Immortality, Tree symbolism in the Zoroastrian sacred lore, and the tree of the mythical falcon/eagle Simorgh

Trees specially evergreens and ancient trees are the symbol of Immortals in Zoroastrianism. The link between trees, “Immortality and deathlessness” ameretát is established in the poetic gathas, See Yasna 51.7.

The original gathic poetry reads as follows: apas-čá ûrvarávs-čá ameretátá haûrvátá. Here the word for “tree” is ûrvar, and the word for “immortality, deathlessness” is ameretát.

Avestan ûrvará “tree” is a cognate of Latin arbor “tree.” Other cognates are Latin arvus “ploughed field,” and Mycenaean Greek aroura “arable land.”

Trees also come in close connection with “prophetic vision and oracles” in the Avestan poetry. The süd-kar gathic commentary of Yasna 31.5 narrates the vision of an immense tree with four branches, of gold, silver, steel, and “mixed-up” iron, which symbolize the four future ages of this world.

The “mixed-up” iron symbolizes the present age of admixture that is the calamitous age of invasion/contamination by demons.

An Avestan passage in Yasht/hymn 12/17, praises the tree of the great mythical “falcon or eagle” saæna that stands in the middle of the “wide-shored ocean” vôúrú-kašahæ.

The eagle/falcon tree is a wondrous evergreen that keeps away decrepitude and death. It is called all healing with good and potent medicine. The seeds of all medicinal plants are deposited on it.

Saæna “falcon, eagle,” of the Avesta, is the mythical bird of Persian Mythology Sīmorḡ who is said to perch every year on this sacred tree located in the middle of wide-shored ocean, to mix its seeds with pure waters, which Tištar (Three-star, Sirius) then rains down on all the 7 climes of the earth, thus causing the growth of all kind of healing plants.

The Avestan saæna, Persian Sīmorḡ is a cognate of Sanskrit śyená. The Russian word for “falcon” sókol is a borrowing from the same word in ancient Iranian.

In the Avestan Yašt/hymn 14.41 Vərəθraγna, the god being of VICTORY, wraps xarnæ, “glory, good fortune,” round the house of the worshipper, in the same way that the great falcon/eagle Saæna, cover the great mountains like the clouds.

In Zoroastrian religious ceremonies, “small branches or twigs” of an evergreen (mostly cypress trees) or fruit tree (usually pomegranate) called barəsman, form an important part of the sacred ritual. Barəsman is derived from the root barəz “to grow high.” German berg “high” is a cognate.

Barəsman “sacred twigs” are one of the requisites of a “fire priest,” Āθravan (See Vendidad 14.8,) and constitute an essential ritual implement for various liturgical services such as yasná “yearning, longing” (Greek zelós is a cognate,) and afrîn prayers, literally “loving charms” that are Avestan benediction formulas.

The Persian word for tree is draxt also dár ó draxt. The word comes from the Avestan daûrû going back to the reconstructed Proto Indo European *dóru, and is a cognate of Russian дерево (dérevo); Polish drewno; Greek δόρ (dóru); Gothic triu; Old English trēow “tree,” (See Didier Calin, Encyclopedia of Indo European poetic and religious themes.)

Trees in Mazdyasna “Mazda worshipping religion/Zoroastrianism” are sacred, and embody immense and enduring life and deathlessness of consciousness.

Sarv-e Abar kuh, literally the Cypress tree of the über-mountain also called the “Zoroastrian tree,” is a cypress tree in Central Yazd province of Iran. The tree is estimated to be at least 4,000 years old and believed to have witnessed the dawn of ancient Iranian civilization.

Herodotus (7.31) reports that at Callatebus in Asia Minor, the Achaemenid Xerxes (486-65 B.C.E.) found a plane tree so beautiful that he decorated it with golden ornaments and put it under the care of one of his Immortals.

The sacred attitude toward venerable trees has continued in Iran to the present day, but with the transfer of devotion from Zoroastrian Immortals to Twelver Shiʿite Saints.

Often, the very pine and cypress trees that had flanked Zoroastrian fire temples in the Sassa­nid period continue to shade the tombs of emāmzādas and other shia saints today.

