By Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, published by the British Museum Press at £8.99. 80pp. ISBN: 0-7141-2082-0
The myths of Persia, modern day Iran, are little known by most pagans although they are one of the richest and most ancient bodies of myth which has come down to us from the early Indo-European peoples. Closely related to the sacred stories and traditions of Vedic India, with whom they share a common ancestry, there is much within the body of myths which will be familiar to readers who know something of Hindu mythology and deities and which shows a shared concern with the rains and the waters of the world, with the role and life of the warrior, with justice and social order and the human interaction with it.
The best known, and most familiar, strand within Persian myth is that of Zoroastrianism whose influence has been far reaching in the history of the west - catastrophically so from a pagan point of view. It was the Zoroastrian vision of a god of pure goodness and a demon of absolute evil in eternal battle until the end of time, and of the need for each person to ally himself with one side or the other, which the Israelites came into contact with during their exile in Babylon. The concept came west with them, to take root in Judaism and later in Christianity and Islam, and eventually was responsible for Songs of Praise and Iain Paisley.
As well as providing an explanation of the importance and main features of Zoroastrianism, Curtis explores the rich traditions of wonder tales with their magical birds, demons and fabulous beasts and monsters and the more-than-mortal heroes who fought with or were aided by them. She also traces the remains of the pre-Zoroastrian, or "pagan" traditions of pre-Indo European Iran which lurk half hidden under the layers of later myth.
There is much more here than you might expect from a book of so few pages, which is even more remarkable in view of the plentiful illustrations included. If you don't know anything about this area of mythology, this book is a very good primer indeed and is strongly recommended.