Tales from Zorothustra
Zoroastrianism is a tale of two opposing forces that must duke it out. For one must perish at the ends of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. On one side, there’s Ahura Mazda and the Masters of the Universe (or, gods). On the other, we have Ahriman and his legion of dark soldiers. Only one can win. In a war that encompasses all worlds. Let’s meet them, shall we?
The Princes of the Universe — The Fighters of Ahura Mazda
Here they are. Born to be Gods, fighting to survive in a war with the darkest powers. They’ve got to be the rulers of our world.
The original Justice League — The Amesha Spenta
Fighting on the side of good, we gave the baddest group of godlings you’ve ever seen. They act as vessels between the human and divine. Let’s name them off. Ameretat, promising never-ending bliss. Spenta Armaiti, God of Devotion. Asha Vahishta: Fighter of Truth, Haurvatat using the power of Wholeness, Khshathra Vairya working to build that perfect society we all dream of, Sraosha making sure you all behave yourselves, and Vohu Manah working to keep your mind out of the gutter. Together they are the powerful, the unstoppable, the Aaaaaaaamesha Spenta!!
Mithra — Truth, Justice, and the Zoroastrian Way
Up next, we have the God of Light himself. He enjoys judging the souls of the undead. He’s got a thousand eyes and ears, just to make sure no one gets the drop on him. He’s so popular, even the Christians based their most important winter holiday on the day of his birth. Always a hit with the ladies, he’s the son of Ahura Mazda himself, you know his name: give it up for Mithraaaa!
Atar — the good dragon
Next we have someone who’s a bit of a monster himself, but with a heart of gold. Everyone remembers his last big clash with Azhi Dahaka, and there’s been rumors there’ll be a rematch. Sometimes the only way to stop a bad guy with a dragon is with a good guy with a dragon. Some call him fire itself. He’s big, he’s bad, but he’s also good, he’s Aaaaaaaatar!
Ahura Mazda — Zoom, Zoom
And last, but certainly not least. The bringer of light and creation. Maker of all that is good. An unstoppable force of righteousness! The crowd knows his name! Say it with me! AHURA MAAAAAAAAAAAZDA!!
That’s the lineup, but rumors persist that there’ll be another fighter. Many fans have long awaited the intro of Saoshyant, who many believe could deliver a decisive blow to Ahriman’s forces once and for all. But don’t always believe the hype. Last time his arrival was rumored, two thousand years ago, it just ended-up being some other virgin-born messiah, who went on to form his own team. Now it’s time to meet the away team!
It’s so easy when you’re evil: the fighters of Ahriman
Dark, cruel, violent, and destructive. And they do it all because they’re evil. Every shadow at night, every sickness, every injustice. These were the guys behind it.
Azhi Dahaka — One badass monster
He’s got three heads. He’s big. He’s mean. And he’s almost unstoppable. And he wants to destroy the world. When he comes, you know the end times are here! Ever since his crushing defeat by Atar last time, all this dragon has been thinking of his going toe-to-toe with his rival once again. The epic match lasted millions of years, and in his chained prison, he’s been training for a million since. You know his name! Azhi Dahaaaaaaka!
Ahriman— The Big Bad
Can’t have a story without a good villain. Or a universe. Known as Angra Mainyu, which literally means angry spirit, you don’t want to get on his bad side (which is every side!). With millions of frogs at his disposal, he’s not someone to mess with. He’s the source of all evil and misfortune. The architect of all that is bad. The Master of All Evil himself! Heee’res Aaaaaaaaaaaahriman!
Now that we’ve met the gods, let’s watch them fight!
Weapons: Good Words, Good Thoughts and Good Deeds
All words are fighting words in Zoroastrianism. Every word, every thought, every action you take is part of an ongoing war between the two warring gods. Now it’s time to choose a side. Each human war might just have Ahriman or Ahura Mazda fighting on one side. Even other religions likely are fighting for one of these guys. This is possibly why, supposedly, the Persians let the Hebrews return to their homeland, because they believed their god was on Ahura Mazda’s side. Hell, even sex and eating are part of the fight, since these things give pleasure, and pleasure pleases Ahura Mazda.
Weapons: Asha and Druj
Literally order and chaos itself. One wielded by the forces of Ahura Mazda, Asha, and the other by Ahriman. The universe is constantly at risk of collapsing into chaos, due to Ahriman and his forces. Combating it is done by wielding Asha, known as order. These are the major weapons the cosmos is fought with.
Weapons: Animals and Nature
On the side of Ahura Mazda, you have a duty to protect nature, particularly the four elements: fire, earth, water, air. This has gotten it the very hippy-friendly name as the first ‘ecological religion’. But not all of nature is lovely. Some of it is the work of Ahriman, that dirty scoundrel. The evil species, xrafstars, servants of Ahriman’s evil legion, must be exterminated. Dogs: very good. Frogs: evil agents of Ahriman, hell-bent on destroying this world and all that is good. They must be stopped from executing their wicked, ribbity plans. But it is important when smiting their warted menace to say “I smite and kill them for the sake of ridding myself of sin, for virtue, and love of my soul!” (Though I personally prefer “This is the Land of the Rising Sun! Your desecration shall not be allowed! Hear me! I now lay thee waste with the Sekki, and expel thy vast defilement! I cleanse thee!”) All good warriors of Light are to have a snake-killer (a stick with leather at one end) in case those serpents come for you. Magi were also known to smite evil creatures with their magic. If you sin against water, say lead-poisoning, the way Fort Michigan should have atoned for their sins was to kill a bunch of, you guessed it, frogs. The same is the case for sex with a menstruating woman, except the bounty of dead frogs must then be in the thousands.
Ahura Mazda’s animal legions: Dogs (who can scare off evil spirits with a single glare), Cows (their urine is great for cleansing one’s self), and People. Killing a dog leads to damnation. Something we can all agree with.
Ahriman’s animal warriors of darkness: Some ants, snakes, frogs, tortoises (slow and steady just might win this round), scorpions, lizards, locusts, tarantula, and other creepy-crawlies.
Choose a side
Despite what people think, Ahura Mazda is not all-powerful, nor the creator of all things. Don’t believe the Gathic propaganda! Ol’ Mazda is omniscient, but not omnipotent. Nor did he create Ahriman and his band of cut-throats, since Ahura only created things that are good. A whole lot of Ahura’s battles are fought by the Amesha Spenta. Sure, according to the prophecy, Saoshyant, is destined to defeat Ahriman’s forces. But keep in mind most of the Avesta has been lost, since it was charred in the fire of the Library of Alexandria. The prophecy, misread, it could have been.
Requirements: Must be above age 7. If you are beneath it, and your parents were wicked, and you happen to die: buckle your safety belt, cause you’re headed straight to hell. Killing frogs might save you from this, though (more on that later).
Now we have some words from our oldest and dearest commentator, Zorothustra, about the battle this season. Zorothustra, as a long-time fan of Ahura Mazda, what do you think his team needs to do to win this year?
- “A reflective, contented mind is the best possession.”
- “With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals.”
- “Turn yourself not away from three best things: Good Thought, Good Word, and Good Deed.”
- “Do not hold grain waiting for higher prices when people are hungry.”
- “By my love and my hope I beseech you — do not forsake hero in your soul!”
Always great to hear from you, Zorothustra, thank you for “also spraking” with us. Also with us is Robert Bellah, promoting his new book, “Religion in human evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age”. Robert, what do you make of the fight so far?
“These are extraordinary stories, and we will have to recapitulate some of them. But let us note, they are stories, narratives, and even, in a sense — because they have been given that sense — myths.”
Very interesting, and do you suppose these stories could give one of the sides an advantage?
Thus as we begin to consider these stories, we must also keep in mind what kind of stories they are and to what uses they have been and are being put.
So are you saying for the gods, this contest might almost be a kind of game to them?
To quote Friedrich Schiller, Play is a realm of freedom relative to the pressures of the struggle for existence
Very deep. So do you regret not putting Zoroastrianism in your book?
“The last thing one discovers when writing a work is what one should put first.”
Great, thanks Bellah! And make sure to buy his book, on shelves now. Now let’s talk about the most important part of all. What’s in it for the winning team.
The Prize: Life, the Universe, and Everything. Winner take all
This game is high-stakes. All in. Winners get total dominion over this and all worlds, and a chance to reform it. Ahura Mazda has pledged to create endless life and bliss, while Ahriman has promised the opposite. It is believed that current legions of Ahriman at death face unending torment, but Ahura Mazda says he will issue a Presidential pardon to all human POWs once the war is over. It’s doubtful this extends to frogs, though.
So pick a side, arm yourself with a couple of frogs or dogs, and fight! Let the Tournament begin!
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