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Sexual rituals at Egyptian temples
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falkor
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:33 pm    Post subject: Sexual rituals at Egyptian temples Reply with quote

I'm trying to follow up on a 1996 documentary called Karnak a hidden history, where's its claimed that the main statue of the God Amun-Re in the Inner Sanctuary had an erect penis, and the priests would masturbate in the temple (or have a lady do it for them). And this was about honouring the creation myth during festivals, etc.

I have checked The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt as well as other books that cover Karnak (albeit from an architectural context), but there is no mention of any temple sexuality. The documentary claims there has been a cover up.

What are your views? Can anyone please provide sources to these claims/counter-claims? Is there any other topics where this has been discussed?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:21 am    Post subject: Re: Sexual rituals at Egyptian temples Reply with quote

falkor wrote:
I'm trying to follow up on a 1996 documentary called Karnak a hidden history, where's its claimed that the main statue of the God Amun-Re in the Inner Sanctuary had an erect penis, and the priests would masturbate in the temple (or have a lady do it for them). And this was about honouring the creation myth during festivals, etc.

I have checked The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt as well as other books that cover Karnak (albeit from an architectural context), but there is no mention of any temple sexuality. The documentary claims there has been a cover up.

What are your views? Can anyone please provide sources to these claims/counter-claims? Is there any other topics where this has been discussed?


We have no textual or archaeological evidence of such rituals in the Amun cult temple (or any other temple cult for that matter). However, the idea of masturbation being the root action to creation comes from the Heliopolitan theology, in which Atum (meaning "the complete one") masturbates with his own hand, which is later called the goddess/es Iusaas (whose name means "as she comes, it grows"), and/or Nebet-heteptet (whose name means "the place on which it rests").

The resulting air and fluid from Atum's actions are the cornerstones of all creation, and are named as his children, Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture). From the mingling/copulation of these two entities, all life in the universe emerges, according to the theology.

I am not aware of any text ot other archaeological evidence which indicates that this action was recreated as a ritual by by priests (or priestesses) in order to "honour" creation. Every day was evidence of that ongoing creation, and there would be other means of expressing that worship other than "recreating" it (that would be, in the Egyptian view, amounting to hubris (arrogance that man could perform a divine action)).

In fact, I would be most surprised if the makers of that documentary could give any credible source for such "rituals," as they certainly do not exist in ancient Egyptian sources.

On the goddesses of the Heliopolitan theology, Iusaas and Nebet-heteptet, see:

Derchain, P. 1969. Le démiurge et la balance. In Religions en Égypte, hellénistique et romaine. Colloque de Strasbourg, 16-18 mai 1967: 31-34. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Vandier, J. 1968. Iousâas et (Hathor)-Nébet-Hétépet. Quatrième article (additions). RdE 20: 135-148.

_________. 1966. Iousâas et (Hathor)-Nébet-Hétépet. Troisième article, RdE 18: 67-142.

_________. 1965. Iousâas et (Hathor)-Nébet-Hétépet. Deuxième article, RdE 17: 89-176.

_________. 1964. Jacques, Iousâas et (Hathor)-Nébet-Hétépet. RdE 16: 55-146.

On the Heliopolitan theology of creation via masturbation, see:

Allen, J. P. 1988. Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts. Second Ed. Yale Egyptological Studies (YES) 2. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Egyptological Seminar, Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Graduate School, Yale University.

Assmann, J. 1984. Ägypten. Theologie und Frömmigkeit einer frühen Hochkultur. Stuttgart - Berlin - Köln - Mainz: Verlag W. Kohlhammer.

Bickel, S. 1994. La cosmogonie égyptienne avant le Nouvel Empire. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 134. Fribourg Suisse: Éditions Universitaires / Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Castel Ronda, E. 1994. La Cosmogonía y la Enéada heliopolitana. Boletín de la Asociación Española de Egiptología (Madrid) 4-5 (1992-1994): 3-38.

Lesko, L. H. 1991. Ancient Egyptian Cosmogonies and Cosmology. In B. E. Schafer, ed., Religion in Ancient Egypt. Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice: 88-122. London: Routledge.

te Velde, H. 1984. Relations and Conflicts between Egyptian Gods, Particularly in the Divine Ennead of Heliopolis. In H. G. Kippenberg, H. J. W. Drijvers and Y. Kuiper, eds., Struggles of Gods. Papers of the Groningen Work Group for the Study of the History of Religions: 239-257. Berlin - New York - Amsterdam: Mouton, Publishers.

