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Persian mythology are traditional tales and stories of ancient origin, all involving extraordinary or supernatural beings. Drawn from the legendary past of Iran, they reflect the attitudes of the society to which they first belonged - attitudes towards the confrontation of good and evil, the actions of the gods, yazats (lesser gods), and the exploits of heroes and fabulous creatures. Myths play a crucial part in Iranian culture and our understanding of them is increased when we consider them within the context of Iranian history.
For this purpose we must ignore modern political boundaries and look at historical developments in the Greater Iran, a vast area covering the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Central Asia, beyond the frontiers of present-day Iran. The geography of this region, with its high mountain ranges, plays a significant role in many of the mythological stories. The second millennium BC is usually regarded as the age of migration because of the emergence in western Iran of a new form of Iranian pottery, similar to earlier wares of north-eastern Iran, suggesting the arrival of the Ancient Iranian peoples. This pottery, light grey to black in colour, appeared around 1400 BC. It is called Early Grey Ware or Iron I, the latter name indicating the beginning of the Iron Age in this area.
The central collection of Persian mythology is the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, written over a thousand years ago. Ferdowsi's work draws heavily, with attribution, on the stories and characters of Mazdaism and Zoroastrianism, not only from the Avesta , but from later texts such as the Bundahishn and the Denkard as well as many others.
The characters of Persian mythology almost always fall into one of two camps. They are either good, or they are evil. The resultant discord mirrors the nationalistic ideals of the early Islamic era as well as the moral and ethical perceptions of the Zoroastrian period, in which the world was perceived to be locked in a battle between the destructive Ahriman and his hordes of demonic dews and their un-Iranian supporters, versus the Creator Ormuzd, who although not participating in the day-to-day affairs of mankind, was represented in the world by the izads and the righteous ahlav Iranians.
The most famous legendary character in the Persian epics and mythology is Rostam. On the other side of the fence is Zahhak, a symbol of despotism who was, finally, defeated by Kāve, who led a popular uprising against him. Zahhak (Avestan : Aži Dahāka) was guarded by two vipers which grew out from both of his shoulders. No matter how many times they were beheaded, new heads grew on them to guard him. The snake, like in many other mythologies, was a symbol of evil, but many other animals and birds appear in Iranian mythology, and, especially, the birds were signs of good omen. Most famous of these is the Simurgh, a large beautiful and powerful bird; and the Huma bird, a royal bird of victory whose plume adorned the crowns.
Peri (Avestan Pairika), considered a beautiful though evil woman in early mythology, gradually became less evil and more beautiful, until during the Islamic period she became a symbol of beauty similar to the houris of Paradise.[ citation needed ]
The conflict between good and evil is prevalent in Persian myth and Zoroastrianism.
Mitra is the name of an Indo-Iranian divinity from which the names and some characteristics of Rigvedic Mitrá and Avestan Mithra derive.
Avestan, also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan and Younger Avestan. The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture, from which they derive their name. Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family. Its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon with Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language.
The Shahnameh is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran. Consisting of some 50,000 "distichs" or couplets, the Shahnameh is one of the world's longest epic poems. It tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. Modern Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and the greater region influenced by Persian culture celebrate this national epic.
Afrasiab is the name of the mythical king and hero of Turan. He is the main antagonist of the Persian epic Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi.
Simurgh, is a benevolent, mythical bird in Iranian mythology and literature. It is sometimes equated with other mythological birds such as a "phoenix" and humā. The figure can be found in all periods of Iranian art and literature and is also evident in the iconography of Georgia, medieval Armenia, the Byzantine Empire, and other regions that were within the realm of Persian cultural influence.
Jamshid is the fourth Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia according to Shahnameh.
Zāl, alternatively spelled as Zaal, is a legendary Iranian king from Sistan, and is recognized as one of the greatest warriors of the Shahnameh epic. He is the father of the equally legendary Iranian hero, Rostam.
The Faravahar, also known as Farre Kiyâni, is one of the most well-known symbols of Iran and Zoroastrianism, the primary religion of Iran before the Arab conquest of Iran, and of Iranian nationalism. There are various interpretations of what the faravahar symbolizes, but there is no universal consensus.
Daeva is an Avestan language term for a particular sort of supernatural entity with disagreeable characteristics. In the Gathas, the oldest texts of the Zoroastrian canon, the daevas are "gods that are rejected". This meaning is – subject to interpretation – perhaps also evident in the Old Persian "daiva inscription" of the 5th century BCE. In the Younger Avesta, the daevas are divinities that promote chaos and disorder. In later tradition and folklore, the dēws are personifications of every imaginable evil.
Armenian mythology originated in ancient Indo-European traditions, specifically Proto-Armenian, and gradually incorporated Anatolian, Hurro-Urartian, Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Greek beliefs and deities.
Zahhāk or Zahāk is an evil figure in Persian mythology, evident in ancient Persian folklore as Azhi Dahāka, the name by which he also appears in the texts of the Avesta. In Middle Persian he is called Dahāg or Bēvar Asp the latter meaning "he who has 10,000 horses". In Zoroastrianism, Zahhak is considered the son of Angra Mainyu, the foe of Ahura Mazda. In the Shāhnāmah of Ferdowsi, Zahhāk is the son of a ruler named Merdās.
Esfandiyār, also translated as Sepandiār or, Sepandiyar, Esfandyar, Isfandiar, Isfandiyar or Esfandiar, is a legendary Iranian hero. He was the son and the crown prince of the Kayanian King Goshtasp and brother of the immortal Pashotan.
Fereydun, or Afrīdūn, is an Iranian mythical king and hero from the Pishdadian dynasty. He is known as an emblem of victory, justice, and generosity in Persian literature.
Garshāsp (gladiator) (Persian: is also the name of a monster-slaying hero in Iranian mythology. The Avestan form of his name is Kərəsāspa and in Middle Persian his name is Kirsāsp. Gershasp is beside Sām, Qobad, and Qaren in the time of Fereydun and one of Manuchehr commanders.
Harā Bərəzaitī, literally meaning "High Watchpost", is the name given in the Avestan language to a legendary mountain around which the stars and planets revolve.
Khvarenah is an Avestan word for a Zoroastrian concept literally denoting "glory" or "splendour" but understood as a divine mystical force or power projected upon and aiding the appointed. The neuter noun thus also connotes "(divine) royal glory," reflecting the perceived divine empowerment of kings. The term also carries a secondary meaning of "(good) fortune"; those who possess it are able to complete their mission or function.
The trilogy of Persians and I is the first modern Iranian mythical and epic fantasy series novels written by Arman Arian, a Persian author, novelist and researcher.
Ancient Iranian religion refers to the ancient beliefs and practices of the Iranian peoples before the rise of Zoroastrianism.
Roozahang is the Avestan language name of a Zoroastrian benevolent divinity associated with life-bringing rainfall and fertility. Roozahang or Tishtrya is Tir in Middle- and Modern Persian. As has been judged from the archaic context in which Tishtrya (Roozahang) appears in the texts of the Avesta, the divinity/concept is almost certainly of Indo-Iranian origin.
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