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“O Ormuzd, pardon the repentant sinner. As I, when a man irritates me by his thoughts, words, or actions, carried away, or not carried away, by his passions, if he humbles himself before me, and addresses to me his prayer, I become his friend."
“ Grant, O Ormuzd, that my good works may exceed my sins. Give me a part in all good actions and all holy words.”
pray to Mithras, who has a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes; who never sleeps, who is always watchful and attentive, who renders barren lands fertile."
“Thou Fire, son of Ormuzd, brilliant and beneficent, given by Ormuzd, be favourable to me.”
"I pray to the New Moon, holy, pure, and great. I pray to the Full Moon, holy, pure, and great. I gaze at the Moon which is on high, I honour the light of the Moon. The Moon is a blessed Spirit created by Ormuzd, to bestow light and glory on the earth.”
“I invoke the Source of Waters, holy, pure, and great, coming from the throne of Ormuzd, from the high mountain, holy, pure, and great."
“I invoke the sweet Earth. I invoke the Mountains, abode of happiness, given by Ormuzd, holy, pure, and great."
The Word spoken by Ormuzd, through whose agency creation was produced, was called Honover, and invoked as the Great Primal Spirit.
In all their prayers and religious ceremonies, it was customary to turn towards the sun. When they invoked the stars, the elements, or any visible objects, they affirmed that their worship was not directed to them, but to the Spirits residing in them, whom they were bound to revere as the benevolent creations of Ormuzd. In his name all their prayers and ceremonies began and ended. Of all places on earth, mountains were considered most holy. Rivers were sacred, and they never allowed them to be polluted by blood, or anything unclean. The Euphrates, which annually overflows and fertilizes the country, they regarded with especial reverence, and paid homage to it, as Egyptians did to the Nile. All good men, useful animals, salutary plants, and luminous objects, belonged to Ormuzd. All wicked, ferocious, poisonous things, and all dark places, belonged to Arimanes. They expressed their detestation of this Evil One in all manner of ways. When they had occasion to write his name, they always wrote it backward, and turned the letters upside down. They considered a dragon the representative of him. They sometimes sacrificed to him and his Spirits, in order to pacify their rage, avert dangers, or procure injury to enemies; but it was not lawful to eat the meat of animals thus sacri. ficed. When Xerxes prayed that it might be put into the minds of nations at enmity with Persia to drive away their best and bravest men, as the Athenians had exiled Themistocles, he addressed the prayer to Arimanes, not to Ormuzd. For oblations to Evil Spirits, they pounded plants that grew in deeply-shaded places, mixed them with the blood of a wolf, and threw it into some dark hole where the sun never shone.
Persian priests were called Magi. At first they were few in number, but afterward became numerous and powerful. The Archimagus, or High Priest, was revered as the visible head of the church, and the lawful successor of Zoroaster. He resided at Balch, which was regarded as a holy city. They said the identical fire from heaven, brought by Zoroaster himself from the flaming mountain, where he received the sacred Book of Laws, was there preserved in the temple. Grand solemnities and religious festivals were celebrated there, and it was deemed an indispensable duty for every man to make a pilgrimage thither at least once in his life. Each district had a superintending priest, who ranked next to the High Priest. A third class performed the common offices of worship in towns and villages. A large tract of the most fertile land was appropriated to the Magi; and citizens were required to give a tenth of their income for their support, and the expenses attending religious ceremonies. Kings could not
enter upon the duties of their royal office till they had been enrolled among the Magi, and instructed in their mysteries. They had sole charge of the public records, and the education of youth. No other persons were allowed to explain the Sacred Books, or perform religious ceremonies. A class of them were Prophets. When they prophesied, they said the air was full of visions, which infused themselves subtly into their eyes. It was believed they could predict weather, and foretell future events from the aspect of the stars; that, by certain ceremonies and holy words, they could cast Evil Spirits out of the diseased; and recite spells that would impart supernatural virtue to stones, plants, and scraps of writing. In the later times, kings sometimes caused them to be put to death for misinterpreting dreams and uttering false prophecies.
The Magi were required to be of good moral character, in sound health, and free from any personal deformity. Hindoo and Egyptian priests considered it necessary, in order to preserve their sanctity, never to come in contact with blood, except that of animals slain for sacrifice; but Persian priests were not considered polluted by killing anything, except a human being, or a dog. In primitive times they were very simple in their habits. They dressed in plain white robes
, and wore no ornaments. They slept on the ground, and lived on bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. Afterward, when people brought animals to be sacrificed to the gods, the priests were accustomed to feast upon the flesh; it being their doctrine that the soul of the animal was the part most appropriate to deities. It was unlawful to touch the sacrifice, or approach the altar, till they had poured upon it consecrated liquors, and repeated prescribed words.
They worshipped Fire with peculiar reverence, because they thought it represented, though imperfectly, the original fire from Ormuzd, the vital principle of life and motion; also, because it was the most purifying of all things. They never allowed dead bodies to be burned; that being considered a pollution of the sacred element. A fire was kept continually burning on all their altars. It was originally kindled in the temple at Balch, at the sacred flame brought from the burning mountain by Zoroaster himself; and it was never after allowed to go out. The Magi watched it alternately, night and day. They fed it with fragrant sandal-wood, first stripped of its bark, to ascertain that it was perfectly clean and free from insects. Sometimes they threw in garlands as an offering, and if the fire languished, they poured on consecrated aromatic oil, accompanying the ceremony with prayers and music of the double flute. When the king went forth to battle, the Magi carried a portion of the Sacred Fire, on silver censers, in front of the army. Whoever cast any dirt into it, or blowed upon it with his breath, was put to death, because breath, coming from the interior of the body, was deemed impure.
They consecrated vegetables, fruit and flowers, and offered them in very clean places, as oblations to the souls of departed ancestors. Animals for sacrifice were crowned with garlands. To Mithras they sacrificed beautiful white horses, richly caparisoned, because that free and vigorous animal was considered an appropriate emblem of the sun. They buried human beings alive, as an offering to a deity whom they supposed to exist under the earth. Herodotus speaks of nine youths and nine virgins thus sacrificed, and he says it was a common custom in Persia.
They had religious festivals of gratitude for spring time and harvest. Every year, during one of these festivals, kings and princes set aside their pomp and mingled freely with the humblest of their subjects. They received all petitions, and inquired personally into the grievances of the poor. Before they sat down to feast, the monarch was accustomed to say: "From your labours we receive subsistence, and you are protected by our vigilance. Since, therefore, we are mutually necessary to each other, let us live together like brothers, in concord and love." Individuals frequently employed the priests to offer sacrifices or oblations, on birth-days, or the anniversaries of deceased ancestors, or other occasions connected with their own interests or affections, but no man was allowed to sacrifice or pray for himself, or his own family alone; he was required to include the whole nation in his supplications. One of their festivals was called The Destruction of Evils, because during its observance the Magi destroyed ferocious beasts, venomous reptiles, and poisonous plants; reciting, meanwhile, many formulas to expel Evil Spirits.
Their most splendid ceremonials were in honor of Mithras, called the Mediator. They kept his birth-day, with many rejoicings, on the twenty-fifth of December, when the sun perceptibly begins to return northward, after his long winter journey; and they had another festival at the vernal equinox. Perhaps no religious festival was ever more splendid than the annual Salutation of Mithras, during which forty days were set apart for thanksgiving and sacrifice. The procession to salute the god formed long before the rising of the sun. The High Priest was followed by a long train of the Magi, in spotless white robes, chanting hymns, and carrying the Sacred Fire on silver censers. Then came three hundred and sixty-five youths in scarlet, to represent the days of the year, and the colour of fire. These were followed by the Chariot of the Sun, empty, decorated with garlands, and drawn by superb white horses harnessed with pure gold. Then came a white horse of magnificent size, his forehead blazing with gems, in honour of Mithras. Close behind him rode the king, in a chariot of ivory inlaid with gold, followed by his royal kindred in embroidered garments, and a long train of nobles riding on camels richly caparisoned. This gorgeous retinue, facing the east, slowly ascended Mount Orontes. Arrived at the summit, the High Priest assumed his tiara wreathed with myrtle, and hailed the first rays of the rising sun with incense and prayer.
The other Magi gradually joined him in singing hymns to Ormuzd, the source of all blessing, by whom the radiant Mithras had been sent to gladden the earth and preserve the principle of life. Finally, they all joined in one universal