) is a female attendant, assistant, servant
, or slave
would have handmaidens.
(such as Frigga
) had handmaidens, as did Biblical
characters such as Leah
Handmaiden was also a common euphemism
for a concubine
; a man might use a handmaiden to bear his child if his wife was infertile
- an example of this is the handmaiden (Bilhah
) of the Biblical character Rachel
, who gave birth to two of Jacob
Handmaidens also feature heavily in rites associated with the Wiccan religion.
In Ancient Egypt, the role of handmaiden was important to Egyptian religious practices. One of the early gods, Atum, was supposed to have brought the world into being through self-fornication. In subsequent ritual, a priestess would assist the priest in the ceremony, through the use of a carving representing Atum's penis. These female priests were important within the ritual for they assisted in the creation of the world.
There are numerous references to prostitutes near or within the religious buildings. This is a mistaken representation of their role, for the priestesses were, as well as oft being 'handmaidens', involved in 'sex magic' rituals. It was believed that the culmination of the process of sex brought the participants closer to the higher plane where they could gain enlightenment. In this role, these handmaidens were essential to the religious practices.
Handmaids also feature in fiction
, particularly fantasy
and science fiction
, such as the The Lord of the Rings
, Star Wars
and Doctor Who
. The handmaids in Margaret Atwood
's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale
are a fictional example of handmaids used as concubines in an oppressive future society.