Zoroastrianism (the name comes from the ancient Greek version of the name Zarathushtra - "Zoroaster"), Mazdaism or Mazdaism (from avest māzdayasna - "veneration of Mazda"), wahvi daena (from avest. Vahvī-daēnā - "good faith", "good consciousness", " good worldview ") is one of the most ancient religions of Iran, the beginning of which was laid by the revelations of the great prophet and reformer Spitama Zarathushtra.
The fundamental principle of his teaching, received, according to legend, from the great God Ahura-Mazda, is the freedom of the individual's moral choice - according to the prophet, everyone should give preference to good deeds, words, thoughts. The sacred book of Zoroastrianism - the Avesta (the most revered part of it - the Ghats - consists of 17 hymns addressed to Ahura Mazda; the authorship of these poems is attributed to Zarathushtra), the symbol is a vessel with a burning fire. Today Zoroastrians identify 9 foundations of their doctrine. Adherents of this religion believe in:
- Ahura-Mazdu (Ormuzd) - the all-good and united creator of the spiritual and physical worlds. He is opposed by Angra-Mainya (Ahriman, Ahriman) - the destroyer of worlds and people's consciousness;
- Zarathushtra, who is positioned as the only prophet of Ahura Mazda. It was he who brought good faith into the world;
- Minu ("spiritual world"), as well as two opposing spirits of Good and Evil. A person must make a choice - to which of these spirits to join. His further fate in the physical and spiritual world will depend on this;
- Artu (Ashu) - truth, the law of universal harmony and righteousness, its antipode - Druj (lie, destruction);
- Daenu ("conscience"), temple ("mind"), which are the basis of human essence, and enable each individual to distinguish between good and evil;
- 7 Amesha-Spents, hypostases of Ahura-Mazda, also personifying 7 stages of evolution of human personality;
- Dadoahesh and Ashudad ("mutual assistance and support");
- natural elements (fire, water, wind, earth, plants, animals);
- Frashkard (Frasho-kereti - "Making the world perfect") - the victory of good over evil, the transformation of the world.
The birthplace of Zoroastrianism and Zarathushtra is Bactria. Neither the ancients (already in the 5th-4th centuries BC) nor modern authors have a common opinion about the birthplace of Zarathushtra. Some argue that he was born in the vicinity of Balkh (Bactria, now Afghanistan), others call the birthplace of the prophet Rades (a suburb of modern Tigeran) or Arinam Vayj (Khorezm). Medieval Muslim historians (Qazvini, Al-Biruni, etc.) believed that Zarathushtra was born in the area called Atropatena (the territory of the Iranian province of Azerbaijan).
Some modern researchers (for example, Mary Boyce, an Iranian scientist from Britain, and Lokamanya Bal Gandgahar Tilak, an Indian who conducted a historical and philological study of the Rig Veda) believe that the birthplace of Zarathushtra is the Sintashta settlement (Russia, Chelyabinsk region). And, finally, in the Ghats, you can read that Zarathushtra, born on the territory of the Turanians (nomadic peoples inhabiting Eastern Iran), was not understood and accepted by his compatriots, and fled to Iran, where he met his future patron, Prince Kavi-Vishtaspa.
There are also discussions about where Zoroastrianism originated. At first, researchers believed that the birthplace of Zoroastrianism was Bactria, and the Avestan language was just one of the Bactrian dialects. However, modern linguists have proved that the Avestan and Old Bactrian languages, although they originate from the common Iranian, but the ways of their development are different. And Bactria (Bakhdi) itself is not mentioned so often in the Avesta, although it is positioned as the residence of the patron saint of Zarathushtra, Prince Kavi-Vishtaspa (Gushtaspa).
In some legends, the center of the origin of Zoroastrianism is called Media (an ancient state located in the western part of Iran), where, according to historians, a large Zoroastrian center was actually founded, competing in importance with the Bactrian one. There was also an influential proponent of Zoroastrianism in Media - the king Vishtaspa, however, his identification with Kavi-Vishtaspa, the patron saint of Zarathushtra, according to researchers, is groundless.
