Here comes I, Mother Simorq, primordial bird-woman, with wisdom without death, whence of life within and out. Solar essence of Great Goddess, True Healer of body and mind, paladin of the ancient Persian Mysteries and paragon of free-thinking, self-knowledge and transformation, I am likewise a Persian phoenix of ceaseless radiance, formerly known as rainbow-coloured Senmurv.
Composite and woman-faced, I have the head of a snarling dog representing the angel Surush, voice of conscience. My fragrance of musk wafts on the world, reviving hearts. Towering as thirty birds and armed with three-clawed paws, I hold my grip on preys as big as gorillas and bear them away. I abide in a grotto on the top of Qâf Mount in the Alborz mountains, the attic room of my mountain-house. Staying there with my young, I feed them with milk from my breasts. My copper-coloured wings and my thirty-coloured raised tail of a peacock portray vision, awakening, enlightenment, balance and the beauty you can achieve when you try to show your true colours to yourselves and your entourage – a major challenge for my peoples’ twisted psyche.
I roost in the Tree of Life, Tree of All Seeds, All-healing Tree, which stands near a vast jungle on the shores of the ocean of heavenly waters, on the slopes of the Alborz mountains. When I take flight, a thousand shoots grow from my Tree and all kinds of seeds hang on its branches and become ripe. When I alight on it, I break a thousand shoots and let the seeds of the vegetable world fall to the earth, taking root to become every type of plant that ever lives, capable of relieving all the illnesses of humankind. Moreover, the extract from my Tree of Life is potent medicine, most nutritious for the mind and soul, enhancing mental awareness.
Healing is what my Tree and I do best, which excludes approval of your seeking to end yourselves in my light – one of the thirty ways to commit suicide. Mysticism is not what I’ve been about in my beginning. The story of thirty pilgrim birds searching for me as a male god, “the King of Birds,” reaching me and losing themselves forever in me, is but a foreign lore glued to my nature. True, I do represent the perfect human who has exalted herself to the highest rung of freedom. However this implies that those of you who climb to my Mount Qâf, are to find yourselves as distinct individuals, to know all parts of your psyche, to be comprehended and composed as personalities distinct from the general and the collective mind. It does not mean reaching me as an escape from yourselves, as the abandonment of your needed ego in its balanced form, as deliverance from material world. The Heaven is here on Earth and I am the Goddess of Wisdom, not the god of slum and martyrdom.
When I, Mother Simorq, appear in Persian epics, myths, and fairytales, I bring bliss and good fortune to those I watch over.
In fairytales, I assist Prince Khorshid, the Sun Prince, who is abandoned by his two older brothers at the bottom of a well – an entrance to the underworld. He is left without his wise beloved Moon Princess who has told him there are two things he should know: first, a singing golden cock of conscience and a self-illuminated golden lantern of wisdom, which will lead him to her; second, later in the night, two fighting oxen, one white and the other black, will approach him; he should jump on the white ox to be taken out of the well. However, in his excitement, the prince jumps on the black ox and drops with it seven floors further down, near a city.
He finds that there is no water in that city as a dragon – goddess of primordial waters, is sleeping in front of the spring. He slays the dragon and the city king tells him that I, Mother Simorq, am the only one who can take him up seven floors to the ground if he first kills the Serpent who eats my young every year. The prince walks to the jungle, sees the Serpent – guardian of knowledge and underworld, climbing up my Tree of Life to eat my frightened young. He cuts the serpent into small pieces and feeds some to my hungry young. When I return, I urge him to slay seven bulls – seven aspects of his troubled ego, and keep their meat, to make seven bags out of their hides and fill them with water. I tell him that on our way up to the ground, whenever I say I am hungry he must give me a bag of water and when I say I am thirsty he must give me the carcass of a bull.
Prince does as I have instructed him until only one bag of water is left. When I say I am thirsty, he cuts off some flesh from his thigh and puts it in my mouth. I know it is human flesh and hold it until we reach our destination, the ground. As soon as he dismounts, the prince urges me to fly back at once but, knowing he cannot walk without limping, I refuse and with my saliva restore the piece of his flesh to his thigh. His wound that has ripped him open and the appreciation of pain have allowed his ego to mature. For his courage and unselfishness, I give the prince three of my feathers, so that if he is ever in need of assistance he should burn one of them and I would instantly appear. With that I fly away. Entering the town, the Sun Prince learns that the Moon Princess has announced she will marry only the one who can bring her a singing golden cock and a self-illuminated golden lantern. The prince recognises the signs, leaves the town at night and burns one of my feathers. When I appear, he asks me to bring him what his beloved has demanded, and so I do. In the morning, the prince takes the treasures to the king, who at once recognises his favourite son. The Sun Prince marries his beloved Moon Princess and they become happy successors to the throne.
In epics, a child is born an albino, his mother gives him the name of Zâl, but his father, the warrior Sâm, thinks of him as a demon and lays him in the mountains. The infant’s cry reaches my ears and touches my tender heart. I fly down the Qâf peak like a cloud, retrieve the babe, raise him as my foster-child, cherish him and teach him the language of the country and much of my wisdom. When he grows into a young man endowed with great physical power and a brilliant mind, I fly him to the bottom of the mountain and as a token of my farr – good luck and grace, I gift him with samples of my golden feathers, of which he is to burn one if he ever needs me, as I am a caregiver, a helper, and a healer. Upon returning to his land, Zâl falls in love with Princess Rudabeh who loves him back and marries him. The first time I’m called for assistance is at the birth of their son, Rostam. The labour is prolonged and complicated; Rudabeh might die. I appear and teach Zâl how to open her womb to remove the baby, thus saving the mother and child. I suggest he drugs the mother with wine before opening up her side. I prescribe the herbs for healing the wound and complete the healing by touching the wound with my feather.
For the second time I am called to help Zâl’s son, I’m called to guide warrior Rostam in his battle with his rival, warrior Esfandiâr, when Rostam and his horse Rakòsh are wounded by the rival’s arrows and aptitude. Bloodied and exhausted, Rostam escapes to a hill, requests Esfandiâr for a suspension and promises to concede to his wishes the next morning, but in fact the despondent Rostam considers flight. His father, Zâl, puts to the fire the feather I’ve given him and I plunge from the sky. In one night I take Rostam to the tamarisk tree, heal his wounds with my feathers and teach him to fashion an arrow from the branches of that tree and aim it at Esfandiâr’s eyes, his vulnerable spot. Next day Rostam offers to place his men and treasures at Esfandiâr’s disposal, but the callous rival’s haughty demand to put him in chains leaves Rostam no choice but to follow my instructions. Thus Esfandiâr is mortally wounded and Rostam wins the battle.
There has never been a third call for me by Zâl, and I am still waiting for him to burn a feather of mine for a last time. The same holds true for Prince Khorshid who has used only one feather out of the three I offered him. Yes, I am still mercurial and on the move to the earthly world. Now, everyday at dawn I fly down the Mount Qâf with the first sunrise ray to the ground, bathe in the stream of here and now amongst people as an earthly healer, and fly back up to my abode every evening with the last ray of the sunset. Yes I am back to ask you all a question or two and I have some musings and grievances to share with you. As guardian of Iranians and our heroes and heroines, I ask myself why Prince Khorshid does not use my knowledge and wisdom more often than he does; why does my protégé and foster-son Zâl appeal to me twice when his son Rostam’s life is in danger, but he does not call to me when Rostam is putting other people’s lives in danger by his own bad judgement or brutality.
I see moving images of the still-alive heroes and queens, princesses and demons, gods and goddesses of the Persian folk tales. I see the life of Persian mythology fostering the lust for battles and actions of the most brutal sort. Besides various complex love stories, I see it presenting us with heroes of poor minds, puffed muscles and unbridled emotions, who forsake their son for having white hair, suspect queens and princesses of plotting against them, denounce their step-mother of incestual intent, kill their son under the pretence of not knowing him or kill the enemy, like a coward, when they’re asleep. And I see so many emotional conflicts between the heroes and heroines of Iran and Turan, between father and son, step-mother and son, brother and sister, colleagues and kings. Yet Zâl does not ask my advice and assistance for their controversial plans and actions, and people read and recite them over the centuries without question.
I wonder what has happened to my feathers, the last of the three I gave to Zâl and the remaining two of the three I gave to the Sun Prince? Have you seen them? Do you know where Zâl or Prince Khorshid have placed them unused? What would you do if you find a feather of mine in your dream, in your vision or on a path to some mythical place? Would you burn it to make me appear before you? What would you expect me to do for you?
Do you want me, Mother Simorq, to transform the enfolding of an odd myth? No story is written in stone, no struggle is sealed, no fantasy can force the hand of fate. Myths are modified as you narrate them over and over through centuries with new thoughts you breathe into them. They grow with the growth of the peoples who re-write and recite them anew. I’m a healer, remember. What kind of ill in your favourite stories would you like me to redress, to remedy? It does not need to be a difficult birth, nor does it have to be a major bodily wound. You have surely much more emotional ills in your myths, as amongst yourselves, than physical ones. Furthermore, would you like me to re-write and retell old stories in a language mindful of the spirit of our times and in a new form that contains surprise twists?
What if my surgical feathers, transformative spells and exploding syllables split the curtain of myths and fairytales open and make our heroes and heroines come out as ordinary folk, living parallel lives to their imaginary templates? What would you like me to do with this cast of characters? Would you like to read parallel versions of their tragic or happy lives? Which dissonance among them would you want me to heal and what prejudices in their minds and lives would you wish me to discuss, clarify and cleanse? What overlooked mental disorders, confusion or misconception do you see our heroes and heroines are going through? Would you want me to heal them or rather leave them alone and let them act on their misjudgements? May I change the course of their fate? After all, the ancient characters are integral part of the Iranian culture and identifiable forces within our individual psyche. They are accessible like friends, explicable like puzzles and alterable like caterpillars or works of art in progress. The healing of these characters becomes synonymous with revisioning our own outlook and mentality, re-writing our own attitudes and actions, thus transforming our luck and destination. Healing and transformation are done through rewriting and rewriting becomes healing and transformation.
Would you still clutch at old echoes from poet Ferdowsi’s The Book of Kings or from Persian proverbs and parables of oral tradition that reinforce the questionable status quo? Or would you like to see me weave and unweave my tapestry of tales, my unfolding for Persian folktales and myths that I, on you, as a gift bestow?