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