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Persian Myths

Some Persian Myths

 

Picture Courtesy of : http://www.seapyramid.net/articles/images/persia/camel.jpg

 

JAMSHĪD THE RESPLENDENT

A time there was when the works of Angra Mainyu, the Evil One, no longer disturbed the world, and when pain and death were not known amongst men. That time lasted for a thousand years. It was while Jamshīd the Resplendent sat upon the Golden Throne in the Kingdom of Light, and had around his brow the awful Glory that belonged to the Kings of Iran who had the favour of Ahura Mazda, the Beneficent One.

These were the kings and archimages who ruled over men before the time of Jamshīd. First there was Gaya Maretan: in his time men lived on the mountains and clad themselves in the skins of beasts. Then there was Siyamak: he contended with the demon Angra Mainyu, and his life was lost; gloom overcame Gaya Maretan because of this, and the gloom of their ruler spread itself through the minds of all the people. And then came Hoshang, and Hoshang gave fire to men, and showed them how to find and how to use the metals that were in the earth; also he showed them how to lead the rivers so that they might water the land, and he showed them how to till the earth and reap the grain, and he paired sheep and cattle and horses for them. Moreover, he trained hounds for the chase, and showed men how to make coverings for themselves with the skins of the beasts they got in the chase. And Hoshang gave men justice and showed them how to deal justly with each other; his reign, because of the security and prosperity men had during it, was almost as the reign of Jamshīd. To Hoshang was given the Glory that shone around the kings who had the favour of Ahura Mazda, and Hoshang was the first to show it upon his brow. After Hoshang came Tahmurath: he subdued the demon Angra Mainyu, and he rode upon him as upon a horse. The demon would have remained subdued had it not been for the treason of Tahmurath's wife. He came before the woman and offered marvellous presents to her. "Hath Tahmurath any dread of me ever?" he asked of her. "Discover if he hath and tell me of it, and more than these will I give thee." The woman asked Tahmurath if he ever had any dread of the demon whom

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he rode upon as a horse. "Upon the mountain Albūrz there is a place where dread overcometh me," he told her. "When I, riding upon the demon, come upon that place I shout aloud and I strike him so that he may take me swiftly past that dangerous place." All this Tahmurath's wife told the demon, Angra Mainyu. And the next time when he rode upon Albūrz, and struck the demon that was in the form of his horse, and shouted, Angra Mainyu turned upon him, and threw him upon the ground, and destroyed him. But before he had been destroyed by the demon, Tahmurath had won from the daevas, the creatures of the demon, a boon for men. Once, when he would have destroyed many of them with his great mace, the daevas said to him, "Destroy us not, and we will show you a most useful art." Tahmurath spared them, and the daevas showed him the art of writing, and he taught men that art.

Now Jamshīd won back the Glory from the power of the demon, and it showed upon his brow, and he ruled over the land of Iran, over the Kingdom of Light. And he was called the Resplendent because of the brilliance that was upon him and that was over all things in his time. Death was not known then: father and son walked the land together, each in the flush of youth. Men, birds, and beasts, and daevas obeyed the lord Jamshīd.

In the first hundreds of the years that he reigned he divided men into classes: he formed a class of priests who make sacrifices upon the mountains; he formed a class of warriors who guard the thrones of the kings, and who hold back the foes of the Aryan people; he formed a class of husbandmen who till and reap, and whom none may oppress or reproach; he formed a class of artificers who live together in one place and who are ever turbulent. Over men formed into these classes, Jamshīd, with the Glory upon his brow, reigned in justice.

In the second hundred of the years he reigned he made mighty works--palaces, and temples, and great walled cities. It was then that he built the city of Persepolis--the city that is called the Throne of Jamshīd. In the third hundred of the years he reigned he drew towards his city those who had dwelt far off, or those who wandered about in tribes, and he provided for them, winning out of the earth through his wisdom abundance of provisions. And those who were sick and ailing amongst them he cured, discovering sovereign medicaments through

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his wisdom and showing men how they were compounded. And more and more Jamshīd was honoured by the multitudes whom he had brought around him and whom he nourished.

And then a change came over Jamshīd. He forgot that all he had was from Ahura Mazda. He thought that all that gave prosperity to men came from him, and from him alone. The first time that he thought this the Glory went from off his brow, leaving him pale and trembling. it departed from him in the shape of the bird Vareghna. Then it was that Mithra seized hold of it and brought the Glory back to Jamshīd--Mithra whom we hymn:

Thou who drivest over Albūrz
Coursers that the winds have rousčd--
Mithra, foremost o' the Immortals!

Thou who seest the gleaming cohorts
And upholdst hearts of battlers--
Mithra, foremost o' the Immortals!

Deeds that thou mayst look on grant us--
Deeds this day from hearts unshrinking--
Mithra, foremost o' the Immortals!

[paragraph continues] The Glory again was upon Jamshīd's brow. But soon he said to himself, "The world is mine, for it was I who gave men all that they use." His Glory again departed from him, and he was left pale and trembling. But again it was restored to him.

And once again forwardness entered into Jamshīd. He made a feast and he brought the people around his throne. He had the people honour him even before they had honoured Heaven. And he spoke to them and he said, "Mine is the world. I have formed it according to my will, and from me alone come all the goods that ye possess--your raiment and food, your pleasure and your rest, your health and your happiness. Your lives ye owe to me. Therefore ye should adore me as the maker and the ruler of the world. All who do not adore me belong to the demon, Angra Mainyu."

But when he said this the Glory departed from the brow of Jamshīd; he was left pale and trembling and unguarded. And the Glory was not restored to him. Disease came into the world; contentions came into

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the world; the multitudes that had gathered around Jamshīd's city strove with one another. Death came amongst men. The demon Angra Mainyu had power in the world.

Now there lived at that time in the land of Arabia a prince whose name was Dahhak. His father had herds of cattle and flocks of sheep past counting, and Dahhak owned a thousand horses. The demon Angra Mainyu went to Dahhak in the guise of a youth, and sought employment from him, and became one of the grooms who attended his horses. And he was serviceable, and he won the favour of Prince Dahhak. After a while the demon tempted the prince, telling him of the power that would be his if his father, the king, were dead. Dahhak listened to him, and consented to the death of his father. And the king was slain as though by a chance, and Dahhak came to be king in Arabia.

Now after Dahhak had become king, Angra Mainyu, the demon, appeared before him once more; again he was in the guise of a young man, and this time he asked Dahhak to let him serve him as cook.

Dahhak consented, and the demon, Angra Mainyu, prepared the dishes for the king and his court. Now up to this time men had nourished themselves upon herbs only; the flesh of animals was not known to them as food. Angra Mainyu prepared dishes of flesh-meat and served them to the king and his nobles. All delighted in these savoury meats, and strength and courage came to them through their eating them, so that the fighting men of Arabia became as lions in battle. And one night, after an especially savoury meal had been served to the court, the king sent for his cook, and said to him, "Is there a boon you would ask of me? If there be one, ask for it, and I swear it shall be granted to thee." Then the demon, with laughter in his black heart, bowed low before the king and said, "There is only one boon that I would ask from the king. I would ask permission from him to let me lay my hands upon the back of his shoulders, and to kiss him between the shoulders."

The king permitted him to do this. Then the demon in the guise of the young man laid his hands upon the back of Dahhak's shoulders and kissed him between the shoulders. And as he did this, the ground opened, and the young man disappeared in the opening, and all who were present were astonished. And behold! From each of the king's shoulders a hissing serpent sprang.

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All were horrified at this happening. His nobles tried to tear the serpents from the back of the king, but they could not do this. They took swords and cut off the hissing things. But no sooner were they cut off than they grew again, hissing more dreadfully, and gnawing at the flesh of Dahhak's shoulders. And none knew what could be done to save the king from the serpents that gnawed him.

