References Regarding Gaya, Gav, Geush Urvan, Gaokerena, Haoma.
Avestan Meanings & Definitions
Anghu, angeush: an-geush (cf. geush below); life, being, existence, the earth, creation
Gao, gav, gava: bovine (cow, ox, bull); life; [gav may also be used for settlement]
Gaokarena: gao-karena; tree of life
Gaya: life (earthly)
Gaya Maretan: life mortal, mortal life; [maretan: that which can die (mortal)]
Haoma: life-giving -healing plant (from gao-ma?)
Urvara: plant; tree; fruit
Uruthem: growth; increase
Gao (gav) and Gaya-Maretan are associated aspects of creation.
The above are Old Iranian forms. The Pahlavi texts below use Middle Persian forms.
Bundahishn (Creation - Middle Persian Text)
GB=Greater Bundahishn (B. T. Anklesaria translation)
LB=Lesser Bundahishn (E. W. West translation) at avesta.org
GB 6A.2 Goshorun, as is the soul of the sole-created Gav, came out of the body of the Gav...
LB 4.2 Goshorun, as the soul of the primeval ox...
LB 4.5 Contented became the spirit Goshorun, and assented thus: 'I will nourish the creatures;' that is, she became again consenting to a worldly creation in the world.
GB 6D.1 As the Plant is her own, the Amesha Spenta Amurdad, pounding it small, mixed the Plant with the Water which Tishtar (Sirius) had seized; and Tishtar (Sirius) rained the Water over the whole Earth. 2. Plants grew over the whole Earth like hair upon the beads of men. 3. Ten thousand grew up from that one principal species, in order to withstand the ten thousand diseases which the Evil Spirit designed forthwith for the creatures. 4. Out of these ten thousand, one hundred and thirty thousand species [within species] of plants grew up. 5. The Tree of Many Seeds (Harawispa Tohma), having been produced from all those seeds of plants, grew up in the ocean Frakhvkart, where-from the seeds of all the species of plants are growing [on that tree]. 6. Near to that tree, the Gokaren (Gaokarena) tree was produced, in order to keep away ill-shaped decrepitude; and the complete exaltation of the world arose there-from.
GB 6E.1. As she (Gav) passed away, on account of her vegetable nature, fifty five species of corn and twelve species of medicinal herbs grew from the limbs of the Gav, out of the earth. 2. They entrusted to the Moon the light and the vis (force, power) which were in the seed of the Gav. 3. They adorned the seed, filtered by the light of the Moon, with all colours and instilled life within it.
LB 10.1 As it passed away, owing to the vegetable principle (chiharak) proceeding from every limb of the ox, fifty and five species of grain and twelve species of medicinal plants grew forth from the earth, and their splendour and strength were the seminal energy (tokhmih) of the ox. 2. Delivered to the moon station, that seed was thoroughly purified by the light of the moon, fully prepared in every way, and produced life in a body.
GB 10.1 The Frakhvkart Ocean occupies one third of this earth, in the direction of the south, on the border of Alburz.
GB 13.1 When the sole-created Gav passed away, fifty-five species of corn and twelve species of medicinal herbs grew up from there where her pith dropped.
LB 14.1 When the primeval ox passed away, there where the marrow came out grain grew up of fifty and five species, and twelve species of medicinal plants grew; as it says, that out of the marrow is every separate creature, every single thing whose lodgment is in the marrow.
LB 14.4 On account of the value of the ox, it was created twice, one time as an ox, and one time as the manifold species of animals.
GB 16.3 Along with the fifty-five species of grain and twelve species of medicinal plants, which have come into being from the sole created Gav, ten thousand species [of plants] out of that [one] principal plant, and one hundred and thirty thousand species within [species] of plants have grown [in the earth]. 4. The Tree of Many Seeds has grown in the ocean Frakhvkart from all these seeds, whereon are the seeds of all these plants, along with those which have come into being from the sole created Gav; and every year, the 'sen' bird (simorgh) parches that tree, and mingles those seeds in the water, and Sirius seizes them with the rain water and rains them on to all the regions. 5. And the white, healing, undefiled Hom has grown next to that tree (the Tree of Many Seeds), in the stream of Ardvisur; whoever shall eat it will become immortal; they call it the Gokaren Tree; as one says, “The death-dispelling Hom"; they prepare immortality therefrom at the renovation of the universe; it is the chief of plants.
