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Old Iranian Online

Lesson 3: Old Avestan

Scott L. Harvey, Winfred P. Lehmann, and Jonathan Slocum

A stark contrast between good and evil forms the backbone of Zarathustra's teaching, permeating every aspect of existence, both human and divine. The continuous war between Ahuras and Daevas parallels the continuous war between the old religion and the new, the struggle between the followers of the Truth and the followers of the Lie, and every individual's personal dilemma in choosing 'good thoughts, words, and deeds' over bad. Victory turns most poignantly on the last: every right choice on the part of a single individual increases the quantity, strength, and power of good in the entire world; every wrong choice, the magnitude of bad.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Yasna 53, the 'Wedding Hymn', is relatively short but densely packed. It continues the thematic link already seen in Yasna 29 between fertility and prosperity on the one hand, and morality and faith on the other, by likening both the social and physical union of the earthly bride and groom to the 'mythic' union of Wisdom and Truth, an event that lays 'the firm foundation of Good Mind'.

Zarathustra opens the hymn by announcing the conditions that would prove it is his sacrificial practice -- and by extension his doctrine -- that should be taken as the model for all others. Perhaps, too, he is even subtly invoking Ahura Mazda to create these very conditions in exchange for the people's support: "If you make a good existence for me, your sacrificer and voice among men," Zarathustra seems to say, "and for those who follow me as well, many more will adopt the practice you have laid out for humankind." In verse two, the audience is formally introduced to the fathers of the bride and groom, Kavi Vishtaspa and Frahaostra, respectively. In verses three and four, Zarathustra then turns to the matter at hand -- the marriage of Vishtaspa's daughter to Frahaostra's son -- and enunciates the merits thus brought to the community.

Verse five seems to be more generally directed, addressing everyone who is married or soon to be married, or perhaps others who are getting married alongside Spitami and Frahaostra's son. In verse six, Zarathustra waxes didactic, explaining how marriage remains 'the firm foundation of Good Mind' only insomuch as the spousal pair remain faithful to each other and not give in to the superficial pleasures that immoral actions may bring. Prosperity that comes by means of Deceit, by means of the Lie, will ultimately, Zarathustra insists, bring only weakness and death, while in verse seven he promises that fidelity, moral purity, and quite persistent 'exertion' will bear fruit. He clearly puts the brunt of the ethical burden, however, on the wife, for it is only she, he says, whose sexual purity will keep 'the spirit of the Possessor of the Lie' at bay. If all these conditions are maintained, Zarathustra promises in verse eight, the wealth and vitality of the unfaithful will be redirected to Ahura Mazda's flock. The poet closes the hymn with further encouragement to choose right over deceit and a last invocation to Ahura Mazda.

1 - vahisht shtish srv       Zarathushtrah

  • vahisht -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <vohu-> 'good' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- best
  • shtish -- noun; nominative singular feminine <shti-> 'sacrifice' -- sacrifice
  • srv -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative passive <sru> 'give' -- is feted
  • Zarathushtrah -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Zarathushtra-> 'Zarathustra' -- Zarathustra

Spitmahy yez hi       dt yapt

  • Spitmahy -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Spitma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • yez -- conjunction; <yez> 'as, because, when' -- when
  • hi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- for him
  • dt -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist subjunctive active <d-> 'give, put' -- would give
  • yapt -- noun; accusative plural neuter <yapta-> 'riches, bounty, boon, spoils' -- rewards

asht hac ahur       mazd yavi vspi-       hvanghevm

  • asht -- noun; ablative singular neuter <asha-> 'truth' -- truth
  • hac -- adposition; <hac> 'from, out of' -- in accordance with
  • ahur -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • mazd -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- Wise One
  • yavi -- noun; dative singular neuter <yav-> 'duration, period, time of life' -- lifetime
  • vspi- -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vspa-> 'all, every' + postposition; <> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- thoughout
  • hvanghevm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <hvanghaoya-> 'good existence' -- good existence

ya-c hi daben sashken-c       danay vanghuy       uxdh shyaothan-c

  • ya-c -- relative pronoun; dative plural masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • hi -- personal pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- to him
  • daben -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist indicative active <dab> 'fit together' (?) -- determine
  • sashken-c -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist indicative active <sac> 'learn, understand' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and understand
  • danay -- noun; genitive singular feminine <dan-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- of vision
  • vanghuy -- adjective; genitive singular feminine <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • uxdh -- noun; accusative plural neuter <uxdha-> 'word, saying' -- words
  • shyaothan-c -- noun; accusative plural neuter <shyaothana-> 'act, deed' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and deeds

2 - at-c hi scant manangh       uxdhish shyaothanish-c

  • at-c -- particle; <at> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • hi -- personal pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- his
  • scant -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative active <haca-> 'follow, accompany' (?) -- let them pursue
  • manangh -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- with (good) mind
  • uxdhish -- noun; instrumental plural neuter <uxdha-> 'word, saying' -- with words
  • shyaothanish-c -- noun; instrumental plural neuter <shyaothana-> 'act, deed' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and (with) deeds

xshnm mazd vahmi-       fraoret yasns-c

  • xshnm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <xshn-> 'recognition' (?) -- succor
  • mazd -- noun; genitive singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- of the Wise One
  • vahmi- -- noun; dative singular masculine <vahma-> 'glorification, praise' + adverbial postposition; <> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- adulation
  • fraoret -- adverb; <fraoret> 'readily' -- readily
  • yasns-c -- noun; accusative plural masculine <yasna-> 'sacrifice, offering, hymn' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and paeans

kava-c Vshtsp       zarathushtrish Spitm       Ferashaoshtras-c

  • kava-c -- noun; nominative singular masculine <kevi-> 'title: adherent to the daevic religion' (?) + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- Kavi
  • Vshtsp -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Vshtspa-> 'Vishtaspa' -- Vishtaspa
  • zarathushtrish -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <zarathushtri-> 'descendent of Zarathustra' (?) -- son of Zarathustra
  • Spitm -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Spitma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • Ferashaoshtras-c -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Ferashaoshtra-> 'Frashaostra' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and Frashaostra

dngh erezsh path       ym danm ahur       saoshyant dadt

  • dngh -- noun; genitive singular neuter <dah-> 'gift' -- of the gift
  • erezsh -- adjective; accusative plural masculine <erezu-> 'straight, just' -- straight
  • path -- noun; accusative plural masculine <path-> 'path, road' -- paths
  • ym -- relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- whose
  • danm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <dan-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- inspiration
  • ahur -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • saoshyant -- noun; ablative singular masculine <saoshyant-> 'giving power; savior (?)' -- out of (his) power to give
  • dadt -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <d-> 'give, put' -- gives

3 - tm-c t Pourucist       Hacat-aspn

  • tm-c -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and now
  • t -- emphatic particle; <t> '...' -- ...
  • Pourucist -- proper name; vocative singular feminine <Pourucist-> 'Pouruchista' (?) -- Pouruchista
  • Hacat-aspn -- compound proper name; vocative singular feminine <hacat-> '...' + <aspna-> patronymic form of aspa- 'horse' -- descendent of Haecataspa

Spitm yeziv dugedrm       Zarathushtrah

  • Spitm -- proper name; vocative singular feminine <Spitma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • yeziv -- adjective; vocative singular feminine <yazu-> 'youngest' -- youngest
  • dugedrm -- noun; genitive plural feminine <dugedar-> 'daughter' -- of the daughters
  • Zarathushtrah -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Zarathushtra-> 'Zarathustra' -- of Zarathustra

vanghush paitystm manangh       ashahy mazds-c       taiby dt sarem

  • vanghush -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • paitystm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <paityst-> 'firm foundation' -- firm foundation
  • manangh -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind
  • ashahy -- noun; genitive singular neuter <asha-> 'truth' -- of Truth
  • mazds-c -- noun; genitive singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and (of) Wisdom
  • taiby -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine <tvm-> 'you' -- to you
  • dt -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <d-> 'give, put' -- gives
  • sarem -- noun; accusative singular feminine <sar-> 'protection, alliance' -- alliance

ath hm ferashv thw xrathw       spnisht rmatish       hudnvareshv

  • ath -- adverb; <ath> 'so, thus, likewise' -- therefore
  • hm -- preposition; <hm> 'together, with' -- with
  • ferashv -- verb; 2nd person singular s-aorist imperative middle <fras> 'inquire, discuss' -- consult
  • thw -- possessive pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <thwa> 'you' -- your
  • xrathw -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <xrathwa-> 'power, will, insight' -- inner strength
  • spnisht -- adjective; instrumental singular neuter <spenta-> 'beneficent, holy, sacred' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- with the most sacred (deeds)
  • rmatish -- proper name; genitive singular feminine <Armaiti-> name of a goddess = 'righteousness, devotion, piety' -- of Armaiti
  • hudnvareshv -- adverb (?); adjective stem <hudnu-> 'blessed' + verb; 2nd person singular aorist imperative middle <varez-> 'work, perform' -- blessedly engage

