Last week, I finished reading Persian Myths by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis. I read this book as part of my continued exploration and study of the ancient Persian culture. The book was short, but I expected that. However, I enjoyed reading the myths of this culture that we still know so little about.
The book begins with a brief history of the Persian people, including where they lived and what the environment was like. It then moves on to explore the Avesta, holy book of Zoroastrianism, and its history. From there, the book goes on to actually dive into the mythology, beginning with the deities from their myths. This included:
The book then goes on to explore the creation myth from the Persian people. It held similarities to other Indo-European cultures, but was unique in other ways. I love reading different creation myths and trying to compare them to other cultures and understand why the myth may be what it is. It's told in a way that I really enjoyed in this book.
From here, the book moves on to explore demons, creatures, and heroes. It explores the evil beings known as Yatu and Div. It also describes fabulous creatures, like Saena, the falcon who spreads all of the seeds in the world with their wings. The book then explores the life of the first man from his creation to his death, to the lives that came from his demise. It's a fascinating myth to describe the existence of humankind, but for me it definitely share some parallels with the biblical story of human creation, which was very interesting to see.
Curtis then moves on to a dive into Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, the Book of Kings, where she highlights some of the myths that are told throughout the epic poem. It shares the tales of the ancient kings, their lives and battles. I originally read part of this poem during my research of evil in ancient Indo-European cultures and really find it absolutely enthralling.
Next on the list was a brief dive into mythological creatures, like Ralesh, the horse friend of Rustam, and Simurgh, the King of the birds. Curtis then explores the different encounters with dragons that are found within Persian myths. It's fascinating to see the importance that dragons played in their mythology as the embodiment of greed & evil.
The last set of myths covered are the myths around the lives of Zoroaster, Cyrus, and Alexander the great. It's interesting to consider that mythology was so important to their culture that even a conquerer like Alexander now has a place in the lore.
The book ends by describing the continuation of these ancient traditions through the oral and written traditions of ancient priest and minstrels. They told the myths, sang the songs, and eventually wrote them done. They created fairy tales and passion plays and created beautiful stories along the way.
This book was very interesting for me as someone who really enjoys reading about the mythology from different cultures. It was written in a way that was entertaining, educational, and approachable, even for someone like me who has no real experience with the Persian culture. It was something I enjoyed reading for sure.