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November 2001

Charting your historical Persian identity

Experts argue that the light which we see reflected from the stars tonight is hundreds of years old and that, in fact, some of the stars we think we see may have already died out. This casts a great deal of doubt on the accuracy of astrological predictions.

A reading from the position of the planets and stars today, may in fact be more accurately the reading for someone who lived a hundred years ago, or conversely, the reading for someone who is yet to be born. So be forewarned as Madame Bayaz closes her eyes and listens to the cacophony of voices that speak through the stars from centuries past or centuries to come...

Ah! I hear them... They are all Persians, historical Persians, who insist that they are related to you! (You can see some of their pictures at

Mme Bayaz

Farvardin: Aries

"OUCH! Stop screaming! I can hear you fine!" It is Taj al Saltanah. Her shrill voice is in my ear, Aries. She is your 19th Century relative. She was one of Nasir al-Din Shah's daughters, she says. ( Not a favorite, I know, but she loved her father. We should give her credit for that). She spoke French and read all the Greats in French literature and philosophy like Victor Hugo and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. "Oui, oui... I heard that!" "Yes, you speak beautifully!" She says she was audacious, beautiful and intelligent. (Humble too, we should add). She wants to tell you to be brave this month. It will be a month of struggle and revelation. "Unveiling..." Yes, unveiling, not revelation. (Pardon me, I'm having difficulty with her French. It is true now that I think of it, she did unveil in a time when few dared). To be as great as she was, she says, you must stand up for yourself and LOVE yourself (in French)?!

Ordibehesht: Taurus

The images I see before me were no doubt captured by Akkas Bashi. They are from Mozzafar al-Din Shah's trip to Europe. He is standing amidst a mixed crowd of men and women on a boulevard in Belgium. Carriages transporting the most beautiful unveiled European women are passing by his royal highness and the women are throwing flowers at his feet as he throws flowers back at them. No, you are not his highness, alas, nor the women he is admiring. And the Akkas Bashi and his brand new film camera are a different tale altogether -- a tale savored by Madame Bayaz for another reading, another time. You're the budding flowers in the hands of the Belgian women and this month you're being cast hither and tither as if you should have no say. I feel for you, darling Taurus, but you must admit that it makes truly fascinating footage!

Khordad: Gemini

Aesthetically inclined, you appear this month in a postcard image before the closed eyes of Madame Bayaz. Let me see... Ah yes, I see... This month, you are the historical reappearance of Monsieur Naus, the Beligian minister of customs under Nasir al-Din Shah. He's not exactly a Persian, but on this occasion in 1903, he seems to have donned an "Oriental" garb, a turban of sorts... and he sits amidst all the usual "foreign" suspects from the Constitutional period in Iran. They're all dressed up , of course, as others than themselves... Is it a Halloween party? Perhaps. When Naus instituted a tax reform law that reduced the profit margin for merchants, merchants and landowners banded together to protest the privileges and protections of foreigners. The photograph I see here was circulated widely during the Constitutional riots to call for the dismissal of the Belgian minister... Beware, then, Gemini... there are people this month that want to see you fail. They'll use your spirit of adventure (and perhaps am I understanding this correctly(?)... your skill as a cross-cultural dresser) to unsettle you. Don't stop having fun. But think twice when the fun is at the expense of others.

Tir: Cancer

You have an odd and tenuous relationship with a Gemini this month and I say this because your reading parallels that of Gemini in many ways. Madame Bayaz sees you standing center stage and singing at the top your lungs. You're on the 19th Century stage of the Royal Takiyeh where you, a man with a high voice, surnamed Haji Mulla Husayn from Pik Zarand-Savah, have arrived from your home town to dress in a woman's garb and be the role carrier for Zinat for the months of Muharram and Safar. Does this make sense? Mulla Husayn was a farmer by trade, but because of his voice he was dragged kicking and screaming to perform in the ta'ziyehs each year. It is fun to play the other gender, no doubt, and you are doing a service to your nation... but like Gemini, you seem a bit out of your element. Watch out! In a few years, they'll tear down your playground (the takiyeh) and deem your play far too primitive for a modernizing nation!

Mordad: Leo

As the sovereign amongst animals you reign also as the king of all great humans in the mid-19th Century. Come closer and let me whisper something to you, Leo: "Nasir al-Din Shah calls you his equal this month." Bow down before your image, Leo, and worship every whisker, the soft flesh of your fuzzy paws and smooth over the mane that frames your handsome features. You are a most talented sovereign, a photographer, a writer, a hunter, a traveler... Of all Persian sovereigns you were the most creative, though procreation remained within the domain of your elders... To be exact, procreation was the domain of Fath Ali Shah. As you let your creative energies animate your every activity this month (and remember: they are flowing at an all time high), take comfort in your Sagittarian companion, Babri khan...

Shahrivar: Virgo

Yikes, Virgo... You're on the rise this month. I hear rumors from the dark corners of the court of Nasir al-Din Shah, that you are channeling Hajib al-Dawlah this month. A son of Hasan Khan Mughadam, he also went by the name Haj Ali Khan Mughadam. He was Muhammad Mirza's treasurer during his years as Prince and was promoted by Amir Kabir to the rank of "farrash bashi". Always trustworthy, he was given the exquisite honor of planning the murder of Mirza Taqi Khan Amir Kabir at the Fin bathhouse in Kashan. Yes, you are on the rise this month, but the rise, like Hajib al-Dawlah's may involve responsibilities that you may not want (like biting the hand that feeds you) or which the future will hold against you forever. For the murder of Amir Kabir also meant the slaughter of the man who established the first Dar al-Funun (University) in Tehran!

