The late Freddy Mercury, singer of one of my favorite Rock bands Queen, has a heritage from the Zoroastrianism tradition. Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, died in 1991 due to the HIV virus. I was sad about this and in listening to the news regarding his memorial, it was reported that a Zoroastrian priest officiated over the service. I looked into the Zoroastrian faith and am struck with how similar it is to Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Of course, the aspect of monotheism is central to the similarity and there is more. A basic tenet is the dichotomy of good and evil and how a believer must choose between the two. The good is represented by Ahura Mazda and evil is Angra Mainyu. This is known as Cosmic Dualism. It is not a battle between supernatural beings but more of a clash of energies. Like the later monotheist beliefs mentioned above, Zoroastrians see God as an all knowing, all powerful force everywhere. Ahura Mazda is seen as pure good who created the world. Fire has important symbolism in the faith — in a temple in Yazd Iran, a fire is has been maintained for 1500 consecutive years! They don’t worship flame; rather the belief is it, “represents God’s light or wisdom” (BBC). Neither does the faith worship Ahura Mazda; instead promoting morals rooted in the terms, “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds”. It is up to the faithful to realize these words in their own life to find redemption after death.
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While Aryan gods carried over into the Hindu tradition, Zoroastrian monotheism was a new direction that was adopted by Achaemenidian Emperor Darius. Persian elites were major patrons of Zoroastrianism and a large priesthood with many temples was established throughout the kingdom. Millions followed the faith. A big setback was Alexander the Great’s invasion of Persia. Zoroastrianism was revived under the Sasanid period but suffered tremendously with the Islamic invasion in the 7th Century C.E. While most converted to Islam, some Zoroastrians fled to India. The descendants of these exiles are known as Parsis. Some Parsis (Persians) settled in Zanzibar – an island in the Indian Ocean where Zoroastrian Freddy Mercury was born.
Today, Zoroastrianism is practiced by 190,000 people at most.