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It is very difficult to prepare an essay upon a topic over which there has been such a mass of unfavorable discussion. The essayist has spent many years in the study of the ancient custom of worshiping the organs of generation, familiarly known as Phallicism, and it is his desire to speak scientifically and yet not in the phraseology of the obtuse, ultra-scientist whose writings after they are published require hard and careful study, accompanied by considerable digging into lexicons and scientific dictionaries. Busy men who are interested in gaining information for the improvement of their minds and not for scientific research have not the time to read long works upon Phallic worship, nor would they if they had the leisure.
It is to be hoped that those who read this essay will do so reverently. It is not written for those whose minds revel in pornography, nor is it written to be "pawed" over by "tumble-bug critics," whose chief delight is to call the honest efforts of a student by vile names and attempt to have his work suppressed.
This essay is not intended to slander any man's religion, rather is it an attempt to elevate in the minds of the people a greater respect for the deity they bow before.
The worship of Priapus is as old as time, dating back thousands of years before the present-day conception of deity developed. The primitive mind could not grasp major problems in religion as can the cultured individual of today, nor did it try. Man gave utterance to his feelings by sanctifying those elements which in his body gave him the greatest pleasure, and at the same time reproduced his likeness. Phallic worship was real nature worship, and it was only natural for him to bow down before the simple, tangible things which were easily demonstrable, rather than before myriads of images of saints, etc., that Catholic and Protestant make obeisance before today. He could not understand the necessity for ecclesiasticism as it is at present practiced by those who believe ignorance a virtue and knowledge a curse.
It is not the intention of the essayist even in the slightest way to recommend the practices of the ancients, rather he would strongly urge against them as being entirely unfitted to present-day ideals. As civilization advances and man becomes more cultured the less need has he for the use of symbols. He is able because of his culture to demand what he wants in the way of religious experience, and from the present outlook for the church, it seems that he will demand its complete reconstruction on lines built to accommodate his modern ideas, which are in harmony with the things about him.
It is necessary to teach historical facts in a way they can be grasped readily by the great mass of men and women who read as they run. If this essay is read by those who will understand the intention of the writer he will feel repaid for his labor. If they are benefited his efforts will not have been in vain.
A greater knowledge must be had by students of present-day social methods of the customs of primitive man. A study of their beliefs, customs and mannerisms will enable them to possess a broader perspective than that possessed by their co-workers who have hidden their lights under a bushel and feared to branch out upon untrodden fields of history or literature.
[To write on Phallic worship requires frequent reference to many worics on the subject. This essay was made possible by reference to the following books:
"Rivers of Life or Faiths of Men," by Gen. J. G. R. Forlong. "Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names," by Thos. Inman, M. D. "The Worship of Priapus," by Thos. Payne Knight. "Phallicism," by Hargrave Jennings. "Worship of Priapus," by Hargrave Jennings. "Anacalypsis," by Godfrey Higgins. "Round Towers of Ireland," by Henry O'Brien. "Primitive Symbolism," by Hodder M. Westropp. "Phallic Worship," by Robert Allen Campbell. "The Rosicrucians," by Hargrave Jennings. "Essays," by John Davenport. "Aphrodisiacs and Anaphrodisiacs," by John Davenport. "Royal Museum at Naples," by Col. Fanin. "The Sword and Womankind.' "Our Ancient Monuments and the Land Around Them," by Chas. P. Kains-Jackson.]
The attitude of the Christian Church has not been wholesome toward the study of the ancient faiths of men; in fact, this study has been discouraged by the clergy of everv denomination, whether Protestant or Catholic. The church's attitude is paradoxical, in one breath it teaches that the procreative function is holy and in the next breath denies it and classifies as being unclean all that has to do with reproduction. It is undoubtedly true that present-day mock modesty and prurience has been brought about by fanatics who have hidden their fanaticism under the cloak of religion and used the church to exploit their fiendish doctrines.
The Christian boasts that the cross is a Christian symbol, when in fact it is one, if not the oldest, of symbols known to man. The cross symbolized the phallus with its appendages and it is known to have symbolized them for ages. The Egyptian used the tau or cross and it is to be found on hundreds of monuments all over Egypt and India and other parts of the world, even among the American Indians. Davenport says: "Besides the Lingham (the male symbol) of the Indians, the Phallus of the Greeks and the Priapus of the Romans, the cross, although generally thought to be exclusively emblematical of eternal life, has also on account of its fancied similarity to the membrum virile, been considered by many as typical of the reproductive powers of nature. It was known as such to the Indians, being as common in this country as in Egypt or in Europe. 'Let not the piety of the Catholic Christian,' says the Rev. Mr. Maurice, 'be offended at the preceding assertion that the cross was one of the most usual symbols among the hieroglyphics of Egypt and India. Equally honored in the Gentile and Christian world, this emblem of universal nature, of that world to whose four corners its diverging radii pointed, decorated the hands of most of the sculptured images in the former country (Egypt) and the latter (India), and stamped its form upon the most majestic shrines of their deities.'"
It is well known that the cross was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the emblem of plenty.
Speaking of this emblem Payne Knight observes: "One of the most remarkable of these symbols is a cross in the shape of the letter T, which served as the emblem of creation and generation before the Church adopted it as the sign of salvation, a lucky coincidence of ideas which without doubt facilitated the reception of it among the faithful." And again: "The male organs of generation are sometimes represented by signs of the same sort, which might be properly called symbols of symbols."
The famous crux Ansata, or handled cross, which may be seen all over Egypt on its monuments and in the hands of its statues of men and women is nothing more than the symbolic example of the junction of the sexes, the handle representing the yoni, or female principle, and the tau or cross, the male organ.
