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The Destructive Spirit and the Daevas in the early Gathic Avestan Worldview

Copyright: @2014 John Easter.

The Destructive Spirit and the Daevas in the early Gathic Avestan Worldview

John Easter

Ahriman is the Middle Persian equivalent for Angra Mainyu. Angra Mainyu is from the older Gathic Avestan language of the Gathas where it means destructive/hostile spirit/mentality. Other names include Akem Mainyu(evil spirit/mentality), Debaoma(arch-deluder or deceiver), Dush-Sastish(false teacher), Aka Manah(evil mind and the opposite of Vohu Manah/loving mind), and Druj which means injurious falsehood, the opposite of Asha(truth/goodness/art), and the essence of evil in the wickedest, deepest, and un-holiest sense. Druj is cognate to Vedic Sanskrit Druh, which means injuring, injurer, hurtful, hostile, fiend, and afflicting demon. Druh is the opposite of Rta which is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Asha.

“The stagnated spirit of evil, consumed by “destructive lust” for and “envy” (areshk) of “the unlimited mind power” of Ahúrá Ma(n)zdá in accomplishing and realizing his luminous thoughts/visions; insinuated his malice, cruelty and frustration into the material manifestation of the Gd of Genius; inflicting it with his misery, wreck and ruin.”
-Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand, Why do bad things happen to the innocent and the good?

The evil spirit is regarded in the Poetic Gathas as the distorter and destroyer of perception, spiritual vision, creativity, artfulness, and inspired music and sounds, the perverter and marrer of the life force in beings and nature that brings disharmony, disparity, malformation, decay, and death, and the teacher and master of falsehood, aggressiveness, deceptive mind formulas and mantras, delusions, illusions, and Acishtahya Manah(House of Worst Mind/Hell). Ahriman is also called Daevanam Daeva(daeva of daevas), which means evil god of evil gods or demon of demons. The original basis behind Satan in ancient Judaism and Christianity and Iblis in Islam. Corresponds to Kali(not to be confused with the goddess; from a root kad “suffer, grieve, hurt; confound, confuse”) of Kali Yuga in Hinduism, Kroni in Ayyavazhi Hinduism, and Devaputra(son of a deva) Mara in Buddhism.

“Zoroaster’s teachings are often called dualist, explaining the universe as the result of “the outcome of two eternally opposed and coexisting principles”. However, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman, are not co-equal; the latter is an emanation or spirit of the former whose exercise of free will led him to embrace evil. This could be the source of the Christian conception of Satan as a fallen angel. Angra Mainyu is twin to Spenta Mainyu, the spirit of good that strengthens creation and aids humanity in their fight against evil.”
-Zoroaster article on New World Encyclopedia

“The root of evil as the ancient Aryan(Indo-Iranian) prophet calls it is nöit eresh vishyátá; “a desire/wish not in rhythm, a wish that violates the melody, flow of meaning, force, energy.”” “(See Yasna 30.3, 3rd rhymed verse line and Yasna 30.6, 1st rhymed verse line.)”
-Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand, Why do the bad seek out the luminous and good to corrupt?

Evil, ruin, and decay in the Poetic Gathas by Zarathushtra Spitama are associated with falsehood, cruelty, and the distortion, disharmony, and perversion of inspiration and the energy flow of the life force:

“In Yasna 31.1, 2nd rhymed verse line, death is associated with disorder, destruction of artfulness and excellence, and the rule of lies, deceptive formulas.

In Yasna 31.18, 3rd rhymed verse line, death (marakaæ) is associated with the deceiver (dregvatö,) the deceptive mind formulas (manthras) and illusive teachings of the trickster.

In Yasna 32.9, 1st rhymed verse line, death/destruction is associated with the false teacher (dúsh-sastish,) an epithet of the evil spirit, the distortion of the inspired music/melody and a corruption of the power of the spirit to manifest itself in life( jyátéush khratüm.)

In Yasna 32.10, 1st rhymed verse line, death is associated again with distortion of the inspired melody/music/sound (sraváv möreñdat) and denying the embodied life and the sun (hvare, Greek helios.)

In Yasna 32.11, 1st rhymed verse line, mar/spoiling/destruction of life (möreñden jyötüm) is associated with having high regard for the deceiver/liar, falsehood (dregvatö mazibísh ci-köiteresh.)

In Yasna 32.12, 2nd rhymed verse line, ruin/death is associated with ravaging/laying waste upon the inspired melody, song, music; and that the curse of the Wise lord will be upon those who kill/slaughter animals with cries of joy.

In Yasna 32.13, 2nd rhymed verse line, death/destruction (marekhtárö “to destroy, put to death”) is associated the abode/dominion of the most broken/beaten spirit mind, limitation and greed.

In Yasna 45.1, 4th rhymed verse line, death is associated with the false teacher (dush-sastish,) an epithet of the evil spirit.

In Yasna 46.11, 2nd rhymed verse line, destruction/death is associated with ritual priests and their deafness and blindness to the skills of the adorable God.

In Yasna 51.10, 1st rhymed verse line, death is associated with the lair of lies, brood/creation of deceit, falsehood and mal-formation, faulty, evil knowledge (dúž-dáv.)

In Yasna 51.13, 1st rhymed verse line, death is associated with the distortion/destruction of the higher vision by the deceiver.

In Yasna 53.6, 5th rhymed verse line, corruption/perversion/death of the existence (ahüm merengedúyæ) is associated with onslaught of the evil deceiver, against the excellent/good and diminish in power.”

(Yasna list was taken from Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand’s “The ancient Indo-Europeans and the View of the poetic gathas and Zoroastrianism on Mortality”.)


Daeva is a Gathic Avesatan word that originally meant a being of shining light. Its Vedic Sanskrit cognate is Deva, which also means a shining celestial or deity in the Rig-Veda. Among several other related words, Dievas, through Indo-European roots, is the Lithuanian cognate of Daeva & Deva and refers to God in Lithuanian folklore. Similarly Asura is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Ahura(lord/god) and refers to a type of deity in the Rig-Veda, while Aesir, through Indo-European roots, is the Old Norse cognate of Ahura and refers to the highest ranking gods and goddesses in the Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Gathic Avestan Ahura & Daeva, Vedic Sanskrit Asura & Deva, Old Norse Aesir, and Lithuanian Dievas, all originally referred to gods/spirits, or a type of god/spirit, in general.

The Daevas are evil in the Gathas because they are the gods/spirits that, through their extreme hubris, arrogance, and pride, chose to side with Debaoma(Arch-Deluder) in making the physical existence(Avestan Astavat/Sanskrit Sat/Pahlavi Getig) marred, diseased, and sickly in Yasna 30.6 and became the seeds of the Akat Manah(Evil Mind) in Yasna 32.3. Debaoma and Akat Manah are aspects and epitaphs of Ahriman(Destructive Spirit). Yasna 30.6 and Yasna 32.3-5 state that the daevas afflict the world with hateful, enfeebling, and malformative acts as well as inspire aggressive, cruel, and self destructive views within the minds of men and women.

The Gathas, which are understood as being the actual words of Zarathushtra Spitama himself by most scholars, expresses a worldview where the Daevas do not represent metaphor, allegory, and abstraction, nor delusions, illusions, and hallucinations of the human mind in discord but instead are understood and regarded as real and existent spiritual beings in their own right that originate from the spiritual/mental existence(Manahya in Avestan/Menog in Phalavi) independent of the human mind.

Spirits, people, animals, and all beings are regarded as expressions of the all pervading Minoo/Minoan/Minu(consciousness/mind energy) of the Universe emanated from Ahura Mazda(God) and can choose between good and beneficent acts or evil and destructive acts which has impact on the Astavat/Sat(physical existence). Spiritual beings such as the ahuras(angels/gods) and daevas(demons) simply reflect this on a higher level as does even the Destructive Spirit. We are all expressions of Minoo(mind energy) either luminous and good or shadowy and noxious through the many types of corruption and distortion of the luminous and good brought upon both by ourselves individually and externally from others on all sorts of levels.

“Nothing was evil from the beginning. Even the Evil Spirit was not so.”
-Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand, Spirit Realms and conflict among the spirits/mind-energies in the pre-mortal existence

In the Gathas and the very early Yasna Haptanghaiti of the Avesta everything is Minoo/Minu(spiritual/mind energy) and is not human centric. People, animals, even nature such as the forests, mountains, and lakes. The physical is really just a manifestation of the spiritual and in fact has its basis in the Manahya/Menog(spiritual/mental existence). There are many examples of sentience being described which do not refer to mankind. Animals being one. The others being Ahura Mazda(God), the Ahuras(angels/gods), and the Daevas(shadowy gods/demons) who split from the Ahuras through their destructive choices.

These are clearly sentient and they clearly aren’t human as they are described as existing even before the Astavat/Sat/Getig(physical existence) emanated out of the Manahya/Menog(spiritual/mental existence). They, the Ahuras, which includes the Amesha Spentas, Yazatas, and Fravashis(guardian angels/divine essence within human souls), and the Daevas, are as much a part of the emanation as the people and the animals are and not any less. Also the world or the physical existence is not an illusion or false existence but instead is very much a real and existent manifestation of the Manahya/Menog(spiritual/mental existence) to be protected and the lines between the physical and spiritual are very thin.

The Daevas are the original basis behind the fallen angels and demons described in ancient Judaism, Christianity, and their apocryphal texts such as the three Books of Enoch and the Book of Giants. Aeshma “of the bloody mace” the daeva of wrath, rage, fury, mental distortion, and the inspiration of brutality against mankind and animals alike in the Gathas is the original name of Asmodeus the demon king described in the Book of Tobit, the Talmud, and the Testament of Solomon.

Rather than being demons encouraging people to commit transgressions against arbitrary laws, rules, and taboos to displease God and receive punishment forever in Hell, as expressed in some explanations of Christianity and Islam, the Daevas, in the Gathas and the early Yasna and Yashts sections of the Avesta, are considered the inspiration of mental misery and suffering, the masterful distorters of truth on all levels imaginable, and the bringers of physical harm of all kind who are associated with the breaking down of the sense, spirit, and minds of beings, in order to bend them into sharing their degenerate and maleficent visions against life.

(From the Gathas composed by Zarathushtra Spitama translated by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand.)

“Yasna 45.2, 1st and 2nd and 5th rhymed verse lines concerning the primeval world of the spirits/mind-energies;
I shall speak forth of the primeval world of the spirits/mind-energies
When the splendid/auspicious recounted to the afflicted, gloomy one;
Not our visions, not even our souls/passions are akin”

Yasna 30.5, 1st and 2nd rhymed verse lines
“These spirits/mind energies willed//the deceitful (chose) the most afflicted becoming/destiny
Excellence(Asha); the most splendid, auspicious mind-energy”

Yasna 30.4, 1st and 2nd rhymed verse lines, the choice of the spirits establishes vibrant life and miserable existence;
“These spirits/mind-energies together//came in the primeval beginning and established
Life and miserable existence”

In Yasna 44.15, 3rd rhymed verse line;
“The opposing armies came together clashing””

(From the very early Gathic Avestan Yasna Haptanghaiti in the Yasna section of the Avesta translated by L. H. Mills.)

Yasna 39.2 “And we worship the souls of those beasts which are tame and broken in, and of wild herds, and the souls of the saints wherever they were born, both of men and of women, whose good consciences are conquering in the strife against the Daevas, or will conquer, or have conquered.”

(Shows that the souls of animals are important like the souls of people and describes the mental struggle that men and women have with the distortions of the shadowy and noxious mind energies.)

Yasna 39. “And now we worship the Bountiful Immortals (all) the good, and both those male, and those female (by their names). The males among them do we worship, ever living, and ever helpful, who dwell beside the pious, and the females thus the same.”

(Shows the reverence for the progressive and beneficial mind energies of Mazda)

(From the very early Gathic Avestan Fravarane in the Yasna section of the Avesta translated by Joseph H. Peterson.)

Yasna 12.4: “I reject the authority of the Daevas, the wicked, no-good, lawless, evil-knowing, the most druj-like of beings, the foulest of beings, the most damaging of beings. I reject the Daevas and their comrades, I reject the demons (yatu) and their comrades; I reject any who harm beings. I reject them with my thoughts, words, and deeds. I reject them publicly. Even as I reject the head (authorities), so too do I reject the hostile followers of the druj.”

Yasna 12.8: “I profess myself a Mazda-worshipper, a Zoroastrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action.”

Yasna 12.9: “I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; [which upholds khvaetvadatha], Asha-endowed; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.”

From Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand’s article “Angels and Demons in the poetic gathas”.
““Existence,” “Life-force” “Manifesting Power of Mind” is the domain of Ahúrá Mazdá. Demons have NO life-force and are living dead, Stagnated Mind Energies. Theirs is a parasitic, temporary phenomenon until the outcome of the existence, See Yasna 30.4, 2nd rhymed verse line.”

“In Zoroastrianism evil is not a creative force and is secondary in the cosmic order, affirming the priority and superiority of the force of genius and good. Therefore it is not described as a force to be feared. The protection of the adorable powers/aspects of the mind of GD is far greater than the ravage/distortion of the demons, See Holy Denkart, 5.24.21a.

It is not possible for a demon to invade unless there are doors open for it to enter. The door may be a consent or affinity or a physical defect in the being. The demons cannot corrupt unless there is some defect in oneself, some impurity, weakness or, at the very least, ignorance. One should then seek out this weakness in oneself and correct it.

What makes it impossible for demons to prevail in any attack is the “brilliant flow of thoughts,” “perfect contemplation;” “auspicious, serene thinking power,” See Yasna 32.2, 3rd rhymed verse line. Mortal man as a species stands between the angels/aspects of GD’s superb and wondrous mind and the demons or stagnated mind energies, the daævás may be kept in check by the “auspicious, serene thinking power” and an active participation in life through whatever is eternal and undying in thoughts, words and deeds.”

“Their relative parasitic existence is only a phenomenon thrown up by the cosmic Force in its drive towards eternal progress. Limitation, demons, falsehood, evil are all cosmic realities, but relative in their nature, not absolute, since they depend for existence on the perversion or contradiction and are not like excellence, genius and good, self-existent absolutes, inherent aspects of the Self-existent GD of Genius.”

-Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand, Angels and Demons in the poetic gathas

The Gathas also state that over the ages leading up to the Frasho-Kereti(renewal) of the worlds even the Daevas will convert to goodness at the end in Yasna 32.1 and Yasna 48.1.

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Reincarnation and the Gathas

Copyright: @2014 John Easter.

Reincarnation and the Gathas

John Easter

An ancient pre-Achaemenid Zoroastrian expression of reincarnation would not be the same as it is taught in Indian based Dharmic religions such as modern Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Although the Zoroastrian concept of Asha is related to the concept of Rta in the Rig-Veda and Rta is considered the equivalent of Dharma in modern Hinduism. In fact while Zoroastrianism is usually recognized as the foundational influence behind Judaism and Christianity its actually much more closely related to Hinduism and Buddhism. However pre-Zoroastrian Indo-Iranian religion and pre-Achaemenid Zoroastrianism would of had an expression of reincarnation much closer to the other Indo-European pagan religions rather than the Dharmic religions of India which formed later.

The Gathic Avestan language used in the Gathas, composed by Zarathushtra Spitama from Greater Iran, and the Vedic Sanskrit language used in the Rig-Veda, composed by the seer poets from India, is very close and was close enough that they could have probably talked to each other and understood each other. The ancient Iranians and the Indo-Aryans(Indians) emerged from the common Indo-Iranians who in turn were an early offshoot of the Indo-Europeans in general.

Gathic Avestan, like its close relative Vedic Sanskrit, is a very fluid language and the words contain multi-layered meanings. Many, including Daena(spiritual vision/conscience) and Tushna-Matay(meditation), convey numerous allusions referring to the mind/spirit, luminous consciousness, mental awareness, and personal insight, similar to the Vedas and that which would later be expressed in later Hindu and Buddhist texts. However the poetry of the Gathas, as distinct from the Vedas, have an unique emphasis on the continuous development of consciousness as well as the improvement of the physical existence for the sake of renewal and the betterment of living beings. This is not incompatible with the basic concept of reincarnation nor contradictive with Garo Demane (House of Music and Songs) or Heaven. Unfortunately this isn’t quite as easily apparent in English translations of the Gathas because even the most literal and technically correct translations are stilted to focus on a more singularly direct meaning of the words for the sake of easier comprehension.

Interestingly Middle Persian texts from the Sassanian era refer to people as obtaining the Tano-Passino , which means Final Body, during the Frasho-Kereti or renewal. In the Gathas the equivalent term is “at kehrpem utayuitish” meaning renewing/eternal youth in corporeal form and is obtained through “the serene flow of thoughts, or streaming mind-power.”. The meaning of Tano-Passino as the Final Body may be a distant echo of reincarnation from the Rig-Veda or the general background of Indo-Iranian religion, which in turn comes from the older Indo-European religion.

The Rig-Veda itself portrays rebirth itself and among descendants as desirable and even requesting it from the Vedic gods. Texts from the related Indo-European Germanic culture, the Helgi lays of the Poetic Edda and the Norse/Icelandic sagas, including Finnboga Saga, Viga Glum Saga, Svarfdaela Saga, and the story of Olaf in the Flateyjarbok, also seem to hint at this same idea. Other Indo-European peoples, Celts(the Gauls and druids), Balts(in ancient Lithuanian religion), Greeks(see the story of Er in the Republic by Plato), and the Italic Romans(see book 6 in the Aeneid by Virgil), hint at this as well.

