Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ritual Sex and Ancient Egyptian Priests

Alice C. Linsley

Perhaps you have heard the expression "the flesh pots of Egypt" and wondered about the phrase. Recently a poorly informed journalist used this to imply that the ancient Egyptians participated in ritual sex. That is not the origin of the expression, however. The phrase refers to the consumption of lamb that the Habiru/Hebrew enjoyed while in Egypt. It has nothing to do with sex.

In fact, the priests of Egypt were fastidious about avoiding ritual sex. Herodotus observed that "The Egyptians were the first who made it a point of religion not to lie with women in temples, nor to enter into temples after going away from women without first bathing." (II:64)

The priests of ancient Egypt maintained shrines and temples along the Nile and regarded ritual purity as essential to their ministry. Herodotus observed II:37:
"They are religious excessively beyond all other men, and with regard to this they have customs as follows: they drink from cups of bronze and rinse them out every day, and not some only do this but all: they wear garments of linen always newly washed, and this they make a special point of practice: they circumcise themselves for the sake of cleanliness, preferring to be clean rather than comely. The priests shave themselves all over their body every other day, so that no lice or any other foul thing may come to be upon them when they minister to the gods; and the priests wear garments of linen only and sandals of papyrus, and any other garment they may not take nor other sandals; these wash themselves in cold water twice in the day and twice again in the night; and other religious services they perform (one may almost say) of infinite number."
Likewise, Plutarch noted that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

Heliopolis was a sun city where Horite Hebrew priests served. The Horite Hebrew (Habiru) were a caste of priests known for their wholesome lives. It appears that the Nilotic priest orders were concerned about sexual purity and disdained sexual immorality.

The Horite Hebrew were devotees of Horus and are called "Horites" in the Bible. The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who maintained high standards of moral behavior. Before their time of service in the temples they shaved their bodies and did not consume wine. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

Horite Hebrew priests enjoyed married life but they abstained from sexual relations before serving in the temples. Ritual sex was discussed because it represented a departure from the ways of the Horim. We have no evidence that Horite priests followed the practices condemned by the prophets in Canaan. In the ancient world Horite priests were known for their purity and devotion to the High God.

After the establishment Solomon's temple, women performed sacred duties for the temple such as weaving and drawing water, but not as temple prostitutes. Some of these women were dedicated as young girls to the temple (likely the case with the Virgin Mary). The same was true for boys (Samuel is an example.) Fertility rites involving ritual sex were known in association with the cults of Venus and Aphrodite, but not in association with Yahweh or Yahu.

Fertility was not extremely important among the Horite Hebrew because they regarded "be fruitful and multiply" as a divine injunction or command.

Edward Lipinski writes:
Contrary to the claims of some 20th-century scholarship, the Hebrew Bible never refers directly to cult prostitutes. Many modern Bible translations are simply misleading in this respect. Much of the confusion results from a misunderstanding of a few Biblical texts that mention qedeshot, the plural of qedeshah, which is related to qodesh, “holy place.” Originally qedeshah referred to a “consecrated maiden,” but Biblical authors used it in the sense of “harlot.”
In the ancient Near East, women could in fact be dedicated by their fathers or their masters to a deity. Women could also devote themselves to the service of a god or a goddess in order to secure their living. This was done mainly by young widows without grown children, by repudiated wives, by female slaves sent away (like Hagar, Abraham’s concubine in Genesis 21), by lonely women, etc. These “consecrated” persons performed tasks in the sanctuary, provided domestic help in temple annexes, perhaps provided musical entertainment and possibly sexual services, remitting their fees to the temple. However, qedeshot in the Bible never appear as performing religious sexual rituals, which is the key attribute of a cult prostitute. Women on duty at the entrance to Israelite sanctuaries are mentioned in Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, but their tasks are not described, and they are not called qedeshot.

The figure shown in the BAR article quoted above is an 8-inch silver-painted bronze statuette found in Syria. It shows the religious syncretism of the Ancient Near East. The woman wears a solar crown, expressing the ancient belief that the sun appoints individuals for divine purposes and inseminates.

Among Abraham's Horite Hebrew ancestors the sun was regarded as the emblem of the Creator. Those who were appointed by God to rule or to perform a unique service were identified by the initial Y in their names: Yaqtan (Joktan); Yachin (Joachin), Yishmael (Ishmael); Yishbak; Yitzak (Isaac); Yacob (Jacob); Yosef (Joseph); Yetro (Jethro); Yeshai (Jesse), Yonah (Jonah), Yoel, and Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus).

