Saturday, November 19, 2011


The ancient Persian water goddess, fertility goddess, and patroness of women, as well as a goddess of war. Her name means "the immaculate one". She is portrayed as a virgin, dressed in a golden cloak, and wearing a diamond tiara (sometimes also carrying a water pitcher). The dove and the peacock are her sacred animals.

Anahita was very popular and is one of the forms of the 'Great Goddess' which appears in many ancient eastern religions (such as the Syrian/Phoenician goddess Anath). She is associated with rivers and lakes, as the waters of birth. Anahita is sometimes regarded as the consort of Mithra

When Persia conquered Babylonia (in the 6th century BCE), Anahita began to show some similarities with the goddess Ishtar. Since then her cult included also the practice of temple prostitution. During the reign of king Artaxerxes (436-358 BCE) many temples were erected in her honor; in Soesa, Ecbatana, and in Babylon.

Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā); the Avestan language name of an Armeno-Aryan[1] cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Aredvi Sura Anahita is Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid in Middle- and Modern Persian, Anahit in Armenian.[2] An iconic shrine cult of Aredvi Sura Anahita, was – together with other shrine cults – "introduced apparently in the 4th century BCE and lasted until it was suppressed in the wake of an iconoclastic movement under the Sassanids."[3]

The Greek and Roman historians of classical antiquity refer to her either as Anaïtis or identified her with one of the divinities from their own pantheons. 270 Anahita, a silicaceous S-type asteroid is named after her.



Only Arədvī (a word otherwise unknown, perhaps with an original meaning "moist") is specific to the divinity.[2] The words sūra and anāhīta are generic Avestan language adjectives,[4] and respectively mean "mighty" and "pure" [5][6] (or "immaculate"[2]). Both adjectives also appear as epithets of other divinities or divine concepts such as Haoma[7] and the Fravashis.[8] Both adjectives are also attested in Vedic Sanskrit.[9]

As a divinity of the waters (Abān), the yazata is of Indo-Iranian origin, according to Lommel related to Sanskrit Sarasvatī that, like its Proto-Iranian equivalent *Harahvatī, derives from Indo-Iranian *Sarasvntī.[2][10][11] In its old Iranian form *Harahvatī, "her name was given to the region, rich in rivers, whose modern capital is Kandahar (Avestan Haraxvaitī, Old Persian Hara(h)uvati-, Greek Arachosia)."[2] "Like the Indian Saraswati, [Aredvi Sura Anahita] nurtures crops and herds; and is hailed both as a divinity and the mythical river that she personifies, 'as great in bigness as all these waters which flow forth upon the earth'."

In the (Middle-)Persian texts of the Sassanid and later eras, Arədvī Sūra Anāhīta appears as Ardwisur Anāhīd.[2] There is no occurrence of Anāhīta in Old Avestan and her presence in Avesta is limited mainly to two instances. In non-Avestan world, the oldest mention of her name is indeed in many Old Persian documents. Her popularity in Western Iran is significantly higher than Eastern Iran. The evidences suggest a western Iranian origin of Anāhīta.[12]
Conflation with Ishtar

At some point prior to the 4th century BCE, this yazata was conflated with (an analogue of)[α] Semitic Ištar,[6] likewise a divinity of "maiden" fertility and from whom Aredvi Sura Anahita then inherited additional features of a divinity of war and of the planet Venus. It was moreover the association with the planet Venus, "it seems, which led Herodotus to record that the [Persis][γ] learnt 'to sacrifice to "the heavenly goddess"' from the Assyrians and Arabians." [13][14][15]

Ishtar also "apparently"[16] gave Aredvi Sura Anahita the epithet Banu, 'the Lady', a typically Mesopotamian construct[16] that is not attested as an epithet for a divinity in Iran before the common era. It is completely unknown in the texts of the Avesta,[16] but evident in Sassanid-era middle Persian inscriptions (see the cult, below) and in a middle Persian Zend translation of Yasna 68.13.[17] Also in Zoroastrian texts from the post-conquest epoch (651 CE onwards), the divinity is referred to as 'Anahid the Lady', 'Ardwisur the Lady' and 'Ardwisur the Lady of the waters'.[18]

Because the divinity is unattested in any old Western Iranian language,[4] establishing characteristics prior to the introduction of Zoroastrianism in Western Iran (c. 5th century BCE) is very much in the realm of speculation. According to Boyce, it is "probable" that there was once a Perso-Elamite divinity by the name of *Anahiti (as reconstructed from the Greek Anaitis[19]). It is then likely (so Boyce) that it was this divinity that was an analogue of Ishtar, and that it is this divinity with which Aredvi Sura Anahita was conflated.[4] Boyce concludes that "the Achaemenids' devotion to this goddess evidently survived their conversion to Zoroastrianism, and they appear to have used royal influence to have her adopted into the Zoroastrian pantheon." [20][β] According to an alternate theory, Anahita was perhaps "a daeva of the early and pure Zoroastrian faith, incorporated into the Zoroastrian religion and its revised canon" during the reign of "Artaxerxes I, the Constantine of that faith."[21][δ]
Cosmological entity

The cosmological qualities of the world river are alluded to in Yasht 5 (see in the Avesta, below), but properly developed only in the Bundahishn, a Zoroastrian account of creation finished in the 11th or 12th century CE. In both texts, Aredvi Sura Anahita is not only a divinity, but also the source of the world river and the (name of the) world river itself. The cosmological legend runs as follows:

All the waters of the world created by Ahura Mazda originate from the source Aredvi Sura Anahita, the life-increasing, herd-increasing, fold-increasing, who makes prosperity for all countries. This source is at the top of the world mountain Hara Berezaiti, "High Hara", around which the sky revolves and that is at the center of Airyanem Vaejah, the first of the lands created by Mazda.

The water, warm and clear, flows through a hundred thousand golden channels towards Mount Hugar, "the Lofty", one of the daughter-peaks of Hara Berezaiti. On the summit of that mountain is Lake Urvis, "the Turmoil", into which the waters flow, becoming quite purified and exiting through another golden channel. Through that channel, which is at the height of a thousand men, one portion of the great spring Aredvi Sura Anahita drizzles in moisture upon the whole earth, where it dispels the dryness of the air and all the creatures of Mazda acquire health from it. Another portion runs down to Vourukasha, the great sea upon which the earth rests, and from which it flows to the seas and oceans of the world and purifies them.

In the Bundahishn, the two halves of the name "Ardwisur Anahid" are occasionally treated independently of one another, that is, with Ardwisur as the representative of waters, and Anahid identified with the planet Venus: The water of the all lakes and seas have their origin with Ardwisur (10.2, 10.5), and in contrast, in a section dealing with the creation of the stars and planets (5.4), the Bundahishn speaks of 'Anahid i Abaxtari', that is, the planet Venus.[22] In yet other chapters, the text equates the two, as in "Ardwisur who is Anahid, the father and mother of the Waters" (3.17).

This legend of the river that descends from Mount Hara appears to have remained a part of living observance for many generations. A Greek inscription from Roman times found in Asia Minor reads "the great goddess Anaïtis of high Hara".[23] On Greek coins of the imperial epoch, she is spoken of as "Anaïtis of the sacred water."[22]


Aredvi Sura Anahita is principally addressed in Yasht 5 (Yasna 65), also known as the Aban Yasht, a hymn to the waters in Avestan and one of the longer and better preserved of the devotional hymns. Yasna 65 is the third of the hymns recited at the Ab-Zohr, the "offering to the waters" that accompanies the culminating rites of the Yasna service. Verses from Yasht 5 also form the greater part of the Aban Nyashes, the liturgy to the waters that are a part of the Khordeh Avesta.

According to Nyberg[24] and supported by Lommel[25] and Widengren,[26] the older portions of the Aban Yasht were originally composed at a very early date, perhaps not long after the Gathas themselves. [ζ] Yasna 38, which is dedicated "to the earth and the sacred waters" and is part of seven-chapter Yasna Haptanghāiti, is linguistically as old as the Gathas.

In the Aban Yasht, the river yazata is described as "the great spring Ardvi Sura Anahita is the life-increasing, the herd-increasing, the fold-increasing who makes prosperity for all countries" (5.1). She is "wide flowing and healing", "efficacious against the daevas", "devoted to Ahura's lore" (5.1). She is associated with fertility, purifying the seed of men (5.1), purifying the wombs of women (5.1), encouraging the flow of milk for newborns (5.2). As a river divinity, she is responsible for the fertility of the soil and for the growth of crops that nurture both man and beast (5.3). She is a beautiful, strong maiden, wearing beaver skins (5.3,7,20,129).

