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ANCIENT IRANIAN MYTHOLOGY

HAMÊSTAGÂN

A Place Between Hell and Heaven


  

By: Professor Philippe Gignoux

 

(Nper. Dûzax) A word of uncertain etymology, used in Pahlavi literature to designate the intermediate stage between paradise and hell (see below). It is related to the Avestan həmiiasaite, attested in Yasna 33.1, where, according to Helmut Humbach (I, p. 136, II, p. 93), it means "reckoned together," in a passage referring to the one "whose defects and virtues are counted together" (ham.yâ.saiti). Gert Klingenschmitt (1972) has shown that the expression misuuan- gâtu- in the Young Avesta should not be confused with hamêstagân, contrary to Mary Boyce (Zoroastrianism I, p. 237), who, following Christian Bartholomae's definition as "place of mixture" (AirWb, col. 1168), thinks that they are equivalent. Gert Klingenschmitt translates the word as "raised together (to the same height)." David N. MacKenzie (p. 41) interprets it as "the neutral station between the earth and the sky," which should not be compared to "the Limbos," nor the purgatory of Christianity.

Situating this intermediate place between hell (q.v.) and paradise took place rather late and probably resulted from the queries of Mazdean theologians, who were concerned to allot a proper destiny to the soul of the deceased whose sins and good deeds were exactly equal when weighed on the scales of the god Rašnu. It is indicated in Ardâ Wirâz-nâmag (6.5) that this category of the dead remains in hamêstagân until the resurrection. They are subjected to the cold and heat of atmospheric movements, but that is their sole suffering. In the Dâdestân î Mênog î xrad (chapter 7), the Spirit of Wisdom is asked about the number of paradises, of hamêstagâns, and of hells. The answer is that there are three paradises and that hamêstagân is situated between the earth and the sphere of the stars (the first paradise) and that the only adversary of those who go there is cold and heat. The Pahlavi Rivayat (ch. 65, 1-2) is more restrictive, because, according to it, even those people whose good deeds outweigh their mistakes but have not done the yašt, will also go to hamêstagân. According to the Dâdestân î dênîg (23.6), there are two hamêstagâns, the hamêstagân of the good and the hamêstagân of the wicked, an emphasis surely dictated by strict adherence to dualism. It seems that Keršâsp/Garšâsb, whose heroic deeds are counterbalanced by grave mistakes, deserved to go to hamêstîg axwân, (Dênkard 9.14.4) which is none but hamêstagân. In the Dênkard VIII (14.7-8), it is also called "the place of those whose good deeds and sins are equal" (gyâg î hâwandân î kirbag ud winâh), and, according to the Dênkard V (ch. 8), it is "an intermediate place" between the center of the earth and the sphere of the stars, combining elements of both. According to the Pahlavi Rivayat (ch. 31, c8), after having repented and confessed, Jam, coming from the north, became the king of hamê-stagân. Perhaps it is the same possible evolution of which speaks chapter 350 of the Dênkard III (de Menasce, p. 320), where it is said that one can go from hell to hamêstagân, and from there to paradise by changing one's moral conduct, no doubt in comparison with one's conduct in this world(?).

 

Bibliography

Raháim 'Afifi, AsâtÂir wa farhang-e Irân dar neveštahâ-ye Pahlavi, Tehran, 1374 Š./1995, pp. 642-43. 
Jaleh Amuzgar and Ahmad Tafazzoli, Le cinquieàme livre du Dênkard, transcribed with commentaries, Studia Iranica, Cahier 23, Paris, 2000. 
Philippe Gignoux, "L'enfer et le paradis d'apreàs les sources pehlevies," JA 256, 1968, pp. 219-45. 
Idem, tr., Ardâ Wîrâz-nâmag as Le Livre d'Ardâ Vîrâz, with transcription and commentary, Paris, 1984, pp. 52, 160. 
Helmut Humbach, Joseph Elfenbein, and Prods Oktor Skjœrvø, The Gâthâs of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, 2 vols., Heidelberg, 1991. 
Gert Klingenschmitt, "Avestisch həmemiiâsaitê und Pahlavi hmystk÷n," Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 30, 1972, pp. 79-92. 
Herman Lommel, Die Religion Zarathustras nach dem Awesta dargestelt, Hildesheim and New York, 1971, pp. 192-93, 214. 
David N. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London, 1971. Jean de Menasce, tr., Le Troisieàme livre du Dênkart, Paris, 1973. 
Zartošt Bahrâm Paždu, Ardâ Virâf-nâma-ye manzáum, ed. Raháim 'Afifi, Mašhad, 1343 Š./1964, p. 39, v. 713. 
Fereydun Vahman, facs. ed., transcribed and tr., Ardâ Wirâz-nâmag as Ardâ Wîrâz Nâmag, The Iranian 'Divina Commedia', London, 1986, pp. 97, 98. 
Edward William West, tr., Š, in idem, tr. Pahlavi Texts, SBE 5, Delhi, 1970, pp. 293-94. 
A. V. Williams, ed. with commentary, The Pahlavi Rivâyat Accompanying the Dâdestân î Dênîg, 2 vols., Copenhagen, 1990

 

 

 

Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica 

 

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