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"Mithra, or Mehr in contemporary Persian, means “Light”, “Love”, and “Friend.” He was born of his virgin mother in the middle of the night from December 24th to 25th, which (by the reckoning of ancient calendars) is the Winter Solstice – the rebirth of light from out of the most encompassing darkness. This is celebrated at Yalda (an Indo-European cognate of Yule Day), one of the four most sacred Zoroastrian holidays still commemorated in Iran.

Mithras was the “lord of green pastures” and the evergreen tree represented Truth, evoking his status as the god of trustworthy Oaths and Contracts, so Yalda was celebrated by bringing an evergreen into an enclosure and giving it gifts. Unlike the contemporary practice of this Yule tree tradition, the evergreen – usually a Cypress (Sarv) in Iran – was brought in together with its roots and then re-planted after the holiday.

Mithra wears a red Phrygian cap, evoked by the Mitre of the Pater (Persian Pedar, “Father” or Pir in Sufism), as well as a white belted red cloak and trousers – a distinctively Iranian garment of Parthian and Scythian riders that spread to Europe only later, in large part through Mithraism. Are you reminded of Santa Claus?

Devotees of Mithra celebrated holy communion, with wine and loaves of bread that were impressed with the symbol of an equilateral cross inside of a circle – a reference to the equinoxes and solstices of the Invincible Sun (Mehré Jâvedân in Persian, Sol Invictus in Latin). Baptism was also practiced, since Anahita is the goddess of the holy waters and the Lady of the Lake. She virginally conceives of the avatar of Mithra by submerging in Lake Hamun (in Sistan), where legend has it that the seed of Zarathustra was preserved."

J. Jorjani