Yes,
        it really is me!


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 monotheistic faith. 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.




Part of those who witnessed my ceremony


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.



Me and Dr Jafarey performing the ceremony

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.





The
      beautiful table set for my ceremony
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.




Mrs. Mukujinia, with Dr. Jafarey and Mr. Irani

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 author of 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.



 
Outside of the Fire Temple
        with two well wishers
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.






The good people who
      donated the land for the temple


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, sheep and 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
      alter in fire temple, looks Catholic

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 sacred fire in the templeThe 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 years.

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 fire 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.




Another
      view of the holiday fire outside

The Sedeh Festival Fire Outside


I was 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 ashavan10@yahoo.com











Zoroastrian Symbol for the Soul 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 to deserve!





See These Websites About Zarathushtrianism


Official Website for the Zarathushtrian Assembly

http://www.zoroastrian.org

Persia in the Bible, Excellent Iranian Christian Site
http://www.farsinet.com/iranbibl/

  The REAL Magi, the 3 Wise Men were Zoroastrianism Priests
http://www.efn.org/%7Eopal/therealmagi.html

Zarathushtrian Stories for Kids - Great  Legends & Graphics
http://www.Zarathushtriankids.com/creation.html





Visit a True Fire Temple Online!

I would not be a Z without Ron Delavega's blog and encouragement.
His site has become one of the best on the Net for people of this ancient faith.
Click on this link and Visit the closest thing to an actual Fire Temple online ...

http://www.zoroastrianism.cc/





Historical Evidence for Conversion

 http://www.efn.org/~opal/acceptz.html


You 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 who have 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.

 http://www.efn.org/~opal/acceptz.html




Watch My Complete Navjote Ceremony - Video of My Acceptance

These two videos show my complete acceptance ceremony, Jan 29th 2005

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwxUStGPNCs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUeqs2SE0_A





Email Stephen Williamson
mail to:stevew@uoregon.edu