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.  

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
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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.

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