Au Naturel

The Archetype of the Sacred Prostitute...Today

by Gentle Touch

The history of temple prostitutes goes back many centuries. They are well known in Phoenician history, and appear in some form among many pre-Christian religions. The function of these holy women in their society was to teach the young about sexuality at an appropriate age, and to give of themselves in sacred rites, bringing the embodiment of the goddess to her worshippers.

There is also a history of the apparent opposite of the temple prostitute...
the Vestal Virgin, who is most recorded in Roman history. Vestals, by whatever name in whichever culture, were revered in much the same way as temple prostitutes. The difference was in the expression of sexuality. While the Prostitute gave freely of her favours, the Virgin withheld them and no man dare infringe on her sacredness. A Vestal had only to walk by a square of execution and the condemned would be freed, so sacred was her person.

The connection between these two holy offices is that in both cases women are being worshiped as holy beings on the basis of their sexuality. These holy women, in both guises as Prostitute and Virgin, are still worshiped in today's society, albeit less obvious.

Sexuality has a way of becoming very important in every society. Whether it is worshiped as something sacred as in fertility rites, or forbidden and taboo as a means of exerting control over the masses, it seems that leaders and governments always have something to say about our sexual practices. It would seem that our modern post-sexual revolution society would have evolved beyond the early tribal and superstition-based controls over our individual sexuality, yet we still maintain the same archetypes of the Sacred Prostitute and of the Virgin in our views of sexual behavior today.

Most women represent some of the attributes of both of these archetypes to some extent to the men with whom they are in daily contact. This includes relatives as well as friends and casual acquaintances. A father sees his daughter as a most perfect virgin, or as the school slut if he has heard much of her sexual adventures. A husband sees his wife as both prostitute and perfect virgin, even though she has born his children. A man interested in a woman with whom he works will see her at first as the unattainable Virgin, then as the possibility of becoming her lover becomes more real to him, she becomes the Sacred Prostitute in his mind—She whose sexual favors will bring enlightenment and joy to his world.

Celebrities and people beyond our immediate scope also represent these dual archetypes to us. The Sacred Prostitute is easy to spot. A Madonna concert will do. Queens of rock music or actresses with special appeal are worshiped by men, and even hetero-sexual women, as an image of an ideal of hedonistic pleasure. Women do not have to flaunt their sexuality in order to represent the Prostitute. Indeed, an actual prostitute that one sees on the street corner does not ordinarily attain this sacredness in the minds of her "clients". She is only the physical gratification principle, while her counterpart on the silver screen commands respect from her worshippers, though they will never touch her.

What of the Virgin? The obvious answer to that would be to look in the local High School and see the attention paid to which girls "do" and which girls "don't", but to see a real example, a trip to the local abortion clinic is in order. See those people in front with the picket signs and angry voices? The protest of abortion in the name of religion is none other than the old worship of the Vestal in disguise. It is not the life of unborn children that is at the heart of this protesting, more babies could be saved by these people if their efforts were directed at rescuing the thousands of children in the world who are suffering from starvation, even in our own country.

It is the desire to see the fallen virgin reap what she has sown. We cannot bury 'fallen women' alive as they did in Rome, but we cannot allow her to escape the consequences of her actions altogether! No, this woman has sinned. She must go through the physical discomforts that go with pregnancy, endure the torture of childbirth, and then when she thinks the worst is over, she must choose to keep this child and become a single working mother with no time to properly care for the child, and not enough money to ever buy anything for herself again; or, to go through the heart wrenching experience of giving it up forever to total strangers, never knowing what may have happened to this small, ever needful child.

There are less dramatic examples, of course. There are even some actresses who seem always virginal to us. Who could imagine that Sally Field has ever had sex? Especially those among us who are old enough to remember her as "The Flying Nun."

Despite all of the noise about equality, women are still in the habit of giving very much of themselves in general. This can take many forms, from the woman who keeps a family in order in somewhat of the traditional manner, to the career woman who carries more than her share of tasks to prove that she is worthy of her place in the work force. There is also a tendency for women to take on the responsibilities of organization in magical groups and to give much of themselves in the role of priestess.

It is this natural tendency to give of herself that equates modern women with the Sacred Prostitute in history. Sexuality in western societies is still very much focused on the woman's choice of whether to give of her favour or to withhold it. A woman in the workplace is regarded by her male co-workers on the basis of her sexuality first, and her ability second. No amount of screaming about equality or sexual harassment will ever change the basic nature of the male animal. Whether he looks upon women with respect or with frustration, still in the darkest recesses of his mind he worships us as goddess, keepers of the sacred fire of his lust.

Many men would be made uncomfortable by this postulation, yet the statement is not intended to insult. It would not make sense to look on those who would worship me with contempt.

