Aryan religion

The Gods of the Arians in Iran

The examination of the traditions of the East and West has simply led to the confirmation of the result, which we gain from the Avesta—that the name and the doctrine of Zarathrustra belong to Bactria. With regard to the antiquity of the doctrine, the inscriptions of Darius and the statements of the Greeks allowed us to draw the conclusion that it became current and dominant in Bactria about the year 800 B.C.; and from the analogy of the development of the Arians on both sides of the Ganges we assumed that it was possible to place the date of Zarathrustra himself about two centuries earlier. That the Arians of Iran were not without gods and religious worship before Zarathrustra, if the fact needed proof, might be shown from the statements in the Avesta regarding the time previous to Zarathrustra. The examination of the legends of this time established kindred forms and traits in the Avesta and the Veda, and if, following this path further, we find in the Avesta views of the nature and character of the gods corresponding to those of the Veda, we might be confident in regarding them as the traditional possession of the Arians, and their earliest forms of religion. If, in fine, the coincidence of the Avesta with the Veda, on the one hand, and with the accounts of the Greeks on the other, extended to all the essential points in the doctrine and the law, the question stated above—whether in the restoration of the canon of the sacred writings in the midst of the fourth century of our era, under king Shapur II., the Avesta underwent material alterations, would have to be answered in the negative.

The poems of the Veda showed us in what directions the religious feeling of the Indians in the Panjab moved. Drought, gloom, and night were numbered among the injurious forces; the clear sky, the light, and fertilising water were beneficent. The high spirits of light, which gave new courage to the heart each morning, and exhibited the world in fresh brilliance, were praised with thanksgivings; the spirits of the highest heaven, Mitra and Varuna, the guardians of the world, the protectors of purity and justice, were invoked earnestly, but less frequently than the warlike victorious god who gave water, the god of storm and tempest, who defeated the demons which obscured the sky and wished to carry away the water (IV. 48). His comrades in the fight were the morning wind which drove away the clouds of night, the winds which shattered the gloomy clouds, and swept them from the sky. The spirit of fire, who by his brilliant glow in the darkness of night kept off the beasts of prey and fiends, who gathered men round the hearth, and summoned the gods to the sacrifice, and carried up to them the food of the sacrifice, received zealous worship in the hymns of the Veda.

We can call to mind the invocations of the Rigveda to Ushas, the goddess of the dawn, who drives forth on the sky with red cows; to Surya and Savitar, the spirits of the sun (IV. 45, 46). In the Avesta, prayers are addressed to Ushahina and Hvare Kshaeta, the bright sun-god. Ushahina is here the pure spirit of the celestial dawn, "who is possessed of bright horses." Of the sun-god we are told: "Mount, bright sun, with thy swift horses, and shine for all creatures on the way which Auramazda has created in the air, the way rich in water which the gods have created;"[178] just as in the Veda the sun is invoked to approach on his ancient firm paths in the air, which are free from dust (IV. 46). Sacrifice is offered to the sun, according to the Avesta, when he rises above Hara berezaiti (the divine mountain).[179] The prayer to Mithra is as follows: "To the mighty Yazata (i. e. the worthy of prayer), the strong one, who brings good, will I offer sacrifice with libations; I will encompass him with songs of thanksgiving. With libations we offer sacrifice to Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, who speaketh true things, the wise one, comely in shape, of a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes, standing on a broad tower, strong, sleepless, and watchful, who mounts above Hara berezaiti before the immortal sun, the guider of horses—he who first in a form of gold ascends the beautiful summits. For him the creator Auramazda has prepared a dwelling above Hara berezaiti, where is neither night, nor darkness, nor winds chilling nor scorching, nor the corruption of the slain; no filth created of demons nor vapours ascend Hara berezaiti. From thence the giver of good beholds the abode of the Arians, whose horse-guiding lords govern splendid hosts, whose high mountains, rich in water and in pastures, supply nourishment for the ox, where are deep lakes with broad streams, and wide navigable rivers burst forth in tumult, on Iskata and Pourata,[180] on Mouru (Merv), Haraeva (p. 11), and Gao, Çughdha (Sogdiana), and Hvairiza (Choaresm). Where first they sacrifice to him, there Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, descends with the victorious wind. From anguish and pain, O Mithra, carry us, undeceived. Come to us for our protection; come to us with joy; come to us with mercy; come to us with healing; come to us with purification, the mighty, the strong, the all-knowing, the tamer of dragons, the undeceived. Never lulled to sleep, Mithra protects with his weapon the creatures of Auramazda. On him the lord of the land, of the canton, the village, the house, calls for help with uplifted hands, whose voice of woe, whether his voice be loud or soft, reaches up to the stars and down to the earth. He to whom Mithra is favourable, to him he cometh with aid; but with whomsoever he is angry he destroys his house and village and canton and land, and the glory of the land. Mithra gives swift horses to those who do not deceive him; to the habitation in which he is satisfied he gives troops of cattle and men. The fire of Auramazda gives the straightest path to those who do not deceive Mithra. But if the lord of the house, the village, the canton, the land deceives him, then Mithra in anger destroys house and village, canton and land. Not all evil deeds, not all deception, are seen by Mithra, saith the wicked man. But Mithra sees all that is between heaven and earth. With ten thousand eyes he beholds the man who hates and deceives him. His long arms with the might of Mithra grasp what is in Eastern India (Hendu), and what is in Western, and what is in the midst of this earth. The swiftest deceivers of Mithra do not reach the goal; they do not escape on horseback, nor reach the goal in chariots.

