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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Contents

Sace / Ses

Description & Purpose

Use

Construction

Symbolism - Amesha Spentas

Components & Accessories

Items

Patasa Recipe

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Description & Purpose

sace - used in Zoroastrian ceremonies
A sace (or sas)

A sace or ses is a tray that holds various ceremonial utensils and items that will be used during a Zoroastrian ceremony or that have symbolic importance. The utensils and items placed on the sace will depend on the occasion.


Priestly ceremonial utensils
Priestly ceremonial utensils

The utensils employed by the laity and by priests are different. The sace and the items used by the laity are usually smaller and more delicate while the ceremonial implements employed by priests are more sturdy and functional. We will describe the sace used by the laity in this page.


Use

It is our impression that the ceremonial sace shown in the banner image above is mainly used by Zoroastrians with origins in India rather than Zoroastrians with origins in Iran.

The Zoroastrians of Iran may however, employ a simple version of the sace similar to the priestly ceremonial tray shown above left. The tray may contain some of the following: an afarganyu or afargani - a portable an urn or censer for a wood fire, perhaps some wood and incense for the fire, a rose-water holder, mirror, a cone of sugar, a pomegranate and any other items the user may wish to add. Iranian Zoroastrians often place all the articles and items used in a ceremony on a sheet spread (sofreh) on the floor or on a table.

For the Zoroastrians from India, the sace is an integral part of the navjote (initiation), jashan (thanksgiving) and marriage ceremonies as well as the achu michu ritual that is often a part of these ceremonies. It is also used for a variant of the jashan ceremony when welcoming a special guest to one's home or if a newborn enters a family member's house for the first time. The sace is also used during festivals such as Nowruz, when it is placed on the Nowruz table.

When not being used ceremonially, a sace is sometimes used to form a home altar.


Construction

A sace consists of a circular rimmed metallic tray and matching accessories made from stainless steel, EPNS (German silver) or silver.

The accessories are placed on the tray. The sace and its accessories can be plain in design or can be exquisitely crafted often forming part of a family heirloom.


Symbolism - Amesha Spentas

As far as possible, it is desirable to represent all seven elements of creation which in turn represent Spenta Mainyu and the six Amesha Spentas (archangels who are the guardians of creation).

The seven elements are represented as follows:
• The practitioner represents Spenta Mainyu;
• Milk, yoghurt or items made with dairy products represents animal life and the Amesha Spenta Vohu Mano;
• Fire represents the eternal flame, the spiritual fire, and the Amesha Spenta Asha;
• The metal in the utensils represents the sky and the Amesha Spenta Khshathra;
• The home or venue represents the earth and the Amesha Spenta Armaiti;
• Water represents water, the environment and the Amesha Spenta Haurvatat, and
• Flowers and fruit represent vegetation and the Amesha Spenta Amertat.
Also see Symbolism in our page on Jashan / Jashne.


Components & Accessories

A sace and its components
A sace and its components

The components and accessories can include:


  • Sace - the high rimmed circular metal tray large enough to hold the accessories and ritual items.
  • Afarganyu or afargani - an urn or censer for a wood fire that is part of the ensemble and which is often placed outside the tray for reasons of space. Some practitioners start the fire with charcoal which form a bed of glowing coals on which are placed slivers and short pieces of wood.
  • Devo or oil lamp.
  • Gulabaz (also called and spelt golabus), a container with a long neck for rose water. It is important that the material from which the gulabaz is made does not react and change its colour or the colour of the rose water.
  • Pigani a metal container containing vermillion, or kunkun powder, that is made into a paste with the addition of water. The paste is placed on the forehead as a tila mark.
  • Soparo (or paro or sopara), a cone symbolising a mountain of sweetness, made to hold rock-sugar (khadi sakar) or flat sugar rounds called patasa (see sace item and recipe below), or for that matter, any item that consists predominantly of sugar. However, nowadays, the soparo is often left empty and its presence on the sace is symbolic.

