M.N. Dhalla: History of Zoroastrianism (1938), part 3.

HTML version created by Joseph Peterson, Sep 21, 2003; updated Nov 13, 2022.




Yahweh, the only God of the Hebrews. We have already seen the eclipse of the old gods and the rise of the new ones in India during the millennium that opened with Zarathushtra and ended with the advent of Jesue. The monotheistic idea greatly developed during this period among the Jews who were a subject race under the Persians and whose religion was influenced by Zoroastrianism. As Judaism later gave much to Christianity and Mohammedanism, the knowledge of the belief in the godhead among this people is of great interest, and we shall discuss it in brief.

A race of sturdy nomads of Semitic stock tending their flocks from times immemorial in the Arabian desert, of handsome features with prominent aquiline nose, is seen settling down in Palestine about thirteen centuries before the Christian era. Many of their kinsmen had laboured and suffered as slaves in Egypt, until Moses brought them deliverance. The Hebrews, as the people are known to history, found their new settlement already populated by the civilized Canaanites. The new-comers intermarried with them and adopted their civilization. They succeeded later in founding a kingdom, and under the heroic ruler David, Jerusalem became the centre of Jewish religious life and the sanctuary of their national God Yahweh. During the period of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel prophetic literature of great value arose and enriched human thought. The kingdom of Israel ended in 721 B.C., and Judah met with her destruction in 586 B.C. The Persians brought the Jews deliverance and allowed them to restore the temple of Jerusalem that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. They flourished under the tolerant Persian rule, codified their religious laws, collected and copied the sermons and teachings and songs and ancient writings that they stilt possessed. Thus in a few centuries more there [151] came into being the scriptures known as the Old Testament, the most precious legacy of the Hebrews to mankind.

When they had lived in small groups, each tribe had its God, whom the people worshipped. Gradually a more powerful God from among these won the universal respect of the race. He was Yahweh, worshipped in the earlier stages in the form of a brazen serpent, until the idol worship gave place to a purer form of godhead. His dominion over men was contested by Baal of Tyre who received devotion from the people side by side with him both in Israel and Judah. Yahweh ultimately came out successful and remained the only God of the Hebrews. The prophet Amos (760 B.C.) raised him to monotheistic grandeur and spoke as the mouth-piece of Yahweh. Hosea and Isaiah preach against idolatry and the prophets are incessantly enjoining upon the people not to make idols or graven images and they exhort them not to worship any other God but Yahweh. It is said that Yahweh is a jealous God and brooks no homage but to him. The children of Israel had suffered in Egypt where they were in bondage. God heard their groaning and had compassion on them. He appeared unto Moses in a flame of fire, burning in a bush, and said that he had come down to deliver the suffering children of Israel from bondage to a place flowing with milk and honey. He gave him ten commandments for the guidance of the people. Therein he demands that man shall fear him, walk in his ways, cleave unto him, obey him, love him, and serve him with all his heart and all his soul. He has chosen Israel unto himself above all people as a beacon of light and righteousness to mankind. Consequently, he demands that they shall serve him faithfully, and transgress not his commandments. If people walk in the Lord's statutes and keep his commandments, he gives them seasonal rains, full crops, protection against the attacks of animals and men, victory and offspring. He goes with the armies of Israel to the battlefield and fights for them against the enemies. But when they transgress his commandments, worship idols or other gods or turn apostates, he breaks the pride of their power, lets loose their enemies over them, and chastises them by visiting their country with plagues and pestlences, famines and droughts, desolation and death. It was for the inequities of his wayward children that Yahweh sent Tiglath-Pileser as his scourge to punish them and put them under [152] the Assyrian yoke. The prophet Isaiah tells the people that Yahweh uses Assyria as his rod to punish them. Those who seek Yahweh, find him. He does not fail or forsake them. But when they forsake him, and provoke him to anger, he casts them away forever. But even then if people repent, humble themselves before him, fall down on their faces, rend their clothes, and weep, he relents, forgives them, comes back to them, takes them under his protecting wings, helps them, and prospers them. The Psalms and Prophets are replete with higher ethical sentiment and aim at reforming the motives of conduct rather than regulating it by ceremonial observances. They are full of fervent expressions of religious emotion. God is depicted here as the compassionate Father who looks to all as his children. Judaism prepares the way for a nobler type of godhead that was to be preached by Jesus.

Taoism and Confucianism. Animism and ancestral worship ministered to the spiritual needs of the people in China from the earliest times. As in the other parts of the world, the higher conceptions of gods or of some one supreme principle like Heaven as God were gradually evolving among the sages. Tradition places the Golden Age of China in about 3000 B.C. But the authentic historical records do not go beyond a millennium before the Christian era. It is in this period that great religious and social ideals were preached that have shaped the Chinese life for all time. The country was harassed by feudal warfare, and famine and pestilence worked havoc, adding to the misery of the people. Perplexed at the visitation of misfortunes and calamities, wail goes up to Heaven from a poet in the eighth century B. C. complaining that Heaven is unjust and merciless in its dealings with mankind. Such complaints are however drowned in the chorus that Heaven does not will evil. It is man's own fault, in consequence of which he suffers. Man is born good, it is said, but when he goes astray from the path of goodness, he brings calamity on his head. When there were strife and chaos stalking the earth, the sages felt that peace and harmony reigned above in heaven. Perfect was the Way or Heaven or the Tao or the one universal principle, the ultimate reality. Happiness would fall to the lot of mankind, if it followed faithfully the Way. The imitation of the Way or Heaven was therefore the ideal of earthly conduct. It was virtue and virtue brought [153] happiness. Man's duty was to cultivate the Way and the sages undertook to teach it to mankind. The Way was one which to all thinkers looked alike, but the methods of reaching it as taught by them were different.

Lao-tze, a great mystic born in 601 B.C., is the founder of Taoism. He teaches quietism. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) is the man of the world and teaches a moral code of personal conduct. His relgion is a discipline of life and his system is a reaction against Taoism.




Ahura, Mazda, and Ahura Mazda. The name of God still retains its two elements separate. These have not yet coalesced into one word. In the metrical sections of the Younger Avesta the two elements are sometimes used apart from each other, or either one of the terms may be used to designate the Supreme Being, but in the prose compositions the collocation Ahura Mazda generally occurs as a compound phrase. In the formation of compounds, however, either Ahura or Mazda alone is used for the sake of convenience. The Ahura compounds such as Ahura-dhâta, 'created by Ahura,' Ahura-tkaesha, 'of the faith of Ahura,' or the adjectival form âhuiri, 'of Ahura,' invariably represent the divine lord Ahura Mazda. Similarly, the Mazda element in the compounds Mazda-dhâta, 'created by Mazda,' Mazda-yasna, 'worshipper of Mazda,' Mazdo-frasasta, 'taught by Mazda,' Mazdo-fraokhta, or Mazdaokhta, 'spoken by Mazda,' invariably stands for Ahura Mazda himself.

Ahura Mazda is the highest object of worship. Ahura Mazda still holds sovereign sway over both the worlds; his authority in the world of righteousness is undisputed, and his imperial right is unchallenged. He is the greatest and the very best of the angels.1 The Old Persian Inscriptions speak of him as the greatest of the divinities.2 The archangels and angels dutifully carry out Mazda's orders. Reverence for him has never abated, and adoration of him does not languish with the advent again of the old Indo-Iranian divinities. Like the dual divinities Varuna-Mitra who received joint invocation during the Indo-Iranian period, Ahura-Mithra or Mithra-Ahura are invoked together. Ahura generally takes precedence and Mithra stands second in the compound,3 but in the Nyaishes composed in [155] honour of Hvare Khshaeta or the sun and Mithra, as also in the Yasht dedicated to Mithra,4 the order is reversed and we have then Mithra-Ahura. He is yet the sublimest goal of human aspiration. The best of all sacrifices and invocations are those of Mazda.5 1. Y16.1; Yt17.16.

2. Dar. Pers. d. 1; Xerx. Elv. 1; Xerx. Van. 1.

3. Y1.11; 2.11; 3.13; 4.16; 6.10; 7.13; 17.10; 22.13.

4. Ny1.7; 2.7, 12; Yt10.113, 145.

5. TdFr.28.
The faithful acknowledge their indebtedness to Ahura Mazda and devoutly offer to him their homage and sacrifice.6 They worship him with the very life of the body,7 and they long to reach him through the medium of fire, through the Good Mind, through Righteousness, and through the deeds and words of wisdom, as well as through good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.8 Ahura Mazda, in fact, is implored to be their very life and limb in both the worlds.9 It is through the Best Righteousness that the true in heart aspire to behold the Lord to approach him, and to associate with him.10 The attainment of the companionship and the Kingdom of Ahura Mazda is the pious wish of the supplicant.11

6. Y13.5.

7. Y37.3.

8. Y36.1, 4, 5.

9. Y41.3.

10. Y60.12.

11. Y40.2; 41.2, 5, 6.
Mazda's titles. The Yasna sacrifice opens with the praise of Ahura Mazda and enumerates the following divine titles: maker, radiant, glorious, the greatest, the best, the most beautiful, the most firm, the most wise, of the most perfect form, the highest in righteousness, possessed of great joy, creator, fashioner, nourisher, and the Most Holy Spirit.12 He is all-pervading. There is no conceivable place where he is not. Closer than the nose is to the ears, or the ears are to the mouth, is he to all that which the corporeal world thinks, speaks, and does.13 He is the greatest temporal and spiritual lord.14 He is the absolute ruler.15 He is the most mighty and righteous.16 He is benevolent.17 He is the maker, the most holy, the most wise, and the best one to answer when questioned.18 His is the omnisscent wisdom.19 He is undeceivable.20 He is omniscient and never sleeping.21 Radiant and glorious are the most frequent epithets with which the texts open the invocation to the divinity. [156] Above all Ahura Mazda is the spirit of spirits.22 This essential trait stands intact through all changes in the concept of God. He is not invested with any anthropomorphic chracter, and his multifarious epithets are truly the figurative expressions of human language used by man in his feeble attempt to give vent to an outburst of the feelings of devotion and reverence for his Heavenly Father. Ahura Mazda is synonymous with light, even as his opponent is identical with darkness, and the sun is spoken of as his most beautiful form.23 Just as the Rig Veda speaks of the sun as the eye of Mithra and Varuna,24 so do the Avestan texts call the sun the eye of Ahura Mazda.25 Speaking about the nature of Ahuta Mazda, Plutarch well remarks that among objects of sense the Zoroastrian godhead most of all resembles the light.26 The star-spangled heaven is his garment;27 the holy spell is his soul.28 Many are the names by which mankind have learnt to know him. The first Yasht, which is dedicated to him, enumerates seventy-four of these attributes. They are all descriptive of his wisdom, far-sightedness, power, righteousness justice, and mercy.29

12. Y1.1.

13. TdFr. 58, 59.

14. Y27.1; Vr11.21.

15. Y21.3.

16. Y56.1.

17. Y38.4.

18. Vd18.7, 13, 66.

19. Vr19.1.

20. Yt12.1.

21. Yt12.1; Vd. 19.20, 26.

22. Y4.7.

23. Y36.6; 28.8.

24. RV. 1.115.1; 6.51.1; 7.61.1; 63.1; 10.37.

25. Y1.11; 3.13; 4.16; 7.13; 22.13.

26. Is. et Os. 46.

27. Yt13.3.

28. Yt13.81.

29. Yt1.7, 8, 12-15.

Only the world of righteousness is created by Ahura Mazda. As the antithesis between the Deity and the Evil Spirit is now most strongly marked in the Later Avesta, the godhead is expressly described as the creator of everything that is good,30 evil being the counter-creation of Angara Mainyu. Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu in the younger texts are described as creating good and evil in turn. The archangels are Mazda's creations;31 so also are the angels and men, the animals, sky, water, trees, light, wind, and earth.32 In the various enquiries which Zarathushtra addresses to Ahura Mazda in the Vendidad, the divinity is portrayed as the creator of corporeal world. Ahura expressly says to Zarathushtra that he has created everything in [157] the world, and yet nothing in his creation comes up to the level of man, who is the greatest and the best of all creations.33 Through the wisdom of Ahura Mazda the world has come into being, and through his divine wisdom it will come also to an end.34

30. Y71.10; Vr11.5; Vd11.1.

31. Yt1.25.

32. Y1.1, 2, 12; 2.12; 12.7; 17.12; 37.1; 38.3; Vr7.4; Vd19.13, 16, 35; 21.4, 8, 12; Aog. 30.

33. Aog. 30.

34. Yt1.26.



Belief in an intermediary spirit between God and the world. From the days of Thales (about 600 B.C.), the head of the school of Miletus, the Greek thinkers were in touch with the Orient. The Ionians were in close contact with the Persians. Pythagoras, we have seen, was believed by the classical writers to have been the pupil of Zoroaster, though several centuries intervened between them. Numenius of Apamea says that Pythagoras and Plato reproduce the ancient wisdom of the Magi and Brahmans, Egyptians and Jews. Alexandria became later a cosmopolitan seat of learning, and the intellectual East and West met there. It was here that Judaism and afterwards Christianity were Hellenized. The wisdom of the East was held in high esteem at Alexandria. Persian influence, it seems, had been felt in Greece in the early formative period of its philosophy. Zarathushtra, we have noticed, postulated a quasi-independent spirit intermediary between the godhead and the universe, Anaxagoras calls it nous, acting between God, and the world as the regulating principle of existence. Plato says in his Timaeus that the universe becomes an organism through the universal World-Soul that is created by the Demiurge, the Supreme Deity.
The Old Testament refers to the Spirit of Yahweh.1 Philo Judaeus unites the Greek and Jewish ideas about Logos and says that Logos is the first-born Son of God and acts as a viceregent of God between God and the world. He is the prototypal Man after whose image all men are created. Logos is something more than Plato's Idea of the Good, because, like Spenta Mainyu, he is creatively active. In common with Spenta Mainyu, Logos is not a personal being, and like Spenta Mainyu again, he appears sometimes as identified with God and at other times seems to be an attribute of God. The Avestan texts refer to Spenta Mainyu and his adversary Angra Mainyu as thworeshtar or the fashioners [159] or cutters and, speaking about the work of Logos, Philo speaks of him as Tomeus, 'the cutter,' employing the word of the same meaning. Again as Spenta Mainyu or the spirit of light is shadowed by the opposite spirit of darkness, so Logos, says Philo, is the Shekinah or Glory or Light of God, but he is also the darkness or shadow of God. This is so because, he adds, the creature reveals only half the creator and hides the other half. In the Book of Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom, identical with the Greek Logos, is the divine essence, living a quasi-independent existence in God and side by side with God. She works as the active agent of god in the creation of the world. In Mithraism, Mithra held the position of the Mediator between God who was unknowable and unapproachable and mankind. He fashioned the world as Demiurge. The intermediary Spirit of God occurs throughout the New Testament. Numenius of Apamea, writing in the second century, says that God has bestowed divine qualities upon a second god who acts in the world as the power for good. The Supreme God or the First principle, he adds, works in the spiritual world, whereas the activity of the second god extends to the spiritual as well as material world. Origen, writing shortly after him, says that God created Logos or the Son. His relation to the Father is the same as that which exists between Ahura Mazda and Spenta Mainyu. The Son or Logos, says Origen, is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, but the Son is lesser than the Father. Clement of Alexandria says that Logos, represents the will, power, and energy of God. He is the creator on behalf of God. He has introduced harmony in the universe and conducts its affairs as the pilot.

1. Genesis 1.2.
The relation between Ahura Mazda and his Holy Spirit. It remains as subtle in the Younger Avestan texts as it was in the Gathas. We have already seen in the treatment of this highly abstract concept, as it is portrayed in the Gathic texts, that the term Spenta Mainyu either designated Ahura Mazda as his divine attribute, or occurred as a being separate from the godhead. The Later Avestan texts, it seems to us, lead us to the idea that Spenta Mainyu has no independent existence apart from Ahura Mazda, in other words, as shown above, he is not a personal being. The Later Avesta, moreover, as we shall see in the subsequent pages, teaches that all earthly and heavenly [160] beings, belonging to the Kingdom of Goodness, including Ahura Mazda himself, have their Fravashis, or Guardian Spirits. Spenta Mainyu alone in the realm of the good is without his Guardian Spirit. Furthermore, Spenta Mainyu does not receive homage and invocation from man, as do Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, and the Yazatas. In one passage the faithful dedicate their thoughts, words, deeds, and all to him.2 Spenta Mainyu, therefore, may be taken as an attribute of Ahura Mazda which is either conjointly used with the godhead as his distinguishing epithet, or occurs alone by itself to designate the Supreme Being. In this latter use, it may be said, Spenta Mainyu represents Ahura Mazda, in the same manner as the royal title 'His Majesty' is frequently used as a substitute for the name of a king. 2. Y58.6.
In contradistinction to the evil creation of Angra Mainyu, or the Evil Spirit, the Avestan texts speak of the good creation as belonging to Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit.3 He maintains the sky, the waters, the earth, the plants, and the children to be born.4 The stars also are spoken of as the creatures of the Holy Spirit.5 He created Mithra's chariot, inlaid with stars and made of heavenly substance.6 He is spoken of as the holier of the two spirits.7 He struggles with Angra Mainyu to seize the Kingly Glory [khwarrah].8 Characteristic or the highly developed type of dualism of the Younger Avestan period, we find that the two rival spirits divide their sphere of influence in regard to the wind, or Vayu. The moderate wind that is conducive of good is called the wind of Spenta Mainyu,9 and only to this good part of Vayu are the faithful to offer sacrifice.10 Snavidhka, a tyrant foe of the Iranian hero Keresaspa, haughtily exclaims that if he ever grew to manhood he would make the heavens his chariot, convert the earth into a wheel, bring down Spenta Mainyu, or the Holy Spirit, from the shining paradise, and make Angra Mainyu, or the Evil Spirit, rush up from the dreary hell, and [161] compel them to draw his chariot.11 In a couple of instances Ahura Mazda is depicted as speaking of the Holy Spirit as a part of himself. Speaking about the great work of the Fravashis, or the Guardian Spirits, Ahura Mazda says that had not the Ftavashis helped him, the wicked Druj would have smitten the good creation, and it would never have been possible for Spenta Mainyu to deal a blow to Angra Mainyu.12 Ahura Mazda sacrifices unto Vayu and asks from this angel of wind a boon, that he may smite the creation of Angra Mainyu but that none may smite the creation of Spenta Mainyu.13 3. Y1.16; 8.6, 11.13; 17.2; 57.17; Vr12.4; Yt6.2; 8.48; 11.11; 13.76; 15.3, 43, 44; Vd3.20; 5.33; 13.1, 2, 5, 6, 16.

4. Yt13.28, 29.

5. Y1.11; 3.13; 4.16; 7.13; 22.13; Yt12.32.

6. Yt10.143.

7. Y19.9.

8. Yt19.46.

9. Y22.24; 25.5.

10. Yt15.5, 42, 57, 58; S1.21; 2.11.

11. Yt19.43, 44.

12. Yt13.12, 13.

13. Yt15.2, 3.
The superlative forms, Spentotema Mainyu,14 or Spenishta Mainyu, meaning the Most Holy Spirit; are spoken of as Ahura Mazda's attributes.15

14. Y1.1; 37.3.

15. Y19.1; Yt1.1; 14.1, 34, 42; Vd2.1; 7.1; 9.1; 10.1; 14.1; 18.14; A4.4.



The archangels. The higher celestial beings that had not expressly acquired a distinguishing name of their own in the Gathas are now designated as the Amesha Spentas, or 'Holy Immortal Ones.' They are thus addressed for the first time in the Haptanghaiti, or the Yasna of Seven Chapters, the earliest prose composition of the Avestan period, though still made in the Gathic dialect.1 They are all created by Ahura Mazda.2 Plutarch and Strabo refer to them in their works.3 With the godhead at the pinnacle they form a heptad and are henceforth mentioned as the seven Holy Immortal Ones.4 Severally they are both male and female.5 Vohu Manah, Asha Vahishta, and Khshathra Vairya are conceived of as masculine beings, though neuter in grammatical gender; Spenta Armaiti is pictured as a feminine concept; and Haurvatat and Ameretat are treated as masculine beings, though their grammatical gender is feminine. In a paramount degree they are all of one thought, one word, and one deed; their father and lord is the creator Ahura Mazda.6 They look into one another's soul;7 and they each have their special Fravashi.8 Garonmana [garothman], the highest heaven, is their dwelling-place, and there they occupy the golden seats that belong to spirits in the realm supernal.9 Their sacred names are the most mighty, most glorious, and the most victorious of the spells.10 To utter their name is synonymous with efficacy and power. Yasht 2 is devoted to their praise.

