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Books

Zoroastrian Laws of Ritual Purity

Moazami, Mahnaz. 2020. Laws of Ritual Purity. Zand ī Fragard ī Jud-Dēw-Dād (A Commentary on the Chapters of the Widēwdād) (Iran Studies 19). Leiden: Brill.

Laws of Ritual Purity: Zand ī Fragard ī Jud-Dēw-Dād (A Commentary on the Chapters of the Widēwdād) describes the various ways in which Zoroastrian authorities in the fifth-sixth centuries CE reinterpreted the purity laws of their community. Its redactor(s), conversant with the notions and practices of purity and impurity as developed by their predecessors, attempt(s) to determine the parameters of the various categories of pollution, the minimum measures of polluted substances, and the effect of the interaction of pollution with other substances that are important to humans. It is therefore in essence a technical legal corpus designed to provide a comprehensive picture of a central aspect of Zoroastrian ritual life: the extent of one’s liability contracting pollution and how atonement/purification can be achieved.

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Books

The Zoroastrian Vision, Straight in the Eyes

Azarnouche, Samra & Olivia Ramble. 2020. La Vision zoroastrienne, les yeux dans les yeux Commentaire sur la Dēn selon Dēnkard III.225. Revue de l’his toire des reli gions 237(3). 331–395.

Sassanian Seal MOT 6.1, Collection M. I. Mochiri, after Gnoli 1993: 80.

In the Zoroastrian tradition, the Dēn (Avestan daēnā “vision”) is a polysemic notion that denotes either an auroral psychopompic deity, or the religious doctrine, or again the sacred word of the Avesta. Passage 225 of the Dēnkard III, commented here for the first time, combines these different concepts, thereby not only bringing direct proof for the continuity of the word’s original meaning—“vision”—between the Avestan textual layer and the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) exegetic layer, but also testifying to the development of metaphysical speculation (with a neo-platonic backdrop) concerning the transcendental vision acquired by the magi. Material sources (iconographic as well as epigraphic) also contribute to highlighting the notion that the Dēn is the divine entity that one looks at straight in the eyes.

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Journal

Studia Iranica 48(2)

The second issue of Studia Iranica 48 (2019) has been published. For a table of contents and access to individual articles, see below or visit this page.

  • Ryoichi MIYAMOTO: Étude préliminaire sur la géographie administrative du Tukhāristān
  • Gilles COURTIEU: La pratique du mazdéisme en Crimée selon l’Histoire Naturelle de Pline
  • Vera B. MOREEN: Echoes of the Battle of Čālderān: The Account of the Jewish Chronicler Elijah Capsali (c. 1490 – c. 1555)
  • Jean CALMARD: Le voyage de Louise de la Marnierre en Iran (1836-1837): Introduction, récit, notes
  • Philippe GIGNOUX & Dieter WEBER: Un papyrus en pehlevi égaré à La Sorbonne (Paris)
  • Comptes rendus
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Books

Iranian Cosmographical World

Panaino, Antonio. 2020. A Walk through the Iranian Heavens: For a History of an Unpredictable Dialogue between Nonspherical and Spherical Models (Ancient Iran Series 9). Irvine, CA: Jordan Center for Persian Studies, University of California, Irvine.

This book by Antonio Panaino discusses the development of the Iranian cosmographical world and its interaction with the Greek, Mesopotamian and Indic civilizations. By undertaking such a study, the author places the Iranian intellectual tradition in perspective vis-à-vis other ancient civilizations and demonstrates the depth and importance of the Mazdean tradition, which was able to absorb and systematize foreign knowledge. Panaino shows the presence of both Aristotelian and Neo-Platonist traditions in the Iranian intellectual scene, though somewhat changed and acculturated to the Mazdean ideas and world-view. Hence, the book is a lively and interesting study of the juxtapositioning of various scientific and philosophical ideas at play in the Mediterranean, Iranian and Indic worlds.

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Books

namāz

Albino, Marcos. 2019. Mittelpersisch namāz ,Ehrerweisung‘. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 73(1). 7–15.

The word namāz “reverence” is first attested in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (namāž). It is survived in New Persian namāz originally denotes a respectful adressing to a socially superior person or to God.

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Books

Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature

Delaini, Paolo. 2019. Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature: The Exchange of Knowledge between India, Iran, and Greece in Late Antiquity. In Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati & Charles Burnett (eds.), Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World, 29–51. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.

In Late Antiquity Sasanian court patronage attracted philosophers, medical doctors, and teachers from the former Roman Empire. Contemporary observers noted that the court of the Sasanian King Xusraw I (AD 531–79) was a meeting place open to philosophical debates and to the diffusion of medical knowledge. According to tradition, King Xusraw welcomed the Greek philosopher Damascius and the ‘seven sages of Byzantium’ to his ancient capital of Ctesiphon at the time of their expulsion from Athens’s school of philosophy. It seems that this king was deeply interested in medicine; he invited and hosted numerous Byzantine doctors and financially supported Abraham of Beth Rabban, director of the influential Nisibis School, in his endeavour to build a hospital (xenodocheion).

Delaini offers in his article a cross-cultural analysis of pregnancy and childbirth traditions in Middle Persian Zoroastrian Literature.

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Books

Menstrual Impurity and Difference in Babylonian Judaism and its Sasanian Context

Secunda, Samuel. 2020. The Talmud’s red fence: Menstrual impurity and difference in Babylonian Judaism and its Sasanian context. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Talmud’s Red Fence explores how rituals and beliefs concerning menstruation in the Babylonian Talmud and neighboring Sasanian religious texts were animated by difference and differentiation. It argues that the practice and development of menstrual rituals in Babylonian Judaism was a product of the religious terrain of the Sasanian Empire, where groups like Syriac Christians, Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Jews defined themselves in part based on how they approached menstrual impurity. It demonstrates that menstruation was highly charged in Babylonian Judaism and Sasanian Zoroastrian, where menstrual discharge was conceived of as highly productive female seed yet at the same time as stemming from either primordial sin (Eve eating from the tree) or evil (Ahrimen’s kiss). It argues that competition between rabbis and Zoroastrians concerning menstrual purity put pressure on the Talmudic system, for instance in the unusual development of an expert diagnostic system of discharges. It shows how Babylonian rabbis seriously considered removing women from the home during the menstrual period, as Mandaeans and Zoroastrians did, yet in the end deemed this possibility too “heretical.” Finally, it examines three cases of Babylonian Jewish women initiating menstrual practices that carved out autonomous female space. One of these, the extension of menstrual impurity beyond the biblically mandated seven days, is paralleled in both Zoroastrian Middle Persian and Mandaic texts. Ultimately, Talmudic menstrual purity is shown to be driven by difference in its binary structure of pure and impure; in gendered terms; on a social axis between Jews and Sasanian non-Jewish communities; and textually in the way the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds took shape in late antiquity.

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Books

Zoroastrian Scholasticism in Late Antiquity

Zeini, Arash. 2020. Zoroastrian scholasticism in late antiquity. The Pahlavi version of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

In late antiquity, Zoroastrian exegetes set out to translate their ancient canonical texts into Middle Persian, the vernacular of their time. Although undated, these translations, commonly known as the Zand, are often associated with the Sasanian era (224–651 ce). Despite the many challenges the Zand offers to us today, it is indispensable for investigations of late antique exegesis of the Avesta, a collection of religious and ritual texts commonly regarded as the Zoroastrians’ scripture.

Arash Zeini also offers a fresh edition of the Middle Persian version of the Avestan Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, a ritual text composed in the Old Iranian language of Avestan, commonly dated to the middle of the second millennium bce. Zeini challenges the view that considers the Zand’s study an auxiliary science to Avestan studies, framing the text instead within the exegetical context from which it emerged.

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Books

Sūtkar-Nask and Varštmānsar-Nask from Dēnkard 9

Tafażżolī, Aḥmad. 1398 š [2019]. Taṣḥīḥ-o tarǧome-ye Sutgar nask va Varšt-mānsar nask az Dēnkard-e 9 va sanǧeš-e in do nask bā matnhā-ye avestāʾi [An Edition and Translation of Sūtkar-Nask and Varštmānsar-Nask from Dēnkard 9 in comparison with the Avestan texts]. (Ed.) Žāle Āmuzgār. Tehran: Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia.

The Middle Persian Dēnkard “Acts of the religion” is a summary of 10th-century Zoroastrian knowledge of religion, considered as the “Mazdean encyclopedia”. It is divided into nine books of which, the first two and the beginning of the third are lost. The Book IX of Dēnkard consists commentaries on the three great Mazdean prayers: Ahunwar, Ašem vohū, and Yeŋ́hē hātąm from the gathic nasks of Sūtkar, Varštmānsar, and Bagnasks. Tafażżolī’s edition comprises the first two nasks, which are of mythical and historical contents.

Aḥmad Tafażżolī (1316 š/1937-1375 š/1997) was a prominent scholar and philologist in the field of Middle Iranian studies. His works deal with lexicography and the edition of Middle Persian (Pahlavi) texts and Iranian mythology, most of which, regretfully now lost. This volume is his for the first time postmortemously published doctoral thesis in ancient Iranian languages, defended on 1965 under the direction of Ṣādeq Kiā at the Tehran University. Furthermore he left nearly a dozen books, more than a hundred articles, and many book reviews, which those in Persian are also recently publihsed in The Collected Writings of Ahmad Tafazzoli.



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Articles

Rivalry and conflicts between Christians and Zoroastrians

Hutter, Manfred. 2018. Rivalität und Konflikte zwischen Christen und Zoroastriern. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 91–104.

The encounter of Christianity with Zoroastrianism in the Sasanian Empire started already in the 3rd century. But it was only since the 5th century that a sizable number of Zoroastrians, mostly from the upper classes, converted to Christianity. This led to reactions by the Zoroastrian clergy against the adherents of the agdēn, the «false» or «bad» religion, as this religion was seen as unfitting to Iranian culture. Thus, Middle Persian texts discuss the necessity to avoid contacts with members of agdēn. This term is not restricted to Christianity, but can also be applied to other religions. It is only from the early Islamic period in Iran that two Middle Persian texts, the Dēnkard and the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, discuss (and refute) Christian teachings more systematically. The reason for this theological discussion about Christianity can be seen in the minority situation which Zoroastrianism faced in the Islamic period.