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 creation stories and then they describe the personality traits of the players 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 that aspects of those personality types or ‘archetypes’ could also be found reflected within ourselves.
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 Lillith – 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 the sleeping goddesses of the past into the present 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 the shadow or remembering lifetimes when they mediated as sacred sexual priestesses.
Whilst these goddess’ stories are immense, I can only provide an edited version here. It is my hope that they will inspire you to seek them out and invite them back into your own life where as you unravel their myths, they help you to heal your own.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite, the original “Golden Girl”, the Goddess of Love; perfectly attired for the occasion in a simple string of pearls and a couple of strategically placed scallop shells, stepped out of the ocean on the island of Cypress and set the ancient world on its ear. Aphrodite, goddess of romantic love had finally arrived! Never had there been such sensual beauty and impeccable taste and a new era of sexuality had been birthed.
While Aphrodite was more generally known to be associated with romantic love, her broad appeal also encompassed wild sexuality, the shadow aspects of sex and temples full of priestesses who offered their bodies as sacred prostitutes to the men who would come for a taste of the goddess’ delights.
A famous temple to Aphrodite stood on the summit of Corinth in the Classical Age. It is said to have housed 1,000 sacred prostitutes who would ply their profession in the city below. Corinth was a city catering to sailors and traveling salesmen. Even by the Classical Age it had earned an unsavoury reputation for its libertine atmosphere. The name “Corinth” became synonymous for immorality. After landing at the Corinthian docks, sailors would apparently wheeze up the thousand-odd steps to the top of a stunning crag of rock called the Acrocorinth, which offered 360-degree vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean. There they would pass beneath the marble columns of the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, within whose incense-filled, candlelit confines 1,000 comely girls supposedly worked around the clock gathering funds for their deity.
Aphrodite represents the “cosmic life force, associated especially with the transformative power of sexuality.” This power evidently has its cruel side and Greek mythology often associates Aphrodite “not with human love in general, but with its darker side: rape, adultery, and incest.” Many voices don’t like to discuss the dark side of the Goddess, but each goddess (like ourselves) carries aspects of the dark as well as the light and as a cosmic force for transformation through sexuality, the shadow aspects must be experienced as well as the light. To most though, Aphrodite’s unbridled sexuality means lofty ideals such as liberation and renewal, energy and empowerment, ecstasy and oneness, both with others and with the divine.
“Aphrodite’s rituals of love and pleasure are the acts which connect the inner and outer planes … we must actually dance, sing, feast, make music, and love in Her honor. It is with our bodies that we worship Her, and through our bodies that She blesses us. By these earthy rituals the false divisions between body and spirit, between mind and nature, are healed. We find the Sacred within us and all things, within our beautiful, living Mother Earth.” (Judy Harrow in Gnosis)
As another of the Goddesses whose temples were filled with sacred prostitutes, Aphrodite reminds us of the transformative powers of sexuality. Call on her when you need her alluring powers of temptation and unbridled passion that can shift you into a sexual goddess.
While Aphrodite hails from the first millennium BCE, worship of the venerated Goddess Inanna, peaks from circa 4,000BCE where we find totally different attitudes towards sexuality and its potency used in a ritual context. Inanna was the Sumerian Goddess of the moon, known as Queen of Heaven and Goddess of gentle rains and terrible floods, Goddess of the morning and evening star, Queen of the land and its fertility, bestowing kingship on chosen mortals. She was the Goddess of war and equally passionately, the Goddess of sexual love.
The archaeological evidence of some 10,000 unearthed clay tablets brings to life the public rites and rituals that dominated Sumerian religious practices. Central to this matriarchal religious cult was the highly venerated Goddess Inanna. Far more extroverted than Aphrodite, Inanna celebrated her vulva and the sex act and much can be drawn from the explicit poetry written that attests to the open sensuous joining with her lover the Shepherd King Dumuzi.
Inanna’s vulva is often called the “holy lap” and is used as an adjective that is applied to numerous other deities, temples, places and artefacts and is usually translated as “pure” or “holy”. Inanna was said to have used her vulva and the power associated with it, to further the prestige and divine status of her city. This accounts for the myriad figurines and terracotta models of female nudes and vulva-shaped ceremonial offerings that have been found all over the ancient near East representing the holy power of sexuality.
But it was the highly trained priestesses who became the vessel for the Goddess in the holy sexual rituals performed in her name. The Sumerian and Babylonian temple records indicate that the Qadishtu who served in the temples of Inanna/Ishtar were often from wealthy families. They owned property and land and engaged in extensive business activities. Although the title of Qadishtu translates literally as “sacred woman” or “the undefiled”, academic translations have nearly always used the term “prostitute” to describe these women and the term “temple prostitution” to depict the sacred acts of worship that occurred. In later patriarchal times these women from the temples of Ishtar become the reviled whores of Babylon referred to in the Old Testament.
Those of you familiar with Inanna, will know her rich mythology supports an underworld journey that is a metaphor for an excursion into your own dark abyss, walking the black night of your own soul. But this all sounds so ominous when the many faces of Inanna only reveal the breadth and depth of this ancient deity whose name lived on for millennia in Goddesses such as Ishtar, Isis, Neith, Metis, Astarte and Cybele.
If and when you choose to journey with Inanna, be mindful of coming face to face with your own unbridled sexuality and a shadow journey in the underworld that will slay open the very depths of your soul.
Whilst not a goddess in the typical sense afforded to deity, Mary Magdalene has assumed an archetypal representation to a modern western audience of the fallen woman who has been saved and reborn through the salvation of sexuality. You won’t find this story in the Bible, because there is very little actual historic evidence to draw upon apart from the writings of the New Testament. Here they tell us that she was a prostitute from whom Jesus cast seven demons and that upon her healing she became a follower of Christ. She is the one who washes his feet and anoints him and who witnesses his death and resurrection. She becomes the woman mentioned most often in the New Testament.
So what else do we know of the Magdalene? It is known that the Temples of the Goddess existed throughout biblical times and some were still to be found up to the middle ages, amongst them, temples to the Goddess Isis. One well known image shows Mary holding the alabaster jar and wearing around her waist what is known as the ‘Girdle of Isis’ or the Isis knot which was worn by priestesses of Isis. Various authors speculate on the fact that Mary as a young girl was most likely sent to Egypt and the Temple of Isis to become initiated into the ways of the sacred Priestess (as is also thought of Jesus’ mother Mary who was also trained in the sacred ways of the Priestess). Here, she becomes Qadishtu and is taught the practice of sacred sexuality where she becomes the living vessel for the Goddess to enter in the ancient rite known as ‘hieros gamos’ or ‘sacred marriage’. The Da Vinci Code speaks of this sacred rite where through ritual sex, both parties are able to transcend the physical and know themselves as divine.
On returning to Jerusalem Mary no doubt became attached to one of the many temples which were known to have existed at the time and just the mere act of walking on the streets alone to and from the temple cast aspersions upon her, enough for her to be classified as an unclean woman. That claim that she was an actual prostitute in the sense that we know, it totally unsubstantiated. It must be remembered that women of that era belonged to men and remained their chattel, first their father and then their husband and walking unchaperoned was unheard of. It is known that women travelled with Jesus, were seen in public with him and attended at meals without any attachment to a specific male or household. This behaviour was highly suspect for the period, especially for women of any social standing, as it was known that Mary was.
It is only recently that a reinterpretation of various texts reveals that Mary Magdalene was indeed the partner and most favoured companion of Jesus. These recently discovered writings from the Nag Hammadi library deliver up to us texts which reveal insights into the role of women and Mary Magdalene herself, at the very emergence of Christianity. The Gospel of Philip speaks of Mary Magdalene “as the most favoured companion of Jesus who loved her more than the other disciples and would kiss her often on the mouth”. [NB: There are parts of the papyrus codex missing and scholars have suggested that this is what the original text had said].
Other Nag Hammadi texts paint a story and image of Mary Magdalene as one who had an innate understanding of the teachings being given, and who had an intimate relationship not only with the man, but with the wisdom that was being spoken and that it was a joining of two equals with the Magdalene representing the divine feminine element as did Jesus the masculine.
