Sex Rituals in Other Religions
While a core part of Taoist and Tantric traditions, sex-related rituals certainly were not limited to only the followers of these philosophies, by any means. Paganism recognized the importance of sexual rites and rituals, and the power that could be derived from the sex act.
In ancient times, pagan rituals had a strong focus on sex. Many common pagan rituals involved participants having sex with others besides their partners. Today, some modern-day Wiccans practice a ritual called the Great Rite, which involves the union (sometimes symbolic as opposed to physical) between two people.
It is believed that other religions and belief systems also practiced sexual rituals, but have “watered down” that part of their histories by referring to these acts in ambiguous, abstract terms. They may have devised innocent-sounding euphemisms for these rituals, or buried them in harmless folklore or entertaining stories. You would need to try and read between the lines and guess at what the story might be suggesting. Unless you knew the true meaning behind the stories, it would be tough to guess their more explicit origins.
The Da Vinci Code Effect
Sex rituals have become a hot topic of discussion lately, in great part because of Dan Brown's blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code. As part of the book's central plot, the author describes ceremonial practices involving sexual activities. He goes into great detail in depicting the rituals, the activities involved, and the significance these rituals held in relation to the religious and spiritual beliefs of the participants.
However, this aspect of the book was met with a loud (and harsh) backlash. In the novel, the narrator refers to a sexual initiation rite as a common part of early Christianity. He further states that these rituals were a standard and accepted practice in early Christian and Jewish worship. Critics have reacted strongly, pointing out that — despite what is depicted in the novel — there is no proof that early Christians or Jewish people engaged in these rituals.
Unlike in Taoism or Tantra, where sex and rituals are often connected in various ways, Christian and Jewish texts and teachings contain no mention of ritualized sex. In fact, these two religions make little or no connection between sex and worship at all.
It would have seemed more plausible if Dan Brown had attributed these activities to Tantric or Tao practitioners — but of course that would not have fit with his central plot, that Christ had a secret lineage originating from a child born as a result of his relationship with Mary Magdalene. In order to work the sex rituals into the plot, Brown needed to connect them to the Christian religion, which is central to the book.
Needless to say, this aspect of the novel also generated a strong negative reaction from church leaders and religious groups.