January 16th was the great feast day of Vohü Manö in the Zoroastrian calendar. Vohü Manö is not only “wonderful or beautiful mind/spirit,” but it also stands for good living and sensible pleasures of life.
Zoroastrianism highly celebrates happiness and a good life. We read in the 4th Chapter of Vendidad 47-48: The man who has a powerful, energetic woman (náirik) is far above him who lives in renunciation; one who keeps a hearth and home is far above one who does not do so; one who has descendants/ offspring is far above the childless; one who is joyous, happy (shaæta-vatö) is far above him/her who is never happy (a-shaætái.) Of the two, the person who fills him/herself with “milk and cream” receives Vohü Manö much better than the one who does not do so……
By “milk and cream” the most excellent food is meant. The word for “milk and cream” is géush in the original. The original passage reads as following: Háu-ca ayáw naráw vohü manö já.gerebushtarö ang.hat ýö géush úrúthvare hám-páfráiti ýatha háu ýö nöit itha hö upa-meretö.
In the poetic gathas and the older parts of the Avesta géush means “gaia, living creatures,” also “livestock, cattle or cow.” But in Vendidad and the later parts of ritual Yasna prayers, the word has developed into “milk” and “dairy products.”
For example, in Yasna 3.1 gáüsh hú-dáw means “beneficent dairy or smart drink e.g. milk.” In Yasna 3.3 gá(n)m jívyá(n)m refers to “cream.” The aforementioned phrases occur frequently throughout the ritual Yasna prayers.
The original meaning of jívyá(n)m in Ancient parts of Avesta is “quick, vigorous, lively.” But in ritual Yasna passages it means “white, flowing fluid.” (Mercury, the silver-white fluid metallic element called jive in Farsi, got its name from the same root.)
In Yasná ceremony, the most important of the Zoroastrian ritual worships, milk or butter represents Vohü Manö. During the ceremonies, haömá or an Ephedra species plant identical to the Mormon tea is pounded in a mortar with pomegranate leaves; holy water and milk are added later, the beverage called páráhüm is then offered to the participants as a blessing.
The remainder of the blessed beverage is then poured out into a well or flowing water to strengthen the whole of creation.
Yet most interestingly, the so called Avesta “scholar” James Darmesteter (1849-1894,) has translated the above Vendidad passage as: The man who has riches is far above him who does not have. Of the two, the man who fills himself with “MEAT” receives vohü manö much better than the one who does not do so……
What Darmesteter fails to acknowledge is the fact that shyátö in the poetic gathas, shaæta in Vendidad, and shaadi in modern Farsi simply mean “shining, beaming HAPPINESS” and not necessarily money or riches. Furthermore, the consumption of cow has been banned and greatly despised in the poetic gathas (See Yasna 32.8, 2nd rhymed verse line and the ancient commentary of the same,) and the Zoroastrians have refrained from eating beef ever since. Even Persian Moslems traditionally eat mutton and never beef. So in light of few thousand years of living tradition and a vast body of Avestan commentaries, how could one who fill himself with the forbidden BEEF MEAT and receive the wisdom and intuitive knowledge of Vohü Manö more in him or herself??? James Darmesteter does not elaborate any further on that subject???
Vohü Manö is feeling and intuitive knowing; the FANTASTIC SENSE that behind life and universe there is beauty and wow. Vohü Manö is a beautiful mind/spirit. Hence, Vohü Manö represents the “intuitive animal wisdom” in the material creation. During the entire month of Vohü Manö and the days dedicated to Vohü Manö throughout the year, any meat consumption is strictly forbidden. This period of total abstinence from meat in Zoroastrianism, reminds one of the very similar if not almost identical Catholic lent.
James Darmesteter was/is the first and the only Western translator of the entire Avesta, but as he himself admits; he never returned to the Synagogue since the age of fifteen or sixteen; but he always continued to return to the Bible throughout his life. “My faith is of my own making, not metaphysical, but moral, evolutionist, and Biblical,” he wrote in 1887. A few years later he was to give to this new faith the name of “Prophetism.” In the reconciliation of the truths of science with the social ethics of the Hebrew Prophets, Darmesteter saw the faith of the future
In this particular translation of the above Vendidad passage, he takes the human-centered biblical morals to the understanding of the non human-centric Zoroastrian dogmas. For James Darmesteter and almost all who since followed him, there is NO genius or wisdom teachings outside the ancient people of God, the Israelites. If there is any resemblance of wisdom, prophecy or morality anywhere, it MUST have come from the Hebrew Prophets.
The very same James Darmesteter is the “scholar” who insists that Zarathúshtrá must have lived around 300-100 BCE. He even goes as far as strongly suggesting that Zarathúshtrá was the accursed PALESTINIAN servant of Nəḥemyāh. (Nehemiah/Nəḥemyāh was the Jewish cup-bearer to Artaxerxes I, the 5th Achaemenid Persian king (465 BCE to 424 BCE) and was a disciple of the Hebrew prophet Daniel.)
In order to understand any teaching or wisdom objectively and without bias, one must try to understand it through the eyes of that particular wisdom or teaching. Zoroastrianism teaches that living creatures all carry a special wisdom. They are here, not as inferior beasts to exploit, but as teachers on our journey of spirit/mind. They have many valuable lessons for us to learn.
We like to believe that we humans have evolved into “super intelligent beings.” One just need to look at human history and the state of the world in human hands to see that we have evolved into anything but “superior intelligent beings.”
Through Vohü Manö we will master the wondrous speech of angels and beasts, and SENSE the beauty and sublimity behind all life and the evolution of spirit/mind throughout this marvelous cosmos.
very interesting, especially the comments on Darmester and the eating of beef-loved the ending-“Through Vohü Manö we will master the wondrous speech of angels and beasts, and SENSE the beauty and sublimity behind all life and the evolution of spirit/mind throughout this marvelous cosmos.”Thanks so much for writing such interesting educational articles
I agree, very interesting comments on the translation of this particular chapter regarding eating/not eating meat. Since this seems to be the only reference in the Zoroastrian sacred texts to eating meat, it seems quite possible that it was done by mistake.