    In a post on the internet, Shirin J. Mistry (Shirinmai) remarked, "...we dip sugar lumps... into curds and then place into the mouth of the ones being welcomed in (a home or to a ceremony). If a baby visiting your home for the first time, then the Mum gets to eat the goodies."
Green Covered Ghand
Green covered ghand /
rock sugar
  • The soparo may be a development of the Iranian Kalleh Ghand, a cone of solid rock sugar wrapped in foil. Rather than being a ritual item on a tray, the Ghand is sometimes given to a person or persons who are the object of a ceremony. The colour of the foil is either green, or green and gold. A farohar motif is sometimes added.
  • Selected items from the sace list below. The items on the sace will vary from home to home and on the occasion.
  • [In a home altar, an afarganyu or fire chalice can be placed beside the sace, sitting on its own tray.]

If the sace is used for the achu michu ritual, the accessories are usually containers for the items that will be used in the ritual. Once again, the items vary widely depending on the preferences of the person performing the ritual, the availability of the items, the size of the tray and the weight of the ensemble - since the tray is carried, often by an assistant. If no assistant is available, the tray and its contents are placed on a table beside the person performing the ritual.


Kutli
Kutli

Items

Depending on the occasion and the symbolism desired, the items on the tray and their containers (usually metal, sometimes glass) can include:

  • Wood: any bone dry wood that burns well without excessive smoke. Sandalwood, called sukhar, was the traditional wood used by Indian Zoroastrians. In Central Asia, Juniper and Plane (Chenar) wood are options. Also see our page on Fire.
  • Loban or frankincense. On occasion, loban is sprinkled on the burning wood in order to impart a fragrance with when combined with burning sandalwood can produce a particularly aromatic and soothing. The aroma and smoke are also reputed to have disinfectant properties. Indian Zoroastrians have a tradition called 'loban feravu', meaning 'taking around the loban'. Here, the practitioner walks around the house holding a portable afarganyu with a small wood fire to which loban has been added. The orthodox will perform this ritual once or twice a day.
  • Water contained in a a kutli, a metallic mug that narrows and then flares on the top to a circular rim that has no spout (symbolizing purity, sanctity and perfection).
  • An egg (symbolizing life-giving force).
  • A coconut (symbolizing inner and outer worlds).
  • Raw, dry rice grains in a small metal container (symbolizing abundance).
  • Dried dates called kharak in a container (symbolizing resilience).
  • Large (bite size) sugar crystals called sakar (khadi sakar) in a glass or container or assorted candy (symbolizing sweetness). Items made from sugar are usually used on happy occasions.
Patasa (Batasha)
Patasa (Batasha)
  • Other forms of sugar: candy or the traditional patasa (also spelt batasa or batasha) - sugar rounds. (see recipe below.)

    (Patasa are not to be confused with a biscuit/cookie popular with Indian Parsi and Irani Zoroastrians. Indian Zoroastrian distinguish between the two by calling the sugar round a patasa and the biscuit a batasa. Click for a batasa biscuit recipe.)
  • Rose petals (spread on the tray and symbolizing happiness).
  • Unshelled almonds (symbolizing virtue and honesty).
  • Vermilion (symbolizing the receptacle of holiness).
  • Pomegranate (symbolizing immortality).
  • Pistachio nuts (symbolizing firmness).
  • Silver and gold coins (symbolizing wealth).
  • Garland of flowers, a toran, of white and red flowers, with marigolds and mango leaves interspaced (symbolizing joy).
Paan leaves and split supari (inset-right)
Paan leaves and split supari (inset-right)
  • Betel nut or supari. (symbolizing strength) [The betel nut is the fruit of a tall and slender palm, Areca catechu Linnaeus, native to southeast Asia. The betel nut is a stimulant like coffee, and the stimulant compound the nut contains is arecoline, an alkaloid. Powdered betel nut administered in a syrup is a recognized treatment to rid the intestines of tape worms. Regular chewing of the betel nut is a known cause of oral cancer. The use of the betel nut and leaf in Zoroastrian rituals are entirely borrowed from Indian customs and are not part of Iranian or Central Asian traditions.]
  • Paan leaves. (symbolizing suppleness) [While the leaf is also called a betel leaf, it comes a different species of plant from the betel nut. The betel leaf plant is not a palm or a member of the areca family. Rather, it is a member of the piper (pepper) family.]
  • Any green leaves (symbolizing nourishment).

Patasa Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond flavouring (optional)
2 cups flour

Method:
Preheat an oven to 3500F. Stir the ingredients together and drop from spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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