The name Zarathushtra is translated as "Golden Star". The ancient Greeks really connected the name of the founder of Zoroastrianism with the word "aster" (gr. Asteros - "star"), pronouncing it as "Zoroaster". But this is just one of the options for interpreting the meaning of the name of the great preacher-reformer. For example, according to the famous orientalist of the XVIII century. Abraham Hyacinth Anquetil-Duperron, the name Zarathushtra means "Golden Sirius (Tishtr)".
Modern researchers believe that the name "Zarathushtra" is Iranian. Moreover, only the meaning of the second part of the name (-ushtra, from Tajik shtur - “camel”) is beyond doubt. Opinions differ regarding the interpretation of the first part: the options are “old”, “yellow”, “possessing”, “driver”. Most often, the name Zarathushtra is translated as "the owner of an old camel" and is positioned as a name-talisman against evil forces.
Zarathushtra was born 258 years before the start of the conquest campaign of Alexander the Great. There is indeed a mention of this in Zoroastrianism, however, the dictum “the year of Zarathushtra came 258 years before Zulkarnain Iskandar (Alexander the Great)” can be interpreted in different ways. First, it remains unclear whether we are talking here about a birth, an outstanding act (for example, the "year of faith" - the first conversation with Ahura Mazda) or the death of a great preacher. Secondly, the term “year of Alexander” can mean different dates: the birth of the great commander (356 BC); the time of the death of Darius III and the conquest of Iran by the Macedonian (respectively, the "year of Zarathushtra" is also shifted in time - 330 BC). Some Zoroastrian authors define the period of Zarathushtra's life as follows: 660 - 583 BC. BC. The ancient Greeks adhered to other views, claiming that the "year of Zarathushtra" came 6,000 years before the death of Plato (that is, about 6347 BC).
There is also no consensus among modern researchers on this issue. Some believe that, according to the results of the linguistic analysis of the Gat (one of the parts of the Avesta), the life and activity of Zarathushtra is XII-X centuries. e. Others, on the contrary, argue that the preacher lived in the 300s. (during the reign of Darius III). Still others attribute the life of Zarathushtra to the period that preceded the emergence of the Achaemenid empire (the dynasty of ancient Persian kings who ruled from 558 to 330 AD). Today, Zoroastrians believe that the "Zoroastrian religious era" began in 1738 - in the "year of faith" of Zarathushtra (according to the calculations of Zabi Behruz, an astronomer and linguist from Iran).
Zarathushtra from childhood had a great influence on the minds of people around him, and had many followers. Information of this kind abounds in legends and traditions, of which a great many were composed about the life and work of the great prophet and reformer. According to one of them, at birth he laughed, not cried, and his laughter killed 2,000 demons. In other legends, you can find references to many miracles that happened while Zarathushtra was a child (only in this way could divine powers protect the future preacher from constant attacks of demons).
But neither in childhood, nor in Zarathushtra's youth, the son of Spitam, who belonged to a poor priestly family, did not exert much influence on the people around him, and his first sermons were not noted in any way by society. And the followers, imbued with new ideas, were very few at first. The turning point was the acquaintance with the prince Kavi-Vishtaspa, who accepted the teachings of Zarathushtra, and with all his might contributed to the spread of new ideas in society.
Initially, Zarathushtra's sermons had a deep philosophical meaning. No, the originally mentioned religious reform of Zarathushtra had a pronounced social content. His sermons met the needs of the society of those times: to ensure a peaceful life for a sedentary people engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture. It was possible to accomplish this by gaining unity under the leadership of a strong and authoritative power (Hishatra), which would make it possible to successfully repel the raids of hostile tribes, "adherents of Lie" (Drujwants) and hope for the reign of Peace (Armayti) and Truth (Asha). And only a little later Zarathushtra's sermons were filled with deep philosophical meaning, calling for monotheism (veneration of Ahura Mazda) and presenting the constant struggle with hostile tribes as a reflection of the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, Truth and Lies.