The Rig-Vedic verses, 10.16.3 and 10.16.5, either mentions being reborn in Heaven or on Earth. The Rig-Vedic verses, 2.33.1 and 6.70.3, mention being reborn through one’s descendants. See Wendy Doniger, The Rig Veda pp. 48-51, p. 206, and p. 221

Kabbalistic Judaism also expresses a form of reincarnation that is not mechanical nor karma based but rather a willing agreement with God to return and help others. The basic notion of continuing on to help others is similar to the concept of humans as hamkars(co-workers) of God as the continuous helpers of renovating existence in Zoroastrianism. Similar non-Indo-European expressions of non-Indian/karma based reincarnation are also described in many Native American religions. See Amerindian Rebirth: Reincarnation Belief Among North American Indians and Inuit by Antonia Mills and Richard Slobodin.

Rig-Vedic or early Hinduism at some point was influenced by the Shramana which were groups of forest ascetic philosophers from the kingdom of Magadha within India. Many Shramana groups, but not all, focused heavily on concepts such as karma, a specifically karma only based form of reincarnation, and a liberation from life and reincarnation/rebirth known as Moksha or Nirvana. Shramana groups were influenced by the Vedas but did not use the Vedas. Buddhism and Jainism emerged from Shramana discourse and are considered related surviving expressions of Shramana, Jainism possibly being the oldest of all Shramana groups, while Vedic Hinduism was heavily influenced by Shramana philosophy as first shown in the Upanishads and then later Hindu texts.

The original basis of these Shramana religions or philosophies is that life is ultimately full of suffering and needs to be transcended. This perspective is different from Zoroastrian thought which doesn’t agree the life experience and physical existence is inherently negative. Zoroastrianism or Mazda-Yasna(Wisdom-Worship) expounds that life and physical existence is inherently good while also acknowledging the profound extent of both mental and physical suffering contained and experienced within.

Suffering and negativity are described in the Gathas as the distortion, dissolution, disharmony, decaying, and spoiling of artfulness, creativity, consciousness, life force, and nature. Humans are understood as hamkars(literally co-workers) of God meant to continuously improve the existence, both physical and mental, and alleviate all forms of physical harm and mental suffering for people and the Guesh Urvan(the souls of animals) alike. Such an objective likely requires numerous spiritually/mentally developing lifetimes upon many different worlds throughout this Asatavat(physical) dimension.

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Aspects of Ahriman

Copyright: @2014 John Easter.

Aspects of Ahriman

John Easter

First some relevant quotes.
“Also Zoroastrian dualism – another invaluable treasure of the religion, twin to its spentic nature – can be deemed universal” “As Universalist Mazdeans we are led by this to promote even more briskly the dualistic vision which was first taught by Zarathushtra in the Holy Gathas.

Any attempt of denying or diluting this vision – which is both morally and intellectually sound, beside being realistic – is a deadly threat to the meaning and role of the Good Religion.” “Neither should we reduce the great long lasting battle to a mental conflict within man” “We should engage in detecting and classifying any traces of dualism in human history and even in cosmic history”
-Universal Mazdeism. An Outline by Michele Moramarco

“J. R. R. Tolkien’s love of myths and devout Catholic faith came together in his assertion that mythology is the divine echo of “the Truth”. Tolkien wrote that myths held “fundamental things”.”
-Meditation Triangle Units: Psychosynthesis and the Inner Life pp. 31-32 by Philippe L. De Coster, D.D.

“and of Evil this alone is deadly certain: Evil is.” “Blessed are the legend makers with their rhyme of things not found within recorded time. It is not they that have forgot the Night”
-Mythopoeia by J. R. R. Tolkien

“The essence of evil is abuse of a sentient being, a being that can feel pain. It is the pain that matters.” “Yet mental and spiritual abuses are as common, as destructive and painful, and partake fully of the spirit of evil.” “We can judge the deed without judging the doer of the deed. A torturer may be acting from fear or from misled rationalization; but torture remains an absolute objective evil.”

“Natural and moral evil are two facets of the same problem. It may also now be time for humanity to consider that its responsibilities go beyond humankind and extend to other beings as well – to animals and even to plants.” “The story of the Devil is grim, and any world view that ignores or denies the existential horror of evil is an illusion.”
-The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity pp. 17-18, p. 24, and p. 260 by Jeffrey Burton Russell

“The human willingness to menace the entire planet with destruction in order to oppose whatever nation or group is currently defined as the enemy may reflect the will of the Devil himself, the Prince of Darkness who consciously chooses to destroy and ruin the cosmos to the extent he is able. Inflicting suffering for the sake of suffering, doing evil for evil’s sake, the Devil is by definition the personification of cosmic evil.”

“There is no reason to assume that the active evil in the universe is limited to humanity. There is also no reason to assume that the cause of human evil lies in human nature alone.” “an entity beyond as well as within the human mind.”
-The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History p. 2 and p. 275 by Jeffrey Burton Russell

Devil figures from around the world.
This paper is a list of specific evil deities around the world, outside of the Middle East, that are roughly, more or less, equivalent to Ahriman or Satan within their own cultural contexts. Lesser or regular evil spirits associated with possession and general harm that are mentioned in almost all cultures are not covered in detail. Nor are Underworld and Trickster deities who are not necessarily evil.

The title, Aspects of Ahriman, is based on the concept of how Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Maha-Devi(Great-Goddess) are supposed to really be different aspects of Brahman or God in Hinduism. The reason is because these particular infernal names refer to the highest dark principles instead of just any individual demon like Aeshma in Zoroastrian lore or Asmodeus in Jewish lore.

I. Africa

Apep, also called Apophis in Greek, is the Egyptian god of evil. Egypt is within the North Africa region. He was depicted as a giant snake, crocodile, or dragon. Set/Seth, who was originally Ra’s bodyguard that fought against Apep, was later identified with the hostile attributes of Apep and took his place. Apep may also be related to why Satan is symbolically described as a snake and a dragon in the Bible.

Apep was the embodiment of the concept of Isfet, meaning falsehood and injustice, which is the opposite of the concept of Ma’at, meaning truth, justice, righteousness, order, balance, and cosmic law. Ma’at and Isfet are very similar to Asha, meaning truth, righteousness, and morality, and its negative opposite, Druj, in Zoroastrianism, and also to their Vedic Sanskrit cognates, Rta and Druh, which roughly mean the same.

“As Egyptians saw it, ma’at was perpetually threatened by monstrous beings dwelling in the abyss of the netherworld – and the leader of these embodiments of isfet was the gigantic, dragon-like serpent Apophis, or Apep. Apophis was a god, but an evil god – ‘he of evil appearance’, ‘he of evil character’ are among his epithets.”

“Moreover, he had always been there. The world and the gods had a beginning but chaos had no beginning, and nor had chaos-monsters. This was true not only of Apophis but of the whole army of strange, menacing beings – hybrid creatures, monstrous beasts, headless men – who are shown, on the walls of the tombs in the Valley of Kings, lining the banks of the underground river, threatening the sun-boat as it passes by.”
-Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith pp. 21-22 by Norman Cohn

The term, Bushmen, or San, refers to many different but related nomadic peoples within the Southern Africa region. They speak of a good creator god or culture hero called Cagn, Kaang, Khu, and Thora, depending on the tribe, and an evil god called Gauna or Gawa, associated with death and wicked spirits, and is the source of all trouble in the world.
See Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World p. 31 by Barbara C. Sproul.

The Khoikhoi/Hottentot are another major group within the Southern Africa region that are closely related to the Bushmen/San. They speak of a good creator god or culture hero called Tsui goab(wounded knee) who wounded his knee in a great battle where he fought and defeated the evil god, Gaunab, associated with sickness, death, and killing, and is the lord of a realm called the dark heaven, as opposed to Tsui goab’s red heaven.
See Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World pp. 34-35 by Barbara C. Sproul.

The Ngombe live in the forests of Zaire which is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo within the Central Africa region. They speak of a good creator god called Akongo and an evil god called Ebenga, meaning the beginner, who is associated with evil magic and bringing sorrow to mankind and the world.
See Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World pp. 47-48 by Barbara C. Sproul.

The many different Mande peoples of the Mande language family are mostly in Mali and other countries within the West Africa region.

They speak of a good creator god called Mangala who created a cosmic egg that contained the growing universe within. He also created 2 pairs of twins that consisted of a male and a female each. They were also inside the cosmic egg and were still developing. Pemba, one of the males, grew tired of being confined and ripped himself out of the egg.

He then attempted to create his own world but it was corrupt. Pemba’s actions disrupted the balance created by Mangala. Mangala had Faro, the other male, sacrifice his life and then spread his remains over the universe in order to restore the physical world and go back in accord with Mangala’s original plan and balance. Mangala then revived Faro.

Pemba doesn’t seem particularly evil in the myth but his attempt as forming the world outside of Mangala’s plan caused unbalance. This has a general but noticeable similarity with Zoroastrianism. Particularly the relationship between Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu with the relationship between Mangala, Faro, and Pemba.
See Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World pp. 66-67 by Barbara C. Sproul.

II. Europe

Greek myth, as recorded in the texts, portrays the gods as good in general but sometimes capable of very cruel acts towards humans. So both the good things and the bad things about the universe were thought to come from the same gods generally speaking. In particular the Greeks did not seem to always like what Ares, the god of war, embodied.

This also goes for Hades/Plouton, the god of death and the underworld, who while was sometimes portrayed as grim, was only performing what was considered a neutral, natural, and necessary function that was portrayed in the personalized myths to be in full agreement with his brothers, Zeus of the sky and Poseidon of the sea.

There is also Nyx who is the ancient elder goddess of the night and is of the same generation as Gaia. She is the mother of numerous grim entities such as Charon the Styx ferryman, the 3 Fates, the 3 Furies, the Keres, Discord, Doom, Misery, Fraud, Nemesis, Thanatos, and many others. Some of these beings became servants of Hades/Pluton.

Interestingly Nyx is also described as one of very few entities that might be a match for Zeus because in one myth where Zeus was angry with one of her children named Hypnos, a minor god of sleep, Nyx protected him and Zeus hesitated as he came before them and chose not to fight.

Strangely even Nyx and her children seem to of been regarded as more neutral rather than evil like Hades/Plouton. Perhaps this reflects a general monistic bias among the Greeks where nothing can act contrary to the will of the gods, which was objected by Plato.

“Praised be Plato for having made in his Republic (II,379 b-c) the noble statement that evil doesn’t occur from God, and that consequently a different principle operating in the cosmos must be ascertained, but let’s not forget that the among the Greeks, despite their enmity to the Persians, Zarathushtra was held in high esteem.”
-Universal Mazdeism. An Outline by Michele Moramarco

““Neither, then, could God,” said I, “since he is good, be, as the multitude say, the cause of all things, but for mankind he is the cause of few things, but of many things not the cause. For good things are far fewer with us than evil, and for the good we must assume no other cause than God, but the cause of evil we must look for in other things and not in God.” “What you say seems to me most true,” he replied.”
-Republic book II (379c) by Plato and translated by Paul Shorey

The ancient Greeks did acknowledge a host of man consuming monsters and dragons that had no redeeming qualities under the gods. Most of these monsters were thought to be descended from Typhon and his monstrous mate Echidna. Typhon is described as a massive dragon like creature with a hundred heads and fire flashing from his eyes. Gaia created Typhon as revenge against Zeus for imprisoning the Titans.

After destroying many cities Zeus fought with Typhon directly and their battle caused earthquakes and storms. Zeus finally defeated Typhon with his lightning and then cast him down into Tartarus where he is said to continue generating hot dangerous storm winds. Typhon seems to be the closest thing to a real Devil figure within Greek myth.

The Aesir deities, such as Odin, Frigg, Thor, Loki, Baldur, Tyr, and Heimdall, and the Vanir deities, such as Njord, Freya, and Frey, form one group and are the main gods and goddesses of the Norse pantheon.

The Aesir & Vanir are opposed by a group of similar supernatural beings called the Jotuns(giants) who seem to be wild and chaotic nature deities more prone to harming humans as a whole. However many individual Jotuns are capable of being good and are even close allies of the Aesir & Vanir. This is very similar to the Formorian giants and their relationship with the Tuatha De Danann god like beings in Irish myth.

There are 3 main types of Jotuns, Hrimpursar(frost giants), Bergrisar(mountain giants), and Eldjotnar(fire giants). Of these it is the ice giants and the mountain giants that are roughly of the same class of beings as the Norse gods. Although the gods have fought many battles against them, it is from these groups that the Aesir & Vanir have recruited many allies.

It is the Eld-Jotnar(fire giants) that are the most different from the gods and even distinct from other Jotuns as their origin is uncertain other than that they come from Muspelheim which means the land of flame. There seems to be no instances of friendship between them and the gods.

Surt, which means the black one, is the leader of the fire giants of Muspelheim that fight against the Aesir & Vanir during Ragnarok or the Norse Apocalypse. Surt kills Frey and then uses his sword of fire to burn and destroy the Earth. The fire giants are comparable to demons and Surt seems to be the closest thing to a real Devil figure within Norse myth.

“Only Surt remains to the last, to fling fire over the whole world, so that the race of men perishes with the gods, and all are finally engulfed in the overwhelming sea: The sun becomes dark. Earth sinks in the sea. The shining stars slip out of the sky. Vapour and fire rage fiercely together, till the leaping flame licks heaven itself.”
-Gods and Myths of Northern Europe p. 38 by H. R. Ellis Davidson

“Scholar Rudolf Simek theorizes that “the concept of Surtr is undoubtedly old”, citing examples of Surtr being mentioned in works by the 10th century skalds Eyvindr skaldaspillir and Hallfreor vandraeoaskald, in poems collected in the Poetic Edda, and that the name of the volcanic caves Surtshellir in western Iceland was already recorded in the Landnamabok manuscript.

Simek notes that jotnar are usually described as living to the east in Old Norse sources, yet Surtr is described as being from the south, and that this “surely has to do with his association with fire and heat”.

Simek says that “in Iceland Surtr was obviously thought of as being a mighty giant who ruled the powers of (volcanic) fire of the Underworld”, and Simek theorizes that the notion of Surtr as an enemy of the gods likely did not originate in Iceland.”
-Surtr article on Wikipedia on Rudolf Simek in “Dictionary of Northern Mythology”

Indo-European tribes have already migrated to Europe before Zarathushtra’s time in 1700 B.C. or 3700 years ago. However the earliest Proto-Germanic tribes, who developed out of the older Indo-European tribes that settled in northern Germania & southern Scandinavia, may of formed during the Nordic Bronze Age between 1700-500 B.C. or during the Iron Age Jastorf culture which began in about 500 B.C.

The Nordic Bronze Age was exposed to foreign influences through trade with Central Europe and the Mediterranean and includes groups such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and others. Iranian influence may of also been transmitted towards the Proto-Germanic culture while it was still developing out of the older Indo-European culture that settled in Germania. This would possibly explain why some of the oldest myths within the Norse Poetic Edda, such as the Voluspa, contain several similarities with Zoroastrian texts.
See In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth pp. 84-87 by J.P. Mallory

The Chronicle of the Slavs by the German priest, Helmold of Bosau, states that West Slavic groups spoke of a good god and a bad god. The good god is unnamed but the bad god is called Chernobog which means black god and so the good god is thought to be called Belobog which means white god. There are also some South Slavic expressions, in Bulgarian & Serbian, that refer to a white god and others that seem to refer to an evil god.

Place names that sound similar to Belobog and Chernobog are found in West Slavic Poland & Czech Republic, East Slavic Ukraine, and even non-Slavic Germany. The Czech historian, Jan Peisker, theorizes that there was Zoroastrian influence on the Slavs.

Non-Slavic but neighboring Romanian folklore has some noticeable Zoroastrian and Mongolic & Turkic like influences. Zoroastrian influence was possibly transmitted by Zoroastrian influenced Sarmatians.

“Linguistic evidence indicates that before the collapse of Common Slavic, that is, before the fifth century AD, the Slavs had been subjected to strong linguistic influences, primarily seen in loan words, from Germanic-(Gothic) and Iranian-(Sarmatian) speaking peoples.

It is from the Sarmatians (or the Scythians), for example, that Slavicists derive the Common Slavic words for ‘god’, ‘holy’ and ‘paradise’ plus perhaps several score more terms. Even the names of the major rivers of the European steppe – the Don, Dnieper and Dniester – are all of Iranian origin.”
-In Search of the Indo-Europeans Language, Archaeology and Myth p. 77 by J.P. Mallory

The problem is that the Sarmatians and Scythians, while Iranian or Iranic, were generally non-Zoroastrian. However Yuri Stoyanov in, The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 67 and pp. 334-335, suggests that some Sarmatians might of been influenced by Zoroastrianism. Alternatively the Slavs could of have been influenced by roughly similar Mongolic & Turkic traditions instead.

III. Uralic

The Devil is called Lempo in Finnish folklore but this may have to do with late Christian influence. In Finnish myth there are 3 or 4 goddesses who are sisters that seem to be regarded as evil because they are associated with disease, pain, and suffering. Vammatar is the goddess of evil, suffering, pain, disease, and misfortune.

