Mithras - Sun God

Shab-e-Yalda - an ancient winter soltice celebration that commemorates the triumph of Mithra

(Read the article on one page)

For Iranians around the world, the winter solstice is not just the longest night of the year, it is also the time to commemorate the triumph of Mithra , the Sun God, over darkness in an ancient Persian celebration known as Shab-e-Yalda.

The celebration, which translates to “Night of Birth” and is celebrated on the eve of the first day of Winter (21-22 December), has come to symbolise many things.  Not only has it become a significant cultural celebration, but it is part of Iranian tradition “where evil will run havoc on the longest night of the year,” according to Touraj Daryaee, a professor of Iranian studies. “So people gather to be together until evil is gone… it's an old idea where you need protection from evil."  According to ancient belief, when the sun rises, the light shines and goodness prevails.

Mithra divinity statue in Vatican library, old illustration. By unidentified author. Source: BigStockPhotos

On Shab-e Yalda, making wishes, eating summer fruits and reciting works by 14 th century Persian poet, Hafez, help mark the triumph of Mithra over darkness.

"Each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens Hafez's book of poems and recites the poem, which is believed to be an interpretation to the wish," said Bita Milanian, executive director of Farhang Foundation, a nonprofit that celebrates Iranian art and culture in Southern California.

Yalda Night table in the celebration of Persians (Iranians) in Holland, Amsterdam (Wikimedia Commons)

Mithra, in ancient Indo-Iranian mythology is the god of light, whose cult spread from India in the east to as far west as Spain, Great Britain, and Germany.  The Indian Mitra was essentially a solar deity, representing the "friendly" aspect of the sun. So too was the Persian derivative Mithra, who was a "benevolent god" and the bestower of health, wealth and food.

The first written mention of the Vedic Mitra dates to 1400 BC. His worship spread to Persia and, after the defeat of the Persians by Alexander the Great, throughout the Hellenic world. In the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, the cult of Mithra, carried and supported by the soldiers of the Roman Empire, was the chief rival to the newly developing religion of Christianity.

By April Holloway

Comments

rbflooringinstall's picture

Awesome. I love hearing about Winter solstice celebrations instead of boring olf christmas stories.

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

I think Constantine was a follower of MIthras as Mithras was popular in the army. Some historians say that he remained a secret follower even as he supported Christianity

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The interior of a private library in Chinguetti.
During the Middle Ages, Sahara outposts often found themselves filled with travelers, traders, and pilgrims passing through with their differing tasks. The pilgrims in particular interest us here, as they would sometimes meet and share religious scriptures amongst each other and with their hosts.

Myths & Legends

The Last of the Siberian Unicorns: What Happened to the Mammoth-Sized One-Horned Beasts of Legend?
Elasmotherium, also known as the Giant Rhinoceros or the Giant Siberian Unicorn, is an extinct species of rhino that lived in the Eurasian area in the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene eras. They have been documented from 2.6 million years ago, but the most recent fossils come from around 29,000 years ago.

Ancient Technology

Yacouba Sawadogo planting.
Desertification is a serious problem facing numerous countries in the world today. Various measures have been taken to counter the negative effects, with some providing better results than others. A farmer in Burkina Faso looked to his ancestors and came up with an innovative solution.

Ancient Places

Stonehenge at night.
In the 1960s, a portion of a ditch excavated into chalk bedrock west of the henge at Stonehenge was discovered during construction for the pedestrian underpass that provided access to Stonehenge until a year ago. By 2014, geophysical testing confirmed that the ditch stretches over 900 meters (2952.7 ft.) from southwest of the Stonehenge henge to a point near the south ditch line of the Greater Cursus, northwest of Stonehenge.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article