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Early Sacred Sex Societies
Sex in the Cradle: In the beginning....
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Early Sacred Sex Societies    Posted: December 7, 2004 Reply with quote

[This lesson builds on How Sex Became Sacred, which explains that sacred sex is rooted in the very essence & nature of life. Sex in the Cradle goes on to describe how our earliest civilizations honored & celebrated that natural truth of life.]

In the beginning....

Rarely has such a phrase wielded more power over the human psyche as to the origin and true nature of our existence. And well it should, for whether you accept it in a religious sense - defining how God created us - or in a Darwinian sense - stating how we were when life was simpler and more natural - it conjures up visions of our primal human condition. 'In the beginning' reminds us of our roots, our pure nature, our original human design. In doing so, it inspires questions relevant to our present day: are we living the purpose for which we were created? Have we fallen from divine grace? Or as evolutionists might simply say, has humanity lost its natural innocence?

In short, the way things were 'in the beginning' serves as a wake-up call as to how they're meant to be NOW. It alerts us to the ideas and events over the millennia that have slowly eroded our original purity and innocence. It also inspires us to regain our lost heritage -- to return to a way of life that is our birthright, and therefore also our destiny. And perhaps most important, it shows that in awakening to innocence we are not forging new ground, exploring uncharted territory, or venturing into the unknown; rather, we are coming full circle, returning to a higher truth that was once ours, but that we somehow lost along the way. We are simply returning home to the way we once were, and are always meant to be.

Our heritage shows us the way home to ourselves. So let's explore how it was 'in the beginning', and see what it reveals about how life today ought to be.

The civilization we build always reflects our culture. It expresses our self-image, whether it be sophisticated & technological as in the west today, artsy & romantic as in much of old Europe, philosophical & cultural as in ancient Greece and Rome, richly spiritual as in much of Asia, or deeply attuned to nature as were the ancient Egyptians, Druids, Native Americans, and more.

It should therefore not be surprising that humanity's earliest societies reveal our simplest essence, our fundamental inborn nature, our purest self-identity. After all, there weren't a lot of extraneous ideas to latch onto -- it was just us, nature, and well...that's about it. It's no wonder that we, in the innocence of our youth as a species, had a natural view of things.

To learn what that natural life view was, let us return to the cradle. Not the cradle of infancy, but the cradle of civilization.


On our journey, we'll travel back in time to ancient Sumer, on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. We'll also time-travel to other scattered societies of that age. But first, let's look at the pre-civilization cultures that evolved into them, before recorded history. There we'll find the archetypal images at the core of the human psyche, that shape our view of who we are.

You might think that we know nothing about such early history, because there is no written record. But our early ancestors left behind something that is nearly as clear a sign of their culture -- prehistoric art.

Art is a good indicator of our view of the world and our place in it, because we create it solely for self-expression, not utilitarian need. Self-image and cultural values, not functional use & need, shape art. Art represents how the artist and culture view themselves. Classical, medieval, Renaissance, colonial, folk art, and others all expose the culture that created them. They also serve as an historical record of that culture, giving future generations a peek into those values. So it is with prehistoric art.

Art is purely for creative expression (it may also have ceremonial or spiritual significance, but these serve as cultural indicators in the same way). In art, we are free to create what we want. In doing so, we create what we value and what inspires us -- expressions of who we are. This was as true in ancient times as it is today.

To see more goddess figurines,
visit the Sacred Sex Art Archive
Some of the earliest finds of sculpted art from pre-civilization are what archeologists commonly call 'venus figurines'. Hundreds of these figures, dating from 25,000 BCE, carved from stone, bone, ivory, terra-cotta, and other materials, and found throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and later (c. 3,000 BCE) in the Americas, typically have one thing in common: they depict the fertile, matronly nature of the female form. The numerous examples of such carvings (and notable lack of male figures) have led many scholars to suggest that early societies venerated the female form, associating it with the earth-mother. The reason for this is easy to see.

Since the dawn of humanity, the earth has provided what we need in order to survive and grow -- food, water, clothing, and shelter. This same relationship was seen between women and children. Mothers not only gave birth - life itself - but also fed, clothed, and sheltered their children. Also like the earth, which rotates through the seasons, women go through cycles. In both cases, these cycles are directly related to fertility -- the creation of food and newborns.

To the simple-minded people of early societies, these were all great mysteries of life. Why women bled in cycles that follow the moon, how they grow babies like the earth grows fruits & grain -- these were likely things that captured the minds of those whose lives revolved around such events. It's therefore only natural to see why the earth was venerated as a mother, and her fertility - as well as our own - was honored.

It's easy to speculate that early hunter & gatherer tribes, facing rugged conditions and common need for brute force, were male dominated, but evidence suggests this was not the case. Sculpted venus figurines aside, paleolithic art drawn on cave walls shows not only as many female figures and symbols as male, but also that the female symbology occupies a more central place in the art. Drawings typically depict female fertility signs at the center, with male tribe members all around engaged in the hunt.

This suggests that our early ancestors saw female fertility as a sign of luck, bringing success to the hunt, and other tribal activities. This has led some scholars to propose that women had an important shamanic type role in the tribes, equal in value to the man's. Another factor that may have contributed to this was her role in ancestral worship.

Ancestral worship was no doubt a significant part of paleolithic life (evidenced by elaborate burial sites that have been found). The early clans people likely viewed their forebears as protectors from the other world. At the same time, these nomadic tribes had little or no formal family structure on earth. Man & woman were not married, and families did not exist in the sense that we know them today. Instead, women were likely regarded as the sole parent of children; the father was either unknown, or more likely, the primitives were even unaware of the male's reproductive role. From all physical appearances, women just seem to 'grow' babies. Ancestral lines were therefore matrilineal, and it fell to the women to carry out this all-important ritual worship.

Indeed, lack of awareness of the male role in reproduction may also be responsible for what many scholars call a 'goddess culture' among these early societies. Viewing women as the sole givers of life, it would have been easy to conceive of a primordial mother -- a supernal ancestress who gave birth to all life. After all, it was a power - the power to give life - which no man had. This would certainly explain her place in the paleolithic art & artifacts.

In such a society, where its reproductive role may not have been known, sex was likely seen as a way for man to connect to this strange and powerful woman. She was full of mysterious wonders (menstruation) and powers (childbearing, nursing) linked to her sexuality, and he was sexually attracted to the body parts that produced these wonders. The sex act then, was likely seen as a link to these wonderful mysteries. And the pleasure of it all no doubt told them that these mysteries were to be celebrated. That is the likely origin of the culture of celebratory sex that was to thrive for millennia before our prudish moralism shut it down.

Whatever the details of these early societies, this much is clear: that men & women each had valued roles and status, and that fertility and sex were part of the natural order of life.

The veneration of fertility and sexuality took even stronger hold when the first full-fledged civilizations cropped up.

Civilization began to take root when nomadic hunters & gatherers discovered farming. This enabled them to settle in fertile regions, and build their culture. These cultures naturally grew off the bounty of the land, and the seasonal cycle of mother earth - her fertility cycle - grew more & more ingrained in society. Also, growing knowledge of the male reproductive role, likely gleaned from seeing how seed grows into crop, solidified the sanctity of sex. The male planting of seed in the female became directly linked to planting crop seed in the ground.

The very fact that the ancients held this view indicates their belief that sex is sacred, since there is no physical connection between the two. Sex could only increase crops if it had some sacred power.

This link was vital enough for the ancients to build their cultures around it. The sex act was widely honored, regularly celebrated, and even religiously observed, as a fertility rite. Sex was celebrated for bringing forth nature's bounty, in harmony with her fertility cycle, the seasons. It also became linked with the general welfare and prosperity of the people. Our ancestors saw the link between human fertility and the flourishing of civilization in a spiritual way.

Just how clearly and closely sex was linked to fertility of the land and prosperity of the people is evidenced by the archeological finds of one of our earliest civilizations.

Sumer, in the ancient land of Mesopotamia, left behind a rich written lore on clay tablets attesting to the sacred view of sexuality. Central to this was their ritual & belief surrounding the goddess Inanna.
To see more images of Inanna,
visit the Sacred Sex Art Archive
Inanna was goddess of, among other things, love & fertility. That the Sumerians saw an intimate connection between human and agricultural fertility is graphically depicted in their celebration of the spring growing season. This annual rite also vividly illustrates their sacred view of sex.

Called Hieros Gamos by the Greek historians who later wrote about it, this most important ritual of the year means 'Sacred Marriage'. The multi-day celebration coincided with the spring equinox, which marked the Sumerian new year. Its purpose was to win goddess Inanna's blessing for the king's rule, to safeguard the people, and to ensure a fruitful growing season.

That in itself is of little note. What is striking though, is how they consecrated these beliefs. That is to say, this was not your common coronation, nor a typical Native American rain dance to nourish crops. The status of sex in the Sumerian scheme of things shows itself in the nature of this ritual:

Hieros Gamos took the form of a marriage between the current ruling king, and the goddess Inanna, complete with - even featuring - sexual consummation. The ritual was performed by the king and the temple priestess in the role of Inanna.

The sacred marriage took place in the main temple, where the king waited for the priestess, in her role as the goddess, to receive him. One verse from the tablets proclaims how, by their sacred union, "The throne in the great sanctuary is made glorious like the daylight" and the king like the Sun-god. It also states that the Sumerian people "prosper before him."

Other verses from the period give a much more graphic view of the Sumerian view of sex. If any doubt remains about the link between fertility of the land and that of the womb in the eyes of our early ancestors, the verses of the Gudea Cylinders, circa 2,100 BCE, dispel it:


[Inanna is speaking to the king, Dumuzi.]

My vulva, the horn,
The boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fallow.
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?

Dumuzi replies:

Great Lady, the king will plow your vulva,
I, Dumuzi the King, will plow your vulva.

Inanna accepts him, saying:

Then plow my vulva, man of my heart,
Plow my vulva....

[Descriptive narration]:

At the king's lap stood the rising cedar.
Plants grew high by their side.
Grains grew high by their side.
Gardens flourished luxuriantly.

Inanna sings:

He has sprouted; he has burgeoned;
He is lettuce planted by the water.
He is the one my womb loves best.

My well-stocked garden of the plain,
My barley growing high in its furrow,
My apple tree which bears fruit up to its crown,
He is lettuce planted by the water....

Dumuzi sings:

O Lady, your breast is your field.
Inanna, your breast is your field.
Your broad field pours out plants.
Your broad field pours out grain.
Water flows from on high for your servant.
Bread flows from on high for your servant.
Pour it out for me, Inanna.
I will drink all you offer....

