COPYRIGHT 2006 by Lisa Paul Streitfeld
THE HIEROS GAMOS:
A THEOLOGY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Leonardo da Vinci’s universalist perspective connected architecture with the body in a manner that emphasized the hieros gamos. The balance between upper/lower triangle represents the marriage of masculine and feminine. In his 1487 Virtruvius Man (above), he was giving visual form (a quality of the feminine) to Virtruvius’ theory of the body as a temple of perfect proportions.
One of the greatest artists of all time was embarked on a quest to bring the sacred into matter during the revival of Eros arising from the resurrection of the sacred feminine that came to be known as the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci, born out of wedlock and therefore an outcast from both the academy and the professions, forged a path between the tension of the opposites that was unexplored in western thought. He did this through an extraordinary eye to hand coordination uniting talent and creativity with knowledge. Among his many passions was the investigation of the nature of light and its interaction with matter and the reflection and absorption of shadows on surfaces.
Da Vinci’s Virtruvius Man, the symbol at the heart of The Da Vinci Code, represents the body in geometrical relation (pentacle and hexagram) to a newly emerging icon – the hieros gamos. The pentagram — which served as a symbol of Venus due to the perfectly symmetrical pentagram-shaped orbit of the planet — was made into a symbol of devil worship by the Catholic Church whose hierarchy continued the patriarchal repression of the sacred contained in matter. The monotheism ruling western culture has, therefore, denied the divine feminine (symbolized by the pentagram), essential to creating the equilibrium of heaven and earth in the body represented by the hexagram, which hails back to Solomon for the geometry of the Age of Aquarius.
In the components of a temple there ought to be the greatest harmony in the symmetrical relations of the different parts to the magnitude of the whole. Then, again, in the human body the central part is naturally the navel. For if a man is to be placed flat on his back, with hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at the navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of the circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too it yields a square figure. (1)
The quest for the divine feminine symbolized by sacred vessel arose during the Crusades at the previous turn of the millennium. The contemporary Grail quest is to locate this vessel in the human body; the discovery of inner union practiced by eastern spiritual disciplines is what lies behind Resurrecting Mary Magdalene as equal spiritual partner to Jesus.
The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci were filled with 1,500 detailed anatomical drawings. Here we find the opposites united inside the body: the heart, with its right and left ventricles; the brain with its left and right lobes; the circulatory system which connects heart and mind; and the digestive system in which human devours itself, like the serpent swallowing its own tail, on a path towards enlightenment. He also drew detailed diagrams of the male and female reproductive systems and genitalia engaged in copulation. A new look at this artist’s iconography brings the sacred marriage into the biblical narrative by way of The Last Supper,
This process of integrating the gender opposites through the material of art reflected, or perhaps enabled, the artist’s ability to function from both sides of his brain. He could write with both hands and his proficiency with mirror writing added to his transgender genius for inventions reflecting a universal holism. Da Vinci’s invention of sfumato in his portraiture was a visible manifestation of the hieros gamos. This capture of the spiritual feminine, or soul, in the material is a process resulting from right brain intuition channeled through the left-brain applied skill of hand-eye coordination.
This consciousness integration of the opposites can be traced to the dawn of history. In the land of Sumer (present day Iraq) there was an androgynous deity known as Inanna, self-declared Queen of Heaven and Earth. Like the mysterious woman in the gospels, she also had iconography picturing her with a jar for anointing in the ancient practice known as the Sacred Marriage Rites.
We are presently waging war among the temples where these were practiced at the height of the worship of this love goddess, around 2,500 B.C.
The symbol was thrust out of the collective unconscious and onto the page when I was in kindergarten. Selected by my teacher to make the star for the top of the class Christmas tree, I drew an interlocking upper triangle and lower triangle on a piece of purple construction paper. It was so simple. I cut the figure out and decorated it with silver and gold glitter. But when I proudly delivered it to my teacher, she reacted in horror. “That is a Jewish Star!”
Subsequently, my forty-year journey to bring this instinctual embrace of the Seal of Solomon into the embodiment of the hieros gamos was excruciating. I was the Fool in search of an Aquarian paradise where masculine sky and feminine earth are united in peace and harmony. After many years of searching on instinct, the configuration was infused into my psyche when it appeared during my Solar Return on January 23, 1997.
Clearly, the unconscious was transmitting a message through me.
The hexagram symbol is far older than the Jewish religion, whose leader, King David, proclaimed it as the star uniting the Israeli people. In legend, Solomon cast a spell on the evil spirits with the magical “Solomon’s Seal.” It is speculated that the configuration was used as sacred geometry for the inner sanctum of his temple, the Holy of Holies, where God and Goddess united in accordance with the ancient practice of religio – reconnecting the polarities through the unified act of lovemaking. Indeed, Solomon’s throne is related to a chariot or a Minnebett (bed of love) alchemically identified with the coniunctio, or union with the divine. (3)
Solomon’s Seal is known in alchemy as a “signet star” which G. Gichtel determined as “the heavenly force that gives understanding to the wise and shows the way to the Wise Men in the East.” (4)
A renewal of this symbol as a universal image of the Coniunctio would require the creation of a myth, since all imagery has a predominantly mythical nature. A new Weltanschauung would be nothing else than a new mysticism and irrationality, as mythical characteristics are inherent in all contemplation to the extent that it is merely visionary; and a new conception of the world would be nothing else than yet another standard rationalistic construction of the present, for conceptualization has an essentially rational and abstract nature.
