THE Iranian legend of creation is as follows (1). Ahura Mazda lives eternally in the region of infinite light, but Angra Mainyu, on the contrary, has his abode in the abyss of endless darkness, between them being empty space, the air. After Ahura Mazda had produced his creatures, which were to remain "three thousand years in a spiritual state, so that they were unthinking and unmoving, with intangible bodies," the Evil Spirit, having arisen from the abyss, came into the light of Ahura Mazda. Because of his malicious nature, he rushed in to destroy it, but seeing the Good Spirit was more powerful than himself, he fled back to the gloomy darkness, where he formed many demons and fiends to help him.
Then Ahura Mazda saw the creatures of the Evil Spirit, terrible, corrupt, and bad as they were, and having the knowledge of what the end of the matter would be, he went to meet Angra Mainyu and proposed peace to him: "Evil spirit! bring assistance unto my creatures, and offer praise! so that, in reward for it, thou and thy creatures may become immortal and undecaying." But Angra Mainyu howled thus: "I will not depart, I will not provide assistance for thy creatures, I will not offer praise among thy creatures, and I am not of the same opinion with thee as to good things. I will destroy thy creatures for ever and everlasting; moreover, I will force all thy creatures into disaffection to thee and affection for myself." Ahura Mazda, however, said to the Evil Spirit, "Appoint a period so that the intermingling of the conflict may be for nine thousand years"; for he knew that by setting that time  the Evil Spirit would be undone. The latter, unobservant and ignorant, was content with the agreement, and the nine thousand years were divided so that during three thousand years the will of Mazda was to be done, then for three thousand years there is an intermingling of the wills of Mazda and Angra Mainyu, and in the last third the Evil Spirit will be disabled.
Afterward Ahura Mazda recited the powerful prayer Yatha ahu vairya (2) and, by so doing, exhibited to the Evil Spirit his own triumph in the end and the impotence of his adversary. Perceiving this, Angra Mainyu became confounded and fell back into the gloomy darkness, where he stayed in confusion for three thousand years. During this period the creatures of Mazda remained unharmed, but existed only in a spiritual or potential state; and not until this triple millennium had come to an end did the actual creation begin.
As the first step in the cosmogonic process Ahura Mazda produced Vohu Manah ("Good Mind"), whereupon Angra Mainyu immediately created Aka Manah ("Evil Mind"); and in like manner when Ahura Mazda formed the other Amesha Spentas, his adversary shaped their counterparts. After all this was completed, the creation of the world took place in due order sky, water, earth, plants, animals, mankind.
In shaping the sky and the heavenly bodies Ahura Mazda produced first the celestial sphere and the constellations, especially the zodiacal signs. The stars are a warlike army destined for battle against the evil spirits. There are six million four hundred and eighty thousand small stars, and to the many which are unnumbered places are assigned in the four quarters of the sky. Over the stars four leaders preside, Tishtrya (Sirius) being the chieftain of the east, Haptok Ring (Ursa Major) of the north, Sataves of the west, and Vanand of the south. Then he created the moon and afterward the sun.
In the meanwhile, however, the impure female demon Jahi had undertaken to rouse Angra Mainyu from his long sleep
 "Rise up, we will cause a conflict in the world," but this did not please him because, through fear of Ahura Mazda, he was not able to lift up his head. Then she shouted again, "Rise up, thou father of us! for I will cause that conflict in the world wherefrom the distress and injury of Auharmazd and the archangels will arise. ... I will make the whole creation of Auharmazd vexed."
When she had shouted thrice, Angra Mainyu was delighted and started up from his confusion, and he kissed Jahi upon the head and howled, "What is thy wish? so that I may give it thee?" And she shouted, "A man is the wish, so give it to me." Now the form of the Evil Spirit was a log like a lizard's body, but he made himself into a young man of fifteen years (3), and this brought the thought of Jahi unto him.
Then Angra Mainyu with his confederate demons went toward the luminaries that had just been created, and he saw the sky and sprang into it like a snake (4), so that the heavens were as shattered and frightened by him as a sheep by a wolf. Just like a fly he rushed out upon the whole creation and he made the world as tarnished and black at midday as though it were in dark night. He created the planets in opposition to the chieftains of the constellations, and they dashed against the celestial sphere and threw the constellations into confusion (5), and the entire creation was as disfigured as though fire had burned it and smoke had arisen.