"Mithra, the lord of lands, whose countenance beams like the star Tistrya, travels forth to the right end ofthe earth from the brilliant Garonmana (the abode of the gods), equipped with golden helmet, and silver coat of mail, with sharp long-shafted lance and swinging arrow, on a beautiful chariot with a golden wheel and silver spokes, which four white horses draw, their fore-hoofs shod with gold, their hinder hoofs with silver, harnessed in the yoke which is bent over them. In his hand is a club with a hundred studs, and a hundred blades, heavy at the end, making havoc of men; bound with brass on the handle, mighty and golden, the strongest and most victorious of weapons. Before him goes Verethraghna in the form of a boar, sharp of tusk, fat, enraged, striking at once with feet, claws, tail, and back of brass.[181] Next to him goes the kindled fire, the strong, royal grace. As a protection of the chariot are a thousand bows of bone, whose strings are made of the sinews of oxen, a thousand arrows plumed with feathers of the Kahrkaça, with golden points and wooden shafts, and flakes of bone and iron, a thousand lances with sharp points, a thousand missiles of copper, a thousand two-edged swords. Strong as spirits they travel onward, strong as spirits they fall on the skulls of the Daevas.

"Before him of a truth, Angromainyu (the evil spirit) trembles, the deadly one; before him trembles Aeshma, the wicked-minded, and body-destroying; before him trembles Bushyançta, the long of hand, and all invisible Daevas and the sinners from Varena. When the evil one, who works wickedness, runs forth with swift step, Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, swiftly harnesses his chariot, and Çraosha, the pure and strong, and Nairyoçangha, the herald, beats him and his ranks. When Mithra comes where the lands are against him (i. e. do not honour him) he brings down his club on horse and rider. Against them he brings mighty destruction and terror; he bears away the heads of the men who deceive Mithra. Their arrows, swift-feathered, sent swiftly forth by the string from the well-stretched bow, strike the air only; the lances, sharp and running out with long shafts from the arm, strike the air only; the missiles from the strings strike the air only; the well-directed swords and well-slung clubs beat the air only; meanwhile, angry, enraged, and not propitiated, Mithra approaches, the lord of wide pastures. Thou, O Mithra, angry and mighty, takest the force from their arms; thou takest the force from their arms, and the sight from their eyes, and the hearing from their ears. The wind carries away the lances which the opponents of Mithra throw; even though he throws well and hits the body he inflicts no wound. Standing on the field of battle Mithra annihilates the ranks; the wings quake, and he makes the centre to tremble. They say: Our war-horses were led away by Mithra; by him were our strong arms and swords annihilated. Mithra scares men before and behind; Çraosha, the pure, assists in slaying on all sides. Mithra sweeps them away, slaying them by fifties and by hundreds; by hundreds and by thousands; by thousands and tens of thousands, and without number. We cannot sustain the weight of the angry lord who with the force of a thousand meets the foe; who dashes on in his rage, and rests not from the slaughter; who destroys all at a blow. May not the mightiest, the swiftest, the most victorious of the Yazatas fall upon us. Come to our help, O Mithra, high lord, when the arrow hisses aloud and the horse neighs in his nostrils, and the missiles whizz, and the strings speed forth the sharp, bony arrows. Whomsoever Mithra protects, him the well-sharpened lance cannot reach, nor the arrow flying past him.