In general, however, Iran has suffered from continuous, great deforestation over the centuries after the arab invasion.

Sanctity of trees in Zoroastrianism meant legal sanctions against profaning or destroying them in the Mazdean Jurisprudence. Such legal protections for trees did sadly not continue into the Islamic age. Yet the folk belief that anybody felling a tree will be short-lived, and cuts on his/her good fortune goes back to the deep-rooted ancient religion of the Iranians.


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The language of the Immortals and the third &10th hymn of the Gathas

The third hymn of the poetic gathas/songs of Prophet Zarathustra start with the words at tá vaḵšiia išentö “In this day, of the words of power, I shall speak.”

 Vaḵšiia comes from the root vač/vaḵš “voice, word.” In the gathas, Godhood is “unleashing the marvelous powers of and evolution of consciousness/mind.” Vač/Vaḵš is the vehicle of the unbounded consciousness, the charm of making.

 The odyssey of consciousness through its vehicle vač “power of speech WORDS,” pushes us towards new meanings and limitless horizons.

It is the “melodious speech sound” vač/vaḵš that evokes the powers of spirit/evolution of mind. Through poetic imagery vač/vaḵšvoice, wordin the gathas is connected to vaxš power to grow, increase” (a cognate of German wachsen, English wax.)

 In the gathas, Reality is being continually formed out of the sea of sounds and melodies. The formula for creation and manifestation in all the worlds lies in the vibrations of consciousness/thoughts. Hence, sounds, words/sacred formulas as vibrations of mind energy, formulate and reshape reality.

The creative, brilliant thought of the Immortals, pulsate through vač/vaḵš “sound speech/formulas” that gives the sacred words/formulas their “power” išentö. The word for power/lordship išentö comes from the root “will to command/rule, power to make one’s own,”(German eigen is a cognate.)

This idea of “sacred speech as the cause of the universe, and vehicle of purest knowledge,” is especially true of the 10th hymn of the gathas starting with the phrase at fra-vaḵšiia “In this day, I shall speak forth of the foremost words.”

In the 10th song or gatha, vač/vaḵš is the “enchanting, pristine song themes of the Immortals that prefigure the making of the worlds.”

Avestan vač/vaḵš goes back to reconstructed Indo European *wṓkws, and is a cognate of Vedic ̒c, Tocharian A/B wak/wek, Greek óps, Latin uōx, Spanish voz, French voix, English VOICE, (See Didier Calin, Dictionary of Indo-European Poetic and Religious Themes.)

Persian آوا âvâ /آواز âvâz “song,” váng/báng “cry out a word or words,” and vážae “word,” all go back to the ancient Avestan root vač/vaḵš, (See Didier Calin, Dictionary of Indo-European Poetic and Religious Themes.)

In the Rig Veda, vāč is the goddess of sacred speech, the mother of the Vedas “the hymns of wisdom, knowledge.” It is the sacred sound that is the essence of reality in the ancient Vedic literature.

Like in Zoroastrianism, the ancient Druids were versatile in their use of melodies, charms and songs to induce changes in consciousness.

In fact, according to all major ancient Indo European traditions, the earth and universe were created and brought into form through sound, celestial melodies and songs.

We all know the power of poetry or of a book that can transport us into another world. Consciousness cannot be separated from “words.”

Words, songs, narratives create our lives/worlds, and are a window onto eternity. We must have words or expressions of unbounded meaning/spirit, in order to emerge out of the chaos.

The third gathic hymn starts with the “words of power” vaḵšiia išentö and ends with ûštá “fulfillment of wishes,” from the root vas “desire, wish.”

Through poetic imagery ûštá is linked to ûšá “dawn” (Reconstructed Proto Indo European ausōs,) because the fulfillment of wishes come through a breakthrough in consciousness, and an awakening of the renewed powers of spirit.

In the sacred Zoroastrian lore various abodes of paradise/heaven mentioned: are heaven of good thoughts, heaven of good words, heaven of good works, heaven of boundless lights, and the abode of songs or the house of music of the ahûrás as the supreme heaven.

I like to conclude by a poem from the great Ferdowsi, the author of Shahnamæ, the great epic saga of the ancient Iranian warrior kings, heroes and God-men. Ferdowsi’s name literally means the “man from paradise,” and Shahnamæ is the world’s longest epic poem created by this master poet.

Shahnamæ is three times the length of Homer’s Iliad, and more than twelve times the length of the German Nibelungenlied. This masterpiece is a loving tribute to ancient Zoroastrianism, and sehnsucht “longing” for the noble identity of our ancient people. It is a magnum opus of Indo European poetry.

Ferdowsi writes:

Much I have suffered in these thirty years//
I have revived the ancient noble spirit with my verse//
I am deathless, I am the eternal Lord//
For I have spread the seed of the Word//Splendid monuments will decay//By rain and blazing sun//Yet I have built an eternal edifice of songs//That no storm and calamity shall ever destroy.


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Ahura Mazda as the Giver of Gifts, Odin’s rune Gebo, and the virtue of responsible generosity and giving

In the ancient Germanic runic alphabet*geƀō “gift” represented “generosity and giving.” Geƀō was a rune of Odin as it expressed Odin’s role as the Gift-Giver.

 The exchange of gifts was a sacred tradition of the Indo Europeans. While the ancient Indo Europeans celebrated “giving and generosity,” yet they strongly believed in finding a right balance between giving and receiving. For a gift always calls for reciprocity. To give was a virtue only when it was measured and responsible giving.

Geƀō sanctifies the bond between mortals and the Immortal Gods, For the Gods are “Giver of all the Good things.”

Rune Geƀō is a cognate of Gothic giba, Old Norse gjǫf, Old English ġifu/ġiefu/ġyfu, Old High German geba and German Gabe, (See Didier Calin.)

And Old English rune poem says:
Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,
wraþu and wyrþscype and wræcna gehwam
ar and ætwist, ðe byþ oþra leas

“Generosity brings credit and honor, which support one’s dignity; / it furnishes help and subsistence / to all broken men who are devoid of aught else, (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)

In Zoroastrianism, the supreme god Ahûrá Mazdá is referred to as Dátár AhûrMazd or Ahûrá Mazdá the “Giver of Gifts.”

The epithet dátár comes from an ancient proto Indo European root *deh “give.” The root also supplies the base of *dehtér “Giver.”

Avestan dátár is a cognate of Old Church Slavonic dateljî and Greek dótor “giver, giving.” In the poetic gathas, Ahûrá Mazdá GIVES all the good things through spǝñtá mainyü, his “auspicious/splendid mind-force, Willpower.”

The gathic poetry in Yasna 44.7, 5th rhymed verse line declares that the Mindful Lord through his auspicious/splendid mind power/spirit is the Giver of all Good things, speñtá mainiiü vîspanãm dátárem.

Avestan spǝñtá is a cognate of Old Church Slavonic svętŭ and Lithuanian šventas, and means “auspicious, splendid with the life force, shining brightly, luminous and full of energy, Sacred.”üü comes from the root man and refers to “mind-force, power of intent, spirit, will.”

The ancient Baga commentary of Yasna 49.12 of the gathas states: the spirits/energies or powers of consciousness/mind mainüg respond to a much higher degree avîrtar to the invoker who yearns yashtár for them foremostly.

For each one of the spirits/mind forces mainüg there is a form of celebration/hallowing yazishn, as the spirit of generosity is (hallowed) through “watchful, selective giving” vichîdár dahišnî, the spirit of right rástî through healthy morals/virtues rástî, the spirit of friendship mitrö through healthy reciprocity hû mitröî, and the spirit of Godhood ḵûdáyî through becoming Godlike heartily ḵûdáyî.

Because what is desired with “vision and wisdom” dánágî from the Adorable Gods yazdán ḵûdáyán, for making one’s own self worthy arjánîg, becomes a lucky boon from the Adorable Gods yazdán ḵûdáyán.

I shall conclude by another commentary from holy Denkart that states: The knowledge of the Creator/Giver, is through creativity, giving and generosity in undertaking.”


