Mesopotamian - Means of achieving spiritual experience 07 Sex High priestess with phyrigian cap
Type of Spiritual Experience
This little figure was found in Mesopotamia but belongs to the time of the Seleucid Empire - a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. We have included it because it is of interest historically as an indication that many of the beliefs survived the conquests, possibly because Greece also supported the Mystery religions.
This Empire was founded by Seleucus I Nicator following the division of the Macedonian empire vastly expanded by Alexander the Great. Seleucus received Babylonia and, from there, expanded his dominions to include much of Alexander's near eastern territories. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
A description of the experience
Alabaster figurine with gold incrustations and garnets (Seleucidan era)
Herodotus – The Histories – Book One [writing in the fifth century BC]
The temple of Bel [Marduk], the Babylonian Zeus, is a square building, two furlongs each way, with bronze gates, and was still in existence in my time; it has a solid central tower, one furlong square, with a second erected on top of it and then a third, and so on up to eight. All eight towers can be climbed by a spiral way running round the outside, and about half-way up there are seats and a shelter for those who make the ascent to rest on. On the summit of the topmost tower stands a great temple with a fine large couch in it, richly covered, and a golden table beside it. The shrine contains no image and no one spends the night there except, as the Chaldaeans who are the priests of Bel say, one Assyrian woman, all alone, whoever it may be that the god has chosen. The Chaldaeans also say - though I do not believe them - that the god enters the temple in person and takes his rest upon the bed. There is a similar story told by the Egyptians at Thebes, where a woman always passes the night in the temple of the Theban Zeus and is forbidden, so they say, like the woman in the temple at Babylon, to have any intercourse with men; and there is yet another instance in the Lycian town of Patara, where the priestess who delivers the oracles when required (for there is not always an oracle there) is shut up in the temple during the night.