Source of income for some, source of existential retrieval for others, prostitution has known over time, substantially different forms from those of nowadays.
Long before being a simple “profane” transaction (money for pleasure), this phenomenon was deeply religious, based on the idea that sex and divinity were intertwined in an absolutely harmonious approach.
Paradoxical as this concept may seem, sacred prostitution or temple prostitution, as this “activity” was also known in those times, was present in almost all primitive and ancient cultures.
Back then, no one dared to deny its logical implications or relevance, because in its practioners’ minds, everything seemed perfectly legitimate. Who would mind to express his faith along with some sensual “priestesses”, specialized in the art of lovemaking?
The use of carnal whims included in mystical ceremonies was widespread around the world, existing in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, India, Oceania and in the Americas. This practice florished rapidly Armenia too, Assyria, among the Canaanites and ancient Hebrew, Cyprus, Lydia (Turkey), Carthage, Sicily or Pont, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Some historical sources indicate its presence even in Mecca or Egypt. Good times... (!) some would exclaim with a sigh for being born too late and teleportation still being awaited.
But before starting to envy our ancestors, those transcendal copulation followers, let’s take a little look at this phenomenon. It consisted of worship rituals, composed of effective intimate acts or other activities with erotic connotations (including the so called “divine marriages”, also known as Hierogamics). So, people were having sex, in the name of their favorite deities and they were proud of it.
Regarding those cults ministrants, they would sleep with the faithful, in exchange for sacrifices and offerings or to initiate the “chosen” ones (considered worthy for it) to eroticism with purifying substratum. A special category was slaves, who chose to dedicate their flesh services to common people, hoping to be liberated from slavery.
Archaic societies considered that “sexual servants” belonged to the related gods, and their fate was much superior to the destiny or status of common women... Moreover, none of them would refuse the payment when offered to them, as they were “heavenly” entitled to receive it, along with fame, respect and possibly... many venereal diseases.
In India, this kind of “divine” implication represented an obligation for the girls from certain castes. For example, young women from Santal tribes had to “serve” the parishioners, at least once during their humble existence. In Tamil Nadu caste of weaver, from their birth, at least one of every family’s daughter had to be consecrated to the guardianship god, as “solemn” prostitute. Tradition went beyond personal will.
Greece also distinguished itself thanks to female characters involved in devotional service act. The Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth hosted an impressive number of “professionals” who perfectly fulfilled their pious duty. On the Cyprus Island also towered the temples of Aphrodite Urania’s, where hundreds of women “dedicated” to the noble cause worked. Actually, the only visual information about this matter, come from this place.
The sacred “libertines” are mentioned in the Old Testament, too. Here, they appear under two different names: “zonah” and “kedeshah” (in ancient Hebrew). While “zonah” meant simple prostitute or a person with loose morals, “kedeshah” had a strong sacred significance. So, Jews didn’t mix together normal pleasures and sacred aspects, even though both of them involved moaning, exchanging fluids and a dash of virility with finalization.
In Tahu tribes from western Mexico, girls that were designated to lead religious ceremonies received the crowd’s respect and dominated the annual festivals attended by every chief of the tribe in the area. Where the celebrations were over, the ladies entered specially designated tents and they were visited, in turns, by the great chiefs. The encounters were consummated under the same aegis of customs deeply rooted in ancient thinking. People receiving also some orgasm thanks to their proven piety, that a completely different story.
In other parts of the world, also, the social status of pious “worker with their bodies” was at great levels. In the Walad’abdi Algerian clan, they were considered saints and thoroughly encouraged as the entire prosperity of the clan depended largely from their services. This last characteristic remained almost intact to this day, as we already know that quite often professional escorts enrich themselves but also the others.
“Spiritual” escorts also stood out in ancient Rome. How could the seven hills fortress, replete with deities, have ignored associating eroticism to heavenly intervention? No, that would have been way under the Roman’s original extravagance.
In April, when the ladies celebrated Fortuna Virilis (Men’s Luck), during the Veneralis (festivals dedicated to the goddess Venus), “nymphs” accompanied the married ladies in conducting the rituals specific to the event, and on the 23rd of the same month, the latter offered donations to Venus Erycina’s temple, a figure linked to prostitution.
Later, under the impact of dogmatic, economic and cultural changes, this phenomenon separated itself from the spiritual side of life, keeping instead a profitable influence in its non-religious side and leading on the label of “the oldest profession on earth”.
The attempts to resuscitate love practices in a religious context, expressed by some Western sects between 1970-1980 (Children of God, Church of the Most High Goddess), failed miserably. With their scandals, these organizations only managed to draw the authorities’ attention and create a reprehensible image. So, their life was short. Certainly, the followers of the “guilty” pleasures will exclaim disappointed... “Too bad!”