Zoroastrianism - The Old Iranian Calendars, Part 5
The Second Reform
The positions of the gahambars in the Y.A. calendar are not easy to explain and have been the subject of much discussion. If the Y.A. year originally (i.e. at the time of its official adoption and the institution of the intercalation system) began with the vernal equinox and the month of Frawardin, the gahambar of hamaspathmaidyem would have then fallen on the last day (or days) of winter, but then maidyoshahem (or the midsummer festival) with its traditional place on 15th Tir would not have corresponded either with the middle of the well-known summer of three months or with the middle of the bigger summer of six months, i.e. the brighter and warmer half of the year from the vernal to the autumnal equinox.
The explanation proposed by Cama 49 for the apparent lack of harmony in the arrangement of the places of the gahambars in the year, which was considered for some time by most scholars to be satisfactory, is also open to some objection. Cama tried to find the solution of this rather peculiar arrangement by ascribing the institution of the different gahambars to different periods. According to him, in the early times, when the year was divided into two parts only, namely a summer of seven months and a winter of five months, four gahambars, viz. maidyoshahem, ayathrem, maidyarem, and hamaspathmaidyem were created as the feasts of the middle and the end of the said Avestan summer (hama) and winter (zyam or zayana) respectively. But the other two, i.e. maidyozarem and Paitishahem were introduced in later times after the well known four seasons of the year, each of about three months, had come in use, thus marking the middle point of the spring and the end of the summer (of three months) respectively. Apparently Cama also believed that the Mazdayasnian year began originally on the vernal equinox, as his explanation of the places of maidyozarem and paitishahem shows.
That the maidyoshahem originally corresponded, as is implied by the literal meaning of the word, to the middle point of the Zoroastrian summer of seven months is, no doubt, indisputable,50 though this "Zoroastrian summer" meant only the 210 days' interval between hamaspathmaidyem and ayathrem, without implying by any means a stable correspondence between the first of these two gahambars and the day immediately preceding the vernal equinox. It is also true that the gahambars were not all instituted simultaneously. Also it must be admitted that in the later Sasanian times, as well as in the early centuries of Islam, the original position of the vihêjakîk month Frawardin considered as corresponding to the first month of the spring.51 But as stated above, this theory of the first day of (vihêjakîk ) Frawardin being on the vernal equinox does not agree with the statement of the author of the Bundahishn regarding the increasing of the night and decreasing of the day from maidyoshahem onwards, or with the epithets given to the gahambars in the Avesta (Visperad, 1.2; 2.2).
Maidyoshahem is described there as the time when the mowing of the grass takes place, paitishahem as the time of the harvest of the corn, and ayathrem as the season of driving the cattle home from summer pasturage (i.e. the time of retiring from the field into winter dwellings) and of the mating of the sheep (also Yasna, 1.9, 2.9, 3.11, 4.14). If these gahambars were originally celebrated, as the equinoctial theory of the new year implies, on the 150th, 180th, and 210th days after the vernal equinox, which dates correspond roughly to the 3rd July, 16th September, and 16th October respectively in the Gregorian calendar, the seasons would have been too far advanced in Iran for the agricultural and pastoral occupations attributed to them to have been carried out, as Marquart rightly pointed out in the case of the two latter (Untersuchungen, p. 205). Therefore we may reasonably hold to the description of maidyoshahem in the Bundahishn as the starting point of the shortening of the days and the lengthening of the nights, and put it on the summer solstice or the middle point of the longer summer (the warmer half of the year). We may also at the same time admit as correct the place given to this gahambar in the Mazdayasnian year in the Avesta, namely 15th Tir (Afrin Gahambar 7-12, Wolff's translation of the Avesta, p. 303).52 This agrees also with the place given to it in the Bundahishn, except that the latter book is less strict when it places the beginning of the shortening of the diurnal arc on the first day of the five festival days (11th Tir) instead of the last (15th), which is the real gahambar day.
Undoubtedly it was these considerations that led Roth 53 to suppose that the beginning of the old Iranian year (1st Frawardin) was originally on 8th March (Gregorian), and Bartholomae,54 Geiger,55 and others have followed him in this supposition.56 This comes to thirteen days before the vernal equinox. This was the position of the Y.A. year in the third quarter of the fifth century BC.
This theory explains satisfactorily many difficult points mentioned above, relating to apparent anomalies, and it agrees with almost all our data on this matter. The only remaining difficulties are in: (1) the passage of the Bundahishn indicating the equality of the length of the day and night at the time of the festival called hamaspathmaidyem, to which reference was made above, and (2) the meaning of the word maidyozarem, which is supposed to be mid-spring. Both these points, if they cannot be otherwise explained, may imply that the year began on the equinox, and could be advanced as evidence in support of that opinion. L. Gray tries to explain this inconsistency in the tradition by supposing that "the year originally began with the vernal equinox, and solsticial festivals were introduced later when the actual beginning of the year had receded by thirteen days (i.e. to 8th March)".57 But as the gahambars had nothing to do with the civil (Oshmurtîk) year before AD 1006, and as their places were fixed in the vihêjakîk or fixed religious year, they must have been established in the places given in the Afrin Gahambaraccording to their positions in one particular year, and not according to their individual positions in separate years. For if the place of Maidyozarem had been originally, on the forty-fifth day after the vernal equinox, it would have fallen on 28th Ardwahisht, when the beginning of the civil year had receded thirteen days in the tropic year.
Therefore all the six gahambars must have been stabilized in their traditional places in the (vihêjakîk) Y.A. year simultaneously when the intercalation was introduced. Consequently these places represent the positions which these season festivals happened to occupy in the civil or the vague year at that date, i.e. they had reached those places on account of the retrogression of the civil year against the tropical year. These festivals then became fixed, being celebrated always on the same days of the vihêjakîk or religious year, as registered in the Afrin Gahambar, and corresponded thus approximately always with the same astronomical positions in the tropic year but advanced in the civil year.58
The statement as to the equality of the day and night on hamaspathmaidyem occurring in the Bundahishn was in all probability due to a misunderstanding caused by the later popular belief in the equinoctial beginning of the original year, an opinion possibly having its origin in Zoroastrian mythology and cosmogony, as already stated, which also, in its turn, may have been influenced by the Babylonian zagmûg.59 As to the meaning of maidyozarem, even if it could be proved that the word zaremaya means spring, it is by no means certain that it represented strictly the astronomical spring. This is very unlikely, since such a notion (the division of the year into four equal parts as it is at the present day) hardly existed among the Avestan people.60 It may rather have been a name for the earlier part of the Avestan summer, which was seven months long, from hamaspathmaidyem till ayathrem. In the long interval between these last-named festivals some other holidays for rest and offering, besides maidyoshahem in the middle, may have been considered necessary. Therefore the forty-fifth day of this interval or the end of the first three units 61 of time reckoning was added to the already existing season festivals, and it was made a holiday of the season of milk, honey, and juice. Thus this gahambar was probably instituted much later than the other gahambars, just as the Indian vasanta (or vasara) was most probably introduced later than the other seasons. This Iranian festival which was celebrated sixty days before the summer solstice and corresponded to 24th April (Gregorian), was called maidyozarem or (roughly) the middle-point of spring in the popular (and not astronomical) sense of the word, i.e. the season of the revivification of nature and vegetation.62 It is curious that Thuravâhara, the name of the Old-Persian month, corresponding to the second Babylonian month Iyyâr, means also mid-spring, and that in 441 BC, when according to our conjecture the Y.A. calendar was made the official calendar of Persia, the first day of this month coincided with the 15th day of Ardwahisht, which has been stabilized as the vihêjakîk day of maidyozarem in the Mazdayasnian year.63 It must also be noted that the spring in most parts of Persia is very short and that the weather changes from cold to excessive heat with a short interval between the two.
The truth about the Old-Avestan season festivals is that although they had their fixed places in the tropic year, they had nothing to do with the well-known astronomical four seasons now in general use. None of them is based on one of the four main points of the tropic year (equinoxes and solstices) except maidyoshahem which, as the beginning of the year, corresponded in principle to the summer solstice and was the fundamental point of the year and the basis for the calculation of all other seasons. Maidyarem was not the name for the winter solstice, but since it was the middle point of the year, which is the meaning of its name, and came 180 days after maidyoshahem at the beginning of the second half-year, it fell naturally on (or strictly speaking about) the opposite solstice or the second pole of the year. Then counting backward and forward from maidyoshahem,64 the point 105 days or seven fortnights before it was made the first day of the Avestan summer, and the day preceding this last point was made a season festival called hamaspathmaidyem as the end of retirement, or the end of the off-season, and the beginning of outdoor or field work, and in the same way the point 105 days after maidyoshahem was considered as the end of the summer (the festival of ayathrem). Thus the Avestan winter began, in the same way, seventy-five days or five fortnights before maidyarem and ended seventy-five days after it. Consequently maidyoshahem became the middle point of the Avestan summer of seven months (mid-summer) which now had three festivals: one at the beginning (or, rather, the day preceding it), one at the end, and one at the middle. The winter, being shorter, was divided in two equal parts forming only two yâiryas (gahs), but the summer, being longer, a further division took place 65 and two more festivals were created, viz. the festival of the harvest (paitishahem), seventy-five days after maidyoshahem, and the festival of high spring or the season of milk, butter, honey, and blooming countryside (maidyozarem), sixty days before it.
