Zarathushtra uses Maga for the "Fellowship" he founded through his
Good Religion, and "Magavan" for every member of the
"Magnanimity." The two words -- Maga and Magavan are mentioned for
eight times in the Gathas (Maga: Songs 2:11, 11:14, 16:11, 16:16, 17.7 (twice), and
Magavan: 6:7, 16:15). Zarathushtra calls his Maga as "maz, great" in two Gathic
stanzas -- 2:11 and 11:14.
The gist of the above stanzas is that the Great Fellowship is based on the its smallest
unit -- a married couple forming unity in "weal and woe." The units aggregate to
include the entire living world. It teaches radiant happiness that reaches all. A person
who consults righteousness, uses his/her good mind, and lives a life of progressive peace
qualifies to be a member of the Fellowship.
In the beginning Zarathushtra prays to God to lead him to expand his newly founded
Fellowship. Later, he is joined by King Vishtaspa and his sagacious team, and the work to
promote the "Great Fellowship" gains a great momentum. Zarathushtra's "best
wishes" come true when he watches the Fellowship grow far and wide.
It may be noted that the Good Religion does not divide its followers on caste and/or
professional systems. It is on geographical bases. Home (demāna) is the first
unit. Homes make up a settlement (vīs). Settlements join to make the third unit,
district (shoithra). Districts together create a land (dahyu). Lands unite
into a world, the earth (būmi). A home is made of the family (khaetva). A
settlement encloses the community (verezena). The land has the fellowship (airyaman).
The world of lands has the Great Fellowship (Maz Maga). No race, no color, and no
profession to divide the people into upper to lower castes and classes in a pyramid, but
five units to unite the entire humanity on this good earth on one level. Only one's good
and better thoughts, words and deeds in serving humanity and promoting the world give
With this "Introduction," I should say, I regret to tell of what happened to Maz
Maga, the Great Magnanimity of Magavan (Magnanimous) Zarathushtra after the Gathic
period. The Aryans had their primitive caste system -- the priests, the warriors, and the
miscellany professionals. The third caste labored and produced, and the first two enjoyed
the fruits. The Indo-Iranians in the east (Today's Central Asia and northwestern India)
had their āthravans/atharvans, the fire priests. It was these who took over the
Good Religion and institutionalized it into what we have today as the
"Traditional" Zoroastrianism. The Āthravans do not mention the Gathic Magavans
and the Zarathushtrian Maz Maga. The two terms are not found in the Later Avesta.
The only two exceptions are: (1) May the water [supply} not be available for him who is
of the evil religion, who torments a friend, who torments a "mogho," who
torments a neighbor, and who torments a family (Yasna 65.7). (2) A married man is superior
to a "maghavan." (here, evidently it means a "celebate"
(Vendidad 4:47). Note the change in pronunciation: one is "maghavan"
and the other "moghu." Also the meanings are not clear from the contexts
in which the two used. Both are deductions.
In the west, the professional priests of Median "nation" were clever enough
to retain their caste ("tribe" in the words of Herodotus), and at the same time
call themselves Magu, the Median/Old Persian pronunciation of Magava(n). Magu
(Magush as nominative singular masculine) was Grecized into Magos with Magi
as its plural.
The word "magic" derived from Magu shows how highly learned and
advanced were the Magi in their knowledge and crafts. They made non-Iranians wonder and
imagine that they were watching "sorcerers" at work. This could happen to any
backward people if they see modern scientific implements used by the advanced. We have
many stories how people looked first at wireless, telephone, locomotive engine, train, and
other inventions and imagined them to be magic and "products of the Devil." Some
With the Magi's name and fame in mind, all the priests of the Babylonian and Assyrian
priests of other creeds took the name "Magi" for themselves. It is simple to
understand the rest of events, even the Three Wise Men who are said to have visited and
paid their respects to the newborn Jesus. Every Magus in what we call Middle East was not
Zoroastrian. He was just a "priest."
However, in the case of Jesus, it must be the Zoroastrian Magi because by that time the
institutionalized Zoroastrianism was awaiting the miraculous birth of the
"savior" from a virgin womb. The early Christians, most likely the gentiles,
were finding a way to strengthen their story of the virgin birth by linking it to the
"famous" Magi in the east.
Even the very word "priest," shortened from "presbyteros,"
literally "elder," was originally applied to "a member of the governing
body of an early Christian Church." Today most of the religious orders, including
Traditionalist Zoroastrians, have their "priests." We have a few more examples
in Guru, Yogi, and Mogul.