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Pahlavi Texts, Part II (SBE18), E.W. West, tr. [1882], at


1. The sixteenth question is that which you ask thus: What is the purpose 1 of giving up a corpse to the birds?

2. The reply is this, that the construction of the body of those passed away is so wonderful that two co-existences have come together for it, one which is to occasion endurance (dêr padâyînîdanŏ) and one which is to cause conflict (nipôrdînîdanŏ), and their natures are these, for watching the angels and averting the demons. 3. After appertaining to it the life--so long as it is in the locality of the place of the body--and the demons of dull intellects, who are frightened by the body, are just like a sheep startled by wolves when they shall further frighten it by a wolf 2. 4. The spirit of the body, on account of being the spiritual life (hûkŏ) for the heart in the body, is indestructible; so is the will which resided therein, even when they shall release it from its abode.

5. In the same way the body of those who are

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passed away is so much the more innocently worthy of the rights (sânŏ) of one properly passed away, and what it is therein provided with, as it has uttered thanksgivings. 6. For those guardian spirits who keep watch over the body of Keresâsp 1 the Sâmân are also such praises from the life and body, for that reason, moreover, when they unite.

7. The injury of the destroyer to the body of those passed away is contaminating; the Nasûs corruption') 2 rushes on it and, owing to its violence when it becomes triumphant over the life of the righteous man, and frightens it from the place of the catastrophe (hankardîkîh), and puts itself into the place of the body, that body is then, for that reason, called Nasâî ('dead matter'). 8. And, on account of the co-existence of rapid changing and the mode of attacking of the same Nasûs, even when it is necessary for the disintegration of the body, this is also then to lie and change sanatorily.

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9. Hence, as the body of men is formed out of hard bone and soft fat, that which is established is the expulsion of the hone from the fat. 10. For the bone through its hardness, when no damp fat is with it, and it does not become a holder of its damp, is itself essentially dry; and it becomes unconsumable and attaining durability, through dryness, out of the dead matter even for perpetuity. I1. And the sun is provided to make rotten, dispersed, and useless the fat that is around the bone, which on the decay of the animating life is to become increasingly damp, and, after the departure of life through. terror and disgust (adôstîh), it comes to rottenness and stench; and the noxious creatures in it alike afflict it and the hard part such as bone.

12. As regards the shrinking away of those who are sinners, the nearer way to a remedy is the gnawer away from men 1; the fat becomes separate from the. bone, and is seized and digested, as by the separation of the fat from the dead matter for digestion, moreover, the permanent matter (asarîh) and bone attain more fully unto their own nature (sânŏ), and the body (kâlpûdŏ) to emptiness. 13. Because there is no other way to consume that fat of men, since it is most grievous to them (the sinners), and the pollution and contamination are made a blessing unto it (the gnawer). 14. The dispersers.(astârdŏgarân) completely disperse from it  2; they are appointed

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and produced, a production not worthy, for its defilement of those purified and animals is contaminating, through contact again with men. 15. The crow (galâg) and such-like, through scorching away by the fire of the luminaries, become worthy; moreover, the affliction of that which is completely pure fire arises therefrom, as it is not able itself to come unto the scorched one, for then the defilement (darvâkh) of the scorcher by the most grievous gnawer would be possible.

16. But it is not proper to recount (angâstanŏ) the devouring of the noxious creatures, for the spirit of the body is troubled when it observes the alarmed (vazîd) spirituality which was in the body of those destroyed, the noxious creatures upon the goodly forms, and the mode and strangeness of their disintegration and spoliation. 17. And so it then becomes the more remedial way 1 when, as it is ordered in revelation 2, the body fraught with corruption is placed on the ground of a clear mountain-spur (kôf vakhsh); and, in order not to convey it to the water, plants, and men of the plain, it is fastened 3 in the customary manner, so that the corpse-eating dogs and corpse-eating birds, which are not subject to the hand (dastô-âmûkŏ) of men, and are likewise not entertained as food, shall yet not drag any of it away for man's eating of dead matter.

18. For streams and waters go themselves 4 and

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consume that fat, and are digested by the vital fire 1 which is in the life of the creatures of Aûharmazd; and from fat the corpses and dead matter are reduced unto dregs of clay 2 and permanent matter, even with the dust they are mingled and become scattered about. 19. Likewise to those dogs, flying creatures, and birds they themselves (the waters) have given the corpse-eating quality and habit 3, and on account of dull intellect they (the creatures) are not overwhelmed even by that sin.

20. From that fat which is mingled with the living body of a creature of Aûharmazd then arises also the assault 4 of the demons, as is shown in the chapter 5 on the reason for showing a dog to a dead person, so that the body of those passed away, when the gnawers away are mingled with the living body of a creature of Aûharmazd, exhibits a partial resurrection and the tokens of it, and thereby the demons keep in it (the living body), and give pain 6 by the will of the sacred beings.


38:1 Assuming that âhan stands for âhang.

38:2 This last clause is a quotation, slightly altered, from Pahl. Vend. XIX, 108, 109.

39:1 An ancient hero, mentioned both in the Avesta and Shâhnâmah, who, owing to his disregard of religion, is said to be lying asleep on the plain of Pêsyânsaî (probably the Pisîn valley near Qandahâr), watched by a myriad guardian spirits of the righteous, until he shall be hereafter aroused by the angels to kill the revived usurper Az-i Dahâk (see Bd. XXIX, 7, 8, Byt. III, 59-61). Regarding his soul a legend is related in the. Pahlavi tracts which precede Dd. in some MSS., of which a translation will be found in Appendix I.

39:2 Supposed to be a fiend who enters and pervades every corpse immediately after death, except in certain cases of violent death, when its arrival is delayed till the next period of the day (see Sls. X, 32). This exception is made in Vend. VII, 5, 6, and was probably intended, in most cases, to prevent a person who had met with a serious accident being left to perish, through fear of his death contaminating any one coming to his relief; not from any idea of the fiend being taken unawares bi the suddenness of the death. This fiend is the Av. nasu (nom. nasus).

40:1 That is, in the case of those who neglect the proper exposure of corpses, there is a natural remedy in the worms produced for consuming them. Perhaps the word khastâr, 'cutter, or gnawer, stands for khastar, 'noxious creature.'

40:2 The consumers of the corpse disperse when their work is done, and carry contamination with them unless purified by the sun's heat, as described in § 15.

41:1 That is, it is better to adopt the customary mode of removing the corpse.

41:2 See Vend. VI, 93-97.

41:3 This is ordered only when the corpse is not placed in any enclosure.

41:4 Or, as Vend. V, 49-62 describes it. the water is rained down by p. 42 Aûharmazd, purified in the Pûtîk sea, and conveyed through the wide-formed ocean to the well-watered tree of all seeds, whence the falling seeds are brought back, with the misty clouds, and rained upon the earth, to grow there and yield food for cattle and men.

42:1 The vital heat, or Vohu-fryãn fire (see Bd. XVII, 1, 2).

42:2 Reading gîl-valîgîh (compare Pers. kalîk, 'sediment,' or galîz, 'saliva').

42:3 Which they have imbibed by contact with dead matter.

42:4 Or 'weapon.'

42:5 No such chapter is now extant in Dd., and, therefore, this remark favours the supposition that some chapters are lost between Chaps. XCIII and XCIV. A corpse must be shown to a dog in order that the demon, Nasûs, may be driven out of it by the look, or touch, of the dog (see Sls. II, 1-4, X, 33).

42:6 A recognition of the fact that the-drinking of impure water, or eating of tainted food, is apt to produce disease.

Next: Chapter XVIII