The association between water and wisdom that is common to many ancient cultures is also evident in the Aban Yasht, for here Aredvi Sura is the divinity to whom priests and pupils should pray for insight and knowledge (5.86). In verse 5.120 she is seen to ride a chariot drawn by four horses named "wind", "rain", "clouds" and "sleet". In newer passages she is described as standing in "statuesque stillness", "ever observed", royally attired with a golden embroidered robe, wearing a golden crown, necklace and earrings, golden breast-ornament, and gold-laced ankle-boots (5.123, 5.126-. Aredvi Sura Anahita is bountiful to those who please her, stern to those who do not, and she resides in 'stately places' (5.101).

The concept of Aredvi Sura Anahita is to a degree blurred with that of Ashi, the Gathic figure of Good Fortune, and many of the verses of the Aban Yasht also appear in Yasht 17 (Ard Yasht), which is dedicated to Ashi. So also a description of the weapons bestowed upon worshippers (5.130), and the superiority in battle (5.34 et al.). These functions appears out of place in a hymn to the waters,[2] and may have originally been from Yasht 17.

Other verses in Yasht 5 have masculine instead of feminine pronouns, and thus again appear to be verses that were originally dedicated to other divinities.[27] Boyce also suggests that the new compound divinity of waters with martial characteristics gradually usurped the position of Apam Napat, the great warlike water divinity of the Ahuric triad, finally causing the latter's place to be lost and his veneration to become limited to the obligatory verses recited at the Ab-Zohr.



As a divinity Aredvi Sura Anahita is of enormous significance to the Zoroastrian religion, for as a representative of Aban ("the waters"), she is in effect the divinity towards whom the Yasna service – the primary act of worship – is directed. (see Ab-Zohr). "To this day reverence for water is deeply ingrained in Zoroastrians, and in orthodox communities offerings are regularly made to the household well or nearby stream" [45][ε]

It is "very probable"[18] that the shrine of Bibi Shahrbanu at royal Ray (Rhagae, central Medea) was once dedicated to Anahita.[18][ρ] Similarly, one of the "most beloved mountain shrines of the Zoroastrians of Yazd, set beside a living spring and a great confluence of water-courses, is devoted to Banu-Pars, "the Lady of Persia"."[46][47]

However, and notwithstanding the widespread popularity of Anahita, "it is doubtful whether the current tendency is justified whereby almost every isolated figure in Sassanid art, whether sitting, standing, dancing, clothed, or semi-naked, is hailed as her representation."[47][48]

The Armenian cult of Anahit, as well as the pre-Christian Armenian religion in general, was very closely connected to Persian Zoroastrianism[49] In present-day Armenia, it is remembered as part of the historical mythological heritage of the nation, and the name Anahid is a popular female given name. In 1997, the Central Bank of Armenia issued a commemorative gold coin with an image of the divinity Anahit on the obverse.

From: Wiki
Anahita is a pre-Zoroastrian Persian goddess of water, abundance, blessing, fertility, marriage, love, motherhood, birth and victory, eventually adopted into the Zoroastrian pantheon. Her blessings brought fecundity and plenty to the country, while ancient kings were crowned in her temples - by their queens - to gain her patronage and protection. At the site of Taq-e-Bostan there are several arches [taqs] commemorating major events. One shows the coronation of Khosro-II Parviz, receiving his crown from Mobed-e-Mobedan (the high priest) under the protection of Anahita.

A first century BCE statue, discovered in Turkey, is thought to represent Anahita. She is shown adorned with jewels; square earrings and a necklace, both of gold. In Zoroastrian lore she is depicted as a young woman in a golden mantle with a high crown surmounted by eight rays and one-hundred stars, with gold fillets streaming down - a radiant Khvarenah [1] or halo - wearing jewels, carrying a water pot in her left hand and a pomegranate blossom at her breast. Sometimes she was envisaged clothed in a garment of thirty beaver pelts from female animals that had birthed a minimum of four pups, demonstrating her connection both with water and with fruitfulness. Sometimes she is shown as a warrior maiden, tall and powerful, riding on the chariot given to her by the chief god Ahura Mazda, drawn by four horses called Wind, Rain, Cloud and Sleet. Her cult-animals are the dove, sheep and the peacock.

