Vohu manah, heaven of dazzling thoughts and the feeling of awe/wonder

January 16th marked the festive holiday for Vôhü Manö (awe-inspiring spirit/mind.)

The second day of each Avestan month and the eleventh month are sacred to Vôhü Manö.

Vôhü Manö consists of two parts. VÔHÜ coming from the root vah, from the ancient Indo European ves “to revere, stand in awe of.” And MAN meaning “passion, determination, spirit, mind power.”

The importance given in the poetic gathas to vôhü manö is a specifically Zoroastrian feature. In the Vedas there is NO instance of a compound of the abstract noun manas and the adjective vásu.

In the Zoroastrian sacred lore, Vôhü Manö has two essential qualities, “inspiring awe, wonderfulness, goodness” (wehíh) and “determination, mind-power, passion” (manišn).

Among the Indo European religions, Vôhü Manö seem to be ONLY related to Vili and Vé in Old Norse Mythology. The Old Norse vé, from Proto-Germanic *wīhą *wíhaz and Anglo-Saxon wíh, wéoh comes from the same ancient Indo European root and conveys a similar idea of “the sacred, awe-inspiring, wondrous.”

In the Avestan Baghán commentary of the most sacred and holiest Yathá ahü manthrá, the word Vairyö or “the power to will, desire” is attributed to mind-power. This close association between “will power” and “awe-inspiring, wondrous passion/mind-power” reminds one of Vili and Vé in the Old Norse creation myths.

In the 2nd rhymed verse line of the most sacred Yathá ahü manthrá, the existence is a manifestation of the Vôhü Manö. In the 1st rhymed verse line of Yasna 34.2, The Wise Lord Ma(n)zdá through awe-inspiring, wondrous spirit/mind power of Vôhü Manö creates and does everything.

The aforementioned sacred verse is identical to the 5th rhymed verse line of Yasna 44.7 where Ahûrá Ma(n)zdá through Speñtá Mainyü “auspicious, splendid, bright mind energy” is the creator of all. (Avestan Speñtá is related to Lithuanian šventas, Proto-Baltic-Slavic swęntŭs, Old Prussian swentas; and means “splendid, bright, sacred auspicious.”)

In Yasna 39.3, the Immortals and god beings, reside forever in the lovely brilliant thoughts of Vôhü Manö.

In Yasna 32.15, 3rd rhymed verse line; the dazzling, awe-inspiring abode of Vôhü Manö is the supreme heaven/dominion of Ahûrá Ma(n)zdá.

Whereas the Immortals are the brilliant thoughts of Vôhü Manö; the demonic powers/diabolic forces or daævas, are the “seeds of aká man (See Yasna 32.3, 2nd rhymed verse line.) Aká manah is “the most tortured, anguished mind.”

Vôhü Manö is the victorious opponent of Aká Man or anguished mind. “Anguished Mind will be vanquished, Wondrous Mind will be the victor” (Yašt 19.96). “When the Evil, gloomy Spirit assailed the creation of Excellence/Luminosity, Wondrous Mind Power and Heat/Fire intervened” (Yašt 13.77).

The souls of the virtuous/excellent abide in Vôhü Manö per 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 49.10. In fact the Persian word for heaven “behest” is derived from Vahištá or Vahištem Manö, a superlative variant of Vôhü Man.

Vôhü Man plays a paramount role in what comes to pass and the shaping of destiny (varezayañtö from verez “to become, turn” See Yasna 45.4, 3rd rhymed verse line.)

Vársht-mánßar commentary of Yasna 28.4 states that when the dazzling abode of Vôhü Man descends upon the earth, the events leading up to farshö-kart or “fresh, remaking of the universe” will commence.

The only coming to ahûrá ma(n)zdá is through vôhü man or “awe-inspiring, wondrous spirit/mind” (See Yasna 28.2, 1st rhymed verse line.) It is the “awe-inspiring, wondrous spirit/mind” that took the Aryan prophet Zarathûshtrá, to question and answers with ahûrá ma(n)zdá (See Yasna 46.) It is the wondrous mind power of Vôhü Manö that shapes our destiny and manifest godliness in us and the universe in the fresh, renewal of the worlds.

Vôhü Manö being the foremost of the ahûrás “god-beings or god powers” of Ma(n)zdá is the menög or spirit of “awe, wonder, discovery and ultimate joy.” Vôhü Man is the fiery passion/mind power that guides us amongst the stars to the highest heaven of songs, to live forever in brilliant thoughts among Immortals.


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4 Responses to Vohu manah, heaven of dazzling thoughts and the feeling of awe/wonder

