The 19th Century German writer and pioneering homosexual rights activist, Karl Ulrich coined the term Uranian to describe a third sex which he believed was “a female psyche in a male body.”
Ulrich himself was homosexual and remembered wearing girls’ clothes, playing with girls, and wanting to be a girl as a young child. He later had his first homosexual experience with his riding instructor at the age of fourteen. At the age of 37, Ulrich’s came out to his family and friends and began writing about homosexuality and homosexual identities. He even publically petitioned the German Congress to repeal anti-homosexual laws. As a result of his activism, he lost his job as a legal advisor and also was in constant legal trouble – not because of his actions, but because of his words.
Ulrichs called for the inalienable rights (as established by nature) of homosexuals to live and love without persecution. The only things he felt should be prohibited were the seduction of male minors, the violation of other people’s civil rights, and public indecency.
Ulrichs wrote a total of twelve books on the topic of homosexuality. In those books, he came up with a number of terms to describe sexual orientation and gender identity. These terms were inspired by the ancient Greek work Plato’s Symposium which discussed two kinds of love – heterosexual love born from Aphrodite Dione (the Greek goddess of love born of a female) and homosexual love born from Aphrodite Urania (the Greek goddess of love born from a male). Ulrichs coined the terms Urning to describe men who loved men and Dioningin to describe men who are attracted to women. He later came up with terms to describe homosexual women, bisexuals, and intersex people.
Below is the list of the terms he coined:
Urning – A biological male with a female psyche who is attracted to men
Urningin – A biological female with a male psyche who is attracted to women
Dioning – A biological male who is heterosexual and masculine
Dioningin – A biological female who is heterosexual and feminine
Uranodioning – A biological male who is bisexual
Uranodioningin – A biological female who is bisexual
Zwitter – Someone who is intersexual having the biological organs of both sexes
Ulrich further subdivided his terms for male sexuality:
Mannling – A masculine homosexual male interested effeminate men
Weibling – A feminine homosexual male interested in masculine men
Manuring – A feminine heterosexual male
Zwischen-Urning – A homosexual male interested in adolescent males
Conjunctive – Homosexual men with tender and passionate feelings for other men
Disjunctive – Heterosexual men with tender feelings for other men, but who are sexually attracted to women (think of this as a Victorian term for “bromance”).
Virilisierte Mannlinge — Homosexual men who have learned to act heterosexual
Uraniaster or Uranisierter Mann – A heterosexual man who engages in situational homosexuality when females are not available
One thing I find interesting about this list is that Ulrichs had no terms for masculine homosexual men interested in other masculine men or for feminine homosexual men who are interested in other feminine men.
Who’s that face watching from within the forest leaves and foliage? Perhaps it’s the Green Man. The Green Man is in many ways the counterpart to Cernunnos. Whereas Cernunnos symbolizes the wild and untamed animal nature of the forest, the Green Man is the embodiment of the wild and fertile vegetation of nature. The Green Man is often depicted as simply a face in the leaves. Branches or vines might sprout from his nose, mouth, or other parts of his face, and they may even bear fruit or flowers. He may have leaves for hair or a leafy beard. The face is almost always male. Green women are rare and green cats, lions, and demons are also found. Green man carvings and sculptures are often found as part of the architecture of churches from the 11th century to the present day. The paganesque symbol of the Green Man in Christian churches would seem to indicate the vitality of the Green Man and his ability to survive as a symbol of pre-Christian traditions despite the influence of Christianity while at the same time co-existing with Christianity. The Green Man is considered a symbol of growth and rebirth, as when forests sprout back to life in the spring. The Green Man is found in many cultures throughout the world and may have developed independently in these cultures rather than having a common root.
There are many characters that are related to the Green Man and they may even be a different representation of him. The Egyptian Osiris, the Norse Freyr, the Celtic deity, Viridios, are all gods that have green man aspects. Other possible mythic and folktale representations of the Green Man might be: the Green Knight in the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, John Barleycorn, Jack in the Green, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and Robin Hood.
It should be noted that the Green Knight served as both a monster and a mentor to Sir Gawain, and helped in Gawain’s initiation from an idealistic youth into mature adulthood. There is also an undercurrent of possible homosexual relations in this tale, In one part of the story Gawain makes a pact with his host, Bercilak who is really the Green Knight in disguise. In the pact, Bercilak will share with Gawain whatever food he wins through hunting, and Gawain agrees that whatever he wins in the bedroom with Bercilak’s wife he will share with Bercilak. Since Knightly virtues idealize chastity and restraint, Gawain resists the overtures of Bercilak’s wife and Gawain is only bound to kiss Bercilak on the cheek to honor their agreement.
Modern representations of the Green Man include Peter Pan, and might include superheroes as the Green Archer, the Green Lantern, and Robin from Batman and Robin.
Besides the tale of the Green Knight, I tried to find some other connections between the Green Man and homosexuality. Certainly the Green Man has sexual symbolism as a fertility deity, but I couldn’t easily find anything else that connected him with homosexuality. After much searching, I did stumble upon two books that might – The Path of the Green Man: Gay Men, Wicca, and Living a Magical Life by Thomas Michael Ford and The Secret Lore of Gardening by Graham Jackson. I haven’t had a chance to purchase or read either of these books, so I may put them down for future book reviews. While I wasn’t able to find out much about the first book, I did find a few good reviews on the Secret Lore of Gardening that shed some light on the Green Man archetype within gay life. I’ll take a little bit of time here to share what I found.
In the Secret Lore of Gardening, Graham Jackson talks about gay archetypes – particularly the archetypes of the green man and the yellow man. The Green Man is “athletic, body-based, sensuous, a gardner/domestic, quiet, dark, and earthy”. On the other hand, the yellow man is not body-identified, he’s awkward, cerebral, intuitive, a poet, light, verbal, and solar.
The gay men who embody the green man archetype are allied with the earth and the Primordial Mother. Green men can fall into further sub-archetypes known as the flower-boy, the gardener, and the prophet of the land.
The flower boy is young, playful, and innocent. He is at a stage in life that is full of possibilities. In mythology, Apollo’s young lover Hyacinth is a perfect example of the flower boy archetype.
The gardener is sedentary, a homebody, but also a man of common sense and practical wisdom. He’s very much a part of the physical realm. Mythologically, he might be Mercury, Dionysus, or Pan.
The Prophet of the land is the darkest of these archetypes, dark green that is. He’s the wise man, the elder, the sage. He knows the secrets of the earth and has great spiritual power that requires a lifetime of commitment and a strong connection to the earth. He mediates among members of the tribe. The prophet of the land is the shaman, and his role is central to the well-being of the tribe.
Gay men who embody the solar archetype are allied with the sun and the Sky father. Sub-archetypes of the yellow man include the golden child, the Hellenic, and the lunatic. Yellow men are men of ideals, order, systems, and philosophies. They tend to be somewhat detached.
The golden boy is the divine messenger. He is full of idealism and enthusiasm, and may have trouble dealing with reality and the physical realm.
The Hellenist is a philosopher. He seeks truth and constructs systems to embody that truth. He relies on order.
The last of the Yellow man archetypes is the Lunatic. He plays a spiritual role. His light is the yellow-white light of the moon, rather than the gold of the sun. He seeks wisdom to blend ideas.
In the book, Jackson also talks about initiatory relationships, in particular the Greek mentoring and sexual relationship between an older male and a youth. He uses the story of Apollo and Hyacinth as an example with Apollo representing the mature yellow man, the Hellenist, while Hyacinth takes on the role of the younger flower boy. Hyacinth’s death is taken as symbolic of his passage from childhood to adulthood. It is the death of his adolescence.
In the gay community, there tends to be a high percentage of men who are aligned with the yellow man rather than the green man. The yellow man tends to be urban and intellectual. Even groups that claim to be rural, such as the Radical Fairies, are often composed of a large number of yellow man types who moved out of the city to form their own communities and inadvertently brought urban culture with them. Those gay men who embody the green man archetype are more elusive as they are less likely to be frequenting gay bars and pride parades.
I recently read the book Phallos by Thorkil Vanggaard. The overall theme of the book was about phallicism and how it was expressed in many cultures including the ancient Norse cultures. I’ve often heard that the Norse looked down on homosexuality and effeminacy, but reading Vanggaard’s book gave me a different perspective on the matter.
The terms Arg, Argr, Ragr, and Ergi are Norse insults for effeminate men, as well as the male submissive partner in male-male anal sex. According to Vanggaard, the taboo and insults weren’t directed at homosexuality itself but at being submissive and violated. In many cultures, the Norse included, homosexual dominance was used as a political or personal power play to denote the dominant partner as being superior or masculine than another. There was no taboo against being the dominant participant, and even heterosexual men engaged in such acts. Being the submissive participant acted upon by another brought with it a sense of shame. It can be likened letting oneself be bullied or being someone’s “bitch” in a prison environment.
According to Vanggaard, this is why homosexual relations among equals in rank or age are problematic in many ancient cultures, and also why we frequently see culturally approved homosexuality between people in different age groups and social brackets. It’s socially acceptable for someone younger or of a lower social rank to be submissive to someone of higher rank or age.
Vanggaard also suggests that while anal submission was viewed with contempt, male-male genital relations may have been common – especially among the Vikings – in much the same way it is in other all-male military and educational environments where sexual release is needed in the absence of women.
The Norse had rituals for joining men as blood brothers, and Vanggaard suggests that these relationships may have involved genital sex and that these men were often buried together in a way that resembled that of man and wife. In the Blood Brothers Saga, Thorgeir and Thormod were blood brothers and may have been lovers.
My previous research as alluded to the fact that the Norse god Freyr (a phallic fertility god) was worshipped by a sect of effeminate male priests who rang bells and that other homosexual rites may have been involved in his worship. Vanggaard mentions that animal phalluses, including those of reindeer, were sacrificed to Freyr. A description of this is given in the Song of Volse. Some men, including the god Odin practiced the feminine art of Seidr, a form of shamanism. The masculine counterpart was Galdr, which involved singing incantations.
As I mentioned in my last podcast on gay werewolves, Norse wolf warrior bands may have involved some type of homosexual initiation. I’m still researching this and hope to have more to report in the e-book I’m writing on gay werewolves. There may be some connection to these initiations and the Norse story of Gudmundr. In one of the stories, Gudmundr is accused of being agr, but the sorcerer Sinfjotli argues that all of Odin’s warriors (the einherjar) fought to win his love. Sinfjotli goes on to say that Gudmundr is pregnant with nine wolf cubs and that he, Sinfjotli, was the father. Sinfjotli was a sorcerer who is described as being Ylvingar or “wolf’s kin” and who sometimes takes on the form of a wolf. Sinfjotli would not have dishonored the einherjar or himself by saying this if there was a taboo against being the dominant homosexual partner.
For further reading on the subject:
I just finished reading the book “Phallos: A Symbol and It’s History in the Male World” by Thorkil Vanggaard. Although the book was written in Denmark in 1969 and translated to English in 1972, I found the book interesting and relevent even 40 years later in 2014. Vanggaard weaves together a history of phallicism in many cultures throughout history – starting with ancient Greece and then highlighting Norse, Scandinavian, Jewish,and pre-Christian Roman cultures. He then outlines how phallicism continued and changed under Christianity and was persecuted as an element of hereticism and witchcraft in the middle and post-middle ages.
While he does mention some phallic cults, Vanggaard’s main focus is on what he calls a “radical” homosexual element that exists both in heterosexual men and “inverse” or true homosexuals. He describes how some cultures like ancient Greece considered phallicism and male-male pederastic relationships sacred, and how both heterosexual and inverse homosexual men engaged in these relationships without the same stigma modern society ascribes to such relations. To him what made these relationships work was the fact that there was a difference in the ages and sometimes status of the men involved in these homosexual relationships. He contrasts this with the Norse concept of Argr, basically an insult to effeminate men and men who were the submissive partners in homosexual sex – anal sex specifically. There was no shame in being a dominant partner in homosexual sex, and Vanngaard also suggests that non-anal, genital sex may have been common and accepted among the Norse. The taboo in Norse culture, and other cultures mentioned in the book, is related to dominance and submission. In these cultures it is important for men of similar age and rank to be equals, and being the submissive partner taints one’s credibility as such.
Vanggaard suggests that the phallus has a dual symbolism in many cultures. It can be erotic or it can be aggressive. The phallus can be viewed as an object of beauty and eroticism as it was amongst the ancient Greeks or it can be transmuted into aggressive symbols like the sword, spear, lance, and arrow. Due to religious influences and differences in culture, this phallicism and phallic symbolism has gone deep into the underground of the subconscious, especially in modern heterosexual men.
Vanggaard uses baboons as an example of the aggressive use of the phallus in nature. Male baboons often guard their troops from other troops of baboons by standing around the perimeter with exhibiting their erect penis. This is an aggressive stance and a warning sign to the other baboons. It is interesting that among the Greeks Herms (statue pillars with a head and erect penis) often guarded boundaries or the entrances to houses. The Romans placed statues of Priapus with an erect penis in orchards to frighten away birds and theives. In ancient Greece, phalluses were used as grave markers, especially to those who donated to the theater in their life. Norse bauta stones (phallic shaped stones) marked graves and sacred spots. In these cases, the phallus was probably used to ward off trespassers and those who meant harm. Phallic amulets are still in use today, and may have a similar warding effect. There is a magickal phallic gesture called the “fica” that is used as a defense against the evil eye and “other dangers.” This gesture is made by placing the thumb through the second and third fingers.
Horned animals also play into phallic symbolism, and many phallic gods have horns.
I will likely make another blog post soon with more of my notes from the book, and my next podcast will be on phallicism. I’m hoping this will be out sometime in April or May of this year.
With the recent news about the NASA Messenger probe orbiting the planet Mercury and today being the first day of a Mercury retrograde period, I’ve got Mercury on my mind and thought this might be a great time to post something about the ancient Roman god Mercury, or more specifically his Greek counterpart Hermes.
Hermes is the Greek god of crossroads, boundaries, communication, travel, commerce, shepherds and cowherds, orators, poets and writers, athletes, and thieves. Hermes is a messenger between the gods and men and also a psychopomp escorting the dead to the Underworld. Hermes is one of only a few gods who could cross to and from the Underworld without hindrance. He is also a trickster god.
Hermes is most often portrayed wearing a winged cap, winged sandals, and carrying either a caduceus (staff entertwined by two serpents) or a kerykeion (a staff topped with a symbol similar to the astrological symbol for Taurus). His other symbols include purses or bags, roosters, and tortoises.
Hermes protects and takes care of travelers, miscreants, harlets, crones, and thieves. As a runner himself, he is also always looking out for runners and athletes. People would offer him sacrifices before taking a trip to ensure a safe and easy journey.
Originally, Hermes was an older, bearded, phallic god of boundaries. Piles of stones called herms were placed at boundaries and as wayside markers. Later these were replaced with rectangular pillars with a Herme’s bearded head and an erect phallus. In Athens, these were even placed outside houses for good luck.
Hermes later became the youthful athlete that we are most familiar with. His realm included the gymnasia and Greek artists revised his statues to reflect a handsome, athletic youth and his statues along with those of Eros and Heracles were often found in the gymnasia.
Eros, Hermes, and Heracles made up a homoerotic trinity of gods presiding over homosexual relations. Eros bestowed the blessing of physical beauty onto male lovers. Heracles offered strength to male sexual partners. Hermes bestowed lovers with the gift of eloquence.
Like most Greek gods, Hermes had both female and male lovers. Hermes male lovers included Amphion, Antheus, Chryses, Crocus, Perseus, and Therses.
Later on in the third century CE Egypt, Hermes was invoked as “Hermes of the Underworld” in both homoerotic and lesbian love spells. This is evidenced in a collection of texts known as the Greek Magical Papyri used in a Hellenistic system of magic.