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Was the founder of the Good Religion, Asho Zarathushtra Spitama, a priest by vocation and by birth? Here the priestly class still present in the new order? Before and after Zarathushtra, was there an inherited structure governing the priestly class? Is the practise of hereditary priesthood currently in place a Zarathushtrian custom? Is it a […]

Was the founder of the Good Religion, Asho Zarathushtra Spitama, a priest by vocation and by birth? Here the priestly class still present in the new order? Before and after Zarathushtra, was there an inherited structure governing the priestly class? Is the practise of hereditary priesthood currently in place a Zarathushtrian custom? Is it a long-standing tradition to initiate young boys into the priesthood? Does becoming a priest require memorising incomprehensible Pazend and Avesta recitations and learning how to do equally incomprehensible rituals? Is the priesthood exclusively available to men? Examining the portions in the existing Avesta that discuss the priestly vocation may help you find the answers to these issues, as well as possibly many others. Here’s an effort. The author’s work Zarathushtrian Ceremonies, which is a reconstruction based on the Gathas, briefly touches on the topic of reconstructing the simple rituals practised in the Gathic age and the ornate ceremonies common during the later Avestan period.

Along with the terminology already stated, there is also Vâstar, which is never used to refer to a “priest.” It appears twice in the Avesta, and only in the Yatha Ahu and Song 2.1 Gathas. The Gathic word mâthran, which has also never been used for the function, is the last one. In our study, we’ll quickly go over each one to determine which word means “priest” and which doesn’t. We’ll start with the Gathic and move on to other Avesta sections after that.

Gathering Sources

The only utterances of Asho Zarathushtra are found in the five Gathas, which span from Yathâ Ahû to Airyemâ Ishyâ (Songs 1–17 = Yasna 27.13,14; 28–34; 43–51; 53; 54.1). We only have six of the aforementioned terms: ahu, ratu, vâstar, mâthran, magavan, and zaotar.

Ahu literally translates to “Being,” therefore a dignitary. It is the same word as “ahura,” which signifies “the Being,” “Lord,” or “God” when the stressing suffix ra is added. According to the Gathas, the main duty of the ahu is to “repel the anger of the wicked” and to purge the afflicted world of “fury, rapine, outrage, and hostility.” (S 2.1-2) It usually involves ratu and solely applies to Zarathushtra. As a result, it is covered here along with ratu. It is translated as “lord” and “master,” as was already mentioned.

The first time the three occupations practised by the Aryans are mentioned is in Fravarti (Y 11.17-13.3), a late composition written in the Gathic dialect. In reality, the two stanzas (Y 13.2 & 3) are a prose complement to Fravarânê’s earlier poetry or the “Choice of Religion” formula (Y 12.8-9). It’s important to note the arrangement of the occupations as stated in the two stanzas: priests (âthravan), warriors (rathaeshtar), and prosperous settlers (vâstrya-fshuyant). The customary ranking of the priestly class first and the settlers last is stated at the end of verse 3, nevertheless. This was undoubtedly added much later. These passages support the idea that the leader in a certain profession should be the most competent. It states that the Mazdayasna religion requires that the priests’ leader (ratu) be the most knowledgeable of them all. The verses believe the Mazdayasna religion’s greatest strength to be its practitioners of all three professions: priests, warriors, and prosperous settlers. The Vispered reiterates the crucial remark that the three vocations serve as the foundation of religion. (4.5)

Avestan Part II

The Vispered, the book for “All-the-Festivals,” comes first in the later Avestan collection chronologically. We are given the names of eight officiating priests in its third chapter, which is obviously a later insertion that is not consistent with the circumstances of other sections of the Vispered. It also demonstrates that zaotar only recited, declared, sang, and revered the Gathas for the congregation and not any other passages from the collection later known as the Avesta after calling a roll of all participating officiants, leaders, and representatives of all the social and religious units of the society.

This explains why the Gatha recital makes no mention of any of the assisting priests. Additionally, it explains why the priest is frequently heard saying one of the following phrases in the majority of non-Gathic Yasna chapters: “I declare and perform,” “I wish to venerate with libation… and… baresman,” “with libation and baresman placed, I wish to venerate,” “I offer… Haoma, milk, libation, spread baresman, water, firewood, and incense,” “I give milk In actuality, all 36 of the other sections—with the exception of Sections 9–11, 19–21, 27, 41, 52, 55, 57, 60–65, and 67—are simply variants on the theme of listing the yazatas to be revered with the aforementioned components. They serve more as a running commentary to inform the audience of the actions taken by the presiding priests.

