envy, wrath, and other diabolic forces. Pahlavi or middle Iranian is a language that most Avestan commentaries are handed down to to us via that middle-Iranian language.) 

The spiritual symbolism of fire in Zoroastrianism is “passion/energy, passion to learn, discover, passion to prosper, thrive, and overcome, passion to imagine and embark on new adventures, See the poetic songs/gathas Yasna 46.7, of the ancient seer-prophet where fire is followed by awe-inspiring mind powers, spirit, fervor, áθras.čá man.aŋhas.čá.

In Zoroastrianism, Godhood is “the epic adventures of imagination, creativity of mind/thoughts, discovery, learning, and triumph of the spirit,” that is best manifest in the energy and inspiration of light and fire. 

On Sadæ each member of the community supplies their share of firewood for a majestic bonfire. Around sunset a great bonfire is lit. The priest then recites the Avestan “ode to fire.” It is considered auspicious to look at the reflection of the bright flames in a nearby water, (The bonfires are lit, and the Zoroastrian fire temples are always constructed next to a lake, river, spring, or body of water. In fact, the festivities for the winter bonfires of sadæ start on the day of Waters in the Zoroastrian religious calendar.)

To drink red wine with sugar coated almonds, and other sweet nuts is also considered fortuitous on this happy occasion. The participants then make merry and enjoy a variety of hearty winter soups and dishes. 

At the conclusion of the festivities, the embers from the communal bonfire are taken to the sacred flame of the fire temple and hearth of each family and are merged with the eternal flame of the fire temple, and the fire of each family hearth. 

This beautiful rite suggests that Godhood manifest in luminosity, the melodies, and songs of the Avestan sacred verses, and our noble fellowship are all inextricably linked in an eternal bond. 

In fact, in the Zoroastrian religious calendar, the 40th day after winter solstice is dedicated to mithrá who assigns our “duties, responsibilities, and watches over our bond/contract with the Immortals.” It is our fulfillment of duties and contract that make God-Powers dwell and be incorporated within us. The festivities continue from January 30 to February 3rd and are concluded on the day dedicated to the god-force of triumph, victory. 

The winter festival of sadæ shows many similarities to hirômbá bonfire festivities, celebrated in late April among Zoroastrians.  The etymology of hirômbá is uncertain but it is widely believed that the word alludes to communal lightning of a bonfire. 

During hirômbá festivities, Zoroastrians go to wilderness to collect dry bushes and firewood. Close to the sunset, a mighty bonfire is lit. Priest gives a blessing for health, much strength, and prosperity for the living while the departed souls of each clan/family are named and honored. Later, embers from the bonfire are taken to the fire temple and each household’s fire. These embers are mixed with the sacred flame of the temple and the hearth fire of each clan. 

In Zoroastrianism, we believe that Godhood can be experienced through the phenomenon of fire/light, the Avestan sacred melodies and songs, and our sense of purpose/duties in life. However, this special Zoroastrian veneration for shrines of flame, fire and light has come under virulent and insincere attack by some alleged puritanical moslems.  

According to a muslim skeptic site, “fire is the visible sign of Ahura Mazda.  Since Satan is made of fire, Ahura Mazda is nothing more than figment of Imagination and a myth. It is therefore Satan himself who desires the company of Zoroastrians in the eternal hell-fire.” 

In response, it shall be said that Qur’an itself contains three different accounts of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush from which Allah reveals himself to Moses amid a burning flame/fire.  

in Surah 20:9-24, Quran states that “And has the story of Moses come to you? When he saw fire, he said to his family: Stop, for surely I see a fire, haply I may bring to you therefrom a live coal or find a guidance at the fire.  So, when he came to it, a voice was uttered: O Moses, Surely I am your Lord, therefore put off your shoes; for you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa,”

In Surah, 27: the Ant, 7-14 Quran states: “When Moses said to his family: Surely I see fire; I will bring to you from it some news, or I will bring to you therefrom a burning firebrand so that you may warm yourselves. So, when he came to it a voice was uttered saying: Blessed is Whoever is in the fire and whatever is about it; and glory be to God, the Lord of the worlds; O Moses! surely I am God, the Mighty, the Wise.”