4 - tm z v spered nivarn       y fedhri vdt

  • tm -- personal pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- him
  • z -- emphatic particle; <zi> 'for, indeed' -- indeed
  • v -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural <yzhem-> 'you' -- on behalf of (all of) you
  • spered -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <spered-> 'zeal' -- with zeal
  • nivarn -- preposition; <n> '...' + verb; 1st person singular present subjunctive active <var> 'choose' -- wed
  • y -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • fedhri -- noun; dative singular masculine <pitar-> 'father' -- for (her) father
  • vdt -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist subjunctive active <vid> 'see, know, obtain' -- tends to

paithya-c vstryaiby       at-c xvataov

  • paithya-c -- noun; dative singular masculine <paiti-> 'husband, master' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and to (her) husband
  • vstryaiby -- noun; dative plural masculine <vstrya-> 'herdsman; pasture' -- to the herdsman
  • at-c -- particle; <at> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and also
  • xvataov -- adjective; dative singular masculine <xvatu-> 'belonging to the family' -- family possessions

ashun ashavaby       manangh vanghush xvnvat hanghush       mm-bedush

  • ashun -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <ashavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- truthful
  • ashavaby -- noun; dative singular masculine <ashavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- to the truthful one
  • manangh -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind
  • vanghush -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • xvnvat -- noun; stem <hvar-> 'sun' + possessive suffix <-vat-> '...' -- like the sun
  • hanghush -- noun; accusative singular neuter <hanghush-> 'profit, harvest' -- fruition
  • mm-bedush -- compound stem (?); accusative singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' + perfect participle; accusative singular neuter <band-> 'shine' (?) -- illuminating thought

mazd dadt ahur       danayi vanghuyi       yavi vspi-

  • mazd -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- the Wise One
  • dadt -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <d-> 'give, put' -- gives
  • ahur -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • danayi -- noun; dative singular feminine <dan-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- for (the sake of) vision
  • vanghuyi -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • yavi -- noun; dative singular neuter <yav-> 'duration, period, time of life' -- (her) lifetime
  • vspi- -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vspa-> 'all, every' + postposition; <> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- throughout

5 - sxvn vazyamnby       kainiby mraom

  • sxvn -- noun; accusative plural neuter <sxvan-> 'doctrine, teaching, instruction' -- commandments
  • vazyamnby -- present participle middle; dative plural feminine <vaz> 'marry' -- being married
  • kainiby -- noun; dative plural feminine <kainya-> 'maiden, girl' -- to (you) young women
  • mraom -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active <mr> 'speak, say' -- I pronounce

xshmaiby-c vademn       mn-c mz dazdm

  • xshmaiby-c -- personal pronoun; dative plural <yzhem-> 'you' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and to you (men)
  • vademn -- noun; genitive singular masculine <vadman-> (?) 'possessed of speech' -- of one possessed of (good) speech
  • mn-c -- abbreviated noun (?); accusative singular masculine <manah-> 'mind' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- in mind
  • -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter <aym-> 'this, that' -- them
  • mz -- abbreviated noun (?); accusative singular masculine (?) <manah-> 'mind' -- ...
  • dazdm -- verb; 2nd person plural present imperative middle <d-> 'give, put' -- bear

vaddm danbsh       abyas-c ahm       y vanghush manangh

  • vaddm -- verb; 2nd person plural present imperative middle <vid> 'see, know, obtain' -- find for yourselves
  • danbsh -- noun; instrumental plural feminine <dan-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- by means of good vision
  • abyas-c -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural feminine <aym-> 'this, that' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and for them
  • ahm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <anghu-> 'existence, life' -- a life
  • y -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- which
  • vanghush -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • manangh -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind

ash v any ainm       vvnghat tat z hi       hushnem anghat

  • ash -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <asha-> 'truth' -- by means of Truth
  • v -- enclitic personal pronoun; genitive masculine <yzhem-> 'you' -- of you
  • any -- noun; nominative singular masculine <anya-> 'other' -- each
  • ainm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <anya-> 'other' -- the other
  • vvnghat -- verb; 2nd person singular present imperative active desiderative <van> 'surpass, overcome' -- win over
  • tat -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- that
  • z -- emphatic particle; <zi> 'for, indeed' -- for
  • hi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine / feminine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- each one
  • hushnem -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <hushna-> 'profitable' -- fruitful
  • anghat -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- would be

6 - ith haithy nar       ath jnay

  • ith -- adverb; <ith> 'thus' -- in this way
  • -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter <aym-> 'this, that' -- these
  • haithy -- noun; nominative plural masculine <haithya-> 'true, real' -- true
  • nar -- noun; vocative plural masculine <nar-> 'man' -- o men
  • ath -- adverb; <ath> 'so, thus, likewise' -- in that way
  • jnay -- noun; vocative plural feminine <jnaya-> 'woman' -- o wives

drj hac rthem yme       spashuth fridm

  • drj -- noun; ablative singular feminine <druj-> 'deceit' -- deceit
  • hac -- adposition; <hac> 'from, out of' -- out of
  • rthem -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <rthema-> 'adhering to' -- adherent
  • yme -- relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- whom
  • spashuth -- verb; 2nd person plural present indicative active <spas- spashu-> (?) 'perceive' -- all of you see
  • fridm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <fridi-> 'growth, prosperity' -- prosperity

