Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sacred Harlots


"Holy Whoredom, Batman!" I muttered.
"Surely it's been done. It's too obvious not to have been done."
I wouldn't know.
I read erotica like men read Playboy - only occasionally, for the articles you understand.
But it strikes me as a perfect story arc.
While shaking Frazer's Bough, found the section on Temple Prostitutes.
All women, matrons or maids, were required, at various times and places around the Mediterranean to offer themselves, as a solemn religious service, as a propitiation and a devotion, at the sanctuary of the Great Mother- whether she was called Aphrodite, Astarte, Istar, or "The Mistress of Turquoise" - in sanctified harlotry to the carnal embraces of strangers .
Ensuring by simulation and multiplication "the fruitfulness of the ground and the increase of man and beast" as personified first by the goddess and her series of annual lovers.
Seems the practise of the fertility rites of religious prostitution may have survived until the second century of our era.
Tailor made for those who want a framework for a series of enounters with different males or for those who choose an exotic background for just one, for a hot, hot, hawt, historical.
Quantities are adjustable according to taste and imagination.

32 comments:

Ric said...

Yes, a sex post for Ric!!!
Would this fall under Erotica? Or perhaps Historical? Or, in Bonnie's case, Hysterical?

Dave said...

Reminds me of Whores of Lost Atlantis which was broad comedy and satire.

MissWrite said...

You've been watching the DiVinci Code havn't you? LOL

As a matter of fact I'm writting a piece about a prostitute right now, and it's not even erotica.

Bernita said...

Entirely suitable for erotica, Ric!
Which may use historical settings.

To call the female adherents "whores" though, Dave, is entirely anachronistic.

Actually, no, Tami.Am I missing something? Haven't read the Book yet, either!

Doubt if prostitution is in anyway erotic - just business.

Ric said...

Prostitution is for money. Offering oneself up for the Gods is a whole other critter. Like the concept though...
Caught a snippet on History International last night - Rasputin apparently belonged to a sect of the Orthodox Church who believed, that in order to be saved, you needed to sin first, with orgies taking place and Rasputin offering to sin with young women in order to save them. You really have to love a mind that works that way...

writtenwyrdd said...

The Sacred Whore motif as romance/erotica? I don't see it carrying an entire plot, but would be interested to see you try!

As part of the overall culture, the rutting in the fields at Beltane to ensure the fertility of crops would be more 'common man' and likely to be in the fantasy books or historical romances, perhaps?

I am not certain of her scientific methodology, but the book by Marija Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, has some interesting stuff on the divine feminine and female roles in ancient societies. She also co-wrote a book with Joseph Campbell, which I haven't read but which might prove interesting.

Steve said...

Wish I could offer a clever comment, but it's hard when thinking about erotica.

Bernita said...

Even if monies were exchanged, Ric, as sometimes apparently they were, the lucre belonged to the sanctuary as an offering.
Rasputin's take was not that unusual for a cultist.

Oh, I think it is entirely sufficient, Writtenwyrdd.
Not a great deal of imagination required either.
The legends associated with fertility rites of the goddess provide any extra plot points necessary.

That IS the spirit, Steve...

raine said...

Bernita! You erotica-plot pimp, you!

Bernita said...

You betcha, Raine!
Maybe it's been done, but it had just too lucious a potential not to mention.

Erik Ivan James said...

I could sure step-in-it with this one. So, I'll just stay up on the sidewalk.

anna said...

Yikes! I can picture a big lineup on one side for the comely young maidens, on the other, the mustachioed matrons their arms crossed over saggy boobs, noses in the air with a 'well I don't like doing it anyway' attitude.

Carla said...

Bernard Cornwell uses this, or a variant of it, in his Arthur trilogy and in Stonehenge, and I've just finished reading a novel set in 1st-century AD Scotland that contrives to use this 'sacred sex' idea to resolve the romantic conflict between the hero and heroine. "Adjustable according to taste and imagination", as you say.

Bernita said...

So, Erik, you think this is gutter talk or something?

Hee, Anna,maybe it was a first come first served arrangement...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I, er, I'll just stay behind my fan, thank you very much...ROFLOL...Oh, and Ric...in the Bible they were also called temple prostitutes...never thought about money being involved!

Bernita said...

Very neat, Carla!
And G.G.Kay mentions an associated rite - the annual slaying of the goddess' consort - in Tigana.

Carla said...

Isn't the slaying of the goddess' consort in Mary Renault somewhere as well, or have I misremembered that?

Bernita said...

Sorry. Bonnie, should have given a fan warning.
You have no idea how much trouble I had finding a related illustration that wasn't too...too...
The temple activities were, however, considered entirely respectable, even devote.