In the religion of the Iranian tribes from ancient times, only asuras were revered. This is not true. Researchers argue that the era of Zoroastrianism was preceded by polytheistic religious beliefs, transformed from the worship of the elements and forces of nature, and originated in the period of Indo-European community. There was a distinction between asuras (avest. Ahurs) and devas (daivas), but there was no consensus as to which of the aforementioned creatures displays a good disposition, and which is very spiteful.
In one group of tribes, the asuras were considered benefactors, while their neighbors could idolize the devas, and vice versa. And sometimes people treated both of them with equal respect (which is reflected, for example, in the early Vedas). In the later period of the Indo-Iranian community, when the territorial delimitation of the Indian and Iranian tribes had not yet been completed, some changes appeared in this issue. Obviously, the irreconcilable enmity between neighboring tribes, who fought for the habitat, manifested itself in religious beliefs.
As a result, in the later parts of the Vedas, the devas are treated with respect, while the asuras became objects of hatred and were equated with demons. While in Zoroastrianism, the opposite process can be traced - the deification of the asuras, followed by merging into the monotheistic cult of Ahura Mazda, and the "demonization" of the devas (although, as already mentioned, in some Iranian tribes, the devas were worshiped as forces of light).
Devas in Zoroastrianism are hostile spirits. This is not entirely true. The legion of devas was formed for quite a long time, and to the host of hostile spirits (which, according to legends, at first lived in human bodies, but were expelled by Zarathushtra into the mountains, into caves and underground), the personification of vices, misfortunes and disasters were added. For example, Azi - "greed", Araska - "envy", Apaosha - "drought", Aishma (Eshm) - "licentiousness", which at first personified the raids of hostile tribes, etc.
In addition, some people were equated with the devas, for example, chad (yatu) - evil sorcerers, carapans and kavii - representatives of the nobility and the priestly class who showed hostility towards the Zoroastrians; satars - evil rulers, ashemaugs - teaching evil, drujwants - gentiles. The detachment of evil forces also included the harmful representatives of the animal kingdom (snakes, toads, insects, etc.), calling them hrafstra.
Zoroastrians worship many deities. In the sermons of Zarathushtra, only one God was mentioned - Ahura-Mazda, who was opposed by the devas (daivas), who patronized the enemies and themselves showed hostility towards people and the great creative deity. In addition, 6 Amesha-Spenta are distinguished (Vohu-Mana - "Brahman, Good Thought", Asha-Vakhishta - "The Best Truth", Khshatra-Vairya - "The Chosen Power", Spenta-Armaiti - "Holy Piety", Haurvatat - " Well-being, Integrity ", Ameretat (" Immortality ")). However, they were not separate essences-deities, but manifestations-hypostases of the same Ahura-Mazda, constituting one whole with him.
But in the process of spreading, the religious views of the great prophet-reformer were assimilated with the worldview of the Iranian tribes, and underwent some changes. Six Amesha-Spanta from abstract hypostases of the supreme Deity transformed into completely independent divine essences, and each acquired its own role (and in some areas - and new names). For example, Vohu-Mana (in Middle Persian - Bachman) became the patron saint of cattle, Asha-Vakhishta (Artvakhshit) ruled over fire, Khshatra-Varya (Shahrevar) ruled over metals, and Spenta-Armayti (Spandarmat) ruled over the earth. Harvat (Khurdad) protects water, Amerat (Amerdad) - takes plants under his protection.
They also worship Rashna - the god of justice, Atar - the god of fire, etc. The pantheon was also filled with deities, rejected in due time by Zarathushtra. Even the devas (for example, the patron of the treaties Mithra or Mihr, later associated with the sun, Indra, etc.), renamed yazata ("those who should be honored"), become objects of worship. Changes also occur in the camp of evil forces - Ahriman (Ahriman, Angra-Manyu - "Evil Spirit") stands out, the personification of evil, the original enemy of Ahura-Mazda.
