The History and Significance of the Fravashis

Mythology has always played a vital part in the world; in ancient times, societies gave birth to a whole range of deities to help explain the natural occurrences that played out around them, they entertained the masses and also set moral examples to the people. In today’s society, not only do they still entertain, but they also allow archaeologists and anthropologists to understand the ancient cultures.

In non-academic circles today, only the major gods are recognised, such as Isis, Athena, Zeus, Odin and Jupiter for example. However, the lesser known deities can also provide us with information concerning the ancient world.

The Fravashis are not deities one instantly recognises, however, they played a vital part in ancient Iranian mythology. According to mythology, the Fravashis were benevolent spirits or ‘guardian angels’.

According to one scholar, one of the constellations, the Seven Stars of Hapto iringa (this is probably Ursa Major) are associated with the north and with 99,999 Fravashis. “The constellation is associated with the daevas just as in Hinduism it is linked with the Devas, but the daevas, whom Zoroastrianism reckoned as Demons rather than Gods, are (along with other malevolent beings) kept in check at the gate of hell (which is in the north) by the Fravashis and watched over by the Haptb. iringa as the latter revolve around and thus guard the north “ (Hiltebeitel, p.347).

In sections of the Avesta, the Fravashis are frequently mentioned as “immortal doubles of the soul, which exist for every man before his birth, during his lifetime, and after his death” (, p.56). They are similar to that of the Roman Genii, but their extent is far wider.

Sacrifices were offered to the Fravashis, indicating their importance and significance to the ancient Iranian culture. In the Yasna, a later part of the Avesta, a sacrifice is mentioned to “all the fravashis of the saints, those who are dead, those who are now alive, those who are still to be born” (Taylor, p.56).

It is generally believed that the concept of the Fravashis goes back to the time of the Achaemenidae (an ancient Persian Dynasty dating to around 550 BCE – 331 BCE), although they are not mentioned in the oldest part of the Avesta. In addition, scholars do not argue on the Zoroaster’s view on the Fravashis or the attitude of the Achaemenidae on Zoroastrianism (Taylor, p.57). In spite of this, it is clear that the Fravashis played an integral part in the mythology and lives of the ancient Iranian people.

Bibliography:

Hiltebeitel, Alf (1977) Nahusa in the Sky: A Human King of Heaven, History of Religions, The University of Chicago Press.

Taylor, Lily Ross (1927) The ‘Proskynesis’ and the Hellenistic Ruler Cult, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies.

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