Zoroastrianism - Amesha Spentas or Ameshaspands

Zarathushtra or Zoroaster, the Founder of Zoroastrianism

by Jayaram V

In a general sense, the Amesha Spentas or Ameshaspands are the effulgent luminaries or bountiful immortals created by Ahura Mazda from his own aura, and include all the ahuras, archangels, guardian spirits and universal beings. But in a more restrictive sense, the Amesha Spentas are the six immortal beings created by Ahura Mazda in the spiritual realm to protect the worlds from the evil deeds of Ahirman or Angra Mainyu and his army of evil spirits. In an abstract sense, the Amesha Spentas are the personifications of the various attributes of Ahura Mazda Himself. Of the six Amesha Spentas three are masculine and three are feminine.

From an ethical perspective, the Amesha Spentas serve as the symbols or ideals of purity and divinity for the human beings upon earth, which they can actualize within themselves through practice and worship to guard themselves against evil. Spenta means increasing or growing. The Amesha Spentas help Zoroastrian worshippers and people of the faith to grow or increase in themselves the good qualities represented by them individually. The Zoroastrian texts, especially the Gathas, extol the Amesha Spentas as universal beings or immortal beings who were created by Ahura Mazda in the Infinite Time immediately after he had a confrontation with Ahirman. The six Amesha Spentas along with their qualities are described below.

Vohu Manah or Vohuman represents the quality of good mind or good thoughts and righteous thinking in the invisible realm. In the visible or material world he is the protector of cattle and also represented by them. According to the Zoroastrian calendar, the 2nd day of the month and the 11th month of the year are dedicated to him. Human beings can increase the qualities of Vohuman in themselves through proper speech, proper discourse and by keeping animals properly, taking care of them and the cattle-master, admitting the male and not slaughtering the young (Denkard Book 9 and Fargard 5). Vohumna prepares the list of good deeds performed by souls at the time of their departure from the material plane, which is used at the Chinawad bridge to decide whether they should be led to the heaven or hell.

Asha Vahishta represents the qualities of truth, fairness and justice in the invisible or spiritual realm and the element of fire in the material world. He is associated with the principle of Asha or good (moral, righteous) order. The association of fire with truth is probably rooted in the ancient tradition of using fire to test the innocence or truthfulness of those who were accused of some guilt. According to Zoroastrian beliefs, Asha Vahistha will be present on the Judgment Day, along with God, when the dead are resurrected and every soul is subjected to a final judgment. Humans can increase His qualities within themselves by offering hymns of praise, sacrifices and prayers and by practicing the three commandments. According to the Zoroastrian calendar, the third day of the month and the second month of the year are dedicated to Asha Vahishta.

Kshatra Vairya represents in the spiritual realm the heroic power God and the kingdom to come. In the material world Kshatra Vairya symbolizes strength, power and the hard quality of metals. He is strength and valor personified. His strength is the strength of righteousness with which evil can be driven out.

Aramaiti is a feminine entity among the Amesha Spentas. She is referred as the daughter of Ahura Mazda. Aramaiti represents the qualities of service, kindness, faith, devotion, and serenity in the spiritual realm. In the material plane Aramaiti personifies, the earth, fertile land and sacred places. During the ceremonies, she is invoked to purify the ritual place. Her help is also sought during the purchase of a new land or a new building. Being a female entity, Aramaiti represents the ideal womanhood for Zoroastrian women, representing the divine virtues of loving kindness, peace, selfless service and dutifulness.

Haurvatat is also a feminine entity. like Aramaiti, representing qualities of wholeness and perfection in the spiritual world. She personifies the element of water in the material plane. She also associated with after life, wholeness, health and prosperity. Haurvatat and Ameretat are usually referred together as twins. In the Zoroastrian texts she Haurvatat also associated frequently with three lesser divinities (yaztas), namely vayu (wind), manthra (chant) and fravashis (guardian spirits). The sixth day of the month and third month of the year in the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated to her.

Ameretat represents the quality of immortality in spiritual plane. In the material world, she exemplifies the plants. Like Aramaiti and Haurvatat, Ameretat is also a feminine entity. The seventh day of the month and fifth month of the year in the Zoroastrian calendar are dedicated to Ameretat.