1. Y39.3; 42.6.

2. Yt1.25.

3. Is. et Os. 47; Strabo, p. 732; Thomas, Strabo and the Ameshaspands in J. J. Madressa Jubilee Volume, p. 173-176.

4. Yt2.13; 13.83; 19.16; For seven Babylonian Igigis and seven Elamite deities, see Gray, The Foundations of the Iranian Religions, p. 17.

5. Y4.4; 24.9; 39.3; Vr9.4.

6. Yt13.83; 19.16.

7. Yt13.84; 19.17.

8. Y23.2.

9. Vd19.32, 36.

10. Yt1.3.
[163] Their attributes. The Amesha Spentas are the ever-living and the ever-helping ones;11 they are the wise ones, and good rulers.12 It is they that are the shining ones; of efficacious eyes, exalted, mighty, valiant, imperishable, and righteous.12 They are the makers, rulers, fashioners, guardians, protectors, and preservers of the creation of Mazda,14 and Mazda has given them beautiful forms.15

11. Y4.4; 39.3; Vr9.4; 11.12.

12. Y2.2; 4.4; 6.1; 24.9; 25.4; 35.1; 58.5; 70.1; Vr8.1; 11.12; Vd19.9.

13. Y26.3; Yt13.82.

14. Y58.5; Yt19.18; Vd19.9.

15. Yt13.81.
Their work. The archangels hold their celestial councils on the heights of the heavens.16 From there they come down to the seven zones into which the world was divided according to the Avesta,17 and rule over the realms of earth.18 They are naturally invited to the sacrifice,19 and offerings are placed by the devout for them to accept.20 The faithful pray that the Amesha Spentas may visit and enjoy sacrifices in their houses,21 for shining is the path by which they descend to earth to receive the libations offered in their honour.22 Even Mithra as a God-like embodiment sacrificed unto them,23 and for him they have made a dwelling.24 They are of one accord with the sun;25 and they gather together the light of the moon and pour it down upon the earth.26 They are the divine ones who help in bringing about the final restoration of the world.27 Each of them will smite his opponent at the time of the resurrection.28

16. G2.8.

17. Y57.23; Yt11.14.

18. Vd19.13.

19. Y1.2.

20. Y4.2.

21. Y60.6.

22. Yt13.84; 19.17.

23. Yt10.89.

24. Yt10.51.

25. Yt10.51; 13.92.

26. Yt7.3.

27. Yt19.19.

28. Yt19.96.

Zarathushtra the first among mortals to sacrifice unto the Amesha Spentas. Mazda asks his prophet to invoke the Amesha Spentas, even though he could not behold them with his eyes.29 Zarathushtra follows Mazda's behests; and he is the first man to invoke them.30 a spiritual predecessor having been Sraosha. For that reason the faithful sacrifice unto the Amesha Spentas with love and joy,31 and pray to them for help and protection.32 Their praise and sacrifice form one of the cardinal articles of [164] faith.33 Hence it is that we find in the oft-repeated formulas of the Later Avestan texts that sacrifice, invocation, propitiation, and glorification are offered to them for the furtherance of prosperity in the world of righteousness.34 Nor must it be forgotten that in his benedictions upon King Vishtaspa the prophet invokes upon his royal patron the blessings of brightness, glory, riches, swift horses, and good sons that come as a benign gift from the archangels.35 The ceremonials performed in honour of the Amesha Spentas by unholy priests delight them not;36 on the other hand, distress and harm flee from that worshipper whose homage has reached them.37 When their loving votary performs his devotions and finds his spirit inflamed by their love, he forthwith dedicates to them the very life of his body and all his earthly possessions.38

29. Vd19.13.

30. Yt17.18.

31. Y15.1; Vr6.1.

32. Y58.5.

33. Y12.1.

34. Y52.4.

35. Yt24.46.

36. Yt10.139; 24.12.

37. Yt1.24.

38. Y11.18; 14.1, 2; Vr5.2.


His place in the Later Avesta. As the first in the creation of Ahura Mazda, Vohu Manah retains his pre-eminent position in the Later Avestan period. He occupies his seat next to Ahura Mazda in the celestial council. The other archangels live in him.39 In some cases Vohu Manah does not stand as the name of the archangel, but simply connotes its ordinary meaning good mind or thought. In fact, as in the Gathas, there is a subtlety of meaning that makes it difficult to decide in translation whether the concept or the archangel is intended. In Vd19.20, 23-25 the term designates a good man or even clean clothes.

39. Y4.4; Vr11.12.
Vohu Manah guards wisdom. Vohu Manah's khratu, or wisdom, which occurs in the Gathas, is now classified in the later texts into two distinct types, âsna khratu, 'innate wisdom,' and gaoshosruta khratu, 'acquired wisdom.' These two types of knowledge are spoken of as objects worthy of sacrifice and propitiation.40 Ahura Mazda accordingly asks Zarathushtra to seek knowledge all the night long,41 because the true priest and [165] his disciples work by day and by night for the increase of knowledge.42 Vohu Manah rejoices in man's endeavour to wrest from nature her secrets.

40. Y22.25; 25.6; Yt2.1; S1.2, 29; 2.2, 29.

41. Yt24.41.

42. Vd4.45; 18.6.
His Work. When the Evil Spirit first attacked creation Vohu Manah came to its succour.43 Zarathushtra asks Ahura Mazda to teach him the laws of both the worlds, so that men following his precepts may act in such a way that Vohu Manah may come to them.44 It is through his medium that the devout can aspire to reach Ahura Mazda;45 and on that account he is implored to further bodily life.46 It is said, moreover, that he is more a possession of the hard-working man of the world, who has married and toils for his family, than of the celibate or the ascetic.47 Vohu Manah's function of guarding the animal kingdom is not emphasized in the Avestan texts. 43. Yt13.77, 78.

44. Yt1.20.

45. Yt36.4.

46. Y68.23.

47. Vd4.48.
Vohu Manah welcomes the righteous souls to paradise. When the blessed ones cross the great bridge and come up to the gates of heaven, this premier angel rises from his golden throne and in gracious words receives the new-comers.48 48. Vd19.31.
In the final conflict between the hosts of the rival powers, he will smite his adversary Aka Manah.48a

48a. Yt19.96.


The formation of the name. The Younger Avesta, in conformity with the Gathas, calls this archangel Asha and adds the epithet vahishta or 'best' to the name. The variant stem arta is, however, found as an element of Astvatereta, the name of the renovator [soshyant].49 It is also met with in the proper names during the Achaemenian period. We have, for example, Artakhshathra, Artadata, Artapata, and Artafarnah. Its forms areta, 'proper,' and anareta or anaretha, 'improper,' are likewise found.50 A righteous person is called ashavan which is equivalent to the [166] Vedic rtâvan. In the use of Avestan ashahe khâ and Vedic khâ rtasya, 'source of righteousness,' we have an interesting instance of the common words employed by both.51

49. Yt13.110, 117, 128, 129; 19.92, 95.

50. Y12.4; 65.9; Vr1.2; 2.2.

51. Y10.4; RV2.28.5.
His righteousness remains the basic doctrine of Zoroastrianism during the Later Avestan period. Ahura Mazda is the righteous lord of righteousness.52 Among the many names by which Ahura Mazda is invoked in the hymn dedicated to him, the fourth is Asha Vahishta or Best Righteousness.53 Ahura Mazda has created Asha Vahishta, or Best Righteousness,54 who is the greatest, best, fairest, the radiant, the all-good archangel.55 In one instance he is called by the Indo-Iranian epithet bagha, 'divinity.' He it is who smites disease, death, fiends, sorcerers, noxious creatures, and his adversary Druj, Deceit or Wickedness.56 Zarathushtra for that reason proclaims the glory of Asha Vahishta, through whom the way to the abode of the archangels, paradise, becomes easy.57 The souls of the dead, who are the Fravashis of the righteous, dwell in the shining realm of Asha Vahishta.58 This celestial personification gives joy to the souls of the righteous dead.59 It is through him that the devotee aspires to behold and reach Ahura Mazda.60 He offers homage and adoration to him along with Ahura Mazda.61 Emphasizing Zarathushtra's dictum in the Gathas, the Younger Avesta affirms that there is one path alone that leads to the eternal life, and that is the Path of Righteousness.62 The Vedas likewise allude to the Path of Rta.63 The Achaemenian kings refer to the Right Path in their rock inscriptions.64 Buddha embodies his teachings in his noble Eightfold Path.65 During the same period Lao-tze interprets his philosophy in the Tao or the Way in China. Shinto or the Way of the gods appears in the national cult of Japan. The prophets and seers reveal the Path or Way of life to mankind and Jesus calls himself the Way, a thousand years after Zarathushtra. The faithful invoke the holy waters of Ahura Mazda for the attainment of this path which is the most upright and which leads to the paradise of [167] the righteous.66 Atar, the genius of fire, leads to this straightest path all those who lie not unto Mithra.67 Referring to the guilty persons who have undergone punishments for the crime of assaulting other persons, the Vendidad68 admonishes sinners to walk in the path of righteousness in future. Darius likewise exhorts men not to leave the path which is right.69 52. G5.5.

53. Yt1.7.

54. Yt1.25.

55. Y13.8; 37.4; 59.32; 60.13; Yt1.22; 2.7; 13.91, 92; S1.3; 2.3.

56. Yt3.14-17.

57. Yt3.3.

58. Y16.7.

59. TdFr. 72-74.

60. Y60.12.

61. Y41.1.

62. Y72.11

63. RV1.136.

64. Naksh-i Rustam a. 6.

65. Mahâvagga, 1.6.18.

66. Y68.13.

67. Yt10.3.

68. Vd4.43.

69. NR. a. 6.

Zarathushtra was the first among mortais to praise this embodiment of holiness;70 and King Vishtaspa, by adopting the new faith, helped to open the way for righteousness in this world.71 The faithful beseech Ahura Mazda to bless them with intelligent men who embrace righteousness;72 Good, thoughts of the mind, good words of the tongue, and good deeds of the hand make man ashavan, or righteous.73 He obtains purity when he cleanses his own self with them.74 The friendship of Asha in this world and the next is the most coveted boon for all time.75 It is easy to understand why Asha is invoked to enter the house of the faithful to smite the wicked Druj.76 The excellence of religious thoughts, words, and deeds, which is ordained by Ahura Mazda, and nourished by Vohu Manah, is furnished by the righteousness of Asha Vahishta.77

70. Yt13.88.

71. Yt13.99; 19.93.

72. Y40.3.

73. TdFr. 57-59; see Nariman, Buddhist parallels to Humata, Hukhta, Hvarashta in Dastur Hoshang Memorial Volume, p. 311-316.

74 Vd10.19.

75. Y40.2; 41.6.

76. Y60.5.

77. Vr12.3, 4.

Righteousness is the highest riches. Man, we are told, pines for the riches of the earth and often strives to obtain the boon of wealth even by unlawful means. On the contrary, he should rather aspire to a store of righteousness, which is the real and permanent wealth. When a man starts on a journey, he takes provisions and stores with him.78 He takes care to provide himself with more goods than are his actual requirements.79 How sad it is, then, that he should not furnish himself now, while it is time, with the spiritual stores of righteousness for the great journey which he will have one day to undertake and from which he will never return.80 In the end cattle are dust; gold and silver are dross; even the body of man mingles with clay. Righteousness alone does not mingle with the dust, but survives the bodily death of man.81 There comes a day or there comes a [168] night, when the master leaves his cattle, when the cattle leave their master, and the soul leaves the body.82 But righteousness, which is the greatest and the best of all riches, accompanies the soul after death.83 Riches and fortune one cannot have for oneself, nor can one maintain form and beauty of body forever at will; but everyone can embrace righteousness and make it his own in this world.84 The best man is the righteous man. He is not heroic who is not heroic in righteousness, he is not valiant who is not valiant in righteousness.85 Life in departing leaves the richest empty in the midst of his abundance, if he lacks righteousness.

78. Aog. 41.

79. Aog. 42-44.

80. Aog. 46-47.

81. Aog. 84.

82. Aog. 51.

83. Aog. 52.

84. TdFr. 95-98.

85. TdFr. 103, 104.

The world of righteousness, as against the world of wickedness. The universe is divided into two hostile camps. The righteous form a distinct world by themselves, and they are the favourite ones of Ahura Mazda. The men who have chosen to naturalize themselves as citizens of the Kingdom of Wickedness form a separate world of their own. The texts in the Later Avesta speak of the ashaono sti, 'the world of the righteous man,' as opposed to the drvato sti, 'the world of the wicked fiend,' The sorcerers and the wicked destroy the world of righteousness.86 It is the faithful that work for the furtherance of the one, and for the destruction of the other.87 The man that is holy rejoices in the prosperity of the former, just as he exults in the adversity of the latter.88 He who does not gladden a righteous person who comes within his gates has no lasting or true joy. To be charitable to such a one is to attain paradise.89 But again, he rejoices not who helps a wicked person that clamours for help. To help such an evil one is equivalent to hindering righteousness, inasmuch as he is wicked who is a source of goodness to the wicked.90 A gift bestowed upon a righteous man is the best of all libations,91 but not so when it is made to a wicked one. Refusing food to a demon-worshipper or a wicked one does not make one guilty.92 The faithful pray that a righteous king may rule over them, but that a wicked one may be baffled and defeated.93

86. Y8.3.

87. Y52.4.

88. Y8.8.

89. TdFr. 107-109.

90. Y71.13; TdFr. 110-112.

91. N84.

92. N18.

93. Y8.6.
[169] Bodily purity contributes to righteousness. Next to life the second best good for man is purity.94 This is the dictum of the Gathas, and it is most consistently developed throughout the entire subsequent literature. It is the favourite theme on which, the Zoroastrian theologians are never tired of expatiating. Purity of body is the most salient feature in the life of a Zoroastrian. It is rated higher than anything else. The problem of cleanness and uncleanness, purity and impurity, has evoked an extensive literature. The tenets of the faith in this respect have been worked out into a science of health. Bodily purity is indispensable to purity of mind. Cleanliness of body is an essential requisite for saintliness. The clean in body find it easy to be pure in mind, and the pure in heart have just a step to take to be holy in spirit.

Asha Vahishta comes to be regarded as the healing spirit of bodily diseases. As the many kinds of healers restore bodily health by herbs and drugs, and remove the tumours and cancers by knife and implements, so there are healers that heal through righteousness or by the holy spell. We shall speak later on, in its proper place, of the art of healing by means of the holy spell. The Yasht which receives its name after Asha Vahishta is in fact mostly consecrated to Asha Vahishta's associate Airyaman, the guardian genius of human health. Of all the healers, the Avestan texts announce, the spiritual healer is the best one; it is he that heals the faithful through his own righteousness by means of the utterance of the holy spell.95

95. Yt3.6; Vd7.44.
Asha Vahishta's relation to fire. We have seen in the Gathas Asha's dual association with the universal order prevailing everywhere and fire. We find these early Zoroastrian conceptions reflected in the writings of the Greek philosophers of the period. Heraclitus, who flourished at Ephesus, near the end of the sixth century B.C., postulates fire as the first principle from which everything that exists has come. It is working as reason or Logos and reveals the stable, divine law in the eternal flow of things in the universe. Heraclitus left a deep impression on Greek philosophy and his conceptions appear in later thinkers.96

96. See also Carnoy, Zoroastrianism in ERE 12. 866.
In the Avestan liturgy Asha Vahishta is invoked together [170] with Atar; the genius of fire.97 Angra Mainyu, as the devil, exclaims that Zarathushtra burns him with Asha Vahishta as with molten metal.98 This allegory of burning and annihilating the Evil Spirit through righteousness is taken literally in the later period of Zoroastrianism, Where Asha Vahishta is identified at times with the household fire on the hearth. Such identification in the realms of matter and of spirit serves only to bring more into prominence the main tenets of Zoroaster's teachings in regard to Asha.

97. Y1.4; 2.4; 3.6; 4.9; 6.3; 7.6, 17.3; 22.6; 59.3; Yt4.9; Sr1.7; 2.7; Afr. 4.2; G.2, 9, 12.

98. Yt17.20.


The change that the concept undergoes. The Gathic Khshathra now takes Vairya, 'desirable,' as its standing epithet, and hence both the terms combine to form the name of this archangel. This archangel of Ahura Mazda99 gradually loses the abstract side of his nature in the Avestan texts. In the Gathic prose text of the Yasna Haptanghaiti the abstract idea of the Divine Kingdom occurs but once. In this solitary passage the devout long for the everlasting Kingdom of Ahura Mazda.100 Throughout the Younger Avestan texts this abstract idea of the spiritual kingdom recedes into the background, or rather is entirely lost sight of. True, Khshathra Vairya is still occasionally invoked by name along with the other celestial beings, but his higher function as the genius of the sovereign power in the abstract entirely falls out.

99. Yt1.25.

100. Y41.2.
Khshathra Vairya as the genius of earthly wealth. Materially Khshathra Vairya is the genius of metal, and his activity is now limited to guarding this concrete creation of God. He is not spoken of as the genius of the celestial riches of the Divine Kingdom of Ahura Mazda. Khshathra Vairya and the molten metal are invoked side by side.101 In fact he very soon loses even this trait of his work; he is identified with metal and just becomes metal itself.102 Thrita, the first reputed healer [171] of the bodies of mortals, received from him a surgical instrument for healing.103 101. Vr20.1; Yt2.7; Sr1.4; 2.4.

102. Yt10.125; Vd9.10; 16.6; 17.6, 8.

103. Vd20.3.
As the genius of metal, Khshathra Vairya is the lord of earthly riches. He generously bestows his possessions on the poor. He is sometimes invoked in company of marezhdika, 'mercy,'104 who is styled the protector of the poor. We can trace this relation of Khshathra Vairya as the merciful helper of the poor to the Ahuna Vairya [Ahunwar] formula.

104. Yt2.7; Sr1.4; 2.4.


Her position in the Avesta. As devotion personified on the abstract side, and as the genius of the earth on the concrete side, Spenta Armaiti, 'Holy Devotion,' retains her dual nature in the Younger Avesta. Through the medium of Devotion the faithful aspire to approach Ahura Mazda,105 and in the Confession of Faith the pious follower of Zarathushtra chooses Devotion, and yearns to make her his own.106 Upon lifting up his devotional prayer the house-lord prays that she may enter his house and thus rout heresy.107 The malice and harm of the wicked could be averted through her help.108 She is the daughter of Ahura Mazda and as the genius of devotion is the mother of Ashi Vanghulti, or the genius of Good Piety,109 while Rata, the guardian spirit of generosity, is invoked with her.110

105. Y13.6; 39, 5.

106. Y12.2.

107. Y60.5.

108. Yt1.28.

109. Yt17.16; Vd19.13, 16.

110. Sr1.5; 2.5.
Armaiti as earth. From her position as the female genius of the earth,111 Armaiti very soon becomes the earth herself. She is now more frequently spoken of as the earth than as the genius of the earth.112 She wears the star-studded sky as her garment.113

111. Vd3.35.

112. Y16.10; Yt24.50; Vd2.10, 14, 18; 18.51, 64.

113. Yt13.3.


The dual archangels. These two Amesha Spentas are closely united to each other and generally occur together side by side.114 Haurvatat has a Yasht consecrated to him, being invoked as the [172] lord of seasons and years.115 Ahura Mazda created Haurvatat for the help, joy, comfort, and pleasure of the righteous ones.116 The man who invokes the name of Haurvatat as one of the archangels is able to smite the legion of demons.117 The two, Haurvatat and Ameretat, together form the reward of the righteous after death,118 while fire is invoked to grant the blessings of Haurvatat and Ameretat to its supplicants for help and joy.119 The two archangels together will smite the demons of hunger and thirst during the final conflict between the forces of good and evil.120 113. Yt13.3.

