Page 0219


ferment and spiritual elevation and wisdom alike flowed from this immortal source of light and beneficence. Health, as well as virtue; wealth, as well as wisdom, came to the good from the bounteous hand of Ahura-Mazdao, and by withholding he punished the evil for their sin. He was a mighty and spiritual God, of whom no image or likeness could be made, and before whose sight all vile and gross practices were an abomination. He had, in general, the same high godhood and attributes of personality which are ascribed to the Jehovah Elohim of the Pentateuch, and for this reason a strong national and religious sympathy existed between the Medo-Persic races and the Hebrews. Notwithstanding the intolerance of both peoples in matters of religion, the Jews under Persian rule never revolted, nor did the Persians at any time persecute their Jewish subjects. Both nations declared against the practices of idolatry, and agreed upon the unity and almightiness of the Supreme Being.

Associated with Ahura-Mazdao were the angels. One was the great messenger and bearer of good news to men. His name was SRAOSHA. All the beneficence contrived above for the human family was revealed to man by this angel of light and blessing. He also kept the true faith from corruption, and after death brought home to celestial abodes the souls of the just. Besides this sublime personage, several of the divine attributes were represented as angels. Such were VOHU-MANO, "the Good Mind," and MAZDA, "the Wise," and ASHA, "the True," who are sometimes represented as personal, but generally as simple characteristics or qualities of the godhead.

Next after Sraosha among the angelic hierarchies was ARMATI, the goddess of the Earth. She was the Median Ceres, and like the Roman divinity, she kept alive the sentiment of piety. When the half-wild Mede contended with the thicket for the mastery of the soil, Armati encouraged him in his battle with perverse Nature, and when at last the harvest came she was the giver. Wherever germination and birth revived the hope of the world, there Armati, the good genius sent by Ahura- Mazdato, was present to give and to inspire the delights which come of increase.

Thus by degrees from the older nature-worship of the primitive Aryans, the mind of the Iranic peoples was called to the contemplation of Spirit and Duty. It was an advance from the form to the essence. The form was Wind, and Thunder, and Sun- light, and Fire; the essence was Truth, and Purity, and Wisdom, and Life. Even in those parts of the Median religious system in which the old symbolism was preserved there was a constant refinement, tending to the substitution of spirit for mere form. Thus the Earth was represented under the metaphor of the cow, and presently it was the gfus urva or soul of the cow that was addressed in worship. The earth was thus conceived of as pervaded by a directing principle of life-the soul-the "anima mundi" of the Greek philosophers.

The myth goes on to recite how when man, under the inspiration and direction of Ahuro-Mazdao, first cut the breast of the Earth with a plowshare, the gfus urva cried out in anguish, and besought the high angels to save Armati from the pain and shame of desecration. But the high angels, knowing the will of Ahura-Mazdao, re- fused to interfere. Earth was left to suffer her pangs without alleviation, but was given in recompense of her sorrow the flowers and fruits and harvests.

For some reason the worship of MITHRA, the Sunlight, was not included in the oldest songs of the Zendavesta. In this the sys- tem of the Medes was discriminated from that of the Aryans of the Indus valley. With the latter the worship of the Sun-god was of the highest importance and popularity. With the Iranians, however, the introduction of Mithra into the pantheon belongs to a later date and a lower plane of religious thought. But not so of VAYU, the Wind. In the oldest hymns of the Zendavesta his praises are chanted and his godhead appeased with sacrifices.

The SOMA plant of the East is a species of Asclepias. The power of the expressed and fermented juice to produce intoxication was known from the earliest times. The pleasing thrill of delight which the