Loviatar is both the mother of 9 diseases and the ruler of Pohjola, which is the cold land of evil comparable to the Norse Nifelheim. Iku-Turso is a destructive sea monster sometimes said to be the father of the 9 diseases with Loviatar. Louhi, the witch that summons Iku-Turso in the Finnish Kalevala epic, seems to be the same being as Loviatar.

The other 2 sisters include Kivutar, associated with pain and suffering, and Kipu-Tytto, associated with death, pain, illness, and diseases, who might be the same being as Loviatar. Kalma, which means stench of corpses, is a goddess of death and decay that is accompanied by Surma who is a terrible beast that embodies sudden and violent death. Ajatar is an evil female spirit that manifests as a snake or dragon that spreads disease.

Mubpienalmaj means “the evil one” but it seems to be a word that refers to all evil deities in general. More specifically there is Ruto/Rota who is the evil god of disease, sickness, and death that rules over Rotaimo, which is the Sami equivalent of the Norse Nifelheim and the Finnish Pohjola.

There is a Sami myth where the rebellious Mano, the moon god or goddess, urges Attjis, associated with darkness, to kill his brother Njavvis, associated with light, which resulted in evil spirits and ghosts coming out of Rotaimo to cause destruction on Earth.

The Devil is called Tuhi/Tuhja(empty or contemptible one), Kurat(evil one), and many other names in Estonian folklore but this may have to do with late Christian influence. Tuhi seems similar to the Baltic devil like figures, Velns/Jods in Latvian folklore and Velnias in Lithuanian folklore. Sarvik(horned one), the demon in the Estonian Kalevipoeg epic, is Tuhi’s brother in law.

The Devil is called Ordog in Hungarian folklore but this may have to do with late Christian influence. However there might have also been some earlier Zoroastrian, Mongolic, and Turkic influences on Ordog as well. Ordog stirs a huge cauldron full of souls, which he collects.

IV. Asia

Nirrti is an evil goddess in the Rig-Veda who, like the concept of Druh, represents the opposite of Rta, which means order. Rta is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Zoroastrian Asha, which means truth, righteousness, and morality.

“However, there were men who did ally with the demons, and who were led by them to the lap of Nirrti, or Destruction. In the Rg Veda (7.37.7), Nirrti is personified as the goddess of disorder and disintegration, and, subsequently, as the abode of the dead.”
-Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions: The Genesis and Transformation of a Doctrine p. 111 by Mitra Ara

Kali, not to be confused with Kali the goddess, is the god of evil and the demon associated with the Kali Yuga, which is the apocalyptic Dark Age in Hinduism. Kali was created by Brahma but chooses to oppose Vishnu and Shiva. Kali is even said to go as far as to attempt to possess Shiva in order to corrupt scriptures.

Kali is very similar to Kroni in the Ayyavazhi sect of Hinduism where the equivalent figure is also said to assume avatars that oppose the avatars of Vishnu. Vishnu as Kalki is said to defeat the forces of Kali/Kroni during the Apocalypse in the Kalki Purana text.

Shenlha Okar(wisdom deity of white light), also called Shiwa Okar(peaceful white light), is the most important god in the non-Buddhist Yungdrung Bon tradition and is the Tibetan god of wisdom, light, and compassion which is a description comparable with Ahura Mazda(God) in Zoroastrianism.

The Bonpos speak of a creator god, called Yang dag rgyal po, who created 2 gods called Od zer Idan(bright one) and Myal ba nag po(black suffering). Myal ba nag po is the Tibetan god of evil in Bon and is associated with darkness, violence, grief, and demons. He opposes Od zer Idan who is associated with the color white, goodness, peace, and joy, and may be the same being as Shenlha Okar.
See The Religions of Tibet pp. 214-215 by Giuseppe Tucci and translated by Geoffrey Samuel.

This has a noticeable similarity with Zoroastrianism. Particularly the relationship between Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu with the relationship between Yang dag rgyal po, Od zer Idan, and Myal ba nag po.

“the Tibetan Bonpos, for perhaps a thousand years, have been unanimous in claiming, on the authority of their sacred texts, that Staggzig – i.e. Iran in one sense or another is the holy land from which their religion spread.”
-Dualism in Tibetan Cosmogonic Myths and the Question of Iranian Influence by Per Kvaerne

3.Mongolic & Turkic
Tengri is a sky god that is considered above all the other spirits and seems to of been interpreted in a monotheistic sense. Bai-Ulgan or Ulgen/Ulgan is the god of goodness and is either interpreted as the same being as Tengri or as the son of Tengri. Erlik, also called Er Kishi, is the god of evil in various Mongolic & Turkic traditions.

Erlik was the first creation of Tengri or Ulgen and was made the highest assistant but he wanted to be equal and because of his pride and anger he taught men to do evil and his followers made negative things such as sickness to harm mankind with.
See Altaic Epic: Poems from the Turkish Epic by Gene Doty and Gulten Yener.

“In a cosmogonic myth recorded among the Abakan Tartars, both God and his companion, whom he created and bade to dive and bring back sand, are envisaged in the shape of ducks; subsequently, the second duck begins to act as God’s rival and the myth enhances further its dualist tendencies by introducing the wicked Erlik Khan, the Lord of the Underworld and corrupter of man.

It is worth noting that before evolving into a lord of the lower world and the realm of darkness as well as judge of the dead, apparently in at least some Altaic traditions Erlik was originally a celestial deity.

Particularly important for the history of religious dualism are those Altaic traditions in which Erlik appears as second only to the highest god, Ulgen, and as his assistant in creation and is assigned important demiurgic functions, as he not only takes part in the anthropogonic process but also begins to act in some kind of opposition against the first demiurge.

In Iakut traditions Erlik is associated with the so-called ‘Blue Boundlessness’ and possibly with the water element, whereas in Buriat mythology he is seen as the leader of the wicked black or eastern spirits.

Erlik plays a major role in Siberian Turkic and Mongol shamanistic traditions and their ideas of the afterlife (both he and his spirits could be seen as abducting souls for their realm): shamans are often depicted as invoking, offering sacrifices to and propitiating Erlik, undergoing a descent into his lower world and encountering the king of the underworld.”

“Subsequently, Erlik tries to seduce mankind and creates his own heaven but it banished into the underworld.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy pp. 133-135 by Yuri Stoyanov

Shangdi, later called Tian, is the equivalent of God in Chinese folk religion, Taoism, and Confucianism. There is a Chinese Taoist myth that the Jade Emperor, before he was the Jade Emperor, defended the heavenly realm of the Chinese gods from a very powerful demon and his army of demons. After he defeated the demon the gods made him the Jade Emperor.

There is also another Chinese myth, with many variants, about Gong Gong, also called Kanghui, who is a water god & black dragon that wanted to be the chief god and rebelled against the heavenly realm of the Chinese gods but was defeated by a god, usually Zhu Rong. After his fall he smashed his head against Mount Buzhou which tilted the Earth and caused floods but the damage was repaired by Nuwa the serpent goddess.

Gong Gong also had a main assistant called Xiang-liu who was a 9 headed black snake monster or dragon associated with floods, Earth destroying poison, and eating people and animals.
See Handbook of Chinese Mythology pp. 124-125 and pp. 214-215 by Lihui Yang, Deming An, and Jessica Anderson Turner.

Gong Gong, the rebellious black dragon and water god, and his 9 headed minister, have a noticeable similarity with Yam, the chaotic sea god, and his 7 headed serpent, Lotan, in Canaanite myth, with Satan, as a Dragon, and the 7 headed Beast in the Book of Revelation, and also with Ahriman and the 3 headed Azi Dahaka in the Avesta.

Ame-no-minakanushi(Central Master), later called Kuni-tokotachi, is the equivalent of God in Shinto. The Kojiki, the oldest Shinto text, mentions the Yaso-Magatsuhi-no-Kami, which means the eighty myriads, or gods/spirits, of disorder and evil. The Kojiki also mentions O-Magatsuhi-no-Kami, which means the great god/spirit of great disorder and evil.

The Nihon Shoki, the second oldest Shinto text, mentions a god/spirit called Amatsu-Mikaboshi, also called Ame-no-Kagaseo, that opposed the authority of the heavenly kami(gods/spirits) over Japan and was defeated.

“The Ainu are the native, aboriginal people of Japan. Subjugated by the Japanese(the Yamato people) in 812 A.D. and forced to retreat to the northern islands of Hokkaido(in Japan) and Sakhalin(in Russia), the 16,000 remaining Ainu are hunters and fishermen.”

“Ainu religion is generally classed as animistic, but it has many dualistic features as well. A supreme god dwells in the highest heaven and many lesser deities, including an evil one who created death and disease, populate the lower regions. Ancestor worship, propitiation of evil forces, belief in a future life, and judgment before god with the fire goddess as chief witness are major features of the religion.”
-Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World p. 215 by Barbara C. Sproul

V. Notes about Siberia.

“The investigation and recording of popular cosmogonic traditions in eastern Europe, Central and northern Asia and northern America in the nineteenth century demonstrated that a number of these cosmogonies share some significant motifs which are not present or are less accentuated in other areas.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 131 by Yuri Stoyanov

“As for the idea of dualism in cosmogonic myths, it is a well-known fact that we find the idea of an evil opponent of the good creator-god throughout large areas of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and North Asia, and North America” “In Asia, this idea is found in particular among Altaic and Mongolian peoples.”
-Dualism in Tibetan Cosmogonic Myths and the Question of Iranian Influence by Per Kvaerne

1.Iranians and Siberia.
Besides Africa and the Middle East some of the oldest ideas and views about the Devil might of come from the cold and harsh lands of prehistoric Siberia, particularly the distant origins behind the stories of Erlik and his related equivalents in Greater Mongolia and other northern lands.

This would explain the common ideas shared between Iranians, Tibetans, Mongolians, Turks, the Ainu of northern Japan, and other Central & North Asian groups.

As for the Iranians, because of the ancient ruins of the Sintashta and Arkaim settlements, their earlier Proto-Iranian or Indo-Iranian ancestors most likely hailed from an area much further north than either Iran or India. Particularly an area like Russia or Kazakhstan where they would of had more opportunities for contact and exchange with Central & North Asian groups near Siberia.

It is possible that these views actually reflect a common prehistoric substratum that even predates Zoroastrianism and that Zarathushtra was, through his revelation, elaborating and clarifying on a basic idea that was already well known to his audience though in much less pronounced and crystal clear forms.

Just as Zarathushtra also expounded a good and loving God in a much more definite and crystal clear way than in the myths of the peoples around the world before him.

Interestingly Ahriman’s base on Earth is said to be on a mountain called Arezura which is associated with the far north and the cold in later Zoroastrian texts such as the Vendidad, Bundahishn, and Dadestan-i Denig. This is roughly similar to the cold and evil lands in Finnish & Norse myth.

2.Ural Mountains and Siberia.
As for Eastern & Northern Europe, Uralic groups, such as the Sami, Finns, Estonians, and Hungarians, had distant ancestors from the Ural Mountains and beyond which is near Siberia. Like the neighboring Slavic & Baltic languages, the Uralic languages show traces of Iranian and Indo-Iranian influence and contact.

“The cemetery excavation at Sintashta, in the south Ural steppe, has yielded compelling evidence for the importance of warriors in that area around 1500 B.C. Of special interest to us are finds that suggest correlations with the warrior activities condemned by Zarathustra.”
-Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology p. 192 by Shan M. M. Winn

As for Mongolic & Turkic influences on Uralic groups, Todote, the god of evil and death, seems to be the Uralic version of Erlik among the Samoyedic peoples east of the Ural Mountains. The Sami Ruto/Rota and the Hungarian Ordog are also similar to Erlik.

Pohjola is the northern, cold, and evil land in Finnish myth. Rotaimo is the evil underworld, opposed to the good underworld, where evil spirits and ghosts dwell in Sami myth. In turn these may of influenced the Norse Nifelheim which is described as a misty, cold, and harsh land of the frost giants that has a sub-region called Nastrond where the wicked are punished. There is also a less bad underworld or sub-region simply called Hel.

3.North America and Siberia.
This could even possibly explain why some Native American tribes, who’s ancestors appear to of migrated to North America from Siberia in multiple waves, have stories that speak of a good god and an evil god. However an independent realization of this insight is just as likely if not more likely as is the case with the Maori in New Zealand. Though some reinforcement from Siberia does appear to be a possibility.

“There is an increasing amount of evidence that very early forms of the earth-diver myth certainly played an important role in the cosmogonic systems developed in prehistoric times in Central and northern Asia upon which the North American cosmogonies are evidently dependent.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 137 by Yuri Stoyanov

VI. North America

1.Ojibwe/Chippewa & Abenaki
The Ojibwe/Chippewa and the Abenaki are 2 of many different groups within the Algonquian language family, which is mostly throughout the Midwest and Northeast regions of America and also in Canada.

The Ojibwe/Chippewa speak of a goddess, called the Great Earth Mother, who had 2 sons, Glooskap, and his twin brother, Malsum, also called Malsumis in the Abenaki version. In the Abenaki version, Tabaldak, the high creator god or the Great Spirit, takes the place of the Great Earth Mother and created them instead.

Glooskap became a good wise creator god but Malsum chose to be evil and tried to destroy Glooskap’s creations. Eventually Malsum attempted to kill Glooskap directly and seemingly succeeded but Glooskap immediately revived and then defeated Malsum. His spirit then went underground where he still attempts to torment people and animals.
See Parallel Myths pp. 61-62 by J. F. Bierlein.

The different but neighboring Iroquoian groups have similar myths as well. They seem to be mostly independent of late Christian influence and have some noticeable similarities with Zoroastrianism. Particularly the relationship between Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu, with the relationship between Tabaldak, Glooskap, and Malsumis.

The Wyandot/Huron are one of many different groups within the Iroquoian language family, which is mostly throughout the Northeast region of America and also in Canada. They speak of a goddess who has 2 sons, Tijuskeha, also called Good Mind, and his twin brother, Tawiskarong, also called Evil Mind.

Tijuskeha becomes the good creator god while Tawiskarong chooses evil and even kills the goddess who was their mother. Later Tawiskarong kills Tijuskeha but Tijuskeha revives and then kills Tawiskarong though his spirit remains.
See Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World pp. 245-248 by Barbara C. Sproul.

There are similar myths among other Iroquoian groups. This Iroquoian version shows obvious similarities with the Algonquian versions. The alternative names of Good Mind and Evil Mind show further Zoroastrian similarities.

“However, a version of the earth-diving myth does become integrated into the dualistic scenarios of some versions of Iroquois cosmogony, with their dramatic accounts of the struggle between a good and a bad twin, their creations and counter-creations, and the evil twin becoming ultimately a king of the dead.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 136 by Yuri Stoyanov

3.Quechan/Yuma & Kumeyaay/Diegueno
The Quechan/Yuma and the Kumeyaay/Diegueno are 2 of many different groups within the Yuman–Cochimi language family, within the Southwest region of America and also in Mexico.

The Quechan/Yuma speak of a good creator god called Kokomaht, also called Tuchaipai in the Kumeyaay/Diegueno version, and an evil god called Bakotahl, also called Yokomatis in the Kumeyaay/Diegueno version.

Kokomaht was the first being and Bakotahl came out of him and is regarded as his twin brother. Kokomaht wanted Bakotahl to be his assistant in creation but Bakotahl was jealous of Kokomaht and created disease, plaques, and bad intentions, to destroy Kokomaht’s creations.

Kokomaht was killed by the magic of a frog called Hanyi, the daughter of Kokomaht in some accounts, who might have been persuaded by Bakotahl. However Kokomaht’s spirit remains and Komashtam’ho, who is the son of Kokomaht, finished the creation of the world. The spirit of Kokomaht continues to protect people while Bakotahl continues to torment people.
See Parallel Myths pp. 63-66 by J. F. Bierlein.

Though linguistically unrelated and not neighbors, these Yuman–Cochimi myths show obvious similarities with the Algonquian & Iroquoian myths and also have the same Zoroastrian similarities.

This actually has to do with South America and not North America. The Guarani people, of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, speak of a creator god called Tupa who created Angatupyry, called the good spirit, and Tau, called the evil spirit. Tau is the father of 7 monstrous gods.

This has a noticeable similarity with Zoroastrianism. Particularly the relationship between Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu with the relationship between Tupa, Angatupyry, and Tau.

VII. Oceania

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and speak an Eastern Polynesian language related to Rapa Nui in Easter Island, Hawaiian in Hawaii, and many others.

In one version of Maori myth, Io, the high creator god, made Rangi, the sky father, and Papa, the Earth mother, who in turn gave birth to many gods, which included Tane, associated with light, life, and the making of humans, and his brother, Whiro, associated with evil, darkness, sickness, disease, death, and wickedness.

Whiro was angered by Tane’s involvement in creation and they fought many fierce battles. Eventually Tane defeated Whiro who then retreated to the underworld threatening to eventually bring all men and gods with him. He dwells in the underworld realm called Tai-whetuki or the House of Death. He also has hosts of evil gods and demons under him.

Whiro attempts to cause death in all sorts of ways and also competes for the souls of all humans. The souls could also go to the sky world of the gods or to the good underworld of Hine, the goddess of the night and the daughter of Tane, who actively tries to save souls from Whiro. Whiro was represented with the lizard.
See Maori Religion and Mythology: Part 1 and Part 2 by Elsdon Best.

The Australian Aborigines, of the Blue Mountains region in the New South Wales state, speak of a good Dreamtime creator god called Baiame and an evil god called Marmoo. Marmoo was jealous of Baiame’s creations and wanted their destruction. He created insects of all kinds to eat and destroy the world and all living things.

Baiame, Nungeena the mother goddess, and all the good gods created birds of all kinds to kill and eat the insects. Marmoo’s plan was thwarted but its thought that he plans another attack while the birds are thought to be looking forward to another feast.

The Bikolano people, of the Bicol Region, speak of a good creator god called Gugurang and his brother, an evil god called Aswang or Asuang, who always attempts to steal Gugurang’s sacred fire.

In one myth Aswang succeeded in obtaining the sacred fire but he misused it, which resulted in the burning of many villages throughout the world. Gugurang defeated Aswang and then saved the world by making it rain with the help of the other gods.

The Bilaan people, of Southern Mindanao or the Davao Region, speak of a good creator god called Melu who is assisted by Fiu Weh, called the good spirit, and Tasu Weh, called the evil spirit.

This has a noticeable similarity with Zoroastrianism. Particularly the relationship between Ahura Mazda, Spenta Mainyu, and Angra Mainyu with the relationship between Melu, Fiu Weh, and Tasu Weh.

The Tagalog people, throughout the Philippines, speak of a good creator god called Bathala. Bathala and the Tagalog pantheon are said to be opposed by Sitan who’s name seems to come directly from late Christian influence.

However Sitan has 4 destructive agents called Manggagaway, associated with diseases, Manisilat, associated with discord between families, Mangkukulam, associated with fire and bad weather, and Hukluban associated with shape-shifting and death.

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Connections between Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Connections between Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism

John Easter

Yasna 19.6, outside of the Gathas, says that Ahura Mazda will help any soul pass over the Chinvat Bridge to Heaven who says the Ahuna Vairya prayer. It seems that later just saying Ahura Mazda, or calling out to God for help, was considered just as effective.

“Further, it is also said in the Zoroastrian text that whoever recites the ‘Ahuna-Variya formula'(see Yasna 19.6 & Yasna 27.13), his soul would be led by Ahura Mazda to ‘the lights of heaven.’ The repetition of Ahura Mazda’s name is repeatedly reported to be efficacious enough to lead the person to paradise.”
-Buddhism in Central Asia p. 144 by B.N. Puri

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer in Gathic Avestan
Yatha Ahu Vairyo atha Ratush
Ashat chit hacha;

Vangheush dazda Manangho
Shyothananam angheush Mazdai;

Kshathrem cha Ahurai
A yim daregobyo dadat vastarem.

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer in English
Just as the Lord [Ahu] is all-capable [Vairya] and worthy of veneration [Vairya], so also the Prophet [Ratu]-by reason of his great store of Truth and Righteousness [Asha].

The gifts of the Loving Mind [Vohu Mano] are for those who perform deeds for the Great Lord of Existence.

The Power [Kshathra] of the Almighty is indeed his, who makes himself a protector of the poor, the needy and the meek.
-Zarathushtra pp. 72-74 translated by Ardeshir Mehta

Many near death experience testimonies report a Great Being of Light that generates love and it is usually identified with God. However many reports also state that there are actually numerous beings of light, that includes Jesus and the angels, who are the emissaries of God constantly saving souls from ending up in the Abyss like a rescue operation.

In Yasna 46.10 Zarathushtra states that he himself will be with and comfort the souls of good people who cross the Chinvat Bridge.

“Whoever, man or woman, does what Thou, Ahura Mazda, knowest to be the best in life; Whoever does right for the sake of right; Whoever in authority governs with the aid of the Good Mind… I shall cross with them the Bridge of Separation.”
-Yasna 46.10 by Zarathushtra Spitama

It seems Zarathushtra was saying that he was going to become one of these helpers of light over 3700 years ago.

“All around these lost souls were Beings of Light just waiting to assist them out of their hellish state.” “Both the Northern Buddhist and Universalist Christian traditions have saviors (Amida Buddha and Jesus) who rescue people from hell (Vincent, 2005, p. 8).”

“They believe that the Amida Buddha is a “savior god” who can rescue you from hell and take you to the pure land of bliss. Once there, you can work out your final ascent to Nirvana under blissful conditions. “A butcher is dying. He first has a vision of hell, whereupon he was terrified into chanting the name of ‘Amida;’ He then had a vision of the Amida Buddha offering him a lotus seat and passed peacefully away.”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

Parallels to the Ahuna Vairya prayer and Zoroastrianism in Mahayana Buddhism

Saying the Ahuna Vairya to cross the Chinvat Bridge in Yasna 19.6, as mentioned before, is mirrored and echoed by the reciting of another mantra called the Nianfo(in Chinese) or Nembutsu(in Japanese) in Pure Land Buddhism which is a major branch of Mahayana Buddhism. The entire mantra is Namo Amitabhaya in the original Sanskrit, Namo Emituofo(or Amituo Fo) in Chinese, and Namu Amida Butsu(buddha) in Japanese.

Pure Land Buddhism, mostly in the form of the schools called Jodu Shu and Jodo Shin Shu, is the largest version of Buddhism in Japan. The basic Pure Land practice itself is a major part of Mahayana Buddhism within other East Asian countries as well such as Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

The Buddha, specifically Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni, said that there are many other buddhas besides himself in the Theravada & Mahayana texts. One of these other buddhas is called Amitabha who was said to create a buddha field or special realm called Sukhavati which means land of bliss.

It is meant for sentient beings that couldn’t become enlightened and obtain Nirvana while alive so that after death they could avoid both aimless rebirth and going to Naraka(the Hell realms) and the good but temporary deva(god) realms of Buddhist/Jain cosmology.

Parallel to Ahura Mazda in Mahayana Buddhism

Namo means homage or hail and Amitabhaya(Amitabha) literally means infinite light. It is a phrase that can just as easily and equally be applied to Ahura Mazda. The reason is because Ahura Mazda is so greatly associated with light that he has actually been identified as light itself even though Yasna 44.5 implies that he created light instead. Ahura Mazda’s dimension, or Heaven, is even called Endless Light in later texts.

From Handbook of Japanese Mythology p. 49 by Michael Ashkenazi
“Amida(Amitabha) is barely mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, and his worship probably originated in central Asia, perhaps based on an Iranian original. He may well have emerged from Zoroastrian scriptures, which worship him in a similar way to the Amidists.

In Zoroastrianism, those who pray to Ahura-Mazda and rely on his mercy will end in the Paradise of Boundless Light, which they may attain if they repeat the proper formula(The formula is the Ahuna Vairya prayer. See Yasna 19.6).”

From Buddhism in Central Asia pp. 143-144 by B.N. Puri
“According to the Tibetan historian of Buddhism, Taranath, Amitabha’s worship could be traced back to Saraha or Rahulbhadra, a great magician, and reputed to be the teacher of Nagarjuna, who saw Amitabha in the land of Dhingkota and died with his face turned towards Sukhavati.

The name Saraha does not sound Indian, probably a Sudra represented in Tibetan scrolls with a beard and top knot and holding an arrow in his hand. Thus, the first person whom tradition connects with the worship of Amitabha was of low caste and bore a foreign name. He saw the deity in a foreign country, and was represented as totally unlike a Buddhist monk.

While it cannot be proved that he came from the lands of the Oxus or Turkestan, there seems little difficulty, according to Eliot, in accepting Zoroastrian influence on this cult or worship. The main principles of Amidist doctrine are that there is a paradise of light belonging to a benevolent deity and those good men invoking his name would be led to that region.

The highest heaven (following after the paradises of good thoughts, good words and good deeds) is called ‘Boundless Light’ or ‘Endless Light’. In this connection reference might be made to this region and its master, Ahura Mazda, who are constantly spoken of in terms implying radiance and glory. It is also a land of song, like that of Amitabha’s paradise re-echoing with music and pleasant sounds.”

General parallels to Heaven in Mahayana Buddhism

It is thought that the residents of the Pure Land use the good environment to either practice under Amitabha in order to obtain Nirvana with him or instead become his bodhisattvas(buddhas in training) that plan on eventually being reborn on Earth or other worlds in order to bring more sentient beings with them into the Pure Land through their good influence and teachings.

There are many other Pure Lands created by other buddhas besides Amitabha’s Western Pure Land(Sukhavati) such as the Eastern Pure Lands which include Akshobhya’s Abhirati, Bhaisajyaguru’s Vaiduryanirbhasa, and Manjusri’s Vimala. However there are indications that all the different Pure Lands are closely interconnected through the Dharma-kaya(body) and are accessible between each other so it is like one Pure Land.

Other special realms in Buddhist lore that are functionally similar to the Pure Lands are Avalokitesvara’s Mount Potalaka, Maitreya’s Tushita(technically just a regular deva/god realm of Buddhist cosmology) and Kalki’s hidden Shambhala kingdom mentioned in the Tibetan Kalachakra Tantra.

Incidentally the Shambhala of Tibetan lore might be related to Airyanem Vaejah, which is the original homeland of all Iranian peoples mentioned in the later Avesta. Airyanem Vaejah and Shambhala are also both described as a Garden of Eden like area.

Parallel to Vohu Manah/Loving Mind in Mahayana Buddhism

Amitabha is thought to be very closely assisted by a high level bodhisattva called Avalokitesvara in bringing beings to Sukhavati. Avalokitesvara literally means lord who looks down in the original Sanskrit. He is also called Guanyin in Chinese, Kannon in Japanese, and Chenrezig in Tibetan. He is additionally considered an embodiment of the omnipresent compassion aspect of the Dharmakaya or Adi-Buddha(Primordial-Buddha).

The great compassion for all sentient beings of Avalokitesvara in Mahayana Buddhism may distantly reflect the third part of the Ahuna Vairya mantra where it says that the real power of God goes to whoever is a protector of the poor, needy and meek. Also similar is Vohu Manah, literally meaning loving/good mind/purpose, who is both an independent arch-angel and an aspect of Ahura Mazda. Vohu Manah is even associated with animals.

His Guanyin(in China) and Kannon(in Japan) depictions represent his female manifestations mentioned in chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra. Their statues have been depicted similarly to the Virgin Mary in Catholic Christianity. He is also claimed to have composed the Heart Sutra about shunyata(emptiness). It is a major text in both Chan(in China) and Zen(in Japan) Buddhism, which are also branches of Mahayana Buddhism.

Maha-sthamaprapta, also known as Vajrapani, is another high level bodhisattva that assists Amitabha. He represents power or the power of wisdom. This is somewhat similar to Khshathra Vairya who is the arch-angel of power or dominion of Ahura Mazda. However he is also loosely similar to Mithra in the Mihr Yasht and Indra in the Rig-Veda.

It is also similar to the wisdom aspect of Ahura Mazda’s name. However it is actually Manjusri who is the high level bodhisattva that represents wisdom itself. Vajrapani, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara are a trinity of bodhisattvas that represent power, wisdom, and compassion.

The rejection of God by the Buddha in Theravada texts

The staunch rejection of a creator god in the Theravada Pali Canon, as well as its extreme view of the physical world as entirely negative, are 2 very major points of difference between Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Particularly in the Brahmajala Sutta text of the Digha Nikaya within the Pali Canon and in the Bhuridatta Jataka text of the later Theravada literature. The Pali Canon also has many stories with references to gods or spirits who falsely think or state that they are creator gods as well as the human teachers who worship them but these tend to have an almost humorous feel unlike the Brahmajala Sutta.

However there are aspects in the Mahayana Buddhist texts that agree with the spirit of Zoroastrianism. Apparently understanding that there is a primordial and omnipresent, but not omnipotent, sentient power of compassion within the Dharmakaya(roughly the Mahayana Buddhist equivalent of the Hindu Brahman) is an acceptable view in Mahayana Buddhism. Not as a creator but as an emanator. However the sentient aspect may only just reflect the enlightened minds of beings that became buddhas in the past.

The Gathas by Zarathushtra Spitama however are crystal clear in expressing that humans, animals, and ultimately all sentient beings emanate from God. While the main focus in the Gathas appears to be on the planet Earth it is also clear that the Universe in its entirety(meaning all planets, worlds, dimensions and universes) is regarded as Ahura Mazda’s good creation or emanation.

Jainism and the Shramana movements

Early Buddhism started out as one of the many different Shramana movements in India opposed to the Hindu brahmins/priests like Jainism. Early Buddhism and Theravada texts share many similarities with Jainism and Jain texts such as the Jain Mahapurana text written by Jinasena who was a Jain monk. The Mahapurana also staunchly rejects a creator god similar to the later Theravada Bhuridatta Jataka text. Even the basic story of Mahavira, the founder or last reformer of Jainism, is very similar in detail to the Theravada story of the Buddha. In fact Mahavira was an older contemporary of Buddha according to Theravada texts.

I personally think that the ascetic and world rejecting Shramana movements and the traditions that they influenced, Jainism, early Buddhism, and even later Hinduism, and their texts such as the Brahmajala Sutta, Bhuridatta Jataka, and Mahapurana, have all been afflicted by the Druj(the lie or malicious falsehood) as all religions are.

Including the theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and even Zoroastrianism as can be seen in their records of both needlessly violent and also psychologically cruel expressions. While Jain, Theravada, and even Mahayana texts sometimes contain atheistic like statements and philosophical positions that feel opposed to the Zoroastrian understanding, and theism in general, they also contain positive ideas and teachings too.

The diffusions of the Universalist Light

As Buddhism was starting to grow and become a major influence on the Eastern world it was apparently influenced, to some degree, by Zoroastrianism through the compositions of some of the Mahayana sutras by way of Central Asia(Afghanistan, Tajikistan, etc.).

These texts may indeed really contain some influences and reflections of the Zoroastrian Universalist Light of Greater Iran. The main specific texts are the 3 Pure Land sutras about Amitabha and his Sukhavati, the Lotus Sutra, and possibly the Mahayana Maha-Pari-Nirvana Sutra or Nirvana Sutra. Both the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra express ideas similar to Universalism.

The practice of expressing Bhakti(loving devotion) to a form of Brahman(God) in Hinduism, itself possibly influenced by Zoroastrianism through the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, may of also been an influence on the development of Pure Land Buddhism. Vishnu, Vishnu’s avatars of Rama & Krishna, Shiva, and Maha-Devi(Great Goddess) in the Bhakti movements provide the same functional role as Amitabha and Avalokitesvara.

“Not even Buddhism has escaped Zoroastrian influence, for the region around Afghanistan and Bactria, where Zarathushtra lived many years,” “was at a crucial time in history one of the main centres of the development of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

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Zarathushtra’s influence on Judaism

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Zarathushtra’s influence on Judaism

John Easter

This is a small topic briefly showing the strong Zoroastrian influence on Judaism and later Christianity by brining together different information and quotes not usually placed side by side.

The purpose of this is to show the close and intimate interconnections between these 3 traditions of spirituality. I think an open acceptance and deeper understanding of the vast importance of the Zoroastrian background can help to shed light and reveal a better understanding of Judaism & Christianity rather than take away anything from them.

Ancient Judaism, which taught an ethical monotheism but developed out of very harsh circumstances as reflected in the stories recorded in the Jewish Tanakh or Christian Old Testament, became heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism during the time period of the Achaemenian or first Iranian/Persian Empire and beyond. The Torah only refers to the first 5 books of the Tanakh which are said to be by Moses and is usually regarded as the most sacred section of the Tanakh.

This occurred about 500 years before the time of Jesus. Friendly relations, protection and influence would continue on during the Iranic Parthian Empire as well. By extension this includes Jesus who was a rabbi during the middle of the Parthian era.

When Emperor Cyrus of Iran, the first emperor of the Achaemenian Empire, took over Babylon he ended the exile and restrictions imposed on the Jewish people by the Babylonians and treated them with kindness as recorded in the Tanakh and in historical sources.

The Books of Isaiah & Ezrah in particular go as far as to call him a Messiah and a special servant of YHWH(Yahweh). However indirect it may be, this is the first hint of a possible, and even almost outright, identification of YHWH(Yahweh) with Ahura Mazda.

Although Emperor Cyrus treated all the different groups of the lands he took over fairly well, some scholars theorize that Emperor Cyrus gave the Jewish people more help in particular because he recognized them as fellow monotheists with a similar religion, even going as far as to give them gold and silver from his treasury to help them rebuild their temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians.

Through the strong friendly relations between the 2 groups, Zoroastrianism indirectly influenced the composition of the later books of the Tanakh, the Talmud, and later texts in a very positive way affecting the later Jewish traditions. The Kabbalah in particular has some very Zoroastrian like aspects.

The 10 Sephiroth(emanations), together with their 10 representative arch-angels, of the Ein Sof(the infinite or God) is indeed a comparable concept to the 7 Amesha Spentas (independent projections of God or high arch-angels) of Ahura Mazda. The main 7 arch-angels mentioned in the earlier Book of Enoch not included in the Tanakh, but in the later Christian Book of Revelation, also echoes the 7 Amesha Spentas.