114. Y1.2; 3.1; 4.1; 6.17; 7.26; 8.1; 58.7; 70.2; 11.12; Vr9.5; Yt1.15; 10.92.

115. Yt4.0; S1.6; 2.6.

116. Yt4.1.

117. Yt4.2.

118. Yt1.25.

119. Y58.7.

120. Yt19.96.

Instances where the two archangels materially personify water and plants are not found in the Later Avestan texts. Examples, however, are not wanting, as is well known, in which they occur as meaning specifically water and plants in their healing effect on mankind.121

121. Y3.1; 4.1, 3; 7.1, 20; 8.1.



The Zoroastrian angels. Next in rank to the Amesha Spentas come the Yazatas, literally meaning the 'adorable ones.' We find the corresponding Skt. word Yajata in the Rig Veda, but it does not play any conspicuous part there. If the Amesha Spentas are the archangels in Zoroastrian theology, the Yazatas are the angels. They are numbered by hundreds and by thousands,1 by tens of thousands and by hundreds of thousands, nay even more.2 About forty only, however, are mentioned in the extant Avestan text. Plutarch refers to twenty-four.3 The prominent Yazatas mentioned by name in Y16.4-6; Sr1.8-30; 2.8-30, closely correspond to the number mentioned by the Greek writer. Several of the Yazatas have individually consecrated to them a Yasht, or hymn of praise, which narrates the doings and functions of its respective genius. Besides the Yashts that form a special biographical literature of these minor divinities, the whole Iranian literature is filled with the record of their achievements. Ahura Mazda himself is a Yazata,4 even as he is an Amesha Spenta. He is the greatest and the best Yazata.5 Zarathushtra himself is spoken of as a Yazata.6

1. Yt6.1.

2. Vr8.1; for a list of minor divinities see Gray, The Foundations of the Iranian Religions, p, 221-224.

3. Is et Os., 47.

4. Y41.3

5. Y16.1; Yt17.16.

6. Y3.21; 7.21.
History of the Yazatas. Some of these Yazatas are, as we have already seen, pre-Zoroastrian and go back to the Indo-Iraniam period; but with the exception of Sraosha, Atar, and Ashi, they do not appear in the Gathas, though frequent enough in the Later Avesta. In fact, they permeate all the later texts, and form an indissoluble part of the Zoroastrian pantheon. We shall group them under two headings and distinguish those that are common to the Indians and the Iranians from those that are purely Iranian.

[174] Indo-lranian: Mithra, Airyaman, Haoma, Verethraghna, Parendi, Rata, Nairyosangha, Apam Napat, Ushah, and Vayu.

Iranian: Atar, Ardvi Sura Anahita, Hvarekhshaeta, Maonghah, Tishtrya Drvaspa, Sraosha, Rashnu, Raman, Daena, Chisti, Erethe, Rasanstat, Ashi Vanghuhi, Arshtat, Asman, Zam, Manthra Spenta, Damoish Upamana, and Anaghra Raochah.

Characteristics of the Yazatas. Like their celestial elders, the Amesha Spentas, the Yazatas impersonate abstract ideas and virtues, or concrete objects of nature. Many of them preside over both spiritual and material phenomena. The nature Yazatas Hvarekhshaeta, Mithra, Maonghah, Ardvi Sura, Atar, and others personify the sun, light, moon, water, and fire. At times their names designate merely the objects of nature that they personify. This simultaneous treatment of the dual aspect of these angels is frequently found in one and the same paragraph and makes it difficult to distinguish the actual impersonations from the personified objects. Very often praise and sacrifice are offered more to the sun, light, moon, water, and fire as such than to the Yazatas presiding over them. We learn from Herodotus that the Persians sacrificed unto the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and winds.7 7. Herod. 1.131.
Instances are not wanting in which a Yazata begins his career as the personification of some one particular virtue or an object of nature, but with the lapse of time either substitutes for it some other or widens his sphere of activity and takes some new virtue in the abstract or some new object of nature under his guardianship in addition to his original duty. Some of the Yazatas are lacking in real individuality.

The functions of the Yazatas. Various are the boons that the Yazatas give unto man.8 By hundreds and by thousands they gather together the light of the sun and pour it upon the earth.9 Men invoke them with sacrifices10 and in return they help men, They have a share of invocation and sacrifice offered unto Ahura Mazda, who is not jealous of the oblations thus dedicated to his subordinates. They are the holy, mighty, beneficent ones,11 full of glory and healing.12 Apart from the [175] general work which the Yazatas perform as a class of spiritual beings, they are severally allotted different functions, which we shall notice under their respective headings.

8. Y65.12, 14.

9. Yt6.1; Ny1.11

10. Yt8.11.

11. Y25.8; 65.12, 14; G2.6.

12. Ny3.11.
Offerings and sacrifices to the Yazatas. Libations of milk and Haoma, of the Draonah [dron], or wafer-bread, and of meat are the objects generally dedicated to the angels, who always demand that man shall not forget their invocation and praise. They are ever eager to protect and help man in peace or war, provided that man propitiates them with offerings and sacrifices. To Anahita as celestial guardian of the waters, to Drvaspa, who protects cattle, and to Vayu, the wind, a hundred horses, a thousand oxen, and ten thousand sheep are consecrated in sacrifice by some of the early kings and heroes. We shall turn to this subject later.

Division of the Yazatas according to their grammatical gender. The Yazatas are both males and females, or rather the personifications of virtues and ideas that are in gender masculine and feminine. There is no distinction between these male and female divinities. Both of them are on the same level, occupy the same place of honour, and receive the same amount of homage. The gentle work becoming to the fair sex is allotted to female angels, and they are as powerful and awe-inspiring in their own sphere of activity as their fellow-workers of the opposite sex are in theirs. The female angels are: Ushah, Zam, Ardvi Sura Anahita, Drvaspa, Daena, Chisti, Arshtat, Erethe, Rasanstat Ashi Vanghuhi, Parendi, and Rata. All others are the male sex.

Group Yazatas. The usual manner of sacrificing unto the angels is to invoke each one separately by his name, or in company of his comrades and co-workers, or in joint pairs. On this last point we shall speak anon under a separate heading. Sometimes all the angels are invoked in a group under the comprehensive title of vispe Yazata, "all Yazatas,"13 closely corresponding to the Vedic vishve Devâh, 'all Divinities.' In fact an entire book of the ritual is dedicated to the various spiritual lords under the title Visperad, literally meaning 'all lords.'

13. Y1.19; 2.18; Yt11.17; 17.19; WFr. 5.1.
Dual Yazatas. A particular feature common to the Avestan and Vedic religions is the arrangement of certain divinities in pairs, who are revered together. As some of the Yazatas guard more than one abstract virtue or impersonate more than one [176] natural phenomenon, it is not uncommon to find one Yazata entering into partnership with various Yazatas according to the nature of his work. For instance, Mithra, as the sovereign lord of wide pastures, forms a pair with Ahura; as the lord of light, he works in consort with Hvarekhshaeta, the genius of light; as the lord of truth, he works in company with Rashnu; and as the lord of plenty and prosperity, he enters into a comradeship with Raman. The more prominent of the dual divinities are Ahura-Mithra,14 Hvarekhshaeta-Mithra,15 Mithra-Rashnu,16 Mithra-Raman,17 Rashnu-Arshtat,18 Raman-Vayu,19 Daena-Chisti,20 Ashi Vanghuhi-Parendi,21 and Asman-Zamyat.22 Sometimes a special attribute of one Yazata is extended to his associate, and they share the characteristic qualities and functions of each other.

14. Y1.11; 2.11; Ny1.7; 2.12; Yt10.113, 145.

15. Yt6; Ny1.2.

16. Vr7.2; Yt13.47, 48; 14.47; 24.52; Vd4.54.

17. Y2.3; 25.4; Vr2.9; Vd3.1; G1.2, 7, 8; S1.16, 2.16.

18. Y1.7; 2.7; Yt10.139; 12.40, S1.18; 2.18.

19. Y16.5; S1.21; 2.21.

20. Ny1.8; 2.8; S1.24; 2.24.

21. Y13.1; Yt8.38; 10.66; 24.8; S1.25; 2.25.

22. Yt1.16; 16.6; 42.3.
Classification of the Yazatas. The Avestan texts generally speak of two distinct orders of the Yazatas. They are mainyava, 'spiritual or celestial,' and gaethya, 'material or terrestrial.'23 We are not, however, informed what particular Yazatas are grouped under each of the two classes. A very recent gloss in the Pahlavi version of the Avestan Litany Khurshid Niyayesh explains that the terrestrial angels are such as Fire, Ardvi Sura's Waters, the Wind, the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. These are so called, adds the commentator, because they can be seen by man with his eyes, whereas the celestial ones cannot thus be seen.24 23. Y1.19; 3.4; 7.4; 16.9; 22.27; 25.8; 71.5; Yt6.3, 4; 10.13; 19.22; S1.30; 2.30; Ny1.9; G2.6; Vd2.21; 19.30; WFr. 1.2.

24. Cf. Dhalla, Nyaishes, p. 35, New York, 1908.
In the following tabulation we shall class the Yazatas under two main divisions. Those Yazatas who commonly work for one and the same virtue, or preside over some one particular phenomenon, will be classed under the sub-titles of such a virtue or a phenomenon common to them. Thus, for example, all the Yazatas that guard rectitude will be treated in one group, and those that preside over 1ight will be dealt with together. In cases [177] where a Yazata presides over more than one virtue, we shall class this particular angel under the most prominent and characteristic of his virtues.


  • Divine wisdom: Daena, Chisti, and Sraosha.
  • Rectitude: Mithra, Rashnu, Arshtat, Erethe, and Rasanstat.
  • Victory: Verethraghna.
  • Felicity: Raman.
  • Charity: Rata.
  • Peace: Akhshti.
  • Spell : Manthra Spenta, Dahma Afriti, Damoish Upamana.
  • Health: Airyaman, Haoma.
  • Riches: Ashi Vanghuhi, Parendi.
  • Cattle: Drvaspa, Geush Urvan.


  • Light: Hvarekhshaeta, Maonghah, Anaghra Raochah, Asman, Ushah; (star-Yazatas) Tishtrya, Vanant, Satavaesa, and Haptoiringa.
  • Wind: Vayu.
  • Fire: Atar, Nairyosangha.
  • Water: Ardvi Sura Anahita, Apam Napat, and Ahurani
  • Earth: Zam.


Religion deified. One of the least personified Yazatas is Daena, even though she is a female divinity of religion. Very little is known of her personality more than the fact that she is the genius of the Holy Law of Mazda. She has a Yasht assigned to her which is called after her name; and yet even this is entirely consecrated to Chisti, who is her usual associate. The offerings are made to her companion, and various boons are asked from her. Daena has no share in this. She is simply mentioned by name in invocation along with Chisti. Even here she is assigned a secondary place, for Chisti takes precedence over her. Throughout the Avestan texts in which the two are mentioned together, Daena stands second in the order of invocation.25 Ashi [178] Vanghuhi, or Good Piety, is her sister and Sraosha, Rashnu, and Mithra are her brothers.26 The twenty-fourth day of every month is dedicated to her.27

25. Y22.24; 25.5; S1.24; 2.24; Ny1.8; 2.8.

26. Yt17.15, 17.
The names of the religion. It is called the daena vanghu Mazdayasnya, 'the good Mazda-worshipping religion,'28 or daena Mazdayasna, 'the Mazda-worshipping religion.'29 It is named conjointly with Ahura and Zarathushtra and called Âhuirya Zarathushtri, 'the Ahurian Zarathushtrian.'30 It is further named dâta Zarathushtri, 'the Law of Zarathushtra.31 It is also spoken of without associating it with Ahura Mazda or Zarathushtra as hu-daena, 'good religion.'32 The religion in standing opposition to the Mazda-wotshipping religion is always called daevayasnya, 'the daeva-worshipping religion.' The preliminary short prayers, the Gahs, the Niyayeshes, the Yashts generally begin with a short confessionary formula in which the reciter says he is the worshipper of Mazda, a Zarathushtrian, he is against the daevas, and he is of Ahurian faith, Ahura-tkaesho. One of the Nasks, the Vendidad in its original form, vi-daeva-dâta, means 'the Law against the daevas or demons'.33 This religion of the demons is called aka-daena, 'evil religion';34 or duzh-daena, 'evil religion.'35 The man who follows the same religion is hâmo-daena, 'the co-religionist.'36 The man of other religion is of anya-tkaesha or anya-varena.37

27. Y16.6; S1.24; 2.24.

28. Y1.13; 2.13; 9.26; 11.16; 16.6; 22.24, 25; 25.5, 6; 70.3; Vr6.1; Yt2.13; 16.20; S1.24; 2.24; Ny1.8; 2.8; Vd19.6, 7, 13, 16.

29. Y8.1, 3; 22.25; 25.6; 71.4; Vr12.3; Yt8.23, 29; 10.68, 126, 127; 11.3; 16.17; 18.8; 19.2; 24.52; G2.7; Vd2.42; 3.30, 31, 41, 42; 5.21; 9.2, 47, 52; 10.18.

30. Y12.9; 60.3; Yt13.99; Vd2.1, 2.

31. Y1.13; 2.13; 22.25; 25.6; Yt11.3; Vd5.25; 19.16.

32. Vr3.3; Yt4.10; 19.95; 22.18; G4.8.

33. Y1.13; 2.13; 22.25; 25.6; 71.5; Yt11.17; Vd5.22; 19.16.

34. Vd18.9.

35. Y65.6; Yt5.109; 9.31; 19.47, 87; 22.36.

36. Vd4.44.

37. Y16.2; Vd12.21; 15.2.
The excellence of the Mazda-worshipping religion. The angel Sraosha is the teacher of the religion.38 Arshtat, the genius presiding over rectitude, is once identified with Daena.39 Ahura Mazda brought for Haoma the heavenly made star-bespangled [179] girdle and the good Mazda-worshipping religion.40 He asked Yima to be the bearer of his religion to mankind, but the illustrious king pleaded his inability to undertake such a mighty task.41 Zarathushtra then became the prophet of Ahura Mazda, and brought his religion to the world. The Kingly Glory clave unto king Vishtaspa and he thought and spoke and acted according to the religion.42 He became the arm and support of the Ahurian Zoroastrian religion.43 He found her fettered in chains and made her widely known.44 38. Y57.24; Yt11.24.

39. Vr7.2.

40. Y9.26.

41. Vd2.3, 4.

42. Yt19.84.

43. Yt13.99.

44. Yt13.100.
The Ahurian Zoroastrian religion, We are told, is the greatest, best, and fairest of all religions that are and that will be.45 She is as much higher in greatness, goodness, and fairness than others as the Vourukasha is above all waters, or a great river, flowing swifter than a rivulet, or as a great tree overshadowing small plants, or as the heaven compassing the earth.46 She is beautiful and spread far and wide.47 As dissensions-dispelling, she causes weapons to be laid down.48 She rejoices, protects, and guards the righteous man.49 She takes away the sins of those who confess their wrongs and removes their evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds, as the powerfully blowing wind cleanses the plain.50 The Mazdayasnian religion gives all good things of life.51 She gives purification to him who cleanses his self with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.52 The place where the faithful pray and sacrifice according to religion is happy.53 Hard work and industry are prime Zoroastrian virtues. Agriculture is the staple industry of the people and the texts say that sowing corn again and again feeds the Mazda-worshipping religion, it makes her walk with a hundred men's feet and suckles her with a thousand women's breasts.54 The householder prays for the long-enduring excellence of the religion in his house.55 Priests going afar for the propagation of religion, pray for a good memory and the soundness of the body.56 He is not an athravan who has not girded his loins for religion.57 The white colour, it is said is symbolic of the Mazda-worshipping religion.58

45. Y12.9.

46. Vd5.22-25.

47. Yt10.64.

48. Y12.9.

49. Yt24.14.

50. Vd3.41, 42.

51. Yt11.3.

52. Vd5.21; 10.18.

53. Vd3.1.

54. Vd3.30, 31.

55. Y60.3.

56. Yt16.16.

57. Vd18.1-4.

58. Yt10.126.



Divinity of religious wisdom. Unlike her partner, just mentioned, Chisti, divinity of religious wisdom, has a personality that is sharply defined. Her standing epithets are 'good' and 'most upright.' She is the most upright, holy, bearing libations, wearing a white garment as her emblem.59 Zarathushtra longs to own her and devoutly implores her to grant him, among other things, the clearest vision.60 The prophet's noble consort Hvovi, as well as the itinerant priests and the lords of the country, are among her supplicants, asking various boons, which she grants to those who are pure in heart.61 The faithful long to approach Ahura Mazda through the deeds of Chisti.62 59. Yt10.126.

60. Yt16.2-13.

61. Yt16.15, 17, 19.

62. Y36.4.

The word chisti is often used to denote spiritual wisdom. The eighth name of Ahura Mazda is chisti or wisdom, and the ninth is 'possessed of wisdom.'63 The world first came into being through Ahura Mazda's understanding and wisdom.64 Haoma makes the mind of the poor exalted with wisdom.65

63. Yt1.8, 9.

64. Yt1.26.

65. Y10.13.


His personality. Sraosha is one of the few angels whose prominence increases with the lapse of time. Two Yashts are dedicated to him. The latter of which occurs also in the Yasna. He is the angel whose name has reached afar and whose very body is the holy spell.66 Sraosha occupied a conspicuous place in the Gathas, and was associated with Ahura Mazda and his six abstract figures that have now become a corporate body of the seven Amesha Spentas. His close connection with them is remembered by the composers of the Later Avestan texts. We are told that he was the first in the entire creation to worship Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas. and the two protectors.67 He [181] chanted the five holy Gathas of Zarathushtra in order to propitiate the archangels.68 From his battles against the demons, he returns victorious to the celestial assembly of the archangels.69 His dwelling is supported by a thousand pillars, is self-lighted from within, and star-spangled from without.70 He drives forth in a heavenly chariot drawn by four white shining horses that are fleeter than the winds, fleeter than the rain, fleeter than the winged birds, and fleeter than the well-darted arrow.71 They overtake all, but none can overtake them, when Sraosha drives towards Hapta Hindu or the land of seven rivers in India.72 The sacred formula Ahuna Vairya [Ahunwar] and the other consecrated spells are his weapons.73 His sisters are Ashi and Daena, and his brothers are Rashnu and Mithra,74 and unto him Haoma offered sacrifice.75 Owing to his victorious courage and wisdom the archangels come down to the seven zones.76

66. Y3.20; 4.23; Yt13.85; Vd18.14.

67. Y57.2, 6.

68. Y57.8.

69. Y57.12.

70. Y57.21.

71. Y57.27, 28.

72. Y57.29.

73. Y57.22.

74. Yt17.16.

75. Y57.19.

76. Y57.23

Sraosha's attributes. His standing epithets are: holy, well-shapen, victorious, ad world-increasing. He is the strongest, the sturdiest, the most active, the swiftest, and the most awe-inspiring of youths.77 He is the word incarnate, the valiant wielder of the club, which is levelled against all demoniacal powers, especially against the fiendish Druj.78 He is courageous, mighty, swift, powerful, terrible, and heroic.79 He is a formidable foe to the wicked. He is not afraid or anyone, but the demons tremble at his sight and flee to the region of darkness.80 His mace does havoc on them. He is the warrior of the strong arms, who breaks the skulls of the demons.81 Himself unconquerable, he is the conqueror of all.

