Zoroastrianism



Zoroastrianism (the name comes from the ancient Greek version of the name Zarathushtra – “Zoroastr”), Mazdaism or Mazdaism (from the avenue māzdayasna- “veneration of Mazda”), vahvi daena (from the avast vahvī-daēnā – “good faith”, “good consciousness” “Good worldview”) is one of the most ancient religions of Iran, the beginning of which was laid by the revelations of the great prophet and reformer Spitama Zarathushtra.

The fundamental principle of his teaching, according to legend, from the great God Ahura Mazda, is the freedom of the moral choice of the individual – in the prophet’s opinion, everyone should give preference to good deeds, words, thoughts. The sacred book of Zoroastrianism – Avesta (the most revered part of it – Gata – consists of 17 hymns addressed to Ahura Mazda, the authorship of these poems are attributed to Zarathushtra), a symbol – a vessel with burning fire. Nowadays, the Zoroastrians distinguish the nine foundations of their doctrine. Adherents of this religion believe in:


– Ahura-Mazda (Ormuzda) – the all-good and one creator of the spiritual and physical worlds. He is opposed by Angra-Mainya (Ahriman, Ahriman) – the destroyer of worlds and people’s consciousness;

– Zarathushtra, which is positioned by the only Prophet Ahura Mazda. He brought the good faith into the world;

– Mina (“spiritual world”), as well as the two opposing spirits of Good and Evil. A person must make a choice – which of these spirits to join. This will determine his further fate in the physical and spiritual world;

– Artu (Ashu) – truth, the law of universal harmony and righteousness, its antipode – Druj (lie, destruction);

– to Dhaen (“conscience”), catholic (“reason”), which are the basis of human essence, and enable each individual to distinguish between good and evil;

– 7 Amesha-Spentes, the hypostases of Ahura-Mazda, personifying also 7 stages of the evolution of the person’s personality;

– Dadochesh and Ashudad (“mutual assistance and support”);

– natural elements (fire, water, wind, earth, plants, animals);

– Thrushkard (Frasho-kereti – “Making the world perfect”) – the victory of good over evil, the transformation of the world.

Zoroastrianism

The homeland of Zoroastrianism and Zarathushtra – Bactria.

There is no common opinion about the birthplace of Zarathushtra either in the ancients (already in the 5th-4th centuries BC), or in modern authors. Some say that he was born in the vicinity of Balkh (Bactria, now Afghanistan), others are called the birthplace of the prophet Rades (a suburb of modern Tigeran) or Arinam-Veij (Khorezm). Medieval Muslim historians (Kazvini, Al-Biruni, etc.) believed that Zarathushtra was born in the region called Atropatena (the territory of the Iranian province of Azerbaijan).

Some modern researchers (for example, Mary Boyce, British scientist and Lokamanya Bal Gandghar Tilak, an Indian who conducted a historical and philological study of the Rig-Veda) believe that the homeland of Zarathushtra is Sintashta (Russia, Chelyabinsk region). And, finally, in Ghats, you can read that born in the territory of Turanians (nomadic peoples who inhabited East Iran) Zarathushtra was not understood and accepted by his compatriots, and fled to Iran, where he met his future patron, Prince Kavi-Vishtaspu.

Concerning where Zoroastrianism was born, discussions are still being held. Initially, the researchers believed that the birthplace of Zoroastrianism is Bactria, and the Avestan language is just one of the Bactrian dialects. However, modern linguists have proved that Avestan and Old Bactrian languages, although they originate from the common Iranian, but the ways of their development are different. Yes, and Bactria (Bahdi) is mentioned in the Avesta not so often, although it is positioned as the residence of the patron of Zarathushtra prince Kavi-Vishtasp (Gushtasp).

In some traditions, the center for the birth of Zoroastrianism is called Media (an ancient state located in the western part of Iran) where, according to historians, a large Zoroastrian center was actually founded, rivaling the significance of the Bactrian.Was in Media and an influential champion of Zoroastrianism – King Vishtasp, but his identification with Kavi-Vistaspa, the patron of Zarathushtra, according to researchers, is devoid of grounds.

