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Exploring Mithraism and the Influence of Zurvanism

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Mithraism, the religion originating in ancient Iran, was one that blended different gods and goddesses from various cultural pantheons. Its followers, called Magians, seemed to have a penchant for combining divinities from varied sources to create their own inclusive view of deity. Various gods and goddesses of foreign cultures were seen as equivalents or counterparts of those in their own tradition, resulting in a mixture of religious aspects from other traditions.

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Though ancient Iranian belief systems weren’t unified in the belief of a single god, Orthodox Zoroastrianism developed a more monotheistic orientation. This religion portrayed Ohrmazd (or Ahura Mazda) as the one true god, and viewed other divine entities either as angelic forces that aid in world transformation (amesha spentas or yazatas), or demonic elements obstructing this mission (daêvas).

Exploring the Iranian belief system of Zurvanism, it is evident that this philosophical framework flourished during Sasanian era (224-651 CE). Its prevalence due to external sources as opposed to Zoroastrian scriptures implies a much older actuality. According to The Magian Tarok by Stephen Flowers, comparisons could thus be made between Zurvanism and Germanic mythology as the Iranian tribes influence on their Germanic neighbours from 700-600 BCE was noteworthy.

In Germanic mythology, the gods (æsir) and giants (þursed) evolved from an androgynous entity (Ymir) in a pre-aionic age. There were also entities called the Norns, which represented time and had the power to even subject the gods to their will. These cosmic forces sprang from a common source and were in constant battle with one another. This type of conception is similar to what proto-Zurvanism may have been like.

Zurvanism likely represented a mix of various Near Eastern beliefs that were part of the Hellenistic world, including Greek, Roman (Stoic), Hebrew, Chaldaic (Aramaic), Egyptian, Gnostic (Christian), and Persian elements. The followers of Mithraism, known as the Mithrists, came from a diverse group of people, so it makes sense that their beliefs would be a blend of different ideas and concepts.

However, Zurvanism cannot be seen as the original form of the religion founded by the prophet Zarathustra because it limits the absolute goodness and wisdom of Ohrmazd. In Zurvanism, Ohrmazd and Ahriman (the god of evil) are both seen as ultimately equal, rather than one being good and the other being evil. This concept goes against the teachings of Zarathustra, which emphasize the absolute goodness of Ohrmazd.

So there you have it! A little bit about the divinities of Mithraism and the concept of Zurvanism. It’s always fascinating to learn about the beliefs and customs of ancient cultures, isn’t it?