Norse ragnarök, Avestan frashökérétí and the splendid renewal of the universe


The Zoroastrian concept of “frashökérétí” or “CREATING the world and all things in it FRESH and anew” is an original teaching of the Prophet/Seer Zarathushtra. It is the necessary and consistent conclusion to the action of creating. The brilliant renewal marks the opening of new horizons or an eternal spring in the cosmic progress. It brings to fruition the odyssey of an awesome mind/spirit/mainyü to bring about the victory of the powers of what is awesome, amazing, good, wondrous and most beautiful into the world. In the poetic gathas,  1st line of Yasna 30.9; it is WE,  “vaäm,” the thinking powers; who next to the AhúrāS or superb, divine powers/talents of Mazdā;  bring about this splendid renewal.


The use of “frashökérétí” as part of a proper name has a counterpart in Old Persian, where the adjective describes the most splendid/beautiful palace which Darius ordered to be built in Susa (DSf 56-57; DSa 5; DSj 6). Moreover, the syntagm “frašam akkūnavam,” which expresses Darius’s satisfaction with the “superb/brilliant craftsmanship” over  his  building project (DSo 3-4), corresponds to the Gathic formula in Yasna 30.9 and Yasht 19.11., 89) namely “excellence/brilliance in creating/workmanship.”

In a religious sense, “frashö” refers to Ahúrā Mazdā’s “brilliant, ever imaginative creativity,” as a root noun in the compound fraž-dā, it refers to effective, auspicious, ever creative formulation (Yasna 12.1.)


The concept of frashökérétí has no counterpart in the Indo-Aryan Vedas, yet we find an almost identical concept in the ancient Norse “ragnarök.” The Old Norse word “ragnarök” is a compound of two words. The first word in the compound, “ragna,” is the plural of regin (“gods” or “ruling powers”). 


“ragna” is the same as Sanskrit “raj,” Gathic/Avestan “rij,” “ražn,” “ražng” “rashn.” Compare also Germanic “rikijaz,”  Dutch “rijk” to rule, be powerful, rich.  Proto Aryan base is “reg;” the same as  Avestan “ráž;” to  move in a straight line, move unopposed,” hence “to rule, reign.”  The exact word in the sense of reigning, ruling, moving straight and unopposed; appears in the following passages in the poetic gathas; 1st and 2nd line of Yasna 34.12, 2nd line of Yasna 33.1, 3rd line of Yasna 46.5, 4th line of Yasna 50. 6 and 1st line of Yasna 53.9.

Also, the Angel “Rashnü” in Avesta who stands at entrance to realms of boundless lights and GUIDES/DIRECTS those may pass UNOPPOSED comes from the same root.

The second word, “rök,” has several meanings, such as “development, ARRIVE,  come down to a position,  CONSTELLATION, destiny, CONCLUSION OF EVENTS.”  The Avestan equivalent with the exact same meaning is “raäch,” compare with the Proto-Germanic rakō. “Raäch” appears in the following passages in the poetic gathas; 3rd line of Yasna 32.7, 2nd line of Yasna 32. 11, and the 2nd line of Yasna 34.7.

The word ragnarök as a whole is then usually interpreted as the “final destiny of the gods. In stanza 39 of the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna, and in the Prose Edda, the form ragnarök(k)r appears, rök(k)r meaning “twilight.” Usage of this form was popularized by 19th century composer Richard Wagner by way of the title of the last of his “Der Ring des Nibelungen” operas, Götterdämmerung;  Twilight/Doom of the Gods,  compare “dämmerung” with Persian “damarū.” The term Götterdämmerung is occasionally used in English, referring to a disastrous conclusion of events.

Yet, Haraldur Bernharðsson correctly argues instead that the word “ragna-rök” suggests a meaning of “renewal of the godly powers.” Both the Avestan and Norse accounts tell in amazing  similarity of a cosmic winter/fimbulvinter and a final battle resulting in “ragnarök,” ushering of an eternal spring and a splendid renewal of the universe. The similarity between the Norse accounts and the account of “Bun-dahishn” concerning events surrounding “frashökérétí” and the new act of creating is really astonishing.

Occurrences of  “frashökérétí” appear in the 1st line of Yasna 30.9, 3rd line of Yasna 34.15, 2nd line of Yasna 46.19 and 4th line of Yasna 50.11; in the poetic gathas.  In the first two out of its four gathic attestations, the adjective “ferasha” functions as an attribute to “ahü” or “ahüric life/superb reality.” In three places,  it comes in association with “vasnā;”  “wish, desire, longing, loveliness.”

In addition, the superlative “ferashö.temem”- is syntactically parallel to “parāhüm-” “superb existence beyond” . The superlative “ferashö.temem” occurs as “vasnā fərashö.təməm “what is most splendid/brilliant according to wish/desire.” This is governed by the verbal expression haithyiā varəš “to make real” (Yasna 46.19) or the action noun haithyā-varəštā- “making real” (Yasna 50.11).

Avestan “varəš;” “action, make, turn into, become;” is the exact same as Old Norse “urðr” one of the three Norns namely fate;” and the Runic Symbol WYRD. Compare German “werden,” Old English “weorðan” “to become.”

Frashökérétí is conceived of as a turning point (urvaäsä-; 1st line of  Yasna 43.6 and Yasht. 13.58). The splendid renewal takes place in 57 divine years (Ancient gathic commentary of Yasna 31.6, 2nd line; Iranian Bundahišn 34.9; Dādistān ī dēnīg 35; Pahlavi Rivayat 48.3; Dēnkard 7.11.4; Zādspram 34.46.) Compare the Koranic account of 50,000 years concerning the resurrection. Also according to Koran every 1000 years amount to 1 divine year

The more explicit description of the events believed to take place in “frašō.kərəti” is found in the Zamyād Yašt (Yasht. 19) at the end of the initial three sections as well as at the end of the final one. The agents who will make life fraša- are the “virtuoso creatures of Ahúrā Mazdā” (Yt. 19.10), the Aməšā Spəñtās (q.v.; Yt. 19.15), the spiritual and material adorable powers/angels or yazatās, the superb/excellent creators (frašō.carətar-), and saviors (saöshyaṇt-; Yt. 19.22), and above all a single savior, the “victorious Saöšyāns” (Yt. 19.89), i.e., Astvaṱ.ərəta (Yt. 19.92), and his companions (Yt. 19.95).

Life will become “ageless, without decay, not rotting, not putrefying, living forever, thriving forever, ruling at will” (Yt. 19.11.89). The dead will rise, revived by the one who does not decay, and life will be CREATED ANEW in an excellent and most splendid way. Saöšyāns will emerge from Lake Hāmūn (Avestan kąnsaöya-) wielding the victorious weapon, with his gaze of insight; he will render the whole corporal world indestructible (Yt. 19.94). His companions will advance, and Wanting/Lacking/Rage (aäšma-) will flee before them (Yt. 19.95). Awesome Mind/Spirit (vóhü- manö-) overcomes Afflicted, Beaten Mind/Spirit (aka- manö-), the rightly spoken/effective Word/Speech (ərəžuxδa- vac-) overcomes the falsely spoken Word/Speech (miθaöxta- vac-.)

Health/Weal (haürvatāt-) and Immortality (amərətāt-) overcome both Hunger (šud-) and Thirst (taršna-), and finally the ENEMY of mind/spirit, Angra Mainyü will retreat powerless to his dissolution (Yt. 19.96).

ardeshir

Bibliography : H. W. Bailey, “Indo-Iranian Studies I,” TPS 42,1953, pp. 21-42.  Mary Boyce, “On the Orthodoxy of Sasanian Zoroastrianism,”BSO(A)S 59, 1996, pp. 11-28.  A. Hintze, ed. and tr. with comm., Der Zamyād-Yašt, Wiesbaden, 1994. Idem, “The Rise of the Saviour in the Avesta,”  1995, pp. 77-97. H. Humbach, ed. and tr., The Gathas of Zarathshtra and Other Old Avestan Texts, collab. by J. Elfenbein and P. O. Skjærvø, Heidelberg, 2 vols., 1991. H. F. J. Junker, “Mittelpersisch frašēmurv ‘Pfau’,” Wörter und Sachen 12, 1929, pp. 132-58. B. Lincoln,  H. Lommel, “Awestische Einzelstudien,” ZII 1, 1922, pp. 16-32. Idem, H. S. Nyberg,  Shaul Shaked, “Eschatology and the Goal of the Religious Life in Sasanian Zoroastrianism,” The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg, 2 parts, Copenhagen, 1990. R. C. Zaehner,The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, London, 1961.

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