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Of Temples, Towers, Altars, and Fire Worship: The Ritual Landscape at Persepolis

Of Temples, Towers, Altars, and Fire Worship: The Ritual Landscape at Persepolis

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Join Mark B. Garrison, Alice Pratt Brown Distinguished Professor of Art History, Trinity University, as he discusses the role of fire in Persian religions, including Zoroastrianism. Using glyphs and reliefs from Persepolis, he outlines the role of fire rituals in the ancient world.

This program was made possible by the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

Fire as a Symbol of Everything Sacred

In ancient times, when Zoroastrians built no temples, possessed no religious imagery and had no books on the teachings of the faith, light served as the focus of their religious practices. Fire (athra / atarsh / atash) was a means of producing light.

When using a flame, a source of light, as the focus while contemplating the spiritual aspects of one's life, the symbolisms carried by the fire & the light it produced, conveyed some of the essential principles of the faith. For instance, carrying a fire into a dark place dispels the darkness giving us the metaphor of the light of wisdom banishing the darkness of ignorance. From wisdom are derived the principles of justice and order. The temporal fire was also the symbol of the cosmic fire of creation, a fire that continues to pervade every element of creation. In this sense, fire takes on a much broader meaning than a flame, a meaning we discuss below. Light and fire were also essential elements for sustaining life.

This page is intended to be read in conjunction with other pages that discuss the role of fire in Zoroastrianism (see related reading above).

Zoroastrianism: History, Beliefs, and Practices

Originally printed in the January - February 2003 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Contractor, Dinshaw and Hutoxy. "Zoroastrianism: History, Beliefs, and Practices." Quest 91.1 (JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2003):4-9.

By Dinshaw and Hutoxy Contractor

Zoroastrianism, although the smallest of the major religions of the world in the number of its adherents, is historically one of the most important. Its roots are in the proto-Indo-European spirituality that also produced the religions of India. It was the first of the world's religions to be founded by an inspired prophetic reformer. It was influential on Mahayana Buddhism and especially on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To the latter three, Zoroastrianism bequeathed such concepts as a cosmic struggle between right and wrong, the primacy of ethical choice in human life, monotheism, a celestial hierarchy of spiritual beings (angels, archangels) that mediate between God and humanity, a judgment for each individual after death, the coming of a Messiah at the end of this creation, and an apocalypse culminating in the final triumph of Good at the end of the historical cycle. —Editor

ZOROASTER WAS THE PERSIAN PROPHET on whose teachings the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is based.The name by which he is commonly known in the West is from the Greek form of his original name,Zarathushtra, which means "Shining Light."

Date of Zoroaster

Scholars differ considerably about the date of Zoroaster's birth. Greek sources place Zoroaster at 6000 years before the death of Plato, that is, about 6350 B.C. Archeological remains in Turfan, China, state that Zoroaster was born "2715 years after the Great Storm," placing his birth at 1767 B.C. The latest dates for his life come from Persian writings that place him 258 years before Alexander, that is, about 600 years B.C. Many other scholars place Zoroaster's birth between 1500 and 1200 B.C.

According to Annie Besant in her lectures on Four Great Religions, the Esoteric Tradition dates the beginning of Zoroastrian teachings far earlier than any of those dates. That Tradition is based on two kinds of records. First, the Great Brotherhood has preserved the ancient writings, stored in underground temples and libraries. There are people today and have been those in the past who have been permitted to set eyes on these ancient writings. Second, there are the imperishable records of the Akasha itself.

According to these records, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are the two oldest religions of our modern humanity. The Iranians, in their first migration into Iran, were led by the great teacher Zoroaster, who belonged to the same mighty Brotherhood as Manu of the Indic tradition and was a high Initiate of the same Great Lodge, taught by the same primordial Teachers, called the Sons of the Fire. From this great teacher came down a line of prophets, who superintended the early development of the Iranian peoples and all of whom bore the name Zoroaster. The Zoroaster the Greeks refer to may have been the seventh Zoroaster in this line of prophets.

Birthplace of Zoroaster

Scholars are equally divergent about the birthplace of Zoroaster. They suggest such locations aseastern Iran, Azerbaijan (south of the Caspian Sea), Balkh (the capital of Bactria, in present dayAfghanistan), Chorasmia and Sogdia (in present-day Tajikhistan), or near the Aral Sea (in present-day Khazakhstan).

Achaemenian Empire

Zoroastrianism flourished during three great Persian Empires. The first was the Achaemenian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great (ca. 585 -529 B.C.). He established an empire that extended from Asia Minor in the west to India in the east and from Armenia in the north to Egypt in the south. Cyrus showed great respect for the nations he had conquered. He allowed them to govern themselves and to follow their own religious beliefs. When he invaded Babylon, he set the Jewish captives free to return to their country, Judea, and even provided them with resources to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, which had been razed by the Babylonians. For these deeds, Cyrus is mentioned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 45.1 -3) as a savior and as "the Anointed One."

The Achaemenians had constant conflict with the Greeks in the west of their empire. Darius, a successor of Cyrus, dispatched 600 ships and a large land force to capture Athens. The Achaemenians were on the Plain of Marathon, and their ships were to sneak towards Athens and surprise the city. When the Greeks heard of the Persians' plan, they sent one of their runners, Phillippe, to Athens to warn the citizens there. The distance from Marathon to Athens was 26 miles and this run has been immortalized in the Marathon races held all over the world. The Persians had to withdraw from that battle.

The Achaemenian Empire came to a close with the rise of Alexander, who in 334 B.C. conquered Persia, plundered the treasury, and burned the libraries in Persepolis. Many of the priests were killed, and these priests were considered to be the living libraries of the religion, since they had committed to memory most of the sacred texts. Alexander is thought of as "the Great" by the Greeks, Egyptians, and others but is known as "the Accursed" by the Persians. Alexander died young, and the Greek-based Seleucid Empire, which succeeded him, lasted a relatively short time.

Parthian Empire

About 250 B.C., the Parthian tribe from northeast Iran overthrew the Greeks and established an empire that was just as extensive as the Achaemenian Empire. The Parthians were also Zoroastrians and were also tolerant of the religious beliefs of conquered lands. During the approximately five hundred years of the Parthian Empire, there were continuous battles with the Romans. The Roman Empire extended to Scotland in the west. However, in the east, they were stopped by the Parthians. The Romans never took to Zoroastrianism but instead practiced Mithraism, in which the deities Mithra and Anahita were worshipped. The Romans established Mithraic temples throughout the western part of their empire, many of which are still standing today. During the five hundred years of the Parthian Empire, Zoroastrianism was quite unregulated, and hence differing forms of the religion developed.

Sasanian Empire

To counteract the resulting chaotic state of the religion, the Sasanians (who were also Zoroastrians) rose up against the Parthians and overthrew them in 225 A.D. The Sasanians wanted to unify Zoroastrianism and to establish rules about what Zoroastrianism was and what it was not. A High Priest was established, who was next to the King in authority. Zoroastrianism was made the state religion of the Empire, and conversions were actively made to counteract the proselytizing zeal of Christians. This missionary activity shows that Zoroastrianism was really a universal religion and not an ethnic religion, limited to one people.

Later History

The Sasanian Empire lasted till 641 A.D., when the Arabs invaded Persia and established Islam in the land. The new regime gave the local population three choices: conversion to Islam, payment of a heavy tax imposed on nonbelievers (called the Jizya tax), or death. The Arabs mistreated the Zoroastrians in many ways and made life very difficult for those who chose not to convert. Consequently, in 936 A.D., a group of Zoroastrians from the town of Sanjan in the Khorasan Province of Iran made their way south to the port of Hormuz on the Persian Gulf, from where they set sail for India. They spent nineteen years on the island of Div before making final landfall on the western coast of Gujerat.

These immigrants to India became known as the Parsis (that is, "those from the Persian province of Pars"). The Parsis prospered in Gujerat and later on began to move out to other parts of India. They particularly excelled and prospered when the British established themselves in India.

Meanwhile, the Zoroastrians left behind in Iran continued to suffer under very adverse conditions. When the prosperous Parsis in India heard of the woeful plight of their coreligionists, they dispatched emissaries to Iran, notably Maneckji Hataria in 1854. He spent many years in Iran, rebuilding educational and religious institutions and helping the Zoroastrian community there to regain its social strength. In 1882, he was successful in persuading the Islamic Qajar King to abolish the burden of the Jizya tax.

Today, the Zoroastrian community in Iran is doing well and has an unusually high number of successful people. Within the past few decades, there has been an emigration of Zoroastrians from Iran and India to the Western world. These two communities, the Iranian and Indian, are now united, go to the same fire temples, intermarry, and prosper in harmony.

In Zoroastrian cosmology, the head of the manifested universe is Ahura Mazda, the "Wise Lord." He is the universal and pervasive source and fountain of all life. But behind or beyond Ahura Mazda is Zarvan Akarana, Boundless Time and Boundless Space, the unmanifested absolute from which the manifested Logos, Ahura Mazda, came forth.

Ahura Mazda is depicted in the Zoroastrian scriptures as a kind of trinity: "Praise to thee, Ahura Mazda, threefold before other creations." From Ahura Mazda came a duality: the twin spirits of Spenta Mainyu (the Holy or Bountiful Spirit) and Angra Mainyu (the Destructive or Opposing Spirit). The twin spirits are popularly thought of as good and evil, but rather they are two principles that represent all the opposites of life. In her lecture on "Zoroastrianism," Annie Besant has this to say of them:

Good and evil may be said to only come into existence when man in his evolution develops the power of knowledge and of choice the original duality is not of good and evil, but is of spirit and matter, of reality and non-reality, of light and darkness, of construction and destruction, the two poles between which the universe is woven and without which no universe can be. . . . There are two names again that give us the clue to the secret, the "increaser" and the "destroyer," the one from whom the life is ever pouring forth, and the other the material side which belongs to form, and which is ever breaking up in order that life may go on into higher expression.

After the trinity of Ahura Mazda and the twin spirits that emanated from him is a sevenfold expression of the divine reality. These seven are called the Amesha Spentas or Holy or Bountiful Immortals, the Highest Intelligences. They are sometimes thought of as archangels and sometimes as aspects of Ahura Mazda himself. These seven mighty intelligences are also guardians of various kingdoms of nature. They are as follows:

Ahura Mazda himself. Just as the One Wise Lord is part of a trinity including also the twin spirits of bountiful increase and of destructive opposition, so too is he one of the sevenfold intelligences. The One Lord is present everywhere.

Vohu Manah, Good Mind. It is divine wisdom, illumination, and love—the mental capacity to comprehend the next one of the Amesha Spentas, Asha Vahishta. Vohu Manah is associated especially with the animal kingdom.

Asha Vahishta, Highest Truth. Often translated as "righteousness," the word asha is etymologically the same as the Sanskrit term rta, and thus is the dharma or Plan by which the world exists. Asha Vahishta is the order of the cosmos, the ideal form of the universe. It is associated with the element of fire.

Khshathra Vairya, Desirable Dominion, is divine strength and the power of Ahura Mazda's kingdom. In theological terms, it represents the Kingdom of Heaven in human terms, it represents the ideal society. Khshathra Vairya is associated with the sky and with the mineral kingdom. Human beings can realize the power of Khshathra Vairya when they are guided by Good Mind and Highest Truth.

Spenta Armaiti, Holy or Bountiful Devotion, theologically is the attitude of piety and devotion ethically, it is the attitude of benevolence. It is associated with the element of earth.

Haurvatat, Wholeness, is the state of perfection, complete well-being, spiritual and physical integrity. It is associated with the element of water.

Ameretat, Immortality, is the state of immortal bliss. It is associated with the plant kingdom.

These seven can be thought of either as cosmic principles or as human principles (the macrocosm-microcosm). It is through our use of a good mind (Vohu Manah), practicing love and devotion (Spenta Armaiti), and following the path of righteousness (Asha Vahishta) that we can bring about the ideal state of things (Khshathra Vairya), in which ultimately perfection (Haurvatat) and immortality (Ameretat) will prevail. Human beings are not bystanders in life. We are the prime agents through whose actions the promise of Ahura Mazda will be fulfilled. With Ahura Mazda, we are co-creators of the ideal world.

Under the Amesha Spentas are other intelligences called Yazatas, sometimes compared to angels. Together with human beings, the Yazatas are the hamkars or helpers of Ahura Mazda.

Zoroastrianism views the world as having been created by Ahura Mazda and as meant to evolve to perfection according to the law or plan of Asha, the divine order of things. The law of Asha is the principle of righteousness or "rightness" by which all things are exactly what they should be. In their most basic prayer, the "Ashem Vohu," repeated every day, Zoroastrians affirm this law of Asha: "Righteousness is the highest virtue. Happiness to him who is righteous for the sake of righteousness." This is the central concept in the Zoroastrian religion: Asha is the ultimate Truth, the ideal of what life and existence should be.

Duality exists as part of manifestation, but human beings also have freewill to choose between the dual opposites. As they have the power of choice, they have also the personal responsibility of choosing well. Spenta Mainyu, the Bountiful Spirit, promotes the realization of Asha. Angra Mainyu, the Destructive Spirit, violates Asha. We have a choice between them, between spirit and matter, between the real and the unreal.

Personal salvation is attained through making the right choice. And the salvation of the world, called "Frashokereti," is the restoration of the world to its perfect state, one that is in complete accord with Asha. As human beings make the right choices in their lives, they are furthering the realization of Frashokereti.

Life after Death

What happens after death? According to the Zoroastrian tradition, after the death of the body, the soul remains in this world for three days and nights, in the care of Sraosha, one of the Yazatas or angels. During this period, prayers are said and rituals performed to assure a safe passage of the soul into the spiritual realm. On the dawn of the fourth day, the spirit is believed to have crossed over to the other world, where it arrives at the allegorical Chinvat Bridge.

At the Chinvat Bridge, the soul meets a maiden who is the embodiment of all the good words, thoughts, and deeds of its preceding life. If the soul has led a righteous life (one in accord with the divine Plan), the maiden appears in a beautiful form. If not, she appears as an ugly hag. This image, fair or foul, confronts the soul, and the soul acknowledges that the image is an embodiment of its own actions and thereby judges itself, knowing whether it is worthy to cross over the bridge to the other side or must return to earth to learn further lessons.

By another account, after the soul meets its own image, it appears before a heavenly tribunal, where divine justice is administered. Good souls go to a heaven called Vahishta Ahu, the Excellent Abode. Evil souls are consigned to a hell called Achista Ahu, the Worst Existence. One account reflects a belief in reincarnation the other does not.

In the oldest Zoroastrian scriptures, heaven and hell are not places, but states of mind that result from right or wrong choices. Zoroaster spoke of the "drujo demana" or "House of Lies" and the "garo demana"or "House of Song," to which souls are sent. Some say that the fall of the soul into the House of Lies means a return of the soul to earth, the realm of unreality or lies.

