JIWĀM (Pahl. and Pers. jīwām, jīw, jum, jām), “(consecrated) milk,” derives from Av. jīuuiiąm, gąm jīuuiiąm. It is the designation for one of the organic items—now a mixture of milk and consecrated water—used in the Yasna, Vīsperad, and Vendīdād high or inner liturgical rituals of the Zoroastrians.

According to the Avestan text of the Nērangestān and its Pahlavi exegesis, mares, cows, ewes, and goats can be milked during the rite of the taking of jīwām (N. 2.49.13; Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, pp. 224-25). In Iran, the phrase nērang jām griftan or nīrang jām gereftan, “rite of taking (consecrated) milk” was used (Jamasp Asa and Nawabi, pp. 68-71). Some magian commentators like Sōshāns even included camels among the ranks of animals whose milk was acceptable for ritual purposes (N. 2.49.13), although other commentators such as Abarag (ibid.) ruled that such could be the case only if no other option was available. Both domesticated and wild variants of the animals could be milked, according to Dādweh (ibid.). Jīwām could be obtained from more than one animal at a time, with appropriate modification of ritual recitations—although such numerical variation in recitation was not accepted by all priests (see also Meherjirana, pp. 22-23; Anklesaria, pp. 4-5; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 71, n. 39). The animals and their milk should be healthy, free of pollution, and without blemish (N. 2.49.16; Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, pp. 226-27; Dhabhar, p. 410; Meherjirana, p. 42; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 70). The animals should be nurtured and tended in an affable manner (Meherjirana, p. 34; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 71, n. 40).

It is a long-cherished Parsi or Indian Zoroastrian tradition to milk only a single goat during the rite of taking jīwām (Meherjirana, pp. 22-23; Kotwal and Boyd, pp. 70-71). Milking of cows and other animals for jīwām is generally not permitted by Parsi magi, who view the centrality of the goat in this rite as “the custom of the ancients” (Meherjirana, p. 28). It has been recorded that Dastur Jamaspji Edalji Jamaspasa, a learned priest of Pune in India, had taken jīwām of a cow for the Yasna ceremony but that the senior priests protested on the grounds that established custom had been violated and declared the ceremony null and void. They also decreed that the retrograde priest and his associates should undergo a Barašnūm (see BARAŠNOM) purification before conducting any further high liturgies (Meherjirana, p. 28; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 71, n. 39). In Parsi praxis, only the goat to be milked can be present; other animals may not be there. Among the Zoroastrians of Iran, however, any number of goats and cows (one, two, or more) can be present—even though only one is milked during the rite—and so the personal pronouns vary, as the case may be, in the recital of the Avestan dedication (Modi, p. 279; Anklesaria, pp. 4-5; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 71, n. 39).

