Mid Winter Yule and parallels with the Avestan Mid-Year festival

Yule was an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples. Yule-tide fell between what is now mid-November and early January.

Similarly, the Avestan Maiδ-yaar literally “mid-year” was/is the second, most sacred Zoroastrian festival after the Vernal Equinox, falling in early January (4th or 5th depending on the leap year.)

The Avestan yaar “year” is a cognate with Old Church Slavonic jara, German Jahr, Luvian āra/i, and Greek hōros, and refers to “turning points, new season/time” in addition to “year.” In the Avestan original, gahan-bar or “gatha banquets” are referred to as yaair.iia ratvö  “sacred rituals/festivities around the turning points of the year.”

Andreas Nordberg suggests that the heathen Scandinavian lunisolar calendar was also divided into turning points, marked with festivals and religious gatherings.

The ancient Zoroastrians reckoned “time/year” according to winters, hence, the association of Maiδ-yaar with the winter festivities.

Of important note here is that both the Yule tide and the Zoroastrian Maiδ-yaar festival suggest that the new year started in summer. While Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of the new-year in the Avestan calendar, both the ancient and royal calendars of the Iranian and Parsi Zoroastrians, reckon the beginning of the new-year from summer.

The 6 Avestan yaair.iia “turning points,” known as gahan-bar or “gatha banquets” in the later literature are as follows:

Maiδyö.zarəm.iia “mid-spring;” or literally “middle of the greenery and flowers season,” is the first sacred turning point of the year, (Compare Avestan zarəm.iia with Russian zelënyj “green.”) Maiδyö.zarəm is the festival of the pure essence/nectar of flowers and plants. However, the word for SPRING in the Avesta is vanri, a cognate of Latin vēr and Old Church Slavonic vesna.

Maiδyö.šam means “mid-summer,” the arrival of summer was/is most important in the Zoroastrian calendar, and has always been celebrated with huge outdoor bonfires and festive spirit.

Paitiš.hahya, is the “harvest time festival.” Paitiš alludes to “footsteps, direction, passage” and hahya means “grain, fruit, crops,” (Compare Avestan hahya with Welsh haidd, Briton heiz, “rye, barley,” Vedic sasya “seed-field, crop,” Hittite sesa(na) “fruit.”) It is a time to celebrate the bountifulness of nature.

Ayáθrima is the time/season for RETURNING of the livestock to their shelters before winter sets in. The word translates as “returning, homecoming.” The livestock are colorfully decorated, and walked around or between bonfires.

Maiδ.yaar.iia literally means “mid-year.” This is the second most sacred festival in the Avestan lunisolar calendar. The fact that “mid-winter” is called Maiδ-yaar “midyear,” suggests a calendar in which the year was reckoned from the summer. The word for WINTER in the Avesta is ziimá (Compare with Russian zimá, Latvian ziema, Lithuanian žiemâ.)

Hamaß.paθ.maiδ.iia refers to EQUINOX, or the moment when the center/middle position maiδ.iia of the Sun and the celestial points/paths paθ are at the same hamaß, or equal distance from each other. The joyous celebration of the Vernal Equinox as the most sacred Zoroastrian religious holiday is a reminder of the future age of the gods, and the coming of everlasting spring.

The Zoroastrian Magi priests sanctified these points in time by linking them with the sacred songs/metre gáθá of the ancient Aryan seer/prophet Zarathustra. It is highly meritorious to recite the gáθás (Lithuanian giedóti “sing hymns,”) as part of the sacred rituals in these auspicious points of time in the year yaair.iia ratvö .

In the Āfrīn “loving blessing formula” for gatha banquets; it is enjoined that all have the duty to bring some kind of offering to the feast, even if it is a stick of dry wood or if nothing at all, a heartfelt prayer.

Communal banquets were held at which consecrated food was shared, with drinking of wine and much merrymaking. These banquets brought rich and poor together, and were times for renewal of fellowship, with forgiveness of wrongs and charity.

One can tell a lot about a people by their rituals, symbols and festivities. The rituals used by the ancient Zoroastrians involved the recurrently rising sun, bonfires, and symbols of an abundant life. Holiness in this ancient, noble faith equals health and vital energy, and Sacred is what is auspicious, radiant and triumphant.

The fire rituals in Zoroastrianism symbolize the infinity and beyond, the eternal quest for excellence, and the sacred will to bring the creative brilliance of the Immortals to us, for the discovery of new horizons, and making the life force ever more splendid and victorious.



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1 Response to Mid Winter Yule and parallels with the Avestan Mid-Year festival

  1. Zaneta Garratt says:

    so many lovely celebrations, very positive
    -comparing words-
    christmas in Swedish is Jul
    and spring is Vår

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