Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mithras – Zoroastrian Angelic Divinity of Covenant

Mitra in the Zoroastrian Avesta scriptures is described as `Mitra’, of wide pastures of the thousand ears, of myriad eyes, the lofty and the everlasting, the province ruler `the Yazad – divinity of the name and `the holy’.

Mithra is the Zoroastrian angelic divinity of covenant and oath and besides being the divinity of contracts, it is considered to be a judicial figure, a kind of an all seeing protector of Truth as well as the guardian of cattle, harvest and of water. Mithra has been derived from the Avestan language and in Middle Iranian languages, Mithra is Mihr, from which Modern Persian Mihr, Northern Pashto Nwar, Waziri Pashto, Myer and Armenian Mihr/Mher is derived.

The Mithraic mysteries were attributed by the Romans to Persian or Zoroastrian sources connected to Mithra but since the early 70s, the scholarship noted dissimilarities and these mysteries have been considered as distinct Roman product. According to some recent theories, Mithra represents the sun though the Khorda Avesta considers the sun to be a separate entity together with the moon with which the sun has the best of relationship.

Mithras not mentioned in the Gathas

As in the case of other divinities, Mithra has not been mentioned by name in the Gathas, which is the oldest text of Zoroastrianism and is attributed to Zoroaster and does not appear by name in the Yasna Haptanghaiti.

This is a seven verse section of the Yasna liturgy which is linguistically as old as the Gathas. The absence of Mithra’s presence in these texts was the cause of some anxiety amongst the Iranist. During the first half of the 20th century, a repeated speculation was that the absence of the name Mithra in the text indicated that Zoroaster had rejected Mithra.

 Based on this speculation there arose a series of speculations which led to the belief and the reason why Zoroaster refrained from mentioning Mithra, the reason being the latter was considered the supreme god of a group of bloodthirsty doeva worshippers which were condemned by the Zoroaster. There is no satisfying evidence to show that before the Zoroaster, the supreme god did exist among the Iranians or even among the Mithra or other divinity.

System of Seven Grades of Initiation

Mithra worshippers had a system of seven grades of initiation together with ritual meals and the initiates, who were known as syndexioi, were united by a handshake and would meet in underground temples known as mithraea.

The cult seemed to have its centre in Rome. From the various archaeological discoveries like the monuments, meeting places together with artifacts, some insight has been gained about Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire.

Iconic scenes of Mithras portray him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull and participating in a banquet with god Sol – the Sun. There are around 420 sites with material related to the cult and among the items found, there are around 1000 inscriptions, 700 examples of the bull killing scenes and about 400 monuments.

 It is presumed that there could have been atleast 680 – 690 mithraea in Rome. Limited information is available from the inscriptions with brief references in Greek and Latin literature, since no written narrative or theology from the religion is available

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.