The Crossing of the
Zoroastrianism is another Middle Eastern tradition of
great influence on later faiths. Zoroastrianism was founded by a man named Zoroaster sometime during the tail end of the
Bronze Age (circa 1500-1200 BCE). According to this monotheistic
religion, the creator deity Ahura Mazda was the source of all that is good, and is
engaged in a ceaseless battle with an evil deity named Angra Mainyu. Ahura Mazda also demanded that humans follow his
teachings and live an ethical life; those who did ascended to
Heaven, while those who did not went to hell. The document below, Judgement on the Chinvat Bridge, details the process by which three Yazata (which translates roughly as 'angels') Rashun, Mithra, and Sarosh judge the dead and determines their fate.
Questions for Consideration and
- According to this document, what happened to the souls of saved?
What happened to the souls of the damned?
- Is the Zoroastrian notion of the afterlife depicted here more
similar to the afterlife outlined in Gilgamesh or in the Negative
- Do any contemporary religions share elements of the theology
outlined in this document? Explain.
The Crossing of the Chinvat Bridge
Put not your trust in life, for at
the last death must overtake you;
and dog and bird will rend your
corpse and your bones will be tumbled on the earth.
For three days and nights the soul
sits beside the pillow of the body.
And on the fourth day at dawn the
soul accompanied by the blessed Sarosh, the good Vay, and the mighty
Vahram, and opposed by Astvihat the demon of death, the evil Vay, the
demon Frehzisht and the demon Vizisht, and pursued by the active
ill-will of Wrath, the evil-doer who bears a bloody spear, will reach
the lofty and awful Bridge of the Requiter to which every man whose
soul is saved and every man whose soul is damned must come. Here does
many an enemy lie in wait.
Here the soul will suffer from
the ill-will of Wrath who wields a bloody spear and from Astvihat who
swallows all creation yet knows no sating,
and it will benefit by the mediation
of MIthra, Sarosh, and Rashun, and will needs submit to the weighing of
his deeds by the righteous Rashun who lets the scales of the spiritual
gods incline to neither side, neither for the saved nor yet for the
damned, nor yet for kings and princes:
not so much as a hair's breadth does
he allow the scales to tip, and he is no respecter of persons,
for he deals out impartial justice
both to kings and princes and to the humblest of men.
And when the soul of the saved passes
over that bridge, the breadth of the bridge appears to be one parasang
And the soul of the saved passes on
accompanied by the blessed Sarosh.
And his own good deeds come to meet
him in the form of a young girl, more beautiful and fair than any girl
And the soul of the saved says, 'Who
art thou, for I have never seen a young girl on earth more beautiful or
fair than thee.'
In answer the form of the young girl
replies, 'I am no girl but thy own good deeds, 0 young man whose
thoughts and words, deeds and religion were good:
for when on earth thou didst see one
who offered sacrifice to the demons, then didst thou sit apart and
offer sacrifice to the gods.
And when thou didst see a man do
violence and rapine, afflict good men and treat them with contumely,
and hoard up goods wrongfully obtained, then didst thou refrain from
visiting creatures with violence and rapine of thine own;
nay rather, thou wast considerate to
good men, didst entertain them and offer them hospitality, and give
alms both to the man who came from near and to him who came from afar;
and thou didst amass thy wealth in
And when thou didst see one who
passed a false judgement or took bribes or bore false witness, thou
didst sit thee down and speak witness right and true.
I am thy good thoughts, good words,
and good deeds which thou didst think and say and do. . . .'
And when the soul departs from
thence, then is a fragrant breeze wafted towards him, a breeze more
fragrant than any perfume.
Then does the soul of the saved ask
Sarosh saying, 'What breeze is this, the like of which in fragrance I
never smelt on earth?'
Then does the blessed Sarosh make
answer to the soul of the saved, saying, 'This is a wind wafted from
Heaven; hence is it so fragrant.'
Then with his first step he bestrides
the heaven of good thoughts, with his second the heaven of good words,
and with his third the heaven of good deeds, and with his fourth step
he reaches the Endless Light where is all bliss.
And all the gods and Amahraspands
come to greet him and ask him how he has fared, saying, 'How was thy
passage from those transient, fearful worlds where there is much evil
to these worlds which do not pass away and in which there is no
adversary, 0 young man whose thoughts and words, deeds and religion are
Then Ohrmazd, the Lord, speaks,
saying, 'Do not ask him how he has fared, for he has been separated
from his beloved body and has travelled on a fearsome road.'
And they served him with the sweetest
of all foods even with the butter of early spring so that his soul may
take its ease after the three nights terror of the Bridge inflicted on
him by Astvihat and the other demons,
and he is sat upon a throne
everywhere bejeweled. . . .
And for ever and ever he dwells with
the spiritual gods in all bliss for evermore.
But when the man who is damned dies,
for three days and nights does his soul hover near his head and weeps,
saying, 'Whither shall I go and in whom shall I now take refuge?'
And during those three days and
nights he sees with his eyes all the sins and wickedness that he
committed on earth.
On the fourth day the demon Vizarsh
comes and binds the soul of the damned in most shameful wise, and
despite the opposition of the blessed Sarosh drags it off to the Bridge
of the Requiter.
Then the righteous Rashun makes clear
to the soul of the damned that it is damned indeed.
Then the demon Vizarsh seizes upon
the soul of the damned, smites it and ill-treats it without pity, urged
on by Wrath.
And the soul of the damned cries out
with a loud voice, makes moan, and in supplication makes many a piteous
plea; much does he struggle though his life-breath endures no more.
When all his struggling and his
lamentations have proved of no avail, no help is proffered him by any
of the gods nor yet by any of the demons, the demon Vizarsh drags him
off against his will into nether Hell.
Then a young girl who yet has no
semblance of a young girl, comes to meet him.
And the soul of the damned says to
that ill-favoured wench, 'Who art thou? for I have never seen all
ill-favoured wench on earth more ill-favoured and hideous than thee.
And in reply that ill-favoured wench
says to him, 'I am no wench, but I am thy deeds,-hideous deeds,-evil
thoughts, evil words, evil deeds, and an evil religion.
For when on earth thou didst see one
who offered sacrifice to the gods, then didst thou sit apart and offer
sacrifice to the demons.
And when thou didst see one who
entertained good men and offered them hospitality, and gave alms, both
to those who came from near and to those who came from afar, then didst
thou treat good men with contumely and show them dishonour, thou gavest
them no alms and didst shut thy door upon them.
And when thou didst see one who
passed a just judgement or took no bribes or bore true witness or spoke
up in righteousness, then didst thou sit down and pass false judgement,
bear false witness, and speak unrighteously. . . .
Then with his first step he goes to
the hell of evil thoughts, with his second to the hell of evil words,
and with his third to the hell of evil deeds. And with his fourth step
he lurches into the presence of the accursed Destructive Spirit and the
And the demons mock at him and hold
him up to scorn, saying, 'What grieved thee in Ohrmazd, the Lord, and
the Amahraspands and in fragrant and delightful Heaven, and what grudge
or complaint hadst thou of them that thou shouldst come to see Ahriman
and the demons and murky Hell? for we will torment thee nor shall we
have any mercy on thee, and for a long time shalt thou suffer torment.'
And the Destructive Spirit cries out
to the demons, saying, 'Ask not concerning him, for he has been
separated from his beloved body, and has come through that most evil
but serve him rather with the
filthiest and most foul food that Hell can produce.'
Then they bring him poison and venom,
snakes and scorpions and other noxious reptiles that flourish in Hell,
and they serve him with these to eat.
And until the Resurrection and the
Final Body he must remain in Hell, suffering much torment and many
kinds of chastisement.
And the food that he must for the
most part eat there is all, as it were, putrid and like unto blood.