Jeh

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Jeh

The figure of Jeh appears in Zoroastrian texts as the personification of the pollution of menstruation. Jeh is the Middle Persian rendition of an older Avestan word, jahi or jahika, which, due to its context, is usually translated in a pejorative sense to mean "whore," although its etymology remains uncertain.

Jahika appears frequently in the early Zoroastrian texts. The word can mean "woman" or a woman who cannot reproduce. It is also used of the woman who behaves improperly—practices sorcery, or is promiscuous. As the epitome of an evildoer, Jahi threatens the good creation physically in that her glance dries up one-third of the rivers and one-third of vegetation, and her touch withers one-third of the good thoughts, good words, good deeds, holiness, and ability to combat evil of the faithful person (Vendidad 18.63-64). Because of her destructive potential, Jahi is worse than the other miscreations of Ahriman, the Destructive Spirit (Vd. 18.65). The threat she poses is echoed in proscriptions for menstruating women: Women in menses are to remain separate from the elements of creation, especially fire, in case they cause harm with their gaze (Vd. 16.1-4).

In the Middle Persian texts, Jahi, as Jeh, becomes the archetypal Whore. The Bundahishn places Jeh in filial relationship with Angra Mainyu (also called Ahriman). Jeh's words revive Ahriman from a three-thousand-year stupor, and he kisses her on the head, at which moment she becomes the first to be polluted by the blood of menstruation (Bd. 4.4f.). This is one of the few myths concerning the origin of menstruation.

In the material battle between good and evil, Jeh is pitted against all virtuous women (Bd. 5.3), since they are all subject to menstruation and its inherent pollution. Jeh is also referred to collectively as an adversarial "species" (Bd. 14 a.1). In Wizidagiha-i Zadspram she appears as Jeh-dev—the "whore demonness"—the queen of Ahriman, who leads her band of demonesses to corrupt all women, and, thus all men (WZ 34.30-31). The Jehdev's sexuality is unlimited, and her promiscuity presents a challenge to the virtue of the faithful.

Jeh serves as the antithesis of Anahita, the yazata whose epithet is "undefiled," and who purifies the seed of males and the wombs of females (Yasht 5.2). This purificatory function of Anahita is in sharp contrast with that of Jahika in the earlier texts, who is portrayed as one who mixes the seed of both righteous and unrighteous men (Vd. 18.62, Herbedestan 12.4). Anahita also preserves the seed of the future saviors of the world (Bd. 33.36) who will herald the renovation of the world, when Ahriman and his destructive forces, including Jeh-dev, will cease to exist.

see also Honor and Shame; Zoroastrianism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Choksy, Jamsheed K. 1989. Purity and Pollution in Zoroastrianism: Triumph over Evil. Austin: University of Texas Press.

de Jong, A. 1995. "Jeh the Primal Whore? Observations on Zoroastrian Misogyny." In Female Stereotypes in Religious Traditions, ed. Ria Kloppenborg and Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

                                              Jenny Rose