Mehr: Libra

There is something absolutely poetic and absolutely terrifying about your obsession with beverages this month, Libra, and the obsession involves a great deal of travel to far away places It wouldn't surprise me if the combination of obsessions have something to do with your stellar relative, Kashif al-Saltanah, Haj Muhammad Mirza Chaykar. This is a man who studied in Europe and after several years as a merchant, offered his services as an interpreter. In fact he was the French interpreter for Nasir al-Din Shah's special medical doctor, Dr. Fevrie. During one of his longer stays at the Consulate in India, he became interested in the methods used to plant tea. When he returned to Persia, he planted tea in the environs of Gilan. Some years went by and he then traveled to China to learn more about tea. He was on his way back from that trip when he was killed in Bushihr. Do you see where all this is leading, Libra? Sober up!

Aban: Scorpio

When the gramophone was first introduced to the masses of Persians, it was necessary to harvest a sampling of the sovereign's voice. The sovereign at the time was Mozzafar al-Din Shah and he was quite old. I date this moment of which we speak to early in 1906, when a Mr. Pick from the "Gramophone Company" wanted the Shah to issue an order that would allow him to sell gramophones in Iran. The shah did eventually sign a "farman", but here's the rub: he recorded five... count them, FIVE, gramophone records of his voice and the voices of his ministers before he agreed to give his signature. "And what did he say on these records," you ask? Absolutely nothing! He talked about the weather and about how much fun he had been having. He said that he appreciated the services of his ministers and that he wanted them to live another hundred years so that they could do him even more great service. "How selfish, how frivolous," you say. But, oh, you should withhold judgement! Had it not been for this frivolity, would Madame Bayaz have found bliss without her "Mastan" CD tonight? Think about the happiness of your fellow beings, Scorpio!

Azar: Sagittarius

You're the most favored of Leo's associates this month and, perhaps, the most loyal. An historical cat, you ran the show in the court of Nasir al-Din Shah. So much so, that the women of the Shah's harem tried to poison you! A tiger-striped fuzzy thing you were. You went by the name of Babri Khan. Of the hundreds of photographs that the great Shah left behind, amongst them portraits of himself and his harem, the most spontaneous are those in which you appear, Sag. Images of you romping around the court, rolling on your back and baring your fluffly tummy, and fleeing... fleeing, yes, from the harem wives. This is the most urgent of images that remains with Madame Bayaz in her reading for you this month: People are jealous of your status this month. But you are a darling of the sovereign. Flee, but don't hide from the gentle touch of love.

Dey: Capricorn

Now this is fascinating! Strengthening the familial bond this month, are we, Capricorn? Either that, or you're into a massive bonding period with a Leo. Madame Bayaz is being poked in the ribs by a certain Tuman Aqa Fakhr al Dawlah, the Tuman Aqa we all know... Nasir al- Din Shah's favorite daughter, that is. Now who knows really why Nasir al Din Shah loved her so much, for her profile differs considerably from the rest of the women in his harem and frankly, he collected many in that andaruni of his. Fakhr al Dawlah was a highly literate woman. She was a poet and a fabulous calligrapher who died at the age of thirty-three. Ah, alas, but half Madame Bayaz' age. An interesting fact (and it is this part of Fakhr al Dawlah's story that actually relates to you, dear Capricorn): Though Fakhr al Dawlah was married, Nasir al Din Shah, her father, loved her so much that he kept her in his andaruni twenty days and nights a month, EVERY month. Go play with daddy! Go on GO!... and stop poking me!

Bahman: Aquarius

Madame Bayaz is concerned. It seems you're seeking clarity. I'm not channeling your force for some reason. A moment's silence please. A quiet whisper over the sound of a scratchy fountain pen tells me he's the late son of Fath Ali Shah. He is a devastatingly handsome and talented man who lived to be seventy and some. "Your name, sir?" "Iraj Mirza.." "I see... the poet, the calligrapher... I see..." He tells me to tell you that you're related, but that in this life, this time, this month... you are his opposite. You are talented and energetic, but somehow you've lost your path. Hang on, he says he'll reach down over the stars to adjust your lenses... and apparently, they are in need of adjustment. "Trust me," he murmurs quietly, "I was an eye-doctor, too." Better? I thought so.

Esfand: Pisces

You must simply resign yourself to what I have to say, for I have no doubts about it. The women on the other side are clear about who they were and what they want you to know about them and hence about yourself. Haji Shah who is dressed in the finest late19th Century cotton tutu-like mini skirt revealing tall white stockings and shiny black shoes is standing before me and demanding some attention. She says she's done this many a time before, for she was number forty-six of the hundreds of wives that Fath Ali Shah married. But there is something odd about her. She's out of synch with her time, frankly. Her outfit belongs to Nasir al-Din Shah's period and his harem, not Fath Ali Shah's. Madame Bayaz is quite confused?! Hang on, let me ask her about it. Just one minute. Oh... I see,... she's fooling around... Time-travelling. She tells me to tell you that she's embodying the next generation and suggests that you do some time-travelling of your own... or play at being a youngster again!

To contact Madame Bayaz write to:

Some useful terms

-- Andaruni: the family's and women's quarters within the palace.
-- Takiyeh: the stage on which religious passion plays were performed in the first two months of the Muslim year
-- Ta'ziyeh: religious passion play

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