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What do Emperor Xerxes, Freddie Mercury, and Ireland's richest citizen, Pallonji Mistry, have in common?
All of them are Zoroastrians: the ancient religion of Iran.
This is one of the oldest ongoing religions and altered the course of human history by influencing Judaism, Christanity, Islam, and Greek philosophy.
But today it only has a fraction of the millions of followers it once had.
So what is Zoroastrianism, what do Zoroastrians believe, and where do otters fit into it all of this?
Well, let's find out.
Zoroastrianism was born in ancient Iran at least 3,500 years ago.
It all began around 1,500 BCE, give or take a few centuries, with the Prophet Zarathustra or Zoroaster as the ancient Greeks called him and so English speakers do, too.
While we call the religion Zoroastrianism, actual Zoroastrians tend to call it Mazdayasna, meaning "Worshipper of Mazda".
No not that Mazda, but it was named after the Mazda that I'm going to explain shortly.
Zoroastrianism was the chief religion of Iran for around 1,000 years.
Between the 6th century BCE and the 10th century CE, it was the state religion of 3 huge Iranian empires.
The Achaemenid Empire, of "300" fame, along with the Parthian and Sasanian empires.
Back then, the priests of Zoroastrianism were known as Magi.
The ancient Greeks thought the Magi had secret magical knowledge, since they understood complex astronomy.
This led to the English words "magic","mage" and "magician".
The Magi would even show up in the Bible, according to the Gospel of Matthew, 3 Zoroastrian Magi came to visit the baby Jesus.
These 3 wise men, as they are known in English, are still celebrated by Christians around the world on January 6th.
Eventually the Sassanian Empire would fall to the Muslim Arabs during their invasion of Iran in the 7th century CE, which started the decline and persecution of Zoroastrians in Iran.
Following this in the 10th century, some Iranian Zoroastrians fled to India, forming the Parsi community, named after where they came from, which the Indians called Persia.
This once refugee community now forms the largest group of Zoroastrians anywhere on Earth.
And they've settled in quite well.
One of Indian's largest businesses, Tata Group, was founded by Zoroastrians.
And Parsis played a massive role in winning Indian independence from Britain.
Zoroastrians can now be found all over the world.
Historically they've emigrated to areas such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and parts of Africa such as the island of Zanzibar, where Freddie Mercury's Parsi parents would later emigrate from to the UK.
In the last 100 years, small Zoroastrian populations have moved to the UK, US, Australia, and Canada.
Today there are about 200,000 Zoroastrians left.
About 60,000 live in India, while the second largest group of about 25,000 live in Iran.
With a religion being called Zoroastrianism I think maybe it's time we spoke about Zoroaster.
We don't know much about Zoroaster's life; we can't even pinpoint when he lived.
The Greeks thought he lived 6,000 years before the death of Plato, so around 6,347 BCE-ish.
While modern historians place him somewhere around 1,700-1,000 BCE.
During this time, the peoples of Iran believed in many different gods, some of which were similar to the gods of their ancient Hindu neighbours.
What we do know is that Zoroaster was the priest of the pre-Zoroastrian religion of Iran and that he was outraged by his society.
Roving bands of drunken warriors would ravage the countryside.
They pillaged, tortured, and slaughtered at will.
The common people lived in constant fear and misery while priests obsessed over obscure rituals and sacrifices that offered little guidance or hope to the suffering.
Zoroaster couldn't stand this injustice.
So, when he was 30 years old, Zoroaster went down to a river to fetch water for a ceremony.
There he received a vision from a being of pure light and goodness, Ahura Mazda, who revealed that they were the one true God.
The truth of how the universe worked was revealed to Zoroaster and he knew that it was his divine mission to spread this truth to his fellow humans.
So what are the core beliefs of Zoroastrianism? Well: 1 Ahura Mazda & Angra Mainyu.
Zoroastrians worship one uncreated, eternal God, known as Ahura Mazda, which means "Wise Lord."
Zoroaster describes Ahura Mazda as the lord of order, something completely good, loving, infinitely wise, and the creator of the world and all good things.
Ahura Mazda is supported by 6 Holy Immortals known as the Amesha Spentas.
These 6 Holy Immortals are normally compared to Arch-Angels in Christanity, if that helps you kind of figure out what their position is.
Sometimes there is a 7th spenta, called Spenta Mainyu, but maybe he is also just the Holy Spirit of Ahura Mazda? Sometimes Ahura Mazda also has a parent called Zurvan, who is Time itself, but that's considered heresy at this point.
Look, we don't have a lot of time to get into it. Honestl,y it's a very old religion.
There have been many different interpretations over the last 3,000 years. I am really just simplifying
and proving the most commonly accepted current beliefs. So keep that in mind, and as always
there is more information in the description.
Opposed to Ahura Mazda is Angra Mainyu the “destructive spirit” and his evil minions
known as daevas. Angra Mainyu is the complete polar opposite of Ahura Mazda. He is darkness,
deceit, death, and decay. He is a corrupting parasite seeking to destroy Ahura Mazda's
creation and is responsible for all negative things in the world.
Ahura Mazda is light, Angra Mainyu is darkness. Ahura Mazda is the creator, Angra Mainyu
the destroyer. Ahura Mazda created light, fire, compact Japanese vehicles, joy, humanity,
puppies probably. Angra Mainyu gave the world disease, rust and mould, darkness, and that little
piece of skin that pops up around your finger nail that hurts so much. Why Angra Mainyu, why?!
Zoroastrians think everything is a battle between these two opposites. Ahura Mazda represents
the truth, Angra Mainyu, the lie. For humans, life is a constant choice between the truth and the lie.
Which may be difficult because Angra Mainyu can be very deceiving.
Before time began, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu were separated by an infinite void. They respectively
lived in “infinite light” and “infinite darkness.”
Then, Ahura Mazda created the physical, or Getig, world. Angra Mainyu crawled into this
new world and polluted it. They made the oceans salty, they turned the good earth into desert,
killed the first human, made plants wither, and polluted fire with smoke.
We now live in a time Zoroastrians refer to as the Gumezishn, or "the mixture." Good and evil,
truth and the lie, both exist together in our world.
But Angra Mainyu's presence is temporary. They are a stain on the world rather than
a permanent fixture. Zoroastrians see the physical world as a trap that Ahura Mazda
lured Angra Mainyu into. Now trapped in the physical world Angra Mainyu can be defeated
slowly by the good thoughts, good words, and good deeds of humans working with Ahura Mazda.
2 Heaven and Hell
Zoroastrians believe that when a person dies their soul leaves their body. The soul is
then led to the Bridge of Judgement. Above this bridge lies heaven, below hell.
Here, the soul's good and bad deeds are weighed on a scale.
Depending on the balance of good to evil deeds, the soul ascends to heaven, a paradise of
infinite bliss, called the Abode of Song. Or falls down to hell, to suffer quote '"ong
age of misery, dark­ness, bad food, and the crying of woe." This is called, England—I mean, sorry, sorry
This is called Duzakh.
There is also a Medium Place for people who were neither good nor evil, where they kind of just
float and experience nothing.
Servants as well as masters can reach Paradise. People would
be judged according to how they chose to live their lives, rather than wealth or
prestige.
For Zoroastrians death represents the highest form of pollution. Death only exists because
of Angra Mainyu. Upon the death of a Zoroastrian, a priest will be called to perform a ceremony.
After which the soul of the person will no longer be considered connected to the body.
The family then says their goodbyes, without touching the body and the body will be placed
on a stone slab and carried away by special corpse bearers.
Since dead bodies are so polluting, Zoroastrians would never think to pollute any of the sacred
elements with them, those being fire, water, earth, etc. So the traditional method to
dispose of bodies, used for thousands of years, has been the Tower of Silence. Within these
open-roofed stone towers, located on top of barren hills, bodies will be laid to rest
on stone slabs as to not pollute the earth, and then eaten by vultures, normally within
a few hours. The bones are bleached in the sun and quickly disintegrate into dust.
By feeding the birds, the deceased offers up one final good deed of charity before crossing
over the bridge.
However, in the 1930s, the Iranian government banned the use of the towers and currently
towers in India are suffering from a shortage of birds due to increased urbanisation and
pollution.
Today, many Zoroastrian communities use special burial grounds or have turned to electrical
cremation or even using solar reflectors to harness the power of the sun to break down
the bodies rather than polluting fire.
3 The Apocalypse
The battle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu will continue for thousands of years. But
eventually a saviour or saoshyant will be born to a virgin mother who will lead people
against the forces of evil and bring about the end times. The Earth will be swallowed
by fire, molten metal will cover everything, the good people will pass through this molten
river while the bad people will burn and be purified.
The gates of hell will open, the souls of the damned will be released and redeemed and everyone will
live together in eternal bliss. Honestly, it all sounds pretty metal.
Angra Mainyu finally defeated by Ahura Mazda and humanity's good thoughts, words, and deeds
will be tossed back into the black abyss they crawled out of and defeated forever.
This Last Judgment slash Apocalypse is called 'frashokerti,' meaning “renewal.” As in, the renewal of
Ahura Mazda's originally perfect creation.
4 The Three G's
The most important concept in Zoroastrianism after Ahura Mazda, is Asha.
This is an ancient Avestan word and is difficult to translate. Asha is truth, wisdom, goodness,
justice, perfection, order, and progress all rolled into one word. Asha is the path of Ahura Mazda.
Zoroastrians try their best to follow the path of Asha.
To help humanity follow Asha, Ahura Mazda gave them Vohu Manah or "good mind." This allowed
humans to recognise right from wrong. "Good mind" lets us see injustice and feel that it
is unjust. Through "good mind," Ahura Mazda gave humans free will, this means a lot to
Zoroastrians because choice is extremely important to their beliefs.
From our "good mind" we can have good thoughts, and from good thoughts follow good words, and
then good deeds. Doing good thoughts, good words, and good deeds is the core of Zoroastrian
belief.
