Haft Sheen includes a Pandora's box!


by ramintork

In the great tradition of blogging i.e. brainstorming and intending to write a light hearted blog, with elements of mockementary it seemed I stepped on a land mine and found myself in the middle of a trench warfare that was going on between "Islamic Momens" and the non believers, and to some extend I became involved in the war and shot a few fair or unfair bullets!  See: Haft Sheen instead of Haft Seen- Going back to my roots!

With a sense of responsibility to a few critics I decided to look into the Haft seen, Haft sheen issue further, I put aside my googlerly scholarship practices and behold amongst the books that sometimes I buy by the Kilogram but don't get the time to read!

I found Dr Nasser Engheta's in depth yet concise book on Haft seen. Shame on me, I know I should had read it earlier! With the good Dr's unasked permission I will present some information and try not to misquote a Gentleman for whom I have the utmost respect. I'm sure if the Gentleman knew about this blog, he would think that the quotations are worthy of cause of illuminating the Haft seen tradition, and the promotion of his contribution in recording our traditions. He has many TV programs devoted to this subject and similar cultural issues.

So here it goes, and I hope this puts the record straight. I should before I start state that I am a devote non theist agnostic (yes there is such a thing!) who believes in secular republic democracies that have many structured safe guards for anti power corruption and even with my Richard Dawkin's school cap on, I don't think that absolutely everything that Islam has offered should be thrown away yet I make a distinction between the subliminal symbolism that the Mullahs have left in every aspect of our daily lives and the other fruits of our Islamic history.

Incidentally many of the fruits of Islam in my opinion, you may beg to differ! are in fact wrongly labelled as its fruits yet these are part of the history of the uneasy Iranian spirit and the resistance. This is the spirit that never settled with the sharp and rough edged Islamic corner stones that cut your fingers if touched, and would look odd if they were to be duged out and looked at with an analytical eye.

Amongst these non Islamic fruits I include the Naste Aligh caligraphy, Iranian Islamic architecture, Sufism, Khayam, Rumi and Hafiz poetry to name a few. These are testimonials of resistance to Islam even if they sometimes have elements of devotion, you must read between the lines, but that is a story for another blog some day. The analogy that I use is that if we build better and stronger ships, or cheesy blockbuster movies today thanks to the sinking of the titanic, I would still count this sinking event as a tragedy and in the same spirit I would count the Arab conquest as a tragedy for the Iranian people.

I am saying that whilst I enjoy many aspects of Arab culture and having had many Arab friends with all respect my statement is not about promotion of hatred towards Arabs, I listen to my fair share of Nancy Ajram to know that you can find beauty in every culture! A few "Momen" critics with a full heart of being criticised for Seeneh Zanee of Imam Hussien dating back 1400 years ago said that this is looking back in a mystified history that did not even exist i.e. a benevolent Persian Empire that only exists in our imagination. My answer to those critics is "Dele Khodetoon ra zyad khosh nakoneed!"

I'm sure there are such people that they mention but personally I am not disillusioned and this accusation does not stick. What I am offering are two things, mixed with my allegory: -

1. If you have ever been lost driving in a French country road and asked for directions irrespective of the pleasure or lack of it that you might get from the countryside, eventually you would look for a Hotel and ideally the Hotel you booked. In cultural terms that is my objective and I am not satisfied with having my Holiday ruined by accidentally ending up in an industrial waste dump which I think is a point that our culture has reached thanks to IRI misinformation, so this is not looking back but looking forward for the correct route even if it does involve driving on the same road you just drove on! If you think this is not loving or accepting Iran as it is then I'm sorry I don't buy that, culture is dynamic and I amongst many have my single vote of how it should be.

2. In the spirit of choice i.e. the choice that allows a loving consenting couple to chose scuba diving or sky jumping whilst reading their sacred vows of marriage! I choose to practice my traditions in the way I choose and before your juggernauts start bursting, many of you inadvertently are practicing the haft seen wrongly by having "Seke" and "Sonbol" as part of your table so don't start to preach and personally I think if you choose to have a Koran at your table it is fine by me, but respect my choice of having a Shahnameh at my table, just don't pass any laws saying you can only have a Koran at your Haft seen table!

Anyway after that long lecture, here are the extracts, but I suggest that you order the book from the good Dr. i.e. Dr Nasser Engheta yourself.

Significance of seven:-

Number seven is one of the sacred numbers of theology that goes back to the creation myth and this number is treated as holy in many traditions including Judism, Christianity, Muslims, Sufis, and Zoroastrians.

The book explains what this significance means for each one of these faiths but I'm not going to go into any detail. Haft Cheen, seen or sheen? There are some scholars who believe that at the time Norouz, the seven angels of Zoroastrians i.e. "Faravahars" would descend from heavens to earth they would have seven things "Chin" prepared.

After the Arab conquest since Arabs do not have ch "Chin" they changed this to "seen" S. There are those who claim the word "Chin" is as in picked or plucked and that it symbolizes seven hand picked items from the trees such as ever green branches, flowers or seven kinds of fruits like apples, pears and pomygranites. There are some who say this used to be Haft Sheen but as one of our kind critics pointed out "Sham, Sharab and Shahd" are Arabic rooted words with Persian equivalents of "Sepandar, Badeh, and Angabin. However before we dismiss this theory the book points that the Sasanid Persian used "S" often for Parthia (Ashkanian) words which used sh.

There are also sections with regards to seven seenee (trays) that contained wheat; barley etc. and these seen trays were handed to seven beautiful women who brought them to the king's court.

There are those who think the seven things symbolize the six Zoroastrian angles but with Ahura Mazda as the seventh, known as the Haft Sepanta but shortened to haft Seen.

Back to me:-

Bottom line is that we all use questionable elements in the table which may or may not be 100% correct, including the candles but our choices show our personal tastes, and some items such as Sham, Seke, and Sonbol sure look pretty but that Haft seen with its capital "S" is very much Iranian.

Noroozetan Pirooz.


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