Originally, she seems to have been a water goddess, perhaps the personification of water itself, the source of life in an arid environment:

"Hither flowed Aredvi Sura Anahita . . .
She causes some waters to stand still,
She lets others flow, suitably,
She makes free a dry passage
Through the Vanghui
And the Vitanghvaiti rivers."[2]

She was known by the epithet, Aredvi Sura Anahita, "the Moist One, the Strong One, the Pure One" who was always invoked at living bodies of water. Her sphere included all sources of water, including rain and dew. Water veneration seems to have formed the focus of her cult: worshippers poured libations (probably of purest water) at her shrines, accompanied by prayers and supplications. Many of the surviving temple structures that were dedicated to her are connected with water [Pir-e Sabz and Naraki, have waterfalls, for example] and perhaps all sources of water were considered to be her sacred places.


Anahita is a goddess with multiple functions, including nurturer, fecund source, giver of abundance, mother, virgin, healer, the bestower of kingship, a warrior and protector who imparts courage to warriors, a magician who gives wisdom to the priests and oversees the shamanic journey. Her worship was wide-spread and long lasting. Furthermore, she was possibly known by a variety of names in different places, such as Anaïtis, Anat, Atargatis, Anath, Asherah, Astarte, Ishtar, Athene, Al-Lat, Cybele, Artemis ["High Source of Water"] and Aphrodite [‘Foam Born’] These various goddesses may have had a common origin, and they certainly share a large number of striking similarities- they are associated with water, love, war, fertility, birth, nurture and healing, often called ‘Queen of Heaven’ and associated with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star. Anahita was considered to be the personification of the planet Venus, and her modern Parsee name, Anahid, is translated as "Venus".

She is most often identified with Anat/ Asherah [‘Prudence’], because of the similarity of their names. Anat is a Canaanite/Phoenician goddess, the virgin sister of Baal [‘Lord’] or some say his consort. She was worshipped as a goddess of nature, earth and battle, love and desire, and was depicted standing on a lion, holding a flower. She was later venerated in Egypt as a warrior goddess, depicted axe, spear and crown with twin ostrich plumes. Anahita may also have echoes in the Slavonic Mokusa [‘Moist’] a goddess of water and moisture worshipped throughout Slavonic Europe under a variety of related names, and honoured up until the 16th century CE. It was under the Greek version of Anahita’s name Anaïtis that her cult spread throughout Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. The Persians identified Artemis of Ephesus with their own beloved deity Anahita. Two Iranians of Carin even became honorary citizens so that they might serve her.

Anahita (pronounced an-na-HEE-ta) is the Persian Goddess of water and fertility. She is an amalgamation of the ancient Iranian Goddess of the river that flows down from Mount Hara and the Babylonian mother Goddess. Anahita is usually depicted as a maiden in a golden cloak, pouring water from her holy pitcher. Her sacred animals are the dove and the peacock, and she was also the patroness of temple prostitutes. Her name means “the immaculate one”, and has several variations, including:

Anahit, Anahiti, Anaitis, Aredvi Sura Anahita, Anahid the Lady, Ardwisur Anahid, Ardwisur the Lady, Ardwisur the Lady of the Waters, Nahid, Holy Spring, Mother of Sobriety, Heavenly Spring, Wide Expanding, Benefactor of Humanity, and Golden Mother.

From: here

I will praise the water Ardvi Sura Anahita, the efficacious against the Daevas, devoted to Ahura's lore, and to be worshipped with sacrifice within the corporeal world, furthering all living things (?) and holy, helping on the increase and improvement of our herds and settlements, holy, and increasing our wealth, holy, and helping on the progress of the Province, holy (as she is)?

(Ardvi Sura Anahita) who purifies the seed of all male beings, who sanctifies the wombs of all women to the birth, who makes all women fortunate in labor, who brings all women a regular and timely flow of milk,

(Ardvi Sura Anahita) with a volume sounding from afar, which is alone equal in its bulk to all the waters which flow forth upon earth, which flows down with mighty volume from high Hukairya to the sea Vouru-kasha.

And all the gulfs in Vouru-kasha are stirred (when it falls down), all the middle doth well up when Ardvi Sura Anahita rushes in, when she plunges foaming into them, she, whose are a thousand tributaries, and a thousand outlets, and each as it flows in, or rushes out, is a forty days' ride in length to a rider mounted well.

And the (chief) outlet to this one water (Ardvi Sura Anahita) goes apart, dividing to all the seven Karshvars. And this outlet to my river, Ardvi Sura Anahita, bears off its water always in summer and in winter. This my river purifies the seed of men, and wombs of women, and women's milk.

