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Women’s Day in Persia

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The traditional Iranian Women’s Day, which coincides with Feb. 23, is aimed at appreciating the status of women and mothers since ancient times.

Feb. 23 falls in the Iranian month of Esfand and is known as Esfand Rooz or Esfandegan.

In ancient times, Esfand was glorified for the fertility of land and the fifth day of this month which falls on 23rd February is known as Women’s Admiration Day in ancient Persian culture.

Origin

Esfand (Sepand, Sepanj, Espanj) is also the name of a common herb found in Iran.

According to Persian mythology, the lord of wisdom created six immortals known as “Amesha Spenta” to protect His creations.

The first three were male deities: Khashtra (Shahrivar), the protector of sky, and Asha-Vahishta (Ordibehesht) and Vahu Manah (Bahman) who protected fire and animals. The other three were female deities: Haurvatat (Khordad) to protect water, Spenta Armaiti (Esfand), the protector of mother earth, and Ameratat (Amordad) who took care of plant life. These six deities, which represent the names of six months in the current Iranian calendar, are emanations of the one God, Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism, who are sometimes personified and sometimes considered as abstract concepts.

Meaning

Of the six, Spenta Armaiti is perhaps the most difficult to translate and explain. The term Spenta is difficult to translate into English. It means an increase or growth but with the connotations of goodness, holiness and benevolence.

Scholars of Avesta (Zoroastrian’s holy book) have rendered the name as divine wisdom, devotion, piety, kindness, right-mindedness, peace and love, or even service. It has also been translated to mean progressive serenity, and universal bountiful peace.

Esfand means holy and Armaiti equals devotion and unconditional love. She is also the guardian of herdsmen and farmers. She is known to the Greeks as “Demeter” and to Armenians as “Spendaramet“.

As a result, Spenta Armaiti (Esfand) means earth, especially fertile earth or mother earth. Since according to ancient beliefs, the earth was identified as a fertile and breeding phenomenon which was the source of every creature, it was designated as female. Some beautiful and spiritual phrases such as motherland, for example, originate from this context.

Manifestation

Armaiti (beneficent devotion), which is one of the Amesha Spentas, is the personification of holy devotion, the daughter of the creator and represents righteous obedience.

She is associated with the earth and in that capacity she is the goddess of fertility and the dead, who are buried in the earth.

The fifth day of every month and the 12th month in the Iranian calendar are dedicated to her. Her eternal opponent is the arch-demon of discontent, Nanghaithya.

Armaiti is manifested widely and in several forms in Iranian culture and literature.

Zoroastrians ask her for a fair life, for the fertility of land, pastures and animals, and for the rule of a fair governor.

Avesta is full of words in appreciation and glorification of the earth and women.

Status of Women

It is important to mention here that three words of Armaiti, earth, and woman are ancient Aryan or Indo-European words, which are commonly used in Indo-European languages with little difference in form.

In ancient Persian tales, the term ’woman’ is linked to life and breeding, while the term ’man’ means death and mortality. That is why Persian ancestors believed that the eternity of life is due to the existence of women who give birth to children and this allows the circle of life to continue forever. They believed that women are the keeper of generations of human beings. This belief had no relation with the matriarchal system.

According to ancient inscriptions, in some parts of the Persian Empire such as the present-day city of Izeh in Khuzestan province, the status of women was so high that even when patriarchy prevailed, the name of mother was used for the identification of a child instead of that of the father, especially during the Elamite period.

The main reason for choosing the name of Esfand for the last month of winter in Persian calendar is that it denoted the rebirth of earth and the return of its fertility.

For the same reason, Persians named this month Esfand and designated the 5th day of this month as “Women’s Day”. This day was marked to glorify women during ancient times in Iran, in which men held special ceremonies to appreciate the status and role of women in family and society, and wives were given gifts.

Unfortunately, little is known about the details of this ceremony, but most probably, it was the most ancient celebration of Women’s Day in the history of the world.

Source: http://www.iran-daily.com/

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