The religion was founded by
Zarathushtra (Zoroaster in Greek; Zarthosht in India and Persia).
Conservative Zoroastrians assign a date of 6000 B.C. to the founding of the
religion; other followers estimate 600 B.C.. Historians and religious scholars
generally date his life sometime between 1500 and 1000 B.C. on the basis of his
style of writing.
He lived in Persia, modern day Iran. Legends say that his birth
was predicted and that attempts were made by the forces of evil to kill him as a
child. He preached a monotheism in a land which followed an aboriginal
polytheistic religion. He was attacked for his teaching, but finally won the
support of the king. Zoroastrianism became the state religion of various Persian
empires, until the 7th Century A.D..
When Arabs, followers of Islam, invaded
Persia in 650 A.D., a small number of Zoroastrians fled to India where most are
concentrated today. Those who remained behind have survived centuries of
persecution, systematic slaughter, forced conversion, heavy taxes, etc. They now
number only about 18,000 and reside chiefly in Yazd, Kernan and Tehran in what
is now Iran. The 1991 census counted 3,190 Zoroastrians in Canada. The actual
number is believed to be much higher.
The Zorastrian holy book is called the Avesta. This includes the original words of
their founder Zarathushtra, preserved in a series of five hymns, called the Gathas. The latter represent the core text
of the religion. The Gathas are abstract sacred poetry, directed towards the
worship of the One God, understanding of righteousness and cosmic order,
promotion of social justice and individual choice between good and evil. The
Gathas have a general and even universal vision.
At some later date (most scholars say many centuries later), the
remaining parts of the Avestas were written. These deal with laws of ritual and
practice, with the traditions of the faith. The Zoroastrian community is sharply
divided between those who would follow mostly (or exclusively) the teachings of
the original Gathas, and those who believe that the later traditions are
important and equally divinely inspired.
A single god Ahura Mazda
who is supreme. Communication between Himself and humans is by a number of Attributes, called Amesha Spentas or Bounteous Immortals. Within the Gathas, the original Zoroastrian sacred
text, these Immortals are sometimes described as concepts, and are sometimes
One school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between:
An all powerful God Ahura
Mazda who is the only deity worthy of being worshipped, and
An evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, who opposes Ahura Mazda.
The resulting cosmic conflict involves the entire universe,
including humanity who is required to choose which to follow. Evil, and the
Spirit of Evil, will be completely destroyed at the end of time. Dualism will
come to an end and Goodness will be all in all.
Another school of thought perceives the battle between Good
and Evil as an ethical dualism, set within the human consciousness.
Asha is a form of righteous,
all encompassing, natural law.
Legends, which are probably not those of Zarathushtra's
original teachings are:
After death, the urvan
(soul) is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. The soul is
then judged by a troika Mithra, Sraosha
and Rashnu. If the good thoughts,
words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into heaven.
Otherwise, the soul is led to hell.
The universe will go through three eras:
the present world where good and evil are mixed. People's
good works are seen as gradually transforming the world towards its
and a final state after this renovation when good and evil
will be separated.
Eventually, everything will be purified. Even the occupants
of hell will be released.
A Saoshyant (savior)
will be born of a virgin, but of the lineage of the Prophet Zoroaster who
will raise the dead and judge everyone in a final judgment.
Their worship includes prayers and symbolic ceremonies.
The rituals are conducted before a sacred fire. They regard
fire as a symbol of their God.
Zoroastrians do not generally accept converts. One has to be
born into the religion. This belief is disputed by some members.
Members are dedicated to a three-fold path, as shown in their
motto: "Good thoughts, good words, good