GŌMĒZ (cow’s urine), a Pahlavi term which renders Av. gaomaēza- and gə̄uš maēsman- (AirWb., cols. 483, 1108). Urine, with its ammonia content, has been used by many peoples as a disinfectant, and Vidēvdād 8.13 enjoins that for this purpose it should be that “of small cattle or large cattle” (pasvąm vā staorąm vā), that is, any domesticated livestock. A medieval Persian text specifies cow, sheep, buffalo, horse, or camel (Persian Rivayats, tr. Dhabhar, p. 295 n. 3).
Maintaining cleanliness is a religious duty for Zoroastrians (see CLEANSING i); and regulations are given accordingly in the Vidēvdād, with one reference in the associated Vištāsp Yašt (31), for using gaomaēza-, gə̄uš māēsman-, to remove pollution, chiefly after contact with a corpse. In what appears an ancient passage (Vd. 8.11), corpse-bearers are required to cleanse their hair and bodies with māēsma- “urines” (pl.), after moving three paces from where they have set the corpse down. Elsewhere the elaborate cleansing rite of the barašnom (q.v.) is prescribed, in which, after repeated applications of gaomāēza-, fine earth is to be rubbed over the body and allowed to dry before the final washing with water (Vd. 8.37-39). This is partly to preserve the purity of water (see above, V, pp. 694-95), of which, according to a late Pahlavi text (Guzastag Abāliš 4.1-4) gōmēz is the servant. The threefold cleansing is enjoined also for contaminated clothing and metal utensils (Vd. 7.12-15, 74-75).
Only once, in connection with the barašnom, is it stipulated that for gaomāēza- the faithful should use a bull (gaom . . . uxšanəm, Vd. 19,21), presumably because a male creature was thought to be “cleaner.” Woman’s menstruation was regarded as the second main source of pollution, and after it (it is implied) the woman must always use gaomāēza- before washing with water. If the flow of blood continued unnaturally beyond the ninth day, she must apply the gaomāēza- twice (Vd. 16.11-12). Imbibing gaomaēza- is enjoined only after a still-birth, when the woman, having carried a corpse, must swallow a mixture of gaomāēza- and wood ash to cleanse the “daḵma” (q.v.) within her (Vd. 5.51, see further above, V, p. 696).
Subsequently the use of gōmēz was much extended. This is first attested in late Sasanian times, notably in the Pahlavi text Šāyest nē-šāyest. Gōmēz became widely used not only against all sorts of actual perceived contamination (see, e.g., above, VI, pp. 282, 284), but also against theoretic ones. Thus its application was routinely required of everyone on rising, to remove the impurities of demon-dominated night (Boyce, 1991, pp. 285-90). It was also sometimes used apotropaically (Dhalla, pp. 28-29). The occasions for which the barašnom was required were hugely increased, and a briefer version of it, the si-šōy (above, V, p. 699), was evolved, with the same use of gōmēz. Further, gōmēz taken from bulls only was consecrated to increase its efficacy, and tiny quantities were ritually imbibed, with a pinch of ash from a sacred fire, for inner purification before the barašnom, and also before initiation into the faith and marriage. This coseecrated (yašte) gōmēz is called nirang from the name of the Vd. service, nērang i dēn (ritual of the religion), by which it is blessed (Boyce, 1991, p. 284); but often the terms gōmēz and nirang are used interchangeably. Colloquially Parsis called gōmēz by a word of disputed origin, taro, while Persian Zoroastrians term it pājō < pādyāb (see apud Boyce, 1991, pp. 281-82). Reformists reject its use, which traditionalists have markedly reduced without abandoning either this or the use of nirang.
Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperon, Le Zend-Avesta, 2 vols. in 3, Paris, 1977.
Mary Boyce, A Persian Stronghold of Zoroastrianism, Oxford, 1977, repr. London, 1989, chap. 5.
Idem, “Pādyāb and nērang: Two Pahlavi Terms Further Considered,” BSO(A)S 52/2, 1991, pp. 281-91.
Homi F. Chacha, ed. and tr., Guzastag Abāliš, Bombay, 1936.
Jamsheed K. Choksy, Purity and Pollution in Zoroastrianism, Austin, Tex., 1989 (reviewed by P. G. Kreyenbroek, BSOAS 53/2, 1990).
H. Dhalla, “Funeral Customs and Ceremonies of the Parsis in India,” University of Shiraz, Bulletin of the Department of Linguistics (Asia Institute) 2-4, 1978, pp. 1-47.
Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, “Autobiography,” tr. G. and B. Rustomji as Dastur Dhalla. The Saga of a Soul: An Autobiography of Shams-ul-ulama Dastur Dr. Maneckji Nusserwanji Dhalla, Karachi, 1975, the early chapters. Firoze M. Kotwal and James W. Boyd, A Guide to the Zoroastrian Religion: A Nineteenth Century Catechism with Modern Commentary, Chico, Calif., 1982.
Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1937; repr. 1985.
Originally Published: December 15, 2002
Last Updated: February 14, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 2, pp. 120-121