Our concern is with a new reality – a reality functioning and effectual integrally, in which intensity and action, the effective and effect co-exist; one where origin, by virtue of “presentation,” blossoms forth anew; and one in which the present is all- encompassing and entire. Integral reality is the world’s transparency, a perceiving of the world as truth: a mutual perceiving and imparting of truth of the world and of man and all that transluces both. (2)
In Tantric doctrine, the hexagram represents the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) between the masculine and feminine polarity. The masculine upper triangle is Shiva, static reality awaiting penetration by the kinetic energy of Shakti, the downward pointing triangle. Combined, they symbolize the alchemical merging of silver (the moon) and gold (the sun) into the coniunctio, the interpenetration of purush (forAU and prakriti (matter).
The Aquarian Icon
My fate of being propelled between the opposites (culture vs. counter-culture) was written in the stars: attending encounter groups from the age of five, childhood banishment to Reich’s Orgone Box in the basement of the family home and engaging in experimental therapies. Yet, my natal astrological chart also had my route of salvation clearly written across its cosmic map; I had to endure all this experimentation as a conscious destiny for all humanity.
As a child of the 1960’s with a father among the first wave of Neo-Reichian therapists at the forefront of the Human Potential Movement, I was buffeted by the oscillation of wave motion characteristic of this new age. It was an intricate tightrope walk for an Aquarian blessed with a natural astrological chart of 0 degrees Aries. An imperfect vessel could not contain the flow of consciousness; my body had to be sufficiently prepared.
The evolutionary process of cultural and societal breakdown in the closing decades of the 20th century reflected the precession of the equinoxes into the Age of Aquarius. A galactic alignment (occurring from 1980 – 2016) culminates in 2012 when the December solstice sun aligns with the Dark Rift, an event that occurs only once every 26,000 years. The Maya interpreted the cross between the Milky Way and the 13th constellation between Sagittarius and Scorpio (pictured as the man riding a serpent and guiding its head with his hands) as the Sacred Tree or Crossroads.
It is here, where humankind gains control over the dark energy known in space as the neutrino, and in the body as the Kundalini, that the icon of the hieros gamos is being formed
The reflection of the human evolution in cosmic symbols was illuminated for humanity on January 23, 1997 when Halle Bop highlighted a most unusual configuration during my Solar Return. What was required in this universal effort was a pioneering individual psyche consciously absorbing the universal conditions created in the collective psyche. This process was a complete body awareness of the hieros gamos cosmology reflecting the double wave glyph of the constellation of Aquarius.
The pop culture has had a role to fulfill in preparing us for a massive cultural upheaval in which the opposites will potentially merge in equality, harmony and consciousness the world has not known since Atlantis, the last Age of Aquarius around 24,000 years ago. The Fifth Dimension gave us some hints in their 1960’s hit song, Age of Aquarius, which was written by an Aquarian. We got some glimpses of the androgynous being ruling an age of gender equality in the musical Hair where this song was celebrated on stage.
The next crest of the Aquarian wave arrived with the New Age Movement of the 1980’s. As the millennial renaissance of the hieros gamos surfaces in art that is ALIVE, we are riding the crest of the third and final wave that delivers the icon directly to the global collective consciousness. As always, astrology reveals the timing. In mid June 2006, a fixed cross triggered the sensitive points of the Great Eclipse of August 11, 1999, which constellated the hieros gamos in the unconscious (more on this later) as it passed over the legendary terrain of King Arthur’s Camelot, where the sacred feminine arose to awaken humanity from the Dark Ages.
The old must die in order for the new to be born. The American addiction to money and sex in the materialistic 1980’s was personified by the hugely popular prime time soap opera, Dallas. Shoulder pads under the jackets of business suits boosted the physical stature of yuppie career woman who adopted masculine personas to establish their economic and political equality. The so-called ME decade in which the patriarchal archetypes clung onto the sinking culture culminated in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and end to the bipolar Cold War mentality. Yet, this is when the Culture Wars were ignited. The religious right used renegade artists as targets to impose their retrograde agenda on America. During the present Bush years, we see how effective this strategy has proved to be – to the determinant of democracy itself!
As we approached the turn of the millennium, the breakdown of the world’s bipolar geopolitical structure (capitalism vs. communism) led to an internal polarization within American society. While the popular culture was heralding the onset of androgyny arising from the fissures created by disintegrating patriarch archetypes, the conservative right was carefully planning a takeover of American politics by branding the secularist liberal left with the moral decay of the techno-porn society.
Everyone seems to be looking outwards for a breakthrough from this impasse. Yet, the new reality we seek is not to be retrieved externally but within the depth of the human psyche. This is the birth of the new archetype known as the hieros gamos.