Some important Kabbalistic or Jewish mystical texts include the Third Book of Enoch, the Sefer Yetzirah, both the Sepher Ha-Razim given to Noah and the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh given to Adam which are claimed to be transmitted by Raziel the Arch-angel, and the Zohar.

The 2 books said to be given by the angel Raziel, also called Galitzur, cover angelology and angelic magic and identify some of the names of the Greek gods & goddesses to be alternate names for some of the angels similar to the understanding of the yazatas/angels as the good powers or gods & goddesses under God in Zoroastrianism.

Specific correspondences, and possible identifications, between the Jewish angels and the Zoroastrian angels include Michael, together with the Primordial Metatron who appears to be the same being as Michael, with Mithra in the Mithra Yasht, and Gabriel in the Bible with Sraosha in the Gathas. The Primordial Metatron should not be confused with the human prophet Enoch in his ascended angelic form as Metatron, which is different.

However in one Kabbalistic source Metatron is described as Enoch’s angelic double that existed before Enoch. This is similar to the fravashis(guardian angels) being the higher angelic doubles of people in Zoroastrianism.

Correspondences between the Jewish demons and the Zoroastrian demons include the Daevas, the shining deities that chose to embrace evil, with the fallen angels and more specifically between Asmodeus, a demon king mentioned in many Jewish texts, with Aeshma, the daeva of wrath, rage, and fury who inspires brutality against man and animals alike, who is mentioned as early as in the Gathas.

Many affinities also appear in the ancient Apocrypha not included in the Tanakh/Bible such as the 3 Books of Enoch, the Book of Giants, the Book of Jubilees, the War Scroll and the Community Rule texts within the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Testament of Solomon, the Life of Adam and Eve, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Book of Tobit, and many others. Also in later Jewish texts after the Talmud such as in the Midrash Vayosha and the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel.

The Jewish concept of Tzedakah(Righteousness/Justice) refers to doing what is right because it is right which is usually expressed in the form of charity and is very similar to the older Zoroastrian concept of Asha (Righteousness/Truth/Morality/Ethics/Art). The Jewish concept of Olam-Haba(World To Come) is heavily influenced by the older Zoroastrian concept in the Gathas for the restoration of the universe known as Frasho-Kereti(Making Wonderful, Excellent, Fresh).

It is true that the more harsh or tribal aspects of YHWH(Yahweh) start to mellow out and slowly fade away within the Tanakh in the books written after the time of the Persian contact where he also begins to be portrayed in a kinder and more Universal light.

Judaism was monotheist in its views of YHWH(Yahweh) and their idea of God was originally understood as the God of all people as purposely portrayed in the two metaphoric accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis which does utilize some parts from older Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian lore for the narrative.

Abraham, Moses, and other ancient Hebrew Prophets were indeed early monotheists that tried to do what was right independently before the Jewish people met with the Zoroastrian Persians. Such insights appear independently all over the world including China, Africa, North America, and other areas.

However their moral or law system, while claimed to come directly from God, was made by men and was more so based on what was good for their own tribe or tribes in order to survive as a group which reflected the basic, and also harsh, manmade rules to help with the necessities of life for the times. Similar to neighboring groups.

This is the reason for the strange seeming and extremely harsh attributes of YHWH(Yahweh) in the Tanakh or Old Testament that don’t seem compatible with the idea of God as all loving and universal. This doesn’t mean that the texts are all untrue or that God is bad but that they should be recognized for the times and circumstances that they were written down in and reflect.

The religion and the language of the early Jewish tribes shares some general similarities with the religion and language of their ancient close cousins, the various Canaanite tribes such as the Phoenicians and many other groups. The Canaanite groups were the main polytheists and pagans the Jewish tribes always tried to strongly distance themselves from within the Tanakh/Bible.

Both to maintain their uniqueness as a distinct monotheist group and because they were against some of the Canaanite’s horrible practices of human and child sacrifice to their gods and it being associated with YHWH(Yahweh). (The story of Abraham and Isaac in the Book of Genesis might represent that.)

The Hebrew language and its variants, together with the other Canaanite languages represented by texts such as the Ugaritic Baal Cycle about Hadad’s battles with competing gods, are within the North-West Semitic group of the Semitic language family, which in turn is part of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family, which includes ancient Egyptian and various language families throughout North Africa.

Other major groups within the Semitic family include East Semitic, represented by groups such as the Akkadians(Assyrians & Babylonians) in texts such as the Enuma Elish about Marduk’s battle with Tiamat and the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Central Semitic, mostly represented by the Arabs in texts such as ancient Arabic pagan poetry and in the later Islamic stories within the Arabian book called 1001 Nights.

Relevant quotes

“Despite the apparent differences between Zoroastrian and Judaic religious vision, they shared the unifying focus of the monotheistic rule of one supreme Creator-God” “their prolonged intercourse in the wake of the Babylonian exile was conditioned by what is usually described as mutual religious sympathy.”
-The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy p. 55 by Yuri Stoyanov

“in fact Jews had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with the essentials of Zoroastrianism. For some two centuries Judaea formed part of the vast Achaemenian empire, while the large Jewish diaspora also lived within the bounds of the empire. Achaemenian rule was relatively benign, and was recognized by Jews to be so:

whereas there is plenty of Jewish propaganda against Babylonian and Seluecid and Roman rule, there is not a single Jewish text, biblical or rabbinic, directed against Persian rule. Moreover, already in Achaemenian times there was a certain affinity between Jewish and Iranian religion.”
-Cosmos, Chaos & the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith p. 220 by Norman Cohn

“The earliest evidence of the entrance of Persian words into the language of the Israelites is found in the Bible. The post-exilic portions, Hebrew as well as Aramaic, contain besides many Persian proper names and titles, a number of nouns (as “dat” = “law”; “genez” = “treasure”; “pardes” = “park”) which came into permanent use at the time of the Achaemenid Empire.”

“a large number of Persian words found their way into the language of daily intercourse and into that of the schools, a fact which is attested by the numerous Persian derivatives in the Babylonian Talmud.”
-Judeo-Persian article on Wikipedia

“Following the conquest of the Near East by the Zoroastrian King, Cyrus the Great in the 6th century B.C.E., Jews came under a Persian Zoroastrian dominion that lasted for centuries.

Babylonian Jews were subjects of successive ancient Iranian, Zoroastrian dynasties that together made up more than a millennium.

A number of important books of the Bible were written during this period. Moreover, the central work in the Jewish canon, the Babylonian Talmud, was produced close to the Zoroastrian Sassanid winter capital of Ctesiphon.

Babylonian Talmud contains many Indo-European/Persian loanwords and numerous references to Zoroastrian kings, religious leaders, and aspects of cultural and religious life in Iranian/Zoroastrian-ruled Mesopotamia.

The Talmud itself relates that: “Shemot HaMal’akhim ‘Alu Lahem MiBavel” – “The names of the Angels arose from Babylon”. The Talmud, in fact, goes to the extent of borrowing the names of many of angels in the Zoroastrian pantheon, such as: Mithrá/MiÞrá (called Metatron in the Talmud), Aæshm , the demon of wrath in Zoroastrianism, (called Ashmedai, the king of the Jewish demons in the Talmud),

Yet, biblical apologists consisting mostly of Evangelical Christians, have an unshakeable faith that the Zoroastrian eschatology and angelology could not have possibly influenced the later biblical books and worldview. Neither can they accept the Zoroastrian influence on Greek thought as admitted by Greek philosophers themselves.

Hence, these biblical apologists disguised at times as scholars, have all along stubbornly insisted to lower the age of the ancient seer Zaraþúshtrá from 600 years before the Trojan wars (about 1700-1800 BCE as reported by almost all the ancient Greek writers;) to 600 or even 300-100 BCE.”
-The time of Zoroaster/Zarathúshtrá and the Zoroastrian influence upon biblical worldview by Ardeshir Farahmand

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Indo-European background of the Gathas

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Indo-European background of the Gathas

John Easter

This is only a very brief and simple overview of the Indo-European background behind the Gathas. I made this to help show why the texts of various pagan/polytheist literature of the Indo-European religions, such as the Norse Poetic Edda and the Indian Rig-Veda, can help shed light on understanding what is essentially the earliest form of panentheism/monotheism on record. At least the earliest expression of it that is also strongly associated with love and goodness for its own sake.

Indo-European pagan/polytheist literature includes many different things. Including Norse texts, which includes the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, the Norse Sagas, and the Old English Beowulf poem, and Hindu texts, which includes the Rig-Veda, the Upanishads, the Ramayana epic by Valmiki, the Mahabharata epic by Vyasa, and the Puranas, and many others.

Also Celtic texts, which includes the Old Irish Tain Bo Cuailnge epic and the Middle Welsh Mabinogion, Greek texts, which includes the Bibliotheca by Apollodorus, the Theogony and the Works & Days poems by Hesiod, the Argonautica epic by Apollonius of Rhodes, the Iliad & Odyssey epics by Homer, and the Homeric Hymns, and Roman texts, which includes the Aeneid epic by Virgil and the Metamorphoses by Ovid, among others.

Some similar but non-Indo-European pagan/polytheist literature includes the Uralic(Finnish) Kalevala epic by Elias Lonnrot, the Northwest Caucasian(Circassian) Nart Sagas, the Chinese Fengshen Yanyi epic by Xu Zhonglin, and the Japanese Kojiki by O no Yasumaro & Hieda no Are and the Nihon Shoki by Prince Toneri & O no Yasumaro, which are the 2 oldest and most important texts within Shintoism.

The words of the Gathas are indeed the very embodiment of Mazda-Yasna, literally meaning God Worship, and they represent a very pure monotheism in that they always assert the primal power of Ahura Mazda or God above all other entities.

However Zoroastrian tradition has always acknowledged a numerous host of ultra powerful and wonderful celestial beings that are indeed most comparable to the gods and goddesses of the world’s other traditions.

Including the non-Indo-European traditions such as in the African, Native American, Australian and Polynesian cultures. However the great yazatas(beings worthy of veneration) are portrayed with an even more heroic, and of course more angelic like, stature. This all obviously having very strong universalist implications.

This is contrasted sharply with the Jewish tradition, which tends to severely downplay the abilities of the angels in order to over illustrate the omnipotence of Yahweh. A concept inherited from the neighboring ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian traditions where the high reigning top gods, such as El, Baal Hadad, Marduk, and Ashur, had to be evaluated above all other beings and at all costs.

Indeed the strictly demanded obedience and veneration of Allah in Islam can be thought of as an extension of these ancient traditions as there are some noticeable parallels between descriptions of El “the kindly, the compassionate” and Allah “the merciful, the compassionate”.

Paganism, more specifically polytheist worship or the practice of acknowledging and revering multiple spiritual beings, has customarily been looked down upon by hardcore monotheist traditions. By revering the yazatas(gods & goddesses/angels) and the elements over which they preside we are in fact celebrating the good creation of God.

Mazda-Yasna offers an inspired synthesis of what is best in both monotheism and so called polytheism. The world would be a much better place if the gods, and the aspects of nature of which they represent, were seriously revered only a small fraction of how much they were by the Indic polytheist composers of the Rig-Veda.

The Biblical/Koranic based religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have often been described as superior to other traditions just because of their absolute monotheism alone as if they were proud of the idea portrayed in the Old Testament statements of a “God” who would strangely stress to never ever share his glory with other entities and beings. This somehow displaying his true greatness.

This is clearly only a residue of the older Canaanite and Mesopotamian styles, borrowed by the ancient Jews who wanted to use such language as a way to illustrate God’s uniqueness, rather than being the literal and actual reflections of a truly universal God.

History has repeatedly shown that this mindset of clinging to an absolute monotheism alone as the highest virtue, regardless of anything else, including love and goodness, has tendencies to generate a blind, violent, and arrogant expression of faith.

In Mazda-Yasna God is synonymous with the very element of goodness itself and any form of cruelty towards sentient beings would never be understood as being the will of God.

Zarathushtra Spitama is the prophet or teacher of Mazda-Yasna(God-Worship) and the composer of the Gathas. He lived somewhere within the eastern area of Greater Iran. It could possibly be in what is now either eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or even southern Russia.

He was the first monotheist in recorded history to clearly expound that there is only one truly supreme God behind the universe who is also the force of love and goodness. This is expressed in his Gathas or Songs. Gatha is both the Avestan word and the Sanskrit word for hymn or a song of praise.

Many scholars consider the Gathas or the Songs to be a record of Zarathushtra’s own words that were carefully preserved and passed down through oral tradition for about 2000 years before being committed to writing.

The Indo-Iranian languages, Gathic Avestan and Vedic Sanskrit, are so close that Zarathushtra must of composed the Gathas in Iran within only a few centuries, either before or after, of when the rishis(seers/sages) composed the Rig-Veda in India. This may have been as early as 1500 to 1700 B.C. or 3500 to 3700 years ago.

A later date between 1000 to 1200 B.C. or 3000 to 3200 years ago is also suggested for Zarathushtra’s time but it really depends on the real age of the Rig-Veda and also the Vedic Sanskrit language itself, both of which seem to be much more ancient than that.

“The prophet Zarathushtra, son of Pourushaspa, of the Spitaman family, is known to us primarily from the Gathas, seventeen great hymns which he composed and which have been faithfully preserved by his community.”

“Zoroaster’s date cannot be established with any precision, since he lived in what for his people were prehistoric times. The language of the Gathas is archaic, and close to that of the Rigveda (whose composition has been assigned to about 1700 B. C. onwards); and the picture of the world to be gained from them is correspondingly ancient, that of a Stone Age society.”

“It is only possible therefore to hazard a reasoned conjecture that Zoroaster lived some time between 1700 and 1500 B.C.”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 17 and p. 18 by Mary Boyce

Aside from what is in the Gathas there is very little known about Zarathushtra for sure. There are stories and elaborations in the later Avesta, Middle Persian texts, and the Shahnameh epic by Ferdowsi but all these came much later.

The basic story seems to be that Zarathushtra came from an Iranian priestly family with practices not too different from the Indian priestly families and the earliest expressions of Hinduism. This would explain how Zarathushtra was actually able to compose the Gathas and sing them.

Early in his life Zarathushtra wanted to understand the nature of things. He questioned many things and sought all the higher knowledge he could gain from various teachers and priests like the Buddha over a 1000 years later.

Early on he noticed the corruption of the Karapans(Iranian priests) who easily controlled all others with fear and power for the sake of maintaining their own wealth and position, while the Kavis(warrior chieftains) raided villages and slaughtered innocent people. No one, not even his parents, would listen to him.

It is then said that when he was around 20 he left his home and went to dwell in the wilderness of the mountains where he mediated on all aspects of life and existence while also observing nature for 10 years.

When he was 30 he communed with Vohu Manah(Loving Mind) who showed him that there was ultimately one Primal and Supreme Intelligence of pure goodness behind all the universes or dimensions of existence, both physical and spiritual.

Zarathushtra returned wanting to share and teach his discoveries with his family and friends. However his community was too used to the traditional Indo-Iranian religion of their ancestors and they would not accept his new ethical message.

Eventually the Iranian priests realized how damaging his message could be to their prestigious lifestyle and called on the aid of the warrior chieftains to forcibly expel him from their community.

Later on Zarathushtra reached the community of King Vishtaspa who, together with his ministers, accepted his message and from then on aided him in spreading it.

Zarathushtra’s message would eventually spread all throughout the Greater Iranian plateau and about 1200 years later would greatly influence Judaism through Emperor Cyrus of Persia freeing the Jews from Babylonian captivity.

This made for long term friendly relations between the 2 groups who may of additionally felt a kindred spirit with each other as fellow monotheists. This in turn would influence the formations of Christianity 500 years afterwards, about 1700 years later, and Islam another 600 years afterwards, about 2300 years later.

While in the East, about 1000 years later, the message would more indirectly influence the formation of later Post-Vedic Upanishadic Hinduism in India. About 1700 years later it would also influence the formation of later Mahayana Buddhism in Central Asia before its spread into China and Japan.


“Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.”

“and some of its leading doctrines were adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as by a host of Gnostic faiths, while in the East it had some influence on the development of northern Buddhism.”

“These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence,”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 1 and p. 29 by Mary Boyce

“The Bible, which does not mention his name, was nonetheless so strongly influenced by his teaching that without him Judaism would have been a very different faith from what it is, and Christianity as we know it might not, arguably, even have come into existence, and certainly not spread in the direction it did.”

“a great deal of research carried out by numerous scholars indicates that both Judaism and Islam, and through Judaism Christianity as well, were directly influenced by Mazdayasni ideas.”

“Not even Buddhism has escaped Zoroastrian influence, for the region around Afghanistan and Bactria, where Zarathushtra lived many years,” “was at a crucial time in history one of the main centres of the development of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy.”

“and as much a Reformer of the Vedic society as Gautama Buddha. …As a matter of fact Zarathushtra stands nearer to the Vedic religion than Gautama Buddha does. For while Buddhism has sometimes been suspected of atheism, Parsi-ism (Zoroastrianism) (equally with Hinduism) is nothing if not theistic. …Yet no scholar thought of presenting the matter in this light.”