The rite of taking jīwām is a separate part of the prefatory service or Paragṇā (N. 2.49.14; Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, pp. 224-25; Westergaard, p. 333; Anklesaria, pp. 4-5; Modi, pp. 270, 278-79; Jamasp Asa and Nawabi, pp. 68-71; Kotwal and Boyd, pp. 70-72). According to the Nērangestān (2.58.1; Kotwal and Kreyenbroek, pp. 264-65; see also Modi p. 319), it originally was the raēθβiš.kara (Phl. rehwiškar) ritual priest’s duty to mix the jīwām with the haoma (q.v., Pahl. and Pers. hōm) juice (now ephedra juice). It is also the duty of the raēθβiš.kara to distribute the libation or zōhr, prepared by mixing the haoma juice and the jīwām, among the devotees present at high liturgical rituals. So the rite of taking jīwām still is performed by the assistant priest or rāspī who, after acquiring ritual power or ʿamal through the performance of a Drōn (q.v.) service, goes to a separate ritual area or pāwī where the animal has been tethered. The animal is made to stand facing the east. The assistant priest faces south, holds a vase-like metal vessel or karasyō called the jīwāmdān or jāmdān, “place for (consecrated) milk,” with consecrated water in his left hand, wipes the goat’s udder to cleanse it (make it sāf ), and then consecrates his right hand and the animal’s udder by reciting xšnaoθra ahurahe mazdå, “(I do this) for Ahura Mazdā’s satisfaction,” and the Aṧəm Vohū (q.v.) “order is good” prayer while pouring water over the hand and the udder. Next, the rāspī stands and recites the antiphonal framing utterance or bāj (q.v.) of jīwām including a dedicatory formula or šnūman (Av. xšnūmaine) to Druwāsp (Druuāspā, Drvāsp; see DRVĀSPĀ) who is the female worship-worthy spirit or yazata associated with horses, cattle, and goats (and so is also termed Gōš) (for the šnūman, see Westergaard, Fragment VI, p. 333). Thereafter, the assistant priest squats and milks the animal while saying the word aṧəm “order.” The first squirt lands on the ground, the next in the vessel while the rāspī recites aṧa.sara manaŋha “with orderly thought.” That sequence of milking is repeated twice more while reciting the phrases aṧa.sara vacaŋha “with orderly speech” and aṧa.sara šiiaoθna “with orderly action.” The rāspī then stands up, pats the animal in thanks, and completes the bāj by reciting twice a blessing for all beneficial animals in which he wishes them hazaŋrəm baēšazanąm baēuurə̄ baēšazanąm, “thousand-fold good health, ten thousand-fold good health.” The assistant priest then returns to the pāwī where the high liturgical rituals are conducted and sets the vessel containing jīwām in a niche there.

The jīwām can then be used in the high liturgical rituals for which its presence is mandatory (Dhabhar, p. 400). During the Yasna ritual, for example, the jīwām must be poured into a saucer or jīwām tašta by the commencement of the third chapter of the Yasna liturgy both because it will be extolled and praised therein (Yasna 3.3), together with other consecrated items on the ritual table, and because the presence of jīwām is absolutely necessary from that point onward in the Yasna ritual (Anklesaria, p. 59; Dhabhar, p. 65; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 94; for depictions of jīwām on the ritual table, see Kotwal and Boyd, pp. 34-35, fig. 4, no. 13; 43, plate 3; 44, plate 4). The animal that provided the milk comes to be associated—as a symbol of beneficial animals and of those creatures’ guardian spirit, the holy immortal or aməṧa spəṇta (q.v.) Vohu Manah (Wahman, Bahman, q.v.)—with the ritual in which its product is utilized (on the homology, see Choksy, pp. 119, 126). Therefore, if the animal(s) providing jīwām die(s) while the ritual for which the milk was taken is in progress, that ritual is vitiated (Meherjirana, p. 34; Kotwal and Boyd, p. 71, n. 40). The rite of taking jīwām is practiced regularly among Parsis in India, but has become rare in Iran due to attenuation in orthopraxy from the 1970s onward. It is not practiced by Zoroastrians in any other countries.



Tahmuras D. Anklesaria, Yazishne Bā Nirang, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1926; repr., 1957.

Jamsheed K. Choksy, Triumph Over Evil: Purity and Pollution in Zoroastrianism, Austin, 1989.

Bamanji N. Dhabhar, The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz and Others, Bombay, 1932.

Kaikhusroo M. Jamasp Asa and Mahyar Nawabi, The Pahlavi Codices and Iranian Researches, vol. 36, Shiraz, 1976.

Firoze M. Kotwal and James W. Boyd, A Persian Offering, the Yasna: A Zoroastrian High Liturgy, Studia Iranica, Cahier 8, Paris, 1991.

Firoze M. Kotwal and Philip G. Kreyenbroek, eds. and trans., The Hērbedestān and Nērangestān, Vol. III: Nērangestān, Fragard 2, Studia Iranica, Cahier 30, Paris, 2003.

Erachji S. Meherjirana, Pursesh-Pāsokh, Bombay, 1941; repr., 2005.

Jivanji J. Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1937; repr., 1986.

Niels L. Westergaard, ed., Zendavesta, vol. 1, Copenhagen, 1852; repr., Wiesbaden, 1993.

(Firoze M. Kotwal and Jamsheed K. Choksy)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 17, 2012

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