Zoroastrian Priesthood and the Ancient Culture of God's Man

  June 29, 2021   Read time 2 min
Zoroastrian Priesthood and the Ancient Culture of God's Man
Mediation is part of every religious and spiritual sect and denomination. Priesthood is another expression of mediating the divine and people. This tradition still continues into present day although it is an ancient culture.

The Zoroastrian priesthood has traditionally been hereditary in the male line, although now in Iran men may qualify through study. The duties of priests include reciting the liturgy in the temples and in the homes of members of the community, saying prayers for the dead, and conducting weddings, navjotes (initiation ceremonies), and jashans (rituals of memorial and thanksgiving). Zoroastrian priests are known as mobeds; in India they are called dasturs. There are several levels in the priestly hierarchy. The highest grade of priest is known as a mobed e mobedan. Mobedyars are priests in training.

In India priestly training usually begins immediately after navjote when children are about seven years old. It requires memorizing the basic scriptures and liturgy, after which they have to undergo a ceremony that requires a series of purification rituals. The basic liturgy, the Yasna, is always recited in Avestan, so memorization is by heart. The candidate spends a period of nine days in retreat and undergoes a second purification ritual. Then he is dressed in white, the color of purity, and ordained by a senior mobed. After the ritual he recites the Yasna. Over the following days he recites other liturgies, earning the right to be called ervad, a title for a Zoroastrian priest. The candidate may erform basic ceremonies, including the navjote and wedding ceremonies, although he may not celebrate high rituals, including the Yasna. Many young men stop at this level and go into other professions.

If he is to continue, the young priest then spends the next two to three years learning additional scriptures before undergoing further purifi cation rituals and a higher initiation called the maratab. The young priest will then become a full mobed. When he has demonstrated a mastery of all the rituals he is qualified to perform any Zoroastrian ceremony. As a rule candidates for the priesthood learn the rituals by memorization and practice. They are not expected to learn Avestan and Pahlavi, although they may take lessons in the meaning of the rituals through translation. If they attend college later they may study the languages of Zoroastrianism at that time. The examination for the priesthood in Iran is similar but candidates are tested more intensively on their knowledge and understanding of the religion, and there is only one grade of priest. The new mobed practices with others for a year, after which he is on his own.

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