RLG347H5 - Exam Notes

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Enrico Raffaelli

1. The Gathas Consists of seventeen hymns traditionally attributed to Zoroaster. The texts are composed in a syllable form. Each verse line has a fixed number of syllables and a caesura. Each stanza contains the same number of verse lines. Thus, the form of the Gathas is the rhythm of syllables. Several hymns of the Gathas are characterized by the ring composition This is a type of arrangement of a hymn around its center: the central verse has correspondences with the first and last verse or the verses at the same distance from the center have correspondences with each other For ex., these verses share sounds, words, disposition of the words, or themes Also found in various Gathas are cross-references For ex.: the topic of the last hymn of a Gatha is taken up at the beginning of the next one These characteristics of the Gathas reflect their originally oral nature They made it easier for the composer and the transmitter to compose and memorize them The Gathas and Zoroasters message: The Gathas convey Zoroasters religious message They are samples of the tradition of poems accompanying rituals but carry a radically new vision of the world and of religion The Gathas are 5 religious poems in verses Three of them contain more than one hymn, 2 are single hymns They were probably composed to accompany a ritual (we do not know which one) We have received them as part of the Yasna o Note: the Yasna is part of the ritual Avestan texts o It is formed by 72 chapters and is the longest Avestan text o Beside the Gathas, it includes all the other Old Avestan texts that we have received + parts in Young Avestan o Note: other Old Avestan texts: few short prayers and the Yasna Haptanhaiti (= seven chapters of the Yasna) The 5 Gathas are: 1) Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yasna chapters 2834) 2) Ushtavaiti Gatha (Yasna chapters 4346) 3) Spenta Mainyu Gatha (Yasna chapters 4750) 4) Vohu Xshathra Gatha (Yasna chapter 51) 5) Vahishtoishti Gatha (Yasna chapter 53) Some scholars object to the identification of Zoroaster as the author of the Gathas, but He identifies himself in some passages of the Gathas themselves Their consistency in structure and contents indicate that they were composed and arranged by a single author The interpretation of the Gathas is made difficult from: o Their complex structure o The presence of many words of unknown meaning o Our lack of understanding how many of their words connect to each other o The damages suffered by the texts through their long oral transmission o Help for the understanding of the Gathas comes from comparing them with texts coming from cultures related to ancient Iran Most helpful is their comparison with the older parts of the Vedas Passages on individual eschatology in the Gathas On individual eschatology see the passages : 1 Y. 30.4 Y. 31.20: The person who (after death) reaches the truthful one (= Ahura Mazda) is rewarded for her/his earthly behavior; she/he will stay in Paradise The bad persons are punished for their actions They go to the Hell, lead by their religious view (= [religious] conscience, Av. daena) Note: the later Zoroastrian sources preserve and develop the notion of daena They describe it as a spirit having feminine form, personifying the persons religious conscience She meets the soul of the dead 3 days after death and leads it to its afterlife abode Y. 46.10-11: After death Zoroaster will cross the Account-keepers bridge (Av. Cinvat.peretu = the bridge leading to Paradise) with the souls of the good ones Note: the sources later than the Gathas explain that the good souls cross the Cinvat.peretu and reach Paradise, whereas the bad ones fall from it into Hell The Kavis and Karapans (= groups hostile to Zoroaster) cause humans to perform bad actions When they will reach the Cinvat.peretu bridge, their daena and their urvan (a part of their soul) will scare them Note: the meeting of the soul with the urvan is not mentioned in the later sources They will go to the Hell (= the house of deceit) Collective eschatology in the Gathas See the passage 48.1112: Zoroaster asks Ahura Mazda: when will the good spiritual powers come? When will peace be established? Who will receive the spiritual inspiration? Zoroaster himself answers: peace and good will come when the benefactors will be born They will praise Ahura Mazda and will act following his inspiration They will be the removers of evil (= they will help achieve the final elimination of evil from the world) Note: in some of the later sources (= some Young Avestan texts) the world savior is just one In others (= the Pahlavi texts) they are also more than one 2. The Yashts The Yashts: general notes From the religious and literary point of view, the group of the Yasht is particularly interesting We have received 21 Yasht, all dedicated to a divine entity Exception: Yasht 2 (dedicated to a group of divine entities), 13 (dedicate to a group of spiritual entities) Most of the Yashts are in verses Some of them are in prose with some rhythmic spells They were originally recited in communal rituals Note: in the modern times they are rather used as prayers In the beginning, among the people speaking Avestan: In the public performances, different performers could expand or decrease the text at their will 2 For this reason it is inappropriate to speak of the date of composition of a Yasht We should rather speak of starting and ending period of composition We do not know when is the starting period and the ending period of composition of the Yashts Note: possibly, originally more than 21 hymns were composed The arrangement into a group of 21 hymns may date back to the Sassanian period Note: orality and the Yashts The structure of the Yashts bears traces of their oral composition and transmission: All of them are preceded by an introductory formula and followed by a concluding formula Many of them are divided into sections (kard) Each section starts by the same formula, and ends by the same formula The beginning and conclusive formulas of the Yasht and its sections made them easier to memorize and to recite Purpose of the Yashts All Yashts have the purpose of worshipping on the entity they are dedicated to This purpose is fulfilled through: The repetition of its name The description of its characteristics and of how it helps the worshippers Also note: many Yashts start by a dialogue between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster Ahura Mazda mentions the entity to whom the Yasht is dedicated This dialogue asserts Ahura Mazdas superiority over that divine entity and authorizes its worship Contents of the Yashts Two types of Yashts: 1) legendary These Yashts tell legends of the past Some legends tell how the divine entity to whom the Yasht is
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