Frya The Beloved

Love knows no reasons,
love knows no lies.
Love defies all reasons,
love has no eyes.

What do we associate 14th February with? Flowers, candy, cute cuddly teddy bears, red hearts, candle-lit dinners and romance. Isn’t that what Valentine’s day is generally all about? Well, ironically, the history behind the modern hype is steeped in blood and gore.

Valentine was a Roman Priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II who not only hated the church and persecuted the priests, but, also issued an edict prohibiting the marriage of young people. This was based on the belief that ‘unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers, because, married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.’

Roman society back then was permissive, incestuous and polygamous. But, many were starting to get attracted towards the Christian faith which held the belief that marriage was sacred and a bond between one man and one woman for the rest of their life.

To cut a long story short, Valentine was secretly performing marriages ceremonies against the Imperial decree issued by the Roman Emperor. In the year 269 AD Valentine was eventually caught and sentenced to beating, stoning and finally decapitation and all because of his stand on the importance of marriage.

According to legend, while in prison Valentine fell in love with a young lady who used to visit him, (probably the jailor’s daughter) and the last words that he wrote were in a note to her signed, “from your Valentine” an expression that is still prevalent today.

In essence, the story of Valentine is about laying your life upon the line for what you believe. And, thus, Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of all lovers.

Is there the equivalent of a Valentine’s Day in the Zoroastrian tradition? Well, not quite! However, the closest that you could get would be the day when Roj Aspandarmad coincides with Mah Aspandarmad. Iranians celebrate it as Sepandarmazgan in honour of Spenta Armaiti or Spandarmad or the loving spirit of mother earth. Additionally, it is also observed as the day for expressing love and devotion to mothers, sisters and wives. Sepandarmazgan essentially commemorates love and friendship.

In the Christian tradition, God is looked upon as father, while in the Islamic tradition God is seen as Malik or the Master. Zarathustra envisioned Ahura Mazda neither as father nor Master. He saw Ahura Mazda as ‘friend’ or ‘beloved’. The relationship that Zarathustra saw between man and God was not based on fear and blind obedience. It was a relationship based on free choice, friendship and love.

In the Gathas, Zarathustra refers to God as his ‘frya’ which when translated from Avestan to English would mean ‘beloved’, ‘lover’ or ‘friend’. The Sanskrit equivalent of ‘frya’ is ‘Priya’ which also means ‘beloved’. Interestingly, in the Nordic tradition too, Freyja (sometimes anglicized as Freya or Freja) is a goddess of love, beauty and attraction.

In the Gatha, Zarathushtra sings: “This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord. How shall I reverently pay You Your homage? Teach this to me like a friend, Wise One.” Here, the prophet beseeches God to teach him like a wise friend would!

Clearly, Zarathushtra saw salvation for man and the annihilation of evil through love and friendship for God and all his good creations.

In the Zoroastrian tradition women are treated on par with men. Daughters are educated and trained the same way that sons are. Both boys and girls undergo the Navjote ceremony. Out of the six Amesha Spenta three are feminine and three are masculine. It is perhaps for this reason that the Zoroastrian tradition never felt the need to popularize any one day as special for women or for friendship or for expressing love. Every single day celebrates womanhood and every single day should be spent expressing love and renewing one’s friendship with Ahura Mazda and all His good creations.

Noshir H. Dadrawala
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