Simurgh or Simorgh ( _fa. سیمرغ), sometimes spelled "Simurg" or "Simoorg", also known as Angha ( _fa. عنقا), is the modern Persian name for a fabulous, benevolent, mythical flying creature. The figure can be found in all periods of Greater Iranian art and literature, and is evident also in the iconography of medieval Armenia, Byzantium and other regions that were within the sphere of Iranian cultural influence.

The name 'Simorgh' derives from Middle Persian Pahlavi "Senmurv", "Sēnmurw" (and earlier "Sēnmuruγ"), also attested in Middle Persian Pāzand as "Sīna-Mrū". The Middle Persian term derives in turn from Avestan "m"ə"r"ə"γō Saēnō" "the bird Saēna", originally a raptor, likely an eagle, falcon or sparrowhawk, as can be deduced from the etymologically identical Sanskrit "śyenaḥ" "raptor, eagle, bird of prey" that also appears as a divine figure. "Saēna" is also a personal name which is derived from the bird's name.


Form and function

The "simorgh" is depicted in Iranian art as a winged creature in the shape of a bird, gigantic enough to carry off an elephant or a whale. It appears as a kind of peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion; sometimes however also with a human face. The simorgh is inherently benevolent and unambiguously female. Being part mammal, she suckles her young. The Simorgh has teeth. It has an enmity towards snakes and its natural habitat is a place with plenty of water. Its feathers are said to be the colour of copper, and though it was originally described as being a Dog-Bird, later it was shown with either the head of a man or a dog.

"Si-", the first element in the name, has been connected in folk etymology to Modern Persian "si" "thirty". Although this prefix is not historically related to the origin of the name Simorgh, "thirty" has nonetheless been the basis for legends incorporating that number, for instance, that the Simorgh was as large as thirty birds or had thirty colours ("siræng").

Iranian legends consider the bird so old that it had seen the destruction of the World three times over. The Simorgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the Ages. In one legend, the Simorgh was said to live 1700 years before plunging itself into flames (much like the phoenix).

The Simorgh was considered to purify the land and waters and hence bestow fertility. The creature represented the union between the earth and the sky, serving as mediator and messenger between the two. The Simorgh roosted in Gaokerena, the Hōm (Avestan: Haoma) Tree of Life, which stands in the middle of the world sea "Vourukhasa". The plant is potent medicine, is called all-healing, and the seeds of all plants are deposited on it. When the Simorgh took flight, the leaves of the tree of life shook making all the seeds of every plant to fall out. These seeds floated around the world on the winds of Vayu-Vata and the rains of Tishtrya, in cosmology taking root to become every type of plant that ever lived, and curing all the illnesses of mankind.

The relationship between the Simorgh and Hōm is extremely close. Like Simurgh, Hōm is represented as a bird, a messenger and as the essence of purity that can heal any illness or wound. Hōm - appointed as the first priest - is the essence of divinity, a property it shares with Simorgh. The Hōm is in addition the vehicle of "farr(ah)" (MP: "khwarrah", Avestan: "khvarenah", "kavaēm kharēno") " [divine] glory" or "fortune". "Farrah" in turn represents the divine mandate that was the foundation of a king's authority. It appears as a bird resting on the head or shoulder of would-be kings and clerics, so indicating Ormuzd's acceptance of that individual as His divine representative on earth. For the commoner, Bahram wraps fortune/glory "around the house of the worshipper, for wealth in cattle, like the great bird Saena, and as the watery clouds cover the great mountains" ("Yasht" 14.41, cf. the rains of Tishtrya above). Like Simorgh, "farrah" is also associated with the waters of "Vourukasha" ("Yasht" 19.51,.56-57).

In the 12th century "Conference of the Birds", Iranian Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar wrote of a band of pilgrim birds in search of the Simurgh. According to the poet's tale, the Simurgh has thirty holes in her beak and drew the wind through them whenever she was hungry. Animals heard a pretty music and gathered at the peak of a mountain where they were eaten by the Simurgh. Through cultural assimilation the Simurgh was introduced to the Arabic-speaking world, where the concept was conflated with other Arabic mythical birds such as the Ghoghnus and developed as the "Rukh" (the origin of the English word "Roc").

