Zoroastrianism Ancient Zoroastrian Temple Ruin
Ancient Zoroastrian Temple Ruin

Zoroastrianism: Exploring the Ancient Religion’s History and Beliefs

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With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals. Consider the most enlightened thoughts. Then choose your path, person by person, each for oneself.

Zoroaster

What is Zoroastrianism?

When I was first introduced to Zoroastrianism, I was asked if I knew that it was the oldest religion. Zoroastrianism is quite often identified as the oldest religion however, this is not entirely correct.

It is considered one of the oldest surviving religions that is still followed or practiced today and it is also known as one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths.

The Origins of Zoroastrianism

The history of Zoroastrianism is a complex and fascinating one, but in the process of my research, I found many conflicting dates regarding the origins.

Zoroastrians follow the teachings of the prophet Zarathustra, known here in the West as Zoroaster.

Zoroaster is believed to have been born in either Northeast Iran or Southwest Afghanistan, with most scholars believing that he lived in the 18th century BC or he is believed to have lived sometime between 1400-1200 BCE in NE Iran(Persia).

Zoroaster’s story begins with him being born into a life of privilege, but then he sees a vision that changes his life forever.

The vision was of two serpents who were fighting each other one had fire coming out of its mouth while the other had water coming out.

Zoroaster came to understand that this represented the battle between good and evil, which would continue until Ahura Mazda emerged victorious at the end of time.

Avesta: Teachings of Zoroastrianism

Zoroaster’s teachings were passed on to his followers through oral tradition. This means that they were not written down until centuries after he had died.

The first written account of Zoroaster’s teachings is found in the Avesta, which is a collection of texts that includes both sacred texts and commentaries on these texts.

It was compiled by several people over many years, but it most likely dates back to at least 1000 BC (the date when the Avesta first became an organized text).

His teachings are based on older Indo-Iranian traditions which included a belief in gods and primarily in the lord of wisdom, Ahura Mazda


Cube of Zoroaster or Ka'ba-ye Zartosht, Marvdasht, near Persepolis and Shiraz, Iran

One good deed is worth a thousand prayers.

Zoroaster (Zarusthra)

The Tenets of Zoroastrianism:

1) There is only one God (Ahura Mazda) who created everything that exists.

2) All humans are free to choose between good and evil, but they will be judged after death according to their deeds.

3) Evil will be punished by God at the end of time with an apocalyptic battle called Frashokereti, in which all souls will be purified and reunited with the Creator.

Who Are The Zoroastrians & The Parsis

Parsis are descendants of Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India in the 10th century to avoid religious persecution.

They brought with them many Persian customs and traditions that still exist today.

One such tradition is the celebration of Norouz which is a pre-Islamic Iranian festival that celebrates the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature.

The Parsi people have had a significant impact on Iranian society. Their influence can be seen in architecture, literature, and religion; specifically through the celebration of Norouz which has its origins in ancient Iran but has been celebrated by Iranians since before Islam was introduced.

The origin of the word “Parsi” is unclear.

One theory puts forth that it is from the verb ‘parz’ which means to pass or to travel through. Another theory suggests that it comes from the Sanskrit term for Persian people, ‘Pârsis’

The Faravahar

The Faravahar is a symbol of Zoroastrianism that is probably the most recognized representation of the religion.

The story of the Faravahar begins with its introduction to the world by the Persian prophet and philosopher Zarathustra.

Zarathustra was born at a time when people were worshipping many different gods, but he decided to create one god that would be followed by everyone. The god he created was Ahura Mazda, who was both good and evil, just like humans are.

Faravahar symbol meaning

Zarathustra explained how Ahura Mazda would be followed by six symbols: fire, water, earth, plant life, animal life, and humans.

These symbols were called Amesha Spentas (which means “Bounteous Immortals”).

The Amesha Spentas were not just representations of things but they also were everlasting spirits.

The Amesha Spentas had a lot of influence on Zoroastrian society.

For example, the fire had the power to give life to anything that it touched and everything was connected with it.

The earth is considered a mother and was loved by everyone because everything came from it.

The plant life provided food for humans and animals which were all very important for their lives too.

Animals also carried messages from Ahura Mazda for people to read through their tongues or their paws. This involved the use of magic.

There are many stories about magic in Zoroastrianism and how it was used for many different purposes including healing, cursing, and making things appear or disappear.


selective focus photography of red waterlily flower in bloom

Gathas: The Hymns of Zoroaster

The Gathas are probably the most important and influential texts in Zoroastrianism.

They are a collection of seventeen hymns that were composed by Zarathrushtra(Zoroaster).

The Gathas were written in a language called Avestan, which is an ancient Iranian language that was spoken by the people living in Persia before they adopted the Persian language.

The Gathas are a compilation of teachings given by Zarathustra to his followers on how they should live their lives and what they should do to escape from the cycle of reincarnation.

The Gathas are not just important because they are sacred but also because they contain many teachings that can be applied to our modern lives.

Zoroastrian Aspects of Life

Many practices and beliefs that remain today originate from this ancient Persian religion.

One of the most important beliefs is that there are two aspects to life:

Good (humata) and Evil (hukhta).

The followers try to live their lives according to these two aspects because they believe that this will lead them toward righteousness or good thoughts and actions.

The other important belief is that our actions in this world will affect us in the next world as well. Zoroastrians believe that we can be reborn into another life if we have committed a sin or done something wrong during our current life on earth.

Final Thoughts

This was a difficult religion to research because it was difficult for me to confirm conflicting origin stories and accurate translations of meanings to English.

In this case, digging into the history was less beneficial to me and I found the actual scriptures and quotes much more interesting and enlightening than digging up historical evidence.

Since this is one of my first little dives into a new religion, I will consider how deep I want to go into historical and trivial information in my next article.

I think a deeper dive into the philosophical aspects and beliefs centered around ancient religions I cover in the future will be more enlightening and inspiring.

In the future, I will take a closer look at the hymns and sacred texts of Zoroastrianism.

If there is something else related that you’d like for me to discuss, please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for being here.

References


Disclosure: The informational content posted here is based on research and personal experience. I do not have any sponsors and I am not compensated for my reviews or opinions. However, this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on an advertisement or product and continue to make a purchase, I may receive a referral commission. Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” 


Main Author and Website Designer | Website | + posts

Hayden is a Software Engineer with a Masters in Information Technology and B.A. in Psychology. His passions are varied from traveling to technology, board-sports and all things psychological, spiritual, and mysterious.

Throughout Hayden's life journey, his personal experiences and random synchronicities have had a profound influence on his current beliefs.

Hayden shares his perspectives on what he learns from first hand experience. He utilizes the most reliable resources from sacred texts to philosophy, scientific theories, psychological studies, and historical wisdom traditions.

He hopes to help reveal the similarities that connect all of us, so that we can learn to be more tolerant, less prejudiced and empathetic towards each other.