MĀH YAŠT

 

MĀH YAŠT (Yašt 7), one of what have been termed ‘minor Yašts’  of the Avesta. As the name indicates, it is dedicated to the Moon (Av. māh-, måŋha-; Phl. māh) and follows immediately upon the Xwaršēd Yašt dedicated to the Sun. Lacking the kardah divisions of the ‘great’ Yašts, it is a short hymn, composed of seven stanzas plus introductory matter in a mix of Avestan and Pāzand. Stanzas 6 and 7 are formulas common to the Yašts generally. Stanza 6 is the ahe raya formula in which the deity’s name with epithets is inserted, in this case, måŋhəm gaociθrəm “the Moon containing the seed of the Bull.” In stanza 7, to måŋhahe gaociθrahe has been added gə̄ušca aēwō.dātayå gə̄ušca pouru.sarəδayå “and (the worship) of the Uniquely Created Bull, and of the Bull containing (the seed) of the many species (of animals).” According to the myth preserved in the Pahlavi books, when Ahriman slew the primordial Bull (see GĀW Ī ĒWDĀD), part of his semen was transported to the Moon, and from that purified semen were born the various species of beneficent animals (see Boyce, 1975, pp. 138-39). The remaining stanzas 1-5 make up the core of the Yašt.

A theme that runs through the Yašt is the observation of the moon’s phases. In the first stanza, after lines calling for the reverence (nəmō) of Ahura Mazdā, the Aməša Spəntas and the Moon containing the seed of the Bull, there is another reverence “to the (Moon) which has been observed (paiti.dītāi).” Then, in stanza 3, there is a series of four statements in the 1st person: “So, have I observed (paiti.waēnəm) the Moon; so, have I watched (? see Kellens, 1984, p. 22) the Moon; I have looked upon (aiβi.waēnəm) the shining Moon; I have viewed (?) the shining Moon.” These statements may be in response to the questions posed in the second stanza: “When does the Moon wax? When does the Moon wane? Fifteen (days) the Moon waxes, fifteen it wanes. Its waxing (is the same length) as its waning; its waning is even (the same length) as its waxing.” To this chiastic construction has been appended a quotation of Y. 44.3d: kə̄ yā må uxšyeiti nərəfsaiti θβat̰  “Who is it by whom the moon waxes (and) wanes other than Thee?” The names of the moon’s phases are specified in stanza 4, namely, antarə.māh the new moon, pərənō.māh the full moon and wīšaptaθa. The latter name contains the word hapta “seven” and indicated the half-moon occurring seven days from, perhaps, the new moon and seven days after the full moon. It appears, then, that an original lunar month of 29+ days has been supplanted by the standard solar month of 30 (15 + 15) days.

An understanding of the meaning of these terms for the moon’s phases is further complicated by the evidence of the Dēnkard III.259 (DkM, pp. 274.20- 276.2) “On the Pentads of the Month.” According to this account, the month is divided up into six pentads. Starting from the New Moon, the first pentad, Andarmāh, covers days 1-5; Purrmāh covers 11-15; Wišaptas covers 21-25. These are the “good pentads” (panjag ī weh). Following each of the good pentads follow three other pentads (3 panjag ī dudīgar) called in order Padīrag-Andarmāh (Against-Andarmāh), Parīrag-Purrmāh, and Parīrag-Wišaptas. Except by accident, this schema has nothing to do with the solar month of the calendar, as, in theory, it commences with each new moon. However, because it presupposes a thirty day lunar month, it will be constantly out of phase with the moon. What cannot be known for certain is whether the Avestan terms referred to single days or to pentads; or whether there were two wišaptaθa days or only one. There is a peculiar, isolated sequence of the terms in the nominative/vocative plural in stanza 4, where there is no grammatical connection to what precedes or follows. Could such plurals refer to multiple-day periods?