Zoroastrianism places great emphasis on purity and not defiling any of the elements of Ahura Mazda'screation. For that reason, traditionally, neither burial nor cremation were practiced by Zoroastrians. Instead, dead bodies were taken to a Tower of Silence and laid out under the sun, where vultures devoured them. At the present time, there is great controversy about this practice.

Fire is the major symbol in Zoroastrianism and has a central role in the most important religious ceremonies. It has a special significance, being the supreme symbol of God and the divine Life. In Zoroastrian scriptures, Ahura Mazda is described as "full of luster, full of glory," and hence his luminous creations—fire, sun, stars, and light—are regarded as visible tokens of the divine and of the inner light. That inner light is the divine spark that burns within each of us. Fire is also a physical representation of the illumined mind.

Zoroastrian places of worship are called Fire Temples. In them an eternal flame is kept burning with sandalwood and frankincense. The first fire to be lit upon an altar is said to have been brought down from heaven by Zoroaster with a rod.

When the Parsis fled from Iran and settled in India, fire was again brought down from heaven by lightning to create the sacred symbol of Ahura Mazda. The fire altar where that historic fire is still burning is an important pilgrimage site for the Parsis. Because the fire is such a sacred and holy symbol, the fire temples are open only to Zoroastrians.

Social Practices

Today, Zoroastrians do not proselytize, and consequently Zoroastrians are born to the faith. If a Parsi woman marries outside the religion, her children cannot be Zoroastrians, but if a man marries outside, his children can become Zoroastrians, although his wife cannot. No doubt these restrictions are later aberrations not befitting the lofty ideals and teachings of the religion.

The Zoroastrian scriptures are called the Avesta, and the ancient language in which they are written is called Avestan. That language is closely related to the Sanskrit of the ancient Vedic hymns. The term Zend Avesta refers to the commentaries made by the successors of Zoroaster on his writings. Later, commentaries to the commentaries were written in the Persian language of the Sasanian Empire, which is called Pahlavi. So the Zoroastrian scriptures are in several languages and their composition spans vast periods of time. Yet they are fragmentary because of the destruction of written texts and the persecution of priest-scholars by foreign invaders.

The oldest part of the Zoroastrian scriptures are the Gathas, which are the direct teachings of Zoroaster and his conversations with Ahura Mazda in a series of visions. The Gathas are part of a major section of the Avesta called the Yasna, a term literally meaning "sacrifice," consisting of texts recited by priests during ceremonies. The Vendidad is a manual in the form of a catechism giving rules of purification and for preventing sins of both commission and omission. The Khordeh Avesta or "Little Avesta" includes invocations with beautiful descriptions of the Yazatas or angelic intelligences.

Fundamental Moral Practices

The basic moral principles that guide the life of a Zoroastrian are three:

Living these three principles is the way we exercise our freewill by following the law of Asha. These three principles are included in many Zoroastrian prayers, and children commit themselves to abide by them at their initiation ceremony, marking their responsible entry into the faith as practicing Zoroastrians. They are the moral code by which a Zoroastrian lives.

4 Purity

All natural creations of Ahura Mazda are believed to be pure. To Zoroastrians, purity is sacred. The need for purity is particularly evident in funerary rituals. Since death brings decay, which is contamination, corpses cannot touch the ground. If a corpse is to be buried, the grave must be lined to protect the ground. Cremation can also be problematic, because a body will contaminate the purity of fire. While most Zoroastrians now recognize the necessity of cremation, the preferred method has long been the sky burial, through which a body is placed into something called a tower of silence, or dakhma, where it can then be cleansed by the sun, the wind, vultures and birds of prey.

Of Temples, Towers, Altars, and Fire Worship: The Ritual Landscape at Persepolis - History

The Spatial Formation of the Fire Temple of Zoroastrianism

Mersin University Architectural Faculty, Architectural Department, Central Campus, Mersin, Turkey

Safiye İrem Dizdar. The Spatial Formation of the Fire Temple of Zoroastrianism. Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. Vol. 1, No. 1, 2016, pp. 30-37. doi: 10.11648/j.larp.20160101.15

Received : December 4, 2016 Accepted : December 28, 2016 Published : January 20, 2017

Abstract: Zoroastrianism like Buddhism occurs among the beliefs that emphasize a philosophical side. The battle between good and evil lays at the basis of Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrianism philosophy water, earth and fire are considered holy and worship while looking at fire, light or the sun. The Zoroastrians didn’t worship fire, their fire was exalted and, while accepting it as a direction marker, they would pray in front of it. However they believed that it was the light of god or knowledge. Examples of the fire temple which forms the subject of the communiqué may be found in Azerbaijan too and it is said that the name of Azerbaijan is taken from these structures. According to this, Azerbaijan comes to mean the "home of fires". When Azerbaijan accepted Islam, the Zoroastrians migrated from here to India and some scattered to other countries. Today it continues its existence from India as "Parsee temples". The purpose of the communiqué is debating the examples in Anatolia, Iran and India (Mumbai) while examining the architectural form of the fire temple structures and their symbolic characteristics.

Keywords: Religious Architecture, Temple, Persia, Fire Temple

In various languages the Parsuas (known also as Parsa, Pers or Furs) appeared in political history with the Achaemenid or Achaemenes clan. The Parsuas at the beginning of the 2000s BCE belonged to the great waves of migration that flowed south from east of the Caspian Sea and are called Indo-Iranian. It is thought that the Zoroastrians belonged to this period which experienced separate leaders in the Avesta Gathas (hymns), which are their holy quatrains.

In the 700s BCE there was a prince named Achaemenes at the head of the Parsuas. Because the rulers of the Old Persian Empire esteemed Achaemenes as the ancestor of their house, this dynasty is recognized as the Achamaenids.

In various sources it is stated that nothing is known about the religions of the Achaemenid kings and the Persians of the era. It seems that the Persian god, Ahura Mazda, was identified as the Greek god Zeus. As for the Pahlavi books that discuss the Zoroastrian religion and survive today, it was destroyed by Alexander the Great and again organized centuries later. There have been attempts to achieve results by comparing existing documents.

The religion of the Achaemenid kings is accepted as the religion of the Anshanites after they were taken under the administration of the Anshanites who were more civilized than they were. After capturing Mesopotamia, they showed interest in the religion of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Ionians, Syrians, Jews and Egyptians. Blending with the Zoroastrian religion which was represented by the Medes, a new religion was created. This official religion rested on the basis of the supremacy of Ahura Mazda next to the old Iranian gods. So Mazdaism can be said of the Achaemenids’ religion.

Ahura Mazda was the greatest of all the gods of the Persians. It was He who created the earth and the sky. The king became king with His permission, and it was Ahura Mazda who helped and protected against enemies. Herodotus speaks of animals that were offered to the gods during worship ceremonies. The fire temples that are found on top of mountains for the Ahura Mazda cult have survived until today. In the Persepolis reliefs, as well one meets the fire burning in front of Ahura Mazda deFigtions. It seems that there are portrayals of the temple structure or the altar and the god as Herodotus stated.

Ahura Mazda was in the form of a god that was portrayed in human form in this period. Kingship and the symbol of the winged sun disk that was taken earlier by pharaohs and later by Assyrian kings were given to him by artists (Fig. 4-5-6).

On the Persepolis monuments Ahura Mazda has been dressed like the Achaemenid kings and depicted as older (with hair and beard), his head crowned and his body winged. Because there was no temple among the ancient Persians, the holy fire scenes too were not shown as being in an enclosed space. Enclosed fire temples were constructed later.

The Achaemenid kings placed their graves on rocks in the mountains unlike the Persian traditions (Fig. 13). However in spiritual and moral approaches, the law of Ahura Mazda was praised as the road necessary for kings and men to follow. To be honest in action, word and thought were what Ahura Mazda wanted. The aforementioned laws were created of truth, the sanctity of life, modesty and trying to do what was within one’s capabilities with zeal.

The Persian people recognized Ahura Mazda and separately worshipped five elements. The first of these was that there were two kinds of light: daylight (sun) and night light (moon). The other four elements were fire, water, earth and wind. While the people were worshipping these, they would carry out sacrifices and hold ceremonies on the top of high mountains without sanctuaries and without mihraps (directional niches). For the sacrifice to be accepted, the priest had to be tranquil and pray for all the Persian people. During this time the Magian 1 (the priest was known as a Magian) would read the chants and the book and inform their god. After the prayer, the person who owned the sacrifice would take the meat to his house and because the spirit of the sacrifice belonged to god, the meat wouldn’t be separated in the name of god.

In his account, Strabo discusses the Persians’ temples at Mitra and Anahita. The worshipping of fire included a series of rituals. Pieces of dry wood would be piled up in one place and, pouring oil on top, it would be set alight. The fire couldn’t be blown on and the person who blew on it or threw something on it would be killed.

The Magians’ burial practice was different from that of the Persians. The Persian dead would be covered with wax and buried in the ground. As for among the Magians, the skeleton that remained after the body had been eaten by animals would be isolated from the earth, smeared with unguent and buried in this condition. Later the Persians built open circular graves on uninhabited mountains. On these structures which were called towers of silence, the dead were left for the birds to eat.

Another important influence of the Magians was the gathering of the Avesta 2 which was the holy book of the Zoroastrian religion in the Sassanid period and bringing it together on the agenda. The customs and ways that are gathered in the Avesta became the official religion in Iran in the third century BCE (Günaltay, 1987 Masters).

After the Persian Empire was destroyed, the Zoroastrian religion declined in the face of Hellenic culture. They saw a lot of pressure from the Arabs in the eighth to the tenth centuries. A portion known as the Parsees, escaping from Alexander, established India’s city Mumbai and settled there. ( ).

Nowadays we find extensive complete investigations in Iran’s archeological literature, which address all periods of occupation of a geographical or political site. These sorts of investigations are carried out because there has been a serious shortage of studies aimed understanding historical regions. This paper firstly explores the basic characteristics of the fire temples. This provides us general review. On the other hand this is followed by the identification of the planning efforts, regulations and symbols. This study has focused on architectural elements, spatial formation, symbolic characteristics and diffusion areas of the fire temples

The Achaemenid kings decorated their capitals with structures that would show their wealth. But it is thought that the structures that influenced the art of this period were Chaldean and Assyrian. The Zoroastrians did not attempt to make the place of the deity boastful through showy buildings. In all of the inscriptions they’ve left, they described that their need was for the patronage of Ahura Mazda. This approach ensured that the buildings that belonged to the old civilization would be protected and nothing would be lost. Because there was no temple among the Persians, the decorations in the palaces of Egypt were applied in the royal palaces. It is thought that the column capitals’ source was the Assyrians – because of the impressions on the Assyrian banner that occurs in the ruins of Korsabad. The horns on their foreheads seen on the Assyrian banner must have been turned into the column capitals by adding the two oxen standing back to back. With the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Greek architectural style became influential (Fig. 16-18, Günaltay, 1987 Mohammedifar Motarjem ).

In religious architecture in ancient Persia, graves and sanctuaries never held an important place only royal graves were important. In altars, one meets a few architectural variations.

A need wasn’t especially felt for covered buildings because of the form of the religious ceremony in which the holy drink, sacrifice and prayers were next to a burning fire (Fig. 1-2-3-14). As for the continuation of the sacred fire, variations appeared because of the requirements of the space.

1 Open air altars: in order for the people to be able to see from afar, they were on a high platform and under a dome. The people would gather in front of this and offer their votive offerings.

2 Only in the characteristic of an altar or the indication of the foundation.

3 Covered fire temples that were taken inside a building, a place of prayers for the priests or a comprehensive place of worship open to the people (Fig. 14).

The large Sassanian fire temple is in Azerbaijan. The rulers would walk here from the capital and visit it. 3

1 Herodotus states that the Magians were one of the seven clans of the Medes. According to some of the Greek writers the Magians were seers who knew the religious ceremonies and traditions. So they considered themselves the real representatives of the Zoroastrian religion. This situation was evaluated as hereditary in order to become a Magi, it was necessary to be from a Magian father.

2 In the Old Persian sources about the Avesta, it was written on 120,000 oxen hides and sent to the Persepolis palace treasury. When Alexander burned the Persepolis palace, the Avesta also burned. After he had the second copy translated into Greek, Alexander had that one burned also. The Avesta in the Sassanian period was gathered from the memories of the Magians.

3 While the ruler was praying after the visit, he would offer his sword to the fire. He would swear to protect the integrity of the country, and he pledged for himself excellence of mind and power. The fire in the religious sense is the symbol of the human will. The approach of the ruler to the door of the fire temples expresses the beginning for the creative life.

3.1. Architectural Elements

The building material is generally stone and in places where transport and workmanship were difficult, adobe and brick too are encountered. In order for the brick material to be stable, baked bricks were applied on the outside and adobe on the inside. The measurement of the brick materials changes between 36/ 9-18 cm. In the one-piece stones, one encounters seven meters in height. In the foundation system one encounters examples in which adobe was used, in the columns, marble/stone and in the ceiling, wood. On top of the roof covering, a thick earth layer is found. One finds buildings on which dome and vault coverings have been used.

The extent of the natural conditions in the country and the Persian kings affected the physical appearance of the buildings. The effects on the spirit and eye were not neglected. The tombs and reliefs carved between earth and sky were the continuation of this depiction. The royal monuments couldn’t be followed unless heads were raised upwards (Fig. 12-15-16-18). In the same form, the existence of a large and powerful threshold in front is seen in front of the Sassanid palaces.

Iranian architecture in the antique period the area of diffusion, although it extended from Central Asia to the Aegean Sea, remained bounded. Architectural buildings were mostly in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf and in Upper Mesopotamia. The squinch dome that the Sassanians applied was used in Roman and Byzantine architecture and the vaulted structure was used in Europe too.

Iranian architecture spread the influence that it got from its neighbors to northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Because its borders extended from the Indian Ocean to the Aegean Sea, it carried the influences that it took from Mesopotamia to the western world and these created examples for Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

3.2. Architectural Comparison

The stone architecture not seen in Mesopotamia and Anatolia developed among the Persians. Egyptian influence is seen in the formation of columns. The brick and dome architecture in Mesopotamia was put in order in Iran. The glazed bricks and faience seen in Mesopotamia were Persian influenced. It is thought that Iranian architecture influenced Asia Minor and sculpture and architecture spread from here to Europe and the Islamic world.

In Mazdaism which was the Persian religion, the great god Ahura Mazda was the symbol of goodness and light. He is seen in the form of light. He is the light’s eye and he is found with the goddesses of fire, earth and water at his side (Fig. 10). As for Ahriman, he is the symbol of evil and darkness. Fire is burned to defeat darkness. There is no sculpture in this religion it is a spiritual system. As for the dead body, it is neither buried nor burned so that it doesn’t defile the earth, fire or water.

