Dawn imagery is one the most important aspects of the Old Avestan and gathic poetry. The most important Zoroastrian act of worship called Yasná “intense longing, fervent desire” can only be performed at the early dawn hours. Yasná concludes shortly after dawn at the watch of pounding the sacred plant haômá.
At the Yasná ritual and all Zoroastrian acts of worship, the invoker of god-powers or züt, faces the SOUTH, Latin auster, a root cognate of dawn.
The ûš-bám formula “glorious, brilliant dawn” is the epithet of Yasná 52 a most powerful Old Avestan prayer recited at every dawn by the devout Zoroastrians accompanied with 21 recitals of ahü vairyö formula “the will to become godlike.”
The word ûšá “dawn” from Proto Indo European áusôs (Courtesy of Didier Calin) appears in Yasná 44.5, 4th rhymed verse line of the poetic gathas.
Also In Vendidad 19.28 we read of ûši ….bámya “glorious, brilliant dawn. However, what is most fascinating is the gathic skillful wordplay on dawn in the Old Avestan verse.
The term ûštá appearing repeatedly in the gathic poetry meaning “radiant happiness,” could be an extended form of ûšá or dawn. Ûštá translated as nádükih “delicate, exquisite,” in ancient commentaries could refer to the “delicate, exquisite” early dawn RADIANCE.
In the gathic imagery the splendor and radiance of each new dawn is linked to ašá/arthá “virtue, godly skill/art to create a new reality” and to the fulfillment of desire/wish, (See the sacred ašem vôhü formula.)
Concerning the etymology of ûštá, it shall be added that Bartholeme derives it from the root vas-, “to wish, desire” and translates ûštá as “fulfillment of desire, wish; a dream coming true.” However, Kant disagrees with Bartholeme and maintains that ûštá comes from the root sukhá meaning “radiance, happiness, prosperity, well-being.”
Our scholar friend, Didier Calin suggests that ûštá could come from the root *aus- meaning “brilliant, apparent, visible.” However, he is not dismissing Bartholeme’s analysis and is tending to agree with him.
In any event, the Vedic term vašat seems to be a cognate of the Avestan ûštá. It is the very word uttered by the invoker hotr priest at the conclusion of the Vedic ritual. Upon hearing the word, adhvaryu priest casts the offered oblations to the fire for the “well being, glory” of the invoked god beings..
The second verse book of the poetic gathas is called ûšta-vaiti or the sacred verses of “wish fulfillment or radiant.happiness.”
Ûši is the word for “intelligence” in the poetic gathas. It appears in the 2nd rhymed verse line off Yasna 34.7. Also in the form of ûxšyá in the 3rd rhymed verse line of Yasna 43.15 and in the form of ûšurûyæ in the 1st rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.16.
However, there is NO etymological connection between it and the word for dawn or ûšá in the Old Avestan. Ûši comes from IE root (h)ous or (h)aus and means “ear, to gather information.” Any similarity is semantic and a matter of sound similarity in poetry (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)
The word for “life force” in the poetic gathas is ûštána literally”lucid, transparent force” which is another possible variant of ûšá or dawn (See for example Yasna 43.16, 3rd rhymed verse line.)
I like to conclude by the dawn prayer, provided by our scholar friend Didier Calin:
uṣ̌ąm srīrąm yazamaide
yā xvāθraiiaiti nmāniiāiti
yā sanat̰ aoi haptō.karṣ̌uuairīm ząm
auuąm uṣ̌ąm yazamaide
We worship beautiful Dawn.
We worship Dawn,
the shining, of the fast horses,
who has men of forethought,
who has men and heroes of forethought,
who is joyful in company of the Household Deity.
We worship Dawn,
the radiant, of the fleet horses,
who travels the sevenfold earth.
We worship that Dawn.
(trans. D. C.)
Declension of *áusōs ‘Dawn’ in (Proto-)Indo-European by Didier Calin:
Nom. sg áusōs
Gen. sg ussés
Dat. sg usséi
Acc. sg áusosm̥
Ins. sg usséh
Abl. sg ussés
Loc. sg ausési
Voc. sg áusos
Adv. loc. ussér
Nom./acc. dual áusose(h)
Gen./loc. dual ussóus
Dat./ins./abl. dual ussmô(h)/ussbh(y)ô(h)
Nom. pl áusoses
Gen. pl ussôm
Dat. pl ussmós/ussbh(y)ós
Acc. pl ausésn̥s
Ins. pl ussmís/ussbhís
Abl. pl ussmós/ussbh(y)ós
Loc. pl (ā)uséssu