The Sacred Prostitute

Updated: Dec 10, 2020


"The Sleeping Venus", Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656), Italian

"The connection of the spiritual seizure with a physical paroxysm is expressed in the modern woman in the fact that she can experience an orgasm with spiritual excitement, for example, with music, and that her "understanding" of spiritual contents also can be combined with bodily sensations. This means that she understands, symbolically speaking, not with the head but with the whole body, and that in her spiritual and corporal processes are bound together in a way quite foreign to the average man." - "The Fear of the Feminine", Erich Neumann In her book, "The Sacred Prostitute", the Jungian psycho-analyst, Nancy Qualls - Corbett tells of a dream that her client had. The dream is as follows: "I am cleaning my house, and then bathing and dressing myself because a most distinguished guest is coming although I do not know who it will be. I feel the extreme importance and am nervous. The ambassador from Japan arrives. We greet each other cordially, although I am still nervous. He performs the tea ceremony for me. We enter the bedroom (not my own in reality) and make love. With no words spoken, he leaves and I remain in a state of ecstasy."


The woman who had the dream was sexually indiscriminating after her divorce. However, after an amount of time, she began to feel deep emptiness. She used the word "chain of tears" in order to describe how her chest felt, pointing towards a deep emotional wound. Upon contemplating and giving attention to her crying anima, she had the dream described above. The dream itself almost perfectly follows the ancient ritual of sacred prostitution. In this ritual, a stranger approaches a woman, who serves at the temple of goddess of love - Venus, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Innana or any other. He gives her coins, but it is not the woman he is paying for - he is giving an offering to the goddess, who would allow him to engage in the love-making act with her devotee, and sometimes her very incarnation in the flesh. The whole act was ritualised - the bath, the cleaning, the ecstasy, and the farewell that would happen in the end. The woman mentioned, in her dream, had this exact ceremony, in a way her psyche translated it to her. Japan & Japanese ambassador is what for her, an American, represents "The Other". He is also the man, male, animus, yet another "Other". She purifies the place, they perform a ritual of sacred union, and they part. It is not a "hook up", it is not "an adventure", it is not a relationship. It is a sacred union of animus and anima. The woman remained in a state of ecstasy because her inner man has fertilised her psyche. She allowed herself to be penetrated psychologically and subconsciously. In the dream she "purified" herself and received the masculine not as an exploiter, abuser or rapist, but as someone who honours her. In the same era in which the love making rituals happened at a temple, there were also profane prostitutes who were exploited and often not far from the slave status (if not a slave). The same aspect of womanhood, her sexuality, was celebrated, honoured, exploited and stigmatised. And while we no longer have the sacred prostitutes at temples, she lives in the psyches of both women and men. Understanding her as a woman, allows the woman to connect to her sexuality and body, without seeing it as something that is opposed to the sacred, and for a man, it allows him to connect sexually with a woman who he respects, without the need to categorise her into a mother or a whore category.

The Stranger in the City

"L'Attente", Andriy Bilichenko & Mariya Bukhtiyarova Bilichenko

"Women who are sexually promiscuous, lacking an emotional tie or even harboring a deep resentment toward their partner, are unrelated to their essential feminine nature. That is precisely the situation which feeds the negative animus. The animus is as negative in the inner life of such a woman as are her views of men in her outer life. He turns a cruel face toward her, undercutting her every move. The more adamantly she believes that men are her enemies, the less she is able to realize that the enemy is within herself. There is no ritual preparation, such as the above dreamer experienced, no welcome reception of the mysterious Other. Likewise, women who experience sexual anxieties have never fully experienced the breakthrough, the penetration, of the masculine. Such woman remain, as it were, like the girl in the fairy tale, living in the emotional impoverishment of the father's house. Their fears of the phallic beast prevent them from experiencing love and its transforming effects, not only on themselves but on their partners. The inner animus remains in an undeveloped state, forever a frog, never recognized as the prince it could become. The positive stranger animus enables a woman to focus on and to discern the attributes and beauty of her feminine nature. He guides her into the conscious realization of her femininity. She then has the ability to make choices that do not compromise it. Just as the sacred prostitute went out into the world when the ritual was completed, prepared to enter marriage as a person fully aware of her capacity, so the modern woman who has integrated her animus is prepared for life." - "The Sacred Prostitute", Nancy Qualls - Corbett The stranger arrives at the temple of Ishtar/Innana, the ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, war, fertility, justice and beauty. He then makes love to her priestess or the woman who embodies the goddess for the initiatory ceremony. This was her initiation from a maiden to a woman. It would usually occur before she was married to her fiance. In Europe this was known as Droit du seigneur in which feudal lord had sexual relations with a woman of his subordinate, particularly on their wedding nights. Apparently this existed in other cultures too - Roman matrons would do it at the temple of Juno Sospita when they needed a guidance and in ancient Egypt, rites in honour of goddesses Bastet and Hathor had similar practices. Although many cultures came to expect virginity of a bride, it was not always the case (some cultures maintained this practice but this essay would be too long if it were to become an anthropological investigation). Often, the woman who was to be a bride, had to sleep with a man who was a stranger, in order to be initiated into womanhood. Only after being initiated into womanhood, that is, after having a sexual experience, could she become a wife - a grown woman ready for the life that is ahead.


