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Zartusht-no-diso

To introduce this Zoroastrian festival and reflect on the teachings of Zaroaster.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To introduce this Zoroastrian festival and reflect on the teachings of Zaroaster.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a whiteboard or flipchart to display, in turn, the phrases ‘Zartusht-no-diso’, ‘good thoughts’, ‘good words’ and ‘good deeds’. You will also need a candle and some means of lighting it.
  • This is optional, but you could play the theme from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey – ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (Thus Spoke or Thus Spake Zarathustra), by Richard Strauss.
  • Note that the date on which this festival is celebrated varies widely depending on which Zoroastrian calendar is used, so this assembly can be held whenever you like!

Assembly

  1. If you have chosen to play the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey – ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ – play it now. Ask the children if they’ve heard it before and, if so, where and when? What does it make them think of, what pictures do they see in their minds as they listen? Tell them the title. Explain that it was used in a famous science fiction film made in 1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music was inspired by a book of philosophy with this title, the main character in which is ‘Zarathustra’.

    Explain that spellings change over time, but Zoroaster, as he is known, was a prophet and founded the faith named after him – Zoroastrianism – in the area that we now call Iran. He was one of the very first people to teach that there is one God.
  2. Explain that Zoroastrianism is a thoughtful belief system. Fire and flame play an important part in Zoroastrian festivals, sometimes with people leaping over bonfires, sometimes with them meditating while focusing on a sacred flame. Zoroastrians do not think that God is a flame, but it represents his light and wisdom. Also, focusing on something visible but not solid, giving heat and light, can help us to think about God.
  3. Explain that Zoroaster spent many years meditating on his own in a cave before emerging with his message. Suggest that, although spending time in a cave might be taking things a bit far, perhaps we could all do with thinking carefully for a moment or two before we act or speak. Ask the children for their ideas about this – what difference would it make to school life? Can they think of any examples?
  4. Teach the children the name of the festival, showing it on the whiteboard or flipchart, repeating it several times all together.

    An optional thing you can do at this point, to turn this into a fun game, is orchestrate the children so the words travel across the room. For example, you could ask for the children on your left to start the process by saying ‘Zar’, then for the next block to carry on by saying ‘Tusht’ and so on. Try going from left to right, right to left, front to back and back to front, too, if time allows.
  5. Explain that this is the name of a Zoroastrian festival and it commemorates (helps people to remember and think about), the death of Zoroaster. At this time (the date varies depending on tradition and location), Zoroastrians come together to visit the fire temples, pray and meditate on the message of their prophet. They have lectures and discussions to help them think about three important things and we’re going to do that now.
  6. Reveal the phrase, ‘good thoughts’ on the whiteboard or flipchart and ask the children for their ideas about it. What is a good thought? Do they have any examples?
  7. Repeat for the phrases ‘good words’ and ‘good deeds’.

Time for reflection

Light the candle and invite the children to look at it during this time. If you can, darken the room for this part of the assembly.

Recap, saying that there’s a lot we can learn from Zoroastrianism – a thoughtful faith, encouraging good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

Tell the children how Zoroastrians find that looking at a flame as they meditate helps them to think about God. Light the candle and ask them to look at it and spend a few moments being calm and still, thinking their own thoughts. Ask them to not force ideas into their heads, just allow their thoughts to come and go in the silence.

At the end of the time, ask the children to have a day of good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

Song/music

‘Christ be our light’ (‘Longing for light’) (Hymns Old and New 2004, Kevin Mayhew, 2004)

Publication date: May 2013   (Vol.15 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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