Let the saints' Fravashis now draw near, those of the saints who live, or have lived, of those born, or yet to be born; yea, let them come near which have borne these waters up stream from the nearest ones (that lie below as the outlet pours away)

Let not our waters be for the man of ill intent, of evil speech, or deeds, or conscience; let them not be for the offender of a friend, not for an insulter of a Magian, nor for one who harms the workmen, nor for one who hates his kindred. And let not our good waters (which are not only good, but) best, and Mazda-made, help on the man who strives to mar our settlements which are not to be corrupted, nor him who would mar our bodies, (our) uncorrupted (selves),

Nor the thief, or bludgeon-bearing ruffian who would slaughter the disciples, nor a sorcerer, nor a burrier of dead bodies, nor the jealous, nor the niggard, nor the godless heretic who slays disciples, nor the evil tyrant among men. Against these may our waters come as torments. As destructive may these come (?), may they come to him who has done those first (foul evils), as to him who does the last.


O waters! rest still within your places while the invoking priest shall offer.Shall not the invoker make offering to these good waters, and with the inculcated words? (And how shall this be done?) Shall he not be tongue-fettered, if he offers else than with the ritual? Shall (not) the words be so delivered as the Aethrapaiti teaches? Where shall the blessings be (inserted)? Where the supplications with confessions? Where the gifts of those that offer?

(It shall be only thus) as Ahura Mazda showed before to Zarathushtra, and as Zarathushtra taught the corporeal worlds (the men on earth)! Thou shalt pray the first petition to the waters, O Zarathushtra, and after that thou shalt offer the Zaothras to the waters, sanctified, and sought out with pious care; and thou shalt pronounce these words (as follows, thus):

O ye waters, I beseech of you this favor; and grant ye me this great one in whose bestowal ye flow down to me for the bettering (of my state), with a never-failing truth. O ye waters, I beseech of you for wealth of many kinds (which gives) power (to its holder), and for an offspring self-dependent whom multitudes will bless, and for whose wasting, or defeat, or death, or vengeful punishment, or overtaking, no one prays.

And this do I beseech of you, O waters, this, O ye lands, and this, ye plants! This wealth and offspring I beseech of You, O Ye Bountiful Immortals, who rule aright, who dispose (of all) aright, O Ye good beings, male and female, givers of good things; and this I beseech of you, O ye beneficent, mighty, and overwhelming Fravashis of the saints, and this (of thee), O Mithra of the wide pastures, and this of thee, O blest and stately Sraosha; and of thee, O Rashnu the most just, and of thee, O Fire, Ahura Mazda's son; and of thee, O lofty lord, the royal Apam-napat, of the fleet horses; aye, of You all, ye Yazads, bestowers of the better gifts and holy.

And this do ye therefore grant me, O ye holy waters, and ye lands!

And grant me likewise what is still greater than this all, and still better than this all, and more beautiful, and more exceeding precious (and that is, Immortality and Welfare), O Ye Yazads, holy and ruling mightily, and powerful at once, and grant it speedily according to this Gathic (?) word: (Yea), by veritable grace let that be done (?) for us which is most promotive of our weal.

And according to this further word again: Grant me, Thou who art maker of the Kine, the plants, and the waters, Immortality and likewise Weal, O Ahura Mazda, Thou most bounteous Spirit. And grant me these two eternal gifts through Thy Good Mind in the doctrine.

(See Y15.2; Y56.3-4.)

From: here
Ardvi Sura Anahita is the goddess of all the waters and the source of the cosmic ocean. She drives a chariot pulled by four horses: wind, rain, cloud and sleet. She is regarded as the source of life, purifying the seed of all males and the wombs of all females, and cleansing the milk in the breasts of all mothers. Because of her connection with life, warriors in battle prayed to her for survival and victory.

In a vivid description, Ardvi Sura Anahita is compared to a fair maid with a strong body, tall, pure and nobly born of a glorious race, wearing: a mantle fully embroidered with gold, golden earrings and necklace; ever holding the baresma (barsom — bundle of consecrated twigs).

Anahita is worshipped by heroes and anti-heroes alike in the Avesta, who pray to her and offer sacrifices. The important status of this goddess is best seen in the struggle between good and evil and the confrontation between the kings of Iran and the rulers of Turya (Turan), the area to the north-east of Iran.

From: here
Also see:
Wiki (has more info than I quoted)
Avesta: Khorda Avesta -- 5. ABAN YASHT ("Hymn to the Waters"). (another translation)
Was the Persian Goddess Anahita the Pre-Christian Virgin Mother of Mithra? (PDF)
Temple info/photos
Anâhitâ (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies - CAIS)

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