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Sraōša and Night in the Avestan Vīdēvdād

1Kryukova, V
1PhD (History) Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences 3, University Emb., St.Petersburg, 199034, Russia Victoria.Kryukova@kunstkamera.ru; zorovictoria@gmail.com
Shodoznavstvo 2021, 88:211-222
https://doi.org/10.15407/skhodoznavstvo2021.88.211
Section: Sacred texts of the Orient
Language: English
Abstract: 

Most of the Avestan Vīdēvdād is dedicated to myths and ritual rules and injunctions relating to opposition to the forces of evil. The latter are represented by the main antagonist of Ahura Mazda – Angra Mainyu – an evil spirit, demonic beings, non-Zoroastrians and heretics, and harmful animals. In daytime the patrons of performed rites and all spheres of life of the Zoroastrian community are served by gods who have their own specialization. Almost all of them act only during daylight hours. One of the important aspects of the ancient Iranian world picture presented in the Avesta is the idea of fractional composition of the day, divided into several parts. In the corpus of the Old Avesta, in the Gathas of Zaraθuštra (Y. 30.3) there is no categorical opposition of day and night, wakefulness and sleep. However, in the texts of the Young Avesta the attitude to these concepts undergoes a change; night and sleep begin to be understood as a dangerous period (night) and state (sleep). During the night, when the forces of evil are the strongest and most active, and the righteous Zoroastrians are at their most vulnerable, Sraōša, the deity of obedience, becomes the principal god to protect the faithful. This is a purely Iranian (not Indo-Iranian) deity, first appearing in Zaraθuštra’s sermons. The sacred animal associated with Sraōša in the Vīdēvdād is a rooster, which awakens people from a dangerous sleep, at the same time being an auxiliary priest (according to J. Kellens) under Sraōša who plays the role of the high priest during the morning liturgy. The dog is also an animal associated with Sraōša, according to Vīdēvdād it guards people, houses and herds, and stays awake at night, like the gods Ahura Mazdā, Miθra and Sraōša. In the hymn dedicated to him, Sraōša himself is compared to a shepherd’s dog.

Keywords: Avesta, day, dog, night, rooster, sleep, Sraōša, Vīdēvdād, wakefulness

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