"In his might Mithra approaches; in power he goes forth to dominion, and beholding from afar directs his glance with his eyes. Thou protectest the lands which seek after the beneficence of Mithra, lord of wide pastures; thou destroyest the lands which are wicked. O Mithra, lord of wide pastures, master of the house, of the villages, the land!—let us be protectors of thy fields, not the destroyers of them. As the sun arises above Hara berezaiti so may I obtain my desires over the evil Angromainyu. With uplifted arms, Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, conveys us to immortality. With sacrifice named by name, with becoming speech, O strong Mithra, will I make offerings to thee with libations. Listen, O Mithra, to our sacrifice. Come to our sacrifice; come to our libations. Carry them away to the place of meeting (chinvat ); deposit them in Garonmana. Thou, O Mithra, art the saviour and helper of lands and men. Thou makest the dwellings, from which impurity is removed, famous for women and chariots. Thou hast power over the peace and the disquiet of lands; prosperous art thou in the battle, and strong. Give us the gifts for which we entreat thee; abundance and power, prosperity and purity, renown and bravery, and victory given by Ahura, the overwhelming power of the highest purity (asha vahista ), and instruction in the sacred word, that so we may slay all enemies and haters, and annihilate the hate of men and Daevas, of magicians and Pairikas, of the violent, blind, and deaf. Stretch out thy widely grasping hand, O Mithra; thou art the protector of the dwelling, and of them that deceive not. Protect us in both worlds, the corporeal and incorporeal, from the evil death, the evil Aeshma, the evil hosts, who seek to raise their cruel banners, from the attacks which Aeshma may make with Vidhatu the Daeva-created."[182]

The modern traits which have been introduced into this poem are easily distinguished and removed. The relation in which Mithra is placed to Auramazda, the chief of the good spirits, to the corporeal and incorporeal world and the maintenance of the law, to Rashnu, the spirit of justice, and other spirits of an abstract nature, and to the instruction in the sacred word, are like the "Western and Eastern India," obviously of the later origin. Setting them aside, the old form of the god of light of the Arians in Iran meets us in vigorous and powerful outlines. Indeed we have here more original conceptions of Mithra than in the Veda, and find that idea of the god which formed part of the yet undivided stock of the Arians in Iran and on the Indus (IV. 51). In the Avesta Mithra is still in direct conflict with the evil spirits, from which in the Veda he is displaced by the storm-god, who first came into prominence in the Panjab. That Mithra was once the supreme deity of the Arians of Iran, is clear, not only from his position as the most victorious opponent of the demons, but also from the difficulty—which the Avesta betrays in more than one passage—of subordinating him to Auramazda, who subsequently became supreme, and establishing the precedence of the latter. In Mithra's habitation it is never night. Highest of the spirits of light, he goes before the sun, and first plants himself on the summits of the mountains. He is the mightiest warrior against night and the spirits of night who tremble before him. His light overpowers and destroys them. Thus he is able to give victory in the battle to the army which worships him in truth; the host with which he fights he fills with courage and power; that with which he is angry he fills with terror, and causes their arrows to fly forth in vain. In brilliant armour he travels onward, his club in his hand; before him is victory, and beside him is fire. Mithra's club is called Vazra, Indra's club is Vajra; the word is the same, the distinction is due to the change of sound which separates the old Bactrian from the language of the Veda and Sanskrit.[183] Lord of the lands and nations, he looks down on the abode of the Arians; most brilliant of deities, he sees all that is between heaven and earth. He cannot be deceived and beguiled; the most secret wickedness is not hidden from him; the swiftest criminal does not escape from him, and the strongest succumbs to his anger. God of purity and truth, he watches over purity and truth among men, punishes falsehood, rewards justice and fidelity; he blesses the nations and houses which worship him with goodly increase in men and flocks.

