Tag Archives: Zoroastrianism

Wrestling with the Demons

Moazami, Mahnaz. 2014. Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād. Transcription, Translation, and Commentary (Iran Studies 9). Leiden/Boston: Brill.

The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād), The Law (Serving to Keep) Demons Away, a fifth-century Middle Persian commentary on the Avestan Vidēvdād, describes rules and regulations that serve to prevent pollution caused by dead matter, menstrual discharges, and other agents. It recognizes the perpetual presence of the demons, the forces of the Evil Spirit –forces that should be fought through law-abiding conduct. In spite of its formidable textual problems, the commentary provides an invaluable quarry for the rules of the Zoroastrian community through its citation of regulations for the conduct of its members. Many topics are covered, from jurisprudence to penalties, procedures for dealing with pollution, purification, and arrangements for funerals. Viewed together, they provide the reader with an exquisite interlace of a community’s concerns.

See here for more.

Approaches to the study of ‘time’

Although not newly published, I mention this article by Stausberg as it relates to Rezania’s work on the concept of time in Zoroastrianism.

Stausberg, Michael. 2004. Approaches to the study of ‘time’ in the history of religions. Temenos 39/40. 247–268.

Rezania, Kianoosh. 2010. Die zoroastrische Zeitvorstellung. Eine Untersuchung über Zeit- und Ewigkeitskonzepte und die Frage des Zurvanismus (Göttinger Orientforschungen III.
Reihe Iranica, Neue Folge 7). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Building a new vision of the past in the Sasanian Empire

Canepa, Matthew. 2013. Building a new vision of the past in the Sasanian Empire: The sanctuaries of Kayānsīh and the great fires of Iran. Journal of Persianate Studies 6. 64–90.

This article analyzes how Zoroastrian holy sites as celebrated in the Avesta or elaborated in later, related traditions, emerged as important architectural and ritual centers in late antiquity. Instead of ancient foundations whose details were lost in the depths of time, this paper argues that some of the holiest sanctuaries of the Zoroastrian religion, including Ādur Gušnasp, Ādur Farnbāg, Ādur Burzēn-Mihr, Ādur Karkōy and Lake Kayānsīh, emerged no earlier than the Arsacid era, and were actively manipulated and augmented by the Sasanian dynasty.

Read the article here.

Der Zoroastrismus als iranische Religion

Stausberg, Michael. 2011. Der Zoroastrismus als iranische Religion und die Semantik von ‚Iran’ in der zoroastrischen Religionsgeschichte. Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 63(4). 331–331.

Read the article here or here.

Zoroastrianism, one of the three recognized religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, can claim a specific linkage with Iran since the Avestan Vendidād and its other primary religious documents were written in Iranian languages and its history has for the most part unfolded in Iran (in a larger geographical sense). The term Aryan is used in inscriptions by the Achaemenian king Darius I as a way to gloss the name of the deity Ahura Mazdā (the ‘God of the Aryans’). In the Sasanian period, Iran became the name of the empire. Zoroastrian literature written under Islamic rule, reaffirms the idea of a unity between kingship and (Zoroastrian) religion, but transposes its realization into the eschatological future. After centuries of decline and discrimination, twentieth-century modernization entailed the prospect of societal reintegration for Zoroastrians; an unachieved hope under the Pahlavis, this prospect has become even more remote under the political conditions imposed by the Islamic Republic, where Zoroastrians now use the vocabulary of martyrdom to express their commitment to their homeland.

Public lecture III

03_J2_YH353. The return of the Avesta

It has been argued that the adoption of the Zoroastrian religious world view by the Sasanians was instrumental in maintaining the nobility’s loyalty to the goals of the empire. Most arguments in favour of this view, however, derive from examinations of source material dating from the early Islamic era. This lecture will revisit the pertinent arguments and further discuss previously unexplored textual material.

Speaker: Arash Zeini
Where: University of St Andrews, School of Classics, Swallowgate, S11.
When: 14 May 2014, 17:30

Public lecture II

02_Ardashir_investiture2. The Sasanian Empire and religious authority: The case of Zoroastrianism

As one of the major political and economic powers in the region, the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE) elevated Zoroastrianism to the dominant religious and cultural force within its polity, bringing to the foreground the question of the interaction between religion and sovereignty in the Sasanian era. By providing an historical overview this lecture highlights the dynamics between political and religious authority during the Sasanian era.

Speaker: Arash Zeini
Where: University of St Andrews, School of Classics, Swallowgate, S11.
When: 07 May 2014, 17:30

Zoroastrian exegetical parables

A thorough examination of the structure of one of the parables in the ŠGW. Sam’s comparison with examples from the Rabbinic literature is illuminating.

Thrope, Samuel. 2013. Zoroastrian exegetical parables in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār. Iran and the Caucasus 17. 253-274.

Read the article here. Abstract:

The parable has received little attention as a form in Zoroastrian Pahlavi literature. Taking a first step to correct this deficit, this article examines an extended parable that appears in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, the ninth century theological and political treatise. The parable likens Ohramzd’s conflict with Ahriman and his creation of the world to a gardener’s attempt to keep hungry vermin from his garden by means of a trap. Borrowing tools developed in the study of rabbinic exegetical parables and poetics, the article argues that the garden parable not only aims to make a theological point as part of its immediate context in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, but also it itself is an interpretation of the Zoroastrian account of creation. The article shows how the parable reinterprets inconsistencies and contradictions in that cosmogony, relating to the account of creation just as rabbinic parables relate to the gaps in canonical, biblical narratives.

Monotheism the Zoroastrian way

Hintze, Almut. 2014. Monotheism the Zoroastrian Way. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 24(2). 225–249.

Read the article here. Abstract:

This article examines seemingly monotheistic, polytheistic and dualistic features of Zoroastrianism from the point of view of the Zoroastrian creation myth. Exploring the personality of the principal deity, Ahura Mazdā, the origin of the spiritual and material worlds and the worship of the Yazatas, it is argued that Zoroastrianism has its own particular form of monotheism.

Public lecture I

Persepolis1. Mythical kings, empire and multiculturalism: The case of the Achaemenids

The Achaemenids (550–330 BCE) ruled over a vast and multicultural empire, encompassing numerous indigenous and conquered traditions. How did these various groups co-exist in the administration of the empire and influence Achaemenid ideals of kingship? This lecture will explore relevant Zoroastrian topoi and examine their afterlife in the Achaemenid era.

Speaker: Arash Zeini
Where: University of St Andrews, School of Classics, Swallowgate, S11.
When: 30 April 2014, 17:30.

La terminologie normative

Azarnouche, Samra. 2013. La terminologie normative de l’enseignement zoroastrien. Studia Iranica 42(2). 163–194.

The abstract and the article are available here.

Since orality holds a prominent role in the religious culture of Zoroastrianism, we are not surprised to find direct allusions to this means of transmission within the textual corpus itself (liturgical and theological texts). Unfortunately not much is known about the teaching methods that teachers employed to train their disciples in priesthood. The sole exception lies in a few recurring expressions — around ten — that the Zoroastrian literature in Middle Persian/Pahlavi has handed down to us. Among this normative terminology that primarily relates to the mnemonic learning of sacred texts (hymns and prayers of the Avesta), four technical terms will be discussed here: ōšmurišn, dranjišn, warm kardan and xwastan. As this semantic analysis will show, these terms describe various stages of recalling the chapters of a prayer, recitation and memorization practices, and finally the achievement of a uniform recitation.