Then once more Angra Mainyu appeared before Dahhak and his court. This time he came in the guise of a wise man, and he spoke before the king and said, "This ill cannot be healed; always the serpents will stay upon the king's shoulders. But they may be prevented from gnawing his flesh perpetually. The serpents will have to be fed in other ways. Every day feed to each of them the brains of a young man. If this be done the king will have ease."

The word of Angra Mainyu was taken. Every day two young men were killed, and their brains were fed to the serpents upon Dahhak's shoulders. The king had ease from their gnawing, but the land was in gloom and terror because of the slaying of the young men.

And still Angra Mainyu was not content. He would have the gloom and terror that was around Dahhak brought into Iran, the Kingdom of Light. This was the time that Jamshīd had lost his Glory for the third time, and there were sicknesses and woes in the land. Contentions were there also, for his nobles had revolted from Jamshīd and they struggled to take his power from him. They heard of a king in Arabia who was mighty and powerful and a terror to his enemies, and they sent to him-they sent even to Dahhak the Demon-possessed One, and invited him to become king over them and over Iran.

Then Dahhak with his army came into the land. Jamshīd fled from before him. And for a hundred years he who had once been so glorious and who had around his brow the Glory of the kings of Iran, fled from the fury of the demon-possessed Dahhak. Dahhak sought for him in every place. And at last, by the shore of the farthest sea, Dahhak's servitors came upon Jamshīd. They took him who had been called the Resplendent, and they sawed him in twain, and they sent Dahhak the tidings of what had been done.

Then Dahhak put upon himself the Glory and the power of the world as though it were a ring that he slipped upon his finger. He sat upon the golden throne and he ruled over Iran, the Kingdom of

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[paragraph continues] Light, Dahhak the beloved of Angra Mainyu. And in those days the will of the bad man was accomplished, and those who sought good or who spoke of good did so by stealth. Pure sacrifices were no longer offered, and black magic was practised by men who were instructed by the daevas. And every day two young men were slaughtered that the serpents upon Dahhak's shoulders might be fed.

For a thousand years Dahhak ruled, and for a thousand years evil flourished upon the earth. But at last Ahura Mazda heard the cry of his people. He resolved that there should be an end to the sway that evil had upon earth.

Then Dahhak had a dream; he dreamt that he beheld a youth of royal mien, slender like a cypress-tree, and he knew that this youth was of the race of Jamshīd. And the youth came towards him as if to smite him with a mace that he held. Dahhak awakened. He called for his wise men, and when they appeared before him he demanded of them that they interpret his dream.

The wise men were in fear, and for three days they kept silence before the king. He questioned them all the time. At last they spoke and they said to him, "A young man of the race of Jamshīd will arise and will reverse thy fortune." And when they said this, Dahhak the tyrant swooned, and the wise men fled from before him.

Then Dahhak had the world scoured for a youth of the race of Jamshīd. In the terror that had come upon him what judgment he had vanished, and he made wars endlessly, and he filled whole countries with slaughter. But he did not come upon the youth who was in his dream. Such a youth there was, and he was named Farīdūn. His mother heard of the search that was being made for him who was descended from Jamshīd, and she hid him in a thick forest, where he was nourished on the milk of a wondrous cow, and he was trained by those who were the guardians of the cow. And Farīdūn grew to be tall as the royal cypress-tree.

At last the news of the wondrous cow and of the royal youth nourished by her came to the ears of Dahhak. He came with an army towards the forest where they were. But Farīdūn 's mother had been warned by a dream: she fled with the youth her son; she brought him to the mountain Albūrz, and she prayed a hermit who lived on the mountain to guard him and to teach him, knowing him to be the

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descendant of Jamshīd and the one who would destroy Dahhak, the beloved of Angra Mainyu. The hermit hid the youth in his cave. As for the demon-possessed king, when he found out that the youth had been in the forest and had escaped from him, he became enraged and was like to a mad elephant. He slaughtered the wondrous cow, he slew the guardians the cow had had, and he burned and laid waste the whole of the forest. Then, with fear and bitterness in his heart, he went searching again for Farīdūn.

He made his army greater than it had been; he became more and more fearful of what might be said about him. He called upon the people to come before his throne and sign a scroll declaring that he was, and ever had been, a righteous king. People came before the throne; in fear they bent before him; they signed their names to words that they believed not in--that Dahhak was, and ever had been, a righteous king.

Once when men had been assembled to sign this scroll, there came a tumult before the door of the hall, and when the officers asked what was the meaning of the disturbance, a man came into the hall saying, "A wrong has been done me and I demand justice from the king."

Then Dahhak spoke, and he said, "I charge thee to say the name of the man who hath wronged thee. Tell his name that justice may be done to thee in the hall of the king."

Then the man came before the king, and, looking straight at him, he said, "I am Kawa, a blacksmith and a blameless man. I sue for justice. Against thee, O king, is my suit. Seventeen fair sons I have had, and only one remaineth to me now, for all his brothers have been slaughtered that thy accursed serpents might be fed. I pray thee, to grant me the life of this last son of mine."

All in the hall were fearful when they heard what Kawa said to the king. But Dahhak spoke softly to the man, saying that the life of his son would be spared to him. And he brought him to where the others were signing their names to the scroll, and he told him to sign the testament as to Dahhak's being a righteous ruler.

When this was said to him the blacksmith lifted up his hands and declared that he would sign no such falsity. And he took up the scroll and he tore it across and he scattered the fragments around the hall.

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[paragraph continues] Then he strode from the palace, leaving those who were there silent and filled with awe.

Kawa went to the market-place and a crowd gathered around him. He related all that had happened in the palace, and he recalled to the people the evil deeds of Dahhak, and all the wrongs he had caused them to suffer. He roused them so that they became ready to strive to shake off the yoke of the servant of the demon, Angra Mainyu. Kawa took off the leathern apron with which blacksmiths cover their knees when they smite the iron, and he stuck it upon a pike, and he raised it up as a standard. And the people declared that they would follow that banner.

So an army was formed with Kawa at the head of it. The soldiers of Dahhak went against them; they fought, and the army of Kawa retreated to another part of the land. They came to the mountain Albūrz, and they encamped beside it. And down from the mountain came Farīdūn, now grown into perfect manhood. He knew now that he was of Jamshīd's race; he knew of the evil deeds of Dahhak, and he was resolved to destroy him. He said to his mother, "I go to the wars, and it remaineth to thee to pray Ahura Mazda for my safety." The army of Kawa knew him to be the one who was destined to overthrow the demon-possessed king.

Now the army with the banner of Kawa before it set out for the West. At Baghdad which is upon the Tigris the army halted. Farīdūn bade the ferrymen who were at the river convey them across. But the ferrymen refused, saying that King Dahhak had crossed the river a while before, and he had given them orders to convey no one across except those who had a seal from his hand. When Farīdūn heard this said he was angry, and in his anger he had no thought for the rushing river nor for the dangers of the flood. He plunged with his steed into the water, and all his army followed him. Many struggled in the midstream, and it seemed as if the flood would bear them away. But Farīdūn on his brave steed crossed the river, and when his army saw him upon the other side of the Tigris they shouted with lifted hearts, and they made their way across.

They turned their faces towards the city that is now called Jerusalem. There was the glorious house that Dahhak had built for himself, a house that was built in a bird's shape. And when Farīdūn came before the city the folk of the city joined his army, for they hated

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[paragraph continues] Dahhak. And Farīdūn n entered into the glorious house that the beloved of Angra Mainyu had built, and he cast down the evil talismans that were graven upon the walls, and he made himself the master of that house and of all that was in it.

Then Farīdūn through all that house pursued Dahhak, and he caught him with a rope made out of a lion's hide, and he bound him in bonds that would have held an elephant. Then would he have slain him who had oppressed the world for a thousand years. But it was not destined that he should be slain. The angel Sraosha appeared before Farīdūn as he raised his mace to strike Dahhak, and said, "Strike him not, for Dahhak's hour has not come."

Farīdūn put mighty fetters upon him and carried him to Mount Damavand, and fettered him in a narrow gorge, and bound him to a crag, and left him to hang there through the ages. And the angel Sraosha set upon Farīdūn's brow the Glory that had been upon Jamshīd's. And Farīdūn ruled the world with justice, and in his time men reposed in the gardens of content, in the bowers of undisturbed security. Prosperity drew the bloom of happiness from the vicinity of his pavilion, and victory borrowed brilliance of hue from the surface of his well-tempered sword.

 

But the ancient story told that Dahhak, fettered by Farīdūn on Mount Damavand, will be released by Angra Mainyu when the powers of evil once more get the upper hand. He will be freed from his chains, and in his fury he will rush forth and swallow everything in his way--he will swallow a third of mankind, a third of the cattle, a third of the sheep. He will smite and strive to destroy water, fire, and the vegetation of the earth. Then water, fire, and vegetation will lament before Ahura Mazda. And Ahura Mazda will send the angel Sraosha to arouse the hero Keresaspa. He will call three times. At the fourth summons of the angel the hero will awake, and he will go forth and encounter Dahhak, and he will strike Dahhak with his great mace, and so will slay the beloved of Angra Mainyu. And when Dahhak has been slain such an era of happiness will begin for men as was in the time of Jamshīd the Resplendent.

Courtesy of : http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/omw/omw27.htm

 

THE PICTURE OF THE UNIVERSE

THE ANCIENT PERSIAN THOUGHT OF THE WORLD AS ROUND AND FLAT, LIKE A PLATE. THE SKY, TO THEM, WAS NOT INFINITE SPACE, BUT A HARD SUBSTANCE, LIKE ROCK CRYSTAL, WHICH ENCOMPASSED THE WORLD LIKE A SHELL. IN ITS ORIGINAL PERFECT STATE THE EARTH WAS FLAT, WITH NO VALLEYS OR MOUNTAINS, AND THE SUN, MOON AND CONSTELLATIONS STOOD STILL OVER THE EARTH AT THE NOONDAY POSITION. ALL WAS PEACEFUL AND HARMONIOUS. BUT THIS TRANQUIL STATE WAS SHATTERED BY THE ENTRY OF EVIL INTO THE UNIVERSE. IT CRASHED IN THROUGH THE SKY, PLUNGED DOWN INTO THE WATERS AND THEN BURST UP THROUGH THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, CAUSING THE EARTH TO SHAKE AND THE MOUNTAINS TO GROW. THE CHIEF MOUNTAIN WAS MOUNT ALBURZ WHICH TOOK EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS TO GROW. FOR TWO HUNDRED YEARS IT GREW TO STAR STATION; FOR TWO HUNDRED IT GREW TO THE MOON STATION; FOR TWO HUNDRED IT GREW TO THE SUN STATION; AND FOR THE FINAL TWO HUNDRED IT GREW TO THE UTMOST LIMIT OF THE SKY. THE MOUNTAIN THUS SPREADS THROUGH THE COSMOS, WHILE ITS BASE IS ATTACHED TO THE SKY WHERE IT ENCLOSES THE WORLD. THE ROOTS OF THIS COSMIC MOUNTAIN SPREAD UNDER THE EARTH, HOLDING IT TOGETHER, AND FROM THESE ROOTS GROW ALL THE OTHER MOUNTAINS. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EARTH STANDS MOUNT TERA, THE PEAK OF ALBURZ, AND FROM THERE TO HEAVEN STRETCHES THE CHINVAT BRIDGE OVER WHICH ALL SOULS MUST PASS AT DEATH ON THEIR JOURNEY TO HEAVEN OR HELL. THE AREZUR RIDGE ON THE RIM OF MOUNT ALBURZ IS THE GATEWAY TO HELL WHERE THE DEMONS DISCOURSE.

