Ohrmazd, Spenta Mainyu
The Avesta, the Gathas, the Book of Arda Viraf, the Bundahishn
None: in Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is an uncreated God and Creator of good
Ahura Mazda (pronounced ah-HOO-ruh MAHZ-duh), whose name means “wise lord,” was the most important god in ancient Persian mythology. When the religion known as Zoroastrianism became widespread in Persia around 600 bce , Ahura Mazda became its supreme deity or god. The Persians considered him to be the creator of earth, the heavens, and humankind, as well as the source of all goodness and happiness on earth. He was known to later Zoroastrians as Ohrmazd (pronounced OR-muzd).
Ahura Mazda created six divine beings, or angels , to help him spread goodness and rule the universe. One of the most important angels was Asha Vahishta (”Excellent Order” or “Truth”), who was associated with justice. Another key angel was Vohu Manah (”Good Mind”), who symbolized love and sacred wisdom and welcomed souls to paradise.
One now-extinct branch of Zoroastrianism, known as Zurvanism, viewed Ahura Mazda and the evil spirit Ahriman (pronounced AH-ri-muhn; also known as Angra Mainyu) as two opposite-but-equal twin spirits—good and evil—battling for control of the world. The founder of Zoroastrianism, however, viewed Ahura Mazda as the transcendental deity, the “uncreated God and Creator of good” who represented creation, truth, and order. Zoroastrians thus considered Ahura Mazda to be the more powerful force who would ultimately triumph over the evil Ahriman.
Ahura Mazda in Context
Ahura Mazda is an important figure in Zoroastrianism, a religious movement based on the philosophies of a prophet and poet named Zoroaster, who lived in Iran around 1000 bce. Zoroastrians believe that the world was created and is ruled by a single god, Ahura Mazda, and that humans are forever being tested by the temptations of evil. Since Ahura Mazda is considered the supreme god of the Zoroastrians, he is often compared to the main gods from other religions: ancient Greeks, for example, believed that “Ahura Mazda” was simply another name for Zeus. Unlike the ancient Greeks and Romans, however, Zoroastrians believed in free will. They did not think that fate or the meddling of gods determined a person's destiny. This idea of individual free will also relates to the Zoroastrian view that good will conquer evil; because Ahura Mazda created everything good—including humanity—humans will ultimately choose good over evil through their free will.
Key Themes and Symbols
Ahura Mazda was associated with light and fire , the emblems of truth, goodness, and wisdom. Zoroastrians would often pray using a flame or other source of light as the point of focus for their prayers, much like Christian churches use a crucifix as a focal point for worshippers. The symbol most commonly associated with Zoroastrianism is an image of Ahura Mazda shown as a figure with eagle-like wings and tail. Ahura Mazda appears in Persian art and texts as a bearded man wearing a robe covered with stars. Dwelling high in heaven, he had the sun for an eye.
Ahura Mazda in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
Many stone reliefs and statues of Ahura Mazda have been found at ancient Persian sites. However, as the religion became less popular over the centuries, depictions of Ahura Mazda also became less abundant. As with many mythological figures, Ahura Mazda has been given new life in modern times as a character in comic books. Notable appearances include the long-running DC Comics series Wonder Woman, and the comic book series Dawn: Lucifer's Halo by Joseph Michael Linsner (1997).
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
The ancient land known as Persia now falls mostly in the country of Iran. Using your library, the Internet, or other available resources, locate a map that shows the extent the ancient Persian Empire. What other present-day countries did the Persian Empire include?
SEE ALSO Ahriman; Angels; Persian Mythology