For ninety days and nights the Amesha Spentas and Yazatas contended with the confederate demons and hurled them confounded back into the darkness. The rampart of the sky was now built in such a manner that the fiends would no more be able to penetrate into it; and when the Evil Spirit no longer found an entrance, he was compelled to rush back to the nether darkness, beholding the annihilation of the demons and his own impotence.
Then as the second step in the cosmogonic process Ahura Mazda created the waters (6). These converge into the sea  Vourukasha ("Wide-Gulfed"), which occupies one third of this earth in the direction of the southern limit of Mount Alburz and is so wide that it contains the water of a thousand lakes. Every lake is of a particular kind; some are great, and some are small, while others are so vast that a man with a horse could not compass them around in less than forty days.
All waters continually flow from the source Ardvi Sura Anahita ("the Wet, Strong, and Spotless One"). There are a hundred thousand golden channels, and the water, warm and clear, goes through them toward Mount Hugar, the lofty. On the summit of that mountain is Lake Urvis, into which the water flows, and becoming quite purified, returns through a different golden channel. At the height of a thousand men an open golden branch from that affluent is connected with Mount Ausindom and the sea Vourukasha, whence one part flows forth to the ocean for the purification of the sea, while another portion drizzles in moisture upon the whole of this earth. All the creatures of Mazda acquire health from it, and it dispels the dryness of the atmosphere.
There are, moreover, three large salt seas and twenty-three small. Of the three, the Puitika (Persian Gulf) is the greatest, and the control of it is connected with moon and wind; it comes and goes in increase and decrease because of her revolving. From the presence of the moon two winds continually blow; one is called the down-draught, and one the up-draught, and they produce flow and ebb.
The spring Ardvi Sura Anahita, which we have just mentioned, and from which all rivers flow down to the earth, is worshipped as a goddess. She is celebrated in the fifth Yasht of the Avesta as the life-increasing, the herd-increasing, the fold-increasing, who makes prosperity for all countries. She runs powerfully down to the sea Vourukasha, and all its shores are boiling over when she plunges foaming down; she, Ardvi Sura, who has a thousand gulfs and a thousand outlets.
Not only does Anahita bring fertility to the fields by her  waters, but she makes the seed of all males pure and sound, purifies the wombs of all females, causes them to bring forth in safety, and puts milk in their breasts (7). She gave strength to all heroes of primeval times so that they were able to overcome their foes, whether the demons, the serpent Azhi, or the golden-heeled Gandarewa.
She is personified under the appearance of a handsome and stately woman (8).
"Yea in truth her arms are lovely,
White of hue, more strong than horses;
Fair-adorned is she and charming;
With a lovely maiden's body,
Very strong, of goodly figure,
Girded high and standing upright,
Nobly born, of brilliant lineage;
Ankle-high she weareth foot-gear
Golden-latcheted and shining.
She is clad in costly raiment,
Richly pleated and all golden,
For adornment she hath ear-rings
With four corners and all golden.
On her lovely throat a necklace
She doth wear, the maid full noble,
Ardvi Sura Anahita.
Round her waist she draws a girdle
That fair-formed may be her bosom,
That well-pleasing be her bosom.
On her brow a crown she placeth,
Ardvi Sura Anahita,
Eight its parts, its jewels a hundred,
Fair-formed, like a chariot-body,
Golden, ribbon-decked, and lovely,
Swelling forth with curve harmonious.
She is clad in beaver garments,
Ardvi Sura Anahita,
Of the beaver tribe three hundred."
This precise description points to the existence of representations of the goddess, a thing unusual in Persia in ancient  times. But Anahita, as Herodotus tells us, was at that period identified with the Semitic Ishtar, a divinity of fertility and fecundity, and a powerful deity invoked in battle and in war, both these functions being attributed to Anahita in the hymn quoted above. Ishtar seems to have absorbed in Babylonia many of the attributes of Ea's consort Nin Ella, the "Great Lady of the Waters," the "Pure Lady" of birth, whose name is the exact equivalent of Ardvi Sura Anahita; and it was Nin Ella, more probably than Ishtar, who was the prototype of the Iranian goddess.
The Evil Spirit, however, also came to the water and sent Apaosha, the demon of drought, to fight against Tishtrya (Sirius), who bestows water upon the earth during the summer; the result of their encounter being the conflict that has been narrated above.
The third of the processes of creation was the shaping of the world. After the rain of Tishtrya had flooded the earth and purified it from the venom of the noxious creatures, and when the waters had retired, the thirty-three kinds of land were formed. These are distributed into seven portions: one is in the middle, and the others are the six regions (keshvars) of the earth.
To counteract the work of Ahura Mazda, Angra Mainyu came and pierced the earth, entering straight into its midmost part; and when the earth shook, the mountains arose. First, Mount Alburz (Hara Berezaiti) was created, and then the other ranges of mountains came into being; "for as Alburz grew forth all the mountains remained in motion, for they have all grown forth from the root of Alburz. At that time they came up from the earth, like a tree which has grown up to the clouds and its root to the bottom." The mountains stand in a row about Alburz, which is the knot of lands and is the highest peak of all, lifting its head even to the sky. On one of its summits, named Taera, the sun, the moon, and the stars rise, and from another of its heights, Hukairya, the water of  Ardvi Sura Anahita flows down, while on it the haoma, the plant of life, is set. What plant this haoma was we do not know, but its intoxicating qualities produced an exaltation which naturally caused it to be regarded as divine.
Next came the creation of the vegetable kingdom when Ameretat, the Amesha Spenta who has plants under her guardianship, pounded them small and mixed them with the water which Tishtrya had seized. Then the dog-star made that water rain down over all the earth, on which plants sprang up like hair upon the heads of men. Ten thousand of them grew forth, these being provided in order to keep away the ten thousand diseases which the evil spirit produced for the creatures. From those ten thousand have sprung the hundred thousand species of plants that are now in the world.
From these germs the "Tree of All Seeds" was given out and grew up in the middle of the sea Vourukasha, where it causes every species of plant to increase. Near to that "Tree of All Seeds" the Gaokerena ("Ox-Horn") tree was produced to avert decrepitude. This is necessary to bring about the renovation of the universe and the immortality that will follow; every one who eats it becomes immortal, and it is the chief of plants (9).
The Evil Spirit formed a lizard in the deep water of Vourukasha that it might injure the Gaokerena (10); but to keep away that lizard Ahura Mazda created ten kar-fish, which at all times continually circle around the Gaokerena, so that the head of one of them never ceases to be turned toward the lizard. Together with the lizard those fish are spiritually fed, and till the renovation of the universe they will remain in the sea and struggle with one another.
The Gaokerena tree is also called "White Haoma." It is one of the manifestations of the famous haoma-plant, which has been mentioned many times, while its terrestrial form, the yellow haoma, is the plant of the Indo-Iranian sacrifice and the one which gives strength to men and gods. It is with this thought in mind that the sacrificer invokes "Golden haoma":
 "Thee I pray for might and conquest,
Thee for health and thee for healing,
Thee for progress and for increase,
Thee for strength of all my body,
Thee for wisdom all-adorned.
Thee I pray that I may conquer,
Conquer all the haters hatred,
Be they men or be they demons,
Be they sorcerers or witches,
Rulers, bards, or priests of evil,
Treacherous things that walk on two feet,
Heretics that walk on two feet,
Wolves that go about on four feet,
Or invading hordes deceitful
With their fronts spread wide for battle." (11)
Above all, however, haoma is expected to drive death afar, to give long life (12) and to grant children to women and husbands to girls.
"Unto women that would bring forth
haoma giveth brilliant children,
haoma giveth righteous offspring.
Unto maidens long unwedded
haoma, quickly as they ask him,
Full of insight, full of wisdom,
Granteth husbands and protectors." (13)
The terrestrial haoma is said to grow on the summits of the mountains, especially on Alburz (Hara Berezaiti), to which divine birds brought it down from heaven. It is collected in a box, which is placed in an iron vase, and after the priest has taken five or seven pieces of the plant from the box and washed them in the cup, the stalk of haoma is pounded in a mortar and filtered through the vara, the juice being then mixed with other sacred fluids and ritual prayers being recited.