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The rune Tyr, Avestan Tištar, three Star, Celestial Arrow, and MIDSUMMER

In the runic alphabet *Tīwaz or Týr is a warrior rune, and teaches that valor and a noble cause will ultimately triumph, and carry the day. *Tīwaz is “Day Sky god, the god of sacred struggle, and just cause.”

To the Norse people of Scandinavia and Iceland the rune was known as Týr while to the Saxons it was called Tiw.

*Tīwaz is a cognate of Old Norse Týr, Gothic Teiws, and Old English Tīw. It goes back to reconstructed Proto Indo European *Déiwos “Day Sky god.” From the same root are derived Vedic Dyaúṣ, Greek. Ζεύς Zeus, Latin Iuppiter/Diēspiter, Hittite Sīus, Lithuanian Dievas; and Latvian Dievs, (See Didier Calin.)

In the poetic gathas a cognate from the same root, diva refers to “celestial, heavenly lights,” (See Yasna 31.20, 1st rhymed verse line.)

Týr is related to Polaris or the North Star in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. Ancient Norse seamen used Polaris as their main navigational aid in their long journeys. The symbol of Týr as an ARROW pointing upward is a reference to this.

The symbolic link with the astral theme of the “heavenly arrow” is strongly present in Avestan, Vedic and Norse accounts, particularly with respect to tištariia, the “triangle constellation of Canis Major.”

In Avetsa, Tištariia literally the “three-star” refers to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, known also as the “dog star.”

According to the Avestan hymn 8.6-7 and 37-38, Tištar-iia flies in the sky like the ARROW shot by the most valiant archer of the Aryans, the hero araḵš or ereḵšö.

Avestan ereḵšö Old Iranian araḵš, is cognate with Greek arktos, “BEAR,” and goes back to reconstructed Indo European *rtko. In the Avesta, araḵš, is the proto type of the VALIANT WARRIOR fighting for a just, noble cause. The tale of the champion archer araḵš is about sacred struggle, heroism and selfless sacrifice.

The Avestan hymn to tištariia teaches that when all hope has faded, the brightest star/light in the sky will carry the day, and celestial waters will pour down from heaven. The great feast of the three-star is celebrated during the MIDSUMMER in the Avestan calendar.

In Zoroastrianism, life is an epic battle, and man must choose the Gods, goodness and nobility throughout the ages of this world, not because of fear or in hope of favors, but for the sake of virtue and goodness alone.

The idea of selfless sacrifice comes also in association with Týr in rune poetry. Fenris or Fenrir is a monstrous wolf in Norse Mythology. The Gods through the “gift of foresight” foresaw great calamity from Fenris. Týr’s right hand was sacrificed to trick the wolf, Fenris, into being chained.

Thus, Týr is a one-handed god, einhendr áss. The word for god here áss, is the same as Vedic asú and Avestan ahü.

An Old Norse rune poem says:
Týr er einhendr áss//ok ulfs leifar//ok hofa hilmir.
Týr is the one-handed god// and leavings of the wolf //and prince of temples, (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)

Another Norwegian rune poem says:
Týr er æinendr ása//opt værðr smiðr blása
Tyr is a one-handed god// often has the smith to blow, (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)

In conclusion, I shall add that the most solidly reconstructed Indo European constellation is Ursa Major, which is designated as THE BEAR in Greek, Vedic and Avestan, (Compare Latin ursā “bear” with Avestan ereḵšö.)

Eric Hamp has suggested a second constellation, a Triangle inspired by Avestan Tištariia or the “three star” constellation involving Sirius, or Greek Seíros, “the dog star.” This second constellation embraces bright stars in Orion, Canis Major (Sirius,) and Canis Minor Procyon (Avestan paoûrvin “the Preceding Star, the Star in Front,” Persian Parvin.)

It is worthwhile to add that Tištariia, like the Norse Polaris, was the protector of, and the navigational guide of the travelers, (See the book shāyest na shāyest 22.3.)


