Zoroastrianism | World History | Khan Academy

Posted By on September 26, 2019


– [Instructor] So in any
discussion of ancient Persia, we quickly talk about the
faith of the Achaemenid Empire, and that’s Zoroastrianism, and it’s popularized by Cyrus the Great when he establishes the Achaemenid Empire, takes over the Median Empire, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Lydians. His son, Cambyses, takes
over the Egyptians. And their faith is based on
the teaching of Zoroaster. And Zoroaster is the Greek
name for Zarathustra, and sometimes the religion is referred to as Zarathustrianism. And it’s one of the
oldest religions we have, and it’s an existing religion. People still practice Zoroastrianism. In terms of when it started, there’s some debate. A lot of accounts have it starting as early or even earlier
than 3,500 years ago, so around 1500 BCE, and some accounts put
it a little bit closer to Cyrus the Great, maybe 700 or 600 BCE. And the accounts, or the beginning of the religion is really around the
teachings of Zarathustra, and his teachings really
establish one of the first often viewed as monotheistic
religions of the world, this idea that there is one god, and that god in the Zoroastrian
faith is Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda. And it’s viewed that Ahura Mazda does not take a human form. It is even, you cannot even conceive of, you know, fully conceive, the human mind can’t fully
conceive of Ahura Mazda, but Ahura Mazda is the, in the Zoroastrian faith, the one and only god. But in conjunction with
the idea of Ahura Mazda, a lot of people refer to Zoroastrianism as a dualistic faith. A dualistic faith means that
there’s this kind of interest in counterbalancing forces. For example, light versus dark, and of course good versus evil. And one of the main ideas or words here are the ideas of asha and druj. So asha, these are the
ideas of being principled, honest, ordered, and druj is the opposite. Druj is the idea of being unprincipled, dishonest, chaotic. And so there’s a lot of talk and kind of insight or trying
to get a better understanding of these dualistic natures in the world, and trying for humanity be
on the side of the good, the light, the ordered, the principled, the honest. Now right over here is a
key symbol of Zoroastrianism that you might see. It’s called the Faravahar. I’m probably be mispronouncing it. Faravahar, and there’s
a lot of symbolism here. It shows the connection of
the universe to humanity, you see the depiction
of a human being here, and the three layers of the wings depict these three very important
ideas in Zoroastrianism. The first layer is good thoughts, the second layer right over
here of wings are good words, and then the third layer
here is good actions, good actions. And it makes sense. You kind of imagine this idea that good thoughts lead to good words, and that combined, they can lead to good actions. And on the tail here, and these are the things you should avoid, these are the bad thoughts, the bad actions, or the bad thoughts, the bad words, and the bad actions. Along lines this ideas of dualism, especially the fascination
with the ideas of light, fire is a very important element
of the Zoroastrian faith. In fact, if you visit
a Zoroastrian temple, you will see an eternal fire, and they feed that fire five times a day. Another very important
element of the faith is water. And the sacred text for the Zoroastrians is called the Avesta. And the Avesta is written in
a language called Avestan, and it’s called Avestan
because it’s the language that the Avesta was written in, but it’s written in a language that is closely related
to ancient Sanskrit, and so there’s probably some connections, or for sure there’s some connections, between ancient Hinduism
and the progenitor or some of the preexisting ideas that might, that Zarathustra developed or might have built on top of. Now one of the really interesting things about Zoroastrianism is
that even though today it’s a relatively small faith, on the order of less than 200,000 people around the world practice it, and most of them are in
India and the United States, at one time, it was, you could view it as the state
religion of ancient Persia, but then eventually, in the seventh century CE, when Persia, or Iran, became Islamic, you have a Zoroastrian diaspora, especially moving to
India and then eventually places like the United States, although there are still
practicing Zoroastrians in Iran. But above and beyond the continuing legacy of the Zoroastrians, they’ve had a lot of influence on some of the major
religions of the world. And what you have on this timeline here, I’ve made some of the major religions. You see up here in blue you have Judaism, and the reason why I
draw the dotted line is these are periods and it’s not exact, you know, these religions are evolving and they are forming and they’re getting more and more tradition over time. So you hear Judaism, and of course, Christianity is in a lot
ways built on top of Judaism. Jesus was Jewish. You have Islam right over here, which of the major world
religions is one of the newest, in a lot of ways built or related to Christianity and Judaism. And even though the Zoroastrianism is related and it kind
of comes out of a similar kind of early Aryan
people type of religion, it has a lot of influence on some of these other traditional, or these mainstream religions that we have in the world today. As we mentioned, it’s viewed as a monotheistic religion, and it’s also had direct influence on, for example, Christianity. So right over here, this is from John Bowker, who’s a famous Christian theologian. He wrote in his book World Religions “that angels, the end of the world, “a final judgement, the resurrection, “and heaven and hell
received form and substance “from Zoroastrian beliefs.” In Christian tradition, the Three Wise Men, the Three Kings, the Three Magi that visit the baby Jesus, Magi, this is referring
to Zoroastrian priests who were visiting the baby Jesus. And the word magic comes
from the word magi, because the Zoroastrian
elite, the priests, they were very capable in
the sciences of astronomy, and they were also very
well-known for their astrology, and so some people associated them with, you know, magical capabilities. It also has close ties to Islam. The sacred fire in Zoroastrianism
is fed five times a day. Zoroastrians pray five times a day, and before prayer, they go through a ritual
around washing themselves to cleanse themselves, where they wash themselves
three times before each prayer. That is something that we see in Islam. So Zoroastrianism, it’s the faith of ancient Persia popularized by Cyrus the Great, and it’s a living religion, even today, although it’s a much smaller
population that practices it. But as we’ve seen, it’s had a lot of influence on many of the major world religions.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 100 comments