The Y is a solar cradle representing the long horns of the Acholi bull. The origin of this symbolism is found among the cattle-herding Proto-Saharans as early as 4000 BC.

The Horite Hebrew expected a woman of their ruler-priest caste to conceive the divine "Seed" (Gen. 3:15) by the overshadowing of the sun. Hathor, the mother of Horus is shown overshadowed as a sign that she is to be the mother of the son of God. She prefigures the Virgin Mary who conceived by divine overshadowing (Luke 1:35).

Related reading: Appointment By Divine OvershadowingWine Use in Antiquity; 2,400 B.C. Tomb of Purification Priest; Purity Seal From Herod's Temple; Edward Lipinski, Cult Prostitution in Ancient Israel?


Anonymous said...

Herodotus said that these priests didn't enter temples when they had had affairs with their wives until they got bath( they washed themselves). like it is stated in the Quran, So also for the wine or beer.
The mnotheist religions convey the same message But many of these messages were perverted.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Herodotus (B.C. 485-425) is the source of a great deal of information about ancient Egypt and the Nilotic peoples. He tells us about circumcision, saying: "Egyptians and the Ethiopians have practiced circumcision since time immemorial. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves admit that they learnt the practice from the Egyptians, while the Syrians in the river Thermodon and the Pathenoise region and their neighbours the Macrons say they learnt it recently from the Colchidians. These are the only races which practice circumcision, and it is observable that they do it in the same way with the Egyptians."

He tells about how sedge was prepared as a food source, saying: "... they pull up from the fens the papyrus which grows every year, and the upper parts of it they cut off and turn to other uses, but that which is left below for about a cubit in length they eat or sell: and those who desire to have the papyrus at its very best bake it in an oven heated red-hot, and then eat it." (Herodotus, Histories, Vol. 2)

Herodotus' water people were Nilotes and Afro-Arabians. He uses the Greek term for the Red Sea to encompass the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. He referred to the Sudanese are Sudra and to the Dravidians of the Indian Ocean as the “eastern Ethiopians.” This is how he described them: "The Eastern Ethiopians differed in nothing from the other Ethiopians, save in their language, and the character of their hair. For the Eastern Ethiopians have straight hair, while they of Libya are more woolly-haired…” (Herodotus VI.70, Histories, trans. George Rawlinson, Dutton)

Ade said...

What sexual practices did Canaanite prophets condemn?


Alice C. Linsley said...

Homosex and ritual sex at asherah poles. Asherah poles were erected to mark shrines dedicated to the Ugaritic fertility goddess Asherah. This development arrived in Canaan long after the time of the Patriarchs.

But, first let's back up and clarify who we are speaking about.

The Bible passages that speak about “the Canaanites” reflect authors who lived well after the time of the Patriarchs. In Genesis 10 the peoples who descend from Noah through his grandsons Sidon and Het (Heth) are said to be the original inhabitants of Canaan (Palestine). This is supported by evidence from many disciples, including linguistics, archaeology, anthropology and genetics.

In II Chronciles 8:7 and I Kings 9:20 the term “Canaanite” is used to distinguish the Israelites from the other clans living in Canaan. However, it is clear from Genesis 10 that the Israelites and the Canaanite rulers were related by blood. The Canaanites were Afro-Arabian peoples. The Nilotic and Proto-Saharan ancestry of their rulers is traced using the Genesis King Lists. Genesis 10 acknowledges that the rulers of Israel and the rulers of Canaan are blood related as descendants of Noah. We are not talking about different ethnic groups, or races, but of related ruling houses who were responsible for preservation of the ancient ways of the Horim (Fathers).

Genesis 10: 15-19 traces the Canaanite rulers to an otherwise unknown descendant of Noah named Canaan.

"Canaan fathered the Sidon his first-born, then Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later Canaanite clans spread out. The Canaanite frontier stretched from Sidon all the way to Gerar near Gaza and all the way to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim near Lehsa."

Homosex was practiced in Sodom. The Biblical writers regarded this as a violation of the order of creation and an affront to the Creator.

Anonymous said...

Genesis 9:22 gives the identity of Canaan. He is the son of Ham, who is the son of Noah.

Alice C. Linsley said...


Since Canaan's name does not appear in the Genesis king lists, he is likely an apical ancestor of the two lines Heth and Sidon. Where there are two lines, we usually have two first-born sons whose descendants intermarry. Very likely the name Canaan is linguistically related to Kenan (listed in the Gen. 5 king list). Kenan was the grandson of Cain by one of his un-named daughters. The royal lines of Cain and Seth intermarried.