Zoroastrian Ritual: The Haoma Sacrifice

THE HAOMA SACRIFICE

An excerpt from the second introduction to the French translation of the Avesta by Charles de Harlez, a Belgian Catholic scholar. Translated by Zebulon Ulysses Goertzel.

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  1. The officiating Mobed announces the act he intends to perform and invokes the Yazatas to whom he wishes to offer sacrifice. (See Yasna I, Vispered I.)
  2. The Mobed takes the bareçma, sprinkles it with holy water and places it before him (II); then he repeats the announcement and invocations. (Yasna II, 10 and on, Vispered II.)
  3. The Mobed places down the bareçma and consecrates the offerings, the meat, the milk, and the fruits. Another announcement, more invocations (Yasna III).
  4. To these already blessed objects, the Mobed brings the Hôma and its juice (the parahaoma), as well as wood and perfumes intended for the fire, and he unites them in his consciousness with all good thoughts, words and deeds, which he then offers to the Yazatas, resuming the announcements and invocations (Yasna IV).
  5. Before beginning the sacrifice, the Mobed addresses a hymn of praise to Ahura Mazda and the Yazatas; previously he had implored them to be accepting of sacrifice, and now he exalts their greatness (Yasna V, VI).
  6. Presentation of offerings and enumeration of the Yazatas to whom they are made (VII).
  7. The Mobed tastes the offerings, especially the myazda (cooked meat), and invites the assistants to taste as well. He the blesses the faithful and pronounces words of conjuration against the daevas and their followers (Yasna VIII).

After these preparatory acts, the main sacrifice, which is to Hôma, begins.

The Mobed recites first the hymn to Hôma (Hom-Yasht), a hymn that mentions the origin of this cult, the names of its principal champions, and the merits of the divine juice (Yasna IX).

Next is another prayer of praise to Haoma, during which the priest prepares the juice and pours it into a vase which he places on the arvis stone (Y. X), after which he consumes some of this juice and also gives some to the assisting Mobed (Y. XI). In ancient times, the officiating priest called in the beginning all the assisting priests and faithful of different classes (Visp. III).

Having completed these acts, the Mobed recites different prayers, consisting of a proclamation of fidelity to the sacred law (Yas. XII), a profession of Mazdean faith (Yasna XIII), tributes to Ahura Mazda and the Ameshaçpentas, and also to some other Yazatas and all the beings that the Manthra-Çpenta (Holy Recitation) teaches the veneration of (XIV-XVIII), followed by three hymns that form in a sense the commentaries of the three principal prayers of the Mazdeans (the Ahuna Vairya, the Ashem Vohu and the Yenghe-Hatam) and are intended to exalt their grandeur and merit (XIX-XXI). Between these diverse Hâs are interwoven the Kardes of the Vispered, which function as concluding prayers.

At last the officiating priest terminates the sacrifice by repeating twice the oblation of offerings and the invocation of the Yazatas he has called to the ceremony (XXII-XXIII and XXIV-XXVI). This time, he focuses particularly on honoring the Fravashis.[1]

In conclusion, he implores Ahura Mazda for the extermination of the wicked and the triumph of the righteous (Y. XXVII). Some chapters of the Vispered are also inserted in this part of the Yasna.

All that we have described up to now constitutes the sacrifice of action, oblation and immolation. What follows is the sacrifice of praise. It is composed of the Gathas which, in the complete ceremony, are mixed with the Fargards of the Vendidad as well as the last Karde of the Vispered.

This part is intended for the instruction of the Mazdean, to remind him of the principles and proscriptions of the Zoroastrian doctrine.

The recitation of chapters of the Vendidad alternates with the chanting of the Hâs of the Gatha. The Vendidad starts and finishes, but the last two Fargards only come in the 3rd part or conclusion of the Yasna.[2]

Here is the order followed in the Vendidad-Sade:

Yasna I. 1-32 ; Vispered I. — Yas. I. 33-II, 33. Vispered II.

Yas. II. 34 — XI, 22 ; Visp. III. 1-29.

Yas. XI. 23-25, Visp. III. 30-31. — Yas. XI, suite. — Visp. IV Yas. XI, fin.

Yas. XII-XIV. — Visp. V. — Yas. XV, Visp. VI.

Yas. XVI. XVII. Visp. VII. VIII. Yas. XVIII-XXI, Visp. IX.

Yas. XXII, Visp. X-XI, Yas. XXIII-XXVII, Visp. XII.

Vendidad I-IV. Yas. (Gathas) XXVIII-XXX, Visp. XIII.

Vend. V. VI. Gathas XXXI-XXXIV, Visp. XIV, XV.

Vend. VII. VIII; Visp. XVI, Yas. (Haptanhaiti) XXXV-XLI. Visp. XVII, XVIII.

Vend. IX, X; Yas. (Gathas) XLII-XLV. Visp. XIX.

Vend. XI. XII ; Yas. (Gathas Cpenta-m.) XVI-XLIX, Visp. XX.

Vend. XIII-XIV, Yas. (Vohu. x.) L; Visp. XXI

Vend. XV. XVI. Visp. XXII. XXIII. — Vend. XVII. XVIII. Yas. LI, LII. Visp. XXIV.

Vend. XIX. XX. Yas. LIII. Visp. XXV. Vend XXI. XXII, Yas. LIV-LXX.

The 3rd part of the Yasna (LIII to LXX), with which is mixed Fargards XXI and XXII and the last Karde, forms the conclusion of the ceremony. It is composed of diverse prayers. The first are intended to ask the heavens for obedience and fidelity to the law (LIII-LV); as such, we see here the Yasht of Sraosha, who is the incarnation of the law, the Yazata of submission (LVI). The following prayers implore the heavens for the gifts needed by man (LVII-LXIII).

What comes next relates to the consecration and usage of Zaothra (consecrated water): a prayer to Ardvi-Sura (Yazata of the waters) (LIV); an offering of holy water in honor of the Yazatas (LV-LVII); prayers asking for the pardon of sins and bestowal of blessings.

Finally, as a conclusion after the ceremonies, the Mobed offers acts of worship[3] to Ahura, to the Ameshaçpentas, to the sacred law and its faithful, and he repeats a last hymn of praise for all which is holy and sacred to the Mazdean law (LIX-LXX).

[1] [Ed.: I put this in a footnote] We think to see in this fact a sign of the lateness of the cult of spirits, or at least the small importance it had in the beginning.

[2] [Ed.: I put this in a footnote] We know that they have a special character that distinguishes them from the rest of the Vendidad and leads us to attribute to them a late origin.

[3] [Ed.: This is my own footnote] The Avestan word in question here is Yazamaide, which is not synonymous with the Christian or Islamic meanings of worship.

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