IRANIAN MONTHS, ORIGIN OF THE NAMES
The names of the 12 Persian months are taken from the ancient Zoroastrian
texts and the origins are deeply rooted in their belief system. This was the
religion of Iran before the advent of Islam in seventh century AD.
Zoroastrians believed in two primal forces, good and evil. Everything that
supported and enriched life was good and all that threatened life and
disturbed order was bad. The Lord of Wisdom (Ahura Mazda) created goodness and
the Hostile Spirit (Angra Mainyu) created all that was bad (Ahriman in modern
Zoroastrians^“ Universe lasts for 12000 years; there are four phases, each for
3000 years. At the first one, good and bad are separated. In the second phase,
the hostile forces succeed. The good forces are back in the third one. At the
last phase several saviours come. The last one is Saoshyant. When he arrives
there is resurrection, walking over the Separation Bridge, Chinvat (Sarat
Bridge in Quran) and finally all the hostile spirits will be defeated.
The Lord of Wisdom in order to defeat the hostile spirits creates many forces
and beings to help him. There are three groups of metaphysical beings, some
more important than others. The first group is the six Amesha Spenta. With the
Lord of wisdom they form the seven Holy Immortals that protect the first seven
creations when the material world (Geety) is created. They are the protectors
of sky, waters, earth, fire, plants, animals and humans.
Six of the twelve months are in their names. Khashtra Vairya (Shahrevar), is
the lord of sky, all stones, metals, warriors and the protector of the poor
and the weak. It means the desirable dominion (Keshvar e Arezoo Shodeh). Shahr
is country or land and Var means desirable. Asha Vahishta (Ordibehesht) lord
of fire and noontime heat means the ultimate righteousness (Behtarin Rasty).
Asha has many meanings - righteousness, law, purity, sacred (Asha Zardosht)
are only some of the commonly used ones. Vohu Manah (Bahman) protector of
animals means good purpose (Nik Nahad). He was a powerful symbol of creative
goodness and is the divinity personifying the principle of Asha (cosmic
order). Haurvatat (Khordad) protects all waters and means health or wholeness
(Rasaei & Kamali).
Spenta Armaiti (Esphand / Espandarmaz) a female deity who protects mother
earth is Holy Devotion (Foroutani Moghadas). Espand means holy and Armaiti
equals devotion and unconditional love. She is also the guardian of herdsmen
and farmers. She is identified by the Greeks as Demeter and in Armenia is
known as Spendaramet. Ameretat (Mordad) supporter of all plant life represents
immortality (Na mira). Mar (marg in modern Persian) means death, ^—a^“ at the
beginning of any word changes the meaning into the opposite. Mordad means
death, while Amordad means immortality. Mordad is used wrongly in modern
calendar and should be Amordad.
These immortals also represent different aspects of Ahura Mazda^“s attributes.
One of their functions is to transfer these attributes to humans. For example
Vohu Manah (Bahman) is a symbol of ^”Good Purpose^‘. Zoroastrians through Bahman
Yasht (Prayers specific to Bahman) would discipline themselves to always mean
good and have noble purposes. Ordibehesht Yasht (Yasht means prayer) will
teach Zoroastrians to follow righteousness, one of Lord of Wisdom^“s
The second group of metaphysical beings are Yazata (Eyzad), ^—a being worthy of
worship^“. There are hundreds of them. Every good force in nature and all deeds
and attributes beneficial to humans have their own Eyzad. Azar, Aban,
Khorshid, Mihr, Tir and Bahram are some of the best known Eyzads.
Azar (Atar/Adur) is yazata of fire (Agni in Indian Rig-Veda). It is one of the
most important of all Eyzads. In Avestan Mythology it helps legendary king
Takhmorup (Tahmoureth) and Yima Khshaeta (Jamshid) to overcome many obstacles.
The word has become synonymous with fire (Atash) in modern Persian. Aban, is
Avestan ^—Apas^“, ^—Api^“ in middle Persian and ^—Ap^“ in Phalavi. It means water
(Aub, in modern Persian). It is the protector Eyzad of the ^—waters^“ and an
assistant to Spenta Armaiti.
Mihr is Mithra in Avesta and Mitrah in Phahlavi. It is the yazata of the
convenant and of loyalty. It has come from the word mei, meaning exchange. In
Avesta he is the protector of ^—Payman e Dousti^“ (contract of friendship). In
modern Persian it means love and kindness. He is the lord of ordeal by fire
(walking through fire to prove innocence, story of Siavash in Shahnameh) and
presides over judgment of the soul at death. Ancient Greeks identified him
Tiri, Tir (Tishtrya), is assimilation from Babylonian Nabu, lord of scribe and
of the planet Mercury into Avestan mythology. It means the swift one (Tond va
chabok) and protects rain. In Persian-Islamic mythology Tir (Attarod in
Arabic) is still the lord of scribe (Setareh Dabir).
The last groups of metaphysical beings are ^—Forouhars^“, the guardian angels
created by Ahura Mazda to protect all living beings after the material world
(Geety) was created. Farevashi are Forouhars specific to humans and the word
means guardian. The word has become synonymous with fereshteh in modern
Persian. Farvardin, is the descent of Farevashi to earth in order to visit and
help their human counter parts. It also means ^—Farr e Din^“, glory of religious
consciousness. A major festival celebrating departed souls it was changed into
celebrating guardian angels coming to earth before the start of the New Year.
Farvardegan is ^—Jashn e Farevashi^“ and it still celebrated by Zoroastrians
^—Day^“ (dadar) means creator (Afaridegar). The whole month was dedicated to
Ahura Mazda. The eight, fifteenth and twenty-third of every month were also
called ^—Day^“. The first day of this month was celebrated as ^—Khoram Ruz^“ a
feast of charity, people were expected to be charitable and help others.
The twelve deities have survived as months of the year in modern Persian
calendar. In the Islamic period the same structure was taken and transformed
into the Iranian version of Shiite Islam. Twelve Imams replaced Yazata and
Saoshyant; the last saviour was changed into the Time Lord, Imam Zaman.
However the meanings, the importance of following and practicing divine
attributes as part of the monthly rituals are lost. So are the joys, monthly
feasts and celebrations associated with them.
Modern Persian Phahlavi Meaning
Farvardin Farvardin Farr e Din
Ordibehesht Asha Vahishta Behtarin Rasty
Khordad Haurvatat Rasaei & Kamali
Tir Tishtrya Tond & chabok
Mordad Ameretat Na mira
Shahrevar Khashtra Vairya Keshvare e Arezoo Shodeh
Mihr Mitrah Paymen e doustie
Aban Ap Aub
Azar Atar / Adur Atash
Day Dadar Afaridegar
Bahman Vohu Manah Nik Nahad
Esphand Espandarmaz Foroutani Moghadas
Back to madar-pedar