We saw what importance the Veda ascribed to the conquest over Vritra, the cloud serpent, the black demon. The Arians in Iran also are acquainted with the slaying of Vritra. The prayer to Mithra represents Verethraghna as going before Mithra's victorious car (p. 110). Verethraghna means slayer of Verethra, or Vritra, and is the same word as Vritrahan. Hence the attribute of Indra, which denotes the most important achievement among his actions, is among the Iranians an independent spirit. As the club of Indra belongs in the Avesta to Mithra, so is Verethraghna his companion. No doubt at one time Mithra had himself the surname Verethraghna in Iran, the attribute signifying the conqueror of the worst and strongest of the evil spirits. But just as in the Panjab, owing to the tropical storms of that region, the form of Vritra came into prominence, and with it the form of Indra, so in the Avesta did Verethraghna fade away when separated from Mithra. Here Verethraghna is only the victorious strength, the conquest and slaughter of the enemy,—victory itself. Verethraghna is the best armed of the heavenly spirits, the strongest in might, the most victorious. Yet even in the Avesta the Soma is offered to Verethraghna before the battle, as in the Veda it is offered to Indra. Auramazda says to Zarathrustra: "When the armies meet in battle, the orderly ranks are not defeated in which sacrifice is liberally offered to Verethraghna, whom Ahura created. The Arian lands should offer him sacrifice, and strew sacrificial branches for him. They should offer beasts to him, bright and gold-coloured." "To him the pure Zarathrustra offered sacrifice, and Verethraghna came to him in the form of a strong wind, in the form of a beautiful bull with golden ears and golden hoofs, in the form of a shining horse, of a large, biting, and fierce camel, in the form of a boar with strong tusks (as also in the prayer to Mithra), in the form of a youth, in the form of a man carrying a sword with a golden handle, in the form of the swiftest and largest of birds, in the form of a ram, and a fighting goat. And Verethraghna gave Zarathrustra strength of arms, health and vigour of body, and power of vision, like that of the horse which sees in the night, and the gold-coloured vulture." In the battle Verethraghna hastens through the ranks and inquires with Mithra and Rashnu: "Who lies against Mithra? to whom shall I give death and destruction, for I have the power?" "Verethraghna, the created of Ahura, the bearer of splendour, I will praise"—such is a prayer in the Avesta—"with audible praise, with offering. To Verethraghna will I sacrifice. I will bring Haoma in order that I may conquer this army, which comes up behind me. Verethraghna holds back the hands of the ranks of the men who lie against Mithra; he veils their sight, and dulls their ears, and suffers not their feet to advance. Verethraghna brings the ranks together in battle; he destroys the ranks, and annihilates them."[184]

In the Veda, the winds, the swift and strong Maruts, aided Indra against the demons; Vayu, i. e. the blowing, the morning wind which chases away the dark clouds, was Indra's charioteer (IV. 49). In the Avesta also, Vayu, who blows before the morning light and the sun, and scares away the goblins of the night, who first drinks "the Soma draught at the morning sacrifice," takes a prominent position, and under his Vedic name. The heroes of ancient days cried aloud to Vayu for victory, and he brought help to them all. He is the strongest of the strong, the swiftest of the swift, girded up and active, higher in stature, broader in the hips and shoulders, than the rest of the gods. He sits on a golden throne (p. 35); wears a golden helmet, golden armour, a girdle and neckband of gold, and rides on a golden chariot. He says to Zarathrustra: "I am called the beneficent, because I do good for Auramazda. I am called the pure, the strong-winged, the mightiest, the swiftest, the powerful for defeat, the expeller of the Daevas. I am called the Hurling one, the Biting one, the sharp lance, the flashing lance. I am called the Conqueror. These names must thou invoke at the shock of theranks in battle, in the stress of the conflict."[185] In the Avesta, as we saw, Verethragna also appears in the form of the wind. The "pure swift winds," the air, "which works on high, which purifies the heaven from the right hand," are frequently invoked; the "strong wind, created by Ahura," brings the rain-clouds which Tistrya (p. 120) has liberated over the earth; the wind carries away the lances, which those hurl who are hostile to Mithra. We saw above, how the Bactrians were defeated by Artaxerxes I., "because the wind blew in their faces" (p. 25). If in the Avesta, in accordance with the character of the doctrine, the purifying force of the winds and fresh air is made prominent, the other traits quoted are sufficient to permit us to recognise the original conception formed by the Iranians of the spirits of the winds.

The pure waters, the well-flowing, the waters of the springs, pools, and rivers are often mentioned in the Avesta and highly extolled. As with the Arians in India, so in the Avesta, the great waters are placed high up in the sky. The stars contain the seed of water; just as among the Arians in India certain constellations at the appearance of which rain fell, were considered to be the home of the waters. In the Avesta also the water of the sky is the source and origin of the waters on earth. In that book a female deity is the guardian of these waters, the goddess Ardviçura Anahita, i. e. the lofty, stainless one, "to whom Auramazda gave the waters in charge." She is at one and the same time the source of the heavenly water, which springs up on the golden height of Hukairya, the summit of the divine mountain, and the spirit of this source and of the water coming from it. At the height of a thousand men, the spring Ardviçura flows down from the golden Hukairya; it has a thousand basins, and a thousand streams, each stream is forty days' journey in length for an active traveller.[186] The goddess who pours out this water is a strong, well-grown maiden of brilliant countenance, and beautiful arms, which are more brilliant and larger than horses. On her brow she bears a golden diadem, adorned with a hundred stars; she has golden ear-rings and neck-band, a flowing lower garment with many folds of gold, and golden shoes on her feet. Her breasts fall down over her girdle; her upper robe is of bright otter skins, i. e. of the smooth skins of the animal of the water. She carries a golden Paitidana, and holds the reins of her chariot which is drawn by four white beasts of draught. The deity of the water of the sky is in the Avesta the most beneficent of the goddesses; the source of water is also the source of fruitfulness and life. She cleanses the seed of men, and gives a happy delivery to women; those who are with child entreat her assistance. To men she gives swift horses and strong comrades, if duly invoked and worshipped. We have already seen how the heroes of old days, Yima, Thraetaona, Kereçaçpa, Kava Uça, Kava Huçrava, Vistaçpa, sacrificed horses, cows, and smaller cattle to Ardviçura, in order to win victory over the evil spirits, the dragons, the giants, and the enemies of Iran (p. 32, 34 ff.). Zarathrustra asks the stainless Ardviçura what sacrifice he must offer to her, in order that Auramazda may not hold back his course in the height above the sun, that serpents may not injure the water by their sweat and poison. And Ardviçura gave command that prayer and sacrifice should be offered to her from the ascent of the sun till daybreak; the sacrifice was to be consumed by the sacrificers and priests in honour of the goddess; the impure, blind, dumb, and all afflicted with infirmities were to be kept far from it. "Come to me, come down, Ardviçura," is the invocation, "from the stars to the earth which Auramazda made; to thee, the excellent, mighty lords of the lands, the sons of the lords of the lands, will offer sacrifice."[187]

The divine mountain, on which the Ardviçura rises, is in the Avesta "the mighty navel of water (apam napal )," "in a course swift as the horse, Auramazda causes the water to stream forth from it." On this mountain is the deep lake Vourukasha, i. e. having wide shores, in which the waters collect together. Out of this lake the water-clouds rise, which are to bring the fertilising rain to the earth. Though the tropic storms are wanting in Iran, the fertilising of the land by the water of the springs, rivers, and lakes, and by rain was of no less importance there than in the Panjab. Hence in the Avesta we again meet with the contest of the good spirits against Vritra, and in Iran also these spirits are opposed to the demons of blight. It is demons of this kind, which, according to the Avesta, keep back the rain-clouds above Vourukasha, and men say: "When will Tistrya (Sirius) rise, the bright, the majestic, the lord of the stars? When will the streams of water flow which are stronger than horses?" And Tistrya, whom Angromainyu slays not, nor the magicians and Pairikas, nor the magicians among men, gleams forth from the navel of the waters; he runs to Lake Vourukasha like an arrow, in the form of a horse, a beautiful brilliant horse, with yellow ears, and golden horse-cloth. Auramazda and Mithra prepare the way for him. Ashi vanguhi and Parendi follow in his wake with swift chariots. There goes to meet him the Daeva Apaosha, i. e. the witherer, in the form of a black, bald horse, with bald ears, bald back and tail, and ugly brand. For three days and three nights they struggle; and the Daeva Apaosha scares away the brilliant Tistrya from Lake Vourukasha for the distance of a Hathra. And Tistrya speaks and says: "If men honour me with the sacrifice named by name, with duly performed sacrifice, and prayer, then at the appointed time I shall come to the pure men; hostile chariots and uplifted banners will not come nigh to the Arian lands, and I shall have gained the strength of ten horses, ten bulls, ten mountains, and ten flowing waters." And Auramazda sacrificed to Tistrya and brought him that strength, and Tistrya fought with the Daeva Apaosha till midday, and conquered and overpowered him, and scared him away from Vourukasha. And Tistrya announced blessing for the waters and the trees; the streams of the waters will come to you without opposition, the cloud rises out of Lake Vourukasha, and the vapours gather above on Mount Hendava in the midst of Lake Vourukasha, and Tistrya drives forth the vapours, the pure ones, whence clouds are formed, and the strong wind drives clouds and rain to the villages and hamlets, to the seven Kareshvare (the seven parts of the earth). And Auramazda gave command to Zarathrustra that the Arian lands should offer sacrifice to Tistrya, should sprinkle sacrificial rice, and sacrifice a bright, light-hued, Haoma-coloured animal in order that he might withstand the Pairika Dushyairya (i. e. blight). "If I had not created Tistrya," Auramazda says, "this Pairika would have carried on war day and night, but Tistrya binds her with two and three fetters." "We praise Tistrya, the brilliant majestic star, which drives away the Pairika; he blows her away from Lake Vourukasha; then the clouds draw up, spreading themselves afar, which contain the fertilising water."[188]

