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part 2


Rapiowin gained futher prominence in two groups of texts composed after the Sasanian calendar reform of the early sixth century CE (see below), which brought it about that the Zoroastrians celebrated Nowruz officially twice, once as a religious and once as a secular observance.  The rites of Rapiowin belonged exclusively to the former, and plainly in order to refer unambiguously to it priests in certain contexts used these rites as a synonym for Nowruz. Thus in Pahlavi and Zoroastrian Persian texts which give lists of observances which it is the duty of every believer to keep, among the holy days mentioned Rapiowin always appears (in a variety of late spellings); and in all the patt (confessional formularies) it is the sin of not keeping Rapiowin which is acknowledged, leaving in both groups Nowruz apparently (and inconceivably) ignored.  (For references to those texts see Boyce, 1969, p. 202, no 8).  The substitution which has clearly taken place here of Rapiowin for Nowruz, could only have been made because the symbolism of Rapiowin was powerful in itself and closely linked, most particularly by the prophet, with that of the great festival.

Nowruz in the Young Avesta: Although Nowruz is not mentioned in the surviving Young Avestan texts (that is, those composed by Zoroaster's followers over an ill defined period, mainly, it seems, between about 1000 to 800 BCE), its dominant place in the devotional calendar is indicated by one particular development found in them.  This is the creation of six annual one-day festivals called literally “Year-Times”‌ yairya ratavo (Air.Wb. cols. 1497-1498 s.v. ratu-), but which may be termed “Seasonal Feasts”‌.  These, to judge from their individual names and their irregular scattering through the year, were old pastoral and farming feats that were now consecrated on the model of Nowruz to strengthen through observance the understanding of doctrine.  The doctrine in their case was the fundamental one of the Heptad and the links of each of its divine members with one of the seven creations.The six feasts are assigned to a creation and its divinity in the order given in the Zoroastrian creation myth (see BUNDAHISHN), the sixth being that of mankind, which was under the especial care, through his Holy Spirit, of Ahura Mazda; and only its name, Hamaspaomaedaya, has yet to be satisfactorily explained.  The seventh, that of fire, which quickens all the others, was under the guardianship of Asha (q.v.), one of whose helpers is Rapiowina, the Spirit of fiery noon; and its feast is Nowruz itself. Nowruz is never treated as one of the Seasonal Feasts, but the chain of six leads up to it; and it is likely that its assignment to great Asha was inspired by its earlier links with Rapiowina, Asha's natural fellow worker and that this then led to the creation of the six Seasonal Feasts.

Its has to be deduced from later texts and usage that the priests who devised this devotional calendar were skilled astronomers, able (perhaps following their Oav. Predecessors in this) to fix the celebration of Nowruz (though not necessarily with absolute precision) at the spring equinox; and the celebration of the last Seasonal Feasts just before it shows that it was indeed regarded as the first day of the new year, with the chain of these feasts beginning afresh thereafter.

Another festival kept by this calendar began after the sun set on Hamaspaomaedaya, and lasted until just before sunrise of the following day.  It was the only observance which took place at night, and was probably called in Zoroaster’s day something like the “Night of Souls (urvan-)”‌.  Each family then welcomed back their departed kindred to their old home, to be received with ritual blessings and gifts of consecrated food and clothing, the essence of which, through this consecration, was believed to reach them.  (See further under FARVARDؤھGAN).  To judge from the existence of similar nocturnal observances among other Indo-European peoples, this was a very ancient rite.  But quite early in the YAv. period, it appears, as the religion spread, gaining more converts, pressure from them (Boyce, 1995) led to its absorbing the hugely popular cult of spirits of the heroic dead, the Fravashis, who were the family protectors, and it was presumably renamed «Night of the Fravashis» (though the urvan- were still believed all to come). Since Zoroastrianism seeks to further joy against sorrow, it was (as later usage shows), a happy celebration, with the hosts seeking to gladden their invisible guests with choice foods (of which they themselves partook in communion with them) and with the brigthness cast by fires fragrant with incense.  There was thus a continuity of observances from the sunrise of Hamaspaomaedaya to the sunset of Nowruz, forming the holiest and happiest time of the year.


Other Links:

Persian Cuisine, a Brief History (part 2)  

Iranian Girl Names (part 2)    

Iranian Girl Names (part 3)   

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 2)  

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 3)  

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