The present contribution deals with a number of technical and theoretical problems connected with the animal sacrifice in the Avestan sources and, more in general, in the Mazdean tradition. Usually and theoretically the sacrifice included the killing of a sacrificial animal, but it was also possible to substitute the victim with the of¬fering of a piece of meat taken from an animal sacrificed during a previous ritual session. These two alternatives were not in contrast, but their different realization answered a number of technical reasons, and gave the possibility to put down animals only when necessary. In fact, it would be peculiar to postulate that every ritual session would have compellingly prescribed the presence of one or more sacrificial victims; furthermore, the possibility of such a substitution is registered by the ritual sources. The sacrifice that, in these two modalities, represented one of the essential moments of the Mazdean ceremonies, in particular during the solemn liturgies, was also accompanied by the offering of the priest’s uruuan-, according to a doctrine, which, as already suggested by the author, presents certain characters comparable with the Later Vedic ātmayajña-. While morning and daily sacrifices were normal practices, nocturnal ceremonies including slaughtering, although surely known in the Iranian tradition, have been discussed and carefully analysed. Textual evidences show that libations (zaoθrās) and sacrifices (yasnas) should have been forbidden after sunset (hū frāšmō.dāiti-), i.e. in the gāh or “watch” dedicated to the first part of night, although some statements preserved by the Nērangestān appear contradictory on this mat-ter. This gāh, even in its denomination (aiβisrūθrima- aibigaiia-“[the time of] chan¬ting characterized by attentive listening, as explained by A. Hintze), seems in any case to have been dedicated more to speculative and oral activities than to long and demanding liturgical performances. Many Avestan sources actually emphasize the negative aspects of certain nocturnal rituals and their risky conditions; furthermore, we observe that animal sacrifices overnight were in general a borderline, if not demonic, practice in many Indo-European cultures. The Vedic nocturnal celebrations, as the Atirātra, specifically dedicated to Indra, e.g. conirm the strong connections with many warlike and violent characters, appearing more dan¬gerous if comparatively considered with respect to Zoroastrianism. The interdiction of nocturnal ceremonies for Anāhitā, in particular those connected with waters, result in open contrast with the Vedic sacrifice over-night of a goat to Sarasvatī. The second part of the night, ušahina-, was considered the one preparing and announcing the appearance of “dawn” (ušah-). For this reason, it was chosen to host among others in particular the Widēwdād ceremony, which was a sort of ritual attack against the daēuuas, i.e. the forces of disorder and darkness trying to block or delay sunrise and, consequently, the due course of time. In this respect, ušahina- concerns the recurring wait for the sun and the victory over the darkness; in other words, it contributed to guarantee the regular order of nature. The occurrence of animal sacrifices during the ušahina- gāh is certainly registered for the Hōm Drōn, whose performance must be placed at the beginning of the “auroral” watch, an evidence that emphasizes the no more strictly nocturnal character of this session. Furthermore, the timing of the Widēwdād pre¬sents, in its turn, some inte¬res¬ting aspects, which still deserve to be investigated. In particular, as some solemn ceremonies, it includes the double recitation of the Y. 35-42, i.e. of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, which was the right time for the animal sacrifice. This article insists on the remarkable meaning to be attributed to this double recitation, which presents us with the potential presence of two following sacrifices, once just before the first recitation of Y. 35-42, and a second time during its repetition. This question is discussed after some interpretative hypotheses in connection with the scheduled timing of the Widēwdād ceremony, and the same subject is later analysed at the light of the directions attested in N. 28, 1-12, and after some observations concerning the timing adopted for this auroral liturgy still preserved in the Persian Rivāyats. While already the first and, in origin, complete sacrifice occurred after the call of the cock, under the protection of Sraoša, the present study investigates the pos¬sibility that even a second sacrificial moment, rea¬sonably without animal slaugh¬tering, was performed in the light of the rising sun. Such a performance suggested a strong sym¬bo¬lism, which reminds the one of the fu¬ture cosmic celebration to be finally performed, as stated in the Pahlavi sources, by Ohrmazd and the third Sō¬šāns, the first as the zōt of a divine priestly college, the second as the leader of the human one. In fact, in this long ritual session, co¬vering the whole day, the sa¬crifice celebrated during the ušahin gāh will be the one definitively conferring immortality upon hu¬ma¬nity. In any case, the increasing importance attributed to the symbolic force of the sacrifice and its progressive re¬duc¬tion to a simple offering of meat, a praxis which was in itself regular under certain conditions (as stated even in the Nērangestān), favoured the progressive reduction (even the elimination, for some extents) of the animal sacrifice. This long and complex process might have been supported by the parallel example of the ceremony performed during the se¬cond recitation of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, if it was originally connected with a ritual offering (with or without sacrifice), as it is suggested here, because its links with such a sacrificial dimension were obliterated and consequently its symbolic meaning so reduced. These facts might have deeply contributed to a radical change into the conception of the sacrifice in the framework of the Mazdean communities, and a new consideration of their importance could offer an explanation of the modern ritual tradition, so different with respect to the past, without the need of stressing, as a main reason, the overwhelming impact of foreign religious cultures.

aêtase. tê âtare zaothrå. On the Mazdean Animal and Symbolic Sacrifices: Their Problems, Timing and Restrictions

