ARZŪR, Mid. Pers. form of Avestan Arəzūra-, the name of a demon of unclear origin or function in Zoroastrian tradition. In the Avesta the name occurs only in the genitive singular, as part of the place name “head, summit of Arəzura” (with kamərəδa-) of “neck, ridge of Arəzura” (with grīvā-). The demon himself is mentioned in the Mid. Pers. text Dādistān ī mēnōg ī xrad 27.14-15 (ed. D. D. P. Sanjana, Bombay, 1895, p. 44.12-14); the foremost beneficial act of Gayōmard is there said to have been his killing of Arzūr. Bīrūnī, relating the same story, makes the demon Ahriman’s son (the name is corrupted; see A. Christensen, Le premier homme et le premier roi dans l’histoire légendaire des Iraniens I, Uppsala, 1918, pp. 53-54). This scant tradition of the demon might indicate that there existed an etiological legend explaining the name of the mountain Arzūr.
Vd. 3.7 mentions the ridge of Arəzūra first among the five most unpleasant (ašāišta-) places on earth; there the daēvas come together. Vd. 19.44-45 refers to the assembly of Angra Mainyu and his followers at its summit. According to the commentators of the Pahlavi Vendidad, Mount Arzūr is “at the gate of hell” (ed. Jamasp, Bombay, 1907, I, p. 59; ed. N. M. Kanga, Bombay, 1900, p. 61; tr. B. T. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1949, p. 41). Other Pahlavi texts repeat this claim (Bundahišn, ed. B. T. Anklesaria, pp. 77.15, 78.3; Dādistān ī dēnīg 32.6, p. 69.15, tr. E. W. West, Pahlavi Texts II [SBE XVIII], Oxford, 1882, p. 75). The Arzūr Grīwag is even stated to be the gate of hell (F. M. P. Kotwal, The Supplementary Texts to the Šāyest Nē-Šāyest, Copenhagen, 1969, p. 47). The exact locations of Mount Arzūr is not known. The Dādistān ī dēnīg (loc. cit.) places it in the inauspicious northern direction; and some Bundahišn manuscripts locate it in the Harburz range (see Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta II, p. 35, n. 11). But the latter indication may be due to confusion with another Mount Arzūr, the Ahurian Ǝrəzura- (Yt. 19.2; AirWb., col. 354); in the Bundahišn (p. 78.5), the latter is placed in the direction of the Byzantine empire (pad kust ī Hrōm). If the evil Mount Arzūr is sought in the Alborz, one might think of the volcanic Damāvand (Gray, Foundations, pp. 200-01). There would thus be a parallel to the German Brocken/Blocksberg as a rallying ground of the demons, also to the volcanic mountains connected in Greek and Roman tradition with hell.
See also F. Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, Berlin, 1863, pp. 5-6.
J. J. Modi, “Mount Arezûra of the Avesta, a Volcanic Mountain,” Spiegel Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1908, pp. 188-96.
(J. P. Asmussen)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 16, 2011
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