21 junio, 2017

Maidyoshahem Gahanbar, summer solstice in Zoroastrianism

Summer solstice —June 21st— is in many religions associated with a celebration or a commemoration of nature and Zoroastrianism makes no exception. Maiδyōi.šam, literally “midsummer”, is the name given to this day included inside the six Gāhānbār of the Zoroastrian religion.


Zoroastrian fire temple interior, original image here

Gāhānbār, Middle Persian word, were the festivals celebrated at the end of the six seasons inside the Zoroastrian calendar. In the Avestan sources they appear mentioned, both seasons and festivals, as yāirya ratavō, literally meaning “yearly time”. Later on, with the Middle Persian transformation, their meaning changed into “appointed time” or “proper time” [1]. According to Mary Boyce, those festivals show an ancient tradition that probably comes from earlier times, before Zoroastrian arose, and thus they will be linked to animistic and Indo-Iranian cults practiced by that epoch[2]. Each of the six Gāhānbār commemorated the creation of one of the six sacred elements by Ahura Mazda, being in order the sky, the waters, the earth, the plants, the animals and humanity. Finally a special day is added, Nowrūz, which celebrated creation of fire, the seventh and most powerful of all elements.
Maiδyōi.šam Gāhānbār was the second on the list of the six events and was marked by a natural phenomenon as the summer solstice, thus being linked to the power of the sun to control passing of time and its division in daily tasks. In this day creation of the waters was celebrated as they were of high importance in Zoroastrianism for being a life-giving element —read more about Anāhitā, Zoroastrian divinity of Waters, by clicking here.


Shir Abad waterfall in Iran. Original image here

Maiδyōi.šam Gāhānbār was considered a festival obligatory of observation and all works but the strictly necessary ones were forbidden. Preparations were made in advance by sweeping and carefully cleaning the house and by making sure everybody will wear their best clothing for the occasion. Traditionally people attended the first part of the religious services to recite prayers, as they will be solemnized by the priests. If unable to do this, they at least shared the food blessed then. In those sacred days people tried to be as kind and cheerful as possible as joyfulness was considered a great virtue in Zoroastrianism. Therefore, sharing food and drink in big reunions, talking, singing songs and storytelling were very important actions in every Zoroastrian festival. Those banquets could be organised inside an only family or, in the case of the Gāhānbār, including the whole community where everybody contributed[3].


Persepolis at sunrise. Original image here


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Boyce, Mary: «Festivals i. Zoroastrianism», Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1999, pp. 543-546. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/festivals-i
Boyce, Mary: «Gāhānbār», Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2000, pp.254-256. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gahanbar



[1] BOYCE, Mary, op. cit., 2000, p. 254.
[2] Ibídem.
[3] BOYCE, Mary, op. cit., 1999, 544.

Maidyoshahem Gahanbar, el solsticio de verano en el Zoroastrismo

El solsticio de verano 21 de junio está asociado en multitud de religiones con una celebración o una conmemoración de la naturaleza, y el zoroastrismo no es una excepción. Maiδyōi.šam, literalmente “la mitad del verano”, es el nombre con el que se conoce a este día, que se incluye dentro de los seis Gāhānbār de la religion zoroástrica.