GB 16A.3 The white hom is of Asman, the lady basil is of Zam Yazad, the saffron is of Mahraspand, the 'marv-i Artakhshiran' is of Anagran, the hom of three kinds is Hom Yazad's.
On the Nature of the Gaokarena Tree
GB 24.1 One says in the Scripture, “The White Hom, which they call the Gaokarena Tree, which has grown in the ocean Frakhvkart, in the deep lake, is requisite for the performance of the renovation of the universe, as they will prepare immortality from it." 2. And the Evil Spirit, in opposition to it, has produced a lizard in that deep water, so that it may despoil the Hom. 3. And in order to restrain that lizard, Ohrmazd has there created two Kar fish, which are always encircling the Hom, so that the head of one of those fish is always towards [the] lizard. And these fish also have spiritual food, that is, they do not require food, and they will be contending up to the renovation of the universe. And there is a place where those fish are written of as the Araz of the water. 4. As one says, "The greatest of the creatures [of] Ohrmazd are those fish, and the greatest of the [creatures] of the Evil Spirit is that lizard, in body and vigour. They cleave into two parts whichever of both the creations [are] betwixt them, except that one fish which is the 'Vasi Panchasatvaram.' (? panch-asdvaran?) 5. This too one says, "Those fish are so sensitive that they comprehend a sensation as minute as a sharp needle in the deep water, whereby the water increases or decreases."
LB 18.1 On the nature of the tree they call Gaokarena it says in revelation, that it was the first day when the tree they call Gaokerena grew in the deep mud within the wide-formed ocean; and it is necessary as a producer of the renovation of the universe, for they prepare its immortality therefrom. 2, The evil spirit has formed therein, among those which enter as opponents, a lizard as an opponent in that deep water, so that it may injure the Haoma. 3. And for keeping away that lizard, Ohrmazd has created there ten Kar fish which, at all times, continually circle around the Haoma, so that the head of one of those fish is continually towards the lizard. 4. And together with the lizard those fish are spiritually fed, that is, no food is necessary for them; and till the renovation of the universe they remain in contention. 5. There are places where that fish is written of as 'the Ariz of the water;' as it says that the greatest of the creatures of Ohrmazd is that fish, and the greatest of those proceeding from the evil spirit is that lizard; with the jaws of their bodies, moreover, they snap in two whatever of the creatures of both spirits has entered between them, except that one fish which is the Vas of Panchasadvaran. 6. This, too, is said, that those fish are so serpent-like in that deer (? dear/clear?) water, they know the scratch (malishn) of a needle's point by which the water shall increase, or by which it is diminishing. 9. The Tree of Many Seeds has grown amid the wide-formed ocean, and in its seed are all plants; some say it is the proper-curing, some the energetic-curing, some the all-curing.
LB 27.2 In like manner even as the animals, with grain of fifty and five species and twelve species of medicinal plants, have arisen from the primeval ox, ten thousand species among the species of principal plants, and a hundred thousand species among ordinary plants have grown from all these seeds of the Tree Opposed to Harm, the Many-Seeded, which has grown in the wide-formed ocean. 3. When the seeds of all these plants, with those from the primeval ox, have arisen upon it, every year the (Sen/Saena/Simorgh) bird strips that tree and mingles all the seeds in the water; Tishtar seizes them with the rain-water and rains them on to all regions. 4. Near to that tree the White Haoma, the healing and undefiled, has grown at the source of the water of Aredvisur; every one who eats it becomes immortal, and they call it the Gaokerena Tree, as it is said that Haoma is expelling death; also in the renovation of the universe they prepare its immortality therefrom; and it is the chief of plants. [The Bundahishns (LB and GB at 29.6) state that now the "tree opposed to harm is in Eranvej".]
GB 26.26 Gosh, that is, Goshorun, is the spiritual soul of the sole-created Gav.
GB 26.93 Hom Yazad in the Gaokerena is the undefiled, healing Hom, through whom the performance of the renovation of the universe will take place.
