Zoroastrianism: Ahura Mazda

  • Between 20,000 and 15,000 BCE
  • Aessir

Ahura Mazda, also known as Oromasdes or Ahuramazda, is an important god in Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion. People worshipped him as the creator and the god of the sky. The word “Ahura” means “lord,” and “Mazda” means “wisdom.”

Back in ancient times, particularly during the Achaemenid period, which was around 550–330 BC, Ahura Mazda was highly revered. Inscriptions from that time, like the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great, show his significance. Initially, he was worshipped alone, but later, during the reign of Artaxerxes II, he was worshipped alongside Mithra and Anahita in a group called a triad.

Interestingly, there aren’t many pictures or statues of Ahura Mazda from those times. However, there was a tradition where every emperor had an empty chariot drawn by white horses, symbolizing the presence of Ahura Mazda during battles. As time passed, images of Ahura Mazda were made but later removed during the Sassanid period due to religious beliefs.

Indo-Iranian religion

Even though it is speculated that Ahura Mazda was a spirit in the Indo-Iranian religion, he had not yet been given the title of “uncreated spirit”. This title was given by Zoroaster, who proclaimed Ahura Mazda as the uncreated spirit, wholly wise, benevolent, and sound, as well as the creator and upholder of Asha.

Ahura-Masda & Aúra-Masda

He lives in a constant struggle against his twin brother, the principal or god of evil known as Ahriman. Both are children of the first creator god, Zurvã (time). Ahriman, as the firstborn son, was more powerful than Ahura-Masda and would have a reign of a thousand years. However, after this period, he would be defeated by Aúra-Masda.

Aúra-Masda is also the god of the sky, wisdom, abundance, and fertility. He can prophesy. He is accompanied by a group of spirits called the Amshaspends. He is the father of Atar, the fire of heaven; of Gayomart, the first mortal human being (the first human being, according to Persian mythology, had been Ima, who was immortal), created from light and who would have given rise to all other human beings; and of Mitra, god of wisdom, war and the sun.

Creation story

Cosmology: Creation of the universe According to the Zoroastrian creation myth, Ahura Mazda existed in light and goodness above, while Angra Mainyu existed in darkness and ignorance below.

They have existed independently of each other for all time, and manifest contrary substances. Ahura Mazda first manifested seven divine beings called Amesha Spentas, who support him and represent beneficent aspects of personality and creation, along with numerous Yazatas, divinities worthy of worship.

Ahura Mazda then created the material and visible world itself in order to ensnare evil. Ahura Mazda created the floating, egg-shaped universe in two parts: first the spiritual (menog) and 3,000 years later, the physical (getig).

Ahura Mazda then created Gayomard and Gavaevodata:

  • Gayomard: the archetypical perfect man
  • Gavaevodata: the primordial bovine

Ahura Mazda created the universe and humankind

Angra Mainyu, whose very nature is to destroy, miscreated demons, evil daevas, and noxious creatures (khrafstar) such as snakes, ants, and flies.

Angra Mainyu created an opposite, evil being for each good being, except for humans, which he found he could not match.

Angra Mainyu invaded the universe through the base of the sky, inflicting Gayomard and the bull with suffering and death.

However, the evil forces were trapped in the universe and could not retreat. The dying primordial man and bovine emitted seeds, which were protected by Mah, the Moon.

From the bull’s seed grew all beneficial plants and animals of the world and from the man’s seed grew a plant whose leaves became the first human couple.

Humans thus struggle in a two-fold universe of the material and spiritual trapped and in long combat with evil. The evils of this physical world are not products of an inherent weakness but are the fault of Angra Mainyu’s assault on creation. This assault turned the perfectly flat, peaceful, and daily illuminated world into a mountainous, violent place that is half night.

Khrafstar

The term khrafstar or khrafβtr appears 3 times in the poetic gathas and in all 3 instances has been translated as “khiradö staredö” or “a conscious energy/force with a scattered or misplaced power of manifestation.” In the third rhymed verse line, second stanza of Yasna 34.9, the designation khrafstar comes right after monstrous and bestial powers. In the third rhymed verse line, second stanza of Yasna 34.5, the term khrafstar comes after daävá/demons and before mashyá/marthyá or mortals. In the third rhymed verse line, second stanza of Yasna 28.5, it is said that through this great/most magnificent manthra and the power of speech; the khrafstars are desirably transformed.

So, in the poetic gathas the term khrafstar does not necessarily apply to pests and noxious creatures; but does refer to malignantly clever, yet half-witted, corrupted intelligences, distorted wisdoms and visions of another age.

Daevas/Ahriman

The evil spirit is regarded in the Poetic Gathas as the distorter and destroyer of perception, spiritual vision, creativity, artfulness, and inspired music and sounds, the perverter and marrer of the life force in beings and nature that brings disharmony, disparity, malformation, decay, and death, and the teacher and master of falsehood, aggressiveness, deceptive mind formulas and mantras, delusions, illusions, and Acishtahya Manah(House of Worst Mind/Hell).

Ahriman is also called Daevanam Daeva(daeva of daevas), which means evil god of evil gods or demon of demons. The original basis behind Satan in ancient Judaism and Christianity and Iblis in Islam.

Corresponds to Kali(not to be confused with the goddess; from a root kad “suffer, grieve, hurt; confound, confuse”) of Kali Yuga in Hinduism, Kroni in Ayyavazhi Hinduism, and Devaputra(son of a deva) Mara in Buddhism.

Gavaevodata

is the Avestan language name of the primordial bovine of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology, one of Ahura Mazda’s six primordial material creations and the mythological progenitor of all beneficent animal life. The primordial beast is killed in the creation myth, but from its marrow, organs and cithra the world is repopulated with animal life. The soul of the primordial bovine – Geush urvan – returned to the world as the soul of livestock.

Gavaevodata was so beautiful, it attracted the attention of Angra Mainyu, the “bad” deity, who killed it. The bull’s body was then transported to the moon and purified into seeds; these seeds became what all animals would feed on and fertilized the earth’s vegetation.

Zoroastrian notion of Man

According to Zoroastrian thought man is composed of the material, the vital and the spiritual. The spiritual part which exists prior to the physical and vital parts. At birth the spiritual is combined with the physical and the vital and at death it is separated. The physical part is called tanu. Vital parts are two namely, gaya and ushtana. The spiritual parts are urvan (soul) and fravashi (spirit) with their twin faculties of manas (mind) and baodhas (consciousness). The body is the instrument for the soul and spirit. Only in a healthy body the soul can function and so a healthy body is highly emphasized. The soul is responsible for the deeds of the body and receives due reward on punishment after death. Accordingly, it enters heaven or hell and commences the next life.

Sources

khrafstar, khrafβtr; creatures from a different timeline

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