GƎˊUŠ URUUAN “the soul of the Cow,” the name of the archetypal Bovine, whose plight is a subject of Zoroaster’s gāθā (Y. 29), often identified as “the Cow’s Lament.” In this poem Zoroaster drew upon an old Indo-Iranian motif of a semi-divine cow. While the grammatical gender of gau- is feminine, the word can refer to “cattle, bovines” generally, and has been so understood by various interpreters (e.g., Lommel, pp 177 ff.). In the later Pahlavi literature the Gōšorun (q.v.) is the female counterpart to the Primordial Bull (gāw ī ēwag dād; see GĀW Ī ĒWDĀD). In the Avesta the figure of the gau- appears to be a cow and this is supported by comparative date from the Indian Vedic and epic traditions (see Lincoln pp. 140ff.). Yasna 29 is composed in the form of a dialogue involving Gə̄uš Uruuan and various of the divine beings, including the Gəuš Tašan (the fashioner of the Cow). While there is little agreement among scholars regarding many details of the poem and even its ultimate meaning, there is consensus over the basic outline. Gə̄uš Uruuan, suffering at the hands of the forces of the Lie laments to Ahura Mazdā (q.v.) and the other divinities about her wretched condition. She despairs over her abandonment, her lack of an adequate herdsman for her protection. After some indecisive discussion by the divinities, in which they are unable to identify a proper protector, they recognize that Zoroaster is the only one fit for the job. She laments all the more, since she regards him as a weakling, but ultimately she must make do with him. Zoroaster intended at least two levels of meaning. Basic was the inherited figure of the suffering cow (cf. Yt. 10.38) mistreated in the hands of enemies. That is, she symbolizes the plight of Zoroaster’s community and its cult. More abstractly, and more significantly, Gə̄uš Uruuan is a metaphor for the poetic vision (daēnā) that Zoroaster has received from Ahura Mazdā (see GĒUŠ TAŠAN). In later Avestan literature Gə̄uš Uruuan is simply the deity of the 14th day of the month (Mid. Pers. Gōš).
Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 81-82, 117, 119, 150, 171; II, pp. 245, 247.
Gray, Foundations, pp. 79-82.
H. Humbach, J. Elfenbein, and P. O. Skjærvø, The Gāthās of Zarathushtra and the Other Old Avestan Texts, 2 vols., Heidelberg, 1991.
S. Insler, The Gāthās of Zarathustra, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 28-29, 134-47.
J. Kellens and E. Pirart, Les textes vieil-avestiques, 3 vols., Wiesbaden, 1988-91, I, pp. 107-10.
B. Lincoln, Warriors and Cattle, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981.
H. Lommel, Die Religion Zarathustrasnach dem Awesta Dargestellt, Tübingen, 1930; repr. Hildesheim and New York, 1971, pp. 177-84.
W. W. Malandra, An Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion, Minneapolis, 1983, pp. 35-38.
(William W. Malandra)
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 9, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 6, , p. 577