Happy Yalda, Yuletide, Mithrakana
Birth of Mehr/Mithra/Jesus Christ
Details from NASA
Winter Stolstice happens at 11:21 am on 21st Dec 2001 (PST)
Longest night of the year
15 hrs and 54 minutes from Sunset of 21st
Dec to Sunrise of 22nd Dec 2001 (PST))
Original Celebration of Christmas has been due to
birthday of Mithra/Mehr (21st Dec) celebrated in Rome
and other parts of Europe by Mithraists.
Coincidence with Jewish Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) is not just an accident.
Clips For Yalda
By: Parviz Varjavand
Mithrakana, The Reason for the Season ! Mehrgan in Farsi, Mehrajan in Arabic, and Mithrakana in Latin, all mean festivals and celebrations in honor of Mithra, Mithras, or Mehr Izad. These festivals do not necessarily occur at the same time. In present day Arabic usage, Mehrajan means any great celebration. In 1976 there was a great Islamic gathering in London called " Mehrajan Al Allam Al Islamiya", or "The Mehrgan of the Islamic World ! ". This can only remind us of the grandeur that Mehrgan must have had in ancient times so that the conquering Arabs thought that any great festival must be some kind of Mehrajan. The original Mehrgan of the Iranians in honor of Mehr Izad occurred on the autumn equinox and as a counter part of Nowrooz that occurs at the spring equinox. Pre-Islamic Iran observed two calendars, one civil and one religious. While the Zoroastrian reform calendar, or the Fasli, managed to keep the time of NowRooz fixed at the Vernal Equinox, it could not do the same for Mehrgan, and it is celebrated by Zoroastrians a few days after its proper time. The Romans celebrated Mithrakana on December 25th in honor of the birth of Mithra. There are many efforts to divide the field of Mithraic studies into separate spheres of Roman Mithras and Persian Mithra. It has something to do with having to keep the word "Aryan" tainted and illegitimate in order to get even with the bad deeds of Italian Fascism and German Nazism. The Christian placement of the birthday of Jesus Christ on this day is also responsible for not allowing too much information to come out regarding this issue and the water has to be kept muddy. Curiosity can kill the cat and one must be very careful when stepping in this field of study for unfortunately the field is still a minefield and a war zone due to what it may trigger amongst the crazy ultra right white brotherhoods. The difference between celebrating Yalda or Dijoor at winter Solstice and Mithrakana at Dec. 25th. further complicates the issue. Dec.21st. is the birth of Solis Invicti or The Unconquerable Sun ( The Mithra of Mythology ), while Dec. 25th. is the birthday of a prophet Mithra who claimed to be the Sun God reborn in flesh. Festival of Deygan is something other than all the above altogether. So I celebrate Mithrakana on December 25th. I hang a wreathe of green cypress on my door tied together with a big red ribbon. I wear a red pointed cap like Santa and put up a decorated evergreen tree. I give gifts to my loved ones. I kiss them under a mistletoe. I do all this to feast the night in honor of Mithra who is being born of His Virgin Mother Anahita. All the above and many more of Christmas traditions are Mithraic and Iranian in origin. If someone asks you " Do you know what is the reason for the season ?" answer "The birth of Mithra".
Yalda banner from Sepidsiah.com
By Hashem Farhang
December 11, 1997
A chance meeting, some two years ago, of an Iranian scholar who, as fate has it, now lives in Helsinki, Finland, introduced me to an aspect of Iranian history, which to this date is nothing short of a love affair with my ancestors, long forgotten but who deserve to be remembered for what they truly were. For this enlightenment, I am forever indebted to this friend.
At this particular time of the year, I would like to share something with my fellow Iranians that I think speaks volumes of everything Iranian that has been stolen. I feel sure that there are thousands of Iranians who are aware of this, but somehow have not kept reminding others of the facts.
When my children were growing up and were still at home, Christmas was a difficult time for us parents. At school and other gatherings, my children like all other Iranian children, could not quite understand the lack of enthusiasm that we exhibited at the holiday season. I dare say that this indifference in us parents, may have even strengthened the feeling that their parents are "different." They, as children everywhere, never felt different. But their parents? Well you know.
The result of the chance meeting, was that a small amount of research produced a very sweet little historical fact. And had I known this, I would have happily, gladly, and most proudly celebrated this particular holiday season as one of my very own. And I would not have been uncomfortable at Christmas, whether I had a tree or not.
For this reason, I want to share this fact with all Iranians, in Iran or abroad, and to recommend celebrations on December 25th as the birthday of Mitra, which we celebrated as early as 5000 B.C. Zoroastrians after refining and discarding some of the mythical and "heretical" aspects of Mithraism, retained Jashn-e-Mehregan and Yalda or "The Birth."
Iranians celebrated Yalda and decorated an evergreen tree, the sarve. The sarve (Rocket Juniper - what a name! - also known as the cypress tree), being straight, upright and resistant to the cold weather (symbol of hardship) was thought appropriate, to represent Mitra. The younger girls had their "wishes" symbolically wrapped in colorful silk cloth and hung them on the tree with lots of presents for Mitra, to answer their prayers.
As you may know, Pope Leo in the fourth century, after almost destroying the temple of Mitra (A.D. 376), in his campaign against Mitraism -- and in the good old Christian tradition, "If you can't claim it, imitate it" -- proclaimed the 25th of December as Christ's birthday instead of January 6th, a date, by the way, that is still celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Armenians.
Again in the same tradition, Luther, the famous German reformer, in the 18th century (1756, I believe), having learned of the Yalda sarve tree, introduced the Christmas tree to the Germans. As sarves were not much known in Germany, as indeed in most of Europe, the chosen tree became a genus of pine which was abundant in Europe.
So now with or without the children at home, we decorate a small sarve with a star on top and many presents, not necessarily for Mitra, but to my ancestors ant for my children and hopefully soon to my grandchildren. Happy Yalda and greetings of the season to all you Iranians -- no matter what your religion.
Mithra, Mithras Mystery - By D. Jason Cooper
* Mithraism: Jung vs. Freud- By Richard Noll
* The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras - By Mithtraic scholar David Ulansey
* Books on Mithraism
A Fruit Shop at Yalda night, Tehran
By: Dr. A. Jafarey
Solstice, Yule, Yuletide, Yalda
All storing or migrating animals, from the tiniest insect to the largest
mammal, are well acquainted with the changes of seasons. They have their
"calendar." They know the approach of spring, summer, autumn and winter and
prepare to come in open, migrate from a
fixed place to another, begin storing and/or prepare to retire or hibernate
in their winter quarters.
Mankind has been doing the same since its evolution and then the dispersion
into different lands. We have signs of how humans have closely observed the
movements of the sun, the moon and the stars since thousands of years. We
have records of how they knew the solar calendar for their day-to-day living
since cave days. This climate and calendar consciousness has been common to
humans all over the world. They have known the equinoxes and solstices in
Their preparations to adjust to the seasonal changes have evolved into
ceremonies that begin with each change. Obviously, where seasonal changes
have been more marked, the recognition was more accurate and
where it did not matter much, the change brought hardly any marked change in
The people for whom winter meant quite an experience, paid more attention to
the Winter Solstice, the people to whom spring brought new life, welcomed
the Vernal Equinox and the people who depended more on seasonal rains,
hailed the beginning of monsoon as their festive time.
History shows that the people nearer to the North Pole were more concerned
with the Winter Solstice than any other people. The Nordic people,
comprising of the Celts and Germanics, have been paying attention
comparatively to the very longest night more than
others. They are the people for whom the Winter Solstice, the turn to have
more of the sunlight meant much. Samhain of the Celts and Yule of the
Germanics stand for Winter Solstice. For them, it was a "rebirth" of the sun
whose light had shortened to few hours a day. And once an idea gets a
community, imagination wanders and wonders to create a myth around it. Yule
and Yuletide meant the re-death and re-birth of the Sun god. It may be added
here that many scholars of Nordic studies think that "yule" means "wheel"
and that it stands for the "Wheel of the Sun" and the solar cycle.
Santa Claus, with a number of other names, is yet another sign that the
Winter Solstice of Christianity has its roots far into the North of Nordics.
Meanwhile, the people on the Mediterranean were also paying more attention
to the seasonal changes. The sun played a very bright part in their life.
They too noticed the longest night, of course shorter than what the Nordics
went through, that heralded the lengthening of daylight - the "growing" Sun.
Their myth had made the sun "Invictus," unconquerable, yet they imagined it
dwindling only to take birth out of the rock as a full grown strong, young
man, and not a baby.
Time brought the two peoples together and they found certain beliefs common.
That gave the Winter Solstice celebration of the rebirth of the Sun (god) a
new impetus to Europe and the eastern coast of the
Mediterranean - today's Turkey and the Near East.
The two terms "Yule" and "Yuletide - Yule time" traveled to the eastern
Mediterranean. Meanwhile, we know that the First Ecumenical Council held in
Nicea in 325 CE under Emperor Constantine (about 274-337 CE), himself an
overt convert from Solar henotheism to
Christianity, made Christianity the state religion of the Byzantine Empire
and that Yuletide was declared to become the Birthday of Jesus.
One can guess that "Yuletide" connected to the "re-birth" sounded to the
Semitic ears of the Syriac people so similar to "yalda," the word for
"birth." "Yalda" easily replaced "Yuletide" and quite correctly for the
Semitic Christians. It made sense.
Meanwhile, in the Iranian Plateau with its well-marked four seasons, the
Vernal Equinox was the beginning of the New Solar Year - Nowruz. It has all
along been the greatest national festival for the Iranians. But their true
tropical calendar had also the first day/date of
the fourth month Tir on the beginning of the Summer Solstice, Autumnal
Equinox on the first day of the seventh month - Mehr, and the Winter
Solstice on the first day of the ninth month Dey. The four seasons
began/begin on the first day of each quarter in their turn. Winter on the
Plateau also means more of indoor living. The Solstice for them was the
beginning of the 40 very cold days of the winter time. They called it
"Chelle-ye Zemestbn - Winter Forties" compared with
"Chelle-ye Tbbestbn - Summer Forties," the very hot days of summer.
Winter Solstice was also celebrated by the Assyrian and Chaldean Iranians as
"Yalda." We have Iranian astrologists, historians and poets of early 10th
century CE mention "Yalda, 25th December," as the
Birthday of Jesus.
And now for decades we have daily newspapers, radio and television in modern
Iran. Their commentators have dramatized and generalized it so much so that
the entire Iranian nation, knowingly and unknowingly,
celebrates Yalda more as the night of the rebirth of the "Sun" than connect
it with the birth of Jesus who is the "Son" of God for Christians and the
Prophet of God for Muslims!
Hardly any person cares to re-think and realize that the pre-Zarathushtrian
mythology does not speak at all about the births and deaths of its gods and
goddesses - Sun, Moon, Wind, Cloud, Thunder, Rain, Rivers, Waters and a long
list of other visible (daeva/deva)
deities, and Varuna, Mithra , Airyaman and other invisible (ahura/asura)
beings. They have always been there. No birth, no death, no dates!
Again, hardly any person cares to re-think and realize that "Good
Conscience," the Good Religion founded by Zarathushtra Spitbma has no myth
and legend to entertain any person fond of fiction. It speaks of the Fact of
Good Life and how to live it all along perfection, immortality and Ushtb,
The only birthday celebrated in the Avesta is the Birthday of Zarathushtra,
a unique human personality of Good Guidance for all times and climes.
But the Iranians have, like many other nations, finding reasons and excuses
to celebrate as many joyful occasions as they can make it! Yalda is one of
them. Happy Yalda to all!
Ali A. Jafarey
28 Azar 3740 ZRE = 19 December 2002 CE.
PS. This was just a note. I have a long essay in English and Persian on the
subject. I leave it for a more appropriate occasion.
December 24/25, 2005
By GARY LEUPP
Taken from Countrpunch newsletter: http://www.counterpunch.org/leupp12242005.html
The New Testament provides no specific date for the birth of Jesus. If it occurred as the Gospel of Luke tells us, as shepherds were watching over their fields by night, it probably wouldn't have taken place in December. Too cold. So why do most Christians observe December 25 as Jesus' birthday? The most plausible answer is that in ancient Rome, as Christianity was emerging as a new faith, its calendar was influenced by other up-and-coming belief systems bunched together by adherents of traditional Roman religion as "mystery religions."
One of these was the worship of Mithras, an Indo-Aryan deity (the Mitra of Vedic religion, the Mithra of the Persian Avesta) associated with the heavens and light. His cult entered the Roman Empire in the first century BCE and during the formative decades of the Christian movement was a formidable rival to the latter, with temples from Syria to Britain. Given his solar associations, it made sense to believe that he had been born on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice. That falls this year on December 21 but the Romans celebrated the birth feast of Mithras on December 25, ordered to do so by Emperor Aurelian in 274 CE. Christian texts from 325 note that the birthday of Jesus had come to be observed on that same day, and the Roman Catholic Church has in modern times acknowledged that the December 25 Christmas quite likely derived from Mithraic practice.
Mithras, the story went, had been born of a virgin. Virgin-birth stories were a denarius a dozen in the ancient world, so this similarity to the gospel story isn't surprising. But Mithras was also born in very humble circumstances in a cave, and upon his miraculous birth found himself in immediate proximity to the bovine. In his case, not mellow manger beasts but a wild bull. In the Persian version of the myth, this bull had been the first creation of Ahura Mazda, another, greater god of light. (Ahura Mazda, in the history of Persian religion, gradually becomes conceptualized as something like the Judeo-Christian God. But his worship in the Zoroastrian tradition probably predates the Jewish conception of Yahweh as universal deity. Quite likely the Zoroastrian conception of God influenced the Jewish one.)
Mithras serving Ahura Mazda subdued the bull, confining it in the cave, and later slaughteed it. The blood of the slaughtered bull then generated vegetation and all life. This myth surely has something to do with cattle-worship among ancient Aryan peoples, which of course survives to this day in India. In Rome the Mithras cult involved such rituals as drenching the Mithras devotee in bull-blood, and having believers in secret ceremonies consume in the form of bread and wine the flesh and blood of the fabled slaughtered bull. A communion ceremony, if you will. Mithras died and was entombed, but rose from the dead. In some accounts, he does so on the third day.
The Mithras cult was affected by earlier religious traditions. Anyone studying mythologies in historical perspective knows that any particular god might have numerous connections across time and space. The Sumerian fertility goddess Inana becomes the Babylonian Ishtar becomes the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus. Inana grieving for her husband Tammuz, who had died after being gored in the groin by a bull, follows him to the netherworld. There are differing stories but in one she achieves his resurrection; in another, the resurrection of both is accomplished by the god of wisdom Enki, on the third day.
The Romans were very familiar with myths about virgin births, births marked by celestial signs, gods born in humble circumstances, newborn gods barely escaping death. The Mithras cult, arriving from Persia in the first century BCE and popular among the Roman soldiers, was accepted nonchalantly in a society which had its devotees of Isis, who had rescued her brother-husband Osiris from the netherworld; Attis, who immaculately conceived by Nana, was gored by a wild boar but resurrected on March 22 (note the proximity to Easter); and the gods of other mystery religions. When the worship of Jesus Christ came along, spreading from Roman Palestine to Jewish communities throughout the empire, and attracting non-Jews as well, they added it to this exotic collection of devotional options. The early Christians for their part were surely influenced by beliefs and practices of other cults.
Many find insights and truths in myths. Joseph Campbell said that "Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life." Sigmund Freud felt the stories of Oedipus and Elektra illuminated human psychological development. But he regarded religion as a delusion. Those suffering from the delusion see their own myths as the definitive story, and resist any attempt to explain those myths as derivative from or comparable to others. Thus the Church Father Justin Martyr (ca. 100-65) in his Apologia (I, 66) claimed that "wicked devils have imitated" the Christian communion ceremony "in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn." He noted the obvious similarity between Mithraic and Christian practice, and probably realized that the Mithraic rite long preceded the Christian one. But he could not acknowledge Christian borrowing. The Mithraic practice was devilish, while the Christian sent down directly from God and bearing no relation to previous earthly ones was holy.
The Eucharist is one thing. It is mentioned in the gospels and in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where it's referred to as "the Lord's supper." So even if it reflects Mithraic borrowing, it at least has scriptural authority. It's based, the believer knows, on God's Word dictated down through the power of the Holy Spirit into the pen of the inspired scribe. But Christmas celebrated on December 25 is a completely non-Biblical tradition, and realizing that, various Christians over the centuries have actively opposed its observance. The Puritans controlling the English Parliament in the 1650s outlawed it, ordering churches closed and shops open this day. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, a law passed in 1659 stated, "Whoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas and the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting, or any other way upon such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country."
The use of Christmas trees to mark the occasion has often come under attack. What does a pine tree have to do with the birth of Jesus? Nothing, but it has a lot to do with Attis, into whose temple in Rome each March 22 a pine tree would be carried and decorated with flowers and carvings. Its entry into Christian practice probably comes from Celtic and Germanic pagan customs; the Druids in Britain, for example, used evergreens in connection with winter solstice rituals. The Norse god Odin hanged himself on the yew tree named Yggdrasil, pierced by his own spear, to acquire wisdom. There is a legend that in the eighth century St. Boniface, who converted the Germans to Christianity, found pagans worshipping an oak tree sacred to Thor, and when he had it cut down there sprouted in its place a fir tree that he took as a sign from God. But the practice of bringing such trees into the home only began in Germany during the Reformation in the sixteenth century, with encouragement, according to legend from Martin Luther. German Hessians brought the custom to America during the Revolution, but it did not become popular until the nineteenth century and even by 1900, only one in five U.S. families had one. The majority came to do so during the next two decades.
Holly? Used in Druid and Germanic winter solstice rituals. Yule log? More Druidism. Christmas stockings? Well, no paganism there. Legend is St. Nicholas (Santa Claus is from the Dutch Sint Niklaas), bishop of Myrna (in what's now Turkey) in the fourth century and a very kindly man, discretely dropped pouches of coins down the chimney of an impoverished nobleman's home. They miraculously dropped into stockings hung there to dry by his several daughters who needed dowries to marry. The point is, all these customs are the products of an explainable human history.
So too, the beliefs that produce the holiday. The babe born of a virgin, in a stable, heralded by an angelic host, visited by Magi (Persian Zoroastrian astrologers) following a star, targeted for death by an evil king. None of this would have struck the average Roman as entirely original, but the vague familiarity of the stories may have lent them credibility. It appears that the Christian movement, highly diverse in the first few centuries, was able to incorporate narratives and practices from other traditions into itself that gave it a comparative advantage by the early fourth century. In 313 Emperor Constantine legalized and patronized the faith. Soon thereafter an already formidable empire-wide administrative apparatus merged with state power, and heresies and paganisms were outlawed and largely suppressed. But Christianity continued to incorporate new influences such as the above-mentioned Christmas practices. Few Christians (or others) nowadays know of Mithras, but today much of the world unwittingly celebrates his birth.
My wife and kids and I as usual have up a beautiful tree, honoring not only what's allegorically worthwhile in the Jesus story but in the host of innocent paganisms that fell victim to official Christianity. I've always seen the tree, intruding as it does into the inner sanctum of the Christian home, as paganism's quiet revenge. So here's a glass of wine, raised in honor of the hero of the day, transforming eucharistically even as I partake. Happy birthday, Mithras! As the days grow longer and the nights grow shorter, we thank you, Sun God, for the miracle of photosynthesis you performed to bring us this sacred tree. We thank you for the promise of springtime, which we have faith will arrive without fail, as the landscape predictably dies and resurrects year after year. And we thank you for shining century after century over our delusional imaginations.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: email@example.com
Yalda or Yuletide
Just a moment ago the New Moon started. The worshippers of the Moon have
started another month. Their calendar loses time and for all practical purposes,
is wrong. There are the Hindus that celebrate their New Year from the New Moon
in Scorpio, and the Chinese that celebrate their New Year with the New Moon in
Aquarius, of course the Moslems.
But the Iranian Cosmologists, Astronomers, Astrologers, were responsible for creating observatories, and following the change in the amount of light every day. They created a calendar that connected the change in daylight to the seasons. Astrologically they created what is called the Horoscope. In present day Iran the calendar is an Astrological calendar. It has withstood the test of time, and the people of Iran have four celebrations to commemorate the interplay of Light and Darkness. The Yin Yang of time, to make it clear to the Chinese folk who buy all that oil from Iran, is called the Ohrmazd-Ahriman dialectic. These are the Twin Forces that show up in all realms of Life.
Whatever you look at, the Twin Forces are at work. Look at a battery, and you see a plus at one end, and minus at the other end. Look at the sky, and you see the birds flying in pairs. Put your hand on your heart, and you hear boom-boom. Look at the days get shorter in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, and you see the lights in the Christian world get brighter and brighter. Look at any believer in pre-Christian and pre-Islamic Iran, and they are stocking up on the huge party called Yalda, that is has been going for at least ten thousand years. We all will stay up on the longest night of the year to eat, and be merry, to show that the enthusiasm and fire within all of us humans will defeat the darkness of the longest night of the year.
But the main reason for the celebration, is to welcome the first longer day, called Yalda. And yes, it does sound similar to Yuletide, because Iranians are related to the Europeans. Modern scientists have looked at the Y Chromosomes of Iranians, and they have linked us to our distant cousins. And culturally Iranians do assimilate well with our EU and American cousins. We have been very grateful for all the love and support they have given us in these difficult times.
Cyrus the Great followed and understood this form of reasoning, when he entered Babylon and released the Jews. The Magi of Iran knew this reasoning, when they saw that the ancient prophecy in ancient Iranian oracles, about the coming of Jesus Christ. It was the Iranians that gave the honour and respect first to baby Jesus. And finally it was an Iranian priest that saw the coming of the age of Pisces with the Eclipse over Medina. Salman Parsi was the Iranian that created what we now call Islam, but he believed in the Lunar calendar, burning and destroying all the creative forces of Sun worshipping Iranians. Many ancient Fire Temples were snuffed out. We must recall both the dark and the bright side as we approach Yalda.
And it is really wonderful from the first moments that the Sun rises on Yalda day. The Earth is really close to the Sun, as it is whizzing past the Sun at it fastest, and Yalda will be the first Longer day. And so Iranians call it the Birthday of Light, and the Three Wise Men knew, that Jesus Christ is the personification of the birth of Light, when the planets' inclinations were such that it looked as one big bright Star over Bethlehem.
Happy Yalda or Yuletide to all.