Stephen Williamson's Zarathushtrian Ceremony
The Dar-e-Meher Fire Temple in San Jose California
January 29, 2005, The Ancient Persian Holiday of Sedeh (Fire)
(this page has many photos and may take a moment to load!)
The Zarathushtrian Creed is: "Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds"
Zoroastrianism is the world's oldest
Zarathushtra lived thousands of years ago in Persia, what is now Iran. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy calls him the first
philosopher. He greatly influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some scholars believe he was the
first to teach a belief in One God. His name for God was "Ahura
Mazda" - the "Wise Lord". The name "Ahura" is male and stands for
lord. "Mazda" is female and means wisdom. Zoroaster saw both male
and female in one cosmic God.
I have read the scriptures of many faiths. The ancient, democratic psalms of
Zoroaster are among the best: "Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds". Scholars believe the Three Magi (the wise men) who brought
presents for the baby Jesus were Zarathushtrians. (See the link below to Matthew, Chapter 2) King Cyrus the Great of Persia freed the Jews from their captivity in
Babylon. He wrote the world's first human rights charter. Stories about
Cyrus, the "Anointed One", are in 2nd Chronicles, Ezra and
Isaiah. See the link about Persia in the Bible.
Photos From My "Sedreh Pushi" Ceremony
There I am on the left at the top,
dressed in traditional white. I was so nervous! But, everyone was
incredibly nice and made me feel at ease.
One thing I had forgotten about was
the Middle Eastern custom of kissing each other on the cheek twice! (I
am not a "hugger" by nature.)
I did not realize it. but in about 30 minutes each one of these good
people would be kissing me! It was great fun as everyone was so happy. I am deeply thankful for these good people witnessing my
acceptance of the religion of good conscience. I got many gifts too.
If you ever visit San Jose, stay
at the Hyatt Hotel. It has first class rooms and meals at affordable
prices. I stayed there two nights and it could not have been nicer.
The Ancient Ceremony Begins
This is me and Dr. Ali Jafarey, who performed the ceremony. Dr. Jafarey
is one of the world's leading scholars. I am very honored to have had
him do it.
I am repeating the prayers as he is reciting them.
That is an artistic representation of Zarathushtra on the wall. You
can't see much of the table next to me, but it was covered with an
antique table cloth. It was beautifully decorated with candles
and Persian foods to eat afterwards. See the photo below for more
details of the lovely table. I deeply appreciated this.
This is Different Than Baptism - a Vow of Service
Another picture of the ceremony: I am
holding a long sacred cord. like a belt. It symbolizes getting read to
do good and truthful deeds.
This initiation is
very different from the baptism in Christian churches. That is for
the forgiveness of sins. Zarathushtrians believe in making a vow to serve. Does not have the emphasis on sin and guilt.
The prayers I spoke were from Zoroaster's Gathas. Most scholars agree that these seventeen songs are his works. Some believe they are over 5,000 years old.
Much of the language is ancient Sanskrit. Whenever researchers push
back the writing date for the Hindu Vedas, they also push back the
time line for Zarathushtra's psalms.
Here are three very special people to me
The woman on the left is Amy Makujina, from India. Her late
husband, Dastur Jimmy Makujina, recorded two compact discs of prayers
that I studied for
the ceremony. She wrote and framed a beautiful prayer for me and Karen
(read it below).
In the middle, in white, is Dr. Ali Jafarey. He a founder of the Zarathushtrian Assembly,
the more liberal, open branch of Zoroastrianism. He is eighty- five
years old and still one of the leading thinkers in the field. Jafarey is a scholar, teacher and
over a dozen books.
On the right is Mr. Irani, who worked with NASA on the moon program. He also founded an
aerospace company and is still an active businessman today.
The Dar-e-Meher Fire Temple in San Jose
This is me with two friends outside of the Fire Temple. I am in the middle with my white hat on. The Temple is on Mount Hamilton (my middle name!) It has a great view of San Jose, California.
It is a great honor to be accepted at the Fire Temple. I don't know how many others there
are around the US, not many, less than a handful. Accepting new
members is fairly new and controversial. I hope to spend my life being
worthy of their faith in
me as a good Zarathushtrian.
Most Zarathushtrians today live in either India (Parsis) or
Iran. I think there are many people who also
believe in the values of Zoroaster, they have just never heard them.
These two good people donated the land
for the temple. It sits high upon a mountain overlooking San Jose. The grounds are about 14 acres and they have horses,
chickens. These are mostly for the children to take care of.
Caring for animals and the environment is one thing that attracted me
to Zarathushtrianism. He was the first teacher who made
caring for the Earth a part of the faith.
Zarathushtrianism heavily our ideas of
democracy. Zarathushtra was the first to teach that leaders
should be ELECTED, chosen by the people based on their own merit and
nothing else. This was over 3,000 years ago! Women have always been
equal in the faith. Members
advance on merit and faithfulness, not sex or family ties. The
president of the Persian Zarathushtrian Organization, which cares for
the temple, is a woman.
Candle and Prayer Alter
This is the candle and prayer
altar. This photo does not do it justice and I was too timid to
take many pictures inside the Fire Temple. Outsiders are generally not allowed into temples in India.
This altar is much like a Catholic altar where people light candles
and say prayers. However, unlike Catholicism and some other
religions, Zarathushtrians do not have the tradition of "monks" and
"ascetics." No one goes off to the mountains wearing just the clothes on
their back. No one beats up on themselves to get closer to God.
Ahura Mazda wants the world to be abundant for everyone.
The Temple's Sacred Fire
Here is the Sacred Fire of the Temple. It is kept burning all the time.
Some sacred fires in India and Iran have been kept burning for hundreds of
Note how shiny everything is - to reflect the light. Contrary to myth, Zarathushtrians do not "worship" fire.
Fire is sacred because it is what really separates human beings from
animals. Both can think, reason and make tools. But only man can
make fire. Everything around us was made with it.
Zarathushtrians believe in advancing science and civilization, and
was the "breakthrough technology" that helped get it started. It
was a direct gift from God - given with the mandate for us to be
responsible for it.
The Sedeh Festival Fire Outside
initiated on the ancient holiday of Sadeh. This is a celebration of
fire and driving the cold winter away with the new light of
spring. It is a time of chasing away falsehood with the
light of truth.
On this holiday children go around door to door and collect wood for
the fire. While adults were in charge of this fire pit, children were
running all over the place looking for old tree limbs and other pieces
of wood for the fire. It was beautiful in the night!
Zarathushtrianism does not believe in "miracles" as such - but rules out nothing. Zarathushtra did no
miracles. He was an ordinary man whose extraordinary message has stood the test of time.
This lovely prayer was written for me by Mrs. Amy Makujina, the widow of Dastur Jimmy Makujina, of
India. He was a Parsi priest for 50 years.
I used Dastur Makujina's cds to learn
the the ancient prayers. He was from India. He chanted the prayers and songs. I have never chanted! One
day I found myself singing to the tune of a baby's
lullaby! I was discovered that the most melodic tune in English
for the "Ashem Vohu" was a simple baby lullaby!!
I have loved listening to Dastur Jimmy Makujina's two compact discs, Navjote Prayers and Zarathushtrian Prayers.
His voice is full of wisdom and kindness. First, he gives the
prayers in Avesta, and then Sara Irani gives the English. People in San
Jose loved it. You can order them from the Zarathushtrian Assembly of San Jose, email email@example.com
Thank You to the Good People of the Dar-e-Meher Temple!
We did not originally plan to do the ceremony at the Temple. A very dear
family invited me to San Jose to do it in their home. Dr. Jafarey was coming to San Jose to give a talk at the
Fire Temple and at the college. What was originally planned to be a simple ceremony with a few friends soon grew
much, much larger. I expected people to be polite, but I was
overwhelmed by the out flowing of love and acceptance from them. It is
an honor I will always strive
See These Websites About Zarathushtrianism
Official Website for the Zarathushtrian Assembly
Historical & Scholarly Evidence for Conversion
The Zarathushtrian Assembly of San Jose, Calif.
If you are in the San Jose area and would like more information about Zarathushtrianism,
if you want to order Ervad Jimmy Makujina's compact discs or other books, Phone 408-448 ASHA
or, Email the Zarathushtrian Assembly of San Jose firstname.lastname@example.org
Historical Evidence for Conversion
may have heard that it is impossible to join this ancient faith. There
are two major branches - one from India and one from Iran. I
am a historian and I respect those noble Iranians and Parsis of India
kept the faith alive for many centuries. The Indian temples are mostly
closed to outsiders. The more progressive branch comes from Iran.
Zoroastrians in India have been influenced by centuries of living among
Hindus with their many gods. However, Zoroastrians whose tradition
comes form Persia are staunch monotheists (believers in one god).
This is not an easy faith be accepted into. It takes much study and reflection. The
link below goes to a website where I have collected scholarly writings
about conversion into Zarathushtrianism. Here are the words of leading
priests and historical documents that show how the ancient faith has
been open to non Zoroastrians for centuries. Some of the writings date
back to the 1400's. These brilliant leaders speak much more eloquently
than I can.