HAMĒSTAGĀN, a word of uncertain etymology, used in Pahlavi literature to designate the intermediate stage between paradise and hell (see below). It is related to the Avestan hə̄miiasaite, attested in Yasna 33.1, where, according to Helmut Humbach (I, p. 136, II, p. 93), it means “reckoned together,” in a passage referring to the one “whose defects and virtues are counted together” (ham.yā.saiti). Gert Klingenschmitt (1972) has shown that the expression misuuan- gātu- in the Young Avesta should not be confused with hamēstagān, contrary to Mary Boyce (Zoroastrianism I, p. 237), who, following Christian Bartholomae’s definition as “place of mixture” (AirWb, col. 1168), thinks that they are equivalent. Gert Klingenschmitt translates the word as “raised together (to the same height).” David N. MacKenzie (p. 41) interprets it as “the neutral station between the earth and the sky,” which should not be compared to “the Limbos,” nor the purgatory of Christianity.

Situating this intermediate place between hell (q.v.) and paradise took place rather late and probably resulted from the queries of Mazdean theologians, who were concerned to allot a proper destiny to the soul of the deceased whose sins and good deeds were exactly equal when weighed on the scales of the god Rašnu. It isindicated in Ardā Wirāz-nāmag (6.5) that this category of the dead remains in hamēstagān until the resurrection. They are subjected to the cold and heat of atmospheric movements, but that is their sole suffering. In the Dādestān ī Mēnog ī xrad (chapter 7), the Spirit of Wisdom is asked about the number of paradises, of hamēstagāns, and of hells. The answer is that there are three paradises and that hamēstagān is situated between the earth and the sphere of the stars (the first paradise) and that the only adversary of those who go there is cold and heat. The PahlaviRivayat (ch. 65, 1-2) is more restrictive, because, according to it, even those people whose good deeds outweigh their mistakes but have not done the yašt, will also go to hamēstagān. According to the Dādestān ī dēnīg (23.6), there are two hamēstagāns,the hamēstagān of the good and the hamēstagān of the wicked, an emphasis surely dictated by strict adherence to dualism. It seems that Keršāsp/Garšāsb, whose heroic deeds are counterbalanced by grave mistakes, deserved to go to hamēstīg axwān, (Dēnkard 9.14.4) which is none but hamēstagān. In the Dēnkard VIII (14.7-8), it is also called “the place of those whose good deeds and sins are equal” (gyāg ī hāwandān ī kirbag ud wināh), and, according to the Dēnkard V (ch. 8), it is “an intermediate place” between the center of the earth and the sphere of the stars, combining elements of both. According to the PahlaviRivayat (ch. 31, c8), after having repented and confessed, Jam, coming from the north, became the king of hamē-stagān. Perhaps it is the same possible evolution of which speaks chapter 350 of the Dēnkard III (de Menasce, p. 320), where it is said that one can go from hell to hamēstagān, and from there to paradise by changing one’s moral conduct, no doubt in comparison with one’s conduct in this world(?).



Raḥim ʿAfifi, Asāṭir wa farhang-e Irān dar neveštahā-ye Pahlavi, Tehran, 1374 Š./1995, pp. 642-43.

Jaleh Amuzgar and Ahmad Tafazzoli, Le cinquième livre du Dēnkard, transcribed with commentaries, Studia Iranica, Cahier 23, Paris, 2000.

Philippe Gignoux, “L’enfer et le paradis d’après les sources pehlevies,” JA 256, 1968, pp. 219-45.

Idem, tr., Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag as Le Livre d’Ardā Vīrāz, with transcription and commentary, Paris, 1984, pp. 52, 160.

Helmut Humbach, Joseph Elfenbein, and Prods Oktor Skjærvø, The Gāthās of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, 2 vols., Heidelberg, 1991.

Gert Klingenschmitt, “Avestisch hə̄memiiāsaitē und Pahlavi hmystkʾn,” Münchener Studienzur Sprachwissenschaft 30, 1972, pp. 79-92.

Herman Lommel, Die Religion Zarathustras nach dem Awesta dargestelt, Hildesheim and New York, 1971, pp. 192-93, 214.

David N. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London, 1971.

Jean de Menasce, tr., Le Troisième livre du Dēnkart, Paris, 1973.

Zartošt Bahrām Paždu, Ardā Virāf-nāma-ye manẓum, ed. Raḥim ʿAfifi, Mašhad, 1343 Š./1964, p. 39, v. 713.

Fereydun Vahman, facs. ed., transcribed and tr., Ardā Wirāz-nāmag as Ardā Wīrāz Nāmag, The Iranian ‘Divina Commedia’, London, 1986, pp. 97, 98.

Edward William West, tr., Šāyest nē šāyest, in idem, tr. Pahlavi Texts, SBE 5, Delhi, 1970, pp. 293-94.

A. V. Williams, ed. with commentary, The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg, 2 vols., Copenhagen, 1990.

(Philippe Gignoux)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 6, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 637-638