Sizdah-Bedar: Opportunity or a Threat?

4 min read

In Iranian mythology, “Mashi” and “Mashiane” are the first pair of humans who were plants before becoming human, belonging to the earth and the sperm of Kiumars (the first human and the murdered Ahriman). When they transform from plants into human form, they resemble each other in stature and face. Then, on the auspicious day of the thirteenth of Farvardin, they marry each other by tying two branches together (as a symbol of a covenant). This tradition later continues in the customs of tying knots and untying knots with greenery and other rituals during the celebration of Sizdah-Bedar. Karim Kashavarz, a translator and storyteller from Gilan, writes: “In Gilan, young people used to go to the tannery on the thirteenth day of Farvardin, and a young boy would untie their pants knot to open their luck.” Mirjalaladdin Kazazi believes that the superstition of the number thirteen and its connection to Sizdah-Bedar does not have a place in Iranian mythological culture, and these Iranian beliefs have entered Iranian culture centuries after the birth of Sizdah-Bedar. Nevertheless, the tradition of leaving the house and being in nature, for any purpose, has been established since the Sizdah-Bedar day. Mahmoud Payandeh Langroudi also believes: “In Gilan and Deylman, it is customary for everyone to leave their homes on this day; some of them only go out to throw Noruz greenery into the first pool or river, but most people do not return home until nightfall.”

But what is the legacy of Sizdah-Bedar for Gilan today?

How many Gilanians leave their cities and go to nature during the Sizdah-Bedar celebration? How many people go to the forest? How many people choose the seaside? How many people camp on the outskirts of wetlands and rivers? How many people return to their ancestral village? How many people prefer to stay in the city and enjoy a leisurely stroll in the city’s gardens and natural areas? If not all, most of the city and provincial managers of Gilan, who are responsible for the economy of this region, do not have an answer to these simple questions. The lack of data of this kind indicates a recurring issue; those sitting on the throne of power do not know how to generate wealth from the social and cultural assets of their society. In all parts of the world where reason and effort prevail over ignorance and superstition, group celebrations and rituals are a source for economic exploitation. It is possible to monetize Sizdah-Bedar and the agreement that has been developed over centuries to enjoy this ancient event. There are countless small and temporary businesses that can only operate for this one day. From street performers and amateur artists to food vendors and entertainment specialists, the organizers of one-day businesses breathe life into Sizdah-Bedar. The ritual that has been branded throughout history has a large number of audiences without any effort or cost for advertising and invitation. However, those in charge who consider any public and social space as a trouble to manage without any trouble and use excuses such as destroying nature and disrupting public order, will not have any enthusiasm for wealth creation from public pleasures. They prefer to turn all of Gilan’s nature into private villas and residences, but they will not spend any effort or creativity to preserve nature or allocate some national resources to build a platform for small local businesses. They even prefer to organize multiple new celebrations and events on other days of the year and spend a lot of energy and credibility to promote them, but they do not benefit from a well-established celebration! In this bad governance and constant opportunity wasting, most of the city and regional managers of Gilan have been involved. Ask your city council and city managers how many research projects they have prepared for wealth creation from national celebrations in your city? And then, how many of those ideas have they implemented? If you find an answer, let us know too!

Arvin Ilbeigi