The dual nature of “wolves, fairies, and mortal men in the Zoroastrian sacred lore, and tradition


The traditional accounts of Zarathustra’s life are contained in the 7th book of holy Denkart (Denkart literary means “explanatory works on the revealed wisdom/vision.” Denkart is the largest, and most ancient commentary work on the Avestan sacred lore. While Avestá is the poetic, revealed wisdom/vision of the Titans, Denkart is the cornerstone in understanding the Avestá, and traditional Zoroastrianism.) 

The 7th book of holy Denkart provides several accounts of noble animals protecting the seer/prophet Zarathustra during his infancy. We read specifically in Denkart 7.3.8ff  that a noble she-wolf vǝhrkąm took the young Zarathustra along with her own cubs, and protected him from all harms. 

This most ancient account of Zarathustra’s legendary infancy clearly hints at a dual nature for wolf vǝhrká in the Zoroastrian sacred literature. Wolf is not just a symbol of thievery, thieves taiiüm…vǝhrkǝm or vicious, two-footed mortals, but wulf also has a noble warrior nature, and embodies bravery and honor. 

In Shah-námæ (The Great Persian Epic Poetry rooted in the Avestá, and Zoroastrian Mythology,) GURG.IN (Modern Persian for Wulflike,) is the name of one of the heroes during the reigns of Kay Kāvus and Kay Ḵosrow. GURG.IN is the head of the warrior Milād clan, and is also one of the eleven, fierce warrior-heroes in the story of the Davāzdah roḵ (twelve citadels, towers,) where he kills his Turanian adversary. 

The ancient, enchanted forests of northeastern Iran are also named after wolves and the area is known as land of the wolves, called Gurgān/Gorgán .

The statement of Greater Bün.dahišn (Basis of or Primal Creation book) in chapter 23.1 that wolf is a creation of the evil spirit, seem to be a later accretion, and not part of the original material. Wulf simply does not meet the definition of ḵrafastar or “reptilian monsters.” 

We come across the same dual nature reserved for fairies in the Zoroastrian sacred lore or the Avestá. Fairies pairikás often appear at the end of the formula daæva.nąm mašiiá.nąm.ča yáθvąm pairikan.ąm.ča that is “diabolic deities, mortal men, sorcerers, sorceresses, and fairies.”

According to Vendī.dád or the “Anti-demonic Law,” Fairies, pairikás must be fought, for they are the opponents of Fire, Water, Earth, Ox, and Plant.  It is also said that fairies pairikás fled when Zarathustra uttered the most sacred and powerful ahüna vairya formula. The latter account reminds one of the jinns’ response upon hearing bismillāh in the later Islamic lore (Donaldson, 1930, p. 186.)

Yet, despite this mostly negative background the term fairy parîg, appears as a benign, proper noun in Yašt 11.6 of the Avestá. 

Also, in the Pahlavi Vendī.dád (viii.31, 35; xiii.48) and Nērangestān (pp. 39v.15; 178r.8), Fairy, parî is the name of a venerable, female commentator of the Avesta. Such a name is a rare evidence for the existence of female commentators among Zoroastrian theologians.

To this day compound names of fairy parî, are very popular among Female Zoroastrians in names such as Parîzád, born from a fairy, parîvaš like a fairy, parîčehr, have the appearance of a fairy, and many other compound names containing parî. 

Other benevolent appearance of fairy occurs in the Pāzand Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (Messina, 1939, p. 40), where a noble woman from the legendary line of Hôšang is compared to a Fairy, parî (čūn parî.). 

In the Great Epics of Shah-námæ (rooted in the Zoroastrian Mythology and the Avestá) fairies, parî are always charming and pleasant figures. Fairies appear in several stories such as the “Reign of Jamšîd,” “Zál and Rūdāba,” and the story of “Bîjan and Manîjæ.”

In the Zoroastrian folklore, fairies parîs are referred to as az mā behtarān “they who are better than us” which reminds one of “the good people” of European fairydom.

The often repeated Old Avestan formula of daæváiš.čá

 mašiiáiš.čá that groups “mortal men” right after the “diabolic deities” points to a dual nature for mortal men as well. While men suppose to be the allies of the Titans ahûrás, and join in their struggle to manifest an age of eternal spring and splendid, pristine creation, the race of men have often been the instrument of the diabolic forces throughout their history on this good earth.   

I shall conclude by the following beautiful verse from The Persian Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám who was himself a big fan of the ancient Zoroastrian religion of his forefathers: 

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,

Some letter of that After-life to spell

And by and by my Soul return’d to me,

And answer’d, “I Myself am Heaven and Hell.

This verse appears at the beginning and end of a film/novel unlike any other, one in which beauty, wit and horror are intermingled in a unique cautionary tale, the movie and masterpiece DORIAN GREY.

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2 Responses to The dual nature of “wolves, fairies, and mortal men in the Zoroastrian sacred lore, and tradition

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    very interesting-nice you write about wolves in a positive way and also that you mention Dorian Gray, a big favorite of mine

  2. zaneta garratt says:

    very interesting, nice that you mention about wolves in a positive way and that you talk about Dorian Gray, a big favorite of mine.

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