And in Surah, 28: Qissass, the stories, 29-33, Quran states: “So, when Moses had fulfilled the term, and he journeyed with his family, he perceived on this side of the mountain a fire. He said to his family: Wait, I have seen a fire, maybe I will bring to you from it some news or a brand of fire, so that you may warm yourselves. And when he came to it, a voice was uttered from the right side of the valley in the blessed spot of the bush, saying: O Moses! surely I am God, the Lord of the worlds.”

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Solstice rites, lights and Lamps in the Zoroastrian customs and tradition


A characteristic aspect of Zoroastrianism is its veneration of light/fire. The elaborate cult of fire is one of the most distinctive and striking aspects of the Zoroastrian faith and goes back to the earliest periods of the ancient Indo-European spiritual beliefs. 

Fire altars and eternal flames featured on Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid coins, seals, rock inscriptions and images are the most visible icon of Zoroastrianism. The most meticulous tending of fires and eternal flames, their ritual purity and sacred songs, enchantments said before light/fires are at the core of the Zoroastrian religious experience.

The following customs are examples of ancient Zoroastrian reverence for light/fire that has survived to this day in Iranian culture. In the Iranian cultural realm, Lamps have spiritual significance and are treated with reverence. Swearing by the glowing light of the lamp (bae sūyae čerāḡ) is a good example of this ancient continuity.

Also, when a lamp is lit, one should recite a blessing and look at something green, a mirror or something beautiful. Lamps should be lit before the last rays of the sun disappear and burn uninterruptedly before the sun has risen. Every lady of the house should personally light the lamp in her own house regardless of servants or not.

It is believed that one should not put out the light of a lamp or candles by blowing on them, as such a deed is sinful and shorten one’s life. The expression čerāḡ-eʿomr and related expressions refer to this association of light and lamps with life. Hence it is considered bad omen and sacrilege among observant Zoroastrians to blow on birthday candles!    

Similar beliefs are attested in Shakespeare’s Richard II (Act 1, scene 3), John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, says, “My oil-dried lamp, and time-bewasted light, shall be extinct with age and endless night.”

Light and lamps are associated to all the important events of a person’s life, such as birth, marriage, business, and death. A burning candle/flame shall stay lit for a minimum of three nights and days (9 nights are more customary) in the room in which a woman and her newborn baby are sleeping. 

A burning candle/flame must burn continuously till the third dawn after a person dies. The third dawn after passing is the time that the soul stands at the rainbow bridge and is ready to pass the very bright portal to other dimensions. 

Lamps play an important role in ceremonies connected with the signing of the marriage contract because of the association of light with godly blessings, prosperity, and happiness. In the ancient Pars/Fars province, a lamp filled with a mixture of honey and oil is lit, in order to ensure that the bride and groom will have a bright, prosperous future. Newlywed women are not supposed to ensure that the lamps in their nuptial chambers burn continuously for three nights and days. 

It is an ancient custom to light a flame whenever a wish is made. Hence, lamps are placed at many sofras. Sofra is a piece of white or green cloth laid on the ritually clean ground and filled with fruit and nuts offerings to obtain a wish. 

Zoroastrian rites associated with solstices and equinoxes involve the lightning of fires and torches. The Ancient Varšt.mánsar commentary of Yasna 33 talks about the pristine light of the two trees in the realm of pure mind/spirit. The two are known as hadha.náæpta trees (much later identified with pomegranate or jewel tree.) The fire of the two trees is unmarred and cannot be transported to our mundane world. However, whenever sacred flames, lights/lamps are lit in our world, they carry some of the indomitable spirit and magical powers of that brightest of spiritual fires.  

The Jewish festival of Hannukah is today one of the more observed and popular festivals in the Jewish calendar. The central ritual activity of Hannukah is the lightning of candles in the home after dark during the eight days of the holiday. This custom in all its ritual detail is primarily a development that took place in Mesopotamia under the Persian Rulers. The festival is said to be based on a fire-based miracle from the era of Nehemiah and the Persian rulers, itself an overt example of Jewish Zoroastrian syncretism.

According to Geofrey Herman, the legend of the fire-based miracle and lightning of candles may have been stimulated by the encounter between Babylonian Judaism and Zoroastrian fire/light veneration, (See Hannukah in Babylonian Talmud and Zoroastrianism.) 

