Iranian Festivals | Mehregan
A Zoroastrian 'thanksgiving' festival; an ancient Iranian festival of Autumn
Nowrooz (Spring), Yalda (Winter), Mehregan (Autumn), and Tirgan (Summer) comprise the four ancient Pre-Islamic Iranian festivals heralding the changing of seasons.
Mehregan falls on the 196th day of the calendar year (this year Friday 2nd October) and honors Mithra —the god of friendship and covenant. It’s an important festival of the Autumn Equinox, analogous to harvest or thanksgiving festivals.
It was originally a feast honoring the Zoroastrian yazata Mithra. By the 4th century BCE, it was observed as one of the name-day feasts, a form it retains today. Still, in a predominantly Muslim Iran, it is one of the two pre-Islamic festivals that continue to be celebrated by the public at large: Mehrgān, dedicated to Mithra (modern Mehr), and Tirgan, dedicated to Tishtrya (modern Tir).1
“Some people have given the preference to Mihragān [over Nowruz, i.e. New Year’s day/Spring Equinox] by as much as they prefer autumn to spring” —Persian astronomer Al-Biruni.2
The festival has an abundance of symbolism for nature and revival. Typically, a purple or burgundy-colored cloth is covered by flowers that bud for long periods of time during the year. The sides of this are decorated with dry wild marjoram. Family and friends throw wild marjoram, lotus, and sugar plum seeds over each other’s heads, and copious amounts of sharbat are drunk.
AU - Rose, Jenny
TI - Festivals and the Calendar
PT - Book Chapter
TA - The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism
PG - 379-391
AID - https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118785539.ch23 [doi]
4099 - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781118785539.ch23
4100 - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/9781118785539.ch23
AB - Summary Several types of festivals are observed by Zoroastrians. The two main categories comprise seasonal festivals known as gāhānbārs, which appear to derive from an ancient pastoral-agricultural calendar, and festivals celebrating the individual elements of creation and the yazatas associated with them, such as the day of praise to the waters Ābān Yazad Jašan. This chapter considers the historical development of these diverse festivals, and some of the practices attached to them. The variant calendar systems used by Zoroastrians in different parts of the world are also mentioned in relation to the placement of the festivals. There are few contemporary external allusions to Zoroastrian (as “Persian”) festivals from the Seleucid and Parthian periods, apart from Strabo's reference, although Parthian ostraca from the mid-1st century BCE inform us of the continued use of the Avestan calendar, with Avestan month-names and day-names. There are currently three different calendars operating within Parsi communities.
Book of Instructions in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (233).