The name Zarathushtra is translated as “Gold Star”.

The ancient Greeks really linked the name of the founder of Zoroastrianism with the word “aster” (the asteros – “star”), pronouncing it as “Zoroaster”. But this is just one of the options for interpreting the meaning of the name of the great preacher-reformer. For example, according to the famous orientalist of the 18th century. Abraham Hyacinth Anquetil-Duperra, the name Zarathushtra means “Golden Sirius (Tishtra)”.

Modern researchers believe that the name “Zarathushtra” is Iranian. Moreover, only the meaning of the second part of the name (-astra, from the Tajik jester-the “camel”) does not cause doubts. Regarding the interpretation of the first part of the opinion diverge: options are offered “old”, “yellow”, “possessing”, “driver”. Most often the name Zarathushtra is translated as “the owner of the old camel” and is positioned as a name-guard against evil forces.

Zarathushtra was born 258 years before the start of the conquest of Alexander the Great.

In Zoroastrianism, there is indeed a mention of this, but to interpret the saying “the year of Zarathushtra began 258 years before Zulkarnain Iskandar (Alexander the Great)” can be variously. Firstly, it remains unclear whether it is a birth, an outstanding act (for example, the “year of faith” -the first conversation with Ahura-Mazda) or the death of a great preacher. Secondly, the term “Alexander’s year” can mean different dates: the birth of a great commander (356 BC); the time of the death of Darius III and the conquest of Iran by Macedon (accordingly, the “year of Zarathushtra” – 330 BC is shifted in time). Some Zoroastrian authors define the period of Zarathustra’s life as follows: 660-583. BC. The ancient Greeks held different views, arguing that “the year of Zarathushtra” came 6,000 years before Plato’s death (ie, about 6,347 BC).

There is also no consensus among modern researchers on this issue. Some believe that, according to the results of the linguistic analysis of Gat (one of the parts of the Avesta), the time of life and activity of Zarathushtra – XII-X centuries. BC. e. Others, on the other hand, claim that the preacher lived in the 300’s. BC. (during the reign of Darius III). The third relates the time of Zarathushtra’s life to the period that preceded the emergence of the Achaemenid empire (the dynasty of the ancient Persian kings who ruled from 558 to 330 BC). Nowadays, the Zoroastrians believe that the “Zoroastrian religious era” began in 1738 BC. – in the “year of faith” of Zarathushtra (according to the calculations of Zabi Behrouz, an astronomer and linguist from Iran).


Zoroastrianism

Zarathushtra from the very childhood had a great influence on the minds of people around him, and had many followers.

Information of this kind is replete with legends and legends, of which a great many were written about the life and work of the great prophet and reformer. According to one of them, at birth he laughed, but did not cry, and his laughter killed 2,000 demons. In other legends, one can find references to the many miracles that occurred while Zarathushtra was a child (only in this way the divine forces could protect the future preacher from the constant attacks of demons).

But neither in his childhood, nor in his youth Zarathushtra, the son of Spitam, who belonged to a poor priestly family, did not exert much influence on the surrounding people, and his first sermons were not somehow marked by society. And the followers, imbued with new ideas, at first were very few. The turning point was the acquaintance with Prince Kavi-Vishtaspa, who accepted the teachings of Zarathushtra, and with all his might promoted the spread of new ideas in society.

Initially, the sermons of Zarathushtra had a profound philosophical meaning.

No, the originally mentioned religious reform of Zarathushtra had a pronounced social content.His sermons met the needs of the society of those times: ensuring the peaceful life of a settled people engaged in cattle breeding and farming. It was possible to accomplish this by gaining unity under the leadership of a strong and authoritative authority (Khishatra), which would give the opportunity to successfully reflect the raids of hostile tribes, the “adherents of Lies” (dujwants) and hope for the accession of Peace (Armayti) and Truth (Asha). And only a little later the sermons of Zarathushtra were filled with profound philosophical meaning, calling for monotheism (veneration of Ahura-Mazda) and presenting a constant struggle with hostile tribes as a reflection of the eternal struggle of Good and Evil, Truth and Lies.

