The mythology of any civilization mirrors its main point values, biggest fears, and also highest hopes and so the is through the mythology of old Persia. The good heroes choose Karsasp, Thraetaona, and Rustum express particularly Persian worths but, just like all mythical figures, space recognizable to world of any culture as duty models whose finest qualities space worth emulating.

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This is likewise true for countless creatures of ancient Persian mythology, the pressures for good as well as evil, in that they touch top top universal involves of the human problem through the particular details of their personalities symbolizing assorted apprehensions and also possibilities.

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New Year"s Image, Persepolis
Ginolerhino (CC BY)

The stories which form the basis of Persian mythology come from at an early stage Persian spiritual belief. One describes these – and comparable stories indigenous any society – as “mythology” in the current day only since the theological paradigm has readjusted and a universe of countless gods, spirits, angels, and also demons has been replaced either through the monotheistic or atheistic model. In their time, however, they would have actually served the same simple purpose as the bible of any type of religion does in modern times: to teach necessary spiritual and cultural values and assure people of order and an interpretation in the face of an regularly chaotic and frightening world.

The stories were passed under orally over the centuries until they were written down as part of the spiritual tradition that Zoroastrianism in the Avesta (Zoroastrian scripture) throughout the Sassanian period (224-651 CE) in the reigns that the majesties Shapur II (309-379 CE) and also Kosrau i (531-579 CE) and then were fully addressed through the Persian poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi (l. 940-1020 CE) in his epic work-related Shahnameh (“The publication of Kings”) written in between 977-1010 CE. By the time Ferdowsi to be writing, monotheism in the form of Islam had actually replaced the old Persian religion, yet his occupational still resonated with an audience and also continues to carry out so.

Ancient Persian Religion


The main vision of old Persian religious beliefs was that a global struggle in between the forces of great & evil, bespeak & chaos.

The main vision of ancient Persian religious beliefs was the a global struggle in between the pressures of an excellent and evil, order and chaos. This specific theme is the structure of essentially every ancient world faith to one level or another, but for the Persians, it amounted to the definition of existence. There were two pressures at job-related in the universe which to be antithetical to each other and whichever side one aligned one"s self through would specify one"s earthly journey and also destination in the afterlife.

On the next of an excellent was a pantheon of gods and also spirits presided over by the supreme deity Ahura Mazda, the creator the all things seen and unseen, and, the contrary these, was Angra Mainyu (also provided as Ahriman), the heart of evil, chaos, and confusion through his legion the demons and also assorted supernatural (and natural) creatures and animals. Ahura Mazda had developed human beings with free will to pick which course they would follow and, if one chose rightly, one would live well and find heaven in the afterlife, if poorly, one lived a life that confusion and also strife and also was dropped right into the torment the hell ~ death.

The creatures which show up in Persian mythology nearly all fall into one of these two camps other than for the Jinn (also given as Djinn and better known as Genies) and the Peri (faeries) that defy easy meaning as their duties seem much more neutral and their action dependent on circumstance rather than loyalty to a provided cause. Although there are many different supernatural creatures in the Persian tales, twelve are representative the the thematic whole:

GavaevodataSimurghHuma BirdChamrosh and KamakAl (also offered as Hal)ManticorePeriSuroosh and also DaenaJinn (Djinn)Azhi Dahaka (Azhdaha)

All of these entities affected human day-to-day life come one degree or another. Some, prefer the Peri or the Al, were thought about a continuous in one"s life while others – such together Simurgh or Azhi Dahaka – represented a universal paradigm which educated one"s present. Even if it is one or the other, the natural and also supernatural pressures the figures represent were known as quite real and steps were required to defend against the malevolent and give ideal respect come those who wished just the ideal for humanity.

Among the last were dogs who personified the protective facets of divinity and figure in the depictions of several of the most necessary benevolent creatures. Dogs warded off evil spirits, comforted and also guided, and also watched end one"s most valuable possessions. Lock were considered so crucial that their role as guardians was maintained once the beforehand religion the the Persians was reimagined through the prophet Zoroaster (c. 1500-1000 BCE) who preserved them together the holder of the Chinvat Bridge, the span throughout the abyss in between the world of the living and also the dead. Favor all various other animals, the dog fan its presence to the life-giving energies of among the very first of Ahura Mazda"s creations, the Primordial Bull.

Gavaevodata

Gavaevodata is the Primordial Bull (also known as the Uniquely created Bull, Primordial Bovine, Primordial Ox) that was among the earliest creations of Ahura Mazda. The Supreme divine being first produced sky – one orb – and then filled it with water and separated the water with earth, which was planted v various types of vegetation, and also then make the Primordial Bull, which to be brilliant white and also glowed choose the moon. Gavaevodata was so beautiful, it attractive the attention of Angra Mainyu who killed it and, afterwards, it to be transported come the moon and also purified; indigenous its purified seed came all pets who would certainly feed on, and also fertilize, the earth"s vegetation. Once pets were created, Ahura Mazda then developed human beings and then fire, yet Gavaevodata was the an initial unique reality on earth and also establishes the high worth the Persians put on animals.

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Simurgh

Simurgh – known as the dog-bird – was an huge winged creature v the head the a dog, human body of a peacock, and also claws of a lion, sometimes likewise imagined v a person face. Simurgh live high in the Alburz Mountains, existing for a span of 1,700 years prior to it dove into a fire of its own creation and also died, just to climb again (like the later Phoenix). Simurgh was thought to possess great wisdom and also features prominently in the story that the hero Zal – who she raised – and also the bear of his son Rustum (also provided as Rostom and also Rustam), the biggest Persian hero. She teach Zal just how to provide a complicated birth through the Caesarian section and additionally instructed the in medicine herbs because that healing. In early myths, she is known as Saena, the great Falcon, that sits in the upper branches that the Tree that All seeds and, by fluttering she wings, sends out seeds paris to the ground and throughout the human being to uncover their means into the earth.

Huma Bird

The Huma Bird is a later version the Simurgh, who was stated to paris eternally end the earth, never ever landing, and also if its shadow should loss upon one individual, that human would it is in blessed and also happy every the days of their lives. The Huma was responsible because that legitimizing kingship and also its photo was influential at Persepolis, the magnificent ritual capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire started by Darius i (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE). The Huma was taken into consideration the most sacred bird and injuring – or also attempting to injure it – brought good misfortune. If someone observed or also thought they witnessed the bird flying overhead, however, it to be a great blessing. In time, the Huma would involved symbolize the ide of elevation and also enlightenment. Choose Simurgh and also the later Phoenix, the Huma was thought to live an immensely long life, dice in its very own flames, and give bear to chin afterwards.

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Chamrosh & Kamak

Chamrosh and Kamak are likewise giant birds; Chamrosh a force for good and Kamak for evil. Chamrosh has actually a dog"s body through the head and also wings of one eagle. It lives beneath the Tree of all Seeds, gathers up those which loss when Saena-Simurgh flaps her wings, and also scatters them right into the wind and rain clouds i beg your pardon deposit the seeds everywhere the earth. Chamrosh is also a safety entity who defends Persians versus outside invaders, particularly raiders, swooping under upon them and also carrying castle off. Kamak plays precisely the opposite role, feeding top top Persians and their livestock and also bringing destruction. Kamak is so substantial that its spread out wings blocked the rain, bringing dryness to the land, and in the chaos which followed it quickly plucked up human and animal prey to feeding on. The Persian hero Karsasp ultimately kills Kamak by showering it through arrows continuously.

Al


The Al were invisible unless they want to be seen, so just their impacts made people mindful of your existence.

The Al is a nocturnal predator that preys top top newborns and was amongst the many feared of every the angry spirits. It to be usually shown as one old woman v sharp teeth, long, stringy hair, and also talons which could likewise harm or death pregnant women and also would strike once mother and also child to be sleeping. The Al was part of a larger team of evil demons well-known as the Umm Naush – nocturnal predators – that were us a subgroup the the bigger assortment the demons recognized as khrafstra – harmful soul or demons – who disrupted and also destroyed lives. The Al, favor the various other khrafstra, to be invisible unless they want to be checked out so, because that the many part, only their results made people aware of your existence. The general khrafstra materialized themselves frequently in the herbal world, taking on the kind of wasps, stinging ants, beasts of prey, rodents, spiders, and similar creatures.

Manticore

The Manticore (“man-eater”) is a fearsome beast with the head the a man, body of a lion, and tail of a scorpion (or, alternately, a tail finishing in poisonous quills which it shot at prey). It was taken into consideration invincible since its hide to be so thick that no weapon could penetrate it and also it moved much faster than any kind of other living point on earth. The manticore could kill anything except for elephants and also especially enjoyed human beings, devouring castle whole and leaving no map except, sometimes, stray spatters the blood. That lurked in the long, uncultivated grasses far from towns and also cities and also struck there is no warning except, sometimes, appears to have actually announced itself through a growl i m sorry sounded like a loud trumpet. When someone in the neighborhood went missing, and there to be no clue as to what occurred to them, it was judged to it is in the work of a manticore.

