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Zoroastrianism: Myth vs Reality

Zoroastrianism: Myths vs Realities

With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals. Consider the most enlightened thoughts. Then choose your path, person by person, each for oneself.

Ashu Zarathushtra (Zoroaster)

My Journey to know Ashu Zarathustra

Zoroastrianism: Myth vs Reality, I was nine years old the first time I heard about Zoroastrians. We were guests at a family friend’s house in Tehran. I noticed a calendar on the wall that had different months, days, and images than what I was used to seeing. When I asked the adults about it, they explained that it was a Zoroastrian calendar. On the car ride back home from the party, I asked my parents about Zoroastrians and all I can recall is my father saying: “They are very nice people who never tell lies”.
It’s amazing how little moments like that can stick with you for a lifetime.


We are Iranians/Persians, but we do not learn about our history and culture at school as much as we learn about Saudi Arabia’s culture and history. After the Arab invasion of Persia started in 633AD, those that were not from Arab ruling tribes and taxpayers to the Persian Empire but from desert tribes and looting backgrounds began to destroy Persian/Iranian culture under their new Islamic teaching that has continued to this day. Born as a Muslim in a Muslim family in Iran, I grew up following a brand of Islamic teaching called “Shia”. I had to follow a series of rules with no logical explanation, claimed to be God’s order.

Always learning

It took me years of self-studying about religion, history and real-life cases before I decided to write an article like the one you are reading. It can be challenging to differentiate between myth and reality when it comes to the ancient beliefs of Zoroastrianism. The core teachings of this religion requires us to use our wisdom and knowledge to interpret and make decisions. As a result, there are often varying opinions and interpretations of these beliefs. It is up to each individual to use their judgment and discernment when exploring the teachings of this ancient religion. I am still learning, and this article summarises what I have learned. The books and examples I have read to reach this conclusion will be included as a reference for readers. But at the end of the day, You should use your judgment to find the truth.

Zarathusthra (Zoroaster)

Excessive liberty and excessive servitude are equally dangerous, and produce nearly the same effect.

Ashu Zarathushtra (Zoroaster)

Some call him a Philosopher because he doesn’t force his teachings on people. Some a Prophet. After all, he talks of a greater force that conducts our world, but he called himself a teacher!
Homer Abramian, an Assyrian Iranian scholar, disputed in his book, “What Does Zoroaster Say?” that Zarathushtra is not a Philosopher because he is not creating complicated answers to fundamental questions that have already confused human beings.
Abramian believes that Zarthushtra is a researcher looking to learn about the language of God (Ahuramazda) to live in sync with nature and the world. He is looking to find a way to make the world and humans in sync and harmony to create a world away from chaos, war and destruction. Abramian also doesn’t see Zarthushtra as a Prophet. Prophets deliver messages from God that everyone must accept without questioning. On the other hand, Zarathustra is a seeker. He uses his knowledge to find solutions to the prosperity of our world and all its creatures, including humans, animals and plants.
Zarathustra’s teaching emphasises taking responsibility for our actions and creating a prosperous world by being righteous and doing good. He doesn’t believe that chaos in this world will result in a saviour to save us from ourselves as Abrahamic religions do!

Date and Place of Birth

Although the Zarathushtra’s date and place of birth are still debatable, Dr Abtin Sasanfar indicates in his book, “Gataha – Ashu Zarathushtra’s Verses”, based on linguistic and astronomy research, that Zarathushtra was born in 1768 BC. And even though he was born in the east of greater Iran and Iranian identity resides in him, he belongs to the world.

The core principle of Zarathushtra’s teaching

Good Thought, Good Word, Good Deed

Ashu Zarathushtra (Zoroaster)

Zarathushtra’s teachings promote the significance of distinguishing between good and evil. It emphasises the importance of righteousness and being mindful of our actions to create a better world. It also highlights the concept of free will and encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions. Ultimately, the core principle of Zarathushtra’s teachings is to lead a virtuous life and contribute to the well-being of all. 

In Zoroastrianism, there is no force in accepting teachings. No one is isolated or condemned for not being willing to be a Zoroastrian. As long as people in the society do not cause chaos and are in sync with the order of the world, they will not be questioned about their beliefs. The peace of the world and the happiness of all creatures is the ultimate goal of a Zoroastrian community and people are responsible for achieving this through their choices which must be wisely made. They do not try to make people all the same and they respect differences in individuals, cultures, religions and traditions. 

In Iranian Zoroastrianism culture, people make their own choices and they are capable of being the best version of themselves. It is the exact opposite to the Western world that sees humans as an evil who rule based on their greed, wrath and selfishness! In the Abrahamic and Western worlds, humans are recognised as the source of evil and chaos. They are waiting for a saviour to save them from themselves while in the Iranian Zoroastrianism doctorate, humans are their own saviour and responsible for not only their own happiness but the happiness of the whole world and its creatures and nature.

Ahura Mazda

“Great God  Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created that  sky, who created humankind, who created happiness for human-beings, who granted Darius be king, one king of many, one lord of many.
I am Darius Great King, King of Kings, King of countries diverse, King of these lands great and distant, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.”

