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The word phallus can refer to an erect penis, to a penis-shaped object such as a dildo, or to a mimetic image of an erect penis. Any object that symbolically resembles a penis may also be referred to as a phallus; however, such objects are more often referred to as being phallic (as in "phallic symbol"). Such symbols often represent the fertility and cultural implications that are associated with the male sexual organ, as well as the male orgasm.


[edit] Etymology

Via Latin, and Greek φαλλός, from Indo-European root *bhel- "to inflate, swell". Compare with Old Norse (and modern Icelandic) boli = "bull", Old English bulluc = "bullock", Greek φαλλή = "whale". [1]

[edit] Art

Phallic-Head Plate, Gubbio, Italy, 1536

Ancient and modern sculptures of phalluses have been found in many parts of the world, notably among the vestiges of ancient Greece and Rome. See also the Most Phallic Building contest for modern examples of phallic designs. In many ancient cultures, phallic structures symbolized wellness and good health.

The Hohle phallus, a 28,000-year-old siltstone phallus discovered in the Hohle Fels cave and first assembled in 2005, is among the oldest phallic representations known.[1]

[edit] Neolithic

In Neolithic some clay representation, are linked with a phallic ritual.

Phallus representation Cucuteni Culture 3000 BC

[edit] Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians related the cult of phallus with Osiris. When Osiris' body was cut in 14 pieces, Seth scattered them all over Egypt and his wife Isis retrieved all of them except one, his penis, which was swallowed by a fish (see the Legend of Osiris and Isis). supposedly, Isis made a metallic replacement.

The phallus was a symbol of fertility, and the god Min was often depicted ithyphallic (with a penis).

[edit] Judaism & Circumcision

It is speculated that the Hebrew rite of circumcision was intended to redirect phallic worship to Yahweh.

[edit] Ancient Greece

In traditional Greek mythology, Hermes, god of boundaries and exchange (popularly the messenger god) is considered to be a phallic deity by association with representations of him on herms (pillars) featuring a phallus. There is no scholarly consensus on this depiction and it would be speculation to consider Hermes a type of fertility god. Pan, son of Hermes, was often depicted as having an exaggerated erect phallus.

Priapus is a Greek god of fertility whose symbol was an exaggerated phallus. The son of Aphrodite and either Dionysus or Adonis, according to different forms of the original myth, he is the protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. His name is the origin of the medical term priapism.

The city of Tyrnavos in Greece holds an annual Phallus festival, a traditional phallcloric event on the first days of Lent.[2]

[edit] Ancient Rome

Husavik Phallusmuseum, Húsavík

[edit] Bhutan

The Phallus is commonly depicted in its paintings.

[edit] India

Shiva, one of the (arguably) most ancient of the Hindu deities with prehistoric origins, and the third of the Hindu Trinity -- one of the most widely worshipped and edified deities in the Hindu pantheon, is worshipped much more commonly in the form of the Lingam, or the phallus. Evidence of phallic worship in the India date back to prehistoric times. Stone Lingams with several varieties of stylized "heads", or the glans, are found to this date in many of the old temples, and in museums in India and abroad. The famous "man-size" lingam in the Parashurameshwar Temple in the Chitoor Distirct of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, better known as the Gudimallam Lingam, is about 1.5 metres in height, carved in polished black granite. Going back to circa 2500 BC, the almost naturalistic giant lingam is distinguished by its prominent, bulbous "head", and an anthropomorphic form of Shiva carved in high relief on the "shaft". Shiva Lingams in India have tended to become more and more stylized over the centuries, and existing lingams from before the 6th century show a more leaning towards the naturalistic style, with the "glans" clearly indicated.

Etymology of “Linga”, or “Lingam”

Linguistic evidence indicates that the post-Vedic Hindus not only adopted the tradition/ cult of the linga from the pre-Vedic non-Aryans, but even the term itself is of Austric origin. -- Mahadev Chakravarti: The Concept of Rudra-Siva Through the Ages (p. 130)

Stora Hammars I image stone in Sweden

The word ‘linga’, while ubiquitous in the Austro-Asiatic world, cannot be seen originally to be occurring in the Indo-European languages. He further says that when these two words entered Sanskrit, they, along with another word ‘langula’ (tail) were derivations of the same root syllable ‘lang’ or ‘lng’. If this correlation is accepted on the basis of the obvious phonetic proximity between the three words ling-langala-langula, then it is not hard to recognize the semantic evolution of the words. Because the usage of the phallus or the male generative organ in human procreation, and the usage of a tool/implement like the ploughshare (langula) to till the earth for its fetility to bring forth life-supporting vegetation, have a natural and spontaneous symbolical parallel and similarity in each other.

[edit] Ancient Scandinavia

[edit] Japan

The Mara Kannon Shrine (麻羅観音) in Nagato, Yamaguchi prefecture is one of many fertility shrines in Japan that still exist today. Also present in festivals such as the Danjiri Matsuri (だんじり祭)[3] in Kishiwada, Osaka prefecture and the Kanamara Matsuri, in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture though historically phallus adoration was more widespread.

[edit] Balkans

The bear on the arms of Portein, Switzerland has a clearly visible red phallus, in accordance with the long-held tradition

Kuker is a divinity personifying fecundity, sometimes in Bulgaria and Serbia it is a plural divinity. In Bulgaria, a ritual spectacle of spring (a sort of carnival performed by Kukeri) takes place after a scenario of folk theatre, in which Kuker's role is interpreted by a man attired in a sheep- or goat-pelt, wearing a horned mask and girded with a large wooden phallus. During the ritual, various physiological acts are interpreted, including the sexual act, as a symbol of the god's sacred marriage, while the symbolical wife, appearing pregnant, mimes the pains of giving birth. This ritual inaugurates the labours of the fields (ploughing, sowing) and is carried out with the participation of numerous allegorical personages, among which is the Emperor and his entourage.[4]

[edit] Switzerland

In Switzerland, heraldic bears occurring on various coats of arms had to be painted with bright red penises, or be mocked as being she-bears. The omission of this led to an angry letter by the authorities of Appenzell in 1579 sent to the city counsel of St. Gallen. The conflict could only barely be resolved before escalating into a war by a well respected bishop.[5] (See Bears in heraldry).

[edit] The Americas

Figures of Kokopelli and Itzamna (as the Mayan tonsured maize god) in Pre-Columbian America often include phallic content. Additionally, over forty large monolithic sculptures (Xkeptunich) have been documented from Terminal Classic Maya sites with the majority of examples occurring in the Puuc region of Yucatán (Amrhein 2001). Uxmal has the largest collection with eleven sculptures now housed under a protective roof on site. The largest sculpture was recorded at Almuchil measuring more than 320 cm high with a diameter at the base of the shaft measuring 44 cm.[6]

[edit] Modern architecture

The phallic shape is often used in architecture and frequently include detail that is almost alarming. For example Bertram Goodhue's Nebraska State Capitol contains at its tip Lee Lawrie's statue of the Sower or Seed Thrower. Since this is exactly the place where the male "seed" exits the phallus it is difficult to imagine that this relationship was unrecognized to the architect and sculptor.

Other notable examples of blatantly phallic architecture include the Ypsilanti Water Tower and others.

For the origin of the phallic innuendo (Gherkin) of the Swiss Re building in London see 30 St Mary Axe.

The phallic form can often be found in cemeteries, particularly from monuments of the Victorian Age.

[edit] Psychoanalysis

The symbolic version of the phallus, a phallic symbol is meant to represent male generative powers. According to Sigmund Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, while males possess a penis, no one can possess the symbolic phallus. Jacques Lacan's Ecrits: A Selection includes an essay titled The Significance of the Phallus which articulates the difference between "being" and "having" the phallus. Men are positioned as men insofar as they are seen to have the phallus. Women, not having the phallus, are seen to "be" the phallus. The symbolic phallus is the concept of being the ultimate man, and having this is compared to having the divine gift of God.

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler explores Freud's and Lacan's discussions of the symbolic phallus by pointing out the connection between the phallus and the penis. She writes, "The law requires conformity to its own notion of 'nature'. It gains its legitimacy through the binary and asymmetrical naturalization of bodies in which the phallus, though clearly not identical to the penis, deploys the penis as its naturalized instrument and sign" (135). In Bodies that Matter, she further explores the possibilities for the phallus in her discussion of The Lesbian Phallus. If, as she notes, Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus (62).

Penis costume at a 2005 parade. San Francisco, United States.

[edit] Modern use of the phallus

The phallus is often used to advertise pornography, as well as the sale of contraception. It has often been used in provocative practical jokes[7] and has been the central focus of adult-audience performances.[8]

The phallus has a new set of art interpretations in the 20th Century with the rise of Sigmund Freud, the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. One example is "Princess X"[9] by the Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. He created a scandal in the Salon in 1919 when he represented or caricatured Princess Marie Bonaparte as a large gleaming bronze phallus. This phallus likely symbolizes Bonaparte's obsession with the penis and her lifelong quest to achieve vaginal orgasm.[10]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Amos, Jonathan (2005-07-25). "Ancient phallus unearthed in cave". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4713323.stm. Retrieved 2006-07-08. 
  2. ^ The Annual Phallus Festival in Greece, Der Spiegel, English edition, Retrieved on the 15-12-08
  3. ^ Danjiri Matsuri Festival
  4. ^ Kernbach, Victor (1989). Dicţionar de Mitologie Generală. Bucureşti: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică. ISBN 973-29-0030-X.
  5. ^ Brown, Gary (1996). Great Bear Almanac. pp. 340. ISBN 1558214747. 
  6. ^ Amrhein, Laura Marie (2001). An Iconographic and Historic Analysis of Terminal Classic Maya Phallic Imagery. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth University.
  7. ^ "Yale Band Punished for Half-Time Show". The Harvard Crimson. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=525595. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  8. ^ "Puppetry of the Penis". The San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/11/01/DD88346.DTL. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  9. ^ Philamuseum.org
  10. ^ Mary Roach. The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. W. W. Norton and Co, New York (2008).  page 66f, page 73

[edit] References

  • Vigeland Monolith – Oslo, Norway Polytechnique.fr
  • Honour, Hugh (1999). The Visual Arts: A History. New York: H.N. Abrams. ISBN 0-810-93935-5. 
  • Keuls, Eva C. (1985). The Reign of the Phallus. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-520-07929-9. 
  • Kernbach, Victor (1989). Dicţionar de Mitologie Generală. Bucureşti: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică. ISBN 973-29-0030-X. 
  • Leick, Gwendolyn (1994). Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06534-8. 
  • Lyons, Andrew P.; Harriet D. Lyons (2004). Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-8036-X. 

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