On the sexual life of the ancient Egyptians - and I believe you will not find any such "sexual rituals" as you described therein - I do suggest reading:

Manniche, L. 1997. Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt. London: Kegan Paul International.

HTH.
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Naunacht
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as I know there is no Ancient Egyptian depiction of any such rituals.

It is true that Amon, in some of his aspects is shown with a very impressive erection. It's also true that at least in some periods a priestess of Amon known as the God's Wife played the essential female role to the god's male role.

Actual depictions of the God's Wife in action though are pretty tame. She's shown in inscriptions conducting rituals, walking in procession and playing the systra among other activities but any direct er stimulation of the image of the god or of the king or any priests is never depicted. The title of another priestess known as the God's Hand (who may or may not at any given time be the same lady as the God's Wife) hints at this sort of thing--at least to the dirty minded among us--but once again, as far as I know, there's no depiction of a God's Hand doing anything more exciting than shaking her systra.

Maybe that was enough!
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falkor
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies so far!

Off topic: how much of the heiroglyphics that appear in all the visible temples/tombs have been transcribed and made readily available to historians? (this would include any accompanying depictions of scenes). Most books I've ready do not seem to make use of much inscriptions, but rely mainly on Greek sources like Mantho, etc. Would you agree that Egyptian scholarship is pretty poor at the moment and there no real experts in the field?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That may have more to do with the books you're reading than the state of Egyptian scholarship. You may need to widen your focus a bit.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:40 am    Post subject: Re: Sexual rituals at Egyptian temples Reply with quote

falkor wrote:
... a 1996 documentary called Karnak a hidden history ... claimed that the main statue of the God Amun-Re in the Inner Sanctuary had an erect penis, ...

I think I know the German version of this broadcast. It works, unfortunately as so often in this genre, free of concrete evidence and is highly speculative.

On the oldest known building from Karnak, the so called "White Chapel" of Senwosret I (MK, 12th Dynasty, today re-build in the Open Air Museum) the representations of the god Amun in non-ithyphallic form are clearly in the majority.

Neither the statue nor a picture of it is known to us. It is even not clear if there was (in the NK) only one statue and also not where "the Inner Sanctuary" at this time was located (still in the area of the Middle Kingdom Court or in a room of the Achmenu by Thutmosis III, next to the so called "Botanical Garden".

Greetings, Lutz.
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falkor
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Montuhotep88 wrote:
That may have more to do with the books you're reading than the state of Egyptian scholarship. You may need to widen your focus a bit.

Is there any books out there that describe/interpret every frieze in Karnak, but also for Luxor and west bank sites such as Medinet Habu?
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Porter, Bertha / Moss, Rosalind L. B. :

Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings / 2 : Theban Temples. - Worcester : Yare Egyptology, [1929] 2004. - XVIII, 203 p., ill. - [2004, CD-ROM].

Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings / 2 : Theban Temples. - Oxford : 1972. - Second Edition, revised and augmented. - XXXIII, 586 p.

Greetings, Lutz.
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falkor
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK thanks for all your help!
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neseret
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

falkor wrote:
Thanks for your replies so far!

Off topic: how much of the heiroglyphics that appear in all the visible temples/tombs have been transcribed and made readily available to historians? (this would include any accompanying depictions of scenes). Most books I've ready do not seem to make use of much inscriptions, but rely mainly on Greek sources like Mantho, etc. Would you agree that Egyptian scholarship is pretty poor at the moment and there no real experts in the field?


As noted, you need to widen your reading materials, as the temples and glyphs have most certainly been examined, recorded, and translated. For example, this is the work of the University of Chicago Epigraphic Survey (US), the Egypt Exploration Society (UK), as well as the work of numerous universities who have excavations and/or working projects in Egypt, are constantly recording, translating, and fully explaining the temples' scenes, glyphs, religious precepts behind the scenes, and so on.

As to your statement: "...Would you agree that Egyptian scholarship is pretty poor at the moment and there no real experts in the field?" I would have to say that this is definitely NOT the case, as a number of people to this thread have noted.