The Birth of a New Archetype
The millennial deliverance of the hieros gamos into art was forestalled by the tragedy of September 11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Once again, the patriarchy diverted precious resources away from a natural evolution towards equality. We already watched this happen with the Savings & Loan debacle in the 1980’s — at a time when women were discovering their authentic power through the rise of feminist spirituality. Exploiting the public fear for security against terrorism, the patriarchal hierarchical global geo-political structure reasserted its hegemony – at the risk of human and environmental destruction. The Iraq War became the focus for the global battle between fundamentalists east and west, both sides reflecting the patriarchal shadow of the other.
How can we fail to see the authentic irony of fighting a war of polarization on the very terrain where the hieros gamos was first recorded in writing? How are we missing the unfolding of a new myth over the Mesopotamian ruins of our ever-present origin?
As a re-emerging universal icon imbedded in the universal history of humanity, the hieros gamos brings new clarity and order to human relationships across the globe. An experience with the icon, no matter how fleeting, connects the collective psyche simultaneously to our past, present and future. This multi-dimensional state of being delivers us to the doorstep of the Age of Aquarius.
The Constellation of Aquarius
September 11 delivered a new emphasis on the hero’s journey and a realism reflected in a shift of emphasis to figurative art and personal narrative. Aquarius and Virgo are the only two signs of the zodiac with grown up human beings for a symbol (Gemini, the twins, is pictured as a pair of youths). The Aquarian symbol is the androgynous Water Bearer who stands with one foot on land and the other on water while pouring cosmic consciousness from a vessel.
The island of Atlantis flourished during the last Aquarian Age. In returning to our origin, we are moving backwards in time — when humans reached the heights of personal and collective evolution. Yet, the same factors that destroyed that civilization threaten ours: environmental pollution and the dangers of unlimited technology without the moral force to control it.
The Aquarian Water Bearer is bride to the Lion of Judah, her Leo partner. This authentic union of opposites will deliver us to a Golden Age in the human psyche when it is prophesied that the millennial promise will be fulfilled. Bringing the lost bride back into consciousness gives hope for new morality capable of meeting the challenges of a technological age – humans ruling their inventions rather than being ruled by them. A reverence for the interconnectedness of all life is based on the very source of human life, the union of gender opposites manifest by the egg and sperm – the primitive symbols that continue to determine our genetic evolution.
The End of History
To arrive at the transition, we had to pass through the “end of history.” This condition of acute cultural breakdown reinforced into human consciousness how little control humans have – even in an environment of ever-increasing technology. The ego’s mechanism for coping with this millennial transition was the adoption of a cynical, world-weary attitude ruling the latter stages of postmodernism. Armed with this knowledge of the death of the overbearing left-brain domination, we passed through the addiction/recovery cycle with a self-consciousness that surfaced as irony. This world-weary attitude was an ineffective mask for the deep fears regarding the breakdown of the old order — externally in our institutions and internally in our bodies that increasingly rely on pharmaceuticals to cope with the higher frequency of vibrations of Aquarius.
In the burst of fame accompanying the phenomenal success of The Power of Myth before his death, Joseph Campbell broadcast a crucial message: the new archetypes would accompany a new mythology. What Fundamentalists are reacting against is the death of the patriarchal myth – the male as sole creator — in order that a new cosmology of transgender creation can be born in the collective cosmology. This cosmology, the hieros gamos, takes us back to the very origin of recorded history – the land of ancient Sumer (present day Iraq) where the fundamentalist war is being fought today.
Passing into the archetype of our ever-present origins, the hieros gamos, we can see the world through a fresh perspective. This is the authentic irony of our time – a retreat into the past delivers us into our future. Propelled by Campbell’s encouragement to “follow your bliss,” we all naively believed we could make the leap into the Age of Aquarius overnight during the New Age Movement. Yet, beneath all the spiritual materialism that the movement spawned, there was no way around the difficult transition through sequential stages. Now we can understand why the media flocks to one major dramatic story at a time; human consciousness can only process so much in sequential space-time. As the corporate dominated media serves more transparently as the upholder of the hierarchical patriarchy, the Internet increasingly serves as a spotlight reflecting successive stages of cultural evolution. The hieros gamos, which Carl Jung commonly referred to as the Self, is too powerful of an archetype for the psyche to absorb without adequate preparation.
The arising of the Self in the collective consciousness delivers us to bold new terrain. As preparation for this journey, we must travel back in time to the place where history began with the invention of writing.
The Ever-Present Origin
The myth of the hermaphrodite god and bisexual ancestor (or first man) is the paradigm for a whole series of ceremonies which are directed towards a periodic returning to the original condition which is thought to be the perfect expression of humanity.
The relics of a universal icon are being trampled over in the land of ancient Sumer we know today as Iraq. How ironic that this land serving as a battleground between fundamentalist religions could heal global differences through its historical connection to the hieros gamos!
Sumer is the Eden where creativity flowed between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and love reigned as the highest value. Here, at the height of the empire, arts and literature flourished due to the extraordinary annual religious celebration of erotic love that fertilized the future. The priestesses of Inanna, the love goddess, were highly cultured women who wrote hymns and love ballads celebrating her erotic power. Festivals were carried out in her image.
