The Secret Doctrine of Being Beautiful

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Religious prostitution

Religious prostitution, the vulgar epithet for hieros gamos, is the practice of having religiously motivated sexual relationships. A woman engaged in such practices is sometimes called a temple prostitute or hierodule, though modern connotations of the term prostitute cause interpretations of these phrases to be highly misleading.
It was revered highly among Sumerians and Babylonians. In ancient sources (Herodotus, Thucydides) there are many traces of hieros gamos, starting perhaps with Babylon, where each woman had to reach, once a year, the sanctuary of Militta (Aphrodite or Nana/Anahita), and there have sex with a foreigner, as a sign of hospitality, for a symbolic price.
A similar type of prostitution was practiced in Cyprus (Paphos) and in Corinth, Greece, where the temple counted more than a thousand prostitutes (hyerodules), according to Strabo. It was widely in use in Sardinia and in some of the Phoenician cultures, usually in honour of the goddess


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