Fire protected nomads at night from attack by wolves and other animals; it cooked food; it provided warmth in the fiercely cold nights on the Iranian plateau; the ordeal by fire took various forms in ancient Iran molten metal on the chest of the person being tested, or the accused passed between walls of fire to prove divine protection for the righteous and is part of the judgement at the renovation, as noted above. The idea of the inner fire of the life force, and cold associated with death, was also a feature of ancient thought.
Milky Way Myths from all over the World.
There are two characteristic Zoroastrian elements. The first is the ritual fire; all rites are performed in the presence of fire, either in a temple or before the sun. There are many texts concerning fire, notably Y. Mayest thou be maintained by one full of age! The fire gives blessings of cattle, an active spirit, and a joyous life st. III, These two grades can only be tended by a priest. When installed, it is said to be so powerful it can kill a thousand demons Pahlavi Vd.
All are said to have existed from creation, and each moved freely, protecting the world st. These myths determine much Zoroastrian devotion. In prayers fire is addressed as a being; standing before the consecrated fire, one stands in the presence of the divine, necessitating personal purity. Specific ritual sites, even the pattern for laying sandalwood in a fire, is legitimated by myth.
Myth and the prophet. Most religions which believe in a prophetic or founder figure have a complex web of myths about that figure, be that Gautama the Buddha or Jesus the Christ. These are different from hero myths, because in relating the founding of the religion they indicate how the religion itself is understood—for example as a means of overcoming the ultimate bonds whichensnare people, such as ignorance, rebirth, or sin. There is therefore no suggestion that the prophet did not live a historical life, be that Jesus or Zoroaster.
He accompanies the righteous over the bridge of judgement Y.
The main texts are: Dk. VII, Dk. His fame is reflected in the considerable body of material attributed to him pseudonymously by ancient Western writers Beck, It was asserted by many in the Roman empire that the cult of Mithras was created by Zoroaster, though some modern commentators question this Beck, ; Hinnells, , pp. In the following, emphasis is on the theological implications of the myths. For Zoroastrians, Zoroaster was not a historical accident; he was part of the divine plan for the conquest of evil.
Legend of the Mythological Genes
By his teaching humanity the true nature of good and evil, it was and is believed, people will eventually reject evil and fight for good. His birth marked the introduction of the last of four great eras of history—the time when evil will be defeated. At her birth she radiated light, and the demons spread the idea she was a sorceress, so herfather sent her away.
The glory, the spirit, and the body of the prophet were thus conveyed from heaven to earth through his mother. Zoroaster was not divine, but he was divinely sent.
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The Good Creation rejoiced at his birth, and the demons trembled, for they knew that Zoroaster could smite them. He was the only person ever to laugh at birth—appropriately in a religion which considers misery anaffliction from evil—and a light shone around his home.
Recognizing his threat to them, evil forces repeatedly sought to kill him; they deluded his father into thinking that the light signified he was evil. First he laid his son on firewood and tried to light it, but could not. Then he placed the baby in front of stampeding oxen, but the leading ox stood protectively over him; a similar episode followed with horses.
The infant was put in the lair of a she-wolf with the thought that she would attack him; instead she protected him. There are stories illustrating the compassion and wisdom of the young prophet and his resolve in his battle with evil. On one occasion a priest entered his home who worshipped false gods, for which the child admonished him.
The priest condemned him, but was struck dead as he left the house. Evil should be opposed wherever it is found, and good will triumph over evil. Zoroaster was a priest and spent time meditating, until one day a transcendent figure came and led him into the presence of angels, where he was instructed in the Good Religion—the first of his eight visions. He revealed the divine Truth to people on earth because of his experience of heavenly forces. When the revelation was complete, the demons again sought to lead him astray, but in vain.
He continued firm in his prayers and worship, thus being the true guide for his followers in the trials that beset them. He was thrown into prison for necromancy.
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Resolute commitment to the religion overcomes any problem. With the conversion of the court, the march of the religion through history began. Zoroaster went forth and made the demons, who formerly had roamed about in human form, go into underground concealment Y. The Good Religion overcomes the powers of evil. The myths associated with Zoroaster circulated beyond the boundaries of Iran, and were repeated, mostly in garbled form, sometimes e.
But for Zoroastrians through the millenia, the example set, the revelation brought, by the divinely guided and protected prophet inspires devotion, provides the ultimate role model, reassures them in their fight against evil, and supports them in their woes. Most Zoroastrian homes proudly display an image of their glorious prophet in traditional priestly dress; he is a real presence in their daily lives. Myth and sacred geography.
It is natural that in a religion which emphasizes that the physical world is the creation of God there should be the idea of sacred geography. In the Vd. In modern Iran there are myths and legends associated with holy places, shrines, and fires Boyce, It is the abode of the secret race of Zoroastrian giants in the Parsi movement Ilm-i Khshnoom, started by Behramshah Shroff q.
So the land of Iran is seen as a unique, sacralized space, where some of the great mythological and theological moments of history have been enacted. Myth and society. It is natural that myths reflect the structure of the society in which they evolved.
Dumezil propounded a theory which has ardent supporters, and virulent opponents. He argued that the deities of Indo-Europeans were ordered in this tripartite manner Duchesne-Guillemin, Littleton. Many scholars have disputed this theory, especially in explaining details of the gods and their activities—for example, Mit h ra Dumezil, ; Thieme and Gonda in Hinnells, Many thought he saw parallels where none existed.
But his broad point that patterns of mythology reflect social patterns has much to commend it. It is inevitable that myths reflect the society which generates them; for example, the warrior imagery associated with Mithra reflects the martial practices of ancient Iran, as the mythical symbolism of the ox reflects their life as herdsmen. The Zoroastrian practice of praying before the divine creations, especially fire and water, rather than in temples similarly reflects their nomadic life.
The various roles of fire in Zoroastrian mythology reflect its diverse functions in ancient society—from life-protecting warmth to the judicial process. Myths are powerful precisely because they reflect the society and its values in which they are embedded. It follows that the study of mythology is important for the understanding of a society, especially its ideals, fears, and motives. Theology and Iranian mythology. A characteristic feature of Iranian mythology is the lack of narrative.
Compared with Greek, Roman, or Indian myths there are few stories about divine or demonic beings. The figure of Mithra is a good example. He rides in his chariot before the sun, he is depicted in warrior form, but his theological role is fundamentally abstract, as Contract or covenant Gershevitch, The imagery illustrates key beliefs, but it does not involve a narrative. This is true of many figures considered in this article e.
Their abstract nature does not mean they are remote forces. The erection of statues, temples, and altars is not anaccepted practice among them, and anyone who does such a thing is considered a fool, because, presumably the Persian religion is not anthropomorphic like the Greek. Zeus, in their system, is the whole circle of the heavens, and they sacrifice to him from the tops of mountains. They also worship the sun, moon, and earth, fire water and winds, which are their only deities. Histories I, pp.