The representative qualities and earth symbols of the Amesha Spentas are summarized in the following table.

NameRepresentative qualityEarthly SymbolFire Symbol
Asha VahishtaJustice and TruthFire
Vohu ManahGood thoughts and Righteousness. He is also the protector of cattle.Cattle
Kshatra VairyaCreative power of God. He also represents the kingdom to come.Metal.
AramaitiDevotionEarth
HaurvatatPurity, WholenessWater
AmeretatImmortalityPlants

Excerpts From Zoroastrian Texts On Amesha Spentas

Khorda Avesta Haft Amahraspand Yasht

1. To Ahura Mazda, bright and glorious, and to the Amesha-Spentas;

To Vohu-Mano; to Peace, whose breath is friendly, and who is more powerful to destroy than all other creatures; to the heavenly Wisdom, made by Mazda, and to the Wisdom acquired through the ear, made by Mazda;

2.To Asha-Vahishta, the fairest; to the much-desired Airyaman; to the instrument made by Mazda: and to the good Saoka, with eyes of love, made by Mazda and holy;

To Khshathra-Vairya; to the metals; to Mercy and Charity.

3. To the good Spenta-Armaiti, and to the good Rata, with eyes of love, made by Mazda and holy; To Haurvatat, the master; to the prosperity of the seasons and to the years, the masters of holiness; And to Ameretat, the master; to fatness and flocks; to the plenty of corn; and to the powerful Gaokerena, made by Mazda.

Yasna 1

2. I announce (and) carry out (this Yasna) to Vohu Mano, and to the Highest Asha, and to Khshathra Vairya, and to Spenta Armaiti, and to the two, the Haurvatat and Ameretat, to the body of the Kine, and to the Kine's Soul, and to the Fire of Ahura Mazda, that one who more than (all) the Amesha Spentas has made most effort (for our succor)!

Yasna 4

3. Yea, further, we present (them to the Bountiful Immortals with an especial gift) these thoughts well thought, these words well spoken, these deeds well done, these Haomas, Myazdas, Zaothras, and this Baresman spread with sanctity, the flesh, and Haurvatat (who guards the water), and Ameretatat (who guards the plants and wood), even the flesh, Haoma and Parahaoma, the wood-billets, the perfume, and this their lordship and their sanctity, and this chieftainship, this prayer for blessing, the heard recital of the Gathas, and the well-said Mathras.

4. We offer with our celebrations, and we announce them (of a verity) to the Bountiful Immortals, those who exercise their rule aright, and who dispose (of all) aright, the ever-living, ever-helpful, the male divinities among their number who dwell with the Good Mind, [and the female ones as well].

Yasna 7

1. With a complete and sacred offering [Ashi] I offer and I give this meat-offering, and (with it) Haurvatat (who guards the water), and Ameretatat (who guards the plants and the wood), and the flesh of the Kine of blessed gift, for the propitiation of Ahura Mazda, and of the Bountiful Immortals (all, and) for the propitiation of Sraosha (Obedience) the blessed, endowed with sanctity, who smites with the blow of victory, and who causes the settlements to advance.

Yasna 12

I choose the good Spenta Armaiti for myself; let her be mine. I renounce the theft and robbery of the cow, and the damaging and plundering of the Mazdayasnian settlements.

Yasna 16

And we worship the former religions of the world devoted to Righteousness which were instituted at the creation, the holy religions of the Creator Ahura Mazda, the resplendent and glorious. And we worship Vohu Manah (the Good Mind), and Asha Vahishta (who is Righteousness the Best), and Khshathra-vairya, the Kingdom to be desired, and the good and bountiful Armaiti (true piety in the believers), and Haurvatat and Ameretat (our Weal and Immortality).

THE BOOK OF ARDA VIRAF

(1)Afterward, arose Vohuman, the archangel, from a throne made of gold, (2) and he took hold of my hand; with the words 'good thought' and 'good word' and 'good deed,' he brought me into the midst of Ohrmazd and the archangels and other holy ones, (3) and the guardian angels of Zartosht Spitama, Kai-Vishtasp, Jamasp, Isadvastar the son of Zartosht, and other upholders and leaders of the religion, (4) than whom I have never seen any one more brilliant and excellent.

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