July 16, 2004

Zoroastrian Osseotherapy of Anthropomorphism


Inspired by some visually cold and unsettling photos taken from the Paris catacomb by my friend Boris Mangold, I changed (and severely mutilated) my old piece on the (anti-)Osseological culture of the ancient Zoroastrians ... surely the piece is more fitting for the ‘Cold Me’ howl but it works fine here too. However, I should add: anyone seeking a terrifying text on Osseological culture should read ‘A digression on Miller’, a chapter from “The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism”, Nick’s textual plague whose curse is unfading.

(warning: slow loading)

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for Boris Mangold and Nick Land

"How shall I fight against the demon, which from the dead flies upon the living? How shall I fight against Nasu, which from the dead enters into the living?" (Vendidad)

The Burial of an Empire. It had nothing to do with blood, raw wounds or meat; nor was it the wing of a cult classic performance, bizarropedia or the macabre underground swollen in some kind of theatricalism. It was silent and all glorious as a ceremony of an empire should be: the Persian Empire (an Overstate whose nomads constellated its very army at the margins of Persian lands). It was not a burial; not an inhumation; precisely speaking, it was not a ceremony of 'chambering corpses' (entombment) which provides a dwelling / accommodating system for corpses to be screened and specialized thus in a covert mission eclipsing them within an architectural site, encoding the dead as A Good Meal that lures necrophilic engineers to exhume (ex + humus or ground = unground) the architectural site, the graves and their dwelling / accommodating functions.


The ceremony was prepared by initiates trained for corpse handling and management (Nasa-salars); Borrowed from the ancient cultures (those cryptogenic lands of unknown customs and artifacts plotted by nameless Things), disposing of the body was the initial step. In early times, this process was managed by trained people known as corpse-takers or corpse-cutters (Nasu-kasha or Nasu-keret); they stripped the body of its meat, skin and tissues -- toward the mere inclusion of bones -- then, they dumped bones and flesh at two different places prepared for this purpose before the eyes of the deceased person's family and friends who were watching this expressionless and silent (also quick) ceremony from a safe distance since Nasu or Nasa -- corpse or black matter -- is an attractor of its Druj- [1] (Abomination) to form Druj-Nasu, a cross-contaminating epidemic which radically corrupts the ‘Rotation of the Elements’ panorama (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) and its economically mixed compositions (Mud, etc.); according to ancient Persian culture, corpse looks forward to return to its epidemic mother, Druj- (The Mother of Abominations). The collected flesh was fed to carrion-eaters (trained dogs or birds of prey). Bones were kept for an accurately ordered set of systematic procedures:

1. Overboiling bones until separation of meat pieces from bones: sometimes (and especially during Sasanian dynasty and later) this stage was directed by the forces of nature in isolated places: making bones sun-bleached and rain-washed.

2. Shaving bones with metal (unlike wood, metal was believed immaculate) to eradicate the pink fingerprints left by meat and its brainless tentacles: ironically decomposing the last traces of A Good Meal for Druj-.

3. Accumulating the scrubbed bones in technically crafted ossuaries (uzdana-) named Astodan [2] (bone-receptacle) on whose surface, there are holes tiny enough to let the Sun rays pass and block any unholy intrusion, letting the thermo-nuclear emissions of the Sun bombard bones to less than pieces, to Dust (Toward the Exclusion of Bones). Bone marrow, too, must be scoured from the holy cycle of the elements (solidus-in-circulation?).


"O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! Whither shall
we bring, where shall we lay the bones of the dead, O Ahura Mazda?

“Ahura Mazda answered: An ossuary (uzdana) shall be made, out of reach of dogs and foxes and wolves, not to be rained on from above by rainwater. They shall make it, if they can afford it, with stones or chalk ... If they are not able, let it (i.e. the skeleton) be laid down, being its own couch, being its own cushion, upon the earth, exposed to the light, seen by the Sun." (Vendidad 6.49-51)

"There are ... matters concerning the dead which are secretly and obscurely told -- how the dead bodies of Persians are not buried before they have been mangled by bird or dog. That this is the way of the magi I know for a certainty, for they do not conceal the practice." (Herodotus 1.140)