In the topic of religion alone, I can name at least 3 experts who are world-renowned for their expertise in the field (Jan Assmann, Erik Hornung, and John Baines (who happens to be my D. Phil supervisor)), and who have written extensively on the subject. Just a review of Dr. Baines' articles and books (over 100, and this until only 2011) gives you an example of the work being done in the subject. Both Hornung and Assmann - both German Egyptologists - have similar or even more extensive publications in the field. And these are 3 of about 2500 Egyptologists worlwide, so there's even more scholarship available, if you will research for it.

I suspect the problem you have is you are reading the wrong books - those that emphasise the "mystery" and "arcane" aspects of ancient Egypt, and who always claim that "even Egyptologists today cannot explain..." this or that.

Well, in general, that is simply NOT TRUE.

We have been working, as Egyptologists, since the mid-late 19th century, until today, analysing archaeological dig evidence, texts from glyphs (which we can read quite well, BTW), forensic evidence from remains, and so on for all these years.

While Egyptologists do not always agree on some things, by and large, they do agree on more aspects about ancient Egypt than they disagree. It's only sensational (and usually non-professionals in the field) authors who write that the scholarship in ancient Egypt is poor, mainly because they have their own axe to grind, or worse, they simply wish to denigrate current research in the field simply because they don't want to lose that "mysterious/arcane" aspect to ancient Egypt.

Such authors not only do the profession of Egyptology a disservice, but they also block paths to actual credible asnd reliable information by such comments, information that most people would find answer most of their questions.

To get an idea of how much information we have today on ancient Egypt that has been written by decent Egyptologists and historians, I refer you to the the statistics of the Annual Egyptological Bibliography (AEB):

From 1822 - 1997, the Bibliography, incorporating the Annual Egyptological Bibliography (AEB), combined with Bibliographie Altägypten (BA), contained references to over 60,000 books and articles.

Since the AEB was taken over by Oxford University and put live online, now called the Online Egyptological Bibliography (OEB), this has increased (with the integration iof the Aigyptos database of Heidelberg University) to over 95,000 books and articles - all on the excavation, analysis, translation, and explication of monuments, remains, aretfacts, hieroglyphs, etc. - in short, all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture.

The OEB is subscription only, usually through the International Association of Egyptologists, which offers access to the OEB as part of its Associate membership.

So, as you can see, there is no lack of scholarship on ancient Egypt to be found, if you know where to find it. The ability to find decent answers to your questions is not to be found in televised documentaries - made for entertainment only - but in researching the scholarly books and articles which can be found, if one would bother to do the appropriate amount of research in a diligent way.

HTH.
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Kaefra
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:10 am    Post subject: Temple Sex Reply with quote

The common percieved wisdom is that sex in the temple precincts is forbidden and abstinance for a period befroe rituals is also usual.
However this doesn't mean that all sex would have been forbidden in all temples all of the time. I would be more than happy to think that sexual ceremonies would be practiced in the small private booths of major temples as a proper practice and enhancement to usual practices.
This aspect would be quite quiet and not given huge emphasis in Egypt.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Temple Sex Reply with quote

Kaefra wrote:
The common percieved wisdom is that sex in the temple precincts is forbidden and abstinance for a period befroe rituals is also usual.
However this doesn't mean that all sex would have been forbidden in all temples all of the time. I would be more than happy to think that sexual ceremonies would be practiced in the small private booths of major temples as a proper practice and enhancement to usual practices.
This aspect would be quite quiet and not given huge emphasis in Egypt.


One can be "happy" all they want with such a thought, but there is no artefact, textual, or other evidence that sexual rites were practiced within any ancient Egyptian temples. I also am not aware of "small private booths" within any temples in which assignations would have been allowed, so where you think such could have been done requires some verifiable references, if you please.

The phyle system, in which nobillity served as priests on a rotating basis, has at its very heart the requirement of ritual purity in order to serve. As John Gee noted in his dissertation about ritual purity of priests in temples, the requirement of sexual abstinence is one of the foremost requirements (Gee 1998:201-2), in which the priest avers that he "has not had sexual intercourse" (/n nk=i/), or "has not copulated" (/n dAdA/). Gee also quotes the same requirement of sexual aversion is found in the autobiography of a priest from the timje of Amenhotep II, named Amenemhat, who states

/n rx=i Hm.t nt pr=f/ "I did not know the handmaid of his (his father's) household" (Lichtheim 1992: 116-7)

/nsDAm=i m-a Hm.t=f/ "I did not sleep with his (his father's) servant." (Lichtheim 1992: 116-7)

So, in my opinion, any claim of "sexual rites" in ancient Egyptian temples will need far more than speculation or dodgy documentaries to substantiate any claim to be found as valid. As I say, one can be "happy" with such an idea all you want, but that's a modern thought and not something tha actually occurred in ancient Egypt religious activity.