  1. Didier Calin says:

    Interesting. Unfortunately ON Vé cannot be cognate with Vohu- from PIE *wésu, since intervocalic -s- is not lost in Gmc.
    While there is no *vásu mánas- in Vedic, there is in fact a personal name Vasumanas- and mythologically, Av. Vohu Manah- can easily be compared with the Indic Vásavaḥ “the good ones”, and since Greek attests both a person’s name Euménēs and the expression ménos ēú “good spirit”, the expression is at least Graeco-Aryan, but not attested enough for Indo-European (Germanic lacks: Vé is NO cognate as well any other Western language), not to mention Proto-Indo-European. But it is NOT unique to Avestan.
    Here material to be added:
    1) West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth, pp. 143f
    “We have seen that the gods were celebrated as givers of good things, these being denoted in Indo-Iranian with the word vásu-, vaηhu- (*wésu-). Combined with *poti- it gives vásupati- ‘lord of good things’, which occurs some fifteen times in the Rigveda as an attribute of Indra or other gods. There is also a class of deities, headed by Indra, known as the Vasus (Vásavaḥ), the Good Ones. One might say that just as certain neuter singulars turn into gods by being given the masculine (or animate) form, were the neuter plural vásūni that the gods bestow are transformed into the masculine plural Vásavaḥ, representing the active principle of good-giving: instead of benefits, Benefactors. The *wesu- stem is attested in central Europe by personal names such as the Illyrian Vescleves and the Gaulish Bellovesus. It is almost certainly to be recognized in the name of the Italo-Celtic goddess who appears in central Italy as Vesuna, at Perigueux as Vesunna, and perhaps at Baden-Baden as Visuna. She is surely the ‘Mistress of good things’, with the familiar nasal suffix. She stands in the same relationship to the Vedic vásupati- as the Lithuanian Earth goddess Žemyna to the male Žemėpatis. (…) She might have replaced an Indo-European *Wesunos, though there is no necessity to postulate one. Given the continued productivity of the -no- suffix, a *Wesupotis or *Wesus would have been a sufficient model.”
    2) Mallory/Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, p. 438
    “One phrase of poetic diction concerns the spiritual property of the hero who acquires fame. This heroic property is embedded in the concept of *menes- ‘strength’, but not so much physical as mental inspiration, that motivates and enables the hero to accomplish great deeds. Other constructions built on this word include both the positive possession of such strength, i.e., PIE *ésu/wésu ménos- ‘good thought’ (Myc [personal name] E-u-me-ne, Grk eumenês ~ ménos ēú, [personal name] Euménēs, Av. vohu manah-, humanah-, OInd sumanas-, [personal name] Vasumanas-).”
    3) Calin, Dictionary of Indo-European Poetic Themes, u. entry ‘spirit’
    PIE *wósu-, G *wésus
    Luw. wāsu; Lyd. wiśśis; In. vásu-; Av. vohu-; Lt. GN Uesuna; Ga. PN -vesus, vesu-; OIr. D feib ‘in excellence’; Gmc. Wisi ‘the good/noble people’, PN Wisu-; Goth. iusiza ‘better’;
    PIE *ésu-, *su-
    Ht. āssu-; In. su-; Gr. eús, hu- in hugiês; Av. hu-; OIr. so/su-; W hy-/hu-; Lith. sv- in sveĩkas ‘healthy’ = Lv. sv- in svèiks; OSl. sŭ- in sŭdravŭ.
    spirit (spiritual strength)
    Graeco-Aryan *ménos-
    In. mánas-; Av. manah-; Gr. ménos-.
    ■ GOOD SPIRIT – Graeco-Aryan *wésu ménos- / suménos- (Vedic, Avestan, Greek) (Schmitt 1967, p. 118-121)
    ○ In. sumánas-
    + PN Vasumanas-
    + RV 10.20.1, 10.25.1ab bhadrám… mánaḥ
    ○ Av. humanah-, a.o. Y 18.3b, 27.5d,10b,13b, 28.1c,7a,8c,10a, 30.1b,10b, 31.8b,10b,17c,21c vohu- manah- (vaηhǝ̄uš manaηhō, also vohū manaηhā, etc.)
    ○ Gr. εὐμενής, Il. 2.271, 17.456, 20.80, 23.524, 24.6, 24.442 μένος ἠύ
    + PN Euménēs

  2. Didier Calin says:

    Since intervocalic Iranian /h/ never comes from PIE *k, Avestan vohu- is simply PIE *wésu ‘good’ and should not be mistaken for *weik- ‘sacred’ that is attested in Avestan as vaēk in auua.vaēk-, Goth. weihs ‘holy’, ON vé ‘temple’, OE wēoh ‘holy image’, wicce (> E witch), German weihen ‘to consecrate’, Lt. uictima (> E victim) ‘sacrificial victim’, Lith. viẽkas ‘lifeforce’, etc.

  3. One of Our insightful reader wrote: I find it particularly refreshing how much general goodness there is in Zoroastrianism. Whereas in other religions any day in celebration of their respective gods, the people have to live in depression or repent and focus on the negative, Zoroastrianism gives off a positive vibe and makes people happy. I feel this truly helps people connect with the religion on a deeper level because people are instinctually driven to happiness and general good being. Furthermore, I feel that when Vôhü Manö, the manifestation of all that is good, descends upon us and good is spread throughout all the land helps to extend the continuous ideology and theme that Zoroastrianism strictly focuses on the positives, one of the most appealing factors of the religion.”

  4. Our Dear Scholar friend Didier Calin; Thanks for all your amazing insights and treasure trove of knowledge. I just like to add that the Aryan prophet Zarathushtra was a master poet/priest. He knowingly and skillfully played with a number of similar sounding roots, and closely related meanings. This tradition of skillful word play is also evident in the most ancient commentaries of the poetic gathas, as well as the other parts of the sacred Avestan lore. For example In Yasna 30.4, 2nd and 3rd rhymed verse lines; the seer/prophet connects vahištem manö with the idea of the “life force”. In passages such Yasna 33.9, 1st rhymed verse line or Yasna 33.10, 3rd rhymed verse line, vôhü is on purpose paired with vaxš “power to increase/grow.” In Yasna 27.14 or the famous ašem vôhü manthra, the Aryan prophet purposefully connects vôhü, vahištem and vahištái “excellence, goodness and what is superb/the best” with the “light of dawn and brightness.” The wish fulfillment of ûshtá sounds almost like the “rise of a brilliant dawn.” Also, when the gáthá poet uses the root dah, he purposefully combines the idea of “creating, giving and doing” that are hidden in variant sound plays of similar sounding roots. I strongly believe that this unique poetic style meant to address not just the waking consciousness but the subconscious of his audience. His inspired poetry meant to be a music of sort with multiple layers of meaning aimed at various levels of consciousness, or soul of a person to say. I wholeheartedly thank you again for your priceless contribution and WILL revise this article in light of your above comments.

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