Understanding how sexuality was viewed in the ancient past can help you review the often limiting beliefs you hold about your body and sexuality today. I invite you to step into the ancient past, into the temples of the goddess where sexuality was honoured for its regenerative powers and women’s bodies were revered for their ability to bring forth new life. The breasts, the yoni, the womb were all understood to hold the essence of life and the female body was deemed sacred, a mirror for the creative energy of the goddess herself. So come with me on a journey into the past as we explore how sacred the act of sex was held.
What is Sacred Sex?
All acts of creation are sexual and in fact, the universe and all creation myths from every culture are steeped in a fusion (or intercourse if you like) of forces wedded in a sacred cosmogenic act. All sacred thought systems contain concepts of male and female aspects joined in this creative dance. Every major religion and philosophy has a mystical aspect devoted to understanding and exploring the deeper concepts behind sacred sexuality and the integration of spirituality and sexuality.
So when we speak of sacred sex, we are not concerned with sex as we commonly encounter it; but of the hidden or esoteric knowledge of sex that has always been reserved for the priest and priestesshood or initiated disciples of every tradition. This sacred knowledge has always been concerned with the birth of the soul, the entry into a new world, or in other words, creation. Simple observation of natural laws demonstrate that creation is always sexual. Thus, the secret or private knowledge held by the high priests, priestesses and lamas has always been sexual knowledge, also known as the Tree of Knowledge, Tantra, Alchemy, Gnosis, and many other names. Although the methods may appear different, it remains undeniable that there is a great secret power hidden in the sexual forces that reside within all of us, and that aspirants throughout the world and its history have been educated in a method to access that power, which transforms the entire person, giving them in-depth knowledge of the mysteries of God/Goddess, the divine. Regardless of what particular philosophy, sacred sexuality has always been practised with the intent of transforming sexual energy into a higher, spiritualized, personal experience of oneness, or union with divinity.
In the temples of the Goddess
When we journey to our ancient past, long before a Christian god and patriarchal religions, we encounter a world where for millennia people worshipped the Goddess – benevolent, fertile and above all sexual. Very sexual! Today we have profound difficulty associating sexuality with anything sacred, but in ancient times the worship of the goddess was often conducted through sexual rites. As the goddess once again awakens in a western consciousness, the shame and guilt traditionally attached to our bodies and sexual experiences is being replaced with a remembering of lifetimes past when deity was female and sex was for worship.
It has been 5,000 years or more since the goddess was at the height of her power, but with her return, we are remembering how to experience the divine through the sacrament of sex. The goddess offers us a new religion (actually an ancient one) where sex leads to enlightenment and the current shame and perversion we carry around sexuality is being transformed. What if I told you that the sacred actually lives in your body and that engaging in conscious acts of sex can lead to transcendent experiences of bliss and self realisation? When we engage with intent, when we open our bodies to experiences greater than ourselves, we become vulnerable and authentic and in that place our hearts become the doorway to expanded experiences of ecstasy. Remember, it is love that invokes the divine and if you are not connecting in love, you are not invoking the sacred.
Sacred Sex Today
Sacred sex in the 21st century is suddenly big business and the goddess looms large as we revisit the past to uncover the roots of traditions that honoured her. You will find her in the explosion of neo Tantra that offers a stylized western experience for those who want to heal their relationships and experience a full body orgasm. You will find her in a Wiccan or shamanic ritual, or a pagan magic sex rite. She is nature herself speaking to you through an ayahauscan drug taking ceremony. She is the rising kundalini serpent awakened in an ecstatic dance class. She is the healing found through a sex surrogate, or in the arms of a modern day sacred prostitute. Whichever path you may wish to traverse, the untamable, powerful sexual energy of the goddess is awakening and ready to enter into your relationships and your body.