The cross was just as much of a sex symbol as was the obelisk or pyramid, both of which, according to all of the authorities mentioned in the beginning of this essay, symbolized the human genitals.
In Nashville, Tennessee, there stands an old Presbyterian Church whose architectural design is in exact accordance with the designs of Pagan temples in Egypt. The columns which support the roof of the portico are lotus stems with the bloom at the head. One approaches the church by climbing a wide stairway of stone steps, and those familiar with temples dedicated to Pagan gods unconsciously look for altar fires on either side of the steps and for priestesses and priests in the garb worn by them in their day swinging censers. Also one listens for the patter of the sandaled feet of worshippers attending the sacred rites of the temple. The interior of the church is even more startling to the eye of the student, for there he sees paganism minus its devotees in all of its pristine glory. The Sacred Lotus of the Nile, the Scarab, the Hawk of Horus and the symbols of Isis and Oriris (all of these are sex symbols) are painted on the walls in the original and symbolic coloring used by the Egyptians ages ago. The likeness of the phallus is not hard to find by the trained eye stencilled on the walls. The reproducing of a pagan temple which is presided over by a Scotch Presbyterian minister proves to the essayist's mind conclusively that while paganism was condemned by Christians they did not hesitate to steal from pagans the beautiful designs of their temples.
The church steeple is a phallic symbol just as much so as is the obelisk, and in the construction of the interior of the church the anatomy of the female genitalia was taken into accord. When one enters the church he does so through a double door (Labia Majora), then it is that he finds himself in a vestibule. To go further he must pass through another double door (labia minora). When he reaches the interior or auditorium of the church he sees ahead of him the altar (the womb) and on each side of the altar may be observed doors which lead into rooms (tubes) wherein the candidate for baptism comes into contact with the priest or preacher, and it is there that he receives the seed of regeneration; he then comes back to the altar and is baptized (amniotic fluid) and leaves the church a reborn soul. It will be recalled that Christ is called the bridegroom of the church and the church is always referred to as the bride, and the hope of all marriages is an offspring. Man loses his soul but to find it again in glorious intercourse with spiritual elements which cause him to desire rebirth in Christ, according to the Christian conception of salvation.
Where the essayist is sitting at his desk writing this essay, it is easy for him to look out of his window, and from there he sees rising out of a grove of trees an ancient symbol of the "God of the Garden." It is an obelisk and its reflection may be seen in a beautiful lake. If the ancients had placed it there themselves they could not have done better. To the student of symbolism its position is almost uncanny it is so real. This obelisk is a monument over a grave of someone whose family no doubt, when they had it erected, knew nothing of its most ancient significance. Graceland Cemetery is particularly full of monuments and tombs which would gladden the hearts of primitive worshippers at the shrine of generation, could they come back out of the past and view the handiwork of modern monument makers. In this cemetery one sees the lotus, the sacred lily of the Nile worshipped as a phallic emblem symbolized. The cross is everywhere, and where the
family of the deceased had the means they erected over the grave the ancient so-called Celtic Cross, which aside from symbolizing the male generative organ, the circle which is found with it depicts the pudenda of the female. In other words, this cross is so constructed that to the mind of the individual who is familiar with phallic emblems, it symbolizes the union between the sexes. In one place in this beautiful resting place of the dead, hidden away in a mass of foliage and surrounded by trees, is erected a single circular shaft about six feet high of red granite. The artist who designed this monument has reproduced in exact likeness the phallus, even to its red color and the emphasizing of the glans.
The contour of the ground of Graceland Cemetery with the beautiful grouping of the shrubbery makes it a particularly fit place wherein to erect the likeness of Priapus. Truly does the God of the Garden revel in silence in Chicago's aristocratic cemetery.
Monuments of the above character are to be found in all Christian cemeteries. As has been said before. Christians always have been ready to seize upon the beautiful relics of paganism and appropriate them to themselves.
In every Christian cemetery are to be found phallic symbols. Christianity still tolerates fetish worship. The monument is nothing more than a fetish erected over the grave of a departed one to keep alive in the minds of those who erected it feelings of veneration they imagine they should have for the dead. The monument symbolizes this feeling. The primitive savage, with all his crude superstitions, still occupies a place in the minds of present-day members of society. The mark of avatism is on the brow of every man. It shows itself in more ways than one. More particularly does it show itself at the death of one close either in blood relationship or in friendship. No one but who has felt the feeling of superstitious dread come over him in the presence of death. The human graveyard is in fact like the graveyard of the mind, filled with reminders of those things which have gone before, and before which men give pause and ponder well over their actions. Funeral services and rites are the relics of a day when the symbol represented the unspoken word and to speak it meant disaster. The ancients all used symbols to express their feelings and the most natural symbol for them to reproduce was that one which represented to them the most sacred of tangible things. The act of reproduction, with its pleasureable sensations, combined with what followed-—an offspring, caused primitive man to seek to perpetuate in a form that might be viewed by all men that which appeared to him to be the most wonderful. To the mind of the essayist the worship of the generative principle in nature represents the very acme of religion, and to symbolize in design the holiest and certainly the most precious possessions of men and women was the most natural thing that could be done by them. They would have been guilty of the basest sacrilege had they failed to pay homage before the shrine of nature.
Cardinal De Medici said that there was no religion below the navel. It is easy to differ with him because without the procreative act with its rapturous sensations and results, man would have become decadent and devoid of the higher spiritual elements he now possesses which give him the power to love. Had there been no separation of the sexes man would have worshipped no God. All religion, all expression of spiritual idealism as it relates to society primarily got its start from the sexual embrace. Without sexuality the world would have been cold and passionless and man would have felt no need for the exaltation of religion. Love, poetry, art and music would have remained unknown.
Religious zealots have for thousands of years taught that woman was an unclean creature without a soul, and during the dark ages she was viewed as being nothing more than a receptacle to hold the spermatozoa of the male until it reached the period of parturition. The male abrogated to himself the idea that the child in its entirety came from his body and that the womb of the woman was nothing more than the nest wherein it attained its growth.
Colonel Fanin in his book, "The Royal Museum at Naples," wisely says: "The recollection of the past is the delight and consolation of old age. In all times the generation about to die out has declaimed against the morals of the rising generation. This concordance of opinion having been transmitted from century to century, it might be expected that as we go back towards the epoch of the Creator we should come to a golden age of virtue and purity. By the same reasoning, we should as we pass on in fancy to the series of centuries to come, reach an epoch of such depravity that the mind might well conceive all its enormity. But let us reassure ourselves: this is only the sport of an uneasy imagination, a weakness incidental to humanity. Civilization, far from corrupting manners, tends rather to mollify them. While there was yet in the world but one man and one woman, there existed between them a partnership in guilt. While there were yet only three men, there was already a hoary perjurer, a fratricide and an innocent victim."
Volney in his "Ruins" gives expression to this bit of wisdom: "Are you inclined to think that our race is forever deteriorating? Beware of the illusion and the paradoxes of the misanthropist. Man, discontented with the present, imagines a deceitful perfection in the past, which is only the mask of his own discontent. He extols the dead out of hatred to the living; he beats the children with the bones of their fathers."
Too many in society are given to condemning the morals of the present generation when if they would turn the mirror of introspection squarely on themselves, they would find little difference between their actions when the vigor of youth was upon them and the actions of those whose virility for the present cannot be questioned, and of whom they are complaining.
Before Christianity became a fact and professed to reveal to the world great civilizing secrets, men worshipped those material objects which acted most directly on their senses. According to Col. Fanin: "It may even be supposed that a very long time before the Christian era there was no other worship than that of symbols. The Divinity who presided over reproduction of the human species, the miracle of all epochs, deserved the purest homage. That vague desire which precedes the union of two lovers, the burning pleasure which marks its accomplishment, the soft languor which follows, all received a name, a soul, and Love was hailed as King of Heaven by acclamation of the world."
"Not safely shall we scorn Love's lightest Law;
He reigns and holds the highest gods in awe."
"A worship born with the first feeling of love was above all consecrated to the emblem of virility. Even to this day the Arabs call it to witness when they desire to make a solemn oath, and the peasants of Apulia call it 'the holy members (il membrano santo). It was raised into a divinity who presided alternately over marriage, pregnancy, country pastimes, the preservation of fruits, streams, fountains and groves:
'The water woos the soft green grass.
And the green grass attracts the lover.'
"Legislators felt the need of consecrating a worship which singularly favored the development of population."
Unfortunately, these same legislators, like those of the present day, were more interested in quantity than they were in quality. This fact must be overcome if civilization is to progress to its zenith. Advice must be given and remedies offered which will permit only the child of quality to attain to parenthood.
In the banqueting hall of the world renowned Golden Palace of Tiberius, according to Suetonius, were to be found twelve magnificent pictures, painted by the finest artists in Rome; each was named after a sign of the zodiac, of life size, and wholly in the nude; figures displaying the "twelve postures" in which the "Great Act" could be the most successfully accomplished-—that is for the purpose of extorting therefrom the most exquisite pleasure, and at the same time realizing the original intentions of nature in the securing of the most felicitously endowed progeny.
The appearance of such pictures on the walls of banquet halls resulted in lewd and licentious practices on the part of banqueters, and because of their conduct the worship of the reproductive function fell from the high estate of being a religion into an excuse for the basest of practices in Rome. Thus did Rome and Pompeii become depraved beyond all hope of regeneration, thereby making their fall more certain.
The ancients paid respect to and viewed with awe the goat and the bull because of their ability to indulge in the sexual act more frequently than other animals and made them gods in many instances because of their virility. The Satyr, a creature half human and half goat, was supposed to live in the woods and was accredited with possessing a virility which made him the most envied of all the imaginary creatures that were conceived of in the minds of primitive man. There are many pictures extant, and also hundreds of sculptured objects wherein the Satyr is shown performing the sexual act with women and with the female goat. This imaginary creature has been given many names, the chief of which is Pan; Bacchus is also sometimes represented as being half human and half goat.
It may interest the reader to know that one of the most popular phallic emblems was a Satyr placed at the head of a tapering column, midway between the base of the column and the top of the head of the Satyr was sculptured an enormous male organ. These statues were to be seen in nearly every grove and frequently in many public places in Greece and in Rome. The "Membrum Virile" was usually hung with garlands placed there by young and old women who were anxious to remain in the good graces of this deity.
In the courtyard of the "Sheridan Arms" apartment house in Chicago may be seen one of these ancient statues in exact replica of the more ancient ones spoken of; it is, of course, understood that this phallic symbol has lost its phallus. Chicago is to lose its most important phallic relic. The famous water tower on Lake Shore Drive is to be torn down in order that the drive may be widened in conformity with plans to connect the North Side with the South Side. Of course, the architects who designed this tower thought nothing of its phallic significance, yet it is almost a perfect replica of the famous Round Towers of Ireland spoken of by O'Brien in his book upon the subject, and said by him to represent the male generative principle.
