Kutar Lecture Series - The Souls of Women in the Zoroastrian Afterlife
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
- Russell Square: College Buildings
- Khalili Lecture Theatre
- Event type
About this event
Professor Antonio Panaino
A lecture in memory of Farrokh Vajifdar.
All are welcome. The lecture is followed by a reception and refreshments.
The Avestan doctrine of the post mortem has received a certain attention about the turn of the last century. In particular, Jean Kellens highlighted some aspects of the Mazdean tradition, which can be considered, at least on metaphorical grounds, as “hierogamic”. As it is well known, very important is the meeting of the uruuan- (Pahl. ruwān ), i.e. the mobile masculine soul (which separates from the body), and the daēnā- (Pahl. dēn ), which represents the feminine “soul-vision”. The latter embodies a visual synthesis of the past behaviour (thoughts, words, and deeds) performed in life by any dead person, whose ascent (or descent) to the afterlife abode is presented. Usually, this special eschatological meeting, whose speculative aspects will be briefly discussed with particular reference to the concept of “double” or Doppelgänger , is usually (but erroneously) associated with the destiny of a dead male person, so that the question of the final destiny of women remains unclear.
The present talk will show that the meeting of the uruuan- and the daēnā- cannot be immediately interpreted simply as the union of the soul of a man with his feminine symbolic ‘reward’ (as if she were as similar to the popular representation of the huri of the Islamic afterlife). The uruuan- and the daēnā- are actually just two parts of a more complex structure of a person’s inner being. In other words, every person, men and women alike, has both of them, just as every man and women possess baoδah- (Pahl. bōy ) “perception, sense”, uštāna- (Pahl. uštān ) “autonomous mobility, animation”, and a frauuaši- (Pahl. frawahr ) “soul-preference (pre-existent and protective)”. In fact, many Avestan and Pahlavi sources show that both men and women possess all these qualities as constituent components of their being.
It is argued that the absence of explicit references to the destiny of dead women, whose uruuans are going to meet their daēnās , was avoided because of a sort of taboo, that probably started already in the framework of the Zoroastrian community. It was based on the image of a simple spiritual re-composition of the different parts (a masculine and a feminine one) of the perfect soul. In later time this trend was probably enforced under the impact of the adoption in the Islamic framework of the virgin huris in correspondence of the dēn as the reward for good men. This model probably produced some confusion and concealed how this spiritual union was originally conceived within the Mazdean tradition. However, the fact that even in Islamic theological debates, huris are not only female, but also male, shows that the original model was much more complex.
Contact email: SSPIZS@soas.ac.uk