Stranger is "the other", the foreign, the different, the man, the phallic, the penetrating. He is, as the Corbett calls him: "the phallic beast" for the maiden who faces his often visually aggressive sexuality. But in the ritual, the bond is honoured, he does not assault her, and that which looked foreign, beastly, strange, becomes the source of ecstasy. Symbolically, on the level of psyche, the woman allows her inner man, to penetrate her anima. In order to become a woman, a little girl must "accept" the animus. She cannot become conscious of her own potential for ecstasy, and in that her own feminine eros, unless she allows the logos inside of her. In Jungian psychoanalysis, animus, logos or masculine principle represents the conscious and the differentiated, anima, eros or feminine principle is the unconscious and the undifferentiated, it is the realm of the collective. Only when woman becomes aware of her own eros, can she actually be a mature woman, and not a little girl who is either in conflict with animus or idealises him.


The story of a stranger who comes into town and takes the maiden into adventure is common in fairytales and myth. The young maiden is taken away from the father and mother world, and brought into the unknown. A woman who rejects her own sacred prostitute may spend a whole life seeing her faith and sexuality in opposition. She may struggle with her body. She may see any beautification of her body, any drop of perfume as her being a "harlot" or a "temptress". Unfortunately, the result is often that such a woman will relate to men as either sons or fathers. When this happens, it is not uncommon that sexuality will become absent in the relationship. If the woman unconsciously sees her partner as a father or a son, unless there is another complex present, she will reject being penetrated by him (both psychologically and physically). Also, lack of conscious awareness of the lover archetype within her, may lead woman to be extremely indiscriminating in sexual relationships, as she desperately seeks the masculine vitality to fertilise the feminine eros within her. She may exploit her own sexuality, use it for egoistic purposes or any other activity that may affect her and those around her negatively. A woman who is conscious of this part of her, may not necessarily be outwardly sexual, but she is comfortable with this part of her and it is often felt in her sensuality, the lightness of being, inspiration, laughter, humour and everything else that develops with this psychic integration.

The Dangerous Temptress

"Agra Fort", Abdur Rahman Chughtai (1894 – 1975), Pakistani

"For I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am (the mother) and the daughter. I am the members of my mother... I am the silence that is incomprehensible and the idea whose remembrance is frequent. I am the voice whose sound is manifold and the word whose appearance is multiple. I am the utterance of my name." —''The Thunder, Perfect Mind," Nag Hammadi Library Long time ago, on a local forum, I read a comment that stuck in my mind. A man, wrote how, he would never allow "the mother of his children" to "orally please him", because he could never imagine a woman kissing a child & pleasing a man with the same mouth. The initial reaction of many may be either to judge and accuse him of puritanism or to agree with him in a certain way. However, what he was expressing was simply his fractured psychic image of a woman - mother nurtures and loves, she cannot do the things the "whores" do. She does not and cannot enjoy the love making, she does it only to produce a child. Her ultimate joy is in the child, not in the sexual act. The very desire for a sexual act is not something a mother should have. This fracture in the psyche of this specific man, and many other men (as well as women), did not happen at once. It is a result of centuries of the cultural change in which the images of lover and mother have been separated. The man who voices such a statement, is simply operating from the collective unconscious that he has inherited. With Eve, Lilith and many others, the female sexuality, the earthiness, the bodily ecstasy became a source of temptation. There was nothing sacred about it, for she was the cause of the fall. She became the harlot that pulls a man into the darkness that he can never get out of. She became that which every pious woman should avoid - she ought to whip the whore within herself. Indeed, anima can completely destroy a man. And while they were probably right that profane hedonism, escapism and indulgence can bring any human into a dark pit, they completely rejected how body itself can be the source of the transcendental experience - the experience of going inside of yourself to find the Divine rather than seeking the Divine in the sky. Inscendence, not transcendence. As a result, a man who rejects her in his own psyche, will reject her outwardly too - like the man from the forum. The result is similar to the one of the woman who is unconscious of this part of the psyche. That man cannot relate to his wife, or a woman he loves and respects as a lover. He can only relate to her as a mother and daughter. Just like a woman rejects to be penetrated by the son or the father, so will he, reject to penetrate a daughter or a mother. What happens is that he will often seek "the real woman" elsewhere, while maintaining the friendly, platonic relationship with the "holy mother" he has back at home. The unhealthy bond with anima many manifest as the opposite too - he may see his wife as his "profane whore". He may expect of her to provide him with sex or consider it her "duty" to provide it at his request. His subconscious relates to his wife as a whore, whether he consciously sees her as one or not. The man who comes to accept the sacred prostitute within himself, will be able to relate to women in a way it is honourable for both of them. Sexuality will not be about aggression, control, or power, but rather about the connection. He will also not avoid sexuality with the women he respects as humans. His own inner anima will ease his need to make everything useful and serving a purpose. He will be able to simply rest and find the holy in the bodily ecstasy. If both man and woman are complete and integrated, and such two happen to meet in the world, it may resemble a sacred ceremony described above.

Links "The Fear of the Feminine", Erich Neumann "The Sacred Prostitute", Nancy Qualls - Corbett Become a Patron Support Orphic Inscendence

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