[Inanna is speaking:]
Before my lord Dumuzi,
I poured out plants from my womb.
I placed plants before him,
I poured out plants before him.
I placed grain before him,
I poured out grain before him.
I poured out grain from my womb.

Besides the clear agrarian reference, the verses clearly show that the Sumerians did not view the rite as mere physical sex between people. The high priestess saw herself as an embodiment of the Goddess on earth, and held her sexuality as sacred:

Last night as I, the queen, was shining bright,
Last night as I, the Queen of Heaven, was shining bright....
My lord Dumuzi met me....[He] is ready for the holy loins.

It is also clear that the purpose of the rite was to bring more than good crops. It was meant to bless both the king and the people. And Inanna is explicit about the source of that blessing. After singing, "Let the milk of the goat flow in my sheepfold," Inanna reveals what her 'sheepfold' womb (which she also calls the 'house of life') does for her people:

My husband, I will guard my sheepfold for you.
I will watch over your house of life, the storehouse,
The shining quivering place that delights Sumer -
The house that decides the fates of the land,
The house that gives the breath of life to the people.
I, the queen of the palace, will watch over your house.

After Inanna calls for the "royal bed" and the king caresses her on it, Inanna blesses him:


He caressed me on the bed.
Now I will caress my high priest on the bed....I will decree a sweet fate for him.

The Queen of Heaven,...Inanna, the First Daughter of the Moon,
Decreed the fate of Dumuzi:

In battle I am your leader,
In combat I am your armor-bearer,
In the assembly I am your advocate,
On the campaign I am your inspiration.
....In all ways you are fit:

To hold your head high on the lofty dais,
To sit on the lapis lazuli throne,
To cover your head with the holy crown,
To wear long clothes on your body,
To bind yourself with the garments of kingship,
To carry the mace and sword,
To guide straight the long bow and arrow,
To fasten the throw-stick and sling at your side,
To race on the road with the holy sceptre in your hand,
And the holy sandals on your feet,
To prance on the holy breast like a lapis lazuli calf.

You, the sprinter, the chosen shepherd,
In all ways you are fit.
May your heart enjoy long days.

That which [the gods have] granted may it not be changed.
....Inanna holds you dear.

An assisting priestess then leads Dumuzi to the "sweet thighs" of Inanna and beseeches her on behalf of the people:


My queen, here is the choice of your heart,
The king, your beloved bridegroom.
May he spend long days in the sweetness of your holy loins.
Give him a favorable and glorious reign.
Grant him the king's throne, firm in its foundations.
Grant him the shepherd's staff of judgment.
Grant him the enduring crown with the radiant and noble diadem.
From where the sun rises to where the sun sets,
From south to north,
From the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea,
From the land of the huluppu-tree to the land of the cedar,
Let his shepherd's staff protect all of Sumer and Akkad.
As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile,
As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfolds multiply,
Under his reign let there be vegetation,
Under his reign let there be rich grain.
In the marshland may the fish and birds chatter,
In the canebrake may the young and old reeds grow high,
In the steppe may the mashgur-trees grow high,
In the forests may the deer and wild goats multiply,
In the orchards may there be honey and wine,
In the gardens may the lettuce and cress grow high,
In the palace may there be long life.
May there be floodwater in the Tigris and Euphrates,
May the plants grow high on their banks and fill the meadows,
May the Lady of Vegetation pile the grain in heaps and mounds.
O my Queen of Heaven and Earth,
Queen of all the universe,
May he enjoy long days in the sweetness of your holy loins.

-- translation taken from Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer

There can be no doubt that the Sumerians viewed the sacred marriage of their king to the Goddess as intimately connected to the food bounty and general welfare & prosperity of the people. Its description is both sensual and reverent, beautifully capturing the heart of a culture.

Hieros Gamos was well established in Sumerian society by 3,500 BCE, and likely existed less formally for centuries, if not millennia, before. Indeed, it was no passing fad or fringe social idea -- records indicate it lasted over 2,000 years as an annual rite. Some scholars believe it existed in primitive form for 5,000 years or more.

Hieros Gamos also was not some exclusive rite known only to the priestly class. It was a communal celebration involving the whole society, which participated in the festivities and witnessed the ritual coupling, even chanting ceremonial verses during the act. Thus it was the common view of the citizenry that sex was sacred, and intimately tied to the collective welfare.

Nor was sacred sex a once-annual ritual with little presence in everyday life. Temple priestesses devoted to Inanna and other goddesses of the time practiced sacred sex rites with common citizens as part of daily life. Some scholars today refer to such practice as 'sacred prostitution', defining it as little more than common prostitution legitimized by temples of the time. While some of the practice no doubt fits that label, it is plainly wrong to lump all of it in the same category.

For one thing, that simplistic view conflicts with the evidence suggested by the Hieros Gamos ritual (and the pre-civilization culture that evolved into it). More concretely though, evidence from the later and similar Babylonian culture, clearly shows that there were different types of temple priestesses, engaged in distinct sexual practices.

In Babylon, such women were classified in no less than three ways; among them:
  • Ishtaritu - virgin priestesses who exclusively served goddess Ishtar (the Babylonian equivalent of Inanna), and made love only with the divine as part of their inner spiritual practice;
  • Qadishtu - learned priestesses who invoked Ishtar when performing the love act with men, to link sex and spirit in the people they served (qadishtu literally means 'sanctified or undefiled woman'); and
  • Harimtu - affiliated with the temple, but more akin to a common prostitute.
If all such activity was indeed common prostitution, why the distinct classification? That they even made such distinctions indicates that there were different levels of sexual practice.

Moreover, the women who became temple priestesses were neither outcasts, destitute, nor otherwise limited in opportunities (more than any other women of the day). There are several stories of kings themselves who dedicated their daughters to this life. Presumably then, it held esteem. By the same token, these women and their practices were not on the fringe of society with respect to law and central authority. In Babylon's Code of Hammurabi, the world's first written legal code, the rights and good name of the temple priestesses were protected. This indicates that the social value of such practice was understood and appreciated. This could only be the case if sex was seen as sacred.

Inanna & Ishtar in the Sumer region were by no means the only fertility goddesses who engaged in sex with gods or men through priestess intermediaries. Sacred sex, whether solely between gods & goddesses or in the flesh by their followers, was part of the culture throughout the Mediterranean region and elsewhere. Astarte in Phoenicia, Isis in Egypt, Kali in the Indus Valley, and later, Aphrodite and Demeter in Greece, Venus in Rome, and Cybele in Phrygia (Asia Minor) and Rome, all had some sexual element associated with their sacred status.

Typically, this included sacred sex practice in the flesh by followers invoking the local deity. In later Greece for example, hierodules (literally 'temple servants'), offered themselves in the name of Aphrodite. In India, the name for temple priestess was deva-dasi, a servant of God.

Indeed, one of the most telling statements about the widespread practice of sacred sex offered by temple priestesses comes in a mention of who didn't practice it. Herodotus, the Greek historian who gave us much of our knowledge about early civilizations, said, "It was the Egyptians who first made it a matter of religious observance not to have intercourse with women in temples." The implication is that it was such everywhere else. Some scholars doubt even the Egypt exclusion (or maybe Herodotus simply meant that Egypt at some point ended the custom). Either way, sexual rites in connection with worship were widespread throughout the region.

What's more, if we're to believe Herodotus (and admittedly, many scholars assert that he was prone to exaggeration), ritual sex was not only common to every culture, but it also touched the life of every woman in the culture. He claimed that it was the custom for every young maiden in Babylon to offer her virginity in the name of the goddess through ritual sex in the temple.

A more personal account expresses the prevalence, and even honor, of this vocation in a different way. The following inscription, found in what is now western Turkey, dates to the common era. A woman named Aurelia Aemilias proudly declared that she served her temple by taking part in the sexual rites, as did her mother and all their female ancestors before them.

Regarding the Egyptians, goddess Isis had her influence on sacred sex, whether or not her priestesses practiced in the flesh. Her role as goddess of motherhood & fertility, and the story of her fashioning a golden phallus for her dismembered husband Osiris, inspired later followers to adopt sex rites in her name (for more, see the Egypt Forum).

It is noteworthy that even some early Christian sects incorporated sexual rites into their religious practice until it was stamped out by the Church when it consolidated power in the 4th century CE. By that time, such practice was viewed as profane, not sacred, and temple priestesses were labeled temple prostitutes. Clearly though, this was not how the early societies viewed it, nor how those women saw themselves. Rather, the bias was imposed by a later culture which, having lost awareness of sacred sex, could not see past the physical act in its historical rendering. Indeed, the judgment of sex as sacred or sinful says as much about the judge as the act.

As an example of how we color the meaning of words with cultural bias, consider how names associated with early sacred sex practice have survived in present day use, but with very different meanings. Other names for the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, which means literally, 'Star', were Har & Hora. These two names, which were in that time holy, are today roots for the terms harlot and whore. The only difference between yesterday and today is the appreciation and practice of sacred sex. (For more on how language shapes our culture, and how to use it for positive change, see the Universal Language Forum.)

As a final point regarding the prevalence of sacred sex in early civilization, further evidence suggests, and it logically follows, that it was not reserved only for temple worship. One story of Inanna tells of her sacred laws that confer sovereignty among the gods. Included in them are the sexual customs. Inanna brings these laws to her devoted Sumerian followers, for their prosperity & well-being. Thus we may presume that the common citizenry partook of these sexual rites in their private lives.

Babylonian lovers,
c. 1,900-1,700 BCE
carving found in
the Judean desert,
c. 18,000-12,000 BCE

The regional artifacts shown at left support this. At far left is a likely depiction of the sacred marriage rite between goddess and king, complete with marriage bed. At near left though, is a simple carving that appears to be of ordinary lovers, engaging in common sex practice of the time. It depicts anything but 'primitive' sex. Rather, it suggests a sanctified practice that served as a means of communion.

Sacred sex among the populace also was not limited to the Sumer region. In the Orient, a civilization that developed largely in isolation, the first sacred sex teachings came out not through temple priestesses, but as declarations of the Emperor (advised by his courtesans), for the benefit of the people. These earliest treatises of Taoist sexual practice are attributed to the Yellow Emperor, Huang-ti (2697-2598 BCE), as taught by the Plain Woman, the Mysterious Woman, and the Rainbow Woman. For more on how sacred sex evolved in the Orient, see the Taoist Sex Forum.

It is clear that our early ancestors saw sex as sacred in some way. Perhaps it was only in a general sense, that physical sex is a sacred act. That is, they likely lacked specific techniques and practices to induce genuine spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, they were aware that sex was part of the natural order of things, somehow connected to our spiritual essence. The simplicity of life in early civilization allowed this natural view to take hold, becoming firmly established in the newly stable agricultural societies. Unfortunately though, as these rooted societies grew, civilization grew more complex, and the simple, natural worldview that held sex as sacred was lost. In more ways than one, it was humanity's loss of innocence. With it came a distinct decline in the harmony of life.

Scholars debate the exact cause of this transition, but among the theories are:
  • Land ownership brought competition for resources, conflict over territory, and ideas of dominion over others (human slaves, wives as property to work home & land).
  • Women, with their capacity to birth the needed agricultural labor force, became one of society's most valuable commodities, contributing to their label as property.
  • Marriage, stable family structure, and the idea of patrilineal descent led men to restrict sexual access to their women, in order to guarantee familial inheritance. Customs or practices that encouraged open sexuality were eliminated.
  • Invasion by warring, male-dominated pastoralists overthrew the peaceful male/female balanced societies (this idea is questioned by some scholars, especially with regard to the Indus Valley Region).
  • Civilization brought about a more diversified society, with broader achievements typically for men; open sexuality (falsely) became viewed as a distraction to those advancements.
  • Civilized society, with its increased thinking and leisure time for ruling men, encouraged the rise of male-dominated 'ethics', promoting values that limited the rights & powers of women.
Any or all of these factors may have contributed to the shift. The common theme in all though, is the loss of a simple, natural worldview. That suggests that the idea of sex as profane, or even sinful, derives mainly from our complex, stressed, unnatural, 'civilized' society. It also suggests that if we return to our simple innocence - our natural state - that we will once again see sex as it truly is: sacred. We might also argue that if we once again see sex as sacred, and practice it as such, that it will serve as a vehicle to regain our lost innocence.

In exploring early sacred sex societies, it is worth mentioning one final theory that is directly related to sex itself. Some scholars suggest that our changing understanding of sexual reproduction played a part in the transition of society. According to this idea, in prehistory, women were seen to be the sole creators of offspring. The nine month gestation between insemination and birth was too long for our early ancestors to draw the connection to man's role. This feminine mystery contributed to her exalted status. Later though, limited understanding shifted the balance too far in the other direction. When man discovered the role of his seed, he then saw the womb only as the incubator in which it grew, like seed planted in the ground. Not only was her mystery exposed, but also her egg was neglected, and thus her status greatly diminished. She was only man's assistant, a view that provided fodder for a male-dominated world.

Ultimately, the exact cause of the shift is unimportant -- historical events are simply the way human evolution plays itself out (for a full explanation of this, see Understanding History). The transition from a society that saw the sacred in sex to one that only perceived the physical - and held it to be in conflict with spirit - is part of the larger human evolution that continues to this day. To understand our modern rebirth of sacred sex in the context of this overall evolution, and where we are heading as a society, see the East Meets West Forum.

Whatever the cause, the result was the rise of a new patriarchal thinking & religion, the loss of awareness of the divine feminine, and the subjugation of sex. In this new civilization, not only was the natural union between man & woman no longer sacred, but also as time wore on, it was outright demonized.

Before we close the chapter on our earliest civilizations, which many call matriarchal, we should first draw a distinction between them and the later patriarchal ones. Whereas patriarchal society, which continues up to the present day, creates division between male & female - epitomized by our male God and designation of Eve as the cause of man's fall from Grace - our early ancestors held both genders to be sacred. Therefore, while patriarchal society, as we shall see, subjugates and attacks women and their ways, matriarchal societies sought to bring the genders together. Matriarchal societies did not seek the dominion of women over men; rather, they promoted gender balance & harmony. Sacred sex shares this view. That is another reason why we call the matriarchal societies of our ancient past 'sacred sex societies', for they saw spiritual wholeness in male/female union. Still, a true sacred sex society honors both male & female equally on all levels. It is neither matriarchal nor patriarchal. Early sacred sex societies of the Middle East did not reconcile male & female in their deities. Perhaps that, more than anything, explains why the early sacred sex societies didn't last. They were not 'true' sacred sex societies.

This leads to the larger picture of human evolution. The ultimate reason for the shift is that the world was rightly evolving toward a monotheistic view, an appreciation of a single, universal Deity that presides over all. The sacred sex societies of the Middle East clung to local deities and so were destined to be pushed aside. Unfortunately though, it would be thousands of years, up to our present time, before the world would evolve into a true sacred sex society, in which both male & female would be seen and honored in that single Deity. And the patriarchal era that we are now evolving out of, during which our limited vision has neglected the Divine Feminine, would be wracked by conflict.


The important message to take from our study of Mesopotamia is not just that sacred sex was part of humanity's ancient worldview. If only that, it would be easy to dismiss it as the imaginative musings of a primitive people. Rather, the main point is that in their simplicity of life, our early ancestors could not help but to take things at face value, and to see the world - and themselves - as they naturally are. This suggests that their view of the natural order of things is not more primitive, but rather closer to the simple truth than ours. It is we in modern society, with our man-made, artificial concepts and ideologies, who have likely strayed from the natural truth of things.

The ancient view was simple: life is sacred, and worldly events & acts, such as sex, the seasons, the bearing of children, and the growing and harvest of food, embody that sanctity. This view, that outer life reflects inner life, is seen throughout creation, and verified more & more by modern science. (For more on this, see Sacred Spirit, Sacred World.)

Next, let's step forward to a time when that simplicity of life came to be challenged, and was ultimately lost. For that, we must turn to another cradle -- the cradle of western religion: the Bible.

[This Forum Topic continues in the post below.]

For further reading on this Topic, try the following:
Sacred Sexuality, by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.
When God was a Woman, by Merlin Stone

For a more complete explanation and translation of the Hieros Gamos ritual described above, visit the Sacred Sex Text Archive.

Copyright 2005, Society for Sacred Sexuality - all rights reserved.

Sexual union is a mirror of Spiritual Union, and a gateway to direct experience of it.
Gary Joseph
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Early Sacred Sex Societies (cont.)    Posted: June 21, 2005 Reply with quote


The first shift toward patriarchal society in the cradle of civilization region came from the Old Testament Hebrews. The time period for this major transition is 2,000-1,000 BCE.

In order to accurately understand the events of this era, we must give it proper perspective. Our contemporary religious view of this period is overly simplistic. We see this time as a monotheistic intercession, and quickly dismiss everything before it as false pagan belief. Unfortunately, the Biblical evidence itself does not support that view. Rather, it suggests that the Old Testament builds on the lore of the civilizations that preceded it, even while radically adapting it to fit the new patriarchal worldview.

While that may sound like an extreme statement, consider these cornerstone Old Testament beliefs, and their likely origins as reconstructed from archeological finds:
  • Creation (Genesis 1.2-10) - the earlier Sumerian lore also held that the world was formed out of the watery abyss, and that the heavens and earth were divinely separated from one another;
  • Creation of man out of earth/clay (Genesis 2.7) as in the Sumerian version;
  • Creation of Eve out of Adam's rib (Genesis 2.21-22), like the Sumerian story of Ninti (literally, 'she who makes live') who cures Enki's rib (the Hebrew name for Eve, in Genesis 3.20, is 'Chavah', meaning 'life' or 'living');
  • Garden of Eden (Genesis 2.8-14), like the Sumerian 'Dilmun', is a pure and holy land, overflowing with sweet water, wherein the Sumerian god, like the Hebrew one, causes plants & trees to grow;
  • Adam & Eve/tree of knowledge of good & evil/serpent/fall of man (Genesis 3) - these draw on various Sumerian sources;
  • Noah & the flood (Genesis 6-8) - a nearly identical story exists in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, including saving all the animals;
  • Infant Moses (Exodus 2.3) - King Sargon of Accad was also left in a river basket as an infant and rose 'from an ark of bulrushes';
  • Parting of the sea (Exodus 14.21) - Sumerian god Marduk defeated the ocean goddess, Tiamat by splitting her apart;
  • The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20.3-17) - these bear resemblance to a list in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (written circa 1240 BCE, the same time generally attributed to the Exodus from Egypt).
Nearly all modern religious scholars acknowledge the borrowing of lore from other cultures. Yet few address the significance of it from a cultural or spiritual perspective. A perfect example is the story of Adam & Eve, which in many ways epitomizes the patriarchal worldview -- that everything was fine & dandy in Eden until Eve came along.

Yet the current interpretation of the Garden of Eden story is completely at odds with the context of Sumerian culture in which it evolved. Nowhere in the sacred sex culture of Mesopotamia do we see the idea that woman is responsible for humanity's trials & tribulations. Quite the opposite, she is the bringer of fortune in the form of fertility -- both human and agricultural. If this story does have the radically different meaning currently ascribed to it, why the similarities to Sumerian lore? Conversely, if the story does stem from Sumerian lore, why did the patriarchal religionists so distort its meaning? (For a truer understanding of the Adam & Eve story, see the Myth of Evil Forum.)

The Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) is another example. This Old Testament book has clear sacred sex overtones, said by many to be taken from the surrounding cultures. Among them are (from the King James Version):

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine."

"Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers...."

"A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts."

-- Solomon 1.2, 4, 13

"My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land...."

-- Solomon 2.10-12

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death...."

-- Solomon 8.6

Several of these verses in particular remind us of the early sacred sex cultures. Solomon 1.4 distinctly resembles the Hieros Gamos rite, associated with fertility of the land, and held at the onset of spring (Solomon 2.10-12). The last quoted verse, Solomon 8.6, clearly speaks of a love beyond the physical.

Included are even possible references to the goddesses of these cultures. Solomon 1.5 states, 'I am dark [literally dusky], and comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem....' This is commonly how the local goddesses, who were associated with night and the moon, were described.

This book of the Old Testament poses its own questions. If it does not draw on sacred sex culture, than why the similarities? If it does draw on that culture in a clearly sex-positive way, why is the rest of the Old Testament so sex-negative? Or why is it now interpreted to be devoid of the sacred sex content present in its origins?

Interpretational issues aside, the very fact that key Old Testament teachings draw on other sources raises important questions. Among them are:

If the Old Testament is divinely revealed to the Hebrews alone, and the historical facts pertaining to people and events therein are original, why the similarities to earlier traditions of the region? If we accept the Old Testament as religious Truth, and the earlier civilizations had similar lore, why do we belittle them as pagan or godless? And, if Old Testament culture evolved out of the earlier ones, as the evidence suggests, why do we not accept it as such, and view it historically that way?

The ramifications of doing so are great. It lets us view religion for what it truly is: a symbiotic relationship between God/dess & humanity that evolves (or devolves) as our vision of it changes.

