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Fertility Rituals Sacred Marriage Rock Art

Fertility Rituals Sacred Marriage

It seems natural for early man to relate the heavenly mating of a sky god with the earth goddess as a catalyst to promote fertility. The celestial pairing of the two found its way in rituals of sexual nature intended to induce nature powers. Acts of divine fertility were performed in temples in front of the gods. Females represented the earth goddess and the king or high priest represented the male god and their union was enacted to stimulate land fertility. The Bible refers to these women as ‘Qadesh’ or ‘the blessed one’.

New Year ceremonies in Sumer, in Autumn, 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 Canaan, the ritual of Baal and Asherah was 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)

The Sacred Marriage

Fertility played a significant role in ancient times; its importance increased with the development of early agriculture. Its purpose was to ensure nature’s fruitfulness it included: the making of autumn rains, the growth of the crops, and the multiplication of domestic animals..

Sacred Marriage, Negev Desert rock art
Fig.1   Sacred Marriage, Negev Desert rock art

The sacred marriage union was considered a step toward divine fertility and was one of the rituals employed in festivities. It was imagined as a marriage between Heaven and Earth when the “male” heaven fertilized mother “earth” assuring the fresh green vegetation to spring from her. Rain considered the life essence for all crops, it stirred nature’s mysterious virility powers.

Fig.1, a Negev rock art, depicts a union of gods that pray for rain. The two standing figures, a man, and a woman are gods as their feathered bodies indicate. Features of a bird in rock art symbolizeda god. Their prayer induce massive rain, represented by the dotted cloud. They are extending their hands welcoming the sacred rain pouring on earth that carries with it a promise of the fertile season.

The scene depicted in Fig.1 instills the viewer with hope that the fertile season will soon arrive, exactly as prophesized in the Baal and Mot myth. The struggle between the two gods represents the changing of the seasons and weather patterns in the region, which impacts the livelihoods of the people living there.

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