Zoroastrianism: The Forgotten Religion That Shaped the West

When you think of the religions that have shaped Western civilization, you probably think of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. But there’s another, lesser-known religion that has had a surprising influence on the West: Zoroastrianism. This ancient faith, which flourished in Persia thousands of years ago, introduced us to concepts that are now a staple part of the Western culture. However, as impactful as it was, many people nowadays haven’t even heard of it. So, let’s learn a bit more about Zoroastrianism, and how it has shaped our world in unexpected ways.

The Birth of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest continuously practiced religions in the world. It all started about 3,500 years ago in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran) with a prophet named Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. Imagine living in a time when people worshiped multiple gods and performed elaborate rituals to appease them. Zoroaster’s message was revolutionary: he preached that there was one supreme god, Ahura Mazda, who represented all that is good, and that life was a battleground between the forces of good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu).

This idea of dualism – the eternal struggle between good and evil – was something new. It wasn’t just about appeasing gods anymore. It was about choosing sides — deciding who you are, good or evil? And even though this concept seems like common sense nowadays, it was considered revolutionary at that time.

How Zoroastrianism Influenced Other Religions

Let’s fast forward to around 539 BCE. The Jewish people were in exile in Babylon, having been conquered by the Babylonians. Enter Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. During this period of close contact, the Jews were exposed to Zoroastrian ideas. And even though it’s not discussed too often, this cultural exchange actually had a huge impact on Judaism as a whole.

Zoroastrianism-forgotten-religion-magi

One of the most obvious ones — the Jewish concept of Satan mirrors the Zoroastrian Angra Mainyu. The ideas of heaven and hell, a final judgment, and the coming of a savior or messiah also bear similarities to Zoroastrian teachings. But it’s not just Judaism where these ideas are integrated. We also see it in numerous other religions, such as Christianity and Islam.

Zoroastrianism didn’t just influence religious thought. It also had a significant impact on philosophy. Take Greek philosophy, for instance. Greek thinkers like Heraclitus and Plato were exposed to Persian ideas through the interactions that came with Alexander the Great’s conquests. The Zoroastrian concept of dualism – the struggle between good and evil – found echoes in Platonic thought. He would often emphasize the conflict between the material and the ideal, or the body and the soul.

The Magi and Western Science

Ever wondered where the word “magic” comes from? It’s derived from the Magi, who were Zoroastrian priests. These priests were known for their knowledge of astronomy, astrology, and medicine. The Magi’s understanding of the stars and celestial bodies influenced Greek and later Roman science. In fact, it was their wisdom and scientific contributions that laid the groundwork for Western science and medicine. Even the three wise men or Magi in the Christian Nativity story are thought to have been Zoroastrian priests. So, next time you think about the forces that have shaped Western civilization, remember to tip your hat to Zoroastrianism as well!

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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