God/dess means different things to different people, in different times and cultures. Our view of God is not the same today as it was in ancient times, nor is it the same in the east and west today. Each culture in every era worships (or doesn't) according to its own values; even within the same culture and religion, individuals worship according to their own hearts. We worship God in our image as much as He created us in His. This applies as much to the avatars (incarnations of God) and prophets who conceive religions as it does to the commoners who follow them. Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Mohammed, Abraham, Confucius, and others, all gave different expressions to God and religion. Are we to think one was 'right' and the rest wrong? Or rather that all express the Truth and that each simply gave a unique perspective on it. The latter seems more plausible. After all, if God created human beings in all their diversity - race, culture, language, lifestyle, etc. - why assume He does not accept and enjoy worship in many forms? And that includes those who see God as Goddess, or who see both together in Sacred Union.

The idea that religion differs across cultures, or changes across time, due to our different or changing spiritual views, should not offend religious people. Nor does it in any way diminish the truth of religion. Rather, it simply shows that God/dess accepts our love & worship in whatever form we desire to offer it, that best suits our view of ourselves, our world, and our Creator.

It also shows that the different religions of the world are not to be viewed as right or wrong, and fought over. Rather, we should appreciate that God has created different cultures across the globe, and each worships in a way that reflects its collective ideals.

The same holds true in our present context -- rather than viewing the earlier sacred sex cultures and later patriarchal ones in terms of right & wrong, we should simply see them in light of the changing worldview of the time: the transition to male dominated society. That certainly agrees with the historical evidence.

For those who still have difficulty with the idea of different or changing religious values, perhaps the clearest evidence is in the cradle of civilization itself. In the Middle East, we have the perfect example of religion changing over time, within the same tradition. Every Christian must accept this principle in order to explain the New Testament. If the Old Testament is God's Eternal Word, then why a New Testament? The only explanation, from a Christian view, is that God revealed a new religion because mankind was ready to receive it. And lest Christians today get too set in their current ideology, they should recall their own prophecy of a Second Coming, ushering in a very different world. We can presume that the religious precepts of that day will be vastly different even from the Christian ideals of today.

The same logic can even be applied to the Old Testament itself. If it is Eternal Truth for all time, why was it not given to mankind at the time of our creation? Why were all the people of the earth before Abraham deprived of this non-changing Covenant with God? The answer can only be that it came at a time when society was ready to receive it. Old Testament culture reflected those religious ideals.

(For a full discussion of the changing nature of religion, see the Changing Traditions Forum.)

A second relevant issue pertains to Old Testament authorship. Traditional thought attributes the 5 Books of Moses to Moses himself, though this is unlikely the case. The Old Testament is written more like a history book, and is likely the work of others who came later and recorded the stories that had been passed down through oral tradition. The oldest known Biblical record in the original Hebrew only dates to a few hundred BCE, supporting the view that written versions came after the fact. This casts the same shadow over the Old Testament as we'll later see over the New Testament -- that it was as much man's interpretation of revelation as it was revelation itself.

Thus in two ways does humanity, with all its fallibilities, play a role in religious 'Truth' -- we evolve (or receive in revelation) ideologies that reflect our cultural ideals, and we interpret and record religious teachings and events through our human vision. For both reasons then, it is useful to examine the Old Testament period (and any religious era) as a stage of human development like any other, and to question it, rather than blindly following it, neglecting the human influence.

Seeing religious history this way helps us learn more about the cultural ideals that gave rise to different ideologies over the ages. Just as we found the spiritual egalitarianism and goddess reverence of the sacred sex cultures in their simple lives, connection to nature, and awe of feminine mysteries, so can we examine the roots of later patriarchal views. In doing so, shortcomings and limitations that we may find do not indicate untruth of the religion. Every belief structure is appropriate for its place & time. It merely acknowledges that from our modern, more enlightened viewpoint, we can envision a healthier, more holistic relationship with God/dess. Accepting this view is one way of showing that we are ready for such an enlightened relationship, and hastening its arrival on earth.

The view of patriarchal religion growing out of the male-dominated society of the time, and ousting other views by subjugation & force (even if in the name of religion), fits more with the historical evidence and logic than does the idea of monotheistic revelation that simply steps in to supersede the past. This then is how we will view the transition during the time of the Old Testament Hebrews.

With this rather long perspective, let's look at Old Testament culture, including its patriarchal beliefs & ideals, and the Hebrew conflicts with the sacred sex societies that came before.

The first and major hallmark of patriarchal society is male domination. We already mentioned the combination of factors that likely gave rise to this one-sided worldview. At its core is the idea that man is central to the progress of civilization, and to its spiritual essence, and woman is at best his 'help-mate', and at worst, a thorn in his side -- the cause of his fall from Grace. In the context of religion, the question we must ask ourselves is this: does it meet the spiritual ideal of wholeness? Everything we know of spirituality today is holistic -- words like unity, harmony, balance, and love, best express this view. Such an ideal must accommodate male and female equally.

The idea of a supreme male deity is not in itself a cause for conflict with the sacred sex cultures that came earlier. In fact, it can be seen as a positive step for the multi-god/dess cultures it grew out of; it brings an ordered hierarchy to the spiritual realm. Conflict arose out of a misunderstanding of the implications of such an ideology. This can best be shown by examining two of the Ten Commandments, the core of Old Testament belief.

The very first Commandment states, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Nowhere in this is implied that lesser gods do not exist, or should not be honored or worshipped; only that they are not to be held higher than the Supreme God.

Indeed, in government, which can be said to be God's vocation, such hierarchy of rule is not only common, but expected and needed. Low level government officials carry out the bidding of, and answer to, higher ups, ultimately serving the ruler of the land.

A more apt comparison is God's creation itself. Every scientist knows that the universe functions according to natural laws. These laws function at different levels, in hierarchical order. Today, scientists are attempting to develop a unified field theory -- one supreme law that governs creation, under which all other laws act. The existence of such a law in no way negates the presence or power of lesser laws.

The ancients simply personified these laws in the form of gods & goddesses. Thus deities presided over the seasons, rain, fertility, harvest, and the like, in the same way we know the laws of nature that govern these functions. Acknowledging, honoring, and/or worshipping them is not an affront to God, but rather an appreciation of His various powers.

By the same token, nowhere in this Commandment is it implied that the Supreme God does not, or cannot, have a partner Goddess alongside. Indeed, many of the Hebrews continued in the old ways and worshipped the Goddess in the name of Asherah, Ashtoreth, or Astarte-Anath, as the consort of Yahweh (the Old Testament name for God). Archeological finds suggest that such worship may have continued for over a thousand years. Among them are inscriptions that read, 'I bless you by Yhwh of Samaria and his Asherah', and, 'to Yhwh and his Asherah' (in the original Hebrew, Yahweh is written without vowels, as 'Yhwh').

Acknowledging the Divine Feminine is not cause for gender wars; rather it is an appreciation of a particular divine attribute. God & Goddess are not separate Beings vying for supremacy; they are two attributes of the same Divine Being. What's more, we already acknowledge both attributes in God, even in our patriarchal religions. If one religion chooses to view these as God & Goddess, while the other sees them both in God, why is this cause for war? (For a full explanation of what that the divine attributes are, and their relationship, see the God/Goddess Forum.)

The Second Commandment states, 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image....nor serve them.' This prohibits worship of physical images as sacred. The misunderstanding here is that the early sacred sex societies did not worship the image itself, but rather God in the image. Certainly the Old Testament Hebrews believed in the Omnipresence of God -- that He is present throughout creation, in all things. To worship God in the world is to acknowledge His Presence here. Our earliest ancestors simply chose images that, to them, best reminded them of that presence, and worshipped God (or His many Powers, the gods) in those forms. The Old Testament Commandment likely came at a time when the subtle appreciation of God's presence in every material thing was fading, and the images and idols were more often worshipped in and of themselves, not for the Divine Presence within them. Thus it was appropriate to put an end to that practice.

The appropriateness of the Commandment for the time however, does not establish it as an eternal injunction. In fact, logic suggests that it is a more evolved form of worship. It is one thing to acknowledge God's existence; it is something more to also acknowledge His Immanent Presence among us, here in the world.

Indeed, even Christianity poses a challenge to this Commandment. The Old Testament holds God as Formless; to worship Him in the body of Christ (or more directly, in the form of a painting or sculpted image of Christ) goes against this (the Jewish messiah is taken to be a man acting in God's Will, not God Himself). Christian Communion - partaking of the Blood & the Body of Christ in the form of wine & wafer - is another example. Every Christian understands that the wine and wafer are not holy in & of themselves, but in that they bring Communion with Christ -- Divine Presence is felt in the form of what is eaten. It is no more correct to label our ancestors idol worshippers as it is to call modern Christians wine & wafer, or crucifix, worshippers. To accept their own religion and its customs, Christians must understand this Commandment in the context of the time.

As a final point, it is worth noting how this Commandment pertains to sacred sex. In sacred sex, the body is seen as a temple of God, infused with Divine Presence. Thus any worship of it, whether in the form of a temple priestess or one's lover, is a worship of the Divine in the body, not the body itself. Furthermore, the custom we've seen of temple priestesses invoking the presence of the Goddess for their sex rites is a practice of awakening to the Divine Presence in oneself. Certainly if God (and all His Powers, or god/desses) are present everywhere, they are within us. And recognizing that Divine Presence in ourselves is central to the very goal of religion, which is God-Realization. Thus, to the temple priestess, invoking the goddess was part of her spiritual practice.

In India, this is a well-known path to spiritual enlightenment. Dancers and other artists invoke a particular attribute or power of God/dess they feel especially attuned to, and let it express itself through them. Thus they identify with that Divine Presence, ultimately realizing themselves to Be that. Like the Christian Communion, they become one with God by communing with that Presence.

In the Middle East, as before, this Commandment likely came at a time when people were losing the appreciation of Divine Presence in the body. More and more, the body and the sex act were being worshipped in & of themselves, not for the Divine Presence in them. Though this practice may therefore have been appropriately prohibited by this Commandment, we can envision a time when it will again be honored, through a revival of true sacred sex teaching. (For a full discussion of the idea of God/dess within the body, see the Sacred Body Forum.)

These understandings of the Commandments explain the conflicts the Hebrews had with the surrounding sacred sex cultures. They also explain how today we can move beyond these conflicts to a fuller, more evolved religious relationship with our Creator. This harmonious, inclusive spirituality not only accepts the truth of the earlier ideologies, but also satisfies them in a complete way.

However, the Hebrews of the Old Testament didn't view things this way, and followed the exhortations of the Commandments as they perceived them to subjugate the surrounding cultures. These conflicts, which spanned a 1,000+ year period, comprise the bulk of the Old Testament record.

Exodus 34.12-14 is but one of many similar Old Testament injunctions to wage this 'holy war':

"Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest....But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god...."

