Sunday, October 19, 2003

Mehregan Festival

Mehregan is one of the most ancient Iranian festivals known, dating back at least as far as the earliest Aryans (Iranians).There are many accounts as to the beginning of Mehregan. A few, different versions are listed below:

1.Mehregan is a day of victory when Angels helped Fereydoon and Kaveh become victorious over Zahak. They imprisoned him in the Damavand Mountain where he died from his wounds.
2.Mehregan is the day God gave light to the world, that had previously been dark.
3.On this day Mashya and Mashyaneh (a concept of Semitic Adam and Eve) were created.
4.On this day the sun was created.

In some form or another, the feast day of Mehregan has always been honored for many hundreds of years in Iran. Mehr is also the time of harvest, ( same principles as thanks giving).
Some scholars believe that the month of Mehr was the beginning month of the calendar year during the Achaemenian era. The Mehregan feast celebrated the beginning of a new year. Mehr in Avestan is "Miora" and in ancient Farsi and in Sanskrit is "Mitra" and in Pahlavi "Mitr". In modern Farsi, it has become Mehr. Although it can be slightly confusing, it should be remembered the word "Mehr" has been used for a God, an angel, a symbol of the sun, as well as the seventh month of the Iranian calendar.

When the Indo-Europeans lived together, Mehr was considered one of the great Gods of that time.
The ancient Iranians thought Mehr was responsible for love and friendship, contracts and covenants, and a representation for light. Later, Mehr was also considered as a symbol of the sun. There again, Mehr was considered to be a God of heroism and warfare. The Iranian soldiers were strong believers and had songs for Mehr. With expansion of Achaemenian Empire, the worship of Mehr was taken to other countries.
Long ago, Mehregan was celebrated with the same magnificence and pageantry as Norouz. It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other gifts. It was common for people to give presents that they personally liked themselves! Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their ability, even an apple. Those fortunate enough, will help the poor with gifts. After the Mongul invasion, the feast celebration of Mehregan lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman continued to celebrate Mehregan in an extravagant way.

How to Prepare for Mehregan:

For this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry wild marjoram. The holy book Avesta, a mirror and Sormeh Dan (antimony cellar) are placed on the table together with rose water, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples. A few silver coins and senjed seeds (fruit of the lotus tree) are placed in a dish of pleasant smelling wild marjoram water. Almonds and pistachio are also used. A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor (frankincense) and espand (rue seeds) to be thrown on the flames.

At lunch time when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sherbet is drunk and then as a good omen, antimony is rubbed around their eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, senjed seeds and noghl (sugar plum) are thrown over each others heads while they embrace one another.
In some of the villages in Yazd, Zoroastrians still sacrifice sheep for Mehr. These sacrifices are done on the day of Mehregan and for three days afterwards. The sacrifice should be done during the hours of sunlight. The sheep is placed on three stones in the furnace, representing the good words, good deeds and good thoughts, and barbecued. After this special ritual, the sheep, including the skin and fat is taken to the fire temple'. The fat is thrown on the fire to make the flames burn fiercely and then the participants pray. This celebration continues for the next five days.
To learn more about Iranian Festivities and celebrations also see Norouz ( New Year) and the Tirgan Celebration ( Jashne Tirgan).