FRAVASHIS , beneficent and protective guardian spirits whose services must be secured by means of ritual offerings, are an essential element of the religious structure of Zoroastrianism. They play an important role in the frequency of rainfall and are responsible for guaranteeing the prosperity and preservation of the family. As the spirits of the dead, they are the protagonists in a great feast held on the last night of the year. They are thought to preexist human beings and to survive them.
The fravashi s do not appear in the Gāthās. In the Avesta, the first mention of them occurs in the Yasna Haptanhāiti, and an entire hymn (Yashts 13) is dedicated to them.
The conception of the fravashi has all the characteristics of an archaic, pre-Zoroastrian belief that was later absorbed and adapted by the tradition. Examples of these characteristics include their identification with the spirits of the dead (Söderblom, 1899, pp. 229–260, 373–418) and their warlike nature.
As the spirits of the dead the fravashi s have often been compared to the Roman manes or to the Indian pitaraḥ; as warlike beings, they have been compared with the Germanic valkyries or to the Indian Maruts, the company of celestial warriors. In particular, in the context of the Indo-European tripartite ideology, the fravashi s are seen as a Zoroastrian substitute for the Maruts (Dumézil, 1953); both are linked to the concepts and ethics of the Aryan Männerbund. Most likely, Zoroastrianism absorbed this ancient concept, typical of a warrior society, through its ties to the cult of the dead and reinterpreted the fravashi s as combatants for the rule of Ahura Mazdā. We find such a zoroastrianization in the myth told in the third chapter of the Bundahishn (Book of primordial creation), which relates that the fravashi s chose to be incarnated in material bodies in order to fight Ahriman and the evil powers instead of remaining peacefully in the celestial world.
The etymology of the word fravashi is uncertain. Originally it may have been used to designate the spirit of a deceased hero who was endowed with *vṛti, "valor" (Bailey, 1943, pp. 107ff.); or it may have expressed the theological concept, fundamental to Zoroastrianism, of choice, *fra-vṛti (Lommel, 1930, pp. 151, 159–163) or that of the profession of faith (Hoffmann, 1979, p. 91; Schlerath, 1980, pp. 207ff.).
Bailey, H. W. Zoroastrian Problems in the Ninth-Century Books (1943). Reprint, Oxford, 1971.
Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. "L'homme dans la religion iranienne." In Anthropologie religieuse, edited by C. Jouco Bleeker, pp. 93–107. Leiden, 1955.
Dumézil, Georges. "Víṣṇu et les Marút à travers la réforme zoroastrienne." Journal asiatique 241 (1953): 1–25.
Gnoli, Gherardo. "Le fravaši e l'immortalità." In La mort, les morts dans les sociétés anciennes, edited by Gherardo Gnoli and Jean-Pierre Vernant, pp. 339–347. Paris, 1982.
Hoffmann, Karl. "Das Avesta in der Persis." In Prolegomena to the Sources of the History of Pre-Islamic Central Asia, edited by János Harmatta, pp. 89–93. Budapest, 1979.
Kellens, Jean. "Les fravaši." In Anges et démons, edited by Julien Ries, pp. 99–114. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1989.
Lommel, Herman. Die Religion Zarathustras nach dem Awesta dargestellt. Tübingen, 1930.
Malandra, William W. "The 'Fravaši Yašt.'" Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1971.
Narten, Johanna. "Avestisch frauuaṣ̆i-." Indo-Iranian Journal 28 (1985): 35–48.
Nyberg, H. S. Irans forntida religioner. Stockholm, 1937. Translated as Die Religionen des alten Iran (1938; 2d ed., Osnabrück, 1966).
Schlerath, Bernfried. "Indo-Iranisch *var- 'wählen.'" Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik (Festschrift Paul Thieme) 5–6 (1980): 199–208.
Söderblom, Nathan. "Les Fravashis: Étude sur les traces dans le mazdéisme d'une ancienne conception sur la survivance des morts." Revue de l'histoire des religions 39 (1899): 229–260, 373–418.
Gherardo Gnoli (1987)
Translated from Italian by Roger DeGaris
"Fravashis." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fravashis
"Fravashis." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fravashis
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.