But the real conflict was not as cut & dry as the ideology implies. Several factors muddied the ground on which the battle for humanity's soul was fought:
  • many of the Hebrews themselves had roots in the old sacred sex societies, and did not easily give them up;
  • intermarriage between the cultures blurred divisions;
  • many Hebrews tried to integrate the old ways into the new monotheism;
  • over and over, the Hebrews themselves strayed from their teaching; and,
  • the old ways proved to be very deep rooted and resilient.
The above Exodus passage is a good example of the entangled conflict. The 'groves' that Yahweh orders cut down are (from the original Hebrew) Asherah trees. These were poles erected in honor of the goddess Asherah in some of the sacred sex cultures. Earlier we mentioned inscriptions showing that Asherah was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh by many Israelites themselves. This gives a glimpse of the intermingling of ideas and cultures of the time.

Other passages show intermarriage between the Hebrews and women of the surrounding sacred sex cultures. The most infamous example of this was the great King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom:

"But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites:

"Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.

"And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart."

-- 1 Kings 11.1-3

Still other passages indicate the even deeper familial conflicts. In 1 Kings 15.13, a Hebrew king removes his own mother as queen because she worshipped Asherah. In 2 Kings 21.1-7, a Hebrew king himself erects an altar to Asherah in the Jerusalem temple. Then in Hosea 1.2-9, Yahweh instructs Hosea to take a wife from one of the sacred sex cultures, and bear children by her, that He may use them against the Hebrews themselves, for their transgression in following in the old ways.

With all the above factors at work, it is no surprise that despite all attempts by the patriarchal religionists to eradicate the surrounding cultures, they co-existed (in conflict) for a millennium or more. Earlier we cited male domination as a major hallmark of patriarchal society. There is little doubt that this trait was a major contributing factor to this conflict. Over the course of the protracted fight however, we see a secondary theme of patriarchal society, the flip-side of male domination: the suppression of women and denigration of sex.

Often in the Old Testament, the exhortations against the surrounding cultures are fueled by sexual imagery that, while drawn from the religious practices of the time, is utterly stripped of its spiritual essence. Thus in the eyes of the Hebrews, sex was synonymous with the loathsome religions of the day. Some examples:

"For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee."

-- Psalms 73.27

"And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them."

-- 1 Chronicles 5.25

The major thrust against sex by the Old Testament Hebrews stems from the misunderstood Second Commandment, discussed earlier. When we fail to appreciate the Divine Presence in physical form, sex loses its sacred nature. Then, rather than a means to commune with the Divine, it becomes an obsessive distraction to it. Thus the patriarchal religionists slandered and fought against it.

Some assert that the patriarchs developed their anti-sex views because they saw the temple priestesses, and their sacred sex rites, as threats to their power. If the male religious leaders were to be the go-betweens for God and men, women and the idea of sacred sex as holy communion must be removed. And so they pronounced sex evil, and kept women out of religious leadership. If true, this helps explain why the patriarchs focused so much of their destructive efforts against the priestess leaders.

The Old Testament impact on sacred sex can be summed up in the re-labeling of the temple priestess as a temple prostitute. From there, it was but a minor omission to drop the word 'temple'. Thus, the once honored and venerated emissaries of the Goddess, who shared Her Love and brought Her blessings to society in the form of food and progeny, came to be despised and scorned as harlots. What was once sacred was now reviled; patriarchal ideology supplanted the more gender-balanced view.

It is vital to note that this is strictly a cultural bias. We have already seen how sacred sex was a genuine spiritual practice to the ancient civilizations. Yet simply because the patriarchs didn't appreciate that sacred value, they vilified it as irreligious. Such bias shapes our view of history and other peoples. Over time, it gets ingrained in our very upbringing and education, shaping our values and reality (for ways of de-programming society of its false values, see the Public Education Forum). With respect to the sacred sex culture of the early Middle East, this distortion is cemented today in our translations of the Old Testament. The meaning we attach to the original words is so perverted that we have a degraded image of the people and of that time.

A graphic example of this is Deuteronomy 23.17, in which God decrees (if we're to believe the modern translation) that 'There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.' The original Hebrew words used here are qedeshah and qadesh, which derive from a root meaning 'holy' or 'ceremonially or morally clean'. The terms then literally translate as holy woman and man, respectively. In fact, the root - qadash - is exactly the same as that of one of the holiest pronouncements of God in Judaism:

"...Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."

-- Isaiah 6.3

The phrase "Holy, holy, holy" translates from qadosh, qadosh, qadosh, derived from the root qadash.

The description of these men and women as holy certainly fits in the context of sacred sex practice known at that time. Indeed, the terms linguistically correspond to qadishtu, one of the classes of Babylonian temple priestesses mentioned earlier. Yet the modern translation of these words into whore and sodomite greatly distorts the picture of what we take to be Biblical 'Truth'. The same mistranslations are found in Genesis 38.21 and 1 Kings 15.12. In fact, every occurrence of the word 'Sodomite' in the Old Testament is mistranslated this way.

Unfortunately, history is written by the victors as they say, so the sacred sex societies of our ancient past remain colored by the glasses through which we view them.

To be fair, by no means was all sexual practice in the region at the time sacred, whether by priestesses in the temples or the common people. By the time of the Old Testament Hebrews, profane sex had replaced much of the sacred. In view of the time context for religion that we discussed earlier, this is likely the reason that the Old Testament teaching came forth when it did -- to bring a more restrained set of beliefs and customs appropriate to the changing civilization.

Even by that token however, the patriarchs differed from the early sacred sex societies. Whereas our earliest ancestors would have simply viewed it as natural everyday sex, the patriarchal religionists viewed all but the relations between husband & wife as sacrilege.

Husband/wife relations were in fact, one of the few bright spots concerning Old Testament sexuality. While reference to its sacred value was not mentioned, the partaking & enjoyment of its pleasures was:

"Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love."

-- Proverbs 5.19

Sadly though, the Hebrews could not see the sacred value in the love act itself, and accept it more widely into their spiritual practice.

In the end, for the most part, the patriarchs won out; the Hebrews overtook the sacred sex cultures in the holy land, and patriarchal warring degraded the sacred sex cultures elsewhere in the region.

Without the institutionalized support from temple religions and accepting governments, sacred sex largely faded from public memory, though its customs, most notably the tradition of temple priestesses, continued for another 1,500 years or more. However, for the most part, the priestesses had become what the patriarchs made them out to be: sacred prostitutes -- sexual servants sponsored by local temples. (While temple religions still existed outside the Hebrew homeland, they had lost most of their sense of sacred sex; thus as institutions, they did little to sustain the true practice, acting instead in a more patriarchal way, like spiritual pimps to the communities.)

This is not to say that sacred sex did not survive the Old Testament era. Indeed, it proved more deeply rooted than it appears from a cursory review of history. Not only did pockets of genuine practice continue in some temples, but also much of the teaching went underground. Secret societies were formed to preserve the old traditions; these came to be known as Mystery Schools. We'll learn more about those in the next section.

In closing the chapter on the Old Testament Hebrews, one highly noteworthy point must be made. Throughout the Old Testament we find references to Israel (or Jerusalem) as the wife of Yahweh. Even though most cite the negative side of the relationship (Israel's unfaithfulness), it nevertheless shows that even the Old Testament Hebrews conceived the idea that spiritual wholeness is a male/female union. This alone makes the Old Testament culture a sacred sex society in the highest sense of the term. It's a shame that they could not have seen this in themselves, consummated it in the flesh, and lived in peace with the sacred sex societies around them.

Some examples of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel:

"For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name...."

-- Isaiah 54.5

" covenant they [broke], although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD...."

-- Jeremiah 31.32

"....Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? She is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not....[And when I saw all the causes]....I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce...."

-- Jer. 3.6-8

"Come back, O children who are turned away, says the Lord; for I am a husband to you...."

-- Jer. 3.14; Bible in Basic English

"Truly, as a wife is false to her husband, so have you been false to me, O Israel, says the Lord."

-- Jer. 3.20; Bible in Basic English

In light of this, it's unfortunate that many patriarchal religions today view female empowerment in general, and their involvement in religious teaching specifically, as ideological threats. Nothing could be further from the truth. The re-emergence of gender equality in religion shows an evolution in our relationship with God/dess. It shows we acknowledge that both genders are sacred, and that love between the genders, not dominion of one over the other, best reflects the Divine Love of our Creator. Indeed, if we are to follow the Old Testament injunction, we should collectively view ourselves as feminine in our relationship with Him. Who better to lead us in upholding our side of this sacred marriage than women? It is sad to see women struggle against this discrimination, while blindly following the one-sided patriarchal ideologies that support it.

In the next section, we'll look at the more secular side of patriarchal society, and its impact on sacred sex. For that, we must turn to yet another cradle -- the cradle of modern western civilization: Greece.

[This Forum Topic continues in the post below.]

For further reading on this Topic, try the following:
The Hebrew Goddess, by Raphael Patai
When God was a Woman, by Merlin Stone

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Sex in the Cradle (cont.)    Posted: June 21, 2005 Reply with quote


Greece in the millennium before Christ - the height of its influence - did not have the patriarchal influence from religion that we saw in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the sacred sex culture that had spread to the Mediterranean was still strongly impacted by patriarchal ideology, this time in a secular way -- through the rise of male-dominated philosophy & ethics.

What is interesting is that this led to a much different culture than was developing in Old Testament Israel. Whereas the Hebrews subjugated the early sacred sex cultures through a general prohibition against sex (and polytheism), the Greeks instead embraced sexuality (for the most part), but took many of the sacred sex customs, gave them a male slant, and used them to suppress the rights and powers of women.

Thus, the Greeks both contributed to and detracted from sacred sex tradition in society. Unfortunately, even in embracing sacred sex ideas, the male-bias inherently brought a loss of wholeness that dissipated much of sex's sacred value. Let's start with the positive and see where sacred sex went astray.

The Greek contribution to sacred sex can be summed up in one word: Eros. To the Greeks, Eros was the glue or magnetism that holds the universe together. It is the interrelatedness of all life, and the harmony between all beings.

Today, most people equate the word Eros with love and sexuality. There is good reason for that, but Eros is so much more. Love and lovemaking, in bringing people together in union, were part of Eros, but a fuller definition is what we would call 'God's Love' -- that all-attracting force that makes creation a unified diversity, a uni-verse. To the Greeks, human love and sexuality were simply ways to participate in that greater Eros.

Eros is not the physical sex act itself; it is the meaningful connection you feel during sex. That connectedness is not just with your immediate partner, but rather to creation as a whole. You feel a sense of belonging, inclusion, and oneness with creation during sex. That experience, which is exactly what sacred sex creates, is Eros.