Interior de un templo de fuego zoroástrico, imagen original aquí


Los Gāhānbār, palabra en persa medio, son los festivales que se celebraban al término de las seis estaciones existentes dentro del calendario zoroástrico. En las fuentes en avéstico aparecen, tanto las estaciones como los festivales, mencionados como yāirya ratavō , que literalmente quiere decir “el tiempo del año”. Más adelante, con la traducción al persa medio, el significado cambió a “el tiempo apropiado” o “el tiempo exacto”[1]. Según Mary Boyce, estos festivales muestran una tradición que viene de tiempos muy antiguos, probablemente relacionada con los cultos animistas e indo-iranios que se practicaban antes de la aparición del zoroastrismo[2]. Cada uno de los Gāhānbār conmemoraba la creación de uno de los seis elementos sagrados por Ahura Mazda, y que en orden son el cielo, el agua, la tierra, las plantas, los animales y el ser humano. Finalmente se añade un día especial, Nowrūz —sobre el que podéis leer aquí y aquí—, en el que se celebraba la creación del fuego, el séptimo elemento y el más poderoso de todos.
Maiδyōi.šam Gāhānbār era el segundo en esta lista de seis acontecimientos, y estaba marcado por un fenómeno natural como es el solsticio de verano, vinculándolo con el poder del sol para controlar el paso del tiempo y su división de las tareas diarias. En este día se conmemoraba la creación de las aguas, tan importantes en el zoroastrismo como elemento dador de vida —podéis leer sobre Anāhitā, la divinidad zoroástrica de las aguas, haciendo click aquí.

Cascada de Shir Abad en Irán. Imagen original aquí


Maiδyōi.šam Gāhānbār se consideraba un festival obligatorio de celebrar, y en este día todos los trabajos estaban prohibidos, excepto aquellos que fuesen estrictamente necesarios. Las preparaciones se hacían con mucha antelación, limpiando las casas cuidadosamente y asegurándose de que todo el mundo vestiría sus mejores ropajes para la ocasión. Tradicionalmente se atendía al menos a parte de los servicios religiosos para recitar plegarias particulares mientras estas eran solemnizadas por los sacerdotes. Si resultaba imposible acudir, se compartían los alimentos que habían sido bendecidos durante la plegaria. En estos días sagrados se procuraba ser tan amable y alegre como fuese posible, ya que el zoroastrismo consideraba la alegría como una gran virtud. De este modo, compartir comida y bebida en grandes reuniones, hablar, cantar canciones y contar historias son acciones muy importantes en los festivales zoroástricos. Estos banquetes bien podían organizarse dentro de una sola familia o, en el caso de los Gāhānbār, incluyendo a una comunidad entera, donde todos participaban[3].

Persépolis al amanecer. Imagen original aquí



BIBLIOGRAFIA
Boyce, Mary: «Festivals i. Zoroastrianism», Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1999, pp. 543-546. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/festivals-i
Boyce, Mary: «Gāhānbār», Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2000, pp.254-256. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gahanbar



[1] BOYCE, Mary, op. cit., 2000, p. 254.
[2] Ibídem.
[3] BOYCE, Mary, op. cit., 1999, 544.

14 junio, 2017

Ameša Spenta: Aša Vahištā, the Best Righteousness

Aša Vahištā, the Best Righteousness, is probable the most ancient and popular of the Ameša Spenta, whom you could learn more clicking here.


Asha Vahista, by Hannah M. G. Shapero

His antiquity is established precisely for containing in his name the word aša in Avestan, arta in Old Persian and ta in Sanskrit. This word hold the concept of moral «righteousness», «virtue» or «purity» highly valued in both Zoroastrian and Indian Vedic cults. Inside the Gathas, the most ancient texts from this religion and theoretically composed by Zarathustra himself[1], Aša is mentioned more than any other Ameša Spenta although only in one occasion the adjective Vahištā, the superlative «best», is added. Later on it became a fixed element on his name[2]. According to the Gathas, Ahura Mazda is at the same time father and creator of Aša and they are often mentioned together (Y. 44.3, 47.2). The idea of Ahura Mazda being father and creator of the Immortals is common for all of them, since the heptad they create corresponds to the moral values and virtues desirable to humankind and, eventually with the triumph of Good, will be established at the end of time as definitive.
As hypostasis of «what should be» in the physical sphere of the world (order, justice, righteousness, virtue), Aša Vahištā is present from the beginning of creation and appears practically inside the totality of its creatures that the texts call spəntōdāta-, also described as aša creatures, ašahyā gaēθā (Y. 31.1; cf. 43.6). It was because of him that the course of the Luminaries, the moon and the sun, could be established and the plants could grow.
Inside the Zoroastrian calendar, the second month of the year (from 21st of April to 21st of May) corresponds to Aša Vahištā, today preserved with the name Ordibehešt, the evolved pronunciation of Ardawahišt, the name of the Immortal in Middle Persian. The second day of the week was also dedicated to him. According to the Bundahishn, the Immortal was assisted on this day by three yazatas: Atar, representing the Fire; Srosh, as guardian of the prayer, and Verethraqna, representing Victory[3], whom you could learn more clicking here.


