23.05.2018 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Zoroastrianism is an ancient pre-Islamic monotheistic Iranian religion (“Good Faith honoring the Wise”) that preaches the free moral choice of good deeds, thoughts and words.

It was founded by the reformer prophet Zoroaster (Zaratustra) in the 6th or 7th centuries BC (or possibly even earlier). Its modern variants survived until the 20th century in isolated areas of Iran and are also professed in some parts of India (especially in Bombay) by descendants of Iranian immigrants known as Parsis. For this reason, the religion of India is also known as Parsism.


Zoroastrianism. Essence and description

Zoroastrianism is a dogmatic religion which has a developed system and nine basics, according to which Zoroastrians believe. These are:

  1. the concept of the good creator (Ahura Mazda) as in “The Wise Lord.”
  2. the belief that the only prophet of Ahura Mazda is Zoroaster, the one who directed humanity on the path of purity and righteousness.
  3. the fact that there are good and evil spirits, as well as the spiritual world.
  4. the original Universal Law (Asha or Artu) which exists as a source of righteousness and harmony.
  5. each person can distinguish good from evil, thanks to faith, conscience (daena) and mind (khratu).
  6. the fact that every individual goes through seven stages of development and revelation (the Amesha Spenta).
  7. the fact that there are good people in the world, and they will always help those in need, who can count upon them (Dadodahesh and Ashudad).
  8. the existence of the sanctity of the creations of Ahura Mazda (fire, water, wind, earth, plants and livestock) and the need to take care of them.
  9. the concept of the exile of evil and the miraculous transformation of existence (Frasho Kereti or Fraskard), thanks to righteous people.

In European parts of the world, Zoroastrianism is called Mazdaism. This name is based on the name of God and is considered obsolete, although it is very similar to the very name of the Zoroastrian faith—Mazdayasna (Veneration of Mazda). Other names of Zoroastrianism are based on the word “good” (Good worldview, Good faith, Good consciousness) and define the name of adherents as faithful (Behdin).

Zoroastrianism prescribes “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” In the traditions of the religion, there are specific holidays and rituals. Adherents undergo a rite of initiation, which is called “navjote.” Zoroastrians attach special importance to fire, considering it a symbol of morality and purity, as well as a source of light and warmth.

The communities of Zoroastrians are called Andjomans. Actively participating in the life of the community is considered a daily duty of every Zoroastrian, as well as the recitation of a five-fold prayer (gahi). It is recommended to read it individually or collectively in the temples of fire.

In this religion, there are no prohibitions on food. The basic rule is that food should be useful. Careful treatment of animals is one of the main concepts. Thus, one of the spiritual creations of Zoroaster—Vohu Mana—patronizes the cattle, and the other five emanations are fire, metal, earth, water, plants and man.

The basic ideas preached by zoroastrianism

Followers believe that their religion was discovered by the Supreme God named Ahura Mazda, or “The Wise Lord,” by way of a priest named Zaratustra (or Zoroaster, as the Greeks called him). Central to Zoroastrianism is the deep separation between good and evil, and the idea that the world was created by God, Ahura Mazda, so that the two forces could interact and evil could be eradicated. It is the belief in spiritual life, which determines earthly choices to bring about the final defeat of evil at the end of time, and the restoration of the world to its once perfect state.

History of zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest known religions in the world, rooted in the distant past.

The emergence of zoroastrianism

The emergence of Zoroastrianism is associated with the name of Zaratustra, whose period of life is the subject of controversy for scientists. Possibly it was around 754 BC. Nevertheless, scientists highlight six main periods of existence of Zoroastrianism:

  1. The Archaic period (until 558 BC): when the idea of Zaratustra and Zoroastrianism existed only orally.
  2. The Achaemenid Period (558-330 BC): this was the advent of written evidence of Zoroastrianism during the creation of the Persian Empire and the reign of the Achaemenid dynasty.
  3. The Hellenistic and Parthian periods (330 BC – 226 AD): this was when Buddhism superseded Zoroastrianism, and the Achaemenid Empire fell.
  4. The Sasanian Period (226-652 AD): Zoroastrianism became reborn, centralized churches emerged, and the fight against heresies took place.
  5. The Islamic Conquest (652 AD – mid-20th century): illustrated by the persecution of the followers of Zoroastrianism and the decline of the religion in Persia.
  6. The Modern period (from the mid-20th century to the present): Iranian Zoroastrians immigrated to the United States, Europe and Australia and the diaspora established a connection with the centers of Zoroastrianism in Iran and India.

Movements of zoroastrianism

The religion has many denominations that are mostly considered heretical:

  • Zurvanism, common in Sassanid Iran, it reveres the single supreme deity Zurvan as the embodiment of infinite space and time
  • Mithraism, representing syncretic teaching
  • Manichaeism, having Christian roots
  • the revolutionary teaching of Mazdakism

The location of modern zoroastrianism

Today, about 100,000 Zoroastrians live around the world. Seventy percent of them live in India and are called Parsis. The genuine communities of the Zoroastrians still exist in Iran, where they are called herbs. Thanks to migration, Zoroastrians appeared in the USA, Western Europe, CIS countries and Russia. There is even a “Zoroastrian Community” in St. Petersburg, the members of which call their faith “godliness.”  

Symbol of zoroastrianism

The main symbol of Zoroastrianism is a white shirt (cedre), sewn from a single piece of cotton fabric with nine seams, which has a special pocket — a “saving box” for good deeds. It symbolizes the protection of the soul from temptation and evil. The Koshti is a belt woven with 72 wool threads, being hollow inside. It is wrapped around the waist three times and tied with four knots before any important deed or prayer. It is believed that this is how a person communicates with the rest of the community and receives his/her share of good deeds from them.

The next symbol — fire and atashdan—is an altar where Zoroastrians support the sacred fire. This is either movable (in the form of a vessel) or stationary (in the form of a platform).

Faravahar is another symbol of faith found on many cave inscriptions. It is the image of a man depicted in a winged circle.

Symbol of zoroastrianism

Zoroastrians attach particular importance to colors. White and green are especially symbolic. White symbolizes purity and grace, and green symbolizes prosperity and rebirth.

Zoroastrianism is known for its “calendar sects”, with a bias in mysticism. Kadimi, Shahinshahi, Fasli and Ilm-e-Shnum are prime examples of such movements. There are also apparent reformers who advocate the abolition of ancient rites and rules.

Today, Zoroastrianism is a bright, vibrant religion, and its doctrines live in other religions around the world and are at the heart of many civilized societies. Zoroastrians believe that we can change the world for the better. And that hope is always with us until the end of the ages.