The Sacred Sex and Death Rites of the Ancient Mystery Groves

The Sacred Sex and Death Rites of the Ancient Mystery Groves


In most of the civilised world, at least as far back as 5,000 years ago, there were women shamans or priestesses who represented the godhead in sacred sex rites and, in ancient Greece, they were known as hierodules.

A hierodule would have skills similar to the shaman in that she could journey, in trance, into other dimensions, and merge with her spirit lover  there.  Part of the hierodule’s role was to spend the night with a newly crowned king or queen, and while embodying her spirit lover, she would transfer the Sovereignty of the Land to the royal personage in sexual initiation.

The Sovereignty of the Land could only be passed on through this sort of inter-dimensional intercourse, and it was a sacred contract that most civilisations honoured until relatively recently. You will find it referred to in alchemical texts as the Divine Marriage, the Alchemical Marriage or the Hieros Gamos.

The latest evidence we can find for the Hieros Gamos is in the teachings of the Mystery Groves – which were a great flowering of Gnostic knowledge and spiritual initiation held in Mediterranean and Mesopotamian countries during the Neolithic period. The Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece were the last to survive, and it’s from these that we’ve gleaned the most information about what actually went on.

Passion plays

It’s here that we begin to discover the real meaning of the term “passion plays”, because it is sexual passion which ignites the alchemical operation of the Divine Marriage.  The passion plays were centred on the goddess Demeter who, in myths, is found wandering the Earth in grief after her daughter, Persephone, is abducted into the Underworld by Hades. The sexual seed was represented by wheat and, at the culmination of the rituals, the hierodule would make love with the high priest, or hierophant.

Demeter and Persephone

Demeter and Persephone celebrating the Eleusinian Mysteries. On the left Demeter, wearing the peplos and holding a scepter in her left hand, presents Triptolemus with sheafs of wheat, for him to give them to humanity. On the right Persephone, wearing the chiton and a cloak and holding a torch, blesses Triptolemus with her left hand. Votive relief. 5th-century BC relief. National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Image source: Wikipedia

Because of the focus on the wheat in the dramatic performances, and the theme of the land remaining barren until Persephone re-emerges in the Spring, some commentators believe that the purpose of fertility rites was to placate the gods in order to get a good harvest and increased yields of cattle. But fertility rites existed long before the agricultural period – perhaps even going back to the Aurignacian era, 45,000 years ago - and so it is obvious that there was a much more profound purpose behind these sacred passion plays than merely material abundance on the Earthly plane.

However, by the last few centuries before the Christian Era, that may have been how the sacred Mysteries were viewed by the masses, who were never given the proper initiation, and so didn’t understand the purpose of the rites. They attended a sort of Mysteries Lite, the Lesser Mysteries, which were held on the Spring Equinox each year, while the Greater Mysteries, at which spiritual initiation took place, was on the Autumn Equinox and only for a select few.

The Lesser Mysteries would end with a water baptism, while the Greater Mysteries climaxed with a fire initiation.

At the Lesser Mysteries, the teachings were given in the form of allegorical stories in which the true meanings were hidden. All of this was to prepare those few who were going forward to the Greater Mysteries, where the inner meanings of the stories would be revealed and the fire initiation would take place.

In other words, it was only at the Greater Mysteries that the initiates were shown that these plays were allegories which had a dual purpose – as both spiritual and astronomical/astrological teaching stories that were a precursor to spiritual initiation. But the students of the Greater Mysteries were also under pain of death never to reveal anything of what they had been taught or seen.

The ancient ruins of Eleusis

The ancient ruins of Eleusis, Greece, where the Greater Mysteries took place. Image source: Wikimedia.

According to Lewis Spence, in The Mysteries of Egypt.

.... the whole purpose of the Mysteries was to attain fellowship or unity with the Divine here and hereafter. This is not achieved by mere doctrine, but by the exercise of the Higher Magic. The outward form of this Magic was expressed by ritual, in actual allegory. It was emblematic, symbolical, for the good reason that in emblem and symbolism and dramatic rite reside the only available human means for outwardly expressing the inward desire for at-one-ment with deity.

...these are after all merely the enacted impulses of the inward thought and belief. The ancient men who established these rites were well aware that a striking and dramatic rehearsal of the process of achieving unity, a material and symbolic representation of what is actually a psychical process, could not but assist it by bringing the mental and bodily parts of man into magical and rhythmic response with this psychic part and thus with the upward movement as whole.

What Lewis Spence is describing are the dramas which were staged at the Lesser Mysteries, and to help people remember the names and qualities of all the various spirits or gods who were portrayed in the plays, their images were moulded into models or statues and their likenesses painted on to pottery.

Mysteries of Eleusis depicted on pottery

Mysteries of Eleusis depicted on pottery, 4 th century BC. Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France - Hydrie. Image source: Wikimedia

One of these plays featured a sun god who died and then rose again from the dead three days later, just as the Sun ‘died’, or reached the nadir of its course on its yearly cycle during the winter solstice, and then begins its journey north again three days later.

But because only those few that were deemed ready, were chosen from the crowds at the Lesser Mysteries for the Greater Mysteries, many left the Lesser Mysteries thinking that they’d been revealed the full teachings and that there had been a real person who died and rose again three days later.

The fire initiation and la petit mort

When we look at what initiates have managed to say about the Greater rites, while still keeping their heads, it’s clear that the Lesser rites teachings were allegories for a much deeper spiritual teaching which led to an initiation. 

Cicero said of the Greater rites that they not only taught man how to live, but also how to die. No wonder the French call the orgasm la petit mort . Sex and death are very close together in that they are both initiations into another portal. What men are not receiving through sacred sex magic, they seek for in promiscuity, rape, violence and war... due to a yearning for that portal... and the Masters of War know it.

Plutarch wrote about his initiation:

When a man dies he is like those who are initiated into the Mysteries. Our whole life is a journey by torturous ways without outlet. At the moment of quitting it come terrors, shuddering fear, amazement. Then a light that moves to meet you, pure meadows that receive you, songs and dances and holy apparitions.

Apuleius wrote in The Golden Ass :

I approached the confines of Death, and, having trodden on the threshold of Proserpina, returned, having been carried through all the elements, to the depths of midnight I saw the sun glittering with a splendid light, together with the infernal and supernal gods, and to these divinities approaching, I paid the tribute of devout adoration.

Votive plaque depicting elements of the Eleusinian Mysteries

Votive plaque depicting elements of the Eleusinian Mysteries. National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Image source: Wikimedia.

The Christian Church now only gives the water initiation to the masses, in the form of the baptism, as if their congregations were attendees of the Lesser Mysteries; if the Church ever does give a fire initiation, the rank and file of this religion never get to hear about it. But shreds of what once was practised are visible in the New Testament, if you know what to look for.

In Luke 3:16, we find John the Baptist talking about the water and fire initiation.

....I indeed baptise you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

There’s also the anecdote about Saul/Paul of Tarsus being hit by a blaze of the Holy Ghost’s fire, causing him to fall off his horse. Then there’s the story about the disciples all being gathered in the Upper Room ...

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. “ Acts 2:2-3

These sacred sex rites finally fell out of favour after the Mystery Groves and libraries were destroyed on the orders of the 4 th century Roman Emperor Theodosius.

The violent domination and warring of all three Abrahamic religions has been better served ever since by mass ignorance about the existence of the portal of sex and death.

This article was extracted from The Sacred Sex Rites of Ishtar: Shamanic sexual healing and sex magic, by Ishtar Babilu Dingir, available from Amazon.

Featured image: Henryk Siemiradzki. Phryne in Eleusus (1889). Image source: Wikipedia

By Ishtar Babilu Dingir


Bruce, there are several points that need addressing. The old testament has no place in Christianity. Christianity is pretty much an invention of Paul, based on Pagan Mystery Religions and Gnosticism. These rites of Baptism are directly from the Pagan Mystery Religions. I would refer people to the book, The Mythmaker; Paul and the invention of Christianity, by Hyam Maccoby. Really good book that, in my opinion, accurately explains the origin of Christianity.

I would suggest to buy and read the book. I did, as many of the topics mentioned (even in a summarized way per each) are those who interest me a lot. The article is kind of squeezing lots of info in small paragraphs but, hey, these topics mentioned are huge and surely cannot be explained fully in 1000 words.
The book is written in a very friendly language and I would say it is like a good way to welcome someone into the quest for such knowledge but "the promise" at the end seemed a bit short and mostly balanced towards being a historical analysis of things.
There are other books written from Taoist Masters, or magicians of the past like Eliphas Levi, etc that present some very important details of the alchemy in a different way. For example the ejaculation or not issue whereas this book doesn't expand at all while in TAO and in E. Levi it is mentioned as critical (not to ejaculate) for energy building and lose of many "things" related to spiritual, while in different Gnostic groups/teachings ejaculation is presented as a direct ticket to "Hell". On the other hand "Hell" is explained differently through different writers/researchers.
Of course with such books and through investigating all available resources, a researcher will find bits of that historical and spiritual puzzle.
I suggest: get the info, examine it and keep on searching. All other criticism on how an article should be written or such, I am sure that are important for the author to build up skills, but add nothing to actual knowledge for the person who does the critic.

The title of this book catches the eye of those who want to explore sex as a means of enlightenment, but I would challenge this idea. I think love is part of the path and that does not have to involve sex. I concluded one night that tantra is the left hand path and as I returned to reading after emailing this to a friend, in "The Ocean of Love" by Kabir, I read those very same words. To be a master of ones self, the lower nature of lust, anger, hate, etc. have to be transformed from base lead to gold.

Who said anything about Jews, baptism etc? The only thing more dangerous than faith is religion itself which sanctifies faith in the name of some holy being created by men. 

The Jews of Jesus time were very familiar with the concept of 'water baptisim', which is why they were so quick to respond to John the Baptiste----because a word search does not reveal a particular 'word' does not mean that the concept is not present---water is mentioned continually in the OT---and if you were knowledgeable, you would know that a substantial percentage of OT Hebrew words are not understood as to meaning.........thereby once again requiring 'Faith'


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