The traditional ceremony of Nour Gavan, which literally means ‘the milk vetch on fire’, is held every July in the village of Neva, 12 km from Gazanak, between Amol in Mazandaran province and Tehran.

It is called Nour Gavan because people, during the ritual, set fire on milk vetch, a barbed plant with thick stems and tall branches growing mostly in mountainous areas.

The ritual is rooted in the story of Fereydun’s victory over Zahāk (in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh or Book of Kings). When Fereydun triumphed over Zahāk, at the place of the former’s throne near Mount Damavand people lit fire as a sign of joy and triumph of light over darkness.

The people of Neva village believe that after the defeat of Zahāk as Fereydun had to chain him in a cave on Mount Damavand, he started to head to Damavand peak.

After several days and nights of rest, Fereydun and his army, along with Zahāk, who had snakes on his shoulders, head to Damavand Peak. They promise to light fire on the hillside of Damavand to let everyone know that Zahāk is dead.

The villagers went to the highest point of the village in front of the castle looking at Damavand. Early at night, the light of fire shone from the Damavand range, and the people of Neva also responded by putting some milk vetch on a rope, burning it and turning it around their heads to show a response to Fereydun and his fellows. Then the young people started to dance and serve sweets among people.

Since then the event has turned into a great celebration and every year they come together and celebrate in the same place. They burn milk vetches and turn them around their heads.

What follows are ISNA and Mizan’s photos of the ceremony recently held in Neva village:

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