Columns are the characteristic of ancient Persian architecture. If there were Roman capitals among the Sassanids, the Persians had their own architectural formation the plain capital was made up of a simple abacus. As for the decoration, geometric forms, plant motifs and depictions of humans and animals were used.

While the flat beam was used very frequently among the Persians, the arch, dome and vault were used among the Sassanids (Ünsal, 1974).

Some of the temples found in a settlement were inside holy precinct walls and were rectangular in plan from the outside. There is the rectangularly planned naos (shrine) part in which is found the fire altars (in the Zoroastrian religion) which is considered holy in the middle of the centrally planned interior, the statue (Hellenistic and Buddhist beliefs) or the stupa (Buddhist belief). The naos part was surrounded with corridors with ritual purposes (Fig. 14). The corridors went around the central naos part sometimes on three sides and sometimes on four. The central naos part would sometimes have four pillars and sometimes there would be a pronaos (vestibule) with pillars and without in front of the naos or a portico. The courtyard is located in front of these. Some of the temples have been raised, set on a slope in the form of terraces or in step form. The first known fire temples in Central Asia, ever since the Bronze Age, had the appearance of a fortress from the outside and were spread over a wide area. The temples were strengthened with strong, high walls and towers and, opposed to its interior organization not having a symmetrical and axial organization, the courtyard area that was taken towards the center was the holiest area of the temple where the fire ceremony was held. According to Çeşmeli’s study, if the temple architecture of the Ancient Era in Central Asia with its four pillars, central plan and corridor surround which are the most characteristic features in these temples is considered the continuation of the fire temples in Iran, then as its roots they are dated to the Margiana-Bactrian Bronze Age temples in Central Asia. In comparison with the central courtyard and surrounding corridor organization seen in the religious architecture and civil architecture ever since the Bronze Age in Margiana and Bactria, the design with the central enclosed space and surrounding corridor is seen in civil architecture alongside religious architecture ever since the Antique Age. One sees that the architecture of the centrally planned temple with surrounding corridor in axial symmetric order was applied in the Buddhist and Zoroastrian temples built in the Early Middle Age. These temples sometimes have been evaluated as they are alone and sometimes in a complex or monastery. The interior of the temples in this period were decorated with statues, reliefs and frescoes with subjects of Buddhism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism (Çeşmeli, 2014).

4. Symbolic Characteristics and Diffusion Areas

Four – fire, air, water and earth – represents the holy number of Zoroastrianism. According to what has been written, the areas that were to be sanctified were made beside earth that was burned by lightning that fell from the area and, because the region was on the Silk Road, rooms were built in which disciples and visitors could stay alongside the worship areas.

The places in which the visitors would stay in general settlement characteristics appeared as fortresses and were constructed so that the doors were on a low level that opened on the fire temple from inside and the windows ensured the burning earth was seen while lying in bed. The buildings for accommodations were evaluated as a retreat-ordeal cell unit for those on pilgrimage. Today their existence is still protected in Baku and Azerbaijan.

While entering and leaving the low doors, respect is offered by bowing and as for the window that looks on the burning earth, they were made to provide views of the burning earth from the place where the disciples who were undergoing the ordeal were laying on unslaked lime or tied to a chain.

The dervish who came to the temple later had the tradition of serving others who had undergone the ordeal earlier. However when the Azeris accepted Islam, the Zoroastrians were cast out and the last remaining Zoroastrians migrated to India. But still on special days they use the temple for worship (Ünsal, 1974).

In Mesopotamia which influenced the history of mankind deeply in the years 600-500 BCE, the Medes put an end to the Assyrian Empire and then the Persians attacked the exhausted Medes, erasing them from history and conquering Anatolia as far as the shores of the Aegean Sea. In this geographic region in which polytheistic religions were believed, the priest who worshipped Ahura Mazda (in Arabic he was known as Hürmüz.) and refused to worship Mitra and Anahitaya who were other gods was called Zarahustra and later Zerdüşt. The priest was the representative of Ahura Mazda, the skies, the ground, the water, six heavenly beings (the six known planets and the angels which he represented), the universe of spirits and justice. In the relief of the eagle-winged man which decorated the door of the fire temples tied to this approach, the wings which were created of three rows of eagle feathers (Fig. 5-6-7-15) represent the three basic principles of the Zoroastrian religion: "good thought, good speech, good work" ( ).

The ideological and symbolic meaning of the fire has been combined with each other in the classic eastern states from ancient times. The best known example is the god Agni who is encountered in India’s Vedic period inscriptions. This god has been personified as twins especially a physical fire is the language of the flame or it is the fire of the messenger who will ensure that the flame of what has been sacrificed and this fire’s smoke reach the celestial gods. On the other hand he himself is a god. The holy fire was praised in various forms. "Ah Agni, holy fire, cleansing fire, you sleep in the tree, you rise with your sparkling flame, you are the divine spark. You are the fortunate spirit of the sun and hidden everywhere". In later religions Agni was pushed into the background but his function in rituals continued. If every believing Hindu’s body were given to the flame on the bank of the holy Ganges, a special happiness was felt about this.

The god Altar which was the animation of fire in Iranian mythology was in a natural site. It was accepted throughout all of the Iranian community as a clean formation. Comparing the connection between India and Iran, the practices connected with the sanctity of fire are completely different. In Iran uniting the body with fire is accepted as an insult and sin. The thought that the fire is clean has been protected by the Zoroastrians, Iranians and Yazidis for centuries. The temples that protect the fire are also found in Central Asia and the Caucasus (Tokarev, 2005).

According to historical sources and archaeological evidence, it is understood that different beliefs lived in Central Asia before Islam. Alongside the local beliefs of Central Asia, beliefs that came from geographical areas such as Iran, Mesopotamia, India, Anatolia and Greece sometimes effectively mixed with local beliefs. Zoroastrianism which the cult of fire that had a rooted past in Iran and Central Asia and would be the center of this cult later became one of the influential belief systems of the region throughout the pre-Islamic period. In the region that had become acquainted with new culture together with Hellenism that came from the west Hellenistic belief lasted for a rather long time.

In Central Asia which entered a political and cultural connection with India a while later, Buddhist and Hindu beliefs that came from the south were assimilated. The second wave that came from the West was Christianity. Especially prior to Islam, Syrian Orthodox Christianity spread in Central Asia and, aside from these beliefs, cults attached to some gods were influential over the people in the region. The cults with the greatest influence whose gods appeared at the fore like Mithra, Anahita, Nana, Shiva (= Vayu ‘Veşparkar’) and Zurvan (=Brahma) lived in Central Asia. Aside from these beliefs that especially had an impact on the local cultures, the belief in Shamanism had a deep effect on the nomads.

According to archaeological evidence, the first temples in Central Asia remained from the Bronze Age – from 2000. The remains of these temples have survived from the Margiana (South Turkmenistan) and North Bactria (South Uzbekistan) regions. In 2000 BCE in Central Asia, one sees the hegemony of Indian-Iranian groups. While a part of these groups were nomadic, one part led a settled life. In this period in Central Asia in particular the fire and the haoma-saoma (holy plant, alcohol and god) cult appeared and probably the Zoroastrian religion spread around 1000 BCE (Fig. 19-20, Çeşmeli, 2014 Shenkar,).

The symbolization of the fire and man’s relationship with fire happened through the social nature of fire and social intervention.

Today too a place of respect has been given to fire. For C. Levi-Strauss fire was a "‘mediator’ between raw and cooked food, and at the same time it is one of opposite members like ‘fire-water’ or ‘carving-rubbing’".

According to the historical point of view, the form of the means of human relations became the limitation of activities and tribe or family bounded them through the rules related to fire. Fire was bordered with the chain of relative and family members.

During the later expansion process of relational forms, the symbolic meaning of fire narrowed but wasn’t eliminated. We see that, outside of religious buildings, the example of the symbolic character of fire still continues to our day and the Olympic flame in sports games that expresses the wish for peace among wide groups of people is carried from one country to the next.

As for the buildings that are the fire’s location, ever since the Bronze Age they have been shaped by various additions over time and the secondary spaces that were added to the sacred area where fire was found included other functions alongside those used as the spaces in which holy plants and alcohol were made. Because of existing functions, the buildings were always placed on a high location and in a form that looked in the four major directions. As for the fire altars that were placed in the center of the courtyard, they were located in the center of the space in "pergola" style.

In the Ancient Era, beliefs like Zoroastrianism, Hellenism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity and temple buildings began to be seen. Ever since the first century Buddhism and Hinduism began to spread to Central Asia from India and in this development, through the influence of the Parthians and the Sassanids, the fire temples continued to exist. The unchanging four-pillar organization of the fire altar created the naos space of the temples that appeared in later centuries. As for in temples in cities, with the addition of various functions up to the recent period they continued their existence with spaces organized around the central space (Fig. 7-8-9-11).

Fig. 1. Fire temple in Ani antique city-Turkey.

Fig. 2. It is a tpycial fire temple .

Fig. 3. Fire temple-altar –Baku.

Fig. 4. Ahura Mazda symbol.

Fig. 5. Yezd Fire temple-Ahura Mazda-Iran.

Fig. 6. Ahuramazda-Firetemple in Mumbai- İndia.

Fig. 7. Ahura Mazda on facade Agiary Mumbai.

Fig. 8. Ahura Mazda symbol with wings -Mumbai.

Fig. 9. Ahura Mazda symbol Mumbai-India.

Fig. 10. Ahura Mazda symbol wiht sun.

Fig. 11. Persian temple in Mumbai_India.

Fig. 12. Symbol on column-Persopolis.

Fig. 14. Altar in fire temple.

Fig. 15. Ahura Mazda column Persopolis.

Fig. 16. Persian abacus –Persopolis.

Fig. 17. Ahura Mazda relief-Persopolis.

Fig. 18. Palace ruins- Persopolis.

Fig. 19. Middle Asian temple in antigue age, Çeşmeli 2014.

Fig. 20. Middle Asian temple in early middle age, Çeşmeli 2014.

Temples in Middle Vietnam

14. Tu Van Pagoda – Cam Ranh

Tu Van Pagoda was built in 1968. Undergoing historical events of the country during the war years, Tu Van Pagoda is not only a place of the pure spiritual practice of monks but one of the well-known Vietnam pagodas that attract numerous Buddhists and visitors from many parts of the country.

When entering Tu Van Pagoda, you can see corals and seashells everywhere, especially at Bao Tich Tower, a fairly elaborate construction build by monks at the pagoda. This 39m high tower was built in 1995. Nonetheless, to complete, it took the monks 5 years, from designing, collecting, and purchasing of materials, to constructing of the tower.

Next to Bao Tich Tower, you cannot miss the journey to “18 floors of hell”. It’s a 500m long, dark, humid, and winding tunnel. Through each door, you will know about the treatments at hell for each of the different crimes.

After passing “18 floors of hell”, you will reach Nai Ha bridge. It’s where you will end your journey and return to the earth through a door at the mouth of a dragon. Although these are only conceptions in the Dharma, surely when you end your journey here, you will find your heart more serene to continue your beautiful life. Definitely, this will be the most interesting experience for you on the journey to explore Tu Van Pagoda.

Address: 3/4 street, Cam Ranh city.

15. Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda – Da Nang City

Da Nang has 3 pagodas named Linh Ung the same. Those all locate on favorable positions of Da Nang city. The first pagoda is Linh Ung Non Nuoc which locates on the Water hill of the Marble Mountains. The second one is Linh Ung Ba Na. And finally, the Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda that locates halfway up the mountain of Son Tra Peninsula. Of all three beautiful Vietnam pagodas, Linh Ung Bai But seems to be a little more popular than the other two temples. Perhaps, this is because Linh Ung Bai But is the largest, the newest, and the most beautiful of those three Vietnam temples.

To be considered, this famous pagoda has the largest Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva statue in Southeast Asia. The Buddha statue is 67m high, standing on a lotus with a diameter of 35m. The statue is leaning back on Son Tra mountain, with eyes overlooking the human world and the sea. One Buddha’s hand is holding a jar, and the other hand is making a blessing to the people of the coastal city. The fishermen who are floating on the sea, whenever looking at the Buddha on the mainland, their heart will be more stable on each rising wave.

In a tourism development city like Da Nang, “owning” a Vietnam Buddha temple is famous both for its sacredness and its monumental architecture. Linh Ung Bai But became a famous Vietnam pagoda. Every year, many visitors come here to pray, especially on festivals held at the temple. Not only that, when coming here, seeing the gentle face that’s looking at the sea of ​​the statue Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, you can also feel serene and peaceful.

Standing on Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda, you can also see Da Nang Bay with turquoise water, a part of the Son Tra peninsula with a contour of the sea, far away is the famous Marble Mountains and Cham Islands, Van Pass, etc. In the evening, if you look down from the pagoda’s gate, you can admire the beauty of Da Nang city at night, with light trails illuminating an entire sea street.

Address: Hoang Sa, Tho Quang, Son Tra district, Da Nang.

16. Bridge Pagoda – Hoi An

For a long time, Bridge Pagoda isn’t only a tourist symbol of Hoi An ancient town, but it’s the soul bridge of the land and the local people. Bridge Pagoda as a piece connecting the past, the present, and the future. The bridge spanning 400 years of history has entered the subconscious of every child born and raised on the land of Hoi An with thousand years nostalgic. Today, the pagoda is still there, majestic but taciturn as a witness to the glorious history but still a bright place in the town.

Bridge Pagoda is called a pagoda but it doesn’t worship Buddha. Instead, it’s dedicated to Xuanwu, a protector of the region, who brings joy and happiness to people on this land. Therefore, every year, both residents and tourists visit here. It’s not a place to visit and explore but also to find a little peace and tranquility for the souls that have been too disturbed.

With top-notch beauty in architecture, Bridge Pagoda was recognized as a National Historical-Cultural Site in 1990. Being a very attractive destination to visit in Hoi An, but not so many guests notice that the image of Bridge Pagoda is printed on the VND200,000 polymer bill of Vietnam. Needless to say, this pagoda has great value and important both in the spiritual and real life of the locals in particular, and the Vietnamese in general.

Address: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, Minh An ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam province.

17. Thien Mu Pagoda, or Linh Mu Pagoda – Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda, also known as Linh Mu Pagoda, is one of the most ancient temples in Vietnam. Located on the hill of Ha Khe, on the left bank of the Perfume River, this beautiful pagoda is 5km to the West of Hue city center. You can take a boat on the Perfume River or a road trip in Hung Long commune to visit this temple.

Coming to Thien Mu Pagoda, you will be surprised by its poetic beauty in the harmony of the natural scenery with mountains and clouds. The scenery at the temple is very beautiful and charming. In addition to visiting the temple, you can use the service “Dragon boat on the Perfume River” to see the scene as well as this beautiful temple in a more overview.

Thien Mu Pagoda is also considered to be the most ancient and monumental pagoda in Hue. The architectural works included in Thien Mu Pagoda such as Tam Quan Gate, Phuoc Duyen Tower, Huong Nguyen Communal House, Dai Hong Chung, steles, stone turtles, bell tower, Buddha statues, etc. Among those, Phuoc Duyen Tower is the top famous symbol of Thien Mu Pagoda. The tower was built in 1844 – 1845 under Emperor Thieu Tri. This 21m high tower has 7 floors and each floor is an altar of a Buddha.

If you have an opportunity to travel to Hue, make sure you don’t miss visiting and praying in Thien Mu pagoda, one of the biggest temples in Vietnam.

Address: Ha Khe hill, Huong Long ward, Hue.

18. Long Son Pagoda – Nha Trang

2km to the North from Nha Trang city center, the sacred Po Nagar Cham Towers locates neatly on a small hill by the gentle Cai river. The hill is airy with a 50m altitude above sea level. From afar, you can easily recognize the tower because of its unique architecture and shape.

Visiting Po Nagar Cham Towers, of course, you will hear stories about the legend of Lady Po Nagar, or Thiên Y Thánh Mẫu in Vietnamese. As well, there are many other stories about the gods worshiped here. In the past, the Cham people in Khanh Hoa province worshiped the goddess Po Nagar. She was always there to protect and take care of the lives of people, helping them to have land for living and cultivating. As the ancient Chams’ beliefs, Thiên Y Thánh Mẫu is a superior god, who’s worshiped by every person. She was the one who regenerated soil, water, tree, and food for the people. Therefore, the Chams regarded her as the origin of life.

Entering the main gate, you can have a general view of the whole area. Po Nagar Cham Towers’ relic area is divided into 3 sections from the bottom up that corresponding to 3 architectural floors. Inside, the tower is decorated with eye-catching sculptures describing the activities of the community at that period: hunting, boating, singing, and dancing. Furthermore, besides the main tower which is dedicated to Lady Po Nagar, there are other temples of Shiva, Sanhaka, and Ganeka.

It can be seen that the Po Nagar Cham Towers is a piece of clear evidence for the strong influence of Hinduism on the Chams, and later on the Vietnamese. Coming to Po Nagar Cham Towers from Mar 21 to 23 lunar calendar, you will have an opportunity to participate in the Lady Po Nagar festival. This is the best time to learn about the Po Nagar as well as immerse yourself in the cultural activities of the locals.

Address: 2/4 street, Vinh Phuoc ward, Nha Trang city.


ACHAEMENID RELIGION. The sources are threefold: Greek writings, Achaemenid monuments and artifacts, and texts from Persia in Old Persian, Elamite, and Aramaic. The Greek writings establish with all reasonable clarity that the later Achaemenids were Zoroastrians but the religion of the early kings has been much debated.

The question of Cyrus&rsquo beliefs has been linked with that of Zoroaster&rsquos date. For those scholars who accepted the so-called &ldquotraditional date&rdquo of 258 years before Alexander it was not rationally possible to suppose that Cyrus was a Zoroastrian, since this date made king and prophet roughly contemporary and had the eastern faith been adopted so swiftly in Persia, one would expect some mention of western Iranian peoples and places in its holy texts. It has now been shown (A. Shahbazi, BSOAS 40, 1977, pp. 25-35) that this date was in all probability calculated after the establishment of the Seleucid era in 312/311 B.C. and if the demonstration is accepted, Zoroaster&rsquos traditional date ceases to be relevant for determining the faith of Cyrus.

Attention has long been drawn to the testimony of Achaemenid proper names. (See F. Spiegel, Ērânische Alterthumskunde I, Leipzig, 1871, p. 700 n. 2 Justi, Namenbuch, s.v. H. S. Nyberg, MO 1929, p. 345 H. Lommel, Die Religion Zarathustras, Tübingen, 1930, p. 16. For later works see M. Mayrhofer, Zum Namengut des Avesta, Vienna, 1977, p. 10, n. 20). An older cousin of Cyrus, Ar&scaronāma (Arsames), fl. ca. 600, called one of his sons Vi&scarontāspa (Hystaspes), which was the name of Zoroaster&rsquos royal patron and Cyrus himself gave his eldest daughter the name Hutaosā (Atossa), which was that of Kavi Vi&scarontāspa&rsquos queen. Thereafter Darius the Great, son of the Achaemenid Vi&scarontāspa, again gave one of his sons this name and this second Achaemenid Vi&scarontāspa had a son called Pissouthnes, a Greek rendering, it seems of Pi&scaroni&scaronyao&thetana. The Avestan Pi&scaroni&scaronyao&thetana was a son of Kavi Vi&scarontāspa. This group of family names, when taken together, thus provides evidence that members of both branches of the Achaemenid royal house had accepted Zoroastrianism at least by the early 6th century B.C. and wished to declare their allegiance to it publicly.

For Cyrus further evidence is provided by verses from Isaiah: 40-48, generally held to have been composed in Babylon by an anonymous poet-prophet of the Jewish captivity, known as Second Isaiah. He hails Cyrus as a messiah, a coming deliverer of the Jews and he celebrates his own God, Yahweh, as Creator in terms new to the Jews but with striking parallels in one of Zoroaster&rsquos Gāthās, Y. 44 (M. Smith, JAOS 83, 1963, pp. 415-21). Together, these facts suggest that Second Isaiah had contact with a Persian propagandist for Cyrus who was a Zoroastrian, working abroad for a king whom he hoped would triumph politically and establish the faith. The influence of Zoroastrian teachings has also been seen in early Ionian philosophy, from before Cyrus&rsquo conquest of Ionia (M. L. West, Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient, Oxford, 1971, pp. 76f.). This was perhaps the work of Median propagandists for the Persian king for it has been suggested that the real reason why a large number of Medes went over to Cyrus during his final battle with Astyages was that they were Zoroastrians and ready to support even a Persian rebel if it meant the triumph of their religion (M. Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, HO, II, Leiden, 1982, pp. 43, 47-8).

Against the presumption of Cyrus&rsquo Zoroastrianism has been set his active benevolence towards the religions of his non-Iranian subjects, and his readiness to acknowledge their gods. A notable piece of evidence for this is the Cyrus-cylinder from Babylon (W. Eilers, Acta Iranica 2, 1974, pp. 25-34) it shows the Persian king acknowledging the support of Marduk, whose great temple, Esagila, he restored. Other local texts show him attributing his triumphs to the moon-god, Sin, or the &ldquogreat gods&rdquo of Uruk and in his edict preserved in Ezra 4.3-5 he says: &ldquoAll kingdoms of the earth has Yahweh, the God of heaven, given me . . . He is the God who is in Jerusalem&rdquo (E. J. Bickerman, Studies in Jewish and Christian History I, Leiden, 1976, pp. 72-108). Cyrus also made a grant of privileges to the priests of an Apollo-shrine in Asia Minor, who had uttered a prophecy favorable to him (S. Smith, Isaiah Chapters XL-LV, London, 1944, p. 41 F. Löchner-Hüttenbach in W. Brandenstein and M. Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen, Wiesbaden, 1964, pp. 91-8). Such conduct cannot logically be reconciled with belief in Ahura Mazdā as God and Creator, who had revealed exclusive truths to mankind through his prophet Zoroaster but it was plainly impossible for Cyrus to impose his own beliefs on the numerous and ancient peoples whom he had conquered. A historic parallel is provided by the course pursued by the British in the early days of their rule in India, when they too acted deliberately as successors to the former rulers, rebuilding temples, supplying money for sacrifices, and requiring their officials to attend religious festivals (J. N. Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements in India, New York, 1918, pp. 8-9). Cyrus lived at a time of ethnic faiths, though Zoroastrianism itself is the oldest of the world religions his conduct outside Iran appears due to diplomatic pragmatism rather than any lack of personal religious conviction.

Evidence for his own practice of the Zoroastrian faith was found in the 1960s at Pasargadae, in the form of fragments of stone fire-holders, attributable to the earliest period at that site (D. Stronach, JNES 26, 1967, p. 287 idem, Pasargadae, Oxford, 1978, p. 141). These are the first of a long line of such objects, invariably called &ldquofire-altars&rdquo by Western scholars, a misnomer which blurs their true significance. Many ancient faiths had altars on which fire was kindled to make offerings but the fire-holder is particular to Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster had appointed fire, the symbol of arta/a&scarona, as the icon before which each of his followers should stand to pray, five times a day. This observance was distinct from the Old Iranian cult of fire, whose object was simply to gratify the god of the hearth-fire, Ātar, and which could accordingly be carried out by a single representative of each household. In the early period of Zoroastrianism (and indeed down to modern times) the hearth-fire nevertheless still served as the focus for devotions and it was very probably for Cyrus himself, the first Zoroastrian Great King, that the fire-holder was devised, in order to raise up this icon to a level where royal eyes could rest upon it with dignity (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 51-53). The Pasargadae specimens, found near the tomb of Cyrus, consisted of a three-stepped top and base, joined by a slender square shaft, with the top hollowed out to hold the deep bed of hot ash necessary to sustain a continually burning wood-fire. This last is the feature which distinguishes fire-holders from altars such as that at the 8th-century Median site of Tepe Nū&scaron-e Jān. (This has been termed a &ldquofire-altar&rdquo because of traces of ash round the shallow depression in its flat top see M. Roaf and D. Stronach, Iran 11, 1973, pp. 133-8 Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 36-7.)

Yet another reason for doubting the Zoroastrianism of the Achaemenids has been that the bodies of these kings were embalmed and laid in sepulchres, instead of being exposed according to the prescribed Zoroastrian rite. This is to focus too narrowly, however, for the same is true of the undoubtedly Zoroastrian Sasanian dynasty. Cyrus&rsquo own sepulchre seems to have set a precedent for Zoroastrian royal entombment, this being carried out always with the utmost care to avoid contamination of the good creations, i.e. as far as possible in conformity with Zoroastrian teachings. The tomb thus consists of a thick-walled stone chamber with a stone door and double stone roof, raised up on a six-tiered stone plinth (Stronach, Pasargadae, pp. 24-43, with plates). Its only ornament is a great rose carved over the narrow entrance, probably as the symbol of Amərətāt, the Zoroastrian divinity who hypostatizes immortality and is lord of plants. A band of rosettes on its door seems to have been the only ornament also of the tower-like Pasargadae building known as Zendān-e Solaymān (Stronach, Pasargadae, pp. 117-37 with plates). This, it has been suggested (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 57-60), was probably a tomb for Cassandane, Cyrus&rsquo beloved queen of queens, and for lesser members of the royal family. (For other interpretations, as a fire-temple or repository for regalia, see Stronach, Pasagardae.) It too appears to have been built with strict regard for Zoroastrian purity laws, and consists of a single stone chamber raised on a solid stone base high above the good earth, and provided again with a stone door and a double roof of stone.

Another argument against Cyrus&rsquo Zoroastrianism has been that there is no mention of his name in Zoroastrian tradition. This is possibly due to difficulties which western magi met subsequently in trying to construct a history of the faith (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 68-69). With few facts to go on, and no sound historical perspectives, they had to reconcile the existences of Kavi Vi&scarontāspa, who &ldquomade the faith current in the world&rdquo the Achaemenid Vi&scarontāspa, father of Darius and Cyrus, predecessor of Darius, who had made the faith current in the world which they knew and they seem to have solved the problems thereby presented by identifying the two Vi&scarontāspas, thus creating a composite figure who took over Cyrus&rsquo role, so that the Achaemenid patron of the faith was consigned to an inevitable oblivion.

After Cyrus&rsquo death his son Cambyses instituted regular offerings to be made for his soul at his tomb (Arrian, Anabasis These were maintained until the coming of Alexander. It used to be thought that they were un-Zoroastrian, in that they included the daily sacrifice of a sheep. But it is now known that similar sacrifices were endowed by the Sasanian &Scaronāpūr I and are made for the souls of the dead by traditionalist Zoroastrians in Iran to the present day (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 70-71). Cambyses is also recorded (Herodotus 3.31) to have made xvaēvada&thetaa unions with two of his full sisters. Herodotus&rsquo account suggests that this was the first time that this distinctive Zoroastrian custom was practiced in Persia.

With Darius there is a wealth of monuments and inscriptions as evidence. Among the former the most striking from the religious point of view are his tomb-carvings. The tomb itself, cut high in the cliff of Naq&scaron-e Rostam, kept the embalmed corpse even more sequestered from the good creations than the chamber-tomb of Cyrus. In the sculpture above the tomb&rsquos door Darius is shown standing in reverent attitude before a fire-holder of Pasargadae type, on which flames leap up. Overhead is the figure in a winged circle, which here appears to have dual significance, a symbol of both the royal xvarənah and the sun behind it is the Akkadian moon-symbol, a disk with crescent along its lower rim. In Zoroastrian orthopraxy prayers may be said before a terrestrial fire or facing sun or moon. Darius thus appears to have had himself portrayed at prayer according to the widest Zoroastrian prescriptions (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 114). Further, it has been suggested that the six noble Persians carved on each side of this scene, who were Darius&rsquo chief supporters, are grouped so as to mirror the six Amə&scarona Spəntas around Ahura Mazdā: the three with weapons to one side, that is, reflecting A&scarona, Vohu Manah and X&scarona&thetara, the three to the other, weaponless and in an attitude of ritual mourning, the female Ārmaiti, Haurvatāt and Amərətāt (Shahbazi, AMI 13, 1980, pp. 122-25). The whole sculpture, with what seems its profoundly Zoroastrian significance, was reproduced over the tombs of all succeeding Achaemenid kings, of whom the later ones are known to have been Zoroastrians. A change of faith in any reign after that of Darius would have been bound to have brought about some change in funerary iconography (as well as some comment by Greeks), so that these facts appear mutually corroborative of the Zoroastrianism of all this line of kings.