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Rune Kenaz, sacredness of pine tree, and the image of lighting the torch in Zoroastrianism

Rune *kenaz/kaunan symbolizes the “light of knowledge.” The original meaning of *kenaz though is “PINE” or the TORCH of flammable pinewood.

*Kenaz, from the Old Norse kaun is a cognate of the Old English cēn. The Old Indo Iranian term for PINE is a cognate as well, where k is replaced with s. The Russian word for pine sosná comes from the same ancient root, (See Didier Calin.)

An Old English rune poem says: Cen byþ cwicera gehwam, cuþ on fyre blac ond beorhtlic, byrneþ oftust ðær hi æþelingas inne restaþ.

The torch is known to every living man / by its pale, bright flame; it always burns / where princes sit within (Courtesy of Didier Calin.)

The Zoroastrian sacred lore uses the imagery of the torch, and lighting one flame from another, to indicate the immortal spark of the amešá/amertá spentás, the Auspicious or Brilliant Immortals of Ahûrá Mazdá.

The nature of the Immortal Gods is likened to the fire of the TORCH that takes many wondrous forms. The TORCH speaks in words of the eternal flame, the same message of “brilliant energy, inspiring creativity, and intense passion.”

The eternal flame is a long-standing tradition in ancient Zoroastrianism. The eternal flame in the Mazda worshipping religion of the ahuras, must be kept alive only by the burning of the sacred wood. Avesta talks of the ûrvázištá fire or fire that is hidden in ûrvar or trees, (Compare with Latin arbor “tree.”)

Cypress and Pine trees (káj in Persian) play a major role in the ancient Zoroastrian religion. For the evergreen trees represent eternal life, and pinecones specifically represent the continuity and renewal of vital energy and sacred knowledge.

Interestingly, the pine tree was the sacred tree of Roman Mithraism. Romans themselves called Mithraism as the Parsi or Persian Religion, and only knew it by the latter name. Mithraism became the most widespread religion in ancient, pre-Christian Rome. During the Roman holiday of winter solstice (Dec. 17-25th), the pine trees were decorated with shining ornaments according to the Mithraic rites.

Pine trees were also one of the symbols of the Germanic mid-winter festival of Yule.

In conclusion, I shall add that in ancient Druid rituals, pine was burned to commemorate the changing of seasons and to bring back the vitality/energy of the sun. This tradition is kept alive to this day in the Scottish countryside.


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Rune Uruz and Zarathustra’s Name

Rune *uruz literally means “auroch,” and symbolizes “virility, determination, primal raw energies associated with life force, and adventurous spirit.” In short, uruz is the “subconscious will power, passion of the untamed nature.”

Once aurochs ranged throughout much of Eurasia. They were the wild ancestors of the domestic cattle of our day. Aurochs were untamed, fascinating, and most powerful.

Ancient Indo Europeans believed in kinship with, and a mystical relationship between themselves and “strong, graceful, noble animals.” The second element in *Zaraδûštra’s name, Avestan ûštra is in fact a cognate of uruz.

Uruz “Auroch,” Old Norse úrr, Gothic urs, Old English úr, Old High English ūro/ ūrochso, Germanic ur, all go back to reconstructed Indo European*usrus or *usr (See Didier Calin.)

The cognate of uruz in Indo Iranian is Proto*ušra, Avestan ûštra, Pashto ūš, and may mean anything from the wild bovine aurochs to buffalo and/or Bactrian camel.

Another theory suggests that Avestan ûštra in Zarathustra’s name is related to Old High English ustrī “industry” and ustinōn “to function, be industrious, useful.”

The Bactrian camel is native to the steppes of Central Asia, and is the largest mammal in its native range. It is exceptionally adept at withstanding wide variations in temperature, ranging from freezing cold to blistering heat.

Bactrian camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, Indo Europeans from the Tarim Basin in northwestern China were depicted with their Bactrian camels in numerous ceramic figurines from the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907).

In Diodorus 1.94.2 Zarathustra called Zathrāstēs, is the name of the “Aryan prophet, law-giver” (cf. Schmitt, 1996, p. 94; Gnoli, 2000, p. 100).

