The shining Twin Yima, Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir
Yima is a primordial twin and a hero king of the Ice Age in the Avesta. The very name Yima means “twin” and is related to Latin Gemini. The twofold nature of Yima is well attested in the Avesta. Yima’s account has parallels in both Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir. However, the Avestan Yima has preserved all the elements of the primordial twin being of the Proto-Indo-European cosmological mythology.
In the Avestan book of Vendidad or Vî-daæv-dátá (chap. 2), Ahûra Mazdá originally offered Yima the task of carrying his daæná (wisdom to see, vision, insight, Compare with Greek idein) into the world.
But Yima refuses to be a wise wizard and the prophet of Ahûra Mazdá.
Instead, Ahûra Mazdá offers Yima to be the furtherer of life (fráðaya gaæthá,) increaser of living beings (vareðaya gaæthá,) steward, guardian (haretar) and ruler king (aiwya-khshtar) of the living. Yima accepts to be a steward and leader of life.
Yima promises that, as long as he is in command, there will be no excesses of heat and cold, no sickness or death. Ahûra Mazdá then gives Yima two tools, a golden trumpet (aštrá) and a golden flute (suwrá.)
Then the earth becomes overpopulated and full of beasts, people and fires of industry. Yima expands the earth thrice by the help of his magical musical instruments.
After the third enlargement of the earth, a council of god-beings and mortal men is called. Yima is warned of a harsh devastating winter and impending ice age. In order that life shall not perish, Ahûra Mazdá counsels Yima how to build a VAR (an underground vault or hidden fortress) in which to keep samples of all creatures of Ahûra Mazdá alive during the devastating winter.
(Avestan VAR is related to Swedish vall, Danish val “defensive fortification, Wall.”)
Ahûra Mazdá also explained to Yima about two kinds of lights in the VAR or the underground fortification: those self-acting, lightning on their own (khᵛaðáta, probably the eternal lights, cf. Y. 1.16), and those with a physical cause (stiðáta).
Yima then brought pairs of all living things into the VAR, excluding those with bodily defects, and, every forty winters, two children would be born from a human couple.
The Karšipta bird brought the daæná (wisdom to see, vision, insight) of Ahûrá Mazdá into the underground Var or underground fortress.
According to Mînög khrad (61.15), the walled fortification or VAR was underground in Airán-vîž (cradle of the Aryans), beneath towering Mountains. It contained all things in the world of the living (Bundahišn 32.7).
The VAR has another purpose, toward the end of the millennium of Ušîdar, the first of Zarathûshtrá’s three eschatological sons, when men and beasts are decimated by another terrible winter of the sorcerer Malkūs, the world is repopulated again from the VAR (Bdh. 33.1, Dādestān ī dēnīg 36.80-81; Dk. 7.1.24, 7.9.3-4; Mēnōy ī xrad 26.24; Pahlavi Rivāyat 48.17; Zand ī Wahman Yasn9.14).
However Yima later falls due to his hubris and his callous disregard for animal life. As we seen before, Yima accepted to be the steward and guardian of the world of the living and be a hero king; yet he failed.
In the poetic gathas, Yima is mentioned once in Yasna 32.8: “Among the sinners, Yima the son of Vî.vañg.hûšö, has been renowned //to delight us mortal men, he forswear God and taught the slaughtering of the cow// May I be apart from this in your future decision/verdict.”
The Middle Iranian or Pahlavi commentary maintains that Yima taught people to sacrifice the cow and eat meat.
The Pahlavi commentary of the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.8 of the poetic gathas is in exact line with ancient Indo-European and Norse mythologies.
Proto-Indo-European cosmogenic myth is centered on the dismemberment of a cow/bovine—and the creation of the universe out of its various elements”. Further examples cited include the climactic ending of the Old Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge where a bull is dissected that makes up the Irish geography.
Yima’s sin in Yasna 32.8, 2nd rhymed verse line is exactly that: yé mašyeñg či-khshnûšö ahmákéñg gáûš bagá khᵛáremnö.
The Pahlavi commentary says: ké-šö mardömán čášîd kü amágán göšt pad bazišn khvareed “who taught people: eat the meat and distribute it to ours” In the Varštmánsr commentary on this strophe in the Dēnkard, Avestan či-khshnûšö is understood as being related to the verb “satisfy (with gifts), make favorable” and the passage as being about how Yima satisfied mortal men by giving them bloody sacrifices and meat to eat (Dk. 9.32.12; cf. Pahlavi. Yasna 9.1).
The gathic verse refers to the rejection of bloody sacrifice and the orgiastic festivals connected with it. The line is a perfect example of ancient Indo European poetic wordplay where forswearing God (baga) is connected to killing and devouring of the cow/living animal (gáûš) gáûš bagá khᵛáremnö.
Humbach quoted Karl Hoffmann to the effect that khᵛára- beside devouring/eating could be connected with the Germanic words for swear (Ger. Schwur) and means “to forswear.”
We further read in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.12 of the poetic gathas; “the curse word of Mazdá is upon those who strike at animals with cries of joy.”
Also in the 3rd rhymed verse line of the same Yasna 32.14 we read: “that by striking at the cow/living animal, they hope to invoke the help of the dispeller of death.”
(Dispeller of death and decay or “dûraôsha is an epithet of the sacred mead or haômá.)
In Yasna 9.1-13, the praise-hymn to Haômá, “the sacred wine or mead” tells Zarathûstrá that the births of four stalwarts were gifts given as rewards when their fathers pressed the haômá for the benefit of the world of the living:
Vî.vang.hvant who begot Yima (who made the world free of decay and disease);
Áthwiya (Persian Ábtin,) who begot Thraætaôna (Perisan Freydoun, the first physician);
Thritá who begot Keresh-aspa (Persian Garsh-ásp);
Finally Pôurûš-aspa who begot Zarathûstra.
Also in Yasna 9, there is allusion to dismemberment of the cow and belonging of each of its part to a divine being.
This dismemberment of the cow and bloody sacrifice accompanied by drinking of mead is what the Aryan prophet strongly denounces.
It is the stain and pollution of bloody sacrifice that Zarathûshtrá wants to remove from the mead or sacred wine in 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 48.10 of his poetic gathas.
The tale of Yima is that of highest technological advance and yet fall due to callous disregard for nature and animal life.
Yet what is celebrated is the ideal or prototype of Yima, his fra-vaši. In Fravardin yašt, Yima’s fra-vaši or ideal wish is invoked against natural plagues opposite of the perfect conditions during Yima’s rule (Yt. 13.130:ainišti “lack of obtaining one’s wishes” daævö.karštá “dragged forth by the diabolic forces.
In book 7 of the Dēnkard, a part of Yima’s speech to the daæv or diabolic forces wherein, Yima declares to the diabolic forces that Zarathustra will give them back the non-desire, frustration of wishes (a-khvāhišnīh) they made (cf. Yt. 13.130).
Yima will be one of the immortals at the end of time. For out of failure and evil can come out godhood, light and goodness.