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  • Writer's pictureEgytian Priestess

Ahura Mazda: Zoroastrian Creator Deity and the Threefold Path of Asha

Ahura Mazda is the principal creator deity in Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism is a pantheist religion with a single great god but also various lesser divinities. Ahura Mazda is the creator and also represents supreme good.

Humankind exists to participate in a great battle between good and evil. As such, Zoroastrianism encourages participation in the battle through active good works without expecting anything in return.

Zoroastrian beliefs include absolute respect for nature. Water is considered the source of all spiritual wisdom, and fire is a conduit through which spiritual wisdom and insight can be achieved. Traditional Zoroastrian worship took place in Fire Temples.

Symbol of Zoroastrianism
Symbol of Zoroastrianism

Origins of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism emerged in the part of the world that is currently known as Iran. It emerged within a culture that practiced a polytheistic Pan-Indo-Iranian religion which may have resembled ancient Hinduism. But in the first millennium BC, a young man named Zoroaster received a vision from the god Ahura Mazda and started preaching the tenants of Zoroastrianism.

But this seemingly new religion may have been drawing on existing n0n-mainstream belief. Archaeologists believe that they have found the remains of a Fire Temple, the type of temple used for Zoroastrianism, at Gonur Tepe in Turkmenistan dating to the 2nd millennium BCE.

The Zoroastrian religion became the principal religion of the Persian Empire in the 6th century BC. King Cyrus the Great of the Persian Empire was a Zoroastrian and led according to its principles. He conquered Babylonia in 539 CE and let the Jews who had been imprisoned there for decades return home to Jerusalem. It is thought that they took Zoroastrian ideas with them, which influenced Jewish beliefs.

Zoroastrianism continued to be the principal religion in the region under the Achaemenid Empire and the Parthians. But from around 600 CE, the Muslim religion spread and dominated, and Zoroastrians were persecuted at various times. Nevertheless, the Zoroastrianism still survives, with around 200,000 followers of the Zoroastrian tradition around the world today.

Zoroastrian Cosmology

According to the Zoroastrian belief system, also known as Mazdayasna, the universe was created by the sentient and intelligent deity Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom (though he is also known by 101 names). He is the source of the creative and life-sustaining force that holds the universe together.

Ahura Mazda rules over both the getig, which is the visible material realm, and the menog, which is the invisible spiritual and mental realm. He does this with the help of seven Amesha Spentas. These lesser divinities are kind of like angels and emanate from Ahura Mazda. They are:

  • Spenta Mainyu - creative spirit (masculine)

  • Manah - good purpose (masculine)

  • Asa - truth and righteousness (masculine)

  • Xsathra - desirable dominion (masculine)

  • Armaiti - devotion (feminine)

  • Haurvatat - wholeness (feminine)

  • Ameretat - immortality (feminine)

Followers of Zoroastrianism are encouraged to try and incorporate the qualities of the Amesha Spentas of Ahura Mazda into themselves.

Existing deities worshipped in the area were rationalized as lesser divinities, known as Ahuras and Daevas. There are also various Yazatas, which are considered the hypostasis (the underlying fundamental substance) of the various moral and physical elements of creation. For example, the Yazata Arevdi Sura Anahita is a divinity of running water. When Angra Mainyu blocks its flow, Tishtrya, the Yazata of rain, can gather up the water and spread it over the world.

The Yazata considered most worthy of worship is Mithra, who is the embodiment of justice and the sun. Mithra is often invoked in prayers for protection.

Choose the parts of yourself that you are trying to work on and invoke the relevant Yazata as part of your ritual practice.

Angra Mainyu

While there is no evil being in the universe equivalent in power to Ahura Mazda, evil exists. It is born from Aka Manah, which means evil thought. This creates Angra Mainyu, also known as Ahriman, which is the destructive spirit. As a result, Ahura Mazda, and the lesser divinities that emanate from him, are locked in an extended battle with Angra Mainyu and the powers of darkness.

In early Zoroastrian texts, Angra Mainyu seems to be on a level with the Amesha Spentas but is considered negative rather than positive. Over time, he seems to have become more powerful and ominous until he is almost an opponent to Ahura Mazda, almost like Lucifer is to the biblical god.

In a spin-off of Zoroastrianism, known as Zurvanism, the creator is an androgynous deity called Zurvan, and he has twin sons, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, who are opposites that embody good and evil, and balance in the world. In fact, when Zurvan learned that he would have twins, he decreed that the firstborn would rule creation while they were still in his womb. Hearing this, Angra Mainyu cuts his way out of the womb to emerge first. This suggests that he chose and actively pursued an evil purpose. Consequently, Zurvan must give Angra Mainyu rulership, but he limits it to a period of 9,000 years, after which Ahura Mazda will take over for eternity.

Cleanse your space before starting rituals to banish Angra Mainyu and any energy infected by Druj.

Zurvan the creator
Zurvan the creator

Good vs Evil

According to Zoroastrianism, all human souls, urvan, are part of the greater higher spirit, fravashi. To be born, they break away from this and incarnate in the mortal world where they exercise their free will to join the fight between good and evil. After this brief period of participation in the battle, four days after death, a soul returns to the collective higher soul.

With every action, a Zoroastrian feeds either Ashu, truth and cosmic order, or Druj, falsehood and deceit. Consequently, men and women (who are viewed as equal) must choose their actions wisely to actively support either Ahura Mazda or Angra Mainyu. People who do bad things are often described as attacked by druj, but it is their responsibility to actively change their behavior to return to the path of ashu.

The ideal way to support the greater good is to follow the Threefold Path of Asha. This combines good thoughts (Humata), good words (Huxta), and good deeds (Huvarshta). Actively completing good deeds through acts of charity, without expecting anything in return, is essential. So is the respect for spiritual duty and equality, but extreme spirituality, such as asceticism, is discouraged.

The ultimate goal is to become a master of Asha, known as an Asharan, which is the ultimate soldier in the fight between good and evil. This closely mirrors Buddhist ideas of reaching enlightenment.

Another important tenant of Zoroastrianism is the veneration of nature, which is the physical manifestation of Asha. For example, corpses are considered corrupted by druj and need to be disposed of in a way that will minimize damage to the earth. This is why, where possible, Zoroastrians practice sky burials, which involve exposing the body to be picked by carrion birds rather than letting them decay in the earth. These are conducted at Dakhma, which are also called Temples of Silence.

When good finally overcomes evil, as it inevitably will, there will be a cosmic reordering known as the Frashokereti, in which linear time will no longer exist and all souls, living and deceased, will be reunited in Kshatra Vairya.

Some later Zoroastrian texts suggest that this final reordering will be brought about by a messiah known as Saoshyant, but there is reason to believe that this was not part of the original teachings of Zoroaster.

Always consecrate your space and ensure it is free of corrupting elements before invoking Ahura Mazda.

Ancient Persian depiction of Zoroastrian good deeds
Ancient Persian depiction of Zoroastrian good deeds

Fire Temples

While Zoroastrianism respects all the elements of nature, Water (Aban) and Fire (Atar) are the most important. Water is considered to be the source of all spiritual knowledge, and fire is a conduit that allows one to access and learn that knowledge. All Zoroastrian rituals and meditations are conducted in the presence of fire.

In ancient times, Zoroastrian rituals appear to have been conducted in the open air, but soon they were replaced by Fire Temples and Fire Priests. Fire Temples always contained a burning flame, but also a clean pool of water used for purification.

In modern Zoroastrianism, there are three grades of fire that can be housed in a temple.

The Atash Dagda is the lowest level of fire and can be created within only a few hours. It requires the participation of two priests, who will chant the 75 verses of the Yasna. The Atash Adaran requires eight priests to consecrate and can take two to three weeks to prepare. The Atash Behram is the highest type of fire and requires gathering 16 different types of fire from 16 different sources. It requires 32 priests and can take up to a year to prepare.

Followers of Zoroastrianism can make offerings to the fire. Anything that fuels the fire is considered appropriate and bone-dry Sandalwood, which gives off a pleasant smell, is considered the best choice.

Modern followers of Zoroastrianism usually pray several times a day. Prayers mainly call upon and praise Ahura Mazda and are always conducted facing the sun, a fire, or another light source. They may carry a kusti, which is a decorative cord knotted three times to remind them of the tenants of the Threefold Path of Asha.

Include a flame and a clean bowl of water in your altar, and burn sandalwood to consecrate your space.

Representations of Fire Priests
Representations of Fire Priests

Sacred Texts and Symbols

Zoroastrianism is often described as one of the world's oldest organized religions. It pulls on a core of texts known as the Avesta, which mainly contains poems written by Zoroaster. Principal among them are the Gathas, which define his teachings, and theYasna, which are the basis of worship.

Fire is the principal symbol associated with Zoroastrianism, and the evergreen Cyrpus tree is considered the living symbol of the eternal fire of the universe.

Another common symbol is the Faravahar, which represents the way that mankind should love. It depicts an older man, indicative of wisdom, who is reaching out in front of him, suggesting giving and striving. Wings extend out from his sides and have three layers of feathers, representing the Threefold Path of Ashu. The tails extending out from the wings represent Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu, and the man is turned towards the former and away from the latter. The circl at the middle of the image represents the immortal and unending nature of the spirit.

Faravhar symbol of Zoroastrianism
Faravhar symbol of Zoroastrianism

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