In the "Shahnameh"

The Simorgh made its most famous appearance in the Ferdowsi's epic "Shahname" (Book of Kings), where its involvement with the Prince Zal is described. According to the "Shahname", Zal, the son of Saam, was born albino. When Saam saw his albino son, he assumed that the child was the spawn of devils, and abandoned the infant on the mountain "Alborz".

The child's cries were carried to the ears of the tender-hearted Simorgh, who lived on top this peak, and she retrieved the child and raised him as her own. Zal was taught much wisdom from the loving Simorgh, who has all knowledge, but the time came when he grew into a man and yearned to rejoin the world of men. Though the Simorgh was terribly saddened, she gifted him with three golden feathers which he was to burn if he ever needed her assistance.

Upon returning to his kingdom, Zal fell in love and married the beautiful Rudaba. When it came time for their son to be born, the labour was prolonged and terrible; Zal was certain that his wife would die in labour. Rudabah was near death when Zal decided to summon the Simurgh. The Simorgh appeared and instructed him upon how to perform a cesarean section thus saving Rudabah and the child, who became one of the greatest Persian heroes, Rostam.

In popular culture

*The Western world at large undoubtedly heard first of the simurgh through The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, a fantastic compendium of more than one hundred "strange creatures conceived down through history by the human imagination": dragons, centaurs, unicorns, as well as the less familiar and unexpected: Animals That Live in the Mirror, the Humbaba, the Simurgh, and other undeniably curious beasts.
* Undoubtedly Borges first read of the simourgh in The Parliament of the Birds, the "Mantiq at-Ta'ir" of Farid ud-Din Attar.
*The Simurgh made appearances in some Victorian Literature, for example [,M1 "The Queen of the Rubies"] by Newell Herbert, which appeared in the February 17, 1866, edition of "Once a Week" Miscellany (available at Google Books). Herbert used the spelling Simoorg and described a large bird which had both males and females, whose feather would make the bearer invisible.
*The Simurgh has appeared in Squaresoft's Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XI computer games as enemy and notorious enemy respectively.
*Iain M. Banks' science fiction novel, Feersum Endjinn, makes mention of the Simurgh as one of the many anthropomorphic avatars utilised by living humans when interacting with the Crypt, a virtual world to which the "souls" of the dead are consigned in order to continue their existence.
*Simorgh has also appeared in Piers Anthony's Xanth series, as an immortal and incredibly wise bird.
*Simurgh is the name of the AMP's Rapid Response ship in the anime Silent Mobius
*Simorgh was made into a card for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, as "Simorgh - Bird of Divinity" in the "Lord of the Storm" structure deck. Since then, two other Simorgh cards have been made: "Simorgh - Bird of Ancestry" (in the "Light of Destruction" boosters) and "Dark Simorgh" (a V-Jump promotional card).
* In the Japanese "Manga" and "Anime" series, "Full Metal Alchemist", the Simurgh is depicted as the symbol of the "State Alchemist".
* The bird has been mentioned by Baha'u'llah in many of his writings including the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys.
* This is the faction symbol for Pahlava in Europa Barbarorum a mol of Rome Total War.
* Salman Rushdie based much of his first book "Grimus" on the story of Simurg of which it is an anagram.
* In "", Bastian creates a dragon called Simurgh.
* The Simurgh is the Super Robot of Manami Hamill from Super Robot Wars 64. It's upgraded form is called the Simurgh Splendid. The SMSC, or Simurgh Splendid Custom Angelg is the exclusive Super Robot for Lamia Loveless in Super Robot Wars Advance, and her initial unit in .
* Simurgh was also the name of a recent Iranian game show on TV, similar to Banzai and extremely popular until cancelled in 2005.

ee also

*Blue Crow, a giant crow from Brazilian legends.
*Bar Juchne, a giant bird from Jewish legens.
*Mantiq at-Tayr, a poems by Farid ud-Din Attar.
*Roc, a giant bird from Persian mythology.



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