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TO CAPTURE RUSTAM THE DEMON AKWAN TOOK AWAY THE GROUND ON WHICH THE HERO SLEPT AND THEN THREW HIM INTO THE OCEAN.

IT WAS NOT ONLY THE EARTH THAT WAS SHAKEN BY THE ENTRY OF EVIL INTO THE UNIVERSE. THE SUN, MOON AND CONSTELLATION WERE SHAKEN FROM THEIR PLACE SO THAT THEY REVOLVE ROUND THE EARTH LIKE CROWNS UNTIL THE RENOVATION OF THE UNIVERSE, ENTERING THE SKY EACH DAY THROUGH ONE OF THE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY APERTURES ON MOUNT ALBURZ IN THE EAST, AND SETTING THROUGH ONE OF THE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY APERTURES IN THE WEST.

THE RAINS WERE FORMED BY THE GOD TISHTRYA. THEY WERE BLOWN TOGETHER BY THE WIND TO FORM THE COSMIC OCEAN, VOURUKASHA, OR BOUNDLESS OCEAN, WHICH LIES BEYOND THE PEAK OF MOUNT ALBURZ. THIS OCEAN IS SO WIDE THAT IT CONTAINS A THOUSAND LAKES, THE SPRINGS OF THE GODDESS ANAHITA. WITHIN THE OCEAN STAND TWO TREES: THE GAOKERENA TREE, OR WHITE HOM, FROM WHICH MEN WILL RECEIVE THE ELIXIR OF IMMORTALITY AT THE RENOVATION OF THE UNIVERSE, AND THE TREE OF MANY SEEDS FROM WHICH ALL OTHER TREES DERIVE. IN ITS BRANCHES LIVES THE GREAT SAENA BIRD (LATER SENMURW/SIMURG). WHEN IT BEAT'S ITS WINGS IT BREAKS THE BRANCHES, SCATTERING THE SEEDS WHICH ARE THEN CARRIED OVER THE EARTH IN THE WIND AND THE RAIN. EVIL NATURALLY TRIED TO DESTROY THIS LIFE-GIVING TREE AND FORMED A LIZARD TO ATTACK IT, BUT IT IS PROTECTED BY TEN KAR, FISH WHICH SWIM CEASELESSLY ROUND IN SUCH A WAY THAT ONE OF THEM IS ALWAYS WATCHING THE LIZARD.

THEN TREE GREAT AND TWENTY SMALL SEAS WERE FORMED. TWO RIVERS RAN THROUGH THE EARTH, ONE RUNNING FROM THE NORTH TO THE WEST AND OTHER FROM THE NORTH TO THE EAST, BOTH EVENTUALLY RUNNING OVER THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND MINGLING AGAIN WITH THE COSMIC OCEAN. WHEN THE RAINS FIRST CAME THE EARTH SPLIT INTO SEVEN PIECES. THE CENTRAL PORTION, KHWANIRATH, FORMS ONE HALF OF THE TOTAL LAND MASS AND THE SURROUNDING SIX PORTIONS ARE REFERRED TO AS THE KESHVARS. MEN WERE UNABLE TO PASS FROM ONE REGION TO ANOTHER UNLESS THEY RODE ON THE BACK OF THE HEAVENLY BULL, SRISHOK (OR HADHAYOS). SRISHOK IS CAREFULLY WATCHED OVER BY THE RIGHTEOUS GOPATSHAH, HALF MAN AND HALF OX, FOR HE IS TO BE THE LAST ANIMAL TO BE OFFERED IN SACRIFICE AT THE RENOVATION WHEN ALL MEN ARE TO BE MADE IMMORTAL.