77. Y51.13.

78. Y3.20; 4.23; 57.1, 33; Yt11.0, 23; Sr1.17; Vd18.14.

79. Y57.3, 11, 12, 13, 23. 80. Y57.18; Yt11.13.

81. Y57.34; Yt11.9.
The work of Sraosha. Mazda has revealed his religion to Sraosha, who now teaches it to the world of humanity.82 This was the prime function, as we have seen above, that the Gathas allotted him. The Younger Avestan texts speak more of his all-absorbing work of combating the demons. In the Gathas he preached devout submission to Mazda's mandates; in the Later Avesta he does the fighting with the rebels that revolt against [182] divine authority. He, the exalted one, comes down to the creation of Mazda, with loins girt up to fight the demons.83 Sleep has forsaken his eyelids since the two spirits Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu created the world.84 Ahura Mazda has created him to withstand the demon Aeshma.85 With an uplifted club he guards the world after sunset from the onslaughts of Aeshma, his constant rival, and against all the forces of wickedness.86 Three times during the day and three times during the night the holy Sraosha descends on earth to smite the evil spirit Angra Mainyu, Aeshma, the demons of Mazandaran, and all other demons.87 Just as the shepherd dog guards and protects cattle against harm, so does Sraosha protect men; and the faithful, therefore, yearn with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds to live under his constant guardianship.88 The fire of the hearth calls Sraosha for help in the third part of the night, for the demon Azi threatens to extinguish his life.89 Sraosha, thereupon, wakes up the cock Parodarsh, his ally, who lifts up his voice to rouse the world of humanity, and warns it against the mischief of Bushyansta, who lulls it to sleep.90 With his terrible mace levelled at the head of Druj, he enters into controversy with her, extorts from the demoness her secret devices,91 and smites her.92 As the teacher of religion unto men he moves about spreading religious lore at his will over the whole material world.93 82. Y57.24; Yt11.14.

83. Y57.30.

84. Y57.17; Yt11.11, 12.

85. Yt11.15.

86. Y57.10, 16; Yt11.10, 11.

87. Y57.31, 32.

88. Yt11.7.

89. Vd18.22.

90. Vd18.23, 24.

91. Vd18.30-59.

92. Y57.15; Yt11.3, 10.

93. Y57.24.
The master of rituals takes his name from Sraosha and is called Sraoshâvarez.94 Parodarsh is called the Sraoshâvarez of Sraosha.95 The implement of administering stripes to the criminals is called Sraoshocharana.96

94. Vr3.1; Yt24.15; Vd5.25, 57, 58; 7.17, 18, 71; G3.5.

95. Vd18.14, 15.

96. Vd3.36, 37; etc.
Sraosha's gifts. He is implored to give strength to the spans of the warriors' steeds in battle, soundness of body, and power to meet the adversary.96a He is like a firmly built house unto the poor, who look to him for support.97 The faithful entreat him to guard them in both the worlds.98 The householder [183] invokes him to smite disobedience in his family.99 He smites Kunda.100 The Mazdayasnians are asked to sacrifice unto him.101 Evils of all kinds vanish from the house, clan, town, and country, wherein the righteous man thinking good thoughts, speaking good words, and doing good deeds, welcomes and sacrifices unto Sraosha.102 The faithful pray for all the houses protected by Sraosha, wherein he is friendly, beloved, and honoured.103 They beseech him to come to their help.104

96a. Y57.26.

97. Y51.10; Yt11.3.

98. Y57.25.

99. Y60.5.

100. Vd19.41.

101. Y57.13.

102. Y57.14.

103. Y57.35; Yt11.20.

104. Y57.3.


His place in the Avestan pantheon. Of all the Indo-Iranian divinities that have found their place in the Zarathushtrian theology, Mithra is the most prominent figure. As an associate of Varuna, Mithra's individuality was eclipsed during the Indo-Iranian period. After the separation of these two groups of the Aryan people, Mithra rose to great eminence, and was the premier divinity in Western Iran, when Zarathushtra preached his religion. During the period of syncretism after the passing away of the prophet, Mithra became the most conspicuous angel of the Younger Avestan period. The longest Yasht, which is eight times longer than the Yasht composed in honour of Ahura Mazda, celebrates his greatness. He is the most masculine, exacting, implacable, and relentless of all the Yazatas. Ahura Mazda has created him the most glorious of the spiritual Yazatas,105 as worthy of sacrifice and prayer as himself.106 The description of him in the Yasht that is dedicated in his honour gives a vivid picture of the character of the pre-Zarathushtrian divinities that came to be worshipped in Iran. Mithra was the most eminent of the primitive Ahuras, as he was conjointly worshipped with Ahura Mazda.107 The writer who consecrated Yasht 10 in his honour was conversant with the past greatness of this divinity, whose cult had struck so deep a root in the popular mind. He certainly was unsparing in eulogizing the work of this genius in the universe. The texts sometimes speak of Mithra in terms that are usually applied to Ahura Mazda, and the latter [184] himself is represented in this particular Yasht as having sacrificed unto Mithra.108 The heptad of the Amesha Spentas having been already complete, Mithra is not raised to the rank of these higher beings. but is assigned a place among the Yazatas. The Old Persian Inscriptions of the Achaemenian kings mention a very limited number of the celestial beings. Mithra occupies a prominent place among these divinities. Artaxerxes Mnemon and Artaxerxes Ochus invoke Mithra for help and protection.109

105. Vd19.35; Ny1.7.

106. Yt10.1.

107. Y1.11; 2.11; Yt10.113, 145; Ny1.7; 2.12.

108. Yt10.123.

109. SUS. a; Ham. b; Pers.4.
Mithra's attributes. Of all the Yazatas that rule over this earth, Mithra is the strongest, the most sturdy, the most active, the most swift, and the most victorious.110 Ahura Mazda has created him the most glorious of all the spiritual Yazatas.111 The composer of the Yasht who sings to his favourite divinity applies to him the same honorific epithets as are applied to the godhead. Mithra is called omniscient, which is strictly speaking the epithet of Mazda alone.112 He is the greatest of the Yazatas, with body shining like the moon, and face (ainika), as brilliant as Tishtrya.113 It is interesting to note that the Rig Veda uses the correspording Skt. form (anika), and says that Varuna's face is as shining as that of Agni.114 He is the strongest of the strong the sturdiest of the sturdy, the most intelligent among the divinities, victorious, glorious, heroic, and the undeceivable one, deep, courageous, weal-giving, propitiated when invoked, exalted, skilful, with a body made of spells, and a warrior of powerful ,arms, the leader of hosts, of a thousand devices, lordly, ruling, the all-knowing one, the one of good renown, of good form and glory, granting boons and pastures at his will, the giver of good, of ten thousand spies, heroic, and the all-knowing.115 He is ever afoot, watchful, valiant, a dominating figure in the assembly, causing the waters to flow, listening to appeals, causing the trees to grow, ruling over the district full of devices, a creature of wisdom.116 He is the swiftest among the swift, generous among the generous, valiant among the valiant, chief among the chiefs [185] of assembly, increase-giving, fatness-giving, flock-giving, son-giving, life-giving, felicity-giving, joy-giving, glory-giving, kingdom-giving, and piety-giving.117 Mithra is highly merciful, foremost, and peerless.118 He is the protector and guardian of an creatures.119 He is the most fiend-smiting among all the Yazatas.120 He is both good and bad for men and nations, Peace and War between nations are from him.121 With his wide knowledge, he furthers the creation of Spenta Mainyu.122 The sixteenth day of a month and the seventh month of a year are sacred to Mithra.

110. Yt10.98, 135.

111. Yt19.35.

112. Yt10.24, 35.

113. Yt10.142, 143.

114. RV. 7.88, 2.

115. Yt10.24, 25, 27, 31, 35, 46, 56, 60, 63, 69, 82, 141, 143.

116. Yt10.61.

117. Yt10.16, 65.

118. Yt10.140.

119. Yt10.54.

120. Yt10.98, 135.

121. Yt10.29.

122. Yt10.142.
Mithra's associates. Among those who work in unison with Mithra, Ahura Mazda stands first; Mithra-Ahura ate invoked together as a couple. Their union is pre-Zarathushtrian and corresponds to the Vedic Mitra-Varuna. A detailed account of their joint activity is not found in the Avesta, but they are called the two exalted, imperishable, and holy ones,123 and are invoked for special help.124 Mithra is again jointly invoked with Hvarkhshaeta, the angel presiding over the sun. This is natural, because one of the chief Iunctions of Mithra is to work as the guardian of light. Of the five Zoroastrian Nyaishes, or litanies, two are consecrated to the sun and Mithra, and these two are always recited together.125 On the moral side Mithra protects truth. Consequently at an early date he is associated with Rashnu, who is the chief genius of truth.126 They are united as two friends.127 One of the principal attributes of Mithra is that he is the lord of wide pastures. In this capacity he joins in partnership with Raman Khvastra, who is essentially the angel that gives good pastures and happy dwellings, together with full joy of life.128

123. Y1.11; 2.11; Ny1.7; 2.2; Yt10.113, 145.

124. Yt10.113.

125. Ny1.2; Yt6.

126. Vr7.2; Yt13.47, 48; 14.47; 24.52; Vd4.54.

127. Yt10.79, 81.

128. Y2.3; 25.4; Vr2.9; Vd3.1; G1.2, 7, 8; S1.16; 2.16.
Mithra, the genius of light. On the material side Mithra presides over light, especially over the light that radiates from [186] the sun with the radiance of which he is identical on the physical plane. As the harbinger of light and herald of the dawn, Mithra precedes the rising sun on the summits of mountains, and from there watches all Aryan settlements, nay more, even all the seven Zones of the world.129 The great vault of heaven is therefore Mithra's garment.130 Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas, being in one accord with the sun, have built up for Mithra a dwelling as wide as the earth in this material world, on the great mountain Hara Berezaiti (Alburz) where neither night nor darkness, nor cold wind, nor hot wind, nor sickness, impurity; death and clouds can ever reach.131 From this elysian abode Mithra surveys the whole universe at a glance.132 Sleepless and ever wakeful, he watches and spies the doings of men, like Vedic Mitra-Varuna, as an infallible sentinel of heaven. He has posted eight of his comrades as scouts on the celestial watch-towers to spy upon men's doings.133 After the sun has set, Mithra traverses the world all around, and surveys all that is between earth, and the heavens.134 Ahura Mazda consequently has ordained that Mithra should watch from on high over the entire moving world.135 The heat of Mithra it is, accordingly, that gives warmth and life to the plant world and bestows fertility upon this earth. Mithra, as a guardian genius in the celestial realm, superintends the vast expanse of the universe. Varuna has a thousand eyes,136 and Mithra is constantly spoken of as having a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes. The brilliant sun is the lord of yonder heavens, who with his infinite rays of light pervades the whole world, Mithra furthermore receives in the Avesta the standing epithets dainghu-paiti, 'the lord of countries,' and vourugaoyaoiti 'of wide pastures.' His light is the dispeller of darkness and of all the sin and evil concomitant with it. Nothing is secret from Mithra's penetrating gaze. Mitra-Varuna have a thousand-eyed spies (spasah), who descend from heaven and traverse the world, watching the doings of mankind. Mithra, as we have seen, has ten thousand spies (spaso), who work as his messengers.

129. Yt10.13, 15; Vd19.28.

130. Yt13.3.

131. Yt10.44, 50, 51.

132. Yt10.64.

133. Yt10.45.

134. Yt10.95.

135. Yt10.103.

136. RV. 7.34.10.
Mithra, the inveterate foe of falsehood. Yet after all, the greater and more important work of Mithra lies in the abstract [187] sphere. At a very early date Mithra was styled the warder of truth. Light is synonymous with truth, as darkness is with falsehood. Mithra being primarily the lord of light, it was but a step from the physical to the moral sphere that he should be depicted impersonating truth. From the divine activity of Mithra, as portrayed in the Avestan texts, we gather more information of his aggressively active crusade against falsehood than of his work in upholding truth. In his warring capacity of lord of hosts, Mithra works more than all else to deal a destructive blow to the demon of falsehood, thereby strengthening the realm of truth.
To speak untruth was a henious sin. Truth Was a paramount among the ancient Iranians. It was regarded as everything, it was religion. On this very account we see human evil reflectively focussed in the Avesta as the druj, 'Lie,' which corresponds to drauga in the Old Persian Inscriptions of the Achaemenian kings, a conception almost like that of the devil. Herodotus writes that one of the first things that every Persian child was taught was to speak the truth.137 Lying unto Mithra brings the offender the sin of being a deceiver of Mithra. The faithful is exhorted never to lie, for Mithra is unforgiving toward liars. Sad is the abode wherein live those that lie unto Mithra, for they are childless, and even their cattle stray along the road shedding tears over their chins.138 Neither the lord of the house, nor the lord of the clan, nor the lord of the town, nor the lord of the country should ever lie unto this celestial being.139 He is the protector and guardian of these lords, only so long as they lie not unto him.140 If, however, they commit such a sin, Mithra is offended and angered, and destroys house, clan, town, and the country, along with their masters and nobles.141 Nor can these culprit lords escape him, for he overtakes them, no matter how swiftly they may run.142 The man of little faith who thinks that he can evade Mithra and indulges in falsehood is mistaken;143 but Mithra thinks in his mind that were the evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds of the earthly man a hundred times worse, they would not rise as high as the good thoughts, good words, and good deeds of the heavenly Mithra.144 Or again if the innate wisdom of the earthly man were a hundred times greater, [188] it would not rise as high as the heavenly wisdom of the Mithra; or if the ears of the earthly man could hear a hundred times better, he would not hear so well as the heavenly Mithra who with a thousand devices of his, hears well and sees every man that tells a lie.145 To such a one Mithra gives neither strength nor vigour, glory nor reward,146 but on the contrary, he inflicts dire punishment. Into the hearts of all such he strikes terror, taking away the strength of their arms, fleetness from their feet, the sight from their eyes, and the hearing from their ears.147 It is he that hurls down their heads as he deals death.148 Mithra keeps back harm and death from him who lies not unto him.149 Neither the wound of the well-sharpened spear nor that of the well-darted arrow harm him whom Mithra comes to help.150

137. Herod. 1. 136

138. Yt10.38.

139. Yt10.17.

140. Yt10.80.

141. Yt10.18.

142. Yt10.20.

143. Yt10.105.

144. Yt10.106.

145. Yt10.107.

146. Yt10.62.

147. Yt10.23, 48, 63.

148. Yt10.37.

149. Yt10.22.

150. Yt10.63.
Mithra the guardian of contracts. Ahura Mazda enjoins upon Zarathushtra not to break the contract that is entered into with the righteous or with the wicked, for Mithra stands for both the righteous and the wicked.151 In his role of genius of light he guards the sanctity of oaths, and the word mithra in the Avesta is frequently used as a common noun, meaning 'contract.'152 For that reason, he who violates the oath, whether it be with a believer or a non-believer, feels the visitations of the stern angel's wrath. The crime of the one who thus violates a contract is called Mithra-druj, 'deceiving Mithra.' Such a criminal is heavily punished, and his guilt falls upon the shoulders of his kinsmen for years in the next world, making them answerable for it by punishment.153 The ethics of thus holding a man's family and kinsmen responsible for his guilt seems to be a relic of the primitive type of group morality.

151. Yt10.2.

152. Yt10.116, 117; Vd4.2-16.

153. Vd4.5-10.
Mithra as a war divinity. Incidental allusion has been made above to Mithra as the lord of hosts. For that reason it is easy to comprehend the fact that warring nations invoke Mithra for help before going into battle; and the lord of hosts sides with that army which excels in offering sacrifice.154 When Mithra marches out amid the hostile armies on the battlefield, he throws confusion into the camp of the enemy that has offended him, [189] binds the hands of his offenders, covers their eyesight, takes away their power of hearing, deprives their feet of movement,155 and breaks asunder their lines of battle, striking terror in their entire array.156 Though the enemy use arrows and spears, swords and maces, they nevertheless miss the mark in every case,157 and, all the while, Mithra rushes destructively from a thousand directions against the foes.158 The adversaries who have lied unto him he kills by fifties and hundreds, by hundreds and thousands, by thousands and tens of thousands, by tens of thousands and myriads.159 Confusing their minds, he shatters their limbs and breaks their bones asunder,160 at the same time as he throws down their heads161 he enters the battlefield in person, and levels his club at both the horse and the rider.162

154. Yt10.9.

155. Yt10.48, 63.

156. Yt10.36, 41.

157. Yt10.39, 40.

158. Yt10.69.

159. Yt10.43.

160. Yt10.71, 72.

161. Yt10.37.

162. Yt10.101.
Mithra’s chariot. Mithra goes forth on his daily round through the heavens and upon the earth driving in a celestial car that rolls upon one golden wheel, evidently the sun, with a shining axle.163 Ahura Mazda made his chariot of heavenly substance and inlaid it with stars.164 Like Sraosha's vehicle it is drawn by four white stallions that eat celestial food and are are undying, shining, and spiritual.165 When Mithra drives on aloft over the seven zones he is escorted on the left and the right, in front and from behind, by Sraosha, Nairyosangha, Ashi Vanghuhi, Parendi, Nairya Ham-Vareti, Kingly Glory, the Sovereign Sky, Damoish Upamana, Rashnu, Chisti, Atar, Verethraghna, and the Fravashis.166 With bows and arrows, spears and clubs, and with swords and maces placed by thousands in his chariot, this divine war lord plunges, mace in hand, into the field of battle, smiting and killing the wicked that have been false to him.167 Even Angra Mainyu and the fiendish demons flee away in terror before Mithra.168 After smiting the demons and the men who have lied unto him, he drives forward through the seven Zones.169

163. Yt10.67,136.

164. Yt10.143.

165. Yt10. 68, 125.

166. Yt10.52,66,68,100,126,127.

167. Yt10.96, 102, 112, 127-132.

168. Yt10.97,99,134.

169. Yt10. 133.

Mithra’s wrath. Mithra bemoans with uplifted hands before Ahura Mazda the disregard and negligence of men who do not invoke him by his name, even though he protects and guards [190] them.170 If he were invoked by men, he says, as other angels are, he would come at the appointed time for help to the righteous.171 He looks, therefore, for votaries who will sacrifice unto him, so that in his might he may shower gifts upon them. Happy indeed is the man who thus gains the good-will of Mithra, for this divine angel henceforth bestows upon him radiance and glory, soundness of body, riches and weal, offspring and sovereignty.172 But woe is to him that is sparing in Mithra's invocation. For such a Wight calamity is in store, as Mithra is terrible to deal with when his righteous wrath is kindled. Mithra, when angered or disregarded in worship, inflicts poverty and wretchedness, sickness and death upon the offender, depriving him also of his offspring and power.173 The house, clan, town, and country in which an insult is offered to Mithra are levelled to the ground.174 He deprives the evil countries of their greatness and glory and victory, and renders them helpless.175 The wise therefore pray that they may never come across Mithra's wrath,176 and invocation is the best means of appeasing the vengeful angel.177

170. Yt10.53, 54.

171. Yt10.55,73,74.

172. Yt10.108, 109.

173. Yt10.110,111.

174. Yt10.28, 87.

175. Yt10.27.

176. Yt10.69, 98, 135.

177. Yt10.120.

Sacrifices to Mithra. Varuna sits on the strewn grass at the sacrifice.178 Similarly, the faithful devoutly invoke Mithra by his name with libations, and implore him to come and sit at the sacrifice, to listen to the invocation, to be pleased with it, to accept it, and to place it with love to their credit in paradise.179 Ahura Mazda himself offered a sacrifice unto him in the shining Garonmana.180 Zarathushtra is asked to offer sacrifices unto Mithra and so are the Mazdayasnians asked to sacrifice unto him with cattle and birds, along with Haoma and libations.181 The faithful who desires to drink the holy libations consecrated in honour of Mithra is required to undergo certain penances. He has to wash his body for three days and three nights and undergo thirty stripes, or he might wash his body for two days and two nights and undergo twenty stripes, as the occasion requires. Anyone who has no knowledge of the ritual is prohibited from partaking of the sacred libation.182 In these observances we can [191] recognize the beginnings of the later Mithraic rites and mysteries for which the cult of Mithra, centuries afterwards, became famous. Mithra demands that his sacrifice shall be performed with out-and-out devotion. Ahura Mazda says unto Zarathushtra that if a sacrifice is offered unto Mithra by a holy and righteous priest, Mithra will be satisfied, and will straightway come to the dwelling of the supplicant, but if it is performed by an unholy priest, it is rejected, no matter how long has been the sacrifice, nor how many bundles of the sacred twigs are consecrated.183 Mithra promptly comes to help when he is satisfied.184 He brings sovereignty for him who has piously offered him libations,185 and gives him a good abode with desirable possessions.186 He is to be offered sacrifices around and within countries, in and above countries, under and before and behind countries.187

178. RV. 1.2.64; 5.72.2.

179. Yt10.31,32,57.

180. Yt10.123.

181. Yt10.119.

182. Yt10.120-122.

183. Yt10.137-139.

184. Yt10.87.

185. Yt10.16.

186. Yt10.77.

187. Yt10.144; Ny2.11.

Mithra's boons. He is constantly spoken of as giving happy and joyful abode, to the Aryan peoples. Many indeed are the boons asked for from Mithra by his votaries, who always approach him with love, homage and sacrifice. He is generally invoked to come to the faithful for help, freedom, joy, mercy, healing, victory, well-being, and sanctification. The masters of the house, clan, town, and country invoke him for help, so do the poor, when wronged, look to him for the redress of their grievances.188 The husbandman solicits that rich pasture may never fail him. Horsemen sacrifice unto him even from on horseback and beg swiftness for their teams, vigour for their bodies, and might for overthrowing their adversaries.189 Neither the spear of the foe nor his arrow hits the man whom Mithra helps,190 for he guards and protects man from behind and in front.191 furthers the possessions of man, he gives flocks of cattle, male offspring, chariots, spacious mansions, and prosperity192 he is therefore entreated to grant riches, courage, victory, good name and fame, felicity, wisdom, and strength to smite the adversaries.193 The worshipper prays that just as the sun, rising beyond the Alburz, reaches the height, so may he, with his ascending prayer, rise above the will of Angra Mainyu and approach [192] Mithra.194 Mithra's help, it may be added, is invoked for both the worlds.195

188. Yt10.83, 84.

189. Yt10.1,94,114.

190. Yt10.24.

191. Yt10.46.

192. Yt10.28,30.

193. Yt10.33, 34, 58, 59.

194. Yt10.118.

195. Yt10.93.


Personification of truth. This angel is preeminently genius of truth. His standing epithet is razishta, 'most upright'. To adopt the phraseology of the Younger Avestan texts, Rashnu is the most holy, the most well-shaped, exalted, courageous, most knowing, the most discerning, the most fore-knowing, most far-seeing, the most helping, the greatest smiter of thieves and bandits.196 He is as bright as the fire.197 Zarathushtra blesses king Vishtaspa that he may be of right faith like Rashnu.198 196. Yt10.126; 12.5-8.