Unfortunately, like so many sacred sex ideas, Eros has been demonized by modern religionists and moralists, who equate it with lust & sin. But to the Greeks who evolved the idea, it was exactly the opposite. One hymn to Eros, whom the Greeks personified as a god, calls him "great, pure, lovely, and sweet", and requests him to rid the heart of evil. Thus Eros is purifying, not degrading.

In his Symposium, Plato notes the distinction between sacred and profane love, and describes Eros as the driving power that leads the soul from physical love all the way up to the love of everlasting 'ideas', Plato's version of eternal Truths. Benjamin Jowett, in his Introduction to the Symposium, comments:

"Plato seems also to be aware that there is a mystery of love not only in nature, but in man, extending far beyond the mere immediate relation of the sexes. He is conscious that the highest and noblest things in the world are not easily severed from the sensual desires, or may even be regarded as a spiritualized form of them.... Love is with Plato not merely the feeling usually so called, but the mystical contemplation of the beautiful and the good. The same passion which may wallow in the mire is capable of rising to the highest summit -- of penetrating to the inmost secret of philosophy."

While these ideas, like most ancient sacred sex understanding, have largely faded from view, some traces of sacred sex have come down to us from Greece, hidden right before our eyes...or rather, ears. Perhaps the best legacy left behind by the Eros-loving Greeks is the word 'orgasm'. This term, which describes the typical goal of sex, comes from the Greek root orgas, which means - in language strikingly reminiscent of the sacred sex connection between human & agricultural fertility - a 'well-watered, fertile spot of land; a rich tract of land sacred to the gods and goddesses' (Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon).

Another term has similar sacred sex meaning, although this one has been turned completely upside down. The word 'orgy', today viewed as a hedonistic debauchery, comes from the Greek root orgia, meaning 'secret rites, secret worship, practised [sic] by the initiated'. This term was likely used to describe the Hieros Gamos rites practiced by the early sacred sex cultures.

Unfortunately, the Eros-centered sexual ideals of Greece did not translate into a genuine sacred sex society, due to the patriarchal bias attached to it. Instead, a male-dominated society emerged, with only sacred sex vestiges. Cursory thought might assume this patriarchal society to resemble the one rising in the Middle East out of the Old Testament influence, but this was not so. The reason was the style of male domination. While the transition to patriarchy in the Middle East was driven by religion, Greek patriarchy was fueled by its secular counterpart: philosophical ethics. This led the Greeks down a different road with regard to sex. Whereas the Hebrews downplayed it entirely, the Greeks embraced it, but from a very male-centric view.

It is not possible to say exactly what compelled the male oriented sexual views held by the Greeks. It is not even possible to know for sure that such ideas belonged to the masses, or whether they were only those of the prominent philosophers, from whom we have our image of ancient Greece. A likely scenario is that the male philosophers, seeing their gender as the thinker leaders of the day (in Plato's words, 'philosopher kings'), and dismissed the value of women in society, except to serve men. This idea was then institutionalized through law and custom, and filtered down to the masses.

A more critical view of the male philosophers is that in all their pondering over sex and ethics, they came to fear their own sexual desires, and so sought to limit the power of women to influence them. This may not be far from the truth, in that it fits with the view that women and their sexuality stand in the way of patriarchal goals. To the Old Testament Hebrews, those goals were of worship and obedience to God. To the Greeks, they were the creation of civil society. In either case, it is sad thinking that women are responsible for male weaknesses, whether religious or secular. If man has not found God, or achieved something in worldly life, is woman to blame? Psychologists today would call it denial -- refusal to take responsibility for one's own life.

Whatever the underlying cause, it gave rise to axioms like the following, from Pythagoras. Best known as the 'Father of Mathematics', he likely did not please his mother with this statement regarding the origin of man & woman: "There is a good principle, which has created order, light, and man; and a bad principle, which has created chaos, darkness, and woman." Misogyny aside, the statement is plain false, as it rests on the false principle of dualism. For a complete understanding of this, see the Myth of Evil Forum.)

Aristotle made a similar blunt assertion: "....the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled....' (Politics Bk. 1, Ch. 5).

These ideas, and others like them, dug the foundation for Greek patriarchal society. But the male philosophers were not the only contributors; strong military, athletic, and political subcultures, all dominated by men, fed the patriarchal ideology. This male-centric view was institutionalized into law by Solon in 594 BCE. Under it, women had virtually no rights. All this led classical scholar Eva Keuls, in her book The Reign of the Phallus, to refer to ancient Greece (known today as the mother of democracy) as a 'phallocracy'.

Indeed, the odd mix of sacred sex in a patriarchal society produced exactly that. To explore how it showed itself in ancient Greek culture, we must look to the twin ruler of the time. For alongside any phallocracy, phallic worship invariably co-reigns, whether overtly or disguised as the underlying ideal of male supremacy. In the case of the Greeks, it was both.

We have already discussed the idea of worshipping the Divine and its powers in physical form (see Part II - The Old Testament). In so far as a culture honors God/dess in the form, and not the idol itself, it is a valid form of worship. We can assume, from the Greek idea of Eros, that to some extent anyway, this was the case. The only issue then is that the Greeks didn't give as much reverence to the Divine Feminine. With that perspective, let's look at how the patriarchy showed its love for Eros.

Archeological finds and accounts of the time include many instances in which the phallus, or its representation, made an appearance.

Nudity in Greece was openly accepted. The human body was like that of the gods, a thing of beauty; to show it was to honor the gods. Thus in the fields, in athletics, in bath houses, on the battlefield, on stage, at festivals, and out on the street, it was not uncommon to see a nude (typically male) body. The word gymnasium, which in ancient Greece was often a place of general education, comes from the Greek gumnos [gymnos], meaning 'naked'. Socrates even advocated nudity as a form of honesty.

The Greeks also accepted the connection between human & agricultural fertility that we saw in the early sacred sex cultures. In a carry-over from the ancient sacred sex fertility rites, the Greeks associated the genitalia with cornucopia, the horn of plenty.

To many, exposing the genitals was a way to ward off evil and bad luck. This is not surprising given the embodiment of Eros there. Interestingly, this custom was adopted much later by churches in Great Britain, many of which are adorned with images of women, called 'sheela-na-gigs', displaying their genitals to keep evil at bay.

Phallic representations were also commonly shown in public. To invoke virility & fertility, Greek men and women alike waved wooden phalluses during religious processions. They also placed phallic images at their doors and at gravesites as a sign of protection, practices that were later copied by Rome. The following two images from ancient Pompeii are likely similar to what could be found in Greece:

Left-hand image is from a Roman home;
inscription reads, 'here dwells happiness'

While phallic worship was clearly more prevalent, the female genitalia was not entirely ignored. As in other early sacred sex cultures, women's wombs were associated with earth, fruit, caves, shells, and even doorways -- places from where life emerges. Fertility goddesses were often depicted with the cornucopia, mentioned earlier.

Still, the phallus was supreme in Greece, and worship of it reached its height in the god Priapus. In the Greek pantheon of deities, Priapus was Aphrodite's 'deformed' son. Quotes are used because many men of today (and indeed, women) would hardly call it a deformity. Priapus's physical aberration consisted of a huge, ever-erect phallus. The virility he represents must have enduring appeal, for even today when visiting Greece, it is common to find souvenir sculptures of this well-endowed deity.

In reviewing the open sexuality of early Greece, remember that such displays were not considered obscene. This is a moral judgment applied millennia later by conditioned religionists & puritans. To the Greeks, the phallus (and also the 'cteis', or female genitalia) embodied Eros, the unifying bond of love & life. Adorning themselves and their homes with it, and waving it in processions, were simply ways of honoring Eros. In that light, it is more proper to call it Eros worship than phallus worship.

The philosopher Voltaire echoed this sentiment in his following comment on Priapus worship:

Voltaire said:
"Our ideas of propriety lead us to suppose that a ceremony which appears to us so infamous could only be invented by licentiousness; but it is impossible to believe that depravity of manners would ever have led among any people to the establishment of religious ceremonies. It is probable, on the contrary, that this custom was first introduced in times of simplicity, that the first thought was to honor the deity in the symbol of life which it has given us."

Our prudish cultural bias leads to much cultural misinterpretation. As a graphic example, Greek art is filled with winged penises, often being ridden by women. Most modern scholars dismiss these as the erotic musings of a phallic culture. But to the Greeks, this was a portrayal of the capacity of sex to uplift us through Eros. They saw in the word pteros, which means 'wing', the ending -eros, and so used wings to represent their loftiest sexual ideals. Thus winged sexual organs signified sacred sex to the Greeks.

Like the patriarchal Hebrews though, the phallus worshipping Greek culture had a flip-side -- the denigration of women. This is reflected in the common Greek attitude toward sex: that it was meant mainly for male pleasure. In many ways, the almighty phallus was a weapon, not a pleasure-giver. Women not only had few rights as mentioned earlier, but they were also treated as property & slaves. To the typical Greek man, a wife was merely a child bearer and domestic servant; the idea of giving her pleasure was uncommon. Often, men did not even seek their own pleasure in their wives, but rather found it in prostitutes, and even then, commonly among young boys.

Indeed, Greek male-centeredness was so strong that Plato, in noting the distinction between sacred and profane love (mentioned earlier, from his Symposium), went on to say that the former is achievable by men alone. This, and similar sexist views, justified the limited opportunities for women in early Greece.

This is most evident in the different status of women working in the temples dedicated to Greek goddesses. Unlike their earlier sisters in Middle Eastern Sumer, Greek temple maidens were typically there in forced servitude or due to financial need. And while there were certainly genuine priestess-types who offered themselves as embodiments of their temple goddess, they were by this time outnumbered by temple prostitutes who knew and practiced only a shadow of sacred sex. Still, there were exceptions to this reduced status, but this occurred outside the temple setting, and had more to do with social graces than with sacred sex.

Following are the main classes of women in early Greece:
  • Housewives - these married women often remained cloistered in the home where their virtue and usefulness - but not sexuality - were preserved (sexuality was reserved for the other classes of women);
  • Hierodule (literally 'temple servant') - temple priestesses, often dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, who served in the tradition of early sacred sex cultures;
  • Temple prostitutes - lesser status women who also served in the temple, but whose sense of sacred sex was likely limited to soothing the aggressions & passions of men, thus making them more fit for civil society;
  • Hetaerae - these high-class courtesans of the wealthy, who were not associated with temples and knew little of sacred sex, enjoyed more social status than any other women (some became so wealthy and powerful that they at times ruled various cities or were deified after death; others made great contributions to Greek society);
  • Auletrides - a lesser educated and prominent class of courtesans primarily known for their singing, dancing, & musical talents;
  • Dicteriades - common prostitutes who worked in brothels, taverns, and on the streets, and who simply struggled to survive; they served the many commoners, and as an indication of their popularity, tax revenues from their earnings were enough to finance a temple dedicated to Aphrodite; and
  • Common slaves - women who were at the domestic & sexual mercy of their male owners.
Despite the reduced status of women serving in the temples, their numbers testify to the strength of the tradition that grew out of the earlier sacred sex cultures. Accounts tell us that female temple servants numbered in the thousands in Corinth and at other sites. It's only unfortunate that they didn't practice and share the same sacred sex that their earlier Middle Eastern sisters did.

