Persian mythology

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The Persian Arts

Persian mythology is the collective term for the beliefs and practices of the culturally and linguistically related group of ancient peoples who inhabited the Iranian Plateau and its borderlands, as well as areas of Central Asia from the Black Sea to Khotan (modern Ho-t'ien, China).


[edit] Key texts

The central collection of Persian mythology is the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, written over a thousand years ago. Ferdowsi's work draws heavily, with attribution, on the stories and characters of Mazdaism and Zoroastrianism, not only from the Avesta, but from later texts such as the Bundahishn and the Denkard as well.

[edit] Religious background

The characters of Persian mythology almost always fall into one of two camps. They are either good, or they are evil. The resultant discord mirrors the ancient conflict, which in Persian mythology is based on the Zoroastrian concept of the dual emanation of Ahura Mazda (Avestan, or Ormuzd in later Persian). Spenta Mainyu is the source of constructive energy, while Angra Mainyu is the source of darkness, destruction, sterility, and death.

Found in abundance in Persian mythology are the daēva (Avestan, Persian: div), meaning 'celestial' or 'bright'. These divinities were worshipped in pre-Zoroastrian Mazdaism, and as in Vedic religions, the adherents of the pre-Zoroastrian form of Mazdaism considered the daēva holy and sacred beings. It is only after the religious reforms of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) that the term daēva became associated with demons. Even then the Persians living south of the Caspian Sea continued to worship the daeva and resisted pressure to accept Zoroastrianism, and legends that involve daēva survive to this day. For instance, that of the legend of the Div-e Sepid (white daēva) of Mazandaran.

Moreover, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman in Persian, once the Zoroastrian epitome of evil, lost its original Zoroastrian/Mazdaist identity in later Persian literature, and was ultimately depicted as a div. Religious depictions of Ahriman made in the era following the Islamic invasion show Ahriman as a giant of a man with spotted body and two horns.

[edit] Good and Evil

Image:Tus shahnameh.jpg
Relief in Tus depicting popular mythical stories of Iran.

The most famous legendary character in the Persian epics and mythology is Rostam. On the other side of the fence is Zahhak, a symbol of despotism who was finally defeated by Kaveh the Blacksmith who led a popular uprising against him. Zahhak was guarded by two vipers which grew out of his shoulders. No matter how many times they were beheaded, new heads grew on them to guard him. The snake like in many other Oriental mythologies was a symbol of evil. But many other animals and birds appear in Iranian mythology and especially the birds were signs of good omen. Most famous of these is Simorgh, a large beautiful and powerful bird, Homa, a royal bird of victory whose plume adorned the crowns and Samandar, the phoenix.

Pari (Avestan: Pairika), considered a beautiful though evil woman in early mythology, gradually became less evil and more beautiful until the Islamic period she became a symbol of beauty similar to the houris of Paradise. However another evil woman, Patiareh, now symbolizes whores and prostitutes.

[edit] Related subjects

Image:Pegasus iran.jpg
Parthian era Bronze plate with Pegasus depiction ("Pegaz" in Persian). Excavated in Masjed Soleiman.

[edit] References

  • Iran almanac and book of facts 1964-1965. Fourth edition, new print. Published by Echo of Iran, Tehran 1965.
Shahnameh by Ferdowsi
Abtin | Arash | Afrasiab | Esfandiyar | Fereydun | Goodarz | Gordafarid | Hushang | Jamshid | Kaveh | Kai Khosrow | Keyumars | Manuchehr | Rakhsh | Roham | Rostam | Rostam Farrokhzad | Rudaba | Saam | Shaghad | Simurgh | Siavash | Sohrab | Tahmineh | Tahmuras | Zal | Zahhak
Iran | Mazandaran | Turan

[edit] External links

Iran Almanac 2006 is also published. http://www.iranalmanac.comca:Mitologia persa de:Iranische Mythologie es:Mitología persa fa:اسطوره‌های ایران fr:Mythologie persane he:מיתולוגיה פרסית ku:Mîtolojiya Îranê ja:イラン神話 ro:Mitologie persană sv:Persisk mytologi tr:Pers mitolojisi

Persian mythology

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