This month, Prods Oktor Skjærvø, professor at Harvard University, publishes The Spirit of Zoroastrianism (Yale 2012).  In it, professor Skjærvø explores Zoroastrianism—an ancient, dualist religious movement that originated in Iran in the second millennium BCE—and several of its key texts.  Not widely understood, Zoroastrianism’s relatively few adherents (see Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, [I.B. Tauris 2011] by Jenny Rose, graduate professor at the Claremont School of Religion in California) belie the religion’s far-reaching influence in the global economy.  For example, the Tata family, who are Parsi (the Indian offshoot of Zoroastrianism), operate the Tata group, a massive Indian conglomerate with worldwide operation and impact.  (For example, Tata Consultancy Services is an international provider of outsourcing.)  For the publisher’s abstract, please follow the jump.

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, though it is not among the best understood. Originating with Iranian tribes living in Central Asia in the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism was the official religion of the Iranian empires until Islam superseded it in the seventh century AD. Centered on the worship of Ahura Mazda, the All-knowing Ruler, Zoroastrianism follows the practices and rituals set out by the prophet Zarathustra, according to the indigenous tradition.

As one of the world’s great religions, Zoroastrianism has a heritage rich in texts and cultic practices. The texts are often markedly difficult to translate, but in this volume, Prods Oktor Skjærvø, professor of ancient Iranian languages and culture at Harvard, provides modern and accurate translations of Zoroastrian texts that have been selected to provide an overview of Zoroastrian beliefs and practices. In a comprehensive introduction to these sacred texts, Skjærvø outlines the history and essence of Zoroastrianism and discusses the major themes of this the first fully representative selection of Zoroastrian texts to be made available in English for over a century.

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