It is interesting to note that many phallic symbols have been found in North and South America. Large stone phalli have been dug up in Georgia, Tennessee, California and in British Columbia,
and in many other places over the United States and Mexico. Many of these are in the National Museum at Washington.
Peculiar female gods belonging to the Aztecs are frequently found in Mexico; one in the possession of the Museum of Cossitt Library at Memphis, Tennessee, shows the vulva fully exposed as though awaiting the entrance of the phallus.
The South American countries, especially Peru, are said to abound with these most ancient symbols, and the writer has been told that in some places where civilization is very primitive that phallic amulets and images are still worn or carried by the people; also that votive offerings in the image of the male and female organs are used in the same way that they were in Isernia in the Kingdom of Naples. This custom will be explained later in this essay.
In Kentucky, Forlong, in his "Rivers of Life," speaks of two mounds that are undoubtedly phallic in origin, and he compares them with phallic mounds in Egypt. Forlong, whose "Rivers of Life" or the "Faiths of Man" is the most authoritative book ever written about the beliefs of all peoples, says: "We still can make pretty sure of far more than half the population of the whole world as devoted to phallic faiths."
The ancient Sun temples wherein the life-giving principles of nature were worshipped bore undoubtedly a close relationship to the temples dedicated to Priapus.
In the ruins of Pompeii may be seen remains of the once powerful religion of Phallicism. The traveler is shown (if he is a man) different statues, sculptured vases, engravings and other pronounced symbols of the cult of the Priapic Deity. He is told when he views these things that he is in the quarter of the city wherein existed the demimonde. In this he is mistaken, for Priapus was the most prominent deity worshipped by the Pompeians, and it is unlikely that the symbols of this cult would have remained in a quarter devoted to prostitution.
The cornucopia and the shell, the concha veneris, worn today as ornaments are nothing more than modern adaptations of the more ancient symbols of generation, which were made out of gold, silver, bronze, and carved out of precious stones in exact likeness of the organs they were intended to symbolize. The image of the phallus and the external portions of the female genitalia were the most popular of all the talismans worn by men and women as amulets. It was believed that the wearing of these symbols added to the virility of the wearer. They were much sought after and frequently priceless gems were carved in their image. The poorer classes used clay or a wax compound to make phallic or yonic symbols. Just as men and women of today wear charms of different types to ward off danger, so did the ancients. When a Southern negro wears the left hind leg of a rabbit to give him luck, and men and women everywhere use the horseshoe, either made of gold or platinum, diamond set, or of silver, or use the cross they (unconsciously perhaps) are apeing their ancestors, the only difference being that their ancestors wore their amulets for a specific reason and regarded them with a reverence that was in itself holy.
When the Hopi Indians hold their annual festivals their medicine men as well as chiefs, and the majority of the dancers, expose symbols that represent the male and female organs of generation. In their dances, according to Dr. Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution, they indulge in a type of sex dance that is very like those indulged in by prehistoric man when he bowed before the shrine of Priapus.
Modern dances, the tango, shimmy shake, etc., are nothing more than recent adaptations of ancient oriental dances which were danced by women in order that the membranum virile of the male might be aroused to gratify the overpowering sexual desires of the dancers. It might be well if mothers would bear the above statement in mind when they turn their virginal daughters loose to attend public and private dances unchaperoned.
The scarab, which is possibly one of the most ancient of symbols, was worshipped by the Egyptians because they believed this species of beetle so virile that it possessed within itself the fructifying power. They were convinced that there were no males and females to be found among the scarabei. The scarab symbolized Khepera, the god of creation and resurrection, father of the gods and creator of all things in heaven and earth; "he was self-begotten and self-born;" he was identified with the rising sun and new birth generally. The scarab also symbolized the resurrection of the body. According to Horapollo, a scarabeus denotes an "only begotten generation, father, world and man."
This beetle or scarabeus appears to have been associated with the god of creation from time immemorial in Egypt and Eastern Sudan, and to this day the insect is dried, pounded and mixed with water and then drunk by women, who believe it to be an unfailing specific for the production of large families.
The most ancient way of administering the oath was by placing the hand between the thighs on the genitals; these were regarded as the Christian and the Jew now regard the Bible, as being the most sacred of tangible things. This proves the holy reverence for the generative functions, held by the forbears of the present civilization.
According to Davenport in his essay, "Ancient Phallic Worship," "A custom greatly resembling this manner of swearing existed also in the north of Europe, as is proved by an ancient law still extant; thus, one of the articles of the Welsh laws enacted by Hoel the Good, provided that, in cases of rape, if the woman wishes to prosecute the offender she must when swearing to the identity of the criminal, lay her right hand upon the relics of the saints and grasp with her left one the peccant member of the party accused."
However repugnant these customs may be to the aesthetic mind of today they show conclusively that in days gone by a greater reverence was shown for the biologic forces which bring about in the great laboratory of nature, the womb, which is concealed in the body of woman, wherein is conceived the new entity, than is being shown today by Anglo-Saxon members of modern social systems.
Instead of society condemning because of a lack of true knowledge the practices of the ancients, who in their way were just as able of constructive thought as moderns, they should, according to Emerson, "Be content with a little light, so it be your own. Explore and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize, nor accept another's dogmatism."
How unfortunate it is that nearly all men are prone to criticize other men's beliefs and creeds. What right have they to brand as impure or untrue any thought that may come from the minds of men of different faiths until they have purged their own beliefs of their falseness? It is easy to adopt a destructive policy and hard to so shape the mind of man into a belief that construction and not destruction gives to the world a more hopeful appearance. Men like to tear down those things their finite minds cannot conceive of.
To return again to the points in question:
The Greeks had consecrated the same symbols of universal fecundity in their mysteries, the phallus and the cteis being publicly exhibited in the Sanctuary of Eleusis. The Membrum Virile, or active principle of generation, was carried to the Temple of Bacchus and there crowned with a garland by one of the most respectable matrons of the town or city. The Egyptian Osiris and the female pudenda, or symbol of the passive principle of generation, were, in like manner, carried in procession to the temple of Libera or Proserpine.
Davenport states that the worship of Priapus among the Romans was derived from the Egyptians, who, under the form of Apis, the Sacred Bull, worshipped the generative power of nature. The same symbol also bore among the Romans the names of Tutunus, Mutinus and Fascium.
Davenport again says: "In the towns, Priapus had public chapels, whither such devotees as were suffering from maladies connected with his attributes repaired for the purpose of offering to him Exvotos representing the parts afflicted; these exvotos being sometimes paintings and, at others, little figures made of wax or of wood, and occasionally, even of marble."
St. Augustine informs us that it was considered by the Roman ladies as a very proper and pious custom to require young brides to seat themselves upon the monstrous and obscene member of Priapus; and Lactantius says: "Shall I speak of that Mutinus upon the extremity of which brides are accustomed to seat themselves, in order that the god may appear to have been the first to receive the sacrifice of their modesty." These facts seem to prove the fact that the worship of Priapus had greatly degenerated with the Romans, since, losing sight altogether of the object typified, they attached themselves to the symbol alone, in which they could see only what was indecent; and, hence, religion became a pretext for libertinism.
Davenport accredits Antwerp as being the Lampasacus (the place where the phallic cult is supposed to have originated) of Belgium and says that Priapus was the tutelary god of that city. He further says that Ters was the name given to him by the inhabitants who held this divinity in the greatest veneration. Females were accustomed to invoke him on the most trivial occasions, a custom which Goropius informs us continued as late as the Sixteenth Century. So inveterate was this superstition in Antwerp that Davenport credits Godfrey de Bouillon, marquis of that city, the illustrious leader of the first Crusade, in order to eradicate it or to replace it by the ceremonies of the Christian Church, as having sent to Antwerp, from Jerusalem, as a present of inestimable value, the foreskin of Jesus Christ. This precious relic, however, found but little favor with the Belgian ladies, and utterly failed to supersede their beloved Fascinum.
It may be interesting to those reading this essay to know that the number of foreskins said to be still extant of the Savior are said by Davenport to be twelve in number. One was in possession of the monks of Columbus, another at the Abbey of Charroux, a third at Hildersheim in Germany, a fourth in Rome in the church of St. Jean de Latran, a fifth at Antwerp, a sixth at Puy-enValay, in the Church of Notre Dame, etc., etc.
Payne Knight, the most quoted authority on the worship of Priapus, says that "It is a singular fact that in Ireland it was the female organ which was shown in this position of protection upon the churches, and the elaborate though rude manner in which these figures were sculptured show that they were considered as objects of great importance. They represented a female exposing herself to view in the most unequivocal manner, and are carved on a block which appears to have served as the keystone to the arch of the doorway of the church, where they were presented to the gaze of all who entered. They appear to have been found principally in the very old churches, and have been mostly taken down, so that they are only found among the ruins. People have given the name of Shela-na-Gig to them, which, we are told, means in Irish, Julian the Giddy, and is simply a term for an immodest woman; but it is well understood that they were intended as protecting charms against the fascination of the 'Evil Eye.'"
To show how the influences of the Priapic cult permeated the fabric of Christianity, Knight offers the following evidence, for it has often happened that avarice and superstition have continued these symbolical representations for ages after their original meaning has been lost and forgotten, when they must, of course, appear nonsensical and ridiculous, if not impious and extravagant:
"The practice of placing a figure of a phallus on the walls of buildings, derived from the Romans, prevailed also in the Middle Ages, and the buildings specially placed under the influence of this symbol were churches. It was believed to be a protection against enchantments of all kinds, of which the people of those times lived in constant terror, and this protection extended over the place and over those who frequented it, providing they cast a confiding look upon the image. Such images were seen usually upon the portals, as on the Cathedral Church of Toulouse, on more than one church in Bordeaux, and on various other churches in France, but at the time of the Revolution they were often destroyed as marks only of the depravity of the clergy." Knight further states: "A Christian saint exercised some of the qualities thus deputed to Priapus; the image of St. Nicholas was usually painted in a conspicuous position in the church, for it was believed that whoever had looked upon it was protected against enchantments, and especially against that great object of popular terror, the 'Evil Eye,' during the rest of the day."
To continue with what Payne Knight has to say will elucidate to the mind of the reader the facts of Phallicism more clearly than if the essayist attempted to use his own terminology:
"The figure of the female organ, as well as the male, appears to have been employed during the Middle Ages of Western Europe far more generally than we might suppose; placed upon a building as a talisman against evil influences, and especially against witchcraft and the evil eye, and it was used for this purpose in many other parts of the world. It was the universal practice among the Arabs of Northern Africa to stick up over the door of the house or tent, or put up nailed on a board in some other way, the generative organ of a cow, mare or female camel, as a talisman to avert the influence of the evil eye. It is evident that the figure of this member was far more liable to degradation in form than that of the male, because it was much less easy, in the hands of rude draughtsmen, to delineate in an intelligible form, and hence it soon assumed shapes which though intended to represent it, we might rather call symbolic of it, though no symbolism was intended. Thus the figure of the female organ easily assumed the rude form of a horseshoe, and as the original meaning was forgotten, would be readily taken for that object, and a real horse shoe was nailed up for the same purpose. In this way originated, apparently, from the popular worship of the generative powers the vulgar practice of nailing a horseshoe upon buildings to protect them and all they contain against the power of witchcraft, a practice which continues to exist even to the present day. Other marks are found sometimes among the architectural ornaments, such as certain triangles and triple loops which are perhaps atypical forms of the same object."
