From my diary

Still busy with dull stuff, but I have been revising the Wikipedia article on Areimanios

“Who he?” I hear you cry?  Well Areimanios is the Greek name for Ahriman, the Persian evil spirit, used in descriptions of Zoroastrianism in Plutarch and the like.

Except … there’s more.  There are some odd traces of a non-evil Areimanios.  And there are five Latin inscriptions which seem to be all to a deity associated with Mithras, saying things like “To the god Arimanius in fulfilment of a vow”.

Some of the commentary I have read has said that it is fairly unlikely that anyone would set up altars to an evil god in their temples dedicated to good gods.  But I’m not so sure about this, because, in a dualist world view, you might well say that both need to exist.  We’ve all heard enough smelly hippies talking about “Yin and Yang, man”.  Won’t a true dualist see both as a part of the world, necessary in their own way?  Rather like having a toilet in the vestry, if you like?

I can see such a person making offerings and vows to the “dark side”, when in mortal danger — “let me off this time and I’ll give you a nice altar”?

We need to remember that we do not understand how ancient religion worked.  We can only guess at much of it.  I claim nothing for what I have just suggested — it is pure imagination — but we must avoid being too positive about what “must not” have happened.

On the other hand, maybe the critics are right.  Maybe the name of Ahriman was transferred (in its Latin form) to a different deity, the lion-headed god found in Mithraea and usually anonymous.  The name “Areimanios” appears (I am told) on the foot of one such statue, although that interpretation relies on expanding abbreviations and might be a personal name of a donor, not of the god. 

If so, then perhaps there is a pattern.  Roman Mithras, born from a rock and killing the bull, is not really at all like Persian Mithra, although they share the same name.  Rather someone took the name of the Persian god and applied it to their “export version” religion, rather like the Hari Krishna’s did for Krishna.  Did that same someone take the nice, authentic Persian “Areimanios” and apply it to their own made-up lion-headed god too? Is that how the cult was created?

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