Nearly all religious traditions contain instances of sacred marriages. They not only symbolize the potential for union between God and the individual, but also the coition of divine principles which will engender definite essences. One of the most famous of these marriages was between Zeus (Power) and Themis (Justice or Eternal Order), from which were bom Irene (Peace), Eunomia (Order) and Dike (Law).
Ancient Egypt had its ‘wives of Amon’ who were generally the daughters of Pharaohs, consecrated as worshippers of the god and vowing their virginity in this sacred marriage. ‘Married only to the god, the Divine Wife offered his cult a mildly erotic element, charming the god with her beauty and the music of her sistrums; sitting on his knee, she would put her arms around his neck’. Although no link can be established, one cannot avoid comparing the rites of the Worshippers of Amon, a fertility-god, with those of the Vestal Virgins, priestesses of Hestia (Vesta), goddess of hearth and home. In Rome, Vesta was to become the Earth Goddess and the Mother Goddess whose worship laid exaggerated stress upon sexual purity.
Thus marriage, instituted for the transmission of life, seemed surrounded by the halo of a cult which promoted and even demanded virginity. It symbolizes the divine origins of life, of which human coitus is merely an ephemeral receptacle, instrument or channel. Marriage derives from the rites of making life holy.