Now it is possible that the Zoroastrian community, a considerable time after the adoption of the Egyptian calendar system, noticed a change in the position of their most important festivals. This change was bound to take place as a consequence of neglecting the necessary intercalation that was due on account of the omission, each year, of a quarter of a day by which the real solar year (tropic) exceeds the vague year. They realized then the necessity of some sort of intercalation which, while compensating for the accumulated shortages caused by omitted fractions would not interfere with the order of the days in the months, and would cause no divergence between the intercalated and the vague year in the names of the corresponding days. The addition of a thirteenth month to the year was already known to the Persians from the Babylonian calendar, also most probably from the Old-Persian and the Elamite, as well as perhaps from the Old-Avestan calendars. The intercalation of a month once each 120 years would bring back every day of a vague year to the same Julian day to which it had originally corresponded, though not exactly to its original place in the tropical year. The establishment of such an intercalation, which means the adoption of the vihêjakîk (fixed) year, was probably simultaneous with the transference of the year's commencement from the month Dai to the month Frawardin. Consequently the established correspondence between the Egyptian and Persian New Year was abandoned, and the Persian year began from that time not far from the Babylonian rêsh shatti and its feast zagmûg. This reform was an important step, and it was possibly connected with some special factors. The successive revolts of Egypt, the killing of the Persian Governor there, followed by a long struggle during the first years of Artaxerxes, and the hatred of the Egyptians for this monarch and his father on the one hand, and the growing intercourse and rapprochement between Persians and Babylonians on the other, are perhaps among the possible factors of the change.66 Artaxerxes I, whose residence was in Susa, where Nehemia took leave from him in 445 (Nehemia, 1.1), transferred it later (perhaps owing to the destruction of his palace by fire or to his conversion to a new faith (?)) to Babylon, where Nehemia found him again in 433 (Nehemia, 8.6).67 The court remained in Babylon apparently for the most part until Artaxerxes II moved again to Susa after 395.68 But besides this and similar reasons for the reform of the calendar, can we not seek the decisive factor in the conversion of the Achaemenian rulers to the Zoroastrian religion? If this supposition should prove to be correct, then it must have been on this occasion that a compromise was effected by which the Zoroastrian New Year's feast was brought more or less into harmony with the Babylonian zagmûg, and the Old-Persian feast of Mithra was taken into the Avestan calendar. Thus the court would have given up the Old-Persian and adopted the Mazdayasnian calendar except for the beginning of the year. In this last matter the Zoroastrian priests seem to have made a concession to the desire of the king by fixing the New Year near to the vernal equinox, and more particularly by the incorporation into the Mazdayasnian year, of the feast of Mithra, which appears to have been the greatest festival of the South-Western Iranians and of the Achaemenians, and by officially recognizing it. Also the Zoroastrian composition of some of the older Yashts of which (or at least of parts of which) a non-Zoroastrian or perhaps even pre-Zoroastrian nucleus may have already existed among the Magian communities of Media and Persia as hymns of praise to older Aryan deities or as mythological songs and epics, may have been connected with this epoch-making change. It was then that the incorporation of these materials in the supplemented and enlarged sacred book took place, as well as the adoption of the said ancient and non-Zoroastrian popular divinities such as Mithra, Anahita, Tishtrya, and Verethraghna (who were perhaps the Daevas of the early and pure Zoroastrian faith) into the religion and its revised canon.69
The Afrin Gahambar or, at any rate, its supplementary part dealing with the lengths of the gahs and with the days and months of the season festivals represents this period, and the basis of it at least must surely have been composed at this time, i.e. about 441 BC70 Although the contents of this Afrin are believed to be derived from the Hadokht Nask of the Avesta, that part of them which concerns the six seasons of the creation and their length, is repeated more fully in the cosmogonical chapters of the Gr. Bundahishn, which no doubt are based on the Damdad Nask of the lost Avesta. Through comparing a tract of the pseudo-Hippocratian Greek work (De hebdomadibus) with the material of the Gr. Bundahishn on microcosm and macrocosm taken from the said Damdad Nask, Albrecht Götze (Zeitschrift für Indologie u. Iranistik, ii, 1923, pp. 60 and 167) has proved that this nask must have been composed not later than the fifth century BC.71 (Reitzenstein proposes 430 as the lowest limit, Studien, p. 130 n.). Perhaps the absence of Mithra, Anahita, etc., in the inscriptions of early Achaemenian kings, including that of Artaxerxes I belonging to the early part of his reign, and the appearance of these deities in the next inscription of any length (that of Artaxerxes II) can also be explained by this theory,72 i.e. the conversion of the Achaemenians to Zoroastrianism between the two dates. The absence of the name of Zoroaster from the books of Herodotus (composed about 447 BC) and its mention in Alcibiades, i, of Plato (about 390 BC) may also indicate that the faith of the Iranian prophet had become the State religion during that interval.73
Further evidence supporting the same theory
The following considerations may help to make the date suggested as that of the second reform of the calendar more acceptable: --
1. Herodotus, who wrote his book in the early years of the second half of the fifth century BC, although he speaks of the Egyptian year and finds it preferable to the more complicated year of the Greeks (ii, 2; Rawlinson's translation, ii, 3), does not mention the Persian year as having the same simplicity as the Egyptian. It may be inferred from this omission, as Marquart has pointed out, that Herodotus did not know the Y.A. calendar of the Persians. Ctesias's mention of the feast of Mithra in Persia, at which even the king could get intoxicated,74 is, on the other hand, possible evidence of the existence of the new calendar to which the festival he thus names (most probably the well-known Mithrakan or Mithrakana of Strabo) apparently belonged, in the last years of the fifth century BC when he was in Persia.75
2. The last of the intercalations (of a month each 120 years) took place, according to Biruni (AB., pp. 33, 45, 118, and 119) in the reign of the Sasanian king Yazdegird I (AD 399-420). This was the seventh intercalation when the seventh month (Mihr) had to be repeated according to the established rule. On this occasion two successive intercalations (the seventh and eighth) were carried out together, one which had already fallen due and the other in anticipation. This double intercalation had to be effected by repeating the months Mihr and Aban in the same year, making it a year of fourteen months. Therefore the epagomenae were placed at the end of Aban, where they have remained till AD 1006, and in some provinces until much later. Now the seventh 120-yearly intercalation must necessarily have been on the 840th year after the institution of the intercalation. As a matter of fact, the 840th year after 441 BC, the date we have assumed for the establishment of the vihêjakîk year, is AD 399, which is also the first year of Yazdegerd's reign. It is true that Biruni is not consistent in his statements in his different books about the date and number of the last and double intercalation. Apparently he considers this intercalation in his above-mentioned book (AB., pp. 33 and 119) as the eighth and ninth together and he says that all traditions are unanimous in putting it in the reign of Yazdegird I, but it is to be implied from his calculations m the Qânûn-i Mas`ûdî (composed about twenty years later) that this last intercalation was the seventh and eighth together, and he asserts that it was carried out during the reign of Firuz (AD 457-84). Nevertheless, there are reasons for believing that from a chronological point of view, his first report, in so far as the time is concerned (but not the number), is accurate, though his last statement may refer to another small reform possibly effected during the reign of Firuz.76
3. The Mazdayasnian tradition, though it ignores the earlier Achaemenian kings before Artaxerxes I (Longimanus), refers many times to the latter monarch (Ardashir diraz-dast) and his successors as good Zoroastrians. According to the Vohuman Yasht (II, 16-17), this king "makes the religion current in the whole world".77 Jackson in his Zoroastrian Studies (p. 168) says that "concerning the later Achaemenian rulers everybody is agreed that Artaxerxes I, II, III and Darius Codomannus were true adherents to the faith of the prophet of ancient Iran". Therefore it is certainly reasonable to presume that the adoption and official recognition of the Mazdayasnian calendar was the work of the first Zoroastrian king of Iran.