Facing such necroscapes of preprogrammed and visually sinister exclusion and radical butchery (isn't butchery a terminal tactic of non-economical openness: ‘being laid open’ overlapping the survivalist sphere of ‘being open to’?), the Zoroastrian magi realized that the sight of the entire ceremony performed by corpse-cutters can be easily contaminated by abominable (drujih) avatars capable of summoning new portals of horror and perversion, siphoning the imperial, horribly peaceful and dry sphere of this ceremony into the space of philia and energizing this butchery as a perversion. Finally, the ceremony was vulnerable to the danger of becoming a predictable sphere for vectors of contamination. This ceremony was not radical 'enough'. The corpse-cutters were entirely replaced by the hordes of domesticated or flying carrion-eaters as they did not only deflesh corpses as fast as possible but also kept the nasu away from swarming scavengers (kharfastra). Kharfastra (unholy swarm of scavengers) unlike the pets trained by the State to carry the nasu through monitored routes (in the case of dogs) or take the nasu away from the Earth (birds’ duty), spread out the nasu in all directions, carrying it to regions inaccessible by the State, re-forging the nasu as micro-nomadic compositions through which the State is introduced to the Mother of Abominations (Druj-: Druj-nasu). This is why according to Vendidad (the Zoroastrian Book of the law against Demon or Druj-), Kharfastra is a legion of insects, wolves, pests and hydro-leak fluxes oozing into the subterranean nether beneath the State. Kharfastra runs its lines of vermiculation to engineer anonymous routes for spreading nasu, contamination and toxic wastes through the earth, lines which eventually making the ground crumble and butchered open, massively undermining State. A coil of worms working at substrate, a vermifungoid machine undermining what lies above, gnawing at the surface, emerging as a wave from within. Briefly and more plainly, Kharfastra or what in Vendidad has been introduced as obnoxious swarm engineers a vermiculated space -- ()holes, ()holes, ()holes with evaporative ‘W’s -- as it spreads, carries, buries and mobilizes nasu and contamination through the Earth; inventing a Telluro-vermicular Ungrouding (ex-humation) process. Here, Kharfastra is unillumined as “a New People for a New Earth” (Deleuze & Guattari).


"In Hyrcania the masses breed communal dogs, while the aristocrats have dogs that they keep at their own homes; we happen to know that their breed of dog is decidedly superior. However, everyone according to his individual means acquires dogs that will tear him to shreds, because they reckon this to be the best burials" (quoted from Eudemus of Rhodes)

If a person died in bad weather (i.e. climates potential of accommodating any hydroleak flow that mobilizes a line of flight / escape for the contamination, nasu and pest-molecules: storm, flood, cyclones, mud, snow, etc.), the families were to dig a pit or trench in a secluded place within the house ... laying dung or ashes at the bottom of the trench, below the corpse; covering the corpse with dry kinds of soil. Then, when the weather relented, they were to make a breach in the wall of the house and carry the corpse out to a place where "carrion-eater dogs and birds shall most readily perceive it." (Vendidad); then, they were to lay it down on a "[dry] bed of chalk and fasten it with bricks or stones". (Ibid)


There were reports of throwing those suffering from old age or sickness alive to dogs (known as undertakers) kept and trained for such purposes.

"Outside the city walls there is a separate community of over two thousand households who specialize in funerary matters. There is also a separate building in which dogs are kept. Whenever a person dies, [members of this community] will go and collect the corpse and place it inside this building and order the dogs to devour it. When the flesh has been entirely devoured they will bury all the bones but no coffin is used for the burial." (Tong-dian 193.1039b; tr. In Lieu, p. 183)


The dead must be away from the elements of Genesis Project (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) and their inter-phase combinations; this is the Grand Project of Immaculacy or the Osseological Culture; Druj-Nasu defiles fire if you cremate the dead; it will deflower the Earth Mother if you bury a corpse; ... Druj-Nasu will spoil water if you give the dead to a river, ... will pollute air if you expose them for a long time, ... will make a total mess if you let one single corpse remain on the ground when the Elements cyclically (according to Aristotelian model) blend to each other (producing mud, bad weather, etc.).

All this was not enough; the Zoroastrian osseological enterprise was never meant to include bones and exclude flesh as in the case of its monotheistic progeny; its ultimate strategy was to creatively exclude bones from the entire anthropomorphic culture and bring mess instead.

This was the economic slogan of Zoroastrianism: “It is not enough.” It was not merely a political / spiritual slogan; "it is not enough" was the practice of life in a radically non-economical sphere.

The system of carrion-eaters was still criminal; the whole immaculacy project was still full of bugs ... during the Sasanian dynasty, such ceremonies promoted by a new zeal in anti-Druj- practices and especially the rites around corpse and Druj-Nasu. The duty of carrion-eating was completely bestowed upon vultures and other birds of prey flying above the surface and not contaminating the living on the ground easily. They reconsidered dogs as capable spiritual enemies of Druj-, so they reunited their pet industry within another ritual: Sag-did [3]

When a man dies a dog should be tied at his feet.
When the dog sees the demon; it will smite it.
[...] will be like a nasu that has been seen by a dog. (Vendidad)

[Should the dead person be a woman with child, two dogs were needed, two yellow dogs with four eyes; totally, eight eyes.]

Sag-did ceremony, however, was an overture for a new development in killing Nasu (what has already been killed); a more radical project toward the exclusion of bones, toward generating something external to the elements of Genesis Project yet assumed to be an inter-phase between elements (Air, Earth), something that takes its own line of flight for leaving the ground of the living behind in rest and then come back with radical plagues: Dust (dry GAS)

Pulvis ad Pulverem or Immaculatus, the Persian plague. Dakhma or Dahma or poetically, Tower of Silence was a tower built on hilltop or on an elevated ground away from human dwellings. The Tower is a round monolithic structure built with saruj (traditional hardening glue in Iran more powerful than cement) and stone. A few steps from the ground lead to an iron gate which opens on a circular platform of solid stone with a circular well in the center.

