Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion still practiced in Iran, India and the United States. The central tenets of Zoroastrianism revolve around the eternal struggle between good and evil as seen in the conflict between the creator god Ahura Mazda and the destroyer god Angra Mainyu (also known as Ahriman).
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Zoroastrianism is a dualistic religion, with much of the theology built around the conflict between two opposing forces, asha (good) and druj (evil). This manifests in the eternal struggle between the deities Ahura Mazda (good) and Angra Mainyu (evil) who are aided by Amesha Spentas (good spirits) and Daevas (evil spirits).
The Avesta is the collection of sacred Zoroastrian texts. It’s composed of the Yasna, the Visparad, and the Vendidad. The Yasna is made up of 72 chapters, seventeen of which are known as the Gathas, hymns written by Zoroaster himself.
After death, believers must cross the Chinvat Bridge. If the soul is virtuous, the bridge widens and the soul is taken to the House of the Songs. If the soul is evil, the bridge narrows and is taken to the House of Lies. The bridge is guarded by Sraosha, Mithras and a pair of four-eyed dogs.
When children come of age in Zoroastrianism, they participate in the navjote ceremony. At the navjote, the child is given two sacred items of clothing, the sudreh, an undershirt with a pocket for catching good deeds, and the kushti, a girdle made of 72 threads (which signifies the 72 chapters of the Yasna).
TOWERS OF SILENCE
Because it was thought that both burial and cremation were unclean, after death the bodies of Zoroastrians were placed atop Towers of Silence (aka dakhmas) where they would decay due to exposure and vultures. The practice has largely stopped in modern-day Zoroastrian communities.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* Here's a nice overview of Zoroastrianism from the BBC.
* Here's an article from Slate about Towers of Silence in the Iranian city of Yazd.
* In this short video, Morgan Freeman explores Zoroastrianism:
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