Before technical advances in photography made clear reproductions of these funerary sculptures generally available (E. Schmidt, Persepolis III, Chicago, 1971), the texts of Darius&rsquo inscriptions had been closely scanned for evidence as to his religious beliefs but they were widely held not to yield decisive proofs, so that scholars remained divided in their interpretations. (For detailed discussions see J. H. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, London, 1913, repr. 1972, pp. 39f. H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, German tr. H. H. Schaeder, Leipzig, 1938, repr. 1966, pp. 349f. J. Duchesne-Guillemin, The Western Response to Zoroaster, Oxford, 1958, pp. 52f. reviewed by F. B. J. Kuiper, IIJ 4, 1960, pp. 182f. G. Widengren, Die Religionen Irans, Stuttgart, 1965, pp. 142f.) The main difficulty lay in finding facts that would establish Darius&rsquo beliefs as distinctively Zoroastrian, rather than simply as those of the Old Iranian religion. The only divinity whom he names is Zoroaster&rsquos God, Ahura Mazdā, but he was venerated also, as a great god, in the Old Iranian polytheism and Darius&rsquo invocation of him &ldquowith (all) the gods&rdquo was held to be un-Zoroastrian on two counts: first it was polytheistic, and second the word he employed for other divine beings was baga, used only rarely in the Avesta, instead of the characteristic Zoroastrian yazata. Other characteristic Zoroastrian terms such as spənta were also lacking, as well as the name Angra Mainyu, and indeed that of Zoroaster himself. Against these apparently weighty considerations it has been argued that Zoroaster preached an original, not a present monotheism, so that to invoke Ahura Mazdā with the lesser divine beings, his emanations, was theologically sound (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 119). Further, it was pointed out (ibid., pp. 122-3) that centuries were to pass before a specifically Avestan vocabulary replaced traditional Persian religious terms in fact, this probably did not fully happen before religious texts were committed to writing and studied by scholastics in the later Sasanian period. So in the third century A.D. the high priest Kirdēr still called Paradise bayān gāh &ldquothe place of the bagas,&rdquo and the Sasanian collection of ya&scaronts is given the title Bayān Ya&scaront &ldquoWorship of the bagas.&rdquo Moreover, Zoroaster&rsquos name is nowhere mentioned in any Sasanian inscription and Darius&rsquo own failure to refer to Angra Mainyu is the less striking in that the evil one does not appear in the Zoroastrian confessional, the Fravarāne. But both there and in Darius&rsquo inscriptions Avestan Drug, Old Persian Drauga figure largely. The lack of verbal acknowledgement by Darius of the essential Zoroastrian doctrine of the divine heptad appears compensated for by the visual allusion to it in the funerary sculpture. (The attempt to interpret the phrase &ldquothe other gods who are,&rdquo D[arius] B[īsotūn] IV.61, as referring to the Amə&scarona Spəntas is not perhaps so convincing see I. Gershevitch, JNES 23, 1964, pp. 16-l8 Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 83.)

On the positive side Ahura Mazdā is repeatedly celebrated as Creator, and Creator moreover of what is good&mdashearth and sky, man and happiness for man (e.g. DN[aq&scaron-e Rostam]a 1-3 see Kent, Old Persian, p. 137). There is also repeated emphasis on order, that is arta/a&scarona and the general ethics of Darius&rsquo utterances are wholly consonant with Zoroastrian moral theology, with their stress on discernment, justice, self-control, and resolution.

In his Bīsotūn inscription (DB I 63-64 Kent, Old Persian, p. 118) Darius refers to āyadanā &ldquoplaces of worship.&rdquo Archeologists have failed to find any remains that could be interpreted as those of Zoroastrian temples from the early Achaemenid period and this accords with Herodotus&rsquo statement (1.131) that still in his day (mid 5th century B.C.) the Persians had no temples but worshipped in the open. The āyadana were therefore presumably simply sacred places to which there was regular resort (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 88-89). The attempt to find evidence in the Persepolis Elamite tablets for the existence of 19 fire-temples in Pārs in the early Achaemenid period (W. Hinz, Orientalia 39, 1970, pp. 429-30) rested on an interpretation of the word haturmak&scarona as &ldquofire-priest&rdquo but the contexts now show that this word in fact describes a man trading in food commodities (R. T. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969). The temple at Dahān-e Ḡolāmān in S.E. Iran has been ascribed to this period (U. Scerrato, East and West 16, 1966, pp. 9-30 South Asian Archaeology 1977, ed. M. Taddei, Naples, 1979, II, pp. 709-35), but it cannot have been a Zoroastrian one, since receptacles there contain ashes mixed with crushed and burnt animal bones, something wholly against Zoroastrian purity laws. Presumably this was a temple of the local indigenous people, built with Achaemenid approval (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 130). Darius too continued Cyrus&rsquo policy of active benevolence to non-Iranian faiths, notably by building a huge temple to Amun-Rē in Egypt (H. E. Winlock et al., The Temple of Hibis in El Khārgeh Oasis, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1938-53).

Problems concerning Xerxes&rsquo beliefs were created by Herodotus&rsquo account of incidents during his Greek war. Human sacrifice (Herodotus 7.114) was certainly profoundly at odds with Zoroastrian morality, and presumably represents an ancient pagan custom revived under stress of war (or in the case of Queen Amestris, of old age). The scourging of the Hellespont (7.35), apparently a sacrilegious act against the good creation of water, has been justified on the grounds that this water was &ldquobitter . . . and briny,&rdquo i.e. as it were polluted. On the positive side Herodotus refers to the king eating only once a day (7.121), a characteristic piece of Zoroastrian self-discipline and according to later sources he was accompanied on his campaign by Ostanes, the chief magus, whom Greek tradition knew as a Zoroastrian high priest (Diogenes Laertius 2.2 J. Bidez et F. Cumont, Les mages hellénisés, Paris, 1938, I, p. 168). In Herodotus&rsquo account of Persian beliefs and practices in his own day (1.131f.) we have the earliest descriptions of the Zoroastrian purity laws in action (killing of noxious creatures, avoiding pollution of water, exposure of the dead), while the sacrifices which he describes, offered in the open and in high places and once thought to be un-Zoroastrian, are now known to accord closely with Zoroastrian lay practices as still maintained today (Boyce, A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977, pp. 242f.).

In his &ldquoDaiva&rdquo inscription (X[erxes] P[ersepolis]h, Kent, Old Persian, p. 151), Xerxes himself records how he destroyed a sanctuary of Daivas and established the worship of Ahura Mazdā there. Attempts have been made to interpret this Daiva-sanctuary as one of the two great temples known to have been destroyed by Xerxes, Esagla in Babylon or the Athenian Acropolis but there is no evidence to suggest that Xerxes ever performed rites of Iranian worship in these two alien places, one of which lay beyond his own borders and in the light of all the positive evidence now available for the Zoroastrian beliefs of the early Achaemenids, it seems reasonable to take &ldquoDaiva&rdquo here as the equivalent in his usage of Avestan &ldquoDaēva,&rdquo and to see him as a convinced Zoroastrian, suppressing among Iranians the worship of those warlike divinities who had been denounced by his prophet (U. Bianchi, RHR 192, 1977, pp. 3-30).

Ziggurats and Temples in Ancient Mesopotamia

Ziggurats are as emblematic of Mesopotamia as the great pyramids are of ancient Egypt. These ancient stepped buildings were created to be home to the patron god or goddess of the city. As religion was central to Mesopotamian life, the ziggurat was the heart of a city. Starting around 3000 B.C., Mesopotamian kings began building ziggurats and continued to build them up to the time of Alexander the Great circa 300 B.C.

In Mesopotamia, a fine balance of power existed between the secular kings and the high priests of the patron god or goddess. Kings built ziggurats to prove their religious dedication and fervor.

The word ziggurat means raised area. Broad at the bottom, these pyramid-shaped buildings had two to seven tiers, with each ascending tier smaller than the one under it. The top of the building was flat, and on it was a shrine or temple to the god where only priests could go. The entire building was made of sun-dried bricks in all the interior areas, with glazed fire-dried bricks facing outward. The facing bricks on each successive tier were glazed a different color. A series of staircases led to the top of the ziggurat for the priests to use.

Ziggurats were part of a temple complex, a set of buildings devoted to the care of the gods and to all the businesses of the temple. The temple complex was one of the economic centers of the city. Large temples employed hundreds or even thousands of people, from priests and priestesses to humble shepherds, carpenters and weavers. The ziggurat, however, was dedicated to the city’s patron god or goddess it was sacred ground, off limits to any but the hierarchy of priests.

A series of chambers and rooms within the ziggurat were used for priests to care for the god or goddess. Special priests prepared sacred meals for the god. Each ziggurat contained an altar to the god and a statue of the deity as well. Mesopotamians believed that if the people cared sufficiently for the god, and if the sacred meals pleased them, the god would inhabit the temple or shrine prepared for them.

Since ziggurats were made with sun-dried mud bricks, they would deteriorate with age. Kings would regularly rebuild the ziggurat, often building the new on top of the old. The Great Ziggurat at Ur was most famous ziggurat in Mesopotamia. Originally built by Ur-Nammu in the 21st century B.C., it was 150 feet wide, 210 feet long and over 100 feet high. During the Neo-Babylonian era, the ziggurat had deteriorated to just the base level. It was entirely rebuilt by King Nabonidus in the 6th century B.C.

In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein had the façade of the lower level restored, and rebuilt the three huge staircases leading to the first terrace level. During the Iraq war, Saddam parked some fighter jets near the ziggurat, hoping that the presence of this ancient landmark temple would prevent the Americans from bombing the jets. Although some damage did occur during the war, Ur’s great ziggurat remains to this day in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

This article is part of our larger resource on Mesopotamian culture, society, economics, and warfare. Click here for our comprehensive article on ancient Mesopotamia.

Of Temples, Towers, Altars, and Fire Worship: The Ritual Landscape at Persepolis - History

Overview of Hawaiian Prehistory


E. Major Aspects of Traditional Hawaiian Culture (continued)

Religion was the paramount aspect of Hawaiian life, permeating every daily activity, every aspect of secular affairs, and every significant event, such as birth, marriage, death, house construction, fishing, agriculture, and war. Also important were the regular calendrical celebrations to ensure the peoples' prosperity and well-being. All activities were accompanied by appropriate rites, religious ceremonies, and prayers to establish and maintain proper relations with the spirits. The ancient Hawaiians believed these spirits, who pervaded the world and shaped events, had the power to inflict injury if directed or if angered by the breaking of their kapu, but could be approached and persuaded to act in one's behalf. The Hawaiians worshipped a vast number of deities, of which there were two main categories. Akua represented nature's elements — they were the personifications of great natural forces. The 'aumakua mentioned earlier were the familiar ancestral protective gods.

All parts of nature were thought to be manifestations or particular functions of one of these gods. A distinct difference in their "personalities" was reflected in the kind of phenomena and natural processes with which they were associated. A particular manifestation of one of a god's functions was regarded as a separate being. One god, in his different aspects, could be a patron of various crafts and activities and was usually referred to with an epithet attached to the name describing the particular aspect being invoked (e.g., Ku-of-fishing, Ku-of-war). These aspects of the major gods were worshipped as separate entities. The war god Ku-ka'ili-moku, the special god of the kings of Hawai'i Island, became of great importance during the latter era of Hawai'i's ancient history, especially in the reign of Kamehameha. At that time Ku-ka'ili-moku (Ku-the-snatcher-of-islands), Kamehameha's personal god, was established as the principal deity of the realm, a kind of state god. Demigods such as Pele, the volcano goddess, were less powerful than the four major ones and were associated with definite places, forces, or beings, as they are today. Their worship was mainly a private affair, while that to the great deities was publicly carried out in large temples by noble priests and their superiors. [129] The four all-powerful cosmic deities, or akua, in Polynesian mythology were Kane, the primary god, representative of the supreme being, creator of nature and men, concerned with life and procreation Kanaloa, associated with the sea and death but of little importance in the hierarchy Ku, who assisted in strenuous activities, generally controlled the fruitfulness of the earth, politics, and, as the power behind war, was a special god of the chiefs and Lono, god of rain and agriculture and hence of fertility, the most benevolent of the four.

The general welfare of the land, its occupants, and the chiefdoms was considered dependent on the careful and proper observance of the several calendric cycles of temple ritual. The strength and prosperity of a chiefdom, in other words, was directly related to the religious fervor the paramount chief displayed. Although the paramount chief exerted the ultimate political authority of the chiefdom, the resting place of supreme power and authority lay with the gods, or usually one specific god, who provided the paramount chief with the mana to rule. This divine mandate was considered revoked if there were a successful coup d'etat or victorious invasion resulting in a reassignment of political authority. The successful defeat of an invasion, on the other hand, was interpreted as divine confirmation of the status quo. [130]

The ancient Hawaiians considered themselves always in the midst of gods, spirits, and supernatural beings who frequented the mountains, woods, shores, and the sea, and who entered into objects, stone and wood images, and living things such as birds and sharks as well as people. According to Hawaiian belief, the success of all human activities depended on maintaining the proper relations with these spirits, and the vehicles for accomplishing this included shrines, temples, and images as well as rituals and prayers. The latter work was carried on by kahuna. In family worship, the male head of the family acted as priest, but at the elaborate, prescribed rituals in the temples of the chiefs, professional priests presided. It was they alone who knew the proper rituals for winning the favor of the gods and obtaining the purity necessary to survive the ever-present dangers in life. Closely associated with the ruling chiefs, and next in rank and authority to them, stood the kahuna pule, a distinct group of officiating priests that presided over each facet or cult of the religion. Although the chiefs were more closely descended from the gods, these kahuna were also very powerful because of their direct contact with the gods and could best determine ways to gain or perpetuate power, maintain rapport with the major gods, and intercede with them for a particular purpose.

