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Sacred Marriage

negev desert rockart sacred marriage

The Sacred Marriage

Copyright © 2018 by Yehuda Rotblum

Fertility played a significant role in ancient times; its importance increased with the development of early agricultural. The sacred marriage was one of the rituals employed in fertility festivities. It was imagined as a marriage between Heaven and Earth when the “male” heaven fertilized mother “earth” causing the fresh green vegetation to spring from her.

Rain an important fertility ingredient provided the life essence for all crops, it stirred the nature mysterious virility powers. Fig.1, a Negev rock art, depicts a union of gods that are the cause of rain. The two standing figures, a man, and a woman are gods; as can be seen from their feathered bodies, features of a bird, which are early god symbols. They produced the massive rain,  represented by a dotted cloud, answering people prayers. They are extending their hands welcoming the sacred rain pouring on earth a promise of the fertile season.

Fig. 1 Sacred Marriage, Negev Desert rock art

Fertility Rituals in Ancient World

It was natural to relate the heavenly pairing of sky god with earth goddess for such important life sustenance event. This celestial pairing found its way on earth as rituals of sexual nature that intended to renew the powers of fertility. Divine fertility was the equivalent of human fertility. Women and men performed fertility rites in temples. The Bible refers to them as ‘Qadesh’ or ‘the blessed one’. Females represented the earth goddess and the kings or high priest represented god. The entire ceremony designed to stimulate the gods to support people and the earth fertility.

New Year ceremonies in Sumer, springtime at New Year, included the rites of holy matrimony, which imitated the mating act between the sky and the earth goddess. The king represented god Dumuzi who mated with the high priestess representing the sky goddess. In Egypt, Pharaoh scattered his semen down the Nile to increase the land fertility. In Canaan, the ritual of Baal and Asherah celebrated, though condemned by the prophets:

On the mountaintops they offer sacrifice and on the hills, they burn incense, beneath oak and poplar and terebinth, because of their pleasant shade. Therefore your daughters prostitute themselves and your daughters-in-law commit adultery’ (Hosea 4:13).

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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