197. Vsp. 16.1.

198. AZ.7.

The eighteenth day of the month is consecrated to him.199

199. Y16.5; Sr. 1.18; 2.18.
Rashnu presides at the ordeal court. The twelfth Yasht consecrated to Rashnu deals mainly with the preparation of the ordeal; and his presence at such trials is deemed indispensable.200 In fact he is the chief celestial judge who presides at the ordeal. No specific habitat is assigned to Rashnu. The officiating priest has to invoke him to come to the ordeal from whatever part of the world he happens to be in at that time, whether in one of the seven zones of the habitable world, or on the great waters or on some part of the wide earth, or on the high mountains, on the stars and the moon and the sun, or in the endless light, even in paradise.201 The man who lies at the ordeal offends both Rashnu and Mithra, and is consequently punished.202 200. See Dhalla, 'The Use of Ordeals among the Ancient Iranians,' in Le Museon, vol. II, p. 121-133, Louvain, 1910.

201. Yt12.9-38

202. Vd4.54,55.

We have already seen how Rashnu is often invoked in company with Mithra, and likewise with Sraosha; in a similar manner, as noted in the next paragraph, we generally find Arshtat the female personification of rectitude, invoked alongside of Rashnu.203

203. Y1.7; 2.7; Yt10.139; 12.40; Sr.1.18; 2.1.8.


Divinity of rectitude. Arshtat or Arshti is the female genius of truth. She does not play any prominent part in the Younger Avestan period. She co-operates with Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu in the judgment of the dead. Although the 18th Yasht is dedicated to Arshtat and bears her name, there is not in it a single mention of her by name; the entire hymn treats only of the Aryan Glory. In two Sirozah passages (1.26, 2.26) Mount Ushidarena literally meaning 'the keeper of intelligence,' is invoked in company with Arshtat; and tradition points to this mountain at the place where Zarathushtra retired to meditate on the eternal problems of life and commune with the divine. As noted above, Arshtat is generally invoked with Rashnu;204 and she is called the world-increasing and the world-profiting.205 In one instance she is identified with the Mazdayasnian religion.206 The faithful invoke her excellence.207 204. Y1.7; 2.7; Yt10.139; 12.40; Sr. 1.18; 2.18.

205. Y1.7; 2.7; Vsp. 7.2; Yt10.139; 11.16; 13.18; Sr. 1.26; 2.26

206. Vsp. 7.2

207. Y57.34.
As conjectured by Foy,208 and established by Jackson,209 after a careful examination of the Old Persian Inscription on the Behistan rock,210 the name of this angel occurs in the very short list of Zoroastrian divinities known to the Achaemenian kings. The twenty-sixth day of the month is sacred to her.211

208. KZ. 35.45; ZDMG. 54.364, n. 1.

209. Persia Past and Present, p. 203-205, New York, 1906.

210. Bh. 4.64.

211. Y16.6; Sr. 1.26; 2.26.


Minor divinities of truth. By the names of Erethe and Rasantat are designated two minor female angels presiding over truth. Nothing is known about them excepting that they are invoked by name along with Chisti and Ashi Vanghuhi.212 They are given the epithet 'good.' Erethe is once called courageous.213 212. Y1.14; 3.16; 4.19; Vsp. 9.4; Sr. 1.25.

213. Vsp. 9.4.


The angel of victory. Verethraghna belongs to the Indo-Iranian divinities. He is one of the most popular divinities of the Iranian cult. Indra's most distinctive epithet in the Rig Veda is Vrtrahan, 'the slayer of Vrtra.' Its Avestan corresponding word is Verethraghna which, however, is not used as an epithet of some angel, but is the name of a powerful angel. Verethraghna impersonates victory and he has preserved this trait throughout the various epochs of Iranian religious thought. The Yasht bearing his name celebrates his exploits. As the genius of victory, and created by Ahura Mazda, Verethraghna is the best armed of the spiritual angels.214 He is the most courageous in courage, the most victorious in victory, the most glorious in glory, the most abounding in favours, the best giver of welfare, and the most healing in health-giving.215 He is the giver of manliness, inflicting death, maker of a new world, resolute, and self-willed.216 214. Yt14.1,6,etc.

215. Yt14.3, 7, etc.

216. Yt14.28, 30, 32.
King Vishtaspa is blessed by Zarathushtra that he may be a conqueror of his enemies like Verethraghna.217 The twentieth day of the month is dedicated to him.218 His constant associates are Ama, 'Courage,' and Vanainti Uparatat, 'Dominating Excellence.'

217. AZ. 7.

218. Y16.5; Sr. 1.20; 2.20.
The patron angel of the Iranian countries. Verethraghna is one of the national divinities of the Aryans. If the nation sacrificed unto Verethraghna with libations, and the sacred twigs, and consecrated cooked repast of cattle, either white or of some other colour, no hostile hordes, no plague, nor evil of any kind would enter the Aryan lands.219 The sacrifice is to be offered through righteousness, and none but the righteous should partake of the holy food dedicated to Verethraghna. Untold calamity would befall the Aryan countries if the wicked should have a share in the sacred feast. In such an event plagues and foes would devastate the country and the Aryans would be smitten by their fifties and their hundreds, by their hundreds and their thousands, by their thousands and their tens of thousands, by their tens of thousands and their myriads of myriads.220

219. Yt14. 48-50.

220. Yt14.51-53.
[195] Verethraghna's work. The armies that meet on the battlefield invoke Verethraghna for victory. He favours that army which first seeks his help.. The army that secures his aid is sure to conquer and not to be conquered, it smites and is not smitten.221 He breaks asunder the columns of the enemy, wounds them, shakes them, and cuts them to pieces.222 He brings illness and death into the army that has lied unto Mithra, binds their hands and feet, and deprives them of their eyesight and hearing.223 He destroys the malice of the malicious demons and men, sorcerers and fairies, the willfully blind, and the willfully deaf. 224 Zarathushtra sacrificed unto Verethraghna, imploring from him victory in thought, victory in word, victory in deed, victory in addressing. and victory in replying.225 Verethraghna imparts to the prophet the excellence of uprightness, the strength of the arms, the health of the body, the strength of the body, and the powerful vision of the eyes.226

221. Yt14.43, 44.

222. Yt14.62.

223. Yt14.47,63.

224. Yt14.4.

225. Yt14.28, 30, 32.

226. Yt14.29,31,33.
His metamorphoses. Verethraghna, along with Dahma Afriti and Damoish Upamana, imports a peculiar aspect into the Iranian pantheon, that of assuming various shapes and manifesting his individuality in many forms. As the lord of victory he is ever ready to help those who invoke him, and comes down to his votary under different guises. Ten of such forms of Verethraghna are mentioned, when he appeared to Zarathushtra. The divinity successively assumes the form of the wind, a bull, a horse, a camel, a boar, a youth, a raven, a ram, a he-goat, and finally of a man.227 He escorts Mithra in the shape of a boar to smite those that have lied unto the guardian of truth.228

227. Yt14.2,7,9,11,15,17,19,23,25,27.

228. Yt10.70.


He causes the joy of life. Another instance of a hymn consecrated in name to one Yazata, but wholly devoted to the praise and glorification of another, is furnished by Ram Yasht (15). Raman is merely invoked by name along with Vayu at the beginning [196] and the end of the Yasht. Vayu, the genius of wind, is the co-labourer of Raman, and the Yasht treats of his achievements. Raman Khvastra is the genius of the joy of life. The joy that he imparts is not the joy of the spirit, and does not convey any spiritual significance. It is the joy or pleasure pertaining to this life. Raman's joy makes man full of zest for life. Good abodes and good pastures that bring comfort and happiness in the present life are Raman's gifts. Savouriness of food is from him. Rich harvest, fertile fields, wide pasture, abundant fodder, and thick foliage, are the boons of Raman and his associate divinities, like Mithra and Vayu.229 In fact it is Mithra and Tishtrya who impart this joy to the abodes of the Aryan nations.230 The waters of Ardvi Sura Anahita are likewise invoked to grant joyful dwellings for the worshippers of Mazda.231 Zarathushtra wishes King Vishtaspa the joy of Raman.232 We have already seen that Zarathushtra's joyful outlook on life pervades the Younger Avesta. Gaiety of spirit and cheerfulness of nature characterize the people of the period.

229. Y1.3; 2.3; 22.23; 25.4; Vsp. 1.7; 2.9; Yt10.146. Yt15; Sr. 1.21; 2.21; Vd. 3.1; G. 1.7.

230. Yt8.2; 10.4.

231. Y68.14.

232. Yt23.7; 24.6.


Physical and mental inequality leads to economic inequality. Providence does not distribute the physical and mental gifts to man on the basis of equality. Some are born with agile, robust, and healthy bodies, whereas others are burdened with sluggish, weak, and sickly bodies. Mankind has contributed considerably by its vice of ages to the deformity of body and derangement of mind. Men and women are born with unequal physical and mental strength. The strong and strenuous, cunning and resourceful, vigorous and adventurous mercilessly overthrow the weak and slow, simple and dull, timid and indolent in the fierce scramble for the good things of life. The unequal distribution by nature of the gifts of body and brain, aided by selfishness and greed on the part of man bring about economic inequality. The disparity of poverty and wealth has appeared on the face of the earth ever since society took to settled life and, with the [197] division of labour, embarked upon earning means of livelihood by different kinds of work. The strong have exploited the labour of the weak and forced them to slave like beasts of burden with their eyes raining tears of sorrow. The fear of starvation has hovered over millions of huts like vultures. The poor have generally lived in squalor and sickness and died like flies. Countless persons have not experienced a full and satisfied stomach from birth to death. Kindly mothers have eaten only half the bread that their children may have the other half. Multitudes of children have lived with wasted cheeks, sunken eyes, and emaciated bodies among the dregs of life. Men and women have sweated and starved and grown gray before their time. Physical sufferings have rendered many the shadows of themselves, made them live two years in one and age fast. Many have found it hard to equate the income and expenses, and earned a precarious living. The people whose tragedy it has been to be poor have always outnumbered the rich in the world.
When life has thus denied many the barest necessities of life, it has loaded others with abundance. Men of industry and enterprise have amassed riches, others have inherited wealth, still others have filled their coffers by foul means. Some have been parasites fattening upon the sweated toil of the tillers of the soil and have wrung from them the fruits of their labour. They have revelled in superfluous riches. They have lived in spacious halls with frescoed walls, and velvet hangings looped with golden tassels. They had a retinue of servants at their beck and call and lounged away their time upon luxurious divans. They had sumptuous tables laden with a dozen courses and sparkling wines and fed themselves to early death. Others gave themselves up to gaiety and licentiousness. Many have indulged in ostentatious and extravagant luxury when the vast numbers of the poor have clothed themselves in rags and their children have suffered from malnutrition. The insolence and hauteur, the cold behaviour and thinly concealed slights have stung the helpless poor to the quick.
The poor took the counsels of contentment given by the wise to heart and resigned themselves to the inscrutable will of God. Moreover, there have always been noble souls everywhere who have come forward to father society's orphans and destitutes. They have acted on the principle that wealth was not given them [198] for their selfish use, and that the rich were the stewards of their wealth given them by God for the amelioration of the condition of the poor. When some have not given anything from their abundance, many have always given something, and the few have given up their all.

Charity personified. The female genius of charity, grace, or alms-giving is Rata, the companion of Spenta Armaiti, with whom she is conjointly invoked in the hymns of praise.233 Through her Ahura Mazda gives reward,234 for he has spoken of her with express sanction to Zarathushtra, and in obedience the prophet has introduced her to humanity.235 The faithful pray that they may win Ahura Mazda's favours through Rata.236 She nourishes the poor.237 Sraosha is the best protector of the poor.238 He shelters poor men and women in his mansion.239 Haoma exalts the mind of the poor.239a With uplifted hands do the ill-treated poor call Mithra for help.240 The faithful fervently pray that the spirit of charity of the religious devotee241 may drive away the demon of stinginess from the house. If one of the faith approaches another seeking goods, or a wife, or knowledge, the man of means should help him with goods, he should arrange for the marriage of this poor coreligionist, he should pay for his instruction in religious matters.242 It is in every man's power to practise charity, either in thoughts, or in words, or in deeds.

233. Sr. 1.5; 2.5.

234. Y40.1.

235. Y65.9.

236. Y40.4.

237. VYt36

238. Yt11.3.

239. Y57.10.

239a. Y10.13.

240. Yt10.84.

241. Y60.5.

242. Vd4.44.


The angel of peace. This female divinity is peace personified, but even though perfectly clearly recognizable as such, she is very obscurely outlined as to traits. She is invoked in company with Vohu Manah, or Good Mind,243 for nothing can break the inner peace in which the spirit of a man of good thoughts reposes. Akhshti is usually called victorious.244 243. Yt2.1; Sr.1.2; 2.2.

244. Vsp. 7.1; Yt2.1, 6; 11,15; 15.1; Sr. 1.2; 2.2.
The term Akhshti occurs also as a common noun. This peace as well as war lies in the power of Mithra to bring upon the [199] country.245 The rulers invoke Chisti to procure peace for their countries,246 and the faithful pray that peace and concord may drive out discord and strife from their abodes.247

245. Yt10.29.

246. Yt16.19.

247. Y60.5.


The spirit of the spells. The Gathas spoke of the mânthra, the sacred formula, or inspired utterance of great spiritual potency, but did not personify it. The Avestan texts do so, however, under the name Manthra Spenta, or Holy Formula. The manthras generally indicate the spells of magical charms in the Younger Avesta. Manthra Spenta, the embodiment of the holy spell, is invoked along with Daena, the genius of religion, and Vohu Manah's wisdom.248 As an angel presiding over the formulas of the faith he wards off evil, exorcises those possessed of the demons, and heals the sick; he is consequently invoked to heal the ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine diseases created by Angra Mainyu.249 He is efficacious and the most glorious one,250 and like every other angel, Manthra Spenta has his Fravashi.251 The twenty-ninth day of the month is sacred to him.252

248. Sr. 1.29; 2.29.

249. Vd. 22.2, 6.

250. Y1.13; 2.13; 25.6; Vsp. 21.2; Vd. 22.2, 6.

251. Yt13. 86.

252. Y16.6.
The potency of the spells. The collocation manthra spenta occurs more frequently in its ordinary meaning than as the name of the angel presiding over the holy spells. The term mânthra without its appellative spenta is also freely used to designate the sacred texts. It is also used for the magical spells of various degrees of efficacy. These spells are interspersed in the Avestan texts, especially in the Yashts and the Vendidad. Their conjuring efficacy is very great. They are supposed to have inherent mysterious power of their own, and the mere recital of these magical charms produces marvellous effects. The mystical compositions, as such, are credited with some kind of spiritual efficacy, some superhuman power; and through the recitation of them man can avert the baneful influence of the demons. Such [200] spells are awful, efficacious, victorious, healing.253 The recital of the holy spell gives easy delivery at birth, and helps in the growth of the child.254 He who heals by the recital of the holy spells is the best healer, for he best drives away sickness from the body.255 These magical incantations are mostly used to drive away the demons of defilement, disease, and death. The holy spell is the very soul of Ahura Mazda.256 Whoso pronounces the names of Ahura Mazda by day and by night, on leaving his bed, or while retiring for sleep, or upon leaving his home or his town, is able to withstand the attacks of the demons, and will receive as much succour and help as a thousand men could jointly give to one man. 257

253 Yt14.46.

254 Vd. 21.6, 10, 14.

255 Yt3.6. Vd. 7.44.

256 Yt13.81; Vd. 19.14.

257 Yt1.16-19.

The chief spells. Some of the most excellent, the most mighty, the most efficacious, the most smiting, the most victorious, the most healing, the greatest, and the best of the spells are the Ahuna Vairya formula, the Airyaman Ishya prayer, the names of Ahura Mazda and of the Amesha Spentas.258 The Airyaman Ishya is the greatest, best, fairest, most fearful, most firm most victorious, and the most healing of all spells.259 Saoshyant and his companions will recite the Airyaman Ishya prayer at the time of the renovation of the world. Through its intonation Angra Mainyu and his evil crew shall be hidden in the earth, the dead shall rise up, and Ahura Mazda shall rule according to his divine will.260 There are other sacred formulas of great importance, such as the Ashem Vohu and Yenghe Hatam. These are composed in the Gathic dialect and are of rare merit. They are next in importance only to the most sacred formula of all, the Ahuna Vairya, which is spoken of in the following paragraph.

258 Yt1.1-3; 3.5,6; 11.3; WFr. 4.1.

259 Yt3.5.

260 WFr. 4. See Haas, An Avestan Fragment on the Resurrection, with translation and notes in Spiegel Memorial Volume, p. 181-187, Bombay. 1908.

Ahuna Vairya. The greatest of all the spells, the Word par excellence of the Zarathushtrian theology, which is constantly on the tongue of the faithful, is the Ahuna Vairya. It is made up of twenty-one words, every one of which corresponds to one [201] of the twenty-one Nasks which make up the complete Holy Writ of the Zoroastrians. It is the quintessence of the entire scriptures. In reply to the prophet's inquiry about the origin of this sacred formula, Ahura Mazda says that before the heavens, before the waters, before the earth, before the animals, before the trees, before the fire, before men, before the archangels, before the demons. and before the entire material existence, Ahuna Vairya was.261 Ahura Mazda pronounced it when the world was not.262 One correct recitation of it without any omission is worth the chanting of a hundred Gathas,263 and will enable the devout to reach paradise.264 Of all the sacred formulas that have ever been pronounced or are now recited, or which will be recited hereafter, this word that the Lord God has announced to the holy prophet is the best.265 It gives courage and victory to the soul and conscience of man.266 Humanity would redeem itself from the death by embracing it in the fullness of faith.267 261 Y19.1-4.

