From: Bahman Noruziaan
Date: 04 Jul 2000
You are asking many questions, many of which I do not have an answer for.
However, I cna offer a few comments to some of your questions.
You said: >I understand that the Gathas are the only remaining >writings of Zarathustra, (by the way, why are they >called Yasnas, once you click on the link on your >webpage labelled Gathas?)
Let me put it this way, all Zarathushtians and the scholars of the religion believe that the Gathas are the words of Zarathushtra. BUT not all believe that they are the ONLY remaining words of him. Gathas are embedded in a bigger collection of hymns, the Yasnas, i.e. a few chapters of Yasna contain the Gathas.
>How important are the other writings to Zoroastrians?
It depends, for some all are important as the Gathas, they are all Holy and sacred. For some just the Gathas are considered Holy. For some all are imporant since they cover the beliefs of the Zarathushtians of ages, and in all one can find clear traces of the authentic words of the prophet as left to us in his songs, i.e the Gathas.
>Are there persons of authority in Zosoastrianism, like the pope, or how are these texts selected?
No, not today. In the past? I can not comment.
>What actually is the Avesta. Is it just the collection of >Gathas or is there more to it? How was it decided what >else is part of it, if there is anything apart from the > >Gathas in it?
Avesta is the Holy book of the Zarathushtians ( considering my previous answer regarding other books besides the Gathas). What is left today of Avesta is one third or one fourth ( I am not certain ) of the whole Avesta of the Sasanian ( the last Persian empire before Iran was conquered by Muslim Arabs 1400 years ago ) time, which was scattered and many parts of it was lost. Avesta today is considered a collection of these books: Yasna, Yashtha, Visperad, Vandidad and Khordeh Avesta.
>Are there still Magi today? Where the Magi a priestly >cast which originally served other gods and religions?
The word Magi has its roots in the Gathas. The Zarathushtian priests are called Mobed ( MagoPat ). The Mobeds are in Iranian literature called "Mogh" . Whether magi orginally served other gods and religions I can not comment on.
This is what I could offer. Bahman Noruziaan