Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ahura Mazda and Ahriman

When it was time for the twins to be born, Zurvan promised that his first-born should rule the world. Ahura Mazda, who was gifted with foresight, told his brother this, and evil-hearted Ahriman forced his way out first, and lied to his parent, saying, “I am your son, Ahura Mazda.” But Zurvan was not deceived, and answered, “My son is light and fragrant, but you are dark and stinking.” And Zurvan wept.

Ahura Mazda Sun Emblem This glazed brick relief from the sixth or fifth century bce was found at Susa in Iran. It shows the winged sun emblem of Ahura Mazda placed above two winged sphinxes, who appear to be standing guard.

In the dualistic mythology of Zoroastrianism, twin brothers Ahura Mazda, who lived in the light, and Ahriman, who lurked in the dark, are in opposition. Between them there was nothing but air. The twins were born from the god Zurvan, “Time,” the ultimate being who existed in the primal void. Ahura Mazda, the wise and all-knowing, created the sun, moon, and stars. He brought into being the Good Mind that works within man and all creation. Ahriman (also known as Angra Mainya, meaning “the destructive spirit”) created demons and attacked Ahura Mazda. But Ahura Mazda sent him back into the darkness, saying “Neither our thoughts, teachings, plans, beliefs, words, nor souls agree.” Then Ahura Mazda created Gayomart, the first man and the first fire priest. But Ahriman renewed his attack and broke through the sky in blazing fire, bringing with him starvation, disease, pain, lust, and death. So Ahura Mazda set a limit to time, trapping Ahriman inside creation. Ahriman then tried to leave creation, but he could not. So he has remained, doing evil until the end of time.

The End of All Things
As the end of time draws near, the savior, Saoshyant, will arise. He will prepare the world to be made new, and help Ahura Mazda to destroy Ahriman. In the time of Saoshyant, people will grow pure. They will stop eating meat, then milk, then plants, then water, until at last they need nothing. Then there will be no more sin, and Az, the demon of lust created by Ahriman, will starve. She will turn on her creator, and try to swallow him up. Ahriman will beg Ahura Mazda to save him, and Ahura Mazda will cast him from creation, through the very hole he made when he broke in. Then time will be at an end, and the world will begin again. Saoshyant will raise the dead, and Ahura Mazda will marry body to soul. First to rise will be Gayomart, the first fire priest, then the mother and father of humanity, Mashya and Mashyoi, then the rest of humanity. All the metal in the mountains of the world will melt, and each man and woman will pass through the stream of molten metal and emerge purified. To the good, the stream will feel like a bath of warm milk; to the evil, it will be agony, as their sins are burned away. The new world will be immortal and everlasting, and free of taint.

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