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zoroastriantemplecultoffiremaryboyce

zoroastriantemplecultoffiremaryboyce

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On the Zoroastrian Temple Cult of FireAuthor(s): Mary BoyceSource:
Journal of the American Oriental Society,
Vol. 95, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1975), pp. 454-465Published by:
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ONTHE ZOROASTRIANTEMPLE CULTOF FIRE
MARY BOYCE
SCHOOL OFORIENTAL ANDAFRICANSTUDIESTUNIVERSITYOFLONDON
This isareviewarticleofacomprehensiveandvaluable workbyDr. KlausSchippmannon the firetemplesof ancient Iran.In the article itissuggestedthat thestudyof suchsanc-tuariesismorecomplexthan has hithertobeensupposed,becausethe existence of animageas wellasafirecultamongthe Zoroastrians meantthat from Achaemenian timestheyhadinfact two differenttypesofsacredbuildings,notreadily distinguishablefromonean-other.Theimagecult,introducedapparentlyin the 4thcenturyB.C.,lasted untilsuppres-sedbyan iconoclastic movement undertheSasanians. It isarguedthat the cult oftemplefireswas institutedinoppositionto thisalienform ofworship,probablyalsoin the 4thcen-tury,andit ispointedoutthat no actual ruinsofafiretemplehave beenconvincinglyiden-tified from before the Parthianperiod.Theantecedents of thetemplecult aresoughtintheoldervenerationof the hearthfire,and someof itsdevelopmentsarepursuedin anat-tempttoprovideaclearerbackgroundfor thestudyofthearchaeologicalremains.Final-lyfromamongthefairlynumerousruins ofthe Sasanianperiodthose ofthegreattempleof AdarGuSnaspareconsidered,and anew identification is offeredof thesite there ofthefiresanctuaryitself.
TrIEDEARTH OFRECORDS FORZOROASTRIANISM atany
periodbeforethe 17thcenturyA.D.makes itnecessaryto useeveryavailablesourceofevidence-fromliterature,philology,archaeology,numismatics,propernames,judiciouscomparisonswith Vedicbeliefs andpractices--ifonewishes totrytounderstanditsdoctrines andobservances,and totrace theirdevelopment.The cultoffire isat theheart ofZoroastrian devotionallife,andhasprofoundtheologicalimplications;andyetithasnever beenstudied indetailbyanyWesternscholar-partlynodoubtbecausestudentsofZoroastrianismhavealwaysbeenfew,butpartlyalsobecause of thecomplexityofthesubjectandthedifficultyofmasteringthescattereddata. Thisobstacle hasnow beengreatlyreducedthroughanimportantcontributionbyDr.KlausSchippmann,whowithgreatcare andlabour hascompiledaninvaluablework onthefiretemplesof ancient Iran.1Inthishe hasbroughttogetheramass ofliteraryandarchaeologicalmaterial fromdiverse andoften little-knownsources.Thiscopiousmatterhehassetoutclearlyandsystematically,withlengthycitationsfromthechiefworks(ancientandmodern),andhelpfulphotographsandsketch-plansofanumberofexcavatedsites.Thearrangementismadeprovincebyprovince;buttherearealsotableslistingthematerialremains1DieiranischenFeuerheiligtiimer,Berlin-NewYork,1971.chronologicallyaccordingtoera(Achaemenian,Parthian,Sasanian),as well as a fulland accurateindex,anddetailedbibliography.The book thusconstitutes a solidand admirablework of reference.Yet Dr.Schippmannhasbynomeans beencontentedmerelywithcompilation,howeversystematicandthorough.Himselfanarchaeo-logist,he hasexcavatedatseveral of the sitesconcerned,andhasvisited almost all the ruins whichhe mentionsin thebook,travellingarduouslythelengthandbreadthofIran. He is in aposition,therefore,tomakeindepend-ent observationsof hisown,andindoingso showscom-mendablejudiciousnessandscepticism.Atendencyhaslongprevailedtocharacterizeanyandevery pre-Islamicstructure inIran as a firetemple,and inmanycasesDr.Schippmanndemolishessuchidentifications,showingthegreaterlikelihoodthat theruininquestionisthatof amilitary post,watch towerorprivate dwelling.Havingthusconsiderablyreduced thelistofputativefiretemples,he thenattemptstoclassifywhat seem to himtheau-thenticremains and totrace theevolutionof theirarchitecturalforms,revisinginthelightofnew materialthe theoriespreviouslyputforwardbyhisownteacher,K.Erdmann,andtheFrenchscholarsA.GodardandR.Ghirshman.Questionsofstructurearenecessarilyboundupwiththose ofcult;andhereasanarchaeologistDr.Schipp-mannhasreceivedlittlehelpfromstudents ofliteratureandtheology,whohavegenerallyassumedboth thatthe454
 