Geofrey Herman argues that the Jews of the Persian Empires were aware of the Zoroastrian fire cult and the Zoroastrian fire cult find explicit mention in Babylonian Talmud. The degree to which the Babylonian Talmud rabbis might have been attune to the prominence of fire in Zoroastrianism is suggested by a precise parallel found in the Babylonian Talmud to the Zoroastrian sacred text in Yasna 17.11 that delineates the various types of spiritual fires. (See IBd 39:20 b. Yoma 21b. The rabbinic is introduced as a Baraita.)  

Geoffrey Herman further argues that Hannukah has a small place in the rabbinic sources originating in Palestine. Only six isolated traditions referring to kindling lights for Hannukah appear in Jerusalem Talmud. In those six passages too the Babylonian input is predominant. 

Geofrey Herman argument seem to be make sense if we Look at the pervasive symbolism of fire/light in winter solstice celebrations of the Zoroastrians and the Zoroastrian fire festival held on November 24th

In conclusion, the word for lamp, torch in Moslem Quran is SIRAJ. 

SIRAJ is attested four times in the Qur’ān. The word is clearly a loanword and is a borrowing from Pahlavi, middle Iranian čirāγ

Parthian čirāγ has been widely borrowed, into: e.g. Armenian črag. The Arabic form may have come from Syriac.

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APÁM NAPÁTThe Grand Child/Descendant of the Waters


November 15 marks the last day of the month of waters in the Zoroastrian calendar. In ancient Zoroastrianism, a splendid god-force associated with waters known as ápam napát is honored during prayers at each sunset. Apám Napát refers to some form of fire and/or brilliant energy that reside within the waters. The name literally means the “grand child, progeny of the waters.” The first part of the name apá is a cognate of Latin “aqua” and refers to the “waters.” The second part is a cognate of Latin “nepo,” modern Persian “navæ” literally “grandchild, descendant or lineage.”

In ancient Indo-Iranian sacred poetry ápam napát is said to be the source of all life; plants and creatures propagate themselves as his branches.  

In the Zoroastrian hymnic poetry, it is Apám Napát that has created and shaped heroic men and women, yö nərə̄uš dadha, yö nərə̄uš tataša, (See Yašt. 19.52.) 

The entire magnificent verse in Yašt. 19.52 states: “The high, lofty, ahûrá “titan” (bərəzantəm ahûrəm,) having great powers and dominion over the worlds, brilliant, grandchild of the waters, he who has swift horses, we hallow; The virile/powerful one, who gives help when called upon, (It is) he who created heroic men and women, he who fashioned heroic men and women yö nərə̄uš dadha, yö nərə̄uš tataša, the hallowed god being amid the waters, who being prayed to is swiftest of all to hear.”

In the hymnic Zoroastrian poetry, it is Apám Napát who also distributes the good fortune of having waters “baxt.áv vî baxšaiti” to human settlements (Yašt. 8. 34.)

When the “godly glory of the rulers” (Farrah) fled from Yimá because of his hubris, (Yima was the founder of civilization and technology, and the original divine twin,) the divine glory was first protected by fire and mithrá, (the god force of dawn and contracts.) Then Farrah, the “glory of rulership” took refuge in the oceans where Apám Napát laid hold of it at the depths of waters. 

In Zoroastrian worship, the time of dawn and morning is under the watch of Mithrá “reciprocity, contract with the Brilliant Immortals,” and the time of sunset under that of Apám Napát.

To this day, when a Zoroastrian says the sunset prayers, he or she honors the brilliant energy and the grandchild of the waters.” In Yasna liturgy, whenever water is invoked Apám Napát or the brilliant energy within waters is invoked as well, (Yasná means “yearning, deep desire, hallowing” and is the most important Zoroastrian rite of worship.)  In Yasna Liturgy, the splendid grandchild of the waters is often invoked with haôma “elixir of eternal life” and dahmán áfrîn the “loving blessing of the wondrously wise person.” 

The title of ahûrá “titan, primeval god-force” bestowed on Apám Napát and Mithrá goes back to the Old Avestan sacred poetry of the gathas/songs of Zarathustra. The term mazdå ahûrá.ávŋhö  literally means “Mazdá, the “Wise Lord of Mind Powers” and his Ahûras “Titans,” (See Yasna 30.9.)  The ancient Avestan designation refers to all the Brilliant Immortals and Hallowed God Powers that are said to be beyond reckoning in the Zoroastrian sacred literature. 

The title of “lofty titan,” bərəzant ahûrá bestowed upon Apám Napát, has been translated in Middle Persian Zoroastrian literature as Bôrz Yazad, “admirable, hallowed, god-being.” Clearly, we can see here that Yazad or “hallowed god-force” of later Zoroastrian literature is interchangeable with the ahûras of ancient, sacred Avestan lore. 

Also, in Old Avestan Yasná 38.3 we come across the term ahûránîš ahûrahyá that according to ancient commentary is associated respectively with underground waters and the generative juices. 

In conclusion, I shall mention the ninth-century Norwegian poet Thiodolf who uses the phrase sævar niþr “grandson/descendant of the sea” as a kenning for fire (Ynglingatal 4. 3.) Apart from the obvious Indo-Iranian parallels, the Norse poetic tradition may ultimately derive from a sacred formula of Indo-European hymnic poetry, similar to the one still sung in the hymnic poetry of the Yašts of the Zoroastrians. 

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Water as a symbol of memory, deepest wisdom/inspiration in Zoroastrianism


October 26th marks the festival of waters. The hymn or Yašt to waters is among the longest and most beautiful in the sacred Avestan literature. In Zoroastrian worship both fire and water play a crucial role. The month of waters “ábán” is the 8th and the month dedicated to fires is the 9th month in the seasonal Zoroastrian calendar. 

Yasna is the main and most sacred Zoroastrian Liturgy. Yasna literally means “yearning, intense desire, hallowing.” The pouring, libation of holy water is the culminating rite of Yasna ceremony. The consecration of water is done by pounding in a mortar the dried twigs of the most sacred haômá/höm plant with the sap of fresh pomegranate leaves together with milk/cream. The preparation and pouring of holy water stands at the center of the second part of the Yasna ritual. 

The holy water is called áb-zür (Literally “the invoked water” from Avestan züt, to invoke.)The Old Avestan züt “invocation” has later been connected by word play to zür “strength, power.” The belief is that by “invocation of god powers/beings” through sacred Avestan charms and prayers, the vital element of water is made stronger, purer, and more invigorating. 

I shall note that the etymology of “god” goes back to the “pouring of libation, invocation” among ancient Indo-Europeans. Old Avestan züt is a cognate of Gothic guth, Old Church Slavonic zovo, “to invoke, call,” and Sanskrit huta “Invoker.” The reconstructed Proto Indo-European root is *ghu “to invoke,” and *gudhō are “those worshiped with libations or those worthy of invocation/gods.”

The Váršt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 50.1 on züt “invocation, libation” sums up the great significance of water in ancient Zoroastrianism. It states that the reason for 3 steps taken by the Invoker Priest toward water libation after the conclusion of the fire ritual, is in memory of the supernatural wisdom, inspiration and strength that the seer-prophet Zarathustra received after each consultation with the Brilliant Immortals.  

The three steps are a reminder of the Brilliant Immortals and their ascension from earth to the sun station through the “realms of good/superb thoughts, words and deeds” after the conclusion of each wise counsel. The pouring of holy water is in memory of their profound inspiration and deepest wisdom. 

According to Váršt.mánsar commentary of Yasna 43, Zarathustra had his consultations with the Brilliant Immortals at the banks of the beautiful dáityá river. It is by the waters of dáityá that Zarathustra received his revelation and luminous vision.  Prophet Zarathustra got infused with deepest wisdom and inspiration from drinking holy water mixed with wine and/or haômá juice from this scared body of water. 

In traditional Zoroastrianism, Fire temples are always built close to a body of water, a well, spring, pond, pool, lake or river. Waters and their libation in Zoroastrianism, are connected to memory, inspiration, profound wisdom and Godhood. 

Close parallels could be drawn to mead as a source of inspiration and Mîmir’s well or Mímisbrunnr in Norse Mythology. The Prose Edda relates that the waters of the Mímisbrunnr contain much wisdom, and that Odin sacrificed one of his eyes to the well of memory in exchange for drink of supernatural wisdom. 

The offering of water libation is still a living tradition among Zoroastrians in the orthodox villages of Yazd. All libations must be modelled after the Yasna ceremony consisting of water, mixed with three ingredients, milk/cream, leaves and/or fruits from 2 sacred plants or trees.  

In strictest purity, a lay Zoroastrian takes marjoram/oregano leaves, rose petals, and/or the fruits of the oleaster (senǰed) tree in bowl of milk/cream to the village priest. The priest then carries the offering to a stream, river, pool or well and there makes a slow, ritual libation, dropping the liquid by the spoonful into the water, while reciting from the sacred charms/poetry of the Zoroastrians, the Avesta. 

This libation rite should be performed on behalf of every living Zoroastrian twice a year, in the months of Ardibehišt and Āḏar (which are dedicated to yazatas of fire and luminosity.) To perform offerings, acts of worship, desire on months dedicated to light or fire are considered especially auspicious. The water offering can be performed on behalf of a departed spirit at any time!

ardeshir

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Evil as undead Monster and the Supreme Importance of SpaceTime in Zoroastrianism


October 12 marks the thanksgiving festival of ayáthrim when the cows/cattle decorated in flowers, are brought back home to their warm shelters. The ayáthrim is a festive time to lead cattle from their summer meadows back to their shelters and to breed livestock! The festival lasts 5 days like the rest of the thanksgiving festivals and is concluded on October 16. The end of the ayáthrim marks the end of the month of Mithrá. The conclusion of ayáthrim marks the beginning of the month of waters in the Zoroastrian sacred calendar. 

Looking at the Zoroastrian religious calendar and festivals, one cannot help but to notice the paramount importance of temporal time and space in Zoroastrianism! But why all this emphasis on sacred points of the day, month, seasons and the year in Zoroastrian sacred liturgy and ritual? 

Ancient Zoroastrianism teaches that temporal time and material universe were and still are the best trap for the broken/evil spirit “ahriman” (Old Avestan angrá) and his host of diabolic deities/daævás! 

The Mindful, Wise Lord, Ahûrá Mazdá, masterfully fashioned the limitations of spacetime to be the FINAL DOOM of all cruelty, malice and evil. From the very moment that the “broken spirit/ahriman” and his demon gods/daævás” entered the material manifestation, they infested it, mixed with it (gumîzišn), and contaminated the pristine creation! But at the same time all evil and flaws got confined within the limits of temporal time and physical universe. 

Ahûrá Mazdá wisely foresaw that by restraining the diabolic forces to spatial and temporal dimensions, the cosmic battle against the forces of darkness will not be transposed to a transcendental, meta-temporal, meta-spatial, spiritual dimension of boundless mind/spirit (mainyü) wherein the conflict would never finish and will have no end. 

The Luminous Lord of Mind, Ahûrá Mazdá is the Master of Eternity, (See Yasna 30.4, 3rdrhymed verse line, ancient commentary.) From his Boundless Time (Zarván- a.karnæ literally time without shores,) the Mindful Lord has carved out the Long Ages of History, our limited Cycles of Time, (See Yasna 44.17, 2nd and 3rd rhymed verse lines.) 

Through the fading of each age, the villainy of the cruel deities and the evil, broken ahriman becomes more suicidal. It is so because the demon gods/daævás and their gloomy, dark lord, ahriman (Old Avestan angrá) lack any imagination or genuine, creative powers. 

Diabolic deities are born out of doubt and fear, (See Yasna 32.16, 2nd rhymed verse line,) they are sterile and incapable of producing results. They are undead vampires that can only spoil, infest and cause ruin, (See Yasna 30.4, 2nd Rhymed verse line,) 

According to ancient Zoroastrian Cosmology, ahriman and his ghost army, first entered the physical universe by piercing a hole on the northern side of the galactic sphere. The constellations and stars immediately closed that infernal hole/gate, creating an impassable barrier around the physical universe and imprisoning the diabolic forces in it. 

Hence, the key points in time and space must be reinvigorated through

god songs or gathas, most powerful mind formulas or manthrás, and devotional rituals.  According to the Váršt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 32, the ratü-s “wise masters” of time and creation are to be invoked at dawn, dusk and noon, during different phases of the moon,throughout days of the month, seasonal festivals, equinoxes and all other sacred points in space and time. 

Ratü-s are literally “role models/prototypes who articulate the correct formula/algorithm, precise order, right fit.” The whole idea behind the concept of ratü is that real godhood comes from imagination, luminous vision, discovery of new horizons, creativity and finding of wondrous solutions, (See ahün-var, the most sacred charm/manthrá of Zoroastrianism.) 

It is the duty of mortals to invoke the ratü-s “wise masters of time and creation” and emulate their superb, godly example to assures the triumph of spirit/mind-power over doubt and fear throughout cycles of each age and human experience.

ardeshir

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The Autumnal Equinox and the Zoroastrian Paitiš.hahiia and Mehregán festival


In the Zoroastrian religious calendar, the celebration of autumnal equinox is closely associated with Mehregán and the Old Avestan paitiš.hahaiia festival.  Mehregán is a celebration of Miθrá, the god-force of “reciprocity, friendship” who is embodied in the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise. The celebration of Miθrá reminds us of our duties and responsibilities toward Immortals and our sacred contract with Godhood. In the Zoroastrian Jurisprudence, our duties and responsibilities are the decisive factor that establish our role and identity. 

In the Váršt.mánsar commentary of Yasna 46.5 of the gathas or poetic songs of Zarathustra, Miθrá is associated with the “light of knowledge, awareness and understanding of things”. Accordingly, it is our contract with the Gods and our duties and responsibilities that define us.  

The celebration of equinoxes are among the most important festivals in the Zoroastrianseasonal calendar. The Avestan name of the festivals that correspond to the two equinoxes are hamas.paθ.maædhya (when the celestial paths are at a midpoint and stand at the same or an equal distance from each other, pertaining to Vernal Equinox and/or Nauvrooz) and paitiš.hahaiia (Festival of harvest and fruits, pertaining to Mehregán and/or Autumnal Equinox.) 

The autumnal festivities in the Zoroastrian Iran were so elaborate and joyous that the term Mehergán has been borrowed into Arabic where the Arabic version of it or Mehreján refers to any joyous festival or festivity in general. 

Paitiš.hahaiia literally means the “Lord/Master of Harvest and Fruits.” The second compound hahiia, means “harvest, crop, fruit.” Hittite še-e-šå “fruit, harvest, crop” is a cognate of Avestan hahaiia and the reconstructed Indo-European form is se-sh1-o- (sh1-es-o-) “crop, fruit, harvest.”

Paitiš.hahaiia is honored on 180th day of the seasonal calendar and is a celebration of “healthy abundance and wealth.” hahaiia comes in the poetic songs/gathas of Zarathustra in the form of haŋhüs referring to the “sunny fruits of good/superb mind.” (See Yasna 53.4, 3rd rhymed verse line.)

The celebration of paitiš.hahaiia emphasizes that Zoroastrianism greatly praises “prosperity and material wealth” based on “happiness and positive, peaceful mental attitude.” 

There are two months in the Zoroastrian calendar that start with the equinoxes: the month of the Fravašịs (Archetypes, Heroic Ancestors) starting after the vernal equinox and the month of Miθrá starting after the autumnal equinox with the month of the waters (ábán) following the month of Miθrá. 

Interestingly, the longest Avestan hymns or Yašts preserved in the sacred lore of the Zoroastrians (Avesta) are dedicated respectively to the Fravašịs (Archetypes, Heroic Ancestors,) Miθrá and Anáhita, the (Fair Mighty Lady of the Undefiled Waters.) The mention of Miθra and Anāhitā in the Old Persian inscriptions from Artaxerxes II could be an echo of this prominence of Miθrá and the Waters. 

ardeshir

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The Magic Fire and the Final Fiery Trial by Molten Metal in ancient Zoroastrianism


In Norse mythology, Ragnarök (Fate of the Reigning-Gods) is the cataclysmic, final battle between the forces of order and those of chaos. Ragnarök marks the pivotal event that ends the nine realms/worlds of Norse Cosmology. All the nine realms/worlds will be set on fire. The world tree Yggdrasil will shake violently. However, from the fiery trial and destruction of the old, a new age of invincible gods and men emerges. 

In Zoroastrian eschatology, at the time of frašö-kart (the splendid, fresh recreation of the worlds) the material manifestation will go through a fiery trial with molten metal that will birth a new age of eternal spring and growth.

We read in the ancient Varšt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 51.9 of the poetic songs/gathas: “About the formation, fashioning (pasákhtan) of a future body (tanü-î-passîn) and new, splendid material universe through fire and melted ore (ásin vidákht.) 