In the religion of the Iranian tribes, from the earliest times only the asuras were worshiped.

This is not true. Researchers argue that the epoch of Zoroastrianism was preceded by polytheistic religious views, transformed from the worship of the elements and forces of nature, and originated in the period of the Indo-European community. The distinction between the asuras (adventurous ahuras) and the devas (dives) took place, but there was no consensus as to which of the above-mentioned beings reveals a good temper, and who is very spiteful, was not.

In one group of tribes, asuras were considered benefactors, while their neighbors could worship the devas, and vice versa. And sometimes, with equal respect, people treated both of them (as reflected, for example, in the early Vedas). In the later period of the Indo-Iranian community, when the territorial delimitation of the Indian and Iranian tribes was not yet complete, some changes appeared in this issue. Obviously, the irreconcilable enmity between the neighboring tribes that fought over the habitat area was also manifested in religious views.

As a result, in the later parts of the Vedas, the devas are treated with respect, the asuras became objects of hatred, and were equated with demons. While in Zoroastrianism the reverse process is observed-the deification of the asuras with subsequent merging into the monotheistic cult of Ahura-Mazda, and the “demonization” of the devas (although, as already mentioned, in some Iranian tribes, the devas were worshiped as bright forces).

Devas in Zoroastrianism are hostile spirits.

This is not quite true. Legion of the devas was formed for quite a long time, and to the host of hostile spirits (which, according to the legends, first lived in human bodies, but were expelled by Zarathushtra into the mountains, into caves and underground), impersonations of vices, misfortunes and disasters were added. For example, Azi – “greed”, Arask – “envy”, Apaosha – “drought”, Aishma (Eshm) – “unbridledness”, at first personifying raids of hostile tribes, etc.

In addition, the devas were equated with some people, for example, the children (yatu) – evil sorcerers, carapans and kavia – representatives of the nobility and the priestly class, who were hostile to the Zoroastrians; satars – evil rulers, ashemaugov – teaching evil, dandjwants – gentiles. To the detachment of evil forces, the harmful representatives of the animal kingdom (serpents, toads, insects, etc.) were also named, calling them brave.

Zoroastrians worship a multitude of deities.

In the sermons of Zarathushtra, only one God was mentioned – Ahura-Mazda, who was opposed by the devas (dyvas) who patronized the enemies and themselves displayed hostility towards people and the great creative deity. In addition, 6 Amesha-Spanta (Vohu-Mana – Brahman, Good Thought, Asha-Vahishta – “The Best Truth”, Khashatra-Vairya – “Selected Power”, Spenta-Armaiti – “Holy Piety”, Khaurvatat – ” Welfare, Integrity “, Ameretat (” Immortality “)). However, they were not separate entities-deities, but manifestations-hypostasis of the same Ahura-Mazda, making up one with him.

But in the process of spreading the religious views of the great prophet-reformer assimilated with the worldview of the Iranian tribes, and underwent some changes.Six Ames-Spanta from the abstract hypostases of the supreme Deity were transformed into completely independent divine entities, and each acquired its own role (and in some areas, new names). For example, Vohu-Mana (in the middle Persian – Bachman) became the patron of livestock, Asha-Vahishta (Arthvashit) commanded fire, Hshatra-Varya (Shahrevar) controlled metals, and Spanta-Armayti (Spandarmat) – the land. Harvat (Khurdad) protects the water, Amerat (Amerdad) – takes under its protection plants.

They also worship Rashnu – the god of justice, Atar – the god of fire, etc. Replenished the pantheon and deities, rejected in due time by Zarathushtra. Even the devas (for example, the patron of the Mithra or Mihr agreements, which subsequently associated with the sun, Indra, etc.), renamed into jasat (“those who should be honored”), become an object of worship. In the camp of evil forces, too, there are changes – Ahriman (Ahriman, Anhra Manu – “Evil Spirit”) stands out, the personification of evil, the original enemy of Ahura-Mazda.

