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Mehregān (Persian:مهرگان) or Jashn-e-Mehregān is an ancient Iranian autumn festival, observed on the ninth or tenth of October, and dedicated in honor of Mehr, also known as Mithra, the Persian god of Light and Love. It is a celebration of thanksgiving between family and friends, and charity to the poor. The festival symbolically ends with bonfires and fireworks.


There are many accounts as to the beginning of Mehregān. A few, different versions are listed below: Mehregān is a day of victory when Angels helped Fereydun and Kāveh become victorious over Zahhāk. They imprisoned and chained him to the mountain of Damāvand. Mehregān is the day God gave light to the world, that had previously been dark. On this day Mashya and Mashyana (a concept of Semitic Adam and Eve) were created. On this day the sun was created. Among all Iranian festivities, the two most important feasts were considered to be Norouz and Mehregān. During the time when the Avestan calendar was used, the year began at the cold season. The Christian year also starting in the cold season, follows the same concept as the Avestan calendar.

Some scholars believe that the month of Mehr was the beginning month of the calendar year during the Achaemenian era. The Mehregan feast celebrated the beginning of a new year. Later, Mehregān was especially important for the people of southern Iran who considered it still to be their Norouz.

In some form or another, the feast day of Mehregān has always been honored for many hundreds of years in Iran. Mehr is also the time of harvest.

Mehr in Avestan is Mitra and in Middle Persian Mihr. In modern Persian, it has become Mehr. Although it can be slightly confusing, it should be remembered the word Mehr has been used for a God, an angel, a symbol of the sun, as well as the seventh month of the Iranian calendar.

During the Achaemenian period, the name of the God Mehr was mentioned many times on the stone carvings. The Achaemenian army always came behind a flag, depicting Mehr as the sun shining. Mehregān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival.

Mehr's influence

The ancient Iranians thought Mehr (Mithra) was responsible for love and friendship, contracts and covenants, and a representation for light. Later, Mehr was also considered as a symbol of the sun. There again, Mehr was considered to be a God of heroism and warfare. The Iranian soldiers were strong believers and had songs for Mehr. With expansion of Achaemenian Empire, the worship of Mehr was taken to other countries.

By the first century A.D., Mithraism was a familiar religion in Rome and gradually spread throughout Western Europe as far as the northern England. Many people converted to this Iranian-originated belief, since it was religion of ethics, hope, courage and generosity. Archeological excavations throughout Europe and Iran's neighboring countries have uncovered the buried remains of many Mehr temples. The style of these temples was main inspiration for a number of the ancient churches of Europe.

Some of Roman Emperors converted to Mithraism. One emperor, Julian the Apostate, became a devoted follower of Mitra, and decided to go to Persia (Iran) to visit the country from which his God was originated. En route he was murdered. As he lay dying, he threw his blood towards the sun and said this is my gift to you [Mithra].

There are still many rituals, traditions, beliefs and prayers of Mithra that have survived the popularity of Christianity. Some of these can be found in the Christian religion, such as the holy day, Sunday. This is a day that was named after the sun i.e. Mehr. Some other Christmas traditions are described in the section on the celebration of Yalda.

A Persian Thanksgiving

There is nothing more pleasurable than combining cultures, traditions and tastes. Thanksgiving has always provided the perfect opportunity for this as it is a non-religious holiday and very much intune with the traditions of old Persian culture: to forgive, and to give thanks for one's family and friends.

Ancient Rituals

During Pre-Islamic and early Islamic Iran, Mehregan was celebrated with the same magnificence and pageantry as Norouz. It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other gifts. It was common for people to give presents that they personally liked themselves! Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their ability, even an apple. Those fortunate enough, will help the poor with gifts.

Gifts over ten thousand gold coins given to the royal court were registered. At a later time, if the gift-giver needed money, the court would then return twice the gift amount. Kings gave two audiences a year; one audience at Norouz and other at Mehregān. During the Mehregān celebrations, the king wore a fur robe and gave away all his summer clothes.

Many times, even today when a child is born on Mehregān, the parents will name the child with a name starting with Mehr such as Mehr-dokht or Mehr-dād or Mehr-bānu or Mehr-Nāz.

After the Mongol invasion of Iran, the feast celebration of Mehregān lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kermān continued to celebrate Mehregān in an extravagant way.

Modern Celebration

For this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry wild marjoram. The holy book Avesta, a mirror and Sormeh Dan (antimony cellar) are placed on the table together with rose water, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples. A few silver coins and senjed seeds (fruit of the lotus tree) are placed in a dish of pleasant smelling wild marjoram water. Almonds and pistachio are also used.

A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor (frankincense) and espand (rue seeds) to be thrown on the flames.

At lunch time when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sherbet is drunk and then as a good omen, antimony is rubbed around their eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, senjed seeds and noghl (sugar plum) are thrown over each others heads while they embrace one another.

In some of the villages in Yazd, Zoroastrians still sacrifice sheep for Mehr. These sacrifices are done on the day of Mehregān and for three days afterwards. The sacrifice should be done during the hours of sunlight. The sheep is placed on three stones in the furnace, representing the good words, good deeds and good thoughts, and barbecued. After this special ritual, the sheep, including the skin and fat is taken to the fire temple'. The fat is thrown on the fire to make the flames burn fiercely and then the participants pray. This celebration continues for the next five days.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehregan


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