262 Y19.8.

263 Y19.5.

264 Y19.6.

265 Y19.10.

266 Yt21.4.

267 Y19.10.

Zarathushtra chants aloud this Word when the demon Buiti seeks his death, and he puts the fiend to flight by the mere recital of it.268 With the same word does the prophet repel the Evil Spirit himself, when he comes to tempt him.269 268 Vd. 19.2.

269 Vd. 19.9.

The value of the recitation and the intonation of the formula is greatly impaired when it is inattentively chanted with errors and omissions.270 Ahura Mazda prevents the careless soul that makes such mistakes from entering paradise.271

270 Y19.5.

271 Y19.7.

The number of times that the spells are recited. The tenth Fargard or chapter, of the Vendidad gives a list of the Gathic stanzas which are to be repeated twice, three times, and four times at the beginning of the spells to repel evil. The Airyaman Ishya prayer is generally repeated four times. The most frequently occurring formulas that are repeated in various numbers, as the occasion demands, are the Ashem Vohu and the Ahuna Vairya. They are generally used at the opening or at the close of all prayers. The number of times which they are recited varies from one to a hundred thousand, or to be precise, the following specific numbers are found among the references to the [202] different prayers: one, two, three, four, five, seven, eight, ten, twelve, twenty-one, one hundred, two hundred, twelve hundred, and a hundred thousand.

Those privileged to recite the spells. Manthrans, or chanters are those who are privileged to recite the spells.272 Whoso seeks wisdom with pious intent is to be taught the holy spells.273 The knowledge of the secret formulas is to be zealously guarded, it is to be imparted only to the veriest few in the closest circle.274 The potency of such spells greatly lies in their careful and accurate recitation, without omitting any part of the prescribed formulas, or without violating the rigid rules of the manner of chanting. This requires that the reciter should be well versed in the art of exorcising, of healing, or in any other function he undertakes to perform with the help of the sacred spells. Teaching a manthra to an infidel is equivalent to giving a tongue to the wolf.275

272 Y7.24; 41.5.

273 Vd. 4.44.

274 Yt4.10; 14.46.

275 TdFr. 3; Nr. 17.


She personifies the power of benediction. Each time that a righteous person offers sacrifices unto this personification of a divine blessing, she comes to him in the shape of a camel.276 She is beautiful and friendly, she fills the empty to over-filling and restores the sick to health.277 When the collocation is used as a common noun it means the blessings of the pious. A healer takes his fees from persons whom he heals. But when he cleanses or heals a priest he has to do so for just the ‘blessing of the pious' that the priest can give.278

276 TdFr. 64; 65.

277 Vd. 22.5,12,18.

278 Vd. 7.41; 9.37.


He personifies the power of anathema. This embodiment of the power to utter an awful malediction upon an offender against righteousness is generally mentioned alongside of Mithra.279 When Mithra goes forth on his crusade against the demons and their followers throughout the seven zones, this angel, with the dread power of uttering fatal imprecations, [203] Accompanies him in the shape of a ferocious boar. 280 This sharp-toothed and sharp-jawed frightful animal symbolizes the terrible power of the curse for injury to the wrong-doer. Furthermore, when Ahura Mazda, the supreme heavenly judge, comes down to attend the ordeal court, Damoish Upamana is one of those to join among the number of his co-adjutors.281 The contending parties were here put to self-imprecatory oaths. Divine wrath fell upon him who swore falsely and the dreadful boar that typified the awful potency of Dami Upamana's curse fell upon him and killed him at a stroke. He is also seen moving in the company of the Fravashis when they go out to the battlefield to help their favoured army.282 The sacrificing priest invites him to attend the Yasna-sacrifice.283

279 Yt10.9, 66, 68, 127.

280 Yt10.127.

281 Yt12.4.

282 Yt13.47.

283 Y1.15; 2.15.


The genius of health. This Indo-Iranian divinity originally conveys the idea of comradeship and occurs in the Vedas as a groomsman at the wedding rites and casually in the Avesta in connection with the wedding rites. The Fifty-fourth chapter of the Yasna is consecrated to Airyaman. He is invoked to come down to the wedding for the joy of the faithful.284 In regard to attributes given to Airyaman we may add in this connection that his standing epithet is 'the beloved one.' 284 Y54.1.

But Airyaman plays a more prominent part in the Iranian literature as the genius of health. He is an acolyte to Asha Vahishta, and is invoked together with him.285 The third Yasht, which bears the name of Asha Vahishta, is, in fact, mostly devoted to Airyaman. Ahura Mazda created this earth immune from any sickness and disease, but the Evil Spirit introduced therein ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine diseases.286 Ahura Mazda accordingly sends his messenger Nairyosangha to Airyaman with the request to go to the world with his healing remedies. Airyaman quickly obeys the divine command and begins his work.287 He smites and drives away all kinds of sickness and death, magic and sorcery.288 Airyaman [204] does not heal by means of herbs and drugs, medicine and surgery, but by the holy spells. In fact one of the greatest of such sacred formulas, the Airyaman Ishya, as we have already seen, bears his name and is used to smite all manner of disease and death.289 At the recital of the magic formula flee sickness and death, demons and infidels, the two-legged brood of wolfish and serpentine nature, pride and scorn, slander and strife, falsehood and evil eye, courtezan and sorcery. 290 It is employed to rout sorcerers, fairies, and the progeny of evil.291

285 Sr. 1.3;2.3.

286 Vd. 22.2,9, 15.

287 Vd. 22.7-20.

288 Vd.22.21-24.

289 Vd. 20.11, 12.

290 Yt3.7-13.

291 Vd. 20.9-12; 21.18-21.


The divinity of joint Indo-Iranian fame. One of the most distinctive features common to the Indo-Iranian peoples before their separation is the Haoma-Soma cult. The Avestan Haoma is identical with Vedic Soma, and both refer to the sacred drink prepared from a special plant and partaken of as a part of the ritual service. Haoma has secured a prominent place in the later Avestan theology and forms an essential part of the Zoroastrian liturgy. Haoma primarily is a plant of this world, from which the drink was quaffed as a religious act, but the idea soon evolves into an angel of the same name presiding over this plant. The two concepts are so closely interwoven that it often becomes difficult to ascertain whether the Haoma occuring in a certain passage is the genius of the plant of that name, or the plant itself. The same difficulty is witnessed with reference to Soma in the Vedas. The anthropomorphic character of both Haoma Soma is little pronounced. Three chapters of the Yasna and a Yasht mostly composed of excerpts from the Yasna are dedicated to Haoma. More than 120 hymns are devoted to Soma in Rig Veda.
Ahura Mazda brought for Haoma the star-bespangled spiritual girdle, that is, the Mazdayasnian religion. Girt with this he dwells on the top of the mountains,292 and from these heights he sacrifices unto Drvaspa, Sraosha, Mithra, and Ashi Vanghuhi.293

292 Y9.26.

293 Y57.19; Yt9.17, 18; 10.88; 17.37, 38.

Haoma pleads the greatness of his cult. He is anxious that his cult, which has been in vogue for centuries, be given a due [205] place in the new faith and receive the sanction of the prophet. The poet depicts him as approaching Zarathusbtra for this particular purpose. One morning, we are informed, Haoma came to the prophet as he was chanting the sacred Gathas before the fire-altar and asked him to seek his favour by consecrating the Haoma juice for libations and to praise him as the other sages had praised him.294 Vivasvant, Yama, and Trita Aptya were the first to sacrifice unto Soma. The Avestan texts speak of the same persons who first offered sacrifices unto Haoma. In reply to Zarathushtra’s inquiry Haoma proceeds to give instances of some of the greatest of his celebrants. The first among the mortals to sacrifice unto the angel Haoma by pounding the Haoma plant for libation was Vivanhvant, and the great benefit he derived there from was that the glorious Yima was born unto him.295 Athwya, Thrita, and Pourushaspa, the father of the prophet himself, were among the other prominent men who sacrificed unto Haoma. Their reward was that illustrious sons were born unto them. Thus Zarathushtra himself was born unto Pourushaspa because the latter praised Haoma.296 Zarathushtra, the poet says, thereupon paid homage to the angel, and proclaimed his cult as the most praiseworthy.297

294 Y9.1.

295 Y9.3, 4.

296 Y9. 6-13.

297 Y9.16.

Haoma’s titles. The standing epithet of Haoma is 'far from death.’ He is the powerful one, and rules according to his will.298 He is the lord of knowledge and possesses good wisdom.299 He is the healing one, beautiful, lordly, and of golden eyes.300

298 Y9.25.

299 Y9.27; 10.2.

300 Yt9.17;

His gifts. Zarathushtra invokes Haoma and asks from him intelligence, courage, victory, health, increase, prosperity, vigour of body, and power to rule at will, and to smite the wicked that he may vanquish the evil done by the wicked men and demons.301 The prophet further prays to him for health of the body, long duration of life, the all-shining abode of the righteous, the realization of his wishes on earth, a complete triumph over the wicked and a foreknowledge of the evil intents of the wicked:302 Haoma bestows these boons upon him, Haoma in like manner gives knowledge to the aspiring students, husbands to the ripening maidens, beautiful offspring and righteous progeny to women, [206] and paradise to the righteous.303 The devout worshipper, in return, dedicates his very body to him.304 Piety accompanied by joy enters the house in which Haoma dwells. 305

301 Y. 9.17, 18.

302 Y9.19-21.

303 Y9.22,23; 11.10.

304 Y10.14; 11.10.

305 Y10.1.

Haoma implored to rout the wicked. This angel is invoked to guard the faithful from the harm of the wicked, to take away the power of their hands and feet and to confuse their minds, so that they cannot behold the universe with both their eyes.306 He is besought to hurl his weapons at the skulls of the wicked for the protection of the righteous,307 and to crush the thought of the maligner.308

306 Y9.28,29.

307 Y9.30-32.

308 Y10.12.

Haoma's due. Haoma is to be propitiated with sacrifice. Among other objects animals were sacrificed in the Zoroastrian ritual unto the angels, and the different parts of the consecrated flesh were allotted to the various Yazatas. The Pahlavi books elaborately treat the question of reserving particular parts of the animal for the various Yazatas. We are told that Ahura Mazda has set apart for Haoma as his share in the sacrifice the jaw-bone, the tongue, and the left eye of the immolated animal.309 In general this is also in accordance with the statement of Herodotus310 regarding the Persian acts of sacrifice in worship.

309 Y11.4.

310 Herod. 1.132.

Haoma's curse. Haoma does not give good children of priestly virtues to the woman who wrongfully partakes of the sacred cake consecrated to him.311 Whosoever deprives Haoma of his portion in the sacrifice, displeases him, and the penalty he pays for this slight to Haoma is that a priest, a warrior, or a husbandman is not thereafter born in his house.312 The faithful is exhorted to propitiate him with his due portion, lest the offended angel should bind him with heavy iron chains as he bound Franrasyan.313 Haoma pronounces his curse of being childless and of evil name and fame against those who, like thieves, rob him of his legitimate portion in the sacrifice.314 He hurled down the arrogant Keresani from his throne.315

311 Y10.15.

312 Y11.5, 6.

313 Y11.7.

314 Y11.3.

315 Y9.24.

Haoma, king of plants. Haoma is the sovereign lord of all plants among both the Indians and the Iranians. Physically it [207] is the plant that grows on the highest summits of Mount Hara Berezaiti, the modern Alburz.316 According to the Vedic texts, it grows on the mount Mujavat. The birds carried it from there in all directions.317 An eagle brought it down, says the Veda.318 The nourishing earth is its mother where it grows in vales and dales, spreading sweet perfume all around.319 It is of golden hue, say both, and the celestial drink prepared from its branches is most invigorating and profitable for the soul of man.319a Indulgence in intoxicating beverages causes wrath and strife, quarrel and confusion, but the drink of Haoma is accompanied by righteousness and piety.320 It confers immortality. It is the source of righteousness.321 Haoma grows in abundance when it is praised by man. The pounding of the Haoma juice for sacrifice is tantamount to the destruction of the demons by thousands.322 Misery vanishes and happiness and health enter the house in which Haoma is prepared.323 The exhilarating drink gives inspiration and enlightenment to his supplicant and makes the beggar's mind as exalted as that of the rich.324 The faithful pray that the healing remedies of Haoma may reach them for the strength of their bodies.325 There is a close affinity between the Haoma-Soma cults and the rituals performed to celebrate them have great resemblance to each other. We shall notice it in our chapter on rituals.

316 Y10.10.

317 Y10.11.

318 RV. 3.43.7; 4.26.6, etc.

319 Y10.4,17.

319a Y9.16.

320 Y10.8; Yt17.5.

321 Y10.4.

322 Y10.6.

323 Y10.7.

324 Y10.13.

325 Y10.14.


Physically she stands for plenty, morally for piety. On the physical side Ashi Vanghuhi, or Good Sanctity, is the guardian of earthly riches. She fills the barns of men with grain and with cattle, their coffers with gold, the fields with foliage, the chests of virtuous women with ornaments and their boxes with fine garments.326 She brings happiness, cattle, fodder, and protection to him to whom the Glory cleaves.327 On the ethical side she personifies sanctity and thus represents spiritual riches. She is [208] also the giver of the mental riches unto men, that is, the bright understanding and the innate wisdom.328 Ahura Mazda is her father and Spenta Armaiti, the embodiment of holy devotion, is her mother. The archangels, as well as Sraosha, Rashnu, and Mithra, are her brothers, and Daena, the genius of the holy faith of Zarathushtra, is her sister.329 As the genius of plenty she joins Mithra, who increases pastures and fodder.330 The seventeenth Yasht is dedicated to her. Parendi, Chisti, Erethe, and Rasanstat are invoked in her company.331

326 Yt17.7-14.

327 Yt19.54.

328 Yt17.2.

329 Yt17.2,16.

330 Yt10.66.

331 Yt17.62; Sr. 1.25.

Ashi's attributes. She is bright, exalted, well-formed, well worthy of sacrifice, possessed of the bright chariot, courageous, giver of weal and health.332 She is beautiful, shining with joy, and far-reaching through radiance.333 She, the exalted one, is well-made and of noble origin; she rules at her will and is possessed of glory in her body.334 She, the courageous one, carries all desirable things in her hands.335 She is the protector, guardian, helper, healer, smiter of the malice of the demons and of the wicked men, the giver of good gifts, blessings, and success, and the bestower of the greatest, best, and the fairest reward unto men.336 She comes in the shape of a well-built, beautiful, tall, high-up girded maiden of noble birth.337

332 Y2.14; 57.3; Yt17.1; Sr. 2.25.

333 Yt17.6.

334 Yt17.15.

335 Yt17.7-14.

336 Y52.1-3.

337 Yt13.107.

Her supplicants. Haoshyangha, Yima, Thraetaona, Haoma, Haosravah, before Zoroaster, as well as the prophet himself and King Vishtaspa, his royal patron and helper in the propagation of the new faith, are among the most illustrious of her supplicants. These worshippers severally offered her sacrifices and asked for various boons from her, which she granted in answer to their prayers.338 The most favoured among her votaries is Zarathushtra himself; for him her loving regard is great.339 This is because the prophet himself is the visible embodiment of sanctity on earth and the promoter of righteousness among men.

338 Yt17.24-26, 28-31, 33-35, 37-39, 41-43, 45-47, 49-52, 61.

339 Yt17.17-22.

[209] Her work. She is ever ready to help the faithful. She leads to rectitude.340 She goes to those who invoke her from near or afar with pious libations.341 The house which Ashi graces with her presence becomes full of perfume.342 Happy indeed is the man whom Ashi attends, for riches, abundance, and prosperity spring in his house. The kings whom she favours have kingdoms rich in snorting horses, sounding chariots, flashing swords, large tributes, and an abundance of rich food.343 Happy indeed are they whom Ashi attends, for they come by well-furnished houses wherein live righteous persons, rich in cattle, who have well-adorned beds, with rich cushions, and with feet inlaid with gold.344 Their wives and daughters have square bored earrings and necklaces of gold.345 And the men on whom Ashi, the genius of fortune, smiles have hoards of silver and gold and rich garments and swift and loud neighing horses and chariots, and large-humped, fiery camels, and weapons of war.346 Glory is his whom she, in her goodness, attends.347 The devout pray and implore her not to turn her face from them and withhold her kindness from them.348 That Ashi may not quit their houses, is the fervent prayer of the faithful;349 and the Fravashis are invoked by the righteous to bring the blessed Ashi into their abodes.350 The householder prays that she may come and stay in his house.351 She follows the generous man who causes joy unto the righteous poor by his liberal gifts, and the moment she puts her one foot in the house, it is filled with a thousand fold flocks and horses and virtuous offspring.352 Zarathushtra asks Ashi to bestow her gifts upon King Vishtaspa.353 The twenty-sixth day of the month is sacred to her.354

340 Y56.3.

341 Yt17. 2.

342 Yt17.6.

343 Yt17.7.

344 Yt17.8,9.

345 Yt17. 10, 11.

346 Yt17.12-14.

347 Yt17.2.

348 Yt17.15.

349 Y60.7.

350 Yt13.157.

351 Y10.1.

352 Yt18.3-5.

353 Yt24.8.

354 Y16.6.

What offends Ashi most. She is grieved at the sight of maidens who remain unmarried for a long time.355 She does not accept the libations offered by sterile persons and wicked courtesans.356 As the zealous guardian of the sanctity of matrimony, she abhors the wife who is untrue to the nuptial tie, the woman who violates the law of chastity, and the adulteress who sells her body for profit or pleasure.357 Three times does she [210] raise her wailing at such a shameful display of unchastity and longs either to flee to the heavens or sink into the earth, whereupon Ahura Mazda consoles her and leads her to his celestial abode.358

355 Yt17.59.

356 Yt17.54.

357 Yt17; 57, 58.

358 Yt17.57-60.


Ashi's associate. Parendi, as the female genius of riches, plenty, and activity, is identical with the Vedic Puramdhi, the goddess of plenty. She is the constant companion of Ashi Vanghuhi, and is invoked with her.359 She is active in thought, active in word, and active in deed, and gives activity to man's body.360 She moves about in a light chariot.361 As the impersonation of earthly riches Parendi accompanies the celestial car of Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, or again she attends Tishtrya. the genius of rain, in furthering the prosperity of the earth.362 Zarathushtra invokes her to enrich King Vishtaspa.363

359 Y13.1; 38.2; Yt8.38; 10.66; Sr. 1.25; 2.25.

360 Vsp. 7.2.

361 Yt8.38; 24. 9; Sr. 1.25; 2.25.

362 Yt8.38: 10.66.

363 Yt24.9.


The female genius of cattle. She is a female genius of the animal world. As the guardian of herds, she is invoked in company with Geush Tashan and Geush Urvan.364 A Yasht (9) is consecrated to her and bears her name, or more familiarly that of Gosh or Geush Urvan. Drvaspa moves about in her own chariot of sounding wheels. Mazda has made her heroic and righteous. She is the bestower of health upon the cattle and kine. She watches well from afar, gives welfare and long continuing friendship. She is nourishing, courageous, well formed, possessed of weal, giver of health, and powerful helper of the righteous.365

364 Sr. 1.14; 2.14.

365 Yt9.1,2,7,12,16,20,24,28.

Her sacrificers. The Yasht gives a list of her supplicants who have asked her to grant them various boons. They are the same persons that invoke Ashi Vanghuhi and pray for the same boons that they ask from her. The only difference between the [211] forms of invoking Drvaspa and Ashi is that no offering is made to Ashi by any of her supplicants, whereas in the case of Drvaspa we see that with the exception of Haoma and Zarathushtra the other heroes, Haoshyangha, Yima. Thraetaona, Haosravah, and Vishtaspa, bring to her offerings of a hundred horses, a thousand oxen, ten thousand small cattle, and the libations.366

366 Yt9.3-5,8-11, 13.15, 17-19,21-23,25-27,29-32.


Drvaspa’s associates. We have seen above in the Gathas among the impersonations of the animal world two distinct beings Geush Tashan, Geush Urvan. Gav Azi represented the joy-giving cattle. In the later Avestan texts Geush Tashan appears about six times.367 We do not hear anything more definite regarding him than the fact that he is invoked by name along with other tutelary divinities. It may indeed be emphasized that he is entirely unknown from the time of the Pahlavi period onward. Geush Urvan is invoked in company with Geush Tashan and Drvaspa.368 Gav Azi occurs but once. The master of a house is enjoined to give a gav azi, or a three-year-old cow, to the cleanser who imparted him bodily purification.369 Verethraghna, the angel of victory, complains before Zarathushtra that the mischief of the demons and their worshippers increases upon earth because men do not offer sacrifices to Geush Urvan.370

367 Y1.2; 39.1; 70.2; Vsp. 9.5; Sr. 1.14; WFr. 6.1.

368 Y1.2; 39.1; 70.2; Vsp. 9.5; Sr. 1.14; 2.14.

369 Vd. 9.37.

370 Yt14.54.


The sun deified. Hvarekhshaeta is the shining sun as well as the genius presiding over him. The sixth Yasht and the first Nyaish are consecrated to him; but in fact the first two Nyaishes celebrate Hvarekhshaeta and Mithra conjointly. These two litanies, moreover, are always recited together during the day time. The treatment of the sun-Yazata, like that of Surya, the sun in the Rig Veda, and the physical sun as a phenomenon of nature is so complicated that it is difficult in many instances to [212] distinguish the one from the other. It is not so much Havarekhshaeta in the capacity of an angel that figures here, as does Hvarekhshaeta, the sun itself. The writer of the hymn in honour of Hvarekhshaeta is more interested in depicting the movements of the sun itself as the orb of day than in giving account of the Yazata, or presiding genius of the sun. We have a vivid picture of the sun's movements, its rising and setting, its power to rout the fiends of uncleanness and impurity, but we have hardly anything which treats of the spiritual personality behind this great luminary of nature. The worship of the brilliant sun must have preceded the period of its deification, and the poet cannot quite rid himself of the fascination of the primitive form of nature-worship. The physical phenomenon of the sun is always present before the mind of the writer; and there is very little attempt to address the presiding genius through his visible image, the concrete representative being the direct object of praise and glorification. The sun rises up above the mountain Hara Berezaiti and enters upon his daily career.371 371 Yt10.118; Vd. 21.5.