The Fire Priest Thravan

The Rig Vedic lore describes the fire-priests who carried out the soma/haoma ritual as thravans oratharvans, descendants of Atharvan, a legendary Indo-Iranian rishi who invented the fire ritual and is thought to be the author of the Atharva Veda. Athrvangiras made up the sacerdotal class or race of men. This demonstrates their presence before Zarathushtrian time. However, its use in Hinduism has subsequently decreased. But in Zoroastrianism, it has always occupied the highest place. The phrase appears in the later Avesta around 40 times. The first of the four occupations was it. (Y 19.18). According to the Hom Yasht (Y 9–11), Keresâni (a mythological king) was overthrown by Haoma when he forbade the âthravans from working in his territory (here personified for the purpose). (Y 9.24). Ironically, the Vedic character Krshânu (pronounced Keresani in Indian) is a heavenly defender of soma. The two accounts are evidence of an Indo-Iranian split in which the Iranian haoma priests appeared to have overthrown the founder of the original cult and established their dominance.

Education and Learning

The Gathas demonstrate that Zarathushtra was the first educator to set up a system to disseminate, uphold, and advance his heavenly truth. He selected Kavi Vishtâspa, the brothers Ferashaotra and Jâmâspa, as well as his cousin Maidhyoimâha, as the top candidates to train as teachers at his school. Song 14.14–17 equals Yasna 48 He provided Jamaspa specialised instruction in understanding the message and disseminating it to others. He prepared his message using five metric patterns and possibly as many as as many melodies. Tradition has it that Jamaspa later married his daughter and then succeeded him. The Message was condensed into measured metres in order to preserve its conciseness, integrity, and freedom from any potential interpolation; to make it simple to memorise; to maintain the original pronunciations within the metres and tunes; and to present and preserve it in melodies that would encourage people to chant and sing the thought-provoking words repeatedly, which is a very effective teaching technique. Time has shown that the Indo-Iranians were the first to come up with a superior method of “human-tape-recording” the exact words of the composer for a distant future before the development of contemporary recording devices. The Gathas are complete and written in Zarathushtra’s vernacular. One must admit that the âthravans, who spoke a different dialect, and subsequently the priests, who did not know both—the Gathic dialect and the later Avestan variety—kept them alive. They used the Middle Persian dialects spoken and written during the Parthian and Sassanian eras.

The Teacher, Aethrapaiti

The ratu had the title of aethrapaiti toward the end of the Gathic era. It denotes a teacher who is also an aethra’s master. Its origin is unknown, although it is most likely derived from the verb â+i, which means to approach or get close, combined with the agentive suffix thra. Whatever the origin, it refers to a school or other educational facility. The word for a student is aethrya, which means “of the school.” The first person to hold this title is Saena son of Ahumstuta, who appears in the Farvardin Yasht list as the sixth famous person after Zarathushtra. It shows his strong relationship with Zarathushtra, the Prime Master. Literally, the word “aethrapaiti” means “school-master, teacher, or preceptor.” In Pahlavi, it is herbad; in Persian, hirbad and hirbod; and in Gujarati, ervad. According to legend, Saena educated “one hundred followers who taught on this planet,” demonstrating the early Gathic period’s widespread missionary efforts after Zarathushtra’s demise. (Yasht 13.97) For a small expanding group in the sparsely populated world of those days, it is a very big number when compared to the religious teachers of today.

Ritual incense

There aren’t many elaborate rites performed by the Gathas and their additions in the same dialect. They demonstrate how the pious faced a fire altar and sang from the Gathas and the Haptanghaiti while standing in a devotional position. (2) In terms of the Later Avesta, the sole ritual that is specifically stated in Nirangistân and hinted at elsewhere is a forerunner of the modern “Yasna” ceremonial, which entails preparing the haoma drink alongside its sacrificed meat and baresman twigs. The main difference is that instead of the complete 72 portions of the Yasna, which were the prayer texts back then, we now have the entire Yasna.

An inherited position?

The Avesta makes no mention of the office being hereditary or the fact that persons from other professions couldn’t work in this particular field. If this were the case, the rigorous circle would not have permitted the inclusion of a warrior or an agriculturalist. In a similar vein, Hinduism is extremely clear about this. The priesthood is an open profession simply because there is no mandate that would make it such. The prohibition in Khordad and Bahram yashts against teaching the “spells” to anyone other than a father, a full-blood brother, or an occult priest only pertains to the special category of priests who dealt with magical formulas and not to the priestly profession in general, as was previously stated in Spenta’s previous issue. However, there is little doubt that a child’s natural instinct in those days—and still now in many parts of the world—was to follow in the footsteps of its parents, and a priest father preferred the children to pursue the priesthood.

A priest, was Asho Zarathushtra?

The traditional biography provided by the Persian Zartosht-nameh by the Zoroastrian poet-mobed Bahram Pazhdu and the two Pahlavi texts Denkard (Book VII) and the Selections of Zadsparam do not indicate that he came from a priestly family. Instead, in an attempt to persuade the young Zarathushtra of the veracity of the ancient Aryan cult, his father brought the young man to priests, where they utterly failed. He would have handled his child himself if he were a priest. His mother, who was excommunicated and banished by the priests when she was still a maiden for her unconventional beliefs, sent her son to a teacher outside to learn the sciences of the time. This statement may also provide a clue as to how Asho Zarathushtra acquired his poetic skills, which some people believe could only be acquired by a priestly boy.

Zarathushtra’s father was a horse farmer, according to the Avesta. (Yt 23.4; 24.2). The fact that the eulogy refers to Zarathushtra as the “foremost” thravan, warrior, and prosperous settler only serves to highlight his thorough reformation of the three trades. The famous stanza “Ushtâ nô zâthô âthrava yô Spitâmô Zarathushtrô” (Yt 13.94) merely reveals that the author of the eulogy was a âthravan who evidently preferred to honour Zarathushtra as the foremost “reformer” of his particular trade. Zarathushtra would have been praised as the “foremost” settler or warrior if the poem had been written by one of those people. It should be observed that the second eulogy in the Farvardin Yasht refers to him as ahu, ratu, and paoiryô-tkaesha (lord, leader, and foremost-in-doctrine) and uses a number of superlatives to honour him while avoiding referring to him as a âthravan. Zarathushtra repeatedly denounces the cultic rituals carried out by karapan priests and kavi princes, but only uses zaotar once in the Gathas (Song 6.6), referring to himself as the “straight” invoker who does not partake in any of them. This shows that he was not a ritualistic priest by trade and was only an invoker, a true invoker. His Gathas are the best evidence of his lack of ritualism.


Considering everything stated previously, I reach the following conclusion:

1. Asho Zarathushtra was not a priest, karapan, âthravan, or someone else with similar names in Indo-Iran.

2. Asho Zarathushtra and his devoted followers travelled the world as thought-provokers known as mâthrans to spread the word.

3. They also went by the name “Magavans” and belonged to the Zarathushtra-founded Great Magnonimity, or Maza Maga. A Median tribe’s Magu priests originated from this name.

4. The âthravans, ordained priests of the Indo-Iranian Haoma/Soma religion, adopted Zarathushtra’s Good Religion and were able to retain their position of authority. They are the ones who annihilate the Maethrans.

5. During the Gathic era, there was no established priestly vocation.

6. It was not always a full-time career, even after it was established as an institution. There were numerous part-time priests who only attended to it when their primary employment allowed them to.

7. It was an acquired profession rather than a hereditary one. Equal priority was given to the other two occupations, that of warriors and prosperous settlers.

8. Any aspirant, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation, might gain the skills necessary to become a priest.

9. To meet the required standard in Gathic studies alone, the candidate for the priesthood had to complete a demanding course that lasted at least three years.

10. Zarathushtra founded the training school, and according to a particular method, his associates and their successors promoted it.

11. The size Due to its simplicity or common congruence with the initiation into adulthood, the initiation of a candidate for the priesthood is not described in the Avesta or Pahlavi texts.

12. The priest was more than just a “mumbler” of Avestan texts; he or she was a scholar of the time’s sciences as well as an exponent of the religion of Good Conscience and the Divine Doctrine.

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