The following is a short description of the tower written by Nusserwanjee Byrawjee, the late Secretary of the public charity funds and properties of the Parsi community:

"First row for corpses of males. Second row for corpses of females. Third row for corpses of children.

[...]The clothes wrapped round the corpses are removed and destroyed immediately after they are placed in the Tower.
[...]Footpaths for corpse-bearers to move about [are also marked]. A deep central well in the Tower, 150 feet in circumference (the sides and bottom of which are also paved with stone slabs), is used for depositing the dry bones. The corpse is completely stripped of its flesh by vultures within an hour or two, and the bones of the denuded skeleton, when perfectly dried up by atmospheric influences and the powerful heat of the tropical sun, are thrown into this well, where they gradually crumble to dust, chiefly consisting of lime and phosphorus.

[...]There are holes in the inner sides of the well through which the rain water is carried into four underground drains; at the base of the Tower, these drains are connected with four underground wells, the bottoms of which are covered with a thick layer of sand. Pieces of charcoal and sandstone are also placed at the end of each drain, which are renewed from time to time. These double sets of filters are provided for purifying the rain water passing over the bones, before it enters the ground thus observing one of the tenets of the Zoroastrian religion that 'The Mother Earth shall not be defiled."

"The corpse is left exposed to the sun and elements until bleached and dry. The bones are then collected and deposited in the central well to further deteriorate. In areas where it is quite dry, the bones soon crumble to dust. In areas where there is a large amount of rain, provision is made for the water, after collecting in the well, to run out through a grate, pass over charcoal, and then to the sea. While the grates are occasionally blocked and need clearing, the system as whole is quite self-sufficient.

“The area around the Tower is kept as a garden, sacred in a sense similar to our cemetery areas. Occasionally a stray ear or finger is found in the nearby residential areas, having been dropped by a passing vulture or hawk. Nonetheless, the entire process is considered quite sanitary.”


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At a Tower of Silence, as in a desert, solid (bones or the earth’s crust) fervidly arrives at absolute immanence with the Sun; the communication is appeared in the form of Dust which holds the key protocols of Solid and Gas collapsed over each other. This is how the Sun makes a con-fusion of paranoia and schizotactics, rendering a covert exhumation (ungrounding) process, a schizotrategy. At a Tower of Silence, the ossified death is reinvented as a dry perversion (Dustism). Dust is a ferociously attracting-process for the cosmic wetness and its pest-suspensions, an upsurge toward mess-hysteria (DUST + hydrochemical singularities = Dust Soap). [Read Dust]

If a man died among nomads and they could not find a Dakhma near their temporary settlement; they started their migration suddenly and left the corpse. The corpse actually triggered their anti-climatic (or anti-geographic) and radical nomadic migration through terminal paranoia.

I am from a culture in which death is not only ossified but also pulverized into a gray powder, an abominable dust working as an atractor for cosmic wetness and moisture: a necrophilic mess [from Cold Me website]


[1] Druj-, a feminine name from the Sanskrit druh 'to blacken', in Pahlavi language of ancient Persia, Druj- means lie, unreal, strategy and darkness. Both linguistically and epidemically, it is always experienced as ‘Druj-’ (an affix, a prosthesis, a contagious havoc) and not ‘Druj’ (e.g. Druj-Nasu: the corpse-fiend). In Vendidad or the Zoroastrian Book of the Law against Demon, written during the Sasanian dynasty before Islam, Druj- is not an entity but a pestilential tempest capable of inter-fusing with everything; it is regarded as an unfathomable plague, a contaminating epidemic or the Mother of Abominations.

[2] Astodan from Pahlavic ast- (oss, bone) and -dana (container) later, this word undergoes an etymological transformation to the word Ossuary.

[3] In the Sag-did ritual (dog-watched or dog-watcher), the trained dog (watch-fiend?) must play the role of a beast obstructing the presence of Druj- and the rush of kharfastra (the scavenging swarms) temporarily; a yellow dog with four eyes (with two spots above the eyes) or a white dog with yellow ears is tightened to the corpse or kept as its company to eat the body (hiding it from Druj- and kharfastra; this was also the job of the birds of prey according to the ancient Zoroastrians) or just safeguarding it from Druj-: two eyes for the terrestrial invasions, the third eye for watching beyond dimensions and the fourth eye; what does the fourth eye do? A watcher for all the other eyes?

Posted by hyperstition at July 16, 2004 07:20 AM




Amazing pictures --- you could make a horrible new version of Doom with them ----

Posted by: mark at July 20, 2004 03:56 PM



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