THE BULL IS NOT THE ONLY REMARKABLE CREATURE IN THIS ANCIENT PICTURE OF THE UNIVERSE. AN EVEN MORE FANTASTIC ANIMAL IS THREE-LEGGED ASS. WHERE IT CAME FROM WE DO NOT KNOW, NOR DO WE KNOW WHAT THE MYTHICAL BEAST WAS MEANT TO BE. ONE SCHOLAR HAS SUGGESTED THAT IT WAS ORIGINALLY PART OF A METEOROLOGICAL MYTH SINCE IT IS SAID TO SHAKE THE WATERS OF THE COSMIC OCEAN; OTHERS BELIEVE THAT IT WAS ORIGINALLY A FOREIGN GOD INCORPORATED INTO PERSIAN BELIEF. WHATEVER ITS ORIGIN, THIS HOLY ANIMAL IS SAID TO HAVE THREE FEET, SIX EYES, NINE MOUTHS, TWO EARS AND HORN. IT IS AS BIG AS A MOUNTAIN AND EACH FOOT COVERS AS MUCH GROUND AS A THOUSAND SHEEP; ITS TASK IS TO DESTROY THE WORST DISEASE AND PESTS.

courtesy of : http://www.thundertour.com/myth.htm

 

Picture Courtesy of : http://www.seapyramid.net/articles/images/persia/mithra.jpg

 

Vis and Rāmin

The story of Vis and Rāmin dates from the pre-Islamic period. The 11th centurys poet F.A.Gorgāni used the theme in the mid-eleventh century and claimed a Sasanian origin for it. Now, however, it is regarded as belonging to the Parthian period, probably the first century AD. It has also been suggested that Gorgāni's story reflects the traditions and customs of the period immediately before he himself lived. This cannot be ruled out, as stories retold from ancient sources often include elements drawn from the time of their narrator .

The framework of the story is the opposition of two Parthian ruling houses, one in the west and the other in the east. The existence of these small kingdoms and the feudalistic background point to a date in the Parthian period. The popularity of this pre-Islamic story in the Islamic period is mentioned by the poet himself, and shows that there was a demand for ancient themes and traditional lore.

The plot unfolds as a struggle over love and honour between two ruling families. Instead of the Kavi kings of the Avesta and the Kiyāniān rulers of the Šahname, one set of protagonists is from the house of Qaren (the Parthian noble family of Karen). In the story their seat of power is the ancient city of Hamadān in Media. Their opponent is Mubad Manikan, the king of Merv (now in Turkmenistan in Central Asia), who rules in the east. The poem begins with Mubad, the old king of Merv, declaring his love for Šahru, the beautiful 'fairy-faced' queen of Mah (Media). Šahru explains to Mubad that she is already married and has a son, Viru, but she has to promise that, if she ever has a daughter, she will give her to Mubad as his wife. Šahru agrees to this because she does not believe she will ever bear another child. The oath is sealed with a handshake and written down on silk. However, it so happens that 'the dried-up tree turned green and came out with a hundred leaves and Howers. In her old age Šahru became pregnant, like a pearl fallen into an oyster'.

The baby is a girl, whom they call Vis. She is immediately given into the care of a wet nurse who takes her to Xuzestān and brings her up with the other child in her care. This is Rāmin, younger brother of the king of Merv. When the children grow up, Rāmin is called back to Merv and Vis is sent back to her home in Hamadān. Her mother, Šahru, decides that the only man in Iran worthy of such beauty and culture is her son Viru, Vis' own brother. When their stars are consulted and the offiens are found positive, a wedding of great splendour takes place. It is during these festivities that Zard, a half-brother of King Mubad, arrives at court to deliver a message reminding Šahru of her promise to give him her daughter's hand. Vis refuses to leave her brother-husband and Mubad in fury determines to go to war with the house of Qaren. He sends messengers to many places and finds much support arnong their kings, including those of Tabarestān, Gorgān, Dahistān, Xorezmia, Sogdia, Sind, India, Tibet and China( See map ). Soon his court is filled with the commanders of armies and the plains of Merv are crowded with people, resernbling the Day of Judgement. Meanwhile, Šahru enlists the support of the kings who attended the wedding: those of Azerbaijān, Ray, Gilān, Xuzestān, Istakhr and Isfahān, all in the western part of Iran ( The two armies meet on the plains of Nehāvand, and Vis' father is killed on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Rāmin catches a glimpse of Vis, his childhood friend, and instant lyfallsin love with her. Hetries topersuade his older brother , the king, to give up the idea of marrying Vis, but Mubad's love grows even stronger and he is determined to have her as his wife. Mubad finally succeeds in persuading Šahru to let him marry her daughter by giving her precious gifts, remminding her of their oath, and asking her not to tum her back on the Al- mighty .In fear of God, Šahru opens the gate of the fortress and lets Mubad take Vis away with him.