  1. seems there in history was a trend to create a single god/idol to unify, manage, politicise the society (whatever you call it). the Real question what was before it: the trend of monotheism religions ?

    Reply
  2. seems there was a trend in history to create a single god/idol to unify, manage, politicise the society (whatever you call it). the Real question what was before it? before the trend of monotheistic religions ?

    Reply
  3. Iran, or Persia as the Greeks named it, was the crowning civilization of the Near East. It humbled the Greeks, defeated the Romans and almost vanquished the Byzantines, but at the height of its success, it fell prey to Islam.

    One thousand years of Persian rule was ended in 636 at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. The Arabs decisively defeated the Sassanid Army, the last and perhaps greatest of the Persian Empires of old. Thus ended Zoroastrianism, the native religion of the Persians.

    After that, Iran would never again be on the leading edge of intellectualism in the Near East. For a while, it was eclipsed by Baghdad, but after the Mongol invasion and sacking of Baghdad, the Near East entered into terminal decline with respect to Europe.

    Islam consumed Persian intellectualism, it locked it up within the narrow confines of the Koran and the Hadiths. In these confines, the stagnation of Iranian civilization was inevitable.

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  4. So zoroastrianism wasnt utterly crushed by islam or anything like that… How politically correct of you to teach its history as so.

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  5. Freddie Mercury the lead singer of Queen was from a Zoroastrian family. you can only be born into the Zoroastrianism religion you cannot convert accorording to their teachings.

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  6. The reason Zoroastrianism or Buddhism did not survive is because they were essentially a elite religion practiced by elite people. Buddhism was lost from India because the Buddhist elites lost thousand year long war with Hindu warriors. Later Buddhist elites spread religion to the mass and survived through mass people in East Asia.

    Reply
  7. www.gainpeace.com (Free Literature)
    There is a mistake in this lesson. Islam is not a new religion. Starting from Adam, Noah…..Jesus and final prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon all of them) were all muslims i.e. Believed and preached to worship only one God (no Trinity) and follow the messengers of God. These few words have been protected by God and are present in all of the scriptures of the world including Torah, Bible, etc. The earlier revelations were time bound and were not preserved by Prophets or God. Final scripture was preserved and is intact in its original Arabic form for 1400 yrs. i.e. Quran. This book is a miracle as it contains all of the major scientific facts in perfection i.e. water cycle, gravity, big bang, etc etc.
    This faith is Islam, most practiced faith in the world. The final message came for entire mankind and was not sent for one group of people. Muslim means someone who obeys God and submits his/her will to God. The message will only go to sincere hearts for guidance. Our God loves all of us and want us to question everything to find the righteous path! Bless You all!

