Anahita – Lady of Persia


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Anahita – Lady of Persia
by Nabarz
02-Sep-2009
 

By Payam Nabarz

The following is based on the Anahita chapter from ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’. By Payam Nabarz, Inner Traditions, 2005. http://astore.amazon.co.uk/pan05-21

Mighty Anahita with splendor will shine, Incarnated as a youthful divine.Full of charm her beauty she will display,Her hip with charming belt she will array.Straight-figured, she is as noble bride,Freeborn, herself in puckered dress will hide.Her cloak is all decorated with gold,With precious dress Anahita we shall behold.-Original poem based on Kashani’s Persian folk songs, from an Avestan invocation to Anahita.

Dusk of Shabe Yalda (Yule) 777 B.C. somewhere on a beach by the Caspian sea. A young Magi (who later was to be known as the prophet Zoroaster) has been keeping a night vigil. His solitary fire is the only light for miles around and his recitation of Aban Yasht the hymn to angel-goddess Anahita the only sound to be heard apart from the waves gently crashing onto the beach.

“Angel-Goddess of all the waters upon the earth and the source of the cosmic ocean; she who drives a chariot pulled by four horses: wind, rain, cloud, and sleet; your symbol is the eight-rayed star. You are the source of life, purifying the seed of all males and the wombs of all females, also cleansing the milk in the breasts of all mothers. Your connection with life, means warriors in battle prayed to you for survival and victory.A maid, fair of body, most strong, tall-formed, high-girded, pure, . . . wearing a mantle fully embroidered with gold; ever holding the baresma [sacred plant] in your hand, . . . you wear square golden earrings on your ears . . . a golden necklace around your beautiful neck, . . . Upon your head . . . a golden crown, with a hundred stars, with eight rays . . . with fillets streaming down.” 1

The Magi’s prayer is answered by the sea in the form of a vision; as midnight approaches and time slows, the sea parts. A large silver throne appears; on either side of it sits a lion with eyes of blue flame. On the throne sits a Lady in silver and gold garments, proud and tall, an awe-inspiring warrior-woman, as terrifying as she is beautiful. Tall and statuesque, she sits, her noble origins evident in her appearance, her haughty authority made clear and commanding through a pair of flashing eyes. A dove flies above her and a peacock walks before her. A crown of shining gold rings her royal temples; bejeweled with eight sunrays and one hundred stars, it holds her lustrous hair back from her beautiful face. Her marble like white arms reflect moonlight, and glisten with moisture. She is clothed with a garment made of thirty beavers, and it shines with the full sheen of silver and gold. The planet Venus shines brightly in the sky. 2

Time passes.....history takes place....

Circa 400B.C. Achaemenian king Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404‑359 B.C.) inscribes in Ecbatana in his palace:

Artaxerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the king of all nations, the king of this world, the son of king Darius [II Nothus], Darius the son of king Artaxerxes [I Makrocheir], Artaxerxes the son of king Xerxes, Xerxes the son of king Darius, Darius the son of Hystaspes, the Achaemenid, says: this hall [apadana] I built, by the grace of Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra. May Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra protect me against evil, and may they never destroy nor damage what I have built”.3 Artaxerxes II like other Achaemenian kings was initiated by priests at a sanctuary of Anahita in Pasargadai during his coronation. Artaxerxes II built the temple of Anahita at Kangavar near Kermanshah as well as many others. The Kangavar was a magnificent huge temple a four-fifths of a mile in circumference, built using cedar or cypress trees. All columns were covered by gold or silver, even the floor tiles and bricks had a covering of gold or silver. It was perhaps one of the most breathtaking buildings ever made in the Middle East. Anahita’s role as the goddess for water, rain, abundance, blessing, fertility, marriage, love, motherhood, birth, and victory becomes well established. This goddess was the manifestation of women’s perfection. Ancient kings were crowned by their queens in Anahita’s temple in order to gain her protection and support. Anahita’s blessing would bring fertility and abundance to the country. 4

Time passes.....history takes place.... the Achaemenian empires falls to ‘Alexander the Accursed’.....

Circa 200 BC sees the dedication of a Seleucid temple in western Iran to “Anahita, as the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithra”.5 The blend of Greek and Persian cultures manifest themselves in the Seleucid dynasty.

Time passes..... history takes place....

The Parthian Empire (circa 247BC-226AD) replaces the Seleucid, the Parthians expand the Anahita temple at Kangavar.

Figure 1.2.: Bronze head of a goddess Anahita, Hellenistic Greek, 1st century BC found at the ancient city of Satala, modern Sadak, north-eastern Turkey, now in The British Museum.

Time passes.... history takes place...

Mark Anthony marches in to Armenia (circa 37BC-34BC), and in one of the latter campaigns reached Anahita temple at Erez. “The temple of Erez was the wealthiest and the noblest in Armenia, according to Plutarch. During the expedition of Mark Antony in Armenia, the statue was broken to pieces by the Roman soldiers. Pliny the Elder gives us the following story about it: The Emperor Augustus, being invited to dinner by one of his generals, asked him if it were true that the wreckers of Anahit's statue had been punished by the wrathful goddess. No! answered the general, on the contrary, I have today the good fortune of treating you with one part of the hip of that gold statue. The Armenians erected a new golden statue of Anahit in Erez, which was worshiped before the time of St. Gregory Illuminator.”6

Time passes.... history takes place...

The Sassanian Empire is formed. Circa 226 C.E. The Temple of Anahita in Bishapur was built during the Sassanian era (241‑635 C.E.). The temple is believed to have been built by some of the estimated seventy thousand Roman soldiers and engineers who were captured by the Persian King Shapur (241‑272 C.E.), who also captured three Roman emperors: Gordian III, Phillip, and Valerian. The design of the temple is very interesting: water from the river Shapur is channeled into an underground canal to the temple and actually goes under and all around the temple, giving the impression of an island. The fire altar would have been in the middle of the temple, with the water going underground all around it. One might interpret this as a union of water—Anahita—with fire—Mithra.7

Time passes....history takes place...

The Sassanian Empires fades and Islam arrives in Iran.

900 C.E. Moslem pilgrims make their way to the 1100-year-old shrine of Bibi Shahr Banoo, the Islamic female saint, near the old town of Rey (South of Tehran). Town of Rey is thought to be 5000 years old, the site of this shrine with its waterfall is believed by some to have been an Anahita shrine at one time. It is also close to the Cheshmeh Ali Hill (the spring of Ali Hill), which is dated to 5000 years ago. Perhaps this is an echo of Mithra-Anahita shrines being close to each other and then becoming linked to later Islamic saints, a process seen frequently in Christianized Europe too; for example, sites sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigit became sites dedicated to Saint Brigit.

Furthermore, according to Susan Gaviri in Anahita in Iranian Mythology (1993): “. . . it must not be forgotten that many of the famous fire temples in Iran were, in the beginning, Anahita temples. Examples of these fire temples are seen in some parts of Iran, especially in Yazad, where we find that after the Muslim victory these were converted to Mosques.”8

Time passes.... history takes place....

Pilgrims continue to visit the Pre-Islamic Zoroastrian shrine of Pir e Sabz, or Chek Chek (“drip drip,” the sound of water dripping), in the mountains of Yazd. This is still a functional temple and the holiest site for present-day Zoroastrians living in Iran, who take their annual pilgrimage to Pir e Sabz Banu, "the old woman in the mountain,” also called Pir e Sabz, “the green saint,” at the beginning of summer. Pir means “elder,” and it can also mean “fire.” The title of Pir also connotes a Sufi master. Sabz means green.9

Pilgrims also continue to visit Pir e Banoo Pars (Elder Lady of Persia) and Pir e Naraki are located near Yazd. (The dates are unclear.) The Pir Banoo temple is in an area that has a number of valleys; the name of the place is Hapt Ador, which means Seven Fires.10

Time passes.... history takes place...

Figure 1.4.: Commemorative gold coin with image of Anahita, 1997.

