Gods, Goddesses, and Twins
The Aryans believed in a multitude of gods and goddesses. They ascribed their peace and prosperity, and war and adversity to these deities. Ahura *Vouruna* ("Asura Varuna" in the Indian Vedic dialect) was the chief god, King of the Universe, in the pantheon. Like a kind but strict father, he had his discipline.His "Law" of socio-religious behavior had to be obeyed. He rewarded well those whoobeyed the Law and punished hard those who did not.


 

He had a younger associate, almost a twin. His name was "Mithra' (Vedic Mitra). His name is derived from the root 'mith', meaning 'to meet, to unite, to form a social union'. He was, as the name also shows, the god of "contract and covenant." He supervised the bond that bound various Aryan tribes together in their pastoral pattern. Each tribe knew its grazing limits on the grasslands. The law of grazing, when and where, was very clear to let the tribes live and let live in the successive migrations between their summer and winter grazing grounds. Nomadic tribes still follow the pattern in the region. Mithra was preferably invoked by his pastoral epithet, 'vourugaoyaoiti' , meaning "(lord) of wide pastures". He was the lord of cowherding Aryans. He held them in a covenant, a bond of friendship. He was a friend. As an abstract noun, 'mithra' simply means contract, covenant, love, friendship.
The Gathas

Mithra and other gods and goddesses had all their reverences and invocational songs until Zarathushtra came with his divine, dynamic message of "unique" monotheism. The Gathas, which contain the very words of Zarathushtra composed in seventeen songs, know only Ahura Mazda, literally the "Super-Intellect Being". The Gathas have no pantheon in which a supreme deity has his associates and/or aids. No junior deities, and no angels. It is "pure" monotheism. Ahura Mazda is the creator, sustainer and promoter of the universe. None of the gods of the old pantheon are mentioned in the Sublime Songs.

But age-old-engraved-in beliefs and customs do not die. They outlived the purifying movement by Zarathushtra. Mithra and other gods and goddesses were re-introduced as 'yazata', meaning 'adorable'. The Later Avesta has preserved songs in their honor some pre-Zarathushtrian, some post-Zarathushtrian, but all in their 'Zoroastrianized' editions. They are called 'Yasht' by their late Pahlavi/Persian name. They are beautiful pieces of literature with a martial air. Furthermore, with the exception of a few, the names of one or more yazatas have been interposed in all non-Gathic Yasna



The Rites of Zoroastrian Initiation
 

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