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Observations placeholder

Zoroastrian - Symbols and concepts - Fire 01



Type of Spiritual Experience



Fire has a number of symbolic associations:

  • Fire  - is one of the elements and since it is a place of rebirth [purgatory] it is thus also associated with these two concepts
  • Ash - is used for people on the spiritual path.  Having been symbolically through Fire one has emerged Balanced [the combination of Black and White] and has been reduced symbolically to Dust.
  • Flame - A flame is symbolic of a Spirit Entity of some sort.  The flame, if small, can represent a very minor Intelligence, or if large a very important Intelligence of great power.  Your Higher spirit can also be seen as a flame.  Size is an indicator of the position within the Intelligence hierarchy.
  • Beacon  - is a Fire symbol.  There is also a link to flames and crowns.  Symbolically a beacon is an enlightened person, physically it is a place where people go to be enlightened and purified by symbolic fire.

We know from Herodotus that in the mid-5th century BCE the Zoroastrians worshipped to the open sky, ascending mounds to light their fires (The Histories, i.131). Strabo confirms this, noting that in the 6th century, the sanctuary at Zela in Cappadocia was an artificial mound, walled in, but open to the sky (Geographica XI.8.4.512).

Thus one use of Fire in Zoroastrian symbolism was that of the artificial mountain – an Intelligence, for whom they lit a fire.  From the explanation above you can see this can then incorporate a great deal of symbolic meaning – a celebration of whatever divinity the mound/ziggurat represented, and a beacon to those who wished to find the religious sanctuary.

So if we put this simply.  A mound [ziggurat/pyramid] represents some spiritual entity either a very important one such as a Planet, or a very minor one such as an angel or even a local god.  The size is an indicator of importance.  The fire built on the top both indicates the religious centre is operational [a little like ringing bells in a church], and thus a sort of beacon, and is a celebration of that divinity. 

By the Hellenic Parthian era (250 BCE–226 CE), there were, in fact, two places of worship in Zoroastrianism:

  • The first, called bagin or ayazan, was a sanctuary dedicated to a specific divinity; it was constructed in honour of the patron saint (or angel) of an individual or family and included an icon or effigy of the honored.
  • The second, the atroshan, were the "places of burning fire" which became more and more prevalent. Following the rise of the Sassanid dynasty, the shrines to the Yazatas continued to exist, but with the statues – by law – either abandoned or replaced by fire altars.

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