This article attempts to show the eschatological horizon of the Avestan prayer aṣ̌əm vohū. Its placement in the Yasna at the threshold of the Old Avestan corpus and the virtues ascribed to it in other Avestan texts reveal its high stature in Zoroastrianism. The sense of the prayer remains obscure in its current translations. The problem is in part due to the fact that the text is syntactically defective. One must assume that the significance attributed to it in Avestan tradition is a reflection of what it says, its actual meaning. This is the guiding principle of its interpretation in this article. I critically consider the translations and interpretations of the prayer to date. Some of these are problematic even on the linguistic level. But the problem of sense remains even in those that are formally impeccable. The reason for this is that the translation reproduces the tautology that the original contains, instead of unfolding it. An attempt at unfolding the tautology can be seen in the Young Avestan exegesis of the prayer. Once the tautology is unfolded, the sense of the text becomes evident: those who support aṣ̌a (the primordial order of creation) will have their wish for a blissful afterlife in aṣ̌a (the divine sphere) fulfilled.
Since its discovery in 1962, the Derveni papyrus has been the object of keen scholarly interest. The text consists in the main of an allegorical interpretation of an Orphic poem. The cosmology of the author comes from pre-Socratic physics, in terms of which he casts the Orphic theogony, presumably in order to reveals its truth. The extant text also contains a few badly damaged columns about the afterlife and, seemingly, some rites that facilitate the passage of the soul to the beyond. Here, we find a reference to a rite performed by the magoi that the author compares with the mysteries. Scholars have generally taken the view that these magoi are either Greek religious experts or charlatans. Because of this, scant attention has been paid to the question of possible Iranian background of the rite and the daimones. In this article, I will address this question in reference to relevant Iranian evidence. My conclusion is that, in column 6 of the papyrus, we indeed have an authentic description of a rite rooted in Iranian religious lore, and that behind the magoi’s daimones may well be the ancient Iranian gods, the daēvas.
There are a number of Old Avestan nouns whose appearance in the plural is unexpected from the viewpoint of their form or meaning and thus far unexplained. Where the noun occurs a number of times the exceptional character of the plural in the paradigm makes plain its irregularity. The commonly occurring terms xšaθra- and aṣ̌a- each appears only once in the plural. How should we understand the phenomenon? The unexpected plural noun is always associated with a group of persons. A careful analysis of the passages reveals that the semantically anomalous plural has a determinable discursive function. It emphatically ties the noun to each and every member of the group with which it is associated. Thus it underwrites the personally significant nature of the association.
A number of prominent scholars of Zoroastrianism have recently taken up Marijan Molé’s thesis that Ahura Mazdā created the world by way of a sacrifice. This article examines the sources that have been adduced for the thesis. It concludes that neither in Avestan nor Pahlavi texts do we find any evidence for the supposed cosmogonic sacrifice.