One of a class of sacred prostitutes found throughout the ancient Middle East and associated especially with the worship of the fertility goddess Astarte. Prostitutes, who often played an important part in official temple worship, could be either male or female. The early Israelites adopted Canaanite rites of sacred prostitution, and despite the denunciations of Israelite prophets, the practice continued until the reforms of Josiah in the 7th century BC.
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