    Reply
  8. truth ….after Persians save Israel people from slavery they took a copy of the most of Zoroaster's books and made Judaism after that we have Christianity and Islam
    but this is the half of Zoroaster affect on the world the other part is on the Greece and philosophy that world think start with Socrates it actually start with Zoroaster and Greece use most of Zoroaster's books when Alexander the great attack the Persia

    Reply
  9. The Vedic period is wrongly dated….
    vedic civilization began from 2000 BC… and spread around 1500 BC….

    Hindusim traces its root in Indus valley.. dating back to 5000 BC

    Reply
  10. From my reading Cyrus was not Zoroastrian but highly tolerant of other religions. It was Darius who came after Cyrus's sons that made it a state religion and invoked Ahura Mazda in many of his carvings

    Reply
  11. Cyrus Cylinder Translation
    it is Proving that CYRUS founder of the Achaemenid Empire believed in ancient Assyrian religion (Ashurism) The inscription is telling us that very clear, all the names mentioned are Marduk, Enlil, and others. This means Zoroastrian is a religion did not exit in that region it came later!!! The facts and truth are written on the Tablets in our Assyrian Cuneiform Language, Long before Persia was born!!

    The Tyranny of Nabonidus

    1] [When…] …

    [2] … of the four quar]ters

    [3] [x x x] /x x An incompetent personnote was installed to exercise lordship over his country.

    [4] /and? […] he imposed upon them.

    [5] A counterfeit of Esagila he ma[de, and…]… for Ur and the rest of the cultic centers,

    [6] a ritual which was improper to them, an [unholy] di[splay offering x x x without] fear he daily recited. Irreverently,

    [7] he put an end to the regular offerings (and) he in[terfered in the cultic centers; x x x he] established in the sacred centers. By his own plan, he did away with the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods,

    [8] he continually did evil against Marduk's city. Daily, […] without interruption, he imposed the corvée upon its inhabitants unrelentingly, ruining them all.

    Marduk's Anger

    [9] Upon hearing their cries, the lord of the gods became furiously angry and [x x x] their borders; the gods who lived among them forsook their dwellings,

    [10] angry that henote had brought them to Babylon. Marduk, the ex[alted, the lord of the gods], turned towards all the habitations that were abandoned and

    Marduk Finds a New King

    [11] all the people of Sumer and Akkad, who had become corpses. He was reconciled and had mercy upon them. He examined and checked all the entirety of the lands, all of them,

    [12] he searched everywhere and then he took a righteous king, his favorite, by the hand, he called out his name: Cyrus, king of Anšan; he pronounced his name to be king all over the world.

    [13] He made the land of Gutium and all the Umman-mandanote bow in submission at his feet. And he{I.e., Cyrus.}} shepherded with justice and righteousness all the black-headed people,

    [14] over whom henote had given him victory. Marduk, the great lord, guardian of his people, looked with gladness upon his good deeds and upright heart.

    Cyrus Takes Babylon

    [15] He ordered him to go to his city Babylon. He set him on the road to Babylon and like a companion and a friend, he went at his side.

    [16] His vast army, whose number, like water of the river, cannot be known, marched at his side fully armed.

    [17] He made him enter his city Babylon without fighting or battle; he saved Babylon from hardship. He delivered Nabonidus, the king who did not revere him, into his hands.

    [18] All the people of Babylon, all the land of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors, bowed to him and kissed his feet. They rejoiced at his kingship and their faces shone.

    [19] Lord by whose aid the dead were revived and who had all been redeemed from hardship and difficulty, they greeted him with gladness and praised his name.