“These classes(caste system) paralleled the Hindu ones of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra”. It was Zarathushtra’s innovative teaching that first challenged this typical Aryan trend; and although today the concept of equality between man and his fellow-man is so common as to be taken for granted,

it ought to be appreciated that it was not the framers of the Declaration of Independence, but the Persian Prophet, who first enunciated it in unambigouous terms.”

“No other individual in the entire history of the world from the time Time began has ever had greater importance, influence, or impact on humanity; and yet he has been so neglected, even by the majority of historians (who surely ought to know better) that many-perhaps most-people in the world have not so much as heard of him.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

Check out the book.,Draft.pdf

(Yasna 28.4 of the Ahuna-Vaiti Gatha)
“I who have set my heart on watching over the soul, in union with Good Thought[Vohu Manah], and as knowing the rewards of Mazda Ahura for our works, will, while I have power and strength, teach men to seek after Right[Asha].”

Translation from The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra by Dr. Irach J. S. Taraporewala and C. Bartholomae

Zarathushtra’s pure revelation was totally all his own and was truly and most uniquely inspired by God. He calls himself a vaedemna(one who knows) which means he has divinely inspired wisdom.

However he must have been trained in the same oral traditions as the Iranian and Indo-Iranian poetic priests that came before him who in turn inherited their oral traditions from the even older Indo-European poetic priests.

In fact in the Gathas he refers to himself as a zaotar(a fully qualified priest of the older Indo-Iranian religion he opposed) and also a manthran which means one who is able to compose manthras(in Avestan) or mantras(in Sanskrit).

As strange as it may seem the Gathas are composed similarly to the heroic bardic poetry of the Norse & Celtic traditions, which are also of Indo-European origin.

The Gathas are actually passionate and poetic songs in loving praise of God that also contain visions, riddles, and prayers that are simultaneously intellectual and emotional.

“These are not works of instruction, but inspired, passionate utterances, many of them addressed directly to God; and their poetic form is a very ancient one, which has been traced back (through Norse parallels) to Indo-European times.”
-Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices p. 17 by Mary Boyce

Gathic Avestan, like its close relative Vedic Sanskrit, is a very fluid language. The words contain multi-layered meanings that reflect many different concepts at the same time.

The situation is somewhat similar to the multiple meanings of the ancient Chinese characters within the Tao Te Ching text by Lao Tzu which has resulted in many different English translations as well.

Many of the words convey implications referring to the mind/spirit, mental awareness, and consciousness not unlike that which would later be expressed in Hindu & Buddhist philosophies over 1000 years later.

Unfortunately this isn’t quite as easily apparent in English translations of the Gathas because even the most literal and technically correct translations are stilted to focus on a more direct meaning of the words for the sake of easier comprehension.

The Gathas, unlike the Old Testament and the Koran, are not a set of unchanging instructions or arbitrary tribal rules but instead serve as divine encouragement to always pursue and attune to what is good through Daena(Vision/Conscience), Tushna-Matay(Meditation), and personal mental/spiritual insight.

Part of the Kushti(holy belt) prayer.
“I keep pure my conduct by keeping pure the six powers of life, act, speech, thought, intellect, reasoning and mind.”

The Gathas also encourage the use of one’s God given mind to ever increase in creative consciousness and to improve the good physical creation of God for the benefit of all sentient beings which is indeed extended to include the welfare of animals.

“More accurately though ashá/artá is “divine artistry” or “supreme art.” ashá/artá comes often with the epithet vahishtá “beauty, wow, wonder.” The concept of Ashá vahishtá /Artá vahishtá is about the VISION/ART which creates and discovers WONDER.”

“In fact, Zarathúshtrá teaches that we are the co-workers (ham-kár) of the Gd of Genius and Vision through ashá/artá,”
Why shall we choose Goodness and Virtue??? by Ardeshir Farahmand

“For the Gd that Zarathushtra teaches about does not want servants and slaves but superior ahúrás and master creators, shapers of a fresh, new world and destiny,”
-Ameretát “Immortality,” “Indestructibility,” in the Poetic Gathas by Ardeshir Farahmand

“Fundamental to Zarathushtra’s philosophy is the tender loving care, friendship and stewardship of gentle/graceful animals, pets and livestock;” “Zarathushtra teaches that animals have a SOUL and consciousness,” “The seer/sage takes a very strong stand against the unrestrained slaughter and ill treatment of animals,”
-Zoroastrian dietary laws, animal friendship and stewardship by Ardeshir Farahmand

The Proto-Indo-Europeans, or the earliest Indo-European tribes, are generally thought to of originated over 5000 years ago from somewhere within the area of what is today in southern Russia. To the north of the Caucasus. At different points, different Indo-European tribes migrated to Europe, Iran, and India, spreading their influence and language.

The Indo-European tribes did in fact mix with the local indigenous groups of the areas that they settled in. This greatly influenced the development of the different expressions of the Indo-European cultures and mythologies after thousands of years of settlement.

The major Indo-European language groups in Europe include the Greek, Italic(Italian/Spanish/French), Germanic(German/Norse/English), Celtic(Irish/Scottish/Welsh), Slavic(Russian/Polish/Bulgarian), and Baltic(Lithuanian/Latvian) families. Lithuanian, of the Baltic family, is the European language that is closest to the Vedic Sanskrit in the Rig-Veda and the Gathic Avestan in the Gathas.

Indo-Iranian is a major and ancient offshoot of Indo-European. It mainly refers to the linguistic ancestors of the speakers of Iranic(Iranian) and Indic(Indian) languages before they divided into separate groups. It also includes the distinct Nuristani & Dardic language speakers.

The Proto-Indo-Iranians, or the earliest Indo-Iranian tribes, and apparently even the earliest Iranians themselves, most likely hailed from an area much further north than either Iran or India because of the ancient ruins of the Sintashta and Arkaim settlements. Particularly an area that is now within Russia or Kazakhstan.

“The cemetery excavation at Sintashta, in the south Ural steppe, has yielded compelling evidence for the importance of warriors in that area around 1500 B.C. Of special interest to us are finds that suggest correlations with the warrior activities condemned by Zarathustra.”
-Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology p. 192 by Shan M. M. Winn

Iranic peoples include the ancient Iranians who spoke Avestan during Zarathushtra’s time, the ancient Persians who founded the Achaemenid and Sassanian empires, and the modern Persians, Tajiks, Kurds, and other groups in the Middle East and Central Asia today.

The largest surviving communities of Iranian Zoroastrians within modern Iran are in the provinces of Yazd and Kerman, and in the city of Tehran within the province of Tehran which is the capital of the country.

Over a thousand years ago many Iranian Zoroastrians migrated east towards India in order to escape Islamic persecution and became the Parsi people. Beginning over 200 years ago more Iranian Zoroastrians went east to escape Islamic persecution as well and became the Irani people.

Some of the other Iranic groups include the ancient Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, and their descendants who settled in the Caucasus that later became the modern Ossetians. The Ossetian people composed their own versions of the Nart Sagas along with the versions composed by the native Caucasian peoples.

The origins behind the Iranic Ossetian versions of the Nart Sagas of the Caucasus would also strongly influence the stories about King Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table, through Roman and Sarmatian migration to Britain.

The Indic peoples include the speakers of Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and many other related languages which all ultimately derive from Vedic Sanskrit. Both early Vedic & later Upanishadic Hinduism was developed in India through what was probably a combination of influence from both Indo-Iranian religion and the ancient Dravidian religion of the indigenous Dravidian peoples of non-Indo-European origin. Even Vedic Sanskrit shows traces of Dravidian influence.

The Romani(Gypsy) people are also included among them. The Nuristani & Dardic peoples include the Kalash people who seem to be the very last followers of unbroken traditions from Indo-European paganism and polytheism. The Kalash pantheon includes Indra from the Rig-Veda.

Other Middle Eastern areas where the Indo-Europeans settled include Armenia and Anatolia or ancient Turkey. Anatolia is where the Anatolian peoples settled which includes the Hittites.

Armenia was influenced by both Iran and Greece and the deities of Armenian Mythology are somewhat like a fusion between the Zoroastrian yazatas and the Greek Olympians because their names are similar to the names of the Zoroastrian angels but their attributes are more akin to the Greek gods.

The Indo-Europeans even migrated as far as western China in the Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert where the Tocharian languages were spoken. It is also where the well preserved Tarim mummies were found.

I will now end this by showing some amazing similarities between a few Gathic Avestan terms and a few Old Norse terms. First I will describe the background of the Norse texts. The Norse tribes originated from older Germanic tribes who in turn originated from Indo-European tribes that settled within northern Germania and southern Scandinavia.

The Germanic languages are divided into 3 major groups. East Germanic, West Germanic and North Germanic. East Germanic tribes included the ancient Goths and Vandals. Only West and North Germanic languages are spoken today.

West Germanic languages includes German of Germany, Dutch of the Netherlands(contains Holland), Frisian of Frisia, and English of England. West Germanic languages are also spoken in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium. The Jewish influenced Yiddish language is also a West Germanic language.

North Germanic has 2 subgroups. West Scandinavian which contains Norwegian of Norway, Icelandic of Iceland, and also Faroese of the Faroe Islands, which are in between Norway and Iceland. The other group is East Scandinavian which contains Swedish of Sweden and Danish of Denmark.

Other West Scandinavian languages not around today include Greenlandic Norse of Greenland and Norn of the Orkney islands and the Shetland islands which are both north of Scotland. Norn was also spoken in Caithness, a county in north-east Scotland.

Proto-Norse is the earliest form of North Germanic languages before it developed into the Old Norse of the Viking Age and then split up into the modern Scandinavian languages. Ancient runic inscriptions in the Elder Futhark alphabet, the oldest form of the Norse runes, show Proto-Norse to be almost exactly the same as Proto-Germanic.

Germanic Mythology in general is mostly preserved from Icelandic writings based on Norwegian versions of the myths which are both North Germanic groups making it Norse Mythology. There are not as many West Germanic writings on the myths but the Merseburg Incantations, which are written in Old High German, mentions Odin, Baldur, and Freya or Frigg. This shows that German Mythology is closely related to Norse Mythology. Anglo-Saxon(Old English), also West Germanic, references are also shown to be closely related.

God is variously called Ahura Mazda, Mazda Ahura, Mazda, and Ahura within the Gathas. Ahura(masculine base) means lord or god while Mazda(feminine base) means wise or wisdom. Together it perhaps should be understood as meaning the Primal and Supreme Intelligence or Mind Force behind the universe.

Asura is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Ahura and refers to a type of deity in the Rig-Veda. Aesir is the Old Norse cognate of both Ahura and Asura and refers to the highest ranking deities, such as Odin and Thor, in the Norse Poetic & Prose Eddas.

In the Gathas the Chinvat Bridge is the separator or the divider between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension or the House of Song(Heaven). Apparently the Chinvat Bridge, through Indo-European roots, is related to the Norse Bifrost, or Asbru(Aesir’s bridge), which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that separates Midgard(Earth) and Asgard(the realm of the Aesir gods).

“Our universe is riddled with passages and according to the Poetic Gathas Chinvatö Perethü, or the Chinvat Bridge is the name of the main passageway from this world to the next and the wondrous realms beyond.”

“Perethü comes from Proto-Indo-European root pertu “to pass over” “bridge;” German brücke, Old English faran “to go, journey” Old Norse fjörðr “ford, entrance, passage” Old Church Slavonic pariti “fly” Latin portus”port, entrance, passage,” Greek poros “journey, passage,” peirein”to pierce, pass through.”

Chinvatö comes from the root chit, Sanskrit chid, Welsh chwydu, Old Irish scian, Gothic skaidan; “to separate one thing from another, to shed knowledge/light on” Latin scientia”knowledge” from scire “to know,” originally “to separate one thing from another.”

Chinvat Bridge is the bridge that “manifests knowledge, reveals, make it all clear.” Chinvat is the port/passage where higher insight is revealed and a selection of the souls for journey to more wondrous dimensions is made.”
-Chinvat Perethü; the Bridge of understanding and Ásbrú, the Aesir’s Bridge by Ardeshir Farahmand

“Zarathushtra teaches about a brilliant bridge or link between our finite material realm of rigidities and limitations to the domains of infinite possibilities and ever greater lights. Through this bridge man’s soul widens to cosmic dimensions and establishes a beaming pathway to the celestial house of music (Garoe-Demane.)

This bridge links up the most rudimentary and fragmented levels of our material knowledge with the highest levels of superb wisdom, understanding and consciousness. Through it we can have access to a realm where all consciousness meets, an undiminishing great light of super-knowledge and innovation.”

“The “Chinvat Bridge” rises beyond time and space and reveals all the future possibilities. It is an all-seeing measureless link, it is all vision, a channel for the superb clarity. The entire universe and all the worlds are seen through it. All becomes clear, revealed and sorted out!”

“The idea of the Chinvat Bridge has an almost identical counterpart in the Norse mythology. The Aesir (Same as Avestan “Ahura” or Sanskrit “Asura”) made a bridge with great skill and knowledge and ride this bridge which is called As-Bru (Aesir-bridge.) It crosses over to the “Urda-Brunn” (Well of Urd or original knowledge,) where the Aesir go to make judgments.

Apparently an intense, illuminating fire burns over the bridge to keep the evil forces away. We read in the Eddas; “Because the “As-Bru” burns all with fire, the holy waters move.” In Norse mythology the bridge/or link to the Aesir’s realm is inaccessible to the wicked and is only open to the noble souls.

Also, in the Zoroastrian holy writings the vile because of their own actions (destroying the world of men/mortals) and lack of vision are unable to cross over the bridge and are cast back into the domain of lies that have consumed them through all ages. (Yasna 46.11 and Yasna 51.13)”
-The concept of the illuminating bridge in Zoroastrian Faith, Norse Mythology and the al Sirat in Islam by Ardeshir Farahmand

Now the similarities between the Zoroastrian texts and the Norse texts are even more extensive than that. They are so particularly strong compared to other Indo-European texts that this may actually reflect a second layer of connections that goes beyond just both groups having the same linguistic background. Zoroastrian traditions coming out from Greater Iran may have possibly influenced the early Germanic tribes and other European groups.

Indo-European tribes have already migrated to Europe long before Zarathushtra’s time in 1700 B.C. or 3700 years ago. However the earliest Proto-Germanic tribes, who developed out of the older Indo-European tribes that settled in northern Germania & southern Scandinavia, may of formed during the Nordic Bronze Age between 1700-500 B.C. or during the Iron Age Jastorf culture which began in about 500 B.C.

The Nordic Bronze Age was exposed to foreign influences through trade with Central Europe and the Mediterranean and includes groups such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and others. Iranian influence may of also been transmitted towards the Proto-Germanic culture while it was still developing out of the older Indo-European culture that settled in Germania.

This would possibly explain why some of the oldest myths within the Norse Poetic Edda, such as the Voluspa, contain several similarities with Zoroastrian texts. Most striking are the similarities between the Zoroastrian Apocalypse and the Norse Ragnarok.
See In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth pp. 84-87 by J.P. Mallory

Another important and amazing similarity between a Gathic Avestan term and an Old Norse term.

“into the eternal lights, and then into the celestial House of Music & Songs of Ahúrá Manzdá. The House of Music & Songs is called Garö Demanæ in Avestan; Compare Avestan gar with Old Norse galdr (plural galdrar) deriving from a root for “singing” music/songs composed in a special metric measure.”
-The Zoroastrian threefold motto: The purest essence in thoughts, words and deeds by Ardeshir Farahmand

Garo[Song] Demane[House] is usually translated as “The House of Song”. It is the dimension of Ahura Mazda from where numerous worlds and melodies are emanated. It is also the oldest name for Heaven.

There is an ever-constant and omni-present invisible gate or portal between the physical dimension and Garo Demane from where all inspirations, creativity, new ideas, progress, and upper levels of consciousness within our minds are generated from.

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Heaven, Purgatory, reincarnation, ghosts, and Hell in light of the Gathas

Copyright: @2013 John Easter.

Heaven, Purgatory, reincarnation, ghosts, and Hell in light of the Gathas

John Easter

“The Gathas must be understood by themselves and in the light of their own contents. In other words, it would not be correct to take a Gatha word in the sense it acquired in later Zoroastrian Literature.” “The nearest to the Gathas, both in language and in spirit, stands the Vedic Literature of India.” “The Gathas are spiritual in the fullest sense of the word.”
-The Gathas of Zarathushtra pp. ix-x by Dr. Irach J. S. Taraporewala


Heaven in Zoroastrianism or Mazda-Yasna(God-Worship) is called Garo Demane, literally song/singing house/domain, which means the House of Song or House of Music and Songs. It is known by other terms meaning House of Loving/Good Mind/Purpose, World of Goodness, Infinite Lights, and Best Existence. It is the dimension of Ahura Mazda(God) and all the angelic spirits. It is associated with music, light, happiness, and love, and is where the souls of good people and also the souls of animals dwell.

Yasna 28.2 of the Gathas refers to both a physical world and a spiritual world. Yasna 32.15 refers to the spiritual world or Heaven as the House of Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose). Yasna 50.4 and 51.15 calls it Garo Demane(House of Song or House of Music & Songs) and the dimension of Ahura Mazda(God). Garo Demane is later called Garodman in Middle Persian texts and Garothman in the Parsi Gujarati language.

Other Zoroastrian terms for Heaven include Gathic Avestan “Ashahya Gaeva”, meaning World of Asha or goodness, Avestan “Anaghra Raochah”, meaning Endless Light or Infinite Lights, and Avestan “Vahista Anhus”, meaning Best Existence, as well as Middle Persian “Wahisht” and New Persian “Behesht” also meaning Best Existence.

Heaven in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all reflections of the House of Music & Songs first described in the Gathas. The Yasna verses from the Gathas are actually composed by Zarathushtra himself and are dated between 3000 to 3800 years old. It is likely that they also distantly influenced the concepts of the Deva Lokas(deity realms), the Pure Lands, and Moksha or Nirvana within later Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

English “Heaven” comes from Middle English “Heven”, which in turn comes from Old English “Heofon” meaning Home of God. Earlier Heofon meant the sky. It is related to Old Norse “Himinn”, Old Frisian “Himul”, Dutch “Hemel”, and German “Himmel” for sky as well. Old English “Neorxna-Wang” is a similar term that means contentment field.

It is also related to the Old Norse term “Himin-Bjorg”, literally Heaven’s castle or mountain, which is the dwelling place of Heimdall, the watchman of the gods, and a part of Asgard, the world of the Aesir gods, at the top of Bifrost or Asbru(Aesir’s Bridge), which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that connects down to Midgard, the world of men, in Norse myth. Interestingly Old Norse “Aesir” is linguistically related to Gathic Avestan “Ahura” in the name of Ahura Mazda(God) through Indo-European roots.

In Zoroastrianism the Gathas describe the Chinvat Bridge as the separator or divider for souls between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension. The Al-Sirat Bridge is the equivalent in the Islamic Koran and seems to be directly based on the Chinvat. Jacob’s Ladder used by angels to travel down to Earth and back up to Heaven in Jacob’s dream seems to be the equivalent in the Jewish Tanakh & Christian Old Testament.

There is a similar bridge in Japanese myth & Shinto religion called Ama-no-uki-hashi or the Floating Bridge of Heaven, which connects the Earth to Takama-ga-hara or the High Plain of Heaven. It is used to travel to and from Heaven. The bridge is also from where creation emanated from. Heaven overarches creation and is the place of Ame-no-minakanushi or the Central Master who is above all the gods. The Floating Bridge, the Chinvat, and Bifrost/Asbru all share the same basic similarities.

Takama-ga-hara is also the place of the ancestors, the kami(spirits), and where the Yamato Japanese gods have their assembly place and halls. Including the sun goddess Amaterasu who is the acting leader of the Yamato pantheon. Similarly Odin, the acting leader of the Norse pantheon, has halls such as Valhalla for the souls of warriors, Gladsheim where the gods have their assembly place, and Hlidskjalf for observing the worlds. Other halls of the gods within Asgard include Freya’s Sessrumnir in Folkvang, Thor’s Bilskirnir in Thrudheim or Thrudvang, Heimdall’s Himin-Bjorg, and others.

English “Paradise” ultimately comes from Avestan “Pairidaeza” which originally referred to enclosed parks and gardens. Hebrew “Shamayim” for sky is the word for Heaven and the Home of God in the Jewish Tanahk/Old Testament while Greek “Ouranos” for sky is used in the Christian New Testament for the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. Arabic “Jannah” for paradise or garden is the equivalent term used in the Islamic Koran.

Chinese “Shangdi” and “Tian”, and Mongolic & Turkic “Tengri”, are very similar terms that mean both one high god and the sky realm of the gods or Heaven. Sky ladders for humans and gods to travel to and from Heaven are mentioned in many ancient Chinese myths in the form of mountains, trees, ropes, towers, cobwebs, and even rainbows. Sky ladders to Heaven are also mentioned in numerous myths around the world including Central & North Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, and South America. Sky realms of the gods are also mentioned in Maori and general Polynesian myths within Oceania.

Similar terms for a good supernatural realm include Greek Mount Olympus, Elysium or the Elysian Fields, and the Islands of the Blessed, Irish Mag Mell and Tir na nOg, Welsh Annwn and Avalon, Norse Asgard & Vanaheim: Odin’s Valhalla, Freya’s Folkvang, Gefjon’s hall, Vingolf(assembly place of the goddesses), and Gimle(for good souls), Sami Saivo, Finnish Paivola/Ylinen, Hungarian Tulvilag/Felso Vilag, Slavic Iriy/Virey, Russian Bunyan, Lithuanian Dausos, Latvian Debeskalns(Sky Mountain), Iranic Ossetian Kurys, Hindu/Indian Svarga, Egyptian Aaru(Field of Reeds), and Wiccan Summerland.

“into the eternal lights, and then into the celestial House of Music & Songs of Ahúrá Manzdá. The House of Music & Songs is called Garö Demanæ in Avestan;”
-The Zoroastrian Threefold Motto: The Purest Essence in Thoughts, Words and Deeds by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

“in good music of all kinds I’ve always perceived the echoes of Garodman(Heaven)”
-On becoming a Zoroastrian in Italy by Michele L. Moramarco

“There, too, will all the animal kingdom be-flocks and herds, wild animals, birds, and fish”
-The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism p. 307 by R. C. Zaehner

“An absolute white Light that is God-all loving. The reunification of us with our creator.”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 27 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

There are numerous near death experience testimonies about God and Heaven that mention great light and also the feeling of great love.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.

Music is also mentioned.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 41 and p. 69 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.


The Gathas seem to express a view in between the extremes of ultra liberalism and ultra fundamentalism but ultimately leans towards Universalism. What seems to be expressed as sinful within the Gathas is harming sentient beings such as by exploiting and killing fellow humans and by causing unnecessary and prolonged suffering towards animals. This is extended to include intentional verbal and psychological abuse.

Yasna 51.9 states that Ahura Mazda exposes everyone to his divine “fire” or “molten metal” which affects people differently based on how good or bad they are. Yasna 30.7 and 32.7 mention this as well. This exposure is also understood to be an allusion to what happens at the Apocalypse/Ragnarok or the Frasho-Kereti(making wonderful, excellent, fresh) of Earth or the Universe. Olam Haba(world to come) is the Jewish equivalent.

Yasna 30.11 states that happiness and blessings come to the followers of goodness while pain and long punishment come to the followers of Druj(evil). The verse also says that eventually all shall be well. Yasna 31.20 states that the followers of Druj experience a long age of misery, darkness, ill food, and crying of woe.

However Yasna 30.8 states that when comes the punishment of the wicked, Ahura Mazda, through Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose), makes them understand and they are then taken back by Ahura Mazda when their frenzy finally wears off and they surrender the evil in their hearts to the powers of good. Yasna 30.10 and 34.10 imply this as well.

Comparatively in modern Judaism what is called Hell really functions as Purgatory. The Babylonian Talmud, in tractate Eduyot 2:10, states that souls are not punished anymore than 1 year or 12 months.

A specific shadowy Purgatory and Limbo like dimension is only vaguely alluded to in Yasna 33.1 of the Gathas. It is first called Misvan Gatu(place for the mixed ones) in the later Avesta. In Middle Persian texts it is called Hamistagan(equilibrium stationary). Interestingly it has later been described as being similar to Earth and even having winters and summers.
See Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 205 by Mitra Ara.

The neutral and shadowy dimension corresponds to many similar references within mythologies from all over the world. Including Sheol in ancient Judaism and the older Kur(Sumerian name) or Irkalla(Assyro-Babylonian name) in Mesopotamian myth.

Other examples include the Asphodel Meadows of Hades in Greek myth, Helheim of Niflhel in Norse myth, Tuonela/Manala in Finnish & Estonian myth, Jabme-Aimo in Sami myth, Patala in Hindu myth, Yomi in Japanese myth & Shinto religion, and the House of Hine in Polynesian(Maori) myth from New Zealand.


Yasna 46.11, 49.11, and 51.14 state that the souls of evil people, in particular the Karapans(evil priests) and the Kavis(tyrant princes), fall back into the Demane Druj (House of Druj) while crossing the Chinvat Bridge. Druj is the concept of evil in general.

The Chinvat Bridge was understood as the separator or the divider between the physical world and the spiritual world. Apparently the Chinvat Bridge, through Indo-European roots, is related to the Norse Bifrost or Asbru(Aesir’s Bridge) which is the illuminating rainbow bridge that separates Midgard(Earth) and Asgard(the world of the Aesir gods).

The House of Druj looks like it should be a name for Hell and it is understood that way. However Dr. Taraporewala, in his free verse translation of the Gathas p. 215, p. 255, and p. 283, identifies it with the Earth or the physical universe.

The reason for this seems to be because in Yasna 49.11, the Gathic Avestan words, paiti and yeinti, could be translated as “shall return” or “do come back”. Alternatively it could be translated as “go (forth?) to meet”. Another reason for this seems to be because the Chinvat Bridge was understood as the barrier between the physical dimension and the spiritual dimension. They are called Astavat(physical) & Manahya(spiritual) in Avestan and Getig(physical) & Menog(spiritual) in Middle Persian.

The problem with this is that it makes it sound like the Earth, or the physical universe, is being identified with Hell, similar to Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Buddhism, instead of being the good creation of Ahura Mazda. However the physical universe is understood to be afflicted by Druj. It’s in this sense how I understand what Dr. Taraporewala meant.

“In Zoroastrianism, the material world is not seen as negative in itself; rather, it exists in the state of ‘mixture’ and it has been contaminated by the aggressive activity unleashed against it by the evil spirit, Angra Mainyu.” “The spiritual world is directly connected with the material world, as if the latter were the manifestation of the spiritual world.”
-Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 166 by Mitra Ara

If Yasna 49.11 is referring to reincarnation it should be compared to statements that seem to be in support of reincarnation from the nearly contemporary Rig-Veda instead of later Hindu texts.

The Rig-Vedic verses, 10.16.3 and 10.16.5, either mentions being reborn in Heaven or on Earth. The Rig-Vedic verses, 2.33.1 and 6.70.3, mention being reborn through one’s descendants.
See The Rig Veda pp. 48-51, p. 206, and p. 221 translated by Wendy Doniger.

Interestingly Middle Persian texts from the Sassanian era refer to the resurrection of people, after the Apocalypse or Frasho-Kereti, as obtaining the “Final Body”. This may or may not be a very distant echo of reincarnation from the Rig-Veda and the background of Indo-Iranian religion, which in turn come from the even older Indo-European religion.

Additionally post-Vedic Hindu texts seem to show some noticeable traces of Zoroastrian influence. Examples include the Shvetashvatara Upanishad and the Narayaniya chapters of the later Shanti Parva book added to the Mahabharata epic.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad mentions using forms, including the depictions of all the different Hindu deities, to help understand Brahman(God) and the importance of expressing Bhakti(loving devotion) to Brahman or God. The statements in the Upanishad about Brahman and the later Bhakti movements within Hinduism, such as the Hare Krishna movement, may have originated from Zoroastrian influence on the composers of the Upanishads. Major avatars include Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, and Maha-Devi.

The Shanti Parva mentions a foreign land to the north-west of India called Shweta Dwipa that seems to be referring to Zoroastrian Iran because its people are described as being equals, monotheistic, and worshiping God through good thoughts, words, and deeds.
See Zarathushtra pp. 60-61 by Ardeshir Mehta.

However post-Vedic Hinduism also contains many influences from the later ascetic Shramana movements indigenous to India. The Shramana traditions taught a purely karma based reincarnation instead. Shramana not only changed Hinduism but also very strongly influenced the formations of Buddhism and Jainism, which rejected the Vedas.

The main objection I have against reincarnation in Zoroastrianism, mainly through Yasna 49.11, is that it implies a system similar to the pure karma systems in later Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It should be noted that Yasna 49.11 may not be specifically referring to reincarnation even if “do come back” is definitely the correct translation.

However I don’t think reincarnation is necessarily incompatible with Zoroastrianism. I also don’t think a Zoroastrian reincarnation would be a cold and mechanical process like how it’s described in Buddhism, Jainism, and some expressions of Hinduism. Nor do I think people, who are reborn unaware of their past deeds, are to experience suffering or good things in the current life, nor in a yet even later life, when their karma “ripens”.

The Rig-Veda portrays rebirth among descendants as desirable and even requesting it from the gods. The Helgi lays of the Poetic Edda and the Norse/Icelandic sagas, Finnboga Saga, Viga Glum Saga, Svarfdaela Saga, and the story of Olaf in the Flateyjarbok, which are all from a Germanic but related Indo-European culture, also seem to hint at this same idea. Other Indo-European peoples, Celts, Greeks(see the story of Er in the Republic by Plato), and the Italic Romans(see book 6 in the Aeneid by Virgil), hint at this as well.

“A lesson which they[the druids] take particular pains to inculcate is that the spirit/mind does not perish, but after death passes from one body to another;”
-De Bellico Gallico 6.14 by Julius Caesar. He is describing the druids of the Celtic Gauls.

Alternatively I think reincarnation could be a willing request made by souls to God to help spread more goodness throughout the universe as hamkars(co-workers). Kabbalistic Judaism expresses it in this sense and the basic idea is in alignment with Zoroastrianism.

“but reincarnation is generally viewed positively, as multiple opportunities to help others and acquire merit for the self.”
-The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism p. 218 by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

“In Kabbalistic understanding of gilgul(cycle), which differs from many Eastern-religious views, reincarnation is not fatalistic or automatic, nor is it essentially a punishment of sin, or reward of virtue.” “As such gilgul is an expression of Divine compassion, and is seen as a Heavenly agreement with the individual soul to descend again.”
-Gilgul article on Wikipedia.

Similar expressions of a more positive version of reincarnation are also mentioned in the Native American traditions as well.
See Amerindian Rebirth: Reincarnation Belief Among North American Indians and Inuit by Antonia Mills and Richard Slobodin.


If the translation “shall return” or “do come back” in Yasna 49.11 is correct it would not necessarily mean reincarnation or reincarnation alone. It could also refer to the physical or Earthbound containment of a disembodied Urvan(soul/self in Gathic Avestan) akin to a ghost.

The Zoroastrian texts don’t seem to specifically mention ghosts, outside of the temporary state of a disembodied Urvan before going to the Chinvat Bridge, but they do mention demons. Evil spirits or bad ghosts may have been associated with the demons in general.

Zoroastrians do maintain an ancient tradition of a series of 10 days, known as the Farvar-digan or Muktad days approximately March 11-20, for honoring all the good spirits of the dead who are believed to visit from Heaven. Jashne(Festival) of Farvar-dingan on April 8 is another day of the dead. The Farvar-digan days are generally similar to both the All Saints’ Day/All Hallows and the Feast of All Souls Day in Catholic Christianity.

The last Wednesday of the 10 days is called the Chahar Shanbe Suri. It is also known as the Festival of Fire and bonfires are made at night to repel the evil spirits. It has aspects surprisingly similar to Halloween and may reflect ancient Indo-European connections. During the evening children and adults use white shrouds or sheets to dress up as ghosts to reenact the coming of all the spirits and then go out to visit homes asking for treats.

“The popular holiday of Halloween has its roots and origin in the Celtic holiday of Samhain. It is truly fascinating that how Halloween and many other ancient Indo-European festivities, have been preserved untouched in Mazda-Yasna or Zoroastrianism with the original ancient beliefs behind them.”

“The Gaels, like the Zoroastrians believed that the border between this world and the Other-World became thin before the New Year; it thus allowed the spirits to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living.”
-Celtic Origins of Halloween and Zoroastrian Beliefs and Festivities by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

Some near death experience reports describe Hell as being in an Earthbound state as a ghost. There are exceptions, such as in ancestor veneration, but many of the ghosts and other undead beings that are recorded in folklore from all over the world are usually described as hostile or sad as well as being in an unnatural or even Hellish like state.

“But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface- unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space? What if it meant remaining on earth but never again able to make contact with it?”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 131 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent
Taken from Return from Tomorrow by George Ritchie and Elizabeth Sherrill

“The psychiatrist George Richie (1998, pp.37-41) who had an NDE(near death experience) in 1943 tells of visiting hellish realms invisible but on the earth-plane, as well as tours of other realms where people were trapped because of their own desires.”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

Gathic Avestan “Druj” means malicious falsehood, the opposite of “Asha” or goodness, and the essence of evil in the wickedest, vilest, deepest, and un-holiest sense. It is a close cognate of Vedic Sanskrit “Druh” which means affliction, hurtful, hostile, injurer, foe, fiend, demon, and evil power. “Druh” is also the opposite of “Rta” which is the Vedic Sanskrit cognate of Gathic Avestan “Asha” and means order.

Old Norse “Draugar” and Middle Irish “Aurddrach” refer to undead beings and are related cognates of Gathic Avestan “Druj” and Vedic Sanskrit “Druh” through Indo-European roots. Other related words include Old English “Dreag”, meaning ghost, Scottish Gaelic “Dreag”, meaning ghost lights or “fiery death-warnings”, Old Persian “Drauga” and Persian “Dorug”, meaning lies, German “Trug”, meaning fraud or deception, and English “Trick”. Possibly even English “Darkness”, which derives from Old English “Deorc” meaning obscure, gloomy, sad, cheerless, sinister, and wicked.

