SOAS University of London

Free Short Online Course - Zoroastrianism: History, Religion and Belief

26 July 2021

Zoroastrianism: History, Religion and Belief

An Online Course by Sarah Stewart and Céline Redard

Available free from FutureLearn

Zoroastrianism has had a profound influence on major world religions. Its history tells the story of imperial culture, persecution, and migration.

Utilising a rich visual repository of artifacts, paintings, and texts, this four-week course will take you through the story of Zoroastrian religion, history, and culture.

The three first weeks draw inspiration from an exhibition titled ‘The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination’. The fourth and last week provides an exploration of the Avestan language, in which most of the Zoroastrian ritual texts are written.

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Overview of the content

Week 1 Who was Zarathushtra and what did he teach?

  • Welcome to the course (1.1 – 1.5)
  • Introducing Zarathushtra (1.6 – 1.7)
  • Teachings, the Gathas (1.8 – 1.9)
  • Teachings: Creation and the doctrine of the Amesha Spentas (1.10 – 1.12)

Week 2 Historical Perspectives: Iran

  • The central act of priestly worship: Yasna (2.1)
  • The Ancient World and the Achaemenid Empire (2.2 – 2.5)
  • The Parthian and Sasanian Empires (2.6 – 2.9)
  • After the Arab conquest of Iran (2.10 – 2.13)

Week 3 Historical Perspectives: India

  • Influence of Zoroastrian religious thought on world religions (3.1)
  • Journey from Iran and early settlement in India (3.2 – 3.4)
  • Devotional life and rites of passage (3.5 – 3.7)
  • Challenges facing Zoroastrians today (3.8 – 3.10)

Week 4 Avestan

  • Introduction (4.1 – 4.2)
  • Let’s start with letters (4.3 – 4.6)
  • An Avestan text: the victory of Zaraϑuštra over the demons (4.7 – 4.12)
  • Review (4.13 – 4.15)
  • An Avestan stanza explained (4.16 – 4.18)