Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter Z - ZOROASTRIANISM

Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

The second section of the Avestan Scriptures contains the Laws (Videvdat) that dictate how Zoroastrians can defend themselves against demons and live good and holy lives. The Laws of the Scriptures are a collection of texts that counter the forces of evil through purity laws, defining how to avoid evil and purify oneself for God, and describing the end times.

Another important section of the Avestan Scriptures consists of the Hadhokht Nask, which are sayings that describe the soul's fate after death. Zoroastrians have a firm belief in final judgment and the resurrection of all peoples. After death on the fourth day, a deceased person crosses the bridge called Chinvat, which connects humanity with the unseen world. The righteous will find the bridge as broad as a highway, and they will take it to the House of Song where they will await the Last Day. For the wicked, the bridge will seem narrow as a razor, and they will fall off of it into hell.

Belief in the resurrection of Zoroaster to fight against Angra Mainyu and his dark army of daevas comes through in this compilation written by Zoroaster, as he attested that it was shown to him by Ahura Mazda himself. Just before the Last Day, Zoroaster will return in the form of a prophet conceived by a virgin by his own seed stored in a mountain lake. A prophet would appear in this way at 1,000- year intervals during the 3,000 years between Zoroaster and the renovation of the world.

These and other beliefs can be seen within the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The influence of Zoroastrianism in the development of Judaism is dated to the exile of the Israelites in 586 B.C.E. to Babylon (Iran). Here the Israelites lived as slaves and were thrust into the religious practices of the Babylonians. These teachings and beliefs influenced the Judaic faith as seen in the Book of Daniel, which is the first apocalyptic book of the Old Testament. The teachings of Satan as God's rival, life after death, final judgment, and redemption appear in the Book of Daniel and later works, and were not elaborated until the exile.

Many symbols are central to the Zoroastrian tradition. The first is fire-the central symbol of divine presence is in fire. Zoroastrians have been called fire worshippers, but they do not worship the fire. Instead, fire represents a sign of the power of light, which is Ahura Mazda. Another important religious image for Zoroastrianism is the symbol of Ahura Mazda, which is crafted into a disk called the farohar, which has wings, a tail, and a pair of long, curved legs. A male figure is depicted on this farohar from the waist up in a profile above it. The figure is bearded, wears a robe, and holds a ring in the left hand. This symbol is found in the households of most Zoroastrian adherents. There are no portraits of Zoroaster himself, but later centuries have developed an iconographic tradition depicting him. Zoroaster is portrayed with long wavy hair, under a white turban, full beard, dressed in white loose trousers and a robe. Behind him are sunrays and a halo, and he carries a staff in his right hand. This icon can also be found in many Zoroastrian homes. Congregational worship is not a typical feature of Zoroastrian ritual. It is more individualistic, where the individual shows his or her own devotion to God through recitation of hymns and prayers at any time, in addition to the Five Gathas that are recited at specific times during the day.

The place of worship for Zoroastrians is a sanctuary, or fire temple, known as the agiari, or fireplace. A large metal urn with sand and ash on which the sacred fire burns continuously is placed on a stone platform in a chamber. Priests or magi, who add wood and say five prayers (gahs), during the day maintain the fire. The Zoroastrian calendar is an ancient solar version of 12 months of 30 days each, plus 5 remaining days that do not form part of any month but are set aside for time of special ritual called the Gatha Days, meaning five in number. On these days, the community comes together as a whole and feasts and prays. Within the calendar, there is a cycle of devotion outlining in great detail the appropriate forms of worship on specific days. The 9th day of the month is sacred to fire. This is the day most favored for visiting the fire temple and making an offering of wood or other goods. The 9th month is also devoted to the worship of fire (i.e., light or God).

The 10th day of the 8th month is dedicated to water. This is a time when Zoroastrians stand at the edge of a body of water and offer individual prayers to God. Four days each month are dedicated to Ahura Mazda and to his creations. The year-end period relates to the origin of the agricultural seasons. This is called the Muktad period, when Zoroastrians come together to offer a community prayer and feast.

Zoroaster's emphasis on ethics calls to mind the step-by-step moral teachings in other religions that form humans' moral code. The accomplishments of Zoroaster as a prophet and a reformer can be seen not only in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, but also in the modern usage of Zoroastrians themselves. A small community that survives and lives according to the Avestan Scriptures and continuing the battles of good versus evil, Zoroastrians have contributed much to monotheistic traditions.