drj yes hish pith tanv par       vay-bereduby dush-xvarethm       nsat xvthrem

  • drj -- noun; ablative singular feminine <druj-> 'deceit' -- of deceit
  • yes -- verbal prefix; <> (conveys sense of reversal with verbs of motion) + verb; 1st person singular present indicative middle <yam> 'offer' -- I take away
  • hish -- contracted form (?); demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' + demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter (?) <aym-> 'this, that' -- his + these
  • pith -- noun; accusative plural neuter <pitha-> 'defense' -- defenses
  • tanv -- noun; genitive singular feminine <tanu-> 'body' -- of (his) person
  • par -- adverb; <par> 'before, beyond, away' -- away
  • vay-bereduby -- compound noun; dative plural masculine <vayu-> 'air, wind' (?) + verb; <beret> 'cry' (?) -- (for them,) sighing
  • dush-xvarethm -- compound noun; accusative singular neuter <dush-> 'bad, evil' + <xvaretha-> 'food' -- poor nourishment
  • nsat -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <ans> 'attain' + 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <nas> 'be lost, disappear' -- results
  • xvthrem -- noun; accusative singular neuter <xvathra-> 'good breathing, ease, comfort' -- breathing easy

dregvdeby djt-aretaiby       anish manahm       ahm merengeduy

  • dregvdeby -- noun; dative plural masculine <dregvant-> 'possessor of the Lie' -- for Advocates of the Lie
  • djt-aretaiby -- compound noun; dative plural masculine <dejit-> 'violation' (?) + noun; <asha-> 'truth' -- for Violators of the Truth
  • anish -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ana-> 'him' -- them
  • -- postposition; <> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- with
  • manahm -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <manahya-> 'spiritual' -- spiritual
  • ahm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <ahu-> 'existence, life, breath' -- life
  • merengeduy -- verb; 2nd person plural present subjunctive middle <mrc> 'destroy' -- you will destroy

7 - at-c v mzhdem anghat       ahy magahy

  • at-c -- particle; <at> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • v -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural masculine <yzhem-> 'you' -- for all of you
  • mzhdem -- noun; accusative singular neuter <mzda-> 'wages, prize' -- fruit
  • anghat -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- will arise
  • ahy -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular masculine <aym-> 'this, that' -- from this
  • magahy -- noun; genitive singular masculine <maga-> 'gift' -- ritual exchange

yavat zhush zrazdisht      bni haxtay

  • yavat -- adverb; <yavat> 'how long, as long as' -- as long as
  • zhush -- noun; accusative singular neuter <zhush-> 'propulsion implement' -- impeller
  • zrazdisht -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <zrazdishta-> 'most believing' -- full of zeal
  • bni -- noun; locative singular masculine <bna-> 'ground, base' -- at the base
  • haxtay -- noun; genitive dual neuter <haxti-> 'thigh' -- of (her) thighs

para-c mraocs aor-c       yathr mainyush dregvat       ansat par

  • para-c -- adverbial prefix; <par> 'before, beyond, away' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and deep
  • mraocs -- present participle active; nominative singular masculine <mru> 'drive, plunge, beat' -- driving
  • aor-c -- adverbial prefix; <aor> 'down' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and down
  • yathr -- adverb; <yathra> 'where, in order to' -- from whence
  • mainyush -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mainyu-> 'spirit' -- spirit
  • dregvat -- present participle active; genitive singular masculine <dregvant-> 'possessor of the Lie' -- of the Possessors of the Lie
  • ansat -- verb; 3rd person singular augmented aorist indicative active <nas> 'be lost, disappear' -- has disappeared
  • par -- adverb; <par> 'before, beyond, away' -- already

ivzayath magm tm       at v vayi anghait       apmem vac

  • ivzayath -- verbal prefix; <vi> 'wide, apart' + verb; 2nd person plural present indicative active <z> 'abandon, relinquish' -- abandon
  • magm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <maga-> 'gift' -- ritual exchange
  • tm -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- this
  • at -- particle; <at> 'then, but, and, so, thus' -- and
  • v -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural masculine <yzhem-> 'you' -- your
  • vayi -- interjection; <vayoi> 'woe' -- woe
  • anghait -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- will be
  • apmem -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <apmem> 'last' -- last
  • vac -- noun; accusative singular neuter <vacah-> 'speech, word' -- word

