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  • user 1:55 am on 30th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Eschatology According to the Bundahishn 

    The Mazdayasnian conception of the hereafter, according to the Bundahishn, is as follows. When someone dies, their soul stays near their head (or where their head was when they died) for three nights, and the daevas try to harass them. The person thinks they may come back to life.[1] During the dawn after the third night, a breeze comes to them. If they were good, the breeze is extremely delightful and fragrant. If they were wicked, the breeze is extremely putrid, unpleasant, and terrifying.
    Next, the souls of the individual are carried along a path. They are presumably moved along this path by the wind. The righteous man is first presented with the astral form of a fat, milkful cow. Then he is presented with the astral form of a charming, beautiful, and shapely fifteen-year-old virgin in white garments.[2] Then the astral form of an abundant garden appears. The soul asks these things who they are as they approach, recognizing that they seem to be the essence or source of all happiness. The astral bodies respond that they are the soul’s Din. This means that they are the formalization, the fruit, and reality of the person’s works on the earth.
    If the soul is wicked, it is presented with the astral form of a dry, sickly and frightful cow, the presence of which afflicts the soul. A hideous and unshapely maiden appears, and her presence afflicts the soul with dread and horror. Then a garden appears which is dry, treeless, and comfortless, and this garden fills the soul with evil thoughts. The soul asks these things who they are as they approach, seeing that they are more horrible than anything they saw on the earth. The astral bodies respond that they are the soul’s Din. This means that they are the formalization, the fruit, and reality of the person’s works on the earth.
    After being presented with its deeds, the soul is brought to the base of Mount Alburz. It walks up towards the summit, before which is a “sharp floor,” which is the Chinavat Bridge, identical with the Straight Path (Sirat al-Mustaqim) in Islam.[3] There is a judgment which takes place before the bridge which is not mentioned in the Bundahishn. The three angels of judgment, Mitha, Sraosha, and Rashnu, will judge the person’s deeds on Rashnu’s gold scale. The tipping of the scale will cause the individual comfort or sorrow. If it is tipped in their favor, the Chinavat bridge will be wide and they may cross it with their lovely Dîn. If they were a sinner, the bridge will be thin and sharp.
    To return to the Bundahishn: the righteous man passes through[4] the sharp floor with the help of Farnbarg the Fire, who smites darkness, allowing the ascension to the peak. The soul is purified by the angels. Then the good wind takes his hand and carries him to his seat. The wicked man fails to pass through[5] the floor, and he has to walk upon it while being oppressed by his own wicked thoughts, words, and deeds. He falls into Hell, and witnesses every evil.
    The appearance of the garden to the righteous has an active aspect. The virgin, after telling the righteous man who she is, guides him to a ladder of three steps, which are good thoughts, words, and deeds. The ladder leads to the garden, and this climbing of the ladder is identical with the passing through the sharp floor. Similarly, the wicked maiden who appears to the wicked man presents him with a sharp floor, which informs him that he has no choice but to walk upon it. The man will refuse to walk, until his deeds take on the form of a horrible wild beast which will frighten him into walking on the sharp floor. In three steps, the man will fall into Hell.
    If someone’s good and evil deeds are equal, they go to purgatory, which is said to be “just like the earth.” Everyone will be assigned a place corresponding to their deeds, and they will sit.
    I reckon the point on the path at which the sharp floor is encountered is what is called in other traditions Judgment Day, and the trip from death to the floor is the intermediate state, known in Islam as the barzakh or the grave. Everybody who dies before Judgment Day will have a long stay in the barzakh, whereas those who are on the earth when Judgment Day comes will not inhabit the grave at all, or if they do it will be very brief.
    The age before Judgment Day is commonly known as the End Times. According to the Bundahishn, people in the last millennium of the end times will have decreased appetites, so that they will be sated for three days from a single meal. They will abstain from meat, then from milk and vegetables, and they will only drink water. The Saoshyant will then arrive, and raise the dead. This figure is the equivalent of the Messiah in Judaism, the Second Coming of Christ (as) in Christianity, and the Mahdi (as) in Islam. Thirty saints, fifteen men and fifteen women, will assist the Saoshyant in his renovation of the world.
    Gayomard will be the first to be resurrected, and he will be followed by his children Mashye and Mashyane, and then everybody else. They will be raised from wherever they died as skeletons, and then the rest of their bodies will be regenerated. It will take fifty-seven years for all of the dead to be raised. After they are all resurrected, half of the light from the sun will be given to Gayomard (who is here a symbol of al-Insan al-Kamil) and half will be given to the rest of mankind. Then everybody will recognize their closest relatives, and everybody will stand up and assemble together. Everybody will see their good and evil deeds, and the righteous will stand out like white sheep among black sheep. The righteous will go to Paradise and the wicked will go to Hell, where they will remain for three days. This is definitely a symbolic number, presumably corresponding to thoughts, words, and deeds.
    The entry into Paradise and Hell will be as follows. Fire and the angel Airyaman will melt the hills and mountains, which are said to be made out of metal. The molten metal will spill upon the earth like a river, and everyone will be made to pass through it, which will purify them. This metal is identical with the Chinavat Bridge, the “sharp floor.” The righteous will experience this metal as warm milk[6], and the wicked will experience it as molten metal. My interpretation is as follows: The milk is Paradise, and the molten metal is Hell. Molten metal has a dual symbolism; the malefic aspect is the obvious one, but metal is also a symbol of Kshathra, and the moltenness of the metal is the union of Asha and Kshathra, which means the rectification and perfectly harmonious reordering of Ahura’s kingdom.
    Everyone shall be gathered together after the first stage of the hereafter and live in eternal peace and happiness, praising Ahura Mazda and the Ameshçpentas. Everyone shall be given an elixir of immortality[7] by Saoshyant, realizing Ameretat for them. It is said that those who reached a goodly age will be forty, while those who had not come of age will be fifteen. It is also said that everyone will be with their wives and children, but there will be no reproduction.
    Ahura Mazda will seize Angra Mainyu and the daevas, and the angels will seize the daevas, and they will banish them into the abyss from whence they came. This will happen both physically and spiritually: Ahura Mazda will manifest Himself in the form of a man, Zot, and Sraosha will accompany Him in the form of Raspi. They will physically vanquish Angra Mainyu and the only remaining daeva, Az, by means of the Gathas. The evil dragon Gochihr will be roasted in the molten metal, and all of the reeking contamination in the earth will be purified. The hole through which Angra Mainyu entered Ahura Mazda’s creation will be sealed with the molten metal, and the link between Endless Light and the Abyss will be thus obliterated, and thus there will be no more admixture of Reality and Illusion, or Truth and Untruth.
    [1]   This presumably does not apply to everyone.
    [2]   The rewards of the righteous woman are not mentioned. This is a matter for further research.
    [3]   According to one etymology, the word Chinvat is a combination of chinaeta (arrange or lay bricks) and vid (knowledge or recognition).
    [4]   The word “through” probably means “across” here, and I have kept it only out of fidelity to the translation of the Bundahishn I have used.
    [5]   Ibid.
    [6]   It seems worth noting here that milk is a symbol of knowledge in Islam.
    [7]   This elixir is presumably identical with the drinks described in the Qur’an and the hadith.

