Fravashi; World as Will and Archetypal Ideals


Fravashis are the archetypal ideals in the Zoroastrian theology. They are perfect spiritual exemplars exerting their influence from beyond the visible.

Fravashis are archetypal models that govern the behavior of all living organisms as well as inorganic matter. They could be compared to Plato’s “Primordial Ideas” or Schopenhauer’s “Prototypes.”

The word fra-vashi is a compound. The first part means “first, primeval, primordial” and the second part vashi is “wish, desire, will.”

They might also have developed from a sound play on the gathic term fra-vaôčá “first/primordial voice, word” or the gathic fra-vaxšyá “first generative voice, word.”

They are logos or animus of creation, “a conscious infused WILL” that reflects the Ideal.

The immortal soul of the saints and the beloved luminous ones are like a bridge or link to the PARADISIACAL.

They ride the sky like mounted warriors and when called upon in times of sadness, come to aid and lift the spirit up to the sky like a bird.

The symbol of the winged sun disc IS THOUGHT TO represent a Fravashi, (Persian Fravahar.) Yet, this winged sun disc first appears in the Achaemenid period on royal inscriptions. It is clearly an artistic borrowing from the Assyrians.

What the winged sun disc represented in the minds of the Achaemenids who adapted it from earlier Mesopotamian and Assyrian reliefs is UNCLEAR. There is absolutely NOTHING in the Achaemenid Inscriptions that alludes to or names the winged sun disc symbol as fravashi.

But, because the winged sun disc first appears on royal inscriptions, it is much more likely to represent the “Heavenly Glory, Good Fortune” (khvarenæ,) of the Achaemenid rulers, their divine mandate of sort.

The winged sun disc has a similar connotation in the Indo-European Hittite art representing royal fortune and God Sent Good Luck.

It shall come to many as a big surprise but the symbol known as fravahar today, is entirely ABSENT from both the Parthian/Arsacid and Sassanid art.

In ancient Iranian history, the winged sun-disc symbol is unique to the Achaemenid art only.

It has been adopted by today Zoroastrians in the past 100 years or so after the excavation of the majestic Achaemenid ruins. However, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the entire Zoroastrian sacred lore that connects the idea of fravashí to the winged sun disc. There is NO physical description of the fravashis in the Avesta, and in the Avestan, fravashi is grammatically feminine (not a bearded flying old man on a sun-disc.)

Although there are a number of interpretations of the individual elements of the winged sun disc today, NONE of them are older than the 20th century, and they all appear fanciful and highly speculative, with NO basis whatsoever in the original Avestan sources.

The only likely Avestan connection is the fabulous, mythical bird, Simorgh. The name Simorgh derives from Avestan mərəγō saænö ‘the bird Saæna. Simorgh must have been originally a golden eagle or firebird, and is etymologically identical to Sanskrit śyená.

In the epic of god-kings or shāh-nāmæ the female bird Simorḡ is the savior, tutor and guardian of Zāl-the wise albino. This motif is attested first in ancient Iran for Achaemenes, who was reared by an eagle according to Aelian (De natura animalium XII, 2).

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2 Responses to Fravashi; World as Will and Archetypal Ideals

  1. John Easter says:

    Mary Boyce briefly mentioned a similarity between the Fravashis and the Indo-European Norse Valkyries and the Greek hero cults of the dead. The Norse Eddas and sagas mention many types of guardian spirits and positive aspects that look after people. Including vordr(warden, watcher, or caretaker), hamingja(luck), and fylgja(someone that accompanies). Old Norse “Disir”, related to “Idisi” in the Old High German Merseburg Incantations, refers to all the protective female spirits below the rank of the Norse goddesses or Asynjur(feminine Aesir, similar to Gathic Avestan Ahura and Ahurani) in general. Including both the Norns and the Valkyries(choosers of the slain).

    Valkyries were also associated with shield-maidens such as Brunhild in the Volsunga Saga and swan-maidens such as Kara in the Saga of Hromund Gripsson. Valkyries may have been thought to be the souls of the shield-maidens or female warriors that died. Some Valkyries were reincarnated such as Svafa who was reborn as Sigrun in the Poetic Edda and who in turn, as Sigrun, was reborn as Kara in the Saga of Hromund Gripsson. Sigewif(victory women) are the Anglo-Saxon(Old English) equivalent of Valkyries.

    In the neighboring Uralic Finnish lore, perhaps influenced by the Indo-European Norse lore, there are elf like guardian and nature spirits called haltijas. Haldjas are the equivalent of the haltijas in the closely related Uralic Estonian lore which was also influenced by Norse and Germanic culture. These all are roughly similar to the Fravashis or guardian angels in Zoroastrianism who are both the inner spiritual prototypes or archetypal models within and the protectors of living beings. The Zoroastrian Fravashis probably influenced the concept of the guardian angel in Judaism and Christianity.

  2. John Easter says:

    Mary Boyce describes the Fravashis as being conceived similar to the Valkyries. Feminine and winged in the air. Also as ancestors defending their descendants. See “Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices” p.15 This description fits in with the Fravashis being grammatically feminine and being described as in the sky, like warriors, and similar to the feminine Simurgh bird or eagle. The similarities between the Iranic/Zoroastrian Fravashis and the Germanic/Norse Valkyries seems to reflect an Indo-European connection.

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