Ahura Mazda

views updated May 18 2018

Ahura Mazda




ah-HOO-ruh MAHZ-duh

Alternate Names

Ohrmazd, Spenta Mainyu

Appears In

The Avesta, the Gathas, the Book of Arda Viraf, the Bundahishn


None: in Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is an uncreated God and Creator of good

Character Overview

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).

Major Myths

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

Ahura Mazda

views updated Jun 27 2018

Ahura Mazda. The Wise Lord (or possibly more correctly ‘The Lord Wisdom’), God in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was convinced he had seen Ahura personally and had been called by him. This injected into the foundations of Zoroastrianism a concept of a personal God. In the Gāthās, Ahura is referred to as the creator of all things, of the heavens, of humanity, both materially and spiritually. In the developed Zoroastrian tradition, the emphasis is on Ahura Mazda's goodness and knowledge, but not on his omnipotence, for he is restricted by the activities of the wholly independent evil Angra Mainyu. The first creations of Ahura were the Amesa Spentas, the heavenly forces. Beneath them in the heavenly hierarchy are the yazatas, or worshipful beings. In modern Zoroastrian exegesis, the Amesa Spentas are often compared to the archangels and angels of Judaism and Christianity. Ahura Mazda is the Good Creator (Bundahisn) who will ultimately triumph over evil (Frasokereti). In that battle he has his helpers (hamkars) chief among whom are humans.

Ahura Mazda

views updated May 29 2018

Ahura Mazda the creator god of Zoroastrianism, the force for good and the opponent of Ahriman; also called Ormazd. The name is Avestan, and means literally ‘wise deity’.