Thus, early Greek civilization had a mixed, but generally detracting impact on sacred sex culture in the world. The Greek era, together with the Old Testament period in the Middle East, began to firmly establish the patriarchal ideology. As male-dominant society became more entrenched, the sacred sex ways of our early ancestors faced extinction. Truth however, cannot be so easily vanquished, and the guardians of sacred sex found ways to persevere in the hostile environment, taking their teaching underground. Thus sacred sex practice took on a new, hidden face. Despite mainstream social opposition, sex-centered spirituality did not disappear, but rather survived, and in some cases, thrived in the form of secret mystery schools.

Of course, participants of such groups did not see their practice as secret or mysterious; they were simply preserving and following the truth of life as they knew it, and had been practiced in our earliest societies. Mystery schools were predominant in the Mediterranean region, to where the main focus of civilization had by that time shifted from the Middle East. Greece was a significant center of such schools, which were typically, in the tradition of the early temple priestesses, dedicated to gods & goddesses. Among the notables were followers of Aphrodite & Adonis, Demeter and Persephone, Dionysos, and Orpheus. Other mystery schools sprang up in Rome (dedicated to Cybele & Attis), and Egypt (devoted to Isis & Osiris).

Each school practiced its own flavor of sacred sex, some closer to its original roots, and others distorted or perverted by time and oppression. Followers of Demeter, 'Grain Mother' to the Greeks, were said by some scholars to use hallucinogenic molds growing on grains to achieve ecstatic sexual states. Women of the Dionysian school attempted to transcend the stifling repression of the time (and through that presumably, their own mental constraints) by engaging in uninhibited group sex, typically under the influence of wine, which was closely associated with Dionysos.

One of the more significant, and seemingly purer, mystery religions was Orphism, which emerged in Greece around 500 BCE. It is notable for both its positive and negative influence. On the plus side, genuine spiritual ideals pervaded its sex rites, including a refined view of 'ecstatic enthusiasm' (from the Greek enthousiasmos, literally 'infused with the divine'). Orphics believed liberation came by fully identifying with the Divine, which they attempted to achieve through their sexual rituals. This was clearly a highly evolved sacred sex idea.

The negative Orphic influence stems from their exaggerated idea that the body is impure, and a drag on the soul. While a balanced view would have accepted their spiritual practice as a means to cleanse the body, the Orphics saw the body as inherently defiled, to the point where salvation was perhaps not possible in this life, but only in the afterlife. Somewhere along the line, lower human nature, which can be uplifted to a higher state, was mistaken for irredeemable evil nature. This unfortunate misconception may have later influenced Gnosticism, eventually becoming a doctrine of mainstream Christianity. If so, it is ironic that a sacred sex mystery school is responsible for one of modern religion's most sexually repressing beliefs. For a full discussion of why this thinking is misguided, see the Myth of Evil Forum.

If the theory of Orphic influence on Christianity is true, it also brings fitting end to our discussion of sacred sex in the cradle of civilization. For now we have not only the foundation of patriarchal culture, with its antipathy toward women & sexuality, but also the idea of inherent impurity of the body, which sows the seed for the complete split between sex & spirit that is preached by mainstream Christianity. For a full discussion of western sexuality in the Christian era, see the Sex in the West Forum.


Summary & Conclusion - Sacred Sex in the Cradle of Civilization

It is clear that our early ancestors, particularly the culture of Sumer in the Middle East, had a sacred view of sexuality. It is not important whether they had highly evolved practices for evoking genuine exalted sacred sex experience; they at least had a sense that sex was sacred.

This culture persisted until around 1,000 BCE, when patriarchal ideologies began to take hold in the Middle East, and later in Greece. These new cultures either subjugated sex altogether, or emphasized the male side of it at the expense of the female. In both cases, the result was the gradual loss of sacred sexual values in the developing western world.

This erosion of sacred sexuality continued, and even intensified, with the dawn of the Christian era -- a trend that has remained strong even to recent times. For a full discussion of this, see the Sex in the West Forum.

The current generation however, is witnessing a sacred sex revival. Not only is a general sense of the sacred returning to sex, but also specific practical techniques are coming to light to give real experience of it. This is leading us to another cultural transition, and a new stage of civilization.

As we head toward this, it is important to keep in mind that a modern sacred sex revival is not an overthrow of patriarchal society, or a return to matriarchal society (as some call it). Both these are one-sided and non-holistic in their views. Rather, sacred sex is about union and honoring both genders as equally divine. In that sense, it is an addition to, and the fulfillment of, each of the societies of our past.

We must remember that the image of the aggressive, judgmental male and the submissive, sensual female are both only half-truths of who we are. Indeed, just as patriarchal society is marked by conflict & strife, so did the peaceful matriarchal societies arguably suffer from lack of innovation & progress. Problems are not due to patriarchal or matriarchal society; they are due to partial truths. Sacred sex brings both peace to men, and creative power to women, making both genders more balanced, and society both progressive AND peaceful.

In the end, sacred sex makes us more whole - male & female both - as in the image of our Creator God & Goddess. Society too becomes a holistic expression, capable of greatness. In that, sacred sex is a cultural ideal that men and women can equally support.


Bibliography and further reading:
Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., Sacred Sexuality (Inner Traditions, 2003)
Thomas Moore, The Soul of Sex (New York: HarperCollins, 1998)

Copyright 2005, Society for Sacred Sexuality - all rights reserved.

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Sex in the Cradle    Posted: July 9, 2005 Reply with quote

Wow -- this is really fascinating.

Why don't we ever hear about this? Sad

we all have to start somewhere...
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Sex in the Cradle    Posted: July 9, 2005 Reply with quote

It's because the knowledge of sacred sex has been lost over the millennia. So when archeologists & research scholars come across findings from early civilizations, they only see them as primitive sex rituals, and dismiss their significance. Lttle mention of it is made, and as a result, we don't hear about it.

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    Posted: July 13, 2005 Reply with quote

Wow Shock
I just stayed up till 2 am reading this. Very interesting stuff.

About Sumerian priestesses: I remember a part of the story of Gilgamesh where Gilgamesh's future friend Enkidu(I think that's his name) is sort of a wild animal-man living out in nature. Enkidu starts to annoy the local hunters, so they get the temple to send a priestess to tame him. After she spends a few nights with him (doing what I wonder? Mr Green ) he is ready to enter society as a man who is no longer living with nature. I'm not really sure what the meaning of this part of the story is, and for all I know there could be some mistranslation. Plus, there are probably more sexual details that were left out by the translator because they may have seemed unimportant. Eye Roll

I have another theory (of my own, I guess) to add to the list of things that helped kick off the un-sacred view on sexuality:

Suppose that incest was a common practice among pre-historic hunter/gatherer tribes, especially if there population wasn't very high. And suppose that they finally figured out the relationship between sex and childbirth, and realized the negative repurcussions of incest; then it makes sense that they would try to control the women in order to keep the bloodlines from mixing. The downside of course is that once these groups of poeple started settling in agricultural communities (probably along with other groups) and populations started skyrocketing, the men kept control over sexuality even though they didn't really need to.

OK, I'm done. Time to sleep. Shhh

I hope I made sense to everyone. Goodnight.
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Gilgamesh / incest theory    Posted: July 13, 2005 Reply with quote

Yes, I came across the Gilgamesh epic too. To my knowledge it is the oldest written story on record. Actually, the sexual details you refer to were not left out; the tale is very explicit about their activities for "six days and seven nights".

I didn't include it in my lessons for a number of reasons:

1) It is very long, and to be frank, I didn't want to take the time to pore through the entire thing in an attempt to glean the full meaning.

2) I could not find a version in the original Akkadian text, with literal translation (including word etymologies), so I couldn't verify the correctness of the translation. As you pointed out, and I discovered many times in researching other parts of these lessons, mistranslation is common in these texts.

3) The part relating the sexual encounter, in the translation I found, implies that the 'harlot' (as she's called in the story) is specifically there to drain Enkidu's energy. If that's true, the story doesn't qualify as a lesson in sacred sex, as that's NOT the aim of sacred sex.

4) The effect of the sexual encounter on Enkidu - that he was no longer wild and of nature, but wanting to be civilized - can be interpreted in different ways, both positive (becoming civilized) and negative (losing natural innocence). Not having read the entire Epic, I didn't want to presume that I was interpreting it correctly.

For these reasons, I didn't include the story. Those interested in reading it and drawing their own conclusions can view one translation at:

and one man's essay on it's meaning at:

I suggest people do their own investigative research if they really want to get to the true meaning of it.

Luridan said:
I remember a part of the story of Gilgamesh....

Wow, if you learned that in school, you received a better education than I. das funny!

Re your incest theory, you're right that controlling the sex lives of women, including who they had sex with, was a significant part of the patriarchal worldview. I'm not in a position to say whether incestuous activities had much to do with it, but it certainly may have contributed. Still, the other factors were likely more influential.

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Old Testament    Posted: July 14, 2005 Reply with quote

When exactly was the Old Testament written anyway?

Also, I've heard that the Star of David has some esoteric meaning related to sacred sex. Do you know anything about that?


...just an average guy learning sacred sex.
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Old Testament & Star of David    Posted: July 14, 2005 Reply with quote

Scholars generally hold that the Old Testament was compiled after the Babylonian exile in 536 BCE. Its history before that is another area of question. We have no record of the Old Testament being written down before that (in fact, the oldest written record is among the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to only a few centuries BCE). If the books of the Old Testament were passed down orally before 536 BCE, there is the issue of accuracy over the 1,000+ year period, especially considering the periods of Jewish enslavement that likely stamped out cultural traditions. Even if the books were written, some question remains over such a long period.

As it is, there are various inconsistencies/contradictions in the Bible, beginning with the different Creation accounts given in Genesis 1 & 2. If there are discrepancies between the original word & intent and the final written Bible, a point to remember is that as time wore on, civilization became decidedly more patriarchal, and anti-sexual. That means that the culture in which the final text was set down (around 500 BCE) was more hostile to the earlier sacred sex cultures than even the original Hebrews, and may have slanted Bible language accordingly.

