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(Greek: sacred marriage) Sexual relations of fertility deities enacted in myths and rituals, characteristic of societies based on cereal agriculture (e.g., Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Canaan). At least once a year, people dressed as gods engaged in sexual intercourse to guarantee the fertility of the land. The festival began with a procession to the marriage celebration, which was followed by an exchange of gifts, a purification rite, the wedding feast, preparation of the wedding chamber, and a secret nocturnal act of intercourse.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hieros gamos, visit Britannica.com.
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