The first part of the name *Zaraδûštra or Zaraθûštra, is a cognate of Ossetian Zœrond, and means “grey/white haired, old, albino.”

The name of ZĀL, the legendary prince of Scythians, and father of folk hero Rostam in Šāh-nāma seem to be an exact match for the first part of the ancient seer/prophet’s name. Zāl literally means ALBINO.

Like poet/prophet Zarathustra, Zāl is an extraordinary wise and mystical personality. The legendary, albino prince of Scythians appears as an avid scholar and learner who surpass others in astronomy, religion, art of war, horsemanship, archery, and other military skills.

Zāl is a revered advisor under kávi kings (warrior priest kings,) and is regarded as the last bastion of hope. In Avesta, Zaraδûštra is the wise advisor to kávi Vištaspa.

In the Avestan lore Zaraδûštra is the ultimate ratü “one who has the knowledge of riddles. Zāl in Šāh-nāma is also known for his skillful explanation of riddles (Zaehner, pp. 242-44, 444-46.)


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Rune Thurisaz, Frost Giants, and the severe cosmic winter in Zoroastrianism

In the runic alphabet of the ancient Germanic tribes of Northern Europe there is a rune called *þurisaz/thurisaz “frost giant.”

Thurisaz is a protective rune that is depicted as the hammer of THOR. The rune symbolizes “striking powerful blows, delivering heavy defeat” against the “frost giants/anti-Gods, monsters, and demons of chaos and freezing cold.”

All mythologies have their anti-Gods. In the Zoroastrian and Germanic lore, Anti Gods/devils are frost monsters representing “bleakness, freezing cold, and lack of energy/intensity of passion.”

While in most religious traditions Hell is a “fiery abyss,” in the Zoroastrian faith, hell is a “frozen, nauseating wasteland, devoid of life-force/energy.”

Thurisaz “frost giants” of the Germanic lore come from the Old Norse þurs Old English þyrs: Gothic Þaúrnus Old High German durs, Old English þorn “thorn” (See Didier Calin.)

Thurisaz *þurisaz thus means something like “thorny, injurious, sore.” The ancient Indo Iranian term for “spikey/green leaves, grass, thorny bushes,” like Khotian Punjabi tarra is a cognate. Likewise, Finnish tarna “sedge, grass” is a borrowing from the early Indo Iranian.

On the symbolism of THORNS, we read in the Zoroastrian sacred texts that: “On nature of plants it says in daæná (Luminous spiritual vision,) that before the coming of the evil spirit, vegetation had no thorn about it; and, afterwards, when the lord of all flaws enetered, it became covered with thorns.”

The term used for “thorn” in the Zoroastrian text is Xár literally “sore,” referring to “ache, injury and poisonous conditions.”

Concerning FREEZING COLD/WINTER, we read in the first chapter of the Avestan book of “laws/formulas against diabolic forces/demons” vî-dæv-dátá:

“The first of the good lands and countries that I, Ahûrá Mazdá created, was the Airyana Vaæja “Cradle of the Airyá, the Noble Ones” by the Vaηûhi Daitya “the good, bountiful” river.

Thereupon came angra mainyu “evil, decayed spirit/mind” who is “pôuruu-mahrkö” full of death,” and he counter-created the serpent in the river and zyãm “WINTER,” a formation of the demon-gods daævö-dátem.

Ten are the winter months in Airyana Vaæja, two the summer months, and in winter there the waters are freezing, the earth is freezing, and the plants are freezing.”

Airyana Vaæja “cradle of the Noble Ones,” is the holy land of Zoroastrianism. It is the birthplace of the ancient poet/prophet Zarathustra, and the original homeland of proto Indo Europeans.

In the ancient Avestan texts the theme of the “final battle and splendid renewal of the worlds” is an integral component, a subject that is distinctively and uniquely shared with the ancient Norse Scandinavia.

The motif of the severe cosmic winter, as immediate prelude to the “titanic final battle” in Zoroastrianism, and Yima’s underground var, the underground shelter in Airyana Vaæja where the pristine seeds of all the living will be safeguarded, also can closely be compared with the Norse fimbulvetr/fimbulwinter.


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