Vernal Equinox in the Avesta and its doctrinal significance

Nauv-rooz is a Persian word and means “new light, new day.” The term Nauv-rooz refers to the first new light of dawn/day after the vernal equinox.

Vernal equinox is mentioned numerous times in the Avesta. The word for vernal equinox in Avestan is “Hamas.path. maiðya and/or hamaß .path. maiðya.”

The Avestan term “hamas.path. maiðya” and/or “hamaß .path. maiðya” refers to the moment when the center/middle position (maiðya ) of the Sun is in the same/equal (hamaß) position/passage/path (Avestan Path) as the Earth’s equator.

The term is specific to the moment when such a passage happens and when the celestial points/paths of intersection are at an equal/same length from each other.

Each Vernal Equinox foretells of the future everlasting spring, the victory of Immortals over the demonic powers and mortals (See Yasna 48.1, 3rd rhymed verse line.)

The first new light of the equinox signifies the splendid remaking, the fresh, vigorous rebirth of the pristine existence (See Yasna 28.11, 3rd rhymed verse line.)

This brilliant and lively rising up of Immortal god beings/powers and future god men is called frashö-kart in the poetic gathas.

The auspicious moment of the Vernal Equinox heralds a period of growth when nature is reborn and swells with life-giving saps. The Avestan word frashö originally refers to the reinvigorating nectars of spring and the eternal power of regeneration. Frashö-kart is a brilliant, new make over of the creation, a splendid age of Immortals and god-men.

The oldest tradition is to greet the vernal equinox with painted eggs (the sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying decorated eggs for Naúvrooz,) with seven sprouting seeds such as wheat or lentil sprouts in dishes, with seven branches from flowering fruit trees in a vase, with seven kind fruits, dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachio, hazelnut, raisins,….)  with a creamy sweet pudding made from wheat germ known as samanū, with a hearty bread made from seven kinds of grain, with fresh green herbs and cheese, with WINE, with lit candles, incense, mirror, a bowl of fresh rain or spring water collected specially for the occasion (a sprig of thyme or ever green is always placed in the water,) rose water, silver or gold coins and with blooming  hyacinth flower.

Garlic cloves are also used in Naúvrooz decorations. Garlic was so esteemed by the Ancient Iranians for its healing powers and a means of warding off the evil eye and demonic powers. The Achaemenid Persians named one of their months thāi-garchi- “Month/time of garlic.”

As a general custom of Naúvrooz, 10 days before the arrival of the vernal equinox, people begin with cleaning their homes. Every part of the house, furniture, carpet…. is thoroughly cleaned, dusted and washed. This is to welcome the New Year with freshness. The ancient Iranians also believed that the soul of the departed family members visit the homes of their loved ones during this sacred period. Thus, according to the ancient Zoroastrian custom, prayers are offered, candles are lit, bonfires are made, holy water and flower extracts are offered to streams and rivers; all in honor of those loved ones who are no longer with us in this dimension. Also, a sesame nut butter based cake or a flour-based halva made with clarified butter, grain flour, nuts and sugar is traditionally offered in the memory of the departed ones. The belief that the souls of the departed visit their loved ones before the New Year clearly connects Naúvrooz with the All Souls festival.

Another very important Zoroastrian custom associated with Naúvrooz is a period of “pondering, reflection and evaluation” of past year’s thoughts, words and actions. This period of reflection and is called “Pätat/Pætat.” Pætat is accompanied with heartfelt prayers, charity and an honest re-evaluation and rediscovery of ourselves.


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1 Response to Vernal Equinox in the Avesta and its doctrinal significance

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    very nice and inspiring article, thank you

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