The haoma sacrifice is supposed to date back to primeval times, its first priests being Vivanghvant, Athwya, Thrita, and Pourushaspa, the heroes of ancient ages. The offering of it is  an Indo-Iranian rite, and the same legends are found in the Veda, where amrta soma ("immortal soma" [= haoma]) has been brought from heaven to a high mountain by an eagle. Swift as thought, the bird flew to the iron castle of the sky and brought the sweet stalks back (14). It is actually an Indo-European myth closely associated with the fire-myths, for the fire of the sky (the lightning) is said to have been brought to earth either by a bird or by a daring human being (Prometheus), while exactly the same story is told of the earthly fire-drink, the honey-mead, the draught of immortality (ambrosia). Curiously enough, the Babylonian epic also knows of a marvellous plant that grows on the mountains, the plant "of birth" belonging to Shamash, the sun-god. When the wife of the hero Etana is in distress because she is unable to bring into the world a child which she has conceived, Etana prays Shamash to show him the "plant of birth": "O Lord, let thy mouth command, and give me the plant of birth. Reveal to me the plant of birth, bring forth the fruit, grant me offspring"; and an eagle then helps Etana to obtain the plant (15). The Etana-myth is also related to the story of Rustam's birth, as will be narrated in a subsequent chapter.
When Angra Mainyu, the destroyer, came to the plants, he found them with neither thorn nor bark about them; but he coated them with bark and thorns and mixed their sap with poison, so that when men eat certain plants, they die (16). There was also a beautiful tree with a single root. Its height was several feet, and it was without branches and without bark, juicy and sweet; but when the Evil Spirit approached it, it became quite withered (17).
In Iranian mythology the creation of fire constitutes, to all intents, a subdivision of the creation of the vegetable world, the close connexion between fire and plants in Indo-Iranian conceptions being due to the fact that it was the custom of those peoples to obtain flame by taking a stick of hard wood, boring it into a plank or board of softer wood (that of a lime- tree, for instance), and turning it round and round till fire was produced by the friction (18). For this reason the Veda declares that Fire (Agni) is born in wood, is the embryo of plants, and is distributed in plants. But fire has likewise a heavenly origin, for it is the son of the sky-god (Dyaus) and was born in the highest heavens, whence it was brought to earth, as already narrated, though it is also described as having its origin in the aerial waters. Owing to his divine births, Agni in India is often regarded as possessing a triple character and is trisadhastha ("having three stations or dwellings"), his abodes being heaven, earth, and the waters. The fire of the hearth has been held in very great veneration among all Indo-Europeans. It was adored as Hestia in Greece and as Vesta in Rome, while in India the domestic Agni is called Grhapati ("Lord of the House"). It is also the guest (atithi) in human abodes, for it is an immortal who has taken up his home among mortals; it is Vispati ("Lord of the Settlers"), their leader, their protector. It is the friend, the brother, the nearest kinsman of man (19); it is the great averter of evil beings, just as it keeps off wild animals in the forest at night.
The second aspect under which fire is subservient to humanity is the part that it plays as the messenger who brings to the gods the offerings of men. It is the sacrificial fire, and as such it is called Narasamsa ("Praise of Men") in India (20).
The structure, originally domed, is built of unburnt bricks. Its height is about fourteen feet, and its diameter about fifteen; octagonal in plan, its eight doors face the eight points of the compass; the inner sanctuary is circular. It apparently dates at least from the Sassanian period, and its shape may be compared with what seems to be a fire temple as pictured on Parthian coins (see Plate XXXIV, No. 5). For the history of the shrine, so far as known, see Jackson, Persia Past and Present, pp. 25661. After a photograph by Professor A. V. Williams Jackson.
As in India, so in Iran several kinds of fire are distinguished: Berezisavanh ("Very Useful") is the general name of the Bahram fire, the sacred one which shoots up before Ahura Mazda and is kept in the fire temples; Vohu Fryana ("Good Friend") is the fire which burns in the bodies of men and animals, keeping them warm; Urvazishta ("Most Delightful") burns in the plants and can produce flames by friction; Vazishta ("Best-Carrying") is the aerial fire, the lightning that purifies the sky and slays the demon Spenjaghrya; Spenishta ("Most Holy") burns in paradise in the presence of Ahura Mazda.
Of these five fires, one drinks and eats, that which is in the bodies of men; one drinks and does not eat, that which is in plants, which live and grow through water; two eat and do not drink, these being the fire which is ordinarily used in the world, and likewise the fire of Bahram (= Berezisavanh); one consumes neither water nor food, and this is the fire Vaishta (22).