    Cyrus' Titles

    [20] I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters,

    [21] the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anšan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anšan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anšan,

    [22] of an eternal line of kingship, whose rule Bêl and Nabu love, whose kingship they desire fot their hearts' pleasure. When I entered Babylon in a peaceful manner,

    The Prince of Peace

    [23] I took up my lordly abode in the royal palace amidst rejoicing and happiness. Marduk, the great lord, /established as his fate (šimtu) for me a magnanimous heart of one who loves Babylon, and I daily attended to his worship.

    [24] My vast army marched into Babylon in peace; I did not permit anyone to frighten the people of [Sumer] /and Akkad.

    [25] I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sacred centers. As for the citizens of Babylon, [x x x upon wh]om henote imposed a corvée which was not the gods' wish and not befitting them,

    [26] I relieved their weariness and freed them from their service. Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced over [my good] deeds.

    Religious Measures

    [28] and in peace, before him, we mov[ed] around in friendship. [By his] exalted [word], all the kings who sit upon thrones

    [29] throughout the world, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, who live in the dis[tricts far-off], the kings of the West, who dwell in tents, all of them,

    [30] brought their heavy tribute before me and in Babylon they kissed my feet. From [Babylon] to Aššur and (from) Susa,

    [31] Agade, Ešnunna, Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der, as far as the region of Gutium, the sacred centers on the other side of the Tigris, whose sanctuaries had been abandoned for a long time,

    [32] I returned the images of the gods, who had resided there,note to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.

    [33] In addition, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I settled in their habitations, in pleasing abodes, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon.

    Cyrus' Prayer

    [34] May all the gods whom I settled in their sacred centers ask daily

    [35] of Bêl and Nâbu that my days be long and may they intercede for my welfare. May they say to Marduk, my lord: "As for Cyrus, the king who reveres you, and Cambyses, his son,

    Translation of Fragment B

    [36] [end of prayer]."
    The people of Babylon blessed my kingship, and I settled all the lands in peaceful abodes.

    Building Activities

    [37] I [daily increased the number offerings to N] geese, two ducks, and ten turledoves above the former offerings of geese, ducks, and turtledoves.

    [38] […] Dur-Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon, its de[fen]se, I sought to strengthen

    [39] […] The quay wall of brick, which a former king had bu[ilt, but had not com]pleted its construction,

    [40] […who had not surrounded the city] on the outside, which no former king had made, (who) a levy of work[men (or: soldiers) had led] in[to] Babylon,

    [41] [… with bitumen] and bricks, I built anew [and completed th]eir [job].

    [42] [… magnificent gates of cedar] with a bronze overlay, thresholds and door-sockets [cast in copper, I fixed in all] their [doorways].

    [43] [x x x] An inscription with the name of Aššurbanipal, a king who had preceded [me, I s]aw [in its midst].

    Reply
  12. After first reading about Zoroastrianism recently, one of the first things that struck me was indeed the "Three Wise Men" that visited the family of Christ and how they were described as magi. It dawned on me that it was a Zoroastrian term, on top of the fact that they were riding on camels, which were common mounts in ancient Persia if I'm not mistaken. Were they Zoroastrian elders? According to this, my revelation was correct. I also thought about what they brought, the frankincense and mir, and whether they were magical components or something. No idea.

    It was almost like a symbolic passing of the torch.

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  13. The video is an absolute distortion.
    The first point is how can the views of a prophet who came later than the patriarchs influence the Abrahamic religions. The claims of the Abrahamic faiths start with creation by one God. Creation story is central to Abrahamic faiths and it differs greatly from zorosastrian accounts.Even Hinduism believes in one eternal supreme Lord. But that doesn't make it the precursor of Abrahamic faiths. An anolgy is both humans and animals eat and excrete. But that doesn't mean both are same.

    Secondly Zendavesta is not a single book. It is a combination of Avesta and Zend. First is the scripture and the second is a commentary or a sort of user manual. Both were written in different languages and at different times. There is no unanimity among the scholars as to what Avesta conveys for the language is opaque. . The oriental scholar William Jones and others had a great divergence on the translations of Avesta .

