The kusti is a ritual cord worn by Zoroastrians around the waist, untying and retying it several times a day in devotion to Ahura Mazda. Its construction is highly symbolic and reflects a number of values within the Zoroastrian faith.
The kusti is constructed of seventy-two white threads woven by women of the priestly class and consecrated by a priest. Each division of the kusti has religious significance:
- The 72 threads represent the seventy-two chapters of the Yasna, which is part of the Avesta.
- Those threads are divided into six sections, which represent the six main duties of a Zoroastrian.
- When the kusti is complete, the ends of the threads are turned into three tassels at each end, which together represent the six Gahambar seasonal festivals.
- Each tassel is comprised of twenty-four threads, representing the twenty-four sections of a liturgical prayer called the Visparad.
Even the method through which the kusti is woven has deep symbolic meaning:
"The hollow of the thread symbolizes the space between the earth and the heaven, between this world and the next. The doubling or the twisting of the thread in the beginning symbolizes the connection between the present corporeal world and the future spiritual world. The two worlds are so connected that what you will sow in this world you will reap in the other. The turning of the kusti inside out has a somewhat similar signification. It symbolizes the passage of the soul from this corporeal to that spiritual world[.] The weaving or the uniting together of all the threads into one, symbolizes Universal union or Brotherhood." (The Symbolism of the Sacred Shirt and Thread)
The Tying RitualZoroastrians untie and retie the kusti several times a day to reinforce their connection with Ahura Mazda and their faith and traditions. This is commonly done upon waking, after washing or using the toilet, before prayers, and before meals.
The practitioner should always wash his hands before performing the kusti ritual. A prayer is said, the kusti is untied, another prayer is recited, and the kusti is tied. It is wrapped three times around the waist and tied twice, once in the front and once in the back.
These knots bind the wearer to his practices. The first knot is a reminder of Ahura Mazda's truth and righteousness, and also that Zoroastrianism is the true path to Ahura Mazda. The second knot represents Zoroaster is the true prophet, whose words are the rightful teachings of Ahura Mazda, specifically the ever-present call to embrace good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
The practitioner should always face the light when performing the ritual. In the morning one should face east and in the even should face west. In between those periods of time he should face south, while at night he should either face the moon or a lit lamp. Light is reminiscent of fire, and both light and fire are common symbols of Ahura Mazda and his goodness.