4. The feast of Mithra or baga 78 was, no doubt, one of the most popular if not the greatest of all the festivals in ancient Iran, where it was celebrated with the greatest attention. This was originally a pre-Zoroastrian and old Aryan feast consecrated to the sun god, and its place in the Old-Persian calendar was surely in the month belonging to this deity. This month was called Bâgayâdi or Bâgayâdish and almost certainly corresponded to the seventh Babylonian month Tishrîtu, the patron of which was also Shamash, the Babylonian sun god.79 This month was, as has already been stated, probably the first month of the Old-Persian year, and its more or less fixed place was in the early part of the autumn. The feast was in all probability Old-Persian rather than Old- or Young-Avestan, and it was perhaps the survival of an earlier Iranian New Year festival dating from some prehistoric phase of the Aryo-Iranian calendar, when the year began at the autumnal equinox. It was connected with the worship of one of the oldest Aryan deities (Baga-Mithra), of whom traces are found as far back as in the fourteenth century BC. The fact that Mithra and similar ancient deities are not mentioned in the Gathas, that they are strangers to the original and pure religion of Zoroaster, that even probably they were considered by this religion as Daevas or demons, and that they were admitted into the Mazdayasnian religion only in later times as lesser divinities of the Iranian pantheon,80 their hymns having been incorporated into the "recent Avesta", might support this thesis. The month Bâgayâdi was certainly the month in which the feast of Baga usually or often fell. It was on the 10th day of this month in the year 522 BC that (according to the Behistun inscription, i, 55) the Magian usurper Gaumata was killed by Darius and his associates, and his illegitimate rule was overthrown. According to Herodotus, iii, 79-80 (Rawlinson translation, vol. 2, p. 393), this day was celebrated later each year as the feast of Magophonia or the day of slaughter of the Magi, on which day the Magians did not dare to show themselves abroad. He says that "the Persians observe this day with one accord, and keep it more strictly than any other in the whole year. It is then that they hold the great festival, which they call Magophonia", and he asserts that "this day is the greatest holy day that all Persians alike keep" (AD Godley's translation, vol. ii, pp. 103-4). It is very probable that the day chosen by the conspirators for carrying out their plot against the usurper was the same day as the great national feast of Baga worship, when the court was expected to indulge in pleasure and was less on its guard. We may, therefore, conclude that the Magophonia of Herodotus (and Ctesias) and the festival of Baga worship (or *Bagayâda according to Marquart's deduction) was in 522 BC on one and the same day, owing to the said coincidence of dates, as Gray is inclined to suppose.81 But there is no need to assume that the two words were identical, the former (Magophonia) being a misunderstood or misspelt form of the latter (*Bagayâda) as Marquart has proposed. As a matter of fact, the tenth day of Bâgayâdi which corresponded to the tenth or eleventh day of the Babylonian Tishrîtu was in 522 BC on or about autumnal equinox. The tenth day of Tishrîtu was in that year the 29th of Julian September,82 whereas the equinox was on the 30th of the same month.83 If Gaumata was killed on the eve of the festival, this latter can be supposed then to have been on the 11th of Bâgayâdi, i.e. exactly on the day of the equinox.84 Therefore it seems to me reasonable to suppose that the great feast of Baga with which the later (Y.A.) mithrakana and the modern Mihragan or mihrjân was certainly identical, was originally the day of the autumnal equinox. This equinox must then necessarily have fallen on the 16th day of the Y.A. month Mihr (the seventh month), at the time of the adoption of that Old-Persian festival in the new Y.A. calendar. This was, as a matter of fact, exactly the case in the years 445-442,85 when the first of Frawardin was on 17th March, or ten days before the vernal equinox, and the autumnal equinox on 28th September.
It was most probably about this time that the *bagayâda feast of the Old-Persian calendar was taken into the Y.A. year and was renamed Mithrakân. It is very natural to conjecture that this adoption was part of the calendar reform through which the Y.A. calendar replaced the system of the Old-Persian time reckoning. Thus again the Mazdayasnian month containing the feast of Mithra-baga was named after that deity Mithrahe-Mihr in the Persian calendar, and for the same reason the corresponding Armenian month bore the name of Mehekân, the Cappadocian month that of Mithri and the Khwarazmian month that of Omirê. The Sogdians, however, kept for this month in their parallel calendar a form of the Old-Persian name, calling their seventh month bagakânc (Arabicized faghakân).
