GƎˊUŠ TAŠAN (the fashioner of the Cow), a divine craftsman who figures prominently in the Gathas (q.v.) of Zoroaster but falls into obscurity in the Younger Avesta, being there associated with the fourteenth day of the month, known in Middle Persian simply as Gōš. Through his poetry Zoroaster articulated a new religious vision (daēnā; see DĒN) based on the reinterpretation of many traditional concepts. In his system the Gə̄uš Tašan is explicitly identified both with Ahura Mazdā himself and his creative aspect, the (Spə̄ništa) Mainyu “The Most Beneficent Spirit.” To the question posed in Yasna 29.1 by the the soul of the Cow (Gə̄uš Uruuan): “Who fashioned me?” (kə̄ mā tašaṱ), Zoroaster responds in Yasna 44.6 and in Yasna 51.7, there through the agency of the Spə̄ništa Mainyu, “thou (Ahura Mazdā) hast fashioned the Cow” (gąm tašō), and in Yasna 47.3 it is the (Spə̄ništa) Mainyu alone “who hath fashioned the Cow” (yə̄..gąm..hə̄m.tašaṱ). The explicit link to older concepts is made in Yasna 29.1 when the Cow also asks “For whom have you crafted me?” (kahmāi mā θβarōždūm) and in Yasna 29.6 when Ahura Mazdā says “Craftsman fashioned you for the husbandman and the herdsman” (aṱ zī θβā fšuiiantaēcā vāstrāicā θβōrəštā tataša). Thus, by associating the Gə̄uš Tašan with the Indo-Iranian demiurge Θβōrəštar (Vedic Tvaṣṭar), Zoroaster signals his origin. But, why is he the fashioner of the Cow specifically? As shown by Stanley Insler and Hanns-Peter Schmidt, the Cow is a metaphor for Zoroaster’s religious vision, and, moreover, as shown by Wolfgang P. Schmid, the Cow is also a metaphor in Vedic diction for poetry itself. Now, in Vedic and Avestan the root takṣ-/taš- can be used for horses and various material things such as chariots, but it is also widely employed with words for speech when poets refer to their own creation of poetry. Since James Darmesteter’s discovery of the connection of Av. vacastašti- (a strophe of the Gathas) and Gr. epeōntektōn, scholars have recognized an Indo-Eropean idiom wekwos- tekó- (to fashion speech). Thus, it is clear that Zoroaster has substituted the metaphorical gav- for the traditional vacah- to create his “Fashioner of the Cow,” who is actually none other than an ancient *vacahah tašan- (the Fashioner of Speech). That is, for Zoroaster it is Ahura Mazdā himself who is the master poet who inspires the religious vision in the human poet.
J. Darmesteter Études iraniennes II, Paris, 1883, pp. 116-18.
S. Insler The Gāthās of Zarathustra, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 135, 141-47.
W. P. Schmid, “Die Kuh auf die Weide,” Indogermanische Forschungen 645/1, 1958, pp. 1-12.
H.-P. Schmidt, Zarathustra’s Religion and His Pastoral Imagery, Leiden, 1975.
(William W. Malandra)
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 9, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 6, p. 576