Having existed since the 6th century BC, Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and among the first monotheistic religions. Facets of Zoroastrianism, such as a single god, the notion of free will, and the concepts of heaven and hell, inspired some of the world's most successful religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Meanwhile, Zoroastrianism itself has mutated over the course of thousands of years and, as practiced (predominantly) in India and Iran in the 21st century, is different from its ancient form.
The ancient religion has some eastern philosophical underpinnings, because of which Zoroastrianism sex beliefs can, at times, take on an air of the mystic, while maintaining a distinctly Middle Eastern feel.
For the modern Zoroastrian, religion and sex are forever intertwined. From perpetuating faith through procreation to trying to remain free of sin, the rules of Zoroastrianism when it comes to sex can be somewhat confusing. The conflicted nature of Zoroastrian sex beliefs isn't aided by the fact that it's a pre-Judeo Christian religion struggling to maintain relevance in a world increasingly indifferent to folk beliefs. Zoroastrian religion and sex aren't always easy bedfellows, but there's a lot to learn about the religion's relationship with sexuality.
Read on to learn all about sex in Zoroastrianism.
One of the major tenets of Zoroastrianism is the necessity for spiritual and bodily cleanliness. Anything inside your body (blood, urine, semen, etc) is well and good, but the moment it's no longer inside you, it's impure. The idea of voluntary masturbation is so horrible to devout Zoroasters, it's considered an unpardonable offense.
"For that deed [of voluntary masturbation/ejaculation] there is nothing that can pay, nothing that can atone, nothing that can cleanse from it; it is a trespass for which there is no atonement, for ever and ever," reads a segment of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian holy book. The Avesta further refers to masturbation as "the sin of destroying sperm by one’s own hands."
Zoroastrian scripture suggests that women have a natural predilection for evil behavior. Because of this, women have to be on their best behavior and show reverence for the earth, fire, water, wind, cattle, and sheep while performing perfect religious ceremonies. Sexually, this means women must abstain from all types of "unnatural intercourse" and adultery, things to which they're naturally inclined. Adultery and unnatural intercourse "are regarded as sins of heinous kind."
Unnatural sex is a vague term that essentially refers to anything considered sinful or taboo, which ranges from something as banal as sex out of wedlock to heinously weird stuff like fornicating with goats.
In his book Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire, author Eric Berkowitz asserts that incestuous relationships were considered blessed in ancient Persia, a belief that carried over into Zoroastrianism. Quoting an ancient Zoroastrian text, Berkowitz asserts:
Blessed is he who has a child of his child... pleasure, sweetness and joy are owing to a son that begets from a daughter of his own, who is also a brother of that same mother, and he who is born of a son and a mother is also a brother of that same father; that is a much greater pleasure, which is a blessing of the joy... the family is more perfect; its nature is without vexation and gathering affection.
According to a rumor that's accepted as fact on the web, Friedrich Nietzsche addresses incest in Zoroastrianism in The Birth of Tragedy, claiming Zoroastrians believe the only way a wise priest can be born is through the act of Xvaetvadatha, or incest between parent and child, or brother and sister. However, the word Xvaetvadatha appears nowhere in The Birth of Tragedy, and the book contains no direct references to Zoroastrianism. The closest Nietzsche comes to addressing this topic is, "There is an ancient popular belief, particularly in Persia, that a wise magician can only be born out of incest..."
If you're a married Zoroastrian or Parsi and you're not having sex, God is going to be mad at you. According to Book 5, Chapter 18 of the Avesta, a man should maintain physical intimacy with his wife at all times. While there's no limit to the amount of sex you can have, the book suggests intercourse "thrice a month." This same section of the Avesta also suggests that "One should strive for the increase of progeny by going in to her."