This classification enjoyed a very great success among the Talmudists, who took it from the Mazdeans in the second century A.D. (23). Besides these five fires, the Avesta knows of Nairyosangha, who is of royal lineage and whose name reminds us of nardsamsa, the epithet of Agni ("the Fire") in India. Like Narasamsa Agni, Nairyosangha is the messenger between men and gods and he dwells with kings, inasmuch as they are endowed with a divine majesty. The emanation of divine essence in kings, however, is more often called khvarenanh (Old Persian farnah), which is a glory that attaches itself to monarchs as long as they are worthy representatives of divine power, as will be seen later in the story of Yima.
 The fire was all light and brilliancy, but Angra Mainyu came up to it, as to all beings of the good creation, and marred it with darkness and smoke (23).
The fifth creation was the animal realm. Just as there was a tree Gaokerena which had within itself all seeds of plants and trees, so Iranian mythology knows of a primeval ox in which were contained the germs of the animal species and even of a certain number of useful plants.
This ox, the sole-created animate being, was a splendid, strong animal which, though sometimes said to be a female (25), is usually described as a bull. When the Evil Spirit came to the ox, Ahura Mazda ground up a healing fruit, called binak, so that the noxious effects of Angra Mainyu might be minimized; but when, despite this, "it became at the same time lean and ill, as its breath went forth and it passed away, the ox also spoke thus: The cattle are to be created, their work, labour, and care are to be appointed. When Geush Urvan ("the Soul of the Ox") came forth from the body, it stood up and cried thus to Ahura Mazda, as loudly as a thousand men when they raise a cry at one time: "With whom is the guardianship of the creatures left by thee, now that ruin has broken into the earth, and vegetation is withered, and water is troubled? Where is the man of whom it was said by thee thus:
'I will produce him, so that he may preach carefulness?'" Ahuja Mazda answered : "You are made ill, O Goshurvan! you have the illness which the evil spirit brought on; if it were proper to produce that man in this earth at this time, the evil spirit would not have been oppressive in it." Geush Urvan was not satisfied, however, but walked to the vault of the stars and cried in the same way, and his voice came to the moon and to the sun till the Fravashi (26) of Zoroaster was exhibited to it, and Ahura Mazda promised to send the prophet who would preach carefulness for the animals, whereupon the soul of the ox was contented and agreed to nourish the creatures and to protect the animal world.
From every limb of the ox fifty-five species of grain and  twelve kinds of medicinal plants grew forth, their splendour and strength coming from the seminal energy of the ox. Delivered to the moon, that seed was thoroughly purified by the light of the moon and fully prepared in every way, and then two oxen arose, one male and one female, after which two hundred and eighty-two pairs of every single species of animal appeared upon the earth. The quadrupeds were to live on the earth, the birds had their dwelling in the air, and the fish were in the midst of the water.
Another myth ascribes the killing of the primeval ox to the god Mithra.
The legend concerning the birth and the first exploits of Mithra runs thus (27). He was born of a rock on the banks of a river under the shade of a sacred fig-tree, coming forth armed with a knife and carrying a torch that had illumined the sombre depths. When he had clothed himself with the leaves of the fig-tree, detaching the fruit and stripping the tree of its leaves by means of his knife, he undertook to subjugate the beings already created in the world. First he measured his strength with the sun, with whom he concluded a treaty of friendship an act quite in agreement with his nature as a god of contracts and since then the two allies have supported each other in every event.
Then he attacked the primeval ox. The redoubtable animal was grazing in a pasture on a mountain, but Mithra boldly seized it by the horns and succeeded in mounting it. The ox, infuriated, broke into a gallop, seeking to free itself from its rider, who relaxed his hold and suffered himself to be dragged along till the animal, exhausted by its efforts, was forced to surrender. The god then dragged it into a cave, but the ox succeeded in escaping and roamed again over the mountain pastures, whereupon the sun sent his messenger, the raven, to help his ally slay the beast. Mithra resumed his pursuit of the ox and succeeded in overtaking it just at the moment when it was seeking refuge in the cavern which it had quitted. He  seized it by the nostrils with one hand and with the other he plunged his hunting-knife deep into its flank. Then the prodigy related above took place. From the limbs and the blood of the ox sprang all useful herbs and all species of animals, and "the Soul of the Ox" (Geush Urvan) went to heaven to be the guardian of animals.
