• Anna Darelli-Anderson

On Zoroastrianism: The Sacred Fire, the Garment of Good Mind, & the Girdle of Righteousness


Originating from what is now northeastern Iran or southwestern Afghanistan, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest religions. Ahura Mazda, or the Wise Lord, is the ultimate entity; members believe he is the eternal source of light in both the menog (world of thought) and the getig (world of bones). Zoroastrians pray in front of a fire or other light source in order for members to "activate the connection between getig where the fire exists and menog where inner illumination occurs." (1) In doing this, worshipers are intuitively enlightened, gaining vitality and meaning. Fire worship reveals a secret of divine workmanship by enhancing the human faculty of wisdom. Empowered by this, many senses from different levels of reality are exposed when participants use free will to wisely act according to the "Good Religion" by means of body, speech, and mind. Being the most potent material in the world of bones, fire is an excellent model of a symbol that can prolong an hierophany. A flame started from lightning is considered sacred because lightning connects the earth and sky. This busting forth of the sacred into the profane world is rare and sudden, lasting only a moment - but the fire that burns from the outcome can last forever, if tended to.


Zoroastrians utilize fires in their daily worship to connect to the Wise Lord. Once burning, it is a sin to let this sacred fire die. This has been the tradition for centuries and while those who practice it have been many and varied, the fire itself preserves its structure and may be rediscovered even after thousands of years. From an outsider reductionist viewpoint, though fire is a common naturalistic experience, it has been abstracted to denote social significance among Zoroastrians. This is likely due to the fact that man has depended heavily on fire for as long as he has inhabited the earth. Not only did fire improve mankind by providing a means by which to stay warm, cook food, improve crop growth, and stave off enemies, but it also served as an essential factor in the advancement of our species.

Upon initiation into the faith, a child is bestowed with a Garment of Good Mind. This shirt, made of a single thin white piece of cotton, is symbolic of the virtues of the tradition. The whiteness represents purity, the material a reminder to protect the plant world, and the single piece unity among good people. Even the nine seams on the shirt have meaning. The total number is indicative of the "9,000 years of finite time during which Good and Evil battle in the physical world." (1) Pouches are sewn both behind the neckline and at heart level to symbolize a place where potential good deeds are stored and for good that has already been done. Finally, a straight and triangular dart are opposite another at the bottom to denote the physical world's imperfections and the past, present, and future.


In conjunction with the Garment of Good Mind, the Girdle of Righteousness is wrapped around one's waist three times as a reminder of good thoughts (humata), good words (hukhta), and good deeds (huvarshta). The sacred cord is then tied with a simple knot at both ends to signify commitment. The makeup of the cord itself is also of great importance - 72 strands of lambs' wool divided into six groups of 12 strands apiece. This ties back to other symbols and rituals as the 72 represents the number of chapters in the Yasna text used for the fire ritual, the 12 the amount of words in the Ashem Vohu prayer, and the six the seasonal festivals associated with Mazda's creations. (2) In terms of religionism, these symbols are multivalent, having many meanings to each element. Additionally, they have existential value, granting physical protection from certain elements to its wearer. This last realization can also be linked to reductionism that may argue the garment and girdle are indicative of the responsibility of caring for oneself and others.


References:

(1) Urubshurow, V. K. (2008). Introducing World Religions. State College: JBE Online Books.

(2) Cama, S., & Ashdeen, Z. L. "Sacred Armour: Ritual Garments of the Parsi Zoroastrians."

Anna Darelli-Anderson

University of Utah

Department of Surgery

Office of Surgical Education

30 N. 1900 E. 3B110 

Salt Lake City, UT 84132

annadarellianderson@gmail.com

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© 2020 by Anna Darelli-Anderson