Sacred whores, Temple Harlots, and Holy Virgins
horaes were known as dispensers of the grace of the Goddess. Ancient Harlots often commended high social status and were revered for their learning. As embodiments of the Queen of Heaven, in Palestine called Qadeshet, the Great Whore, the harlots were honored like queens at centers of learning in Greece and Asia Minor. Some even became queens. The empress Theodora, wife of Justinian, began her career as a temple harlot. St. Helena, mother of Constantine, was harlot before she became an empress-saint.
In an Egyptian story, a priestess of Baubastis demanded all of man's worldly goods for one night of her love. She said "I am the hierodule; I am no mean person. Until recently Egypt still had a clan of women called ghazye, "sacred whores," who were greatly honored in the time of the Mamelukes and prized as brides when their period of services ended.
Temple prostitutes were revered as healers of the sick. Their very secretions were supposed to have medical virtue. A Sufi proverb still suggests this opinion: There is healing in a woman's vagina. Even their spittle could perform cures. Jesus's cure of blindness by spittle (Mark 8:23) was copied form a matriarchal tradition. A clay tablet from Nineveh says eye dis-ease can be cured by a harlot's spittle. Harlots were sorceresses, prophets, and seers. The Hebrew word zonah means both a prostitute and a prophetess.
The Tantric word for a sacred harlot was Veshya, probable origin of the Goddess's oldest names in Greece and Rome, Hestia or Vesta, the Hearth-mother, served by the Vestal Virgins who were originally harlot-priestesses. Hearth and Earth both arose form the altar of the Saxon Goddes Ertha, or Heartha, the northern Hestia-Vesta. In the matriarchal age, every woman's hearth-fire was her altar. The hearth was also the omphalos, feminine hub of the universe, navel-stone of the temple, around which the sacred harlot performed their Dances of Time. Sometimes the alternate word hus (house) carried the same sense of " a place of worship", because every matriarch once worshiped the Goddess of her own hearth, which she could share with more than one hus-band. Hence the word hussy, Lady of the House, by Christian definition a promisuous woman.
Dancing harlots came to be called Hours: Persian houri, Greek horae. Egyptian temple-women also were Ladies of the Hour. Each ruled a cerain hour of the night, and protected the solar boat of Ra in the underworld during his passage through her hour. The Dance of the Hours began as a pagan ceremony of the Horae (divine whores) who kept the hours of the night by dances, as Christian monks later kept the hours of the day by prayers. Time keeping is horology because of the systems devised by these ancient preistesses of the Goddess. The oldest authentic Hebrew folk dance is still called hora after the circle dances of the scared harlots. The Hebrew word hor means a hole, cave, or pit, common synonyms for both a sacred prostitute and the Goddess she served, whose yoni was represented by a hole, cave, pit or pool of water in the heart of the temple. A similar Latin term was puteus, a well or pit, source of the Spanish puta, "whore".
Holy whores were called "virgins" because they remained unmarried. Like medieval nuns, they took veils as a m badge of their office. Istar-Asherah-Mari-Anath was not only the Great Whore but also the Great Virgin. Her Greek name was Athene, also described as a "virgin"; but Athene's temple, the Parthenon, was served by promiscuous hierodules like all other shrines of the Goddess.
Information taken from "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets"