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!


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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.


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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. 


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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.” 


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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. 


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The Zoroastrian midsummer festival “Maiδyö.šam” and the Star Sirius

The Zoroastrian midsummer festival “Maiδyö.šam” starts on June 29th and concludes on July 3rd. The midsummer festivities start approximately 9 days after summer solstice. Maiδyö.šam is known as the giver of rich meadows/pastures “váströ data,” in the sacred lore of the Zoroastrians or the Avesta, (See Yasna 2.9 and Vîspä.rad 2.2.)  

Aside from being the “giver of green pastures and rich meadows,” Midsummer is closely associated with the star Tištryá and celebration of waters and the rainy season. Tištryá literally means Tri-star and refers to Sirius, the most luminous star in the night sky. The festival of Tištryá falls on July 1st, on the 3rd day of midsummer celebrations. 

In Norse mythology, Sirius is known as lokibrenna or Loki’s torch.  In Zoroastrianism, Tištryá is the articulate leader/master “ratü” of all the constellations and stars and rules over the brilliant realm of the stars/the star station. Tri-star or Tištryá can get in and out of the temporal time and is the gateway of the material world to higher celestial dimensions and eternity. 

The link to celestial arrow “Tîra” is strongly present in hymn to Tri-star in the Zoroastrian sacred lore/the Avesta.  The word arrow “Tiyra” appears in hymn 8.6 where the rapid twinkling of Tištryá is likened to shooting of arrows empowered by the powers of spirit/mind, “yatha tiyriš mainya.vas.áw.”    

In Zoroastrian cosmology, the realms below the brilliant star station are affected by the state of mixture where the worlds of “light, wonders, and adventure” are intermingled with the worlds of “gloom, evil, and stagnation.”  

In Zoroastrianism, Tištryá is said to have the “luminous origin of the waters,” afš.ciθra. The first part of the word af refers to apa, “waters,” and is a cognate of aqua. The second part ciθra means “brilliance, luminous appearance, face, most clear aspect,” Old Norse heiðr “bright, clear” and Old High Germanic heitar “shining” are cognates.   In Zoroastrian sacred poetry, Stars are said to be the brilliant source of waters (stárö yöi afš.ciθra,) the earth (stárö yöi zəmas.ciθra), and plants (stárö yöi urvarö.ciθra) Stars are said to have their radiance and power from the “Auspicious Brilliant Spirit/Mind” (stárö yöi spəṇtö.mańyav.)

The most hallowed constellations and stars named in the Avesta (sacred writings of the Zoroastrians) are: Tri-star or star Sirius (tištrîm stárǝm), Vega (vanaṇtǝm stārǝm), and stars of Ursa Major constellation (stárö yöi haptöiriṇga.)  

The star Tištriyá or Sirius is celebrated by pouring or splashing water on one another. Also, a colorful wristband or bracelet, resembling rainbow colors is worn by the celebrants for 9 days. On the 9th day or July 10th, which is dedicated to the god-force of winds Váyü or Vátá, the rainbow-colored wristband is offered to the rivers and streams.  

Another aspect of the festivities is fortune telling. In ancient times, the lines/reflections on bowl of water were used to grant the viewer things of the past, present and possibilities of the future. Water granted the viewer visions that the seeking person desired to see and know about. Presently, a young girl takes a green clay jug and fills it with fresh water. Then, everyone makes a wish, and throws a small item, like a coin, ring, or earring inside. The next day, they gather around the jug and read a poem. The girl takes an object out of the jug, and it is said that the poem that is read becomes the fortune of the owner of the object taken out.  

Tištriyá appears in moslem quran in sura al-najm (the star) where it is said: “That he is the lord of Sirius, the mighty star,”53.49.  

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The original rainbow bridge and the Chinvad Portal of the Zoroastrian sacred lore

In ancient Norse religion, a burning rainbow bridge called the Bifrost or more precisely Ásbrú (the Æsir’s bridge) connects Midgard, “middle realm/earth” with Asgard, “home of the gods/æsir.” The rainbow bridge of the Æsir can be crossed only by a select few, the gods and the heroic dead. 

In Zoroastrianism, činvatö pərətü is a “pass/bridge of elucidation and selection” that like the Æsir’s bridge, can be crossed only by a “select luminous few” and connects our world with the superb realm of Ahûrá Mazdá and his Splendid Immortals/Ahûrás, (See Váršt.mánsar commentary of Yasna 33.5.)   

Pərətü literally means “portal, passage, bridge.” Latin “Portus” is a cognate. Other cognates include “ferry, ford and fjörd.” 

Činvatö comes from the root čai and reconstructed Indo-European root *kwei. The underlying meaning of the root verb is “to make clear/lucid, perceive, clarify, reveal.” It also means “to pick out, select, discern, choose the best, most excellent.”  

The Persian verb čîdan “pick out, select, neatly arrange” and the Persian word Golchin/Golčin a “selection of the best flowers” both come from the same root. Old Church Slavonic činiti “to arrange, neatly order” is a cognate as well.  

The Südgar commentary of Yasna 46.10 concerning činvatö pərətü states: that “the soul alone sees/perceives all before the bridge and when in flesh, it cannot see and have insight into the true nature and outcome of things.” 

Also, the ancient Baghan commentary of Yasna 46.10 concerning the bridge states: Only those that have walked on the path of “excellence, goodness, light” can step forth, then VISIBLY and MANIFESTLY (áškárîk) pass the činvatö bridge.  

The soul of all the departed, at the dawn after the third day, go to the bridge. The soul of the good/excellent see their “vibe/energy” manifested as a most Luminous, beautiful, fair maiden and the soul of the wicked see their vibe/energy manifested as a gloomy, hateful, deformed hag. 

This “manifested vibe/energy” of each person at the bridge is called daæná in Zoroastrianism. The word daæná comes from the root di/dee “to see.”

Daæná is not Only synonymous with the “maiden of the bridge” but with the yazatá/adorable god-force of the Zoroastrian religion. As maiden of the bridge daæná is “the manifestation of one’s own energy, thoughts, words and deeds” or that which is “manifested/seen.” As Zoroastrian religion, Daæná is the gift of “vision, intuitive wisdom, power to see the truth/inner fabric of reality”. 

 A full account of the fair, luminous maiden of the bridge in the Zoroastrian sacred lore is given in Háδöxt nask (2.11.) 

The Südgar commentary of Yasna 50.7 states: that when the shining souls, the excellent, step forth to cross, the bridge becomes nine lances wide.

But for the wicked the bridge becomes narrow like a razor blade. The luminous souls in the form of a luminous, fair maiden cross over while the demonic fall below into the abyss. 

According to Zoroastrian anti demonic law book Vi.dæv.dád, two dogs guard the bridge, (See Vi.dæv.dád  13.9, 19.30.)  

The bridge has the following epithets in the Zoroastrian sacred lore or the Avesta: “Established, created by the Mindful lord, Mazda” (mazda-δāta)  “famed/heard from afar” (düraæ.srüta) “strong/mighty” (amavant,) “well protected” (hu-páta), and “protected by excellence, truth, light” (aša páta.) 

We read in the ancient Varšt-mánsar commentary of the sacred songs/gathas that those who are cruel to animals will specifically Not pass the bridge.

The AS SIRAT bridge of the Islamic religion appears to have many common elements with Činvatö Pərətü of ancient Zoroastrianism and shows strong Zoroastrian influence. The etymology of AS SIRAT goes back to Latin strata. 

In conclusion, the idea of the original rainbow bridge is a luminous portal to the realm of the god beings and brilliant Immortals that is reserved for the select few. The idea of picking out the best, most excellent and manifestation of one’s thoughts, words and deeds (vibe/energy) in the form of a fair, beautiful maiden or a deformed hag are closely associated with the bridge of elucidation/selection Činvatö Pərətü in ancient Zoroastrianism. 


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Zoroastrianism in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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