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Observations placeholder

Zoroastrian - Means of achieving spiritual experience - 11 Dancing, whirling and twirling



Type of Spiritual Experience


Raghs (also spelled as Raqs) is the Arabic word for dance, and is also the word in Azerbaijani for dance (Reqs). The Kurdish word for dance is Halperke, and the Lurs from Lorestan use the word Bākhten (or Bāzee) for dance.  It is fairly clear that dancing was, at one time, a major method of both healing and attaining spiritual experience in general.

The earliest researched Persian dance is a dance worshiping Mithra in which a bull was sacrificed. … This dance was to promote vigor in life.[sic] ……

In other words dancing was used as part of the sexual techniques.  Belly dancing , for example, is a known and workable method [see the description].  But there were other dances and it seems that some of the knowledge was transferred to the Sufis.  Hence, the old Zoroastrian dance may have been somewhat similar to the Sufi sama

Ritual or spiritual dances, are often Sufi are known as sama and also a type of zikr (religious chant). There are various types of dancing in a trance for healing practices in Iran and surrounding areas. One healing ritual that involves trance, music, and movement is called le’b guati of the Baluchis of Eastern Iran, which is performed to rid a possessed person of the possessing spirit and appears to be in a similar state as an exorcism. There is a term in Balochi "gowati" for psychologically ill patients (possessed by wind) who have recovered through music healing, music as medicine. The southern coastal regions of Iran such as Qeshm Island have a similar possession by wind ceremony and it is thought that it may be influenced or originated in Africa, particularly the Abyssinian or Ethiopian region.

The word sama, from the Arabic root meaning “to listen,” refers to the spiritual practice of listening to music and achieving unity with the Divine, it is spelled sema in Turkish.

Within the Zoroastrian community, small though it is, particularly at festive occasions like weddings and Noruz celebrations, improvisational dancing ‘letting oneself go’ is the more used form of dancing, with each dancer interpreting the music in their own special way.  But this is generally only outside Iran and the other Islamic countries.  Within Iran, it appears that only some remote tribes still dance, for example, the Basseri dance is a traditional dance performed by the Basseri tribe who live in the Fars province.  ‘The dancers wear their traditional and colourful clothes’. They are largely nomadic.


Ancient Persia was occupied by foreign powers, first Greeks, then Arabs, and then Mongols …. Throughout these changes a slow disappearance of heritage dance traditions occurred. ….After the fall of Persian Empire, when the country was torn into pieces, Iranian women and young girls were enslaved by the new conquerors, often forced into sexual slavery and required to perform erotic dance for new rulers. Religious prohibition of dancing in Iran came with the spread of Islam….. after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 dancing was no longer allowed due to its frequent mixing of the sexes. The Islamic Revolution of 1979, was the end of a successful era for dancing and the art of ballet in Iran. The Iranian national ballet company was dissolved and its members emigrated to different countries.  According to the principles of the “cultural revolution” in Iran, dancing was considered to be perverse, a great sin, immoral and corrupting. As a result, many of the talented Persian dancers moved to the West and spread out mainly in Europe and the United States and new generation of Iranian dancers and ballet artists have grown up in the Diaspora.

A description of the experience

Please note that we have had to find sources which are not Zoroastrian to demonstrate the dances, but the dances have their roots in the early Zoroastrian dance.

Choob bazi

also known as chob bazi, chub-bazi, çûb-bâzî or raghs-e choob is a chain dance performed by men with sticks, the name translates to English as 'stick play'. There are two types of Choob bazi dance styles, the first one is more combative in style, only performed by men (normally only two men, assuming the roles as the attacker and the defender) and does not appear to have a rhythmic pattern, this style is more frequently found in Southwestern Iran. The second style Choob bazi is a circle or line dance with pattern, performed by both sexes and is more of a social dance.


a spiritual dance, from Southern coastal regions of Iran, people believe in the existence of winds that can be either vicious or peaceful and possess people. They are healed through a specific ceremony and dance.


also known as Yally or Halay, an Azerbaijani chain folk dance, starts slowly and finishes fast at almost running speed. Traditionally it was a celebration of fire. In ancient times dancers worshiped fire as a goddess.

Persian Mystical Dance

  • Persian Mystical Dance performed by Miriam Peretz at the Silk Road Festival produced by Ballet Afsaneh  2009. Music by Neema Hekmat, Pourya Khademi, Kaveh Hedayati, Fares Hedayati and poetry recitations by Shadi Vaezzadeh.  "Kahkeshani Az Noor"- Light of the Infinite

Raghs-e Sharqi

 belly dancing.

Sufi dances

As mentioned above the dances used by the Sufis were shared by the Zoroastrians, there is only one spiritual world

  • Sama-o-raghs, a spiritual Sufi dance of joy, involves chanting, dancers move to the rhythm of the music often continuing until they fall into a trance or collapse from exhaustion.
  • Vahishta, a Sufi, spiritual dance.
  • Danza Sufi


Also mentions the following as being spiritual or mystic in origin, however, we could find no examples on youtube

  • Raghs-e-Pari, Persian fairy dance.
  • Raghs-e Parcheh, Persian veil dance.
  • Shamshir dance, war dance involving a sword, also known as Shamshir-bazi; usually performed in Sistan and Baluchestan province.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps