AHURA MAZDA (Ormazd) and AHRIMAN (Angra Manyu)
Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2016)
AHURA MAZDA (ORMAZD) by Hannah M.G. Shapero
Everybody’s heard of the major “one-god” religions, those mighty monuments to monotheism, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, where there’s only one head honcho that controls the whole universe, solo. Billions of folks pay some serious respect to one of those three throughout the world! But there’s another perfectly cool example of one-god religion out there that’s kind of gotten tossed to the sidelines by history; a religion that, while ruled by one god, also had a ton of other really pretty awesome myths, legends and sidekicks involved. It’s probably not a religion that many people in the western world have ever heard of, though it was a big dang deal in the Middle East a few thousand years ago (and still exists into modern day…sot of…with only a few hundred thousand followers). Named after the guy that brought the whole religion around through his writings and teachings, a strapping and wise fellow by the name of Zoroaster (sometimes called Zarathustra), Zoroastrianism was a religion that was toting a one-god belief long before many of the others were. It’s a religion that focuses on one god, a pretty swell creator and champion of truth, justice and blindingly-bright goodness, AHURA MAZDA (sometimes seen as ORMAZD).

Ahura Mazda's swingin' brilliant universe!
And to be honest, things were pretty swingin' and fantastic when Ahura Mazda first created the universe. Everything was as pure and full of white light as one could imagine perfection would be, with good reason, because Ahura Mazda was THE MAN when it came to the universe. Zoroastrians believe that he is omniscient (knows everything), omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (is everywhere), and spreads the positive force of creativity called Spenta Mainyu. He is seen as being such an amazing guy that he is completely impossible for humans to even conceive of what he is, what he does and how he does business (we can only guess; the truth would probably melt our brains to goo just thinking about it!). He is unchanging and pretty constant in his awesomeness, is the Creator of all life and the Source of all goodness and happiness. He was (and still is) worshiped as capital- S Supreme. Zoroastrians believe that everything Ahura Mazda created is completely pure and should be treated with total love and respect. That includes the natural environment around us, so Zoroastrians traditionally do not pollute the rivers, land or atmosphere…or do their best not to. Kind of cool, as that focus on cleaning up after themselves rather than crud up the planet has caused some to call Zoroastrianism 'the first ecological religion'. All in all, Ahura Mazda was pretty keen, overseeing the whole operation from his Heaven HQ. Sound familiar to any big-time gods that you’ve ever heard of? Under Ahura Mazda’s administrative excellence, with all of that under his belt, the world was a pretty splendid place.

AHRIMAN (Angra Mainyu)
Even with all of that beautiful perfection going on, we all know full well that in every tale of goodness, all good things must come to an end. At some point in the game, Ahura Mazda’s perfect world was completely ruined up by the arrival of an opponent that was the total and utter opposite of him, a truly horrific being by the name of Angra Mainyu, or AHRIMAN, who came straight outta the depths of hell. Ahriman was a demonic, dark force whose only mission in life was to totally obliterate all that Ahura Mazda and his followers had built. Poisoning the very fabric of the universe was what Ahriman was craving; spreading disease, chaos, blood, evil and destruction wherever and whenever he could. The positive Spenta Mainyu of Ahura Mazda versus the negative Angra Mainyu (anti-creativity) of Ahriman. Again…sounds pretty familiar, right? The world we know today was (and still is) a battleground between the good(asha, or truth) and the evil (druj), the dark and the light. Ahura Mazda and Ahriman are the dual forces and according to the Zoroastrian faith, each person chooses which side he or she will take. And, in a story we’ve probably all heard before somewhere or another, each person goes to hang with Ahura Mazda in heaven or to wallow in the depths of darkest hell with Ahriman, depending on the deeds done in life.The constant battle between good and evil is known as DUALISM; a balance of opposites in the universe. If that doesn’t sound like the ideas behind the other monotheistic religions out there today, then nothing does! In fact, many historians believe that the core beliefs of the modern “Big” religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam take theirs from the original ideas based in Zoroastrianism.

Amesha Spentas...
A pretty brutal struggle with no doubt thousands of innocent mortals getting shafted in the process, but not to worry! Ahura Mazda had several sidekicks called the AMESHA SPENTAS that he could call on to assist in the neverending battle against heinous evil! The Amesha Spentas were the “Holy Immortals,” extensions of Ahura Mazda himself, who were sent in to shore up the defenses against the evil one’s machinations. They were seen as divine attributes of Ahura Mazda, were considered specific good characteristics that each person sought out in life and each had played a part in a particular aspect of creation. Kind of like the Archangels play out in Biblical lore. There were six Amesha Spentas: Vohu Manah (Good mind and good purpose), Asha Vahishta (Truth and righteousness), Spenta Ameraiti ( Holy devotion, serenity and loving kindness), Khashathra Vairya (Power and just rule), Hauravatat (Wholeness and health) and Ameretat (Long life and immortality).

The AMESHA SPENTAS (by Hannah M.G. Shapero)

Also along to help out with the daily spiritual combat going on in the world was Zoroaster, the human that Ahura Mazda enlisted to bring the good word to all of the other mortals on earth. About 3,500 years ago in what is today Iran, and at the age of thirty, Zoroaster was living a pretty routine life until one day he had a divine vision while he was snagging a bath in the local river. Well, sort of a bath; he was cleansing himself during a pagan purification rite AND getting clean in the process. As he was relaxing in the cool water, Zoroaster spotted a 'Shining Being' made of light who revealed himself as Vohu Manah ('Good Mind,” one of the Amesha Spentas). Vohu Manah led the bewildered human to the presence of Ahura Mazda (who had probably toned it down a bunch as to not completely blow the poor guy’s mind inside out) and the other Amesha Spentas who were hanging with the bright and dazzling god. Almost instantly, Ahura Mazda began uploading visions of all kinds into the brain of poor Zoroaster; stuff that he’d need to know in order to be Ahura Mazda’s right-hand-man on earth and teacher to the benighted humans who lived on it. Naturally, Zoroaster had a billion and one questions, and the answers he got he wrote down into the holy book the Zoroastrians today call the Avesta. All of the foundations of their religion were installed into that book, written down by Zoroaster himself. From there, the religion went completely gangbusters, spreading throughout the land and eventually becoming a powerful religion; THE official religion of the extremely wealthy and militarily awesome Persian Empire.

Agiary (Zoroastrian Fire Temple)
Following along with the words of Ahura Mazda to Zoroaster, Zoroastrians believe that the elements of nature are pure and that fire represents the Big Guy's light or wisdom. Fire is seen as the supreme symbol of purity, and sacred fires are maintained in Fire Temples (Agiaries). These fires represent not only the light and power of Ahura Mazda, but the illuminated mind as well, and because of what they symbolize, they are never extinguished. No Zoroastrian ritual or ceremony is performed without the presence of a sacred fire. There are some Fire Temples today that have had the same flames lit for hundreds of years!

Faravahar-drawing.jpgZoroastrianism’s symbol, called the Faravahar (kind of like how Christianity uses the cross for its symbol, Judaism uses the Star of David and Islam uses the crescent-moon-and-star) was a very stylish yet complex symbol, full of meanings. The best explanation of the symbols are found at http://altreligion.about.com/: “The central human figure seen in the symbol is generally believed to represent the human soul. The fact that he is bearded and aged in appearance represents wisdom (something one definitely searches for in life!). One hand points upward, urging believers to always strive for improvement and be mindful of higher powers. The other hand holds a ring, which may represent loyalty and faithfulness. The circle from which the figure emerges can represent the immortality of the soul or the repercussions of our actions, which are brought about by the eternal divine order. The two wings are composed of three main rows of feathers, representing good thoughts, good words and good deeds, which is the basis of Zoroastrian ethics. The tail is likewise comprised of three rows of feathers, and these represent bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds, above which every Zoroastrian strives to rise. The two streamers represent “Spenta Mainyu” and “Angra Mainyu,” the spirits of good and evil. Every person must constantly choose between the two, so the figure is facing one and turning his back to the other. The streamers evolved out of earlier symbols sometimes accompanying the winged disk. It some images, the disk has bird talons emerging out of the bottom of the disk. Some Egyptian versions of the disk include two accompanying cobras in the position now occupied by the streamers.” The symbol is still used today by Zoroastrians living both in Iran and abroad. Pretty slick!
"Good and Evil" by Kweku @DeviantArt
Ahura Mazda and Ahriman are a concept that anyone can understand, as good and evil are still constants in each and every life on the planet today. We take the bad and the good and try to create as much good as possible while beating back the bad with as big a stick as possible. Its pretty amazing to realize that the idea of this struggle goes back nearly to the beginning of recorded human history as something that has always been with us and perhaps always will be. According to the teachings of Zoroaster (as well as those of the other three “Big” religions), the struggle will go on until the side of light and beauty prevails; Ahura Mazda will keep pushing his sleeves up and keep thrashing the living daylights out of Ahriman’s black demonic behind until the job gets done…with a little help from we humans! How's about that for the monotheistic religion (perhaps the oldest and FIRST ONE!) that you've probably never heard of and probably never saw in your school textbook? Amazing all the good stuff that gets left out...

For more the whole straight skinny on and details about Zoroastrianism, check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/zoroastrian/

Return to Zoroastrianism Return to MythopediaGo to Mythopedia Facebook Page
"Faravahar" by AlexPez76 at DeviantArt