Hvarekhshaeta is invoked by his name, and his standing epithets are 'the imperishable, radiant, and the swift-horsed.' Ovid attests that a horse was consecrated to the sun for the reason that the sun itself was swift moving like the horse.372 Several classical writers write about the homage and sacrifice offered by the Persians to the sun. A white horse of the best Nisaean breed was selected for the sacrifice to the sun.373 A white chariot, covered with garlands was sacred to the sun.374 A temple consecrated to the sun, with a priestess of the royal family at its head, is mentioned.375 372 Fasti, 1.385, 386.

373 Gray, op. cit., p. 85, 86; Fox and Pemberton, op. cit., p. 16,41,67, 69,84.

374 Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.3.12; Dio Chrysostom, Orationes, 36, 39.

375 Flavius Vopiscus, Aurelianus, 5.5.

The Amesha Spentas are all of one accord with the sun.376 When the sun warms with its light, a hundred and a thousand spiritual Yazatas gather its glory and distribute it upon the earth for the furtherance of the world of righteousness.377 When the sun rises up, purification comes unto the earth and unto the standing and flowing waters and unto the waters of the wells [213] and seas, and unto the righteous creation of the Holy Spirit.378 If indeed the sun were not to rise high up, the demons would destroy all things that are in the seven regions. Not even the spiritual angels would find means to withstand and repel them.379 The offering of sacrifice unto the Sun in order to withstand darkness and demons, thieves and robbers, sorcerers and enchantresses, is equivalent to sacrificing unto Ahura Mazda, Amesha Spentas, the Yazatas, earthly and heavenly, and one's own soul.380 The demons who, in the darkness of night, come out by the million from the bowels of the earth, glide away as soon as the sun mounts the sky and the world is ablaze with its. light. Though they feast in the night time, as darkness is congenial to their nature, they fast during the day, for light is destructive to their being. When the light of Hvarekhshaeta breaks through the darkness of night, it drives away, not only darkness, but defilement, disease, and death. Like the moon and the stars, it grieves the sun to shine upon a defiled person.381 Ahura Mazda has the sun for his eye.382 In the Vedic literature, the sun is similarly spoken of as the eye of Mitra Varuna.383 In the Litany to the sun, homage is paid to the two eyes of Ahura Mazda,384 which are evidently the sun and the moon. The heavens bathed in the light of the sun form his garments.385 The eleventh day of the month is sacred to him.386 376 Ny1.1.

377 Yt6.1; Ny1.11.

378 Yt6.2; Ny1.12.

379 Yt6.3; Ny1.13.

380 Yt6.4; Ny1.14.

381 Vd. 9.41.

382 Y1.11; 3.13; 4.16; 7.13; 22.13; 68.22.

383 RV. l.115.1; 6.51.l; 7.61.1,63.1; 10.37.1.

384 Ny1.5.

385 Yt13. 3.

386 Y16.4.

Leprosy is especially regarded as a consequence of sinning against the sun, and Herodotus tells us that persons affected with the disease were not permitted to enter a town.387

387 Herod. 1.138.


The moon personified. Herodotus writes that the moon is the tutelary divinity of Persia.388 The case of this nature divinity is analogous to that of the sun. Maonghah is at one [214] and the same time the moon and the personification of the moon. The seventh Yasht and the third Nyaish are dedicated to this divine personage. Here also we find throughout the description of the waxing and the waning of the moon, the periods of the new and the full moons, and the benefit that the light of the moon imparts to the world. We hear much of the concrete moon, but very little of the abstract person of the angel. The sole-created Bull, the progenitor of the animal world, is invoked along with the moon.389 The moon waxes and wanes through Ahura Mazda.390 The Amesha Spentas gather the glory of the moon and distribute it upon the earth.391 When the moon warms up with its light, the golden coloured plants grow up from the earth during the spring.392 388 Herod. 7.37.

389 Sr. 1.12; 2.12.

390 Yt7.2; Ny3.4.

391 Yt7.3; Ny3.5.

392 Yt7.4; Ny3.6.

The moon is constantly spoken of as the possessor of the seed of the Bull.393 The moon is furthermore described as the bestower, radiant, glorious, possessed of water, possessed of warmth, possessed of knowledge, wealth, riches, discernment, weal, verdure, good, and the healing one.394 The twelfth day of the month is dedicated to the moon. 395

393 See Gray, in Spiegel Memorial Volume, p. 160-168.

394 Yt7.5; Ny3.7.

395 Y16.4.


Deification of the endless light. Anaghra Raochah means the Endless Light. It is the celestial light as opposed to the earthly light.396 In the order of naming the various kinds of heavenly lights, Anaghra Raochah comes after the stars, moon and the sun.397 Like the stars, the moon, and the sun, this supreme light stood without motion until the Fravashis or the Guardian Spirits showed it its path of movement.398 396 Vd.2.40.

397 Y71. 9; Yt12.35; 13.57; G. 3.6.

398 Yt13.57.

Anaghra Raochah is personified as a Yazata, being invoked at the sacrifice,399 and the thirtieth day of the Zoroastrian calendar bears his name. In a couple of instances we find Paradise [215] and the Bridge of Judgment, likewise Apam Napat, Haoma, Dahma Afriti, and Damoish Upamana, invoked along with Anaghra Raochah.400 It is the name of the highest paradise.401

399 Y1.16; 16.6; 71.9; Sr. 1.30; 2.30; Vd. 19.35.

400 Sr. 1.30; 2.30.



Firmament deified. In its original meaning Asman means the sky; it is later personified as the genius of the sky, and invoked as a Yazata.402 He is shining, exalted, and powerful. Asman and Vahishta Ahu, or Paradise, are invoked together,403 and the twenty-seventh day of the Zoroastrian month is called after the name of Asman.

402 Y1.16; 16.6; Sr. 1.27; 2.27.

403 Sr. 1.27; 2.27.


The female divinity of dawn. Ushah is identical with the Vedic Ushas, and is the female divinity of the dawn in both religions, thus coming down from the common Indo-Iranian period. It is she who announces as the first glimpse of light, to creation, the approach of dawn. Ushah's personality is very faintly pronounced both in the Rig Veda and in the Younger Avestan texts. The Vedic poets have, however, produced most exquisite lyric poetry in praise of the dawn in about twenty hymns. There is only a short Avestan hymn in prose composed to celebrate the dawn and even this has but six lines devoted to the subject of the composition. Here she is described as beautiful, resplendent, possessed of bright steeds, blessed, and heroic; and her light illumines all the seven zones.404 Auxiliaries to Ushah are Ushahina and Berejya and Nmanya. In fact Ushahina, who is also a male personification of dawn, is the name of the fifth period of the day, and the prayer consecrated to Ushah bears his name. The priest at the sacrifice undertakes to propitiate Ushahina by sacrifice, if he has in thought, word, deed, or will offended him.405

404 Yt5.62; Vd. 18.15, 23; G. 5.5.

405 Y1.20,21.



The star genius directs the rain. Next in importance to the sun and moon, among the heavenly luminaries, are the countless stars. Among the stars that are personified as objects of praise and reverence, the most prominent is the radiant and glorious star Tishtrya. He is the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major. The Yazata who impersonates this brilliant star bears naturally also the same name. The Tishtrya Yasht (8) sings the glory of the twofold work of Tishtrya, both as star and as the Yazata that presides over it. Tishtrya is, therefore, the rain-star, and the Yasht gives a lively picture of his movements in producing clouds and rain and sleet, and distributing them over all the world. Tishtrya's constant companions are the starYazatas, named Vanant, Satavaesa, and Haptoiringa, as guardian spirits of different regions of the heavens.406 The thirteenth day of the month406a and the fourth month of the year are sacred to him.

406 Sr. 1.13; 2.13; cf. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, p.23.

406a Y16.4.

Tishtrya's attributes. His standing epithets are 'the radiant' and 'the glorious.' He is the giver of fertility to the fields,407 the giver of happy and good abode unto men, the white, shining, seen from afar, the healing, and the exalted one.408 He is possessed of the seed of the waters, the valiant, the courageous, far reaching, the efficient,409 and of sound eyes.410 Ahura Mazda has appointed Tishtrya as the lord of all other stars, even as he has ordained Zarathushtra as the spiritual lord of all mankind.411 The creator has made him as worthy of sacrifice, as worthy of invocation, as worthy of propitiation, and as worthy of glorification as himself.412 According to Plutarch he is established as a scout over all other stars.413

407 Yt8.1.

408 Yt8.2.

409 Yt8.4.

410 Yt8.12; Ny1.8.

411 Yt8.44.

412 Yt8.50, 52.

413 Is. et Os. 47.

The sacrificial offerings enable Tishtrya to work with added vigour and strength. Tishtrya smites the wicked fairies.414 Like Verethraghna, he takes upon himself successive forms when he goes out for active work. He moves forward in [217] the heavens for the first ten nights of the month in the form of a young man, for the next ten nights in the form of a bull, and then for the last ten nights in the shape of a white beautiful horse.415 In accordance with the will of Ahura Mazda and the archangels, he traverses the most distant parts of the earth,416 and the Iranian countries long for his advent, for it is through him that the country will witness a year of plenty or of drought.417 Men and beasts, the waters and all, look eagerly to the rising of the star Tishtrya, as he will send a flood of rain to fertilize their waste lands with water and bestow riches upon the earth, if the righteous faithfully offer him praise and worship.418 The farmer yearns for a few drops of Tishtrya's rain to moisten his parched fields, the gardener longs for a shower to brighten the foliage. The land smiles with rich harvests as a result of his fertilizing waters. 414 Yt8.8, 39,40,51-55.

415 Yt8.13,16,18; Vd.19.37.

416 Yt8.35.

417 Yt8.36.

418 Yt8.36,41,42,48.

Tishtrya complains before Ahura Mazda about the indifference of men who do not sacrifice unto him. When invoked with sacrifice, as are the other angels, he is willing to hasten to the help of the righteous, whether for a single night, or two or fifty nights, or even a hundred nights.419 Tishtrya affirms that owing to his power to further righteousness, he is worthy of sacrifice and invocation, and if people will offer him libations and Haoma in sacrifice, he will grant them heroic children, and purity unto their souls, the riches of oxen and horses.420 He pours down water in abundance upon the earth, brings prosperity unto the whole creation, when he receives the offering of a sacrifice and is propitiated, rejoiced, and satisfied.421 Never, in that event, would the hostile horde invade the countries, nor would any calamity or evil of any kind befall them.422 Yet in spite of all this, the bounteous kindness of Tishtrya grants boons to his votary whether he prays for them or not.423

419 Yt8.11.

420 Yt8.15,17,19.

421 Yt8.43,47.

422 Yt8.56.

423 Yt8.49.

His fight with the demon of drought. Tishtrya is opposed in his work of producing rain by his adversary Apaosha, the demon of drought, who keeps back the rain. The Tishtrya Yasht gives a picturesque account of the struggle between them. [218] In the combat with the fiend that holds the world in clutch through famine and drought, Apaosha, who appears in the form of a terrifying black horse, assaults his opponent and in their opening combat succeeds in forcing Tishtrya to retreat. Worsted by the fiend, Tishtrya mourns his defeat and complains that men do not sufficiently sacrifice unto him as they do unto other celestial powers, for had they not been sparing in their invocation, he would have been able to bring a further strength of ten horses, of ten camels, of ten oxen, of ten mountains, and of ten rivers to his side. Ahura Mazda himself, thereupon, offers a sacrifice unto Tishtrya and thus imparts new strength to him. Thus emboldened, he now, with renewed vigour, attacks his rival for the second time, and after a fierce struggle overcomes him. His triumph is hailed as the triumph of the waters, plants, and the religion of Mazda, for Tishtrya is now in a position to bring prosperity to the country.424 Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, as well as Mithra, Ashi Vanghuhi, and Parendi, are among those that help Tishtrya in this war of the elements for the benefit of mankind425

424 Yt8.20-29.

425 Yt8.7,38.


A star-Yazata. The other important star-Yazata besides Tishtrya who is classed among the spiritual beings is Vanant. The twentieth Yasht is composed in his honour. Tradition assigns to him the special work of guarding the gates of the great Alburz round which the sun, moon and the stars revolve, and accounts him as the leader of a constellation in the western heavens in the war against the planets. In the Avestan Yasht bearing this star-Yazata's name, Vanant is specially invoked to give help to smite the noxious creatures of Angra Mainyu.426 Some spells to this effect, composed in the Pazend language, are later appended to this particular Yasht. It is elsewhere stated in the Avesta that Ahura Mazda has created him,427 and that the faithful ask him for strength and victory to enable them to remove distress and tyranny.427a

426 Yt20.1.

427 Yt8.12; Ny1.8.

427a Yt8.12.



An acolyte of Tishtrya. The star Satavaesa is also personified, but his individuality is very faintly pronounced. He has no Yasht or hymn composed to glorify him. As an acolyte of Tishtrya, he causes the waters of the sea Vourukasha to flow down to the seven zones for the nourishment of plants and animals, and for the fertility and prosperity of the Aryan nations.428

428 Yt8.9; 13.43; Sr. 1.13; 2.13.


Another acolyte of Tishtrya. This constellation, Ursa Major, is also raised to the position of a lesser divinity. Ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine Fravashis watch over this stellar cluster.429 The genius of this star is invoked to enable mankind to oppose the evil caused by the sorcerers and fairies.430

429 Yt13.60.

430 Yt8.12; Sr. 2.13.


The deification of the wind. Vayu, or Vata, is the Indo-Iranian impersonation of wind. The terms Vayu and Vata are variously used to represent either the wind or the genius of wind in both the Rig Veda and in the Avestan texts. Yet Vayu is chiefly the personification of the wind. As we have already seen, the whole of the Ram Yasht treats of the exploits of Raman's comrade Vayu. Vayu's wind is divided into two parts, the good and the evil. The wind is productive of good, but it also causes harm. That part of Vayu which is supposed to be the source of harm is branded as evil, and classed among Angra Mainyu's creations. Hence the faithful take care to sacrifice unto that part alone of Vayu which is the creation of Spenta Mainyu.431 The twenty-second day of the month is named after Vayu.432

431 Y22.24; 25.5; Yt15.5,42,57; Sr. 1.21; 2.21.

432 Y16.5.

Vayu’s attributes. The genius of wind is most frequently called 'working on high.' He strikes terror among all, and [220] fearlessly enters the deepest and the darkest places to smite the demons.433 He is high-girt, of strong stature, of high foot, of wide breast, of broad thighs, and of powerful eyes.434 He wears a golden helm and a golden crown, a golden necklace, and golden garment; he has golden shoes and a golden girdle; and armed with golden weapons he rides in a golden chariot rolling on golden wheels.435 A fine image this, to immortalize Vayu in a golden statue! The poet gives a long list of the names of Vayu, and is very prolific in ascribing high attributes to him. In this the ancient composer follows the Yasht dedicated to Ahura Mazda. In fact Vayu is the only angel who is known, like Ahura Mazda, by many names. The text enumerates about forty-seven of such titles. Almost all of these attributes of Vayu are derived from the function of Vayu as wind, rather than from his activity as the genius of wind. They pertain to the atmospheric phenomenon more than to the abstract ideas about the angel. Some of the more important of the names of Vayu are as follows: the overtaker, the all-vanquishing, the good-doer, the one going forwards and backwards, the destroyer, smiter, usurper, the most valiant, the strongest, the firmest, the stoutest, the vanquisher at one stroke, the destroyer of malice, the liberator, the pervading one, and the glorious.436

433 Yt15.53.

434 Yt15.54.

435 Yt15.57.

436 Yt15.43-48.

Those who offer sacrifices unto Vayu. The recital of his names has a great efficacy, and Vayu asks Zarathushtra to invoke these names in the thick of the battle, or when the tyrant and heretic threaten him with their havocking hordes. The man in heavy fetters finds himself freed upon the recital of these names.437 Vayu is the greatest of the great and the strongest of the strong. The text briefly describes how some of the most illustrious personages invoked Vayu and begged of him various boons, and in this connection we may recall that Herodotus438 mentions the fact that the Persians sacrificed to the winds among other divine forces in nature. The list of Vayu's supplicants in Yasht 15 is headed by Ahura Mazda himself, who desired the boon that he may smite the creatures of Angra Mainyu, but that none may smite the creation of Spenta Mainyu.439 Among the kings, renowned heroes. and other personages who sacrificed [221] unto Vayu, and to whom the angel granted their boons, are Haoshyangha, Takhma Urupi, Yima, Thraetaona, Keresaspa, Aurvasara, Hutaosa, and such maidens as are not yet given in marriage.440 Even the wicked Azhi Dahaka begged also of him a boon, but Vayu rejected his sacrifice.441 Men sacrifice unto Vayu with libations and prayers and ask for strength to vanquish their adversaries.442 Vayu asks Zarathushtra to invoke him, in order that neither Angra Mainyu, nor the sorcerers, nor the demons may be able to injure him.443

437 Yt15.49-52.

438 Herod. 1.131.

439 Yt15.2-4.

440 Yt15.7-17, 23-41.

441 Yt15.19-21.

442 Yt15.1.

443 Yt15.56.


The fire cult in Iran. The cult of the sacrificial fire goes back to the Indo-European period. The Skt. word agni, 'fire,' has for its equivalent Latin ignis and Slavonic ogni. The most prominent divinity after Indra in the Vedas is Agni and more than 200 hymns and several stray passages are devoted to his glorification. The Iranian word for fire as well as for the Yazata presiding over fire is Atar. Among both the Indians and the Iranians fire occupies the central position in all rituals. The priest who tended the fire is known by a common name among both the peoples. Among the Indians he is atharvan and among the Iranians âthravan, literally meaning, 'one who tends fire.’ A litany is composed in honour of Atar and he is celebrated many other passages. The ninth month of the year and the ninth day of the month are named after Atar.444 444 Y16.4.

