(urth) Speaking of Hierodules...

Jeffrey Lefstin jeff.lefstin at stanfordalumni.org
Wed May 24 16:00:59 PDT 2006

I am abashed to reveal that I learned this from "The Da Vinci Code," 
but something that seems to have escaped attention:

Wolfe is misdirecting us a little when he tells us that "hierodule" 
means "holy slave."  The more specific meaning is "temple prostitute" 
in Greek and other pagan religions, and there's no way that's an 
accident.  According to wikipedia, the act of sex with a hierodule was 
known as "hieros gamos":

Hieros Gamos (Greek ιερός γάμος, "holy wedding") or Hierogamy (Greek 
ιερογαμία, again "holy wedding") means a coupling (sometimes marriage) 
of a god and a man or a woman, often having a symbolic meaning and 
generally conducted in the spring. It is an ancient ritual in which 
participants believed that they could gain profound religious 
experience through sexual intercourse. Participants assumed 
characteristics of deities, often channeling the deities in question, 
and by their union provided symbolic and literal fertility for 
themselves, the land, and their people. This was often done by the 
monarch and hierodule of the dominant religion.

Well, that's TBotNS in a nutshell.  The fertility of Urth is restored 
by the sexual union of Severian ("the monarch") and Apheta, which 
conceives the New Sun.  (In contrast to the union between Severian and 
Valeria, who represents the old & raddled Urth).  Yes, I know Apheta is 
a larval hierogrammate, not a hierodule, but let's not get inconvenient 
facts get in the way.  Hierogrammates was an afterthought tacked on in 
UotNS, and  besides, hierogrammate sounds a lot like "hieros gamos."

Actually, in "Da Vinci Code" Brown talks about "hieros gamos" as a 
kabbalistic union of male and female practiced in ancient Jewish 
religion, which would mate (ha, ha) quite well with the kabbalistic 
context of UotNS.  But from what I gather Brown made that aspect up out 
of thin air.

And please don't go read the "Da Vinci Code" on account of this.  It is 
a Really Really Lame piece of literature and you should read the 
"non-fiction" books if the whole grail/bloodline/conspiracy stuff 
intrigues you.  You have been warned.
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