Vegetarianism in the poetic gathas and the primary Zoroastrian Texts


Zoroastrianism highly recommends a vegetarian diet, rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, hearty bread and wine. According to Herodotus, the Magi (Zoroastrian Priests/Wise Men) diet consisted of grapes, cheese, herbs, wine and hearty bread; they paid great respect to fire, water and celestial luminaries; and exposed their dead to scavenge of vultures.

What Herodotus reports about the vegetarian diet of the Magi has its precedence in the poetic gáthás of the seer/prophet Zarathushtra. In Yasna 32.8 we read about Yima (Norse Ymir), and his great lapse/falling. The second rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.8 states; “to please us men, (Yima) foresworn GD of the living, and bite into the flesh of animals to eat.” The key words are contained in the 2nd stanza of the verse: “gáüsh bagá khvaremnö.”

Gáüsh is life, animal life; Compare with Lithuanian gyvata “life,” Lithuanian gyvas “living, alive.” Living Gaia is personified by bull/cattle; Proto Indo European gwoús, Sanskrit gáús, Latvian guovs, Armenian gaus Swedish ko, English cow, Greek bous, Latin. bov.

Zarathushtra in his poetic songs/gáthás, talks repeatedly about géúsh úrvaa “the soul of the living animals.” The concept of géúsh úrvaa emphasizes that animals are endowed with a soul and intelligence, that this world is a living being with a soul, and that the nature of gaia or all living entities are closely related.

Avestan baga is a term for “GD”, but also for “good fortune.” The cognate term in the Vedas is bhaga, Slavic bog “god” chieftain or leader/lord comes also from the same ancient root.   The original meaning of the word is “to allot riches or good fortune.” In the Rig Veda, bhaga is the Divine Providence who supervises the dispensation of  fortune and good luck to each mortal corresponding to his/her receptivity.

“Bhagavan” and “Bhagya” are terms used to refer to Gd and/or Good Fortune in various Indic languages. Also, the name Baghdad is NOT Arabic but comes from the ancient Persian baga (baga-data: “god given”, “gift of good fortune/god.”

Baga’s secondary meaning is; “a bite, a piece bitten off, to bite, act of biting.” Compare with Old High German bizzo “biting,” German Bissen “a bite, morsel”, from Proto Indo European bheid- “to split.”

The third word “khvaremnö /xvaremnö/svaremnö;” comes from the Proto Indo European root svar/swar, Old Norse sverja, Danish sverge, Gothic swaren, German schwören, “to swear, to swear falsely, abandon or renounce an oath.” The Old Church Slavic term svara, “defy, rebel, foreswear;” has maintained the original sense of the word to a great degree.

khvaremnö /xvaremnö/svaremnö secondary meaning is “to gulp, gnaw to bits, devour, glut, swallow.” Compare with Proto Indo European svel/swel-“to eat, drink,” Old Norse svelgr “devour, swallow, consume, destroy,” Old Church Slavic, ziro, “glut, destroy, eat up.”

Word play is a common feature of ancient Aryan poetry. The ancient commentary and translation of “gáüsh bagá  khvaremnö ” is reaffirmed by other Avestan passages as well as in the great epic Persian poetry of Shahnamæ.

In Zámyaad Yasht. 34; Yima lies and commits treachery (drüj.) Divine glory flies away from him hence. But what was his treachery/cruelty??? He renounced GD and introduced the eating of animal meat.

We also read in Shahnamæ; that devil presented himself as a renowned cook. There were few animals then, because humanity was vegetarian, until Ahriman taught people to kill animals. Devil provided food from the bodies of birds and animals, which delighted Żaḥḥāk (substituted for Yima in the Avestan original,) who promised him whatever he desired. The cook asked for permission to kiss his shoulders as though he was his dearest friend. But where the dvil kissed him two black serpents grew. Whenever Żaḥḥāk tried to cut them off, more grew in their place. Ahriman reappeared in the guise of a physician and said cutting them off was impossible; instead they should be fed only with human brains.

In the Norse Mythology Ymir plays a similar role to Yima in the poetic gathas. The Norse Ymir is the ancestor of all jötnar. Jötnar are a race of “flesh and man eaters” in Viking mythology. Jötunn comes from the root “to eat, glutton, devour.”

We also read in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 28.9, and the ancient commentary of the same; about the conference of the future 3 saöšyants  “saviors” with vohü manö  “awe inspiring mind/spirit.

The ancient commentary elaborates as follows; the first saöšyant, like his two successors, will confer with the Auspicious Indestructible virtues of GD, and bring afresh the revelation first brought by Zoroaster. People will live more harmoniously, disease will not prove fatal, death will only happen through old age or murder; so Evil’s greatest weapon, death, will begin to lose its power.

Then the second savior, Öshidarmah, will be born, creation will flourish. People will cease eating meat and consume only vegetables and water. Good will be in the ascendancy before the birth of the third and final saöšyant.

With the birth of the Saöšyant; disease, death, and cruelty will disappear; vegetation will flourish perpetually, and people will eat only spiritual food. The material world will move forward in eternal progress and youthful energy for all eternity, which Öhrmazd had desired from the beginning.

I like to conclude by the words of saintly great Sassanid High Fire Priest “Atúrpat-e Ömeetan in Denkard BookVI.

“kú .san enez a-ón kú úrvar khvarishn bväd shóma mardóman kú diir.zivishn bväd, úd az tani góspand pahrezad, ce amar vas/vaß , eg óhrmaz i khvadáy ay.yári i góspand ray úrvar vas/vaß dád.”

“They hold this also: Be (bväd) plant eaters (úrvar khvarishn) i.e vegetarian; O you, mortals (mardóman,) so that you may live long (dir.zivishn.) Keep away from the tangible/physical body of cattle (tani góspand), and deeply reckon that Öhrmazd, the Lord has created plants in great number.”

ardeshir

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4 Responses to Vegetarianism in the poetic gathas and the primary Zoroastrian Texts

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    this is wonderful to read this,i am a vegetarian

  2. Persis Master says:

    Im proud to be a Veg

  3. Meherwan D. Mehta says:

    Nice article on how the Zoroastrian approach to meat eating should be. It’s a pity that most of us are carnivorous.
    There are however people turning to vegetarianism. Hope this number increases.

  4. Aspy. says:

    Yes Meherwan, that (Veg. diet) would be ideal. Unfortunately, I too admit to being a complete ‘carnivore’.

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