The last ten days before Vernal Equinox/New Year are a time of reflection and introspection among Zoroastrians. Not only we thoroughly clean and beautify our homes, but must come clean mentally/spiritually, about our motives and actions before the new year/spring arrives.
The last ten days before the new year are called the lesser and greater Five (days) or Panjæ. The Greater Five or gáthá/song days, are the immediate five days before the Vernal Equinox.
Bonfires are lit before the beginning of the gáthá/song days to welcome the visit of the blessed spirits. The bright flames not only impart joy and pleasant warmth but shall illuminate our paths for the year ahead.
This bonfire tradition has been preserved in the happy festival of Chahrshanbe suri or the “Feast of Bonfires” celebrated during the “last Wednesday night” before the arrival of Spring.
Fire not only illuminates but PURIFIES, and in Zoroastrianism Purity is the greatest thing after the gift of life per the poetic songs/gathas of seer-prophet Zarathustra. During the ten days of pætat “reflection and introspection,” we shall purify ourselves of wrong choices and sins that have made us less vibrant and lessened our life and energy.
The word for sin in Persian is gónáh, in Middle Persian is wináh, and in Avestan is aæna, from the root nas “to decay, rot, go bad, become spoiled/rotten. The Indo-European root is *nek-.
In Zoroastrianism, sins fall under two main categories, sins against one’s own soul, úrván, and sins against creation and other living creatures. Furthermore, sins are classified based on the intention with which they were committed.
Here are some grave sins in Zoroastrianism that make our spirit/life energy deteriorate: To lose hope in Ahûrá Mazdá’s great wisdom, mind powers, and wondrous abilities. The Mindful, Wise Lord is the Master of Eternity and there is always hope, and a way in his wondrous dominion.
To have undue fear of Ahûrá Mazdá and his Immortals is a fatal sin. Only demon gods terrorize their followers, and rule over them through fear, cruelty, and malice. Zoroastrianism teaches “reverential AWE and LOVE” for Ahûrá Mazdá and Yazatas instead of fearing Godhood. The law/nature of Godhood is pure light, extraordinary powers, and goodness.
According to Zoroastrian principles, putting the world’s potentials into full use is a must. To contaminate, abuse nature and deny the nature’s blessings is a big sin with severe consequences in the afterlife.
Failing to till the land and planting seeds to grow is a major offense in Zoroastrianism. Speñtá Ármaiti is the Auspicious and bountiful, goddess of nature and the earth. To accuse the earth/nature of infertility is a direct offense against her.
Postponing a virtuous action and laziness are other great sins in Zoroastrianism. “It has been acknowledged by the luminous vision/religion that Ahûrá Mazdá told Zarathustra: do not ever postpone a good deed that you intend to do and do not think of delaying it, you might not be given another chance to accomplish it later.”
Asceticism, fasting and abstaining from the blessings of Godhood are considered ingratitude towards Ahûrá Mazdá. Zoroastrianism strongly enjoins mortals to take pleasure in the joys and the gifts of life without diverting from healthy moderation. A Zoroastrian scholar priest once stated that “Other religions fast by avoiding food, in our religion, avoiding impurities/sins is equal to fasting.”
Cruelty to animals, Killing Beasts of Burden and Hunting are considered among the gravest sins. In the ancient commentaries of the poetic songs of Zarathustra, we are constantly advised that those who are cruel to animals will NOT pass the luminous portal/bridge to higher dimensions. According to an Avestan passage in Höm Yašt (Hymn to the elixir of Immortality,) the ox and the horse curse their cruel owners to die without issue, have their lines broken and suffer from infamy.
In other Zoroastrian religious literature, priests are specifically banned from hunting. Only the commoners who are exceedingly poor and lack food may hunt under very special circumstances. The ancient plates depicting Zoroastrian Kings enjoying hunting, only shows such rulers lack of orthodoxy and their lukewarm dedication to the Zoroastrian religion.
In Zoroastrianism, animals are sentient beings, and the living world has a SOUL. Reverence for nature and elements is fundamental to Zoroastrianism.
Lying is a detrimental sin in Zoroastrianism. In a dialogue between Ahûrá Mazdá and seer-prophet Zarathustra, the Mindful, Wise Lord counts three abominable sins: one who is blind to truth, one who is deaf to truth, and one who is vengeful to others.”
Deafness and blindness to truth is to willfully deny the wondrous truth of Ahûrá Mazdá and his Immortals as well as ignoring the potential of mortal men to evolve into superb, higher beings. The third sin vengeance ends in the empowerment of ahriman and his minions.
“Beware of destroying your enemy out of hatred because it would lead up to pain and ruin. Cleanse your thoughts of vengefulness, don’t destroy your enemy out of spite but RIGHT. Because he/she who practices no vengeance, will be rid of all worries when on the bright bridge/luminous portal.”
“This also (is) revealed in the luminous vision/religion (Zoroastrianism,) that in this material world one – must not have any love for the wicked, for those who are wicked deceive the faithful. They take away from the good, their well-being and light by deception. When hardship come to the good, the wicked do not help them but take great joy in their misfortune.”
Another sin is to be Charitable towards the Undeserving! Doing Good and being generous without expecting a reward and/or Goodness for Goodness’s sake is what Zoroastrianism teaches. However, we read in the book of hundred doors/subjects that “If you practice generosity, be sure to direct your charity towards those worthy. And not to waste your charity on the undeserving because you would be considered a sinner if you did extend charity to the wicked.”
Hospitality is an essential virtue in Zoroastrianism and inhospitality is a grave sin. A Zoroastrian shall never turn away a weary traveler. A parallel can be drawn here with the pagan people of Northern Europe who knew never to turn away a weary traveler for it just might be Odinn, the Mighty Allfather in disguise.
Another great offense is hoarding wealth without benefiting from the abundance to oneself or sharing the blessings with others.
Wailing and lamenting the dead excessively is considered a sin in Zoroastrianism. The legacy of the departed shall be celebrated with dignity. Any rite or tradition that its focal point is death and negativity, is considered demonic in Zoroastrianism.
Not Acknowledging One’s Child is another offense in Zoroastrianism. It is the obligation of fathers to acknowledge their offspring. To disclaim one’s own child is an abominable sin.
Respect for parents is of great importance in Zoroastrianism. Herodotus notes that “Persians believe that no one of Persian decent has ever killed his/her parents and if such a murder has ever taken place, the killer has turned out not to be the real child of his/her parents (Herodotus 2001: para 137).
Finally, just as fire illuminates our paths and imparts us with radiance and joy, each Zoroastrian shall choose one of the Immortals of Ahûrá Mazdá as a Role Model in the spiritual realm, and a learned dastür (scholar priest) as a source of emulation and counsel in the material world.