Becoming Zarathustra

Kellens, Jean. 2018. Becoming Zarathustra. In Hugh B. Urban & Greg Johnson (eds.), Irreverence and the sacred: Critical studies in the history of religions, 185–193. New York: Oxford University Press.

This chapter examines the role of ritual and sacrifice in the most sacred Zoroastrian literature, the Gâthâs in order to explore the complex relationship between the figure of Zarathustra and the human ritual officiant. The chapter presents a very Lincoln-ian sort of history of the field of Zoroastrian studies itself, interrogating the contexts and biases of particular scholars in their various readings and misreadings of the tradition. At the same time, it offers a new way of thinking about the figure of Zarathustra himself, who is best understood not as the semi-historical “founder” of Zoroastrianism but rather as the mythical personality into which the human officiant is himself transfigured through the ritual operations.