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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee


James Darmesteter


(March 28, 1849 – October 10, 1894)
French author who in 1877 became teacher of Persian language at the École des Hautes Études.

Chapter 1, Discovery of the Zend Avesta

Chapter 2 The Interpretation of the Zend-Avesta

Chapter 3 The Formation of the Zend-Avesta

Chapter 4 The Origin of the Avesta Religion

Chapter 5 The Vendīdād

The Zend Avesta
Part I Sacred Books of the East, Volume 4, 1880
James Darmesteter


The Origin of the Avesta Religion

[Includes notes below e.g.1]

§ 1. What was the religion of the Magi which we find reflected in the Avesta? and whence did it arise?

Magism, in its general form, may be summed up as follows:--

The world, such as it is now, is twofold, being the work of two hostile beings, Ahura Mazda, the good principle, and Angra Mainyu, the evil principle; all that is good in the world comes from the former, all that is bad in it comes from the latter. The history of the world is the history of their conflict, how Angra Mainyu invaded the world of Ahura Mazda and marred it, and how he shall be expelled from it at last. Man is active in the conflict, his duty in it being laid before him in the law revealed by Ahura Mazda to Zarathushtra. When the appointed time is come, a son of the lawgiver, still unborn, named Saoshyant, will appear, Angra Mainyu and hell will be destroyed, men will rise from the dead, and everlasting happiness will reign over the world.

We have tried in another book  1 to show that the religion of the Magi is derived from the same source as that of the Indian Rishis, that is, from the religion followed by the common forefathers of the Iranians and Indians, the Indo-Iranian religion. The Mazdean belief is, therefore, composed of two different strata; the one comprises all the gods, myths, and ideas which were already in existence during the Indo-Iranian period, whatever changes they may have undergone during the actual Iranian period; the other comprises the gods, myths, and ideas which were only developed after the separation of the two religions.

§ 2. There were two general ideas at the bottom of the Indo-Iranian religion; first, that there is a law in nature, and, secondly, that there is a war in nature.

There is a law in nature, because everything goes on in a serene and mighty order. Days after days, seasons after seasons, years after years come and come again; there is a marvellous friendship between the sun and the moon, the dawn has never missed its appointed time and place, and the stars that shine in the night know where to go when the day is breaking. There is a God who fixed that never-failing law, and on whom it rests for ever  2.

There is a war in nature, because it contains powers that work for good and powers that work for evil: there are such beings as benefit man, and such beings as injure him: there are gods and fiends. They struggle on, never and nowhere more apparent than in the storm, in which, under our very eyes, the fiend that carries off the light and streams of heaven fights with the god that gives them back to man and the thirsty earth.

There were, therefore, in the Indo-Iranian religion a latent monotheism and an unconscious dualism  3; both of which, in the further development of Indian thought, slowly disappeared; but Mazdeism lost neither of these two notions, nor did it add a new one, and its original action was to cling strongly and equally to both ideas and push them to an extreme.

§ 3. The God that has established the laws in nature is the Heaven God. He is the greatest of gods, since there is nothing above him nor outside of him; he has made every thing, since everything is produced or takes place in him; he is the wisest of all gods, since with his eyes, the sun, moon, and stars, he sees everything  4.

This god was named either after his bodily nature Varana, 'the all-embracing sky  5,' or after his spiritual attributes Asura, 'the Lord,' Asura visvavedas, 'the all-knowing Lord,' Asura Mazdhâ, 'the Lord of high knowledge  6.'

§ 4. The supreme Asura of the Indo-Iranian religion, the Heaven god, is called in the Avesta Ahura Mazda, 'the all-knowing Lord  7;' his concrete name Varana, which became his usual name in India (Varuna), was lost in Iran, and remained only as the name of the material heaven, and then of a mythical region, the Varena, which was the seat of the mythical fight between a storm god and a storm fiend  8.

§ 5. The spiritual attributes of the Heaven god were daily more and more strongly defined, and his material attributes were thrown farther into the background. Yet many features, though ever dimmer and dimmer, betray his former bodily or, rather, his sky nature. He is white, bright, seen afar, and his body is the greatest and fairest of all bodies; he has the sun for his eye, the rivers above for his spouses, the fire of lightning for his son; he wears the heaven as a star-spangled garment, he puts on the hard stone of heaven, he is the hardest of all gods  9. He dwells in the infinite luminous space, and the infinite luminous space is his place, his body  10. In the time of Herodotus, Persians, while invoking Aurâmazda, the creator of earth and heaven, still knew who he was, and called the whole vault of the sky Zeus, that is to say, called it the supreme god  11.

§ 6. In the Indo-Iranian religion, the supreme Asura, although he was the supreme god, was not the only god. There were near him and within him many mighty beings, the sun, wind, lightning, thunder, rain, prayer, sacrifice, which as soon as they struck the eye or the fancy of man, were at once turned into gods. If the Heaven Asura, greater in time and space, eternal and universal, everlasting and ever present, was without effort raised to the supreme rank by his twofold infinitude, there were other gods, of shorter but mightier life, who maintained against him their right to independence. The progress of religious thought might as well have gone on to transfer power from him to any of these gods, as to make his authority unrivalled. The former was the case in India: in the middle of the Vedic period. Indra, the dazzling god of storm, rose to supremacy in the Indian Pantheon, and outshines Varuna with the roar and splendour of his feats; but soon to give way to a new and mystic king, Prayer or Brahman  12.

Not so did Mazdeism, which struggled on towards unity. The Lord slowly brought everything under his unquestioned supremacy, and the other gods became not only his subjects, but his creatures. This movement was completed as early as the fourth century B.C. Nowhere can it be more clearly traced than in the Amesha Spentas and Mithra.

§ 7. The Indo-Iranian Asura was often conceived as sevenfold: by the play of certain mythical formulae and the strength of certain mythical numbers, the ancestors of the Indo-Iranians had been led to speak of seven worlds, and the supreme god was often made sevenfold, as well as the worlds over which he ruled  13. The names and the several attributes of the seven gods had not been as yet defined, nor could they be then; after the separation of the two religions, these gods, named Âditya, 'the infinite ones,' in India, were by and by identified there with the sun, and their number was afterwards raised to twelve, to correspond to the twelve successive aspects of the sun. In Persia, the seven gods are known as Amesha Spentas, 'the undying and well-doing ones;' they by and by, according to the new spirit that breathed in the religion, received the names of the deified abstractions  14, Vohu-manô (good thought), Asha Vahista (excellent holiness), Khshathra vairya (perfect sovereignty), Spenta Ârmaiti (divine piety), Haurvatât and Ameretât (health and immortality). The first of them all was and remained Ahura Mazda; but whereas formerly he had been only the first of them, he was now their father. 'I invoke the glory of the Amesha Spentas, who all seven have one and the same thinking, one and the same speaking, one and the same doing, one and the same father and lord, Ahura Mazda  15.'

