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  • 3/6/2012


(part 5)


Given the obvious scale of the traditionalists’ private non-compliance, it is unthinkable that the authorities would not have been aware of it from the outset; but, because of its scale, it would have been impossible for them to suppress it, and they were presumably content with enforcing public acceptance of the 365-day calendar, and expected the private duplication of observances soon to wither away. But on the contrary the traditionalists, secure in numbers, evidently grew bold and began to celebrate their duplicated feasts openly, and to claim that these were “greater”‌ than those kept by the reformed calendar, being the truly valid ones.  Further, a number of people who had accepted the reformed calendar half-heartedly, or under duress, probably came now to share this conviction and to swell the ranks of those celebrating the duplicated feasts; and so strong did this movement become that before the end of the Achaemenian epoch the Great Kings evidently accepted it and themselves kept these feasts.  (The evidence for this is that “greater”‌ feast days appear in the Zoroastrian calendars of post-Achaemenian times (see below), which must descend from the state calendar which was in use before the fall of the Persian empire.  At some point, accordingly, a leading priest or priests felt justified in altering a vital phrase in Yt. 13.49, so that as this hymn has been transmitted it declares that the Fravashis, returning to their old homes “at the time (ratu-) of Hamaspaomaedaya, are present there “for 10 nights”‌, dasa pairi xshafno, in place of “for the night”‌ of the like.  There is a paradox in this, in that the traditionalists, striving to be faithful in every respect, found themselves impelled to alter words in what should have been the immutable authority of a sacred Avestan text.

At some stage also a few manuscripts of the Av. Afrؤ«nagan ؤ« Gahanbar, that is, the Afrؤ«nagan for the “Seasonal Feasts”‌, give as the days for celebrating these feasts the second or “great”‌ ones; but the Av. phrases involved are short and very simple, and the insertions, which were plainly not generally accepted, could have been made even as late as Sasanian times. (Geldner, Avesta ii, pp. 272-74, marks them off from the rest of the text, and in his tr. Darmesteter, Zend-Avesta ii, pp. 732-34, distinguishes them as 7a, 8a, etc.)

Another development, consequent on celebrating Great Nowruz on 1.6, is likely to have come about simply through the persistence of popular usage.  This was the custom of sprinkling each other then with water in honour plainly of Haurvatat (Hordad) whose day it is, and whose creation is water.

There was one further irony in that, as a consequence of each second duplicated feast being considered the greater, the second celebration of Hamaspaomaedaya, held on the fifth “Between Day”‌, came to be regarded as greater than the first on XII.25; and the whole set of “Between Days”‌, which from the second pentad of the Rozan Fravardؤ«gan, as greater than the first pentad.  So the “Stolen Days”‌, so bitterly suspect, were nevertheless incorporated in the devotional year.

The development thus brought about unintentionally by the calendar reform in the holiest time of the year proved to be not only large-scale but lasting, with an observance till then of 36 hours extended to one of 18 days: from sunrise on XII.25 (the 1st Hamaspaomaedaya), through that night (the 1st “Fravashis’ Night”‌), to XII.26-30 (the first pentad of the Rozan Fravardؤ«gan); then the 5 “Between Days”‌ (their 2nd pentad, ending on the 5th day with the 2nd celebration of Hamaspaomaedaya, and after sunset the 2nd one of the “Fravashis Night”‌); then I.1 (Lesser Nowruz) and I.2-5 (which, with I.1, was a 2nd celebration of the 2nd pentad of the Rozan Fravardؤ«gan, followed by the 3rd one of the “Fravashis’ Night”‌) to I.6 (Greater Nowruz), 17 days in all; and then, since Great Nowruz was filled with observances and festivities at places of worship and in the home, an 18th day was added which preserved the essential symbolism of the “New Day”‌ feast, for it was spent out of doors, in garden, orchard or field, with carefree enjoyment and delight in the resurgence of spring. (The adding of this one day may well predate the calendar reform.)

This account of developments consequent on the Achaemenian calendar reform is based necessarily on evidence from later times, for the Achaemenian period is in many respects ill-documented, and there is no trace from then even of the existence of a Zoroastrian calendar.  But that the YAv. calendar was in use then, modified by the extra 5 days, can be inferred from a number of local calendars (all but one Iranian) which survive, in complete or fragmentary state, from post-Achaemenian times (see CALENDARS: i).  Those by now known are Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, ل¸´warezmian, Bactrian, Cappadocian and Old Armenian.  The last was recorded by a Christian Armenian scholar in the eighth century C.E., the others survive through literary sources and actual use into the early Christian/Islamic periods, and all belong to regions which had been Achaemenian satrapies, and which after the downfall of the Persian empire were never again ruled by a single, unifying power.  So what they have in common ””and that, allowing for differences in language, is almost everything ”” can safely be held to derive from an Achaemenian state calendar brought into use by the Persian early enough in their epoch to become established as the accepted means of time-reckoning for all their Zoroastrian subjects. These calendars have day names descended from those given in the YAv., with indications of the existence of the 5 extra days and the 10-day Fravardؤ«gan.  The MP calendar is fully known and is that which (with developed forms of its names) is still in use by Zoroastrians today; and it is reasonable to suppose that it represents almost without change the OP one of the Achaemenians.  One new feature init which can be attributed to the late Sasanian period is the giving of individual dedications to the 5 “Between Time”‌ days; but the older treatment of them as a featureless group is clearly attested in the Old Arm. calendar, where this time is simply called that “of the added (days),”‌ Aveleats´  (Aweleats´ ), gen. pl. of aveli (aweli), cf. Gk epagomenai.

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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