Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

The course provides a survey of Zoroastrian teachings, rituals, observances and contemporary issues with reference to Zoroastrian primary sources, including Avestan and Pahlavi texts in translation, and religious practices. It is taught within a historical framework beginning with the Indo-Iranian religious system and going on to trace the development of the religion in the Iranian empires and after the Islamisation of Iran, and its revival on the Indian subcontinent and the contemporary global diaspora. The course will also cover modern Zoroastrian thought and the ritual and devotional practices of Zoroastrians today.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • demonstrate good essay writing practice and bibliographic referencing with regard to a topic relating to Zoroastrianis
  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the teachings, history and contemporary issues in relation to Zoroastrianism
  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, and show originality in tackling and solving problems relating to Zoroastrianis
  • use and evaluate primary and secondary sources for the study of Zoroastrianism and critically asses divergent interpretations put forward by different scholars
  • develop an argument on a relevant topic and support it with reference to primary and secondary sources
  • understand how the boundaries of knowledge of Zoroastrianism are advanced through research


1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar over 20 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • Essay, 1500 words (30%
  • Essay, 3000 words (50%)
  • Concept paper, 500 words (10%)
  • Seminar participation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • M. Boyce, “Zoroastrianism”. In: J.R. Hinnells (ed.), A new handbook of living religions. London-New York etc.: Penguin, 1997, 236–260
  • Peter Clark, Zoroastrianism. Introduction to an Ancient Faith. Sussex: Academic Press, 1998.
  • Gh. Gnoli, “Zarathusthra”, “Zoroastrianism”. In: M. Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Religion. London/New York: Macmillan, vol. 15, 1987, pp. 556–559 and 579–591.
  • J.R. Hinnells, Zoroastrianism and the Parsis. London: Ward Lock Educational, 1981 (reprint Bombay: Zoroastrian Studies, 1996).
  • J.R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology. London : Hamlyn, 1975.
  • J. Rose, Zoroastrianism. An Introduction. London-New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.
  • Stausberg, M.: Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism: A Short Introduction. Translated by M. Preisler-Weller, with a postscript by Anders Hultgård. London: Equinox, 2008.
  • Zaehner, R.C.: “Zoroastrianism”. In: R.C. Zaehner (ed.), The Concise Encyclopaedia of Living Faiths. London: Hutchinson, 1971.


Almut Hintze


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules