Since the 1920s, the so-called »return to the roots«, has become a hegemonic discourse in Iran. Whereas the Pahlavi regimes (1925–1979) propagated the myth of the lost idyll of pre-Islamic Iran representing themselves as the true inheritors of those monarchies, the Islamists adopted a respective approach in regard to Islam.
As a result, a similar fairytale was made about the early Islamic community. Such claims, as it were, are not so much about the past as they are about the present. So is this study.
By delving into the past, it questions the widespread nostalgic notions considering the pre-Islamic era as a lost utopia, wherein women were free from the restrictions »imposed by Islam«. In point of fact such past is a fabrication. In the majority of cases, therefore, the revival projects invent traditions to legitimize current political agendas.
In recent years a number of scholars have proposed more or less detailed schemas of the formation of the Zoroastrian ritual. These schemas offer accounts of the arrangement of the texts in the liturgy, the process of its formation, and even its function from an endogenous perspective. One way or another, they argue that the official Zoroastrian liturgy is an integrated ritual with a coherent text, and that the function of the ritual and the intention behind the arrangement of the texts can be determined by means of philological, literary and comparative analyses. The questions of formation and meaning of the Zoroastrian liturgy these scholars have placed on the agenda are important not only for the study of Zoroastrianism but also for the history of religions and ritual theory. I consider their accounts with respect to the texts they invoke and the methods they use, and show that their arguments suffer from fatal flaws.
There are, perhaps, no more contentious issues within the study of Achaemenid Persia than those surrounding its religion(s) and religious iconography. Owing to the role that fire plays in Zoroastrian beliefs in later periods in Iran, almost any discussion of the subject of Achaemenid religion will eventually turn to the identification of sacred fire, fire temples, fire worship, and fire altars in the archaeological, epigraphic, and literary records.
The focus of this book is a corpus of glyptic imagery preserved as impressions on two large archives of administrative tablets from Persepolis, the Persepolis Fortification archive (509-493 BC) and the Persepolis Treasury archive (492-457 BC). The glyptic imagery here published concerns representations of what have been traditionally termed “fire altars” and/or “fire temples.” Most of this glyptic evidence has never been published; many of the structures and the scenes in which they occur are strikingly original.
The goals of this study are to introduce a new corpus of visual imagery concerning religious ritual in the Achaemenid period and to explore the significance of this visual language for our understanding of ritual traditions emerging within the heart of the empire at its most critical formative period, the reign of Darius I. This study seeks also to use the Persepolitan glyptic evidence as a springboard to re-visit the most famous “fire altar” depicted in Achaemenid art, that on the tomb relief of Darius I at Naqs-e Rostam.
This study is an initial step in the development of a religious topography for the zone encompassing Persepolis and Naqs-e Rostam, both a topography on the imaginary level (through images) and a topography on the physical level (through the built space). The glyptic images assembled in this study are the most numerous, the most visually complex, and the best dated and contextualized evidence that currently exists for the study of fire in ritual, and religious ritual more broadly, in early Achaemenid Iran.
Today, the Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, received the confirmation of funding for Corpus Avesticum Berolinense (CAB), a long-term project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for 12 years . The goal of CAB is to edit all Zoroastrian rituals preserved in the Avestan language. This is excellent news for the institute and the discipline. The BiblioIranica team congratulates Prof. Alberto Cantera for this achievement. It is more than well-deserved.
Threads of Continuity Focuses on the philosophy and cultur of the ancient Zoroastrian faith from its origins i Central Asia, tracing a geographical and chronological continum till the present. This philosophy became a part of the lived heritage of the Zoroastrian community — both in India and Iran.
Of dpecial interest are the cross-cultural influences of the comunity in India. To highlight these, Gujarat and the Deccan will be examined in detail for the first time.
A part of this compendium also studies the contribution of the community to the making of modern India. The programme envisaged, attempts to explain the Zoroastrian philodophy of a sacred thread linking all creation.
Rituals play a prominent role in Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest continuous religions of humanity. The importance and practice of the Zoroastrian rituals extend over a wide range of social and local environments, from houses to fire temples as well as from antiquity to modernity. While the sources for exploring Zoroastrian rituals in pre-modern times are predominantly confined to traditional and priestly texts, we have a broader set of sources for modern and contemporary times, including the living ritual tradition of priests and laities. The lecture deals with the presence and importance of the rituals as well as the ritualistic traditions in Zoroastrianism.
You can download the whole program of this talk series here.
Shervin Farridnejad is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Institute of Iranian Studies (IFI) at the Academy of Science (ÖAW) in Vienna and at the Institute of Iranian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.
For the orientation in space and the linguistic expression of spatial relations of objects, different coordination systems can be used. One of these systems utilizes fixed cardinal directions. The four compass points north, south, east and west constitute the cardinal directions of our absolute frame of reference. Did the Old Iranians employ the same frame of reference likewise with these compass points?
After the representation of different coordination systems, absolute, intrinsic and relative, the paper addresses the Old Iranian absolute frame of reference. By means of the orientation of Achaemenian palaces, the order of countries in the Old Persian list of nations as well as Avestan linguistic evidence, it will be demonstrated that the Old Iranian people did not used our todays compass points for their orientation in space, but employed a different absolute frame of reference. The paper will present the cardinal directions of this system.
You can download the whole program of this talk series here.
Kianoosh Rezania is a professor of Western Asian Religious Studies at the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
Zoroastrian theology, cosmology and cosmogony, history of the faith, its rituals and ceremonies, Avestan and Middle Persian texts, festivals such as Nowruz, Mehregan and Sada, and a host of other topics, hitherto dispersed amidst other entries in their alphabetical sequence in the Encyclopædia Iranica, are gathered together here under one cover. The volume enables the readers to chart their way through complex traditions and debates throughout history, and brings into focus the interdependence of these pioneering contributions. As a thought-provoking and authoritative work of reference, it is a testimony to the fine scholarship and remarkable erudition of its contributors, scholars who have been foremost in ensuring that the Encyclopædia Iranica maintains its high reputation for authoritative comprehensiveness and pioneering research.
List of Contents:
Religious Concepts and Philosophy
Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism
The Elements in Zoroastrianism
The Divine Beings (Yazatas)
Demons, Fiends, and Witches
Sacrifices and Offerings
Ablutions and Purification Ceremonies
Prayers, Hymns, and Incantations
Priestly Titles and Prominent Zoroastrian Priests
Legal Aspects of Zoroastrianism
Death and the Afterlife
Places of Worship
Zoroastrian Heroes and Adversaries
Mythical and Historical Locations
About the Editor:
Mahnaz Moazami is a Visiting Professor at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies of Yeshiva University. Her research focuses on religion in pre-Islamic Iran, and she has published several articles on different aspects of Zoroastrianism.