“Aurddrach” means ghost. “Abhartach” is a similar word that refers to an undead dwarf in an Irish legend who is described as one of the “neamh-mairbh” or walking dead. “Draug”, singular, or “Draugar”, plural, are ghoul like beings described in the Norse/Icelandic sagas. Including Eyrbyggja Saga, Saga of Grettir the Strong, Saga of Erik the Red, Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, Saga of Egil & Asmund, Saga of Hromund Gripsson, Njal’s Saga, Laxdaela Saga, Gisli Sursson’s Saga, and Floamanna Saga.

Draugar are related to ghasts in Swedish lore, Nachzehrers in German lore, and revenants in English lore. Draugar are particularly similar to the vampires in Slavic & Romanian lore and to both the Rakshasas and the undead beings in Hinduism & Indian lore. They are also similar to the ghouls in Arabian lore and to the Dybbuks in Jewish lore. Whether described as physical ghoul like beings or non-physical ghost like beings the undead are mentioned in the lore of numerous countries and cultures and on every continent.

Draugar were thought to be very greedy, cruel, and wicked people in life. As undead they injure and terrorize both human and animal life in the Norse sagas. This does seem to be connected to the Dregavants, the followers of Druj and the living injurers of human and animal life, who fall back into the House of Druj after their deaths, which is described as a Hellish state for their souls in the Gathas. Frawardin Yasht 12 states that the guardian angels help prevent Druj from gaining power over the physical world or corporeal life.

“In Norse mythology the bridge/or link to the Aesir’s realm is inaccessible to the wicked and is only open to the noble souls. Also, in the Zoroastrian holy writings the vile because of their own actions (destroying the world of men/mortals) and lack of vision are unable to cross over the bridge and are cast back into the domain of lies that have consumed them through all ages. (Yasna 46.11 and Yasna 51.13)”
-The Concept of the Illuminating Bridge in Zoroastrian Faith, Norse Mythology and the Al-Sirat in Islam by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

A fate like this would seem more likely for the Karapans(evil priests) and Kavis(tyrant princes) in the Gathas than reincarnation considering their offenses of instructing men to do evil and causing harm and pain towards people and animals alike.

Yasna 31.20, 46.11, and 51.13 state that it is actually their own soul and self, not God, that torments them for their wicked deeds and words when they approach the Chinvat Bridge and fall back into the House of Druj.

“This concept of self-judgment most likely stems from the Zoroastrian insistence that God is perfect goodness and that such a God could not inflict the pain of punishment.”

“As Ahura Mazda can create no evil, the pain of any Hell must come from demons independent of God’s power or, as the Gathas indicate, must be self-inflicted. Ahura Mazda does instigate the final ordeal of molten metal, but it is clear that the suffering depends on the person’s nature, for the righteous swim in this fluid as if it were warm milk.”
-Last Judgment as Self Judgment: After Death Experiences in Zoroastrianism and Tibetan Buddhism
Taken from “Humanistic Self-Judgment and After-Death Experiences” by N. F. Gier in Immortality and Human Destiny pp. 3-20 by Geddes MacGregor


Here Hell is identified with the Abyss or the dimension of Angra Mainyu and his daevas. As opposed to a place meant for human souls to be sent for punishment by God. It appears souls can be drawn down to it but not as a part of the will of God and the angelic spirits under him.

Yasna 30.3-5 and Yasna 45.2 state that Angra/Akem/Aka Mainyu, the hostile/evil spirit, chose to oppose Spenta Mainyu(Holy Spirit) who is the sacred and bright life-emanating spirit under Ahura Mazda(God). Angra Mainyu, called Debaoma(arch-deluder/deceiver) in Yasna 30.6, persuaded the daevas, shining deities or beings, to join his cause. Yasna 30.6 and Yasna 32.3-5 state that the daevas chose to go bad with him and to afflict humans and the world or Universe with hateful acts as well as to inspire aggressive religious views and violence in the minds of people.

Their dimension is not directly described but it seems to be alluded to in Yasna 30.4 and Yasna 32.13. Their abode also seems to be alluded to in the Zamyad Yasht and the Mithra Yasht within the Avesta. The later Vendidad, Bundahishn, and Dadestan-i Denig texts all reference a mountain to the far north called Arezura said to have a gate or portal to their dimension on the summit.

Yasna 32.13 states that an evil man called Grehma, and his followers, obtained dominion or power in the House of Acishtahya Manah(Worst Mind/Purpose) but that the power will destroy them and then they will desire the power of Ahura Mazda instead. Acishtahya Manah is a term similar to Aka/Akem Manah(Evil Mind/Purpose).

Aka Manah is the opposite of Vohu Manah(Loving/Good Mind/Purpose). One of Heaven’s names is the House of Vohu Manah. So it seems that the House of Acishtahya Manah is the original name for Hell. Aka Manah in Yasna 32.3 seems to possibly be referring to Angra Mainyu(Hostile Spirit) instead of an arch-daeva under him like in the later Avesta. Interestingly Spenta Mainyu(Holy Spirit) and Vohu Manah might be the same being.

Other Zoroastrian terms for Hell include Gathc Avestan “Druj Demane”, meaning House of Druj or evil, Avestan “Anaghra Temah”, meaning Endless Darkness, Avestan “Achista Anhus”, meaning Worst Existence, and Avestan “Duzanhu”, meaning Bad Existence, as well as Middle Persian “Dusox” and New Persian “Duzak” also meaning Bad Existence.

English “Hell” comes from Old English “Helle” and “Hel”. Both mean concealed place and refer to the underworld of the dead in general. They are related to Old Norse “Hel” which refers to both the goddess of the underworld and the neutral area of the underworld in Norse myth. Old Norse “Niflheim” refers to the misty wilderness of the underworld.

Old Norse “Nastrond”, meaning corpse shore, is the punishment area of the underworld for murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers. It is described as a large hall filled with serpents woven into the walls and ceiling that are continuously dripping venom and forming streams. It is similar to other Indo-European punishment areas. Including the Greek Tartarus within Hades of Plouton/Pluto and the Hindu/Indian Naraka of Yama.

The wicked dead, in addition to wading through rivers of venom, are also attacked by a wolf and by the flying dragon called “Nidhogg” which means Malice Striker in Old Norse. Old English “Wyrm-Sele” is a term that means Serpent Hall. It is filled with serpents and is probably the Germanic Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Norse Nastrond.

Uralic negative spirit worlds are similar to Norse Niflheim and Nastrond. Including Finnish Pohjola, described as a cold land of all evil and ruled by Louhi/Loviatar the evil goddess of diseases, Sami Rotaimo, described as the place of evil spirits and ghosts and ruled by Rota/Ruohtta the evil god of death and sickness, and Hungarian Pokol/Also Vilag, described as the place for cruel souls and ruled by Ordog the god of evil. Pohjola, like the mountain Arezura in Zoroastrian texts, is also described as being to the far north.

Hebrew “Gehinnom” in the Jewish Tanahk/Old Testament referred to a place called the Valley of the Son of Hinnom where children were burned to death as a sacrifice to the dark god called Moloch. In the later Jewish writings “Gehinnom”, because of its evil association, came to be used to refer to the negative spirit world or a place of punishment as either Hell or Purgatory. It also has a wicked angel prince depending on the source. The physical valley itself was thought to contain a gate or portal to the dimension.

Greek “Gehenna” comes from Hebrew “Gehinnom” and is the equivalent term in the Christian New Testament while Arabic “Jahannam” is the equivalent term in the Islamic Koran. The “Lake of Fire” in the Jewish Book of Enoch and the Christian Book of Revelation seems to echo the lakes and rivers of red fire for punishment within the Duat, which is the general spirit world in Egyptian myth. It is also similar to the molten metal described during the process of Frasho-Kereti(Making Wonderful) in Zoroastrianism.

The Abyss and Tartarus are the Greek language terms used for the abode of fallen angels or demons in the New Testament. Abyss means bottomless pit. In Greek myth Tartarus is a great abyssal pit that was used to cast away and seal up powerful enemies of the Olympian gods such as the Titans, the Gigantes, and the monstrous Typhon according to the Theogony poem by Hesiod. The Tartarus within Hades where Plouton or Pluto, the god of the underworld, administers punishment to the wicked dead is a different Tartarus.

In the Book of Enoch and the Book of Giants of the Jewish Apocrypha a group of fallen angels called Watchers, led by Azazel and Shemyaza, subjugate and enslave humans killing hundreds of thousands of them. They were defeated by the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel and were then sealed up in Tartarus. These fallen angels, or abyssal fallen angels in general, seem to be alluded to in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 within the New Testament. The Second Book of Enoch says that Satan hovers above the Abyss.

In the Rig-Veda the Devas, or gods of the early Hindu pantheon, Indra, Agni, Soma, and Varuna, fight and defeat the Asuras(dark gods or demons) and Rakshasas(lesser Asuras) which are then sealed away in the world of the A-Sat, literally meaning the non-existence or anti-existence, and An-Rta, literally meaning anti-order. It is described as a dark hole or a great, deep, gloomy, and abyssal pit. It is later called Naraka in the Atharva-Veda.
See Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions p. 108 and pp. 140-146 by Mitra Ara.

“Time was forever, endless rather than all at once. The remembering of events had no sense of life review, but of trying to prove existence, that existence existed. Yes, it was more than real: absolute reality. There’s a cosmic terror we have never addressed.

The despair was because of the absolute conviction that I had seen what the other side was- I never thought of it as Hell- and there was no way to tell anyone. It wouldn’t matter how I died or when, damnation was out there, just waiting.”
-Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 127 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent
Taken from Distressing Near-Death Experiences by Bruce Greyson and Nancy E. Bush

There are many near death experience testimonies about Hell. Many different people have described it as a vast pit or dimension of darkness and evil. Reports also mention that there are screams and demons within. Some people even described it as being very hot or having heat like in the traditional fire and brimstone descriptions but not always and sometimes even coldness is described instead.

Sometimes an evil being, thought to be either the Devil or a demon under him, would try to forcibly escort the person to go deeper and deeper down into the abysmal darkness. In many of these accounts where the person started to become more and more scared of what was happening around them they would call out to God for help and then God would instantly appear to rescue them from the evil dimension.
See Visions of God: From the Near Death Experience p. 117, p. 121, p. 123, p. 125, and p. 127 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent.

Many more near death experience testimonies report a Great Being of Light that generates love and it is usually identified with God. However many reports also state that there are actually numerous beings of light, that includes Jesus and the angels, who are the emissaries of God constantly saving souls from ending up in the Abyss like a rescue operation.

“Over the past few decades, increasing numbers of modern people have described a personal, direct knowledge of Hell as the result of their “near-death experience” (people revived following a period of clinical death).

Interestingly, those who found themselves in Hell initially often reversed their experience from negative to positive when they called out to God or Jesus. These encounters seem to indicate that God still rescues people.”

“I was in Hell…I cried up to God, and it was by the power of God and the mercy of God that I was permitted to come back..” “It appears from near-death experience accounts that Jesus is still rescuing people from Hell!”
-The Golden Thread: God’s Promise of Universal Salvation p. 24 and p. 63 by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

In Yasna 46.10 Zarathushtra states that he himself will be with and comfort the souls of good people who cross the Chinvat Bridge. It seems Zarathushtra was saying that he was going to become one of these helpers of light.

“All around these lost souls were Beings of Light just waiting to assist them out of their hellish state.” “Both the Northern Buddhist and Universalist Christian traditions have saviors (Amida Buddha and Jesus) who rescue people from hell (Vincent, 2005, p. 8).”
-Scientific Investigation of the “Dark Side” by Dr. Ken R. Vincent

“He(Amida Buddha) may well have emerged from Zoroastrian scriptures, which worship him(Ahura Mazda) in a similar way to the Amidists.”
-Handbook of Japanese Mythology p. 49 by Michael Ashkenazi

Ahura Mazda is not an angry or vengeful God. The souls seem to be weighed down to the House of Acishtahya Manah, or the dimension of Angra Mainyu, from the evil in their minds and hearts. The Gathas say that evil-doers suffer after death at the Chinvat through their own evil because they see or realize it and that God exposes everyone to his power, which affects people differently based on how good or bad they are. The Chinvat seems to function like a neutral mechanism that shows them what they done wrong.

Yasna 30.8, among other indications within the Gathas, makes it clear that Ahura Mazda neither wants nor intends to loose any of his creations. There are also other indications of this outside of the Gathas as well.

Yasna 19.6, outside of the Gathas, says that Ahura Mazda will help any soul pass over the Chinvat Bridge to Heaven who says the Ahuna Vairya prayer. It seems that later just saying Ahura Mazda, or calling out to God for help, was considered just as effective.

“Further, it is also said in the Zoroastrian text that whoever recites the ‘Ahuna-Variya formula'(see Yasna 19.6 & Yasna 27.13), his soul would be led by Ahura Mazda to ‘the lights of heaven.’ The repetition of Ahura Mazda’s name is repeatedly reported to be efficacious enough to lead the person to paradise.”
-Buddhism in Central Asia p.144 by B.N. Puri

“Merež is the word for Mercy in the Poetic Gathas.” “The mercy/grace of higher providence is for all the creation. We receive it according to our “sincere aspiration” and openness (See Yasna 33.11, 3rd rhymed verse line, sraótá möi merež-dátá möi.)”

“the Poetic Gathas unambiguously teach that mistakes can be effaced. The importance of mistakes and misdeeds lie in the extent to which they have served us to make progress. And once the learning/progress has been made, the consequences of past errors disappear through the bright light of mercy and providence’s grace.”
-Mercy in the Poetic Gathas by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

Maybe the differences in the perspectives about Hell, such as the Zoroastrian & Christian Universalist views compared to the Christian & Islamic Fundamentalist views, can be illustrated in this account of a missionary preaching to the Maori people of New Zealand and the people’s response to it.

“The missionary then began to expatiate on the torments of hell, at which some of them seemed horrified, but others said, “they were quite sure such a place could only be made for the white faces, for they had no men half wicked enough in New Zealand to be sent there;”

but when the reverend gentleman added with vehemence that “all men” would be condemned, the savages all burst into a loud laugh, declaring “they would have nothing to do with a God who delighted in such cruelties;”
-A Narrative of a Nine Months’ Residence in New Zealand in 1827 pp. 154-155 by Augustus Earle

“The idea of “an endless misery” is fundamentally at odds with the core beliefs and dogmas of the Zoroastrians. Zoroastrianism vehemently opposes the notion of a GD that creates imperfect, evolving creatures to punish them later for their imperfections in a demonic hell for ALL ETERNITY.”
-Reincarnation and the Zoroastrian Beliefs by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand

“In point of fact Zarathushtra does not even deem evil-doers eternally condemned; there is hope for them too, for their evil passion must, perforce, wear off one day; and then even these lost ones are taken back by Mazda, in His infinite mercy, unto His bosm:

(Yasna 30.8:) And when the frenzy departs from these sinners, then Mazda Himself, with the help of His Loving Mind, makes them understand, and inspires in them His Strength; Ahura Himself instructs those who surrender the Lie into the hands of the Righteousness.”
-Zarathushtra by Ardeshir Mehta

This quote from Dastur(High Priest) Dr. Kersey H. Antia’s essay “A Brief Exposition of Spirituality in Zoroastrianism” seems to make a good conclusion here as well.

“We can thus see how comprehensive and yet so logical, lofty, sublime and literally so down-to-earth Zarathushtra’s philosophy is about attaining spirituality and how relevant, inspiring and practicable it is today as it was at the dawn of history.

As a matter of fact, when people are turning away from religion and religious dogmas today, his theology holds promise for inspiring us to recognize and fulfill our spiritual mission so easily on this earth, a mission which is not far from our grasp if we only will it.”
-A Brief Exposition of Spirituality in Zoroastrianism by High Priest Dr. Kersey H. Antia

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer in Gathic Avestan
Yatha Ahu Vairyo atha Ratush
Ashat chit hacha;

Vangheush dazda Manangho
Shyothananam angheush Mazdai;

Kshathrem cha Ahurai
A yim daregobyo dadat vastarem.

Yasna 27.13: The Ahuna Vairya manthra/mantra/prayer in English
Just as the Lord [Ahu] is all-capable [Vairya] and worthy of veneration [Vairya], so also the Prophet [Ratu]-by reason of his great store of Truth and Righteousness [Asha].

The gifts of the Loving Mind [Vohu Mano] are for those who perform deeds for the Great Lord of Existence.

The Power [Kshathra] of the Almighty is indeed his, who makes himself a protector of the poor, the needy and the meek.
-Zarathushtra pp. 72-74 translated by Ardeshir Mehta

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Hello my name is John Easter. This blog was created for me by my friend Chris Crawford. He felt it would be a good idea for me to start putting my personal writings and research up on a blog for people to see instead of on a forum for only a few friends. They consist mostly of mythology and religion. It started out as a hobby for fun but slowly developed into a more serious interest.

Although my interests include religions and mythologies in general I have a particularly strong interest in the Zoroastrian religion and its relationship with the Indo-European mythologies, which includes the Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu and other mythologies.

Most of my stuff is about ancient Zoroastrianism and its relationships and similarities with other religions and mythologies. Including non-Indo-European ones such as Judaism and the Chinese and Japanese mythologies. Over time I will be going over and posting some of what I have wrote for this blog. I may eventually post some new things too.