Knight speaks of a collection of Phallic objects in Paris (1780) M. Forgeas collected, mediaeval Phallic amulets. They are small leaden tokens, bearing on the obverse the figure of the male or female organ, and on the reverse a cross, a curious intimation of the adoption of the worship of the generative powers among Christians.
He again refers to Priapus by saying: "Antiquity had made Priapus a god, the Middle Ages raised him into a saint, and that under several names. In the south of France, Provence, Languedoc, and the Lyonnaise he was worshipped under the title of St. Foutin. (Knight states that the account of these Phallic saints is taken mostly from the works of M. Dulaure.) This name is said to be a mere corruption of Fotinus or Photinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, through whom, perhaps through giving a vulgar interpretation to the name, people had transferred the distinguishing attribute of Priapus. This was a large Phallus of wood, which was an object of reverence to the women, especially to those who were barren, who scraped the wooden member and having steeped the scrapings in water they drank the latter as a remedy against barrennness, or administered it to their husbands in the belief that it would make them vigorous. The worship of this saint, as it was practiced in various places in France at the commencement of the Sixteenth Century, is described in that singular book, the Confession de Sancy. We there learn that at Varailles in Provence, waxen images of the members of both sexes were offered to St. Foutin, and suspended to the ceiling of his chapel, and the writer remarks that, as the ceiling was covered with them, when the wind blew them about it produced an effect that was calculated to disturb very much the devotions of the worshippers. We hardly need remark that this is just the same kind of worship which existed at Isernia, in the Kingdom of Naples, where it was presented in the same shape. At Embrun, in the department of the upper Alps, the phallus of St. Foutin was worshipped in a different form; the women poured a libation of wine upon the head of the phallus, which was collected in a vessel in which it was left until it became sour; it was then called "sainte vinaigre" and the women employed it for a purpose which is only obscurely hinted at. When the Protestants took Embrun in 1585, they found this phallus laid up carefully among the relics in the principal church, its head red with the wine that had been poured upon it. A much larger phallus of wood, covered with leather, was an object of worship in the Church of St. Eutrepius at Orange, but it was seized by the Protestants and burned publicly in 1562. St. Foutin was similarly an object of worship at Porigny, at Cives in the diocese of Viviers, at Vendre in the Bourbonnais, at Auxerre, at Puy-en-Valay, in the Convent of Girouet near Sampigny, and in other places. At a distance of about four leagues in Auvergne there was an isolated rock, which presented the form of an immense phallus, and which was popularly called St. Foutin. Similar phallic saints were worshipped under the names of St. Guerlichen, at Bourg Dieu, in the diocese of Bourges, of St. Giles in the Cotentine in Brittainy, of St. Rene in Anjou, of St. Regnand in Burgandy, of St. Amand, and above all of St. Guignole near Brest and at the village of La Chatellette in Berrie.
Many of these were in existence and their worship in full practice in the Seventeenth Century; in some of them the wooden phallus is described as being much worn down by the continual process of scraping, while in others the loss sustained by scraping was always restored by a miracle. This miracle, however, was a very clumsy one, for the phallus consisted of a long staff of wood passed through a hole in the middle of the body, and as the phallic end in front became shortened, a blow of a mallet from behind thrust it forward, so that it was restored to its original length."
The following letter to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart, quoted by Richard Payne Knight, relates some interesting facts relative to a most curious custom which obtained in Isernia in the Kingdom of Naples:
"NAPLES. December 30, 1781.
"Having last year made a curious discovery that in a Province of this Kingdom, and not fifty miles from its Capital, a sort of devotion is still paid to PRIAPUS. the obscene Divinity of the Ancients (though under another denomination), I thought it a circumstance worth recording, and therefore I mean to deposit the authentic proofs (a specimen of each of the Ex-voti of wax, with the original letter from Isernia, may be seen in the British Museum) of this assertion in the BRITISH MUSEUM, when a proper opportunity shall offer. In the meantime 1 send you the following account, which, I flatter myself, will amuse you for the present, and may in future serve to illustrate these proofs.
"I had long ago discovered that the women and children of the lower class at NAPLES, and in its neighbourhood, frequently wore, as an ornament of dress, sort of Amulets (which they imagine to be a preservative from the mal occhii, evil eye, or enchantment) exactly similar to those which were worn by the ancient inhabitants of this country for the very same purpose, as likewise for their supposed invigorating influence; and all of which have evidently a relation to the Cult of PRIAPUS. Struck with this confortuity in modern and ancient superstition, I made a collection of both ancient and modern Amulets of this sort, and placed them together in the BRITISH MUSEUM, where they remain. The modern Amulet most in vogue represents a hand clenched, with the point of the thumb thrust between the index and the middle finger; the next is a shell, and the third is a half-moon. These Amulets (except the shell, which is usually worn in its natural state) are most commonly made of silver, but sometimes of ivory, coral, amber, crystal, or some curious gem or pebble. We have proof of the hand above described having a connection with Priapus in a most elegant small idol of bronze of that Divinity, now in the ROYAL MUSEUM of PORTICI, and which was found in the ruins of HERCULANEUM; it has an enormous Phallus, and, with an arch look and gesture, stretches out its right hand in the form above mentioned; and which probably was an emblem of consummation; and as a further proof of it, the Amulet which occurs most frequently amongst those of the Ancients (next to that which represents the simple PRIAPUS), is such a hand united with the Phallus; of which you may see several specimens in my collection in the BRITISH MUSEUM. One in particular I recollect, has also the half-moon joined to the hand and Phallus; which halfmoon is supposed to have an allusion to the female Menses. The shell, or Concha veneris, is evidently an emblem of the female part of generation. It is very natural then to suppose that the Amulets representing the Phallus alone, so visibly indecent, may have been long out of use in this civilized capital; but I have been assured that it is but very lately that the Priests have put an end to the wearing of such Amulets in CALABRIA, and other distant provinces of this Kingdom.
"A new road having been made last year from this capital to the Province of ABRUZZO, passing through the City of Isernia (anciently belonging to the SAMNITES, and very populous) a person of a liberal education, employed in that work, chanced to be at ISERNIA just at the time of the celebration of the Feast of the modern PRIAPUS (?). ST. COSMO; and having been struck with the singularity of the ceremony, so very similar to that which attended the Ancient Cult of the GOD of the GARDENS, and knowing my taste for aniquities, told me of it. From this gentleman's report, and from what I learned on the spot from the Governor of ISERNIA himself, having gone to that city on purpose, in the month of February last, I have drawn up the following account, which I have reason to believe is strictly true. I did intend to have been present at the Feast of ST. COSMO this year, but the indecency of this ceremony having probably transpired, from the country's having been more frequented since the new road was made, orders have been given that the Great Toe (the modern Priapi were so called at Isernia) of the Saint should no longer be exposed.
"The following is the account of the Fete of ST. COSMO AND DAMIANO, as it actually was celebrated at ISERNIA, on the confines of ABRUZZO, in the Kingdom of Naples, so late as in the year of our Lord 1780.
"On the 27th of September, at ISERNIA, one of the most ancient cities of the Kingdom of Naples, situated in the Province called the CONTADO DI MOLESE, and adjoining to ABRUZZO, an annual Fair is held, which lasts three days. The situation of this Fair is on a rising ground, between two rivers, about half a mile from the town of ISERNIA; on the most elevated part of which there is an ancient Church, with a vestibule. The architecture is of the style of the lower ages; and it is said to have been a church and convent belonging to the Benedictine Monks in the time of their poverty. This Church is dedicated to ST. COSMUS and DAM1ANUS. On one of the days of the Fair, the relicks of the Saints are exposed, and afterwards carried in procession from the Cathedral of the City to this Church, attended by a prodigious concourse of people. In the City, and at the Fair, Ex-voti of wax, representing the male parts of generation, of various dimensions, some even of the length of a palm, are publicly offered for sale. There are also waxen vows that represent other parts of the body mixed with them; but of those there are few in comparison with the number of the Priapi. The devout distributors of these vows carry a basket full of them in one hand and hold a plate in the other to receive the money, crying aloud: 'ST. COSMO and DAMIANO.' If you ask the price of one, the answer it: 'Piu ci metti, pin meriti': 'The more you give, the more's the merit.' In the Vestibule are two tables, at each of which one of the Canons of the Church presides, one crying out, 'Qui si riceveno le Misse, e Litanie': 'Here masses and litanies are received,' and the other, 'Qui si riceveno li Voti': 'Here the vows are received.' The price of a Mass is fifteen Neapolitan grains, and of a Litany five grains. On each table is a large basin for the reception of the different offerings. The vows are chiefly presented by the female sex; and they are seldom such as represent legs, arms, etc.; but most commonly the male parts of generation. The person which was at this Fete in the year 1780 and who gave me this account (the authenticity of every article of which has since been fully confirmed to me by the Governor of ISERNIA) told me also that he heard a woman say at that time she presented a vow, 'St. Cosimo, a te mi raccomendo': 'St. Cosmo, I recommend myself to you'; and another, 'St. Cosimo, ti ringrazio,' 'St. Cosmo, I thank you.' The vow is never presented without being accompanied by a piece of money, and is always kissed by the devotee at the moment of presentation.
"At the great Altar in the church another Canon attends to give the holy unction, with the oil of ST. COSMO (the cure of disease by oil is likewise of ancient date; for Tertullian tells us that a Christian, called Proculus, cured the Emperor Severus of a certain distemper by the use of oil, for which service the Emperor kept Proculus, as long as he lived, in his Palace) which is prepared by the same receipt as that of the Roman Ritual, with the addition only of the prayers of the Holy Martyrs, ST. COSMUS and DAMIANUS. Those who have an infirmity in any of their members, present themselves at the great Altar, and uncover the member affected (not even excepting that is which most frequently represented by the Ex-Voti); and the Reverend Canon anoints it, saying, Per intercessionem beati Cosmi, liberel le ab amni malo. Amen.
"The ceremony finishes by the Canons of the church dividing the spoils, both money and wax, which must be to a very considerable amount, as the concourse at this Fete is said to be prodigiously numerous.
"The Oil of ST. COSMO is in high repute for its invigorating quality, when the loins, and the parts adjacent, are anointed with it. No less than 1,400 flasks of that oil were either expended at the Altar in unctions; or charitably distributed during this Fete in the year 1780; and as it is usual for everyone, who either makes use of the oil at the Altar, or carries off a flask of it, to leave an alms for ST. COSMO, the ceremony of the oil becomes likewise a very lucrative one to the Canons of the Church.
"I am, Sir, with great truth and regard,
"Your most obedient humble servant,
The essayist has referred so far to ancient and mediaeval times and it is now his desire to bring the reader down to a period not so remote, and it is his pleasure to quote from a most charming as well as a thoroughly scientific document written by Hodder M. Westropp called, "Primitive Symbolism." wherein he calls attention to Phallic customs observed as late as 1870. This monograph was published in London in 1885, and contains a mass of very valuable data.
Westropp says: "Dr. Sinclair Coghill, now of Venton, who has traveled extensively in China and Japan, has kindly contributed the following, recording his experiences of superstitious beliefs and practices in India and Japan at the present day: 'On my way out to the Far East, in 1861, I had an opportunity of visiting the great Cave Temple of Elephanta, near Bombay. In each of the monolithic chapels within the area of the main temple, I observed a gigantic stone Phallus projecting from the center of the floor. The emblem was in some cases wreathed with flowers, while the floor was strewn with faded chaplets of the fair devotees, some of whom, at the time of my visit, fancying themselves unobserved were invoking the subtle influence of the stony charm by rubbing their pudenda against its unsympathetic surface, while muttering their prayers for conjugal love, or for maternal joy, as the need might be.'
"In the course of two visits I paid to Japan, in 1864 and in 1869, I was very, very much struck with the extent to which this ancient symbolic worship had survived through the many phases of the national religion, and was still attracting numerous devotees to its shrine. I visited a large temple devoted to this cultus in a small island off Kamatura, the ancient and now deserted capital of Japan, in the Bay of Yokohama, some miles below the Foreign Settlements. The temple 'Timbo,' as the Japanese term such places of worship, covered a large extent of ground. The male symbol was the only object of veneration, apparently; in various sizes, some quite colossal, and more or less faithfully modeled from nature, it held the sole place of honor on the altars in the principal hall and subsidiary chapels of the temple. Before each the fair devotees might be seen fervently addressing their petitions, and laying upright on the altar, already thickly studded with similar oblations, a votive phallus either of plain or wrought cut wood from the surrounding grove or of other more elaborately prepared materials. I also remarked some of them handing to the presiding priests pledgets of the luxurious silk tissue paper of Japan, previously applied to the genitals, which, with an uttered invocation, were burned in a larg censer before the Phallic idol. I was much struck with the earnestness with which the whole of the proceedings were conducted, and with the strong hold which the most ancient religious cultus still evidently retained over the minds of a people otherwise remarkable for the mobility of their opinions and manners."
The reverence as well as worship paid to the phallus, in early and primitive days, had nothing in it which partook of indecency; all ideas connected with it were of a reverential and religious kind. When Abraham, as mentioned in Genesis, in asking his servant to take a solemn oath, makes him lay his hand on his parts of generation (in the common version "under his thigh") it was that he required as a token of his sincerity, his placing his hand on the most revered part of his body. Jacob, when dying, makes his son Joseph perform the same act. A similar custom is still retained among the Arabs at the present day. An Arab in taking a solemn oath will place his hand on his virile member, in attestation of sincerity.
The indecent ideas attached to the representation of the phallus were, though it seems a paradox to say so, the result of a more advanced civilization verging towards its decline, as we have evidence at Rome and Pompeii.
Because the worship of the Lingam or Phallus finally degenerated into licentiousness and sensual indulgence does not in any way prove that in the beginning it was not performed with the utmost sincerity by a people bent only on paying homage to the great life giving forces of nature. The Christian Church taught acetisism, and it was Paul who first placed the idea in the minds of the Corinthians and others that the conjugal act was impure. He it was who railed at women and declared them to be inferior beings. He undoubtedly was suffering from a psychosis that might have been diagnosed by present-day psychoanalysts, which caused him to be possibly the most prurient minded man of all time. He conceived in his own mind constantly the thought that purity and chastity as such were agents of the devil.
"We must carefully distinguish," as M. Bane writes, "among these phallic representations, a religious side and a purely licentious side. The two classes correspond with two different epochs of civilization, with two different phases of human mind. The generative power presented itself first as worthy of the adoration of men; it was symbolized in the organs in which it centered, and then no licentious idea was mingled with the worship of these sacred objects. If this spirit became weaker as civilization became more developed, as luxury and vices increased, it still must have remained the peculiar attribute of some simple minds, and hence we must consider under this point of view all objects in which nudity is veiled, so to speak, under a religious motive. Let us look upon the coarse representations with the same eye with which the native population of Latium saw them, an ignorant and rude population, and consequently still pure and virtuous, even in the most polished and most depraved times of the Empire; let us consider from this same point of view all these coarse statues of the gods of gardens, these phalli and amulets, and let us recall to our minds that, even at the present day, the simple peasants of some parts of Italy are not completely cured of such superstitions."
"Indecent rites," says Constant in his work on Roman Polytheism, "may be practiced by a religious people with the greatest purity of heart. But when incredulity has gained a footing amongst these peoples, these rights become then the cause and pretext of the most revolting corruption."
Voltaire, speaking of the worship of Priapus, says: "Our ideas of propriety lead us to suppose that a ceremony which appears to us infamous could only be invented by licentiousness, but it is impossible to believe that licentiousness and depravity of manners would ever have led among any people to the establishment of religious ceremonies; profligacy may have crept in in the lapse of time, but the original institution was always innocent and free from it; in the early ages, in which the boys and girls kissed one another modestly on the mouth, degenerated at last into secret meetings and licentiousness. It is, therefore, probable that this custom was first introduced in times of simplicity, that the first thought was to honor the Deity in the symbol of life which it has given us."
Voltaire has spoken most wisely and it is to be hoped that what he has said will react in favor of the most ancient of all religions.
Let those who would hide their heads and blush with shame at the mention of nature worship take heed lest they be found out in the iniquity of their prurience.
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