Ground and centre, or prepare for meditation in your usual way.

You are walking along a rugged path atop a cliff, looking out over azure seas, sparkling faintly in the fading light. A large stone building comes into view and you aren't sure, in the deepening dusk, quite what it is, it seems to change from ancient to modern and back again as you squint and try to make it out.

As you approach, music can be heard, and a wonderful fragrance of jasmine drifts towards you. A little unsure, you approach the entrance, and hope no-one will mind if you follow the sweetly singing voice …….

Just inside the door is a large, round hall, with a statue of the Goddess you recognise as Venus in the centre. As you gaze at Her, you suddenly notice a woman tending to what you now recognize as a Temple. She wears veils, transparent sensual temple clothing, silver bracelets on her arms and ankles and other jewellery. She looks very feminine. This is Salome, Priestess of Venus, serving the Goddess on the ancient Mount Erice in Sicily. She lights oil lamps and incense and creates a sacred atmosphere. Soft music is playing in the background, and there is chanting. Salome begins to dance, gracefully and in full awareness of her beauty, and as she dances, her passion grows to ecstasy.

After a while, she stops and begins to speak to you.

I remember when I first came to this Temple, oh… many years ago. I came here to fulfil the law of the land, which every maiden must do. It's a great honour to serve the Goddess in this way.

Salome approaches a small statue of Venus, pouring a libation. As the dusk gathers, she moves around lighting oil lamps and incense. You can still hear the soft music and chanting in the background.

I always wanted to become a Priestess of Venus, from a very tender age onwards. Oh, my mother, she always told me how much she enjoyed her years in the Temple, before she married my father. She shared many beautiful stories with me… dreamy, colourful, flowing, like fairy-tales from a distant land. I grew up wanting to be just like her, a beautiful radiant Priestess, serving the Goddess… whatever that meant. So when I was 13 summers old, after we had celebrated the arrival of my moon blood, my dream came true: I journeyed to the Temple where my mother had trained, on the mountain of Erice, to become a Priestess of Venus.

My first time in the Temple was exhilarating - I was so excited and there were many other Maidens like myself. What I hadn't expected was how strict they were going to be with us, and how much we'd have to learn! We were trained in many strange and, to my mind, exotic arts. There were long hours of meditation, breath work, divination, channelling… oh how we cursed that sometimes!... was this was being a Priestess meant? My mother had made it sound so easy. It was a tiring and intense schedule.

But in time, the training became more interesting - and also more difficult. They started to teach us sacred rites and ancient secrets that pass from Priestess to Priestess through the generations. We learnt about our bodies and the art of love-making - of self love, tantric love, sisterly love, passionate wild ecstatic love… in theory at least. At that time, it all seemed like a lot of slogging for nothing. The High Priestess, she could be quite tough. We were all scared witless of her. She'd bark at us: 'Keep your fingertips close to your knees and your eyes lowered. When you look sideways try to press your chin into your shoulder. Move your thighs more gracefully, what do you think this is? A market place?' Yes, it wasn't all fun.

But, they taught us how to breathe, breathe deep through our yonis, and to visualise the radiant energy rise in us, like the kundalini serpent power, like a mighty ocean, rising and falling, rising and falling, until it rose and rose and only fell when we wanted it to. These hours… these nights and days spent in the Temple were extra-ordinary.
Let me show you … deepen your meditation and I will take you on a journey. Make sure you're still comfortable, close your eyes, breathe in, breathe out, breathe through yoni or phallus, feel yourself growing roots from the bottom of your spine, red glowing roots that grow all the way down from your first chakra to the centre of the earth… deep and deeper… until you connect with that very glowing core…

Feel it rise….. feel the energy rise back up through the earth into your body… feel the red fiery energy coming up, higher and higher, until it fills your yonis and phalluses, until it fills your bellies… and your hearts… open your channels….

Can you feel it? This is but a glimpse of what we felt like every day in our training, for years. And with every level our experience became deeper and more intense. We practised and breathed until we were in a constant state of orgasmic bliss, independent of touch or the presence of another.

After three years of training, the time of my initiation approached. I was to become a fully initiated Priestess of Venus, capable to serve in Her Temple, and to share Her love and ecstasy with those that seek union with her.
I was curious and eager, but nothing happened for a long time. I just sat on the steps of the Temple for most of the time with the other Priestesses, looking down onto the sea from our high mountain, and continued to practice what I had learnt. The prospect of initiation seemed unreal somehow, and I wondered whether it was ever going to happen.

Then one day, unexpectedly, everything changed. I should have known that something extraordinary was about to happen when I saw a red snake glide through the nettles in front of me outside the Temple that morning. It was a hot bright day in the height of spring, and I was tending to the Temple when a stranger entered. A tingling sensation overcame me as I looked at him from the corner of my eye, something quite unfamiliar, a bit like somebody had stabbed me in my solar plexus… not unpleasant…. but rather strange. I saw him looking at me. He had dark hair and green eyes that seemed to pierce my soul.

I hid behind my veils, hoping somehow that he wouldn't see me… yet curiosity and intrigue burned inside me like an unlit fire. I didn't know what was happening to me - they hadn't told me about all that confusion! Everything in me was screaming 'Yes!', whereas another voice screamed 'No!' What was going on? Had the moment really arrived to put the practises of the past years in use? I just wanted to run away!

As I nervously arranged the flowers for the thirteenth time and smashed an oil lamp as I did so, he walked across the Temple and bowed before the big marble statue of Venus in the centre. After he had communed with her, he slowly walked across to me, and threw some coins of offering into my lap and said 'May the Goddess make thee happy'.

My heart jumped with excitement - or fear. This was it. Or was it? I looked around, but none of the other Priestesses were present. I stood up slowly, trying to remember everything that I had been taught in training, what to do… it was all such a jumble in my mind, and I hoped he wouldn't notice. I took his hand to lead him into my private chambers, my sacred love room, next to the Temple. Trembling, I started to undress him - I could remember that much - and gave him a bath in blessed water, filled with rose-petals and perfumed scents. I slid into the bath behind him, massaged him gently with cedar oil, just as I was trained to do… idly chattering, telling him about my training, anything I could think of to cover up my nervousness, yet all the while I was thinking, when? When? When shall I ask him to plow my vulva, my vulva that was full of eagerness like the young moon by now?

And then finally, after what seemed an eternity but may have been only been a few minutes, he told me of the war, the war that was going on in the lands below the Temple… and one of the reasons he had come to seek me out. 'Salome', he said, 'Salome, I am tired and weary from the war. I am burdened with the horrors I have witnessed, and I am stained with the blood I had to shed. In the name of Venus, I ask you for your purification and healing.'

And so I led him to the myrtle-leaves covered bed… or was it he who led me, I cannot recall… where we once again knelt before the Goddess and asked for Her blessings for our sacred union.

And then, finally, all my hard training made sense in an instance as we explored our bodies and touched each other through veils….

What was happening to me? My body was shaking, I had bright colourful visions, I was speaking in tongues, I felt energies never before experienced, and he experienced them too, through me, surrendered as we were to Her powers. My mind exploded as we continued to journey into further depths, and suddenly, in the moment of ultimate ecstasy, there She was… glowing and radiating like I have never seen her before. The veils between the worlds blurred and disappeared, and I became Her, and He, my beautiful stranger, became Adonis, the God of Love, and everything dissolved into the white light of recognition and true bliss in this very moment.

I felt indescribably happy for the days to come. I was now initiated and blessed, and I had come to understand Her mysteries. I had come to life.

Like every Priestess, I now had the choice to return to my home ready for marriage, but I decided to stay in the Temple to serve Venus indefinitely. I never saw the stranger again, but I meet him in every other stranger that seeks me out in the Temple for the rite of Hieros Gamos, the Sacred Marriage between Goddess and God.

The act of divine love-making has become my spiritual practice. By sharing myself with another, through the merging of our souls, I open the veil… the veil of illusion that tells us we're all separate.

©Tiziana Stupia