I have made some general presumptions in regard to attitudes so far which may not fit each individual, yet the fact remains that women are regarded on the basis of their sexuality as much today as ever. The mundane feminists tried for years to attain equality in the work place by denying the difference that makes them woman. There has been a change in that attitude over the years, though. Recent trends portrayed in feminist magazines show an awakening to the unique power of woman. Articles are frequently appearing about the different approach women take to management and authority.

The effects of goddess worship are showing in mainstream society as women learn to glory in the power of their sexuality rather than to deny it. We have taken back control of our bodies from the patriarchs who sought to control us through religion and superstition, and just as the Sacred Prostitutes of old, we give of ourselves as we see fit. Today, every woman has the power to become Goddess.


Abundance is the Natural Order of things...Not scarcity
Natural Health instead of Hollywood  fashion and pandering

A New Paradigm replaces the guilt and shame of Original Sin from the "Monopoly Religion" from the Deserts of Palestine.



by Diana Rose Hartmann MA


Mention the Sacred Whore to most people and you'll get raised eyebrows or disgusted grimaces. Many of us believe that prostitution is all about money for street hookers, fame for Hollywood starlets, or security for suburban housewifes. Prophetic texts, rituals, and icons are called sacred, even particular mountains or rivers are considered sacred, but whores?

Sexually empowered women are called bitches, dykes, ball-busters, etc., by both sexes. Sexually independent women, once respected as sacred vessels of the Goddess, are degraded as evil temptresses, obstacles between man and a sexless heaven. One exception is the paradise of Islam, although it is a men-only club stocked full with re-virginating nymphs; Islamic women are said to be soul-less.

Jungian psychologist Nancy Qualls-Corbett describes the Holy Whore as "a woman, who, through ritual or psychological development, has come to know the spiritual side of her sexuality, her true Eroticism, and lives this out according to her individual circumstances." By this definition, a Sacred Prostitute uses sex as a means to God/dess and to enlightenment. Fundamentalist Christians believe that the door to the kingdom of heaven is opened to those re-born of fire and water. Occult traditions such as Tantra, and magickal orders which esteem the Holy Whore, persuade us to experience our divinity by immersing ourselves in the fires of sexual passion and the baptismal waters of sexual ritual. Sexuality becomes sacred when the Goddess residing in every women is honored.

The term "sacred whore" is not oxymoronic. If we explore the etymology of the words "whore" or "harlot," we find that the split between "priestess" and "prostitute" is a relatively recent one. In her book When God Was A Woman, Merlin Stone informs us that the Hebrew word zonah means both prostitute and prophetess. Barbara Walker, in her Dictionary of Woman's Myths and Secrets, points out that the Hebrew word hor means a cave, pit, or dark hole. The Spanish word for whore, puta, derives from the Latin term for a well, but the Latin term for grave, literally "a hole in the earth," is puticuli, meaning womb of rebirth. These terms for whore were not derogatory.

The Latin term had its root in the Vedic, an early Sanskrit language, wherein the word puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the pit, the hole, and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess, She who is unnameable, that darkness primordial from which all life (light) is born. She is the Everything and The Nothing -- Hole-y, Holy, Wholly. The Sacred Whore at work was, in fact, the manifestation the Great Goddess.

Today these ideas are not completely lost. The Hebrew folk dance named the hora, a tradition at Jewish weddings, is named after the circle dances of the sacred harlots. Such holy harlots were often "brides of God" similar to modern nuns, the "brides of Christ." The holy harlots were set apart to give birth to Sons of God. In other words, these women had the job of changing human-animal into human-god.

The separation into priestess and prostitute, or sacred and profane polarities, occurred for western civilization when the early fathers of Christianity claimed power by abolishing goddess worship and other nature-based pagan religions. In actuality the bipartite woman, both whore and madonna, was a construct of the early Papal Councils around 600 AD. In the New Testament itself, there is nothing which proves that Magdalene was a repentent prostitute; other texts suggest that she was a spiritual teacher in her own right. (For more information about Mary Magdalene, check out Scandals, Intriques and Christianity.)


Vestal Virgins and Sex Magick

Ishtar, the Great Whore of Babylon, was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the Harlots. These Harlots were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses, sorceresses, prophets, and healers. Sacred Whores were known sometimes as the Holy Virgins of Goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite. The famous Vestal Virgins were thought to have practiced secret sex magical rites in honor of the Roman Goddess Vesta, the same as the Greek goddess Hestia -- Goddess of the Hearth, or "center of the world."

"Virgin" did not mean possessing an intact hymen. A virgin was simply an unmarried woman, a woman who claimed ownership of herself. Think of Athena, the maiden goddess who jumped off a cliff rather than submit to wedlock. We see a similar story in the Hebraic tradition where Lilith, unwilling to subjugate herself to Adam in the male-dominant missionary position, exiled herself from paradise in exchange for her own sovereignty.

But Holy Whores weren't man-haters. Their function was dispensing the grace of the God/Goddess through sexual worship by sharing their bodies with worthy initiates and with each other.

The European idea of going into a womblike space -- cave, pit, hole, lake, or river -- in order to attain a new life of spirit stems from the Neolithic period (approx. 15,000 b.c.e. - 5,000 b.c.e.). During this time the common belief system deemed the main God/Goddess female. Gods were primarily consorts for the Great Goddess or her sons, such as Horus and Jesus. Reunite the polarities, put the Virgin Mary back together with Mary Magdalene and you have a Holy Whore who is the mother of a man/god, or evolved man.

In the Beginning

The Great Goddess was the All and her son represented the self-realized human, male or female. Women were thought to be able to access the power of the Goddess more easily because they could more easily identify with Her. In these early days, women were the mediators between the Goddess and the tribe. Later the masculine force became imbalanced by the male need to overcompensate and relegate women to a lower class. Such imbalance may have been caused in part by men's fear of women's magic -- particularly the ability to give birth, the blood, and her intuitive gifts.

Before science explained away the mystery, women seemed magical, almost frightening. Women bled in sync with the phases of the moon. They bled in sync with each other and, to the awe of men, did not die. Women bore the babies and from their breasts flowed milk to sustain life. While the men went out to hunt, women explored, gathered food, and gained knowledge of medicinal herbs. They were the healers who produced magical cures for snake bites. Women were privy to divine wisdom. The Delphic oracles listened to pythons, while Eve took the sage advice of a serpent. Woman's "innate" ability to tune into the Goddess was facilitated by her knowledge of herbs, including perhaps, psychoactive botanicals that produced visions.

When God was definitively female, women had the edge. It was thought necessary for a man to go through a woman in order to achieve contact with the Deity. Male devotees of the Great Goddess would offer gifts, undergo painful or humiliating preparatory rituals, wait years, fast, and give just about anything for the opportunity to be initiated by a Sacred Whore. In doing so, they attained the power of the Great Goddess, as well as the opportunity to contact what some modern mages or witches refer to as the True Will, Higher Self, or Holy Guardian Angel.

She of the Temple Tower

Priestesses devoted their lives and their bodies to the Goddess. Herodotus wrote that Babylonian brides were required by law to prostitute themselves at the temple for seven days prior to marriage in order to appease the Goddess, who disapproved of monogamy. Spending time as a holy whore blessed the maiden. The profession also became a refuge for women who wished to keep claim of themselves and their rights. In Hellenic Greece, courtesans maintained a social status legally and politically equal to men, while wives were reduced to servants.

The idea that a man needed a woman in order to attain apotheosis, or give birth to the potential God/Goddess hidden within himself, still lives between the lines of many patriarchal religious texts. Crowley had his Scarlet Woman, Simon the Mage had his whore, and Jesus, Mary Magdalene. In fact, Magdalene means "she of the the temple-tower."

Beauty/Beast Duality

The patriarchal entity is a tyrant who feeds on control, or "power over." The Holy Whore is a manifestation of "power with, power shared, and power for all." Think of the Strength card in Tarot: A woman holds the lion's mouth open. In this image, woman has identified and taken control of her sexual and creative power, symbolized by the lion.

Despite his unsavory reputation, Aleister Crowley was one of the first male occultists to embrace the goddess. Crowley switched the traditional order of Strength and Justice tarot cards and changed the name of the Strength card to Lust. Crowley wanted to give Lust (11) the same numerical value as the High Priestess (2), which some Tarot scholars interpret as the holiest card in the deck. Many other decks, including the popular feminist deck MotherPeace, have also incorporated this numerical change. In this Crowley acknowledged the power of the feminine Beauty/Beast.

The word lust is derived from the words luster or light, and originally meant "religious joy." Strength, Light, Lust, and Holiness were originally all one. Crowley's Lust card depicts a rather zaftig and sexual woman -- the much-maligned Whore of Babylon -- riding a multi-headed lion from the Bible's Book of Revelations. In the commingling of beast (indicating our animal nature) and Babylon (indicating the sexual force of the great tripartite goddess), a great power is realized.

In "Beauty and the Beast," the character Beauty can be seen as the Sacred Whore. She has gone to live with the Beast to save the life of her father. The Beast woos Beauty, painfully and pitifully. Ashamed of his ugliness and his animalistic traits, he pines away, stepping towards death. When Beauty sees beyond his mask, she sacrifices her ego and goes to him. When she gives herself to him with a kiss, he is reborn as a gorgeous prince, symbolizing the bliss of the union of Spirit and Nature. This tale is saying that it is within our power to change the state of civilization by the power of our sex. This sentiment is echoed in Deena Metzger's poem, "The Women Who Slept with Men to Take the War Out of Them." The Goddess' way is power with, not the patriarchal power over.

