A Substantial Change in the Approach to the Zoroastrian Long Liturgy

About J. Kellens’s Études avestiques et mazdéennes

In: Indo-Iranian Journal
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  • 1 FU Berlin

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Between 2006 and 2013 J. Kellens published in five volumes (the last one together with C. Redard) a corrected version of the text edited by K.F. Geldner of the longest and most important Zoroastrian ritual usually known by the name of one of its variants as the Yasna. The text accompanies an experimental translation and both are followed by a commentary. J. Kellens is pioneering in translating and studying, not only the standard daily variant of the liturgy, but also its more solemn version. Furthermore, his work is the first attempt to read the complete text of the liturgy as the coherent text (although produced at different times) of an old and meaningful liturgy, although it has been traditionally understood as a late composition. As it appears in the manuscripts and is celebrated still today in India, the liturgy is the result of a series of conscious interpretations, reinterpretations and rearrangements of older versions. Despite of this, it is a coherent text and ritual in which each section of the liturgy plays a concrete role that J. Kellens has tried to bring to light for the first time. In the present review, I try to highlight the extraordinary importance of Kellens’ new approach to the Zoroastrian Long Liturgy and to expose his main achievements. At the same time, I expose the main weaknesses of this monumental work: 1. its dependence on the text edited by Geldner, which hides part of the ritual variety of the Long Liturgy; 2. the conscious disregard of the meta-ritual information provided by the Zoroastrian tradition about the performance of the liturgy; 3. J. Kellens’s Yasna-centrism that prevents him to recognize the close connections between the Long Liturgy and other minor rituals and the participation within the Long Liturgy of many short rituals that can be celebrated independently.

  • 16

    Boyce (1966; 1977: 157) had already collected abundant references to the animal sacrifice in Pahlavi literature, in the Persian Rivāyats and even in modern travel books. According to Boyce (1966), animal sacrifice has only been abandoned under the influence of the Parsis from the 19th century on. This contrasts, however, with the fact that there is no evidence of it in any variant of the available manuscripts of the Long Liturgy. They do not include the special texts either for the conduction and slaughtering of the victim or for the offerings to the fire. Therefore, I consider it more likely that the regular practice of the sacrifice during the Long Liturgy was abandoned sometime between the final redaction of the Nērangestān and the first liturgical manuscripts (perhaps around the 10th century).

  • 47

    Kotwal & Boyd (1991) basically follow the analysis of the combined Yasna manuscripts.

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