Iranian Mythology Extracts
by Albert J. Carnoy at rbedrosian.com
The mountains stand in a row about Alburz, which is the knot of lands and is the highest peak of all, lifting its head even to the sky. On one of its summits, named Taera/Tara, the sun, the moon, and the stars rise, and from another of its heights, Hukairya, the water of Ardvi Sura Anahita flows down, while on it the Haoma, the plant of life, is set.
Next came the creation of the vegetable kingdom when Ameretat, the Amesha Spenta who has plants under her guardianship, pounded them small and mixed them with the water which Tishtrya had seized. Then the dog-star made that water rain down over all the earth, on which plants sprang up like hair upon the heads of men. Ten thousand of them grew forth, these being provided in order to keep away the ten thousand diseases which the evil spirit produced for the creatures. From those ten thousand have sprung the hundred thousand species of plants that are now in the world.
From these germs the "Tree of All Seeds" was given out and grew up in the middle of the sea Vourukasha, where it causes every species of plant to increase. Near to that "Tree of All Seeds" the Gaokerena (Gao-Kerena or "Ox-Horn") tree was produced to avert decrepitude. This is necessary to bring about the renovation of the universe and the immortality that will follow; every one who eats it becomes immortal, and it is the chief of plants (Bundahish, ix; Selections of Zad-Sparam, viii.).
The Evil Spirit formed a lizard in the deep water of Vourukasha that it might injure the Gaokerena (Bundahish, xviii.); but to keep away that lizard Ahura Mazda created ten kar-fish, which at all times continually circle around the Gaokerena, so that the head of one of them never ceases to be turned toward the lizard. Together with the lizard those fish are spiritually fed, and till the renovation of the universe they will remain in the sea and struggle with one another.
The Gaokerena tree is also called "White Haoma." (This is incorrect. The Bundahishns state the White Haoma is near the Gaokerena - see LB 27.2 above.) It is one of the manifestations of the famous haoma-plant, which has been mentioned many times, while its terrestrial form, the yellow Haoma, gives strength to men. It is with this thought in mind that the petitioner invokes "Golden haoma":
"Thee I pray for might and conquest,
Thee for health and thee for healing,
Thee for progress and for increase,
Thee for strength of all my body,
Thee for wisdom all-adorned.
Thee I pray that I may conquer,
Conquer all the haters hatred,
Be they men or be they demons,
Be they sorcerers or witches,
Rulers, bards, or priests of evil,
Treacherous things that walk on two feet,
Heretics that walk on two feet,
Wolves that go about on four feet,
Or invading hordes deceitful
With their fronts spread wide for battle." (Yasna, ix. 17-18)
Above all, however, haoma is expected to drive death afar, to give long life (Yasna, ix. 19-20) and to grant children to women and husbands to girls.
"Unto women that would bring forth
haoma giveth brilliant children,
haoma giveth righteous offspring.
Unto maidens long unwedded
haoma, quickly as they ask him,
Full of insight, full of wisdom,
Granteth husbands and protectors." (Yasna, ix. 22-23. It is scarcely necessary to note that the word "Haoma" is dissyllabic)
The terrestrial haoma is said to grow on the summits of mountains, especially on Alburz (Hara Berezaiti), to which divine birds brought it down from heaven.
Gokard (Pahlavi) Also Geokar, Gaekarena. In the Bundahish the white haoma or Tree of Life which guards the tree of all seeds (Harawispa tohma). This tree of all germs was given forth and grew up in the Farakhkard (unbounded) ocean from which the germs of species of plants ever increased. And near it, the Gokard tree was produced for keeping away deformed decrepitude, and the full perfection of the world arose from this (Bundahis 9:5-6). It is described as a luxuriant tree in whose branches a serpent dwells [Our note; unsubstantiated by the quotes above]. "But while the Macrocosmic tree is the Serpent of Eternity and of absolute Wisdom itself, those who dwell in the Microcosmic tree are the Serpents of the manifested Wisdom. One is the One and All; the others are its reflected parts. The 'tree' is man himself, of course, and the Serpents dwelling in each, the conscious Manas, the connecting link between Spirit and Matter, heaven and earth" (Secret Doctrine 2:98). [Our note: An interesting opinion and hypothesis]
Extracts from iranicaonline.org
According to the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, p. 688), the original Avestan text of the Chihrdād Nask had contained:
- an account of the creation of Gayōmart in bodily form,
- the manner of the birth of Mašīa and Mašīānag, and
- the establishment of monarchy on earth by Hōshang, wherefore his epithet pēshdād (Av. para-dāta- “the first to establish [sovereignty]”; Yt. 19.26; Yt. 5.21; Pahlavi Vidēvdād 20.1).
Ṭabarī (I, pp. 147 ff.) and Balʿamī, (ed. Bahār, pp. 112-28) with more details, recount at some length the creation of Gayōmart who is identified as Adam. He is represented as a peaceable and pious primitive king who renders the world prosperous and habitable.
There are various traditions in regard to the sequence of Gayōmart’s descendant. The Middle Persian books generally give his posterity as:
Mašīa (Mašīānag), Sīāmak, Frawāk (Ar. Afrāwāk), and Hōšang
(Dēnkard, ed. Madan, pp. 231, 613; Bundahišn 14.31, 31.1, 35.4; Zādspram 7, p. 54), which is followed by Ṭabarī (I, p. 154).
But his translator Balʿamī (ed. Bahār, pp. 124-25) passes over Frawāk. Iranian legendary history, however, being based on a secular tradition recorded by the Shāh-nāma, derived from the Khwadāy-nāmag, refers to Gayōmart as the first world king. He is depicted as a prehistoric cave-dweller who brings forth the rite of royalty, founds the Pēšdādīān dynasty and, clad in leopard-skin, rules over men and beasts by natural disposition. In this version his son, the noble Sīāmak, is killed by Ahriman, whereupon his grandson Hōšang, the second Pēšdādīān king, avenges himself on his father’s killers, the demons (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 21-25, Moscow, I, pp. 29-31).
The epithet attached to Gayōmart is inconsistently reported by Middle and the New Persian materials. The Dēnkard (ed. Madan, p. 29; tr. de Menasce, p. 50) refers to him as gil(TYNʾ)shāh (lit. clay king), but the Pahlavi Aogəmadēchā (JamaspAsa, p. 85) knows him as garshāh (king of the mountain). The Islamic historians call him variously garshāh or gelshāh (Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, pp. 12, 113). It is with good reason suggested that gil (gl) may be a misreading for gar (gl; Yarshater, p. 420). In contrast with these readings the Shāh-nāma gives kayshāh, which is an obvious error since kay (Av. kavi) is the title of the kings of the second legendary dynasty, the Kayanids (ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 22, Moscow, I, p. 29).
Extracts from Simorgh by Hanns-Peter Schmidt at CAIS.
Sênmurw (Pahlavi), Sîna-Mrû (Pâzand), a fabulous, mythical bird. The name derives from Avestan mərəγô saênô 'the bird Saêna', originally a raptor, either eagle or falcon, as can be deduced from the etymologically identical Sanskrit s‚yena‚.
Saêna is also attested as a personal name which is derived from the bird name.
n the Avestan Yasht 14.41 Vərəqragna, the deity of victory, wraps Khvarnah, fortune, round the house of the worshipper, for wealth in cattle, like the great bird Saêna, and as the watery clouds cover the great mountains, which means that Saêna will bring rain. In Yasht 12.17 Saêna's tree stands in the middle of the sea Vourukasha, it has good and potent medicine, is called all-healing, and the seeds of all plants are deposited on it. This scanty information is supplemented by the Pahlavi texts. In the Mênôg î Khrad (ed. Anklesaria, 61.37-41) the Sênmurw's nest is on the "tree without evil and of many seeds." When the bird rises, a thousand shoots grow from the tree, and when he (or she) alights, he breaks a thousand shoots and lets the seeds drop from them. The bird Cînâmrôsh (Camrôsh) collects the seeds and disperses them where Tishtar (Sirius) will seize the water with the seeds and rain them down on the earth. While here the bird breaks the branches with his weight, in Bundahishn 16.4 (tr. Anklesaria) he makes the tree wither, which seems to connect him with the scorching sun. An abbreviated form of this description is found in Zâdspram 3.39; a gloss on the Pahlavi translation of Yasht 14.41 confuses the tree of many seeds with the tree of the White Hôm. Two birds are involved in the scattering of the seeds also in the New Persian Rivâyat of Dârâb Hormazyâr (tr. Dhabhar, p. 99), here called Amrôsh and Camrôsh, Amrôsh taking the place of Sênmurw; these names derive from Avestan amru and camru, personal names taken from bird names.
