What does Zoroastrianism say about homosexuality???

What does Zoroastrianism say about homosexuality???

The current article is response to the question of a dear friend. Homosexuality is a term for people who have sexual relationships with their own sex. The only sexual activity pertaining to homosexuality that is discussed in length in the Zoroastrian literature is “bare anal intercourse.”

In Zoroastrian jurisprudence NO distinction is made between heterosexual or homosexual “bare anal intercourse.” Both are equally alluded to and quite explicitly condemned. The extremely negative view toward heterosexual or homosexual “raw anal intercourse” has to do with its pollution and the barrenness of the act.

The main function of the anus/rectum is to act as a passageway for feces. But small amounts of feces remain present in the rectum, especially if the feces are not well formed. This in addition to the risk of tearing anal tissue and exposure to blood makes the “bare anal intercourse” a highly polluted act. The act becomes a mortal sin (marg-arzaan,) when semen or substance of life is deposited in the inherently unclean male or female rectum (See Vendidad 8.32.)

In the poetic gathas, Yasna 51.12, 1st rhymed verse line; prophet Zarathushtra strongly condemns a “sorcerer poet” or “vaæpyö.” The term “vaäpyö” is identical to the Vedic “vipra,” an inspired, frenzied poet. The root vip means the “vibration, swinging rhythm, frenzy” of emotions, feelings, poetry. The term is also used for wanton sex.

In later Avestan “vaæpyö” has become a strictly derogatory sexual term. In middle Iranian, it is translated as “koon-marz.” Koon is “anus/rectum” and marz is like French “marquee; bordering upon, entering into, insertion.” The term Koon-marz applies only when the bare skin of penis borders upon, touches and is inserted into anus.

Both in the Südgar gathic commentaries and in the Dādestān ī dēnīg the participants in the act of raw anal intercourse are named among the seven arch evildoers, whose defilement/pollution matches that of the Evil Spirit himself.
The longest discussion of the act and the reason why it is so loathsome is found in the Dādestān ī dēnīg, questions 71-76.

The emphasis is again on inherent pollution and the misplacement/wasting of the semen.
According to Vendidad 1.11, bare anal intercourse was instituted to plague the ninth creation, in the land of the Hyrcanians or wolves (vəhrkāna).

Moreover, Vendidad compares the mis-creation of demons to that of deposit of semen into the anus/rectum and the discharge of pollution.

Accordingly expiation for this sin is good breeding, procreation and faithful adoption of children, so the good creation is multiplied.

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8 Responses to What does Zoroastrianism say about homosexuality???

  1. But if one puts on a condom, would that count as “bare?”

    • The issue of anal intercourse is viewed purely as a cleanliness issue. If there is a protective sheath and the organs are thoroughly cleaned, it does not count as polluting anymore.

      • Paul says:

        But it still has the effect of ‘misplacement of semen’ even with a condom, only the misplacement of the semen now occurs within the condom instead. Furthermore, how clean or unclean an anus is is rather subjective. Does it always have the potential of holding:arbouring bacteria? Can’t even the breaking of wind place bacteria an otherwise ‘clinically clean’ anus passage (very few surely have not experienced this mishap after stomach illness etc). Might the uncleanliness also be a ‘spiritual uncleanliness’? As after all, it is the coming together of something that holds life (semen) with something that holds death (feacal matter – the death of substance/food).

  2. John Easter says:

    This is an earlier statement by Herbad Ardeshir Farahmand about homosexuality and the Vendidad that I’ve seen and asked to be included here.

    2010/4/19 Ardeshir Farahmand

    Vendidad or more accurately “vi-daävö dátá” is an interesting and culturally valuable document that beside incantations, myths, medicine and animal husbandry deals strictly with hygienic codes and beliefs of the ancient Indo-Europeans. Its purity customs are followed almost verbatim among the Kalash and Nuristani people of northwestern Pakistan-Afghanistan.

    Also, many imaginative and very interesting legal arguments of “Shia Islam” soundly trace their root back to Vendidad. Vendidad consists of an ancient corpus of purity codes and a much later addendum of punishments. The prescribed punishments show numerous grammatical errors. It is doubtful that such lengthy and graphic punishments were ever carried out.

    However, it is certain that monetary substitution were paid instead, to fund the newly built temples. As we read in Herodotus, Persians had NO temples and offered their prayers at the summit of the mountains or by waterfalls. However, after conquering Babylon, it appears that Zoroastrians slowly borrowed the concept of temples from subjugated nations.

    The name Vendidad itself consists of 3 parts; “vi-daävö,”without/free of demonic forces and “ dátá” decisions, judgments. Vendidad purity codes were designed to hold back/defeat disease, decay, rot and putrefaction; for rot and decay are accordingly the embodiment of the demonic forces and the afflicted spirit is all death and decay (vispa mahrkö.)

    An objective understanding of Vendidad is impossible without grasping its sole-preoccupation with “rot, decaying/dead matter and infection.”According to Vendidad; Sin is that which was once in place, and now it is out of place and causes rot and waste. Hence, sin is a great deal of disease, infection, WASTE and misapplication.

    It should be added that Vendidad is the last of, and belongs to the “Dátic” Category of nasks or writings. And “Dátic”nasks deal according to the Holy Denkard; with decisions/rulings concerning an ever evolving and changing, temporal world and subjects that change and evolve over time. Also, Yasna 17.13, Yasna 22.25, Yasna 25.6, and Yasna 59.13 all refer to 3 distinct sources of jurisprudence:

    “Daatem Ví-döyüm,” or decisions against demons;”Daatem Zarathúshtri,” or ZOROASTRIAN DECISIONS and “Dareghaam Upayanaam,” or longstanding tradition. All the cited Yasna quotes would be part of the “staót yasn,” or the most sacred writing of the ancient canon. The same sentence is repeated in Prelude to Yasna.10, Yasna 1. 13, Yasna 2. 13, Yasna 3.15, Yasna 4.18 and Yasna 71.5.

    Now, does Vendidad deal with homosexuality as it is commonly believed or focuses on something different ??? The word commonly understood to mean homosexuality is “vaäpayö,” and appears twice in the Vendidad text namely chapter 1.12 and chapter 8.26-32.

    The word also appears frequently in the Vedic hymns as “vipra” and also appears once in the poetic Gathas, the first line of Yasna 51.12 in the sense of a well-versed poet, one fluent in Vedic hymns. Also it comes in Yasna 10.12 with the prefix “para,” where we read: liberate/free me from an evil teacher. The root of the verb seem to mean to spring, gush forth, flow.

    It has been designated in its first occurrence in Vendidad as “a-perethö” meaning unable to pass, referring to inability to pass the Chinvat Bridge. Although the term has been translated as a sin that can not be atoned; yet it is important to remember that in Mazdyasni literature the above term refers to a childless person. Whenever, a person dies childless or without adopting children; his relatives must appoint him a designated adopted child for his soul to pass the bridge. The process is known as creating a pass/bridge for the deceased.

    The second occurrence of the term relates to the release of semen/khshvdra into anus and reception/deposit of semen into anus. In Vendidad commentaries it is emphasized that the focus is on “anal intercourse and deposit of semen into anus” and is condemned equally whether the recipient be a female or male partner. It should be added that semen is considered alive and very precious in Vendidad and its misapplication is a great waste.

    It is important to look at this ruling from 2 points, Vendidad rules against all “bare” anal sex due to its barrenness; the high concentration of disease causing waste articles in the anus and the possibility of bleeding/dead matter. Majority of the Vendidad commentators judged all anal sex to be WASTEFUL, while a minority condemned it only as long as it was unprotected.


  3. Sremt says:

    All religions are man-made, Zoroastrianism doesn’t scape this fact, but I was under the impression the oldest form of Zoroastrianism didn’t oppose homosexuality.

    • Zoroastrian emphasis is on purity laws, therefore it opposes bare anal sex irrespective of the gender of the participants. The Zoroastrian grave concern is the contamination of sexual organ and/or the substance of life/semen with waste material in anus. There are 2 school of thoughts concerning anal intercourse; one school suggests total abstinence from anal intercourse, since it does not think that anus could become completely clean from dead matter/feces, the second school sees the permissibility of anal intercourse with intense and thorough cleaning and with protection.

      • Sremt says:

        I have read that the earliest form of Zoroastrianism doesn’t condemn homosexuality, actually it says nothing about it. It was much later when it was included a new homophobic instrcution and, apparently, it was inspired/influenced by the Old Testament given that it uses almost the same words. Most Zoroastrians who abide by, let’s call it, original Zoroastrianism see this later version of Zoroastrianism as a corruption of their religion, in other words, they don’t accept that homophobic passage and others of its time.

        Same-sex sex can be as clean as heterosexual sex. Sex in only about reproduction exclusively. Sex is also about bonding, couples express their love for each other through sex. That is human nature.

        As I said, all religions are man-made, Zoroastrianism is no exception to this, and when you confront all religions with science and our more refined concept of morality, no religon survives.

        Why holding on to conceptions from men of ancient times when they knew little about the world around them? Times when incest, rape, slavery, mistreatment of women where a common thing. You only live once and it is always better to embrace all the knowledge we have now to understand what we don’t understand.

  4. Judy says:

    Thank you for this informative explanation.

    Please be patient with me, I have a larger question about Zoroastrianism that is off topic for this page, but wrapped up in it is a specific question that is on topic. This is the first time I’ve talked to a Zoroastrian and I haven’t seen much sign on the web of answers to what I’m curious about…(though I admit I am not the best at searching, and depression has limited my energy to look.)

    First, I am interested in studying Zoroastrianism (if this is not a disrespectful or forbidden thing for an outsider to do).

    How does it see the relationship of Zoroastrians to non Zoroastrians? What is the final fate of nonbelievers? In a larger historical sense, what is Zoroastrianism’s mission and purpose in the world and do other religions have any mission or purpose too?

    In no way do I look down upon Zoroastrianism and in fact I wish times had not been so hard for people of this faith. Both from compassion and sympathy and because Judaism as we know it is unimaginable without Zoroastrianism. I have only the deepest respect for the path and for its people.

    I just want to explore the roots of my own practice and see what I can learn thereby. I’ve had some pleasant surprises in my recent explorations into older Jewish prayers and mystical ideas. So it seemed logical to go even farther back and learn more about the context in which those things were formed.

    (I am curious if just as Jews are somewhat impatient with Muslims and Christians for adding to Jewish scripture (despite the scripture saying there can be no additions or changes to it), if Zoroastrians are a bit impatient with Jews for having copied so many Zoroastrian principles, symbols, and stories and then expanding upon those (but narrowing the applicability of them all to just the Jews)?

    While it isn’t quite fitting I apologize for that (even if it was my place to), I’m just saying I acknowledge there could be some tension and let me know if anything is helpful to preclude/reduce it if so.

    Some preamble to my question on homosexuality.

    In Judaism, the classic authorities shared the same horror at anal intercourse but only between men. Because in their cosmology, a man’s anus is his spiritual vagina whereas a woman’s anus is…something else (I never did get clarification on that point) (please bear with me, I know that must seem a revolting idea and I am in no way commenting on the objective accuracy of the model (of which I am still skeptical at best).)

    From this first principle, they decided that while technically male-male fellatio was not the mystical/spiritual disaster which male-male anal sex was, it was a slippery slope sort of thing. The Adversary or the Evil Inclination might get a grip on either of them during the pleasure of intimacy and they’d have anal intercourse.

    Then the teachers decided well, men shouldn’t hug and kiss erotically because that could lead to fellatio…

    And later decided while scripture is totally silent, this whole hierarchy of imposed extra prohibitions also applied to female-female sex.

    (There was also some belief that these extra prohibitions also reflected some mystical protection from behaviour with bad spiritual effects (even if less horrible than male-male anal intercourse). Or that they served some hidden but valuable spiritual goal.

    For example, a woman who wanted to have sex with a woman was a reincarnation of a man who had been prone to some major sin (I forget which). Fighting “his” tendency in a woman’s body to desire other women would let him make atonement for that sin.)

    (I think they said normally only men reincarnated. So a woman with a past life was by definition a man who’d really made a terrible mistake. Not because women were bad but because such an extreme measure reflected the gravity of the mistake.)

    So what I’m asking is on a mystical level and in cultural folklore, what is the position of Zoroastrianism on the bigger picture of same sex romantic attraction and intimacy in general?

    I understand the idea that the uncleanliness of anal intercourse is a physical vulnerability which is part of a spiritual process of waste and decay. This spiritual process is seen as a gateway for evil.

    I understand that having children is a vital part of being a Zoroastrian. So the implications of not having a child of your flesh are dire. So such cases should be somehow minimized.

    It seems logical that sex really should only involve vaginal intercourse (insofar as the action of the penis and the possibility of ejaculation is involved) because otherwise, spiritually, the whole act is “out of place”? Non vaginal sex would be at the threshold of waste and all the dire things that go along with waste?

    (At least, I hope I understood all that correctly.)

    (Btw, what’s the view of what female orgasm ? And the spiritual significance if any of female fluids excreted during sex?)

    But how expansive are laws and customs which are consequences of the Zoroastrian beliefs summarized above? (if I was correct in what those beliefs are.) For example, if in the community, someone suggested that people with same sex preferences should join in pairs of couples: a pair of gay men should associate with a pair of lesbians. Between them, they would each try to reproduce so that every person in this group of four was a parent of at least one child. then they divided the children between two households (one maintained by the two men, one maintained by the two women)…what sort of reaction could be expected, if the men promised to never have anal sex?

    You seem like the sort of person to not go searching for a tenuous motive to stringently apply your religion. (But to err on the side of being a little too stringent if necessary? Both in how to apply stringency and whether to apply it.) Am I correct? If so, is this a common attitude among pious Zoroastrians?

    Thank you for listening and I hope I have not given offense and will gladly hear any instruction to avoid doing so in future.

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