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Aim: What does it mean to be Zoroastrian?

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1 Aim: What does it mean to be Zoroastrian?
Period One: Technological and Environmental Transformations, to c. 600 B.C.E. Key Concept 1.3. The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral, and Urban Societies

2 I Origins of Zoroastrianism
A) Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE in ancient Persia. B) Zarathustra (in Greek, Zoroaster) was a Persian prophet who at the age of 30 believed he had seen visions of God, whom he called Ahura Mazda, the creator of all that is good and who alone is worthy of worship. This was a departure from previous Persian polytheism. C) Zoroastrianism became the official religion of the Persian Empire, but it virtually disappeared in Persia after the Muslim invasion of 637 AD. Only about 10,000 survive in remote villages in Iran, but over the centuries many sought religious freedom in India.


4 II Sacred Texts of Zororastrianism
The Zoroastrian sacred text is the Avesta ("Book of the Law”). Compiled over many centuries, the Avesta was not completed until Persia's Sassanid dynasty ( CE). It consists of hymns ascribed to Zarathustra; rituals to be used at festivals; and spells against demons and prescriptions for purification.

5 III Main Beliefs of Zoroastrianism
A) The Zoroastrian concept of God incorporates both monotheism and dualism. In his visions, Zarathustra was taken up to heaven, where the all powerful God Ahura Mazda revealed that he had an opponent, Aura Mainyu, the spirit and promoter of evil. Ahura Mazda charged Zarathustra with the task of inviting all human beings to choose between him (good) and Aura Mainyu (evil). B) Zoroaster taught that man must enlist in this cosmic struggle because of his capacity of free choice. Thus, Zoroastrianism is a highly ethical religion in which the choice of good over evil has almost cosmic importance. Zarathustra taught that humans are free to choose between right and wrong, truth and lies, and light and dark, and that their choices would affect their eternity destiny. C) The Zoroastrian afterlife is determined by the balance of the good and evil deeds, words, and thoughts of the whole life. For those whose good deeds outweigh the bad, heaven awaits. Those who did more evil than good go to hell (which has several levels corresponding to degrees of wickedness). There is an intermediate stage for those whose deeds weight out equally.

6 IV Main Practices of Zoroastrianism
A) Zoroastrians are initiated when they reach the age of seven (in India) or 10 (in Persia). They receive the shirt (sadre) and the girdle (kusti), which they are to wear their whole life. B) The Zoroastrian system of penance entails reciting the patet, the firm resolve not to sin again, and the confession of sins to a dastur or to an ordinary priest if a dastur is not obtainable. C) The sacred fire must be kept burning continually and has to be fed at least five times a day. Prayers also are recited five times a day. The founding of a new fire involves a very elaborate ceremony. There are also rites for purification and for regeneration of a fire.

7 Zoroastrian Initiation

8 V Sacred Places of Zoroastrianism
A) Mountain shrines The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, made the comment about the early Zoroastrian use of their mountain shrines, "It is not their custom to make and set up statues and temples and altars but they offer sacrifices on the highest peaks of the mountains." B) Fire temples Fire Temple, Iran from the Parthian era 247 BCE-224 CE.

9 Zoroastrian Fire Temple, Yadz, Iran


11 VI Zoroastrian Holidays
A) There are six seasonal festivals (“Gahanbars”) and the days in memory of the dead at year's end. B) The New Year festival, Noruz, is the most joyous and beautiful of Zoroastrian feasts, a spring festival.

12 VII Zoroastrian Symbols
A) The Faravahar is an image of a disc with wings that likely originated as a sun with wings. Later, a human torso was added to the symbol. The archer in a feathered robe represents Ashur, an Assyrian god. Over time the image became a symbol of the Zoroastrian religion. Presently, the symbol is often used to depict a guardian angel. Today, the symbol is also a reminder of a person’s purpose in life. B) Fire

13 Focus Questions What is the origin of Zoroastrianism?
What are the main beliefs of Zoroastrianism? What are the main practices of Zoroastrianism (including holidays)? What is the sacred text of Zoroastrianism? What are the sacred places of Zoroastrianism? Is Zoroastrianism monotheistic or dualistic? How do you know? How do you think Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism, Christianity, and/or Islam?

14 Freddie Mercury of Queen was a Zoroastrian!
Key Vocabulary Ahura Mazda Aura Mainyu Avesta Faravahar Fire Temple Noruz Zarathustra Zoroastrian Zoroaster Freddie Mercury of Queen was a Zoroastrian!

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