Zurvanism

Doctrines Zurvanites believed that Zurvan, the God of Time, existed alone before all things. He longed for a son who would create heaven and earth and so he offered sacrifices for a thousand years. Just as he was beginning to doubt a successful outcome, twins were conceived within himself, one being Ohrmazd (Ahura Mazda), and the other Ahriman (Angra Mainyu). Zurvan vowed that the first of his twins to enter his presence would receive the kingdom and, on learning this, Ahriman leaped to his side, a black and hideous creature. Zurvan regretted the vow but kept his word and granted rulership of the world to Ahriman. He gave the office of high priest to Ohrmazd, along with rulership of the spiritual world and the ultimate victory. In essence therefore, Zurvanism was a pessimistic belief system, because it argued an inherent weakness or evil in the nature of the divine. In addition, the fatalistic element is contradictory to Zoroaster's stress on humankind's free will. The heresy did not change the moral or spiritual aims of Zoroastrianism. The fundamental doctrine that Zurvan created the twins meant that all subsequent acts of creation could be attributed to Ohrmazd who could be worshipped as Creator. Zurvanites could therefore call themselves Mazda-worshippers and live in harmony alongside orthodox Zoroastrians.

History Zurvanism is a Zoroastrian heresy of the pre-Islamic period and appears to have developed in the late Achaemenid period (529-323BCE). The name Zurvan means Time, and our knowledge of the heresy comes only from non-Zoroastrian sources. The heresy developed from the argument that if there were primal twins, then there must also have been a creator father and the only possible father was Zurvan. Boyce argues that Zurvanism was a deeply entrenched heresy which was to later weaken Zoroastrianism in its struggles with Christianity and Islam, (Boyce, 1979, p. 69). It is also accepted that the heresy enjoyed Sasanian royal patronage, a fact which would help to explain its influence on many Gnostic faiths. The Zurvanite heresy disappeared some centuries after the arrival of Islam in Iran in the mid 7th century CE.

Symbols The cult of Zurvan appears to have had few rituals, as Zurvan was believed to have been a remote being, entrusting power in the world to Ohrmazd. The Zurvanite belief system produced no change in existing Zoroastrian worship.

Adherents No contemporary adherents.

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