Massé, Henri, 1886-1969. Persian beliefs and customs

Table of Contents

Publication Information

Persian Beliefs And Customs


Untitled Section: ...

Chapter I Pregnancy, Childbirth, Childhood

Sterility And Fertility

Influence Of Eclipses On Pregnant Women

Food For A Pregnant Woman

Sex Of Unborn Children

Fortuitous Signs.

Having Good-looking And Good Children

Chance Resemblances In The Child

Number Of Children

Movements Of The Foetus

Dangers Of Pregnancy

Childbirth ( 1 )

Premature Or Late Childbirth

Difficult Childbirths ( 2 )

The Child's First Days

Toilet Of The Newborn Child

Magical Practices

“al,” The Evil Genie Of Women Who Have Given Birth ( 1 )

The Child's Name

Breast Feeding

First Bath Of The Woman Who Has Given Birth

The Child's First Bath


Children's Sleep


Presages Relating To Children

Dangerous Practices And Taboos Relating To Children

Children And The Evil Eye

Vows Relating To The Health Of Children

The Bogey-man

Children And Speech

Chapter Ii Marriage ( 1 )

I. Asking In Marriage (hastgari)

Ii. The Betrothal

Iii The Marriage Contract ( 2 )

Preliminary Ceremonies.

The Contract,

First Meeting Between Bride And Groom.

Iv. The Wedding Day

The Reception Of The Bride.

The Wedding Night.

V. The Subsequent Days.

The Wedding Gifts (tchesm Rowseni).

Vi. Local Customs


The Marriage Eve.


The Wedding.

The Nuptial Procession.

After The Wedding.

Appendix: Adornment

Beards And Hair.


Chapter Iii Death And Funeral Rites ( 1 )

I. Death

Toilet Of The Deceased.

Ii. Funeral Rites


Funerals Among The Tribes.

Ceremonies Following The Funeral.

A. The Hatm.

B. Other Ceremonies.

Iii. Beliefs Relative To The Dead

Relationships Of The Living With The Dead.


Presages Of Death.

Iv. Customs Connected With Funeral Rites

A. The Moment Of Death.

B. Funeral Repasts.

C. Bearing The Deceased Away.

D. Washing The Deceased.

E. Burial.

F. The First Night In The Tomb (seb-e Avval-e Qabr).

G. Subsequent Ceremonies.

Tombs (form And Ornamentation)

Chapter Iv Periodic Ceremonies ( 1 )

1. Ceremonies Calculated By The Moon

Shiite Ceremonies Peculiar To The Imams.

Dates Of The Ceremonies.

1) Commemoration Of Hussein ( 1 ).

The First Nine Days.

The Rowze.

The Ninth Day (tasou'a).

The Procession Of The Tenth Day (achoura) ( 2 ).

Old Descriptions Of The Ceremony.

Quadragesima (arba'in).

(thévenot, Iii, 385).

2) Commemoration Of Hassan

3) Commemoration Of Ali.

His Birth (13th Day Of Radjab).

His Marriage.

His Investiture.

His Death.

B) Ceremonies Common Both To Shiites And Sunnites.

I) The Fast Of Ramazan And Its End ( 1 )

Ii) The Feast Of Sacrifices ( 3 ) (eid-e Qorban; Eid-e Azha).

Sacrifice Of The Sheep.

Sacrifice Of The Camel.

Old Descriptions.

Other Sacrifices.

Ii. Ceremonies Calculated By The Sun

I) New Year's (naurouz)

Preliminary Practices.

Amusements And Masquerades.

The Eve Of The Last Wednesday Of The Year.

The Last Wednesday At Teheran.

The Last Wednesday At Shiraz.

The Last Wednesday In Isfahan ( 1 ).

The Sun In The Sign Of The Ram (vernal Equinox) ( 1 )

The “thirteenth At The Door” (sizde Be-der).

The Kettledrummers' Platform ( 1 ).

Ii) Other Ceremonies ( 1 )

Holiday Of Wild Rue (esfend).

Holiday Of Roses ( 2 ).

Aspersions With Water (ab-pasan, Ab-rizan) ( 1 ).

Holiday Of Zahhak.

Agrarian Ceremonies ( 1 ).

Iii. Carnival Ceremonies ( 2 )

Holiday Of The Murder Of Omar (eyd-e Omar-kosan).

Chapter V Popular Meteorology

I. The Sky And Atmosphere

The Planets



Atmospheric Phenomena


Sky Overcast.


To Stimulate Rainfall.

To Prevent Rain.

The Wind.

Thunder And Lightning.

The Rainbow.

Presages Taken From The Sky.

Weather Prediction.

Ii. The Earth


The Meteorological Year.

Sterility And Fertility Of The Earth.

Chapter Vi Animals

Humans Metamorphosed Into Animals.

Modified Animals.

Traits Of Animals

Birth And Longevity Of Animals.

Use Of Animals In Allegorical Language.

Animal Language

Presages Drawn From Animals (appearance And Actions).

Wild Animals.

Birds And Insects.

Killing Inoffensive Animals.

Animal Sacrifices.

A.—construction Rites ( 1 ).

B.—traveling Rites.

C.—sickness Rites.

Harmful Animals ( 4 ).

Man's Relationships With Animals ( 1 )

Domesticated Animals.

Wild Animals.


Animals And Disease.

Care Given To Animals ( 1 )

Chapter Vii Plants

Plant Origins

Plant Language.

Properties Of Plants.

Destruction Of Plants.

Sacred Trees.

Chapter Viii Water

Beliefs Relating To Water

Potable Water.

Sacred Fountains.

Sacred Fish.


Springs Possessing Curative Properties.

Strong Mineral Springs ( 1 ).

Springs Which Attract Birds.

Intermittent Springs.

Fanciful Springs.

Accounts By Ancient Authors.


Subterranean Watercourses.

Bottomless Wells.

Chapter Ix Divination

Astrologers ( 1 ).

Divinatory Procedures.

A) Divination By The Koran Or By Some Sacred Object ( 2 ).

B) Fal (augury).

C) Raml (divination By Dice).

D) Interpretation Of Dreams (ta 'bir) ( 3 ).

E) Other Divinatory Procedures (peculiar To Gilan).

Volume Ii

Chapter X Signs And Presages

Presages With Variations.

Favorable And Unfavorable Moments.

1. Seasons.

2. Holidays.

3. Days Of The Month ( 1 ).

4. Days Of The Week ( 1 ).

5. Times Of The Day.

Presages Drawn From Marks On The Body.

Presages Drawn From Itches.

Presages Drawn From Tremors In The Human Body (ihtiladj) ( 1 ).

Presages Of Illness.

Presages Relative To Dress And Adornment.

Presages Relative To Food And Meals.

Presages Relative To Fire.

Presages Relative To Building.

Presages Relative To Furniture, Weapons And Other Objects.

Presages Relative To Objects Which Fall Or Break.

Miscellaneous Presages.

Voyages And Visits.

The Time For Traveling.

A Sign Foretelling A Voyage.


After A Departure.

Remembrance Of Absent Persons.

Passing People Or Things.

Signs Foretelling The Arrival Of A Traveler Or Visitor.


Chapter Xi Magical Procedures

Voyages And Visits.

In Order To Avoid A Trip.


To Bring About The Prompt Return Of A Traveler.

To Get Rid Of A Traveler Or Visitor.

To Obtain News Of An Absent Person.

To Make An Absent Person Return.

Customs Relative To Welcoming A Traveler (or Visitor).

To Obtain The Fulfillment Of A Desire.

A) Procedures Of A General Character.


Votive Feasts And Offerings ( 1 ).

B) Procedures Of A Special Character

To Clear Up A Confused Matter.

To Find A Lost Object.

To Untie A Knot.

To Find A Fugutive.

To Find A Thief.

For An Abundance Of Goods.

To Hurry Something Up.

To Wake Up Early.