The fecund land of ancient Sumer where dates fell from the trees into the mouths of lovers with honeyed lips was the origin of the Sacred Marriage Rites. They took form in the literature as a marriage ceremony between Dumuzi (whose name means, “favored son”) and Inanna, daughter of the Moon god.
We have only known about the ritual since 1969 (the year of Woodstock, the Moon Landing and the Manson murders) when Samuel Noah Kramer’s The Sacred Marriage Rites was published. The cuneiform tablets on which this picture writing was scribed began to be unearthed around 130 years ago, when the excavations of the Iraq temples began, but translation was a long and arduous process.
Today we still have much to uncover. Boxes of clay tablets sit in museums around the world, awaiting translation, and many others were destroyed or pirated at the onset of the war. At a 2002 press conference for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s groundbreaking exhibition, Art of the First Cities, a stricken official from the British Museum reported that American tanks had failed to protect the Iraq Museum from the rampage, though the oil wells did not have to suffer this fate. It was as though the patriarchy – first through Saddam Hussein and then through the Bush administration — had a covert agenda to prevent the knowledge of this universal archetype from entering the collective consciousness.
Sumerian myth reveals how Enki, the genetic engineer, created humankind “in his own image” which, like that of the other deities, was embedded in the very stuff of the earth itself – clay tablets which preserved the writing to the present day. In Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion, Thorkild Jacobsen describes this submergence of religion in daily life as “a numinous power viewed as a reflection of indwelling spirit–the power at the center of something that caused it to thrive and flourish.” (5)
This marriage of spirit and matter was reflected in Mesopotamian art and literature.
The Sacred Marriage Rites
Who will plow my vulva?” the love goddess Inanna asks in the hymns commencing her courtship. The annual New Year celebration answers this question. The ceremony combines the coronation ceremony of the king with a cosmic renewal of the land and its people. It originated during the Agrarian Age when the people were at the mercy of Mother Nature for their wealth and prosperity. The rites were a celebration of the union of Heaven & Earth through the joyous lovemaking of Inanna and her Beloved consort.
THE JOY OF SUMER
SACRED MARRIAGE RITE
The people of Sumer assemble in the palace,
The house guides the land.
The king builds a throne for the queen of the palace.
He sits beside her on the throne.
In order to care for the life of all the lands,
The exact first day of the month is closely examined’
And on the day of the disappearance of the moon,
On the day of the sleeping of the moon,
The me are perfectly carried out
So that the New Year’s Day, the day of rites,
May be properly determined,
And a sleeping place set up for Inanna.
The people cleanse the rushes with sweet-smelling cedar oil,
They arrange the rushes for the bed.
They spread a bridal sheet over the bed.
A bridal sheet to rejoice the heart,
A bridal sheet to sweeten the loins,
A bridal sheet for Inanna and Dumuzi.
The queen bathes her holy loins,
Inanna bathes for the holy loins of Dumuzi,
She washes herself with soap.
She sprinkles sweet-smelling cedar oil on the ground.
The king goes with lifted head to the holy loins,
Dumuzi goes with lifted head to the holy loins of Inanna.
He lies down beside her on the bed.
Tenderly he caressed her, murmuring words of love:
“O my holy jewel! O my wondrous Inanna!”
After he enters her holy vulva, causing the queen to rejoice,
After he enters her holy vulva, causing Inanna to rejoice,
Inanna holds him to her and murmurs:
“O Dumuzi, you are truly my love.”
The king bids the people enter the great hall.
The people bring food offerings and bowls.
They burn juniper resin, perform laving rites,
And pile up sweet-smelling incense.
The king embraces his beloved bride,
Dumuzi embraces Inanna.
Inanna, seated on the royal throne, shines like daylight.
The king, like the sun, shines radiantly by her side.
He arranges abundance, lushness, and plenty before her.
He assembles the people of Sumer.
The musicians play for the queen:
They play the loud instrument, which drowns out the southern storm,
The play the sweet algar-instrument, the ornament of the palace,
They play the stringed instrument, which brings joy to all people,
They play songs for Inanna to rejoice the heart.
The king reaches out his hand for food and drink,
Dumuzi reaches out his hand for food and drink.
The palace is festive. The king is joyous.
In the pure clean place they celebrate Inanna in song.
She is the ornament of the assembly, the joy of Sumer!
The people spend the day in plenty.
The king stands before the assembly in great joy.
He hails Inanna with the praises of the gods and the assembly:
“Holy Priestess! Created with the heavens and earth,
Inanna, First Daughter of the Moon, Lady of the Evening!
Is singing your praises.”
My Lady looks in sweet wonder from heaven.
The people of Sumer parade before the holy Inanna.
The Lady Who Ascends to the Heavens, Inanna, is radiant.
Mighty, majestic, radiant, and ever youthful–
To you, Inanna, I sing! (6)
The Sacred Marriage Rites were enacted in various forms for nearly four millennia. The union with the Goddess renewed and legitimized the rule of the King for another year. The sacred rituals included the purification and anointing with oil. The cleansing of the spirit was essential for the male partner to share fully in the fertility and potency of the divine feminine, for blockages were essential to the full merging of masculine/feminine energies. Drought indicated a perceived disfavor from the Goddess, and like Dumuzi,
The ritual consisted of a processional journey by the king to the Holy of the Holies, the Gipar of the temple of Inanna. The bride, a priestess of the Goddess, was prepared by washing, anointing and adoring. Love songs accompanied the procession and meeting of the partners. The King proceeded with “lifted head” into the “holy lap” of Inanna. Empowered by the erotic magnetism of the priestess vassal of the love Goddess, the consort’s sexual prowess was testimonial to the fertility of the land. The priestess caressed and embraced her partner during copulation, clearing his aura for the task ahead. Festivities and a wedding bouquet followed. The union was publicly rejoiced to promote the fertility of the land and its peoples. (7)
The Sacred Marriage Rites were the joyous embarkation into the Great Round that took the protagonists from heaven to hell. They originated in the wedding of Inanna, the cosmic vulva incarnating fertility, with her beloved consort Dumuzi, the projectile of the creative powers of spring awakening the earth and process of fecundity. Their divine union gave expression to the vegetation cycle. (8)
The feminist Sumerian scholar Tikya Frymer Kensky chronicles historical evidence of the Sacred Marriage Rites in her book, In the Wake of the Goddess. King Eannatum of Lagash referred to himself as damki-aga-Inna, “beloved husband of Inanna” while early kings of Lagash bore the titles called “in the heart of Inanna,” and the kings of Ur II, Isin and Larsa were known as “spouse of Inanna.” (9)
As Sumer fell into decline, Frymer Kensky writes, the Sacred Marriage Rites were carried out not with humans but with statues carried into the garden. (10) At this point, the people lost contact with reality of origins and the power of containment carried by the reenacting the union of the love Goddess and her consort was lost. What good was a ritual if it could no longer contain the cosmic force?
To understand how this celebration of life became as artificial as media images of “celestial” couplings of movie stars today, we must go backwards in time – all the way to its origins at the dawn of recorded history. An examination of the astrological ages, which shift with the precession of the galactic axis from one sign to another every 2,000 years, tells the story of how the containment of the hieros gamos has been lost through time and how essential it is to reclaim its power today, as the earth is threatened by environmental destruction and wars of opposition.
The Age of Pisces
The mythology of the wounded Fisher King (fish is the symbol of Pisces) culminated with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But, as Margaret Starbird, pointed out in her search for the lost feminine which resulted in a series of books on Mary Magdalene beginning with Woman with the Alabaster Jar, the Christian cosmologists got the symbol wrong. The Pisces symbol is actually two fish swimming in opposite directions with a chord linking them together. The wound of the age, Starbird declares, has at its source the loss of one of the fish, the feminine bride of the wounded king. (11)
Virgo, the sign on the western horizon when Pisces is rising, is the purified partner of the Fisher King, a label given to the early devotees of Jesus who were baptized through public bathing rituals. The figure in the gospel with intimate knowledge of the early Christian practice of exorcism was Mary Magdalene, for the gospels clearly identify this historical figure as the woman that Jesus cured of the “seven devils.”
Starbird also identifies Magdalene with the mysterious woman with the alabaster jar who poured the perfume over Jesus’ head. (12) The implication is that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were engaged in sacred marriage rituals that included anointing and exorcism.
The erotic and spiritual attributes of Mary Magdalene, the Virgo maiden as sexual healer, were placed on Mother Mary, Virgo maiden as virgin. Biblical scholar Bruce Bruce Chilton has joined Starbird in seeking an answer to a key question: Why did the gospels mention Mary Magdalene in regards to two significant early Christian rituals, exorcism and anointing, if the writers intended to diminish her role as healing companion of Jesus?
Due to the repression of the Virgo/healer icon as partner to the Pisces/savior icon of Jesus, Christianity developed as a religion without a role for women to channel their spirit. Healing practices were strictly the provenance of men. Spirited women were viewed as dangerous temptations to the celibate practices of the priests. The distrust of women at the basis of Christian religion can be directly traced back to the misogyny of Paul (13), who took upon the difficult task of spreading the faith after the death of Jesus. The practice of the religion developed along the lines of his prejudices.
As a result of the exclusion of the bride from the gospels, western religion has been without an authentic female spiritual model or leader. The image of the feminine became split between the exalted and purified saint of Virgo (which in earlier times symbolized the sacred prostitute consecrating the sacred marriage in the temple) and the fallen woman of the opposite sign of Pisces. This created the Madonna/whore split between sexuality and spirituality, formerly united by the hieros gamos.
With the recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, there is new evidence that Jesus was aware of his shadow, a role played by his friend Judas in the Piscean version of the hieros gamos myth he was enacting. This timely evidence of Jesus being aware of his own shadow reveals that Jesus had knowledge of the sacred mysteries he was dramatizing with his own crucifixion.