What is the ritual of Hieros Gamos (sacred marriage)
The term “Hieros Gamos” comes from the Greek whose etymology translates as “Hieros” – holy and “Gamos” – marriage or coupling. In ancient Mesopotamia, the lands known as Sumeria, Assyria and Babylon, from the 4th millennium BCE, the people worshiped the great Goddess Inanna, Queen of the Heavens and the Earth. Here, the High Priestess of Inanna would unite with or marry the King of the land who represented the young, virile vegetation god, in a public sexual ceremony that not only celebrated the fertile renewal of the land but was also a ritual act of fertility and creation. This important festival would last for up to a week and occur around the time of the autumn equinox. The celebrations would include the ritual sacrifice of grains and fruits, including the first offspring of livestock. So important was this celebration of renewal that only the most precious objects would be sacrificed. Even libations of blood would be offered to increase the fertility of the union which was the culmination of these ritual celebrations.
Within the ritual sacred marriage, the High Priestess of the temple, known as Hierodule, Qadishtu, Hetera (meaning servant of the holy) became the earthly embodiment of the Goddess herself, joining with the masculine in the form of the King or monarch of the land. This represented the joining of the elements of earth and spirit to create a holy sacred union. Here, sexuality was experienced as a pathway to the divine.
The temples of the Goddess have been home to the sacred prostitute for more millennium than history records.
The priestesses who performed sexual rituals have been called sacred prostitutes because within ritual space, they offered their bodies to men who wished to experience the sacred feminine aspects of the Goddess. In contemporary writings of their time, these holy women were held in the highest esteem. Whether in the temples of Aphrodite, Astarte, Ishtar or Inanna, men could find an experience of the Goddess in the body of a highly trained priestess and offer a payment for the privilege.
“The Sacred Prostitute is the ancient priestess as she existed in the ancient temples of the Goddess, offering her body as a sacrament to those seeking spiritual union with the divine. Often referred to by historians as sacred prostitute, these highly educated holy women, represent an archetype from an era where sexual energy was revered. Through the ritual act of sex, one could experience the divinity of the Goddess herself, through the living embodiment of the priestess.”
The sacred prostitute played the same role of mediary as do priests today, except they used their bodies in the act of sex as a vehicle for the worshipper to experience first-hand the energy of the goddess.
The term sacred prostitute is a mistranslation of Qadishtu or Hierodule which means holy woman and “is compelling because it evokes a clash of images – sacred and profane, spiritual and sexual all at once”. Whilst we know the role played by the sacred prostitute, evidenced historically in the Hieros Gamos rituals of ancient Sumer, we have little detail of the training undergone and the full extent of the role embodied by a priestess who engaged in sacred sexual rituals.
The Goddesses of Sacred Sex
The goddesses come to us from every culture and from every period of history and with them they bring their stories and their myths and these have always served to explain how the world came into being through the creation stories told by the various personalities playing within that world. Whether it was the story of the young heroine, or the evil stepmother, or the wise queen, we saw the various patterns that came to represent a personality type and those personality types or ‘archetypes’ could also be found reflected within ourselves as we played out the stories of the gods and goddesses in our own lives.
When we look at the Goddesses of Sacred Sex we find those representations of femininity that utilise sexuality as a main aspect of their archetype. The following four that I have chosen – Aphrodite, Inanna, Magdalene and Lilith – are not only all sexual goddesses, but they access aspects of the sacred within their archetypal stories. In healing post patriarchal and Christian suppression of women and their sexuality, I turn to a world that existed before both, and call upon the ancient goddesses of the past to once again tell their stories and share their myths. It is in these archetypes that have always existed, that women can once again find a way to heal their sexuality, whether that be through exploring their sexual shadow or remembering lifetimes when they mediated as sacred sexual priestesses. Whilst these goddess’ stories are immense, it is my hope that you will seek them out and invite them back into your own life where as you unravel their myths, they help you to heal your own.
Attributes of the Sexual Goddesses
We can all look to the sexual goddess archetype to explore the traits that they exemplify in both the positive and shadow aspects. Seek to honour the sexual goddess for the teachings she has, and recognise them in yourself.