BOYCE:
ZoroastrianTempleCultofFiretemplecultof firebelongedtoprimitiveZoroastrianism,and that itprovidedits one form ofpublicworshipatalltimes. Theonlyscholarseriouslytochallengethefirstoftheseassumptionshas beenStigWikander,whoproducedstrong argumentsforholdingthat thetemplecultof firewasunknownto theearlyZoroastrians.2His casehasbeenstrengthenedsincebythework ofotherscholars,who haveproducedadditionalmaterialtoshow how muchthe ZoroastrianculthasincommonwithancientBrahmanicobservance,in which twotempleswere unknown.The Indo-Iranianreligionwasshaped,itseems,duringmillennia ofwanderingon thesteppesofInnerAsia,andmateriallyitwasaccordinglyof extremesimplicity. Worshipwasofferedthe divinebeingswithoutaid oftemplesoraltarsorstatues,andallthatwasneededforsolemnizingthehighrituals wasaclean,flatpieceofground,whichcould be markedoffbyaritually-drawnfurrow.Theofferingsconsecratedthereweremadenotonlytothe invisiblegods,butalsoto fire andwater,whichcouldproperlyberepresentedbythenearestdomestic fireandhouseholdspring,althougharitualfire wasalways presentwithintheprecinctitself,burninginalow brazier.3 Tojudgefrom laterpractice,thisritualfirewaseither kindled for theoccasion,or made ofembersbroughtfrom thenearest hearth.Theonlycontinually-burningfireknown to theIndo-Iranianswasevidentlythehearthfire,litwhen a mansetuphis home andkeptalightaslongas he himselflived,adivinitywithinthehouse. Thiswas tendedwithcare and receivedregularlyathreefoldofferingofdrywood, incense,and fatfromthesacrificialanimal.Suchdomestic fire couldreadilybecarried inapotduringnomadicwanderings,to continueburningwhereverthefamily pitchedits tent.The cultofthisgodwithinthe homewasgivena widersignificanceintimethroughthe learnedspeculationsof theIranianpriests,whoheldthat oftheseven creationswhichmadeupthematerialworldthat offire,thelast,informedtheotheranimatedones,givingthem their vitalforce.Without ittherewouldbe nolife.Thiscosmicfire washeld tobemanifestedbothinthe sunonhighandin theflameonthelowlyhearth,serviceofwhichcouldthus beregardedastheservicealsoof agreatworldforce.InhisownteachingsZoroaster associated fire withoneofthegreatdivinities ofhisrevelation,Asa('Right-
2
See hisFelzerpriesterinKleinasienundIran,Luid,1946.
3
Thefire wasplacedina lowcontainerwithintheritualprecinctbecausethecelebratingpriesthimselfsatcross-legged upontheground.OnthepaganbackgroundtotheZoroastriancultsee indetailBoyce,AHistoryofZoroastrianism(HandbuchderOrientalistik,I,ed. B.Spuler)Leiden,Vol.I,Ch. 6(inthepress).eousness'or'Order'),and his followers wereenjoinedtoprayalwaysin itspresence-eitherturned towards thesun orattheir own hearths-the betterto fix theirthoughtson Asaand the virtue thusrepresented.No-where in the olderpartof the Avesta is thereanyallusion tofire enthronedapartin aspecial place.The firstreferenceof thiskindcomesintheVendiddd,4acompositeworkwhosefinal redaction wasmade after theHellenisticperiod, possiblyas late as the 1st or 2ndcentury
A.D.
Thistemplecultoffire,onceinstituted,becamemuchbelovedbytheZoroastrians,but it has remainedoutsidetheirbasicobservances,andtheirreligiouslives canwellbe carriedonwithoutit.5Thusthe Parsisof Indiamanagedforsome 700yearswithonlyonetemplefire,6andtheremust have been thoseamongthem,devoutZoroastrians,whomaintainedstrictdevotionalliveswithouteverbeholdingit.Itis indeedactuallyforbiddento celebrateanyrituals in thepresenceof atemplefireotherthanthoseperformedin itsownservice,andtheseareessentiallythe ritesproperto thetendingof a domesticfire,7for thetemplecult isthat of thehearthfireraisedto anewsolemnity,and issomethingquiteapart,there-fore,from theoldpriestlyritesofworship.Thatvenera-tionof the household fire setthepatternis shown intheAtasNiyayes,the Zoroastrianprayerto fire(utterednowintempleandhome);for here in what isclearlyoneofthe oldestsections8the Fire itselfis madeto4Vd.8.81ff.
5
Theonlywayinwhich thetemplefire hasbeenmadeessentialtogeneralZoroastrianobservanceis thatashfor thepurificationceremonies(regaldedas the basisofrituallife)must nowbe taken fromanAtalBahrdm,but thePahlavicommentaryon Vd.5.51showsthatformerlyashfrom a domesticfire(dtakhsikadagig)washeld to beequallyproper.
6
See FirozeM.Kotwal,"SomeobservationsonthehistoryoftheParsiDar-i3Mihr,"BSOASXXXVII,1974,664-669.
7
I.e.,theofferingofdrywood,incense and(formerly)the oblation of fatfrom a sacrificialanimal,thedta{-zohr.OnthetempleritestodayseeJ.J.Modi,Thereligiousceremonies andculstomsoftheParsees,2nd.ed.,Bombay,1937,218-226. Onthefat-offeringseeBoyce,"Ata?-zohrandAb-zohr,"JRAS1966,100-110. TheZoroastriansnaturallyoffered venerationtothemys-teriousever-burningnapthafires foundlocallyin Iran(seeZand-Akdsih,Iranianor GreaterBundahisn,translit.andtransl.byB. T.Anklesaria,Bombay,1956,XVIII.23-24),buttheseweresomethingquitedistinct fromtheirownwood-fedtemplefires,withtheir establishedritualsofnecessaryservice.
8
Ny.5.14.For thetextoftheAtalNiydyc?,with455

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