ASPAND - ESPAND - ESPHAND - ESFAND
AGAINST THE EVIL EYE:
A ZOROASTRIAN RITE SURVIVING IN MUSLIM NATIONS
Throughout the area once covered by the Persian empire, a
type of herb seed called Aspand, Espand, or Esphand is burned on charcoal to
rid children of the
Evil Eye .
A short verse is recited as the smoke
is circled around the child's head. Aspand is also used
to bring blessings after one has performed a sorrowful rite,
such as attending a funeral.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE ASPAND CUSTOM
I live in Sonoma County,
an area of Northern California where there are few people of Persian descent. However, i
have spoken directly to four people who practice this rite
and a fifth person supplied Aspand to her husband to carry to me. A sixth sighting
took place on the web. Practitioners i have met so far
are all Farsi or Dari speaking and
are apparently practicing Muslims. They happen to all have been
college educated or the siblings or children of college educated
men. Two are from Afghanistan, three from Iran.
One additional Aspand user whom i encountered on
the web is from Tajikistan and is fluent in
English. Aspand is sold in Iranian stores in the San Francisco
Bay Area, especially the East Bay town of Fremont, which has a
large Farsi / Dari speaking population.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ASPAND RITE FROM AN OUTSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE
(MY PERSPECTIVE, BEFORE I ASKED QUESTIONS)
Aspand seeds are dropped on red-hot charcoal,
where they make a popping noise and give off a great deal of fragrant
smoke. A five-line rhyming spell is chanted and the smoke is swirled
around the heads of children in a circular pattern to protect them from
evil. "To Aspand" seems to be the usual verb describing the rite.
VARIANTS IN ASPAND HERBAL PRACTICE
The Afghanis i met used Aspand seed straight. The Tajik web site
does not mention adding other ingredients either. However,
the Iranians added Frankincense
and the leaves of an unknown wild Iranian herb to the Aspand seed (the herb is
imported from Iran). The Iranian woman was proud of her excellent recipe
for blended Aspand. She also showed me how to chew Frankincense as a breath
freshener and spiritual cleanser.
Except for the additional elements burned by the Iranians,
the rite is essentially identical in all cases.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ASPAND RITE BY PARTICIPANTS
The rite consists of an
invocatory prayer to a deceased but historical king of Persia known as
Naqshband, while burning Aspand seeds. The word Aspand refers to a class
of Zoroastrian Archangels. Both sets of my informants, from two nations,
explained to me that Naqshband was not a Muslim but a Zoroastrian and
that despite the Muslim conquest of Persia and outlying areas, the
spirit of Naqshband is still called upon to destroy
the Evil Eye (Bla
Band). Here is the spell-prayer, as written out for me in phonetic Dari by the
man from Afghanistan:
Aspand bla band
Here is his English translation:
Barakati Shah Naqshband
Jashmi heach jashmi khaish
Jashmi dost wa dooshmani bad andish
Be sosa der hamin atashi taze.
This is Aspand, it banishes the Evil Eye
See also the Tajikistan page
where a transliteration of the same invocation from the Tajik language
is spelled this way:
The blessing of King Naqshband
Eye of nothing, Eye of relatives
Eye of friends, Eye of enemies
Whoever is bad should burn in this glowing fire.
Aspand balla band
Ba haq shah-e-naqshband
Chashm-e-adam-e bad andaysh
Besuzad dar atash-e-taiz
HOW DO PARTICIPANTS BELIEVE THAT THIS RITE WORKS?
Afghani man: "We ask for a blessing. The blessing we ask is that of
King Naqshband, because he was the one who taught the use of Aspand.
He obtained this knowledge from the Angels of Heaven. He was a holy man.
The use of fire is Zoroastrian, not Muslim. It is a very old rite. It
is used to remove the Evil Eye
from the children, and it is good for
anyone. You can Aspand yourself or have someone Aspand for you. My
wife does it for me and for the children. I do it for her."
Iranian woman: "This prayer is the blessing of Shah Naqshband, an
ancient King who was a follower of Zarathustra. Shah
Naqshband got this blessing from the Archangels and taught it to our
people. It is very effective when you must deal with bad people or
sorrowful things. It removes the
Evil Eye and it is a blessing to the
spirit. It lightens your burdens. It is very good to Aspand."