While there is no actual historical evidence of a sexual relationship between Christ and the Magdalene as portrayed in the movie the Da Vinci Code, nor Mary bearing children and creating the supposed royal bloodline, there is now historical evidence that this was a powerful woman, an educated woman, one equal in spiritual understanding and training to partner with Jesus. Only a High Priestess or Qadishtu of the temple of the Goddess, trained in the ancient ways, a divine emissary in her own right would be able to enter into the sacred marriage of masculine and feminine as has been done throughout time.
Mary being cast in the role of repentant prostitute for so long, speaks of the Church’s attempts to denigrate the powerful sexual attributes that can be seen in the goddess religions of old. But like the goddesses of old, women and men related to the sexually erotic feminine archetype being represented by the Magdalene and despite the attempts of the Christian fathers to repress and manipulate her image, she has remained loved and revered and touches both men and women with her sacred sexuality.
Call on the Magdalene when you are dealing with post religious suppression of your sexuality and authority and allow her to empower you as you journey to find the sacred in your love making.
Lilith is the dark goddess of the Hebrew faith, who we are told was the first wife of Adam. She was created equally by God, not from a rib of Adam, as was Eve. Seeing that they were both equal, she refused to lie beneath Adam during intercourse and became angry and fled the Garden of Eden. She was condemned by God to copulate with men in their sleep in “unbridled promiscuity”, a succubus thriving off their sexual energy, bearing over a hundred demon children a day. The Kabbalah describes her as a seductress, but as far back as 4,000 BCE in the Sumerian culture, she was Inanna’s handmaiden, bringing men from the streets to the temple prostitutes. In one ancient form she wears owl wings and talons and is known as the “screech owl”.
Today, she represents a modern archetype of female sexual empowerment, the seductress, and the wild woman who has freedom, independence and refuses to be subordinate to men. Lilith has thrown off the shackles of demoness and assumed almost heroine proportions to a modern female audience who is eager to explore the sexual shadow. Women are done with the Christian model of femininity they have been sold for millennia and are exploring a much larger palette of opportunities to express themselves. It is safe once again for women to access the full power and spectrum of their sexuality, spread their wings like Lilith and explore the shadow to see what it holds in both the negative and positive and in doing so, create healing for the long standing wounded feminine. Lilith is the new pin up girl for female sexual emancipation and just as she preceded Eve in the original marital bed, she now heals the shadow feminine by marrying the light as depicted in the sacredness of Eve, and births a new archetype of the divine feminine, one that is powerful enough to heal and forgive the masculine.
Awakened female sexuality has long been denied through patriarchal religions because of the earthy empowerment it invokes not only in the women who bring it, but in the men who are partnered to them. Streaming codes for awakening consciousness, transmitting sacred knowledge that was once the practice of the goddess temples, a conscious relationship sets the foundation for the sacred marriage of the feminine and masculine to truly be manifest on the planet again.
Lilith today gives permission for women to investigate the sexual shadow. She represents a bold, awakened, sexually promiscuous archetype which allows women to say no, to have clear boundaries, to enjoy sex and to discover the innate knowledge and wisdom that is held in an awakened woman’s body. Marvin Gaye had it right when he talked about sexual healing because sex is a healing balm available not only to awaken the sacred masculine, but to provide an opportunity for sexual healing of the planet. Now the sacred feminine as it was known in the times of the goddess is allowed to re-emerge combining the twin aspects of shadow and light represented in the duality of Eve and Lilith, and providing healing for the split that has existed between the sexes since the rise of patriarchy.
Lilith in her role as modern day sexual Goddess, has traversed the journey from demon mythology to encompass contemporary female emancipation and therefore has the opportunity to wear a much softer and more healed personae. The shadow side of sexuality is an immense topic for discussion and when we journey with this goddess, we are asked to explore both shadow and light.
Call on Lillith when the shadow sexual behaviours in your life need to be exposed – that may include incest, sexual abuse or violence. Acceptance and ownership create healing – that is her message for you.
Kerri Ryan MA
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.