From Parsomazdaism to Euromazdaism

Parsomazdaism is the traditional religion of the Persians. Growing out of Indo-Iranian paganism it received its distinctive flavour with the teachings of Zarathustra who lived at least a millenium before the Christian era.

Zarathustra introduced a very philosophical kind of religious view in which Mazda or Cosmic Wisdom was given the highest praise. He taught that it is Wisdom which produces the Good Order of existence which is most conducive to happiness and the good life. Thus we must support the Wisdom force especially by developing Humanah - Good Mind.

After the time of Zoroaster there was a merging of Zoroaster's teachings with the pre-existing Iranian religion to create a synthesis of the two. The precise doctrines of this Parsomazdaism varied over time and place but crystallized in the later Persian Empire into what we might call Orthodox Parsomazdaism. This religion was strongly dualist with a good god Ahuramazda opposing the evil Ahriman.

With the Islamic invasion of Persia the number of Mazdeans declined leaving only small groups in Iran today and a long-standing emigre community in India known as the Parsis. Both these groups have come under doctrinal pressure from the Abrahamic religions - Islam in Iran and Christianity in British India - which has led to emphasis on Mazdaism as a monotheistic religion. Modern scholars studying the ancient scriptures have also inspired changes in the traditional understandings.

Awareness of Mazdaism in the West has been growing in recent times. German scholars have lead the way in academic studies, but emigration of Parsomazdeans to western countries has helped spark interest in Westerners seeking an alternative to their native Christianity.

But how should Westerners actually practice Mazdaism? For many it doesn't seem satisfactory to try and join a traditional Parsomazdean community. It seems that as Westerners we need to set up our own practice of Mazdaism - one more suited to our needs. This we call Euromazdaism.

While Euromazdaism is a very new idea we can already discern three branches to it:

1) The first branch are the Zoroastrian Humanists. These are people who are not necessarily very religious but look to Zarathustra as the founder of philosophy and a rational understanding of life and ethical behaviour. They focus their attention on the Gathas of Zarathustra - the only scripture we can be sure was composed by Zarathustra himself - and have less interest in other traditional scriptures or religious practices.

2) The second branch are the Mazda-worshippers or Mazdans. Their focus is to worship Ahura Mazda - Lord Wisdom. They borrow from a wider spectrum of the scriptures, prayers and practices of the Parsomazdeans to put together their own practice that makes sense for them today. Mazdaism of this kind is a practice rather than an all-enveloping religious identity. Just as people in Oriental countries might mix practices from different traditions - Buddhism, Shinto , ancestor worship etc - so 'Occidentals' are able to mix Mazda-worship with other religious practices.

3) The third branch of the Euromazdeans are the Mithrites. Mithraism is a comprehensive religious identity based on the trinity of 'Mitra, Mazda and Zartus'. Like other Mazdeans we reverence Mazda and Zarathustra but we feel that we need a guide to the nature of reality - one more accessible than Mazda , and one more comprehensive than Zarathustra. This guide is Mitra. Mithraism is a very broad church and there are Mithrites who are similar to Christians, Mithrites who are similar to traditional pagans and Mithrites similar to Humanists, Freemasons or neopagans.

Marcus Zartianus, August 4016 ME