8 - anish duzhvareshnangh       dafshny hnt

  • anish -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ana-> 'him' -- by them
  • -- preposition; <> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- ...
  • duzhvareshnangh -- noun; nominative plural masculine <duzhvareshnah-> 'wrong-doers' -- wrong-doers
  • dafshny -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <dafshnya-> 'powerless' -- impotent
  • hnt -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative active <ah-> 'be, become' -- let become

zahy-c vspngh       xraosentm up

  • zahy-c -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <zahya-> 'weakened' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and weakened
  • vspngh -- nominative plural masculine <vispa-> 'everyone/thing, all' -- all
  • xraosentm -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative middle <xrush> 'scream, howl' -- let them cry
  • up -- adverbial postposition; <upa> 'near, up on/to, etc.' -- out

huxshathrish jnerm xrnerm-c       rmm-c ish dadt       shyeitiby vzhiby

  • huxshathrish -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <huxshathra-> 'good rule' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and by means of a good rule
  • jnerm -- adjective; genitive plural masculine <jnar-> 'man-killing' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- over the man-killing
  • xrnerm-c -- adjective; genitive plural masculine <xrnar-> 'man-defiling' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and over the man-defiling
  • rmm-c -- noun; accusative plural masculine <rman-> 'peace, tranquility' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- peace
  • ish -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <aym-> 'this, that' -- with them
  • dadt -- verb; 3rd person singular present imperative active <d-> 'give, put' -- let him grant
  • shyeitiby -- present participle active; dative plural feminine <shi> 'dwell' -- settled
  • vzhiby -- noun; dative plural feminine <vizh-> 'clan' -- to the clans

rat sh dvafsh hv       derez mereithyaosh mazisht       moshu-c ast

  • rat -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <ar> 'rise' -- let arise
  • sh -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural masculine <aym-> 'this, that' -- on them
  • dvafsh -- noun; nominative singular masculine <dvafsha-> 'distress, ruin, pain, anguish' -- pain
  • hv -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- that
  • derez -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <derez-> 'shackle' -- shackle
  • mereithyaosh -- noun; genitive singular masculine <merethyu-> 'death' -- of death
  • mazisht -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <maz-> 'large, great' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- greatest
  • moshu-c -- adverb; <moshu> 'soon' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- soon
  • ast -- verb; 3rd person singular present imperative active <ah-> 'be, become' -- and let it be

9 - duzhvarenish vash rst       ti narepsh rajsh

  • duzhvarenish -- noun; instrumental plural masculine <duzhvarena-> 'choosing badly' -- on account of those making bad choices
  • vash -- noun; nominative singular neuter <vashah-> 'poison' -- poison
  • rst -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <rth> 'adhere' -- adheres
  • ti -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- to him
  • narepsh -- noun; nominative singular neuter <narepi-> 'reduction, absence' -- lack
  • rajsh -- noun; nominative singular neuter <raj-> 'darkness' -- darkness

ashas djt-aret       pesh-tanv

  • ashas -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <ashasa-> 'wild' -- wild
  • djt-aret -- compound noun; nominative plural masculine <dejit-> 'violation' (?) + noun; <asha-> 'truth' -- violators of Truth
  • pesh-tanv -- compound noun; nominative plural masculine <pesha-> 'brought to an end' + <tanu-> 'body' -- whose bodies are to be brought to an end

k ashav ahur       y sh jytush hmithyt       vas-itish-c

  • k -- adverb; <ku> 'where' -- where
  • ashav -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <ashavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- truthful
  • ahur -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • y -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • sh -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural masculine <aym-> 'this, that' -- them
  • jytush -- noun; genitive singular masculine <jytu-> 'life' -- of life
  • hmithyt -- compound verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative active <hem> '...' + <mith> 'rob of' -- would rob
  • vas-itish-c -- noun; genitive singular feminine <vaseiti-> 'liberty, prosperity' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and of liberty

tat mazd tav xshathrem       y erezhejyi dh       dregaov vahy

  • tat -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- the
  • mazd -- noun; vocative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- O wise one
  • tav -- personal pronoun; genitive singular <yzhem-> 'you' -- yours
  • xshathrem -- noun; accusative singular neuter <xshathra-> 'power' -- power
  • y -- relative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- by which
  • erezhejyi -- adjective; dative singular masculine <erezheji-> 'living justly' -- living rightly
  • dh -- verb; 2nd person singular aorist subjunctive active <d-> 'give, put' -- you would grant
  • dregaov -- noun; dative singular masculine <drigu-> 'needy, poor' -- (to the) poor (man)
  • vahy -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <vahya-> 'better' -- better

Lesson Text

1 vahisht shtish srv       Zarathushtrah
Spitmahy yez hi       dt yapt
asht hac ahur       mazd yavi vspi-       hvanghevm
ya-c hi daben sashken-c       danay vanghuy       uxdh shyaothan-c
2 at-c hi scant manangh       uxdhish shyaothanish-c
xshnm mazd vahmi-       fraoret yasns-c
kava-c Vshtsp       zarathushtrish Spitm       Ferashaoshtras-c
dngh erezsh path       ym danm ahur       saoshyant dadt

