Childbirth rituals and charms/formulas in Zoroastrianism
In Zoroastrianism, the birth of a child is viewed as an auspicious advantage to the whole community because it furthers the propagation of the race, the spread of the Ancient Zoroastrian faith, and the victory of mankind over demons.
In the Avesta (the name of the sacred lore of the Zoroastrians, it means the unknown/undiscovered wisdom,) the great value of both human and animal offspring is acknowledged.
Every pregnant female, whether biped or quadruped, is to be treated with kindness (Vd.15.19b); it is considered a grave sin for worshipers of Mazdá to strike or frighten a pregnant dog (Vd. 15.5), and the Zoroastrians are enjoined to care for such an animal until the puppies were born (Vd. 15.21).
The sacred formula/charm to be recited during the pregnancy, especially during the 5th and 7th month is contained in Yasna 65.2 or the 5th Yasht (Literally Adoration) of the Aredví Sürá anáhitá, “the exalted, mighty, undefiled, pure lady of waters,” in verse 2-3.
The fair lady of waters is spoken of as “life-increasing, herd-increasing, fold-increasing, prosperity-increasing, and realm-increasing” (Yt. 5.2); it is she who “makes the seed of all males pure and purifies the womb of all females for giving birth (víspa-nánm háirishi-nánm zánthái garewán yaóž-daðáiti),
who makes childbirth easy (hú-zámitö) for all females,
and who bestows upon females timely milk” (Yasht or Adoration of Pure Waters, Verse 3, same at Yasna.65.2).
These charms/prayers are passed down orally from mothers to daughters as part of their religious instruction at home (Rose, pp. 67-68).
An ancient formula for ensuring an easy birth and good offspring is preserved in Vi-dæv-dát (21.6-7), where it is repeated three times three: In the presence of a flame/lamp, burning incense and specially burning of the wild rue to ward off evil eye, these verses from Vi-dæv-dát (21.6-7), are recited
“I shall purify (fra-snagyæñi, lit. “I shall cleanse”) for you genesis/birth and growth (zánthem-cha vaxshathem-cha);
I shall cleanse for you physical body and power to recover (kehrpem-ča tevishím-ča);
I shall make you with offspring [and] with milk (hačat.puthránm hačaṱ.paæm-aiñya); …..,
with milk ,with sweetness/cream, with oil, marrow, and offspring (paæma-vaiti xshvi-pta-vaiti raóγña-vaiti mazga-vaiti frazainti-vaiti),
for you I shall cleanse a thousand springs, flowing together at the breast (gaóða-nem avi hanta-čináv),
which is the nourishment of the offspring (puthrahaæ thrimö).”
It is recommended that after childbirth the mother remain sequestered, for forty-one nights. She is to avoid cooking, proximity to fire or water, she shall wear gloves, and use metal/silver implements for eating (Persian Rivayats, tr. Dhabhar, p. 224).
The mother of a newborn child remains away from the dar-e mehr or agiary (door of amore/love, also fire temple) and attends no funerals or other formal rituals until forty-one days have passed or postpartum bleeding has ceased.
Another practice is to light a lamp when a child is born; it is “kept burning for at least three days in the room where the child is confined.”
When the period of isolation is over the Rivayats enjoin the woman to purify herself of pollution by washing from head to toe 6 times with flower extracts, rosewater, gömeez (few drops of bull’s urine), then washing another 3 times with pure water and putting on clean new garments: (Persian Rivayats, tr. Dhabhar, p. 224).
Parsi ritual practices during pregnancy include ceremonies for Paṇčmasin (“fifth month”) and Agarni (“seventh month”). At the Paṇčmasin ceremony the parents and parents-in-law present gifts of new clothing to the mother-to-be. The Agarni ceremony is performed on an auspicious day in the seventh month in the presence of married women who have had children. The pregnant woman again receives a new set of clothes and jewelry from each set of parents and is given sweets and pastry, symbolic of happiness (Karaka, pp. 154-55; Seervai and Patel, p. 45).
In the Persian Zoroastrian community, pregnant women are encouraged to eat a diet that is correctly balanced between çard o garm, cold and warm/hot. According to an ancient tradition retained by the Persian Zoroastrians, during this time the father of the child should take care to pay special homage to OWL, called in the Avesta ashö.zúshtá, the beloved of Aša (excellence, virtue, brilliance).
The owl is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. It is symbolic of the ability to see what is hidden, and see beyond illusion and deceit. The owl is also emblematic of the inspiration and guidance necessary to deeply explore the unknown.