Sex, Death and Transformation

When fully self-realized, woman is the initiatrix into higher rites of passage. She is Mut, Great Mother of Death, and also Isis, whose love makes possible the higher birth of Horus from the inert Osirus. Astrologically speaking, this concept is reflected in the sign of Scorpio, which rules sex, death, and transformation or initiation. Sexual love can be a path to spiritual evolution. Some occultists believe that sex combined with ritual creates the most powerful magic.

Love/Sex is also linked with death. Renaissance poets called orgasm "the little death." The Goddess is more than Mother and Whore, she is also the Crone, the Destroyer, the Eater of Men. This trifold goddess is akin to Hindu Goddess Kali. Powerful Kali gives birth with one hand while squatting over her dead consort Shiva and devouring his entrails with the other. If we conquer our fear of the trifold Goddess' powers and embrace the natural sacredness of sex and death, we can truly begin to understand the cycle of life.

Life Out of Balance

Many believe that the world's chance of survival is dependent on the reclamation of the female aspect of deity and its integration in the minds of the people "en masse." We will evolve in the images of the God/Goddess that we created. The Sacred Prostitute represents energy, light, and expansive creative force. The repression of this positive force puts society in crisis. As poet/prophet William Blake writes, "Repressed energy breeds pestilence." Our world becomes a place where violence has replaced creative sexual expression. Consider that violence is accepted as common TV fare, while the sight of a women breastfeeding her infant causes vehement outcries from the rightwing christian minority.

Our society's god-of-choice is miserable, grouchy, and usually on the verge of suicide. Just watch the TV evangelists praying forArmageddon. Their god only evinces the "restrictive" saturnine intellect and represents a degeneration, a far fall from the original Father-Mother-Sister-Brother God/Goddess of Jewish paganism named YHVH. The punishing grey-beard whom Blake deemed "Nobodaddy," has been severed from feminine wisdom. His children are stillborn, waiting in the ethers for the nourishing milk of their mother.

Violence against women increases as men who feel powerless resort to rape. Millions of women deny themselves orgasmic pleasure because they are taught "good girls don't" by a society that worships a bachelor god. The new Yahweh is irritable and quick to call fun a sin. Many men are stuck playing tough guy roles, and many women learn that submission and passivity are their tickets to survival. Two hundred years ago, the poet Percy Shelley, a maverick feminist and political activist, asked, "Can man be free if woman be a slave?"

Anyone who has indulged in BDSM will tell you that both dominant and submissive roles contain joys, but to play only one and never the other brings monotony, sadness, or dangerous obsession. Without the embodiment of the Sacred Whore in every woman, society twists itself dysfunctional.

Reclaiming Female Power

Of course, women can't flock to temples and set up camp as Holy Whores in this day and age without being arrested. But a change in the way women see themselves, and in the way men see women, would be a start. Every woman can invoke the Holy Whore into her life with pleasure. The Sacred Prostitute is a woman who has reclaimed her Self and reconnected with her will. Most importantly, she is a woman who has reclaimed the sacredness of her body.

First and foremost: Pay attention to what advertisers and the media, promoters of degenerate cultural realities, are telling us. Both women and men must learn to ignore the messages that women are "sick" with post-menstrual syndrome (PMS0 or menstrual cramps two weeks out of every month, that our vaginas smell bad, that we must wax pubis, douche, or use deodorized tampons if we are to be "clean." It's hard to invoke the Goddess within if we believe our bodies are so flawed.

We need to honor the menstrual cycle. We need to change the language associated with it, call it moon time or bleeding time, instead of the vulgar "on the rag." Don't blame your partner's moodiness on PMS; have sex instead -- wonderful messy sex. Fertilize your plants with menstrual blood, an ancient magical fertilizer. Question the programming that automatically labels sexual women "sluts."

Yahweh's obviously not happy alone on the mountain. Our reclaiming of the sacred prostitute's spirit, humor, and sheer joy in the flesh could help this pitiful modern God remember his Goddess's bountiful tit and make some holy whoopie. When the Goddess residing in every woman is honored, the paradox of sacred sexuality can again manifest in our world. The Goddess is as her people act: As above, so below.


Diana Rose Hartmann MA is a freelance writer and artist. Her articles and short fiction have appeared in a variety of publications including The Sun, The Seattle Times, The Whole Life Times, Green Egg, New Falcon Publications, and bOING-bOING . She has worked on projects as varied as scripting and designing mass market computer games to teaching writing at California State University to editing and writing occult psychology for trade paperback publishers. She also paints, creates comics, and reads Tarot cards.


Audrey Munson:  American Goddess; Born June 8, 1891- Died February 20, 1996

Audrey Munson, An American Goddess