Persians have a deep culture containing great feasts; all of which, rooted in natural occasions and intertwined with delight, and joy. Sepandar Mazgan, too, as one of these beautiful feasts, was a rich occasion; within which, mother earth was worshiped and all women revered. As a symbol of modesty, it means humbleness toward the whole creation; i.e. all the traits of Earth, warmly spreading itself under our feet and embraces all, being reflected in our acts in the form of love and humbleness.In other words, these are The Earth and the Mothers in general, for their very wide spread love which generously includes everything.
Sepandar Mazgan, an ancient Persian festival with Zoroastrian roots, dedicated to Spenta Armaiti, the six creative or divine manifestations of Wisdom and Ahura Mazda. Spenta suggests a creative and constructive quality or force, while Armaiti means regulative thought originally alluding to the physical laws of nature (i.e. Physics). While older sources present the Amesha Spentas more as abstract entities in later sources, Spenta comes to denote holiness and sanctity and Spenta Armaiti is personified as a female divinity thus its association with the female virtue of devotion (to family, husband, and child). She is associated with Earth and Mother Nature.
Celebrating the Mother Earth
This celebration has its roots at the Persian Empire, some 3500 years ago. When, the Achaemenid Dynasty ruled over one of the world’s major empires. Way before Islam, glorious Persian kings from Cyrus the Great to Darius I, were Zoroastrian believers. For them, nature was highly respected and loved, and the fire, seen as a sacred element.Zoroastrians believed that Earth was a deity called “Sepandarmaz”or Sepandar Mazgan: the loving mother, the guardian angel of Earth, and breeder of all creations and human beings. She protects the earth and as a mother tenderly looks after all her children equally. The loving goddess was praised on the fifth day of the fifth month of the solar calendar, both being called after her. Nowadays, it matches with the 29th of Bahman (February 18th).
An expression of love and respect toward women
As a symbol of motherhood, Sepandar Mazgan was a holiday to honor women and the concept of fertility. According to the custom, during this day all women were put on a pedestal and men offered them gifts to demonstrate their respect. All long that day, women were the sole sovereign rulers, listened and obeyed by all. Besides this main ritual dedicated to women, the great Persian scholar Al-Biruni recalls that people ate grapes and pomegranate seeds on this day. For long, the 5th day of Spandarmad was the day of “Jashn-e Barzegaran”, the Farmers’ Festival: the earth goddess Sepandarmaz was worshipped by planting trees, with the hope that she consents to bring good harvests.
Related Word of Avesta
Avestan texts mention both genders asking them to share responsibility and make decisions together. They are equally praised for their good deeds rather than their gender, wealth or power:
“Whoever, man or woman, does what Thou,
O Ahura Mazda, knowest to be the best in Life.
Whoever does right for the sake of Right;
Whoever in authority governs with the aid of the Good Mind,
I shall bring all these to join in songs of Thy Praise,
Forth, shall I with them cross the Bridge of Judgment.”
Sepandarmaz Celebration Feast
There is a detailed account of this ceremony in Biruni’s Al-Tafhim which is like a witness account, as this feast was still widely observed in the cities of Rey and Esfahan during his time. He emphasizes that wearing new clothes, planting trees and giving gifts were among prevalent rites of this feast.
In ancient Persian culture, mother is symbolized by sepandarmaz or earth and Sepandar Mazgan is the celebration day of Love, Friendship and Earth. It is one of the Persian feasts based on natural occasions mixed up with happiness.
However, Sepandar Mazgan the symbol of humbleness, modesty and love, in fact was an angel and keeper of Earth and the breeder of all creations on Earth; the meaning of which is modesty toward the entire creation.
Why fifth of Esfand?
In ancient Persia today known as Iran, each day of the month had a name, and all months had 30 days. For example, the first day was called Ahura Mazda, the second day; Bahman which is the first attribute of God, the third day was called Ordibehesht meaning truth and purity which again are attributes of God. The fourth day is called Shahrivar, meaning idealkingship that belongs to God who rules the whole universe. The cryptic meaning of this word is that in the same way thatGod rules over the heavenly bodies, we should rule our bodies with good thoughts, words and deeds. This brings us to the fifth day Sepandarmaz. Another rule here was that whenever the name of a day coincided with that of the month, a feast was held. So, we have the feast of Sepandar Mazgan on the sepandarmaz day of the month of Esfand (originally Spand or Espand).And after the Persian calendar was changed, the six first months had 31days and the last five months 30 days and only Esfand had 29 days that would change to 30 days in a four years period; this way, Sepandarmazgan moved from 5th of Esfand to 29th of Bahman; i.e. Feb18th.
Iranian Valentine’s Day
Love has always been a crucial component of the Persian culture, whether within the sweet verses of Persian Poets or through the spiritual love of Sufis for God. But what’s important is that long before the creation of Valentine’s Day, it existed in Persia: called ” Sepandar Mazgan “: a day to celebrate love and express respect toward women. Despite Valentine’s Day celebrated in Iran, as well as everywhere in the world, still Sepandar Mazgan is the occasion for many couples to celebrate their love, in the purest Iranian tradition. Today they offer themselves gifts, as reminded by the red hearts embellishing the shops’ windows; while maybe in the past, reviewed together the famous Persian love story of Leyli and Majnun in mythical poems of Shahnameh, or Shirin and Khosrow in the collection of Nezami’s Panj Ganj.