Interesting and scary article about Zoroastrians in the NY Times. Turns out they’re a 3000 year old monotheistic faith with priests who wear what seems to be a rope similar to tzitzit -some are calling this a gartl although the accompanying photo strikes me as resembling a tzitzit (fringe on the garment worn under clothes) – are well educated with middle and upper middle class incomes and a propensity to assimilate.

Zoroastrianism predates Christianity and Islam, and many historians say it influenced those faiths and cross-fertilized Judaism as well, with its doctrines of one God, a dualistic universe of good and evil and a final day of judgment.

While Zoroastrians once dominated an area stretching from what is now Rome and Greece to India and Russia, their global population has dwindled to 190,000 at most

The Zoroastrians’ mobility and adaptability has contributed to their demographic crisis. They assimilate and intermarry, virtually disappearing into their adopted cultures. And since the faith encourages opportunities for women, many Zoroastrian women are working professionals who, like many other professional women, have few children or none.

Despite their shrinking numbers, Zoroastrians — who follow the Prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) — are divided over whether to accept intermarried families and converts and what defines a Zoroastrian. An effort to create a global organizing body fell apart two years ago after some priests accused the organizers of embracing “fake converts” and diluting traditions.

Although the collective picture is bleak, most individual Zoroastrians appear to be thriving. They are well-educated and well-traveled professionals, earning incomes that place them in the middle and upper classes of the countries where they or their families settled after leaving their homelands in Iran and India

The very tenets of Zoroastrianism could be feeding its demise, many adherents said in interviews. Zoroastrians believe in free will, so in matters of religion they do not believe in compulsion. They do not proselytize. They can pray at home instead of going to a temple. While there are priests, there is no hierarchy to set policy. And their basic doctrine is a universal ethical precept: “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”

Needless to say, their leaders refuse to marry intermarried couples or accept them into the faith. They also have a low birth rate.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry though, they’re way different from Jews since they believe in patrilineal descent and they come from Persia, not the Land of Israel.

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  • wear what seems to be a rope similar to tzitzit
    pssst, tm- you mean gartl. Cool article. Thanks for the tip.

  • A Zoroastrian friend on mine in University noted the same thing… He actually does stand up comedy and does a whole bit that compares his people to Jews – just less successful in the advertising world 😉

  • Thanks Harley, that’s what I was coming here to say. I found it striking that they don’t accept converts.

    Knowing NOTHING about their history, it is hard to imagine that they never accepted converts. How do you cover so much land if there is only patrilineal descent? Or did not accepting or seeking converts arrive after a time of forced conversions to Christianity or Islam? Loss of citizenship? Did it become dangerous to be Z and so they quit allowing conversion?

    That would sound more familiar.

    It is a fascinating article though, that’s for sure.

  • Clever Judi. I couldn’t figure out the rope that is like tzitzit. Yes, a gartle.

    A gartle is a long black tasseled cord sash, very chic and fancy, really serious looking, which is tied around a man’s waist, as a tangible statement that the lower body should be separated from the upper body. The animal part of us from the higher faculties. This cord marks the borderline between these two parts of the man.

    When one of his children holds onto one of the the tasseled ends, it is very cute.

    This is really easy devotional device. No, it is not required. It is a custom for some. The Hasidim use this. Other people can too, if they feel like it. You can get them mail order at Eichler’s dot com.

    Some men wear one only during prayer. The Hasidim wear them all the time.

  • From wikipedia:
    Zoroastrian angelology is branch of Zoroastrian doctrine that deals with the hierarchical system of divinities introduced by the reforms of Zarathustra (Zoroaster). Those reforms reorganized the multitude of divinities (and divine concepts) of proto-Indo-Iranian religions in a complex order under the supremecy of Ahura Mazda, the Creator of everything.
    – – – – – – – – – –

    In other words, monotheism – NOT.
    Ahura Mazda – the one uncreated creator – sits at the top of a pagan pantheon of deities and forces.

    These are the people mentioned in the Talmud – the pagans who would only let fires be lit in their own temples on certain of their holidays.

    • Only Jews say zoroastrians are pagans. So sorry, i know you jews are all shifty narrcisists. But get over it. You are not the original monotheistic religion. Shame on isreal for committing the atrocities 9/11

      • Oh geez. I was going to delete this stupid comment but decided to keep it on to show everyone how dumb you are.

  • That Zoroastrians believe in patrilineal descent is yet further evidence of their similarity to Judaism. Hazal pulled a fast one on us when they canonized matrilineal descent as the law for perpetuity. Biblical Judaism clearly affirms patrilineal descent, as can be proven by a brief perusal of episodes involving inheritance and descent. Shaye Cohen presents the evidence in systematic fashion in his masterful work, The Beginnings of Jewishness.

  • Zoroastrianism plays a major role in the New Testament. They invented “the devil” for most part as the “God of this World” (ie..Lucifer) and they have a God “not of this world” (the main god they worship).

    Christianity, in particular, the New Testament is PURE Zoroastrian. Jesus is always saying “I think thee father” over and over again (patrilineal descent). Plus you have the concept of “Born Again”. Ancient Zoroastrians like their Hindu counterparts created a Racial/tribal religion. That is why they are NOT allowed to intermarry. The keys to it are all over the New Testament. It is not by accident that one of the major writers of the New Testament (or maybe it is two of them) was a Jewish Convert way back when. Guess what he was before he converted? Persian Aryan Zoroastrian. Coincidence? Hardly. Zoroastrians represent probably the oldest religion on earth. They dominated the largest land mass and the middle east 2000 years ago. They were all over the Middle East and had all kinds of radical elements.

    Modern Zoroastrians know little about their religion for the most part. And they normally will not talk about the Racial Origins. They say we are a tribal religion. It was one of the Original ways the Persian Aryans kept themselves in the “upper caste”….ie white for so long. And ingenious 3000 years ago!!! You had to be born a Zoroastrian and you could only do it through the father!!! The mother was only the first half of the equation. You had to be born again unto the father. Then they went into a decline (around the height of the Roman empire). I am guessing that is when we got the converts in Judaism. Later, They were of course conquered and many were forcibly converted by the Muslims.

    Patrilineal descent is only part of the deal. That completed your birth. Your mother starts the process and then and only then can be born again unto the father. Ancient Zoroastrianism is pretty wild to read about. If you can find anything that goes into the Ancient Elements of the religion. They had a ruthless enforcement of the Tribal Rules 2500 years ago. That is why they dominated Persia. Also that is why there are any around today. Considering that they can not convert –it is pretty amazing that there are any left (especially after the Muslims conquered them). Those Zoroastrians that know what I just told you are rare and will not open up about it in public. A few I know told me in Private in London of all places (there is population there). They say they are tribal. And they are these days. However, they inherited the oldest of the Ancient Aryan Racial Religions. There rules they enforced 2000 to 3000 years ago were alot more strict!

    We ripped a few ideas off of them for sure. The article points to a couple. There are probably more. They dominated the Middle East and Persia.

    One big difference is Zoroastrians are a Solar Religion. They use an interesting Solar type calendar (like the Christians). Of Course, lets not forget European Christianity curve fit an ancient Solar Calendar around Christianity. Europeans have the Same Solar Calendar for thousands of years before any Jesus. The Cross is thought to be an ancient Solar Symbol (crosses in Ireland predate Christianity by 3000 years or more). Of course, we Jews have a Lunar Calendar.

    There is a mini lecture for you guys about the most dominate religion in the Middle East way back in the day. I will guarantee you that very few Christians have even heard of it. It was virtually stomped out by the Muslims. I am surprised any survived Islam when Muslims when on their first tirade!! Lets not forget, the only Zoroastrians that survived and thrived fled the Middle East at the time! Sound familiar?

  • PeacelovingJew, that was a very interesting comment.

    If one were to go back in time up to the point when the Aryan migration towards the south diverged into western Aryans (Iran) and eastern Aryans (Pakistan/India), and one were to follow their migration route backwards to the north all the way to their origins, the findings about the culture which existed there would surely be very, very fascinating!

    I wonder if it would be similar to the Vedic culture of ancient India, or something completely different? In any case, I’m sure modern religions do offer fragments of that ancient culture and their beliefs, as many religions (which are currently dominant) have, as time passed, assimilated doctrines and beliefs which originated from this “original source”.

    I hope to see the day when some archaeologist gets lucky and finds some well-preserved information about that old culture.

  • Ummm… a theology about a world dominated by forces of Good and Evil is a very Christian idea, not a Jewish one, TM.

    Jewliciouser Rebbe, feel free to jump in and school me.

  • The similarities are external. I wasn’t comparing theology, particularly since I know about as much regarding Zoroastrians as is found in this NY Times article. My point in this post was about the difficulty facing a religion with a high rate of assimilation, no proselytizing and a rejection of intermarriage.

  • I remember reading about this a while ago, after asking someone who was wearing a beautiful necklace what it symbolised, and she told me Zoroastrianism.
    I’m surprised that numbers are so low, I’ve seen many other people wearing the same symbol here in London.

    Wikipedia has a lot of very insightful information about it.

  • You learn something new every day! Peacelovingjew, just got off the phone with the Pope to break the news that Christianity espouses patrilineal descent. (Sorry, Mary Magdelene!) And that the concept of being “born again”– falsely ascribed to certain 20th- century Christians native to the southern United States– actually orginated someplace in Iran!

    Hell, that was nothing. I also had to let him know that the concept of ‘evil’ was something unknown to the Jews– we just sorta made it up. And that the New Testament has no relation to . . . the Old one.

    Well, to look on the bright side: I can marry a Jewish chick, and the kid gets to be both Jewish and Christian from the get-go! The best of both worlds! “This is the day the Lord has made . . .”

  • YONI – Learn some Torah for once. It went through the Father until Sinai. Then at Sinai that was when all the Jews got their souls and then it went through the mother. How come guys like you make these statements without ever learning? I just don’t understand it.

  • Yeah CactusJack is right. Remember guys—-Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, Torat Yisrael, Tarbut Yisrael. We are not like them. We guys are Israelites. Think about that for a minute and what it means,
    Shabbat Shalom!

  • Shalom everybody,
    I am Zoroastrian, and would like to correct some wrong views here and there.
    First and most important, orthodox zoroastrianism -true Zoroastrianism- accepts converts. Actually it is stated that the best deed a joddin (non-Zoroastrian) can ever make is to leave his/her religion and become a true Zoroastrian.

    Secondly, it is not a patrilineal religion. Only Parsis (a group among India’s Zoroastrians) think it is. Even Pakistan’s Parsis don’t agree with that stupidity. Zoroastrianism is acquired by both parents, or by conversion. Actually even those born in a Zoroastrian family have -according to Tradition- to convert, to choose actively Zoroastrianism. It is a choice that has to be made. They are not obliged to do their sudreh-pooshi/navjote (introduction in the faith ceremony). Nobody is obliged, everybody is welcome.

    Thirdly, about similarities… Yes there are many. Some people say Parsis are the “Jews of India”: very few in number, quite wealthy for some of them, and very educated and assimilated. As to what concerns religion please read some articles such as this: http://orthodoxzoroastrianism.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/the-time-of-zoroasterzarathushtra-and-the-zoroastrian-influence-upon-biblical-worldview/

    May Ahura Mazda bless you all, and may you all be on the way of Righteousness.

    • Mazdayasnian, I am too a Parsi Zarathusti
      Who r u email me if you can
      Today’s Orthodox Parsees don’t want other people to convert to this wonderfull religion, I have no idea why………..
      Freddy Mercury was Farrokh Bulsara for your info and YES he was a Zarathusti not a Zoro. maybe a Zoroastrian (some respect for one of the oldest religions).
      Of course during the start & at the zenith or height of the Zoroastrian religion I am completely convinced that people had to converted to the religion. How else did it flourish as the official religion of the great Persian Empire !!!
      Only since our ancestors came to India did the King ask them not to convert people to their religion. So it was a tradition not part of the Religion.
      Thanks for the opportunity to get some of my thoughts in……
      I also am very surprised that some of the opinions stated seem negative to accepting another similar religion ……

  • Fascinating article on Zoroastrians. Thanks for sharing. Those who enjoyed this may also want to check out articles from JewishQuarterly.org. Between Jewlicious and Jewish Quarterly I can always find great articles on Jewish culture.

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