Another spirit which fights against the demons in the Avesta is called Çraosha. On the divine mountain stands "his triumphant dwelling with a thousand pillars, on the topmost height of the great mountain, illumined within with a light of its own, decked with stars without;" his chariot is drawn by four spotless horses, which are swifter than clouds, swifter than winds, swifter than storms, swifter than birds with strong wings. A strong, well-armed, victorious youth, the strongest and swiftest among young men, who fears not the Daevas, and before whom they fly in terror to the darkness, Çraosha is the companion of Mithra; with him he overthrows the ranks of the hosts with whom Mithra is angry (p. 111). Thrice in each day he comes to smite the Daevas, with the axe of a woodman in his hand. Thus he fights against the evil Angromainyu, against Aeshma, and the Daevas Kunda, Banga, and Vibanga; thus he forces the conquered Daevi Druj to answer him. In the dark he is wakeful against the evil ones; he protects the world from them when the sun has set; in each night he comes thrice upon the earth with his weapons in his hand. About the third watch of the night he arouses the bird Parodarsh, i. e. the cock, that by his cry he may scare away the goblins of the night, and may banish the Daevi Bushyançta, which holds men imprisoned in sleep.[189] Çraosha, moreover, protects the sacrifices which are offered to the good gods, and which the evil one would carry away or defile. One of the priests who took part in the sacred ceremonies held a club, the Çraosha-club, in his hand, in order to scare the demons and keep them back. Of the two instruments which in the book of the law are used for flagellation, and by which the evil spirits are driven from the bodies of men, one is called the Çraosha-whip (Çraosha charana ).

We remember the numerous hymns of the Veda which celebrate the benefits conferred upon men by Agni, the spirit of fire, who is born from the double wood, and descends to earth in the lightning from the water-bed of the storm-cloud; the glow of this bright youth preserves men from beasts of prey, from murderers and evil spirits, helps the gods to victory, and contends in battle in the van; at the same time a royal house-lord and priest, Agni is in the Veda the upholder of the religious worship, the mediator between heaven and earth (IV. 40). The Avesta is filled with similar conceptions, though less poetical in form. Here the power as victorious of fire against the demon takes the first place. We saw that Mithra's chariot carried the kindled fire. "The sacred, strong fire" is invoked as a "warrior," as a "protector," as a slayer of the evil spirits, as the giver of good. To whatever side, we are told in the book of the law, the wind carries the smoke of the fire, it comes back thence as a slayer of thousands. "Happy is the man," we are told in an invocation, "to whom thou comest in strength, O Fire, son of Auramazda, more friendly than the friendliest, worthy beyond others of supplication. O Fire, we approach thee with perfect purity, with a good spirit; mayest thou come down to us bringing help."[190] He who uses dry selected wood for the fire, him the fire blesses, saying: "May herds of cattle gather round thee, and abundance of men; may all things succeed according to the wish of thy soul. Live out thy life happily to the full extent to which thou wilt live. The fire speaks with all those for whom it shines the whole night through, and cooks food; from all it demands good nourishment. The fire looks on the hands of all who come; what does the friend bring to the friend, he who approaches to him who sits alone?[191]" The Gathas of the Avesta also speak of the pieces of wood for friction, out of which springs the fire that shows the way;[192] and in another passage we hear of the fire Urvazista which dwells in wood. The Avesta distinguishes between the fire Çpenista, i. e. the house-lord, the hearth-fire (it is the same name that is given to the hearth-fire in India), the most victorious fire Verethraghna, which slays all the demons, and by which, according to the custom of the Parsees, the fires of the hearth must be renewed year by year, and the fire of lightning, which is called Vazista. This last, which comes down direct from heaven, is the "most sacred of all fires, which slays the demon Çpenjaghra."[193] In the Avesta the priests are called Athravas, a name which, no doubt, goes back to the worship of fire (athar ); among the Indians Atharvan entices the firefrom the wood, and together with Manu and Dadhyanch kindles the first sacrificial fire; the fourth Veda is called after him (IV. 280). In the Avesta also the red glowing fires, which gleamed on the earth in the days of King Yima, are repeatedly mentioned (p. 32); it extols "the brilliance of the Arian lands," denotes the fire-priests as possessors of the true faith, and assures us that what is right may be known from the clear, blazing flames.[194]