Darius the Great – Parts of translation of the inscription on Darius’ Tomb

Zarthushtra’s God is known as Ahura Mazda. The literal meaning of the word Ahura is “lord”, and that of Mazda is “wisdom”. Ahura Mazda (also known as Ahuramazda, Hormazd, Hourmazd, Hurmuz, Ohrmazd) means Lord of Wisdom. He is the highest spirit who conducts our world. He is the creator and judge of all material and spiritual things, the creator of light and darkness, and the establisher of the order of existence. There are six attributes associated with Ahura Mazda:

  1. Vahumana, more commonly referred to as Bahman, represents the highest thoughts and qualities,
  2. Khshtara, more commonly referred to as Shahrivar, represents the strength and ability to rule,
  3. Spanta armaiti, more commonly referred to as Esfand, represents sacred piety, 
  4. Asha vahishta, more commonly referred to as Ordibehesht signifies truth, righteousness, and the establisher of the order of existence,
  5. Haurvatat, more commonly referred to as Khurdad, represents integrity and perfection,
  6. Amertat, more commonly referred to as Amordad, represents completeness, eloquence, and immortality.

To attain the godly presence of Ahura Mazda, we must complete all these steps and possess all of these qualities. 


The way in the world is just one, and that way is truth.

Ashu Zarathushtra (Zoroaster)

The true followers of Zarathishtra are those in tune with the Asha, which is the foundation of order in the world. Zarathushtra was an Ashavan, and this is why he is referred to as “Ashu Zarathushtra”.

Angra Mainyu (Ahriman)

Zoroastrianism is based on understanding the dual nature of the universe. Birth and Death, Light and Darkness, Truth and Falsehood, Joy and Sorrow, Health and Disease, Plenty and Famine and so on. 
Angra Mainyu, more commonly referred to as Ahriman, is the evil, destructive spirit in the dualistic doctrine of Zoroastrianism. Angra Mainyu is the opposite of Spenta Mainyu, which is the force of good in our world, Angra Mainyu’s essential nature is expressed in his principal epithet—Druj, “the Lie,” which expresses itself as greed, wrath, and envy. 

Faravahar, The Guardian Angel

Faravahar is the symbol of Zoroastrianism. It is the spirit of a human being that existed before his/her birth and will continue to exist after his/her death. Some Iranians worldwide wear accessories with this symbol to show their connection to their ancient Persian roots and their devotion to the teachings of Zoroastrianism. It reminds them of the importance of living a righteous life and following the path of truth, good thoughts, and good deeds. The Faravahar represents the divine spark within us all and serves as a reminder that we are all capable of greatness and spiritual enlightenment. In this post, the Faravahr Symbol is explained thoroughly.

Sacred Fire  

We often hear from those who purposely condemn Zarathushtrians that they worship fire. While fire, earth and water are sacred in Zoroasterianisim, they DO NOT worship these elements. Flame is the source of light, and light is a symbol of truth and purity so Zarathushtrians turn towards a flame (athra / atarsh / atash) or a source of light when they worship.

Protectors of Nature 

Iranians and Zarathushtrians like many other ancient civilizations were aware of the importance of living in sync with nature and protecting it. According to Zoroastrianism, earth, fire, and water are all sacred and very useful to mankind. The Ghanat system and Dams created by ancient Iranians/Persians to manage the water resources in the hottest lands, in addition to creating the most beautiful gardens have been one of many thoughtful achievements of these wise people. Even in Greek resources, we read that ancient Persians were proud of being Gardeners and farmers. Zarathushtrians believed that everyone must benefit from their efforts instead of looting others of their wealth. Greeks condemned them and compared them with slaves for their ethical beliefs!

Disposing of the dead body

To prevent pollution of Fire, Water and Earth by contact with putrefying flesh, they strictly enjoin that the dead bodies should not be buried in the grounds or thrown into the sea, rivers etc. They built their tower of silence on available hilltops. No expenses were spared in constructing them of the hardest and the best material with a view that they might last for centuries without the possibility of polluting the earth or contaminating any living being dwelling thereon. In Iran after Islam, Zarathushtrians had to adopt the Muslim rulers’ Abrahamic religion and buried their corpses in the land specifically assigned to them as Muslims considered them infidels.

Parsees (Persians)

In the early 10th century, a small group of Zarathushtrians seeking freedom of worship and economic redress left Iran and sailed towards the warm shores of Western India. They eventually arrived along the Gujarat coastline in 936 C.E. at a place they named Sanjan, some 180 km north of Bombay. There they flourished and came to be known as the Parsees (Persians). Parsees are among those Zarathushtrians who consider Ashu Zarathushtra a prophet and follow the religious custom created during the Sasanid era very strictly. They still bury their corpse in the Tower of Silence that they built in India. They are among the most successful people in India and have contributed massively to the prosperity of India and even at some points in history, also to the prosperity of their first and foremost homeland, Iran. 