To Stay Awake.

Love And Marriage.

Evil Spells And Sympathetic Magic ( 1 )

Procedures Observed By The Old Travelers.

To Conjure Away Evil.

1) Against Intentional Evil Spells.

Against The Fortuitous Consequences Of An Act Which Is Unintentionally Harmful.

A) Time Of Day.

B) The Human Body.

C) Dress.

D) Food.

E) Constructions.

F) Fire.

G) Weapons And Tools.

H) Missives.

3) Against Malign Influences, Either Fortuitous Or Intentional.

Amulets And Talismans ( 1 ).

Travelers' Accounts.

Chapter Xii Popular Medicine


Magical Treatments.

1) Preventive Procedures.

2) Curative Procedures Which Are General In Their Application.

3) Curative Procedures Which Have A Specific Application.

Medical Treatments.

1) Preventive Remedies.

2) Curative Remedies ( 3 ).

A) Remedies Which Are General In Their Application.

B) Remedies Which Have A Specific Application ( 1 ).

Stimulants And Tonics.




Tribes Of The South.

Jask (coast Of The Gulf Of Oman).

Treatment Of Animal Bites And Stings.

Harmful Staples And Foods.

Actions Which Cause Illness.

Clandestine Drugs.

Old Persian Medicine According To European Accounts.

Chapter Xiii Supernatural Beings

Their Relations With Humans.

Divs (demons)

Peris (fairies).

The Devil (chaytan)

Djinns (genii) ( 1 ).

Metamorphoses Of Djinns.

Places Preferred By Djinns.

Propitiatory Offerings.



Other Supernatural Beings.

Accounts Of European Travelers.

Ogres And Demons.



Chapter Xiv Constructions And Monuments

Beliefs And Procedures.

I Profane Constructions And Monuments

Popular Etymologies Of Names Of Cities

Founders Of Cities And Villages.

Destroyed Cities.

Castles And Citadels.

A) Castle And Heroic Legends.

B) Castles And Demons (or Angels).

C) Castles And Maidens.

Towers And Columns.

Bridges And Dikes.

Canals And Baths.

Markets And Caravanserais.

Archeological Sites.

Hidden Treasure.

Ii Religious Edifices

The Imamzades




Pilgrimage Rites.




Solomon's Mother.



Djamasp The Sassanid.

The Lady Of Perside.

Christian Churches.

Principal Mohammedan Pilgrimage Centers.

Threshold Rites.

Right Of Asylum ( 1 )

Chapter Xv Legends Relative To Aspects Of Nature

Mountains And Heroic Legends.

Mountains And Religious Legends.

Prodigious Mountains.

Cavities, Grottoes And Treasures.

Others Possess Oracular Powers.


Chapter Xvi Games

A) Adult Games ( 1 )

Animal Combats.

B) Collective Games ( 1 ).

Games For Two Players.

Games For Several Players.

Av Postek.


Bedi-bedi (meshed).

C) Games Played By Small Children.

Chapter Xvii Folk Tales

I. The Mongol Girl.

Ii. Kemala And Chafanoun.

Iii. The Dervish Who Was A Magician.

Iv. The Bald Herdsman.

V. The Merchant's Daughter And The Priest.

Vi. The Three Schoolmasters.

Vii. The Prophet Moses And The Waterbearer.

Viii. Nedjma (summary)

Ix. Prince Ismail And Arab-zengi.

Xi. ( 1 ) The Merchant's Son.

Xii. The Lying Diviner ( 1 )

Xiii. The Merchant, The Cadi And Bohloul ( 1 )

Xiv. The Tailor's Daughter And The Chief Merchant's Son.

Chapter Xviii Folk Poetry

Songs Of Mothers And Nurses.

Songs And Rounds For Children.

Songs Of Love And Married Life.

Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information The main body of the Publication Information page contains all the metadata that HRAF holds for that document.

Author: Author's name as listed in Library of Congress records

Title: Persian beliefs and customs

Published By: Original publisher New Haven [Conn.]: Human Relations Area Files. 1954. 527 p.

