SOAS University of London

SOAS Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies (SSPIZS)

Farrokh Vajifdar Memorial Lecture: The Souls of Women in the Zoroastrian Afterlife

Antonio Panaino

Date: 4 June 2020Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 4 June 2020Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

This lecture is open to all, and advance booking is not required.

The Avestan doctrine of the post mortem has received a certain attention about the turn
of the last century. In particular, it was Jean Kellens (in the framework of a very important
contribution) to underline 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 his afterlife abode is presented. Usually, this special eschatological meeting,
whose speculative aspects will be shortly discussed (with particular reference to the
concept of “double” or Doppelgänger), is usually (but erroneously) associated with the
destiny of dead male persons, so that the question of the final destiny of women remains

This 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 huri of the Islamic afterlife). The uruuan- and the daēnā- are in fact just two parts of a more complex structure of the a person’s inner being. In other words, every person, men and women alike, has both of them, just like 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 possessed all these qualities as constituent components of the soul. Thus, the absence of explicit references to the destiny of dead women, whose uruuan-s are going to meet their daēnā-s was avoided because of a sort of taboo, that probably started already in the framework of the Zoroastrian community. This is despite the fact that 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 an additional embarrass and concealed the original meaning of this spiritual union as it was originally conceived in the Mazdean tradition. However, the fact that in Islamic theological debates huris are not only female but also male shows that the original model was much more complex.