Zoroastrianism, once the official religion of the Persian empire, is now one of the smallest religions in the world. The New York Times reported in 2006 that there were less than 190,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. Zoroastrianism is one of the monotheistic religions and has existed for more than 3,500 years. The religion was one of the most powerful religions for over 1,000 years. The central ideas of Zoroastrianism are summed up as “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”
Zoroastrians believe in one God who they call Ahura Mazda which translated to the Wise Lord. They believe that he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, impossible for humans to conceive, unchanging, the creator of life and the source of all goodness. They believe that he created the world. Zoroastrians believe that God’s truth was revealed through Zoroaster.
Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Iran during a time when most religions had multiple gods. Zoroaster was considered a family man. He was married and had three sons and three daughters. Zoroaster had a vision at age 30 while he performed a bathing ritual for pagan purification. He saw a shining being on the shore made of light. It was revealed to him as Vohu Manah which means the Good Mind. The vision transformed Zoroasters life and faith. He spent the rest of his life trying to teach others his new views.
The holy book is called the Avesta. This book contains the Gathas, which are 17 hymns that are thought to be written by Zoroaster. It also contains The Younger Avesta which is a book of commentaries on older writings that contains myths and stories.
The religion focuses on the idea of dualism. They believe in the existence and complete separation of good and evil. There are two types. Cosmic dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the universe while moral dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the mind. The cosmic dualism is a battle between good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu) in the universe. Examples of this are life and death, and day and night. One cannot exist without the other. Moral dualism is the battle between good and evil within man. Zoroastrians believe that humans all have free will and that we make choices to either follow evil (druj) or good (asha). Following druj will lead to a life of misery and condemn you to Hell while a life of asha leads to happiness and Heaven. Through every choice evil can be eliminated. Although these opposing forces exist, Zoroastrianism believes that humans are ultimately good and that good always wins over evil.
Fire is important to Zoroastrianism because they believe in the elements and that fire represents God’s light and wisdom
Zoroastrian worship takes place in a Fire Temple called Agiary. They pray several times a day. Most Zoroastrians go through a purification process of washing the hands before prayer. Zoroastrians should pray while facing the sun because it is symbolic of divine light.
When Zoroastrians turn seven they have a Navjote, or an initiation ceremony. During the initiation children receive a shirt, called a sudreh, and a cord, called a kusti. By this time children should already know the daily prayers and should engage in the ceremony rituals.
Zoroastrian weddings have two stages. The two stages are the signing of the marriage contract and a service of feast and celebration that lasts between three and seven days. Both the bride and the groom dress in white to show purity.
Zoroastrians are world known for their ritual of “laying out the dead.” They believe that once someone stops breathing the body becomes impure because death is a work of evil. They do not believe in contaminating the world with dead bodies. Instead, Zoroastrians lay out the body in a tower called dokhma, which is translated as “Tower of Silence.” The bodies are then exposed to the sun and eaten by birds.