Qadshu, "the Holy One" is an epithet of various Canaanite
and Syrian Goddesses, Who eventually seems to have become an independent Goddess
of Sexuality, Sacred Ecstacy and Fertility.
Qadshu as the Goddess Anat represents
Her in Her form as the consort of Amurru ("the God of the West"),
another name for Aleyin or Ba'al. (In Egyptian texts this God is called Reshep
and is a God of Thunder and Battle.) At the request of the Goddess Athirat,
these two Deities perform a harvest-ritual involving the sacrifice of an ass,
which is meant to keep the animal from eating the leaves and shoots of the vines.
Qadshu is also used as an epithet of Athirat, the Great Mother
Goddess of the Canaanites.
Qadshu's cult involved the ritual of the sacred marriage, in
which participants acted out the parts of the Goddess and Her consort, usually
as a seasonal rite. The qadashah, (the "holy ones" or "religiously
clean or pure ones"), were the women of Her temple, who may have acted
as sacred prostitutes, giving themselves sexually to visitors while taking the
role of the Goddess as a sacred act. If they did function as prostitutes, then
the Canaanites had a very different (and, I would argue as a modern Pagan, far
more healthy) attitude towards sex workers than we do today, as the meaning
of the name, "the clean ones" implies. But then, they might have been
nothing of the sortthe implication that these temple women functioned
as "whores" is from the Bible, hardly an unbiased source when it comes
to the competing religion.
Qadshu was adopted into the Egyptian pantheon during the New
Kingdom under the spelling Qadesh, and formed part of a triad with Reshep and
Min, a God of (Very Happy) Fertility. She was usually shown as a nude woman
standing on the back of Her animal, the lion (which was an animal also sacred
to both Canaanite Athirat and Babylonian Ishtar).
In a break with conventional Egyptian artistic style that is indicative of Her
non-Egyptian origins, Qadesh was shown in a frontal pose. As emblems of fertility
She usually holds flowers (lotus or papyrus) or snakes in each hand. Her hair
falls on Her shoulders in two curls, much like the typical hairstyle of the
Goddess of Sensuality Hathor, and indeed the
two were equated by the Egyptians.
Alternate spellings: Qudshu, Qodesh, Qadesh, Qadashu, Qadesha,
Qetesh, Qedeshet, Kedesh
Epithets: in Egypt She is called "Mistress of All the Gods",
"Lady of the Stars of Heaven"