The worship of the gods named earlier comprised a state religion characterized by large, influential cadres of priests, complex rituals, and specific places where ceremonies took place. Each major god had his own hereditary priesthood, distinct ceremonies, and specific temples (heiau) where the appropriate rituals were performed and offerings made. Each priestly family was, by tradition, devoted to the service of a particular god and could not officiate at the temple of any other deity. Only the king had free access to all sacred enclosures. In addition to their religious duties, the priesthood had charge of the chronologies, historical songs, traditions, and legends of Hawaiian society. On the island of Hawai'i, at least, two hereditary hierarchial orders of priests existed, those of Ku and those of Lono, with the former being of highest rank and therefore most powerful. The high priest (kahuna nui), one of the supreme chief's two senior advisors, headed the cult of the war god Ku. The KG rituals were only held in luakini (a sacrificial heiau) of the independent ruling chiefs, which will be described later, and were held in connection with war and other national emergencies. The Lono rituals were for maintaining peace and the fruitfulness of the land. [131]

The ancient Hawaiian culture's system of law, derived from religious authority, influenced social organization by dictating an individual's appropriate behavior within this highly rigid and ranked society. As Apple and Kikuchi state,

The universe of the native Hawaiian can be viewed as having been a delicately balanced, tri-state system composed of the supernatural, the natural, and the cultural. . . . Hawaiian culture demanded that the balance be maintained in order for the universe to function smoothly, efficiently, and abundantly. [132]

The kapu system was based in part on a dualistic conception of nature that

separated the things which were believed to be inferior (the common and unsacred, the physical, passive, female, darkness, destruction, and death, ignorance, westerly direction, left side) from the things which were believed to have a superior nature (the sacred, the psychic, mana, male, light, life, occult knowledge, easterly direction, right side). [133]

This system, a "sanctioned avoidance" behavior conforming to specific rules and prohibitions (kapu), prescribed the type of daily interactions among and between the classes, between the people and their gods, and between the people and nature. By compelling avoidance between persons of extreme rank difference, it reinforced class divisions by protecting mana (spiritual power) from contamination while at the same time preventing the mana from harming others. Kapu not only separated the nobility from the lower classes, but also prevented contact with such spiritually debasing or defiling things as corpses and evil spirits. The kapu system preserved the Hawaiian culture not only by maintaining social control through the prevention of chaos caused by the confusion of societal roles and by reinforcing political power, but also by providing environmental controls through the conservation of natural resources, which maintained a balance in nature and enabled maintenance of a subsistence [134]

The kapu system was practiced throughout Polynesia, indicating that the early Hawaiians brought its basic tenets from their homeland. Certain religious kapu were permanent and unchangeable, relating to customary rites, observances, ceremonies, and methods of worship, and to the maintenance of the gods and their priests. They were familiar and understood by all, having been practiced from childhood. Civil kapu were more capricious, erratic, and often temporary, depending on the whims of the chiefs and priests. [135] The kapu system comprised a vast number of prohibitions with dire penalties for infractions, intentional or not, that included execution by being stoned, clubbed, strangled, drowned, or burned alive. The strict observance of the kapu system and its punishments were necessary to preserve the power and prestige of the priesthood and the rulers. This intricate system that supported Hawai'i's social and political organization directed every activity of Hawaiian life, from birth through death, until its overthrow by King Kamehameha II in 1819. [136]

According to Kuykendall, the kapu system was

the feature of the Hawaiian culture which made the deepest impression upon most of the early foreign visitors, who saw only the outer manifestations of the system and who in their descriptions emphasize its bizarre restrictions and cruel sanctions. [137]

One of these early visitors, the Reverend William Ellis, noted that

an institution so universal in its influence, and so inflexible in its demands, contributed very materially to the bondage and oppression of the natives in general. The king, sacred chiefs, and priests appear to have been the only persons to whom its application was easy the great mass of the people were at no period of their existence exempt from its influence, and no circumstance in life could excuse their obedience to its demands. The females in particular felt all its humiliating and degrading force. [138]

And Professor William Bryan of the College of Hawaii remarked in 1915 that the kapu system

was fastened on every act of the daily life of the people to such an extent that it was ever present, dominating their every thought and deed. It oppressed their lives, curtailed their liberties, and darkened and narrowed their horizon beyond belief. [139]

Whether or not the Hawaiians believed the kapu restrictions to be bizarre, inflexible, humiliating, or oppressive is questionable. Certainly it was a system that impressed all foreign Visitors as being shocking and cruel in the context of their experiences.

Many things were kapu under Hawaiian culture. Anything connected with the gods and their worship was considered sacred, such as idols, heiau, and priests. Because chiefs were believed to be descendants of the gods, many kapu related to chiefs and their personal possessions, such as clothes, mats, and houses. Certain objects were also kapu, and to be avoided, either because they were sacred or because they were defiling. Seasons and places could also be declared kapu. [140]

The Hawaiian kapu can be grouped into three categories. [141] The first evolved from the basic precepts of the Hawaiian religion and affected all individuals, but were considered by foreign observers to be especially oppressive and burdensome to women. One of the most important and fundamental of this type of proscription forbade men and women from eating together and also prohibited women from eating most of the foods offered as ritual sacrifices to the gods. For example, it was kapu for women to eat pork, pigs being a frequent sacrificial offering, and they could only eat dog meat or other kapu foods on special occasions. They also could not eat fowl, coconuts, bananas, turtle, shark meat, or certain kinds of fruits or fish that were offered in sacrifice, these being kapu to anyone but the gods and men. In addition, foods for husbands and wives had to be cooked in separate ovens and eaten in separate structures. [142] During the four principal kapu periods of each month, women were forbidden to ride in a canoe or have intimate relations with the other sex. During her pregnancy, a woman had to live apart from her husband. [143]

A second category of kapu were those relating to the inherited rank of the nobility and were binding on all those equal to or below them in status. Regarding kapu relative to the ruling class,

The kapus of prerogative associated with the high chiefs were in effect safeguards to their mana. They took several forms, but all were designed to prevent loss of a chief's mana through contact with "common" things, on the one hand, and to protect ordinary mortals from the dire consequences of exposure to his god-like radiations of mana, on the other. The kapus of prerogative were inherited, and were observed in recognition of the degree of mana inherent in the chiefs who held them. [144]

These kapu posed enormous difficulties for the high ali'i because it restricted their behavior and activities to some degree. As Cox and Davenport state:

An individual of high rank could have considerable mana, but it was extremely dangerous to a commoner or an outcast when, by contagion, he contracted a supercharged amount of mana from an exceptionally high ali'i. For this reason those chiefs who were the direct descendants of the great deities and who were thought to be in some ways the incarnation of these gods, were so charged with mana that in some situations they could not even walk about the land without rendering all they touched, or upon which their shadows fell, prohibited to commoners. [145]

Because these kapu prohibited the highest-ranking chiefs from easily walking around during the day, some of them traveled in disguise to protect the people and themselves from the difficulties presented by this custom. [146]

This category included the deferential behavior patterns that lower-ranking people had to follow in the presence of those of higher rank. Commoners had to prostrate themselves with their faces touching the ground before the most sacred chiefs when they ventured out in public, and neither the king nor priests could touch anything themselves. [147] All personal possessions of a person of the highest chiefly rank (resulting from a brother-sister marriage) were definitely kapu, and contact with them by a commoner meant certain death.

The third category were governmental edicts issued randomly by a paramount chief or his officials that were binding on all subjects and included such acts as the placing of kapu on certain preferred surfing, fishing, or bathing spots for the chief's exclusive use. Any place or object could be declared kapu by the proper person affixing near it or on its perimeters a pole or stakes bearing a bit of white kapa cloth or a bunch of bamboo leaves, signifying that the locality or thing should be avoided. [148] The most important temples and the permanent housing complexes of high chiefs were surrounded by dry-laid masonry walls or wooden palings that created a sacred stockade. However,

not all of the stockades were physical. Some were invisible lines that were as effective as rock walls or picket fences. Walls and fences apparently marked lifetime or permanent taboo areas. Invisible lines marked enclosures guarded by temporary taboos. Real or invisible, they excluded commoners. [149]

In addition, the chiefs proclaimed certain kapu seasons as conservation measures to regulate land use and safeguard resources. These had the same force as other kapu, but pertained to the gathering or catching of scarce foodstuffs, such as particular fruits and species of fish to water usage and to farming practices. [150] These kapu were designed to protect resources from overuse. Through the kapu system, Hawaiian chiefs played a major role in controlling the food supply by restricting consumption of certain types of food to certain classes and sexes. The restriction on the types of food women could eat, for example "would have moderated demand for domesticated mammal meat and may have played a major role in preserving herds." [151] At certain times, also, particular fruits, animals, and fish were kapu for several months to both sexes. Other kapu seasons observed were at the approach of a great religious ceremony, before going to war, or when a chief was sick. [152]

(5) Effects on the Population

High officials declared general kapu and had them publicly announced. On specific nights of every lunar month, rituals and sacrifices took place at the temple of each major deity. During a strict kapu period, when the ruler especially needed the favor of the deities, absolute silence was mandated in order not to break the sacred spell of the rites. All human activity ceased, no fires were built, domestic animals were shut away or muzzled, and everyone except priests remained indoors. Common kapu only required males to stop their work and attend temple ceremonies, while the time it lasted was considered a holiday. [153]

The Hawaiian kapu system not only hindered the freedom of the commoners and women in general, but also restricted the activities of the highest ranking chiefs. It was also open to periodic abuse. [154] The kapu system was, nonetheless, enforced throughout Kamehameha's reign. According to William Ellis, "Tamehameha always supposed his success, in every enterprise, to be owing to the strict attention he paid to the service and requirements of his god." [155] According to Lt. George Peard, crewman on the H.M.S. Blossom, who visited Hawai'i in 1826-27,

Tamaamaah [Kamehameha] himself had even been averse to a change [in religious practices], and refused several applications to allow the Missionaries to settle on his estates, although he was well aware of the absurdity of Paganism. When questioned by [Gov. John] Adams [Kuakini] about it, and more particularly concerning human sacrifices. 'You don't think me such a fool said he as to put any faith in their efficacy. I only suffer them, because I find them useful in keeping my people in subjection.' [156]

(6) Sanctioned Violations of System

The only time the ancient Hawaiians could violate kapu occurred upon the death of a paramount chief. Mourning customs then allowed the deliberate violation of several kapu accompanied by a variety of excessive behaviors:

In addition to the usual signs of grief, people went naked, women entered temples and ate prohibited foods, property was plundered, and some individuals begged to be buried with their ruler. Although these excesses were rationalized as due to unreason from grief, the license also seems to have symbolized the temporary state of anarchy and suspension of the divine mandate to rule. During these revelries the successor removed himself from the place of death and the scenes of kapu violation to avoid contamination by them. Upon his return from his retreat to be installed in the chieftainship, one of his initial acts of rule was to reinstate the law of the kapu. By this he declared his assumption of the divine mandate. [157]

The Reverend William Ellis, landing on the island of Hawai'i soon after the death of Kamehameha, noted:

When we landed on Owhyhi, signs of desolation met our eyes everywhere and were proof of the excesses that had been committed at the recent death of Tamehameha. During such a crisis, anarchy reigns in all its horror: laws and tabou restrictions are violated with effrontery forbidden foods are devoured without scruple, especially by women rights of ownership are disregarded force becomes the supreme law the voice of the chiefs is powerless old offenses are revenged with blood or pillage — in a word, unbelievable scenes of disorder, cruelty, and debauchery take place all over, encouraged by lack of punishment. Calm is gradually restored only when the heir has been definitely invested with royal power. Such is the manner in which the common people, momentarily free of all restraint, express the sorrow that one is expected to feel at the death of one's sovereign. [158]

The only individuals who did not take part in this period of licentiousness were the heir to the throne and his family, who immediately removed themselves from the district that had been defiled by death. The heir returned after fifteen days, after the dead ruler's bones had been preserved and a priest had cleansed the area of all pollution. [159]

Because Hawaiian life focused on propitiating the gods, the various islands contained many kinds of temples invoking peace, war, health, or profitable fishing and farming. Families and individuals conducted daily worship services at home, either in the men's eating house, in a family heiau, or at small improvised altars or shrines. More formalized worship by chiefs and specific occupational groups, such as fishermen, took place in temples, or heiau. These structures ranged in complexity from single houses surrounded by a wooden fence to stone-walled enclosures containing several houses to the massive open-air temples with terraces, extensive stone platforms, and numerous carved idols in which ruling chiefs paid homage to the major Hawaiian gods. [160]

Illustration 10. Reconstruction of a Hale o Lono by Paul Rockwood. From I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History, p. 57.

There were two major orders of heiau: the agricultural or economy-related ones dedicated to Lono, referred to as mapele (heiau ho'ouluulu), at which offerings of pigs, vegetables, and bark cloth hopefully guaranteed rain and agricultural fertility and plenty (Illustration 10) and the large sacrificial government war temples, luakini (heiau po'okanaka), upon whose altars human lives were taken when assurance of success in combat was requested or when a very grave state emergency, such as pestilence or famine, dictated that the highest religious authority — Ku — be approached for help. The nobility, land division chiefs, or priests could construct agricultural temples, whose ceremonies were open to all. War temples dedicated to Ku could only be built by the ali'i-'ai-moku, and could only be entered by the king, important chiefs and nobility, and members of the Ku priesthood. Dedication of this type of temple by anyone else was considered treason. In addition, only the high chief could undertake the rituals involving human sacrifice — the highest form of offering to propitiate the gods. [161] Because only a high chief could order the construction of a war temple and conduct the rituals necessary for assuring victory, the process clearly designated him as the correct person to wage war and the only one who would have the backing of the gods. These obvious distinctions served also to gain him the full support of his people in this endeavor. [162] Cox and Davenport elaborate on this point:

Erecting temples was the prerogative and responsibility of the ali'i, for only they could command the necessary resources to build them, to maintain the priests, and to secure the sacrifices that were required for the rituals. Though temple worship was primarily an affair of the nobility, the whole land depended upon the effectiveness of these rituals. . . . Actually, the temple worship was a form of ancestor worship, since the gods were looked upon as also being direct ancestors of the ali'i and progenitors of all Hawaiians. [163]

Hawaiian temples and shrines, according to Patrick Kirch,

are part of a wide-spread tradition of temple construction found throughout Eastern Polynesia, with roots that can be traced to Ancestral Polynesian Society. In most of East Polynesia such temples are called marae . . . and all of them, including the Hawaiian heiau, have certain architectural features in common. [164]

Oral traditions trace the origin of Hawaiian luakini temple construction to the high priest Pa'ao, who arrived in the islands in about the thirteenth century. He introduced several changes to Hawaiian religious practices that affected temple construction, priestly ritual, and worship practices. Prior to his coming, the prayers, sacrifices, and other ceremonial activities that the high chief and his officiating priest performed could be observed by the congregation, who periodically responded as part of the ceremony. After Pa'ao's arrival, temple courtyards, which were sometimes built on hillsides to add to their massiveness, were enclosed with high stone walls, preventing the masses from participating as freely in the worship ceremonies. In addition, new gods stronger kapu an independent, hereditary priesthood wooden temple images and human sacrifices became established parts of the religious structure. Pa'ao erected the first luakini (Wahaula) at Puna, Hawai'i, followed by Mo'okini Heiau at Pu'uepa, Kohala. These structures signalled a new era in Hawaiian religious practices. [165]

At the time of European contact, a multitude of temples still functioned in the islands, and early visitors noted many of these:

They [the Hawaiians] have many temples, which are large enclosures, with piles of stones heaped up in pyramidal forms, like shot in an arsenal, and houses for the priests and others, who remain within them during their taboos. Great numbers of idols, of the most uncouth forms, are placed round within, in all directions: to these they offer sacrifices of hogs, cocoa nuts, bananas, and human victims: the latter are criminals only formerly, prisoners of war were sometimes sacrificed, but that inhuman practice was abolished by the present sovereign [Kamehameha]. [166]

John B. Whitman was also impressed by these structures:

. . . of their morairs [maraes (temples)], or churches, and the terrible rites . . . were I to give but a partial account . . . it would be . . . of such length. . . . Hundreds of these Slaughter houses, are still standing on various parts of the Islands, each distinguished by the Symbols of the high taboo. Several long poles with a round ball of white tarpen [kapa] on the top of them, are placed round the house, and mark the boundaries of the sacred spot, these buildings [structures on the heiau] are mostly of the same materials as the dwelling houses. [167]