Rings a faint bell, Carla...probably.
Dark lord of the sacred grove and all that.

Ric said...

Wow! And we're not even talking about vestial virgins here. Stonehenge? orgies on mid-summer Night's eve, amongst the tall stone pillars. Gotta love the Druids.
How come none of this stuff got incorporated into Christianity? Maybe Dan Brown has it right.

Erik Ivan James said...

No, not at all gutter talk, Bernita. Not your post, my "pig" mind. ~grinning~ I ate too much at Thanksgiving too.

Bernita said...

A hundred reasons, Ric...need for an alternative religious scapegoat being only one.

Robyn said...

Isn't the Beltane fertility rite how Arthur and Morgan le Fey did it in Bradley's The Mists of Avalon? They both had masks on, and so the sex was anonymous. Could actually be an interesting plot in a romance, but the brother-sister angle was waaaay too skeevy.

Ballpoint Wren said...

I know this whole temple prostitute thing helped originate that ancient "whore of Babylon" tourism campaign, but (and call me an old fogey) I don't believe it!

Here's what Tikva Frymer-Kensky has to say about it:

"No cuneiform text supports the idea that the women of Assyria or Babylon did this." She adds that Herodotus wanted to demonstrate "the superiority of Greeks" and, possibly, "to show the horrible results that could follow if proper women were not kept as guarded and secluded as they were in Greece." (Quoted from here.)

I guess Dr. Frymer-Kensky figures Herodotus was just a dirty old man, or what my mom would call "an old goat." Heh!

Bernita said...

Various strategums have been employed to explain Arthur's unknowing sin, Robyn. Could be.

The evidence that Frazer introduces, Bonnie, don't rely exclusively on cuneiform anything, nor does he limit the area. Noticed he refers to an inscription found at Tralles in Lydia which records a woman by name.
If we dispense with out present notions of morality, the practise, as a form of sympathetic magic, makes sense.

writtenwyrdd said...

The death of the Sacred King and various permutations thereof is a fairly common thread in ancient myth and legend.

Robyn, the brother/sister angle was straight out of at least one of the Arthurian legends. Mordred was born as a consequence of the 'sins of the father'. Uther Pendragon disguised himself as someone else via magic and slept with Arthur's mother. The consequence was the hatred toward Arthur by his half-sister Morgaine and Mordred's birth.

I always figured that incestuous aspect of the legends was possibly a Christian cautionary tale added on, just like the grail myth seems to be. The winner often absorbs the good bits of the loser's religion.

If anyone wants to read the best fantasy take on the Arthurian legend, read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Trilogy. One of my favs!

Gabriele C. said...

It's the Christian religion that introduces Sin into sexuality. If before a woman had to stay faithful to one man (like in Greek and Roman societies), it was because the man didn't want to raise someone else's sprog, but else, sexuality was just part of life, and thus part of rites on occasion, in times were rites secured life. Some cultures even condoned incest, though not all - maybe some were aware of the biological implications of it.

Arthur's 'sin' was a sin first in Christian sources about him, and modeled on a similar sin ascribed to Charlemagne in the Egidius legend - his 'nephew' Roland is said to have been the result of a too tender relationship between Charles and one of his sisters. Flawed kings, flawed heroes - the (unhistorical) Roland atones not only for his own pride but for his father's sin with his death in the Song of Roland; and the (probably also unhistorical) Mordred is a rebel because of his pedigree, and it's Arthur himself who suffers for his sin.

Bernita said...

I'm very fond of Kay's Fionavar, and his version of the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle.
My favourite exposition of the entire Authurian saga is Mary Stewart's.

Bernita said...

There was also a potitics 'n power element to the question of incest, Gabriele.
If the consort dervived his position by virtue of his marriage with a hereditary queen/princess/priestess, then upon her death he could only continue this desired position by marriage with a sister or daughter.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Holy Whoredom. Hmmm…I like that, Bernita. It certainly could make an intriguing Ellora’s Cave title. Perhaps if I could manage to tweak things a bit so that my historical harlot of a heroine could find herself in a screwball comedy sort of situation as she ensures the fruitfulness of the ground and the increase of man and beast… Yes, I can see it all now… My subtitle could be Polly’s Perilous Propitiation. ;-)

Bernita said...

Right, Daisy...did you ever see Irma La Duce?
Let's say she has to service at the temple for a week and the guy disguises himself as a different person every night...

Buffy said...

I had a high school history teacher who SWORE he only read Playboy for the articles.

Bernita said...

~smiling knowingly at Buffy~