This article was accepted for publication in Eye on the Web internet magazine before it ceased publication. All rights available.
By Kathy Fisher
"Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds" Do good and avoid evil ... good leads to wholeness and immortality; evil makes one suffer and grope in darkness. Sound familiar? Well, although it could be the guiding principal of just about any modern religion, it is in fact the premis of Zoroastrianism. Add some lifestyle laws and ritual practices, and you have one of the oldest religions in the world.
Zoroastrianism (also called Zarathustrianism) is based on the teachings of a Persian sage/prophet, Spenta Zarathustra (Greek form of his name is Zoroaster). Nobody quite knows when he lived, but theories range from 9000 BC to 600 BC. He was believed to be a messenger to mankind, directly from God.
Zoroastrianism abandoned the popular concept of many gods and established one of the first monotheistic (one God) religions. It is based on two predominant spirits: Ahura-Mazda (also known as Ormazd), the spirit of light and good, the true God, the Wise Lord; and Ahrulman, the spirit of evil and darkness, the Evil Spirit. Each side has armies of warriors, angels on the good and demons on the bad. Eventually, the Zoroastrian prophesies contend, Good will triumph over Evil on Judgment Day.
Two principles form the base of Zoroastrian ethics: maintain a good life and struggle against evil. Included is the belief that reward or punishment are earned after death according to one's deeds in life. The basic philosophy is 'Good Thoughts, Good Works, and Good Deeds.' Contained is an acceptance of all faiths and races as well as respect for the earthly environment.
A central feature of Zoroastrianism is the sacred fire. It is kept burning in the temples, and often the homes, fed with fragrant sandalwood and cedar. Many Zoroastrian websites feature the fire, sometimes animated to appear like flickering flames. Fire is considered the great purifier, the sustainer of life, and the nature of the sun.
Another feature is the required clothing (sudreh-kusti, a white shirt and woolen tube or sash or cord). Fastening of the kusti is part of the basic daily prayers.
Zarathustra's connection directly to Zoroastrianism is mainly through his songs, called Gathas (Hymns of Zarathustra). Written in an ancient Avestan dialect similar to Vedic Sanskrit, they and other scriptures are contained in Zoroastrianism's sacred book called the Avesta or Zend-Avesta. Although the Gathas came from Zoroaster himself, the remainder of the Avesta was handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The sacred literature was finally written down centuries later and contains among other things, daily prayers which must be recited in the Avestan sacred language.
Centuries after Zarathustra's death, the Muslims overtook Persia slaying many, and changing the country's name to Iran. The remaining Zoroastrians fled to India, mainly near Bombay, where they were known as Parsis or Parsees (related to the word Persia). The Parsis became among the wealthiest and best-educated groups in India, worshiping at five temples.
The effective Zoroastrian practice of non-intermarriage and non-conversion preserved their religious purity through many centuries. However, it also is contributing to a decrease in their numbers. Today it is estimated that there are only 120,000 - 140,000 practicing Zoroastrians in the world, the majority (about 100,000) in India, the remainder in mostly Iran and North America.
AVESTA -- Zoroastrian Archives (http://www.avesta.org/) The complete text of the most ancient scriptures of Zoroastrianism, as well as other sacred literature. Also includes information about the Avestan language, Zoroastrian millenium prophecies, rituals, and many related links.
FEZANA Home (http://www.fezana.org/) Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America. Information about and from FEZANA including journal, events, and organizational background.
Zoroasterism (http://marlowe.wimsey.com/~rshand/streams/gnosis/zoroaster.html) Single page of background information with links to many other related sites.
Information About Zoroastrianism (http://coulomb.ecn.purdue.edu/~bulsara/ZOROASTRIAN/zoroastrian.html) Zoroastrianism Page. Includes a variety of background information, including defintions, articles, a Zoroastrian Image Page, links to related sites, and mailing list.
The Zarathushtrian Assembly Home Page (http://www.zoroastrian.org/) Lots of background information including 'Salient Points,' prayers, a newsletter and FAQ page.
World of Traditional Zoroastrianism (http://www.zoroastrianism.com/) Tenets of the Religion page has background information about ancient as well as modern Zoroastrianism. Includes articles, rituals, and other Zoroastrian sites. Site also includes a Zoroastrian religious novel, and a guide to Zoroastrian matrimonial rites.
Zoroastrianism (http://www.myna.com/~pervez/zoro.htm) Contains history, beliefs, articles/essays, and links to other Zoroastrian pages.
Zarathushtra (http://www.zarathushtra.com/) Loads of information about traditional and modern Zoroastrianism/Zarathyrushtrianism. Includes a cyber temple, articles, original religious writings and documents, a discussion group, guest book, links to related sites, and search engine.
California Zoroastrian Center (http://pricecut.com/czc/) Local church with events calendar and other information.
The World Zoroastrian Organisation (http://www.w-z-o.org/) London-based registered charity offers pages about history, local events, recent news, and how to contact or join the group. Also has annual report, guestbook, and links to other related sites.
Zoroastrian Business Network (http://www.zbnet.com/) The mission of this site is 'To promote networking among Zoroastrian businesses & professionals.' Included are employment opportunities, directories (business & professional, employees, mentors, venture capital, and project), and information (news, immigration, other). Site also includes a search engine.
Zoroastrian Education and Research Society (http://WWW.ZERS.ORG/) Non-profit organization with the sole aim of organizing scholarly conferences on Zoroastrian topics. Articles and conference information at site.
ALLFaiths Press Zoroastrianism (http://www.interinc.com/Allfaiths/Zoroastrian/) Easy to read page summing up the major Zoroastrian beliefs. Includes related links.
<--- return to magazine articles page