Tag Archives: Sex – Religious aspects

The Sacred Prostitute

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Nancy Qualls-Corbett, foreword by Marion Woodman, part of the Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts series.

Qualls-Corbett Woodman the Sacred Prostitute

This entry in the Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts series of monographs is a quick read with some useful information. Its allegedly “historical” picture is, however, deeply flawed. While I wouldn’t necessarily expect the level of skepticism occasioned by more recent work like Budin’s Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity, even in the 1980s there were more reliable materials than the ones Qualls-Corbett chose as her sources of “fact.” Her first chapter, which concerns itself with this “historical background” is frankly embarrassing — and unnecessarily so, since the data of myth and legend are even more apposite to the psychological concerns of the book than any putative historical origins.

Another problem is the patently theological sensibility exhibited by the author when she treats “the goddess” as an entity of objective consensus in antiquity and universal relevance in modernity. The vague sort of positive associations with “life” and “love” and “the body” advanced in such passages serve only to solicit the reader’s enthusiasm for this theological project, without really giving it much coherence or specificity. In the course of the book, the “sacred prostitute” is reduced to the “priestess of the goddess,” and the term is applied quite freely to any female figure who is sanctified and/or sexual, so that the book seems rarely to realize its title by getting to the whore at the core.

The third and fourth chapters treat the sacred prostitute as an image of the Jungian anima archetype, with exploration of anima development in men and women respectively. These sections are leavened with a great deal of case-study material, most of which consists of the dreams of analysands, along with Qualls-Corbett’s interpretations. Mixed in with these, and offered as data of the same level of salience, are several literary excerpts, including two passages from D.H. Lawrence. 

In the second and fifth chapters the emphasis is on comparative mythology and religion, and these contain some interesting reflections, although they also exhibit some notable blind spots. (The author seems unaware that Beauty and the Beast is a conscious reworking of the fable of Cupid and Psyche, for example.) There is a helpful high-level gloss of Wagner’s Parsifal, some reasonable hypotheses about pagan survival in European Mariolatry, and other intriguing details. 

A short book, The Sacred Prostitute can certainly repay the slight bother of reading it for an informed, critical reader. But I don’t know that I’d recommend it to the more general inquirer to whom Qualls-Corbett seems to be addressing her writing here.

The Sacred Prostitute

The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Nancy Qualls-Corbett, reviewed by Magdalene Meretrix in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Qualls-Corbett The Sacred Prostitute

Dr. Qualls-Corbett claims that modern people are wounded by our separation of sexuality and spirituality and suggests that the study of the ancient sacred prostitutes and sexually oriented temple priestesses will assist in a conscious “union of opposites,” restoring sexuality to its rightful place in spiritual and religious thought.

While her alchemical view of sexuality is firmly grounded in Jungian thought, Dr. Qualls-Corbett tends to use sources that are far less than reputable for her historical information – foremost among them, the dread Barbara Walker. In many places where Dr. Qualls-Corbett is more accurate in her history, she often provides rather unorthodox interpretations of historical items, places or writings. Overall, the author’s view of temple prostitution in the ancient world is obviously colored by the last few decades’ trend towards feminist pseudo-scholarship.

If her history is taken with a grain of salt, however, Dr. Qualls-Corbett has written a fascinating and useful book about aspects of feminine sexuality in a Jungian perspective. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore notions of sexuality from a stance that empowers both women and men as well as anyone who is considering developing ritual work in a sexual vein, especially rites of initiatory sexuality.

The book is divided into five major sections:

“The Goddess and her Virgin: Historical Background” examines evidence of the sacred prostitute in the ancient world. Though the history here is often shaky, this section still contains much of value if one chooses to read critically. “The Psychological Significance of Sacred Prostitution” examines the archetypes of the Goddess, the Sacred Prostitute, the Stranger who visits her, and the “Heiros Gamos” or Sacred Marriage.

“The Sacred Prostitute in Masculine Psychology” examines the male view of woman, anima and sexuality. Dr. Qualls-Corbett discusses the dreams of some of her male clients as well as the relationship between the Jesus character and the Magdalene/priestess character in D.H. Lawrence’s “The Man Who Died” in an attempt to demonstrate that the healing power of consciously regarding the sacred prostitute is not limited to women.

“The Sacred Prostitute in Feminine Psychology” first explores four of Dr. Qualls-Corbett’s female clients – three single women and one married woman – as they explore their evolving sense of Self and sexuality. Dr. Qualls-Corbett then links these four stories together by relating them to the D.H. Lawrence short story, “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” a story of lost innocence and overwhelming sexuality in which the male stranger, the Gypsy, plays the initiatory role to a young virgin in much the same way that the passing stranger would initiate a virgin waiting at the temple in ancient times.

“Restoration of the Soul” examines the whore/madonna paradigm of the feminine and attempts to integrate these two aspects by using Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary as personifications thereof. Dr. Qualls-Corbett also discusses the Black Madonnas found throughout Europe, suggesting that the image of the Black Madonna holds a key to the integration of the feminine.

The book concludes with a thorough bibliography (which also must be explored with a discerning eye since many of Dr. Qualls-Corbett’s sources, as discussed earlier, are shaky – if not intentionally deceptive – in their “scholarship”) and index.

Peppered with beautiful historical images of the Sacred Feminine, from Aphrodite to Sophia, this book is not difficult to read. It is written in a scholarly style but it typically defines any specialized vocabulary, making it accessible to those who have never read anything in Jungian psychology before.

“The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine” is book number 32 in Inner City Books’ series of “Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts.”