Fire Temple

This posting is a continuation of the Citadel of Glory discussion.

Having now read much of A. J. Carnoy’s Paradise of the East — Paradise of the West, which I received due to the graciousness of Dr. Josef Chytry at the University of California, I can now speak a little more confidently about Carnoy’s Kár-i-farn conjecture.

One interesting point that Carnoy makes is that the place name “Califerne” in the Song of Roland may have been a hybridization of the construct Kár-i-farn and the theocratic title Caliph. What Carnoy does not discuss is the possibility that the word Kár as spoken by an Arab may have sounded much like “Kál” to an early Frenchman, whose deep ‘r’ and ‘l’ sounds were perhaps quite unlike the sharp, shallow ‘r’ and ‘l’ of an Arab or a Persian. Carnoy’s Kár-i-farn could have very easily been modified by the French without any hybridization whatsoever.

Unfortunately, Carnoy does not appear to claim that he had ever read of the construct Kár-i-farn; rather, he appears to argue that the construct was probably used because it appears to be an obvious construction:

Il serait naturel que les légendes concernant les feux divins, les paradis sur les montagnes, les oiseaux merveilleux qui les gardaient ou les transportaient se soient localisées sur la montagne de Kár ou de Kár-í-farn (“Kár du farnah”) comme on a dû l’appeler.

Here’s my rough translation:

It would be natural that the legends concerning divine fires, the paradises on the mountains, and the marvellous birds which kept them or transported them were located on the mountain of Kár or Kár-i-farn (”Kár of the farnah”) as one had to call it.

Carnoy does not appear to provide any evidence that anyone ever actually used the construct, so we must continue to wait for it to appear. Let’s not hold our breath.

That said, I happen to believe that the construct Kár-i-farn is even more likely than Carnoy contends. In my town, there is something called a fire temple. To be precise, it is called a “Dar-e-Mehr” (or Dar-i-Mihr), from the Farsi for “House of Fire” or “House of Light” (I say “Farsi” rather than “Persian” because the term has obvious Arabic influence). I find it quite noteworthy that Dar-i-Mihr can easily be translated to Kár-i-farn. Mihr and farn(ah), do, after all, carry quite compatible meanings. The actual fire in the district of Kár was even called Farnbag, roughly meaning “Light of God”. As for Dar and Kár, the former is an Arabic word for “house”, and the latter appears to be a Persian root that derives from the Sumerian word for “fort”, and appears to have evolved into a more general meaning akin to “edifice”.

Carnoy appears to think that the construct Kár-i-farn would derive from the name of the district Kár, but it seems to me that the inverse would be more likely: could Kár-i-farn have once been used as a term for “fire temple”?

… And regardless of etymology, wouldn’t Karefarnah be an appropriate name for the Golden State? “Land of Sun Worshippers?” “Temple of Fire”?