Zoroastrian Creation Legends

Zoroastrian Creation Legends
   The Creation Legends of the Zoroastrians are divided into stages. In the beginning there was Anahita, the mother goddess, whose influence was so strong that even the Avesta had to recognize it. Then we have the shadowy background of Zervan Akarana, the father of Ahura Mazda, the power of good, and of Anra Mainyu (or Ahriman), the leader of the powers of evil. The stories of the battles between Anra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda and their attendant hosts of angels or demons are similar to the Vedic stories of the fights between Indra and the demons. They obviously refer to the struggles of the Indo-Germanic races for a foothold in the Middle East.
   Ahura Mazda stated that the world would last for 12,000 years, a figure which recalls the 12,000 divine years of Brahma, one thousandth part of a Kalpa. One may, therefore, conclude that the figures were drawn from a common source, but that the Vedic estimates were carried many stages further. This period was divided into four stages of 3,000 years each, and Ahriman was unable to bring his counter activities to work until the first stage was ended. For the next three stages every good work of Ahura Mazda was matched by some evil one of Ahriman, and the battle will go on until the millennium, when Ahriman is defeated.
   The creation of living things took place from the limbs and body of the World Cow, and not a giant as in most stories. Finally, a man, Gayomart, was created, only to be killed by the force of evil. After his death his twin children, Mashia and Mashiane, were born (in some stories, as a shrub or tree), and from them humanity descended.
   At the time of the Deluge, Yima, the patriarch, was warned of the disaster, and told to build a Var, or cave of refuge, in the hills, to which he and representatives of all living things would retreat until it was over. Later, however, Yima was defeated in battle by Azhi Dahaka, the king of a serpent-worshipping people. This disaster legend is of interest as it shows that the cave motif is not confined to the Americas alone.
   The worship of the sacred fire, which the Indo-Germans brought with them from their northern habitat, was carried to extreme limits under later Zoroastrianism. The guardians of the flame had to see that it was never defiled by the light of day, or by direct contact with human beings. In the same manner the fear of defilement of the sacred elements of earth, fire, and water led to the custom of disposing of the dead by placing the body at the top of a tower, similar to the towers of silence of the modern Parsees. Here the body was subjected to a process of weathering, if it escaped being devoured by carrion eaters. Meanwhile the soul hovered around the body for three days, and on the fourth was escorted by Sraosha to the Chinvat Peretu Bridge over the abyss. Here it was judged by Mithra and Rashnu and, after immediate penance for evil deeds, proceeded across the bridge. This, however, is broad and pleasant for the good, but narrow and impassable for the wicked, who fall into the clutches of the demons waiting beneath.
   This view of the future life represents a compromise between the Egyptian Hall of Judgment and the relative indifference as to good or evil of the Vedas. The Zoroastrian conception of Dualism, with its balanced groups of good and evil powers, persists until today in various parts of the Middle East.

Who’s Who in non-classical mythology . . 2014.

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