The Central Bank of Armenia in 1997, issues a commemorative gold coin with an image of Anahita on it. The bank states: “This commemorative coin issued by the Central Bank of Armenia is devoted to Goddess Anahit. Anahit has been considered the Mother Goddess of Armenians, the sacred embodiment and patron for the crop, fruitfulness and fertility. In 34 BC, the Romans have plundered the country town Yeriza of the Yekeghiats Province in the Higher Hayk, where the huge golden statue to Anahit was situated. They smashed the statue to pieces and shared among the soldiers as pillage. On the turn of the 19th century, the head part of bronze statue referred to Anahit was found in Satagh (Yerznka region), which is presently kept in British Museum.” 11

Time passes.... history takes place...

The higher social status of women in Iranian society compared to its Arab neighbors has been suggested by some to be due its long respect for Lady Anahita. Indeed, the first woman Muslim to win a Noble Peace Prize (2003) was from Iran.

Time passes.... history take place..... yet she is still remembered....

Tomorrow (21.8.03), I (Jalil Nozari) will take part in a ceremony to commemorate a very poor, old woman, a relative of mine, who died recently. Her name was Kaneez. The name in modern Farsi has negative connotations, meaning a “female servant.” But, in Pahlavi, the language spoken in central Iran before the coming of Islam, it meant “a maiden,” a virgin, unmarried girl. Indeed, it has both meanings of the English “maid.” Anahita, too, means virgin, literally not defiled. But this is not the end of story. When I was a child, there was a place in Ramhormoz, my hometown, that now is under a city road. In it, there was a small, single-room building with a small drain pipe hanging from it. Women in their ninth month and close to delivery time stood under this pipe and someone poured water through it. There was the belief that getting wet under the drain would assure a safe delivery of the baby. The building was devoted to Khezer (the green one).* Yet, the cult is very old and clearly one of Anahita’s. The role of water and safe child delivery are both parts of the Anahita cult. My deceased aunt, our Kaneez, was a servant of this building. The building was demolished years ago to build a road, and Kaneez is no more. I wonder how will we reconstruct those eras, so close to us in time yet so far from our present conditions. It is also of interest that there exist remains of a castle, or better to say a fort, in Ramhormoz, that is called “Mother and Daughter.” It belongs to the Sasanides era. “Daughter,” signifying virginity, directs the mind toward Anahita. There are other shrines named after sacred women, mostly located beside springs of water. These all make the grounds for believing that Ramhormoz was one of the oldest places for Anahita worshippers.”12

(*There is a folk tradition about Saint Khezer or Khidar (the green one): if one washes (pours water) on one’s front door at dawn for forty days, he will appear. Khider is described as being a friend of the Sufis, and is said to stand at the boundary of sea and land. He is also said to have drunk from the fountain of immortality.)

Time passes.....

2004 C.E. Another seeker meditating by a sea makes an observation on relationships Mehr and Aban (modern Persian names for Mithra and Anahita.) The autumn equinox marks the beginning of the Persian month of Mehr, and the start of the festival of Mehregan. The month of the sun god Mithra is followed by the month of the sea goddess Anahita (according to ancient sources both the partner and mother of Mithra). The month of the sun thus leads into the month of the sea. The sun sets into the ocean. The sunset over the ocean is one of the most beautiful sights there is; as the sun unites with the ocean, the light is reflected upon the water.

Mehr, coming together with Aban, gives rise to a third word: mehraban, which translates as “kindness,” or “one who is kind.” Thus, this metaphorical child of light that comes out of the marriage between Sun and Sea is kindness. The child of light is the Inner Light, which is in everyone. The Sun (light of God) and the Sea (divine ocean), united within each person, creates perhaps the most important spiritual quality—that of human kindness.

Time passes...

2777 C.E. Somewhere on a beach by the Caspian Sea. A young Magi has been keeping a night vigil. His solitary fire is the only light for miles around and his recitation of Aban Yasht the hymn to angel-goddess Anahita the only sound to be heard apart from the waves gently crashing onto the beach......she is remembered.

Further reading: ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’ By Payam Nabarz, (with a Foreword by Caitlín Matthews), Inner Traditions, 2005.

References

1. From verses 126–128 of the Aban Yasht 5.

2. This description of Anahita is based on her description in Tony Allan, Charles Phillips, and Michael Kerrigan, Myth and Mankind series: Wise Lord of the Sky: Persian Myth (London: Time Life Books, 1999), 32.

3. See: http://www.livius.org/aa-ac/achaemenians/A2Ha.html

4. Official entry on Anahita by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa, Canada on their Web site: http://www.salamiran.org/Women/General/Women_And_Mythical_Deities.html

5. First Iranian Goddess of productivity and values by Manouchehr Saadat Noury - Persian Journal, Jul 21, 2005. http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/printer_8378.shtml

6. A History of Armenia By Vahan M. Kurkjian, Bakuran. IndoEuropeanPublishing.com, 2008.

7. For the Temple of Anahita at Bishapur, see http://www.vohuman.org/SlideShow/Anahita%20Bishapur/AnahitaBishapur00.htm

8. This book is in Persian—translation here by Nabarz.

9. For the temple at Pir-e-Sabz, see http://www.vohuman.org/SlideShow/Pir-e-Sabz/Pir-e-Sabz-1.htm

10. For the temples of Pir e Banoo Pars and Pir e Naraki, see http://www.sacredsites.com/middle_east/iran/zoroastrian.htm

11. http://www.cba.am/CBA_SITE/currency/aanahit.html?__locale=en

12. Personal communication from Jalil Nozari , August 20, 2003.

Author Biography:

Payam Nabarz is author of ‘The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World’ (Inner Traditions, 2005), ‘The Persian Mar Nameh: The Zoroastrian Book of the Snake Omens & Calendar’ (Twin Serpents, 2006), and Divine Comedy of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan (Web of Wyrd, 2008). He is also editor of Mithras Reader An academic and religious journal of Greek, Roman, and Persian Studies. Volume 1(2006), Volume 2 (2008) and Stellar Magic: a Practical Guide to Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars and Constellations (Avalonia, 2009) For further info visit: www.stellarmagic.co.uk

Further reading: The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World, by Payam Nabarz. Inner Traditions, 2005.

Wise Lord of the Sky: Persian Myth, by Tony Allan, Charles Phillips, and Michael Kerrigan. Myth and Mankind series. Time Life Books, 1999.

.Anahita in Iranian Mythology, (Anahita dar usturah ha-yi Irani), by Susan Gaviri. Tehran, Intisharat-i Jamal al Haqq, (year 1372), 1993.

First Iranian Goddess of productivity and values, by Manouchehr Saadat Noury in the Persian Journal, Iranian.ws, Jul 21, 2005.

The Avestan Hymn to Mithra trans. Ilya Gershevitch. Cambridge University Press, 2008.The Heritage of Persia, by Richard N. Frye. Mazda, 1993.Textual sources for the study of Zoroastrianism by Mary Boyce. University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Aban Yasht online translation at http://www.avesta.org/ka/yt5sbe.htm


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Nabarz

The full version of Anahita – Lady of Persia

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The full version of this paper is in my book:

"Seething Cauldron: Essays on Zoroastrianism, Sufism,
Freemasonry, Wicca, Druidry, and Thelema" 

ISBN: 978-0-9556858-4-2

Paperback, 227 pages.

Published in 2010 by ‘Web of Wyrd Press’

Available from:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/seething-cauldron-essays-on-zoroastrianism-sufism-freemasonry-wicca-druidry-and-thelema/13045243


secular

Anahita

by secular on

Thank you for the information and all the attached resources/links. Please keep up the excellent work, priceless!

 


Nabarz

Anahita

by Nabarz on

Dear Mehman,

Thanks, yes sure I will post more info on the ancient Persia. Its subject of great interest to me. I have been editing the  'An Academic and Religious Journal of Greek, Roman, and Persian Studies' for a while.  

Regards,

Nabarz

   

 


Mehman

Excellent info!

by Mehman on

 

Thanks again Mr. Nabarz for the invaluable information on Anahita. Hope you continue these blogs with other topics on Iranian mythology

BM

ازدواج کیکاوس و سودابه