Pætat, Fravarti, and Parsi New Year


The last 10 days before the Zoroastrian new year are dedicated to “the spirits of valiant warriors/ancestors,” known as fra.varti. According to Bernfried Schlerath, the word is derived from the root √var- “choose,” with *fravarti being an acclamation—a “choosing forth—” of “pristine archetypes, heroic ancestors” who are specially honored during these 10 days.  

Alexander Lubotsky of Leiden University, in his “Indo-Iranian Lexicon” considers an etymological connection between fra.varti, and the Old Norse Valkyrja “chooser of the slain/heroic dead.”  In Yašt/hymn 13 (verse 70) the valiant spirits of fravarti are conceived as Valkyrie-like beings who are said to “swoop down like an eagle.” 

These “valiant, hero ancestors,” in the “hymn/yašt” dedicated to them, are conceived as “pristine archetypes,” supporting Ahûrá Mazdá in times of yore to brilliantly order the worlds, and still having great powers in perpetuating the creations, prospering the waters and plants, and protecting sons/descendants in the womb (verses. 1-11). Fra.varti are said to be a vast host of “many hundreds, many thousands, many tens of thousands” (Yašt. 13.65,) whose bravery and power to help in battle are particularly celebrated, (verses 49-52, 96-144.)

Zoroastrians believe that “archetypes/heroic ancestors” visit our earthly realm during these most auspicious 10 days. Hence, these sacred days become a period of pætat, or a time to “return to one’s roots.” 

Pætat comes from the verb paitî- whose literal meaning is “go back (to), step, move towards.” Pætat is a time to make amends with god-powers, archetypes, ancestors, and set right the wrong. These most auspicious days of Pætat are a time to CHOOSE, and sincerely confess the noble faith (ērīh,) and it supreme magnificence/greatness mehīh. The Zoroastrian religion is equated with érîh, Avestan airyá, as the pristine, noble faith of the ancient Indo Iranians, and even older ancient Indo-Europeans.

To honor the valiant spirits of archetypes/ancestors during Pætat, a thorough house cleaning is performed. More importantly we are instructed to purify our hearts, and make amends to family, friends, community and our neighbors. The most elaborate treatment of this subject appears in chapter 8 of the Šāyist nē Šāyist (literally suitable and not suitable.)  In this respect, Šāyist nē Šāyist admonishes “pure intent, honest admission, rejection of the wrong, and a strong will/commitment not to do the injurious offense again.”

We read throughout the Zoroastrian literature  “to do the worship and invocation of the Yazad/Gods with pure intent/vision (pad nigerišn.) According to Šāyist nē Šāyist the “pure thoughts/ideas” (pad menišn) suffice in and of themselves to render the wrongdoer righteous (8.13.) In Zoroastrianism, mental activities are considered injurious or auspicious in and of themselves, even when actions are not involved. Numerous Middle Persian, Zoroastrian texts command the Zoroastrian faithful to “never think an evil/negative thought.”

Zoroastrian tradition maintains that the boundless lights of Ahûrá  Mazdá shine more brightly on these holy days. Hence, they are a great time for “showing excellence, charity” ashö-dád. It is a time to generously help the less fortunate. Wealthier Zoroastrians establish “charitable trusts, foundations” during this time. It is traditional to perform Gáhán.bár “religious thanksgiving celebrations” for 30 years at any such donated land or established charitable foundation or trust. 

Each Zoroastrian family prepares a beautiful table/banquet decorated with candles, wine, sugar cone, fruits, hearty fried bread “sirög,” eggs, milk, a bowl of fresh water with some dried oregano, and incense. Prayers shall be done at this table of “offerings and libations.”

Presently, Zoroastrian also decorate their table with picture of their beloved departed ones. Some invite Priests to do the prayers for them at their home. Another most important ritual is kindling seven or nine bonfires on rooftops, in alleys or in courtyards.

Currently the Parsi new year is celebrated on August 16, and the ten most auspicious days start at August 6th. Nauv.rooz Bal Celebrations on August 17, in the lush Caspian mountains are extremely similar. After the Arab conquest, and following  Zoroastrian decline 3-4 centuries after the invasion, Surviving Zoroastrian communities in remote mountains, and high deserts slowly lost track of leap year calculations, and their new year ceremonies over few centuries moved to mid-summer instead of the Avestan appointed Spring Equinox celebrations.

ardeshir    

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