AHLOMŌG, Middle Persian form of Younger Avestan ašəmaoγa- “one who produces confusion of Truth,” a term applied to Iranian priests who deviated from Zoroastrian doctrine. Its use may have developed with the spread of Zoroastrian belief and practice through Iran, since there continued to exist ancient daiva-worshipping rites incompatible with the orthodoxy of the magian hierarchy. The ašəmaoγas are listed among the archetypal enemies of the Mazda-worshipping religion (Y. 9.18, 31) and most closely associated with sāstars “tyrants,” presumably their patrons (Y. 61.4, 65.8; Yt. 3.7; Vd. 21.1). They are described as “non-righteous and life-destroying, knowing the words of this religion, not observing by means of deeds” (Y. 9.31). Their non-orthodoxy is further specified by their condition “without temporal lord, without spiritual lord” (Yt. 13.105). The Vidēvdād, besides its expected depiction of ašəmaoγas as hostile to the righteous creations (5.36-38, 21.1), notes that they practice purification, but not according to the rites of the Mazda-worshipping religion (9.52). It forbids the sharing of haoma- or sacrificial food with them.

Consistent with the religious problems of the Sasanian period and later, ahlomōgs are frequently mentioned in Middle Persian texts. The priest Kirdēr, in developing the Sasanian church structure, disciplined them: “The ahlomōgs and fornicators who, among the mages, did not maintain themselves correctly in the Mazda-worshipping religion and the services of the gods—those I punished and rebuked until I made them better” (his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription, lines 13-14, publ. in M. Sprengling, Third Century Iran, Sapor and Kartir, Chicago, 1953; his Naqš-e Rostam inscription, lines 43-44, publ. in Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, Part III, Vol. II, portfolio II, London, 1957). In the Pahlavi texts, chiefly the Avesta translations and the Dēnkard, ahlomōgs are of two types. Unobservant or ignorant hērbeds and daswards compose one sort (Y. 9.31, Vd. 9.52); practitioners of deviant rites and doctrines form the other. These bring confusion to the Mazda-worshippers and harm the religion (Y. 32.11, 13; Dk [Sanjana] 7.6.3, 9.53.1). The aberrations (from an orthodox Sasanian point of view) of such ahlomōgs are not precisely described. The Mazdakites are branded as such (Dēnkard [Dk] 7.6.21); this usage may either show a broadening of the term or indicate that the Mazdakite movement subverted a number of the Zoroastrian clergy. It is not surprising that secretiveness is regarded as characteristic of the second type of ahlomōg. A gloss on “secret doctrines” (Y. 48.3) says: “speech in secret which, in ahlomōg-fashion, they speak as a remedy.” Dk. 9.40.10-11 warns against this danger. But, whatever the strife occasioned by the ahlomōgs now or in the future (Zand ī Wahman Yasn, ed. B. T. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1957, 9.13-14), the ultimate triumph of the Good Religion over them is regarded, in the Pahlavi books, as assured (Dk. 9.52.2).

Bibliography: Given in the text.

(C. J. Brunner)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 28, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 6, p. 638

Cite this entry:

C. J. Brunner, “AHLOMŌG,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/6, p. 638; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ahlomog (accessed on 16 March 2014).