Fire Temple in Baku, Unesco International Heritage

Inside the Zoroastrian rituals, Aša Vahištā was invoked alongside with Atar or Atash, the yazata symbolising fire. Both are guardians of this element that epitomises prominently the Mazdean religion and that lead to its followers to be called «fire worshipers». In the physical and material world, the one humankind is able to perceive, flames are the immutable form of Aša Vahištā, the ones maintaining him immanent. Although this is not exclusive of this Ameša Spenta, since fire is considered as giver of life and thus it is found inside every creature.
Apart from manifesting through fire, Aša Vahištā is also linked with disease healing and medicine, since as hypostasis of aša can defeat its opposite, the druj, representing the contrary (lie, darkness, disorder, corruption). So it is connected with yazata Airyaman, protector of friendship and medicine. According to the Pahlavi version of the Zand, a lost Avestan text compiled in 9th century along with other Pahlavi works, when the Day of Renovation arrives at the end of time, Aša Vahištā and Airyaman will descend upon the earth to purge it from noxious spirits and, consequently, fire will purify everything[4].

Fire priest of Urabask, from Damascus5 in DeviantArt.
Original image here.  





BIBLIOGRAFÍA
BOYCE, Mary: A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. I. Leiden, Brill, 1975.
Boyce, Mary: «Ardwahišt»Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 389-390. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ardwahist-av
Boyce, Mary: «Aməša Spənta»Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1989, p. 933-936. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amesa-spenta-beneficent-divinity
Darmesteter, James: The Zend-Avesta. Part II: The Sirozahs, Yasts and Nyayis. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ed. 2007.
DHALLA, Maneckji Nusserwanji: History of Zoroastrianism. London, Oxford University Press, 1983. Available online: http://www.avesta.org/dhalla/dhalla1.htm#contents
Gershevitch, Ilya: «Zoroaster's Own Contribution», Journal of Near Eastern Studies 23, no. 1, January 1964, pp. 12-38.
GNOLI, Gherardo: «Ašavan»Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987, p. 705-706. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/asavan-avestan
GRAY, Louis H.: «The Origin of the Names of the Avesta Months», Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 20, 1904, pp. 194-201. 
GRAY, Louis H.: «A List of the Divine and Demonic Epithets in the Avesta», Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 46, 1946, pp. 97-153. 
helmut, Humbach: «Gathas I»Encyclopædia Iranica, New York, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2000, p. 321-327. Available online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gathas-i-texts
Lommel, Herman: Die Religion Zarathushtras, Tübingen, 1930.
Lommel, Herman: «Symbolik der Elemente in der zoroastrischen Religion», in Zarathustra, ed. B. Schlerath, Darmstadt, 1976, pp. 266-69.
 West, E. W. (trad.): Pahlavi texts. Part I, The Bundahis, Bahman Yast, and Shayast La-Shayast. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ed. 1993.
West, E. W. (trad.): Pahlavi Texts. Part V, Marvels of Zoroastrism. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ed. 2004.
West, E. W. (trad.): Pahlavi Texts. Part III, Dina-i Mainog-i Khirad, Sikand-Gümanik Vigar, Sad Dar. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ed. 2005.







[1] Humbach, Helmut, 2000, op. cit., p. 322.
[2] BOYCE, Mary, 1986, op. cit., p. 389.
[3] Ibídem, p. 390.
[4] BOYCE, Mary, 1986, op. cit., p. 390.