Around 1500 BC, Persian mythology began to take shape in the region that is now known as Iran. Zoroastrianism, a new religion that originated about a thousand years later, became popular in the area. However, new gods and mythologies were introduced as well as old ones. Ultimately, this led to an epic tale of good and evil clashing on an epic scale.
The origins of Persian mythology may be traced to the steppes of southern Russia and Central Asia. Indo-European peoples moved south from the steppes into modern-day Turkey, Iran, and northern India between 1500 and 1000 BCE. The inhabitantss of Iran became known as Persians. Their mythology had many similarities with that of the early Hindus and likely sprang from the same source. Along their western frontier, the Persians also absorbed influences from Mesopotamia over time.
Zoroaster created the religion that was the most prevalent in Persia until the emergence of Islam in the sixth century A.D. Avesta, the sacred text of Zoroastrianism, is the richest source of knowledge on Persian mythology.
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After Alexander the Great invaded Persia in 334 B.C.E., most of the ancient Zend-Avesta was lost. The surviving documents were compiled and organised between 200 and 600 A.D. One part, the Gathas, is thought to include songs created by Zoroaster. A portion featuring Yashts, songs dedicated to angels and heroes, has a great deal of mythical content.
Driving force of Persian mythology
Ahura Mazda, the creator deity of light, truth, and goodness, and his adversary, Ahriman, the spirit of darkness, falsehoods, and evil, were the driving forces of Persian mythology, sometimes shown as twin brothers. Ahura Mazda was destined to win the war, even though they were evenly matched at this time in history. Consequently, the most revered deity in Persian mythology was Ahura Mazda, often known as the Wise Lord or Zoroastrians revered him as a god of fire, therefore they built fire towers and kept them alight as a form of worship.
The Beauty of Persian mythology
Persia’s ancient past has long been associated with mysticism and sorcery. The Persian Myths have a magical and hypnotic quality. It is all there, from the gods to the gorgeous birds and other magical creatures.
When it comes to epic journeys, the average person’s imagination just cannot keep up with what The Myths has in store. A world unlike our own is depicted in the myths, with people who are diametrically opposed to those we see in the real world. But in the same way that good and evil are everywhere around us, the Persian stories clearly distinguish between them.
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To comprehend Persian philosophy, we need to look at myths in relation to the history of Persian civilization. Countless legendary tales are based on the topography of this region, which includes numerous mountain ranges.
It is also interesting to examine the parallels between Persian myths and western fairy tales. For instance, the narrative of “Rudabeh,” a damsel renowned for her beauty across the nation, is comparable to Rapunzel’s fairy tale, even if the two tales are not exactly the same. Rudabeh resides in a towering mansion and lets down her long hair to allow her lover to climb up to her.
Rostam, a mythical warrior in the Persian Myths, is yet another character to make the list. According to Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, a hero like Rostam represents humanity’s better side by valiantly taking on demons and other bad guys. There are many similarities between Rostam and the Greek god Hercules. He is born with unimaginable strength and might. While attempting to free his king from the clutches of the dragon, lion, and other demons, Rostam must encounter several obstacles.
Shamanism and other ancient mystical traditions are based on Persian philosophy. Several Persian legends have been combined into a unique style of occultism that is being practised today in the Middle East.
Persians in ancient times believed in god-kings. According to the myths of Persia, kings of Persia only become genuine kings after receiving ‘The Ring of Power’ from Ahura. In ancient Persia, this ring was the ultimate symbol of power and authority, and it was worn by the most powerful men and women. Abdication of the supreme god Ahura Mazda was thought to be symbolised by the ring. Far earlier than Ahura Mazda was Cyrus the Great.
Persian mythology is replete with mythical creatures like animals and birds. For example, a Persian ruler would wear the pelt of a lion in order to project a sense of power and might. Birds have long been revered in mythology as bringers of news, healers, and defenders of the sky. In these stories, “Huma,” a feisty bird that soars invisibly above the planet for its whole life, takes on a vital role. Huma dies many times before rising from its own ashes, symbolising the cyclical nature of existence.
The Griffin is an eagle-like creature with lion-like hindquarters and a lion’s head and wings. Because the lion and the eagle are traditionally regarded as the rulers of all animals and birds, it was assumed that this deity was a supremely powerful and gorgeous being.
In Firdowsi’s Shahnameh, Simurgh is one of the most renowned mystics. As an albino, Saam’s son Zal was abandoned by his father, who mistook him for the child of the devil. Saam walked away from the youngster and hid him up a mountain. It was Simurgh who heard the baby’s cries and decided to adopt him, raising him as her own, and saying goodbye when he became a wise man. Three golden feathers were also given to him by the bird, which he could use to summon her if he ever needed it.
The folklore of each society reveals its fundamental beliefs, doubts, anxieties, and hopes. Among the earliest known myths, those of the Persians have intriguing narratives and memorable characters centred on a rich storyline.
Let us know if you would want to learn more about any of the characters and mythical creatures from Persian folklore that we have discussed in our blog.