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is the religion of fire-worshipers.

This is not quite true. In the Zoroastrian temples, there really is a burning fire on the Atashdan (altar) Varahram (“Victory”) – sacrificial fire, which, in some cases, is maintained for hundreds or even thousands of years. However, worship is rewarded not only by the fire of fire, called Spanist (“The Holy One”), or the altar.

Zoroastrians position any light as a visible manifestation of God in the world of forms. Therefore, turning to Ahura Mazda, believers try to turn their faces to the source of light, which can be not only a ritual bonfire, but also the light of the sun. In addition, according to Zoroastrians, fire can take a variety of forms. For example, before the Ahura-Mazda, the Paradise fire of Berezasavang (“High Rescue”) burns. In the bodies of people and animals are hidden Vokhufryan (“Favorable fire”), in plants – Urvazisht (“Most Favorable”), in lightning – Vazish (“Most Effective”).

Zoroastrians brought bloody human sacrifices to the gods.

Absolutely mistaken opinion. In the pre-Zoroastrian times in Persia, the priests of pagan gods (for example, Moloch, whose cult was spread by Assyrian conquerors) did not only sacrifice animals and adults, but also children. According to legend, this custom was introduced by Zahhak, the king of dragons. Through the fault of the evil spirit Zahhak, having ascended to the throne, got two snakes on his shoulders and took away everything that the ruler touched. And only feeding the human brain to the insatiable creatures, Zahhak got a respite for a while.

Zarathushtra, in his sermons, negatively treated pagan rituals, in particular, bloody human sacrifices and the use of soma (haoma), a drug used by priests to enter into a state of religious ecstasy. As a sacrifice, the Zoroastrians used a fresh cake called “drayonah” (“share”), as well as maizd – various kinds of food (in ancient times – meat food, in our days – fruit).

However, over time, ritual libations are renewed, Zarathushtra himself begins to attribute the ability to talk with Haoma (deified drink).

In some countries that fell under Persian rule, the pagan practices of sacrifices that have acquired a different meaning under the influence of the new religion are preserved. For example, in Babylon, the ancient custom of the ritual execution of the “substitute” king (when, at a certain period of time, the place of the lord was placed the condemned to death criminal who received all the tsar’s rights, and at the end of the reign, deprived of his life by honors, the “risen” ruler once again ascended to the throne ) has acquired a new meaning. Now in this ritual we saw a symbol of the cycle of life, renewal and resurrection, as well as the victory of Good over Evil.

Zoroastrianism requires believers to eat only strictly defined types of food and practice cleansing fasting.

This is not true.Meat of any ungulate animals, fish and other products of animal origin are not prohibited. There are no prohibitions on the use of wine, although believers are encouraged to observe moderation in eating and drinking intoxicating beverages. But long-term fasts and starvation in this religion – under prohibition. In the year, only 4 days are allocated, when Zoroastrians are obliged to refuse meat.

Zoroastrianism

Rites of burial Zoroastrians are very peculiar.

The content of the funeral rites of the Zoroastrians is due to their religious worldview. According to the followers of Zarathushtra’s teachings, the contact of earth, water and fire with a dead body (full of filth, a symbol of Ahriman’s short-lived victory) is capable of profaning them for a long time. For example, a piece of land on which a person or animal has died is not sown or irrigated for a year, and in the house of the deceased several days (9 in winter, 30 in summer), one can not light a fire.

Bodies of the deceased “exhibited”, i.e. placed on stony high ground or on Dahma – specially built “towers of silence”. They also tied (so that animals and birds could not accidentally desecrate water or plants, dragging pieces of flesh and bones from the “burial place”). Subsequently, the bones were collected, and placed in the ossuary – asta-dana, or in a certain place dahma, intended for these purposes.

Living people contact with the corpse also profaned, and for life. Porters (at least two, in extreme cases – a man and a dog, alone to move the corpse was strictly forbidden), engaged in carrying corpses to burial places, were called risto-porridge, and throughout their lives had to keep at 30 paces from fire and water, and in 3 steps from other people.



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