Zarathushtrians in Iran

Over the millennium, a small band of devoted Zarathushtrians have continued to live in Iran and against all the discriminations have tried to preserve ancient Iranian culture and traditions as best as possible. They have maintained the wisdom, peacefulness, flexibility and science-oriented beliefs of Zoroastrianism as part of their main principles. Whilst hey have adapted accordingly, they have never given up on important aspects of ancient Iranian culture which are not and have never been separate from Zoroastrianism. 

Iran has a vast underground water system called Ghanat. This brilliant ancient engineering system has saved Iran from drought for thousands of years. Considering that thousands of years later, one of the main reasons for deaths in Europe was water pollution, I often think that not burying corpses underground shows the genius of ancient Iranians/Persians.

Gatha, Yasna, Avesta

Satisfaction linked with dishonour or with harm to others is a prison for the seeker.

Ashu Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) Yasna 53, 6

Gatha, Zarathushtra’s verses, is beyond doubt a remarkable manuscript that has survived countless destructions over the centuries. The language used in Gatha is Avestan, a forgotten language of Iranians living in the east and northwest of Iran. It’s truly remarkable how this ancient text has managed to withstand the test of time and remain relevant even after so many years. It’s no wonder it’s considered the only resource that can be confidently attributed to Ashu Zarathushtra.
The Avesta is a collection of religious resources from ancient Iranian religions, including Gatha and Zoroastrianism resources, which were gathered during the Sassanid Empire in Iran. Gataha is a Sanskrit word for poetry in a prose text. It refers to Zarathushtra’s verses included in Yasna 28 to 53. Yasna is the Avestan name of Zoroastrianism’s principal act of worship. Despite the devastating invasion of Alexander of Macedonia, the Arabs, and the Mughals, five books of these valuable ancient religious texts survived and ultimately reached us. These five books are:

  • The Yasna, including the Zoroastrian verses, the oldest and most sacred teachings of the Avesta, the Gathas
  • The Visperad, which covers festival observances
  • The Vendidad, a book of ancient purity laws
  • The Yashts, the hymns of praise or hymns dedicated to various divinities and features of the world
  • The Khorde Avesta, or the “Little Avesta”, contains the daily prayers


The Vendidad is a collection of ancient Iranian/Persian myths, prayers, and laws, intended as protection against sources of infection and evil. Ashu Zarathushtra had not come to create a government within a government. He had come to teach people how to lead a good life and expected people to follow the existing laws created by wise men and according to the science of the time. He would have advised the people to consider those laws with their wisdom and knowledge, have them modified to the principle of monotheism, and accept them as Zarathushtrian laws because social laws change in every era and place, and because the mentality and knowledge of a people do not remain the same.

Therefore the laws of the Vendidad which belong to the pre-Zarathushtrian people, should not be considered today as proper and practical. Every law which, in the past, was prepared and enforced by the wise men of a people was good and useful for its days. It is not for all the people and for all the times.

Marriage and Women in Zoroastrianism

We often hear from those who see religion as a source for their wealth and power accuse Zarathushtrians of marrying within their families like Egyptians or referring to Vandidad and accusing them of mistreating their women. For the latter, there is not any evidence to support the claim and considering the genetics of Iranians who are the direct descendent of ancient Iranians, there is not any genetic malfunction as we can see in Spain, in which marriage to close family members like uncles and sisters meant to keep their line pure, was common.

Futhermore, by learning about the historical and archeological findings of Iran, we realise that they were one of the only nations that gave not only governing positions to their women but had equality of pay and also gave women paid maternity leave thousands of years ago. It is also refreshing to know that the Persian/Parsi language has no gender specification. 

When did Zoroastrianism become the religion of Iranians? 

To truly comprehend the rich history and vibrant culture of Iran, one must delve into the teachings and beliefs of Zoroastrianism. The two are intertwined in such a way that it is impossible to fully grasp one without a thorough understanding of the other. Zoroastrianism has played a significant role in shaping Iran’s identity and remains an integral part of its cultural heritage.

By studying this ancient religion, we gain valuable insight into the values and traditions that have shaped this remarkable country. After Christianity spread throughout Europe and parts of Asia, Iran began to worry about the danger posed by this Abrahamic religion. Religious conflicts had caused countless deaths in the name of faith, and many cultures and languages had been lost due to forced conversion.

Iran, which had always valued religious freedom, was understandably concerned about the spread of this oppressive belief system. To remove the threat of Christianity to the integrity and unity of the country, the Avesta was compiled with all Iranian religious traditions, including Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism was designated as the official religion of the nation, while ancient religious customs were also mentioned in the religious texts to accommodate everyone’s beliefs and expectations.

Professor Kaikhosrov D. Irani on Zarathushtrian Religion, Philosophy and History

Professor Kaikhosrov D. Irani on Zarathushtrian Religion, Philosophy and History

Resources in English

Resources in Parsi/Farsi/Persian

I am still researching on this subject. Some of thes books are on my wishing list and I have not read them all. Feel free to share your knowledge and feedback with me and the readers of this post.

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