  • user 12:32 am on 28th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Death and Funeral Rites 

    The last religious event in a Mazdayasnian’s life is their death. When the death is not sudden, a priest comes to the dying individual to recite the Patet prayers, unless the individual is able to recite them unaided, and to provide them with Haoma juice if it is available, or pomegranate juice if it is not. A sudreh and simple white cotton clothes should be prepared to clothe them with after they die.
    After the Mazdayasnian dies, their funeral is to be held as soon as possible unless refrigeration is available. After a period of six hours, the body becomes impure because it has begun to decompose, and it is to be avoided except by ritually purified handlers. All the actions in the funeral ceremonies are done by pairs who are connected both spiritually and physically through a means such as holding hands or some object such as a kusti or cloth. If the house is lacking the proper facilites, pall-bearers take the body to a mortuary. The pall-bearers prepare themselves for the task by taking a sacred bath and reciting a part of the Sraosh Baj prayer (known as “taking the Baj”). They wash the body, sometimes while wearing woolen gloves. First, they wash the body with gomez, unconsecrated white bull’s urine, which is a disinfectant. If gomez is unavailable, ash may be used. Next,  the body is washed with well water. Sometimes either the water or the gomez may be omitted.
    After the washing, the body is dressed by family members with a sudreh, simple white cotton clothes, and a prayer cap. A family member ties a kusti around them while reciting the appropriate prayers. Then the body is carried to a hall and placed on a sheet on a bed or the floor. A fire is lit in the hall and kept burning for the duration of the funeral. It may be lit earlier or later, but it should be lit before the body is taken away. Incense is intermittently sprinkled on the fire. A lamp may be placed next to the head of the deceased.
    Two family members approach the deceased, and one of them whispers the Ashem Vohu and the Ahuna Vairya in their ears.[1] Then they repeat the Ashem Vohu many times. Other family members may come and say farewell to the deceased. It is permissible for them to touch the body at this point. They are to avoid grieving, lest this should give the soul difficulties in the post-mortem state.
    The body is placed on a slab of stone and cover it with a shroud, except for the face. In some places, an older method is used: the body is placed on a patch of ground dug in the house. The arms of the deceased are placed across their chest. Then the pall-bearers mark a space around the body which nobody else is allowed to pass. They may leave at this point and finish reciting the Sraosh Baj prayer.
    An individual priest and/or someone else may stand by the fire and recite prayers. For the following part, however, two priests are needed. After performing a daily Gah prayer and the Padyab-kusti, the priests come to the edge of the markings around the body. They hold a cloth together, put on masks over their mouths, take the Baj, and begin to recite the Yasna from the beginning. During or after the recital, the pall-bearers enter with an iron bier, which they place beside the body. Once the priests get to the middle of Yasna 31:4, they stop briefly. They may perform the sagdid at this point, or they may perform it at another time. The sagdid is when a dog with two eye-like spots above its eyes is brought before the body to confirm the person’s death. If the dog stares steadily at the body, they are alive. Otherwise, they are confirmed dead.[2] After the break, the Yasna is  continued. The priests may recite other prayers as well, but the Yasna is primary. In particular, the Ahunavaiti Gatha is to be completed.
    The following procedures may vary depending on how the body is going to be dealt with. The best Mazdayasnian way to deal with bodies is excarnation in a dakhma, know in English as a Tower of Silence. When a dakhma is used, the body should be brought there before sunset so that the body can be greeted by the sun.
    At some point during or after the prayers, the pall-bearers place the body on the iron bier. Another sagdid is performed after the prayers, either at the mortuary or at the dakhma. Before the body is taken away, the funeral’s attendees may pass before the corpse one by one and respectfully bow before it.[3] The pall-bearers tie a string to the bier and wrap it around the bier seven times while repeating the Ahuna Vairya seven times. This is to protect the body from demons. The body is secured to the bier with a sheet or cloth straps.
    The body, once taken from the house, is transferred to separate  pall-bearers who are specially designated to bring the body into the dakhma. As soon as the body is removed from the house or mortuary, the places where the body was placed and carried over are to be purified with Gomez or Nirangdin. The funeral procession follows the pall-bearers, and some of them may disperse. Those who leave are expected to ablute themselves before entering buildings. Those who do not leave go to a prayer hall.
    The dakhma is built in an elevated and isolated place. It is round and made of stone, with a pit in the center and individual places for corpses around the circumference. The pall-bearers bring the  body up the steps on the East side of the dakhma to an iron door. Then they place it in its place inside and  strip it naked. While the pall-bearers are in the tower, the funeral’s attendees go to a nearby prayer hall and say farewell prayers. There is a continually burning fire or lamp in the hall, and the dakhma is visible from a window. After the pall-bearers are seen leaving the tower, the attendees may leave. The shroud and clothes used for the funeral are taken to a pit outside the dakhma. They are destroyed by nature, but the process may be expedited with acid. After these tasks are done, the pall-bearers wash themselves with gomez and water, perform the Padyab-kusti, and may say the Patet. Then they all leave. Everyone should bathe.
    During the next three days, the family of the deceased makes special prayers for their soul until 3:30 A.M. on the fourth day, when the soul crosses the Chinavat bridge. A fire is usually kept burning for three days at the spot where the body was placed before it was taken to the dakhma. The spot is to be avoided for ten days if it is  winter and thirty days if it is summer, and during this period a lamp should be kept burning. The family and close friends of the deceased also stop eating meat for three days.
    The prayers during this period are done in the khshnuman (in the name and honor, for the pleasure) of Sraosha, who is the soul’s protector for these three days.  For every Gah, at least two priests say the Sraosh Baj and the Patet with the family of the deceased. For the Aiwisruthem Gah, the priests perform the Afrinagan. These Gah prayers are done at the house of the deceased. A number of prayers are also done at the Fire Temple for three days and nights.
    During the Uzerin Gah on the third day, the Uthamnu is performed. The friends and family of the deceased should all be present. The protection of Sraosha is implored for the deceased, and charities are announced. These are donations for the needy on behalf of the deceased. If the person was exceptionally great and benefited the community, the head priest or his presentative proposes to have their name remembered in every public ceremony. Unless there is vocal objection, the proposal is implemented. The remembrance may be limited to the locality of the person, or it may spread throughout the country and abroad.
    If the deceased is at least 15 and has no son, they are given one. The adopted son usually belongs to a closely related family. This son has the duty of treating his post-mortem-foster-father as he would treat his own father.
    On the dawn of the fourth day, the first Baj is recited in the khshnuman of two angels associated with Judgment, Rashnu and Astad. The second is  recited in the khshnuman of Rama Khvastra (Vae), the angel of ether. The third is recited in the khshnuman of the fravashis of all the righteous. As it is recited, a priest consecrates a set of white clothes and sacrificial items, which are  gifted to him or to the poor. The fourth Baj is recited in the khshnuman of Sraosha.
    The Afrinagan is performed on the fourth, tenth, and thirtieth days after an individual passes, as well as on the first anniversary of their death. Charity is often given on these days.
    After the deceased’s flesh is consumed by birds in the dakhma, the sun-dried bones may be placed in a well in the middle of the dakhma, where they disintegrate. They may also be put in an ossuary which is then buried in a tomb or grave. If the usage of a dakhma is not possible, the body may be buried in a tomb or grave in a tightly sealed coffin. Cremation is a sin, because it pollutes the fire, the air, and sometimes water.
    [1]   In J.J. Modi’s description, only the recital of the Ashem Vohu is mentioned.
    [2]   According to J.J. Modi, the sagdid is to be repeated once in every Gah (prayer-period) in which the corpse is in the building.
    [3]   According to J.J. Modi, the females assemble inside, and the men outside when this is done.

