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Inanna prostitutes?

From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Inanna prostitutes?
Date: Thu, 07 Mar 1996 14:31:48 +0000

In article , (Yuri
Kuchinsky) wrote:

> : So far all I've found on this are assumptions made in books
> : written before 1965 that don't bother stating how they came about with
> : the theory?
> : Did "temple prostitution" really exist in Sumeria between 4500 BC and
> : 2000 BC? If so, how did it come about, how did it evolve and why? Then
> : there's the question as to if "prostitution" is the right word for it?
> : What did these people who were "prostitutes" do in relation to the
> : temple, what were their religious jobs?
> : I have to admit, it is very hard for me to believe that there were
> : "prostitutes" in relation to the temples of Inanna. Part of it is my
> : bias, or maybe a huge part of it is my bias. What I'd really like to
> : find are Sumerian texts that talk about such people, and the views upon
> : them. I mean what little text I have seen has talked about one aspect of
> : Inanna as being a "prostitute," and it seems, that their views on such a
> : thing was quite open and accepting. Hmm, maybe I need more phsychology
> : to understand this.
> Yuri Kuchinsky

>    Indeed, It is Inanna/Istar who wields the "me" associated with
> prostitution. These "me" are the powers associated with structuring and
> determining the inherent modality of existence of certain acts / objects.
> "The 'me' are properties or powers of the gods which enable a whole host
> of activities central to civilized human life,especially religion, to take
> place..the me are powers which make possible the implementation of the
> gis-hur [the "plan" or "design"], and which ensure the continuation of
> civilized life. They are ancient, enduring, holy, valuable." from "Gods,
> Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia" by Jeremy Black and Anthony
> Green,  p. 130 .
>     Among the pertinent "me" which Inanna posesses are the Art of
> Lovemaking, The Kissing of The Phallus, the Art of Prostitution, and the
> Cult Prostitute. see "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth", by Samuel Noah
> Kramer, p. 17. George Bataille, in "Eroticism," explains the phenomena
> thus: " Prostitution seems to have been a compliment to marriage in the
> first place. The prostitute was dedicated to a life of transgression . The
> Sacred or forbidden aspect of sexual activity remained apparent in her,
> for her whole life was dedicated to violating the taboo. Religion, far
> from opposing prostitution, was able to control its modalities as it could
> with other sorts of transgression. The prostitute in contact with sacred
> things, in surrounding themselves [with the] sacred, had a sacredness
> comparable with that of priests"
> p. 133.
>    For an excellent overview, see Gwendolyn Leick's "Sex and Eroticism in
> Mesopotamian Literature". Also helpful is Jean Boterro's "Ancient
> Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and The Gods", which has a chapter
> devoted to the subject.

Thanks for this interesting take on Sumerian culture. 

I recall my mingled laughter and metaphysical delight when, upon first 
reading "Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth" by Samuel Noah Kramer, i 
realized that two of the "me" that Inanna (in her Prometheus-like role of 
Bringer of Culture) carried from her father to humanity were "The Art of 
Lovemaking" and "The Kissing of the Phallus." However, i did not see these 
as prosititution-related arts then, nor do i see them thus at this time, 
for they are everyday arts of the sort which every woman knows. Therefore 
i do not think that they belong in a discussion of "sacred prosititues," 
any more than the "me" of spinning or the "me" of making bread does.

I wonder why or on what authority Bataille defines prostitution as "sacred 
or forbidden" and relates it to "transgression" and "taboo." As a 
tantra/karezza woman, i practice "sacred" sex every day of my life and 
find nothing "forbidden" or "transgressive" or "taboo" in it -- and i 
wonder if perhaps Battaile is working under the influence of a 
contemporary, sex-reressive cultural paradigm (possibly 
Catholic-influenced?) when he postulates that the Sumerians equated 
"sacred" with "forbidden."

I have never read Bataille's work first-hand, but this is not the first 
time i have objected strongly to cited quotes of his which contain what i 
perceive to be his pathetically culture-bound and thus egregiously limited 
view that sacred sex is by its nature "transgressive." I do not hold you 
accountable in any way for his questionable opinions, of course; i simply 
seek to bring to attention the fact that they are opinions not based in 
universally shared experience, even in his own nominal "modern" culture. 

Because of the link between this subject and sacred sex, i have taken the 
libery of adding alt.magick.tantra to the newsgroups line; i hope that is 

catherine yronwode   /
alt.lucky.w -- folkloric amulets and talismans
alt.religion.orisha -- santeria, voodoo, hoodoo, candomble
LUCKY W on the web:

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