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Zoroastrianism - Zoroastrianism is the religion of the followers of Zarathustra or Zoroaster, an ancient Persian prophet who lived some time between 3000 BCE and 600 BCE. Zoroastrians worship Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrianism has about 150,000 believers in India, 60,000 in Iran, where it is actively suppressed, and perhaps 50,000 in the rest of the world.

The name "Zoroastrianism" is used only in European countries. It is also called Zarathustrism, Mazdaism and Parsism, the last name being used by Indian followers of the religion. The religion may have originated in Afghanistan or Eastern Iran. Earlier hypotheses and legends about the origin of Zoroastrianism cannot be confirmed. 

Zoroaster saw the universe as the result of a  cosmic struggle between asha “truth” or "good"  and druj "lie" or "evil" The main concept of asha  is the basis of all other Zoroastrian doctrine, including Ahura Mazda,  who is asha, and creation, existence and existence, all of which embody or exemplify asha in some form. The purpose of humanity is to pursue the increase of asha.

The teachings of Zoroaster and his life and followers are recorded in the Avesta. There is an older Avesta and a Younger Avesta written in an Avestan language.   The Gathas are hymns attributed to Zoroaster that are a part of the older Avesta.

Nobody knows the precise age of Zoroastrianism. The traditional date of 600 BCE was assigned by priests of Zoroastrianism in The older Avesta is written in a language similar to the Sanskrit of the Rigveda, which would give it a date of about 2000 - 3500 BCE, and making Zoroastrianism one of the oldest religions in the world.the Alexandrian age, But it is untenable based on the language of the older Avesta. 

Zoroastrianism has a theological hierarchy and is not purely monotheistic. This hierarchy and its theological significance seems to have evolved over time. Ahura Mazda is the father of two twin spirits, Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu. The former is the good spirit. In opposition to Ahura Mazda, there is Ahriman, who is the evil offspring of Angra Mainyu, and the  Yazatas.  Yazata simply means "worthy of veneration."  It is unclear if the Yazatas are a part of Ahura Mazda, a manifestation of him or separate beings. They include  the sun, the moon, Haoma, Mithra and the Amesha Spentas. These last are perhaps something like beneficent archangels, or "divine sparks." There were six Amesha Spentas and they created the the universe together with the help of their hamkars or assistants. It is probable that the separation of these various beings from Ahura Mazda may have occurred over time, as they are more clearly divine beings in the Younger Avesta. In the older Avesta, Ahura Mazda seems to have been the name of two fused deities and the names can occur separately or in reverse order.

Zoroastrianism views time as divided into three periods. In the first, everything was perfect. In the second, present period, perfection is spoiled by the actions of evil.  In the third and final period, perfect goodness will be restored.

Temples of fire are a part of Zoroastrianism, but they were not, evidently, a part of the original faith of Zoroaster. Fire is not worshipped, but fire and water are considered to be purification agents.

Many see influences of Zoroastrianism on other religions.  Manichean Christianity borrowed openly and consciously from Zoroastrianism, but concepts such as good and evil, the embodiment of evil in a "devil" character and free will are present in both Christianity and Judaism. It is possible however, that these ideas were re-invented independently. Bahai honor Zoroaster as one of their prophets, along with those of all other major religions. .

Somewhat similar to Buddhism, human beings can with the help of Ahura Mazda (Ohrmuzd) reach a nirvana-like stage of total liberation from the worldly existence. When all humans reach this stage, the influence of evil would be  extinguished and the divine order would totally rule the world.

Ami Isseroff

November 14, 2008


Synonyms and alternate spellings: ahadah

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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