Zoroastrianism is a religion of fire worshipers. In Zoroastrian temples, there is indeed a mandatory burning on the atashdan (altar) Varahram ("Victorious") - a sacrificial fire, which, in some cases, is maintained for hundreds, or even thousands of years. However, worship is given not only to the fire of the Spanisht ("Holy One"), or the altar.
Zoroastrians position any light as a visible manifestation of God in the world of forms. Therefore, turning to Ahura-Mazda, believers try to turn their face to the source of light, which can be not only a ritual bonfire, but also the light of the sun. In addition, according to the Zoroastrians, fire can take many different forms. For example, in front of Ahura-Mazda, the heavenly fire Berezasavang ("Highly Rescue") burns. In the bodies of people and animals, Vokhufriyan (“Friendly Fire”) is hidden, in plants - Urvazisht (“The Most Pleasant”), in lightning - Vazish (“The Most Effective”).
The Zoroastrians brought bloody human sacrifices to the gods. Completely erroneous opinion. In pre-Zoroastrian times on the territory of Persia, the priests of the pagan gods (for example, Moloch, whose cult was spread by the Assyrian conquerors) really sacrificed not only animals and adults, but also children. According to legend, this custom was introduced by Zahhak, the dragon king. Through the fault of an evil spirit, Zahhak, ascending to the throne, acquired two snakes that settled on his shoulders and took away everything that the ruler touched. And only by feeding the human brain to the insatiable creatures, Zahhak received a break for a while.
Zarathushtra, in his sermons, had a negative attitude to pagan rituals, in particular, to bloody human sacrifices and the use of soma (haoma) - a drug used by the priests to enter a state of religious ecstasy. As a sacrifice, the Zoroastrians used an unleavened flat cake called draunach ("share"), as well as maizda - various types of food (in ancient times - meat food, nowadays - fruits).
However, over time, ritual libations are resumed, and Zarathushtra himself is credited with the ability to converse with Haoma (a deified drink).
In some countries that fell under the rule of the Persians, the pagan customs of sacrifices are preserved, which acquired a different meaning under the influence of the new religion. For example, in Babylon, the ancient custom of the ritual execution of a "substitute" king (when at a certain period of time a criminal sentenced to death was placed in the place of the ruler, who received all royal rights and at the end of the reign with honors deprived of life; instead of him the "resurrected" ruler ascended to the throne again ) has acquired a new meaning. Now in this ritual they saw a symbol of the cycle of life, renewal and resurrection, as well as the victory of Good over Evil.
Zoroastrianism prescribes believers to eat only strictly certain types of food and to practice cleansing fasting. Meat of any ungulates, fish and other animal products are not prohibited. There are no prohibitions on the use of wine, although believers are encouraged to observe moderation in food and intoxicating drinks. But long-term fasting and fasting in this religion is prohibited. Only 4 days are allocated per year, when Zoroastrians are obliged to give up meat food.
The burial rites of the Zoroastrians are very peculiar. The content of the burial rites of the Zoroastrians is explained by their religious outlook. According to the followers of the teachings of Zarathushtra, the contact of earth, water and fire with a dead body (full of filth with matter, a symbol of Ahriman's short-term victory) can desecrate them for a long time. For example, a piece of land on which a person or animal died is not sown or irrigated for a year, and a fire cannot be lit in the deceased's house for several days (9 - in winter, 30 - in summer).
The bodies of the deceased were "exposed"; placed on stony high places or on dakhma - specially built "towers of silence". They also tied them (so that animals and birds could not accidentally desecrate water or plants by dragging pieces of flesh and bone away from the "burial place"). Subsequently, the bones were collected and placed in an ossuary - asta-dana, or in a certain place in the dakhma, intended for these purposes.
Living people were also defiled by contact with a corpse, and for the rest of their lives. Porters (at least two, in extreme cases - a man and a dog; it was strictly forbidden to move the corpse alone), who were engaged in carrying corpses to burial places, were called risto-porridge, and throughout their life they had to keep 30 steps from fire and water, and 3 steps from the rest of the people.