Ashi

Ashi

Ashi ("aši") is the Avestan language word for the Zoroastrian concept of "that which is attained." As the hypostasis of "reward," "recompense," or "capricious luck," "Ashi" is also a divinity in the Zoroastrian hierarchy of "yazata"s.

Nomenclature

Avestan 'ashi' is a feminine abstract noun, deriving from the root "ar-", "to allot," with a substantivizing "-ta" suffix, hence "aši/arti" "that which is granted." In the Avesta, the term implies both material and spiritual recompense.

Although conceptually older than Zoroastrianism, Ashi has no attested equivalent in Vedic Sanskrit. The late Middle Persian equivalent as attested in the Zoroastrian texts of the 9th-12th century is "ard-", which is subject to confusion with another "ard" for "aša-" "truth".

In the younger Avesta, divinified "Ashi" is also referred to Ashi Vanuhi or Ashi Vanghuhi ("Aši vaηuhī", nominative "Ašiš vaηuhī" "Good Reward"), the Middle Persian equivalent of which is Ahrishwang ("Ahrišwang"). Ashi is also attested as a "dvandvah" compound as Ashi Vanghuhi-Parendi.

In scripture

In Zoroaster's revelation

Avestan "ashi" is already attested in the Gathas, the oldest texts of the Zoroastrianism and believed to have been composed by the prophet himself. In these hymns, where the term occurs 17 times, "ashi" is still an abstract concept and is not yet the divinity that she would become in the younger Avesta. With the adjective "good" (hence "-vanuhi"), "ashi" occurs thrice.

In the Gathas, "ashi" is frequently identified with "asha" "truth", so for instance in "Yasna" 51.10 where the poet calls "truth to [him] , to come with good reward." The idea being expressed here is a soteriological one, with "truth" being connected to the afterlife (see "asha" for details) and "ashi" being the appropriate recompense for the soul after death ("cf." "ashavan"). This is also apparent in "Yasna" 43.5 where Ahura Mazda appoints "reward for deed and word: bad for the bad, good reward for the good." Subject to proper conduct in life, "ashi" is then tied to Zoroaster's concept of free will, evident for instance in "Yasna" 50.9 where a mortal has the power to influence his own reward.

Both "asha" and "ashi" have associations with Sraosha and Vohu Manah. Sraosha even has "ashi" as an epithet, he is "ashivant", "possessing ashi" and obedience (=Sraosha) to Ahura Mazda brings good reward, which is "good thinking" (=Vohu Manah).

In the younger Avesta

In the younger Avesta, Ashi is unambiguous a divinity, particularly so in the hymn ("Yasht" 17) dedicated to her. This hymn also contains older material, and many of the verses of "Yasht" 17 are also found in "Yasht" 5, the hymn nominally invoking "the Waters" (Aban), but actually addressed to Aredvi Sura Anahita. Both Aredvi Sura and Ashi are divinities of fertility, but other verses that have martial characteristics (see below) appear out of place in a hymn to "the Waters".

As the divinity of fortune, Ashi is characterized as one who confers victory in time of battle ("Yasht" 17.12-13). She is also closely connected to Mithra, whom she serves as charioteer ("Yasht" 10.68). In the hymn to Sraosha, the divinity of obedience receives "ashiio" (of uncertain meaning) as a stock epithet.

Three verses of the "Ard Yasht" are devoted to enumerating the various kings and heroes who paid devotion to Ashi (17.23-25) and were rewarded for it. Verse 53 of the same hymn enumerates those who do "not" receive her favors, and this includes - besides demons - all youths that have not yet reached puberty. This is followed by two later verses (55-56) that recall a tale of Ashi hiding beneath a rock when pursued, only to be uncovered by prepubescent boys and girls. The last three verses (57-59) of the hymn describe Ashi complaining to Ahura Mazda for the shame she feels for the "prostitute's" actions ("cf." Jahi).

In the day-name dedications of the Zoroastrian calendar, Ashi presides over the 25th day of the month ("Siroza" 25).

Iconography

On Kushan coins, Ashi appears as "Ardoxšo" with a cornucopia in hand.

Bibliography

*: 19f., 225f., 268ff.
*: 207-210.
*: 673-674.
*: 750-751.
*: 355-356.

Further reading

*
** "ashi" is mistranslated as "piety" in the introduction to this text.


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