References:

Gee, J. 2004. Prophets, Initiation and the Egyptian Temple. JSSEA 31: 97-107.

______. 1998. The Requirements of Ritual Purity in Ancient Egypt. Ph.D. Dissertation (Unpublished). Yale University: New Haven.

Lichtheim, M. 1992. Maat in Egyptian Autobiographies and Related Studies. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 120. Freibourg: University of Freibourg.

Roth, A. M. 1991. Egyptian Phyles in the Old Kingdom: The Evolution of a System of Social Organization. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC) 48. Chicago: Oriental Institute.
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Kaefra
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:27 am    Post subject: Scholarship and Sex Reply with quote

Very strange reply Nesesret - Scholars schooled in the absurdities of Christianity and the violent fantasies of colonialism are of very varied quality. Very many temples do have private booths and each temple is independent of others in its own cycle of practice.
Not to mention as previously stated that Egyptians were quite coy about such matters - so you would expect only hints.
Is an archaeologist - endlessly repeating the mantra ' no sex were British ' or French or German and so on likely to want to go through the walls of every Booth of every temple and look for the subtle language whci is easy to miss!
Few archaeologists have any real knowledge of Egyptian teachings now would want the same. Would you compare a book about Buddhism. Hindhuism with a serious Buddhist or Hindhu priest.
Have you read books about Buddhism or Hindhuism by Christians or the like. Especially more than a few years old. (Likely awful rubbish)
If you have no genuine knowledge of spiritual life or practice or sympathy and resonance with your topic you will be all at sea with the real Egypt

Remember how pickled Archeologists thought that Otzi had a ritual axe and was a travelling magical metallurgist!
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Instead here constantly drain your pseudo-religes ramblings it would certainly be helpful to come up with concrete archaeologically documented sources for your assertions.

Lutz
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Scholarship and Sex Reply with quote

Kaefra wrote:
Very strange reply Nesesret - Scholars schooled in the absurdities of Christianity and the violent fantasies of colonialism are of very varied quality. Very many temples do have private booths and each temple is independent of others in its own cycle of practice.
Not to mention as previously stated that Egyptians were quite coy about such matters - so you would expect only hints.
Is an archaeologist - endlessly repeating the mantra ' no sex were British ' or French or German and so on likely to want to go through the walls of every Booth of every temple and look for the subtle language whci is easy to miss!
Few archaeologists have any real knowledge of Egyptian teachings now would want the same. Would you compare a book about Buddhism. Hindhuism with a serious Buddhist or Hindhu priest.
Have you read books about Buddhism or Hindhuism by Christians or the like. Especially more than a few years old. (Likely awful rubbish)
If you have no genuine knowledge of spiritual life or practice or sympathy and resonance with your topic you will be all at sea with the real Egypt

Remember how pickled Archeologists thought that Otzi had a ritual axe and was a travelling magical metallurgist!


OK, I guess I'm not getting this. The fact that there were private booths--or chapels in Egyptian temples is somehow evidence that there were some sort of secret sexual rituals carried on in them? There are private booths in Catholic Churches too--they're called confessionals. They are definately not used for sexual encounters--at least not officially.

Now, I'll admit, doing it in a confessional ranks pretty high on the official Catholic high school student fantasy list but you're not talking about some randy junior priests and priestesses sneaking off into the store room for a little nookie. You're talking about it being an official and sanctioned part of worship. A re-enactment, perhaps, Atum's act of creation via masturbation or maybe the myth about Shu & Tefnut, Geb & Nut.

The problem is that if you have no evidence to back your claims up while several other people have produced evidence from primary sources that sexual activity was forbidden in temples.

Without evidence you're on the same level of fantasy or speculation as some horny high school kid giggling about how so & so did such and such with Father What-a-Waste in the confessional.
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