The seasonal activity of the Sênmurw in conjunction with Camrôsh and Tishtar can be interpreted consistently in astronomical terms. The identity of Tishtar with Sirius, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major (the Great Dog), is well established, and it can be assumed that Sênmurw and Camrôsh are stars, too. For Sênmurw the constellation Aquila (Eagle), or its most prominent star, Altair (Ar. al-tÂayr 'the bird'), is the most likely candidate. The heliacal rise of Sirius in July corresponds to the setting of Aquila. Camrôsh may be identified with Cygnus (Swan), which sets some time after Aquila. The influence of Greek astronomy and astrology is well attested in Sasanian Iran, but itself goes back to Babylonian sources, and it is quite possible that the Avestan source was dependent on them (contra Schmidt, p. 10). The assumption that the rise of Tishtar signals the beginning of the rains, as it does in Egypt, and must therefore be a direct borrowing, is not compatible with the climate of most of Iran. The rise of Tishtar will rather signal the beginning of his fight with Apaosha, the demon of drought. In the torrid summer months Tishtar gains in strength, and it is with the defeat of Apaosha that the rains begin in late fall (cf. Forssman, p. 57 n. 9; Panaino, p. 18ff.).
In the chapter on the classification of animals of the Bundahishn the three-fingered Sên is called the largest of the birds (13.10), and also the Sênmurw is of the species of birds (13.22); they are obviously identical. The three-fingered Sên was created first among the birds, but is not the chief, a position held by the Karshipt (according to the Indian Bundahishn 24.11 a carg, falcon or hawk), the bird that brought the religion to the enclosure (var) of Jamshêd (cf. Vd. 2.42) (17.11). In 13.34-35 the Sênmurw has come to the sea Frâxkard (Vourukasha) before all the other birds. In Zâdspram 23.2 the Karshipt and the Sênmurw are singled out among the birds to attend the conference with OÚhrmazd on the animals, the creatures protected by Wahman. Bundahishn 13 contains serious contradictions. While in 10 and 22 the Sênmurw is a bird, in 23 it is one of the species of bats: they are of the genera of the dog, the bird, and the muskrat because they fly like a bird, have teeth like a dog and a cave for dwelling like the muskrat. Zâdspram 3.65 does not make the bats a separate genus, but counts them and the Sênmurw among the birds, though they are of a different nature, having teeth and feeding their young with milk from their breasts. Bundahishn 13.23 contradicts not only 10 and 22 but also 15.13, where the Sênmurw is counted among the oviparous birds. From this stare of affairs it can be inferred that there was an older version, in which the Sênmurw was a bird pure and simple as in the Avesta, and a later one, in which she was a bat, and that the compiler of the Bundahishn has confused them. With the change to a bat the Sênmurw changed gender from male to female.
An identification of the original Sênmurw with a known bird is difficult. The Sên's being called three-fingered is puzzling, since most birds have four claws. Herzfeld (1930, pp. 142-43) suggested the ostrich, which has only three claws, but this is impossible because the ostrich is an African flightless bird. The epithet may then be based on the observation of the bird when perching on the branch of a tree when only three claws are visible. The Sênmurw in representative art also has only three claws but, contrary to my earlier opinion (Schmidt, p. 59), it is hardly the source of the description. The three-fingered Sên is the largest bird (Bundahishn 13.10) mentioned among the large birds, side by side with the eagle (âluh) and the lammergeier (dâlman); this excludes the falcon, which is much smaller than either of them. In size and habitat the closest possibility would be the black vulture (Aigypius monachus), which nests mostly in trees, but as a scavenger does not hunt live prey. Therefore I would suggest the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), particularly if the identification with the constellation Aquila is correct. That the Simorgh was not known solely as a mythological being, but also as a real bird, can be inferred from the fact that in Judeo-Persian the word translates the Hebrew näshär 'eagle' (cf. Asmussen).