Atar, or Fire, is most frequently called the son of Ahura Mazda in the Younger Avestan texts. The devout hunger in heart to reach Mazda through him as a mediary.445 Asha Vahishta’s association with the fire continues and they are often together. As the most holy symbol of his faith, the house-lord prays that the sacred element may ever burn in his house.446 We have already seen that the Avesta speaks of some fires consecrated by the pre-Zoroastrian kings in Iran. The Avestan works refer to the dâitya gâtu, 'proper place,' for the fire and the Old Persian Inscriptions speak of the âyadanâ as the places of worship.447 The bas-relief sculpture at Naksh-i-Rustam [222] over the royal tomb shows an altar with fire on it. Herodotus, the earliest of the Greek writers on Persia, however, informs us that the Persians did not erect temples in his days, but sacrificed unto the elements sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and wind on the summits of mountains.448 Dino, the contemporary of Alexander, does not mention the fire-temples and says that the Persians worshipped in the open air.449 It may be that the early writers did not come across temples in Iran, in the Greek sense of the term. But there must certainly have been some kind of structures to protect the sacred fire from being extinguished. Strabo450 for the first time mentions in Cappadocia places dedicated to fire, and speaks of enclosures with fire altars in the centre. No sacrifices, we are told, were offered to any divinity without the accompaniment of the invocation of fire. These altars, we are further informed by Strabo, were filled with ashes over which the sacred fire burned day and night. The Magi, he adds, tended the holy flames, and with Baresman twigs in their hands daily performed their devotions for about an hour.451 Pausanias (A.D. 173) corroborates this statement from his personal observation in Lydia.452 Xenophon and Curtius Rufus acquaint us with the practice of carrying fire on portable altars in religious processions.453

445 Y36.1.

446 Y62.3; Ny5.9.

447 Bh. 1,14.

448 Herod. 1.131.

449 Cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Protreptica, 5. 65.1.

450 60 B.C.

451 Strabo, p. 733.

452 Pausanias, 5.27.5,6.

453 Cyropaedia, 8. 3. 11-13; History of Alexander 3. 3. 9; see Edwards, Altar (Persian) in ERE. 1. 346-348.

Atar is both the genius of fire and the element fire itself. As the fire dwells in every house, he is constantly spoken of in the Rig Veda as the lord of the house. The Yasna in the manner calls him the lord of all houses.454 He is the great Yazata.455 He is the most bountiful,456 of renowned name457 the beneficent warrior, and full of glory and healing.458 Besides being the angel that presides over fire, Atar is also fire as such. The two concepts are often so mixed up together that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the blazing fire burning upon the [223] altar and the angel that personifies it. The difficulty is still more increased when we see the fire on the hearth conceived of as speaking and blessing as a person. The householders pray that the fire may ever burn and blaze in their houses.459 In the Vedas, Agni is a friend of the man who entertains him as a guest and feeds him with fuel.460 The fire of Mazda, likewise, solicits devotional offerings from those persons for whom he cooks the evening and the morning meal, he looks at the hands of all passers-by, to see if they bring some present for him or not, even as a friend for a friend. When the faithful bring to him fuel, dry and exposed to the light, he is propitiated, and in the fulfillment of his wish blesses the votary with a flock of cattle and a multitude of men, an active mind and an active spirit, and a joyous life.461 During the three watches of the night Atar wakes up the master of the house, the husbandman, and calls Sraosh for help.462 Here also it is not so much the angel Atar that acts, as it is the fire itself, for the master of the house and the husbandman are asked to wash their hands and bring fuel to it, lest the demon Azi should extinguish it.463 The man who responds with alacrity, and is the first to wake up and tend the fire with dry wood, receives Atar's blessings.464 The man who sacrifices unto fire with fuel in his hand, with the Baresman in his hand, with milk in his hand, with the mortar for crushing the branches of the sacred Haoma in his hand, is given happiness.465 Phoenix of Colophon (280 B.C.), cited in Athenaeus, speaks of the fire ritual of the Magi and mentions the Baresman.466 In the litany to the fire, the faithful are enjoined to feed the fire with fuel that is dry and well exposed to the light,467 and Strabo tells us that the fire-priests fed the sacred fire with dry wood, fat, and oil; and he further adds that some portions of the caul of the sacrificed animal were also placed on it.468

454 Y17.11.

455 Ny5.4.

456 Y1.2.

457 Vsp. 9.5.

458 Ny5.6; Sr. 1.9; 2.9.

459 Ny5.8, 9.

460 R.V. 4.2.6; 4.10.

461 Y62.7-10; Ny5.13-16.

462 Vd. 18. 18-22.

463 Vd. 18.19-21.

464 Vd. 18.26, 27.

465 Y62.1; Ny5.7.

466 Athenaeus, 12. p. 530.

467 Y62.10; Ny5.16.

468 Strabo, p. 732.

Atar’s boons. Atar is invoked to grant well-being and sustenance in abundance, knowledge, holiness, a ready tongue, comprehensive, great, and imperishable wisdom, manly valour, watchfulness, an innate offspring worthy to sit in the assembly and work for the renown of his house and village, town and country, [224] and for the glory of his country, name and fame in this world, as well as the shining, all-happy paradise of the righteous.469 Whoso does not treat the fire well displeases Ahura Mazda.470 Zarathushtra blesses King Vishtaspa that he may be as resplendent as the fire.471

469 Y68.4-6; Ny5.10-12.

470 TdFr. 22,23.

471 Yt22.4.

His work. When Mithra goes on his usual round in his golden chariot, Atar drives behind him along with the other divine personifications.472 Like Agni who knows the paths leading to the gods,473 Atar shows the most upright path to those who lie not unto Mithra.474 When Angra Mainyu breaks into the creation of righteousness, Atar in company with Vohu Manah opposes the malice of the Evil Spirit.475 When Yima, reft of his senses through the Kingly Glory, revolts from Ahura Mazda, the Glory departs from him and he falls to destruction.476 It can well be imagined that the monster Azhi Dahaka should strive to capture the departed Glory, but Atar intervenes and vanquishes him.477 472 Yt10.127.

473 RV. 10.98.11.

474 Yt10.3.

475 Yt13.77,78.

476 Yt19.34-36, 38.

477 Yt19.46-50.

What causes grief to Atar. Angra Mainyu has created the inexpiable crime of burning or cooking dead matter,478 and the Vendidad enjoins capital punishment for those who commit it.479 We are informed that the Persians considered it a mortal sin to defile fire by blowing it with the mouth, or by burning dead matter over it.480 The Achaemenian monarch Cambyses roused the indignation of his countrymen when he burnt the corpse of King Amasis at Sais.481 It is, therefore, a crime to bring back fire into a house in which a man has died, within nine nights in winter and a month in summer.482 Highly meritorious is the deed of bringing to the fire altar the embers of a fire desecrated by dead matter, and great shall be the doer's reward in the [225] next world, when his soul has parted from his body.483 Elaborate rules are accordingly laid down for the purification of the fire defiled by the dead.484 There is no purification for the man who carries a corpse to the fire.485 In the case of every pollution of the pure element. Atar is inexorable.

478 Vd. 1.16.

479 Vd. 8.73, 74.

480 Strabo, p. 732; Ctesias, Persica, 57; Nicolas Damascenus, Frag. 68; FHG. 3.409.

481 Herodotus, 3.16.

482 Vd. 5.43,44.

483 Vd. 8.81,82.

484 Vd. 8.73-80.

485 Vd. 7.25-27.


Mazda's celestial herald. Nairyosangha corresponds to the Vedic Narashamsa, generally applied to Agni as his epithet. He is expressly spoken of as a Yazata,486 and is well-shaped.487 Like Agni who is often called the messenger of gods between heaven and earth, Nairyosangha is the messenger of Ahura Mazda.488 When the Evil Spirit introduces disease and death in the world, Ahura Mazda dispatches him as his envoy to Airyaman to come with his healing remedies.489 He is invoked along with Atar, for he is Atar's associate. He is termed the offspring of sovereignty490 and as such he is entitled to go in Mithra's chariot with Sraosha.491 He has his Fravashi.492

486 Y17.11.

487 Y57.3.

488 Vd. 19.34.

489 Vd. 22.7, 13.

490 Y17.11; Ny5.6.

491 Yt10. 52.

492 Yt13, 85.


The angel of waters. Ardvi Sura, who bears the standing epithet anâhita, 'undefiled,' is the name of a mythical river as well as that of the female divinity of the waters. She resides in the starry regions.493 This deity of the heavenly stream gets recognition of the Achaemenian kings, and is included in the extremely short list of the Iranian divinities expressly mentioned in their inscriptions.494 Classical writers speak of her sanctuaries founded at Pasargadae, Ecbatana, Kangavar and other places.495 At a very early date her cult migrates to distant countries and is there assimilated to Artemis, Aphrodite, Athene-Minerva, Hera, Magna Mater, Ishtar, and Nanaia.496 She overleaps the barriers [226] of Mount Alburz and gains her votaries in the far-off lands of East and West, where occasionally her cult degenerates into obscene rites. Herodotus who confuses her with Mithra says that her cult came to Iran from the Semites of Assyria and Arabia.497 493 Yt5.85, 88, 132.

494 Art. Sus. a; Ham.

495 See Gray, op cit., p. 57, 58; Fox and Pemberton, op. cit., 34-39, 58, 66, 68, 79.

496 Gray, ib., p. 57.

497 Herod. 1.131.

She is celebrated in one of the longest Yashts and In 65th chapter of the Yasna. She is described as the most courageous, strong, of noble origin,498 good, and most beneficient.499 Ahura Mazda has assigned to her the work of guarding the creation, like a shepherd guarding his fiock.500 The eighth of the year and the tenth day of the month are named after waters of Ardvi Sura.501

498 Yt5.15.

499 Yt5.130, 131.

500 Yt5.6, 89.

501 Y16.4.

Her image in words found in the texts, corresponds with her statue in stone. The text gives a fine descriptive image of the female deity. She is a maiden of fair body, well-shaped, pure, courageous, tall, bright, beautiful, and glorious. Upon her head she wears a golden crown studded with a hundred stars and beautifully adorned, square golden earrings adorn her ears, a golden necklace decorates her neck, she wears a golden mantle, she has tightly girded her waist so that her beautiful breasts come out prominently, her white arms graced by elegant bracelets are stouter than a horse, she wears golden shoes, a rich garment of gold or of the skin of the beavers.502 Pliny says that a statue made of solid gold was set up in the temple of Anaitis.503 We have already seen on the authority of Berosus that Artaxerxes Mnemon (B.C. 404-358) introduced the worship of the images of Anahita among the Persians.504

502 Yt5.7, 15, 64, 78, 123, 126-129.

503 Historia Naturalis, 33, 4 (24) 82f.

504 Cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, Protreptica, 5, 65, 3; Jackson, Images and Idols (Persian) in ERE. 7. 151-155; cf. Cumont, Anâhita, in ERE. 1. 414, 415.

Ahura Mazda heads the list of the sacrificers who entreat her for various boons. The Yasht dedicated to Ardvi Sura Anahita furnishes us with the names of those who have sacrificed unto her and begged of her various boons. The number of her supplicants exceeds that of any other angel. Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra invoke her, with Haoma and Baresman, with spells [227] and libations, whereas the majority of her other votaries severally offer her a hundred stallions, a thousand oxen, and ten thousand sheep. Haoshyangha, Yima, Thraetaona, Keresaspa, Kavi Usa, Haosravah, Tusa, Vafra Navaza, Jamaspa, Ashavazdah, the son of Pourudakhshti, and Ashavazdah and Thrita, the sons of Sayuzhdri, Vistauru, Yoishta, the members of the Hvova and Naotara families, Vishtaspa, and Zairi-vairi are all granted their diverse boons. These ask for sovereignty over all countries, victory on the battlefield, power to smite the adversaries in battle, to rout the sorcerers and fairies, the fiends and the demons; they pray likewise for bodily health, wisdom to answer the riddles of heretics, and for riches and swift horses.505 The boon that Ahura Mazda seeks is that he may win over Zarathushtra to think after his reljgion, to speak after his religion, and to act after his religion; the prophet in turn begs of her that he may gain to his side the mighty King Vishtaspa as a patron to embrace his religion.506 The rulers and chiefs invoke her that they may defeat their enemies and smite the demons, sorcerers, and fairies, the warriors beg of her swift horses and bodily health and glory, the priests and their disciples pray for knowledge, the maids beseech her to grant them strong husbands.507 Ardvi Sura Anahita bestows fruitfulness to women; she purifies the seeds of all males and the wombs of all females for bearing. Shes, as a divine bestower, gives easy childbirth to all females, and gives them right and timely milk.508 Ardvi Sura likewise grants boons unto all, because it lies in her power to do so. The sacrificing priest implores her to come down from the stars to the sacrificial altar, and to grant riches, horses, chariots, swords, food, and plenty to men.509 She gives health and increases flocks, possessions, and wealth.510

505 Yt5.21-27, 33-39, 45-55, 61-83, 98, 108-114.

506 Yt5.17-19, 104-106.

507 Yt5.85-87.

508 Y65.2; Yt5.2, 87; Ny4.3; Vd. 7.16.

509 Yt5. 130-132.

510 Y65.1; Yt5.1.

She refuses to concede the wicked persons their wishes. Azhi Dahaka wickedly besought her to grant him a boon that he may make all the seven zones empty of men, and the Turanian Franrasyan sought her favour to secure the Glory, and the sons of Vaesaka implored her to grant that they may smite the Aryan [228] nation by tens of thousands and myriads; Arejat-aspa and Vandaremainish craved for the defeat of King Vishtaspa, Zairivairi, and the Aryan nation; but Ardvi Sura Anahita refused to grant the evil wishes to these national foes of Iran.511

511 Yt5.29-31, 41-43, 57-59, 116-118.

The offerings of libations. Ardvi Sura Anahita desires that men invoke her with libations and Haoma;512 these libations are to be drunk by the priest who is well versed in religious lore, and not by any wicked and deformed person.513 The faithful are to bring libations unto her at any time between the rising and the setting of the sun. Those brought to her after sunset do not reach her; on the contrary, they go to the demons, who revel in these misdirected offerings.514 We are informed that the man who dedicates these libations before sunrise or after sunset does no better deed than if he should pour them down into the jaws of a venomous snake.515 Besides invoking Ardvi Sura Anahita as the Yazata of water, the waters themselves are collectively invoked to grant boons. Zarathushtra is asked to offer a libation to the waters and to ask from them riches, power, and worthy offspring,516 a happy and a joyful abode in this world and the next, accompanied by riches and glory.517 The faithful pray that these waters may not be for those of evil thoughts, evil words, evil deeds, and evil religion, neither for the tormentors of their friends, neighbours, relatives, and priests.518 Nor may they be for their evil-wishers,519 nor for thieves and robbers, murderers and sorcerers, buriers of the dead, jealous and niggard, and heretics and wicked persons.520

512 Yt5.8, 11, 123, 124.

513 Yt5.92, 93.

514 Yt5.94, 95; Nr. 68.

515 Nr. 48.

516 Y65.11.

517 Y68.13, 14, 21.

518 Y65.6.

519 Y65.7.

520 Y65.8.

Animal sacrifices to Anahita. Strabo relates the mode of sacrificing to the waters. The sacrificial animal, we are told, is taken to the bank of a river or a lake; a ditch is formed into which the animal is killed. The pieces of meat are then placed on myrtle or laurel, and holding tamarisk twigs in his hands, the priest pours oil mixed with honey and milk on the ground and chants the sacred formulas. Great care is taken that no drop [229] of blood falls into the water while the animal is being immolated; nor must the mixture of oil, honey, and milk be poured into water.521 This precaution is taken lest the waters be defiled.

521 Strabo, p.732.

Any defilement of the waters evokes Ardvi Sura's displeasure. It is sinful to contaminate the waters. Such an act incurs great displeasure on the part of the genius of waters. Those who wilfully bring dead matter to the waters become unclean for ever and ever.522 If a man while walking or running, riding or driving, happens to see a corpse ftoating in a river, he must enter the river and go down into the water ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep, nay even a man's full depth if need be, and take out the decaying body and place it upon the dry ground exposed to the light of the sun.523 Herodotus informs us that the Persians do not make water, wash or bathe in a river.524

522 Vd.7.25-27.

523 Vd.6.26-29.

524 Herod. 1.138.

Ardvi Sura's chariot. Like some of the Yazatas, Ardvi Sura Anahita has a chariot of her own, in which she drives forth in majesty. She holds the reins in her own hands, and controls four great chargers who are all of white color, of the same stock, and who smite the malice of all tyrants, demons, wicked men, sorcerers, fairies, oppressors, as well as those who are wilfully blind and wilfully deaf.525 The text enables us to understand the allegorical statement regarding the steeds that are yoked to her chariot, for we are told that the four chargers of Ardvi Sura are the wind, the rain, the cloud, and the sleet; and it was Ahura Mazda who made them for her.526

525 Yt5.11, 13.

526 Yt5.120.


His nature and work. This Indo-Iranian divinity of waters seems very early to have been eclipsed by Anahita, who remains the chief genius presiding over waters in the cult. Apam Napat's Vedic counterpart has an aqueous as well as an igneous nature. In the association of the Avestan Apam Napat with the fire angel Nairyosangha, Spiegel sees traces of this secondary nature.527 Apam Napat literally means 'the offspring of waters,' and, like [230] the Vedic genius, lives beneath the waters.528 He is the exalted lord and sovereign, the shining one, and the swift-horsed.529 The waters are addressed as females. Apam Napat in the Vedas is nourished by females.530 The Avestan texts speak of him as the lord of females.531 He is the most prompt to respond when invoked,532 and co-operates with Vayu and distributes the waters on earth.533 He furthers the riches of the countries and allays misfortunes;534 and when the Kingly Glory escapes from the contest of Atar and Azhi Dahaka to the sea Vourukasha it is Apam Napat who takes and protects it.535 This Yazata is also credited with having made and shaped men.536

527 Arische Periode, 192, 193, Leipzig, 1887; see Gray, Apam Napat, in Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, vol. 3, p. 18-51; and in The Foundations of the Iranian Religions, p. 133-136.

528 Yt19.52; RV. 8.43.9.

529 Y1.5; 2.5; 65.12; 70.6; Yt5.72; 19.51.

530 RV. 2.35. 3, 5.

531 Yt5.72; 19.52.

532 Yt19.52.

533 Yt8.34.

534 Yt13. 95.

535 Yt19.51.

536 Yt19.52.


Another water genius. A female Yazata, though of no great importance, is Ahurani, corresponding to the Vedic Varunani. She impersonates the Ahurian waters.537 She is invoked in company with the sea Vourukasha and other waters.538 The faithful devotee prays that if he has offended her in any way, he is ready to expiate his sin by an offering of the libations.539 She is implored to descend in person and grace the sacrifice with her presence and be propitiated by it.540 She is likewise invited to come with her gifts of health, prosperity, renown, the enlightenment of thoughts, words, and deeds, and for the well-being of the soul.541 She is asked to give offspring that will further the prosperity of the house, village, town, and country and add to the renown of the country.542 Riches and glory, endurance and vigour of body, a long life and the shining, all-happy abode of the righteous are the boons that the devout ask from her.543 The libations offered her are the most excellent and the fairest, and are filtered by pious men.544 Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds also serve as her libations.545 The libations offered [231] to Ahurani cause joy to Ahura Mazda and the Amesha Spentas.546

537 Y38.3.

538 Y68.6.

539 Y68.1.

540 Y68.9.

541 Y68.3, 4.

542 Y68.5.

543 Y68.11.

544 Ny1.18.

545 Y68.3.

546 Y66.1.


The earth deified. The Avestan term for earth is zam, from which the angel Zam, or Zamyat, derives her name. Her personality is very insipid as compared with Armaiti, who, as we have seen, has the earth under her care and is, in fact, a more active guardian genius of the earth than Zamyat. The twenty eighth day of every month is sacred to Zamyat.547 The poet who composed the Yasht in honour of Zamyat does not sing the glory of his heroine, but occupies himself rather with a description of the mountains of the world,548 and with the celebration of the Divine Glory that descends upon the Aryan race, symbolizing the greatness of the kings and the consecrated piety of the sainted souls.549 Cyrus, says Xenophon, sacrificed animals to the earth as the Magians directed.550 547 Y16.6.

548 Yt19.1-7.

549 Yt19.9-93.

550 Cyropaedia, 8.24.