APÁM NAPÁTThe Grand Child/Descendant of the Waters

November 15 marks the last day of the month of waters in the Zoroastrian calendar. In ancient Zoroastrianism, a splendid god-force associated with waters known as ápam napát is honored during prayers at each sunset. Apám Napát refers to some form of fire and/or brilliant energy that reside within the waters. The name literally means the “grand child, progeny of the waters.” The first part of the name apá is a cognate of Latin “aqua” and refers to the “waters.” The second part is a cognate of Latin “nepo,” modern Persian “navæ” literally “grandchild, descendant or lineage.”

In ancient Indo-Iranian sacred poetry ápam napát is said to be the source of all life; plants and creatures propagate themselves as his branches.  

In the Zoroastrian hymnic poetry, it is Apám Napát that has created and shaped heroic men and women, yö nərə̄uš dadha, yö nərə̄uš tataša, (See Yašt. 19.52.) 

The entire magnificent verse in Yašt. 19.52 states: “The high, lofty, ahûrá “titan” (bərəzantəm ahûrəm,) having great powers and dominion over the worlds, brilliant, grandchild of the waters, he who has swift horses, we hallow; The virile/powerful one, who gives help when called upon, (It is) he who created heroic men and women, he who fashioned heroic men and women yö nərə̄uš dadha, yö nərə̄uš tataša, the hallowed god being amid the waters, who being prayed to is swiftest of all to hear.”

In the hymnic Zoroastrian poetry, it is Apám Napát who also distributes the good fortune of having waters “baxt.áv vî baxšaiti” to human settlements (Yašt. 8. 34.)

When the “godly glory of the rulers” (Farrah) fled from Yimá because of his hubris, (Yima was the founder of civilization and technology, and the original divine twin,) the divine glory was first protected by fire and mithrá, (the god force of dawn and contracts.) Then Farrah, the “glory of rulership” took refuge in the oceans where Apám Napát laid hold of it at the depths of waters. 

In Zoroastrian worship, the time of dawn and morning is under the watch of Mithrá “reciprocity, contract with the Brilliant Immortals,” and the time of sunset under that of Apám Napát.

To this day, when a Zoroastrian says the sunset prayers, he or she honors the brilliant energy and the grandchild of the waters.” In Yasna liturgy, whenever water is invoked Apám Napát or the brilliant energy within waters is invoked as well, (Yasná means “yearning, deep desire, hallowing” and is the most important Zoroastrian rite of worship.)  In Yasna Liturgy, the splendid grandchild of the waters is often invoked with haôma “elixir of eternal life” and dahmán áfrîn the “loving blessing of the wondrously wise person.” 

The title of ahûrá “titan, primeval god-force” bestowed on Apám Napát and Mithrá goes back to the Old Avestan sacred poetry of the gathas/songs of Zarathustra. The term mazdå ahûrá.ávŋhö  literally means “Mazdá, the “Wise Lord of Mind Powers” and his Ahûras “Titans,” (See Yasna 30.9.)  The ancient Avestan designation refers to all the Brilliant Immortals and Hallowed God Powers that are said to be beyond reckoning in the Zoroastrian sacred literature. 

The title of “lofty titan,” bərəzant ahûrá bestowed upon Apám Napát, has been translated in Middle Persian Zoroastrian literature as Bôrz Yazad, “admirable, hallowed, god-being.” Clearly, we can see here that Yazad or “hallowed god-force” of later Zoroastrian literature is interchangeable with the ahûras of ancient, sacred Avestan lore. 

Also, in Old Avestan Yasná 38.3 we come across the term ahûránîš ahûrahyá that according to ancient commentary is associated respectively with underground waters and the generative juices. 

In conclusion, I shall mention the ninth-century Norwegian poet Thiodolf who uses the phrase sævar niþr “grandson/descendant of the sea” as a kenning for fire (Ynglingatal 4. 3.) Apart from the obvious Indo-Iranian parallels, the Norse poetic tradition may ultimately derive from a sacred formula of Indo-European hymnic poetry, similar to the one still sung in the hymnic poetry of the Yašts of the Zoroastrians. 


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3 Responses to APÁM NAPÁTThe Grand Child/Descendant of the Waters

  1. Afterthought says:

    Brilliance, as usual.

  2. Shahram says:

    Thank you for such an amazing and wonderful essay. It has brought together many questions I had about Apam Napt. ( Hom ezad,borz ezad,neyrosang ezad Damian o Shan afarin ezad bad)

  3. D Irani says:

    Too good and knowledgeable blog thank you so much for your contribution

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