Miϑra and the Sun: the Role of Miϑra in the Arrangement of the Avestan Liturgical Calendar Cantera, Alberto
Miϑra and the Sun: the Role of Miϑra in the Arrangement of the Avestan Liturgical Calendar
Cantera Glera, Nioclas Alberto
Zoroastrianism; Zoroastrismus; Mithra; Mitra; Liturgical Calendar; Solar Calendar; Mithraism
201 Religiöse Mythologie, Sozialethik 290 Andere Religionen
As the deity associated with the sun’s glow or sun light, opposed to that of the astral body, Miϑra is the god of the liminal time, viz. the points of contact between day and night (that is, sunrise and sunset) and metonymically between summer and winter (that is, the equinoxes). Besides the well-known transformation of the Avestan liturgical calendar caused by the adoption of the Egyptian solar calendar, scholars have in recent years drawn attention to a further transformation in the liturgical calendar (for the first time H. Humbach in 2010): the expansion of the ritual divisions of the day from three to five. Later, J. Kellens pointed out the important role of Miϑra in introducing the division of the day starting with sunrise. In this paper, I will argue that Miϑra is not only associated with sunrise, but also with sunset, introducing Miϑra as the protagonist in the process that eventually led to the transformation of the ritual parts of the day. Moreover, I will show that the adoption of the solar calendar caused the transformation. Both processes are linked through a series of analogies between the day and the year around the axis defined by Miϑra: sunrise and sunset on the one hand and the two equinoxes on the other. I will also discuss Miϑra’s connection with both equinoxes. The autumn equinox is celebrated at the festival of Mihragān and corresponds to the Avestan festival paitiš.hahaiia-. With the vernal equinox begins the new ritual year with a series of celebrations that extend over the first week of the year. These celebrations are dedicated to the Aməṣ̌a Spəṇta, and in them the liturgical season of each asńiia- ratu- is introduced at a different day, thus connecting parts of the day with the conception of the year and even hemeronyms of the first week. In this context, I will also show that the standard Yasna, the Yasna with the dedicatory of Nōg Nāwar, in which Miϑra takes a prominent position, is originally the Yasna for the celebration of the opening of the new ritual year at the first sunrise after the vernal equinox. Other important actors of the reform are the Waters and the Frauuaṣ̌is in whose honour the other great seasonal festivals are celebrated and to which the longest Yašts are dedicated. Most likely, the reform of the liturgical calendar took place in Western Iran in Achaemenid times, perhaps concurrently with other significant changes such as the introduction of a permanent fire etc
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