Good deeds, such as taking part in your community, supporting others through tough times, standing
up against injustice, fighting poverty, nursing the sick, and subscribing to educational YouTube
Channels all help in the battle against Angra Mainyu. This is why in India Zoroatrians are
known for their support of orphanages, shelters, and many different charities.
It was Zoroaster that said, "Happiness comes to them who bring happiness to others."
5 Fire
Zoroastrians see fire as the sacred symbol of Ahura Mazda. It is considered to be pure
and represents the truth. Inside Zoroastrian Fire Temples, their priests conduct all rituals
in front of fire because it shows the presence of Ahura Mazda. But the fire is never actually
worshipped itself. This is very important, Zoroastrians do not worship fire! Zoroastrianism
also isn't a congressional religion, most worship is done at home. And Zoroastrians tend
to only go to Fire Temples only during the 7 Holy Days or festivals they have each year.
The most sacred fires in Zoroastrianism, need to be made up of fire from 16 different sources,
one of which needs to be ignited by lighting! 6 The Avesta
The Avesta is the holy book of the Zoroastrians and one of the world's oldest scriptures.
It is written in an ancient language known as Avestan which was the language spoken by
Zoroaster roughly 3,500 years ago.
The Avesta contains hymns from Zoroaster himself known as 'Gathas.' These 17 Gathas are deeply
important to Zoroastrians and most Zoroastrian belief is based on them. Due to the violence
Zoroastrians have suffered throughout history only a fraction of the Avesta survives today.
For example, Zoroastrians believe that when Alexander The Great conquered the Achaemenid
Empire, he burned the royal Palace at Persepolis and its library to the ground. Destroying
a complete copy of the Avesta, written in gold on 12,000 goatskins. This might be why
he isn't called Alexander the Great in Iran, but rather Alexander The Accursed.
Even more of the Avesta was lost during the Arab, Turkic and Mongol invasions of Iran.
Zoroastrians really couldn't catch a break there for a while.
You can read the Avesta online for free and a lot of it is extremely beautiful and thought-provoking,
but if you're a dunce like me, you'll love this section about how hedgehogs
known as “the dog with the prickly back” serve Ahura Mazda and turtles have sided with
Angra Mainyu or the following chapter, “Atoning for the murder of a water-dog,” which is
about how you'll be punished if you kill an otter. So you should be like the prickly boy and the water
dog and help fight against evil!
When the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, Cyrus The Great, freed the Jews from Babylon,
he not only showed the world the religious tolerance that Zoroastrian rulers would become
known for, but he changed world history at the same time.
For freeing the Jews, Cyrus was praised as a messiah in the Book of Isaiah.
This meant that Jewish thinkers were obviously quite receptive to Zoroastrians and Zoroastrian
ideas.
It is in that Book of Isaiah that Yahweh is for the first time spoken of as a single
creator god, like Ahura Mazda.
The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christanity, and Islam owe a lot to Zoroastrianism. Because
while Zoroaster's teaching don't sound too revolutionary today—ideas like
one all-powerful god, a cosmic battle between a loving god and their satanic nemesis, angels
and archangels, a heavenly judgement that places a person in heaven or hell, and a final
cataclysmic judgement that would purify the world and bring about the kingdom of God where
the good will live in eternal paradise, which is a Persian word—were all brand new at that
time. This means that while small today, Zoroastrianism has influenced the most sacred beliefs of
billions of people. Even George R. R. Martin borrowed some Zoroastrian thought to make his
religions in "A Song Of Ice and Fire," as you can see here.
"Lord of light is based in part on a couple of dualist religions that actually existed
in our world, one of them the Zoroastric— Zoorast— I can never say that."
"Zoroastrian?"
"Yeah, whatever that is, yes."
Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds are one of the most important things in Zoroastrianism
but they can be followed by literally anyone. A simple good deed you can do today
to improve the world just a little bit is using Tab for A Cause.
Tab for a Cause is a browser extension that donates to a charity of your choice every time
you open a new tab without costing you a thing.
Almost a million dollars has been raised by Tab 4 A Cause, all just from people browsing
the internet.
And right now with the global Covid-19 Pandemic, your tabs can help fund the COVID-19 Solidarity
Response Fund. To help fight this virus and maybe, just maybe, let me to leave my house some time
in the near future.
Tab For A Cause is quick and easy to use. Just head to tab dot gladly dot io slash cogito and start helping
charities with the click of a button.
So those are the basics of Zoroastrianism. It isn't even close to covering everything.
I probably only covered about 1%. One video simply can't cover everything. Religions are
too diverse, too deep, and mean too many different things to different people. But learning even
the basics of anything that thousands of people deeply care about gives us an insight into
our fellow humans' world-view and I hope you enjoyed it.
You can find all the sources used in the description. If you liked this content please subscribe.If
you have any feedback leave it in the comments below.
If you are interested in supporting the channel, there are links for Patreon and T-shirt
store also down below.
Thank you so much for watching.
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究竟什麼是「瑣羅亞斯德教」呢?帶你一起了解這個神秘的宗教 (What Is Zoroastrianism?)

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jeremy.wang 發佈於 2020 年 5 月 6 日
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