Handmaiden  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A handmaiden (or handmaid) is a female attendant, assistant, domestic worker (servant), or slave.

Contents

Etymology

From maiden who waits at hand.

Domestic work

Typically, royalty and nobility would have handmaidens.

Religion

Norse goddesses (such as Frigg) 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, each of whom gave birth to one of Jacob's children.

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 of being 'handmaidens', performed 'sex magic' rituals related to sacred prostitution in the goddess temples. 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.

In fiction

Handmaids also feature in fiction, particularly fantasy and science fiction, such as 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. In The Vampire Diaries, Katherine Pierce has a handmaiden named Emily Bennett, a witch.

Other uses

A handmaiden was the common term in Victorian times for a wooden, hinged clothes airer having two rectangular frames hinged vertically and with three horizontal rails on each frame for drying and airing clothes, often in front of a kitchen fireplace.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Handmaiden" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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