Welcome to Mazdayasni Online

Welcome to Mazdayasni Online!
We hope that your visit to Mazdayasni Online is full of enlightenment and understanding. Please, do not hesitate to contact us if you need more information. If it’s not on here yet, we can find a good resource for you. If you need help converting or wish to learn more about Zoroastrianismm, we’re here for you as well. We recommend you start with “The Sacred Gathas of Zarathushtra & The Old Avestan Canon”, a modern and accessible translation of the Gathas, the very words of Zarathushtra, and the Old Avestan Canon, composed by the first Mazdayasni community from Zarathushtra’s direct teachings. Below you’ll find a copy of our About page for your reference to get you started on your Ashavic Enlightenment!

What is Mazdayasna?
Mazdaynasa, known as Zoroastrianism in the English-speaking world, is a complex, ancient, and diverse spiritual tradition that believes in Ahura Mazda as The One Above All and that there are various divinities that emanate from Ahura Mazda in the quest to perfect reality through choosing to attune with Asha (the mystical truth-force that is our birthright and permeates all) and the practice of its Threefold Path of Good Thoughts, Good Works, and Good Deeds. Interpretations may differ, but Zoroastrians are generally united in their Ashavic mission, which is by far more important than arguments on belief.

What is Mazdayasni Online?
Mazdayasni Online is primarily an infosite maintained by Mazdayasni scholar and convert Pablo Vazquez for those interested in learning more about Mazdayasna, adherents wanting to dig deeper into their faith, and the like. It was also created to help connect potential converts to trustworthy sources on their Mazdayasni path. If you’d like to help us out or need elucidation on something not currently presented on the site, please don’t be afraid to contact us!

Celebrating Yalda, the Zoroastrian Winter Solstice!

First off, if you wish to learn about Yalda, especially from a Zoroastrian perspective, please read my article written for the WZO here. It will help fill you in on the meanings, misconceptions, histories, theologies, and methods of celebration for this fantastic holiday.

I really encourage all of you, my fellow Zoroastrians, to celebrate Yalda Night/Chelleh Eve (on the 21st of December in 2022 in the northern hemisphere and tomorrow by the writing of this article) in whatever way you can even if you just spend it being gregarious with your household or just online in video calls. I am part of an initiative amongst Zoroastrians working to make it our distinct December festival of celebration, feasting, and gift-giving as the Christians have Christmas and the Jewish community has Hannukah. This way, we can join in the celebrations of our neighbors without forsaking our own and truly bringing some joy to these Winter days! I won’t discourage you from celebrating the various grand Winter festivals of other faiths, but why not be a proud Zoroastrian and give Yalda Night/Chelleh Eve a try this year and those following? I’m sure your kids and other small family members, if you have them, will love it and they’ll have something to tell their friends of other faiths about!

If you can be public about it, please do so, though I understand that there are those who can’t because of political or family circumstances. Please, on social media, post photos of your celebration, feasts, music, art, and be sure to give gifts to your loved ones, neighbors, and friends on this day even if it’s just a tasty pomegranate.

This article will help by providing some suggestions on how to best celebrate this holiday no matter where you are in the world. Now, here are seven steps and suggestions to make your Yalda celebrations a fantastic one:

  1. Prepare Your Table
    Most household Zoroastrian celebrations are usually held around a table and this is no exception. Get a table, whether your dinner table, your coffee table, an altar table, or, if you’re lucky to have one, a nice and warm Iranian corsi. Cover it in red and/or white cloths, candles, flowers, art, a portrait of Zarathushtra, and a copy of the Gathas and/or other Zoroastrian literature. I recommend also including other poetry and works of fiction from your household, works beloved by you and your loved ones. A fun thing to do is to ask guests to bring their own books to read from and share with their fellow guests. I recommend the Shahnameh, the grand epic of Iran packed full of our Zoroastrian mythologies, and acting out scenes together if possible!
  2. Decorate!
    The purpose of Yalda is to banish the darkness and thoughts of sadness, misery, and all wretchedness. As such, you’ll want to decorate your household to reflect this! You can’t go wrong with candles and other fires, flowers, decorative fruits, brightly-colored banners & streamers, and all sorts of pretty lights. Perhaps light some incense or nice-smelling candles, get fun little party hats and/or garlands for guests to wear, and, of course, dress up for the occasion. Sometimes the best decor is the one you bring wearing on you!
  3. Gather Your Loved Ones
    Friends, family, and good neighbors are always such a blessing so bring them all over to celebrate on the longest night with you! If you’re not the cooking type, this may be a good way to organize a potluck where everyone brings their own tasty dish and beverages to share. If you do cook, be mindful of any food allergies and requests from your guests and provide alternative options for non-drinkers, non-smokers, and the like. Not everyone will want to stay up late and that’s fine but make sure there are comfortable places to sleep for those that do. No doubt you and those brave folks that last the night will want somewhere soft to rest your head after all the festivities!
  4. Play Music, Tell Stories, Pray Together, Read Poetry, and Dance!
    Ancient Zoroastrians would gather together on this night to bring in joy as much as possible. I’m not going to tell you how to do that as it’s a crucial part of our lovely human experience. However, historically, we have played music, told stories, read poetry, engaged in friendly competitions, danced the night away, and the like. In modern times, this can include watching your favorite movies together, making food as a family, playing all sorts of games whether analog or virtual, and like. A popular thing to do is to divine your fortunes for the following year by picking by opening the Gathas or another book important to you, closing your eyes, and picking a verse at random and seeing how your winter shapes up from there! The point is to maximize the joy so do that as you best see fit! Of course, don’t forget why we celebrate and try to pray together a little bit even if that prayer is just reading a section of the Gathas or a moment of silence to remember those who can’t be there to celebrate as well. It’s a joyous day but it’s also a sacred day and don’t forget that one of the guests in your celebrations is always Ahura Mazda, our greatest friend and companion, who revels in our joy.
  5. Exchange Gifts
    Almost every Zoroastrian festival in pre-modern times involved some sort of gift-giving or another and Yalda is no exception. We’re surrounded in this time by so many other gift-giving holidays, secular and religious, and we shouldn’t be remiss to celebrate our own. Have a gift ready for each of your guests attending and encourage them to bring some as well. It doesn’t have to be something grand and can be as simple as the traditional gift: A pomegranate! Who’s going to turn down something so delicious, eh? If you’re at a loss, it’s always lovely to give something homemade like crafts, baked goods, and the like. Have friends that like to read? Set up a wrapped book box where it’s a mystery as to what they’ll get and have them pick one! Be sure to include your neighbors and non-Zoroastrian family and friends so that they know what Yalda is all about and spread the word about our wonderful celebrations. Nothing says they can’t be included so bring them in and be a good host which in itself is a fantastic gift.
  6. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!
    Ask any Zoroastrian and they can tell you we love to eat! We take food seriously and we boast some amazing cuisine from our traditional cultural communities. Prepare some traditional dishes from your culture and be sure to also include many fruits like pomegranates, watermelons, citruses, apples, nuts, and the like. Last, but not least, don’t forget the juices, wines, tea (lots of tea), and tasty sweet treats! At a loss as to what to serve for desserts? I personally recommend a large amount of Sholeh Zard, an absolutely delectable saffron rice pudding, and my favorite Persian dessert. Need a recipe? Don’t worry, click here and I’ve got you covered!
  7. Stay Up As Late As You Can
    Our spiritual ancestors would party all the way until the sun, triumphant against the darkness, would blind them in the morning and then promptly sleep, so, if you have the energy and desire, try to stay up as late as you can and greet the dawn as they did. If anything, it makes for a fun competition of seeing who can stay up the latest! Perhaps have a prize ready for whomever succeeds? No doubt they’ll at least enjoy some tasty breakfast! Can’t stay up that late? Don’t worry, it may be fun to do but not all of us are cut out for it. Just enjoy your night the best you can, cuddle up to your loved ones or your favorite pillow if you’re celebrating alone, and enjoy a restful sleep and wonderful dreams when it hits you.

I hope all of that helps! Please post your celebrations on social media and share this article to encourage others to celebrate.

Happy Yalda Night/Chelleh Eve, my fellow Zoroastrians, and may it be a joyous one!

Reproductive Rights and Mazdayasna

Lately, especially in the United States of America, the topic of abortion and other myriad related reproductive rights have been at the forefront of the news and dinner table discussions. This is after the Supreme Court of the USA reversed Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone decision that put reproductive rights solely in the hands of the individual as opposed to the State. As such, as part of an educational resource series through FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America) and ZYNA (Zoroastrian Youth of North America), I was asked to write a short and simple theological history on what reproductive rights have meant in Zoroastrianism with a particular focus on the issue of abortion. However, it was then deemed “too controversial” for release so, instead, I present it to you here in a very slightly expanded and edited form.

While the Gathas, the central and oldest compositions of the faith, and the Yasna Haptanghaiti, composed for the first Zoroastrian fellowship, make no mention of reproductive matters beyond encouraging reproduction and also the importance of choice-making, we do know that ancient Zoroastrians, mostly in Sassanian times, viewed abortion as a moral, spiritual, and social crime equal to murder which was a position that seemed to have stuck until the late 20th century. This is seen in the Vendidad, a priestly code compiled during the Sassanian Empire, and other later Pahlavi religious texts that detail methods of abortion and the spiritual (and sometimes physical) punishments that should be accorded to an aborter. However, religious ideas about abortion at this time also included the idea that a fetus was not accorded its urvan (soul) until about four months or so into the pregnancy and that abortion before this time was not murder in any sense and was a right provided to the one bearing the fetus. Throughout Zoroastrian theological history, opinions would differ as to the number of months a pregnancy could continue before abortion was no longer allowed and even whether abortion was allowed at all.

We do know, however, that lay Zoroastrians, particularly women who developed their own set of spiritual practices in some cases, within the lived reality of the religion exchanged abortifacient recipes, special prayers and rituals, and more in contrast and sometimes in direct opposition to some of the priestly establishment. It is important to note, however, that through modern reforms, theological developments including the re-embracing of universalism, and a rapidly-changing social atmosphere, the matter of reproductive rights within the context of the faith has changed to a discussion that harkens back to the Gathas and its centralization of the importance of choice and free will. In fact, it can be said that in all matters, reproductive or not, the right to choose is the most important of our spiritual rights granted to us by Ahura Mazda in contrast to other religious traditions which do not provide such a choice.

Through our alignment to the Path of Asha, our minds can thus be enlightened to make the wisest choice possible in any situation and, when it comes to reproductive rights, it is eventually the individual, in communion with Vohu Manah, who decides the best path for them. We are thus bound spiritually and ethically to respect that despite our opinions on specific issues. As reproductive matters continue to be debated in the faith, we may see a massive change in perception on the matter with the coming generations. Still, for now, it is best to say that while the opinion on abortion itself and other reproductive matters are complex and differing, the opinion on the importance and sacrality of the right to choose is uniform as something no one can take away.


Thoughts on “the One True Zoroastrianism”

When I first became a Zoroastrian, I was really obsessed with practicing a “true Zoroastrianism”, a singular pure form of the faith that I imagined had been lost through the vagaries of time. This, I learned through continual study (academic and not) and experience, was a fallacy I had imported through my own previous religious experiences and even my upbringing which emphasized following a singular and exclusive path.

The reality is that the trap is encoded in the English language because Zoroastrianism implies only one singular teaching and tradition while Mazdayasna, the more accurate name for our tradition, does not and actually implies diversity of thought focused on one singular factor: the worship of Mazda.

Therefore, I now definitely approach our wonderful and vast tradition with a generous, accepting, and multifaceted lens due to the fact that, historically, there has never been one singular Mazdayasna. Rather, it exists as an umbrella reality, a big tent where we hold some touchstones in common (Zarathushtra, the Gathas, etc.) with a vast adaptability and flexibility that has allowed us to survive no matter where we are and through any calamity. We are stronger through our diversity than we are weaker and, as we will see once we open the gates of conversion even wider, we are also enriched massively by that diversity especially when we sit down and discuss and learn from each other with open minds united by Vohu Manah and Asha towards Ahura Mazda and the eternal teachings for all conscious beings.