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Peri

The Peris room tiny, lovely, winged creatures – neither an excellent nor evil – who reap playing pranks on people but can additionally be helpful. Lock were thought to be spirits imprisoned in the fairy-form come atone because that a past sin or sins however were not considered immortal and were definitely not human souls. A Peri might carry a message from the god or, alternately, trick someone right into believing some untruth or an fully lie. They largely appear in folklore as pranksters that hide objects or misdirect, and also their most famous antics would certainly be the ancient Persian indistinguishable of hiding a person"s auto keys. Lock were later elevated come benevolent spirits by the Muslim Arabs and served the same objective as angels in bringing messages from the divine.

Suroosh & Daena


Suroosh is the angel that stands ~ above the Chinvat Bridge and also Daena is the divine Maiden that works next to him. Suroosh symbolized protection and also Daena one"s very own conscience. Both help the freshly dead in your crossing native life to death. After the soul has actually left the body, it was believed to linger on earth for three days when the gods concerned a decision concerning one"s life and also final fate. The spirit then approached the Chinvat bridge which to be guarded by two dogs who would welcome the justification soul and rebuff those who were evil. Daena would show up and, for the justified soul, would certainly be a beautiful young woman while, to the condemned, she would show up as one ugly hag. Suroosh would guard the soul versus demonic attack as it overcome the bridge to accomplish the point of view Rashnu, judge of the dead, that would decision whether the soul went to the heaven of the house of track or the hell of the home of Lies.

Jinn

Jinn were mythological entities who, prefer the Peri, to be neither immortal nor human being souls. Castle were believed to inhabit lonely places external of communities – such as caves or hills – and had strength to influence person thought and also action. Choose the Peri, they to be neutral in the struggle between good and evil and also seem to have actually based your actions on the situation of the moment. Jinn might grant a human their best wishes yet twist the end an outcome tragically or, in ~ least, negatively but could just as quickly honor the individual"s desires in do their desires come true. Overall, they were regarded with suspicion, and also amulets were lugged for security from their influence. Castle are best known indigenous the Persian job-related One thousands Nights and a Night (also recognized as The Arabian Nights) where Jinn beat a pivotal role. They were also, choose the Peri, adopted by the Muslim Arabs as neutral, though perhaps dangerous, mythological forces.

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Azhi Dahaka

Azhi Dahaka to be the great three-headed dragon developed out the the lies that Angra Mainyu come thwart any type of positive advertise in the world and also create chaos. Dragon-serpents (azhi) frequently show up in Persian mythology together the embodiment the evil and also disorder, and Azhi Dahaka to be the many fearsome of them all. It is described as having actually a thousands senses and so is aware of any feasible threat and can defend against it while, in ~ the same time, discovering where its food is at any kind of time. That was thought about invincible and also was only finally beat by the an excellent Persian hero Thraetaona that captured and also imprisoned him, maintaining him in chains until the finish of the world at which time he will be killed by the resurrected Karsasp, slayer of Kamak.

Conclusion

These figures, and many others like them, embodied the daily fears of the civilization such together loss of a son (the Al) or unexplained fatality or disappearance (the manticore) or why events in life can go therefore wrong when every little thing seemed to have actually been proceeding for this reason smoothly. Alternately, entities like Suroosh and Daena or creatures like Simurgh gave world confidence that they were cared for, that there to be someone looking out for them and also protecting your interests.

One notable example of this is the creature no yet mentioned below known as the Karakadann/Koresk – much better known together the unicorn – a shy and elusive pet who retained to itself in far places. That is horn was believed to be a powerful antidote to poison and also seeing one was believed to bring great luck. Even if one never actually saw a Koresk, one can still have actually hope one would certainly someday and all one"s problems would be solved in a suddenly streak that supernatural great fortune.

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The an excellent heroes like Thraetaona or Karsasp or Rustum who defeated the pressures of chaos served the very same purpose, standing because that the ethics of goodness, justice, and also order in an unsure world and also giving civilization hope the these ideals would certainly triumph end selfishness, cruelty, and also chaos. One of the main values of old Persian culture was storytelling, and also through their rich mythology, they produced some of the most memorable characters and also tales in world history which have actually fascinated audiences ever before since.