  • user 12:28 am on 28th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Marriage Rites 

    After the Navjote initiation, the next major event in the Mazdayasnian life is marriage, which may take place starting from the age of 15. There are a number of details and preliminary events which are done among the Parsis of India today, but which were not necessarily done prior to their migration to India. What is certain is that the functions involving the priests are very ancient.
    The wedding should preferably take place on an auspicious day, of which there are plenty. Before the day is appointed, the couple must be betrothed. The betrothal is confirmed by a mutual exchange of gifts. The groom’s family brings silver coins to the bride’s family, and the bride’s family brings a gift to the groom’s family. After this, the bride begins using the groom’s name. Nuptial songs are often sung on this occasion.
    The next preliminary event is the Divô (light). Early in the morning, an oil lamp is lit in the house of each betrothed. The women of each family go to the other party’s house and place a silver coin in the lamp. They also exchange gifts, such as wedding rings. On a later day, the The Âdarni, the bride’s family gives the dowry to the bridegroom’s family. Nuptial songs are often sung on this occasion. Some time after the betrothal, a day is fixed for the wedding.
    On the day of the wedding or the day before, the bride and groom are required to take a sacred bath. Among the Parsis of India, the bride wears a loose dress with folds and curls. The bridegroom holds a shawl in his hand, and wears a garland of flowers around his neck. They both have red pigment on their foreheads. The bridegroom’s pigment is vertical and long, and the bride’s is round. The vertical pigment of the male symbolizes a ray of sunlight, and the lingam, while the round pigment of the female symbolizes the moon, and the yoni.
    Every wedding should have a fair amount of people present. The wedding should take place in the evening, just after sunset. The unification of day and night symbolizes the unification of the masculine and feminine principles. An hour or several before sunset. the families exchange gifts. The dowry of 2,000 silver dirhams is gifted to the bride. The houses of both families are sprinkled with chauk, a sand-like wedding powder. Nuptial songs are sung, and the marriage may be announced in town with music.
    The groom goes to the bride’s house, where he is greeted and blessed by the bride’s mother and priests. The bride and groom may throw rice at each other. An egg may be passed around the groom’s head three times, then thrown on the ground. A coconut may also be passed around his head thrice and broken. He may also have a tray of water passed around his head thrice, after which the water is thrown at his feet. The threshold of the house is then crossed with the right foot. He should be welcomed with song.
    The bridegroom waits for the bride in the room where the marriage is to take place. It is customary for the bride to procrastinate at this point. When the bride comes in, the groom sits on her right and she on his left. They both face the East. Beside them each are trays of rice, a symbol of prosperity. There are also candles beside them. Next to the bride is a small pot with ghee and molasses. The ghee symbolizes  “gentility, courtesy, and obedience,” and the molasses symbolizes “sweetness and good temper.”[1] A servant stands by with a censer of fire in one hand and frankincense in the other.
    The bride and bridegroom sit opposite each other, and two people hold a cloth between them to veil them from each other. Once the cloth is taken away, the bride and bridegroom sit side by side. This symbolizes their unification after having been separated. Two priests pass around their chairs with a piece of cloth, enclosing them in a circle symbolic of their unification. They tie the ends of the cloth together with a recitation of the Ahuna Vairya. Then the priests bring the bride and bridegroom’s hands together and recite the Ahuna Vairya again. Their hands are tied with a raw twist, which is wrapped around their hands seven times, then around their bodies seven times with repeated recitals of the Ahuna Vairya, and then around the cloth around their chairs seven times. This symbolizes the strength of their bond. The servant with the frankincense and fire places the frankincense in the fire, which signals for the couple to throw rice at each other. Whoever throws the rice first is said to win. The assembly then claps, and the actual ceremony begins.[2]
    Beside the bride and bridegroom are their witnesses, who should be family members or friends. The senior priest stands before the bridegroom and the junior priest stands before the bride. The senior priest blesses the couple, wishing for them a great progeny, long lives, and prosperity. He asks the witness by the bridegroom to pay 2,000 dirhams of pure silver and two dinars of Nishapurian gold to the bride.[3] The witness agrees. He then asks the bride’s witness if they and their family agree to give the bride in marriage to the groom. The bride’s witness agrees. Then the priest asks the couple if they want to marry each other, to which they both reply in the affirmative. The questions are repeated three times.
    Once the couple is married, the priests give them admonitions and advice on how to behave. Then they pray for Ahura Mazda to bless the couple with virtues. They mention the names of venerable people of ancient Iran, asking for the couple to be blessed with the same great qualities as them. During the blessings, they sprinkle the couple with rice. The ceremony is then concluded with the Tan-dorosti prayer, which is the same prayer of blessings that is recited at the end of an initiation. The festivities last for three days after the wedding day. The ceremony may be repeated at midnight, though this is by no means necessary.
    After the ceremony, a song is sung and the bride is taken to the husband’s house. Another song is sung when she enters her husband’s house. Then a feast is held, in which the auspicious dish of fish is essential. Sweets are also necessary. Later that night, the marriage should be consummated unless the couple is too tired.
    Polygamy is legal in cases where the wife is barren. Divorce is legal only under particular circumstances. According to Parsi law, divorce is legal if one of the partners was insane at the time of marriage and their partner did not know, or if the man is impotent, or if either of them commits adultery, or if the husband commits rape or an “unnatural offence”, or if one of them completely disappears for seven years.
    [1]   http://www.avesta.org/ritual/zwedding.htm
    [2]   Some of the details of these preliminaries  may be unique to the Parsis.
    [3]   This is a Persian tradition which presumably did not go all the way back to the prophet Zarathushtra (as).

  • user 12:24 am on 28th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Initiatic Rite: the Navjote 

    One of the most important events in a Mazdayasnian’s life is the initiatic rite, the Navjote or Sedreh Pushi, in which the Mazdayasnian is invested with a kusti and sudreh. The Navjote takes places between the ages of 7 and 15, though if it is delayed after 15 for any reason it may still be performed. It is preferable to initiate children at age 7. Before the initiation begins, the child is made to take a sacred bath (nahn). After the bath, the child is given a sheet of cloth to wear and is made to sit before a priest as his friends and family watch. The priest hands the child the sudreh and recites the Patet, a prayer of repentance, which the child also recites at least parts of if they are able, and if they are not, they recite the Ahuna Vairya several times. Now the child and the priest stand. The child recites the Declaration of Faith. The Declaration is in Avestan, but an English translation is as follows: “Praised be the most righteous, the wisest, the most holy and the best Mazdayasnian Law, which is the gift of Mazda. The good, true, and perfect religion, which God has sent to this world, is that which Prophet Zoroaster has brought in here. That religion is the religion of Zoroaster, the religion of Ahura Mazda communicated to holy Zoroaster.”
    The child finishes with the Ashem Vohu, then the priest recites the Ahuna Vairya and puts the sudreh on the child. Next, they both face East if it is the morning and West if it is the evening. The priest stands behind the child and recites the Nirang-i-kusti prayer[1], which the child recites at least part of along with him. A short prayer, the Nirang-i-kusti, is recited. A translation is as follows: The Omniscient God is the greatest Lord. Ahriman is the evil Spirit that keeps back the advancement of the world. May that evil spirit with all his accomplices remain fallen and dejected. O Omniscient Lord. I repent of all my sins; I repent of all the evil thoughts that I may have entertained in my mind, all the evil words that I may have spoken, of all the evil deeds that I may have done. May Ahura Mazda be praised! May the evil Spirit Ahriman be condemned. The Will of the Righteous is the most praiseworthy.”
    During the recital, the priest ties the kusti on the child. While tying the first knot, the priest recites the Ahuna Vairya twice, and while tying the second, he recites the Ashem Vohu twice. Then the child recites the Articles of Mazdaism, which have been translated as follows: “O Almighty! Come to my help. I am a worshiper of God. I am a Zarathushtrian worshiper of God. I agree to praise the Zarathushtrian religion, and to believe in that religion. I praise good thoughts, good words, and good actions. I praise the good Mazdayasnian religion which curtails discussions and quarrels, which brings about kinship or brotherhood, which is holy, and which, of all the religions that have yet flourished and are likely to flourish in the future, is the greatest, the best, and the most excellent, and which is the religion given by God to Zarathushtra. I believe that all good things proceed from God. May the Mazdayasnian religion be thus praised.” 
    The last part of the ceremony is a recital of the Tan-dorosti by the priest. This is a prayer of blessings. The priest is paid and the guests are presented with flowers.
    [1]   According to one source (http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/navrit33.html), a part of Hormuzd (Ahura Mazda) Yasht is recited together by the priest and child before the Nirang-i-kusti.

  • user 12:18 am on 28th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Symbolism: the Sudreh 

    The symbolism of the sudreh, the Mazdayasnian shirt, is as follows. Its white color symbolizes purity. It is made out of two separate pieces of cloth, front and back, the sewing together of which symbolizes the meeting of past and future in the present. The front represents the past, presumably because our eyes are in the front and we can see the past more clearly than the future. It symbolizes the Mazdayasnian’s duty to remember, honor, and respect the departed and their righteous works. The back represents the future, and symbolizes the Mazdayasnian’s duty to care for future generations. On the front of the sudreh is the giriban, a small, vertically rectangular pouch which is located in the lower center of the chest or immediately below the chest. Above the giriban, the chest-area of the sudreh is open, showing the upper-center of Mazdayasnians’ chest, though this is not problematic because Mazdayasnians wear other clothes over the sudreh. Sometimes the top of the sudreh’s chest-area is open, then closes above the breasts, then has a slit-shaped opening of at least a few inches, beneath which the giriban in situated. The giriban is quite small, and symbolizes the need to be industrious, filling one’s spiritual purse with righteous deeds.

  • user 7:01 pm on 27th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Rituals: the Padyab-kusti and ablution 

    The Padyab-kusti is the most frequently performed Mazdayasnian ritual. The kusti is a sacred thread Mazdayasnians are required to wear at all times except when bathing, along with their sacred shirt, the sudre. The kusti symbolizes purity, limitation and self-control. It is made by priestesses (women of the priestly class) and consecrated by priests. The priestess makes it out of wool, and it is long enough to be wrapped around the waist three times. It is carefully made to have exactly 72 threads, which are bundled into 6 strands of 12 threads each, with 3 strands of 24 threads at each end. The 72 threads symbolize the 72 chapters of the Yasna, and any Muslim can see in them a symbol of the 72 virgins who are rewarded to martyrs. The 24 threads of the string-ends symbolize the 24 sections of the original Vispered, the 6 strands of 12 threads symbolize the six duties of the Mazdayasnian, the 12 threads symbolize the twelve months, and the 6 string-ends symbolize the the six Gahambars. The hollow interior of the kusti symbolizes the space between Heaven and Earth, the doubling of the thread in the process of its creation symbolizes the connection between the present world and the Hereafter, and the turning inside-out of the kusti in the process of its creation symbolizes the passage of the soul from this world to the next.
    The kusti is to be untied and retied in the morning after getting out of bed, after ablutions, after relieving oneself, before saying prayers, after bathing, and before eating. It is to be tied while facing light, and the tying must always be accompanied by an ablution. The ablution ceremony is as follows. First Kshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao (I do this for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda) is recited. Then the Ashem Vohu is recited. Then the water, which should preferably be well water in a copper basin, is looked at. The right arm is washed from the elbow to the tip of the fingers, then the left. Then the mouth is cleaned with three gargles, and the water should not be swallows. Then the whole face is cleaned. Then the entire feet, right then left, are washed from the ankle to the toes. Then the hand used to wash the feet is washed again. Women ablute themselves differently, washing first the left and then the right side.
    While the ablution is performed, the Kem-na Mazda prayer should be recited. A translation is as follows: “What protector hast thou given unto me, O Mazda! while the hate of the wicked encompasses me? Whom but thy Atar and Vohu Mana, through whose work I keep on the world of righteousness? Reveal therefore to me thy Religion as thy rule!” After this, the Ashem Vohu is recited again, and the kusti is removed.
    The tying of the kusti must be done while facing the sun when it is up, or a light or the moon when it is night. When there is no light available, or when it is midday, the Mazdayasnian should face the south. They must also remain stationary for the duration of the ritual, and must not speak to anyone; if they move or speak to someone, they must start over from the beginning.
    Before the kusti is tied, a prayer cursing Angra Mainyu and his minions may be recited. The Mazdayasnian bows, then raises the kusti to their forehead horizontally as they mention Ahura Mazda. The kusti is violently drawn downwards and to the left when Angra Mainyu is mentioned, and this is repeated less violently for each of the other violent beings. Then the kusti is held up horizontally again, and the Mazdayasnian repents for their sins. The Mazdayasnian bows again, and raises the kusti to their forehead again, and curses Angra Mainyu again while jerking the kusti to the left. They recite a line ending with the words “ashem vohu”, which serve as a condensed version of the prayer. As they say “ashem”, they place the middle of the kusti on the front of their waist and tie it around the waist twice. The kusti is tied around the waist three times, with a knot in the front and a knot in the back. The symbolism of the knots is to be remembered as they are tied. This symbolism is divided into at least two meanings for each knot. The first half of the first knot (in the front) symbolizes monotheism, and the second half of the knot symbolizes the Mazdayasnian religion, its perfection, and the necessity of believing in it. Each half of the knot is accompanied by a recitation of the Ahura Vairya, during which the symbolism of the tying is thought of until the word shyaothananãm (actions), which is in the middle of the prayer. The second knot is tied while reciting the Ashem Vohu once. Zarathushtra (as) is thought of until the word ushta (happiness), which is the fifth word of the prayer, and for the remainder of the Ashem Vohu the three Goodnesses are thought of. The first half of the second knot symbolizes the Prophethood of Zarathushtra (as) and his perfection, and the second half symbolizes the importance of Good thoughts (a concept also including intentions), Good words, and Good deeds. The second knot is to be completed at the same time as the last word of the Ashem Vohu is recited. In tying these knots, the Mazdayasnian affirms their commitment to these principles. They complete the ritual by bowing and holding the front knot of the kusti with both hands, as they recite a formula verbalizing their commitment, which has been translated as follows: “Come to my aid, O Mazda. Come to my aid, O Mazda. Come to my aid, O Mazda. I profess myself a Mazdayasnian, a Zarathushtrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; which upholds family, which possesses Asha; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zarathushtrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.” Then the Ashem Vohu is repeated, the Mazdayasnian bows again, and the ritual is completed.

  • user 11:50 am on 27th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Sacred Bath (Nahn) 

    The Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian sacred bath of is called the nahn. Before it is performed, the Padyab-kusti (tying of the kusti) is performed by both the bather and the priest. This ritual involves untying and re-tying the Mazdayasnian sacred thread, the kusti, which is worn about the waist at all times except when bathing. The priest must possess a special liturgical qualification, the Khub, and he must have performed the extremely elaborate Barashnom ceremony in the past without having thereafter done any actions which would invalidate it.
    The bath usually takes place at the house of the bather or in a Fire Temple. After doing the Padyab-kusti, the bather sits on a stool which is usually made of stone. The bather recites the Baj, which is the grace said before meals. Then they are given a pomegranate leaf to chew or eat. It is given to them on a  handkerchief or the lower part of shirt so that the priest does not have to touch them. This leaf symbolizes plant kind and the Ameshaçpenta Ameretat. Once they are done with the leaf, the Mazdayasnian is given Nirangdin, which is consecrated bull urine. This might seem unsanitary, but according to Mazdayasnian doctrine it is made entirely sanitary and even holy if the consecration is done properly. Before drinking, the Mazdayasnian says in Avestan, “I drink this for the purification of my body, for the purification of my soul.” This is said three times, and between each saying the bather drinks a very small quantity of the Nirangdin. Then they say the post-meal grace, and perform the Padyab-kusti again.
    The bather now says the Patet, the prayer of repentance. Then they go to the bathroom and undress after saying Khnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao (I do this for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda) and the Ashem Vohu. They recite the Sraosha Baj while holding their right hand over their head, because Mazdayasnians are not supposed to speak with their head uncovered. This prayer begins with a request for Sraosha to hear the prayer, followed by a repentance. The prayer is interspersed with many Ahuna Vairyas and Ashem Vohus. Various Yazatas are praised, and Ahura Mazda is asked for help and blessings. After this prayer is completed, the bather is handed several items on a long stick called a naogar, so that the priest does not have to see their nakedness. The naogar has nine knots, the symbolism of which is unknown to me, and a spoon at the end. Sometimes the items are left in the bathroom in advance, especially when the bather is female. The first item given is Nirangdin, which is given three times and rubbed on the body. Then the bather is given sand thrice, to rub on their body.[1] Lastly, they are given consecrated water thrice, which they rub on their body. The consecrated water may also be sprinkled on the new clothes which the bather is to put on after the bath. Lastly, the bath itself is taken in consecrated water. The whole bath is consecrated by the introduction of a small number of consecrated water drops. After the bath, the bather puts on their clothes, recites some prayers of gratitude, and does the Padyab-kusti.
    [1]   J.J. Modi and others have suggested that sand was originally used only as a substitute for water.

  • user 11:43 am on 27th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Rites of Birth 

    A number of general rules are followed in all Mazdayasnian rites and rituals. The head must always be covered when one is speaking, and the North must never be faced during any religious activity. This latter rule is hypothesized to be related to the presence of many evil barbarians to the North of Iran.
    The first religious event a Mazdayasnian partakes in is their birth in a consecrated place followed by a seclusion of forty days. Prior to the birth, the mother should pray for an easy delivery, a good and healthy child, and an abundance of milk. She is to abstain from sex once she is five months pregnant. She is also to abstain from touching dead or rotten things. There may have originally been some rites which were to be practiced while pregnant, but if there were they are no longer extant.
    There were specific chapters on the subject of parturition in the lost Husparam Nask, and the most important details have been preserved. The delivery should take place in the house of the woman’s parents. A room should be chosen which is clean, dry, and infrequently frequented. If no delivery has taken place in the room before, it should be consecrated by priests before the delivery. This consecration is done in the form of the Afrinagan prayer.
    As soon as the child is born, a lamp or fire is to be lit and kept burning for at least three days. This is to protect the child from demons during its very fragile first three days of post-womb existence. Some Mazdayasnians keep the fire burning for ten or forty days. The mother should drink sacred Haoma juice, a sacred drink made from the sacred Haoma plant in a Fire Temple, and she should share it with her infant. If this drink is unavailable, a substitute can be made at home with pomegranate leaves and Haoma twigs. The child may be named immediately, or they be named as they grow with a name based on their observed qualities.
    After giving birth, the mother is to remain in the house and stay away from others, including her husband, for forty days, alone with the child and never leaving it alone.[1] She is also to avoid touching fire, water, and ordinary furniture. Anybody who touches her, including midwives or medical attendants, must take a sacred bath. After the forty-day period, the woman must take a sacred bath herself. This bath is administered by a priest with sacred water. The bedding and clothes of the woman from this period of confinement are to be destroyed.
    [1] In the case of a still-birth, this period lasts only twelve days. This is according to the Vendidad (5:55-56).

  • user 6:36 am on 27th January 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Paraphrase of the Book of Arda Viraf 

