Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Immaculate Mother of Gods

I was doing some research on ancient Iranian gods and goddesses that I realized Anahita (a goddess) was the immaculate (virgin) mother of Mithra (a god).

Doesn't that sound awfully familiar? hhmmm I wonder if the Zoroastrians should have put a copy right on their religious beliefs!

Anahita (or Nahid in Modern Persian), whose name means "unstained" or "immaculate", was an ancient Persian deity. Her cult was strongest in Western Iran, and had extensive parallels with that of the Semitic Near Eastern "Queen of Heaven", deification of the planet Venus, eternal virgin (however many sexual encounters she had), goddess of war, love, and fertility Ishtar, who was probably derived from the Sumerian Inana. Anahita may have been a direct borrowing from the Near East, or may have acquired Near Eastern characteristics from a confrontation between Iranian and Mesopotamian cultures.

Anahita is not present in the earliest parts of the Avesta; her cult would have been alien to the henotheistic spirit of the Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) presented in the Gathas. By the later Avestic period, however, more lenient priests had adapted the goddess to the new religion. The fifth Yasht, the "Hymn to the Waters", praises Anahita as "the wide-expanding and health-giving". "Strong and bright, tall and beautiful of form, who sends down by day and by night a flow of motherly waters as large as the whole of the waters that run along the earth, and who runs powerfully." In Modern Persian Nahid (Anahita) is the name of the planet Venus.

By the Hellenistic era, if not before, Anahita's cult came to be closely associated with that of Mithra. An inscription from c. 200 BC dedicates a Seleucid temple in Western Iran to "Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithras". The Anahita Temple at Kangavar in western Iran is the most important Anahita temple.


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