Frequently asked questions on Zoroastrianism and the Avesta
WHAT IS ZOROASTRIANISM?
A brief overview
Zoroastrianism is a religion founded in ancient times by the prophet Zarathushtra, known to the Greeks as Zoroaster.
Zoroastrianism was the dominant world religion during the Persian empires (559 BC to 651 AC), and was thus the most powerful world religion at the time of Jesus. It had a major influence on other religions. It is still practiced world-wide, especially in Iran and India.
To quote Mary Boyce, Continue reading
Book of Am-Tuat
From Sacred Texts
THE EIGHTH DIVISION OF THE TUAT, WHICH IS CALLED TEBAT-NETERU-S.
THE scene that illustrates the EIGHTH DIVISION Of the Tuat, which is passed through by the Sun-god during the EIGHTH HOUR of the night, is introduced by four lines of text which read:–
“The Majesty of this great god taketh up its place in the Circles of the hidden gods who are on their sand, and he addresseth to them words in his boat whilst the gods tow him along through this City by means of the magical powers of the serpent MEHEN. The name of the gate of this City is AHA-AN-URT-NEF. The name of this City is TEBAT-NETERU-S. The name of the Hour of the night which guideth this great god is NEBT-USHA.”
The Circles of this Division are thus described:–
“The hidden Circles of Ament which are passed through by the great god, his boat being towed along by the gods who dwell in the Tuat; let them be made according to the figures [which are depicted] on the north of the hidden palace in the Tuat. Whosoever knoweth them by their names shall be the possessor of swathings upon earth, and he shall not be repulsed at the hidden gates, and he shall have offerings in very great abundance regularly and perpetually.” Continue reading
By B.C. Holmes, 2001
Other Names: Papa Gede, Baron Samedi
Spheres of Influence: Death, the Lord of all Gede
Colours: Black, purple and white
Symbols: Skull, black cross, shovel, mirrored sunglasses, hot peppers fused with kleren
Offerings: Black rooster, black goat
Catholic counterparts: St. Gerard
“If Legba was the sun, at first young, then growing old, Ghede is the master of that abyss into which the sun descends. If Legba was time, Ghede is that eternal figure in black, posted at the timeless cross-roads at which all men and even the sun one day arrive. The cross upon a tomb is his symbol. But the sun is each year reborn. If Carrefour is the night death which attends each day, then Ghede is the night sun, the life which is eternally present, even in darkness. The cosmic abyss is both tomb and womb. In a Continue reading
SACRED DAYS OF THE LWA
By Houngan Hector, 2011
Vodou is a tradition of action. That is why most people will say “M sevi Ginen” (I serve Ginen) rather than say “I’m a Vodouisant”. Now all religions are, ideally, a way of life. But Vodou is most adamantly so. Service is an action, and that is how we describe our tradition, in terms that refer to those actions. Vodou is something you live, rather than simply do. It is not a tradition you can learn passively. You need to dig right in and get your hands dirty, so to speak. During ceremonies, everything is based on actions: salutes, dancing, drumming, singing, and tracing veves – to name a few. We do not have congregation members sitting as someone preaches.
Everyday of the week is sacred to a particular Lwa or group of Lwa. Sunday is God’s day. Vodouisants vary on what happens on Sunday. Some will not do any spiritual work, will not salute the lwa, will not do anything that has to do with Ginen. Others do not discriminate against the day. They say, “Yes, Sunday is sacred to God, I will remember Him and respect Him, but everyday I need to eat!” In other words, they still do Vodouisant activities on this day. Most Vodouisants attend Church and Mass and may say prayers or give some other sort of attention directed towards the Creator. Continue reading
Ritual Symbols of the Voudou Spirits: Voudou Veves
By Denise Alvarado, 2010
A Veve is a religious symbol for a vodou “loa” (or lwa) and serves as their representation during rituals. In Haiti, the veve derives from the beliefs of the native Tainos. Most similar to the veve are the drawings of zemi or gods of the Taino religion.
Every Loa has his or her own unique veve, although regional differences have led to different veves for the same loa in a few cases. Sacrifices and offerings are usually placed upon them.
The veve is usually drawn on the floor by strewing a powder-like substance, such as cornmeal, wheat flour, bark, red brick powder, or gunpowder. The material depends entirely upon the rite.
The veve in the introduction represents the Voodoo loa Papa Legba, who is the gatekeeper to the spirit world, remover of obstacles, and provider of opportunities. Continue reading
From Hougan Sydney, 2014
Gods in Vodou are known as Loa. Although not invoked first, Damballah is the father of all the Loa. He is the archetypal wise Loa, the patriarchal serpent divinity, associated with wisdom, peace, purity, benevolence, life and innocence.
Damballah is highly respected and is one of the most revered African gods. Along with his companion Ayida Wèdo, the rainbow serpent, he is viewed as the Loa of creation.
Ceremonies for Damballah and/or Ayida Wèdo are extremely particular and highly elaborate, and all rules must be followed to the letters. First, everyone in the assistance must entirely be dressed with freshly clean, immaculate white clothes, women are to have their head tied with silk white scarves. It is very common for people to be asked to leave the temple if they’re not in proper attire when Damballah is expected. Smoking, and alcoholic consumption are strictly forbidden. After many sacred Continue reading
From Hougan Sydney, 2014
Spirits in Vodou are known as Loa. During slavery in Haiti, white french [enslavers] forbade [enslaved Africans] from pursuing Vodou as a religion and anyone caught practicing any religion other than Catholicism were severely punished.
The [enslaved Africans], still deeply attached to their African roots, were obliged to use Catholic Saint Image during Vodou ceremonies, pretending to be praying to them while deep in their heart they were praying to their African gods. This is the main characteristic that differentiate the Vodou that is practiced in Haiti and in Africa.
Over 400 years have passed, but the tradition strangely still remains today; it is so deeply rooted in the religion that it is almost impossible to even imagine Haitian Vodou without the representation of the Loas with Catholic Saints’ images. Continue reading
Apep, Demonic Water Snake of Chaos and Enemy of Ra
by Caroline Seawright, 2004
Apep (Apepi, Aapep, Apophis, Apopis) was a demon of the underworld, in the form of a giant water snake. It was believed that he was created when Nit spat into the primeval waters of Nun. An alternate belief from Iunyt (Esna) was that the umbilical cord of Nit’s son (eg. Ra), who she bore in the waters of chaos, turned into Apep after it was cut. He was the enemy of the sun god, trying to stop him as he travelled on his barque through the underworld each night. He was so powerful that little could defeat him, and even then, he was back again the following evening to threaten Ra. He was a demon outside of ma’at, the opposite of order, a demon of darkness and chaos. Continue reading
THE ERINYES were three netherworld goddesses who avenged crimes against the natural order. They were particularly concerned with homicide, unfilial conduct, crimes against the gods, and perjury. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Erinys upon the criminal. The most powerful of these was the curse of the parent upon the child–for the Erinyes were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Ouranos, when he was castrated by his son Kronos.
The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harbouring such a criminal, could Continue reading