Glossary

 
 
Achaemenids - dynasty of ancient Persia. They were descended presumably from one Achaemenes, a minor ruler in a mountainous district of SW Iran. His successors, when Elam declined, spread their power westward. Cyrus the Great established the Persian rule by his conquest of Astyages of Media. The Achaemenids (c.550–330 B.C.) were important for their development of government administration, the appearance of literature written in cuneiform, and the spread of Zoroastrianism; during this period there was also a great flourishing of Persian art and architecture. The Achaemenid rulers after Cyrus were Cambyses II, the impostor Smerdis, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, Sogdianus, Darius II, Artaxerxes II (opposed by Cyrus the Younger), Artaxerxes III, Arses, and Darius III. The dynasty ended when Darius III died in his flight from Alexander the Great.
 
Amesha Spentas - (Holy Immortals) Eternal divine beings in Zoroastrianism, entities that bring blessings and comfort. The Amesha Spantas are in the Avesta presented as aspects of Ahura Mazda. With each of their functions, the Amesha Spentas constitute Ahura Mazda's Being aspects.


Angels - Later on, post-Zarathushtra Zoroastrianism mythologized the Amesha Spentas into angelic hierarchies, and brought back some of the Pre-Zarathushtra Gods into the scripture as angels.
 
Ardashir I[ardashEr´] [another form of Artaxerxes], d. 240, king of Persia (226?–240). He overthrew the last Parthian king, Artabanus IV, entered Ctesiphon, and reunited Persia out of the confusion of Seleucid decline. He established the strong Sassanid or Sassanian dynasty and reconquered the old eastern territories. Ardashir established Zoroastrianism as the state religion and gave much power to the priestly caste. His move against Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Cappadocia caused the Roman emperor Alexander Severus to campaign against him. A great battle in 232 cost both armies heavy losses. It was Alexander who had to retire, and though Alexander celebrated a triumph in Rome, Ardashir took Armenia, and Persian power was firmly established. He is sometimes called Ardashir Papakan, for his father, Papak. Shapur I succeeded him.

Ahriman - (1)According to Zarathushtra, there is no devil. However, some of the post-Zarathushtra scripture introduced the concept of the devil, or Ahriman, which was effectively a personification of Angra Mainyu.

(2)The evil power in the Avesta, the collection of religious writings in Zoroastrianism. Ahriman is ethymologically the Middle Persian form of Angra Mainyu, one of the two twin-spirits created by Ahura Mazda. Ahriman chose evil consciously, and by this act he created death. The central subject of Zoroastrian teaching and theology is the constant ongoing battle between Ahriman and Ahura Mazda.

Ahura Mazda - Literally translated, Ahura means The Lord Creator, and Mazda means Supremely Wise. This was the name by which Zarathushtra addressed his God. He proclaimed that there is only one God, who is the singular creative and sustaining force of the Universe.

Choice - As human beings we are given the right to choose. However, because of the law of cause and effect, we are also responsible for our choices, and must face their consequences.

Co-Creators -
We are co-creators of God. We are here to fulfill the divine plan, not to become obedient slaves of God, nor to be helpless children of God. And this is why we are given the choice. Even the choice not to cooperate with God’s plan and go against it, and that is why we find evil in the world. Because there are some who choose not to work according to God’s plan.
 
Cosmology - Ahura Mazda first created Vohu Mano or the Spirit of the Good Mind, through which God created a plan or blueprint for the universe. Part of this blueprint was to incorporate an operating mode and operating laws. This was Asha or the spirit of Truth and Right (the software of the universe). Then comes the actual act physical creation, which involved certain actions and manifestations. This is Khshatra or the spirit of Holy Sovereignty. These manifestations are actualized through Spenta Armaiti, with much devotion, faith and love. And finally that the universe is created in the spirit of Perfection (Haurvatat) and is timeless and immortal (Ameretat).
 
Dualism - Even though there is only one God, our universe works on the basis of moral dualism. There is Spenta Mainyu (progressive mentality) and Angra Mainyu (evil or regressive mentality). Zarathushtra pleaded with us to think clearly before we choose, and asked us to choose the progressive choices to bring about beneficial consequences. He said that Ahura Mazda would not order us to choose either this or that.

In other words, having given us the ability to choose, Ahura Mazda leaves us alone and allows us to make our choices. And if we choose good, we will bring about good, and if we choose evil, we will cause evil. This is how the moral universe operates.

