Amesha Spenta

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"The Beneficent Immortals," as they are called in the Avesta. According to the teaching of Zoroaster they are the "archangels" of Ahura Mazda. From the Indo-Iranian period, the classes and functions of society were threefold, and each had divine patrons. The most important function, sovereignty, had as patrons two principal gods, Varuna, guardian of the True Order, and Mitra (the Contract, the Friend). In Zoroaster's system, Ahura Mazda combines the two aspects of sovereignty. However, this function, like the other functions, continues to be under a hierarchy of archangels in which the True Order, Arta, holds the highest place, above Vohu Manah (Good Mind), which holds the position previously held by Mitra. The second function, physical force and fighting, had Indra as patron. In Zoroaster's system, Khshathra (Dominion) corresponds to it, while Indra himself persists as a daēva. The third function, fecundity, had as patron a variable and multivalent goddess, to whom the archangel Ārmaiti (Devotion) corresponds. The counterparts of the twin patrons, Nāsatya (Healers), are the archangels Haurvatāt and Ameretāt (Health and non-Death). One of the twins survived as a daēva named Nāonhaithya. Also there is the god Vāyu (Cosmic Wind), a kind of Janus, ruling over ambiguous beginnings, which in Zoroaster became the initial Choice between Good and Evil, represented by the two Mainyus or Spirits, Spenta Mainyu (the Beneficent or Holy Spirit) and Anra Mainyu (the Destructive Spirit).

See Also: daevas; persian religion, ancient; zoroaster (zarathustra).

Bibliography: g. dumÉzil, Les Dieux des Indo-Européens (Brussels 1952); L'Idéologie tripartie des Indo-Européens (Brussels 1958). j. duchesne-guillemin, La Religion de l'Iran ancien (Paris 1962).

[j. duchesne-guillemin]