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Dugdav and the Mysterious Light

Retold by Rebecca Cann

This myth is partially taken from the Denkard, an ancient Zoroastrian text.

Long, long ago, a young girl named Dugdav lived in a small village somewhere in Central Asia. One day Dugdav was out tending the family cattle when she suddenly heard a voice. She looked up into the blue sky and saw a large patch of white cloud right above her. Then a hole in the cloud opened up, a ray of light shone on her, and a voice said, "Dugdav, have been chosen to bear a very special son. Your son will grow up to guide the people to Righteousness and Truth. Eat this sacred plant for it will give you much strength."

Dugdav looked around, but she didn't see anyone. In front of her, however, lay a bowl of milk, and over the bowl there was a green twig with fragrant leaves. Dugdav reluctantly ate the strange plant and drank the milk.

When she went to wash the bowl in the nearby pond, she noticed her face-it glowed like the morning sun! Amazed and scared, she ran toward home.

On the way, farmers in a barley field saw her. They said, "Look at Dugdav! Her face is so bright! What happened to her?"

As she passed by a waterfall, village women, who were filling their jars with water, noticed her. "Look at Dugdav!," they said. "There is a halo around her!"

Dugdav reached a wide pasture where several men were preparing for a chariot race. The warriors saw her and cried, "Look at this girl's face! What is wrong with her?"

Dugdav finally reached home. As she stepped through the door, the dark room brightened up. Her face glittered more than the burning fire at the altar. When her parents and little brothers saw her, they were amazed. "What happened to you, Dugdav?" they asked. "There is a halo around your face!" Dugdav explained to them what had happened. The next day all the villagers saw Dugdav's glowing face and got really frightened. They thought Dugdav was bewitched. So they went to Dugdav's father and said, "Frahim-Rava, have you noticed the golden light around your daughter's face? She's turned into an evil witch. We have to kill her, or she'll destroy our village." Dugdav's father was a wise sage. He knew his daughter had to be very special to have a golden light surrounding her. So he refused to hand her over.

But the villagers didn't give up. They complained to the Karapans, the high priests of the village. The Karapans were ignorant and mean, but they had much influence. They decided to put Dugdav through a Fire Ordeal to see if she was guilty.

The next day at the sunset, they lit a large bonfire. All the villagers gathered to see the Fire Ordeal. Frahim-Rava stood calmly among the crowd for he was confident of his daughter's innocence. Dugdav's mother, however, cried with worry. The evil Karapans pushed Dugdav through the fire.

Dugdav was frightened but did not show her fear. She bravely stepped into the blazing fire. They crowd cheered. They thought they had destroyed their witch, but Dugdav emerged from the fire unharmed-her bare feet, white dress, and long hair were untouched.

The crowd gasped with surprise. The mean Karapans frowned. They weren't pleased at all. But they remained silent.

A few months later, a mysterious disease swept the village killing all the camels and the cows. The villagers didn't know what to do. They prayed to their gods, but the livestock kept dying. The priests told the people that someone in the village was using black magic to kill their animals. "Who could do this?" the villagers wondered. People felt anxious and were ready to blame someone.

The next evening as Dugdav and her family were quietly having their supper, they heard a lot of noise outside their home. Dugdav looked out of the window and saw a large crowd gathering around the house. The angry villagers stood outside with torches in their hands-the Karapans among them. Someone in the crowd shouted, "Dugdav, you are an evil witch. You are using black magic to kill our cows. Come out, or we'll burn your home."

Another man cried, "Frahim-Rava, give up your daughter now. She has the mark of the demons. If she stays alive, we'll lose all our valuable cattle." The crowd went wild. "Dugdav is a witch! Dugdav is a witch!"

Scared, Dugdav and her family remained inside. They didn't know what to do. Shaken, they gathered around the family fire altar, placed some incense in the fire, and prayed to be saved.

Suddenly, huge black clouds appeared in the sky. A heavy thunderstorm started. The rain and hail pelted the crowd. And then a thunderbolt crashed in the middle of the crowd forcing everyone to run home.

That night Dugdav’s father realized his daughter was in real danger, so he decided to send her to a friend’s house in a far away place.

"My dear, you have to go away to the Spitama family. The Spitamas will take care of you. If you stay here, the villagers will surely kill you," said her father. Before dawn, Dugdav took her father's best horse and quickly rode out of the village.

She rode for two days until she came across a man carrying his sick mother on his back. He was taking her to a healer in a village over the mountains. When Dugdav saw how the man suffered, she offered him her horse. The man got very happy and thanked Dugdav for her kindness.

Dugdav continued her journey on foot for many days and nights until shereached the White Forest. She wandered in the Forest for days unable to find her way out. Her soft leather boots tore and her toes bled. Tired and hungry, she sat down under a tree to rest. Dugdav looked around. All around her loomed tall trees. She thought, with tears in her eyes: what if the demons and witches could come out of the forest and hurt her?

All at once, from behind a bush appeared a white horse. Its mane and tail were golden and its saddle was silver. Dugdav got on the horse, and the horse galloped away so fast that it seemed as if they were flying! They left the Forest and passed the wheat fields and the grassy hills until they crossed a large river. On the shores of the river stood a village with mud brick houses. Dugdav knew the Spitama clan lived in this village. She wanted to thank the kind horse for bringing her there, but the horse had already disappeared.

The Spitamas were wise and kind. They realized that Dugdav was a special girl. So they let her stay with them and lovingly took care of her. Dugdav later married one of their sons, a kind farmer named Pourushaspa. One day, on the sixth day of spring, Dugdav gave birth to a baby boy called Zarathushtra. When Zarathushtra grew up, Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, chose him to guide the people to Righteousness and Happiness.