From the beginning, women were exalted as the image, the echo, the counterpart companion of the Goddess. Their access to ecstasy, imbued with spiritual significance. As priestesses, they tended the fires and fanned the generative flames from Her sex, the seat of Her power.
Paleolithic carved figures refer to woman as matrix, as creatrix, to moon cycles and menstrual magic, and resonate profound reverence in their rendering. Grandly voluptuous female forms, their sturdy stature commanding confidence and authority.
The Venuses of Willendorf, of Meton, of Lespugue, with their big breasts and belly, huge hips and ass, stand frank and fecund, formidable and efficacious. Faceless, their limbs are abbreviated. Their focus is centered on their own nubile torso, which tapers to a point. The tip of the vortex of their sex.
These ancient images sanctify female sexuality as religious expression. The carnal knowledge of universal power links sex and prayer etymologically. Venerate and venereal both stem from the Latin name of the licentious Goddess of Love, Venus. Lust in the old Germanic language meant “religious joy.”
The same spark, which ignites to conceive children, also kindles culture. It is the mother of invention. Around 9000 years ago, Mediterranean cultures venerated a supreme goddess of seduction and fruition. The intensity of Her desire, potent enough to produce generations, agriculture, poetry. She guided all growth, and especially loved lovers and art. Beauty and Heart. Ishtar, Isis, Cybele, Inanna, Aphrodite. She was not shy.
My vulva, the horn.
The Boat of Heaven
Is full of eagerness like the moon
My untilled land lies fallow
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?
– Text on Sumerian tablet, 2000 BC
Sex invoked in myth and ritual is symbolic of the primary life force. Sex as energy. Sex as creation. Sex as abundance. Sex as unification. Sex as divine spirit. Sex as celebration. Sex as sympathetic magic.
During the Iroquois Naked Dance, a woman and a man coupled in the fields to fertilize the crops. Until the end of the last century, European peasants did the same. The Christians called the fertility song-prayers of pagan Norsemen, “female gyrations.” Sexual licentiousness was central in the harvest celebrations of the African Bantu and Badago.
Hunters also had intercourse with nature. The married women of the Cheyenne and Mandan of the Great Plains performed a rite called “Intercourse with the Buffalo.” They shared sexual relations with the elder men of the tribe who impersonated the bison, thereby channeling the Great Spirit. Celtic kings would copulate with a mare, which was then killed, butchered and cooked in a soup. This, the king consumed in order to partake of the power of Epona, the Equine Goddess.
Hindus maintain that sex with any woman is the same as sex with the Goddess Shakti, Herself, whose vibratory energy charges all life. In Tantra, as well as Taoism, the male taps into the infinite energy of the female — fuses with her like a space capsule refueling in orbit. He then recycles, as it were, his sperm, directing its flow to the top of his head to elevate his spirit.
Sufis and other Middle Eastern mystics consort with a fravashi, a mystical lady-love to reach enlightenment. Tantric-like techniques were taught in Greek temples of Venus by Her harlot-priestesses, the venerii. Ovid, an initiate, wanted to die while making love. “Let me go in the act of coming to Venus, in more senses than one let my last dying be done.”
The Romans celebrated the sacred febris or sexual frenzy of the Goddess Juno in mid February, the time when the birds in Italy mate. On Lupercalia men and women drew love lots to determine their partner for this festival of erotic games. This is how Sulpicia, a Roman poet in the first century, BC described her experience of febris:
At last love has come. I would be more ashamed
to hide it in cloth than leave it naked.
I prayed to the Muse and won. Venus dropped him
in my arms, doing for me what she
had promised. Let my joy be told, let those
who have none tell it in a story.
Personally, I would never send off words
in sealed tablets for none to read.
I delight in sinning and hate to compose a mask
for gossip. We met. We are both worthy.
Lupercalia was the original Valentine’s Day. Unable to stop this popular orgiastic festival, early church fathers created a sainted martyr patron of lovers whose feast day would be February 14th, thus, sanctioning a celebration they could not suppress.
All the symbols of Lupercalia are still intact, if sanitized and insipid. Cupid, child of Aphrodite and Hermes was an Herm-Aphrodite, the embodiment of sexual union. S/he is now depicted as a cutsie chubby angel baby with a bow and arrow. Cupid’s arrows are symbolic of phallic projectiles of passion, penetrating a red heart. And the heart, which has no resemblance to an anatomical heart, is a simplistic illustration of an aroused and engorged vulva, a holy yoni.
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.