Virgins are not much talked about in today’s contemporary culture, but it has not always been that way. In some ancient cultures, both in the New World and in the Old World, Virgins were highly respected women set apart at a young age to serve in Temples or to be married to the gods.
In the Roman Empire (before 400 AD) the goddess of the hearth was Vesta; and Temples, as seen above, were built to worship her. Young girls were chosen at six to ten years old to served in the Temple of Vesta for thirty years. They were not allowed to participate in sexual activity; and were known as the Vestal Virgins. Those chosen to be Vestal Virgins lived in the House of the Vestal Virgins located in the Roman Forum. They had to be freeborn, free from any physical or mental defects; and they had to have been born of respectable parents who were still alive. Their vows of chastity were so strict they could not even drink public water, but had to fetch water from a sacred spring. They prepared ritual food and took care of the Vestal Temple’s interior, especially keeping the perpetual fire burning.
Punishment was great for the Vestal Virgins who slacked in their duties. They were beaten, or buried alive if they violated their chastity vows. Blood of Vestal Virgins could never be spilled. They officiated at the Vestalia in June, which was the period of public worship of the goddess, Vesta. Even though the Virgins were not allowed to marry, they had honors and privileges, which married and single women did not have. They were free from their father’s rule (Roman law) and they could manage their own property.
In the Inca Empire (1200-1572 AD) Virgins were kept in a house dedicated to the Sun God, known as the “house of the chosen.” Girls were selected at the age of four; and could not have physical or mental defects. They took chastity vows, too, and men were not allowed to touch them since the Virgins were said to be married to the Sun God, the highest deity of the Inca.
Similar to the Vestal Virgins, the wives of the Sun God were not allowed to be sexually active; but they were the only women who had much freedom in the Inca Empire. Instead of Temples, there were palaces and other buildings built in honor of those married to the Sun God. Those special Virgins were free to go anywhere, as long as they were accompanied by men. No men would dare to disrespect them because they were said to be of a divine nature – to be feared and revered.