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Book Reviews
The Sacred Gathas of Zarathushtra
By: Pablo Vazquez - Mantra Books, $10.95

Description: Zarathushtra’s Gathas & the Old Avestan canon are the central texts of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest continuously practiced religions in the world that has had a vast influence on the development of many other religions, philosophies, global ethics and more.

Composed more than 3000 years ago, they remain surprisingly evergreen in their relevance. With this new and innovative translation, Pablo Vazquez, a Zoroastrian scholar and convert, sheds new light on these sacred texts of eternal wisdom in a way that makes them accessible to a modern audience.

Verdict: In all truth, I knew next to nothing about this subject matter to hand, but seeing that it was only 60 pages long, sat down to explore ... and once read, did so again and again and again!

Taking it from the top, and thus giving all newcomers a firm starting point to then evolve from, The Gathas (Hymns) of Zarathushtra consist of seventeen hymns composed by the great poet-prophet Zarathushtra around 1200 BC and they are arranged into five groups based on their meter:

Ahunavaiti Gatha (Y28, Y29, Y30, Y31, Y32, Y33, Y34)
Ushtavaiti Gatha (Y43, Y44, Y45, Y46)
Spentamainyush Gatha (Y47, Y48, Y49, Y50)
Vohukhshathra Gatha (Y51)
Vahishtoishti Gatha (Y53)

The importance of the Gathas to Zoroastrianism cannot be emphasized enough. They are the centerpiece of scripture and inspiration, like the Tao Te Ching is to Taoism. The Gathas are also quite enigmatic and obscure, and other scriptures contain lengthy commentaries.

As we learn, Zarathushtra did not compose the Gathas to teach people, but to invoke and glorify Ahura Mazda in a predominantly psalmodic way, very far from any dogmatic systematizing. Thus we must look to the rest of scripture for help in understanding both the Gathas and Zarathushtras teachings in general.

But, I digress, for what we have here in Pablo Vazquez’s diligently written, wholly enthralling, and easy to follow and understand new book The Sacred Gathas of Zarathushtra & the Old Avestan Canon: A Modern Translation of Ancient Wisdom, is a veritable guide to all those who want to understand the primary message of Zarathushtra as recited within the Gathas.

With the Preface, and on through to the Foreword, Vazquez details the foundation of what he is not only about to bring forth to us, but the spiritual context as to how it was originally formulated and why it came to be such a strong entity, still today, without our given societies.

Amongst other things, we learn that Gathas are also filled with word plays and deliberate ambiguities, and they were likely intended to be used by initiates as meditative instruments to enlightenment (an example of such being an analysis of the parallel clusters of lexic, semantic, and phonic data which occur in concentric rings), but moreover, and to which I am myself calmly being embraced by, their ancient poetic form traces back (through Norse parallels) to Indo-European times (where it most likely seems to have been linked with a mantic tradition, that is, to have been cultivated by priestly seers who sought to express in lofty words their personal apprehension of the divine).

Perhaps even righting a few misconceptions along the way, Pablo Vazquez’s The Sacred Gathas of Zarathushtra & the Old Avestan Canon: A Modern Translation of Ancient Wisdom is a book that, for better or for worse, is as needed today in our lives as Zarathushtra’s Gathas were back when they were first conceived.

About the Author - Pablo Vazquez, born in Panama and now living in Texas, is a scholar, author, translator, game writer, lecturer, and essayist. Currently working on their second graduate degree, Pablo’s first degree was a MA in Religions of Asia and Africa from SOAS University of London.

While there, they were affiliated with the Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies where they learned Zoroastrian history, theology, and the Avestan language. Pablo is also unique as an officially accepted convert into Zoroastrianism.

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