§ 8. In the Indo-Iranian religion, the Asura of Heaven was often invoked in company with Mitra  16, the god of the heavenly light, and he let him share with himself the universal sovereignty. In the Veda, they are invoked as a pair (Mitrâ-Varunâ), which enjoys the same power and rights as Varuna alone, as there is nothing more in Mitrâ-Varunâ than in Varuna alone, Mitra being the light of Heaven, that is, the light of Varuna. But Ahura Mazda could no longer bear an equal, and Mithra became one of his creatures: 'This Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, I have created as worthy of sacrifice, as worthy of glorification, as I, Ahura Mazda, am myself  17.' But old formulae, no longer understood, in which Mithra and Ahura, or, rather, Mithra-Ahura, are invoked in an indivisible unity, dimly remind one that the Creator was formerly a brother to his creature.

§ 9. Thus came a time when Ahura was not only the maker of the world, the creator of the earth, water, trees, mountains, roads,. wind, sleep, and light, was not only he who gives to man life, shape, and food, but was also the father of Tistrya, the rain-bestowing god, of Verethraghna, the fiend-smiting god, and of Haoma, the tree of eternal life, the father of the six Amesha Spentas, the father of all gods  18.

Yet, with all his might, he still needs the help of some god, of such as free the oppressed heavens from the grasp of the fiend. When storm rages in the atmosphere he offers up a sacrifice to Vayu, the bright storm god, who moves in the wind, he entreats him: 'Grant me the favour, thou Vayu whose action is most high  19, that I may smite the world of Angra Mainyu, and that he may not smite mine! Vayu, whose action is most high, granted the asked-for favour to the creator Ahura Mazda  20.' And when Zoroaster is born, Ahura entreats Ardvî Sûra Anâhita that the new-born hero may stand by him in the fight  21 (see § 40).

§ 10. Whereas in India the fiends were daily driven farther and farther into the background, and by the prevalence of the metaphysical spirit gods and fiends came to be nothing more than changing and fleeting creatures of the everlasting, indifferent Being, Persia took her demons in real earnest; she feared them, she hated them, and the vague and unconscious dualism that lay at the bottom of the Indo-Iranian religion has. its unsteady outlines sharply defined, and became the very form and frame of Mazdeism. The conflict was no more seen and heard in the passing storm only, but it raged through all the avenues of space and time. The Evil became a power of itself, engaged in an open and never-ceasing warfare with the Good. The Good was centred in the supreme god, in Ahura Mazda, the bright god of Heaven, the all-knowing Lord, the Maker, Who, as the author of every good thing, was 'the good Spirit,' Spenta Mainyu. In front of him and opposed to him slowly rose the evil Spirit, Angra Mainyu.

We will briefly explain what became, in Mazdeism, of the several elements of the Indo-Iranian dualism, and then we Will show how the -whole system took a regular form.

§ 11. The war in nature was waged in the storm. The Vedas describe it as a battle fought by a god, Indra, armed with the lightning and thunder, against a serpent, Ahi, who has carried off the dawns or the rivers, described as goddesses or as milch cows, and who keeps them captive in the folds of the cloud.

This myth appears in a still simpler form in the Avesta: it is a fight for the possession of the light of hvarenô between Âtar and Azi Dahâka  22.

Âtar means 'fire;' he is both a thing and a person. He is sometimes described as the weapon of Ahura  23, but usually as his son  24, as the fire that springs from heaven can be conceived either as flung by it, or as born of it  25.

Azi Dahâka, 'the fiendish snake,' is a three-headed dragon, who strives to seize and put out the hvarenô: he takes hold of it, but Âtar frightens him away and recovers the light.

The scene of the fight is the sea Vouru-kasha, a sea from which all the waters on the earth fall down with the winds and the clouds; in other words, they fight in the sea above  26, in the atmospheric field of battle  27.

§ 12. The same myth in the Vedas was described as a feat of Traitana or Trita Âptya, 'Trita, the son of waters,' who killed the three-headed, six-eyed fiend, and let loose the cows  28. 'The son of waters  29' is both in the Vedas and in the Avesta a name of the fire-god, as born from the cloud, in the lightning. The same tale is told in the same terms in the Avesta: Thraêtaona Âthwya killed Azi Dahâka (the fiendish snake), the three-mouthed, three-headed, six-eyed, . . . the most dreadful Drug created by Angra Mainyu  30. The scene of the battle is 'the four-cornered Varena  31,' which afterwards became a country on the earth, when Thraêtaona himself and Azi became earthly kings, but which was formerly nothing less than 'the four-pointed Varun32,' that is, 'the four-sided Οὐρανός,' the Heavens.

§ 13. The fight for the waters was described in a myth of later growth, a sort of refacimento, the myth of Tistrya and Apaosha. Apaosha  33 keeps away the rain: Tistrya  34, worsted at first, then strengthened by a sacrifice which has been offered to him by Mazda, knocks, clown Apaosha  35 with his club, the fire Vâzista  36, and the waters stream freely down the seven Karshvare, led by the winds, by the son of the waters, and by the light that dwells in the waters  37.

§ 14. The god that conquers light is chiefly praised in the Vedas under the name of Indra Vritrahan, 'Indra the fiend-smiter.' His Iranian brother is named Verethraghna, which became by and by the genius of Victory (Bahrâm). Yet although he assumed a more abstract character than Indra, he retained the mythical features of the storm god  38, and his original nature was so little forgotten that he was worshipped on earth as a fire, the Bahrâm fire, which was believed to be an emanation from the fire above  39, and the most powerful protector of the land against foes and fiends.

§ 15. In the Indo-Iranian mythology, Vâyu was the word for both the atmosphere and the bright god who fights and conquers in it.

As a god, Vâyu became in Mazdeism Vayu, 'a god conqueror of light, a smiter of the fiends, all made of light, who moves in a golden car, with sonorous rings  40.' Ahura Mazda invokes him for help against Angra Mainyu  41.

§ 16. Another name of Vayu is Râma hvâstra: this word meant originally 'the god of the resting-place with good pastures,' the clouds in the atmosphere being often viewed as a herd of cows  42, and the Indian Vâyu as a good shepherd  43. Hence came the connection of Râma hvâstra with Mithra, 'the lord of the wide pastures  44.' In later times, chiefly owing to a mistake in language (hvâstra being thought to be related to the root hvarez, 'to taste'), Râma hvâstra became the god who gives a good flavour to aliments  45.

§ 17. Considered as a thing, as the atmosphere, Vayu is the place where the god and the fiend meet: there is therefore a part of it which belongs to the good and another part which belongs to the evil  46. Hence came the later notion that between Ormazd and Ahriman there is a void space, Vâi, in which their meeting takes place  47. Hence came also the distinction of two Vai  48, the good One and the bad one, which, probably by the natural connection of Vayu, the atmosphere, with the heavens  49 whose movement is Destiny  50, became at last the good Fate and the bad Fate, or Destiny bringing good and evil, life and death  51.

§ 18. Azi is not always vanquished; he may also conquer; and it is just because the serpent has seized upon the sky and darkened the light, that the battle breaks out. Azi has carried off the sovereign light, the hvarenô, from Yima Khshaêta, 'the shining Yima  52.'

In the course of time Thraêtaona, Yima, and Azi Dahâka became historical: it was told how King Jemshîd (Yima Khshâeta) had been overthrown and killed by the usurper Zohâk (Dahâka), a man with two snakes’ heads upon his shoulders, and how Zohâk himself had been overthrown by a prince of the royal blood, Ferîdûn (Thraêtaona). Yet Zohâk, though vanquished, could not be killed; he was bound to Mount Damâvand, there to lie in bonds till the end of the world, when he shall be let loose, and then killed by Keresâspa  53. The fiend is as long-lifed as the world, since as often as he is vanquished he appears again, as dark and fearful as ever  54.

§ 19. While the serpent passed thus from mythology into legend, he still continued under another name, or, more correctly, under another form of his name, âzi, a word which the Parsis converted into a pallid and lifeless, abstraction by identifying it with a similar word from the same root, meaning 'want.' But that he was the very same being as Azi, the snake, appears from his adversaries: like Azi, he fights against Âtar, the fire, and strives to extinguish it  55, and together with the Pairikas, he wants to carry off the rain-floods, like the Indian Ahi  56.

§ 20. Mazdeism, as might be expected from its main principle, is very rich in demons. There are whole classes of them which belong to the Indo-Iranian mythology.

The Vedic Yâtus are found unaltered in the Avesta. The Yâtu in the Vedas is the demon taking any form he pleases, the fiend as a wizard: so he is in the Avesta also, where the name is likewise extended to the Yâtu-man, the sorcerer.

§ 21. With the Yâtus are often associated the Pairikas (the Paris)  57.

The Pairika corresponds in her origin (and perhaps as to her name) to the Indian Apsaras  58.

The light for which the storm god struggled was often compared, as is well known, to a fair maid or bride carried off by the fiend. There was a class of myths, in which, instead of being carried off, she was supposed to have given herself up, of her own free will, to the demon, and to have betrayed the god, her lover. In another form of myth, still more distant from the naturalistic origin, the Pairikas were 'nymphs of a fair, but erring line,' who seduced the heroes to lead them to their ruin. Afterwards the Pari became at length the seduction of idolatry  59.

In their oldest Avesta form they are still demoniac nymphs, who rob the gods and men of the heavenly waters: they hover between heaven and earth, in the midst of the sea Vouru-kasha, to keep off the rain-floods, and they work together with Âzi and Apaosha  60.

Then we see the Pairika, under the name of Knãthaiti, cleave to Keresâspa  61. Keresâspa, like Thraêtaona, is a great smiter of demons, who killed the snake Srvara, a twin-brother of Azi Dahâka  62. It was related in later tales that he was born immortal, but that having despised the holy religion he was killed, during his sleep, by a Turk, Niyâz  63, which, being translated into old myth, would mean that he gave himself up to the Pairika Khnãthaiti, who delivered, him asleep to the fiend. Yet he must rise from his sleep, at the end of time, to kill Azi, and Khnãthaiti will be killed at the same time by Saoshyant  64, the son of Zarathustra, which shows her to be a genuine sister of Azi.

§ 22. Then come the host of storm fiends, the Drvants, the Dvarants, the Dregvants, all names meaning 'the running ones,' and referring to the headlong course of the fiends in storm, 'the onsets of the wounding crew.'

One of the foremost amongst the Drvants, their leader in their onsets, is Aêshma, 'the raving,' 'a fiend with the wounding spear.' Originally a mere epithet of the storm fiend, Aêshma was afterwards converted into an abstract, the demon of rage and anger, and became an expression for all moral wickedness, a mere name of Ahriman.

§ 23. A class of demons particularly interesting are the Varenya daêvas  65. The phrase, an old one belonging to the Indo-European mythology, meant originally 'the gods in heaven,' οὐράνιοι θεοί; when the daêvas were converted into demons (see § 41), they became 'the fiends in the heavens,' the fiends who assail the sky; and later on, as the meaning of the word Varena was lost, 'the fiends of the Varena land;' and finally, nowadays, as their relation to Varena is lost to sight, they are turned by popular etymology, now into demons of lust, and now into demons of doubt  66.

§ 24. To the Pairika is closely related Bûshyãsta the yellow, the long-handed  67. She lulls back to sleep the world as soon as awaked, and makes the faithful forget in slumber the hour of prayer  68. But as at the same time she is said to have fallen upon Keresâspa  69, one sees that she belonged before to a more concrete sort of mythology, and was a sister to Khnãthaiti and to the Pairikas.

§ 25. A member of the same family is Gahi, who was originally the god's bride giving herself up to the demon, and became then, by the progress of abstraction, the demon of unlawful love and unchastity  70. The courtezan is her incarnation, as the sorcerer is that of the Yâtu.

§ 26. Death gave rise to several personations.

Sauru, which in our texts is only the proper name of a demon  71, was probably identical in meaning, as he is in name, with the Vedic Saru, 'the arrow,' a personification of the arrow of death as a godlike being  72.

The same idea seems to be conveyed by Ishus hvâthakhtô, 'the self-moving arrow  73,' a designation to be accounted for by the fact that Saru, in India, before becoming the arrow of death, was the arrow of lightning with which the god killed his foe.

A more abstract personification is Ithyêgô marshaonem  74, 'the unseen death,' death which creeps unawares.

Astô vîdôtus, 'the bone-divider  75,' who, like the Yama of the Sanskrit epic, holds a noose around the neck of all living creatures  76.

§ 27. In the conflict between gods and fiends man is active: he takes a part in it through the sacrifice.

The sacrifice is more than an act of worship, it is an act of assistance to the gods. Gods, like men, need drink and food to be strong; like men, they need praise and encouragement to-be of good cheer  77. When not strengthened by the sacrifice, they fly helpless before their foes. Tistrya, worsted by Apaosha, cries to Ahura: 'O Ahura Mazda! men do not worship me with sacrifice and praise: should they worship me with sacrifice and praise, they would bring me the strength of ten horses, ten bulls, ten mountains, ten rivers.' Ahura offers him a sacrifice, he brings him thereby the strength of ten horses, ten bulls, ten mountains, ten rivers, Tistrya runs back to the battle-field and Apaosha flies before him  78.

§ 28. The sacrifice is composed of two elements, offerings and spells.

The offerings are libations of holy water (zaothra)  79, holy meat (myazda)  80, and Haoma. The last offering is the most sacred and powerful of all.

Haoma, the Indian Soma, is an intoxicating plant, the juice of which is drunk by the faithful for their own benefit and for the benefit of their gods. It comprises in it the powers of life of all the vegetable kingdom.

There are two Haomas: one is the yellow or golden Haoma, which is the earthly Haoma, and which, when prepared for the sacrifice, is the king of healing plants  81; the other is the white Haoma or Gaokerena, which grows up in the middle of the sea Vouru-kasha, surrounded by the ten thousand healing plants  82. It is by the drinking of Gaokerena that men, on the day of the resurrection, will become immortal  83.

§ 29. Spell or prayer is not less powerful than the offerings. In the beginning of the world, it was by reciting the Honover (Ahuna Vairya) that Ormazd confounded Ahriman  84. Man, too, sends his prayer between the earth and the heavens, there to smite the fiends, the Kahvaredhas and the Kahvaredhis, the Kayadhas and the Kayadhis, the Zandas and the Yâtus  85.

§ 30. A number of divinities sprang from the hearth of the altar, most of which were already in existence during the Indo-Iranian period.

Piety, which every day brings offerings and prayers to the fire of the altar, was worshipped in the Vedas as Aramati, the goddess who every day, morning and evening, streaming with the sacred butter, goes and gives up herself to Agni  86. She was praised in the Avesta in a more sober manner as the abstract genius of piety; yet a few practices preserved evident traces of old myths on her union with Âtar, the fire-god  87.

Agni, as a messenger between gods and men, was known to the Vedas as Narâ-sansa; hence came the Avesta messenger of Ahura, Nairyô-sangha  88.

The riches that go up from earth to heaven in the offerings of man and come down from heaven to earth in the gifts of the gods were deified as Rãta  89, the gift, Ashi, the felicity  90, and more vividly in Pârendi  91, the keeper of treasures, who comes on a sounding chariot, a sister to the Vedic Puramdhi.

The order of the world, the Vedic Rita, the Zend Asha, was deified as Asha Vahista, 'the excellent Asha  92.'

§ 31. Sraosha is the priest god  93: he first tied the Baresma into bundles, and offered up sacrifice to Ahura; be first sang the holy hymns: his weapons are the Ahuna-Vairya and the Yasna, and thrice in each day, in each night, he descends upon this Karshvare to smite Angra Mainyu and his crew of demons. It is he who, with his club uplifted, protects the living world from the terrors of the night, when the fiends rush upon the earth; it is he who protects the dead from the terrors of death, from the assaults of Angra Mainyu and Vîdôtus  94. It is through a sacrifice performed by Ormazd, as a Zôti, and Sraosha, as a Raspî  95, that at the end of time Ahriman will be for ever vanquished and brought to nought  96.

§ 32. Thus far, the single elements of Mazdeism do not essentially differ from those of the Vedic and Indo-European mythologies generally. Yet Mazdeism, as a wholes took an aspect of its own by grouping these elements in a new order, since by referring everything either to Ahura Mazda or Angra Mainyu as its source, it came to divide the world into two symmetrical halves, in both of which a strong unity prevailed. The change was summed up in the rising of Angra Mainyu, a being of mixed nature, who was produced by abstract speculation from the old Indo-European storm fiend, and who borrowed his form from the supreme god himself. on the one hand. as the world battle is only an enlarged form of the mythical storm fight, Angra Mainyu, the fiend of fiends and the leader of the evil powers, is partly an abstract embodiment of their energies and feats; on the other hand, as the antagonist of Ahura, he is modelled after him, and partly, as it were, a negative projection of Ahura  97.

Ahura is all light, truth, goodness, and knowledge; Angra Mainyu is all darkness, falsehood, wickedness, and ignorance  98.

Ahura dwells in the infinite light; Angra Mainyu dwells in the infinite night.

Whatever the good Spirit makes, the evil Spirit mars. When the world was created. Angra Mainyu broke into it  99, opposed every creation of Ahura's with a plague of his own  100, killed the first-born bull that had been the first offspring and source of life on earth  101, he mixed poison with plants, smoke with fire, sin with man, and death with life.

§ 33, Under Ahura were ranged the six Amesha Spentas. They were at first mere personifications of virtues and moral or liturgical powers  102; but as their lord and father ruled over the whole of the world, they took by and by each a part of the world under their care. The choice was not altogether artificial, but partly natural and spontaneous. The empire of waters and trees was vested in Haurvatât and Ameretât, health and immortality, through the influence of old Indo-Iranian formulae, in which waters and trees were invoked as the springs of health and life. More complex trains of ideas and partly the influence of analogy fixed the field of action of the others. Khshathra Vairya, the perfect sovereignty, had molten brass for its emblem, as the god in the storm established his empire by means of that 'molten brass,' the fire of lightning; he thus became the king of metals in general. Asha Vahista, the holy order of the world, as maintained chiefly by the sacrificial fire, became the genius of fire. Ârmaiti seems to have become a goddess of the earth as early as the Indo-Iranian period, and Vohu-manô had the living creation left to his superintendence  103.

§ 34. The Amesha Spentas projected, as it were, out of themselves, as many Daêvas or demons, who, either in their being or functions, were, most of them, hardly more than dim inverted images of the very gods they were to oppose, and whom they followed through all their successive evolutions. Haurvatât and Ameretât, health and life, were opposed by Tauru and Zairi, sickness and decay, who changed into rulers of thirst and hunger when Haurvatât and Ameretât had become the Amshaspands of waters and trees.

Vohu-manô, or good thought, was reflected in Akô-manô, evil thought. Sauru, the arrow of death  104, Indra, a name or epithet of fire as destructive  105, Nâunhaithya, an old Indo-Iranian divinity, whose meaning was forgotten in Iran and misinterpreted by popular etymology  106, were opposed, respectively, to Khshathra Vairya, Asha Vahista, and Spenta Ârmaiti, and became the demons of tyranny, corruption, and impiety.

Then came the symmetrical armies of the numberless gods and fiends, Yazatas and Drvants.

§ 35. Everything in the world was engaged in the conflict. Whatever works, or is fancied to work, for the good of man or for his harm, for the wider spread of life or against it, comes from, and strives for, either Ahura or Angra Mainyu.

Animals are enlisted under the standards of either the one spirit or the other  107. In the eyes of the Parsis, they belong either to Ormazd or Ahriman according as they are useful or hurtful to man; but, in fact, they belonged originally to either the one or the other, according as they had been incarnations of the god or of the fiend, that is, as they chanced to have lent their forms to either in the storm tales  108. In a few cases, of course, the habits of the animal had not been without influence upon its mythic destiny: but the determinative cause was different. The fiend was not described as a serpent because the serpent is a subtle and crafty reptile, but because the storm fiend envelops the goddess of light, or the milch cows of the raining heavens, with the coils of the cloud as with a snake's folds. It was not animal psychology that disguised gods and fiends as dogs, otters, hedge-hogs, and cocks, or as snakes, tortoises, frogs, and ants, but the accidents of physical qualities and the caprice of popular fancy, as both the god and the fiend might be compared with, and transformed into, any object, the idea of which was suggested by the uproar of the storm, the blazing of the lightning, the streaming of the water, or the hue and shape of the clouds.

Killing the Ahrimanian creatures, the Khrafstras  109, is killing Ahriman himself, and sin may be atoned for by this means  110. Killing an Ormazdean animal is an abomination, it is killing God himself. Persia was on the brink of zoolatry, and escaped it only by misunderstanding the principle she followed  111.

§ 36. The fulgurating conqueror of Apaosha, Tistrya, was described in mythic tales sometimes as a boar with golden horns, sometimes as a horse with yellow cars, sometimes as a beautiful youth. But as he had been compared to a shining star on account of the gleaming of lightning, the stars joined in the fray, where they stood with Tistrya on Ahura's side; and partly for the sake of symmetry, partly owing to Chaldaean influences, the planets passed into the army of Ahriman.

§ 37. Man, according to his deeds, belongs to Ormazd or to Ahriman. He belongs to Ormazd, he is a man of Asha, a holy one, if he offers sacrifice to Ormazd and the gods, if he helps them by good thoughts, words, and deeds, if he enlarges the world of Ormazd by spreading life over the world, and if he makes the realm of Ahriman narrower by destroying his creatures. A man of Asha is the Âthravan (priest) who drives away fiends and diseases by spells, the Rathaêsta (warrior) who with his club crushes the head of the impious, the Vâstryô (husbandman) who makes good and plentiful harvests grow up out of the earth. He who does the contrary is a Drvant, 'demon,' an Anashavan, 'foe of Asha,' an Ashemaogha, 'confounder of Asha.'

The man of Asha who has lived for Ahura Mazda will have a seat near him in heaven, in the same way as in India the man of Rita, the faithful one, goes to the palace of Varuna, there to live with the forefathers, the Pitris, a life of everlasting happiness  112. Thence he will go out, at the end of time, when the dead shall rise, and live a new and all-happy life on the earth freed from evil and death.

§ 38. This brings us to speak of a series of myths which have done much towards obscuring the close connection between the Avesta and the Vedic mythologies: I mean the myths about the heavenly life of Yima.

In the Veda Yama, the son of Vivasvat, is the first man and, therefore, the first of the dead, the king of the dead. As such he is the centre of gathering for the departed, and he presides over them in heaven, in the Yamasâdanam, as king of men, near Varuna the king of gods.

His Avesta twin-brother, Yima, the son of Vîvanghat, is no longer the first man, as this character had been transferred to another hero, of later growth, Gayô Maratan; yet he has kept nearly all the attributes which were derived from his former character: on the one hand he is the first king, and the founder of civilisation; on the other hand, 'the best mortals' gather around him in a marvellous palace, in Airyanem Vaêgô, which appears to be identical with the Yamasâdanam from Yama meeting there with Ahura and the gods, and making his people live there a blessed life  113. But, by and by, as it was forgotten that Yima was the first man and the first of the dead, it was also forgotten that his people were nothing else than the dead going to their common ancestor above and to the king of heaven: the people in the Vara were no longer recognised as the human race, but became a race of a supernatural character, different from those who continued going, day by day, from earth to heaven to join Ahura Mazda  114.

§ 39. But the life of the world is limited, the struggle is not to last for ever, and Ahriman will be defeated at last.

The world was imagined as lasting a long year of twelve millenniums. There had been an old myth, connected with that notion, which made the world end in a frightful winter  115, to be succeeded by an eternal spring, when the blessed would come down from the Vara of Yima to repeople the earth. But as storm was the ordinary and more dramatic form of the strife, there was another version, according to which the world ended in a storm, and this version became the definitive one.

The serpent, Azi Dahâka, let loose, takes hold of the world again. As the temporary disappearance of the light was often mythically described either as the sleeping of the god, or as his absence, or death, its reappearance was indicative of the awakening of the hero, or his return, or the arrival of a son born to him. Hence came the tales about Keresâspa awakening from his sleep to kill the snake finally  116; the tales about Peshôtanu, Aghraêratha, Khumbya, and others living in remote countries till the day of the last fight is come  117; and, lastly, the tales about Saoshyant, the son who is to be born to Zarathustra at the end of time, and to bring eternal light and life to mankind, as his father brought them the law and the truth. This brings us to the question whether any historical reality underlies the legend of Zarathustra or Zoroaster.

§ 40. Mazdeism has often been called Zoroaster's religion, in the same sense as Islam is called Muhammed's religion, that is, as being the work of a man named Zoroaster, a view which was favoured, not only by the Parsi and Greek accounts, but by the strong unity and symmetry of the whole system. Moreover, as the moral and abstract spirit which pervades Mazdeism is different from the Vedic spirit, and as the word deva, which means a god in Sanskrit, means a demon in the Avesta, it was thought that Zoroaster's work had been a work of reaction against Indian polytheism, in fact, a religious schism. When he lived no one knows, and every one agrees that all that the Parsis and the Greeks tell of him is mere legend, through which no solid historical facts can be arrived at. The question is whether Zoroaster was a man converted into a god, or a god converted into a man. No one who reads, with a mind free from the yoke of classical recollections, I do not say the Book of Zoroaster (which may be charged with being a modern romance of recent invention), but the Avesta itself, will have any doubt that Zoroaster is no less an essential part of the Mazdean mythology than the son expected to be born to him, at the end of time, to destroy Ahriman  118.

Zoroaster is not described as one who brings new truth and drives away error, but as one who overthrows the demons: he is a smiter of fiends, like Verethraghna, Apâm Napât, Tistrya, Vayu, or Keresâspa, and he is stronger and more valiant than Keresâspa himself  119; the difference between him and them is that, whereas they smite the fiend with material weapons, he smites them chiefly with a spiritual one, the word or prayer. We say 'chiefly' because the holy word is not his only weapon; he repels the assaults of Ahriman with stones as big as a house which Ahura has given to him  120, and which were furnished, no doubt, from the same quarry as the stones which are cast at their enemies by Indra, by Agni, by the Maruts, or by Thor, and which are 'the flame, wherewith, as with a stone  121,' the storm god aims at the fiend. Therefore his birth  122, like the birth of every storm god, is longed for and hailed with joy as the signal of its deliverance by the whole living creation, because it is the end of the dark and arid reign of the demon: 'In his birth, in his growth did the floods and trees rejoice in his birth, in his growth the floods and trees did grow up in his birth, in his birth the floods and trees exclaimed with joy  123.' Ahura himself longs for him and fears lest the hero about to be born may not stand by him: 'He offered up a sacrifice to Ardvî Sûra Anâhita, he, the Maker, Ahura Mazda; he offered up the Haoma, the Myazda, the Baresma, the holy words, he besought her, saying: Vouchsafe me that boon, O high, mighty, undefiled goddess, that I may bring about the son of Pourushaspa, the holy Zarathustra, to think according to the law, to speak according to the law, to work according to the law!' Ardvî Surâ Anâhita granted that boon to him who was offering up libations, sacrificing and beseeching  124.

Zarathustra stands by Ahura. The fiends come rushing along from hell to kill him, and fly away terrified by his hvarenô: Angra Mainyu himself is driven away by the stones he hurls at him  125. But the great weapon of Zarathustra is neither the thunder-stones he hurls, nor the glory with which he is surrounded, it is the Word  125.

In the voice of the thunder the Greeks recognised the warning of a god which the wise understand, and they worshipped it as Ὄσσα Διὸς ἄγγελος 'the Word, messenger of Zeus;' the Romans worshipped it as a goddess, Fama; India adores it as 'the Voice in the cloud,' Vâk Âmbhrinî, which issues from the waters, from the forehead of the father, and hurls the deadly arrow against the foe of Brahman, So the word from above is either a weapon that kills, or a revelation that teaches: in the mouth of Zarathustra it is both: now 'he smites down Angra Mainyu with the Ahuna vairya (Honover) as he would do with stones as big as a house, and he burns him up with the Ashem vohu as with melted brass  126;' now he converses with Ahura, on the mountain of the holy questions, in the forest of the holy questions  127. Any storm god, whose voice descends from above to the earth, may become a godlike messenger, a lawgiver, a Zarathustra. Nor is Zarathustra the only lawgiver, the only prophet, of whom the Avesta knows: Gayô Maratan, Yima, the bird Karsiptan  128, each of whom, under different names, forms, and functions, are one and the same being with Zarathustra, that is to say, the godlike champion in the struggle for light, knew the law as well as Zarathustra. But as mythology, like language and life, likes to reduce every organ to one function, Zarathustra became the titulary lawgiver  129. As he overwhelmed Angra Mainyu during his lifetime by his spell, he is to overwhelm him at the end of time by the hands of a son yet unborn. 'Three times he came near unto his wife Hrôgvi, and three times the seed fell upon the ground. The Ized Neriosengh took what was bright and strong in it and intrusted it to the Ized Anâhita. At the appointed time, it will be united again with a maternal womb: 99,999 Fravashis of the faithful watch over it, lest the fiends destroy it  130.' A maid bathing in the lake Kãsava will conceive by it and bring forth the victorious Saoshyant (Sôshyôs), who will come from the region of the dawn to free the world from death and decay, from corruption and rottenness, ever living and ever thriving, when the dead shall rise and immortality commence  131.

All the features in Zarathustra point to a god: that the god may have grown up from a man, that pre-existent mythic elements may have gathered around the name of a man, born on earth, and by and by surrounded the human face with the aureole of a god, may of course be maintained, but only on condition that one may distinctly express what was the real work of Zoroaster. That he, raised a new religion against the Vedic religion, and cast down into hell the gods of older days can no longer be maintained, since the gods, the ideas, and the worship of Mazdeism are shown to emanate directly from the old religion, and have nothing more of a reaction against it than Zend has against Sanskrit.

§ 41. The only evidence in favour of the old hypothesis of a religious schism is reduced to the evidence of a few words which might à priori be challenged, as the life of words is not the same as the life of the things they express, the nature of things does not change with the meaning of the syllables which were attached to them for a while, and the history of the world is not a chapter of grammar. And, in fact, the evidence appealed to, when more closely considered, proves to speak against the very theory it is meant to support. The word Asura, which in the Avesta means 'the Lord,' and is the name of the supreme God, means 'a demon' in the Brahmanical literature; but in the older religion of the Vedas it is quite as august as in the Avesta, and is applied to the highest deities, and particularly to Varuna, the Indian brother of Ahura. This shows that when the Iranians and Indians sallied forth from their common native land, the Asura continued for a long time to be the Lord in India as well as in Persia; and the change took place, not in Iran, but in India. The descent of the word daêva from 'a god' to 'a demon' is a mere accident of language. There were in the Indo-Iranian language three words expressive of divinity: Asura, 'the Lord,' Yagata, 'the one who is worthy of sacrifice,' Daêva, 'the shining one.' Asura became the name of the supreme God, Yagata was the general name of all gods. Now as there were old Indo-Iranian formulae which deprecated the wrath of both men and devas (gods), or invoked the aid of some god against the hate and oppression of both men and devas  132, that word daêva, which had become obsolete (because Asura and Yagata met all the wants of religious language), took by and by from formulae of this kind a dark and fiendish meaning. What favoured the change was the want of a technical word for expressing the general notion of a fiend, a want the more felt as the dualistic idea acquired greater strength and distinctness. Etymology was unable to preserve the Daêvas from this degradation, as the root div, 'to shine,' was lost in Zend, and thus the primitive meaning being forgotten, the word was ready to take any new meaning which chance or necessity should give to it. But only the word descended into hell, not the beings it denoted; neither Varuna, nor Mitra, nor the Âdityas, nor Agni, nor Soma, in fact none of the old Aryan deities fell or tottered. Though the word Indra is the name of a fiend in the Avesta, the Vedic god it denotes was as bright and as mighty in Iran as in India under the name of Verethraghna: and as we do not know the etymological meaning of the name, it may have been such epithet as could be applied to a fiend as well as to a god. The same can be said of Naunghaithya. Moreover, both Indra and Naunghaithya are in the Avesta mere names: neither the Avesta nor old tradition knows anything about them, which would look very strange, had they been vanquished in a religious struggle, as they should have played the foremost part at the head of the fiends. As to the third comparison established between the Iranian demon Sauru and the Indian god Sarva, it fails utterly, as Sauru is the Vedic Saru, a symbol of death, and both are therefore beings of the same nature.

§ 42. Therefore, so far as the Vedic religion and the Avesta religion are concerned, there is not the abyss of a schism between them. They are quite different, and must be so, since each of them lived its own life, and living is changing; but nowhere is the link broken that binds both to their common source. Nowhere in the Avesta is the effort of any man felt who, standing against the belief of his people, enforces upon them a new creed, by the ascendancy of his genius, and turns the stream of their thoughts from the bed wherein it had flowed for centuries. There was no religious revolution: there was only a long and slow movement which led, by insensible degrees, the vague and unconscious dualism of the Indo-Iranian religion onwards to the sharply defined dualism of the Magi.

It does not follow hence, of course, that there was nothing left to individual genius in the formation of Mazdeism.; the contrary is evident à priori from the fact that Mazdeism expresses the ideas of a sacerdotal caste. It sprang from the long elaboration of successive generations of priests, and that elaboration is so far from having been the work of one day and of one man that the exact symmetry which is the chief characteristic of Mazdeism is still imperfect in the Avesta on certain most important points. For instance, the opposition of six arch-fiends to the six arch-gods which we find in Plutarch and in the Bundahis was still unknown when the Xth Fargard of the Vendîdâd and the XIXth Yast were composed, and the stars were not yet members

of the Ormazdean army when the bulk of the VIIIth Yast was written.

The reflective spirit that had given rise to Mazdeism never rested, but continued to produce new systems; and there is hardly any religion in which slow growth and continual change is more apparent. When the Magi had accounted for the existence of evil by the existence of two principles, there arose the question how there could be two principles, and a longing for unity was felt, which found its satisfaction in the assumption that both are derived from one and the same principle. This principle was, according to divers sects, either Space, or Infinite Light, or Boundless Time, or Fate  133. Of most of these systems no direct trace is found in the Avesta  134, yet they existed already in the time of Aristotle  135.

They came at last to pure monotheism. Some forty years ago when the Rev. Dr. Wilson was engaged in his controversy with the Parsis, some of his opponents repelled the charge of dualism by denying to Ahriman any real existence, and making him a symbolical personification of bad instincts in man. It was not difficult for the Doctor to show that they were at variance with their sacred books, and critics in Europe occasionally wondered at the progress made by the Parsis in rationalism of the school of Voltaire and Gibbon. Yet there was no European influence at the bottom; and long before the Parsis had heard of Europe and Christianity, commentators, explaining the myth of Tahmurath, who rode for thirty years on Ahriman as a horse, interpreted the feat of the old legendary king as the curbing of evil passion and restraining the Ahriman in the heart of man  136. That idealistic interpretation was current as early as the fifteenth century, and is prevalent now with most of the Dasturs  137 . To what extent that alteration may have been influenced by Islamism, can hardly be decided; there are even some faint signs that it began at a time when the old religion was still flourishing; at any rate, no one can think of ascribing to one man, or to one time, that slow change from dualism to monotheism, which is, however, really deeper and wider than the movement which, in prehistoric times, brought the Magi from an imperfect form of dualism to one more perfect.


Click on footnote numbers to return to the text above

1 Ormazd et Ahriman, Paris, 1877. We beg, for the sake of brevity, to refer to that book for further demonstration.

2 Cf. Max Müller, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 249.

3 J. Darmesteter, The Supreme God in the Indo-European Mythology, in the Contemporary Review, October, 1879, p. 283.

4 Ibid.

5 Οὐρανός; or Dyaus, 'the shining sky' [Ζεύς, Jup-piter], or Svar.

6 Or perhaps 'the Lord who bestows intelligence' (Benfey, 'Asura Medhâ and Ahura Mazdâo').

7 This is, at least, the meaning that attached to the name in the consciences of the composers of the Avesta.

8 Vide infra, § 12.

9 Orm. Ahr. §§ 27-36.

10 Bundahis I. 7; Yasna LVIII, 8 (LVII, 22).

11 Herod. I, 131.

12 Cf. 'The Supreme God,' l. l. p. 287.

13 The seven worlds became in Persia the seven Karshvare of the earth: the earth is divided into seven Karshvare, only one of which is known and p. lx accessible to man, the one on which we live, namely, Hvaniratha; which amounts to saying that there are seven earths. Parsi mythology knows also of seven heavens. Hvaniratha itself was divided into seven climes (Orm. Ahr. § 72). An enumeration of the seven Karshvare is to be found in Farg. XIX, 39.

14 Most of which were already either divine or holy in the Indo-Iranian period: health and immortality are invoked in the Vedas as in the Avesta (see J. Darmesteter, Haurvatât et Ameretât, §§ 49 seq.); Asha Vahista is revered in the Vedas as Rita (vide infra, § 30); Spenta Ârmaiti is the Vedic goddess Aramati (§ 30); Khshathra vairya is the same as the Brahmanical Kshatra; Vohu-manô is a personification of the Vedic sumati (Orm. Abr. §§ 196-201).

15 Yast XIX, 16.

16 Mitra means literally, 'a friend;' it is the light as friendly to man (Orm. Ahr. §§ 59-61).

17 He preserved, however, a high situation, both in the concrete and in the abstract mythology. As the god of the heavenly light, the lord of vast luminous spaces of the wide pastures above (cf. § 16), he became later the god of the sun (Deo invicto Soli Mithrae; in Persian Mihr is the Sun). As light and truth are one and the same thing, viewed with the eyes of the body and of the mind, he became the god of truth and faith. He punishes the Mithra-drug, 'him who lies to Mithra' (or 'who lies to the contract,' since Mithra as a neuter noun meant 'friendship, agreement, contract'); he is a judge in hell, in company with Rashnu, 'the true one,' the god of truth, a mere offshoot of Mithra in his moral character (Farg. IV, 54).

18 Cf. Plut. de Iside, XLVII

19 Or, who workest in the heights above.

20 Yt. XV, 3.

21 In the same way his Greek counterpart, Zeus, the god of heaven, the lord and father both of gods and men, when besieged by the Titans, calls Thetis, Prometheus and the Hecatonchirs to help him.

22 Yt. XIX, 47-52.

23 Yasna LI (L), 9.

24 Farg. III, 15; V, 10; XV, 26, &c.

25 Cf. Clermont-Ganneau, in the Revue Critique, 1877, No. 52.

26 The hvarenô, Persian khurrah and farr, is properly the light of sovereignty, the glory from above which makes the king an earthly god. He who possesses it reigns, he who loses it falls (town; when Yima lost it he perished and Azi Dahâka reigned; as when light disappears, the fiend rules supreme. Vide infra, § 39; and cf. Yt. XIX, 32 seq.

27 See Farg. V, 15 seq.

28 Rv. I, 158, 5; X, 99, 6.

29 Generally, apâm napât.

30 Yasna IX, 8 (25).

31 Cathru-gaosho Varenô; v. Vendîdâd I, 18.

32 Catur-asrir Varuno, Rv. I, 152, 2. Cf. Orm. Ahr. § 65.

33 'The extinguisher' (?).

34 Cf. § 36.

35 Called also Spengaghra (Farg. XIX, 40).

36 It is the groaning of the fiend under the stroke of that club that is heard in thunder (Bundahis 17, II; cf. Farg. XIX, 40).

37 Yt. VIII.

38 Yt. XIV.

39 Cf. V, 8.

40 Yt. XV.

41 Cf. above, p. lxi.

42 See above, § 11.

43 Cf. Atharva-veda II, 26, 1; Rv. I, 134, 4.

44 Farg. III, 2; Yasna I, 3 (9).

45 Neriosengh ad Yasna, l. l.

46 Yt. XV, 5.

47 Bundahis I, 15.

48 Mainyô i-Khard II, 115; cf. Farg. 8, n. 3.

49 Cf. Farg. XIX, 16.

50 Orm. Ahr. § 257.

51 Farg. V, 8-9, text and notes.

52 See above. p. lxiii, n. 1, and Yast XIX.

53 Cf. § 39.

54 Cf. Roth, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenl. Gesellschaft II, 216.

55 Farg, XVIII, 19 seq.

56 Yasna LXVIII, 7 (LXVII, 18).

57 Farg. VIII, 80.

58 Orm. Ahr. § 142.

59 Ibid. p, 176, n. 6. Then pairikãm, the accusative of pairika, was interpreted as a Pahlavi compound, pari-kâm, 'love of the Paris' (Comm. ad Farg. XIX 5).

60 Yast VIII, 8, 39, 49-56; Yasna XVI, 8 (XVII, 46).

61 Farg. I, 10.

62 Yasna IX, 11 (34); Yast XIX, 40.

63 Bundahis 69, 13. On Niyâz, see Orm. Ahr. p. 2 16, n. 9.

64 Farg. XIX, 5.

65 Farg. X, 14. The Mâzainya daêva (see Farg. X, 16 n.) are often invoked with them (Yast V, 22; XIII, 37; XX, 8).

66 Aspendiârji.

67 Farg. XI, 9.

68 Farg. XVIII; 16 seq.

69 Bundahis 69, 15.

70 Orm. Ahr. § 145. Cf. Farg. XXI, 1.

71 Vide infra, § 41; Farg. X, 9; Bundahis 5, 19.

72 Orm. Ahr. § 212.

73 Farg. IV, 49.

74 Farg. XIX, 1.

75 Farg. IV, 49. His mythical description might probably be completed by the Rabbinical and Arabian tales about the Breaking of the Sepulchre and the angels Monkir and Nakir (Sale, the Coran, Introd. p. 60, and Bargès, Journal Asiatique, 1843).

76 See Farg. XIX, 29, n. 2. Closely related to Astô-vîdôtu is Vîzaresha (ibid.); on Bûiti, see Farg. XIX, i, n. 3.

77 See Orm. Ahr. §§ 87-88.

78 Yt. VIII, 23 seq.

79 Prepared with certain rites and prayers; it is the Vedic hotrâ.

80 A piece of meat placed on the draona (Farg. V, 25, n. 3).

81 Bundahis 58, 10.

82 Farg. XX, 4.

83 Bundahis 42, 12; 59, 4

84 Bundahis. Cf. Farg. XIX, 9, 43; Yasna XIX.

85 Yasna LXI (LX).

86 Orm. Ahr. § 205.

87 Farg. XVIII, 51 seq.

88 Farg. XXII, 7.

89 Farg. XIX, 19.

90 Neriosengh.

91 Orm. Ahr. § 200.

92 Parsi Ardibehest.

93 Yasna LVI.

94 Farg. VII, 52, n. 4; XIX, 46, n. 8.

95 Cf. Farg. V, 57, n.

96 Bundahis 76, 11.

97 Orm. Ahr. § 85.

98 Bundahis. I; cf. Yasna XXX.

99 Yast XIII, 77.

100 Cf. Farg. I.

101 Cf. Farg. XXI. 1.

102 See above, p. lx.

103 Orm. Ahr. §§ 202-206.

104 See above, p. lxviii.

105 See § 41.

106 Ibid.

107 A strict discipline prevails among them. Every class of animals has a chief or ratu above it (Bund. XXIV). The same organisation extends to all the beings p. lxxiii in nature: stars, men, gods have their respective ratus, Tistrya, Zoroaster, Ahura.

108 Orm. Ahr. §§ 227-231.

109 Farg. III, 10; XIV, 5 seq., 8, n. 8; XVIII, 70, &c.

110 There is scarcely any religious custom that can be followed through so continuous a series of historical evidence: fifth century B.C., Herodotus I, 140; first century A. D., Plutarch, De Isid. XLVI; Quaest. Conviv. IV, 5, 2; sixth century, Agathias II, 24; seventeenth century, G. du Chinon.

111 Thus arose a classification which was often at variance with its supposed principle. As the god who rushes in the lightning was said to move on a raven's wings, with a hawk's flight, birds of prey belonged to the realm of Ormazd. The Parsi theologians were puzzled at this fact, but their ingenuity proved equal to the emergency: Ormazd, while creating the hunting hawk, said to him: 'O thou hunting hawk! I have created thee; but I ought rather to be sorry than glad of it; for thou doest the will of Ahriman much more than mine: like a wicked man who never has money enough, thou art never satisfied with killing birds. But hadst thou not been made by me, Ahriman, bloody Ahriman, would have made thee with the size of a man, and there would no more be any small creature left alive' (Bundahis XIV). Inversely Ahriman created a lovely bird, the peacock, to show that he did not do evil from any incapacity of doing well, but through wilful wickedness (Eznik); Satan is still nowadays invoked by the Yezidis as Melek Taus ('angel peacock').

112 From the worship of the Pitris was developed in Iran the worship of the Fravashis, who being at first identical with the Pitris, with the souls of the departed, became by and by a distinct principle. The Fravashi was independent of the circumstances of life or death, in immortal part of the individual which existed before man and outlived him. Not only man was endowed with a Fravashi, but gods too, and the sky, fire, waters, and plants (Orm. Ahr. §§ 112-113).

113 See Farg II.

114 Farg. XIX, 28 seq.

115 Cf. Farg. II, Introd. and § 21 seq.

116 See above, p. lxv.

117 Bundahis XXX.

118 The same view as to the mythological character of Zoroaster was maintained, although with different arguments, by Professor Kern in an essay 'Over het woord Zarathustra,' as I see from a short abstract of it which Professor Max Müller kindly wrote for me.

119 Yast XIX, 39.

120 Farg. XIX, 4.

121 Rig-Veda II, 30, 4.

122 A singular trait of his birth, according to Pliny, who is on this point in perfect accordance with later Parsi tradition, is that, alone of mortals, he laughed while being born: this shows that his native place is in the very same regions where the Vedic Maruts are born, those storm genii 'born of the laughter of the lightning' ('I laugh as I pass in thunder' says the Cloud in Shelley; cf. the Persian Khandah i barq, 'the laughter of the lightning').

123 Yast XIII, 93.

124 Yast V, 18.

125 Orm. Ahr. § 162 seq.

126 Yast XVII, 18.

127 Farg. XXII, 19.

128 Farg. II, 3, 42; Yast XIII, 87.

129 The law is generally known as Dâtem vîdaêvô-dâtem (cf. V, 1); as emanating from Ahura it is Mathra Spenta, 'the holy word,' which is the soul of Ahura (Farg. XIX, 4).

130 Bund. XXXIII; Eznik. The whole of the myth belongs to the Avesta period, as appears from Yast XIII, 61; Vendîdâd XIX, 5.

131 Yast XIX, 89 seq.

132 Rig-veda VI, 62, 8; VII, 52, 1; VIII, 19, 6; Yast X, 34; Yasna IX (60).

133 All these four principles are only abstract forms of Ormazd himself, at least in his first naturalistic character of the Heaven God. Heaven is Infinite Space, it is Infinite Light, and by its movement it gives rise to Time and to Fate (Orm. Ahr. §§ 244-259). Time is twofold: there is the limited time that measures the duration of the world (see above, § 39) and lasts 12,000 years, which is Zrvan dareghô-hvadâta, 'the Sovereign Time of the long period;' and there is 'the Boundless Time,' Zrvan akarana (Farg. XIX, 9).

134 When Vendîdâd XIX, 9 was written, the Zervanitic system seems to have been, if not fully developed, at least already existent.

135 Eudemos (ap. Damascius, ed. Kopp, 384) knows of χρόνος and τόπος as the first principles of the Magi; Boundless Time is already transformed into a legendary hero in Berosus (third century B.C.)

136 Aogemaidê, ed. Geiger, p. 36, § 92; Mirkhond, History of the Early Kings Of Persia, tr. Shea, p. 98. Cf. Revue Critique, 1879, II, 163.

137 'The Parsis are now strict monotheists, and whatever may have been the views of former philosophical writings, their one supreme deity is Ahura Mazda. Their views of Angra Mainyu seem to differ in no respect from what is supposed to be the orthodox Christian view of the devil.' Haug's Essays, 2nd ed. p. 53, Mandelslo, in the seventeenth century, speaks of Parsîism as a monotheistic religion.

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» Chapter 1, Discovery of the Zend Avesta
» Chapter 2 The Interpretation of the Zend-Avesta
» Chapter 3 The Formation of the Zend-Avesta
» Chapter 4 The Origin of the Avesta Religion
» Chapter 5 The Vendīdād

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