PART II of series on the Quršu
Setting up of the honeyed bed and perfumed chamber
Figurine of Goddess (Aphrodite) on her bed from Cyprus
The Quršu (sex ritual) was performed for the New Year, and was the major festival which lasted for days.
It required the setting up of a flowered, perfumed bed in readiness for the Goddess and her chosen lover, who played the King-God. (In the Akkadian era it seems this role was played by the King most often.)
There are historical texts which reference an ornate magnificent bed being transported down the river ahead of the ritual dates, along with special goods. That which was set aside for the Goddess's temple was the most select and beautiful, "the best of the best", or the "crème de la crème" (cream of the cream) to use the equivalent French term.
Linens for the bed
In one of the ancient sex songs, the setting up of the bed is triggered by the Goddess Inanna as a young maiden who is sexually developed and desirous. Her vulva sprouted with thick hair is compared to the flax used for making bed linens.
"Young lady, the flax that has sprouted in the garden-beds is full of loveliness,
Like the barley in the furrow overflowing with loveliness and delight;
Young lady, a fine linen you craved..." (4)
The Goddess Inanna questions sequentially who will beat the flax, who will spin in, who will twine it, you will warp it, who will weave it, who will bleach it - into linen, for which her brother offers to undertake that work. Finally the Goddess asks who will die down with her, for which the answer is, of course, the King.
Dripping with honey
The ancient literature to the Goddess Inanna being "laid down upon a bed dripping with honey". (5)
Honey was associated with sweetness and abundance, made from nectar of flowers by bees. (Working busily in honour of their Queen, rather appropriately.)
Honey also had of course the erotic connotations of course; to the wet glistening fluids of arousal, of vaginal fluid, pre-cum, and sweat of arousal full of pheromones.
Elsewhere in the literature, the King-God is described as:
"the honey man (who) sweetens me ever....
His hand honey, his foot honey - sweetenes me ever,
His limbs are honey-sweet - sweeten me ever." (6)
In this context honey may be an evocative description of the rush of hormonal arousal through the young lady's body, the sweet feeling in her body - like honey - experienced in the presence and touch of her lover.
(It's also quite possible that honey was used in the erotic ritual, in a manner we might today in the modern-day era use chocolate body paint or flavoured lubricant.)
The flowered bed, the perfumed chamber
The songs make reference to the "flowered bed", which is spread with herbs. (7) Elsewhere it is a "luxuriant couch" upon which Inanna lies with her lover. (8)
There are numerous clay-moulded minature beds (the size of doll's house beds) featuring a woman's body lying upon it, or more frequently - a couple lying together often in the act of intercourse. Many of these are stored in museum vaults, not on common display, due to their erotic nature.
While there is still some debate among archaeologists over the context and meaning of these beds, it is my contention that they represent the Goddess and God enacting the Quršu sex ritual.
The final evidence I am presenting in my book, Flight of the Goddess (2018) presents artifacts from Cyprus and the Goddess Aphrodite Sanctuary which resemble closely the Mesopotamian material, including the Goddess on a bed.
The ornate bed may have featured carvings of star-rosette flowers which were the Goddess's sacred symbol, or fresh flowers laid out on the bed - or indeed both - along with fragrant herbs.
Myrrh was a precious resin commonly used to create beautiful fragrance. It could be burnt as an incense, its smell wafting and permeating fabrics and woods.
Astarte-Aphrodite limestone incense burner
The bed and chamber was set up in readiness for the Goddess and the sex ritual to take place.
Clay couple on a bed, from Ur
(4) Sefati, Yitschak Love Songs in Sumerian Literature (1998) Bar Ilan University Press, see Dumuzi-Inanna A lines 4-6, p.124
(5) ibid. Dumuzi-Inanna D. line 11, p.153
(6) ibid. Dumuzi-Inanna E. line 5, 7-8. pp.166-167
(7) ibid. Dumuzi-Inanna T. line 41, p.250
(8) ibid. Dumuzi-Inanna Z. line 19 p.283