In the cataclysmic events of the Zoroastrian eschatology, the earth and mortals must go through a fiery trial of molten metal. The alchemy of the creative energies will purge, purify, transform and birth an invincible age of Immortals and Eternal Progress. 

The term for this alchemical transformation of all the material manifestation through molten ore and fire is aiiaŋhá kšustá in the poetic songs/gathas of Zarathustra (See Yasna 51.9, 2nd rhymed verse line.) 

Old Avestan aiiaŋhá comes from the root aiiah (ore, metal, iron) and is a cognate with Persian áhan (iron,) Latin aes (ore,) Gothic aiz (metal coin.) The reconstructed Indo-European root is h2-ei-os (copper/iron,) that comes from *h2ei “to shine, burn.” 

Old Avestan kšustá is a cognate of Persian šustan “to wash, cleanse,” and Old Church Slavonic ksoudó and/or khsoudû. The reconstructed Indo-European root is kwseud. 

We read in the Varšt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 36.2: Of the great, magnificent work (mas kár) that will prepare/fashion the new body that will come to pass (tanü-î-passîn,) and that will make the creation pure, and uniquely special (dám avéžag) will be forged through fire. 

To better understand the alchemy of creative energies and transformation of the worlds through fire, it must be emphasized that in Zoroastrianism, the primeval material creation was fashioned splendidly but despite all its marvels was vulnerable. The diabolic forces saw this earliest creation from their discarded, parallel universe and envied all its marvels, beauties and perfections. Right after, they set out to assail and corrupt this pristine material realm with their blemishes, flaws and defects. Thus, this earliest material manifestation was contaminated and became diseased through invasion from a contorted parallel dimension. 

The Wise, Mindful Lord, Ahûrá Mazdá devised a master plan to overcome all the “blemishes and shortcomings” by trapping all the “evil and flaws” in time dimension. Thus, all monstrosity and evil got trapped in cycles of time and wisdom of the ages. And this was the most perfect way to undo “evil and spoil” for all eternity and give the material universe invincibility and the power to progress and increase forever. 

At the time of Faršö-kart, the spoil and mar caused in the primeval material manifestation by the giver of all blemishes, the accursed ahriman is permanently and decisively removed. The distorted, parallel universe of the doomed demons is melted away and cast into a fiery river of molten ore. 

I shall conclude with the most beautiful Varšt-mánsar commentary of Yasna 32.16: “When the garb of life is put back into the body, and molten ore fills the land, there will be no vengeance for the fellowship of order/truth but there will be vengeance for the deceitful liar. I, who am the Mindful, Wise Lord will set out the splendid, fresh, new creation of the worlds. The worlds of life will be forever thriving and healthy (dravîst.) never again sick or imperfect (vîmár!) Deathless, from now to all eternity, with all outcomes in plain sight, by the powers of my dominion and godhood, will never again decay or die, this physical world of order/truth.” 

ardeshir

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Parsi new year, the 3 Zoroastrian calendars and the rite of celebrating the blessed spirits and the heroic dead


Parsi new year, the 3 Zoroastrian calendars and the rite of celebrating the blessed spirits and the heroic dead

August 16 marks the beginning of the Parsi new year. Parsis are the Zoroastrians of India who follow the Yazdgirdi calendar and reckon their calendar from the coronation year of Yazdgirid III, the last noble Sassanid Emperor. 

Currently, Zoroastrians follow 3 calendars. The Old Avestan calendar that starts at the exact moment of vernal equinox (hamas.path.maiðya when the celestial paths are at midpoint and stand at an exact same distance from each other.) The ancient Avestan calendar was/is a seasonal and lunisolar calendar. 

In later Avestan texts a year consist of 12 months of 30 days plus 5 most sacred “song/gatha” days at the end of the year. Each of the 30 days of the month are dedicated to a god-power/being. 

However, solar year is not exactly 365 days but is more like 365 days and quarter of a day. Dastür Cama suggested the addition of an extra leap day every 4 years. The holy Denkard (great encyclopedia and scholarly magnum opus of Zoroastrianism) suggests the addition of a leap month every 120 years.  

As the number of Zoroastrians began to sharply dwindle and the Zoroastrians were forced to take refuge in the most inhospitable parts of their once glorious empire, they neglected the addition of a leap month every 120 years. 

Hence the calendar followed among Iranian Zoroastrians moved to July 17 and the Parsi calendar that is followed by the Zoroastrians of India moved to a month later, on August 16. This means that the last time that the ancient calendar followed by Iranian Zoroastrians was celebrated on vernal equinox was in 16th century or at the beginning of the Safavid rule. 

The Safavid were a mighty empire and restored Iranian imperial glory for the first time after islam. However, they wholeheartedly embraced Shia islam and did everything to erase any trace of the ancient religion while incorporating some of Zoroastrian jurisprudence, customs and concepts into Shia Islam. 

The Parsis of India apparently neglected the addition of a leap month a century before their co-religionist in Iran. Hence, the discrepancy between the ancients, royals and the Avestan lunisolar calendar that starts at the exact moment of the equinox (hamas.path.maiðya.) 

Apart from discrepancies between the festival days, the followers of all three Zoroastrian calendars are in agreement as regard to Zoroastrian theology and doctrines, and there are not any social or religious restrictions between them. 

However, there are a few minor differences in rituals between the ancients and follower of the yezdgirdi calendar. The followers of ancient calendar and the yezdgirdi or the royal calendar (named after the last noble Sassanid Monarch) use somewhat different opening and closing phrases for most litanies and prayers to the moon, sun, waters and fire. 

The ancients call the most sacred and powerful charms of yathá ahü and ašem vohü, yathá ahi and ašem vahi. Also, the initiation nav.jôt (new life) marriage and death rituals are performed according to slightly different customs. 

The priesthood initiation (návar) among the ancients (Iranian Zoroastrians) requires one more purification rite of nine days. The ancient and royal priests follow slightly different traditions whenever they mention the name of married women: the yezdgirdis mention the wife together with her husband whereas the ancients continue to mention her with her father.

Both Iranian Zoroastrians and Parsis (Zoroastrian of India) thoroughly clean their homes, and adorn them with flowers, burning incense, and candles to make their dwellings inviting to the blessed spirits that are said to visit the earth before the arrival of the new year. 

The followers of the ancient calendar or Iranian Zoroastrians make bonfires on rooftops to welcome the blessed spirits. There is an offering of incense, a bowl of spring water or rosewater, fresh fruits and nuts laid next to the leaping flames.

A forgotten aspect of the new year and nauvrooz ceremonies among non-Zoroastrians is the welcoming and celebration rites for the blessed spirits, the heroic dead and ten days of introspection called pætat before the new year that is of paramount importance to all Zoroastrians. 

Parsis prepare beautiful vases of flowers and continuously light candles in honor of their departed and the heroic dead for the duration of the ten most holy days of introspection and going back to the roots (pætat.) 

Parsis attend the Fire Temple after breakfast, dressed in traditional costume, and conduct a prayer called Jashan to convey gratitude, asking for more strength, prosperity and wisdom. 

As offerings, milk, water, fruits, flowers are brought to, and sandalwood is placed in the sacred fire. 

Iranian Zoroastrians have a fragrant rice pilaf with fish and sweet and sour pomegranate syrup on top as the main course, with a host of sweet deserts and wines. 

Parsis have fish with a fragrant rice pilaf (pulav) as well as Sali Boti, a Parsi dish in which red hot mutton is cooked to perfection amid sizzling hot spices crowned with beautiful golden potato shreds and served with onion rings as their main course. Moong dal or a buttery mung bean stew with lots fried garlic and other spices is served as an appetizer. For desert Parsis have a sweet milk pudding with lots of nuts. 

Upon arrival, guests are greeted with a sprinkle of rose water and handed Faluda to drink. In addition, both Iranian Zoroastrians and Parsis mark their midsummer New Year festivities by making philanthropic contributions.

Some scholars have argued that since winter solstice is called maiðyaar “midyear” in the Zoroastrian sacred lore, the ancient calendar must have been reckoned from midsummer. However, the Zoroastrian sacred lore is unambiguous that the religious year starts from the exact moment of vernal equinox (hamas.path.maiðya.) 

The term yaar “year” in maiðyaar refers to winter and to a time when years were counted by the number of winters. However, midsummer celebrations played a major role among all Indo-European traditions and among Zoroastrianism to this day. 

ardeshir

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