Regarding the Star of David, you're right -- this symbol (and the more elemental V-shaped 'chalice' and mountian peak-like 'blade') has a sacred sex meaning, and was likely known in early sacred sex societies. The star is formed of two triangles - representing male (upward pointing, or phallic) & female (downward pointing, or womb-shaped) - in union. It is also common in Indian yantras -- sacred geometries that represent the male/female wholeness of creation.

Star of David
Sri YantraGayatri YantraHeart Chakra

There is actually little, if any, reference to the Star of David in the Old Testament itself. Many say that it's connection to Judaism stems more from King Solomon, David's son, than from David himself. Solomon, you'll remember from the lesson above, had numerous wives from among the sacred sex cultures, and likely introduced the symbol to his people through that connection. It's ironic that this sacred sex symbol has come to represent the very culture that at one time fought to eliminate it.

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    Posted: July 16, 2005 Reply with quote

If anyone is interested in that kind of ancient symbolism, and if you love a good mystery novel, I recommend reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It is really, really good. Very Happy

Also, here is a link to some pages that compare various paintings of the Virgin Mary to images of yonis. Enjoy. ---> Yoniversum
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Da Vinci Code & Virgin Yonis    Posted: July 16, 2005 Reply with quote

Yes, The Da Vinci Code is good, though the Star of David reference is brief; there is much more material there relating to this Forum's follow-up: Sex in the West.

Re the Yoni/Virgin Mary symbolism at Yoniversum - which is striking & provocative - I was pondering its relevance, whether it's just a coincidence or a genuine sexual connection, and I realized that it fits with the truth that the human body is a physical expression of male & female life principles (see How Sex Became Sacred, God & Goddess, and Reflections of Sacred Sex).

The life principles are like a seed, and our body is like a tree that grows from the seed -- the tree is contained in the seed, and is the physical expression of it.

Because these life principles are sexual by nature, it's not surprising that our human form resembles the sexual anatomy it grows out of.

I think this helps explain the veneration that the early sacred sex societies had for the human body, and for sex. There is an inherent holiness to the human form, which is made 'in the image of God'. Men & women each embody different aspects of this, and together in union form a wholeness that expresses both the male & female life principles. The ancient civilizations - in their natural innocence & simplicity - recognized, honored, and celebrated this in their lives.

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Re: Sex in the Cradle    Posted: August 9, 2005 Reply with quote

newsacredsexy said:
Wow -- this is really fascinating. Why don't we ever hear about this? Sad

For a view of the continuation of the Heiros Gamos and the tradition of The Sacred Feminine in Christianity see "The Woman with the Alabaster Jar" by Margaret Starbird. This will also give another perspective on why we don't hear about this. See also "The Goddess in the Gospels reclaiming the Sacred Feminine" by the same author

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Sex after the Cradle    Posted: August 10, 2005 Reply with quote

I've heard of those books, but haven't read them; thanks for the references, Russ.
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Re: Sex after the Cradle    Posted: August 13, 2005 Reply with quote

The book which sparked Ms. Starbird's first book "The Woman with the Alabaster Jar " is titled " Holy Blood Holy Grail" by Baigent,Leigh and Lincoln. This exhaustively researched , and footnoted volume{ as are the volumes by Ms. Starbird} was first published in 1982 and is the first modern volume to declare that Jesus and Mary Magdelene were married , and that Mary Magdelene is the Holy Grail { Based on the contents of the Qumram scrolls and the apocryphal Gospels found among the Nag Hamadhi scrolls in the late 1940's} . Ms Starbird ,who is a devout Roman Catholic ,set out to refute the assertions of Holy Blood Holy Grail and ended up not only confirming them but adding to them. She has wriitten a third volume entitled " Magdelene's Lost Legacy: symbolic numbers and the Sacred Union in Christianity." All of these volumes give a decidedly different picture of early{ what I refer to as Seminal} Christianity than the Canonical story which most Christians have been presented.
To be loved deeply by someone gives you strength, to love someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
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Sex in the Cradle, Part III - Related discussion: Eros    Posted: August 14, 2005 Reply with quote

[ MODERATOR'S NOTE: A related discussion on the definition of 'Eros' in ancient Greek culture is in the Marriage Topic of the Gender & Relationship Forum. The discussion continues for several posts, beginning here.]

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Reclaiming Lilith    Posted: May 1, 2006 Reply with quote

Lilith is the first woman with Adam in Eden . She refused to lie under him in sex because she saw herself as his equal and left Eden to "wander alone in the wilderness." because Adam would control her and in so doing deny her equality of Being. If you have never heard of her, do not be surprised because she has been disowned and rejected by all religionists since the dawn of time .
Liliith is our primal , uninhibited sexual nature which is viewed as an impediment to our "higher" elements by those who view our sexuality as an enemy to be thwarted , denied, cut off ,and overcome if we are to advance spiritually. She is our rejected sexual self who 'wanders alone in the wilderness " far from civilized people and adamantly denied to even exist because she is a threat to our civility.
I see the sacred sex emergence, as well as the growing acceptance of all forms of sexuality as a legitimate expression of life, as evidence of the beginnings of acknowledgement , acceptance , and embarce of Lilith, our primal sexuality, by society at large for perhaps the first time in our entire history.
In reality , our primal sexual nature has been accepted and embraced by all spiritual traditions as the motive power of transcendence AFTER the overcoming of identification with and attachment to our body , mind , and emotions . "We " are in reality spiritual beings who are expressing through body , mind and emotion . HOWEVER, "we " are not our body , mind or emotions . As long as "we" identify ourselves as body , mind and emotion, "we' are limited to and controlled by this identification. Once "we" realize that " we" are distinct from our body , mind , and emotions and that they are "vehicles " for our expression THEN AND ONLY THEN can their full potential be realized and the incredible spiritual dynamism which "we" are be fully expressed and Realized in earthly incarnation.
It is interesting to me that the revealing of the contents of the Nag Hammadi scrolls and the gnostic gospels in which the intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is openly discussed coincides with the emergence of the feminist movement . This was also the time when sexuality came "out of the darkness/wilderness of rejection " into the light of open expression ,discussion, acceptance , and now full embrace. Tantra was also revealed in the west by a man named Osho at this time which was the early days of The New or Acquarian Age . All extremly coincidental to me !!!
Your thoughts and impressions any and all ?

To be loved deeply by someone gives you strength, to love someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
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Lilith - myth or reality?    Posted: May 3, 2006 Reply with quote

Thanks for your post, Russ. I'd like to comment on it from two perspectives, each entirely independent of the other.

First, on a factual historical level, I don't know much about Lilith. She came up as a subject for me a few months ago, before which I had heard little mention of her. I did some brief research and I'm not convinced Lilith lived as a personal figure. The first mention of her in Sumerian texts translates literally as something like "night creature". This sounds very much like a reference to Inanna, who was often referred to as the Sumerian goddess of the night. If that's the case, the whole antagonistic myth that has evolved around her from a Judeo-Christian view makes perfect sense. All of the Old Testament battles were against this sexual goddess (and her later Babylonian counterpart, Ishtar). From what I could tell, over the centuries, as the myth evolved it became more personalized, and Lilith came to be taken as a historical figure.

If you know otherwise about the history, I'd like to hear it; or if you can link to an authoritative website about her, I'd be interested.

History aside though, the meaning of the myth itself has value as a way for us to understand our sexuality and our relationship or attitudes toward it. From that perspective, I think your take on Lilith is right on, Russ -- she is about reclaiming our sexuality as a part of our spiritual heritage. And I also agree about all these recent events -- wider acceptance of sacred sex, revelations of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the gnostic gospels, teachers like Osho coming out, etc. -- they're part of the global awakening that's occuring on every level. I'm sure more miraculous things are to come.

Sexual union is a mirror of Spiritual Union, and a gateway to direct experience of it.
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    Posted: May 3, 2006 Reply with quote

Gary ,
Thank You for your response ! Named figures in Creation stories depict archetypal charateristics and/or synbolic figures in story form , of MANKIND
expressive in each man and woman . The historical references to Lilith identify her as a "night creature who is a threat to young male children"
I did a search on "Lilith" and came across several references to Her.
Whether or not Lilith is a historical person is not the salient issue for us. As you and I concur , Lilith represents the primal ,uninhibited ,non-rational sexual life force which is seen as threat to rationality and therefore feared . The rational response is to exert its desire to dominate this sexual life force thus rejecting it and "driving her into the wilderness "completely denied and disowned .
In disavowing our primal sexual energy we render ourselves extremely limited in Self Realization and Self Expression. By acknowledging , honoring , embracing , and surrendering to our sexual nature, the sexual life force it is set free able to express fully and become the motive power/ strem of life which is capable of carrying us into Sacred Union with our God Self. This is Who We we really are , The KNOWING of which is our Soul's desire and purpose. The Creature/Soul MUST know its Creator and Become One with The Who AllOne IS .
Shakti/ The Soul MUST seek out .find , and Become One with Shiva / The Indwelling Lord / The Self / The Witness / The Observer. Along the way of this journey to Union , our soul talents are also set free and our creativity becomes expressive through dance, musice , art , poetry, as husband/
wife , father /mother , doing meaningful work which enhances our whole person, entering into relationships which do the same and leaving those which limit and or inhibit same.
I call this " Living in the Blessed Trinty": pleasure, which opens the door of our body-mind -spirit
and leads into 'mind blowing , limitation exploding" ecstacy which when experienced IN PRESENCE leads to Bliss / Union With The Divine . Much Love/Bliss to you, and All here

To be loved deeply by someone gives you strength, to love someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
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value of lilith    Posted: May 4, 2006 Reply with quote

As always Russ, your thoughts are passionately expressed Very Happy and reach down to our core...and I agree with you.

I know what you mean by this, but I might've chosen a slightly different word:

russ said:
The rational response is to exert its desire to dominate this sexual life force thus rejecting it and "driving her into the wilderness "completely denied and disowned .

Perhaps "The unenlightened response...." says it better. People are afraid of sexual power because they don't know it can be a positive means to personal and spiritual growth. So they feel threatened by it and try to control it. This is, as you say, their 'rational' response. But interestingly, this 'rationale', arrived at by the intellect based on the knowledge it has, is misguided because it doesn't have all the knowledge! The key to shifting the rationale is to enlighten the intellect.

Sexual union is a mirror of Spiritual Union, and a gateway to direct experience of it.
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    Posted: May 4, 2006 Reply with quote

YES , and the key to enlightening the intellect is a trusting surrender luv to who we are .Cool This is Tramsformative Information from the inside out . Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
To be loved deeply by someone gives you strength, to love someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
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