Herodotus writes c. 430 BCE on “The Customs of the Persians:”
“The customs which I know the Persians to observe are the following: they have no images of the gods, no temples nor altars, and consider the use of them a sign of folly. This comes, I think, from their not believing the gods to have the same nature with men, as the Greeks imagine. Their wont, however, is to ascend the summits of the loftiest mountains, and there to offer worship to the whole circuit of the firmament. They likewise offer to the sun and moon, to the earth, to fire, to water, and to the winds.”
The inhospitable mountainous region of central Iran around the desert city of Yazd has become a stronghold of Zoroastrianism after the arab bedouin conquest of ancient Airan/Iran. Today the towering central mountains of Iran remain the only significant area where mountain shrine pilgrimage is still practiced according to the ancient Aryan Zoroastrian traditions.
For Iranian Zoroastrians, summer begins with the pilgrimage to Pir-é-Sabz (Ancient Green.) This remote site is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian mountain shrines in Central Iran.
This legendary site, where a sacred spring issues from the towering cliff, is also called Chak-Chak, which means ‘drop-drop’ in Persian. Growing beside the source of the sacred spring is an immense and ancient tree.
Each year from June 14 to 18, thousands of Zoroastrians from Iran, India, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe flock to the high mountain shrine and sacred spring of Pir-é Sabz (Ancient Green.)
For the Iranian Zoroastrians the annual pilgrimages to Pir-é Sabz (Ancient Green) and the other five mountain shrines of Central Iran are the most important religious periods of the year.
Pilgrimage ceremonies at the shrines last for five days and the pilgrimages themselves are referred to by the Moslem term hajj.
While pilgrimage to the mountain shrines is definitely a spiritual journey. But it is also at the same time an opportunity for merry-making, wine, music and dancing.
The other Zoroastrian mountain shrines of the Yazd region are:
- Sæti Pir; east of Yazd, pilgrimage period June 14-18, often visited on the way to the shrine of Pir-e Sabz.
- Pir-é Nárestúnæ (Nárestán); Kharúna mountains, six miles east of Yazd; pilgrimage period: later part of June, after Pir-e Sabz.
- Pir-é Bánú-Pars (The Brilliant Fair lady of Persia;) near Sharif-ábád; pilgrimage period in early July.
- Pir-é Náraki; at the foot of Mt. Nárækæ, south of Yazd; pilgrimage period in mid-August.
- Pir-é Hærisht; near Sharif-ábád.
The shrine of Shekaft-e Yazdán (the ‘Cleft of God/Adorable One’) in the valley near the village of Zard-joo is sometimes visited after the pilgrimage to the shrine of Pir-é Bánú-Pars (The Brilliant Fair lady of Persia.) Another sacred site in the Yazd region is the Muslim shrine of Haji Khezr.
The term Pir is of Aryan Zoroastrian origin and refers to the “first, primeval, ancient” masters, guides or pristine sacred places of purity and ascent.
Mountain Pirs or pristine sacred shrines are often located near a natural water source/well, the water of which is considered also sacred. Often ancient trees especially ancient cypress trees are found in or near the Pir or pristine sacred shrines. To these ancient trees are tied wish-ribbons, a form of decorative garlands.