Rune fehu, Aveatan fšü, pasu and the celebration of wealth, prosperity in Zoroastrianism

The first rune in the ancient Germanic alphabet is fehu literally “herds and flocks.” Fehu is the rune of “wealth” and moveable property.

Avestan fšü/pasuu, Gothic faihu, Old Norse fe, Old High German fihu, Latin pecu/pecus and Lithuanian pekus/pekas are all cognates, (See Dictionary of Indo European Poetic and Religious Themes by Didier Calin.)

Cattle and domesticated animals were of great importance to the ancient Indo-European pastoralists, and provided them with a ready point of reference in many aspects of life. The English word fee is a reminder of payment in the form of herds and flocks.

It is therefore not surprising that we find the semantic transition in the ancient Indo European society from “herds, flocks” to “moveable wealth” and “affluence, prosperity, abundance.”

Unlike some faiths, in which poverty is viewed as virtuous and desirable, Zoroastrianism has always viewed poverty and misery, most negatively. Instead prosperity, health and triumph of the spirit define the Zoroastrian faith.

Mazdyasná (The worship of Mazdá, “wisdom, learning, discovery,”) insists that man should have a powerful impact on time and destiny. Gathas or the songs of the ancient prophet Zarathustra teach that the more a man seeks to rise into the heights of heavens and light, the deeper shall his roots grow into this good earth.

Hence, in Zoroastrianism, a true embrace of the spiritual horizons is only possible when we are firmly centered in the material.

In Yasna 31.10 of the poetic gathas, “the virtuous ahûrá/god is the cultivator, bringer of prosperity to brilliant disposition, good energy/mind ahûrem ašavanem//vaηhéuš fšéñg.hîm man.aη.

Here the word fšéñg.hîm alludes to “increase, prosperity wealth and affluence” of good energy/mind. Likewise, in the ancient Indo European poetics, a god or ruler is a cultivator, increaser of wealth, a herdsman who guides and empowers.

Theodor Benfey first observed in 1872, that “giver of good things” is the common term for “god” in ancient Iran and the pagan Slavonic countries. This can be inferred from the word for god dátár meaning “dispenser, giver” in the Zoroastrian sacred lore. In Zoroastrian prayers the invocation of dátár ahûrmazd is very common.

Another interesting Avestan term associated with “herds, flocks, affluence,” is pasuu vîrá. The Avestan term can be compared with the Anglo Saxon werewolf “man-wolf.” However, the Avestan hero vîrá, (Anglo Saxon were) is not characterized by bloodthirsty violence. Rather the real hero embodies “prosperity, wealth, the stewardship of animals, and cultivation of the land.”

In the poetic gathas, Zarathustra wants vastriiö fšüiiantö “herders of flocks and cultivators of the fields” to function at the same time as both warriors and priests. In Zarathustra’s vision rise into the heights of spirituality means an embrace of the physical and stewardship of the material creation.

The seer/prophet of the ancient Indo Europeans envisions a noble aristocracy that cultivates this good earth, is a steward of animals and creation, is a fierce warrior, defender of deep roots, and learned keeper of eternal flame.


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1 Response to Rune fehu, Aveatan fšü, pasu and the celebration of wealth, prosperity in Zoroastrianism

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    I love this, it is indeed sad that poverty should be seen as a virtue, it is much more comforting to see the Divine, Ahura Mazda, as the giver of Good things- it is more positive too!

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