3 tm-c t Pourucist       Hacat-aspn
Spitm yeziv dugedrm       Zarathushtrah
vanghush paitystm manangh       ashahy mazds-c       taiby dt sarem
ath hm ferashv thw xrathw       spnisht rmatish       hudnvareshv

4 tm z v spered nivarn       y fedhri vdt
paithya-c vstryaiby       at-c xvataov
ashun ashavaby       manangh vanghush xvnvat hanghush       mm-bedush
mazd dadt ahur       danayi vanghuyi       yavi vspi-

5 sxvn vazyamnby       kainiby mraom
xshmaiby-c vademn       mn-c mz dazdm
vaddm danbsh       abyas-c ahm       y vanghush manangh
ash v any ainm       vvnghat tat z hi       hushnem anghat

6 ith haithy nar       ath jnay
drj hac rthem yme       spashuth fridm
drj yes hish pith tanv par       vay-bereduby dush-xvarethm       nsat xvthrem
dregvdeby djt-aretaiby       anish manahm       ahm merengeduy

7 at-c v mzhdem anghat       ahy magahy
yavat zhush zrazdisht      bni haxtay
para-c mraocs aor-c       yathr mainyush dregvat       ansat par
ivzayath magm tm       at v vayi anghait       apmem vac

8 anish duzhvareshnangh       dafshny hnt
zahy-c vspngh       xraosentm up
huxshathrish jnerm xrnerm-c       rmm-c ish dadt       shyeitiby vzhiby
rat sh dvafsh hv       derez mereithyaosh mazisht       moshu-c ast

9 duzhvarenish vash rst       ti narepsh rajsh
ashas djt-aret       pesh-tanv
k ashav ahur       y sh jytush hmithyt       vas-itish-c
tat mazd tav xshathrem       y erezhejyi dh       dregaov vahy

Translation

1   The sacrifice of Zarathustra Spitama is feted as the best
    If the Wise Lord would, in accordance with Truth,
          give [these] rewards to him throughout all [his] life:
    A good existence for him and for those who determine and understand
    The words and deeds of [his] good vision.
     
2   And so let Kavi Vishtaspa -- a Spitama, a son of Zarathustra
          -- and Frahaostra readily pursue,
    With good thought, with words and deeds,
    The succor of the Wise One, and paeans for His adulation,
    And [also] the straight path of the gift whose inspiration
          the Lord gives out of [his] power to give.
     
3   And now, Pouruchista Spitami, descendent of Haecataspa,
    Youngest of the daughters of Zarathustra,
    Gives to all of you the alliance of Truth and Wisdom,
          the firm foundation of Good Mind.
    Therefore, consult your inner strength and blessedly engage yourself
          with the most sacred [deeds] of Armaiti.
     
4   For on behalf of all of you, I shall eagerly wed to him [the woman]
          who tends to [her] father
    [Her] husband, the herdsman [of his clan], and [his] family possessions.
    Truthful to the truthful ones, Ahura Mazda gives [to her] the sun-like
          fruition of Good Mind, illuminating [her] thought
    For the sake of good vision, throughout [her] entire life.
     
5   I pronounce to [you] young women being married,
          and [likewise] to you [men],
    The commandments of one possessed of [good?] speech:
          Bear them in mind.
    Through good vision, find for yourselves -- and for them, [your wives] --
          a life which [is] of Good Mind.
    [And] through Truth, let each of you desire to win the other over.
    For that would be fruitful for each one.
     
6   In this way these [things are] true, O men; in that way [they are true], O wives.
    [There is an] adherent of deceit whom all of you see
         [clinging] to the prosperity [arising] out of deceit:
    [But] I take away these defenses of [his] person. For Advocates of the Lie,
          sighing, poor nourishment results,
          [and a life of] 'easy breathing' is lost1
    For Violators of Truth. [Allied] with them, you will destroy for yourselves
          the spiritual life.
     
7   And so, for all of you, [good] fruit will come from this ritual exchange
    As long as the 'impeller,' full of zeal, [keeps] driving, down and deep,
    At the base of [her] two thighs, from whence the spirit
          of the Possessor of the Lie has already disappeared.
    Abandon this ritual exchange and your last word is 'woe'!
     
8   Let the wrong-doers be [made] impotent by these [things],
    And, weakened, let them all cry out.
    And by means of good rule among man-killing and
          man-defiling [Possessors of the Lie?]
    Let one grant peace with them to the settled clans.
    Let that greatest pain arise upon them, [that which comes]
          through the shackle of death. And let it be soon!
     
9   On account of those who choose badly,
          poison adheres to him, [the righteous man],
    [As do] darkness and lack, those violators of Truth
          whose bodies are to be brought to an end.
    Where is the truthful Lord who would rob them of life and liberty?
    The power is yours, O Wise One, by which you would grant a better (life)
          to the poor man living rightly.

Grammar

11. ant-, mant-, and vant-stem Nouns

Nominal stems in ant form a simple adjective and the present participle active; mant and vant mark the possessive adjective. The inflections for the simple and possessive masculine adjectives are nearly the same, taking the weakened stem at in the oblique cases. Participles built on thematic verbal stems maintain the full nominal stem in most instances. Those built on athematic stems decline like other adjectives. Masculine and neuter oblique cases are identical. The feminine shows the same ablaut pattern, but adds to complete the stem and thus declines like long -stem nouns (cf. Section 6.2).

11.1. nt-Stem Nouns, Masculine
Singular:   Participle fshuyant- 'raising cattle'   Adjective berezant- 'great'
Nom.   fshuys   berez
Acc.   *fshuyantem   berezantem
Instr.   *fshuyat   berezat
Dat.   fshuyante   berezaite
Abl.   fshuyantat   berezatat
Gen.   fshuyant   berezat
Loc.   *fshuyainti, fshuyaiti   *berezaiti
Voc.   *fshuy   berez
Dual:        
Nom/Acc/Voc.   fshuyant   bereant
Instr/Dat/Abl.   fshuyanbya   berezanbya
Plural:        
Nom/Voc.   *fshuyant   berezant
Acc.   fshuyant   berezat
Instr.   *fshuyadbsh   bererzadbsh
Dat/Abl.   fshuyanby   berezadby
Gen.   *fshuyantm   berezatm
Loc.   fshuyashu   *berezashu
11.2. nt-Stem Nouns, Neuter
    Participle fshuyant- 'raising cattle'   Adjective berezant- 'great'
Nom/Acc/Voc. sg.   *fshuyat   *berezat
         
Nom/Acc/Voc. sg.   *fshuyn   *berezn
12. Demonstrative Pronouns

In Section 7, the demonstrative pronoun ha- 'this', suppletive ta-, was given. Two other demonstrative pronouns, hvo- 'this' and a- 'that', appear frequently in masculine, feminine, and neuter declensions.

hv-declension   Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
Nom. sg.   hv   unattested   unattested
Acc. sg.   unattested   avat   avm
Instr. sg.   av   unattested   unattested
             
Acc. pl   unattested   unattested   avh
Instr. pl.   avish   unattested   unattested
Gen. pl.   avaism   unattested   unattested
             
             
a-declension            
Nom. sg.   ayam   unattested   unattested
Acc. sg.   im, m   it   imm1
Instr. sg.   an   unattested   ay (?)
Dat. sg.   ahmi   unattested   ahyi
Abl. sg.   ahmt   unattested   unattested
Gen. sg.   ahya   unattested   unattested
Loc. sg.   ahmi   unattested   unattested
             
Dat. du   unattested   unattested   by (?)
Gen. du.   ayh, s   unattested   unattested
             
Acc. pl.   sh   , im1   unattested
Instr. pl.   ish, anish   unattested   abish1
Dat. pl.   aibya   unattested   byas
Gen. pl.   aishm   unattested   unattested
Loc. pl.   unattested   unattested   hu
13. The Aorist Tense

As already noted in Section 4, a verb's tense is indicated by the formation of its stem. In addition to the present stems encountered there, Avestan also includes a category of aorist stems that, like those of the present system, are constructed in various ways. Seven forms of the aorist stem occur: root, reduplicated, thematic, and four forms of sigmatic. The root aorist adds its termination directly to the root. The reduplicated aorist adds the first vowel of its root, and any consonant immediately preceding that vowel, in front of the zero-grade of that root. E.g., vaoc- < vac, showing the reduplicated syllable va before the zero-grade uc-. Thematic aorists, like thematic presents, add the theme-vowel -a- to the root, which is usually in middle grade. Sigmatic aorists add -h/sh-, -ha/sa-, -ih/ish-, or -hih/shish-, with aspirate and sibilant variation according to environment.

The basic structure of an aorist verb is: augment + stem + termination, with the short vowel a- filling the space of the augment. In practice, however, the augment is rare, and is seen only in the indicative mood. This has led to a further distinction between the aorist 'injunctive', which exhibits no augment, and the aorist 'indicative', which has the full formation. Both have indicative sense, but there is a distinction between them. The aorist indicative denotes a definitely past sense, as in the form ansat in verse 7 of the passage above:

    ... yathr mainyush dregvat ansat par
    ... [the place] where the spirit of the Deceitful One disappeared.

Here, the Deceitful One's disappearing has transpired: the action is fully past. The injunctive, by contrast, more often denotes a more general sense with respect to time -- i.e., something that is just always generally so, as in verse 6:

    ... nsat xvathrm / dregvdeby
    ... [a life of] 'easy breathing' is lost / For Violators of Truth.

