Black Spirituality Religion : The Origins of Tantra in the Mysteries of Ishtar

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Amnat77, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By John Wisdom Gonce III

    Essentially, tantra is a Sanskrit word whose most basic meaning is “web” or “woof” (as in the “warp-and-woof” of woven fabric), and can also mean “loom.” It is derived from the verbal root tan, which means “to expand.” This root also relates to the word tantu, which means “thread” or “cord.” This suggests expansion, because a thread can be woven into a web or fabric.

    Tantra can also mean “system,” “ritual,” doctrine,” or “compendium.” Esoteric traditions define Tantra as that which expands Jñana, which can mean either “knowledge” or “wisdom.” [1]

    At the root of all these meanings is the image of threads woven together and “expanded” into a web or network. The Sanskrit word tantra seems to have been coined around the sixth century C.E. [2]

    Despite all this analysis of the word itself, the origins of the term “Tantra,” and the question of why it was chosen to define this tradition of practices, have remained shrouded in mystery. And there have always been suspicions that the practice of Tantra is much older than the sixth century C.E. origins of the word itself. As Andre Van Lysebeth, foremost European Tantric teacher and author, has charmingly pointed out, it is foolish to assume that the practice of Tantra originated at the same time as its Sanskrit name:

    “…equating the origin of Tantrism with its name’s is rather specious: the word “sex“ (from the Latin sexus, and the root sectus = separation, distinction) came into use as late as the 12th century A.D. But evidence points to an earlier origin for the act.” [3]

    Many scholars have understood this “weaving” metaphor to symbolize the eclectic nature of Tantra, or the way in which Mahayana Buddhism “wove” together the far-flung “threads” of different practices to form the Tantric tradition. Lately, however, I have come to believe that this “weaving” symbolism at the root of the word “Tantra” may have come from much older sources in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the Ancient Near East.

    In fact, there is evidence linking the ancient custom of weaving clothing (sacred vestments) for the Goddess with sacred sexuality, and especially with the Sacred Marriage Rite. Scholar Tivka Frymer-Kensky especially noted the conspicuous role of certain “linen-weaving priests” during the Sacred Marriage Rite in the E-ANNA (“House of Heaven”), Inanna’s temple at Uruk:

    The last text to refer to an actual ritual is a fragmentary song of Inanna, "Your breast is your field". After a hymn of self-praise by Inanna, the song records how the linen-weaving priests in the Eanna have prepared an altar, and brought water and bread for Dumuzi. They ask Dumuzi to approach Inanna with a chant, which he does, praising the breasts of Inanna as a fertile field and asking to drink from them. In addition to these five texts, there is a whole cycle of songs that refer to the love, courtship and wedding of Dumuzi and Inanna. Despite the fact that they make no reference to the actual ritual event, we assume that these texts were sung on the occasion of the sacred marriage ceremony. [4]

    Notably, these “weaving priests” not only set up the altar and served food to Inanna’s consort Dumuzid (or the king incarnating Him), but also acted as go-betweens, inviting Him to approach Inanna (or the priestess incarnating Her) for the actual process of Divine lovemaking to begin.

    Frymer-Kensky quoted three different hymns regarding Inanna, Dumuzid, and the Sacred Marriage Rite in this section of her book, In the Wake of the Goddesses, but noted that this hymn, which mentions the “weaving priests,” was the most blatantly sexual of the three:

    In this prayer, the imagery is directly sexual; it makes explicit the parallel inherent in this ritual between the female body and the earth, between human sexuality and cosmic reproduction. [5]

    This connection between weaving and sacred sexuality seems to have persisted for a very long time in the Ancient Near East. When the biblical Second Book of Kings, recounts the exploits of the fanatical Yahwist “reformer,” King Josiah, it mentions his destruction of the dwellings of priests and priestesses who were associated with both weaving and sacred sex:

    He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the LORD, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole. (2 Kings 23:7 New Living Translation)


    http://www.ishtargoddess.org/originofthewordtantra.html
     
  2. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Almost all modern translations of this passage are consistent in connecting “temple prostitution” (sacred sexuality) with the weaving of fabric as an expression of worship for Asherah (Ishtar).
    Here is another example:

    He tore down the houses of the male temple prostitutes who were in the LORD's temple, where women did weaving for Asherah. (2 Kings 23:7 GOD'S WORD ® Translation)

    And another:

    And he had the houses pulled down of those who were used for sex purposes in the house of the Lord, where women were making robes for the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:7 Bible in Basic English)

    And another:

    And he breaketh down the houses of the whoremongers that are in the house of Jehovah, where the women are weaving houses for the shrine. (2 Kings 23:7 Young's Literal Translation)



    Raphael Patai’s interpretation of this passage explains more fully the seemingly obscure connection between weaving, worship, and sacred ritual:

    In 2 Kings 23:7 the masoretic text has “he demolished the houses of the qedeshim that were in the house of Yaweh, where women wove houses (batim) for the Asherah.” Apart from the question of how can houses be woven, stylistically, it is well-nigh impossible that the word “house” should appear three times in one and the same sentence. The Septuagint has “stolas,” i.e., garments, for batim, which may be based on an original badim, i.e., “linens.” The expression “(a person) clothed in linens” (badim) appears as a standing epithet for a mystical figure in Ezekiel (9:2, 3, 11, etc.) and Daniel (12:6, 7). Thus it may well be that, from time to time, the Asherah statue was dressed in new linens, and that women considered it a pious act to busy themselves with weaving the material for these garments, on looms set up for this purpose in certain chambers of the Temple compound. The weaving of ritual vestments was a woman’s task in Babylonian temples (cf. Wooley, Antiquaries’ Journal 5: 393), at Heirapolis in Syria (Lucian, De Dea Syria 42), and in Greece (Gressmann, Zeitschrift fur de alttest. Wissenschaft, 1924, pp. 325 ff.). It seems that also in Ugarit the makers of sacred vestments had a role in the temple ritual (cf. John Gray, The Legacy of Canaan, p. 156, and I and II Kings, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1963, p. 507). [6]

    Patai also explains how weaving might have been connected with sacred sexuality:

    As for the qedeshim, most Biblical scholars consider the term to refer to sacred prostitutes of both sexes, and not merely males. I am inclined to read it as “male sacred prostitutes,” for had the Biblical author wished to refer to both male and female functionaries, he would, in all probability, have said “qedeshim uqedeshot” using both masculine and feminine forms of the noun qadesh. The function of the qedeshim had something to do with the fertility cult centering in the figure of the mother-goddess Asherah. Possibly, their services were made use of by childless women who visited the sanctuary in order to become pregnant. Such pilgrimages to holy places for the purpose of removing the curse of barrenness have remained an important feature of popular religion down to the present day among Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike in all parts of the Middle East. The qedeshim may have also functioned in the rites of imitative magic in the fertility cult, whose purpose was to ensure fruitfulness in nature, the coming of the autumn rains, the growth of crops, the multiplication of animals, etc….Fertility goddesses had male attendants or priests in ancient Near Eastern religions, and, in the case of the qedeshim in the Jerusalem Temple, one of their tasks seems to have been to supervise the work of the women weaving linens for Asherah, which, therefore, was done in the chambers of the qedeshim. [7]


    http://www.ishtargoddess.org/originofthewordtantra.html
     
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