Gnosticism[nos´tisizum] -dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.; they all promised salvation through an occult knowledge that they claimed was revealed to them alone. Scholars trace these salvation religions back to such diverse sources as Jewish mysticism, Hellenistic mystery cults, Iranian religious dualism (see Zoroastrianism), and Babylonian and Egyptian mythology. The definition of gnosis [knowledge] as concern with the Eternal was already present in earlier Greek philosophy, although its connection with the later Gnostic movement is distant at best. Christian ideas were quickly incorporated into these syncretistic systems, and by the 2d cent. the largest of them, organized by Valentinus and Basilides, were a significant rival to Christianity. Much of early Christian doctrine was formulated in reaction to this movement.
Until the discovery at Nag Hammadi in Egypt of key Manichaean (1930) and Coptic Gnostic (c.1945) papyri, knowledge of Gnosticism depended on Christian sources, notably St. Irenaeus, St. Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Among principal Gnostic writings are the Valentinian documents Pistis-Sophia and the Gospel of Truth (perhaps by Valentinus himself). Important too is the literature of the Mandaeans in modern Iraq, who are the only Gnostic sect extant. Gnostic elements are found in the Acts of Thomas, the Odes of Solomon, and other wisdom literature of the pseudepigrapha.
Some Gnostics taught that the world is ruled by evil archons, among them the deity of the Old Testament, who hold captive the spirit of humanity. The heavenly pleroma was the center of the divine life, and Jesus was interpreted as an intermediary eternal being, or aeon, sent from the pleroma to restore the lost knowledge of humanity's divine origin. Gnostics held secret formulas, which they believed would free them at death from the evil archons and restore them to their heavenly abode. See Valentinus for typical Gnostic teaching on the pleroma.
Gnosticism held that human beings consist of flesh, soul, and spirit (the divine spark), and that humanity is divided into classes representing each of these elements. The purely corporeal (hylic) lacked spirit and could never be saved; the Gnostics proper (pneumatic) bore knowingly the divine spark and their salvation was certain; and those, like the Christians, who stood in between (psychic), might attain a lesser salvation through faith. Such a doctrine may have inspired extreme asceticism (as in the Valentinian school) or extreme licentiousness (as in the sect of Caprocrates and the Ophites). The influence of Gnosticism on the later development of the Jewish kabbalah and heterodox Islamic sects such as the Ismailis is much debated.
 
Haoman - A plant (the twigs are being used) that is used in Zoroastrianism to reach intoxication, and through this the divine power, that is called the same: Haoma.

Haoma was by Zarathustra redefined as the power that renews life, but in spiritual terms. Haoma is to a large extent a divine power with a proper existence, something we see particularly in older Iranian religions. Haoma can punish people who do not honour him, with sterility. For those who do honour him, Haoma offers healing remedies.
 
Heaven and Hell - According to Zarathushtra after we leave this life, our essence leaves the body, and depending on the choices that it has made, either it will go to the House of Songs or Realm of light (if he has made good choices) or to the Realm of Darkness and Separation (if evil choices). Heaven and Hell are not physical places, but are described as timeless states of consciousness: either state of oneness with or separation from Ahura Mazda.

Post-Zarathushtra Zoroastrianism mythologized these timeless states of consciousness into everlasting physical locations and descriptive places. This later concept permeated into Judeo-Christian religions.

Hell is a temporary place of suffering for sinners after death. When evil is finally defeated (at Frashegird), the souls of sinners will be released from hell, and will be purified by the ordeal of molten metal. They will then join the congregation of God and the saints.

Magi - priestly caste of ancient Persia. Probably Median in origin, they were, according to Herodotus, a tribe rather than a priestly family. Zoroaster is thought to have been a Magus. Study of the Magi is hampered by the lack of original source material. They are thought to have molded a pre-Zoroastrian religion, but nothing is known of it except by inference. After Zoroaster, Magian priests headed Zoroastrianism; the greatest was Saena. The Magi were revered by classic authors as wise men, and their reputed power over demons gave rise to the word magic.

Microcosm - Each one of us carries the divine essence within ourselves. It is our duty to recognize this and act accordingly. Based on Zarathushtra’s teachings, we can and should act like Ahura Mazda. We should think about every choice that we wish to make and in the spirit of our good mind choose wisely. We should respect the natural and moral laws and operating mode of the universe. We should act diligently, with love and faith. And we will then make perfect and timeless choices, and fulfill our purpose of renewing the world.
 
Middle Persian - The language that was a contemporary of Parthian, and during the Arsacid period, Persian was strongly influenced by Parthian. Middle Persian was the language used in the Sassanian Empire, and was called Pahlavi. Middle Persian was, just like Old Persian, spoken in southwestern Iran, Parthian was spoken in the north, while a group of languages (Khwarezmian, Sogdian and Saka) were spoken in southeast.
The grammar of Middle Persian was simpler than in Old Persian. The script used was one of ambiguous script with multivalent letters, derived from Aramaic.
Middle Persian would last until the 9th century CE, even if its decline came with the introduction of Arabic already two centuries earlier.
 
Modern Persian - the language of Iran today, was developed as early as in the 9th century. It was in many fields a continuation of Middle Persian, but there were important influences coming from other Iranian languages.
Modern Persian used an expanded form of Arabic writing, introducing letters like ch, p, zh, g, and changing the pronunciation of Arabic zh into "za". There is also a large selection of Arabic words in Modern Persian.
The grammar of Modern Persian is simpler than the one of Middle Persian.
 
Mithra [mith´ru] - ancient god of Persia and India (where he was called Mitra). Until the 6th cent. B.C., Mithra was apparently a minor figure in the Zoroastrian system. Under the Achaemenids, Mithra became increasingly important, until he appeared in the 5th cent. B.C. as the principal Persian deity, the god of light and wisdom, closely associated with the sun. His cult expanded through the Middle East into Europe and became a worldwide religion, called Mithraism. This was one of the great religions of the Roman Empire, and in the 2d cent. A.D. it was more general than Christianity. Mithraism found widest favor among the Roman legions, for whom Mithra (or Mithras in Latin and Greek) was the ideal divine comrade and fighter. The fundamental aspect of the Mithraic system was the dualistic struggle between the forces of good and evil. Mithra, who gave to his devotees hope of blessed immortality, represented the fearless antagonist of the powers of darkness. The story of Mithra's capture and sacrifice of a sacred bull, from whose body sprang all the beneficent things of the earth, was a central cultic myth. The ethics of Mithraism were rigorous; fasting and continence were strongly prescribed. The rituals, highly secret and restricted to men only, included many of the sacramental forms common to the mystery religions (e.g., baptism and the sacred banquet). Mithraism, which bore many similarities to Christianity, declined rapidly in the late 3d cent. A.D.
 
Monotheism [mon´uthEizum] [Gr.,=belief in one God], in religion, a belief in one personal god. In practice, monotheistic religion tends to stress the existence of one personal god that unifies the universe. The term is applied particularly to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Zoroastrianism. Some eastern religions, notably Vaishava, Saiva, Sikhism, and some Hindu sects, tend to promote the omnipotence of one particular god within the pantheon, and thus display some monotheistic characteristics. Monotheism arose in opposition to polytheism, the belief in many gods. Monism, or nondualism between the physical and the spiritual, presupposes unity but deemphasizes personal monotheism.
 
Old Persian -  the language that was contemporary to Avestan, another Old Iranian language. Old Persian is preserved through cuneiform tablets found in the remains after the Achaemenid dynasty (550- 330 BCE). The oldest traces of Old Persian date to the 6th century BCE, but it was spoken until the 3rd century BCE. Old Persian was spoken in southwestern Iran, while Avestan was spoken in northeastern Iran. In addition to the two languages there must have been at least a third. Median is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus.
 
Parsis or Parsees[both: par´sEz, parsEz´] - religious community of India, practicing Zoroastrianism. The Parsis (numbering about 160,000) are concentrated in Maharashtra and Gujarat states, especially in Bombay. Their ancestors migrated from Iran in the 8th cent. to avoid Muslim persecution. They use the ancient Pahlavi scriptures and are faithful to much of the Zoroastrian dogma. The Parsis deny the frequent assertion that they worship fire; rather they reverence fire (along with other aspects of nature) as manifestations of the divinity of Ahura Mazdah. To avoid contaminating fire, earth, or water, the Parsis dispose of their dead by exposing the bodies in "towers of silence" (circular structures some 20 ft/6 m high surrounding a stone courtyard) where vultures devour them. The community is closely unified, and schools established by the wealthier members make the Parsis one of the best-educated groups of India. Their economic importance is far greater than their small numbers would indicate. The huge Tata industrial empire bears the name of one of India's most famous Parsi families.
 
Reincarnation
- The concept of reincarnation is foreign to Zoroastrianism. It has been stated if there is reincarnation, then there cannot be the idea of resurrection. So these doctrines go counter to one another and is incompatible with the letter and spirit of traditional Zoroastrianism. There has been some tendency for bringing in reincarnation from Hindu philosophies, but is generally not accepted as Faith.


Sassanid, Sasanid[both: sas´unid]  or Sassanian[sasA´nyun] last dynasty of native rulers to reign in Persia before the Arab conquest. The period of their dominion extended from c.A.D. 224, when the Parthians were overthrown and the capital, Ctesiphon, was taken, until c.640, when the country fell under the power of the Arabs. The last Sassanian king died a fugitive in 651, but he had been forced to yield Ctesiphon to the Arabs in 636. Under the Sassanids, who revived Achaemenid tradition, Zoroastrianism was reestablished as the state religion. The name of the dynasty was derived from Sassan, an ancestor of the founder of the dynasty, Ardashir I, who took and ruled Ctesiphon (224–40). During his reign and many that followed, war with the Romans occupied much attention. Sassanian persecution of Christians led to wars with Byzantium. Syria and Armenia suffered particularly from invading armies. Ardashir I was succeeded by his son Shapur I, who was victorious over Roman Emperor Valerian and ruled until 272. The next reign of importance was that of Shapur II (309–79), a period of particular significance and glory. Bahram V, ruling 420–38, was defeated by the Emperor Theodosius but succeeded against the White Huns. The Armenians were overwhelmed by Yazdagird II in 451, and their land was overrun by Sassanians under Khosrow I, who reigned 531–79 and who also invaded Syria. Both countries were again overrun by Khosrow II (ruled 590–628), whose conquest of Egypt was the final victorious achievement of the dynasty. The last representative of the family on the throne was Yazdagird III, who began his reign in 632. His struggle against the Arabs ended in the fall of the Sassanid dynasty.
 

 

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