The Serpent Priestesses and Ancient Sexual Rites
Women robed in scarlet sheaths, conducting rituals associated with serpents away from prying eyes, serving Innana, the Goddess of Love, Fertility and War. The color of their clothes was symbolic of their power, but why was blood, particularly their menstrual blood, deemed powerful? Was it merely in acknowledgement of new life that the womb brings forth? Or were there specific uses for that blood?
Blood has been a part of rites and rituals in many religions, stretching back to the dawn of man. Jesus himself claimed there was power in the blood—but why? What is it about this nutrient rich fluid that held the ancients enthralled?
What Western society has viewed as evil in the form of Woman and the Serpent was once viewed with the utmost veneration, the two bestowing wisdom and longevity on all who partook of their essences. The Priestesses wore robes of scarlet, the color signifying the source of their power, and were titled ‘Hor’ (or in Greek Hierodulai), or ‘beloved ones’, having influence on the Kings and dignitaries in the lands they chose to settle. They did not enter into marriage for life, but rather would have children with different Kings and powerful men, securing alliances and protection for their children. It was perhaps this attitude towards marriage that resulted in the meaning of ‘Hor’ becoming what we know today (Whore) and the association of the color scarlet being associated with sexual licentiousness and sin, as exemplified in the book ‘The Scarlet Letter’.
Contrary to claims that the priestesses engaged in ritual prostitution, it is more likely that they were in control of their choices of bed-mates along with the high priestess engaging in the ritual re-enactment of the sacred marriage between Dumuzi and Innana with a young man of her choice once a year on the Spring Equinox. The tales of Innana make it very clear she was not shy in picking lovers and promoting them to Kingship and her priestesses would have followed her example.
The marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi, reproduction of a Sumerian sculpture. Public Domain
From Sumer to Cambodia Kings enacted a ritual visitation with a Goddess (in many countries depicted as a serpent or half-fish) with the threat of destruction to the kingdom should the King fail in his duty. This Sacred Marriage also conferred legitimacy on their reign. According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Damuzi.
One example of a priestess known to us as a ‘whore’ would be Rahab, who held a position of influence in Jericho and brokered an agreement with Joshua that she and her family would be spared. A scarlet thread was tied outside her window so his men would know to spare the occupants of the room. She then became one of the ancestresses of King David. One gets a sense reading about these women in the Bible that there is a grudging respect afforded them, an acknowledgement of who they were intermingled with the desire to classify them as ‘fallen women’.
Painting depicting Rahab of Jericho and the scarlet thread. 17 th Century. Public Domain
As emissaries of the Serpent Cult, the women certainly held their own in forming alliances with powerful men and establishing lines of descent. But what about within their own society? Why was their blood revered by those who shared the same lineage? Innana was a member of the Sumerian Pantheon, along with Ninkhursag, Enki, and others identified as part of the Serpent Cult. So the Priestesses originated within Sumerian or Annunaki society. There are many books devoted to the subject of the Annunaki and it is possible through them to understand the rituals of the Priestesses and their place in Annunaki society.
A version of the ancient Mesopotamian eight-pointed star symbol of the goddess Ishtar/Inanna. Public Domain
The Annunaki were practitioners in hormonal therapy and during battle the soldiers would drink the blood of their fallen comrades, which provided them with a much needed energy boost and rehydration. Ordinarily the Annunaki imbibed the Priestesses’ menstrual blood which they believed was full of nutrients and contained an essence that not only lengthened their lives but also brought them to a higher state of consciousness.