Witches, Whores, and Sorcerers: The Concept of Evil in Early Iran

Paperback | December 1, 2012

byS. K. Mendoza ForrestForeword byProds Oktor Skjaervø

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Early Iranians believed evil had to have a source outside of God, which led to the concept of an entity as powerful and utterly evil as God is potent and good. These two forces, good and evil, which have always vied for superiority, needed helpers in this struggle. According to the Zoroastrians, every entity had to take sides, from the cosmic level to the microcosmic self.

One of the results of this battle was that certain humans were thought to side with evil. Who were these allies of that great Evil Spirit? Women were inordinately singled out. Male healers were forbidden to deal with female health disorders because of the fear of the polluting power of feminine blood. Female healers, midwives, and shamans were among those who were accused of collaborating with the Evil Spirit, because they healed women. Men who worked to prepare the dead were also suspected of secret evil. Evil even showed up as animals such as frogs, snakes, and bugs of all sorts, which scuttled to the command of their wicked masters.

This first comprehensive study of the concept of evil in early Iran uncovers details of the Iranian struggle against witchcraft, sorcery, and other "evils," beginning with their earliest texts.

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Early Iranians believed evil had to have a source outside of God, which led to the concept of an entity as powerful and utterly evil as God is potent and good. These two forces, good and evil, which have always vied for superiority, needed helpers in this struggle. According to the Zoroastrians, every entity had to take sides, from the...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:245 pages, 9 × 6.03 × 0.63 inPublished:December 1, 2012Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292747675

ISBN - 13:9780292747678

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Table of Contents

The Avesta and Its Translation by Prods Oktor SkjærvøPrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Study of an Ancient Tradition2. The Iranians and Their Literature3. Magic and the Magi4. General Concepts of Evil in the Avesta5. “Naturally” Occurring Evils6. Sorcerers, Witches, Whores, and Menstruating Women7. The Evil Eye, Corpse-Abusing Criminals, Demon Worshippers, and Friends8. Exorcistic and Apotropaic Rituals9. Structure of Avestan Incantations10. Uses for Avestan Incantations11. Exorcisms12. ConclusionNotesBibliographyGeneral IndexIndex of Verses

Editorial Reviews

Mendoza Forrest's study is a comprehensive contribution to the study of the concept of evil in early Iran and a pioneering work. It succeeds to combine its thematic structure without losing sight of historical developments through referring to the earliest compositions and then following them up with appropriate later compositions. - Mahnaz Moazami, Columbia University