The Seven Tetrads of Zurvan, the God of Time and Infinity

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The Seven Tetrads of Zurvan, the God of Time and Infinity

Post#1 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:43 am

The account of the 'Ulemei i Islam according to which fire and water were the first things created by Zurvan, and from which Ohrmazd and Ahriman were formed, may fit into our present context.

In this case the elements (if fire and water can be taken to represent all four) would proceed immediately from Zurvan and his hypostases; and the statement of the Syriac writer that according to the Magians fire, water, earth, and the atmosphere are gods but inferior in sovereignty and divinity to Moqar, Frasoqar, Zaroqar, and Zurvan, would be quite accurate.

Thus in the purely ontological sphere we can discern three tetrads: first the Tetrad of Being, (Zurvan/Time), Space, Wisdom, and Power; second the Tetrad of Becoming, (Zurvan the Infinite), Asoqar, Frasoqar, and Zaroqar: genesis, decay, and rebirth; and thirdly the Tetrad of Matter, fire, air, water, and earth which are the source of all material creation as manifested to man.

The last tetrad can, according to the Syriac sources, be regarded as a reflection in the finite of the other tetrads in the Infinite: and fire in this case would be the earthly representative of Zurvan, for, according to Dio, it is the soul of the divine charioteer. Besides the above tetrads Nyberg thought that three other tetrads - the tetrad of fate, that of justice, and that of the luminaries - were to be found or inferred in the texts. The first he derived from a passage in the Menok i xrat where it is said:

'the whole world proceeds in accordance with the decree (breh) and the decisive moment (zamanak) and the fixed decision which are indeed Zurvan, the King and Lord of the long Dominion'.

Fate then is allotted in three stages: first the original decree, second the moment at which the decree takes effect, and the fixed irrevocable decision when the thing fated is accomplished. This 'process of fate' (breh-ravisnih) is summed up in Zurvan of the long Dominion, finite Time.

The idea recalls the kar nerok (action in potentia), kar kunisn (the performance of action), and kar frazamisn (the completion of action) which we have already discussed. The operation of fate as applied to individual men, then, can be said to reflect the three stages in the history of the Cosmos.

Again Zurvan — this time the Infinite — appears at the end of time accompanied by Mihr (Mithra), the Genius of Order (Justice—datastan), and Fate, and destroys Ahriman and his creatures, and finally Az. Whether we can call this a Zervanite tetrad seems a little doubtful: the collocation of Mihr, the Genius of Order, and Fate seems to me rather haphazard, for the triad of justice or order would normally be Mihr, Sros, and Rasn.

However this may be, it is obvious that Zurvan intervenes here together with two deities (Fate and the Genius of Order) which are merely the personification of his functions and with Mihr who is the god of truth, to crush finally the spirit of excess and deficiency, that is disorder, Az.

In addition to these tetrads Nyberg surmised that Zurvan also formed a tetrad with the Sun, Moon, and Signs of the Zodiac. This, though extremely probable, is not attested in our texts. Similarly we ourselves have suggested that a tetrad comprising the infinite Zurvan, the finite Zurvan, the course of fate, and the genius of the year may be discerned in the Bundahisn: this would then be the Tetrad of Time. Thus we find the following tetrads attested:

In these tetrads, then, Zurvan appears first as pure being, second as the source of contingent being, third as the source of matter, as finite time, as cosmic order, and as fate. This, in fact, sums up all that can be said about him, as we shall see when we come to study his nature in greater detail. Before leaving the subject of the fourfold god we must devote a few lines to a surprising passage in the Persian Rivayats, where Zurvan appears as a deity with seven faces and three eyes in each face.

Apparently corresponding to each of the seven faces are seven names. These names are transcribed in the Pazand character: some are already known from other sources, others remain obscure: the names are wayi, Zurvan, zarvagar, vaxt, naway, padyar, and yo-framana.

Of these, wayi, Zurvan, zarvagar, and vaxt are easily recognizable; padyar is well known as a word but astonishing in the context. The meaning of naively can be guessed with comparative certainty: yo-framdra is difficult.

The name Zurvan is self-evident: zarvagar is Zaroqar, with whom we are now familiar; and vaxt is simply a Pazand writing of baxt 'fate'. Wayi, too, is clear: it is a Pazand transcription of bayik and may thus be connected with our text Z-12 which enumerates the 'categories' of good and evil which correspond to the three castes.

Thus it scarcely seems too bold to suggest that we might well have here another Zervanite tetrad — Zurvan, Ohrmazd (spenakik, priesthood), Vay (vayik, warriorhood), and Spihr (bayik, the husbandmen), a conception that emerges fairly clearly from our texts Z-11 and Z-12. This, then, would be the Tetrad of the Castes or social order. In support of this theory we may again mention that Mihr-Narse, whose Zervanite sympathies we sought to demonstrate in Chapter II, made his three sons the titular heads of the three castes.

The three last names of the series, naway, padyar, and yo-framana are more problematical. Padyar means 'the adversary' and is the stock epithet of Ahriman. As an epithet of Zurvan, however, it shocks. This is, however, what the text says and as such it must be accepted. Naway can most easily be explained from NP. navaxtan (navaz-) `to cherish'. Zurvan, then, seems to be regarded as the cherisher and the destroyer; and yo-framana can then be amended to do-framan-e and translated as 'the one who has two commands'.

This again would give us yet another tetrad — Zurvan, the Cherisher, the Adversary, and the One who commands both. This would then be the Tetrad of Good and Evil. Such an interpretation does not seem far-fetched; for each of the seven heads of this monstrous god has three eyes.

Each head then should represent a different aspect of the god and the three eyes would represent three functions of the same aspect. There should then be seven tetrads in all.

- From "Zurvan : a Zoroastrian dilemma"​ by R. C. Zaehner
time is the musician's canvas
"dead gurus can't kick ass" -- Franklin Jones

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