Sacred prostitution, temple prostitution, or religious prostitution is a sexual ritual consisting of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity performed in the context of religious worship, perhaps as a form of fertility rite and divine marriage (hieros gamos). Scholars have long considered such practices to be customary in the ancient world; however, more recent scholarship has cast doubts on this picture, based on doubts about the reliability of ancient sources.
Some scholars prefer the term “sacred sex” to sacred prostitution, in cases where a payment for services was not involved. The Greek term hierodoulos or “hierodule” has sometimes been taken to mean “sacred prostitute”, but it is more likely to refer to a former slave freed from slavery in order to be “dedicated” to a god. The Hebrew term qedesha, found in the Old Testament, is often translated as “temple prostitute”.
Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East Sacred marriage
The practice of sacred prostitution has not been substantiated in any Ancient Near Eastern cultures, despite many popular descriptions of the habit. Scholars generally believe that a form of “sacred marriage” ritual or hieros gamos was staged between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare, but no certain evidence has survived to prove that sexual intercourse was included. Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these.
The temple housed priestesses of the goddess, but there is no evidence whatsoever that they or any other women performed any kind of sexual services in any cult
Ancient Near East In the Hebrew Bible
None of the daughters of Israel shall be a kedeshah, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a kadesh.
You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute (zonah) or the wages of a dog (kelev) into the house of the Lord your God to pay a vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.
Akkadian and Venus
According to the contemporary Christian writer Eusebius, the Phoenician cities of Aphaca and Heliopolis (Baalbek) continued to practise temple prostitution until the emperor Constantine closed down the rite in the 4th century AD.
In the Greek-influenced and -colonized world, “sacred prostitution” was known in Cyprus (Greek-settled since 1100 BC), Sicily (hellenized since 750 BCE), in the Kingdom of Pontus (8th century BC) and in Cappadocia (c. 330 BC hellenized).
In 2 Maccabees 6:1-4 the ‘Greek’ rulers of Jerusalem (king Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire in Anatolia, Syria and eastward) are accused of desecrating the Jerusalem Temple and calling it the temple of Olympian Zeus and bringing prostitutes (hetairai) into that Jerusalem Temple and having sex with them there:
In Ancient India ritual marriage of young girls to a deity or temple was common they work in the temple and function as spiritual guides, dancers, and prostitutes servicing male devotees in the temple: Read the Full Article
Deuki is an ancient custom practiced in the far western regions of Nepal where a young girl is offered to the local temple to fulfill an earlier made promise to gain religious merit. The girl serves the temple as a prostitute, similar to India’s devadasi tradition. The practice is in decline, but girls are still dedicated. The child of a Deuki is known as a Devi.
Central and South America
Homosexual prostitution in Aztec and Mayan were they dedicated young boys as temple prostitutes. The boys were dressed in girls clothing, and chiefs and headmen would have ritual homosexual intercourse with them during religious ceremonies and on holidays: Full Article
Revisionist criticism of “widespread sacred prostitution”
Sacred Prostitution or ritual sex trace back to Babylonian custom Ancient Greek , Ancient Rome, Aztecs and Mayans, but the widespread sacred prostitution also received allot of Revisionist criticism but did really this type of rituals existed ?. Full Article
Recent Western occurrences
In the 1970s and early 1980s, some religious cults practiced sacred prostitution as an instrument to recruit new converts. Among them was the alleged cult Children of God, also known as The Family, who called this practice “Flirty Fishing”. They later abolished the practice due to the growing AIDS epidemic.
In Ventura County, California, Wilbur and Mary Ellen Tracy established their own temple, the Church Of The Most High Goddess, in the wake of what they described as a divine revelation. Sexual acts played a fundamental role in the church’s sacred rites, which were performed by Mary Ellen Tracy herself in her assumed role of High Priestess. Local newspaper articles about the Neopagan church quickly aroused the attention of local law enforcement officials, and in April 1989, the Tracys’ house was searched and the couple arrested on charges of pimping, pandering and prostitution. They were subsequently convicted in a trial in state court and sentenced to jail terms: Wilbur Tracy for 180 days plus a $1,000.00 fine; Mary Ellen Tracy for 90 days plus mandatory screening for STDs.