Now taking the equinox of autumn as the starting point for the division of the year into four equal parts, as according to Epping 86 the Babylonians used to do, and putting it on 16th Mihr in one of the four years between 445 and 441, the conventional solstice day 87 would fall strictly in the middle of Tir, which is the traditional maidyoshahem, but the real solstice would fall on the 14th or 13th day of the month, i.e. on one of the famous Tiragan feasts, the Greater or the Lesser respectively, which may have been connected in origin with this correspondence. The conventional winter solstice would fall on the 16th or 17th day of the month Dai (the real solstice on 15th Dai), perhaps corresponding to the feast of Gâv-guthil (?) = ### which was also on the first day of the gahambar of maidyarem and paitishahem, the Avestan time of harvest in Iran, would fall on the 14th September (Julian), i.e. a fortnight before the end of the summer. In 441 the above-mentioned correspondence was in some cases perhaps less strict than in the others, but the difference was in each case only one day.88
It is a curious fact that many of the feasts connected with, and owing their origin to, the solar seasons and astronomical points of the year, have been transferred to the vague year, being detached from the tropic or fixed solar year, and attached to the civil year. Consequently they have remained in their original places in the latter, free from the effect of intercalation, and have receded against the tropic year about one day each four years. But though they have lost their true and original significance, nevertheless they continued to be celebrated always as marking the points they had originally occupied at the time of the official introduction of the Mazdayasnian calendar.89 Besides Mihragan, Tiragan, and Gâv-guthil (?) we have in the Persian feast Sada, in both Adar-jashn, in Ajgâr and two or three other Khwarazmian festivals, as well as perhaps in the Sogdian Mâkhîrajs and `Amas khwâreh (?) = ### (all described by Biruni), the same phenomena. This means that they are symbolic festivals surviving to mark the original seasonal points of the year, but no longer corresponding to them. Biruni distinguishes these feasts from the true season-festivals by calling them non-religious and the latter religious feasts.90 In spite of losing their original significance, the former have kept curiously enough some traces of that character.91 The Sada even literally has preserved the meaning relating to the original place of that festival, for the word means "the hundredth", and it was so named because of its having been originally on the hundredth day of the Zoroastrian winter which is five months, from the beginning of Aban to the end of Spandarmad. This feast was on the first day of the last third of winter, corresponding originally to 20th January (new style) 92 which is the first day of the second month of the astronomical winter (Aquarius) and the beginning of the severest part of the cold season in Iran. The Pahlavi commentary of the Vendidad (i, 4) expressly says that the month Vohuman (of course, the vihêjakîk month) is the season of the severest cold and that it is the heart of the winter. The above facts prove that the Sada, contrary to Biruni's statement (AB. Istanbul complete manuscript), was not instituted by Ardashir, but was rather a feast of much older origin.
It is also interesting to notice that traces of the historical events connected with *bagayâda or Magophonia, namely the deliverance of Persia from the yoke of a detested usurper (Gaumata) by a popular prince (Darius), are preserved (as Marquart has already remarked) in the Iranian tradition in the form of the legend of the blacksmith Kavehi and the noble prince Faridoon (Thraetaona), delivering Iran from the monstrous usurper Azhi-dahaka on the Mihragan day, as is related by Biruni and others.93 Similarly in the traditions relating to some of the other famous Iranian festivals, a vague memory of some ancient historical adventures of national importance seems to be preserved. For instance, Tiragan (the 13th day of the month Tir) is, according to the traditions, the day on which the Iranian nation was delivered from the Turanian domination under Afrasiyab (Franrasyan,94 and Gâv-guthil (?) or the 16th Dai was the day when Eranshahr was freed from the Turks and Faridoon returned the cow of Athfiân (Athwya) to its legitimate owner after dethroning and imprisoning of Bivarasf (Baevaraspa).95
It is at the same time also possible, and even probable, that while the feast of Baga or the equinox day in the years after 522 BC did not, of course, regularly fall on the 10th or 11th day of the Old-Persian month Bâgayâdi, and oscillated between 16th of the same month and 16th of the Old-Persian month preceding it (Babylonian Elûl), nevertheless the 10th (or 11th) day of Bâgayâdi was still kept as another popular feast and was celebrated regularly in the old Persian luni-solar calendar (presumably from 522 till 441 BC), now not as a festival in honor of Baga or as the beginning of autumn, but only as the anniversary of the overthrow of Magian rule. Thus both movable and immovable feasts continued to be observed side by side until about 441 BC when the Y.A. took the place of the Old-Persian calendar (the latter ceasing to exist). On this occasion both feasts were transferred to the Mazdayasnian year, and were fixed on the corresponding days of this year. The Baga's feast (or *Bagayâda) became the famous Mihragan (the lesser) on the 16th day of Mihr, to which it corresponded in 441, and the Magophonia (or as one can say in modern Persian Maghkushân), the 11th day of Bâgayâdi, which at that time (441) corresponded exactly to the 21st day of Mihr (3rd October), became Râm-rûz 96 or Greater Mihragan. This explains the tradition which makes Râm-rûz the day of the actual capture of Azhi-dahaka [Zohak] by Faridoon, whereas it attributes to Mihragan only the spreading of the first news of the rising of Faridoon against the tyrannical usurper. The feast of Baga used probably to be celebrated for five days, and Herodotus' story of five days continuation of the uproar after the Magi was killed, might be considered as confirmation of this. Since these five days fell incidentally in 441 just on the interval between this feast and Magophonia 97 the two feasts may have been linked together and made into one feast of five days with the first and last days as great festivals. The mention of both feasts by Ctesias 98 separately, however, points to a posterior date for this fusion.99
5. The date of the second reform of the Y.A. calendar when the New Year's Day was fixed near the vernal equinox, and the practice of the intercalation of one month each 120 years was instituted, is more likely to have been a year on which the beginning of the corresponding Babylonian year (rêsh-shatti) or the great feast connected with it (Zagmûg-Akitû) fell not far from the same equinox. Out of the years in the first decade of the second half of the fifth century BC, which are more or less suitable in other respects, only the years 441, 446, and 449 agree with this condition. The Babylonian New Year's Day in 441 was only four days after the equinox day (30th March), in 449 it was three days after that point (29th March), and in 446 it coincided exactly with the first day of Spring (26th March). In each of the remaining seven years the interval between the two (Zagmûg and the equinox) was much longer. For example in 443 this interval was twenty-six days. Of the three years suitable in this respect, the year 441 possesses other advantages also, as we have seen. Moreover in 441 the Babylonian New Year's Day, if it did not fall on the real equinox, corresponded according to their own compilation, to their conventional equinox, which was probably also fixed in the same year on the 30th March.
6. The feast of Mihragan was, in almost all Persian and Arabic literature, always generally considered as the first day of autumn. There are innumerable examples of this, which would take us too far afield to quote here. This is not only the case in the writings of the later part of the eleventh and the earlier part of the twelfth century of the Christian era, when Mihragan had reached again to the first weeks of autumn, but also in much easier and later periods one meets with the word used in the same meaning. This popular meaning given to the word and the feast is, no doubt, reminiscent of its original place.
7. The Frawardigan feast (Pahlavi Fravartîgân) or the feast of manes celebrated in memory of the dead, when according to the Avesta and the Zoroastrian literature the souls of the pious people (fravashis) visit their former homes, must have been since the composition of Yasht 13 of the Avesta, at least, identical with the gahambar of hamaspathmaidyem near the vernal equinox. The gahambars, though probably only one day originally, were from time immemorial celebrated for five days by the Zoroastrians, the four preceding days being added to the principal feast day, as we find in all Mazdayasnian traditions, but none of them were more than five days. Now if hamaspathmaidyem and Frawardigan were both originally the same as one of the gahambars, as this is implied by the above-mentioned verse of the Avesta, then how is this fact to be reconciled with the assigning of ten days (or strictly ten nights) in the Avesta (Yt. 13.49) for the "flying of the souls all around their villages" and with the traditional practice of the Zoroastrians, who celebrated the feast of manes (Frawardigan, or perhaps more correctly Fordîgân) for ten days not only from the Arab invasion up to the present day, but also in the Sasanian period? 100 Biruni tells us that a controversy having arisen among the Zoroastrian, as to which of the two pentades, the last five days of the month preceding the Gatha days or the latter group itself, was the real Frawardigan, they decided to add both fives together and to make the Frawardigan ten days, and thus this feast became, by compromise, longer than it originally was. He states further that the second five, i.e. the Gatha days or Andargâh has superiority over the first. This controversy, if it really took place, could hardly have occurred after the composition of the Frawardin Yasht, which, as stated above, mentions the ten days of the souls' visit.
The question can be solved without much difficulty if we suppose that the final composition of Yasht 13 was posterior to 441 BC, which supposition, owing to the fact that the reverence of fravashis was in all probability a part of the popular belief admitted later into the religion, rather than of pure Zoroastrianism, seems to be reasonable. We may then assume that the feast of hamaspathmaidyem which was in the last days of Spandarmad or of the Avestan month corresponding to this perhaps later name, was mainly a rural festival placed towards the end of the winter and immediately before the Avestan "summer," and that it was perhaps connected at the same time with some offering, liturgy, or some sort of religious ceremony (possibly also some remembrance of the dead), but that Frawardigan was the name of the five supplementary days of the year introduced on the model of the Egyptian epagomenae when the Egyptian system was adopted and the Y.A. calendar replaced the Old-Avestan. Accordingly these epagomenae called also Andargâh, Gatha days, Panjak veh, Dûzîtak, Turuftak and Panjeh Duzdîda (Arabic al-khamsat al-mustariqat) were originally at the end of the month Adar and immediately before the month Dai, i.e. exactly where the Egyptian supplementary days stood. These days were consecrated, as they were in Egypt, to the reverence of the souls of the departed faithful (fravashis). Later, when through the second reform (about 441), the epagomenae were transferred to their well-known place between the end of Spandarmad and the beginning of Frawardin, some doubt may have arisen as to the question of the celebration of one of the two consecutive pentads as the Fravashi's feast. To avoid any negligence in religious duties, the religious authorities may have added both together and made the Frawardigan ten days.101 The divergence of opinion on this matter, however, did not cease, if one is to judge from the different descriptions given in Pahlavi, Arabic, and Persian books.102 However, the later sources such as the Bundahishn and Biruni's books consider the last five days of the year, i.e. the Gatha days, as the hamaspathmaidyem gahambar and also the real Frawardigan perhaps contrary to their origin but as a natural consequence of the 6th gahambar coming necessarily immediately before Frawardin.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Zoroastrianism, Life After Death And The Nature of Heaven and Hell
- Zoroastrianism, The Battle Between Good and Evil
- Ahura Mazda Or Ohrmazd, the Zoroastrian God
- Amesha Spentas or Ameshaspands
- Asha, The Zoroastrian Concept of Truth and Universal Order
- Important Beliefs of Zoroastrianism
- The Old Iranian Calendars, Part 1
- Zoroastrianism - Main Concepts
- Zoroastrianism, Cosmogony Or Theories of Creation
- The Zoroastrian Cosmology
- Zoroastrinaism - The Zoroastrian Creed - An Overview
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- Untitled 1
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- Zoroastrianism - The Funeral Ceremonies of the Parsees, Part 1
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- Zoroastrianism, On Good and Bad Religions
- The History of Zoroastrianism
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- Zoroastrianism Links, Resources and Websites
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50. J. Hertel, however, believes that the positions of maidyoshahem and maidyarem were in early times the reverse of their later positions and that through a later reform they interchanged their places in the year (see his work Die awestische Jahreszeitenfeste).
