The worship of fire, water, the earth and lights in Zoroastrianism

October 26 marks the festival of waters in the Zoroastrian calendar. Yasna 38 in the poetic gathas is dedicated to the worship of waters. The formula apö at yaza.maidæ literally means “we worship waters with zeal/yearning.”

The Avestan word for water is áp. Cognates include Old Prussian ape “river,” apus “water, well, spring,” Lithuanian ùpė “water,” Latvian upe “water,” Vedic/Sanskrit āpaḥ, Tocharian āp, Hittite hapa– “river” from reconstructed Proto Indo European root *hâp-, *hap (See Didier Calin.)

Persian áb “water” comes from the same Avestan root and is present in words such as gul-áb “rosewater” and names such as Punjab or Panj-áb “five rivers.”

Hermann Lommel (Iranische Religion, in Carl Clemen: Die Religionen der Erde, 1927, p. 146) uses the term “religiosity of this world” to characterize the ancient Iranian (Zoroastrian) religion.

“Life in this world”, Lommel says, “offered the ancient Iranians unbounded possibilities for the worship of God”.

Goethe also, in his poem Vermächtnis altpersischen Glaubens has described the religiosity of the ancient Aryan Iranians: as a striking worshipful penetration of all aspects of this life and environment through an all-embracing elevated disposition of the spirit/mind.

Zoroastrianism is truly a joyous celebration of pristine nature and the environment. Where the holiness and goodness of “this world” is dropped, there the realm of Zoroastrian religiosity is abandoned.

The honoring of nature and the physical body as a visible expression of the Immortals is the Zoroastrian mode of worship.

The ancient worship of Mazda/wisdom religion has always tended to regard nature and the body as an expression of the brilliant divine.

Every idea of killing the senses, of asceticism, lies indefinitely remote from Zoroastrianism and would appear to be an attempt to paralyze rather than empower the god-powers within.

The idea to view “this world” as a devalued place of sorrow and gloom is utterly alien to Zoroastrianism.

There is NO conflict between spirit and matter in the ancient Iranian religion.

Zoroastrian worship is healthy and holy both in body and the God-filled vibrant spirit. The worshipper regards nothing in his or her nature as lower in essence than the godly immortals.

Accordingly this world is in evolution/progress to overcome its limitations and become ever better. Mortal man could and should share or participate in the Good, the Better and the ever more Beautiful as partner/co-worker of the Immortals.

In the worship of mountain heights, rivers, waters and trees, in the worship of the sun, the hearth, fire and the dawn, in the worship of cultivated land, the superb order of the Immortals is worshipped.

The Immortals are the very spirit/embodiment of a brilliant, ever better, surpassing order. Mortal man in a reciprocal friendship with Immortals and connected to the world order, joins with the god-beings to struggle against chaos, degeneration and limitation. Thereby always devising a better, more brilliant plan and order. (See Yasna 30.9)

This world is a field in which destiny is fulfilled. In Zoroastrian religiosity man cherishes life as a cultivator/farmer, where plants, animals and men each grow and ripen into powerful god-forces.

Sin arises wherever an individual defies or threatens an ever bettering, more brilliant order by limitation, short sightedness, distortion and gloom.

I like to conclude by a beautiful a passage from the Avesta (preserved only in the Middle Persian work of Šāyæst na šayæst, Chapter 15.)

  1. It is revealed by a passage of the Avesta (unknown/hidden wisdom) that Zartôsht, seated before Öhrmazd, always wanted word of wisdom/voice of knowledge (vač); and he spoke to Öhrmazd thus: ‘Thy head, hands, feet, hair, face, and tongue are in my eyes just like men but much more dazzling/brilliant, and you have clothing similar to men; give me your luminous hand that I may grasp it.
  1. Öhrmazd said thus: ‘I am an intangible spirit; it is not possible to grasp my hand.’
  1. Zartôsht spoke thus: ‘Thou art intangible, and Vôhü-man, Artá-vahišt, Shahrevar, Spentármað, Hôrdád (health, holiness) and Amûrdád (Immortality) are intangible, and when I depart from thy presence, and do not see thee nor the Immortals – How shall I worship You and the seven auspicious Immortals?
  1. Öhrmazd said each of us has established/created their material creation (dayak) in the world, by means of own spiritual essence.
  2. In the creation that is mine, who am Öhrmazd, is the virtuous, brilliant man, of Vôhü-man are beneficial animal kingdoms, of Artá-vahišt are the fires of industry, of Shahrevar is the jewels and metals, of Spentármað are the bountiful earth and virtuous, brilliant woman, of Hôrdád (holiness/health) is the waters, and of Amûrdád (Immortality) is the plants and trees.
  1. Whoever has learned the care of all these seven, and delights their creation well, his or her soul never comes into the possession of Ahriman and the demons; when he/she has exercised the propitiation of them, and taught it to all mankind in the world.



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2 Responses to The worship of fire, water, the earth and lights in Zoroastrianism

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    very beautiful article,shows that the earth is sacred and life is meant to be experienced and enjoyed

  2. Pingback: Mazda, Odin and the Sacred Fire of Zoroaster – rainwindandwolf

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