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Stratum plus. 2005-2009. №3

Leo S. Klejn (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

Dogs and Birds in Eschatological Concepts of Iranians and Indo-Aryans

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Pages: 185-194

Ancient Iranians and Indo-Aryans are distinguished by their eschatological aims: Iranians strive to protect pure sacral elements (earth, fire and water) from desecration by dead flesh while Indo-Aryans aim to re-unite the dead with his mother-earth. Yet in each of the two branches traces of burial customs characteristic for another branch can be discovered (at least as a reflection in folk-lore). Probably in the depth of time some stock of customs common for both of them existed.
One of custom forms (feeding of corpse to hounds and birds) allows comprehending the original look of this stock. In its base was the belief in the transmigration of souls from the bodies of dying people to the bodies of newborn infants. Dogs and birds were considered as carriers of the souls. Exposition of corpses on special platforms (so called “towers of silence”) for gnawing round by dogs and birds is rooted in the deepest antiquity. The way of funeral in the Eneolithic cultures of painted ware (in particular Tripolyean) is the intermediate step in this line while the origins can be seen in Neolithic Çatalhüyük. There in temple frescoes, griffins are depicted that were flown together to the “towers of silence” for extracting the souls from dead corpses and then were passing them to the pregnant women.


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