While celebrations are under way in the city of Merv, Rāmin is sick with love for Vis. She, for her part, is determined to use her father's death as an excuse not to allow Mubad to get close to her. At this point, an unexpected character arrives on the scene to control their destiny: the nurse who had
brought up Vis and Rāmin hurries to Merv to be near Vis. Using mysterious powers, she arranges a meeting between her two former charges, which leads to an unfulfilled but passionate love affair. At the same time Mubad, whom Vis has kept distant, pines for his young and beautiful wife. She and Rāmin, torn between their love for each other and their feelings of guilt towards Mubad, seem like helpless figures manipulated by destiny. Through the devious plots of the nurse, the two young people finally consummate their love during Mubad's absence from Merv.
Unaware of the affair between his wife and his younger brother, Mubad invites them both to join him in the western highlands and suggests that Vis should visit her family. Mubad then overhears a conversation between the nurse and Vis, revealing her liaison with Rāmin. Mad with rage, he threatens to expose Vis and kill Rāmin, but Vis manages to turn his rage away, declaring that he means more to her than anyone else. Viru, Vis' brother and first husband, cannot understand her passion for Rāmin. He reminds her of her noble lineage and urges her not to shame her ancestors by her infatuation. Vis and Rāmin finally Bee to Ray, keeping their whereabouts a secret, but when Rāmin writes a letter to his mother she betrays him to Mubad. On their return to Merv, the lovers continue their secret meetings, using every opportunity to be together behind the old king's back. He is haunted by the thought of his wife's infidelity and his brother's deception, and he locks her away in an isolated fortress during his absences from court.

By now Vis' and Rāmin's liaison is well known in Merv and, during a court banquet, Rāmin (himself an accornplished minstrel and harp player) sings of their love. Mubad, infuriated by this openness, threatens to cut Rāmin's throat. When Rāmin defends himself, the king cornes to his senses and stays his hand. Torn between his love for Vis and his loyalty to Mubad, Rāmin listens to the advice of a wise man, who tells him that he has come under the spell of a demon and that, if he goes out into the world, he will find many women more truthful and virtuous than Vis. Rāmin decides to leave Merv and start a new life, ffioving westwards after being granted the kingdoms of Ray and Gorgān.

In the west Rāmin meets and falls in love with Gul, a Parthian princess, and marries her, finally forgetting his old love. His days of pleasure and love with Gul come to an end, however, when one day he compares her with Vis and suggests that she is like an apple cut in half. Gul, upset to be compared with Rāmin's lover, considers this a betrayal. Rerninded once again of Vis, Rāmin writes her a letter and a long correspondence begins between the two former lovers.

Rāmin returns to Merv, where he and Vis are reunited. They escape together, taking with the ffi the king's treasures. Once again, their journey takes the ffi to the west and, after travelling through Qazvin, they settle in Daylarnan. When Mubad discovers Vis' and Rāmin's Bight, he follows theffi with his army, only to meet a cruel death. Attacked by a wild boar during a night's rest, Mubad chases it on his grey horse and shoots an arrow at the beast, but misses. The boar then throws itself at the king and his horse, dragging theffi to the ground and tearing the king's body open from chest to navel. With the death of Mubad, Rāmin is crowned king of kings. He and Vis happily return to Merv, and they have two sons. When Vis eventually dies, Rāmin places her body in an under- ground tomb and soon joins her there, first handing over the throne and crown to their son Xoršid.

courtesy of : http://medlem.spray.se/davidgorgan/vis_o_Ramin.html



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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations