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The Kusti ritual

The following account is that of Dastur Jamaspji Minochiharji Jamasp-Asa-na, as recorded by E. W. West, SBE 18, pg 383 ff.

The Nirang-i Kusti, or girdle formula, is a religious rite which a Parsi man or woman ought to perform every time the hands have been washed, whether for the sake of cleanliness, or in preparation for prayer; but it is not always strictly performed in all its details.

The Kusti, or sacred thread-girdle, is a string about the size of a stay-lace, and long enough to pass three times very loosely round the waist, to be tied twice in a double knot, and to leave the short ends hanging behind. It is composed of seventy-two very fine, white, woollen threads, as described in Dd. XXXIX, I, note, and is tied in the manner there mentioned, but with the actions and ritual detailed below.

[The ceremonial ablution, or Padyab, consists of washing the exposed parts of the skin while reciting:

xshnaothrâ ahurahe mazdå,
ashem vohû....
kêm-nâ mazdâ ... (exorcism) ashem vohû....*

* One unties the kusti while reciting the final Ashem Vohu.]

The ceremonial ablution having been performed, and the Kusti taken off, the person stands facing the sun by day, or a lamp or the moon at night; when there is no light he should face the south, as he should also at midday, even when the sun is northerly. The Kusti is then doubled, and the loop thus formed is held in the right hand*, with the thumb in the loop; while the left hand holds the two parts of the string together, some twenty inches horizontally from the other hand; and the ends hang loosely from the left hand.

[*NOTE: this seems to be backwards: most Zoroastrians hold the loop with the left hand.]

Holding the Kusti in this fashion, the person recites the following prayer in Pazand, bowing and raising to his forehead the horizontal portion of the string at the name of Ohrmazd*, dashing the string loosely and sharply downwards towards the left when mentioning Ahriman**, and repeating this downward jerk to the left, less violently, as each of the other evil beings+ is named:

hôrmezd* i hvadâe, âharman** awâdishâhã dûr awâzh dâshtâr zat shkasta bât. âharman** dêwã+ drûzhã+ jâdvã+ darvañdã+ kîkã+ karafã+ sâstârã+ gunâhkârã+ âshmôgã+ darvañdã+ dushmanã+ faryã+ zat shkasta bât. dushpâdishâhã+ awâdishâhã bât, dushmanã+ stuh bât, dushmanã+ awâdishâhã bât.

(Ohrmazd is Lord! Ahriman he keeps at bay, he holds him back. May Ahriman be struck and defeated, with devs and drujs, sorcerers and sinners, kayags and karbs, tyrants, wrongdoers and heretics, sinners, enemies and witches! May they (all) be struck and defeated! May evil rulers not exist, (or) be far away! May enemies be defeated! May enemies all not exist, (or) be far away!)

Bending forwards and holding the doubled Kusti up, horizontally, as before, we continue:
hôrmezd i hvadâe, ezh hamâ gunâh patit pashêmãnôm, ezh haravistîn dushmat duzhûxt duzhvaresht men pa gêthî minît vaem guft vaem kard vaem jast vaem bun bût estet

(O Ohrmazd, Lord! I am contrite for all sins and I desist from them, from all bad thoughts, bad words and bad acts which I have thought, spoken or done in the world, or which have happened through me, or have originated with me.)

Then, holding the Kusti single with both hands near the middle of the string, but as far apart as before, while the loose ends of the string are shortened (to prevent their touching the ground) by being partially gathered, up in a large loop kanging under each hand, like a pair of spectacles, he proceeds:

ezh ã gunâhihâ manishnî gaweshnî kunishnî tanî rvãnî gêthî mainyuãnî ôxe awaxsh pashêmã pa se gaweshnî pa patit hôm!

(For those sins of thinking, speaking and acting, of body and soul, worldly or spiritual, O Ohrmazd! I am contrite, I renounce them. With three words I distance myself from them.)

He then continues to recite the following Avesta phrases:

xshnaothrâ ahurahe mazdå (With satisfaction for Ahura Mazda,)
bowing and raising the Kusti to the forehead;
tarôidîti angrahe mainyêush, (scorn for Angra Mainyu!)

jerking the Kusti to the left, without altering the mode of holding it;

haithyâvarshtãm hyat vasnâ ferashôtemem. staomi ashem,
ashem vohû*....

(The true achievement of what is most wonderful, according to wish! I praise Asha! Ashem Vohu....)

Applying the middle of the Kusti to the front of the waist at the first word, 'Ashem* (righteousness),' of the last sentence, it is passed twice round the waist during the remainder of the sentence, by the hands meeting behind, exchanging ends, and bringing them round again to the front.

The following Avesta formula is then recited:

ýathâ ahû vairyô
athâ ratush ashâtcît hacâ
vanghêush dazdâ mananghô
shyaothananãm* anghêush mazdâi
xshathremcâ ahurâi â
ýim drigubyô dadat vâstârem!!

(As a patron spirit is to be chosen, so is an earthly master, for the sake of righteousness [Asha], to be a giver of good thought of the actions of life towards Mazda; and the dominion is for the Lord [Ahura] whom he has given as a protector for the poor.)

At the first word the long ends of the Kusti, hanging in front, are loosely twisted round each other at the waist, with a right-handed turn (that is, with the sun), and the reciter, holding his hands together, should think that Ahura Mazda is the sole creator of the good creation, until he comes to the word 'shyaothananãm/actions,*' after which the twist is drawn closer to the waist during the remainder of the recitation.

The same Avesta formula is then repeated. At the first word the second half of the knot is formed, by twisting the long ends of the Kusti loosely round each other with a left-handed turn (that is, against the sun), so as to complete a loose reef-knot, and the reciter, holding his hands together, should think that Mazda-worship is the true faith, until he comes to the word 'shyaothananãm/actions,' after which the complete double knot is drawn close during the remainder of the recitation.

Then, passing the long ends of the Kusti round the waist for the third time, from front to back, the previous Avesta formula, 'Righteousness is the best good,' &c., is recited.

ashem vohû....

At the first word the ends of the Kusti are loosely twisted round each other behind the waist, with a right-handed turn as before, and the reciter should think that Zarathushtra was the true apostle, until he comes to the first occurrence of the word 'blessing,' when the twist is drawn close. During the remainder of the formula the second half of the knot is formed, with a left-handed twist as before, while the reciter thinks that he must practise good thoughts, good words? and good deeds, and avoid all evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds; the double knot being completed behind as the last word of the formula is uttered.

Afterwards, bending forward and holding the front knot of the Kusti with both hands, the person recites the following Avesta formula:

jasa-mê avanghe mazda (3).
mazdayasnô ahmî mazdayasnô zarathushtrish fravarânê âstûtascâ fravaretascâ, âstuyê humatem manô âstuyê hûxtem vacô âstuyê hvarshtem shyaothanem. âstuyê daênãm [vanguhîm] mâzdayasnîm fraspâyaoxedhrãm nidhâsnaithishem hvaêtvadathãm ashaonîm ýâ hâitinãmcâ bûshyeiñtinãmcâ mazishtâcâ vahishtâcâ sraêshtâcâ ýâ âhûirish zarathushtrish, ahurâi mazdâi vîspâ vohû cinahmî. aêshâ astî daênayå mâzdayasnôish âstûitish!!

(Come to my aid, O Mazda (3).

I profess myself a Mazda-worshipper, a Zoroastrian, 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 khvaetvadatha, which possesses Asha; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.

And the reciter then repeats the formula, 'Righteousness is the best good,' etc., as before, bowing reverently, which completes the rite.

ashem vohû....

During the rite the person performing it must remain standing on the same spot, without stepping either backwards or forwards, and must speak to no one. Should anything compel him to speak, he must recommence the rite after the interruption.

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