Huma bird

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Homa Persepolis Iran
Homa bird as a griffin-like creature in Achaemenid Iranian art. About 500 BC. Persepolis, Iran.

The Huma (Persian: هما‎‎, pronounced Homā, Avestan: Homāio), also Homa, is a legendary bird especially within the Iranian mythology[1][2] and Sufi fable. It is said to never come to rest, living its entire life flying invisibly high above the earth, and never alighting on the ground (in some legends it is said to have no legs).[3] The creature is often referred to as bird of paradise.[4][5] The family Paradisaeidae first specimens were examined in Europe without wings or legs, and assumed to stay aloft as such. The lammergeier is called Homa in Persian.[6]


The word Homa which has a Persian origin in its current form is reflected in Avestan Homāio.[7] In Arabic we find the term Bulah corresponding to Huma.[4] The Sufi teacher Inayat Khan supposed that "in the word Huma, hu represents spirit, and the word mah originates from the Arabic "Ma'a" ماء which means water."[8] In Turkic mythology, it is referred as bird of Kumay[4] or Umay[9] which was used as a symbol of Çepni, one of the 24 tribal organizations of Oghuz Turks. Umay is the goddess of fertility and virginity in Turkic mythology and Tengriism.[4]


In some variations, the Huma bird is said to be phoenix-like, consuming itself in fire every few hundred years, only to rise anew from the ashes. The Huma bird is said to have both the male and female natures in one body, each nature having one wing and one leg. The Huma or Homa is considered to be a compassionate bird. It is named as bird of fortune[4] since its shadow (or touch) is said to be auspicious.[10] The shadow (or the alighting) of the Huma bird on a person's head or shoulder were said to bestow (or foretell) kingship. Accordingly, the feathers decorating the turbans of kings were said to be plumage of the Huma bird.[11] Sufi teacher Inayat Khan gives the bestowed-kingship legend a spiritual dimension: "Its true meaning is that when a person's thoughts so evolve that they break all limitation, then he becomes as a king. It is the limitation of language that it can only describe the Most High as something like a king."[8]

In Sufi tradition, catching the Huma is beyond even the wildest imagination, but catching a glimpse of it or even a shadow of it is sure to make one happy for the rest of his/her life. It is also believed that Huma cannot be caught alive, and the person killing a Huma will die in forty days.[4]

In literature[edit]

The creature is a common motif in Persian poetry. The legend appears in Attar of Nishapur's allegorical masterpiece The Conference of the Birds, an eminent example of Sufi works in Persian literature, in which the Huma bird (in this tale portrayed as a pupil) refuses to undertake a journey because such an undertaking would compromise the privilege of bestowing kingship on those whom it flew over. In Iranian literature, this function of the Huma bird is identified with pre-Islamic monarchs, and stands vis-a-vis ravens, which is a metaphor for Arabs.[12] The legend appears in non-Sufi art as well.[13]

Huma is the most referred bird of all Legendary birds in Diwan poetry of Turkish literature.[4] Also, it is used as a symbol of unreachable highness in Turkish folk literature.[14] It is also mentioned in the Diwan of folk-poet and mystic Yunus Emre.[14]

Some references to the creature also appear in Sindhi literature, where – as in the diwan tradition – the creature is portrayed as bringing great fortune. In the Zafarnama of Guru Gobind Singh, a letter addressed to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb refers to the Huma bird as a "mighty and auspicious bird".

Herman Melville briefly alludes to the bird in Moby-Dick. At the beginning of the chapter entitled "The Tail," the narrator speaks of "the bird that never alights."

It is also referred to in movie Days of Being Wild by Wong Kar-wai and the play "Orpheus Descending" by Tennessee Williams.[citation needed]

The literature series Dragonlance named Krynn's greatest hero, Huma Dragonbane, after the Huma bird.

Griffin Form[edit]

A British Museum catalog captions a photograph of the griffin-like capitals at Persepolis with "Column capital in the form of griffins (locally known as 'homa birds')".[15] The Persian language acronym for "Iran National Airline" is HOMA and the airline's emblem is the stylized rendering of a Persepolis capital.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MacKenzie, D. N. (2005), A concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London & New York: Routledge Curzon, ISBN 0-19-713559-5 
  2. ^ Mo'in, M. (1992), A Persian Dictionary. Six Volumes, Tehran: Amir Kabir Publications, ISBN 1-56859-031-8 
  3. ^ Nile, Green (2006), "Ostrich Eggs and Peacock Feathers: Sacred Objects as Cultural Exchange between Christianity and Islam", Al Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean 18 (1): 27–78, doi:10.1080/09503110500222328 .
  4. ^ a b c d e f g H. Dilek Batîslam, Mythological Birds of the Classical Ottoman Poetry: Huma, Anka and Simurg. (PDF) (in Turkish), Türk Kültürü İncelemeleri Dergisi,İstanbul 2002, 185–208, retrieved 3 August 2009 
  5. ^ cf. Andrews, Walter; Kalpakli, Mehmet (2005), The Age of Beloveds, Duke University Press, pp. 341–342 .
  6. ^
  7. ^ Doostkhah, Jalil (1991), Avesta – The Ancient Iranian Hymns & Texts, Tehran: Morvarid Publications, ISBN 964-6026-17-6 
  8. ^ a b Khan, Inayat (1923), "Abstract Sound", The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word, .
  9. ^ Great Turkish Dictionary (in Turkish), Turkish Language Association, retrieved 8 March 2014 
  10. ^ Meher Baba; Anzar, Naosherwan (trans., ed.) (1981), The Master Sings, Meher Baba's Ghazals, San Francisco: Zeno .
  11. ^ Schimmel, Annemarie; Attwood, Corinne; Waghmar, Burzine (2004), The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture, Reaktion, p. 30 .
  12. ^ Pourshariati, Parvaneh (2000), "Local Historiography in Early Medieval Iran and the Tārīkh-i Bayhaq", Iranian Studies 33 (1/2): 133–164, doi:10.1080/00210860008701979 , p. 151.
  13. ^ cf. Goswamy, B. N. (1997), "Nainsukh of Guler: A Great Indian Painter from a Small Hill-State", Artibus Asiae, Supplementum 41: 5–304 , p. 118.
  14. ^ a b Erdoğan Altınkaynak, Yer Altı Diyarının Kartalı (in "Turkish"), Hacı Bektaş Veli Araştırma Dergisi, 26, 135 – 163 (2003), retrieved 8 March 2014 
  15. ^ Curtis, John; Tallis, Nigel, eds. (2005), Forgotten Empire, the World of Ancient Persia, London: British Museum Press, ISBN 978-0-7141-1157-5