Nowrouz Bal, The end of Summer New Year of the Lush Caspian Mountains, and Gaelic Samhain

The lush Caspian Mountains, and Northeastern Iran were the last strongholds of Zoroastrianism after the arab moslem invasion. While according to the Avesta, the Zoroastrian New Year, Nauv-rouz begins with Vernal Equinox, the people of the beautiful Caspian province of Gilan, like the Parsis of India celebrate a parallel New Year ceremony called Nauv-rouz Bal held in August.

Bal “white, shining brightly,” and Nauv-rouz Bal means “the white/shining new dawn/light.”

Bal is cognate of Welsh bal “white faced” Gothic bala(n) “shining, Lithuanian bālas “white” Latvian bāls “pale” Old Church Slavonic bēlū “white” and Russian bélyj “gleaming, white.” The reconstructed Indo European root is *bhelh “pale, white, shining brightly.”

The word Bal “shining brightly” refers to the fires that are lit on top of mountains to herald the arrival of nauv-rouz for the villages below. The timing of the Nauv-rouz Bal suits the rhythm of the settled farmers and migratory herdsmen of the Caspian Mountains, and is referred as OUR Nauv-rouz in their dialects. While, the Avestan Nauvrouz beginning with Vernal Equinox is referred to as the New Year of the SUN calendar.

High summer is a time when the sun is at its highest power/radiance, and traditionally many Indo Europeans have marked mid or end of summer as a time of new beginnings.

For example the Gaelic festival of Samhain comes from Old Irish meaning “summer’s end.” Samhain is a time where the veils between worlds are the thinnest. It is a time to think back over the year, make huge bonfires and honor the heroic dead.

Like Samhain, Lighting huge bonfires, celebrating the bountifulness of crops and nature, and honoring the souls of the departed are parts of Nauv-rouz Bal.

After the arabs invasion, the people of the Caspian Mountains lost track of the leap year calculation.  For this reason, gradually their Nauvrouz like that of the Parsis of India moved to the end of summer. It is a beautiful festival of Caspian Mountains, and a reminder that the bright flame of Zoroastrianism will NEVER be forgotten.


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