Salome and the cult of John the Baptist

Karita Mattila as Salome performing the Dance of the Seven VeilsAccording to the Bible, Salome was a young woman who demanded the execution of John the Baptist after performing a seductive dance for her stepfather, Herod Antipas. In the Richard Strauss opera Salome (1905) the dance is performed as a striptease called the Dance of the Seven Veils. The picture shows a performance by the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila.

Although generally thought of as a Christian saint, John the Baptist developed a pagan cult following of his own, called Mandaeism. The Mandaeans believed sex was the holiest mystery of life, and conducted sexual rituals called Zubia in their temples.

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