The myths relating to the primeval ox contain traces of several older Indo-European myths. First, the conception of the production of various beings out of the body of a primeval gigantic creature is a cosmogonic story, fairly common in the mythology of many nations and reproduced in the Eddic myth of the giant Ymir, who was born from the icy chaos and from whose arm sprang both a man and a woman. He was then slain by Odhin and his companions, and of the flesh of Ymir was formed the earth, of his blood the sea and the waters, of his bones the mountains, of his teeth the rocks and stones, and of his hair all manner of plants (28).
Many features recall to us, on the other hand, the contests on high between a light-god and some monster who detains the rain which is the source of life for terrestrial beings and which is often personified under the shape of a cow. The kine are concealed in caves or on mountains, or the monster is hidden in a mountain cavern and escapes, as is the case with Verethraghna and Azhi in the Armenian myth. In the birth of Mithra traces of solar myths may also be detected. The raven is the messenger of the sun because, like the bird Vareghna,
" Forth he flies with ruffling feathers
When the dawn begins to glimmer." (29)
1. MITHRA BORN FROM THE ROCK
The divinity, lifting a cluster of grapes in his right hand, emerges from the rock, on which he rests his left hand. On the rock are sculptured a quiver, arrow, bow, and dagger. On either side of Mithra stand the two torch-bearers, Caut and Cautopat (whose names, in the opinion of the Editor, mean "the Burner" and "He Who Lets His Burned [Torch] Fall"), doubtless symbolizing the rising and the setting sun, as Mithra is the sun at noonday. From a white marble formerly in the Villa Giustiniani, Rome, but now lost. After Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, Fig. 31.
2. MITHRA BORN FROM THE ROCK
The deity, bearing a dagger in one hand and a lighted torch in the other, rises from the rock. From a bas-relief found in the Mithraeum which once occupied the site of the church of San Clemente at Rome. After Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, Fig. 30.
As regards the various species of animals produced from the ox, the Mazdean books speak first of mythical beings, such as the three-legged ass that has been described above, the lizard created by Angra Mainyu to destroy the tree Gaokerena, and the kar-fishes that defend it. They know, moreover, of an  ox-fish that exists in all seas; when it utters a cry, all fishes become pregnant, and all noxious water creatures cast their young. There is also an ox, called Hadhayosh or Sarsaok in Pahlavi, on whose back men in primeval times passed from region to region across the sea Vourukasha. Many mythical birds are known in the Mazdean mythology. We have already seen the raven as an incarnation of Verethraghna ("Victory") and as a messenger of the sun to Mithra. The most celebrated bird, however, is Saena, the Simurgh of the Persians, whose open wings are like a wide cloud and full of water crowning the mountains (30). He rests on the tree of the eagle, the Gaokerena, in the midst of the sea Vourukasha, the tree with good remedies, in which are the seeds of all plants. When he rises aloft, so violently is the tree shaken that a thousand twigs shoot forth from it; when he alights, he breaks off a thousand twigs, whose seeds are shed in all directions.
Near this powerful bird sits Camrosh, who would be king of birds, were it not for Saena. His work is to collect the seed which is shed from the tree and to convey it to the place where Tishtrya seizes the water, so that the latter may take the water containing the seed of all kinds and may rain it on the world (31). When the Turanians invade the Iranian districts for booty and effect devastation, Camrosh, sent by the spirit Berejya, flies from the loftiest of the lofty mountains and picks up all the non-Iranians as a bird does corn (32).
The bird Varegan, Varengan, or Vareghna (sometimes translated "raven") is the swiftest of all and is as quick as an arrow. We have already seen (33) that he is one of Verethraghna's incarnations, and under his shape the kingly Glory (Khvarenanh) of Yima left the guilty hero and flew up to heaven (34). He is essentially a magic bird with mysterious power. Thus Zoroaster is represented as asking Ahura Mazda what would be the remedy "should I be cursed in word or thought." Ahura Mazda answers: "Thou shouldst take a feather of the wide-feathered bird Varengan, O Spitama Zarathushtra. With that feather  thou shouldst stroke thy body, with that feather thou shouldst conjure thy foe. Either the bones of the sturdy bird or the feathers of the sturdy bird carry boons.
"Neither can a man of brilliance
Slay or rout him in confusion.
It first doth bring him reverence,
it first doth bring him glory.
Help to him the feather giveth
Of the bird of birds, Varengan." 35
The same thing is recorded of Saena (the Simurgh) in the Shahnamah. When Zal leaves the nest of the Simurgh, who has brought him up, his foster-father gives him one of his feathers so that he may always remain under the shadow of his power.
"Bear this plume of mine
About with thee and so abide beneath
The shadow of my Grace. Henceforth if men
Shall hurt or, right or wrong, exclaim against thee,
Then burn the feather and behold my might." (36)
When the side of Rudabah, Rustam's mother, is opened to allow the child to be brought into the world, Zal heals the wound by rubbing it with a feather of the Simurgh, and when Rustam is wounded to death by Isfandyar, he is cured in the same way (37).
The bird Karshiptar has a more intellectual part to play, for he spread Mazda's religion in the enclosure in which the prime val king Yima had assembled mankind (38), as will be narrated below. There men recited the Avesta in the language of birds (39).
The Simurgh, flying from its mountain home, restores the infant Zal to his father Sam, who had caused the child to be abandoned because it had been born with white hair. In his hand the prince carries the ox-headed mace as a symbol of royalty. The painting shows marked Perso-Mongolian influence. From a Persian manuscript of the Shahnamah, dated 1587-88 A.D., now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The bird Asho-zushta also has the Avesta on his tongue, and when he recites the words the demons are frightened (40). When the nails of a Zoroastrian are cut, the faithful must say: "O Asho-zushta bird! these nails I present to thee and consecrate to thee. May they be for thee so many spears and knives, so many bows and eagle-winged arrows, so many sling-stones against the Mazainyan demons" (41). If one recites this formula, the fiends tremble and do not take up the nails, but if the  parings have had no spell uttered over them, the demons and wizards use them as arrows against the bird Asho-zushta and kill him. Therefore, when the nails have had a charm spoken over them, the bird takes them and eats them, that the fiends may do no harm by their means (42). Asho-zushta is probably the theological name of the owl (43).
The part played by birds as transmitters of revelation leads in later literature to the identification of the Simurgh with Supreme Wisdom (44). As we have said more than once, the conception of mythical birds dates back to Indo-Iranian even Indo-European times, and often those birds are incarnations of the thunderbolt, the sun, the fire, the cloud, etc. In the Rgveda the process is seen in operation. The soma is often compared with or called a bird; the fire (agni) is described as a bird or as an eagle in the sky; and the sun is at times a bird, whence it is called garutmant ("winged"). The most prominent bird in the Veda, however, is the eagle, which carries the soma to Indra and which appears to represent lightning (45). So in Eddic mythology the god Odhin, transforming himself into an eagle, flies with the mead to the realm of the gods. Besides these mythical birds there are one hundred and ten species of winged kind, such as the eagle, the vulture, the crow, and the crane, to say nothing of the bat, which has milk in its teat and suckles its young, and is created of three races, bird, dog, and musk-rat, for it flies like a bird, has many teeth like a dog, and dwells in holes like a musk-rat.
Other beasts and birds were formed in opposition to noxious creatures: the white falcon kills the serpent with its wings; the magpie destroys the locust; the vulture, dwelling in decay, is created to devour dead matter, as do the crow the most precious of birds and the mountain kite (46). So it is also with the quadrupeds, for the mountain ox, the mountain goat, the deer, the wild ass, and other beasts devour snakes. Dogs are created in opposition to wolves and to secure the protection of sheep; the fox is the foe of the demon Khava; the ichneumon  destroys the venomous snake and other noxious creatures in burrows; and the great musk-animal was formed to counteract ravenous intestinal worms. The hedgehog eats the ant which carries off grain; when the grain-carrying ant travels over the earth, it produces a hollow path; but when the hedgehog passes over it, the track becomes level. The beaver is in opposition to the demon which is in the water.
The cock, in co-operation with the dog, averts demons and wizards at night and helps Sraosha in that task, and the shepherd's dog and the watch-dog of the house are also indispensable creatures and destroyers of fiends. The dog likewise annihilates covetousness and disobedience, and when it barks it destroys pain, while its flesh and fat are remedies for averting decay and anguish from man. Ahura Mazda created nothing useless whatever; all these animals have been formed for the well-being of mankind and in order that the fiends may continually be destroyed (47).
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