    The quote from the Christian scholar appears to be distorted. There are many who believe that the entire Bible is a post exilic work and that every idea is to be traced to Babylonian source. The quote may fit in such a preconceived narrative. This is like the present controversy in America over Russian influence on Trump's election. Truth depends on which side you stand.

    Reply
  14. According to official reports, about 30,000 zoroastrians (btw it's called 'zartoshti / زرتشتی' in Persian) are living in Iran. It's slightly more than number of zoroastrians living in the US. I find it worth mentioning cause the video kind of implies that there aren't any notable zoroastrians communities left in Iran.
    Additionally they have a fixed parliament seat dedicated to them in national parliament.

    Reply
  15. Not exactly "monotheistic" if the belief system has a dual rivalry between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, equally good and bad "gods."

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  16. Zoroastrian holy scripture claims that three messiahs will emerge on the scene once every thousand years for a three year period after their prophet lived but low and behold not one of them has emerged in that three thousand year period, enough said.

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  17. Be careful about what you elude to as facts about Zorastrianism. Most of the information found on Zoroaster comes from tales found in the Avesta which was not composed until the 4th century and no manuscripts until 1000 A.D. This is long after Jesus existed and after the new testament was finished.

    Reply
  18. Trivia: The fictional Religion of R'hllor in Game of Thrones/A song of Ice and Fire is heavily inspired by Zoroastrianism.

    Reply
  19. good lecture, you can easily see how modern creationism, (islam, christianity, and judaism) all evolved from an amalgam of pagan polytheism, (rising from the dead, birthed from a virgin, etc.) and the innovations of zoroastrianism (one god, duality of good an evil).

    Reply
  20. I'm a Zoroastrian living in India. This was a very well explained video. The symbol of Zoroastrian's is called "Asho- Farover". Also there are barely 80,000 odd Zoroastrian's world-wide.Was also interesting to know it's influences on Islam and Christianity.

    There is also a story of how Alexander too led to the downfall of the Persian empire under King Darius the great. For the world he is Alexander the great, but to Zoroastrian's he is Alexander the Accursed (guzastag), an epithet he shares with the devil Ahriman alone. As the story goes, Alexander's soldiers plundered temples and sanctuaries, destroyed religious texts and massacred priests and burned the city to the ground in a drunken orgy at the end of his four-month stay in the city of Persipolis. He apparently threw the first torch himself, then had second thoughts but it was too late. And when it got too hot inside, the party drunkenly tripped outside to watch the spectacle of Persipolis going up in flames. Legend also has it that Alexander wept when he realised what he had done. Still in a sense, the Persians had the last laugh as when he mounted the persian throne in Susa, he found he was too short and his feet would not touch the ground. It is said that he married a Persian as did 80 of his men (by force). He adopted Persian royal colours and robes and included all Persian ceremonial and their customs of homage. However, by the time he died at 32 yrs, Persia had completely conquered him much to the dismay of his fellow Greeks and Macedonians.

    Reply
  21. More you tube rubbish, what is the abrahamic religion, it was not started by Abraham but long before him by his ancestors this is list of his forefathers: Adam
    Idris (Enoch)
    Nuh (Noah)
    Hud (Heber)
    Salih (Methusaleh)
    Lut (Lot)
    Ibrahim (Abraham)
    Ismail (Ishmael)
    Ishaq (Isaac)
    Yaqub (Jacob)
    Yusuf (Joseph)
    Shu’aib (Jethro)
    Ayyub (Job)
    Dhulkifl (Ezekiel)
    Musa (Moses)
    Harun (Aaron)
    Dawud (David)
    Sulayman (Solomon)
    Ilias (Elias)
    Alyasa (Elisha)
    Yunus (Jonah)
    Zakariya (Zachariah)
    Yahya (John the Baptist)
    Isa (Jesus)
    Muhammad
    During Noah’s time there was a great flood this has apparently been proven geologists with the sediment of the soils. So what your preaching is not correct and the monotheistic religion was established long before Ahura Mazda theory:(

    Reply
  22. Zoroastrianism doesn't begin in Persia, but east of it in Pakhti, or "Bactria", as the Greeks called it.
    Even at the time of Cyrus, the Persians were burying their dead, which is a non Zoroastrianism custom.

    Reply
  23. A religion is a thing invented by humans to give them a reason to live and to give a random explanation to their surroundings, the world they live in. There is no such thing as bad, the only thing considered bad is doing harm to a human but it’s non the less part of life.

    Reply
  24. About the Farvahar, I have heard that the circular shape in the center represents the consequences of your actions, if you do a bad action, you will receive problems indirectly, but if you do good actions, good things will happen to you in return.

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  25. I think Zoroasterism survived directly in the form of sufism too. Sufism is directly based on the teaching of Zoroaster and Mani and well documented by the most notable Persian poets like Hafez, Attar, Sa'adi, Khayyam, Nezami, and Rumi's works and of course Persian Traditional Music. Sufism (and thus Zoroasterianism) is very influencial from western part of Indian subcontinent to eastern coast of medittereanian sea.

    Although today's sufis (darvishes) wont tell this relation to Zoroastrian explicitly to avoid discrimination and violence from the majority. This is why I call Sufism "The underground Zoroastrianism"

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  26. The reference to John Bowker and the comment as to his being a notable Christian scholar is quite debatable, whatever else may be said of the video.

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  27. @ 443 Zoroaster Created Judeo Christian Religions
    @ 289 Who Is Ahura Mazda?
    @ 73 Zoroaster And Us
    @ Origin of Christianity – Bill Donahue
    @ An Interview with Professor K.D. Irani – Part 1 of 4
    @ Bill Donahue on Manicheism – All Gnosticism is from Zoroastrianism
    @ Origin of Christianity – Bill Donahue
    @ 129 Ahura Mazda The Strange Father
    @ 251 Zoroaster Found Jesus Star
    @ 283 Zoroaster
    @ 197 Kabala Ancient Magic
    @ 400 Zohar Kabala
    @ Stephen E. Flowers – Restoring the Indo-European Religion: Zoroastrianism, Germanic Paganism…
    @ The Zoroastrian Foundation of Modern Religion w/ Dr. Robert Price
    @ The History Of Zoroastrianism
    @ Crash Course in Zoroastrianism
    @ Zoroastrianism: A Symposium
    @ The Voice Of Zarathushtra – Documentary | The Philosophy To Live, Laugh And Love @ PROPHET ZARATHUSTRA'S LIFE STORY & ZOROASTRIAN HISTORY
    @ Understanding Zarathustra with Jason Reza Jorjani
    @ 129 Ahura Mazda The Strange Father

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  28. slavery is abandoned in the Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrianism is very peaceful and lovely religion, I hope Iran will be a Zoroastrian nation again. Cyrus the Great was a Zoroastrian too, Zoroastrian is a monotheist religion, they don't worship fire, they worship God. Fire is just a symbol, symbol of the light against darkness. God created fire to make our world more light and keep humans warm.

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  29. Zoroastrian religion didn’t work because you can’t convert people to the religion.
    Islam and Christianity grow because they converted people.
    But the ideas of worshiping one God came from Zoroastrianism.
    Zoroastrianism comes from today’s Afghanistan 🇦🇫 not Iran or India but after Arab invasion they lost their true religion.

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  30. Good piece, I liked how you talked about going into India, but I think you might want to trace back to Indo-Iranians BMAC situated among many of the Avestan holy lands. From Indo-Iranians to PIE Proto-Indo-European Yamnaya?
    Does Gayomard and the Bull have anything to do with Hurrian/ Hittite, Minoan Crete bull jumping?
    Start of emanations and angels the Yazata.
    You talk of influence on Islam you could have mentioned Salman Al-Farsi. Salman Al-Farsi a member of the prophets household. A Magi who set out to find something new in the death throes of Zoroastrianism. Instrumental in the Battle of the Trench. Salman or Solomon connotative of Magic- Western tradition.

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  31. Zoroastrian is one of the religion created by nimrod cos he creates religion for hes every city that he built to deceive people to lure away people from the true one God of abraham Isaac Jacob and moises….he mixed and creates religion….

    Reply

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