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  • 3/6/2012

NOWRUZ IN THE PRE-ISLAMIC PERIOD

(part 13)

norooz

Names are, however, among the few identifiably innovative things about the observance of the religious feasts, then being celebrated in summer. (The detailed description of them given by Boyce, Stronghold, pp. 214-35, and summarized below, is of the practices of one of the Yazdi villages in the year 1965, which may have differed in some small respects from those of other villages in the region.) The first was preceded by the ten days of Fravardigan, termed the “Lesser and Greater Pentad”‌ (Panji kasog, Panji mas), for which every house had been scrupulously cleaned, and during which the Fravashis were entertained by night and day.  By at the latest the third day of Panji kasog seven kinds of seeds were sown in little cotton bags or wooden boxes, or in clay container on house walls, all carefully washed with pure water and filled with clean earth, and watered daily thereafter with pure water.  On the fifth day of Panji kasog many women and some men went to the village priest to receive nirang (consecrated bull’s urine) to cleanse away pollution from the old year, this being what was in times long past the last day of that year, with the “Between Days”‌ ahead.  (This rite was regarded as of especial importance for women, because of what were thought of as the inevitable pollution of childbirth and menstruation.) Also on that day the “pure room”‌, ganza pak, kept always free from ritual pollution, was cleaned with extra care and whitewashed anew in preparation for the greater holy days to come.

Panji was ended with the rite of farewell to the Fravashis, enacted from before dawn till nearly sunrise on every Zoroastrian roof; and with the sun came the new year.

A festive meal was eaten by the family in the sunshine, at which wine used to be drunk, and visitors came to exchange greetings.  But then preparations began to be made to go out to the daل¸µmas, always referred to as the Dadgah, “appointed place”‌, and this is what gave this “Lesser Nowruz”‌ its current name, “[the Day of] the Dadgah-e Panji”‌.  The observance followed the traditional pattern for communal rites at the daل¸µmas, with related families forming groups; and those women whose children had died and been carried there took for them some of the little cotton bags with sprouting seeds to place among the usual offerings.   Afrinagan services were celebrated for individual souls, recently departed and there was a communal one for all Fravashis; and an evening meal, which began with consecrated food, was eaten by all, seated in a great horseshoe on the desert shingle, the families in an established order.  The festival was thus annexed as it were to the Fravashis days, a confusion that would seem to have arisen in the distant past, because of the duplicated celebration of Nowruz on 6 Fravardin.

Formerly, when there were many priests, the rites of Rapiowin would have been performed in the fire temple on Ruz Ardibehesht, the third month-day, but these had to be neglected by then.  Nevertheless, and though it was wholly inappropriate to the summer heat, the return of “Rapatven”‌ at noon on 1 Fravardin was joyfully recognized, and his name restored in noonday prayers (Boyce, Stronghold, p. 50 with pp 175-76).

Otherwise 2-5 Fravardin were quiet days, with a partial return to normal work, but with thoughts gilded by expectation of the great day to come – the holiest and most joyful of the year; and this pause had the effect of somewhat isolating it, so that it was almost again the observance of a single momentous day; but the name now given it was entirely prosaic, simply the “Seventeenth Day”‌, Havzoru, a dialect contraction, with metathesis of hevdah ruz (cf. Kermani “Arvedaru”‌, J. Sorushian, p. 5); for it was the seventeenth day after the coming of the Fravashis on 25 Spendarmad, as it had become after the Achaemenian reform.

Inevitably in some ways the observances of the eve of Havzoru repeated those of the Dadgah-e Panji, since they were by origin one feast, so there was again sweeping and tidying, and setting out in the ganza-pak of pots of greenery, a mirror and a brazier.  A lamp was lit there at dusk, and festive food was placed there for the Fravashis; but this time there was no repetition of the farewell to them at the following dawn.  But again new clothes were worn on the new day, when all rose with (or before) the sun, eager to exchange the greeting “May your Havzoru feat be auspicious!”‌ jashn-e Havzoru-t mobarak, with some then exchanging sprays of greenery.   The village was full of visiting relatives, mostly from Tehran, who had returned for the occasion, and it was to be a day of visiting and hospitality, goodwill and kindliness, and feasting, dance and song.  But central to it were the religious rites, with blessed communion through them.  At other times the village priest might be able to call on the help of colleagues, but at Havzoru every priest was fully engaged with his own community; so here the priest had to compromise.  This was the only occasion in the year when he solemnized the long service of the Visperad (see under Avesta), created probably for Nowruz and the gahanbars, and strictly an “inner”‌ ritual, to be performed in a sacred precinct; but he now carried it out alone as an “outer”‌ one, in an empty house set aside for religious use and kept ritually clean.  There he spread a pure white cloth in a corner of one of the two open porticos, where he began the service at about 8 o’clock; and for hours to come he concentrated completely on the words and ritual, oblivious to the bustle which filled the rest of the building.  There was a huge baking of bread in its ritually clean kitchen, and women came with offerings to be blessed, fruits of all kinds and an egg, the symbol of life, until the floor and sills of the portico where he sat were covered with copper bowls.  Each woman also handed to his daughter a list of all those over 9 years old who were in her house, with the words “May they live!”‌ (zande bashand).  These were uttered only on this one occasion, the sole festival devoted entirely to the living and to life; and the lists were eventually laid near the priest.  It was nearly noon by the time he had prepared the first parahom (the sacred liquid made from pounded ephedra, haoma, q.v.), and the offerings had become consecrated.  Two lay helpers (dahmobeds) then cut the eggs and fruits in half, and one half was put back in the family bowl, the other half went into big basins to be carried later to the fire temple.  A big new round of freshly baked bread was added to each family bowl, and when the women returned to collect theirs each of them received from the priest’s daughter a spoonful of the parahom infused in consecrated water, which would give renewed strength and vitality for the new year, and some took a spoonful away for their husbands.  All carried home the bowls of consecrated offerings to be shared by their families, but the priest, after he had completed the Visperad, had still to solemnize a Dron and Afrinagan service in honour of Rapiowin, and to pray by name for the well-being of every person on the lists supplied him.  So it was past 3 o’clock before he finished, having been reciting for many hours with barely a pause in the August heat.  Then after a brief rest, and a little of the consecrated food, he went to the fire temple, which was packed with men and boys, to solemnize an Afrinagan service for the whole community after which their share of the consecrated Visperad offerings was distributed and eaten there.  After this last element in the Havzoru village communion the evening revelry began in the homes, and the priest could rest.

Source: iranica


Other Links:

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Iranian Girl Names (part 3)   

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

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