Finishing the Zend Avesta

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

I finished reading the Zend Avesta! In summary:

Part I consisted of the Vendidad, which I described here.

Part II was made up of the Sirozahs, Yasts, and Nyayis. The Sirozahs were addressed to Aura Mazda and other gods and largely consisted of praise. The Yasts and Nyayis went along similar lines, though I previously referred to the Yasts as hymns. The importance of both sections was the addressing of the divine by the human.

Part III included the Gathas, Yasna, Visparad, Afrinagan, and Miscellaneous Fragments. The Gathas consisted of more addresses to the divine. However, there was something slightly different that made this part my favorite. The Yasna focused on sacrifice and the associated rituals. The Visparad detailed other aspects of worship, including the treatment of saints, male and female. The Afrinagan focused on what it really meant to be a Zoroastrian. The Gahs were more prayers which sort of spanned all of these previously discussed aspects. The Miscellaneous were just that: miscellaneous.

The Zend Avesta was fascinating because it was a time capsule of the society of the first Zoroastrians, who, historians believe, lived in or near Iran.

Thanks for reading,

Audrey Cole

 

Reading the Zend Avesta

Hello readers of World Religion Weekly,

So far, I read Part I of the Zend Avesta (the Vendidad) and most of the Yasts in Part II of the Zend Avesta.

The majority of the Vendidad was a sort of dialogue between Zarathustra and Ahura Mazda, which outlined how human beings can best live their lives.

It had an interesting amount on the treatment of dogs (including otters), as well as humans. The majority of the rules concerned human interactions with water, fire, and earth. There was also a large emphasis on death. Death is an unclean state, and no human should actually touch a dead body, unless they are unburying it, preventing its cremation, removing it from a body of water, or properly disposing of it.

How does one properly dispose of a dead body?  The Zoroastrian practice is to build four walls around it, with an open top. This prevents people and bodies of water from being rendered unclean by it, and allows carrion birds to assist in its disassembling.

Additionally, the body is rendered clean as it dries. The demon of death (the Drug) abandons the body as it ages and dries.

The Yasts are quite different. While there are still snatches portrayed as a conversation between Zarathustra and a deity, much of the content is hymns. Multiple gods and demons are described, however, I believe that Zoroastrian is monotheistic. I do not completely understand this, but I will look into it tomorrow.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Avesta

This is the Zoroastrian holy book. It is actually split into two sections. The actual Avesta consists of the seventeen Gathas, Zoroastrian hymns which were written by Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. The Younger Avesta was composed later and contains commentary on the Avesta and newer stories and content.

You can find this and more Zoroastrian holy scripts here and here. The first link is from an actual Zoroastrian source, and the second source is my go-to source for all religious texts.

A portrait of modern Zoroastrianism:

Goodstein, Laurie. “Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Sept. 2006. Web. 17 July 2017.

This article presented a portrait of modern Zoroastrianism, which was informative and poignantly presented. Zoroastrianism is currently in the decline, as this is a fairly insular and exclusive religion. Though their scripts do not explicitly forbid it, many Zoroastrian priests do not accept converts or the children of a mixed marriage as Zoroastrians. Modern Zoroastrian communities are thinly dispersed, all over the globe, united by the basic tenet ” good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”

 

A basic introduction to Zoroastrianism

“Zoroastrianism: Holy Text, Beliefs, and Practices.” Religious Tolerance: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.

This site has a pretty barebones description of Zoroastrianism, with a few interesting facts. It is definitely a place that you can start trying to figure out what Zoroastrianism  is.

Most importantly, this site has information on many religions, hot button issues, and other things which you may need to know in order to better understand a wide variety of religions.