The Winged Sun Disc, Fravashi or Fravahar
The winged sun disc is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism today. The symbol of the winged sun disc IS THOUGHT TO represent a Fravashi or Fravahar.
Fravashi is the forerunner to the Greek idea of LOGOS “divine word, speech, reason.” The word fravashi consists of 2 parts; “fra” simply means first, foremost, “vashi,” is derived from “vac,” word, voice, speech, discourse, formula. Thus, Fravashí is Ahúrá Mazdá’s pristine word/wisdom in every act of manifestation.
Hence, fravashí or “the first creative formula/word” is said to be a reminder of one’s purpose in life.
The term fra-vaxshyá or “pristine word/wisdom” appears in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 44.6,2nd and the 1st rhymed verse lines of Yasna 45.1, 45.2, 45.3, 45.4, 45.5, 45.6 in the poetic gathas.
However, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the entire Zoroastrian sacred lore that connects the idea of fravashí to the winged sun disc. There is NO physical description of the fravashis in the Avesta, and in Avestan the fravashis (the pristine creative wisdom/word are grammatically feminine.
Although there are a number of interpretations of the individual elements of the winged sun disc symbol, NONE of them are older than the 20th century, and they all appear rather fanciful and highly speculative, with no basis whatsoever in the original sources.
The symbol of the winged sun disc first appears in the Achaemenid period on royal inscriptions. It is clearly an artistic borrowing from the Assyrian. What the winged sun disc represented in the minds of those who adapted it from earlier Mesopotamian and Assyrian reliefs is unclear.
However, because the winged sun disc first appears on royal inscriptions, it is thought more accurately to represent the “Heavenly Glory, Luminous Good Fortune” (khvarenæ,) of the Achaemenid rulers, their divine mandate of sort.
I shall add that the winged sun disc has been likewise adapted by the Indo-European Hittites. And it represented royal fortune and Gd Sent Glory to the Hittites as well. Herodotus adds that no other nation like the Persians is kin in adopting foreign customs and symbols.
Yet, it shall be added that the idea of khvarenæ is an original ancient Aryan one. The concept of khvarenæ is that of the “splendor, energy of light and divine fire in connection with luminous good fortune.” The same idea of khvarog/Svarog exists among old Slavonic people.
It is clear from a number of passages in the Avesta that khvarenæ or farr was “a blazing fire, a magic force or power of luminous and fiery nature” that preceded the divinely favored. This “luminous energy/good luck” represented the wish/favor of Ahúrá Mazdá (vashna aúra mazða in Old Persian Achaemenid Inscriptions.)
khvarenæ, “fortunate glory/light” was represented by the Sun Wheel among the ancient Iranians. khvarenæ, and its original depiction is identical to the khvarog/Svarog of the old Slavonic people.
In ancient Proto Iranian art an eagle is often added to the sun wheel. In the Achaemenid art the sun wheel is mingled with the Assyrian sun disk, and divine flames are emanating from or surrounding the human form.
The winged sun disc did not survive into the Parthian or the Sassanid period and was not adopted by them as the symbol of khvarenæ or farr or fravahar. It was rediscovered in the 20th century and instantly became the favored symbol of the ancient Iran and Zoroastrianism.
However, it is important to remember that in its original iconography, it was a luminous Sun wheel assuming the form of a fiery bird or eagle.
It had never anything to do with the fravashis or fravahar, but rather with the splendor and good fortune of khvarenæ or farr. While the concept of a fortunate sun wheel was original to the ancient Iranians/Aryans; its later iconography and depiction was greatly influenced by the Assyrian art.
The winged sun disc in the Zoroastrian iconography always faces the right direction, because the sun rises in the east and the right side is the symbol of new horizons and virtue.
The winged sun disc or as it is known erroneously as Farvahar is the most worn pendant amongst Iranians today and has become a national symbol, although its Zoroastrian roots are certainly not ignored. It is an important, customary and traditional symbol.