The Easter rituals embarked on by Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the people, enacted the end of the Age of Aries, symbolized as the ram. For this reason, in the Eastern Orthodox Christian practice a ritual lamb is killed and roasted for Greek Easter, representing the death and rebirth of the god in spring. The archetype of the divine son then shifted from Warrior (Aries) to Savior (Pisces).
The Age of Aries
The Age of Aries was marked by bloodshed. Aries, with the ram as its symbol, is the sign of the warrior. The blade was directly responsible for the rise of Akkad, the empire that conquered Sumer and destroyed the temples of the priestesses. During transition to patriarchy, Inanna, who loved and hated simultaneously with a passion that fused the opposites, was transmuted into the bloodthirsty warrior Ishtar.
The patriarchal cosmology of the Age of Aries is born out in the partnership between Apsu, the fresh water god, and Tiamat, ruler of salt water. The union of these two beings birthed all the gods and their coupling reflects the violence of the age. Apsu was angered by all the noise made by the children. He demanded peace. “I will destroy your fetus!” he declared. The threat horrified Tiamat but Apsu found support in his minister, Mummu, and together they conspired to control the life-giving capacity of the female. Tiamat retaliated by putting a sleeping spell on the would-be abortionists, symbolizing man’s fall into unconsciousness. Meanwhile, Ea and his wife, Damkina, gave birth to Marduk, who would recreate the cosmology. Anu, the chief god, conjured up winds to blow through Tiamat’s belly. Responding to the pleas of her supporters, she declared war, creating seven monsters for Kimgu to command. This aggressive action split the gods into two opposing factions that either sided with or opposed Tiamat. The outcome of this struggle was the elevation of Marduk as a national god who has conquered the Goddess creator and therefore rules supreme under a hierarchical monotheism.
In the Age of Aries, the king adopts the image of the divine, but he is no longer authentically connected to the sacred through the hieros gamos ritual carried out by the hierodules in the temple. During the transition from the cosmology of the hieros gamos to patriarchy, Priestess Enheduanna, daughter of the Akkadian ruler Sargon the Great, who controlled Sumer around 2,300 B.C.E. as the Agrarian Age was coming to a close. As high priestess at the temple of the Moon God Nanna at Ur, she honored Inanna with the voice of a strong and ferocious warrior defending her temples under the threat of destruction. Here she is in exaltation:
YOU ARE INANNA
SUPREME IN HEAVEN AND EARTH
Mounted on a beast
You Lady rid out
Shower the land with flames of fire
Your fated word charged
With An’s command
Who can fathom your depths?
You of the great rites
You mountain smasher
Give the storm wings
Hurl a hot storm
People stumble dazed and silent
Face the terror of holy power
Chanting a dirge
They meet you at the crossroads
Of the house of sighs
At the front of the battle
All is smashed before you
The obsidian blade ravages
By your own arm’s power
A gouging storm-bull, you gouge
A rumbling storm-roar, you thunder
You bellow with the storm god
You moan with evil winds
Your feet never weary
You sing of sorrow
Play the harp of lamentation
Before you, my Queen
All the great gods
Fly away to the ruins
Flutter around like bats
Wither at your smoldering glance
Cower beneath your scowl (14)
These literary works embodied the outrage of the Goddess ejected from the temple. They lived far beyond the lifetime of their creator and served to link the Sumerian Inanna with the Akkadian Ishtar. (15) Frymer Kensky points out that the literature of Akkad has very few stories of females and this diminishment of the women’s role in the sacred marriage ritual resulted in the disappearance of the ideas of divine in kingship in the old Babylonian period. (16) This epoch is marked by the eclipse of the Goddess image; the warrior blades destroyed the chalice represented by the temples, receptacles for the new seed of fertility serving as an essential link between the sacred feminine and human endeavor. Ki, the primordial mother, loses her identity to her grandson, Enki, who absorbs her name. Meanwhile, her first son, Enlil (Lord of Air), supplants Ki’s rule of the earth. By 1800 BCE, the supreme triad consisted of three male gods: An, Enlil and Enki. (17)
The epic of Gilgamesh, the first hero’s legend, depicts the cosmology shifting from the hieros gamos to the lone warrior hero. Gilgamesh rejects Inanna’s invitations into the temple, fearing he will be consumed and disposed of like the trail of sacrificed lovers before him. Instead, he is granted a companion of his own sex, Enkidu, who embodies his shadow. Together this pair kills the Bull of Heaven, symbolizing the Goddess of Heaven & Earth who sets the seasonal cycle of fertility in motion. This conquest brings the fecund partnership model of the Taurean Age to a resounding close, instilling the Arian warrior as solitary King.
The Age of Taurus
As we arrive at the origin of the hieros gamos on this backwards journey, we encounter the horned head of the bull ruling the Age of Taurus. This symbol of the female Fallopian tubes has been found in relics and animates the mythology of the period. Women were exalted in this age, a reflection of the reverence for the Goddess in the agrarian culture. Their consorts were embodiments of Dumuzi, the original son/lover.
For the Sumerians the inexhaustible source of new life was Mother Earth, or Ki, the incarnation of reproductive forces in nature. Yet Ki (whose symbol was earth) had no position in the ruling elite of the gods beyond the devoted wife of the chief god, An. However, in Mesopotamia, goddesses ruled the intellect, as patrons of learning (Nisaba) and writing (Nabu). Ninhursag, the great and active mother Goddess was creatrix until Enki pushed her out of the triad, absorbed her name, and took over her functions. (18)
The androgynous Enki was notorious for mating with his progeny. His granddaughter, Inanna, was rewarded with the powers of rulership (the me’s) when she seduced him with her magnetic allure after they got drunk together. This notorious adventure reveals how Inanna’s character enabled her to transgress boundaries and contain an erotic power that absorbed darkness as well as light.
Queen of Heaven & Earth
The sacred marriage model reflected in her passionate relationship with her son/lover Dumuzi was incarnated in various forms. In Palestine, the dying god Dumuzi was named Tammuz and Inanna incarnated as his lover Astarte. When a wild beast killed Tammuz, his lover was so distraught that the gods took pity and allowed him to return to earth part of the year. The annual death of the god was lamented with mournful music and wailing at the Jerusalem temple. In Egypt, Osirus played the role of the dying god with Isis searching the world for his dismembered body.
As we advance forward, the Greeks diminished the power of the Goddess by separating her into seven different figures, all with an archetypal function serving the male dominated culture. The love goddess Aphrodite arose from the genitals of Uranus in the sea-foam, born from the unconscious rather than the wisdom of earth. Like the other Goddesses in the Greek pantheon, she is a literal daughter of the patriarchy. Her chaotic love affairs reflect a female powerlessness guaranteed by her unconscious birth from the instruments of her father’s promiscuity.
Tammuz was Adonis in Rome, a youth so beautiful that the Goddess of love, Venus, fell at his feet and begged him to avoid his fate of being killed by a boar. When she saw his dead body on the ground, she pleaded with the gods for his resurrection. He was transformed into a red flower that looked like the pomegranate. In death, this consort of the love goddess is linked to Eros through a fertility symbol. Yet, the image of Eros is remade into a hapless boy, the son of Venus.
The transgender goddess in Rome was Cybele, known for instigating orgies in the streets where transsexuals honored her passage with bouquets of castrated testicles. Here we see the reflection of the diminished of the partnership model; the only visible worshippers of the androgynous goddess were impotent males. This implies that the female power of integrating the opposites came at the expense of male potency. Given this condition, how can an annual renewal of fertility known as The Sacred Marriage Rites be possible?
Eruption of the Spring
Today the seed of the androgynous Venus, with its power to contain the gender opposites, emerges anew. We are embarked on a crucial passage of revelation as we collectively experience a new version of the myth of Eternal Return. At this time, Gaia, the earth, is literally unveiling her secrets.
The symbolic image of this unfolding is the stream of esoteric thought bubbling up from underground to nourish the Tree of Life, source of all wisdom. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered hidden in jars in caves in 1945. Additional insights into the philosophy and teachings of Jesus Christ have been discovered in Gnostic texts such as The Nag Hammadi manuscripts, The Gospel of Phillip and Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
An increasing scholarship points to active participation by females in the early Christianity. Yet, Starbird asserts that Mary Magdalene’s role as healing partner was kept out of the gospels by jealous apostles, chiefly Peter, who feared and disliked women and spread the myth of the idolization of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior, at the expense of his manhood. (19)
The Roman Catholic Church cultivated the cult of the Virgin, which supported the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception while side-lining Mary Magdalene, associated with Eros and fertility. These characteristics of the love Goddess were thrust onto the image of Magdalene as prostitute. To the Gnostics, who were persecuted by the Church, the sacred feminine had fallen into matter and had to be rescued through devout practice. This belief was carried into esoteric Judaism through the Luria Kabbala, which restored the lost feminine through the addition of a lower triangle descending into matter.
Starbird traces the hidden symbols by which the heretics communicated this esoteric wisdom. These were revealed to initiates through the structures built by the freemasons, as well as tarot cards and works of art. The most frequently used symbol was the red X, which stood for the integration of the feminine chalice and the masculine blade. (20)
Ironically, what began as an anti-establishment symbol came to represent all associated with the devil and the flesh, as in the present day “Rated-X”. How interesting then, that a heavenly body sighted beyond Pluto has been labeled Planet X by astronomers!
The Conscious Kundalini
The discovery of Pluto in 1945 ushered in the atomic age and forced the dark feminine into human consciousness; therefore, the attribution of the X label for what is coming into consciousness is a synchronicity pointing to the radiant lost bride. In fact, in his final years, Jung associated the icon of the hieros gamos with radiation (psychovision.com), which is like alchemy in reverse, stripping down matter to arrive at the source of the chemical attraction of opposites. Could the journey through a black hole in space result in white light? Such a matrix provides the image for the passage through the sexual depths of Pluto to arrive at the hieros gamos! While the discovery of the neutrino proves the existence of light in matter, some astrologers refer to the planet existing beyond Pluto as Persephone. Assigning a rulership by Virgo, symbolized by the human figure of the maiden, means a new human discovery of the belief of our ancient ancestors — spirituality infused into matter.
