The Ishtaritu (sacred prostitutes)

Kobold Avenger's picture

Overview:Part guild and part secret society the Ishtaritu have existed for eons on Sigil, Elysium and many other places across the planes.

Now the Ishtaritu is the actual name of the priesthood or sacred prostitutes of the goddess Ishtar. They aren't exclusively a religious sect to Ishtar, as many of their members are non-religious or revere other goddesses such as Freya, Aphrodite and the like. They are mostly matriarchal, but they aren't exclusively female; it's just that most of their members are female. They are also a support and advocacy group for prostitutes.

While they do have an agenda of their own they aren't exactly a sect or faction. Their members tend to lean towards the Society of Sensation and Revolutionary League. They're against the taboos and prejudices held against sexuality and gender (such as prudishness, sexism and homophobia), and are also against any of the perversions of sexuality (such as rape and pedophilia).

Membership and Initiation: The Ishtaritu are a society that exists openly, but they have many of their own secrets. First of all they don't take anyone in as one of their members; one has to be chosen by the Ishtaritu to become one of them. What they look for in their members is that they are insightful, intelligent, sensual, compassionate, open minded, self-sufficient and show some sort of potential to bring something that adds to the guild. Many members of the Ishtaritu were common prostitutes before joining, but not all of them are, and they can in fact come from many varied backgrounds.

If their prospective member accepts entry into the guild, they become an initiate. Initiates are taught many of the secrets of the guild, such as etiquette, art, psychology, rituals, martial arts, magic, psionics, and more. They are trained in the arts of seduction, conversation, and of passions. Initiates when training in the practice of sex often do with each other, and with their instructors, as they aren't prepared to take on clients of the guild just yet.

Eventually they become apprentices, and do entertain clients that the guild has set them up with. Apprentices don't necessarily have sex with all the clients they have, as it isn't the point of their training. Mainly they are learning and getting experienced when with these clients, and they are being monitored at this stage by their mentors.

After a few years, apprentices are ready to become full disciples of the Ishtaritu, where they can take on clients by themselves and strike out on their own if they desire.

The Ishtaritu has a wide collection of lore, including a secret history which they keep from all outsiders. They have a large number of rituals (Incantations from Unearthed Arcana) and spells and techniques among their secret knowledge. Their secret lore and prophecies speaks of an idealized and transcendental age to come, in which they can bring about by manipulating people towards their goal. They don't seek to rule above all, but they intend to be the architects of this new age to come.

Presence & Background:The Ishtaritu have chapterhouses in many major planar metropoli. The Ishtaritu themselves started out on Elysium in the City of the Star, Ishtar's realm, but have since then expanded beyond a sect devoted to her. One of their primary chapterhouses of interest has always been in Sigil.

In Sigil the Ishtaritu's main chapterhouse is located in the Guildhall Ward, though many of their members operate in the Lady's and Market Wards, and have a few fronts set up their. They do keep a presence in the Hive and Lower Wards, as one of their major concerns has always been looking out for common prostitutes, making sure they are safe and have a voice.

The Ishtaritu don't always become the power behind the throne, many of their members can and do come into positions of power. Some of them in such positions do downplay their ties to the Ishtaritu however. Around Sigil a few members do own large trade companies or happen to be among the golden lords themselves.

During the time of the 15 factions the Ishtaritu maintained a lower profile, as they were just a guild. They served in some ways as an unofficial mediator between the interests of the Sensates and Anarchists, as many of their members were members either factions.

After the end of the Faction War, the Ishtaritu started to come a little more to the forefront. There was certainly more of a sign that their members have more of an agenda, and rumours started to spread of their hand in manipulations and influences across Sigil (including some of the events leading to the war). The Ishtaritu would of course deny any of this.

Still they have many interests in influencing culture, fashion and how people relate to each other. They do concerns with seamstress guilds, as well as the companies that sell their work.

They do have rituals for transferring their High Matriarchs (and Patriarchs) consciousness into new bodies or extending their lives some of them involving something creating a new body and using something like True Mind Switch.

Some of their rituals certainly have elements some people may find unsettling as they involve an amount of sado-masochism. One of their secret rituals recreates the descent of Ishtar/ Inanna into the underworld before Ereshkigal.

The transcendental age they seek to create is often shrouded in mystery, to many it's just a hope for the future, except that the council of matriarchs has a detailed and concrete plan for moving ahead into this age.

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