God of the Week: Ahriman
God of the Week 02/22/10: Ahriman
Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu) is the Zoroastrian devil, seen as an equal and opposite counterpart to the creator god Ahura Mazda.
This dualistic aspect of the Iranian religion is given credit for influencing the combatant nature of Satan and Yahweh in Judaism and Christianity. Before exposure Zoroastrianism during the Babylonian Exile, the character of Satan played a much more benign part, acting as more of an informant with no power of his own to do evil things. After exposure to Zoroastrianism, though, Satan became a more powerful evil counterpart to Yahweh.
Below is a description of the Zoroastrian hell, found in a pit under the Cinvat Bridge watched over by Ahriman:
There the souls of the wicked stand, as close as the ear to the eye, and as many as the hairs on the mane of a horse, and they also are submitted to various torments according to their different offences. At the very bottom of the abyss is Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), the Evil Spirit, who ridicules and mocks the wicked in hell, saying, “Why did you ever eat the bread of Ahura Mazda, and do my work and thought not of your own creator, but practised my will.”‘
-Mythology of All Races, Vol 6, Indian Iranian