BŪŠĀSP (Young Av. Būšyąsta-, Pahl. bwšʾsp, Man. Mid. Pers. bwšyʾsp, NPers. būš(y)āsb/p, gūšāsb/p, būšyās), the name of a demon in Zoroastrianism. The final p of the Mid. Iran. forms is presumably due to popular etymology. The name occurs several times in the Younger Avesta as a proper noun and is grammatically the abstract noun in -tā of the future participle būšyant- from bav- “to become,” lit., “what-will-be-ness,” understood as the name of the daēvī of slothfulness and procrastination. Feminine in gender, she is smitten by Miθra with his club (Yt. 10.97, 134) and is destroyed by Xᵛarənah, the Mazdā-created Fortune/Glory (Yt. 18.2); she threatens always to overcome the whole material world with her evil lethargy at break of day, when Sraoša’s herald, the cock Parōdarš, cries out a warning at dawn (Vd. 18.15f.). Nyberg saw her as in origin a divine being, goddess of trance and oracles, who was transformed in Zoroastrianism into the demon of slothfulness. Darmesteter sought to link her to Xnąθaitī and Jahī as female storm demons and explained Būšyąsta’s epithets zairina (yellowish) and darəγō.gava (long-handed) as reflecting the lightning-flash of Xnąθaitī. Būšāsp endures in the Bundahišn and other books extant in Pahlavi as a formidable, if not principal, agent of the Evil Spirit. She creates laziness (Bundahišn, chap. 27.32, tr. Anklesaria, pp. 238-39; TD2, p. 185.12) and shortness of breath (Dādestān ī dēnīg, pt. 1, chap. 36.51), and is “most indolent and oblivious” (aǰgahāntar ud framōšēntar, Pahlavi Texts, ed. Jamasp-Asana, p. 90.1); as such she poses a threat to religious observance when she comes twice nightly to the material world (Šāyest nē šāyest, suppl., chap. 13.43, pp. 52-53). In Dēnkard, book 3, it is said that Būšāsp is the third demon, after Akōman “Evil Thought” and Āz “Greed,” to attack humans at birth (ed. Madan, p. 356.8). According to the Bundahišn, whereas Ohrmazd created restful sleep (xwāb ī āsānīh) in the form of a youth of tall stature, 15 years old, for Gayōmard (tr. Anklesaria, chap. 1a. 13, pp. 26-27, TD2, p. 21.12-15), the Evil Spirit mortally afflicted Gayōmard with, among other demons, Būšāsp, (chap. 4.19, pp. 50-51; TD2, p. 43.10-11), yet the latter’s female demonic individuality is not mentioned (cf. the wicked whore Jeh in chap. 4.4-8). Asmussen has shown how, in the Pahlavi books, the demonic personality of Būšāsp diminishes as the word becomes a common noun “sleep, lethargy, dream.” However, though it is true that in several texts būšāsp is “de-demonized” in this way and passes into Persian and Judeo-Persian as a synonym of ḵᵛāb “sleep, dream,” nevertheless in Zoroastrian texts on piety and observance the evil connotation of such crepuscular wastefulness remains and is emphasized by Būšāsp’s identification with the delusions and pollutions of dreams. In the Persian Rivayats, būšāsp is the term for nocturnal pollution, also called there šayṭān-bāzī “being cheated by Satan” (ed. Unvala, p. 607.11ff., tr. Dhabhar, pp. 390f.).
AirWb., col. 970.
J. P. Asmussen, “A Zoroastrian De-Demonization in Judeo-Persian,” in S. Shaked, ed., Irano-Judaica, Jerusalem, 1982, pp. 112-21.
É. Benveniste, “Deux noms divins dans l’Avesta,” RHR 130, 1945, pp. 14-16.
A. Christensen, Essai sur la démonologie iranienne, Copenhagen, 1941, pp. 12, 35.
J. Darmesteter, Ohrmazd et Ahriman, Paris, 1877, pp. 181f. Gray, Foundations, pp. 202-03.
H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, tr. H. H. Schaeder, Osnabrück, 1938, pp. 108, 341f.
(Allan V. Williams)
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 568-569