By line: Author's name as appearing in the actual publication Henri Massé

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 2000. Computer File

Culture: Culture name from the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) with the alphanumberic OWC identifier in parenthesis. Iran (MA01)

Subjects: Document-level OCM identifiers given by the anthropology subject indexers at HRAF Culture summary (105);

Abstract: Brief abstract written by HRAF anthropologists who have done the subject indexing for the document This is a study of Persian beliefs and customs from the beginning of Iranian history up to the 1930s. Most of the data presented here are derived from earlier published materials, from the authors own observations, and from information given him by informants in Iran in the 1920s and 1930s. This work is almost entirely descriptive; the author rarely analyses or interprets the data he has collected. Topics covered include beliefs and practices related to marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, death, ceremonial, animals, plants, meteorology, astrology, divination, magic, supernatural beings, constructions, monuments and religious edifices. Abstracts of particular legends, folk tales and poetry are provided and childrens games are also described. The author has attempted to select his source materials from a representative sample of earlier works, especially those by reliable travelers, and there are many references to beliefs and practices indigenous to particular regions and tribal groups in Iran. On the whole, however, the data apply predominantly to the Iranians of the larger cities and surrounding rural areas, although Masse is frequently careless about specifying the area, date of observation, or prevalency of particular beliefs and practices. Also confusing is the authors intermittent replacing of Roman with Islamic dates; occasionally both are indicated (as 1323-1905 for example). The authors transliteration of Persia and Arabic words has been followed in this translation, while place names have been changed, wherever possible, to conform with those listed in Websters Geographical Dictionary (1949 ed.). At the time of publication of this study, Massé was Professor at the National School of Oriental Languages in France.

Document Number: HRAF's in-house numbering system derived from the processing order of documents 7

Document ID: HRAF's unique document identifier. The first part is the OWC identifier and the second part is the document number in three digits. ma01-007

Document Type: May include journal articles, essays, collections of essays, monographs or chapters/parts of monographs. Monograph

Language: Language that the document is written in English

Note: Translation of: [Croyances et Coutumes Persanes]|The original French text is included Includes bibliographical references (p. 517-526) Translated from the French for the Human Relations Area Files by Charles A. Messner in 1954|Omitted from Files: Various pages of non-textual material; indices; errata. [The corrections listed on the errata sheet have been incorporated in this translation.]|The sources for much of this material comes from the writings of European scholars, explorers and diplomats, including among the earliest the Spanish explorer Garciá de Silva Y Figueroa (1617-1619), Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1631-1633, 1651-55, 1657-62, 1664-68), the German scholar Adam Olearius (1635-1637), French-British explorer Sir John Chardin (1673-1677), James Justinian Morier (1809), Charles Texier (1834), Layard (1840-1841), etc. Massé also draws from the Persian wirters and poets, such as Firdousi (935-1020), who wrote the epic 'Book of Kings.' (I. Full references for abbreviated bibliographical listings which appear throughout the text may be found in Information sources in other works (113), pp. 517-527. Skoggard, 2005)

Field Date: The date the researcher conducted the fieldwork or archival research that produced the document ca. 1923

Evaluation: In this alphanumeric code, the first part designates the type of person writing the document, e.g. Ethnographer, Missionary, Archaeologist, Folklorist, Linguist, Indigene, and so on. The second part is a ranking done by HRAF anthropologists based on the strength of the source material on a scale of 1 to 5, as follows: 1 - poor; 2 - fair; 3 - good, useful data, but not uniformly excellent; 4 - excellent secondary data; 5 - excellent primary data Social Scientist-5

Analyst: The HRAF anthropologist who subject indexed the document and prepared other materials for the eHRAF culture/tradition collection. Mary L. Bartlett

Coverage Date: The date or dates that the information in the document pertains to (often not the same as the field date). 1617-1936

Coverage Place: Location of the research culture or tradition (often a smaller unit such as a band, community, or archaeological site) Iran

LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings Iranians


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