This week, I had my check-in with the librarians. Fun fact about librarians; they’re miracle workers with resources. In no more than fifteen minutes with T. Victoria, I was equipped with a completely new and informative body of information on Zoroastrianism. In particular, she found three books, Zoroastrianism, (Paula R. Hartz), Gods, Goddesses, and Myths of Creation (Mircea Eliade), and a translation of the Gathas (which I will talk more about in a later post), which I will use for the majority of my research. So naturally, with all of this new information at my disposal, I began reading. Here is some of what I have discovered.
Even though it is one of the world’s smallest religions (at roughly 200,000 people), Zoroastrianism is steadfast, and its practitioners are known for their dedication and perseverance through a long history of persecution. While they have no official congregations, there are organized groups of Zoroastrians as far as the United States, Dubai, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand. Perhaps one of the reasons for their decline is the lack of meetings among its practitioners. Since only priests are expected to perform rituals, regular people aren’t expected, and in some cases are forbidden to attend. Instead, they pray to Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) from the comfort of their homes. Not holding congregations can often lead to a lack of unity among a religious group, causing them to separate.
However, priests continue to go each day to the Zoroastrian places of worship; the fire temples. An important misconception about Zoroastrians is that they are fire worshipers. This is not the case; in reality, they believe that the flame represents Ahura Mazda because its brilliance and light reflects that of the celestial bodies as well as the power, might, and energy of the divine. The fire is not Ahura Mazda himself, merely a representation. In these fire temples, priests perform extremely complicated rites and rituals, often combining fire from different sources in order to create a holier fire. In fact, the holiest of fires demands a flame created by lightning, as lightning come directly from Ahura Mazda.
Even though they play a large role in Zoroastrian worship, symbols such as fire are not at all what this great religion is truly about. Unlike most modern religions, it centers not around belief, but around right action. Practitioners believe in heaven and hell, but obtaining a place in eternal paradise is achieved entirely through acts rather than faith. This lies in contrast to Christianity, which preaches belief in Jesus as the bridge to salvation. Zoroastrianism also differs from Eastern religions such as Hinduism in that, for its followers, life is not cyclical. There is no reincarnation, what do you do in this life won’t effect you next time around, and you only get one chance at an eternity in heaven. So effectively, Zoroastrianism is entirely based around being a good person. In each of us, there is a constant struggle between good and evil (personified in Zoroastrianism by Ahura Mazda, the God of consciousness and perfect good, and Angra Mainyu, the spirit of deceit). These two battle constantly for control of your being, each aided by different minor spirits that exist physically outside of the body.
Of course, the question is, how is this relevant to my story? As I explained last week, I now stand on a literary precipice. With my foundations laid, I can take my story in any direction. With this new body of research, I could include a variety of new additions that I never even knew about, such as demons and fravashis (similar to guardian angels), which I will talk about next week. The sky’s the limit with a religion as expansive as Zoroastrianism, so I look forward to seeing where this new information leads me.
“Ahuramazda.” Livius. Livius, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.livius.org/articles/religion/ahuramazda/>.
Zoroastrianism by Country. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zoroastrianism_by_Country.png>.
“Religious Congregations and Membership Study, 2000.” ARDA. Association for Religion Data Archives, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.thearda.com/Archive/Files/Descriptions/RCMSST.asp>.
Edulgee, K. E. “Zoroastrian Places of Worship.” Zoroastrian Heritage. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/temples/agiary.htm>.
“Zoroastrianism: Shimmering Flame of Eternal Wisdom – Aug 2006.” Heart 2 Heart. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_04/01AUG06/CoverStory_Zora.htm>.
“God of the Week: Ahriman.” Universal Heretic. N.p., 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 28 Sept. 2015. <https://universalheretic.wordpress.com/tag/zoroastrianism/>.
Hartz, Paula. Zoroastrianism. New York: Facts On File, 1999. Print.