“Get involved and stay involved! Whether it’s fundraising, cleaning, planning, or even setting up chairs for an event. Don’t do it just for community service hours and letters of recommendation. Oh, and always wear your sudreh kusti, kids!” – Zerkxis
Hi Zerkxis! Welcome to our coffee chat and we’re excited to have you as our fifth guest in this series!
1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 26 years old California born and raised Parsi Zarathushti. Most people know I am an ordained mobed having completed my navar at age 11 and martab at age 12, ever since I have been serving the community as a priest. In my secular life I completed my BA in Religious Studies in 2018 from UC Santa Barbara and am currently working on my MA in the same from CSU Long Beach. Currently, I am also applying for doctoral programs in the same field.
2. With your strong academic background in religious studies, can you tell us a bit if Zoroastrianism is taught in the US and how in-depth does it go?
Both the Religious Studies programs I have been a part of have no experts in Zoroastrian Studies per se, yet all my professors are aware of Zoroastrianism’s philosophical and hegemonic contributions to other faiths. As a result of not having an expert to work with, I have had to carve out my own plan of study, playing both student and teacher to be able to focus on Zoroastrianism. However, I believe change is on the horizon since North America will now have two fully endowed chairs in Zoroastrian Studies.
3. We met each other briefly at the World Zoroastrian Youth Congress in your home state of California. The attendees had had discussions on wide-ranging topics, but in your opinion how do you think the youth can get more educated on our religion, especially with tons of different thoughts and practices being followed globally?
I think we have more resources and means to learn about our religion than ever before in history. The internet is an amazing place! As a student of religion, I see so much information available about different religious doctrines, their sects, and various opinions on platforms such as YouTube. I think Zoroastrians can really use platforms as such to make learning content available to all. For example, the Iranian Zoroastrian community has a huge presence on Instagram, which has not only created a knowledge- pool but a knowledge-network of curious individuals. We can also do fun things like “Things that just make sense in my Zoroastrian house” for Tik-Tok or I have often thought of making shorts of pagri tying as a priest and titling it “The Mobed Life”. All in all, we as youth can do more to learn and teach about our religion than we think possible!
4. What kinds of gatherings, functions, and events do you have for the Zoroastrian community in Southern California?
We have movie nights, game nights, ladies club, weekly humbandagis, BBQs, but more than anything we have rituals. Every month we have at least two Jashans including the parabh and one more usually. We also have muktads for ten days, which include the daily rituals such as 5 bois, 4 satums, one Jashan, and 2 baaj ceremonies every single day. Additionally, we frequently have machis and other private prayer ceremonies.
5. You know how we have widely believed myths/superstitions about our faith and customs, can you name a few and what the actuality is?
This question is quite relevant to my current research. Personally, I try to see the sense and purpose of our rituals, traditions and customs as passed down by our ancestors through the oral tradition. In our religion every practice finds deeper meaning through spiritual, hygienic, or ontological reasoning. Regarding our ancestral practices as myths, superstition, or old wives’ tale is an effect of Colonialism, where Enlightenment thought has made it normal to question our indigenous beliefs in support of the hegemony of the colonizer. Our notion of logic and common sense finds its basis in Western forms of reasoning which do not always allow us to fully understand the deeper meanings behind our cultural practices. I believe we must view the knowledge of our ancestors with humility rather than hubris to regain our heritage’s integrity in a Post-Colonial reality.
6. What are some of the aspects of being a Zarathusti you are most proud of?
Just thinking about our religion’s legacy is something to be proud of. Having survived this long despite forced migration and persecution is something to reflect on. Despite it all Zoroastrians have been leaders and entrepreneurs in education, business, medicine, the arts, and so much more. I think for me personally as a priest, the fact that we have preserved so many of the liturgies practiced in Sasanian times in their pristine form is an accomplishment of my forefathers for which we are forever indebted.
7. Lastly, what message do you have for our young members reading this and in what ways can they make an impact?
Get involved and stay involved! Whether it’s fundraising, cleaning, planning, or even setting up chairs for an event. Don’t do it just for community service hours and letters of recommendation. Make your community center your second home and the organization an extension of yourself. Come to Jashans and rituals, these are not just meant for seniors! Help the Mobeds set up and help cut chaasni after. Even if you don’t understand the liturgies and Avestan come experience and immerse yourself in the religion. Oh, and always wear your sudreh kusti, kids!
Thank you Zerkxis! we wish you the best for your further studies and community service!