Antonio Panaino
Investigation
2020

Abstract

The present contribution deals with a number of technical and theoretical problems connected with the animal sacrifice in the Avestan sources and, more in general, in the Mazdean tradition. Usually and theoretically the sacrifice included the killing of a sacrificial animal, but it was also possible to substitute the victim with the of¬fering of a piece of meat taken from an animal sacrificed during a previous ritual session. These two alternatives were not in contrast, but their different realization answered a number of technical reasons, and gave the possibility to put down animals only when necessary. In fact, it would be peculiar to postulate that every ritual session would have compellingly prescribed the presence of one or more sacrificial victims; furthermore, the possibility of such a substitution is registered by the ritual sources. The sacrifice that, in these two modalities, represented one of the essential moments of the Mazdean ceremonies, in particular during the solemn liturgies, was also accompanied by the offering of the priest’s uruuan-, according to a doctrine, which, as already suggested by the author, presents certain characters comparable with the Later Vedic ātmayajña-. While morning and daily sacrifices were normal practices, nocturnal ceremonies including slaughtering, although surely known in the Iranian tradition, have been discussed and carefully analysed. Textual evidences show that libations (zaoθrās) and sacrifices (yasnas) should have been forbidden after sunset (hū frāšmō.dāiti-), i.e. in the gāh or “watch” dedicated to the first part of night, although some statements preserved by the Nērangestān appear contradictory on this mat-ter. This gāh, even in its denomination (aiβisrūθrima- aibigaiia-“[the time of] chan¬ting characterized by attentive listening, as explained by A. Hintze), seems in any case to have been dedicated more to speculative and oral activities than to long and demanding liturgical performances. Many Avestan sources actually emphasize the negative aspects of certain nocturnal rituals and their risky conditions; furthermore, we observe that animal sacrifices overnight were in general a borderline, if not demonic, practice in many Indo-European cultures. The Vedic nocturnal celebrations, as the Atirātra, specifically dedicated to Indra, e.g. conirm the strong connections with many warlike and violent characters, appearing more dan¬gerous if comparatively considered with respect to Zoroastrianism. The interdiction of nocturnal ceremonies for Anāhitā, in particular those connected with waters, result in open contrast with the Vedic sacrifice over-night of a goat to Sarasvatī. The second part of the night, ušahina-, was considered the one preparing and announcing the appearance of “dawn” (ušah-). For this reason, it was chosen to host among others in particular the Widēwdād ceremony, which was a sort of ritual attack against the daēuuas, i.e. the forces of disorder and darkness trying to block or delay sunrise and, consequently, the due course of time. In this respect, ušahina- concerns the recurring wait for the sun and the victory over the darkness; in other words, it contributed to guarantee the regular order of nature. The occurrence of animal sacrifices during the ušahina- gāh is certainly registered for the Hōm Drōn, whose performance must be placed at the beginning of the “auroral” watch, an evidence that emphasizes the no more strictly nocturnal character of this session. Furthermore, the timing of the Widēwdād pre¬sents, in its turn, some inte¬res¬ting aspects, which still deserve to be investigated. In particular, as some solemn ceremonies, it includes the double recitation of the Y. 35-42, i.e. of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, which was the right time for the animal sacrifice. This article insists on the remarkable meaning to be attributed to this double recitation, which presents us with the potential presence of two following sacrifices, once just before the first recitation of Y. 35-42, and a second time during its repetition. This question is discussed after some interpretative hypotheses in connection with the scheduled timing of the Widēwdād ceremony, and the same subject is later analysed at the light of the directions attested in N. 28, 1-12, and after some observations concerning the timing adopted for this auroral liturgy still preserved in the Persian Rivāyats. While already the first and, in origin, complete sacrifice occurred after the call of the cock, under the protection of Sraoša, the present study investigates the pos¬sibility that even a second sacrificial moment, rea¬sonably without animal slaugh¬tering, was performed in the light of the rising sun. Such a performance suggested a strong sym¬bo¬lism, which reminds the one of the fu¬ture cosmic celebration to be finally performed, as stated in the Pahlavi sources, by Ohrmazd and the third Sō¬šāns, the first as the zōt of a divine priestly college, the second as the leader of the human one. In fact, in this long ritual session, co¬vering the whole day, the sa¬crifice celebrated during the ušahin gāh will be the one definitively conferring immortality upon hu¬ma¬nity. In any case, the increasing importance attributed to the symbolic force of the sacrifice and its progressive re¬duc¬tion to a simple offering of meat, a praxis which was in itself regular under certain conditions (as stated even in the Nērangestān), favoured the progressive reduction (even the elimination, for some extents) of the animal sacrifice. This long and complex process might have been supported by the parallel example of the ceremony performed during the se¬cond recitation of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, if it was originally connected with a ritual offering (with or without sacrifice), as it is suggested here, because its links with such a sacrificial dimension were obliterated and consequently its symbolic meaning so reduced. These facts might have deeply contributed to a radical change into the conception of the sacrifice in the framework of the Mazdean communities, and a new consideration of their importance could offer an explanation of the modern ritual tradition, so different with respect to the past, without the need of stressing, as a main reason, the overwhelming impact of foreign religious cultures.
Aux sources des liturgies indo-iraniennes.
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Antonio Panaino
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/782959
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