51. Bundahishn gives Frawardin, Ardwahisht, and Hordad as the three months of the spring (Justi's translation, p. 35), but this and similar records point only to the conception prevalent in later times, originating in the post-Sasanian period. I think all these possibly go back to a reform carried out in the time of Sasanian King Firuz (457-84), to which reference, will he made in the following pages.
52. As it is said this part of Afrin, which in some manuscripts gives the dates of the days and months of the gahambars or season-festivals in the vihêjakîk year and months, is believed to be a later addition. Nevertheless, its original source at least must have been composed not later than the date of the first intercalation (presumably in the last quarter of the fourth century BC), if not as early as the time of the institution of the intercalary system and the stabilization of the vihêjakîk year in the middle of the fifth century.
56. They did not say, however, what they meant by "original position" end have not proposed a date for this original year, though this naturally implies a certain point of time after which the year should have become vague and altering its position with respect to the tropic year.
58. The gahambars under the influence of intercalation, fell one month later in the civil year, after each intercalation. With the last intercalation they reached to points eight months posterior to their original places: e.g. maidyoshahem corresponded then to the 15th day of the month of Spandarmad of the civil year as B. and others give it.
60. The word vanhar, which is perhaps from the same root as the Indian vasar, must have also been used for spring, not in its strictly technical meaning, beginning with the vernal equinox and ending with the summer solstice, but, as in common parlance, for the period of verdure and blossom.
61. The Old-Avestan year seems to he considered as composed of units of time, each fifteen days or a fortnight long. This is perhaps a remnant of the earliest and primitive time-reckoning of the Iranians by half-months. Consequently the year consisted of twenty-four fortnights, arranged in groups of three, four, five, two, fire, and fire, each of the groups being one of the six seasons or yâiryas (the fourth one, however, being supplemented later by five days as epagomenae).
62. In Yasht 7.4, there is mention of zaremaêm paiti, "when the moon brings the warmth with its light, the greenish plants shoot always towards the spring on the earth". The Pahlavi book Dadestan-i Denik, 31, 14 (West's translation) speaking of the Ardwahisht (of course, the vihêjakîk month) says that the name of this month in religion (i.e. in Avesta) is Zaremaya and in this month the butter of mêdhiôk-zarem is produced. This expression (zaremaya raoghna = the butter of zaremaya) is also used in the verse 18 of the so-called Yasht 22 of the Avesta (SBE, iv, Darmesteter's English translation of the Avesta). That the beginning of the year or season was not on the point of the vernal equinox in the strict sense among the less advanced peoples is also to a certain extent due to the difficulty of ascertaining the time of the equinoxes by simple and ordinary means. B. is perhaps right when he asserts (AB., p. 216) that for the primitive peoples the observation of the solstices is incomparably easier than that of the equinoxes, which needs an advanced knowledge of astronomy and astronomical instruments, whereas the solstice can be found out by the simpler method of using a gnomon.
63. This festival is apparently the same as jashn-i vahâr, which was celebrated "forty-five days beyond New Year's Day at a place becoming specially noted where people went from many quarters out to the place of festival (yasno kâr)" and whereto Zoroaster has proceeded (Selections of Zadspram, West's translation, SBE, xlvii, p. 154). If this tradition is old and authentic it indicates that this festival, though comparatively of later origin, nevertheless existed in Zoroaster's time and was celebrated with full attendance. The translation of the passage of Zartusht Nameh relating to this festival by Wilson (The Parsi Religion, Bombay, 1843), however, does not agree fully with putting it in the second month of the year.
64. Exactly as the Khwarazmians of the tenth century, according to B. (AB., pp. 236, 237, and 241), used to count from the day Ajgâr (most probably in origin the Khwarazmian maidyoshahem) in both directions for fixing the seasons for all kinds of agricultural work.
68. This fast (the settlement of the court in Babylonia for more than half a century) may account for many other tendencies in the Achaemenian empire, and perhaps among others for the adoption of the Aramaic language as the official means of correspondence in the imperial chancellery and State departments.
69. The mention of Babylon in Yasht 5.29 fits in with the removal of the seat of the government or of the court from Susa to Babylon by the first Zoroastrian king, Artaxerxes I, the Constantine of that faith. The same Yasht contains the name of Anahita, which may also increase the probability of its composition in that period.
72. The mention of these deities in the inscription of Artaxerxes Mnemon or the report of Berossos about his special attachment to the same divinities does not necessarily imply that they were first recognized during the reign of this monarch, as is often held. This recognition might have taken place at any time between the unknown date of the inscription of Artaxerxes Macrocheir and that of Mnemon, unless some long inscription should be discovered belonging to the later part of the reign of the former king or from the reign of Darius Ochus, praising Ahura Mazda and ignoring Anahita, Mithra, and others.
73. As Benveniste remarks (The Persian Religion according to the chief Greek Texts, 1929), this is "the first definite mention of the name of Zoroaster in Greece". The passages attributed to Xanthus the Lydian relating to the date of the Iranian prophet or to the recalling of his words by Persians when they were going to burn Croesus are of doubtful authenticity. Even if they proved to be authentic, they would not imply the adherence of the Persian kings to Zoroastrianism, but would only suggest that Xanthus knew the name of the Iranian reformer whose new religion had gradually been spreading (westwards) in Iran for some hundred years before his time. Clemens puts the composition of Alcibiades after 374.
76. The scope of this article does not permit the discussion of these reasons here. The place of the epagomenae indicates that the intercalation was the seventh and eighth together, and not the eighth and ninth. The next or the ninth intercalation would have fallen in AD 639, just two years after the fall of the capital of the Iranian empire on the Arab invasion, which brought to an end the national sovereignty of Persia and all its official institutions including the intercalation in their calendar.
78. Baga, which was originally a general name for gods, seems to have become gradually the name par excellence of Mithra. The Khwarazmian name for the 16th day of the month is, according to B.'s list, Figh, which corresponds to the day of Mihr in the Persian calendar.
84. We may also suppose that the 10th day of the Old-Persian month corresponded not to the 10th but to the 11th day of the Babylonian month, as a difference of one day is always possible owing, no doubt, to the different time of the first visibility of the new moon in Babylon and Hamadan. The correspondence between this day and the equinox will then be complete. Moreover, according to the narrative of Herodotus (iii, 78) Darius killed Gaumata in darkness, when he was hesitating to strike him lest Gobryas should be hit, and Ctesias (Excerpt. Pers., § 14) says that the usurper was sleeping with his Babylonian concubine. Again Herodotus says (iii, 79), that the conspirators after killing Gaumata went out and called the people to massacre the Magians..., that the slaughter continued [the whole day], and that if the night had not fallen no Magian would have been left alive. Now from all these facts it can be deduced that the day of the massacre of the Magians or Magophonia was, in fact, the day following that of the actual slaying of the usurper.
85. If we take into consideration the fact that the Persian, of the fifth century BC did not obtain in their astronomical calculation the same exact result which we have today, the possibility of their error of one day would be easily conceivable. This can account for four years' difference, if the date of the adoption of the calendar was really 441 and not one or two years earlier. Strictly speaking, in 441, the 16th day of Mihr corresponded to 27th September.
86. It is true that Kugler (Sternkunde, vol. i, pp. l73-4, and several other places of this book) contests this assumption and suggests that the starting point for the division of the year into four equal parts (each 91.25 days) was the spring equinox. He is of the opinion that since the Babylonian ephemerides always used to put the vernal equinox four to five days later than its real place, the summer solstice (91.25 days after that conventional but wrong equinox day) fell a little later than the real solstice and the autumnal equinox (182.5 days later) fell incidentally quite in its right and astronomical place. But the result is, nevertheless, the same. It is even possible to suppose that the Babylonians, attaching special importance to the autumnal equinox, tried to keep that point in its strict place, and in order to effect this they placed the day they fixed for the vernal equinox a few days later, so that it would fail exactly two quarters or 182.5 days before the astronomical autumnal equinox. This peculiar arrangement, it is true, is noticed only in the cuneiform documents relating to the second century BC, but there is no reason to think that the same process was not in use in older times.
87. With the fusion of the Old-Persian and Young-Avestan calendars into one system about 441 BC, it is possible that a good many of the characteristics of the Old-Persian calendar, which was in many respects a copy of the Babylonian calendar, were incorporated into the new system. For instance, the adoption of the ordinary four seasons (not as substitutes for their own seasons but as a parallel system) may be one of the effects of this fusion. Also the Babylonian way of beginning the spring and summer some days later than the astronomical points (see the note supra) may have been followed by the Iranians, and therefore they may have considered the beginning of summer to be conventionally on 15th Tir, i.e. two days later than the real solstice.
89. The same process we find in the Avardadsal feast of Indian Parsis, which is celebrated now on the 6th day (the day of Hordad or Amurdad) of the month of Spandarmad (the 12th month) and which, no doubt, was created to mark the place of Nawruz in the non-intercalated (so-called Kadimi) year after the Parsis had executed an intercalation of one month in the twelfth century (see Kharegat, in Modi's Memorial Volume, p. 115).
91. At Mihragan, winter clothes were distributed by the kings, at Tiragan people bathed in the rivers, in the first and second Adar-jashn they lit fires in their houses, at Sada they used to light fires in open places, and the Khwarazmians used the civil feasts as points for the calculation of their agricultural operations even in the tenth century.
93. AB., p. 222. The Shah-nameh of Firdausi, however, puts this event on the first day of Mihr. Had the Y.A. calendar been in use at that time, this day would have fallen in 522, only three or four days after the equinox.
100. Menander Protecter relates that the Byzantine Ambassador John sent by Justin II in 565 to Persia was obliged when on his way to the Persian court to halt for ten days in the town of Dârâ, because of the celebration in Nasîbîn of the feast of manes, which Menander calls Furdigân, or according to Causin's translation Furdiga (Histoire de Constantinople depuis le règne de l'ancien Justin, jusqu`à la fin de l'empire, traduit sur les originaux Grecs par Mr. Causin, Paris, 1672; les Ambassades ... écrites par Menandre, Chapitre xii, p. 56). In that year third feast was certainly on 22nd February-4th March.
101. The gradual extension of the religions festivals or mourning days is not a rare thing, and there are many examples of this in Persia in the last centuries. B. says (Chronology, Istanbul MS.) that the learned men and kings of Iran have made Frawardigan the greatest of all feasts and have added to it three days more for the manifestation of their devotion, beginning it with the day Dai-pa-Den (the 23rd). In later ages this feast became still longer and according to Karkaria in Dastur Hosheng's Memorial Volume some Parsis have extended it to seventeen or eighteen days, and there was in the last century a good deal of discussion among the Parsis as to the real length of the festival.