The Earth is an Angel

Mazdean angelology 

~Afshin Afshari

"My mother is Spendarmat, the Archangel of the Earth, and my father is Ohrmazd, the Lord of Wisdom." - The profession of faith of the Mazdean believer upon his initiation at the age of fifteen (Pand-Namak Zartusht)

In his book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, the famous French Iranologue Henry Corbin precedes his analysis of Zoroastrian Mazdaism with a reflection on a powerful and captivating image: that of the Earth as an angel of the utmost beauty, an eternal presence perceived and meditated through the ages. As we will see, Mazdean angelology indeed recognized and experienced the presence of a feminineArchangel of the Earth, Spendarmat or Spenta Armaiti.

In this article, I will try to present a coherent albeit succinct gathering of the Mazdean angelology and some related issues based almost entirely on Corbin's work. The next article in the series will try to shed light on the restoration, in the 12th century, of some of the Zoroastrian motifs by Sohrawardi, the great Islamic philosopher of light.

The Mazdean Angelology

Angelology is one of the main characteristics of the Zoroastrian Mazdaism, for which reason the latter can not be reduced to a monolithic type of monotheism; on the other hand it is also clearly distinct from pre-Zoroastrian polytheism.

The spiritual disposition of Mazdean angelology, as preserved by the Avesta, or at least the part of it which has survived, namely the psalms (Gathas) of Zarathustra and the Pahlavi commentaries and traditions, pictures a merciless battle between Ohrmazd (the Avestan Ahura Mazda) and Ahriman (the Avestan Angra Mainyu) with Earth as battlefield. Ohrmazd is always surrounded by six Powers of Light; together they form the divine Heptad of Holy Immortals or Amahraspands (the Avestan Amerta Spenta). The Heptad is divided in two groups: three masculine Archangels on the right of Ohrmazd, three feminine archangels on his left. All seven together created the Earth and the beings by a liturgical act, that is, by celebrating the heavenly Liturgy.

Each of them, by virtue of the Energy that overflows from its being, brings forth the fraction of the beings that represents its personal spiritual character. Ohrmazd brings forth the human being of Light. Of the masculine Archangels, Vohu Manah (Bahman in Persian) is the protector of the animal creation,Arta Vahishta (Urdibihisht in Persian) governs Fire, and Xshathra Vairyu (Shahrivar in Persian) governs the metals. Of the feminine Archangels, Spenta Armaiti (Isfandarmuz in Persian) represents the Earth and the woman of Light, Haarvatat (Khurdad in Persian) rules the aquatic world, and Amertat (Murdad in Persian) is the archangel of the plants. These spiritual relations indicate to human beings precisely how to meet the invisible Powers of Light and cooperate with them for the salvation of creation.

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