Tag Archives: Orality

Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral Texts and Testimony

Stewart, Sarah. 2018. Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral texts and testimony (Part 1: Urban contexts: Kerman, Tehran, Ahwaz, Esfahan, Shiraz), vol. 1. (Iranica, GOF III/NF 17). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Voices from Zoroastrian Iran (Volumes I and II) is the result of an oral studies research project that maps the remaining Zoroastrian communities in Iran and explores what has happened to their religious lives and social structures since the Revolution of 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Interviews included in Volume 1 are with Zoroastrians from the urban centres of Tehrān, Kermān, Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān. Participants refer to community leaders, historical figures, local events, teachers and religious texts that have shaped their views and understanding of the religion. They also address the impact of recent history upon their lives. The religion itself is presented as understood by those interviewed, drawn largely from the interpretations of Iranian scholars and scholar-priests, as opposed to those of predominantly western scholars. A chapter in the book is devoted to a survey of the main Iranian Zoroastrian religious observances as well as some popular customs. As a result of the new Constitution, the return to shari ‘a and the eight-year war with Iraq that followed the Revolution, the relationship between Zoroastrians and the state changed. The new political environment began to shape the religious and social identities of the next generation through Zoroastrian institutions such as the anjomans (councils) as well as those established by the government of the Islamic Republic.
The interviews for this book span a period of living memory that reflects both pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. The views expressed are informed by the changes that took place during that time and throw light on subjects as diverse as education, emigration, conversion and religious reform. The vol. 2 is planed to come out in 2019.
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Background and Context: Religion
  • Chapter 2 Devotional Life: Customs and Observances
  • Chapter 3 Background and Context: Society
  • Chapter 4 Kermān
  • Chapter 5 Tehrān
  • Chapter 6 Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān
  • Conclusions

Read the detailed table of contents here.

Literacy and Orality in Achaemenid Iran

Kolb, Anne (ed.). 2018. Literacy in ancient everyday life. Berlin ; Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
The purpose of the conference proceedings is to investigate the importance of literacy in the daily lives of ancient people. In addition to the intended utilization of writing and written material, the circumstances of usage as well as various types of users are the focus of the analyzes. The concept of a diversified literacy of different levels of literacy, literacy and numeracy makes it possible to differentiate the usage of everyday writing according to types or categories of uses and to recognize different functions of literacy.
Two chapters from the first part are of special interests for Iranian and Achaemenian Studies:
The contribution aims at pointing out the impact of language(s) and writing system(s), not least of Elamite, Old Persian and Aramaic, in Teispid-Achaemenid Iran in the context of royal pronouncements and administration, and at putting them in relation to those of the neighbouring cultures. In this context, it is also trying to find out which forms of language acquisition and communication can be proven and whether there has been such a thing as a Persian language policy. On the other hand, the fact that Iran has seen decidingly oral cultures up to Late Antiquity and even beyond, apart from the official contexts, raises the question of the media of communication and the afterlife of Teispids and Achaemenids in Iran’s ‘historical’ traditions.
The article examines the place of female literacy within general everyday literacy in the Achaemenid period. Whereas the Achaemenid heartland lacks of sources written by women, we have abundant private correspondence from the other satrapies of the empire (Babylonia, Egypt, Bactria etc.). Therefore the lacuna from the Persis-region is not coincidental but resulting from the specific social structure of the empire with its dominant hegemonic manliness. This prevented a wider spread of literacy and the Achaemenid heartland remained an orally dominated culture with a functional literacy limited to the elite and higher levels of society.

The Transmission of the Avesta

Cantera, Alberto (ed.). 2012. The Transmission of the Avesta. (Iranica 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
The Avesta is a collection of liturgical texts considered as their sacred book by the Zoroastrian community. It contains the recitatives of the Zoroastrian liturgies still celebrated in the 17th century, some of them even celebrated until today. The texts integrated in these ceremonies were composed in different places and at different times, and transmitted orally for centuries. The exact date of the fixation of the ceremonies in the shape in which they are presented in the manuscripts and the creation of the different manuscripts is unknown. But today it is proven that even after the creation of the first manuscripts, the transmission of these liturgical texts was the result of a complicated process in which not only the process of copying manuscripts but also the ritual practice and the ritual teaching were involved. The only deep analysis of the written transmission of the Avesta was made by K. F. Geldner as Prolegomena to his edition of the Avesta. Since then, many new manuscripts have appeared. In The Transmission of the Avesta contributions by the main experts in this field are gathered: the oral transmission, the fixation of the different collections, the first writing down, and the manuscripts. Special interest is devoted to the manuscripts. Some contributions of the volume were presented at the correspondent colloquium held in Salamanca, September 2009; others were added in order to make of the volume a comprehensive work on the different aspects of the Avestan transmission.

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Zoroastrianism: History, rituals, theology and tradition

Kreyenbroek, Philip G. 2013. Teachers and teachings in the Good Religion: Opera minora on Zoroastrianism (Göttinger Orientforschungen, Iranica, NF 10). Edited by Kianoosh Rezania. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The volume edited by Kioanoosh Rezania brings together seventeen articles by Philip Kreyenbroek on the subject of Zoroastrianism. The collection represents the author’s most important short contributions on that subject, written over a period of more than 30 years. Although the papers are concerned with a range of different subjects, they are to some extent interconnected, and in several cases one may find lines of argument emerging in one article which the author develops in subsequent papers.
The papers cover six important aspects of Zoroastrianism: History; the Zoroastrian tradition and its oral transmission; Cosmology, Cosmogony and Eschatology; Priesthood; and Ritual. Topics discussed there include the history of the Zoroastrian tradition in various periods; the mainly oral nature of the Zoroastrian religious tradition until well into the Islamic period, and some of the implications of this for our understanding of that tradition; Kreyenbroek’s views and hypotheses on the nature and origin of the Indo-Iranian and Zoroastrian cosmogonies; the various developments in the structure of the priesthood, particularly during and after the Sasanian period; and lastly various questions concerning the Zoroastrian ritual, which are informed by the author’s extraordinary familiarity with the Zoroastrian ritual literature.

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