Early missionaries noted that

Their morais, or places of worship, consist of one large house or temple, with some smaller ones round it, in which are the images of their inferior gods. The tabooed or consecrated precincts are marked out by four square posts, which stand thirty or forty yards from the building. In the inside of the principal house there is a screen or curtain of white cloth, hung across one end, within which the image of Etooah [principal god] is placed. When sacrifices are offered, the priests and chiefs enter occasionally within this space, going in at one side, and out at the other. On the outside are placed several images made of wood, as ugly as can be well imagined, having their mouths all stuck round with dogs [sic] teeth. [168]

In regard to their sacrificial customs, Jules Remy clarified that

The Hawaiians are not cannibals. They have been upbraided in Europe as eaters of human flesh, but such is not the case. They never killed a man for food. It is true that in sacrifice they eat certain parts of the victim, but there it was a religious rite, not an act of cannibalism. So also when they eat the flesh of their dearest chiefs, it was to do honor to their dearest chiefs, it was to do honor to their memory by a work of love: they never eat the flesh of bad chiefs. [169]

The early Hawaiians did cut up bodies as a part of their mortuary customs of stripping the flesh from bones of their chiefs before they were hidden. According to Ethnologist Peter H. Buck, however, "Cannibalism was never customary among the Hawaiians." [170]

The ruins found in Hawai'i illustrate the wide variety of temple types built. Although many of their features have been found at other sites in Polynesia, according to an early study of Hawaiian heiau, "there is nothing to show that the heiau reached Hawaii as a complex of established form and features," and certain features "seem independent and . . . were doubtless evolved locally." [171] According to Historian Samuel Kamakau, heiau in the Hawaiian Islands "varied in shape, being square, oblong, and round in form of no uniform plan . . . but each according to the design of the kaula, or prophets." [172] The large luakini were the most impressive of the Hawaiian temple structures in terms of size and associated religious activities. Their rituals dramatized the ali'i-'ai-moku's spiritual, economic, political, and social control over his dominion and his authority over the life and death of his people. As Davenport states,

the purpose of that worship was to promote the integrity and continuity of the chiefdom by keeping the covenants between the gods and the ruling chief strong. It can be regarded, in some ways, as a maintenance activity of the government. [173]

Whenever a chief unseated a rival in war, the process of takeover was not complete until all the luakini temples of the defeated chief had been reconsecrated to the victor's gods. Often the defeated paramount chief and his followers were among the first sacrificed to signify his loss of the supernatural mandate to rule. [174] The services that occurred in these state heiau, conducted by priests of the order of Ku were either related to the personal life of the king, such as at the birth and maturity of his sons, or due to emergency needs of the nation — to increase the population, to improve the public health, to bring peace, to ask for success in war, or to prepare for defense.

(b) Design and Construction

These temples could not be constructed randomly, but only on sites formerly used by the "people of old." Kuhikuhi pu'uone (an order of the priesthood) were the only persons with knowledge of the plans and sites of abandoned heiau, and they furnished this information when construction of a new temple was planned. [175]

Luakini stood in or near villages, on prominent hills or ridges, on cliffs with a good view of the sea, or on plateaus between the coast and the mountains. Because of the variety of topography, the form and size of these structures depended on the ground contours (Illustration 11). In some cases the apparent massiveness of the temple foundation was deceiving, because the builders took full advantage of the contours to give the structure height without using much stone. The aim during construction of a luakini class of heiau was to create as imposing a structure as possible, and they often formed a very conspicuous part of the landscape. Luakini varied in form and outline but contained platforms (high or low, simple or tiered), a terrace of one or more tiers, walled enclosures, or any combination of these (Illustration 12). Terraces produced the same effect as a platform of more than twice the size. A structure with all three types of features, such as Pu'ukohola on the island of Hawai'i, was considered the zenith of Hawaiian temple construction. It not only intimidated the people, but was considered extremely potent in securing the favor of the gods. [176] As Kirch states, "such temples reflect the power of the late prehistoric and early historic Hawaiian paramounts, and their ability to command the labor necessary to raise such monuments." [177]

Illustration 11. Heiau construction techniques for terraces and walls. From Haas, "Hawaiians as Engineers," p. iv.
Illustration 12. Ground plan drawings of luakini on Hawai'i Island. Figure 32 in Ladd, Excavations at Site A-27, p. 75.

In addition to carefully selecting the correct site for a new heiau, the kuhikuhi pu'uone also took great care in planning its design. These kahuna studied earlier temples and learned every detail of their construction, particularly those features of heiau that they knew had brought luck or victory to their builders. According to J.F.G. Stokes, these seers then incorporated various design elements of those "successful" temples into new heiau, and this explains the variety of forms. [178]

The process involved modeling the design of a new heiau in sand for approval by the king, after which a tax in the form of building the heiau was laid on all commoners, courtiers, and chiefs. The usual plan of the luakini dictated that if the front faced the west or east, the oracle tower stood on the north end of the structure. If the heiau fronted on the north or south, the tower would be on the east side, turned toward the west or south. The audience sat in the southern or western part of the structure.

The main features of a luakini (Illustration 13), enclosed by walls or wooden fences, included the:

Illustration 13. Two reconstructions of a luakini. Drawing on the left is of Papaenaena heiau on O'ahu. Drawing on the right, by Paul Rockwood, is of Waha'ula Heiau in Puna, Hawai'i. From Davenport, "Hawaiian Feudalism," p. 18, and I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History, p. 34.

lananuumamao, or 'anu'u —a wooden framework obelisk that served as an oracle tower. It was usually more than twenty feet tall and contained three platforms. The lowest symbolized the earth, the abode of humans, and was where offerings were placed the middle was viewed as the space of birds and clouds and was where the high priest and his attendants conducted services the highest platform symbolized the heavens — dwelling place of the gods — and could only be ascended by the high priest and the king. This was where the high priest received inspiration and acted as intermediary with the gods. The entire structure was covered with bleached kapa. It was a highly visible component of the temple platform area and contained within a refuse or bone pit where decayed offerings and bones of victims were cast (lua pa'u).

lele — an offertorium, the altar on which offerings were left

hale pahu — the drum house, enclosed except at the front

hale mana — the largest, most sacred house on the heiau platform, used by the king and the officiating priest during kapu periods (Illustration 14)

Illustration 14. Interior of hale mana in a luakini, Kaua'i. Drawing by John Webber on the James Cook expedition, plate 2, in Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice, from 1784 publication, p. 261.

wai'ea — a small house for incantations in which the 'aha ceremony took place. Relaxing of the kapu proclaimed over the new heiau depended on obtaining an aha, a mat braided out of a rare seaweed found only in the deep ocean. Coconut fiber was combined with the seaweed in braiding the 'aha, which was used to decorate the shrine of Ku. If the seaweed was not found immediately, the search continued for months or years

hale umu — the oven house for temple fires house at the entrance to the temple

kipapa — a pavement of large stones for ceremonial use 'ili'ili — a pavement of pebbles used as flooring

Haku ohi'a — (Lord of the ohi'a tree) the chief idol. Other temple images, up to twelve feet tall, were arranged in various ways within a heiau — some were in a fence configuration and others adorned the walls.

Wood for the temple houses was usually ohi'a their thatching was loulu palm leaves and uki grass. Large pieces of ohi'a wood were used for the lananuunmamao and similar large trees for the carving of idols. These wooden images stood in a semicircular arrangement in front of the lananuumamao in front of them was the kipapa and the place where the lele stood on which sacrifices were placed (Illustration 15). In front of the lele and below was the 'ili'ili. Also in front of the lele was the hale pahu, with its entrance facing the lele. Back of the drum house stood the long mana, also facing the lele, and another house at the entrance to the heiau. The aha service (in connection with the Makahiki festival) was performed in the wai'ea, located in the narrow passage back of the drum house and at the end of the mana house at the other end of the mana was the oven house (hale umu) where the temple fire was kindled. [179]

Illustration 15. The king's luakini in the Kona District, Hawai'i Island, by Jacques Arago, artist on the de Frycinet expedition, 1817-20. The structure was abandoned at this time. Published in Voyage Autour du Monde. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

Samuel Kamakau provides some additional information on the luakini furnishings. He states that the 'anu'u, or oracle tower, as erected in the larger heiau, was square in shape, four to five fathoms high, and three or four fathoms long and wide. Pieces of kapa hung from purlins attached to the frame. [180] Kamakau described the ritual observances for obtaining the timber for the houses and for the main image within a luakini, involving the consecration of the adz the formation of a large procession up the mountainside consisting of the ruler and his chiefs, retainers, and priests prayers a tree-felling feast the leaving of the body of a lawbreaker at the stump of the moku 'ohi'a and then the slow return to the lowlands that had to proceed in absolute silence and that no commoner could witness on pain of death. [181]

The construction, location, and configuration of the houses on the heiau was governed by prescribed rules related to the site, the kind of house, the god being honored, and the ritual ceremonies that would be performed. Of the houses within the heiau, the most sacred was the mana house, which held the mo'i image. The large umu, or oven house, was a shed-like structure within which pigs were baked for offerings. Kamakau mentions a "house to revive life" that stood in front of the 'anu'u tower and was used by the ruler and kahuna nui in the 'aha ritual (same as the wai'ea). The hale pahu housed the large and small drums played to please the gods. To the sound of their constant beat, the "god keepers" chanted formal prayers and entreated the gods. Between the hale mana and the hale pahu was the lele (altar). After the houses were built, all other items required to complete the rituals were added, including kapa garments for the priests, kapa for the houses and the scaffold structures, and kapa for covering each image. The altar was hung with fern leaves and other greenery. [182]

Construction of a luakini was arduous, entailing several days of protracted and elaborate ritual. Consecration for this type of temple required two series of services, one for the king and the congregation lasting ten days and one for the king only, lasting three days. The initial ceremonies occurred during the construction of the temple foundations, the erection of houses, and the preparation of the images. The main consecration ceremonies followed, with offerings to the gods of hogs, coconuts, bananas, and human sacrifices. The women's heiau — Hale o Papa, adjacent to the luakini — housed the final ceremonies, performed by the women in the ruler's family. [183]

David Malo surmised that "it was a great undertaking for a king to build a heiau of the sort called a luakini, to be accomplished with fatigue and with redness of the eyes from long and wearisome prayers and ceremonies on his part." [184] William Davenport states that

The most exacting and arduous rites were those performed at the temples dedicated to Ku. Hundreds of pigs and great quantities of staples might be consumed and sacrificed to mark each phase of the ritual cycle. . . . Each part of the ritual was conducted by a different priest who was specially practiced at his specific ritual role. But the paramount chief himself was always the pivotal participant, for the propitiation was directed toward his personal aspect of the god from whom he received the supernatural mandate of his office. At the completion of each ritual phase, which had to be executed without flaw lest its efficacy be marred, the environment was scanned for specific omens that indicated whether or not the god accepted the ritual communication. Only when the omen revealed favorable reception was the next ritual phase begun. Thus, the ritual and the reading of answering omens amounted to a dialogue between the paramount chief together with his priests and the godly source of their political authority. [185]

The number and types of structures that crowned the heiau platforms, the constant chanting and beating of drums that emanated from the temple during ceremonies, the smell of burnt and decaying offerings wafting through the air, and the knowledge that direct communication with the gods was taking place, endowed heiau, especially luakini, with a tremendous visual and sensual impact on the people. [186]

The most impressive feature of these huge luakini ruins is the stonework forming the foundation terraces, platforms, and walls. According to Samuel Kamakau:

The hardest work in making the heiaus of the ancient days was in laying the stones. . . . If the heiau were on a cliff or hillside, stones had to be laid and interlocked . . . until they reached the highest level. A heiau on level ground (heiau pu'uhonua) did not need as much stone covering, but many thousands of stones were needed just the same. The first thing in making heiaus was to locate a site, and then to raise up the well-fitted stones. The chiefs and those who lived in their households did the work, but if the task were extremely laborious, then it became "public work" . . . and the people . . . helped. [187]

(f) Relationship to the People

Everything concerning luakini was hard work for commoners, including the initial conscription of their labor to build the massive stone foundations, the periodic rebuilding of structures, the production of large quantities of produce extended as tribute that was used as sacrificial offerings, and the severe restrictions imposed on the nearby population during the kapu periods when dedication services or other rituals were being conducted. In addition, there was always the possibility that inadvertent breaking of a kapu could result in a commoner ending up as the ritual sacrifice. [188] In general, both commoners and women were excluded from all heiau, although some had structures in close proximity for use by women of royal lineage. [189]

Prior to the high priest Pa'ao's arrival, the Hawaiians worshipped unseen deities. The introduction of wooden temple images as representations of the cosmic gods provided the people with something tangible through which to worship their deities. These images were not worshipped as gods themselves, but it was thought that when invoked through certain rituals, the mana or spirit of a god would occupy the carved statue and could be consulted or supplicated in times of need. Visitors to the islands long after the abolition of the ancient religious system noted that the Hawaiians

deny that they actually worshipped the wood and the stone, and to explain to us their use of images, they refer at once to the practice of the Romanists in regard to pictures and symbols. They can discern but little difference between their ancient worship and the rites and ceremonies of the Romanists. . . . [190]

Hawaiian temple courtyard images were only one means by which priests communicated with the gods. In other instances they received messages while in the oracle tower or while in a trance. It is also thought that in some cases the paramount chief, as a direct descendant of the gods, served as the interlocutor between the deities and their worshippers during the course of a ceremony. [191]

Priest-craftsmen, highly trained and skilled in the intricacies of both the carving of wood and the symbolism of religious ritual, served as the artisans of these powerful images. Standing within the temple courtyards or stationed around the walls of heiau, these sculptures inspired fear among the populace and vividly impressed visiting Europeans (Illustration 16). In 1823 the Reverend William Ellis

took a sketch of one of the idols [on the ruins of the heiau Ahuena at Kailua], which stood sixteen feet above the wall, was upwards of three feet in breadth, and had been carved out of a single tree. The above may be considered as a tolerable specimen of the greater part of Hawaiian idols. The head has generally a most horrid appearance, the mouth being large and usually extended wide, exhibiting a row of large teeth, resembling in no small degree the cogs in the wheel of an engine, and adapted to excite terror rather than inspire confidence in the beholder. Some of their idols were of stone, and many were constructed with a kind of wickerwork covered with red feathers. [192]

Illustration 16. Temple of Kamehameha in the Kona District at Kamakahonu, showing courtyard temple images. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

A few visitors managed to catch a glimpse of these various types of images before their swift destruction upon abolition of the kapu system others relied on secondhand information to convey the frightful aspects of the figures. In addition to fixed temple images, there were mobile ones that could be transported between temples or in ritual processions, such as during the Makahiki festival. The featherwork noted in the 1880s description below of images carried into battle is attributed to the religious tradition instituted by the high priest Pa'ao: [193]