The sacrifice offered by the Arians beyond the Indus to Indra, the Maruts, and spirits of light, to strengthen them against the demons, the draught prepared from the Soma, is known to us; we have shown how this Soma which strengthens the gods became itself a god in the fancy of the Indians—a mighty nourisher and sustainer of the gods. The same custom and deity are found in the Avesta, only the name has become Haoma, according to the phonetic laws of the Bactrian language. The legend has already shown us what importance was ascribed in Iran to the worship of the god Haoma, and the sacrifice of this liquor. Yima was born to Vivanghana as a reward because he had first poured out the Haoma and worshipped the god. To Athwya, the second worshipper of Haoma, Thraetaona was born; and to Thrita, the third, Kereçaçpa, the hero (p. 27, 28). To Zarathrustra, who was born to Pourushaçpa for a similar service, when he is dressing the sacred fire at the break of dawn, and singing the sacred hymns, the god Haoma appears: "Who art thou," asks Zarathrustra, "who appearest to my sight as the most perfect in the corporeal world, with thy brilliant, immortal body?" Haoma answered him: "I am the pure Haoma, who protect men from evil. Call on me, press out my juice in order to enjoy me; praise me as all other fire-priests praise me." Then said Zarathrustra: "Supplication to Haoma! Haoma, the good, is well-created; duly-created is he, and gives health; he bestows kindness, is victorious, and of golden colour. Thy wisdom, O golden one, I praise; thy strength, thy victory, thy healing power, thy greatness. I praise the mountains, the high ones, where thou, Haoma, growest; I praise the earth, the wide and patient, thy mother, O pure Haoma. Mayest thou grow on the paths of the birds. To the horsemen, who spur their horses, Haoma gives power and strength; to the maidens who have long remained unmarried, he gives true and vigorous husbands, gifted with good understanding, and to wives beautiful children and a pure posterity. To those who repeat the Naçkas (the chapters of the Avesta) he gives sanctity and greatness. Praise to thee, Haoma; thou knowest the words which are spoken with truth. Praise to thee, Haoma, who by thine own power art a mighty king. To thee Auramazda first gave the girdle glittering with stars; girt with this thou lingerest on the summits of the mountains in order to maintain in sincerity the commands of the sacred sayings. O Haoma, lord of the house, of the village, of the land, lord of wisdom, I call on thee for greatness and victory, for favour to my body, and rich food. O thou who art of golden colour, I entreat thee for skill and power, passing through the whole body, for beauty and health, for prosperity and increase, for greatness spreading over the whole form. The first boon for which I entreat thee, O Haoma, who removest death, is that I may attain to the excellent habitation of the saints, the bright dwelling where there is abundance of all good things; the second boon is that this body may endure; the third, that my life may be long; the fourth, that I may go through the earthpowerful and glad, troubling the tormentors, and slaying the Druj; the fifth is that I may walk victorious on the earth and slay the evil. For this thing also, as a sixth boon, O Haoma, who removest death, I entreat thee: may I be the first to see the thief, the murderer, and the wolf: may none of these previously see me. Keep far from us the hatred of those who hate us; tear out the hearts of those who give poison. If in this house, this place, this village, this sacrifice, there is a man who does harm, take from him the power to go, obscure his reason, break asunder his heart with the commandment. Let him not be mighty in the feet, let him not be mighty in the hands. O Haoma, I make a prayer to thee, that thou mayest go a sovereign lord through the worlds, triumphing over hatred and the evil. Thou shouldest triumph over the hatred of all who hate thee, over the hatred of the Daevas and men, the evil spirits and magicians, the perverse, blind, and dumb, the two-footed murderers and insidious creatures, the four-footed wolves, and the numerous hosts which creep and fly."[195]

Further, we find in the Avesta that the "priest" offers Haoma to Mithra, Çraosha, and Drvaçpa on the divine mountain.[196] The plant of which this god is the genius, grows, according to the books of the Parsees, as white heavenly Haoma only on the tree Gaokerena, i. e. the heavenly tree which stands on the divine mountain or in the spring Ardviçura; the yellow Haoma which grows upon the earth is only a copy or descendant of the white Haoma. In Iran also the preparation and expression of the Haoma juice is accompanied by a long and minute ritual; and the offering of the sacrifice, which is still performed among the Parsees of India, requires long invocations and responses between the celebrant and the ministering priests. At the present day the Parsees send from time to time one of their priests to Kerman in order to bring from their ancient home twigs of Haoma for the sacrifice.

