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Fwd: [MG] Fire night before Nowrouz Invitation - Tuesday March15th

  • Subject: [cg] Fwd: [MG] Fire night before Nowrouz Invitation - Tuesday March15th
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2005 10:47:12 EST

Diversity Time - Invitation to Celebrate Persian New Year in a Bronx 
Community Garden. 
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Fire night before Nowrouz

When: Sunsett, 6.30ish Tuesday March 2005, last tuesday before Spring /
Iranian New Year!

Where: Courtlandt Garden on E. 158th St, between Melrose and Courtlandt
Subway: take 2/5 to 149th and 3rd Ave, walk up Melrose also 4/D to
161/Yankee Stadium go uphill on 161st.

Bring fire works, musical instruments, comfortable clothes to jump over
fire, wood,
something to let go of and something to bring into your life as you
jump over the fire.



Noruz, The Fire of Spring

Author:
Hannah M.G. Shapero

Noruz is the Iranian New Year, which is celebrated each year at the
Spring Equinox, around March 21. It is the most important holiday in
the Zoroastrian calendar, and brings with it a wealth of symbolism,
history, myth, and joyous festivities. There are many layers of meaning
to Noruz: astronomical, mythical, historical, ritual, and spiritual.

The word Noruz, in Persian, means "New Day," and the primal origin of
the festival is in the universal rhythms of Earth and nature. In the
"temperate" zones of the Northern Hemisphere, including Iran, the
spring equinox signals the beginning of warmer weather and the growing
season. In ancient Iran, it was the time to begin plowing fields and
sowing seeds for crops. The equinox also marks the moment when, in the
twenty-four hour round of the day, daylight begins to be longer than
night.

 From its earliest origins Zoroastrianism has honored these natural
rhythms and cycles, both with agricultural festivals and with cosmic
commemorations of yearly astronomical events. The world, fashioned by
the Wise Lord, shows forth the divine in all aspects of nature, and
that divine Immanence is honored in festivals like Noruz, in which
divine symbolism is joined with a celebration of the renewal of the
earth in spring.

In Zoroastrianism, light is the great symbol of God and Goodness,
whether in the light of the sun or in the sacred fire. The Spring
Equinox and the lengthening of the days is thus a symbol of the victory
of Light over the cold and darkness of winter. Zoroastrianism has a
rich heritage of mythological and astrological symbolism which
illustrates the significance of Noruz. This symbolism is especially
evident in the great palace and ritual center of Persepolis, built by
the Achaemenid kings of the first great Persian Empire (c.600 BC-330
BC). Carved into the walls of Persepolis is the double symbol of the
lion attacking the bull. These animals stand for the sun (lion) and the
rain (bull, from the constellation of Taurus, ruling during the rainy
season). They stand for summer (the lion, or Leo, ruling during the
summer) vanquishing the bull, symbol of rains. Other carvings at
Persepolis show processions of nobles and representatives of the
various peoples of the Persian Empire bringing gifts to the Persian
King, during the Noruz festival.

The beginning of spring, the renewal of the earth after barren winter,
also symbolizes the "frasho-kereti," or the renewal of the whole world,
which Zoroastrians believe will happen at the end of time, when all
evil and darkness will be vanquished and all creation will be renewed
and purified. Every spring, therefore, for Zoroastrians, is a preview
of the cosmic renewal of the universe.

In the Zoroastrian religion, abstract qualities or natural forces are
often personified, and are honored on their special days. The day of
Noruz honors a personified abstraction - in later concepts, a "guardian
spirit" - called Rapithwin. He is the "lord" of the noonday heat, which
begins to appear after the spring equinox. During the winter, Rapithwin
stays beneath the earth and keeps the waters under the earth warm, so
that the roots of plants do not freeze and die. Zoroastrian legends of
time place both the Creation and the Renovation of the World at
noontime, so that Rapithwin presides over the times of both beginning
and end. One modern Zoroastrian, following this mythological logic, has
even speculated that the "Big Bang," the modern scientific concept of
the beginning of the Universe, happened at Noruz - though, at that
original point, there were yet no years or days to measure Noruz by, so
every moment was Noruz.

Persian mythology also connects Noruz with the mythical King Yima, or
Jamshid, the most famous of the prehistoric kings of Iran. Jamshid was
supposed to have instituted the festival of the New Year, and in recent
times, Zoroastrians have called the Noruz festival "Jamshedi Noruz,"
the New Day of Jamshid.

The festival of Noruz, though truly Iranian, has its counterparts in
Jewish and Christian celebrations. The Jewish feast of Passover, the
commemoration of the liberation of the Jewish people from their slavery
in Egypt, takes place around the beginning of spring, though the Jewish
calendar does not place Passover directly at the Equinox. In Judaism,
sacred history connects with the cycles of the earth, so that the
renewal of the earth and liberation from winter is compared
symbolically with the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage.

The same symbolism exists in the Christian faith. Long before Christ,
pagan peoples celebrated the renewal of the earth by worshipping gods
that died and were resurrected. In Christianity, the actual event of
the martyrdom of Christ, and the honoring of sacred nature, converge.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead, which in Christian belief
took place around the Passover feast, also parallels the rebirth of the
earth in spring. Sacred history, building on the Jewish celebration of
Passover and the Christ event, re-creates the old myths in a new light.

Zoroastrians celebrate Noruz with a cluster of many festival days,
which extend before and after the Equinox date. For ten days before the
date of Noruz, a solemn commemoration of the souls of the dead is held;
this is called "Farvardigan," the feast of all souls. During this time,
in ancient times, consecrated food was set out to feed the spirits of
the dead, who were believed to return to earth at this time. The return
and presence of the divine spirits of the good departed, the fravashis,
is still a theme in Zoroastrian belief. During this period, both houses
and inhabitants are carefully cleansed of all dirt and impurities. This
ten-day period is also a time for reflection, examination of
conscience, and repentance for all wrongs done within the year that is
coming to an end. This is not, though, like the Catholic Christian
practice of confession and absolution, which is not a Zoroastrian
concept.

Around the Noruz date, Iranian householders set up the ceremonial Noruz
table display, which is the modern analogue of the food set out for the
spirits. This custom is not only Zoroastrian, but is practiced by all
Iranians no matter what their faith. The Noruz table also hearkens back
to the lavish gifts given by the subjects of the Empire to the Persian
Kings at the New Year. This display is filled with symbols of Spring
rebirth, fertility, prosperity, and joy.

There is a special sequence to the items placed on the table, which are
known in Persian as the "haft-seen" or the "Seven S's." The names of
the items all begin with "S", hence the "Seven S's." There is no
standard configuration for the Seven, but here is one of the most
common groupings:

     * Sabzeh: green sprouts from wheat, peas, or barley
     * Samanoo: pudding made from sprouted grain
     * Serkeh: vinegar
     * Seeb: apples
     * Seer: garlic
     * Sumakh: powdered sumac seasoning
     * Senjed: small date-like fruits

The sevenfold number of these good things is Zoroastrian in origin. The
seven Amesha Spentas, the "Bounteous Immortals," are God's prime
emanations, and this number of gifts honors them, though there is no
correspondence between any one item and any one Amesha Spenta.

There are other things whose names begin with S which are on the Noruz
table: the sonbol, a hyacinth or narcissus in bloom; sekeh or coins,
symbolizing prosperity, and the sofreh or decorative cloth on the table
under all the items. The festive table is completed with more symbolic
things: a mirror, an incense burner, a picture of Prophet Zarathushtra
(for a Zoroastrian table), painted "easter eggs" resting in a bed of
flour, bread, a sugarloaf, fresh vegetables, glasses of wine and milk,
little containers of herbs and spices, bowls of nuts and dried fruit,
candies and sweets, a fishbowl with goldfish, lighted candles, and a
Holy Book. For Zoroastrians, this is the Avesta; for Muslims, the
Koran, and for Christians and Jews, the Bible.

Though this Noruz table is an Iranian custom, a Jewish guest would find
it familiar; a similar table, the Seder table, is set up for the Jewish
observance of Passover. Some of the foods on the Seder table are the
same as the ones on the Noruz table, such as bread, eggs, herbs,
apples, and nuts (apple and nut mix, or haroseth). But the Jewish foods
have different symbolism; they belong to the historical commemoration
of the Jewish Exodus. For instance, the matzoh or unleavened bread on
the Seder table, symbolizes the journey-bread of the fleeing Jews, who
could not wait for it to rise and baked it without leaven, and the
Passover herbs are called "bitter herbs," to symbolize the bitterness
of bondage and exile.

Here is a major difference between the festival of Noruz and the Jewish
Passover or Christian Easter: the Zoroastrian festival does not
celebrate a single historic event in the past, but a yearly renewal
with its spiritual significance. The Exodus, or the death and (in
Christian belief) the resurrection of Christ, are historical events
whose commemoration has converged with the celebration of the renewal
of nature.

On the Wednesday before Noruz, Iranians celebrate a holiday called
Chahar Shambeh Soori. This means "Red Wednesday" in Persian. The red
refers to fire. On the evening of that day outdoor bonfires are lit and
the more agile members of the community leap over the flames. With this
leap they recite: "My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine," thus
hoping to send ill-health (yellowness) into the fire and absorbing
"redness" or good health from the fire. These bonfires are also said to
burn away the bad luck of the old year. In the past Iranian
Zoroastrians used to light fires on their roof-tops to guide the
visiting souls of the dead to their homes. These ancient customs
involving fire show how the Zoroastrian influence persists in Iran.

Iranians all over the world await the coming of the Equinox the way
"Westerners" count down to January 1. When the exact time comes, there
is an outburst of rejoicing and partying. Noruz is not only a solemn
and sacred religious festival for Zoroastrians, but a time of great
festivity, feasting, and parties. People give gifts to each other, wear
new clothes, and eat special meals (fried trout is a Noruz tradition).
Even restaurants have Noruz tables set up with the symbolic elements on
them.

During the days following Noruz, Zoroastrians hold a jashan or sacred
service, in which the holy fire is lit in celebration and the
congregation renews its commitment to the Good Religion. On March 26,
five days after the Equinox, Zoroastrians celebrate the birthday of the
Prophet Zarathushtra. On the thirteenth day after Noruz, Iranians of
all religions hold a secular festival in which families and communities
gather outdoors for a picnic. This feast is called sizdeh-be-dar or
"thirteen-in-the-outdoors." At this time, the green sprouts and other
vegetables and fruits which have graced the Noruz table are cast into
running water, a ritual act intended to bring good luck and prosperity
for the New Year.

The Parsis, the Zoroastrians of India, do not celebrate Noruz at the
spring equinox. Though Parsis are of Iranian origin, their Zoroastrian
calendar has shifted during the millennium of their Indian residence,
so that they celebrate the New Year much later in the year than the
Iranians. Recently the Parsi New Year has been in the late summer. Now
that both Parsis and Iranian Zoroastrians are scattered throughout the
world, both holidays are held in the diaspora communities, and both
Iranians and Parsis are invited to celebrate at each others' festivals.

RELEVANT READINGS:

Bundahishn, Foundation of Creation, two translations exist in English.
The shorter one, the Indian Bundahishn, is by W. West 1901, reprinted
in 1965. This translation is out of date. B.T. Anklesaria, Bombay 1956,
translated the longer Iranian into English. The latest translation from
Pahlavi into Modern Persian by Farnabagh Dadege 1992, by Tous
Publication is the best translation into Persian so far.

The Yashts, Yasna and the Gathas are available in English, However all
translations are out of date. There are very good translations into
Modern Persian by Mr. Pourdavood and
Mr. Jalil Doustkhah. All are easily obtainable from Iranian bookstores.

Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians, their religious beliefs and practices.
Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1979, London, UK.

Mary Boyce, A Persian stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford University
Press, 1977.

John R Hinnells, Persian Mythology, Library of the Worlds Myths and
Legends. Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1985.
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