Zurvânism: Duality & the rivaling sons

Part 1:

Even before Zoroastrianism and Judaism, there existed for a short time, a mythos called Zurvânism. It was said that nothing existed, not heaven nor earth, only a great god Zurvan, whose Persian name means fortune or fate. He offered sacrifice for 1000 years, to something that has never been recorded or noted, potentially nothingness or the abyss. Zurvan called to the abyss, for a son called Ohrmazd who would go on to create heaven and earth together. After the 1000 years Zurvan asked himself ‘Why am I sacrificing? What is it for and where is the son I long for? Is this all in vain?’ No sooner had this thought formed that arriving into Zurvan’s consciousness two sons. One came as Ohrmazd, the other as Ahriman. Ohrmazd arrived in honour of Zurvan’s sacrifices, while Ahriman arrived reflecting back to Zurvan his own doubts.

When he recognised two sons in the womb of the great abyss, he made a vow that which ever son came to him first would be made king. Ohrmazd heard his fathers thought and told Ahriman of it. When Ahriman heard of the potential forthcoming recognition, he tore open the womb and rushed towards his father. His father asked “and who are you?” to which Ahriman replied: ‘I am thy son, Ohrmazd.’ With Ahriman forming from the Abyss as a representation of his fathers self-doubt, Zurvan could sense that this son was not the son born of sacrifice and Zurvan began to weep. Ohrmazd was born in his turn, light and fragrant; and Zurvan, seeing him, knew that it was his son Ohrmazd for whom he had offered sacrifice.


Taking the slender wands (barsom twigs) he held in his hands with which he had been sacrificing, he gave them to Ohrmazd and said: ‘Until now it is I who have offered thee sacrifice; from now on shalt thou sacrifice to me.’ Yet even as Zurvan handed the sacrificial twigs to Ohrmazd, Ahriman drew near and said to him: ‘Didst thou not vow that whichever of the sons should come to thee first, to him wouldst thou give the kingdom?’. Ohrmazd replied to Ahriman, ‘You are wicked and distrustful, yet you arrived here first as I had called, I will therefore grant you the kingdom for nine thousand years, yet Ohrmazd have I made a king above thee, and after your rule ends in nine thousand years Ohrmazd will rule the kingdom according to his good pleasure. And Ohrmazd created the heavens and the earth and all things that are beautiful and good; but Ahriman created the demons and all that is evil and perverse.


Presented above is a very rudimentary overview of the Zurvanite myth, a myth recognised by early Jews, Christians and Manichees as being typical of the Zoroastrian religion, within the Pahlavi texts this myth is mentioned only once, intriguing considering this is possibly the first conceptualisation of duality in religious thinking. The myth is mentioned in the Denkart passage as part of a commentary on Yasna 30.3 which is the exact passage that the Prophet speaks of the Holy and Destructive Spirits as twins or mirrors to one another. Sassanian theologians ignored this myth at the time while being aware that it forms one of the clearest stanzas in the Gathas. The Sassanian’s were so opposed as to acknowledge the duality of the gods of heaven that when presented with the opportunity to translate this text/myth, they were said to have purposefully changed a key Avestan word eresh meaning ‘rightly’ or ‘justly’ to the Pahlavi word arish, which is one of the names of the daemon of envy. From here the author of the Denkart was able to pass off this key dualistic myth as a doctrine written by the daemons, headed up by the daemon of Envy himself, and in particular there formed a purposefully disingenuous misconstrue of the first representation of duality in known human history.

 Zurvanites of the time became disenfranchised from the main population and on occasions seen as tricksters who were earmarked as the first tribe to invent devilry and in essence the Zurvanites were the first people seen as in-cahoots with daemons themselves.

 The Zurvanites were a persecuted minority during their time. While duality was not espoused at the time, the Zurvanites were the first recorded to begin talking in terms of the dual nature of the psyche. Zurvanism was said to be a deeply entrenched heresy which was to later weaken Zoroastrianism in its struggles with Christianity and Islam (Boyce, 1979). Zurvan was seen as the god of time-space continuums, and while Islamic scholars disrepute the ancient religion of Zurvan, it is almost of the essence that those on the Adversarial path work towards understanding and reclaiming the earliest concepts of the persecuted supposedly worshipers of the adversary from a time which predates the concept of Iblis.

…to be continued (with merging of duality ritual)