AŠI, Avestan feminine noun meaning “thing attained, reward, share, portion, recompense” and, as a personification, the goddess “Reward, Fortune.” The word is an abstract noun from a root ar- (“to grant,” AirWb. col. 184) with suffix -ti, belonging to the group of Younger Avestan personified abstracts like Rāman (Joy, Peace), Daēnā (Conscience, Religion), Čisti (Doctrine), Hušiti (Good [Safe] Dwelling). The word has no equivalent in Old Indian (so correctly P. Thieme in Zarathustra, ed. B. Schlerath, Darmstadt, 1970, p. 403; differently H. Lommel, Die Religion Zarathustras, Tübingen, 1930, p. 81). The base of the word is the root ar- “allot,” as is shown by the figure of speech aši- ar-, “grant, allot a share” (Y. 9.3, 52.3, 56.3). Unconvincing is S. Insler’s derivation (The Gāthās of Zarathustra, Tehran and Liège, 1975, p. 131) from a root ar- “deserve,” which he finds in ārəm (Y. 43.10), admitting only a secondary association with ar- “grant.” It is very unlikely that Aši- replaces an Indo-Iranian *Bhaga (OInd. bhaga- “portion”) as G. Dumézil proposes (so also J. Duchesne-Guillemin, La religion de l’Iran ancien, Paris, 1962, pp. 203ff.). The concept of Aši goes back to pre-Zoroastrian, “pagan” times. The material is not sufficient to deny ethical connotation to a pre-Zoroastrian Aši as goddess of fertility (cf. Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 65ff.).
1. Aši in the Gāθās. Aši- is attested in the Gāθās seventeen times; there is no trace of personification. Aši’s epithet “the good one” (Younger Av. vaŋuhī, cf. Pahlavi Ahrišwang) occurs three times in the Gāθās: Y. 51.10: “I call truth to me, to come with good reward;” Y. 51.21: “I pray for this good reward;” Y. 43.5: “You appoint reward for deed and word: bad for the bad, good reward for the good.” In the last passage, “good reward” is opposed by the neuter akəm “The bad, the evil.” So one may doubt whether “she is regularly spoken of in the Zoroastrian scriptures as the “good Aši” . . . in distinction presumably to the amoral pagan concept” (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 226). Aši depends on man’s conduct, so he can “rule at will over (his) reward” (Y. 50.9).
Sraoša, personified “Obedience,” is called ašivant- “possessing Aši,” because obedience (to Ahura Mazdā) is followed by (good) reward (cf. I. Gershevitch, The Avestan Hymn to Mithra, Cambridge, 1959, pp. 194, 325). Obedience and good conduct are the result of Vohu Manah “good thinking,” and so Aši, Sraoša, and Vohu Manah are associated in many passages.
It does not seem advisable to see the “rewards” the Gāθās speak of as spiritual gifts alone, nor those in the pagan context as exclusively material gifts (so apparently Boyce, loc. cit.). The wealth-granting reward (ašī mazā-rayā) Zarathustra mentions (Y. 43.12) is probably material wealth as the outward token of spiritual reward. A purely “materialistic” view of Gathic aši- is that of H. Humbach (Die Gathas des Zarathustra, Heidelberg. 1959, passim).
2. Aši in the Younger Avesta. In the younger Avesta, Aši is a goddess, to whom a whole yašt is dedicated (Ard Yašt [Y. 17]). This yašt seems to contain some old material which shows that Aši at some time must have been an important goddess of fertility and matrimony (for details see Ard Yašt). Aši is integrated in the Avestan pantheon as the daughter of Ahura Mazdā and Spənta Ārmaiti, the sister of the Aməša Spəntas and of Sraoša, Rašnu, Miθra, and the Mazdayasnian Daēna/Religion (Yt. 17.16); she is especially connected with Miθra in the Mihr Yašt, where she appears as his charioteer (Yt. 10.76, 143; see I. Gershevitch, The Avestan Hymn to Mithra, Cambridge, 1959, p. 217). It has been suggested that Sraoša’s epithet ašiia- signifies “related to or associated with Aši” (H. S. Nyberg, Die Religion des alten Iran, tr. H. H. Schaeder, repr. Osnabrück, 1966, p. 66; Gershevitch, op. cit., p. 194). Just as Aši and her standing epithet vaŋᵛhī have become joined together in Mid. Pers. Ahrišwang, thus also has Av. Sraošō Ašiiō become Mid. Pers. Srōšahlāy (Man. Mid. Pers. srwšhrʾy designates the “Column of Glory,” for which Man. Sogd. has srwšrṯ, see Gershevitch, ibid., footnote).
Aši presides over the twenty-fifth day of the month (AirWb. col. 243).
3. Later developments. In Zoroastrian Middle Persian the goddess’ name is Ahrišwang (for some details concerning the phonetic development of this form see H. S. Nyberg, A Manual of Pahlavi II, Wiesbaden, 1974, p. 123). In a Manichean Middle Persian text (Mir. Man. II, p. 14 ) the goddess appears as Baγ-ard (written bγʾrd), the guardian spirit of the border of Hurāsān (hwrʾsʾn wymndbʾn). The name of the day in Manichean texts is Erd (ʾyrd). Bīrunī, Chronology, has Persian ʾrd (p. 43), Sogdian ʾrdḵ (p. 46), Khwarazmian ʾrǰwḵy (i.e., artsūxī), the last two from *Ṛti-wahwī (see also W. B. Henning, Orientalia, 1939, p. 92 = Selected Papers I [Acta Iranica 14], p. 634).
(B. Schlerath, P. O. Skjærvø)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 16, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 7, pp. 750-751