In the 20th century, conscious knowledge of Pluto, the transpersonal force ruling Nietzsche’s philosophy of “God is Dead” and later descent into psychosis, brought up the dark feminine from underground. Pluto was another name for Hades, Lord of the underworld. As ruler of Scorpio, the sign of death and rebirth, Pluto’s domain is that of Ereshkigal in the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s underworld descent. During the 1980’s, when this outermost planet was transiting its own sign of Scorpio, we had an upheaval of the forbidden — the dark domain of the Goddess ruling the natural cycles of death, destruction and rebirth. During this time, women found their connection to their lost female spirituality through the New Age movement while AIDS forced a consciousness regarding the risks of the sexual revolution accompanied by the Dionysian cocktail of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It was as if the collective unconsciousness was challenging us to find creative outlets for erotic attraction through the practice of safe sex!
On many levels, the knowledge being transmitted from above and below (between heaven and earth) challenges the Judeo-Christian denial of light contained in matter (Christ’s body arising along with his spirit). The scrolls surfacing from hiding places in caves at the end of the last millennium are spiritual relics containing knowledge of the lost feminine. Here we have actual examples of spirit contained in matter, which uncover the denial at the core of patriarchal religion!
The warring Akkadians invaded Sumer, and made Ishtar a war Goddess lacking the balance of love and gender bending transitions contained by her predecessor, Inanna. The Greeks continued the repression of the feminine begun by the Akkadian destruction of the temple. Apollo diminished the feminine through his serial rape of maidens and Platonic philosophy encouraged love between equals – as long as both partners were men. The denial of emotions in Greek civilization surfaced in theater. Medea — the tragic Greek figure that killed her children to avenge her husband – sprouted from Euripedes’ head as an outlet for feminine rage.
Return of the Sky Goddess
The suffering repressed by humanity on a mass level has to do with the higher frequency of energy on the planet coupled with the human body awareness of the earth’s wound. The Ang Lee film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon utilized the new digital technology to a brilliant effect in presenting a live actress flying through the air as the mythical Aquarian Sky Goddess embarked on a contemporary journey to the sacred marriage. Here at last we had the image of the proactive self-empowered and enigmatic Inanna appearing as a bold new archetype of the feminine on the sliver screen! In this film, the female protagonist reaches heaven on earth with her love partner. In the blend of east and west that characterizes Lee’s art of filmmaking, the film itself is a celebration of its content – the triumph of the hieros gamos as an archetype embodying a new culture.
The film offered a remedy to young women who passed into the new millennium ambivalent about the power exuded by this archetype; their feelings are given metaphor in the flying protagonist, her journey depicting their own lust for and fear of heights. As the Sky Goddess archetype enters human consciousness, flight dreams of young women will no longer cast them as light and vulnerable aviators represented by the “birds” of Carnaby Street in their sky-high miniskirts who wore her freshness as patina in the 1960’s. By confronting the fear of risking sniper fire if they draw too much attention to themselves, spirited women no longer need identify with Icarus, the flying boy who symbolizes the hazards of ego-inflation.
Throughout the 20th century, the female yearning to test their wings at the highest altitude was grounded by the feeling that the element of air is too rarified to ride without hazard. Yet, air is the element of Aquarius! How can a woman deny the very element that characterizes an age? Face this paradox we must; these fears are indicative of the necessity to contain spirit in the body.
From a little known deity ten years ago when I began my research, Inanna today is worshipped as an Aquarian goddess atop the Ziggurat once again at masses of personal altars shared through the World Wide Web.
Alchemical and astrological images are from prs.org
Mary Magdalene images from northernway.org/school/omm/gallery.html
- Vitruvius, Ten Books, III, I.
- Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985), 7
- Emma Jung & Marie-Louise Von Franz, The Grail Legend (Boston: Sigo Press, 1986), 39
- Alexander Roob, Alchemy & Mysticism, (Koln: Taschen, 2005), 468
- Thorkild Jacobsen,, Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (new Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 5
- Samuel Kramer and Diane Wolkstein, Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 107-11
- Betty De Shong Meador, Inanna Lady of the Largest Heart, Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 57-63.
- E.O James, Myth and Ritual in the Ancient Near East (London: Thames and Hudson, 1958), 48
- Tikya Frymer-Kensky, In the Wake of the Goddess (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 61
- ibid, 76
- Margaret Starbird, Women With the Alabaster Jar (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company, 1993), 86
- bid, p 27-30. See also, Margaret Starbird, Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2005), 37-69
- 2005 Interview with Bruce Chilton. See Chilton, Bruce, Rabbi Paul (New York, Doubleday, 2004) Rabbi Jesus (New York: Image, Doubleday, 200) and Mary Magdalene, a Biography (New York, Doubleday, 2005)
- Meador, 171-172
- Frymer-Kensky, 80
- ibid, 171-17
- Margret Starbird, Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile, 37-69
- Margaret Starbird, Woman With the Alabaster Jar, (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company), 128-129