Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Rituals: the Padyab-kusti and ablution

The Padyab-kusti is the most frequently performed Mazdayasnian ritual. The kusti is a sacred thread Mazdayasnians are required to wear at all times except when bathing, along with their sacred shirt, the sudre. The kusti symbolizes purity, limitation and self-control. It is made by priestesses (women of the priestly class) and consecrated by priests. The priestess makes it out of wool, and it is long enough to be wrapped around the waist three times. It is carefully made to have exactly 72 threads, which are bundled into 6 strands of 12 threads each, with 3 strands of 24 threads at each end. The 72 threads symbolize the 72 chapters of the Yasna, and any Muslim can see in them a symbol of the 72 virgins who are rewarded to martyrs. The 24 threads of the string-ends symbolize the 24 sections of the original Vispered, the 6 strands of 12 threads symbolize the six duties of the Mazdayasnian, the 12 threads symbolize the twelve months, and the 6 string-ends symbolize the the six Gahambars. The hollow interior of the kusti symbolizes the space between Heaven and Earth, the doubling of the thread in the process of its creation symbolizes the connection between the present world and the Hereafter, and the turning inside-out of the kusti in the process of its creation symbolizes the passage of the soul from this world to the next.

The kusti is to be untied and retied in the morning after getting out of bed, after ablutions, after relieving oneself, before saying prayers, after bathing, and before eating. It is to be tied while facing light, and the tying must always be accompanied by an ablution. The ablution ceremony is as follows. First Kshnaothra Ahurahe Mazdao (I do this for the pleasure of Ahura Mazda) is recited. Then the Ashem Vohu is recited. Then the water, which should preferably be well water in a copper basin, is looked at. The right arm is washed from the elbow to the tip of the fingers, then the left. Then the mouth is cleaned with three gargles, and the water should not be swallows. Then the whole face is cleaned. Then the entire feet, right then left, are washed from the ankle to the toes. Then the hand used to wash the feet is washed again. Women ablute themselves differently, washing first the left and then the right side.

While the ablution is performed, the Kem-na Mazda prayer should be recited. A translation is as follows: “What protector hast thou given unto me, O Mazda! while the hate of the wicked encompasses me? Whom but thy Atar and Vohu Mana, through whose work I keep on the world of righteousness? Reveal therefore to me thy Religion as thy rule!” After this, the Ashem Vohu is recited again, and the kusti is removed.

The tying of the kusti must be done while facing the sun when it is up, or a light or the moon when it is night. When there is no light available, or when it is midday, the Mazdayasnian should face the south. They must also remain stationary for the duration of the ritual, and must not speak to anyone; if they move or speak to someone, they must start over from the beginning.

Before the kusti is tied, a prayer cursing Angra Mainyu and his minions may be recited. The Mazdayasnian bows, then raises the kusti to their forehead horizontally as they mention Ahura Mazda. The kusti is violently drawn downwards and to the left when Angra Mainyu is mentioned, and this is repeated less violently for each of the other violent beings. Then the kusti is held up horizontally again, and the Mazdayasnian repents for their sins. The Mazdayasnian bows again, and raises the kusti to their forehead again, and curses Angra Mainyu again while jerking the kusti to the left. They recite a line ending with the words “ashem vohu”, which serve as a condensed version of the prayer. As they say “ashem”, they place the middle of the kusti on the front of their waist and tie it around the waist twice. The kusti is tied around the waist three times, with a knot in the front and a knot in the back. The symbolism of the knots is to be remembered as they are tied. This symbolism is divided into at least two meanings for each knot. The first half of the first knot (in the front) symbolizes monotheism, and the second half of the knot symbolizes the Mazdayasnian religion, its perfection, and the necessity of believing in it. Each half of the knot is accompanied by a recitation of the Ahura Vairya, during which the symbolism of the tying is thought of until the word shyaothananãm (actions), which is in the middle of the prayer. The second knot is tied while reciting the Ashem Vohu once. Zarathushtra (as) is thought of until the word ushta (happiness), which is the fifth word of the prayer, and for the remainder of the Ashem Vohu the three Goodnesses are thought of. The first half of the second knot symbolizes the Prophethood of Zarathushtra (as) and his perfection, and the second half symbolizes the importance of Good thoughts (a concept also including intentions), Good words, and Good deeds. The second knot is to be completed at the same time as the last word of the Ashem Vohu is recited. In tying these knots, the Mazdayasnian affirms their commitment to these principles. They complete the ritual by bowing and holding the front knot of the kusti with both hands, as they recite a formula verbalizing their commitment, which has been translated as follows: “Come to my aid, O Mazda. Come to my aid, O Mazda. Come to my aid, O Mazda. I profess myself a Mazdayasnian, a Zarathushtrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; which upholds family, which possesses Asha; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zarathushtrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.” Then the Ashem Vohu is repeated, the Mazdayasnian bows again, and the ritual is completed.


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