Zoroastrianism is a small religion with about 140,000 members. It is
included on this home page because:
- of the important impact their theology has had on Christianity and
other later religions, in the beliefs surrounding God and Satan, the soul,
heaven and hell, saviour, resurrection, final judgment, etc.
- it is one of the oldest religions still in existence,
- it may have been the first monotheistic religion.
The religion was founded by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster in Greek; known
as Zarthosht in India and Persia). Conservative Zoroastrians assign a date
of 6000 BCE to the founding of the religion; other followers estimate 600
BCE. Scholars generally date his life sometime between 1500 and 1000 BCE
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 CE.
When followers of Islam invaded Persia in 650 CE, most of the Zoroastrians
fled to India where they are concentrated today. Those who remained behind
have survived centuries of persecution and now number about 17,000. The 1991
census counted 3,190 Zoroastrians in Canada. The actual number is believed to
be much higher.
Zorastrian Sacred Text
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 personified.
- One school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between:
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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:
Eventually, everything will be purified. Even the occupants of hell will be
- the present world where good and evil are mixed. People's good works are
seen as gradually transforming the world towards its heavenly ideal;
- and a final state after this renovation when good and evil will be
- A Saoshyant (saviour) 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, which symbolizes their
- 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 deeds"
Return to the OCRT home page.
- Farhand Mehr, "The Zoroastrian Tradition", Element Books, (1991)
- Duchesne-Guilemin (translated by Henning), "Wisdom of the East"
C.E. Tuttle (1992)
- The Stanford University Zoroastrian Group maintains a home page at: