Daeva (dauua, daua, dava), denotes “ghost” or “being of sparkling light”. In Avestan, it is a word for a form of spiritual force with adverse traits.
The daevas are “gods that are (to be) dismissed,” according to the Gathas, the earliest texts of the Zoroastrian core. This sense can also be found in the Old Persian “daiva inscription” from the 5th century BCE, though it is subjective to interpretation.
The daevas are a group of beings that appear regularly in the Avesta and later Zoroastrian texts. Daeva(s) are considered rejected gods. The variants, such as Old Iranian daiva, Pahlavi dew, and later Persian div, have often had a negative connotation, indicating a false god or the devil.
Etymology of Daeva
The Iranian language word Daevva has the same roots as the Indian folklore term “Deva,” which was later introduced into Indian religions.
While the words for Vedic spirits and Zoroastrian deities have similar etymologies, their role and thematic creation are vastly different.
The Vedic Devas (“Celestial Ones”) are one of two main subgroupings of gods found in ancient Indian scriptures, while the Zoroastrian Daevvas are manifestations of the evil spirit.
Vedic Devas are a positive entity countering the Asuras, who are commonly interpreted as a Demon entity.
Additionally, the asura demonizations in India and the same of daevas Iran occurred “so late that related words cannot be considered a part of Indo-Iranian religious dialectology.”
The historical conflict of *asura/daiva popularised by Nyberg, Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, and Widengren includes “overlong and largely ambiguous debates” on the status of different Indo-Iranian beings that are asuras in one culture and devas/daevvas in the other.
In Zoroastrian narratives, such entities are the agents and in some cases, manifestations of the Evil Spirit, enemies of the believers, and Ahura Mazda himself, and they are often cast in an antagonistic capacity as the counterpart to earthly heroes and rulers.
The Daevvas (also spelled dauuas) are not quite the evil spirits that they are said to be in later Zoroastrianism, according to the Gathas, which are believed to have been written by Zoroaster himself.
The Gathas refer to the daevas together rather than naming specific daevvas. The word Daevvas (spelled ‘dauuas’) appears 19 times in these ancient writings, where Daevvas were a distinct group of “true gods, who had, indeed, been dismissed.”
The Indo-Iranian cultures also worship the Daevvas in Yasna 32.3 and 46.1, even though they were specifically connected with “wrong spirits” (e.g., Yasna 32.5).
In Xerxes’ daiva inscription, Old Persian daiva appears twice (XPh, early 5th century BCE). One reference to a daivadana “home of the daivas” in this trilingual text is commonly translated as a reference to a shrine or sanctuary.
“By the grace of Ahura Mazda, I dissolved the institution of the daiva, and I declared, ‘The daiva thou shalt not worship!'” Xerxes writes in his inscription.
This claim can be translated into two separate ways.
Either the argument is ideological, in which case daivas were deities to be feared, or it is purely political, in which case daivas were deities worshipped by (potential) enemies of the state
In Younger Avesta
The daevvas are explicitly aggressive forces in the Younger Avesta. The term daevayasna- (literally, “somebody who sacrifices to daevvas”), on the other hand, refers to people of other faiths and thus retains some of the original significance.
Conversely, in Yasht 5.94, the daevvayasna- are those who offer sacrifices to Anahita at night, i.e., when the daevvas are most active. Daevvayasna- seems to be a phrase attributed to those who deviate from approved tradition and/or reap religious rejection.
The Vendidad, a transcription of vi-daevo-dta, “given toward the daevvas,” is a set of later Avestan texts that focuses almost entirely on the daevvas, or perhaps, their different forms and methods of confounding them.
Mazdayasna– (‘Mazda worshipper’) marks the devoted Zoroastrian with the very same intensity as vidaeva- “dismissing the daevas.”
Because the last half of the day is believed to be the domain of the demons, the Vendidad is commonly recited after nightfall. The Vendidad is said to be successful only if recited within sunset and sunrise since it is the medium to deactivate the Daevvas.
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In tradition and Folklore
Daevvas or Dews play an important role in the Bundahishn’s cosmogonical drama, a Zoroastrian vision of existence completed in the 12th century.
To battle the development of Ormuzd (Avestan Ahura Mazda), the evil spirit Ahriman (the middle Persian counterpart of Avestan Angra Mainyu) generates masses of Daevvas.
The Vendidad had referred to this theory, but the Bundahishn is the first to completely establish it. Ahriman is seen making six dews, which are the opposite of the Amahraspands in Zoroastrian culture (Avestan Amesha Spentas).
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A daeva(s) are a Zoroastrian mystical being with negative qualities. This article covers various interpretations of the Daeva(s), the rejected Gods of Zoroastrianism. The interesting etymology and the conflicting meaning of the terms across the Vedic texts and the Zoroastrian literature.
The mentions of the Daeva in Younger Avesta, Zoroastrian Scriptures, and Xerxes’s inscription from the early 5th century BCE are covered in this article.