These gods were no light burden, being great blocks of wood several feet high, with heads and necks formed of fine wickerwork, covered with red feathers so curiously wrought as to resemble the skin of a bird. The face was hideous, having a mouth from ear to ear, armed with triple rows of shark's teeth, and eyes of mother-of-pearl. The head was adorned with long tresses of human hair, and crowned with a shapely feather helmet. The priests who carried these repulsive deities uttered terrific yells, and distorted their own countenance, the better to encourage their own warriors, and alarm the foe. [194]

Despite the ethnocentric descriptions of them by early viewers, the few remaining Hawaiian temple images are regarded today as one of the finest artistic accomplishments of the ancient Hawaiians:

It is very probable that these statues were intended to be ugly. They were meant to look ferocious, and to inspire fear in all beholders. . . . There is more to it than that, however. The decorated headdresses of the idols, the staring eyes, the big heads and the scowling mouths, with tongues sticking out, have undoubted symbolic significance. . . . These features are common throughout the Pacific. . . [195]

Dorota Starzecka divides Hawaiian religious sculpture into three types: temple, stick, and free standing images (Illustrations 17 and 18):

Temple images are monumental in scale and threatening in expression. Among the most distinctive are those in Kona style (from the Kona coast of Hawaii where the style developed), characterized by the elaboration of the hair with its two downward sweeps, a figure-of-eight mouth, extended nostrils, and eyes located off the face and in the hair, following its curve. The central image in the temple was the most elaborately carved and the ceremony of its setting up was marked with a human sacrifice. Stick images are small, portable images with shafts, from 3 to 24 in. in length. . . . These images . . . were also used during ceremonies in the temples. Free-standing images tend to be bigger than the stick images, and show a certain realism. Some of them have pearl-shell eyes, human teeth and human hair pegged in. [196]

Illustration 17. Stick and temple images. Plates 8 and 9 from Valeri, Kingships and Sacrifice.
Illustration 18. Temple of Kamehameha I in the Kona District at Kamakahonu. Courtesy, Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

Idols were commonly found in association with religious structures in other areas of Polynesia, but Hawai'i was somewhat unique in terms of the arrangement of images within the heiau. [197] Temple images were either erected in holes made in the stone paved platform area of a heiau or were placed on top of the surrounding walls or fences. In the latter case, they were probably decorative features rather than ritual focuses. Some may have designated entrances to the temple and some appear to have marked boundaries of ritual spaces. Images used within the central temple area were manifestations of one of the four major Hawaiian deities (Ku, Kane, Lono, Kanaloa) but were not specifically identifiable to any one of them. The primary luakini temple image was the akua mo'i (lord of the god image), an elaborately carved statue that was the last to be placed in front of the altar. [198]

The same heavy ohi'a wood used for the oracle tower was utilized in carving the luakini images. A complicated ritual observance (haku ohi'a) existed for obtaining the timber for both the heiau houses and the main image of Ku. It involved consecration of the axes used to fell the trees, followed by a journey to the mountains by a delegation of priests and the ruler to obtain the special timber needed. Other ritual observances included prayers, feasting, and an offering of a human sacrifice. After carving the image, the priests carried it back and laid it outside the entrance of the temple. Inside, a row of carved images representing the major gods was placed in front of the oracle tower with a space left in the middle. Toward the end of the luakini ceremonies, the central idol was brought into the courtyard and set up in the hole dug for it in the midst of the other statues. A ceremony including prayers and another sacrificial victim, whose body was thrown into the cavity prepared for the main image, took place and the statue was erected in the hole. Construction of the mana house was then quickly finished and another image placed inside it. Afterwards priests awaited a sign that Ku was present at the ceremonies. The signal was the finding of the seaweed to be placed in the waiea. If it was found, a coconut fiber cord was wrapped around the principal image's belly as an umbilical cord. It was then cut and a feast held to honor the "birth" of this image. A confirmation ceremony followed. Just as a young boy was dressed in a bleached loin cloth at puberty, the new image was wrapped in bleached bark cloth and declared mo'i, lord of all the idols. The lesser images were then also wrapped in kapa. In the evening shadows they would have presented a ghostly, surreal presence. [199]

(6) Treatment by the Hawaiians

An interesting aspect of the Hawaiian temple images is that they were considered only representations of the gods and not sacred in and of themselves. The sacredness only came after the spirits of the gods had been induced to enter them through specific rituals. As Shimizu states,

Sacredness of the physical elements of a heiau was a temporary condition. After all the labor involved in construction and the intensive ceremonies within the heiau were concluded, the heiau was virtually abandoned until the next major event. Although the central image representing the main deity of the heiau remained sacred, the supplementary images were no longer regarded with value and respect. [200]

The minor images were evidently allowed to deteriorate between important ceremonies. This gave some people, such as Captain Nathaniel Portlock, a mistaken impression about the fervity of Hawaiian religious practices when he visited there in 1786-87:

Another species of ingenuity met with amongst the natives here, is carving: they have a number of wooden images, representing human figures, which they esteem as their gods but it is a matter of doubt, whether religion is held in any great estimation amongst them, for every god amongst the islands might be purchased for a few towees. [201]

Captain Cook also reported that the people, including the priests, seemed to have little respect for their idols, many of which his sailors carried away in full view of the people. [202] Cox and Davenport surmise that when a temple was rededicated, the central image may have been the only one replaced. That act might have symbolized the renewal of all the others, which could then just be retouched and redressed. [203] Shimizu interprets this attitude toward temple images as reinforcing the theory that "the physical form [of a heiau and its furnishings] is secondary to the ritual process." [204] Handy et al. state that although previously used images might be retained with the thought that they still possessed some elements of sacredness, "that the idols themselves were not gods is evidenced by the common custom of making a new image for every ceremony of importance." [205]

(7) Destruction at Overthrow of Kapu System

The overthrow of the kapu system on the death of Kamehameha I entailed the destruction of temple images. W. Chapin reports that the destruction of vestiges of the old religion began in the early part of November 1819, and describeds how on "Atooi" (Kaua'i), by the end of that month, "the morais and the consecrated buildings, with the idols, were on fire, the first evening after the order arrived. The same was done in all the islands." [206] The Reverend Hiram Bingham describes how Ka'ahumanu, wife of King Kamehameha I, demonstrating her enthusiasm for the new religion of the missionaries on a tour of the islands in 1822, sought out remaining images for destruction: "On the 26th of the same month [June], one hundred and two idols, collected from different parts of Hawaii, where they had been hidden 'in the holes of the rocks and caves of the earth,' were, by her authority, committed to the flames." [207] Gilbert E. Mathison, who visited the islands during 1821-22, lamented that at the time of his visit, he made

every possible inquiry in vain for one of the ancient idols. The people expressed great astonishment at my desire to possess what they had themselves ceased to value, and seemed even affronted by my supposing that they could have preserved any such antiquated relics of pristine ignorance and superstition. [208]

According to Cox and Davenport, there are only about thirty-five of the large Hawaiian temple images remaining, probably because they were so visible and therefore extremely vulnerable to destruction, while smaller images could be easily hidden away for furtive worship. [209]

(1) Burial Customs and Places of Interment

Hawaiian death and mortuary practices were as filled with meaning as every other aspect of life. Elaborate rituals revolved around preparation of the body, burial processes, mourning procedures, and purification of the living who had come in contact with the corpse. These deliberate and well-defined behaviors not only allowed full expression of grief, but also reaffirmed the unity of the family group and assured solace and peace for the dead in the hereafter. [210]

Several different burial places and methods of interment were used, depending to a great extent on the deceased's status in society as well as on local geographical conditions. Locations of burials included the earth, sand dunes, under monuments and cairns, beneath houses, in heiau platforms, and in lava tubes, natural caves, rockshelters, and niches in steep cliffs. Burials in these last areas usually are well preserved, as is artifactual material interred with them. Burials marked on the surface by stone monuments were common in the historic period. Many have been found at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and near Kawaihae. Sacrificial victims, priests, and kapu breakers, as well as high chiefs were interred in temple platforms. The most famous sepulchre of high chiefs was the Hale-o-Keawe at Honaunau, the burial place of a long line of deified chiefs. [211] Other well-known burial places on the island of Hawai'i included the Waipio Valley, the cliffs surrounding Kealakekua Bay, and the caves of Kaloko. [212] Cave sites, usually located near a living area, were frequently used in both the prehistoric and historic periods for either the combined dead of a village or as individual family resting places. [213]

(2) Morning Rituals and Burial Practices

As mentioned earlier, corpses were considered to be defiling, extremely kapu in ancient Hawaiian culture. All clothing in the vicinity of the dead person, all furnishings items, and all food utensils had to be burned after removal of the body. Those relatives who remained in the vicinity of a dead person for any length of time had to undergo a purification ceremony before they could again interact in society. While prolonged weeping and sorrowful wailing marked the death of a loved one, distress upon the death of a respected leader was demonstrated by knocking out one's teeth, cutting one's flesh, tatooing one's tongue, or cutting a section of one's hair. During the mourning ritual for royalty, chiefs and commoners might also commit suicide in front of the corpse. Bodies of commoners were often preserved and wrapped in layers of kapa cloth before being buried, in a variety of locations and positions, along with their valued personal possessions, food, mats, and other things needed to make them comfortable. [214]

The ancient Hawaiian's overriding concern with mana guided burial customs for the ali'i concerning time of interment and extent of reduction of the body. It was believed that in order to prevent their former enemies from finding their bones and gaining possession of their power, the skeletal material of chiefs, after removal of the flesh, had to be secretly interred. There are, therefore, many secret burial caves on the islands whose entrances are hidden from view. [215] Fornander found that

This extreme solicitude of concealing the bones of defunct high chiefs was very prevalent in the Hawaiian group. . . . The greatest trophy to the victor, the greatest disgrace to the vanquished, was the possession of the bones of an enemy. They were either simply exhibited as trophies, or they were manufactured into fish hooks, or into arrow-points wherewith to shoot mice. Hence various expedients were resorted to to effectively prevent the bones of a high chief ever becoming the prey of any enemies that he may have left alive when he died. One of the most trusted friends of the deceased chief was generally charged with the duty of secreting the bones . . . and the custom prevailed till after the time of Kamehameha l. This custom applied, however, more particularly to prominent warrior chiefs. . . . Generally the custom in chief families was to strip the flesh off the corpse of a deceased chief, burn it, and collect the skull, collar- bones, arm and leg bones in a bundle, wrap them up in a tapa cloth, and deposit them in the family vault. . . . [216]

According to Reverend Ellis, burial practices changed after the abolition of idolatry:

. . . all ceremonies connected therewith have ceased the other heathenish modes of burying their dead are only observed by those who are uninstructed, and are not professed worshippers of the true God: those who are, inter their dead in a manner more resembling the practice of Christians. The corpse is usually laid in a coffin, which . . . is borne to the place of worship . . . where a short service is performed it is then carried to the grave. . . . [217]

Current information on ancient burial practices, as on other aspects of early Hawaiian life, derives mainly from descriptions by nineteenth-century Hawaiian historians and from accounts by European visitors. The English surgeon Frederick Bennett notes that a resident of O'ahu, C.B. Rooke, related to him that he had visited several "sepulchral caves" on various of the Hawaiian islands: "The bodies they contained were numerous, mostly in a mummy state, and placed in a sitting posture, with their limbs flexed they were enveloped in bark-cloth, and some of them had portions of sugar-cane in their hands, and calabashes, which had contained poe [poi], by their sides." [218] An additional important source of data are archeological discoveries found during survey and excavation work.

The last aspect of ancient Hawaiian religion important to the scope of this report concerns pu uhonua, or places of refuge. The authority of the high chief and the priests to regulate the patterns of ancient Hawaiian society, especially as they related to social and religious customs, was unquestioned. Those who disregarded the traditional restrictions were susceptible to the most extreme punishment. One avenue of succor was available to them, however, consisting of escape to a place of refuge. These were the only checks to the king's absolute power of life and death over his subjects.

Pu'uhonua were sacred areas, not necessarily enclosed, to which murderers, kapu-breakers, and other transgressors who had incurred the wrath of the ruler could hastily retreat to gain sanctuary from reprisal. Upon reaching the entrances of these compounds, often enclosed by extensive and massive stone walls, the refugee immediately gave thanks to the guardian deity. Theoretically, no one pursuing this person, including a high chief, the king, or enemy warriors, could enter the enclosure without risking death at the hands of the resident priest or his attendants. The one seeking asylum usually remained several days and then returned home, absolved of his misdeeds by the gods. Fugitives from battle also fled to these places during times of war white flags waved from tall spears placed outside the walls at each end of the enclosure. Because these refuge areas were quite large, during wartime, women, children, and the aged were often left within the walls while the men went off to battle. The person of the mo'i was also pu'uhonua and could provide asylum. Ten pu'uhonua existed on the island of Hawai'i, the one at Honaunau being the largest in the Hawaiian Islands. [219]

Interactions With Judaism And Christianity

Zarathushti ideas have played a vital role in the development of western religious thought. Some theological concepts shared by Zoroastrianism with Judaism and Christianity are:

  • Belief in one supreme and loving God.
  • Heaven and Hell, and individual judgment.
  • Ultimate triumph of Good over Evil.
  • Strict moral and ethical code.
  • The Messiah to come for the final restoration.
  • The concepts of resurrection, final judgment and life everlasting.
  • The words ‘satan’, ‘paradise’ and ‘amen’ are of Zoroastrian origin.

The interchange of Zoroastrian thought with Judeo-Christian ideology first took place when Cyrus the Great defeated the Assyrians and released the Jews from Babylonian captivity. They heralded Cyrus as their Messiah, as prophesied in the Bible, [Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-31]. The Old Testament is replete with references to the Persian emperors Darius, Cyrus and Xerxes.

The commemoration of December 25th as the birthday of Christ has its origins in early Mithraic observances. This was the date of a Roman festial to celebrate natalis soils invicti, the “birthday of the unconquered Sun,” which, following the winter solstice, once again begins to show an increase in light. Around 336 CE, the church in Rome established the commemoration of the birthday of Christ on this same date.

Zoroastrians had a belief in the coming of a savior, born of a virgin mother, who would bring the revelation from God. It is of interest to note that the Three Wise Men (magi) who heralded the infant Christ. were Zoroastrian priests. To this day, frankincense and myrrh are offered at the altars of Zoroastrian fire temples.

Dr. Mary Boyce [Zoroastrians, 1979] writes: “So it was out of a Judaism enriched by five centuries of contact with Zoroastrianism, that Christianity arose in the Parthian period, a new religion with roots thus in two ancient faiths, one Semitic, the other Persian. Doctrines taught perhaps a millennium and a half earlier by Zoroaster began in this way to reach fresh hearers.”

– By Rohinton M. Rivetna (1st edition 1983). Edited by FEZANA Publication Committee (2nd edition 2005).

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