Tishtriya: God of Summer Solstice in Persian Paganism
and the archetype of Tir in Persian Paganism
‘Reverence be to the Star, Tishtriya, radiant and glorious
whom the cattle and the beasts of burden and men eagerly remember
when they happen to be deceived in their yearnings.
Tishtriya travels to the holy sea
- Vouru-kaŝa to soak the vapours for the rain clouds in the guise of a horse -
magnificent, with yellow ears and golden decorative harness.’
- Tishtrya: Tir Yasht 8.5 in the sacred book of Zoroastrian religion
The Monday before Summer Solstice I had the following dream:
Dream June 18th 2018
'I am the caretaker of an apartment, its owner has left the house for the moment. Then a woman comes who has a treatment in one of the rooms, she is going to be washed with water. She is accompanied by a kind little white horse. She wants me to watch her horse while she is in the room. There are Persian carpets in the room and the horse goes towards them. A moment of hesitation comes with the possibility of the horse pooping on the carpets as its a wild animal and the lady feels this and says; ‘Dont worry, he is a clean horse.’ She leaves and the horse finds a spot on one of the carpets. I see the lady with water pouring down her hair and face in the other room. I go closer towards the horse and start to gently stroke it, and he responds in sweetness and tenderness. It then lies on its belly and is making catlike movements of enjoyment. We enjoy our sweet time together and I wake up with a feeling of sweet intimacy.'
As I had just been travelling with the Archetype of Anahita - an ancient Persian Goddess - with my work with women, I associated the white horse and the water to Anahita. The day before the dream, I made an offering in a lake nearby my house with various flowers and stones offered by women that came to our Anahita gathering. I interpreted the dream with the workings of the archetype within me. A new integration had happened as the horse, in previous dreams black, was now white and ‘was a clean horse’ and there was intimate contact between us. And yet the journey is continuous; the washing indicating a purification and the little horse is perhaps to grow into a larger one. I wondered if the horse was one of Anahita’s horses and if so which one…
I had not yet connected my dreams to the coming of Summer Solstice and the archetype of Tir in Persian Paganism. On Summer Solstice, I took out a book from my library on this subject: Mysteries of Mithras - The Pagan Belief that Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz and read the following:
The 21st day of June is the midsummer and, in the Persian Calendar the first day of the month of Tir (named after the god Tishtrya). Tir is the god of rain and is personified as the star Sirius. He fights ‘bad harvest’ and drought. Tir is described as a beautiful white horse with golden ears and golden caparison. He fights and overcomes the black horse of drought, and rain pours from the heaven into the fields. In the past, the Persian Festival of Tirana was celebrated as a water festival. Amongst the customs of this festival was the tying of rainbow-colored bands on wrists, which were worn for 10 days and then thrown into a stream. And of course there were the water fights among the children and merrymaking among young people.
I remember well my childhood where we used to go to the Zoroastrian Temple near Tehran where my mothers lineage and other Zoroastrians would gather to celebrate the water festival. I looked forward to that festival amongst all the other ones as we were allowed to pour and splash each other with water all day. We would run around the graveyard stones and hide, run, giggle and be merry. Amongst the living and dead, we celebrated Maidyoshahem Gahanbar, the midsummer water festival at the end of June.
Another hint that suddenly dawned of me of the archetype of Tishtrya coming alive within me was a dream I was given the night before the white horse:
Dream June 17th 2018
‘I am on a metro with my mother and we are both wearing a black knee-length coat. Suddenly I see a woman in the metro that is focussing her bow and arrow into the crowd. Wherever she pulls an arrow, a round circle appears in the air: ○ I am shocked that she is just doing this in public. She then turns to me and catches my glance; oh no! She is pointing the arrow towards my forehead and I protest. She then says fiercely: ‘You don’t understand; you can bear this. This is how it used to be. Sacrifice was made and this is the way it was..’ She then showed me the image of a sacrifice and the symbol of a circle with a cross inside of it appeared: ⨁. ‘
I woke up puzzled and astonished by the dream. Looking up, I found out the symbol at the end of the dream is one of the most ancient symbols known to humanity: a symbol of the Sun, also called the sun-wheel. I have taken this dream to my Analyst and we have dived into it; what is sacrifice and where does it become self-masochism and where is it a higher sacrifice that is asked of the deeper psyche? What is the archetype of Artemis and her shadow side to me? As usual in Analytical work, we just work with the associations and let the deeper alchemy of life work its way.
When I was reading about Tishtriya, I suddenly understood the intimacy and oneness with the rhythm of the archetypes and the seasons that are so deeply intertwined: Tir, literally means arrow in Farsi. I was amused and had to laugh at recognising this interplay of archetypes, personal psychology and my ancestral heritage of Persian mythology interweaving and dancing within my deep psyche - trying to come into wholeness and harmony.
We can look at this other aspect of Tishtriya, as the warrior god that has ‘overcome the black horses’ as it says in Persian Mythology. It is this intense fierceness of the lady with the arrow; she commands a total commitment and sacrifice of our old and little selves. And perhaps only when that has been accepted will Tishtriya reveal his true glory in the deep psyche.
‘Reverence be to the radiant glorious star from good and happy dwellings as it rises - mild violet lustre, beautiful, helpful, health giving, joy bestowing, exalted …..’
- Hymn to Tishtrya in the Avesta.