Index / Religions /
Iranian / Religions /
Religion with its origin in ancient Iran, which exist even in modern times.
|Zoroastrians by country
Last column: % of the population
|Other countries: 200,000
*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.
Zoroastrianism is perhaps the world's oldest continuing non-pantheistic religion. The founder of Zoroastrianism, Zarathustra, preached around 600 BCE a monotheistic religious message, much of which is found in the central collection of religious texts, Avesta.
Inside the History of Religion the teachings of Zarathustra has been used in order to explain the development of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but there has never been proven any clear examples of influence between the belief systems.
Zoroastrianism is also called Zarathustrism, Mazdaism and Parsism. Parsism is the term used today among the believers in India, the largest Zoroastrian society of today. Modern Zoroastrianism counts about 150,000 believers in India, 60,000 in Iran, and perhaps 50,000 in the rest of the world.
Rituals and practices
The cult of Zoroastrianism is focused on the battle against the evil, and the principal symbol of this is the sacred Fire. The most important place of worship is the Temple of Fire, which a fire burns as a symbol of the holiness of Ahura Mazda.
The veneration of the spirits of the dead is also important in both cult and ethics, and in the orthodox religion, believers are strongly occupied with the hereafter. The believer must beware of demons, i.e. contamination, and this is central in their consciousness and daily acts. The right behaviour is marked with having the good in mind with your thoughts, your sayings and your acts.
There are 5 daily prayers, and ablutions are performed in front of all of these.
The believer becomes religiously active from the age of 7. When a believer dies, his body is brought up to the Tower of Silence, where the corps shall be eaten by vultures, so that neither fire nor earth becomes contaminated. Still, there are graveyards for the believers in Iran, but these represent a part of the cult that is influenced by the dominant religion of the region, Islam.
The concept of God
Zoroastrianism is to some extent a monotheistic religion, in the sense that there is a supreme god, Ahura Mazda, that is central in all cult. Yet, the existence of lesser divine beings dilute this image. Even the power that opposes Ahura Mazda, the evil Ahriman may be seen as a deity of Zoroastrianism, since he is an important force in cosmos.
To the "pantheon" of Zoroastrianism (note that in the "pantheon" no power can compare to Ahura Mazda), belong the yazatas. The yazatas are elements that are venerable, like the sun, the moon, Haoma, as well as Mithra and the Amesha Spentas.
The cosmology of Zoroastrianism is one of dividing time into three periods. In the first of these, the original one, everything was perfect. In the second, the present one, evil is active. In the third and last, perfect goodness will be restored.
Human beings can with the help of Ahura Mazda reach the stage of total liberation from the worldly existence. In such a situation life becomes healthy, filled with power and dominated by bliss. And more, the influence of the evil is extinguished. When human beings reach such a stage the divine order has total influence on the world.
But the teachings of Zarathustra was more than just spiritual. He showed great interest in increased and bettered exploitation of the earth: forests should be opened, land cultivated and vermin exterminated.
The believers marry only within the extended family, but occasionally even with relatives as close as brother and sister.