The classification of the Sênmurw as a bat belonging to three genera in the Bundahishn has led Camilla Trever to identify a composite animal in Sasanian art as the Sênmurw. This animal has the head of a dog, the wings and—in most examples—the tail of a peacock. It has precursors in Scythian art of a millennium earlier, one example of which shows a striking resemblance to the Sasanian representation (Schmidt, fig. 2); it cannot be established what they were called nor can a historical connection be made, because composite animals of similar type are found in the Near East, Central Asia, and China. Various forerunners have been claimed as a model, such as the lion-griffin of Mesopotamia (Harper, 1961, pp. 95-101) and the Hellenistic hippocampus (Herzfeld, 1920, p. 134), but it is unlikely that one single source can be identified. In Sasanian art the image is clearly attested in the 6th-7th century, the most famous examples being those shown on the garments of King Kòosrow II Parvêz (r. 591-628) on the rock reliefs of Táâq-e Bustân (Schmidt, figs. 4 and 5). The animal is depicted with the head of a snarling dog. The two paws, one raised above the other in a posture of attack, are those of a beast of prey with only three claws. The wing feathers, which rise from a circular base, are curled towards the front. The long, raised, oval-shaped, curved tail is that of a peacock, not showing individual feathers but a highly stylized foliage pattern. The other examples agree to a large extent; many, however, show individual tail feathers. The Sênmurw is attested in reliefs, metalware and textiles (representative examples can be seen in Schmidt, plates VI, VII, X, XI). It spread all over Eurasia with other motifs of Sasanian art and was used for many centuries after the fall of the Persian Empire. In early Islamic art it is found in Iran at Ùâl Tarkòân Ashkhabad (Harper, 1978, p. 118), in Syria at Qasár al-K¨òayr al-GÚarbi (Schlumberger, p. 355), in Jordan at Mshatta (Creswell, 1932, p. 404 with pl. 66), and at K¨òerbat al-Mafjar (Hamilton, figs. 118a, 253). It is also found in a Christian context in Georgia, Armenia and Byzantium (cf., e.g., Grabar pls. XV 2, XX 3, XXII 1, XXIII 3, XXVII 1, XXVIII 2; Trever, fig. 7; Chubinashvili, pls. 23, 26, 27).
The canine heads on headdresses of the queen and a prince on coins of Warahrân II (r. 276-293) have been interpreted as Sênmurw, but this is a matter of debate (Schmidt, p. 24ff.). The Sênmurw is very prominent on the coinage of the Hephthalites in the seventh and eighth centuries C.E. It is distinguished from the standard Sasanian form by having rather a cock's than a peacock's tail and also frequently showing reptilian features, which are rare in the Sasanian form. Its head occurs as a crown-emblem in several issues (nos. 208-10, 241-243, 246, 254-255 in Göbl I, cf. the drawings in IV, pls. 6-7); in one issue (no. 259) the whole animal appears on the top of the crown. The head and neck, or the complete animal, are also used as countermarks (KM 102, 106, 107, 101, 106, 107, 101, 105, 3a-d, 11A-K, 1, 10 in Göbl II, 141ff., IV pl. 10). When carrying a pearl necklace in its mouth (Issue 255.1), the Sênmurw is probably the conveyer of the investiture (Göbl, p. 156), whether the necklace can be identified with the xvarnah or not. Göbl also sees a proof for the Sênmurw's association with the xvarnah in the fact that the countermark is in all cases stamped at least approximately on the inscription GDH 'pzwt' "[may] farrah [be] increased" or on the Sênmurw of the coin; this, however, remains doubtful.
Nevertheless, the relation of the Sênmurw to the xvarnah is undeniable. It is already present in the Avesta, and it is so in the ˆâh-nâma. The feather is offered to Zâl as a token of the Simorgh's farr: since in Tâq-e Bustân the Sênmurw does not occur in the investiture scene, it was probably not an exclusively royal symbol, but a more general one of good fortune.