- Promotes the power of sensuality and pleasure
- Uses the physical body as a sexual instrument through which to access divinity
- Promotes the breasts and genitals as sacred
- Employs bodily fluids such as menses and semen as elixirs for transcendence
- Knows that sexual energy is a powerful healing agent
- Helps to release and heal fear, shame and loathing around the body
- Can utilise the power of passion and enthusiasm to change life attributes like a new job or home or lifestyle
- Promotes sexuality as sacred and not profane
- Reclaims independence and choice for women around their sexuality
- Awakens the sexual fire of kundalini and knows how to use it for her desired purposes
- Teaches that dance and movement awaken and arouse the body
- Restores the female body as a sacred symbol for both reproduction and creation
- Reminds women it is perfectly okay to have a sexual appetite
- Heals the sexual split between the masculine and the feminine
- Empowers woman to be the great seductress
- Allows women to say No
Shadow Attributes of the Sexual Goddesses
- Using sexuality and seduction as an agent of manipulation, power and control
- Falling into sexual addiction
- Engaging in casual sex to be liked and overcome low self esteem
- Fail to notice the natural ending of sexual relationships by holding on
- Mistakes sex for love
- Modifying behaviours to appeal to lovers
- Unable to distinguish worth outside of sexuality
- At risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
- Can fall victim to sexual manipulation
Other sexual goddess (or archetypes) you might like to explore include: Bastett, Isis, the Sirens, Ishtar, Astarte, Deva Dasi, Dakinis, Frejya, Neith, Metis, Qetesh, Rati, Qandisa, the temple dancer
Kerri Ryan MA
PART 2 coming shortly will explore the Goddess of Sacred Sex themselves – Aphrodite, Inanna, Lilith, the Magdalene. Stay tuned.
Kerri is a woman of goddess, an international workshop facilitator, speaker, writer and author teaching and sharing on sacred sexuality, the goddess and the divine feminine. Her intention is to invoke the goddess back into the lives of men and women and to awaken their authentic sexual nature in order that they may know themselves as divine. She is a qualified kundalini and chakra dance facilitator, teaching through the medium of dance how to awaken and utilise kundalini and shakti energy. She is an initiated Priestess of the Goddess with the Order of the Pomegranate Grove and wrote her masters thesis on HIEROS GAMOS: Sacred Sexuality Ancient and Modern”. She is a Priestess of Inanna and Isis holding the archetype of the sacred prostitute within.
As a speaker she has been interviewed for American and Canadian radio and magazines and presented workshops for numerous organisations including Goddess Association in Australia, School of Shamanic Midwifery, Bayside Red Tent and Women’s Wellbeing. She is a Corporate member of Red Tent Australia, offering workshops and private sessions for its members. In 2012 she presented on sacred sexuality at the Goddess Spirit Rising Conference in Malibu, California. She has published numerous articles in national magazines and is currently completing her first book on the channelled memories of a past lifetime as a priestess, entitled “Mandipa, Priestess of Ishtar”.
Kerri has always held space for the flowering of divinity in every woman and the expression of their sacred sexuality. She works deeply and intimately to assist individuals to experience their greatest pleasure potential. By assisting women to release the blocks they feel around experiencing their sexual energy which can include body shame, fear of letting go, issues of past abuse, religious programming, low self esteem, clearing the womb portal and so much more, the opportunity exists to experience their sexuality in a totally healed space, opening to the beauty that is the divine feminine. She is currently available for one-on-one sessions out of the Salt Sanctuary in Cleveland, Brisbane. Call to make a booking with her.
As a priestess of the goddess, Kerri invites you to step into ritual space where the goddess is invoked into the work we do, to allow her energetic presence to elevate each aspect with the consciousness of the sacred. It is then in this high vibrational resonance, we are held as divine beings, allowed to safely open to our beauty and to surrender and clear the energies that no longer support us.