Sizdeh Behdar in a parched Iran

Yesterday was sizdeh behdar – the thirteenth day of the new year, and a time to go outside and picnic. It’s when you throw your sabzeh (from your Sofreh Haft Sin) into water, to wash away your negativity. And a time for young women and men to get together – tying knots either into the sabzeh or some grass.

Washing away negativity by throwing the sabzeh from your sofreh Haft Sin into water. Image from Historical iran Blogspot

This year, it also seems to be the beginning of the end for sanctions against Iran. This can only be a very good thing. Click here to see some personal portraits of the effects of sanctions.

But I’m concerned that the end of sanctions is immediately thought to be an opportunity for western businesses to sell more cars to Iran. This isn’t going to help all the environmental problems in Iran. It’s all especially ironic that sizdeh behdar used to be about rain – something that Iran needs a lot more than fleets of new cars.

Tishtrya. Image by pfedac in deviant art

In the Zoroastrian calendar, the day now called sizdeh behdar was devoted to the deity Tishtrya (Tir), the protector of rain, which is depicted as a horse (later conflate with Sirius). An Avestan hymn depicts Tishtrya as involved in a cosmic struggle against the drought-bringing demon Apaosha: “According to the myth, in the form of a pure white horse the god did battle with the demon who, in contrast, had assumed the form of a terrifying black horse. Apaosa soon gained the upper hand over Tishtrya, who was weakened from the lack of sufficient prayers and sacrifices from humankind. The yazata [Zoroastrian deities] proceeded to call upon the Creator Ahura Mazda, who himself then intervened by offering a sacrifice to the overwhelmed god. Infused with the power brought by this sacrifice, Tishtrya was able to overcome Apaosa, and his rains were able to flow to the parched fields and pastures unabated by drought.”

That’d be much better than Iran becoming uninhabitable in 20 years – and just a huge parking lot for all those cars.


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