Hero Worship In Ancient Zoroastrianism


In the light of ashura commemorations among shia moslems, a question was posed if such hero-worship is remotely Zoroastrian in its origin? The following short article deals with the issue of hero-worship in Zoroastrianism.

God beings and mortal men are not, in the eyes of the poetic gathas or ancient Zoroastrianism, incomparable beings, eternally remote from one another.

Heroes appear as Godlike-beings with Immortal souls in the boundless, brilliant realm of good mind in the poetic gathas (See Yasna 50.10, 2nd rhymed verse line.)

Zoroastrianism believes that mortal men, possess something Godlike and as such could and should claim to approximate to the stature of the immortal gods.

The epithet of heroes is nar in the poetic gathas and heroines náiri—“valiant, heroic, courageous, bold, manly.”

(See reconstructed Proto Indo European *haénr, Vedic nár, Greek anēr, Latin neriōsus “firm, powerful, Old Prussian nertien, N Welsh nêr “hero.”)

In Yasna 37.3, after ahüric/godly names and the splendid, auspicious determination/will power; the proto-type of true heroes and heroines is worshipped.

For the valiant nature is perfected solely through proving the self in face of fate. That is NOT to degenerate into fatalism and gloom but to remain true to the Godlike Capable Self within.

Zoroastrianism religiosity is not concerned with anxiety, self-damnation, mourning or gloom, but with the determined courage/valiance, who honors godhood with dignity amid the turmoil of fate, becoming all the more powerful and god-filled, the more shattering were the trials and tribulations of fate.

The valiant hero or heroine comprises the confiding fulfillment of a reciprocal community of Immortals and mortal men in friendship and innovative co-creation.

Hero or heroine delights in meeting fate by conquering obstacles and attain to the stature of beloved Immortals.

Thus valiant heroes ought to be celebrated and NOT mourned in Zoroastrianism. In conclusion, praying the Avestan formulas for non-Zoroastrian heroes and/or the non-Zoroastrian virtuous is permissible and even encouraged per holy denkart.

ardeshir

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One Response to Hero Worship In Ancient Zoroastrianism

  1. John Easter says:

    Mary Boyce briefly compared the Fravashis(guardian angels) to the ancestral and protective spirits described by other Indo-European groups such as the Greek hero cults of the dead and the Germanic/Norse Valkyries. See “Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices” p.15. The Norse eddas and sagas of Germanic lore in particular mentions many heroes, ancestors and guardian spirits.

    Some of the ancient and pre-Achaemenid heroic figures mentioned in the Iranic Avesta include Erekhsho of the swift arrow, later called Arash in Persian, Keresaspa the Nairi-Manah(Heroic Mind), later called Kirsasp in Pahlavi and Garshasp in Persian, and Oraetaona or Thraetaona, later called Fereydun in Persian, who is also described as a master healer of diseases and afflictions.

    The Fravardin Yasht of the Avesta in particular venerates the souls of heroes and heroines from all lands who help to further goodness in the world for life in general both named and unnamed, human and non-human and Zoroastrian and non-Zoroastrian.

    I personally feel figures such as Babak Khorramdin, a Zoroastrian fighter who rebelled against the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate and known for his humane treatment of others and improving the rights of women and children, and Maneckji Limji Hataria, a Parsi Zoroastrian who helped improve the rights, education and quality of life of the Iranian Zoroastrians under Islamic oppression during the Qajar Dynasty, are good examples of more recent, post-Avestan, Zoroastrian heroic figures.

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