The coincidence which we find above, in the forms of the legend, between the Avesta and the Veda—Vivanghana, Yima, Athwya, Thrita, Kereçaçpa, and Uça are found in both—is not less marked in the conceptions of the gods and their functions, and in the character of the worship. There can be no doubt that the Arians of Iran believed themselves to be protected and injured by the same spirits as the Arians in the Panjab. If on the Indus invocations were addressed to Vritrahan, Vayu, the Maruts, and Mitra, in Iran men prayed to Verethraghna, Vayu, and Mithra. In both places Vritra and Ahi are the opponents of the god of light; in both fire was worshipped; in both the power of the sacrificial liquor was elevated into a mighty life-giving god. Among the Indians, as we saw, the priest who addresses the invocation to the god at the sacrifice is called Hotar; in the Avesta the Zaotar utters the prayers. Further coincidences in the number and nature of the gods, in the worship, in the laws and forms of purification, in the ceremonial, and even in the shape of the universe, will show themselves as we proceed. It is true that differences may also be found. Many of the numerous spirits of the Rigveda are wanting in the Avesta; and again, some spirits in the Avesta, such as Anahita, Çraosha, Tistrya, are unknown to the Indians. Variations such as these must occur where there has been a separate development from a common root. But the factors in the coincidence of the most important forms of the gods and heroes, and the distinctive modes of worship, in the Avesta and the Rigveda, the very oldest monument of the Arians in India, are so great that any doubt whether the Avesta remained free from alterations and influences of an alien or later nature in the revision under Shapur II., is entirely removed, and we know that we possess in it the remains of an original document of Iran, going back beyond the time of Cyrus. In the Avesta we have before us the faithful expression of the ancient Iranian faith. Though not in its original form this result is the more certain, because on the one hand some deities, as for instance Mithra, and some myths like that of Yima, exhibit older forms in the Avesta than in the Rigveda, while in others we have almost an identity of language between the two. In the Avesta as in the Veda the Soma is praised as "gold-coloured;" in both fire is the "house-lord;" the sun goes on his "path free from dust;" the power of the gods is increased by the sacrifice (p. 120). In both one god offers sacrifice to another, in order to strengthen him; and the invocations of the Avesta, like those of the Rigveda, ask for health and long life for the suppliant; for possessions and wealth and favour, for the power to see the thief, the murderer, and the wolf before they are seen by him.


[178]"Gah Ushahin," 5; "Mihr Yasht," 13, 143.

[179]"Mihr Yasht," 118.

[180]Pouruta may be referred to the Παρυηται of Ptolemy, whom he places in the north of Arachosia.

[181]Cf. "Mihr Yasht," 127, where the boar is not Verethraghna but the "curse of the sage."

[182]Windischmann, "Mithra; Abhl. für Kunde des Morgenlandes," 1, 1 ff.

[183]Haug, "Essays," p. 185. The Sassanids also carry the club now called guzr.

[184]"Yasht Bahram," 57-62. Burnouf, "Commentaire sur le Yaçna," p. 285.

[185]"Ram Yasht," 43-57.

[186]"Aban Yasht," 64 ff.; "Yaçna," 74.

[187]Hang, "Essays," p. 179. The passages given in the text from the Aban Yasht, notwithstanding the swelling breasts, shows how definitely the form of Anahita belongs to the Iranian conception, how peculiarly this goddess of fountains is represented in this form, and how intimately connected she is with the whole Iranian system of the boon of water, and the legends of the heroes. A brass tablet found at Grächwyl in the canton of Berne, which exhibits the Persian Artemis with swelling breasts, surrounded by four lions, with a bird of prey on her head and serpents instead of ears, and wings on the shoulders, has decided J. Stickel ("De monumento Graechwyliano") to regard the Persian Artemis as identical with the Semitic goddess of birth. This tablet is due to the syncretism of Roman times. Certain similarities between the Syrian goddess of birth and fertility, Mylitta-Derceto, and the Persian goddess of water, might lead to such a syncretism even under the Achæmenids, and this coincidence might determine Artaxerxes Mnemon to erect images of Anahita in Ecbatana and Susa after the pattern of the Semites. Beros. fragm., 16 ed. Müller, and below.

[188]"Tistar Yasht," 24 ff., 40, 49-58.

[189]"Yaçna," 56; "Vend." 18, 39.

[190]"Vend." 8, 248-250; "Yaçna," 26, 61, 23; "Yasht Farvardin," 77.

[191]"Vend." 18, 57-63, 19, 134.

[192]Roth, "Ueber Yaçna, 31," Tübingen, 1876, s. 6, 20.

[193]"Vend." 19, 135; "Yaçna," 17, 69.

[194]"Yaçna," 31, 3, 19.

[195]"Yaçna," 9, 10, according to Burnouf, "Journ. Asiat." 1844-1846. Cf. Spiegel "Avesta," 2, 68 ff.

[196]"Gosh Yasht," 17; "Mihr Yasht," 88; "Yaçna," 56, 8.