As literature, the Yašt has little to recommend itself. One can identify many verse lines of 7, 8, and 9 syllables, yet they seem not to form coherent strophes such as one finds in the great Yašts. So, for example, stanza 5 opens with a 16-syllable line with caesura after the seventh syllable (like the Gāθic ahunawaitī meter): yazāi måŋhəm gaociθrəm / baγəm raēwaṇtəm xᵛarənaŋhaṇtəm (I shall worship the Moon containing the seed of the Bull, the opulent, glorious god). After this there follows a series of eleven epithets that shows no coherent metrical pattern. Note that besides Māh, Ahura Mazdā and Miθra are the only deities called in the Avesta baγa (see BAGA).

Some of the elements of Yašt 7 are modeled after elements of Yašt 6. Stanza 4 appears to be a muddled attempt to create a strophe describing how the warmth of the moon in Spring allows vegetation to grow (see Bailey, 1956, pp. 38-39). It is partially modeled after Yt. 6.1:

āat̰  yat̰  hwarə raoxšne tāpayeiti

āat̰  yat̰  +hwarə.raocō (cf. Ved. svàrbhānu-) tāpayeiti

where Yt 7.4 has:

āat̰  yat̰  måŋhəm raoxšne tāpayeiti

Inexplicably, instead of (nom. sg.), Geldner’s edition has it in the accusative, though MS F1 has måŋha, neither of which makes grammatical sense. Yt. 6.1 continues with hištəṇti mainyawåŋhō yazatåŋhō satəmca hazaŋrəmca, giving the full four lines the meaning, “Then when the Sun warms with its brilliance, then when the Sun’s light warms, the spiritual Deities are present by the hundreds and thousands.” Thereupon follow four lines:

tat̰  xᵛarənō haṇbārayeiṇti

tat̰  xᵛarənō nipārayeiṇti

tat̰  xᵛarənō baxšəṇti

ząm paiti ahuraδātąm

“(The Deities) together bear the glory, they bring down the glory, they distribute the glory over the earth created by Ahura.” In Yt. 7.3, after the lines dealing with the 1st-person observation of the moon, there occur five lines which seem to be without context:

hištəṇti aməṣ̌å spəṇta

 xᵛarənō dārayeiṇti

hištəṇti aməṣ̌å spəṇta

xᵛarənō baxšəṇti

ząm paiti ahuraδātąm

except that they echo Yt. 6.1.  “The Beneficent Immortals are present; they hold the glory … they distribute the glory over the earth created by Ahura.”

Although there is no Pahlavi gloss of the Yašt itself, the Māh Niyāyišn repeats all the stanzas of the Yašt, to which have been composed glosses in Pahlavi, Sanskrit, Persian, and Gujarati (see Dhalla, pp. 82-111). K. Geldner’s critical edition is the standard Avestan text. Translations include those of F. Wolff, H. Lommel, J. Darmesteter, and M. N. Dhalla.

See also CALENDARS i. PRE-ISLAMIC CALENDARS.

 

Bibliography:

H. W. Bailey, “Iranian miṣṣa, Indian bīja,” BSOAS 28, 1956, pp. 32-42.

M. Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism I, Leiden and Köln, 1975.

Idem, “About the Pentads of the Month,” chap. 259, apud J. de Menasce, Le troisième livre du Dēnkart, Paris, 1973, pp. 262-64.

M. N. Dhalla, The Nyaishes or Zoroastrian Litanies, New York, 1908; repr., New York, 1965.

J. Darmesteter, Le Zend-Avesta II, Paris, 1892, pp. 406-10; The Zend-Avesta, pt. II, Oxford, 1883, pp. 88-91.

K. F. Geldner, Avesta II, Stuttgart, 1889, pp. 104-5; pp. 44-48 (“Mâh Nyâish”).

W. Hartner “Old Iranian Calendars,” in I. Gershevitch The Cambridge History of Iran II, pp. 278-79.

J. Kellens, Le verbe avestique, Wiesbaden, 1984.

H. Lommel, Die Yäšt’s des Awesta, Göttingen, 1927, pp. 45-46.

D. M. Madan, The Complete Text of the Pahlavi Dinkard, Bombay, 1911, pp. 272-76.

H. S. Nyberg Texte zum mazdayasnischen Kalendar, Uppsala, 1934, pp. 40-43, 73-74.

F. Wolff, Avesta, Strassburg, 1910, pp. 184-85.

(William W. Malandra)

Last Updated: June 26, 2013