Persian mythology

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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.

Iranian folklore encompasses the folk traditions that have evolved in Iran.

Good and evil dichotomy in religion, ethics, and philosophy

In religion, ethics, philosophy, and psychology "good and evil" is a very common dichotomy. In cultures with Manichaean and Abrahamic religious influence, evil is usually perceived as the dualistic antagonistic opposite of good, in which good should prevail and evil should be defeated. In cultures with Buddhist spiritual influence, both good and evil are perceived as part of an antagonistic duality that itself must be overcome through achieving Śūnyatā meaning emptiness in the sense of recognition of good and evil being two opposing principles but not a reality, emptying the duality of them, and achieving a oneness.

<i>Yazata</i>

Yazata is the Avestan language word for a Zoroastrian concept with a wide range of meanings but generally signifying a divinity. The term literally means "worthy of worship or veneration", and is thus, in this more general sense, also applied to certain healing plants, primordial creatures, the fravashis of the dead, and to certain prayers that are themselves considered holy. The yazatas collectively are "the good powers under Ohrmuzd [Ahura Mazda]", who is "the greatest of the yazatas".

Contents

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. [1]

Greater Iran Cultural region

Greater Iran is a term used to refer to the regions of the Caucasus, West Asia, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia that have significant Iranian cultural influence due to having been either long historically ruled by the various imperial dynasties of the Iranian Empire, having considerable aspects of Persian culture due to extensive contact with the various imperial dynasties of Iran, or are simply nowadays still inhabited by a significant amount of Iranian peoples who patronize their respective cultures. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains. The Encyclopædia Iranica uses the term Iranian Cultural Continent for this region.

Caucasus region in Eurasia bordered on the south by Iran, on the southwest by Turkey, on the west by the Black Sea, on the east by the Caspian Sea, and on the north by Russia

The Caucasus or Caucasia is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

Key texts

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.

<i>Shahnameh</i> long epic Persian poem written by Ferdowsi

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 the world's longest epic poem written by a single poet. 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.

Ferdowsi Persian poet

Abu ʾl-Qasim Firdowsi Tusi, or Ferdowsi was a Persian poet and the author of Shahnameh, which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.

Zoroastrianism Iranian religion founded by Zoroaster

Zoroastrianism, or Mazdayasna, is one of the world's oldest religions that remains active. It is a monotheistic faith, centered in a dualistic cosmology of good and evil and an eschatology predicting the ultimate destruction of evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster, it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda, as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will may have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

Religious background

The Chogha Zanbil ziggurat. Chogha Zanbil.jpg
The Chogha Zanbil ziggurat.

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.

Daeva Deity

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.

Anīrân or Anērān is an ethno-linguistic term that signifies "non-Iranian" or "non-Iran" (non-Aryan). Thus, in a general sense, 'Aniran' signifies lands where Iranian languages are not spoken. In a pejorative sense, it denotes "a political and religious enemy of Iran and Zoroastrianism."

Ahura Mazda deity of Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda is the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism. Ahura Mazda is the highest spirit of worship in Zoroastrianism, along with being the first and most frequently invoked spirit in the Yasna. The literal meaning of the word Ahura is "lord", and that of Mazda is "wisdom".

Good and Evil

Relief in Tus depicting popular mythical stories of Iran. Tus shahnameh.jpg
Relief in Tus depicting popular mythical stories of Iran.
Simurgh (Phoenix) decoration outside of Nadir Divan-Beghi madrasah, Bukhara. Nadir Madrasah Phoenix.JPG
Simurgh (Phoenix) decoration outside of Nadir Divan-Beghi madrasah, Bukhara.

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.

Rostam hero in Iranian mythology

Rostam or Rustam, son of Zal and Rudaba, is the most celebrated legendary hero in Shahnameh and Iranian mythology. In Shahnameh, Rostam and his predecessors are Marzbans of Sistan. Rostam is best known for his tragic fight with Esfandiar; the other legendary Iranian hero, for his expedition to Mazandaran ; and for tragically fighting and killing his son, Sohrab, without knowing who his opponent is. Rostam was eventually killed by Shaghad, his half-brother.

Zahhāk or Zahāk is an evil figure in Persian mythology, evident in ancient Persian folklore as Aži 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.

Kāve legendary figure

Kaveh the Blacksmith, also known as Kawa or the Blacksmith of Isfahan, is a mythical figure in the Iranian mythology who leads a popular uprising against a ruthless foreign ruler, Zahāk. His story is narrated in the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran, by the 10th-century Persian poet Ferdowsi.

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 ]

Peri spirits in Persian mythology

Peri are exquisite, winged spirits renowned for their beauty. Originally from Persian and Armenian mythologies, Peris were later adopted by other cultures. They are described as mischievous beings that have been denied entry to paradise until they have completed penance for atonement. Under Islamic influence, Peris became benevolent spirits, in contrast to the mischievous jinn.

Houri

The houris are beings in Islamic religion, described in English translations as "and splendid companions of equal age [or well-matched]", "lovely eyed", of "modest gaze" and virgins who will accompany the faithful in Jannah.

Paradise religious term for a place of eternal and harmonious existence

In religion, paradise is a place of exceptional happiness and delight. Paradisiacal notions are often laden with pastoral imagery, and may be cosmogonical or eschatological or both, often compared to the miseries of human civilization: in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, a land of luxury and fulfillment. Paradise is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, in contrast to this world, or underworlds such as Hell.

The conflict between good and evil is prevalent in Persian myth and Zoroastrianism. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mitra Indo-Iranian divinity

Mitra is the name of an Indo-Iranian divinity from which the names and some characteristics of Rigvedic Mitrá and Avestan Mithra derive.

Avestan East Iranian language used in Zoroastrian scripture

Avestan, also known historically as Zend, refers to 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.

Afrasiab mythical character

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 fictional bird

Simurgh, also spelled simorgh, simorg, simurg, simoorg, simorq or simourv, is a benevolent, mythical bird in Iranian mythology and literature. It is sometimes equated with other mythological birds such as a "phoenix". Persian 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

Jamshid is the fourth Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia according to Shahnameh.

Zāl /zɒl/, alternate spelling Zaul, 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.

Farr-e Kiyani (Faravahar)

The Faravahar, also known as Farr-e Kiyani, is one of the best-known symbols of Iran. It symbolizes Zoroastrianism, the first religion of Iran before the Arab invasion of Iran, and Iranian nationalism.

Esfandiyār fictional human

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

Fereydun, also pronounced and spelled Freydun, Faridon and Afridun, is the name of the sixth Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia and hero from the kingdom of Varena. He is known as an emblem of victory, justice, and generosity in the Persian literature and Persian mythology.

Garshāsp was the last Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia according to Shahnameh. He was a descendant of Zaav and ruled over Persian Empire about nine years. and is 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.

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

Khvarenah or khwarenah 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

Ancient Iranian religion refers to the ancient beliefs and practices of the Iranian peoples before the rise of Zoroastrianism.

Roozahang (روزآهنگ) 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.

References

  1. Sarkhosh-Curtis, V., Persian Myths (1993) London, ISBN   0-7141-2082-0
  2. "Persian Myth". earlyworldhistory.blogspot.com.