    This is a paraphrase of the Book of Arda Viraf, which tells the story of a Mazdayasnian (Zoroastrian) who reportedly travelled to Paradise and Hell and was given a guided tour of both. Regardless of its authenticity, it contains much truth and it is accepted by most traditional Mazdayasnians. As the story goes, the Mazdayasnians decided to send someone to Heaven to verify for the doubtful that their religion was true.[1] They picked seven men, then narrowed them down to three, then from these three they chose Arda Viraf. Then they cast lots, and Arda Viraf was chosen. Arda Viraf’s journey was initiated by a mixture of wine and a mysterious narcotic. He fell asleep and his soul travelled to Heaven. As he slept for seven days, the priests and his seven sisters watched over him and recited the Avestas.
    First, Viraf was approached by Sraosha and Adar the angel of Fire. They bowed to him, and he introduced himself as a messenger (from man to Ahura). Viraf was taken by the hand, and in three steps (good thought, word, and deed) he came to the Chinavat Bridge. He saw a soul of the departed seated upon its body, uttering a verse of the Gathas. For three nights, the soul experienced as much joy and comfort as it had witnessed during its entire stay on the earth. Then it was taken by a fragrant breeze and introduced to the beautiful virgin of its deeds.
    Thereafter, Viraf was helped across the bridge by the angels. He saw Rashnu the Archangel of Jusice weighing men’s deeds. Sraosha and Adar informed Viraf that they were going to give him a tour of Paradise and Hell. They mentioned that the punishments of Hell would be inflicted by demons and sorcerers, and said that they would show Viraf the Reality of Ahura Mazda and the Archangels, and the unreality of Angra Mainyu and the devas. First, he was taken to Purgatory, where he saw several people, all of whom were immobile. Sraosha told him that their only punishment was cold and heat from the revolution of the atmosphere.
    And Viraf was taken to the Star Track, where good thoughts are received. He saw radiant souls seated upon splendid thrones. These were those who practiced no religion and had no positions of leadership in society, yet they were pious in other ways. Thereafter, he stepped into the Moon Track, where good words are received. He saw a large assembly of good souls. These were more of those who practiced no religion, yet they were pious in other ways, possibly including righteous leadership. Then Viraf stepped into the Sun Track, where good deeds are received. He saw the pious upon thrones and carpets of gold, a people whose brightness was like unto the brightness of the sun. These were those who ruled justly.
    And Viraf entered Garothman, Paradise, where he was greeted by the inhabitants. Adar showed him a tank of water produced by Viraf’s religious services. Then Vohu Mana brought Viraf to Ahura Mazda and the other Archangels and the fravashis of the prophets. Then he saw the souls of those who married their next of kin[2], living in ever-increasing prosperity. He saw the righteous monarchs, who wore golden pants. He saw the righteous women, who wore luxuriant clothing embroidered with gold, silver, and jewels. He saw the priests, who were seated above the other souls. He saw the jihadis, who had fine arms and pompous pants. He also saw those who killed vile creatures (exterminators), and humble agriculturalists, and artisans who served their rulers well, and shepherds, and teachers, and truth-seekers, and peacemakers. There were many golden thrones, fine carpets, and luxuriant cushions.
    And Viraf was taken to a dreadfully gloomy river. Many souls and fravashis endeavored to cross the river, some with ease and some not at all. Sraosha explained that the river was the many tears of those who wept for the departed unlawfully. Those who were wept for much had difficulty crossing, and those who were wept for little could cross more easily.
    And Arda Viraf was brought back to Chinavat Bridge. He saw the first three nights of a wicked soul, who was shown more evil than they had ever seen in the world, and who was made to experience as much misfortune as happened to a man who lived a difficult life in the world. Then the man was met by a reeking cold wind, in which he saw “a profligate woman, naked, decayed, gaping, bandy-legged, lean-hipped, and unlimitedly spotted so that spot was joined to spot, like the most hideous, noxious creature, most filthy and most stinking.” She introduced herself to him as his Din, and explained to him how she came to be more hideous because of him, though she was already hideous without him. The man took three steps, and fell into Hell.
    And Sraosha took Viraf’s hand to protect him from that which he beheld. Viraf saw cold, heat, drought, and stench, such as he had never seen or heard of before. He saw the greedy jaws of Hell, and its great and dark depth, from which there came a stench which would cause anyone to stagger and fall. Viraf says that everyone there is very closely confined and thinks that they are alone. He further says that after three days, the man thinks he has been imprisoned for nine thousand years. The noxious creatures, even the lesser ones, are as high as mountains, and they abuse the souls of the wicked.
    And then Viraf was shown a long series of horrible punishments in Hell and informed of the causes of these punishments. This makes up the greater part of the Book of Arda Viraf. First, a man who allowed himself to be sodomized was seen to have a snake which, like a beam, entered his anus and came out of his mouth, as many other snakes seized his limbs. And there was a woman who did not respect the laws of abstinence from certain things while in menses, who was given cup after cup of the filth and impurity of men to drink. And there was a man who killed the righteous, and his head was perpetually being “widened out”, and he was perpetually being killed. And there was a man who had had sex with a menstruous woman, and he was being made to drink the impurity and menstrual fluids of women, and he perpetually cooked and ate his own child. And there was a man who was irreligious and ate greedily,  without saying grace, and he perpetually felt that he was dying of hunger and thirst, and tore out his hair, and ate blood, and foamed at the mouth. And there was a woman who committed adultery, and she was suspended by the breasts as vile creatures seized her body. And there were men and women who ran about naked and shoeless and served Satan[3], and they were being gnawed upon by vile creatures. And there was a woman who scorned, disobeyed, abused, and rejected her husband, and she was suspended in the air with her tongue stretched out on her neck. And there was a dishonest measurer and weigher, a swindler, who was forced to measure dust and ashes and then eat it. And there was a man who was an unmerciful tyrany, who was being perpetually flogged from both sides with serpents. And there was a slanderer and producer of enmity, whose tongue was on his jaw as vile creatures gnawed on him. And there was a man who slaughtered livestock excessively, and his limbs were perpetually being broken and torn apart. And there was a man who was miserly and did nothing with his wealth, and he was stretched upon a rack as a thousand demons trampled upon him. And there was a very lazy man, and he was being gnawed upon by a vile creature, but his right foot was not gnawed upon, because he had cast a bundle of grass before a ploughing ox with it. And there was a man who lied, and a worm ever gnawed upon his tongue. And there was a woman who violated and disrespected fire, and her whole body was being gnawed upon by vile creatures. And there was a sorceress, who chewed and ate her own excrement. And there was a man who apostatized, who had the body of a serpent and the head of a man. And there were men and women who did not care for water and fire, and allowed or caused them to be defiled and extinguished, and these people were suspended upside-down as vile creatures gnawed on them. And there was a man who defiled water and fire with human waste and the like, and he was made to eat human flesh, feces, blood, and other filth. And there was a man who didn’t pay people what was due to them, and who was made to eat human skin and flesh. And there was a man who backbit, and he had to carry a mountain on his back, and he had to go through snow and cold with this mountain on his back. And there was a man who went to a bath and defiled others thereby, and he was given excrement and filth to eat, and he was beaten with stones and axes. And there were several who had a father in their mothers, and whose fathers did not acknowledge them, and they were ever weeping for a father.[4] And there was a man who did not acknowledge his children, and he was attacked and torn by doggish demons, and there were children at his feet, and he perpetually screamed. And there was a woman who killed her infant, and she dug into a hill with her breasts and wore a mill-stone on her head like a cap. And some of the accounts of specific punishment are missing, because parts of the story have been lost.
