The Zarathushtrian Assembly does not support a priestly class or division, staying true to the Gathic tradition that every vocation that advances human civilization is honourable and noble. It has skilled individuals who preside over rituals, serve as the main witnesses at events like wedding solemnizations, conduct congregational prayers, deliver the Divine Message, and instruct those who wish to study and spread it. Any capable individual—male or female—can be considered for the position of ratu, or leader; aethrapaiti, or instructor; or hamidhpaiti, or assembly head.
To advance its chapters, promote Zarathushtra’s heavenly, thought-provoking message, and guide its members and friends, the Assembly urgently needs such passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable, and wise leaders, teachers, and heads of assembly. The Assembly’s programme includes instruction in ratu, aethrapaiti, and hamidhpaiti. These classes were periodically introduced and are doing well.
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S is for song as it appears in the Gathas, Y for Yasna, Yt for Yasht, V for Vendidad, and Vp for Vispered.
(1) The preceding paper was read at “The Conference on Zoroastrian Doctrine, Culture & History,” presented by the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago in Hinsdale, Illinois, on November 26, 1987, under the auspices of the World Zoroastrian Organization, London.
(2) The name magu in Old Persian and its later forms, magus (plural magi), and magian, for members of the priestly tribe of Medes during the Median and Achaemenian periods in Ancient Iran, suggest that the word later came to be associated with a priest and the priestly class. The Pahlavi magog, Persian mogh, Arabic majûs, and magopat, “head of mago(g),” and therefore a priest, however, indicate that it continued to be applied to a member of the Zarathushtrian fellowship and not necessarily to “priest.” Maga is often written as magîh, magianship with the gloss “perfect goodness.” It’s a general phrase. Mobed (magopat), which means “priest,” is the word.
(3) For further information on the Gathic rituals, see Zarathushtrian Ceremonies, a reconstruction, by Ali A. Jafarey, Ushta Publications, Cyrpress, California, 1992.
(4) As was already said, the legendary fire-priest of Indo-Iranian lore, *âthrava/atharva, was descended from by the âthravans (Vedic Sanskrit atharvans). The âthravans/atharvans were not associated with the Gathic portions of the Avesta and the three early Vedas, the Rig, Sâman, and Yajur, according to a study of these texts. The Atharvaveda is credited to its creators, the Atharvans. The Atharvaveda’s texts, with their spells and charms, reveal that the atharvans belonged to the superstitious laity whereas the three Vedas represent the upper elite of Indo-Aryans. The non-Gathic portions also exhibit a decline in design and substance. The âthravan style is visible here as well. Because the wise successors of the rishis, who served the princes and other nobles, were aware that the Atharvaveda was a foreign collection created by the atharvans, the fire-priests, it was considered to be a late addition to the Veda samhitas. Not their shruti, though. Only after sensing the growing demand for spells, charms, and superstitions among the ruling elite, led by their patron princes, did they reluctantly accept it. The Avesta’s pertinent passages written by the Atharvans fared better. This is due to the fact that the Zarathushtra-foundational religion was totally under the authority of the âthravans on the Iranian side. Since the Avesta is older or younger than the Gathic texts, a large portion of it is a “âthravan” composition. I will refer to the non-Gathic texts as the “thrava-Avesta” for this reason.
Here’s my hypothesis: The Atharvans/âthravans, the fire-priests serving the laity, are the authors of both the Atharvaveda and the Thrava-Avesta. In India, the rishis predominated in society, and they were made up of trayi, the three Rigvedic samhitas, and their supplements the Sâman and Yajur. They were not chaturvedins; merely trivedins. The atharvans were considered to be of secondary importance, and their composition did not have the prominence that the atharvans desired. Although it cost them their very name, the atharvans did succeed in ascending to a high position. They had to give it up in order to become known as Brahmans and have their composition referred to as the Bramanaveda, which was the Atharvaveda’s later designation.
The environment in Iran was quite favourable. The âthravans emerged, subtly ousted the mâthrans and the magavans, and rose to the position of supreme power, going so far as to assert that Zarathushtra was a âthravan. This was insufficient. They even had Ahura Mazda say that he was an atharva, or perhaps the atharvatema, the highest atharva. It was asserted that the entire Avesta—including the Gathas and their supplements—was the âthravan composition, the heavenly composition revealed by the supreme âthravan Ahura Mazda to an ever-questioning âthravan Zarathushtra. (The text enclosed in quotation marks is an excerpt from “Glimpses of the Atharvaveda in the Avesta,” a paper read by the author at the “The Atharvaveda Conference,” hosted by the International Foundation for Vedic Studies, U.S.A., in the Dag Hamarskold Auditorium of the United Nations, New York; July 14–16, 1993.))
Religious Rituals and Zoroastrian Customs, Mobed Ardeshir, Marâsem-e Mazhabi va dâb-e Zartoshtiân, Tehran, 2nd ed. 1979, pp. 257–277. (in Persian).
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