Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād

Transcription, Translation, and Commentary


The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād), The Law (Serving to Keep) Demons Away, a fifth-century Middle Persian commentary on the Avestan Vidēvdād, describes rules and regulations that serve to prevent pollution caused by dead matter, menstrual discharges, and other agents. It recognizes the perpetual presence of the demons, the forces of the Evil Spirit –forces that should be fought through law-abiding conduct. In spite of its formidable textual problems, the commentary provides an invaluable quarry for the rules of the Zoroastrian community through its citation of regulations for the conduct of its members. Many topics are covered, from jurisprudence to penalties, procedures for dealing with pollution, purification, and arrangements for funerals. Viewed together, they provide the reader with an exquisite interlace of a community’s concerns.

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Front Matter
Pages: i–vii
Pages: 1–26
The Pahlavi Widēwdād
Pages: 27–469
Pages: 471–505
Pages: 506–508
Pages: 509–556
Pages: 557–576
Pages: 577–602
Mahnaz Moazami, Ph.D. (Sorbonne, 1995) Associate Research Scholar, Columbia University, and Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University, has written extensively on aspects of Zoroastrian tradition including Evil Animals in the Zoroastrian Religion (History of Religions, 2005).


Chapter 1 Creation of the Different Lands
Chapter 2 Jam’s Golden Rule and the Great Winter
Chapter 3 Delightful and Demonic Places on Earth
Chapter 4 Contracts and Offenses
Chapter 5 Dead Matter and Defilement
Chapter 6 Contamination of the Land by Corpses
Chapter 7 On Nasuš, the She Demon of Dead Matter
Chapter 8 Purification Rituals after Death
Chapter 9 The Baršnūm Purification
Chapter 10 Formulae Against the Demons
Chapter 11 Exorcisms for Purification
Chapter 12 On Ritual Observance for the Dead
Chapter 13 Veneration of Dogs
Chapter 14 Crime of Killing an Otter
Chapter 15 Sinners Deserving a Death Sentence
Chapter 16 Impurity During Menstruation
Chapter 17 Proper Disposition of Hair and Nails
Chapter 18 The Unworthy Priest and the Rooster
Chapter 19 Temptation of Zarathushtra by the Evil Spirit
Chapter 20 Zoroastrian Concepts of Medicine
Chapter 21 Invocations Against the Demons
Chapter 22 Antidotes Against the Evil Spirit


The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād) is an essential text for students and scholars of ancient Iranian religion, researchers in comparative religion and history of religion.
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