    And Arda Viraf was taken to a desert beneath the Chinavat Bridge, and Hell was in the midst of it. Angra Mainyu, the devas, and the souls of the wicked made a frightening noise which could be heard from afar. After some hesitation, Viraf allowed his escorts to take him to see the darkest Hell, and it was abominable. And he saw those who committed mortal sins, and extinguished sacred fires, and demolished precious bridges, and spoke blasphemy and falsehood, and bore false witness, and desired anarchy, and led to the deaths of the righteous. And these people were inflicted with punishments of snow, freezing, fire, reeking stenches, stone, ashes, hail, rain, and many other evils. And Viraf saw those who subverted and rejected their God and religion, and they were ever stung and gnawed upon by serpents. And there was a woman who left her infant in hunger and need, and she wept, and she tore and ate her own breasts. And there was a man who committed adultery continually, and he was being cooked in a cauldron, except for his right foot, with which he had smitten vile creatures. And there were atheists and disbelievers in the Hereafter, who perpetually swallowed and ate their vomit over and over again. And there was a woman who hated her husband and behaved improperly with other men, and she gnashed her chest and breasts with an iron comb. And there was a woman who rebelled against and abused her husband, and refused to cohabit with him, and stole from him, and she was made to lick a hot oven with her tongue and burn her hand under the oven. And there was a woman who became pregnant illegally and destroyed her infant, who ran about on molten brass while sobbing and gashing her head and face with a knife, as hail rained upon her. And there were people who troubled their parents, and did not ask them for forgiveness, and these people’s chests were in mud and filth, and a sickle sliced their limbs, and they ever called out for parents.[5] And there were people who slandered and caused strife amongst people, and their tongues were gnawed upon by serpents. And there was a man who ruled unjustly and ignored the complaints of the poor and merchants, and he was suspended in Hell by one leg, and he gashed his chest and armpits with a sickle, and an iron spike was driven into his eye.
    And Viraf saw a man and his wife. The former was going to Heaven and the latter to Hell. The woman’s hand was caught in the man’s kusti (sacred thread), and she inquired as to why she was going to Hell while her man was going to Heaven. And the man replied that he had been just and she had followed Satan, to which she replied that she had been under his control and that he had not explained to her why he was righteous. So the man went to Heaven and the woman to Hell, but due to her repentance, her only punishment was darkness and foul smells. And the man was amongst the pious in Heaven, but felt shame at his failure to teach his wife.
    And Arda Viraf saw some women who committed adultery and defiled their husbands’ bodies and injured their bodies. These women were tied upside down by one leg, and had wooden pegs in both eyes. And many vile creatures such as frogs, scorpions, snakes, ants, flies, and worms entered all of their orifices. And Viraf saw women who broke promises they had made to their husbands, and were discontent, and refused to have sex with them, and these women were hung upside down as a hedgehog-like thing with iron spikes punctured their bodies, then was drawn away (repeatedly), and a small drop of the sexual fluids of demons and demonesses fell from it and entered the mouths and noses of the women. And Viraf saw a man who had committed much sodomy, and debauched the wives of others, and separated them from their husbands. This man was being stung and gnawed upon by serpents, and snakes and worms went through his eyes, and an iron spike was scraped (or grown) upon his tongue. And there were women who did not respect the laws concerning menstruation, and they were ever consuming their own menstrual fluids. And there were women who used makeup and enticed men of God, and these women “shed and sucked and ate the blood and filth of their ten fingers, and worms ever came into both eyes”. And there were people who unlawfully slaughtered animals, and they were hung upside down by one leg, and a knife was driven into their hearts. And there were people who muzzled their animals of labor and did not feed and water them adequately, who  were trampled and gored by cattle. And there were women who committed sorcery and gave men food that they had prepared while in menses, and these women stood on hot brass, and they lacerated their breasts with their hands and teeth, and dogs tore and ate their bellies. And there were people who overburdened their animals, and starved them, and did not take care of their health, and these people had wounds on their backs, hands, and legs, and they were suspended upside down with their heads in melted brass[6], and heavy stone rained on their backs. And there was a woman who became pregnant from another man, lied about it to her husband, and murdered the infant, and this woman “dug an iron hill with her breasts[7], and an infant cried from her side of the hill, yet the woman and the infant were kept apart from each other. And there was a man who took bribes and made unjust decisions, whose eyes were scooped out, and whose tongue was cut off, and who was suspended in Hell by one leg as his body was raked with a brazen two-pronged fork, and an iron spike was driven into his head (or heart). There were people who measured things falsely and swindled others, and they were suspended upside down, and they shoved the blood, brains, and filth of men into their mouths, and put feces up their noses, and cried “we keep just measures”. And there was a woman who committed adultery and practiced sorcery, whose tongue was cut off, and her eyes were scooped out, and her brain was ever devoured by vile creatures, and she would occasionally gnaw upon her own flesh. And there was a woman who was of “sharp tongue”, who troubled her husband with her rude tongue, and her tongue was plucked out. And there was a woman who ate much meat and shared it with others without letting her husband know, and she ate her own refuse. And there was an opium maker and dealer, whose breasts were cut off, and her belly torn, and her entrails given to dogs. And there was a woman who had a good husband, yet committed adultery with a vile man, so on her body “they construct an iron coating, and they turn back the mouth, and put it back to a hot oven”. And there was a man who violated a marriage between next of kin, so a snake went through his body and came out the mouth.[8] And there was a woman who did not breastfeed her child, and she scraped her body and face with an iron comb, and “dug an iron hill with her breasts”. And there was a man who fornicated and seduced married women, so he hung upside down from a gibbet, and he was perpetually having sexual intercourse, and semen was dropped into his mouth, ears, and nose. And there people who were uncharitable, so they were thrown about from side to side as vile creatures chomped on the backs of their limbs, and they cried in thirst, hunger, cold, and heat. And there were people who lied and cursed, so serpents stang and ate their tongues. And there was a judge who judged in a greedy and unjust manner, so he perpetually killed his own child and ate its brains. And there were people who held back good things from others, so they had a wooden peg driven into their eye. And there were people who did not provide for or hire travelers, so they had a punishment of smoke, heat, and a cold wind. And there were women who starved and killed their own children, yet wet-nursed the infants of others, so they placed their own breasts on a hot frying pan and turned them from side to side. And there was a vile woman who did not nurse her own child, but went and had illicit sex with a strange man, so she dug a hill with her breasts and hungered and thirsted. And there was a man who took seeds, saying that he would plant them, yet he ate them instead, so his tongue was removed and he was dragged around by his hair. And there were a man and woman who lied, cursed, and deceived themselves, so their tongues were cut out. And there were a man and woman who ate “dead refuse” and killed animals such as the water-otter, so they vomited and ate excrement. And there were people who committed treason, so their tongues were scraped with wooden pegs, and demons hurt them with an iron comb.
    And Arda Viraf saw Angra Mainyu, who ridiculed and mocked the wicked in Hell. Then Viraf was taken to Heaven again. He saw a light and heard a voice, and he knew from the voice that it was Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda instructed him to go to the earth and relate what he had seen. He also provided a message, which is that there is only one true way, the way of the primordial religion, that the world is made of dust, and that the only people who do not mingle with dust are the righteous. Viraf then bowed  to Ahura Mazda, and returned to the earth. When Viraf woke up, he was joyous. He promised the people blessings from their Lord, and instructed them to provide for the destitute and unemployed. Then he ate some delicious food, drank wine, and began to recount his journey as a scribe wrote it down.
    [1]   This account is paraphrased from the edition on Avesta.org, which is from the public domain The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, Volume VII: Ancient Persia, ed. Charles F. Horne, copyright 1917.
    [2]   This is taken by some modern Mazdayasnians to refer to marriage between cousins, but in the past the endorsement of  incestuous marriages (sibling-sibling or parent-child) was common among the ruling class of Persia.
    [3]   These were presumably sorcerers, witches, and other Satanists.
    [4]   At first sight, it seems as though they are being punished for being fatherless. But that would be unjust, so it must be that they were actually in Hell for something else, and they were not given other punishments only because the thought of their fatherlessness was sufficient.
    [5]   It is implied, in the English translation at least, that they did not know who their parents were.
    [6]   This has also been translated as « suspended with the posteriors to the face ».
    [7]   A probable meaning is that the woman pressed her breasts into an iron hill.
    [8]   This punishment is only mentioned in one manuscript of the Book of Arda Viraf.

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