Kryukova V. People and animals in the Avestan Videvdat: social gradation and its ritual legalization

V. Kryukova  - Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences St. Petersburg, Russian Federation ORCID: 0000-0002-9781-9105


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ABSTRACT. The article examines hierarchical lists of groups of people and ritually significant animals attested in the Avestan Videvdat. In accordance with Zoroastrian notions, these lists are not only determined by the established norms of social gradation, but also follow the principle of quantitative measurement of the ‘sanctity’ of a person or animal and, accordingly, the degree of their exposure to desecration. In the most general picture of the Zoroastrian world presented in the Avesta, a person is not separated from other living beings, and in the text there are generalizations that lie outside of hierarchical ideas ― thus, in some contexts a person and an animal differ only in the number of legs (Videvdat 15). In some cases, lists of the social hierarchy of people find parallels with those of farm animals—for example, when it comes to the natural cost of treatment or ritual cleansing (Videvdat 7. 41–43; 9. 37–38). Videvdat 13 identifies several varieties of dogs, the punishment for causing damage to which, according to the hierarchical series, corresponds to the degree of their ‘sanctity’. In the same chapter, the qualities of dogs are compared with the characteristics of various social groups of people (Videvdat 13. 44–48). Another example of a hierarchical list is a quantitative description of desecration that affects community members in the event of death of one of them, indicating a connection between the degree of ‘holiness’ and a place in the social hierarchy (Videvdat 5. 27–37). In this text, the list of animals (dogs) continues the list of people, which points to the inseparability of the two groups. The inconsistencies found in various lists appear to be of particular interest and allow us to trace the development of the priestly thought.


DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2020-2(8)-117-128
УДК [ 81 ’373.222+81 ’373.23]: 2 95.48


KEYWORDS: Avestan Videvdat, Zoroastrianism, social groups, animals, hierarchy



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