DĀMI-, Avestan word, probably the noun of agency connected with Old Avestan dāman- “stake” (Y. 46.6, 48.7; equivalent to Skt. dāˊman- < Indo-Ir. * “to attach”; Insler, p. 267), thus “the one who drives the stake” (Kellens, 1989). It was formerly interpreted (AirWb., pp. 736-37) as a masculine noun in -mi- (< “to create” < Indo-Ir. *dhā “to put”), which is attested only in the Gathas and refers either to the agent (“the one who creates, the creator,” Y. 31.7, 31.8, 34.10, 44.4) or to the action (“creation”; Y. 43.5, 51.10), depending upon the category of derivation (Wacker­nagel and Debrunner, pp. 775-76); it is now recog­nized that as a noun of action it occurs only once (Y. 43.5; Humbach, 1959, II, pp. 89, 101), in connection with a human ritual conceived as the symbolic reenact­ment of the cosmogony (see cosmogony and cosmology)

The two words dāman- and dāmi- are the most common elements in the Avestan metaphor for the cosmogonic act, the raising of a tent; except for the single instance (Y. 43.5) noted, then, dāmi- was exclu­sively a noun of agency referring to Ahura Mazdā. It cannot be an epithet for Ārmaiti (see Y. 34.10), as was formerly supposed on the basis of the Younger Avestan expression dąmīm yąm ārmaitīm (Visprad 19.2); the latter must reflect a defective interpretation of the Gathic passage (Insler, p. 225). The noun of agency must therefore be original, an exact synonym for dātar-, referring to Ahura Mazdā in his role as creator or orderer of the world.

In Younger Avestan dāmi- was used in two ways. It appeared as the first term of the compound dāmi.dāta- “established by the dāmi,” which seems to have led to a strange paradox. If it is assumed that the Pahlavi translator of these Avestan texts misunderstood the meaning of the first term (except in Visprad 19.15), confusing it with dahma-, and rendered it as dānāg “wise” (Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, I, p. 17 n. 2), then the entire compound can be said to have been preserved in Middle Persian dāmdād “creation” (cf. dmydty in the well-known Taxila inscription; Humbach, 1973, 168­-69). The question has been reviewed by Jean Kellens (1974, pp. 247-59), who has also demonstrated that the supposed compound dāmi.dāt- “creating the creation” (AirWb., p. 737) is not in fact attested.

Dāmi- also occurred in the genitive singular as a constituent element in the name of one minor divinity, dāmōiš upamana- (in Yašts 10, 12, 13 and the litanies of the Yasna). Because of the previously mentioned Pahlavi translation of dāmi- as dānāg and its juxtapo­sition with āfriti- (Y. 1.15 and similar expressions; Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, I, p. 17 n. 2), the commonly accepted meaning—until Christian Bartholomae ex­pressed his total skepticism of it (AirWb., p. 391)—­was “the wise man’s curse” (cf. “guardians of the order”; Geldner, p. 486). H. S. Nyberg (p. 76) recog­nized in dāmōiš the designation of Ahura Mazdā and in upamana- either Sanskrit upamāna “resemblance” (< Indo-Ir. úpa-mā, proposed earlier by F. H. H. Windischmann, in connection with daēnaiiå . . . upamanəm in Yt. 10.126) or a derivation from upa + man “to inhabit.” This divinity would thus be an associate of Ahura Mazdā, probably Vərəθraγna, for in Yasna 10.47 he is described in the same terms as the wild boar, which is the fifth avatar of this god (Yt. 14.15). Ilya Gershevitch (pp. 166-69) has, however, proposed that dāmōiš is a form of the patronymic adjective dāmi- “sons or daughter of the dāmi,” which was supposedly applied to Ārmaiti (Y. 34.10); the identification with Ārmaiti was, however, refuted by Helmut Humbach (1959, II, p. 100). Gershevitch explained the use of the supposed patronymic as a substitution for ahuraδāta-, which was reserved for the earth (Ārmaiti) and for Vərəθraγna, from which it would follow that dāmōiš upamana was the alter ego of Vərəθraγna, a divinity whose original name was not mentioned. This sophistic argument is, however, too fragile, and Nyberg’s hypothesis remains the most probable, though it cannot be accepted without reservation. In no single instance is there any information at all on whether or not the reuse of an Avestan formula implies a conceptual reality. Dāmōiš upamana- is perhaps simply an allegorical expression for “the act of remaining near the one who drives the stake or assists him.”



K.-F. Geldner, “Uebersetzungen aus dem Avesta,” Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung 25, 1881, pp. 465-590.

I. Gershevitch, The Avestan Hymn to Mithra, Cam­bridge, 1959.

H. Humbach, Die Gathas des Zarathustra, 2 vols., Heidelberg, 1959.

Idem, “Die aramäische Aśoka-Inschrift vom Laghman-Fluss,” in H. Härtel and V. Moeller, eds., Indologen-Tagung 1971, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 161-69.

S. Insler, The Gāthās of Zarathustra, Acta Iranica 8, Tehran and Liège, 1975.

J. Kellens, Les noms-racines de l’Avesta, Wiesbaden, 1974.

Idem, “Huttes cosmiques en Iran,” MSS 50, 1989, pp. 65-78.

H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, Leipzig, 1938.

J. Wackernagel and A. Debrunner, Altindische Grammatik, II/2. Die Nominalsuffixe, Göttingen, 1954.

F. H. H. Windischmann, “Mithra,” AKM 1, 1857, p. 50,

(Jean Kellens)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 638-639