Here, given the previously established conditions, the loss of 'easy breathing' necessarily results and therefore the injunctive form is used. It is important to note, however, that though this distinction always holds for the aorist indicative, which only gives a fully past sense, Zarathustra used the injunctive in both ways. For this reason, the distinction has been analyzed in these lessons as one between the 'aorist indicative' and the 'augmented aorist indicative'. Accordingly, the 'aorist indicative' has been translated to convey either a general or a past tense, according to context, while the 'augmented aorist indicative' always indicates only past tense.

Root Aorist Paradigm: d 'give'

Since all aorist forms are similar, only the root aorist paradigm will be presented here.

Injunctive-Indicative   Active   Middle
2 sg.   dh   dha
3 sg.   dt   dta
         
1 du.   unattested   dvadi
         
1 pl.   dm   *di
2 pl.   dt   *dsha
3 pl.   dn   data
         
Imperative        
2 sg.   ddi, didi   dhva
3 sg.   dtu   dtm
         
2 pl.   dta   *dadm
         
Subjunctive        
1 sg.   *d, *dni   *dani
2 sg.   dhi   dhai
3 sg.   dt, dti   *dtai
         
1 pl.   dma   unattested
2 pl.   unattested   ddvai
3 pl.   dn   dntai
         
Optative        
1 sg.   dym   dya
2 sg.   unattested   dsha
3 sg.   dyt, dayt   *dta
         
1 pl.   zima (YA)   *dmaide
3 pl.   unattested   *dyur
14. The Present Participle

A participle is a verbal noun, a verb stem that takes a nominal ending. It functions syntactically as either an adjective to modify a noun, or as a substantive to replace it. Like verbs, participles display an active, middle, or passive voice and a past, present, or future tense.

An example of the present participle in English can be illustrated by the word 'running'. In each of the sentences, "The water is running" and "The running water is cold," the verb 'run' is an adjective describing 'water'. In Avestan, the word may also be used as the subject of the sentence to describe someone or something that is running, as in "The running (one) is passing by," but this is unusual in English. Keeping in mind that a participle is adjectival, however, the common slang "The big, the bad, and the ugly..." may illustrate the same principle. Though 'big', 'bad', and 'ugly' are not participles, they are adjectives standing in for the nouns they modify (e.g., 'The big men', 'the bad men', etc.), a usage that participles commonly have in Avestan.

The present active participle is formed by adding the ending -ant to a present verbal stem; the paradigm is given above in Section 12. As noted there, those constructed on thematic verbal stems have less ablaut in declension. The middle participle adds the ending -amna to the thematic stem, or -na to the athematic. Both decline as short-a nouns in the masculine or neuter, and long- nouns in the feminine.

15. Conjunctions, Clitics, and a Note on Puns
15.1. Conjunctions, Particles, Interjections, and Clitics

Avestan uses many conjunctions and particles, and occassionally employs interjections. The most common conjunctions are ca 'and', uta 'and', ca ca 'both ... and', v 'or', and tu 'but' (sometimes with emphatic sense). Like their Sanskrit conterparts, they are enclitic. Of the three, ca is the most variable in meaning: it can sometimes be translated as 'or', as 'but', or even as an emphatic particle.

Three types of particles -- negative, emphatic, and indefinite -- predominate. The negative particles are three: nit 'no, not', nad 'and not', and m, a prohibitive particle employed with a verb in the imperative mood. The emphatic particles include b, usually left untranslated, vai 'verily, indeed', and zi 'for, indeed'. The particles cit and cana added to an interrogative pronoun, and cithit added to a preposition, produce an indefinite sense; e.g., kah 'who, what' beside kas-cit 'someone, any one' or pair 'around, toward, away from' next to pair-cithit 'sometime/place before.'

Two interjections occur: avai and vayai. Their translations vary, depending on context.

15.2. Puns

The passage selected for this lesson includes an unusual syntactic construction. In verse 6, line 3, Zarathustra employs the verb nasat as two words conveyed by one. The third person singular reduplicated aorist of ans and the third person singular root aorist of nas, both active, are both intended. The objects of the respective verbs flank their 'collapsed' appearance, dushxvarethem 'spoiled food' to be taken with ans 'result', and xvathrem 'easy breathing' with nas 'be lost'.

    drj yes hish pith tanv par
    vay-bereduby dush-xvarethm       nsat xvathrm
    For Advocates of the Lie, sighing, poor nourishment attains,
    [and an existence of] 'breathing easy' is lost.

With the further alliteration and phonetic play between xvarethem and xvathrem, the phrase is a prime illustration of Zarathustra's remarkable poetic skill and innovation.

Footnote

1   The play on the two verbs sharing one aoristic form nashat 'attain' and 'is lost' is unfortunately itself lost in its English rendition, but the reader should try to imagine the poetic elegance of the phrase.