Tu'er Shen This fantastic Chinese deity manages the love and sex between homosexual couples. In late Imperial China, a slang used for gay people was a “rabbit”, thus Tu'er Shen is known as “the rabbit god”.
In the 17th century, a folk tale was passed around of a soldier who was in love with a provincial official. The soldier spies on the official, to try and see him naked, but is rebuffed by the official and then tortured and killed by him for his offence. The soldier returns from the dead in the form of a young hare, where he demands the local men build a temple to him, so he can oversee the “affairs of men”. Images of the god Tu-er Shen (or Hu Tianbao as he was known in life) often depict him in the embrace of another man, which has led to persecution of those who pay homage to the deity, especially during the Qing dynasty in China. I was surprised to learn of a Chinese deity honouring homosexuality (surprised, but impressed). I know of Greek cults worshipping the likes of Sappho and her work on lesbian sonnets, but had never thought to read about something similar for men. Tu'er Shen is still worshipped today in some parts of China, and is not strictly forbidden by Taoism, thus practitioners find loopholes to worship their beloved rabbit.
Tlazolteotl As we move on to the Aztecs and their deities, Tlazolteotl is the patroness of adulterers and the goddess of sin and vice. How awesome is it that they had a goddess for this? A goddess for those little voices in our heads that push us to cheat, to sniff and to do “bad things”. I'm not saying any of these things are “good”, but I'm certainly amused by the fact that this ancient people had a deity to represent such acts. Along with taking care of the sexual misdeeds of her people, Tlazolteotl was also about purification – especially purification from sexual misdeeds such as sexual transmitted diseases. She's got two sides to her – the dirt dwelling, defilement of men and the purification and washing away of sins. She gets to do both sides, and by the look of things, she did it well. There are not many who worship her today, aside from well-meaning Pagans.
There are no more shrines or temples built in her name – perhaps there should be?
Qetesh In what is now modern day Syria, Qetesh was worshipped during the late bronze age by the Caananites. She was a very popular Goa'uld who... wait, no that's Stargate. The Qetesh in Stargate (played by Claudia Black) is very different from the Caananite deity who was a fertility deity and goddess of sexual ecstasy. Qetesh is represented on stele (an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design) as a full-frontal nude, holding her snake and lotus blossoms. When we come to bronze-age deities, not as much is known about their temples or worship, as it predates most written language.
Min In ancient Egypt (specifically the pre-dynastic period), Min was a male deity who represented love, reproduction and sexual pleasure. He is depicted with dark skin, an erect penis and holding a flail (as possibly the most BDSM image of an ancient god I have seen). Male deities as vehicles for fertility and potency rose to prevalence at the emergence of widespread griculture. Male Egyptians would work in agriculture, making bountiful harvests a male-centered occasion. Thus, male gods of virility such as Min were more developed during this time. The practice of touching the penis on a statue of Min continues to this day, by women who pray in hopes of pregnancy. I can't imagine a tourist walking in on such a practice would know what to say, however (or perhaps they would just get in line for the next penis rub).
Kurupira In the south-central part of South America are the Guarani people. Until only recently, the Guarani had no written language, so tales of their deities spread by word of mouth. Kurupira is a god of sexuality and fertility, still worshipped today by the Guarani people. He was said to be short, ugly and very hairy, with his one (perhaps redeeming) stand-out feature being a penis that was so long it wrapped around him like a belt, often shown in works of art wound around him. He's often blamed for unwanted or unexpected pregnancies because...well, read the penis part again. He was often used as a scapegoat for single women, or adulterers to blame their pregnancies on. “No, dear I didn't have sex with the neighbour, it's just Kurupina playing a trick on us again.” Somehow I don't think that would fly in the modern world quite as much, as he is rarely blamed for it anymore within the Guarani people.
Rati is the Hindu goddess of carnal lust, desire and sexual pleasure. She is the consort of Kama, the god of love, whom she is often depicted alongside. Many sexual techniques names are derrived from her name in the Kama Sutra. She is different from many other sexual deities in that she does not also represent motherhood or childbirth – she is purely pleasure, arousal, and lust itself. Her worship in Hinduism has never faded or dwindled in any way, as Hindu's still tell her stories and myths. Hinduism is often called the oldest religion in the world with over one billion followers to this day.
Lofn is the Norse goddess of forbidden love. Her name means “permission” and she facilitates forbidden lovers (forbidden by society, clan or family) in coming together and protects them from the wrath of others.
She is still invoked in the modern world by those of the Norse faith (Asatru), who are of nonstandard relationship types, specifically those in LGBTQ+ relationships.
Aisyt is a fertility deity from Yakut (Serbian) mythology. She is in charge of bringing the soul to a newborn child. Women used to channel her in hopes that she would grant them an easy pregnancy. She recorded each and every birth in the world in a golden book. She's a powerful deity who embodies feminine strength.
I'm unsure if she is still worshipped today, though it is possible some Pagan sects exist that would invoke her.
Mami Wata are a pantheon of Nigerian water deities who are sometimes also associated with love and lust. This may be paradoxical, though, as she is also linked to fidelity. She can appear to people as a sexually promiscuous woman, too beautiful to pass on. She will seduce a favoured male devotee and then show her true self to him following passionate sex. Once the deed is done, she demands sexual faithfullness and secrecy from him – if he accepts, his life begins to look up and he has prosperity. If he refuses, it will affect his love life, finances, job, etc.
She is still worshipped and venerated in West Africa by her followers in what is now called the “Mami Wata cult”.
Erzulie is a vodou (Voodoo, vodun, etc.) loa or spirit. In vodou, loa are intermediaries between the Supreme Creator and humanity. Erzulie is femininity and compassion embodied. She enjoys the game of flirtation with any gender, and during ritual possession will enter the body of both men and women. Her favourite sacrifices include black pigs, rum and blood (seven stabs of the sword). She is worshipped to this day throughout Africa, the Caribbean and in parts of America.
Love, lust, passion and carnal desire are a part of our history and clearly still an integral part of worship around the world today.
Do you have a favourite sex deity?
Let me know in the comments below!