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28 mars 2012 3 28 /03 /mars /2012 01:12

bambini-iraqIt's official, spring is here. March 21st was the official date of the passage from the cold season to the flowering season.

In South Western Asia, in the vast territories which formerly were part of the Great Persian Empire, and in which still remain strong Zoroastrian roots (philosophy / religion of Zarathustra), the first day of spring is celebrated also as the New Year day: The festival of Newroz. On this occasion, it seems to me appropriate to rievocate a story told to me by an old Kurdish man, on the mountains above the town of Dohuk (Iraqi Kurdistan), about the origin of the festival of Newroz.

 

Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a very powerful and very cruel king named Dahik. This king was suffering from a strange fatal and incurable disease. Among the many doctors who came from all parts of the kingdom to see him, only one managed to find a cure. Not a permanent cure for this mysterious disease, but at least sufficient to save his life. To stay alive, the king had to eat every week the brain of a healthy young man. So from that day, once a week, Dahik started sending his soldiers to bring to him a healthy and strong young man, to kill him and eat his brain.

In a small village near the castle lived at the same time Daku, a poor blacksmith, with his wife and his children. Daku's children were seven boys all beautiful, healthy and strong, used as they were from an early age to help their father in his hard work. The king's soldiers began to take them one after another. Starting with the major. The blacksmith and his wife cried a lot, every time. But at the end they accepted the fact as a fatality that was not only theirs. "That is the rule in this country, our King kills and eats boys throughout all the country and not just ours," they said, resigned.

But after a while it seemed that the King had clearly enjoyed Daku's children. Because after the eldest, the soldiers came to take the second, then he third, then the fourth and so on until the seventh, the youngest, the favorite of dad and mom: so beautiful and yet so tender. At this stage, Daku could not stand more. A terrible anger seized him and he took the sword he had just finished forging and instantly killed the envoys of the king. Then he went ahead to attack the Royal Palace, alone: only him and his sword. The royal guards who expected no attack were taken by surprise and were eliminated, one after another. And Daku finally found himself face to face with Dahik.

The tyrant tried to calm Daku by promising money, honor and power. But the poor blacksmith was determined to end it with oppression. With one stroke of his sword he beheaded the tyrant.

On receiving the news of the death of the tyrant, all the people went out into the streets to celebrate the end of oppression. Then they decided to announce the good news to the whole country, until the most distant region. To make it clear to all villages and towns of the kingdom that something extraordinary had happened, many young people went on the highest mountains of the country and lighted huge fires, visible from very very far. And each city or village which received that good news, did the same to communicate it to the following places.

 

It is from that day that the date of death of Dahik the tyrant became a symbol of the victory of goodness over evil, light over darkness, winter over spring, life over death. And it was called Newroz (new day). Because a new day was born.

 

Every year, to celebrate Newroz festival, the Kurdish families dress their best clothes, and go to the open fields to share good food and then sing and dance in the countryside. Some groups of young men climb the hills and light fires to announce to the world the end of the cold and also to wish the end of oppression.

 

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