Zoroastrianism in Text and Culture

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals


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In the history of Zoroastrian religion one can find different records for heresy and people who did not abide with Zoroastrianism. Maybe the first kind of heresy was Zurvanism which started at the time of the Achaemenid kings. Therefore, one can find different terminology and description for heresy in textual sources. One kind of heresy attested in Avesta is ašəmaōγa, meaning a person who knows the words of Zoroastrians but does not observe them in his actions. There are also other terms such as ahlamōγān ahlamōγ, referred to Mazdak, and drōg aštag referred to Mani. In Dādēstān ī dēnīg there is a chapter about heresy and its punishments. The aim of this paper is to analyze different kinds of heresy and their terminology according to Avesta and Middle Persian Zoroastrian Texts.

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Māh ī Frawardīn Rōz ī Hordād is a short Middle Persian text in epic poetry style, originally from late Sasanian times. This text, which was most probably destined for oral communication is centered on Ahura Mazda’s answer to Zoroaster’ question on why people hold the day Hordād of the month Frawardīn important, and it reviews the mythical past and future events that happened or will happen on this day. Jamaspji Minochehrji Jamasp-Asana published this text in his Corpus of Pahlavi Texts in 1913. The present author is preparing a critical edition of this text with commentary to be published shortly. In this presentation I will demonstrate that the Māh ī Frawardīn Rōz ī Hordād offers interesting deviations from established priestly traditions and it contains some of less known ancient myths. For example, it is the only Middle Persian text in which Āraš, the famous Iranian archer has been mentioned.

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The paper presents some highlights from the work on the new Etymological Dictionary of Iranian Noun (to appear in the Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series), carried on since 2009 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Leiden, and from a concomitant study on lexical combinatorics in Old Iranian and Old Indian languages.

Avestan and Vedic surprise us over and over again with systematic correspondence between appellatives or proper names, on the one hand, and formulae of ritual language as reflection of theology, cosmology, anthropology, as well as formulae of language of (ritual) poetry and idioms of Dichtersprache. As different from a precedent stage in the history of research, the parallels of purely semantic character turn out to have only very limited argumentative value for linguistic reconstruction: what is crucial for such an analytic approach, instead, is to find exact phonological correspondences, morphosyntactic parallels and syntagmatic collocations that may be traced back to an inherited common denominator from the point of view both of form and of contents. To avoid purely semantic parallels, in the last decades students of Comparative Indo-Iranian Linguistics have been focusing on the research of that part of the inherited phraseology which concerns the relationship between poetical lexicon and standing poetic formulae.

Following a series of investigations of lexical elements, ritual formulae and ritual practices in Vedic and Avestan and their parallels in Indo-European and Semitic traditions (presented e.g. on the AIS conference in London 2006, the World Sanskrit Conference in Kyoto 2009, and the Congress of the Societas Iranologica Europaea in Cracow 2011 and published in two monographs so far), this talk will focus on selected lexical items and concepts of significance for Iranian and Indian cultural history, ritual pragmatics and poetical art, tracing them back to their Indo-Iranian roots.