Tajik man: At
the author, "Khorasan," relates the word Aspand to the Tajik / Dari /
Farsi / Persian word for Archangel, Amesha Spenta or Amahraspand. The
Archangels or Amahraspandan themselves are listed as
Vohu Mano (Vohuman, Good Mind)
There are further notes at the above site describing the Guardian Angels
(Fravashis or Frohars) who "manifest the energy of God," and a lengthy
list of Angels (Yazads, called Yezidi by some), including the well
known Mithra and Ahriman, with their attributes.
Presides over cattle.
Asha Vahishta (Ardwahisht, Highest Asha)
the Amahraspand presiding over Asha and fire.
Khshathra Vairya (Shahrewar, 'Desirable Dominion')
the Amahraspand presiding over metals.
Spenta Armaiti (Spandarmad, 'Holy Devotion')
the Amahraspand presiding over the earth.
Haurvatat (Hordad, 'Perfection or Health')
Presides over water.
The archangels of Zoroastrian belief are generally said by scholars
to be Zoroaster's incorporation into his religion of regional
Iranian gods and goddesses of the pre-historic period. Thus
Spenta Armaiti or Spandermat (also spelled Spandermad or Spendarmaz)
was an earth-mother goddess, whose sacred herb was Espand or Esfand.
In the ancient Zoroastrian calendar, the month of Esfand
(beginning around February 19) marked the feast of Spendarmat, which was
dedicated to the female archangel of earthly and motherly protection,
Spenta Armaiti, whose name signifies "Holy Devotion" or "Holy Love."
Among modern Iranians, this festival, known as the Esfandgan Feast,
is still held on Spandarmaz Day in the month Esfand,
the last month of the Iranian calendar. It is a celebration of
womankind, and particularly commemorates the care, kindness,
and self-sacrifices of motherhood.
The connections between the protective pre-Zoroastrian goddess Spandermat, the Zoroastrian
female archangel Spenta Armaiti, the month of Esfand, the contemporary
festival of Esfandgan, and the protective herb Espand which is
used by mothers to safeguard and purify their children, are clear, even to
Muslims living in formerly Zoroastrian territories.
All the Afghani, Iranian, and Tajik people
who use Aspand whom i have interviewed or found
via the web assert the sacred character and
ancient nature of the rite.
WHAT IS ASPAND AND WHY IS IT SACRED
(AND SPIRITUALLY EFFECTIVE)?
Aspand is the common Persian / Dari / Farsi name for Peganum
harmala, a perennial shrubby herb in the Zygophyllaceae or Caltrop family.
The name is also transliterated as
Espand, Esfand, and Esphand, and the plant itself is also given
the regional common name Harmal or Harmala in Pakistan and India. In the
USA its most common name is "Syrian Rue," a highly unfortunate
monicker since although the leaves of the two plants are similar,
Aspand is not related to Rue (Ruta graveolens) and
it is not notable for growing in Syria, but rather in Iran,
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and India.
Aspand grows from one to two feet high and
prefers a desert environment. It has finely divided leaves and bears small
white five-petaled flowers, followed by seed capsules containing
many small, brown triangular-conical seeds. In addition to its use
in the Aspand ritual, the seeds of the pant are used to make a red dye and are
used medicinally to alleviate certain skin diseases.
Aspand seed is the richest natural source of two alkaloids, harmine and harmaline
(their names come from the Indian name for the plant, Harmal). These alkaloids
are members of a class of drugs called Mono Amine Oxidase Inhibitors
(MAO Inhibitors or MAO-Is) that have been used in the treatment of
clinical depression and, in larger doses, to produce psychotropic effects.
In moderate doses, they produce a feeling of well-being and contentment.
There are unpleasant side-effects to the ingestion of high doses of
concentrated harmaline extracts, such as
nausea and lassitude, but these effects do not occur when one
breaths the smoke from burning Aspand. Among the
most commonly reported psychotropic effects of harmaline and harmine
are visual and auditory hallucinations, and
it is commonly reported -- even by experimenters with no cultural connection to the breathing of
Aspand smoke -- that these voices take the form of authoritative instructors.
Perhaps the Aspand smoke stimulates some portion of the brain that evokes images of Archangels
and Holy Kings and that -- combined with its anti-depressive activity --
is why it is considered a sacred plant that removes the Evil Eye.
Please note before experimenting with Aspand yourself that although MAO
Inhibitors have been prescribed for depression, there are severe risks associated with
their use because when they are ingested in combination with certain other
substances, such as alcohol or aged cheese, some people experience toxic or even fatal
reactions to them. For this reason MAO Inhibitors are no longer popular prescription drugs
despite their efficacy at relieving depression. Also, for this reason, all companies
that sell Aspand seed will tell you that it is NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION, and if you are
wise, you will heed that warning.
THE QUESTION OF "SYRIAN" RUE
After some study, i have come to the conclusion that
the reason that the European plant called
Rue is said to ward off the
Evil Eye is that its
lobed compound leaves superficially resemble Aspand. The fact that Europeans call
Aspand "Syrian Rue" signifies that they see a relationship between the two plants
-- but there is no genetic basis for the linkage, as they are in different taxonomic families.
Aspand is a psychoactive and anciently sacred
plant from the desert areas of the Middle East and Central Asia,
where Evil Eye belief originated;
it is my theory that
Rue is a European plant
without psychoactive properties that looks enough like Aspand
that Italians and other Mediterranean people adopted it as a magical
substitute, despite the
fact that the plants are not related.
What at first looked to an American outsider (me) like a simple apotropaic rite
-- burning some seeds on charcoal to
protect children from the Evil Eye --
turns out to be an ancient Zoroastrian prayer to the Five Archangels, as taught by
the ancient King Naqshband, and to utilize a psychotropic drug as its central
agent of efficacy. This rite may have led to the Italian custom of utilizing an
entirely unrelated plant as an apotropaic charm to ward off the
Evil Eye .
Order Aspand Seeds from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co. Occult Shop
Search All Lucky Mojo and Affiliated Sites!
You can search our sites for a single word (like
archaeoastronomy, hoodoo, conjure, or clitoris),
an exact phrase contained within quote marks (like
"love spells", "spiritual supplies", "occult
shop", "gambling luck", "Lucky Mojo bag", or "guardian angel"), or a
name within quote marks (like "Blind
Willie McTell", "Black Hawk", "Hoyt's Cologne", or "Frank
||Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to catherine yronwode for the creation and maintenance of this site.
Here are some other LUCKY MOJO web sites you can visit:
OCCULTISM, MAGIC SPELLS, MYSTICISM, RELIGION, SYMBOLISM
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode:a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet text files on occult and spiritual topics
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive:FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, and more
Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics: transcriptions of blues songs about African-American folk magic
EaRhEaD!'S Syd Barrett Lyrics Site: lyrics by the founder of the Pink Floyd Sound
The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a magical system, by cat yronwode
The Spirit Checklist: a 1940s newspaper comic book by Will Eisner, indexed by cat yronwode
Fit to Print: collected weekly columns about comics and pop culture by cat yronwode
Eclipse Comics Index: a list of all Eclipse comics, albums, and trading cards
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course with cat yronwode: 52 weekly lessons in book form
Hoodoo Conjure Training Workshops: hands-on rootwork classes, lectures, and seminars
Apprentice with catherine yronwode: personal 3-week training for qualified HRCC graduates
Lucky Mojo Community Forum: an online message board for our occult spiritual shop customers
Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour Radio Show: learn free magic spells via podcast download
Lucky Mojo Videos: see video tours of the Lucky Mojo shop and get a glimpse of the spirit train
Lucky Mojo Publishing: practical spell books on world-wide folk magic and divination
Lucky Mojo Newsletter Archive: subscribe and receive discount coupons and free magick spells
LMC Radio Network: magical news, information, education, and entertainment for all!
Follow Us on Facebook: get company news and product updates as a Lucky Mojo Facebook Fan
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: spiritual supplies for hoodoo, magick, witchcraft, and conjure
Herb Magic: complete line of Lucky Mojo Herbs, Minerals, and Zoological Curios, with sample spells
Mystic Tea Room Gift Shop: antique, vintage, and contemporary fortune telling tea cups
the eclectic and eccentric author of many of the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, Troll Towelhead, !
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
Liselotte Erlanger Glozer: illustrated articles on collectible vintage postcards
Jackie Payne: Shades of Blues: a San Francisco Bay Area blues singer
Lucky Mojo Site Map: the home page for the whole Lucky Mojo electron-pile
All the Pages: descriptive named links to about 1,000 top-level Lucky Mojo web pages
How to Contact Us: we welcome feedback and suggestions regarding maintenance of this site
Make a Donation: please send us a small Paypal donation to keep us in bandwidth and macs!
OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Arcane Archive: thousands of archived Usenet posts on religion, magic, spell-casting, mysticism, and spirituality
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: psychic reading, conjure, and hoodoo root doctor services
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: a non-denominational site; post your prayers; pray for others; let others pray for you
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-888-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology