Welcome to Discovering the Male Mysteries with Mel Mystery. This blog is a supplement to my podcast is for and about gay and bi pagan men. My podcasts are about what it is to be gay, what it is to be pagan, what it is to be men — sometimes as separate topics and sometimes all meshed together as one. I started this endeavor after seeing that there were few, if any, podcasts out there on this topic. The podcasts are informative, and present topics that challenge conventional thinking.

Posts tagged “homosexuality

Conceiving Historical Homosexuality Part 2

In my last blog post, I mentioned how some folks are spreading a myth or meme that homosexuality didn’t exist before modern times and that only homosexual acts existed. Often this myth is spread by well-meaning people who are trying a little too hard to be scientifically or historically objective.

Below are a couple of paragraphs from an article about photos of male intimacy over the past century or so that someone recently sent me. Overall, the article is great and shows through how male bonding and intimacy have changed in our culture as a result of stigma against the ever increasing visibility of homosexuality in our culture. These paragraphs are also a perfect example of this meme I’ve been talking about.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The term “homosexuality” was in fact not coined until 1869, and before that time, the strict dichotomy between “gay” and “straight” did not yet exist. Attraction to, and sexual activity with other men was thought of as something you did, not something you were. It was a behavior — accepted by some cultures and considered sinful by others.

But at the turn of the 20th century, the idea of homosexuality shifted from a practice to a lifestyle and an identity. You did not have temptations towards a certain sin, you were a homosexual person. Thinking of men as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” became common. And this new category of identity was at the same time pathologized — decried by psychiatrists as a mental illness, by ministers as a perversion, and by politicians as something to be legislated against.

The whole article and photos can be found at:

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/07/29/bosom-buddies-a-photo-history-of-male-affection/

 

While ultimately this could come down to an argument of semantics… “Of course there were no homosexuals in history because the term homosexuality is a recent thing.” My argument is that just because the word we use for something didn’t exist, it doesn’t mean that people with this disposition didn’t exist. In fact, exclusive homosexuality did exist in history alongside exclusive heterosexuality alongside varying degrees of bisexuality and ambisexuality. Other cultures did have terms for exclusive homosexuality before 1869 and forms of exclusive homosexual marriage and commitment existed as well. These terms just weren’t the same terms and what we think of homosexual or gay identity today was different contextually than it is today. Homosexuality wasn’t defined by gay bars, rainbow flags, and Lady Gaga. It was defined in terms specific to the historical and cultural context. I’ve mentioned in some of my podcasts and blog posts folks who are over the “gay scene” or who prefer to use other terms like androphile or queer or other terms rather than gay or homosexual. This doesn’t mean that homosexual orientations don’t exist or that people don’t have homosexual identities. It just means that human beings are complex and that there are many factors involved in the identities we adopt and put out to the world. Heterosexuals existed too in history even if they didn’t have the word homosexual to define themselves against. Even so, the heterosexuals of today, their families, and their assumptions about the world aren’t necessarily the same things they were even a couple hundred years ago.

The author of this article makes the assumption that identity doesn’t predate action and that an action one does regularly doesn’t create identity. My own life experiences and probably yours too would suggest otherwise. For example, in my own coming out process. I didn’t even know what homosexuality was, but when I hit adolescence I started noticing all the other boys around when all the other boys started noticing all the other girls. Was I not homosexual just because I didn’t know a word to call my attractions? At some point I became aware that there were others like me and when I got to college I joined the gay student group and a gay youth group. Was I homosexual before I was exposed to other gay folks and to gay culture? You betcha! Did I have a gay identity? That’s a more complex question and I can only answer that exclusive attraction to men is part of my personality and identity whatever you decide to call it and whether or not I choose to express it. If I’d grown up never knowing what homosexuality was or that there were others with the same feelings and attractions, if I decided to live a life of celibate bachelorhood, or if I had decided to suppress my natural feelings and attractions and marry a woman, would any of these things change the fact that I was inherently homosexual by nature? Could you still say homosexuality was just an action if I didn’t act on it, but I still had these inherent feelings and attractions exclusively toward other men? I think this is really similar to the argument over whether sexuality is an orientation or a preference. An orientation is something inherent and a preference might be more a choice on which to act.

The other part of that assumption is that an action one does regularly doesn’t create identity? In reality, how many people’s identities are wrapped up in what (or who) they do? How many people define themselves by their job, their hobbies, their spouse, or the families they’ve created? How many people’s identities are wrapped up in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, or the types of shows they watch on television? If we do something, act on something, or associate with someone or something regularly — of course it’s a part of our identity. It would be no less so in historical times.

To me, the confusion over historical homosexuality comes down to a couple of things. The main thing is that at some point the Christian church railed against homosexuality calling it a sin and Christian nations made homosexual acts illegal in an effort support their religious sense of morality. They couldn’t make being homosexual illegal – only homosexual acts – because that might expose that there’s a whole group of people out there you’re prosecuting not because of what they do, but because of who or what they are. Somehow that makes it more of a hate thing and takes away some of your moral high ground if you’re prosecuting the alleged sinner for something they can’t control and not the alleged act of sin which supposedly they can. Because homosexual acts were illegal and considered more sinful than other acts, and because there was such stigma and resistance to homosexuality, those who were homosexual hid their orientations. Many even suppressed their natural inclinations in order to fit in. If they didn’t live a fully heterosexual life, they sought to fulfill their homosexual desires and attractions hidden away from even close friends and family, not to mention the public eye. Even in the U.S. such closeted situations have been common for many and even up to the present time, though many feel more free to be open about their orientations. The risk for many was too great for folks to live openly, so instead they lived in hidden pockets within the greater culture.

The other thing leading to confusion over homosexual identity is the dichotomy we place on homosexuality and homosexuality. Many people tend to see this issue as a strict dichotomy even though it never was and still isn’t. I do agree with the article somewhat on that point, but disagree that this precludes those exclusively homosexual or heterosexual now or in history. The Kinsey Report was a pioneering work in the field of human sexuality in the mid-20th century.  The Kinsey research revealed that sexual orientation is not a strict dichotomy, but a spectrum fitting the form of a bell curve.  Most people are actually varying degrees of bisexual whether or not they choose to act on their attractions to one gender or the other. The thing is, you’ve still got about 10 percent (give or take) who are exclusively homosexual or heterosexual in orientation at either end of the spectrum with those toward the middle more likely to acknowledge attraction to both genders. Of course, whether or not someone acts on their attractions comes down to cultural conditioning and other environmental factors. With a huge cultural, religious, and legal stigma against homosexuality and homosexuals acts as a part of our historical context, it skews the bell curve in favor of heterosexual expression even though a small percentage of exclusive homosexuals have existed throughout history and still exist today.

The 20th century didn’t create homosexual identity, though it did create a unique homosexual culture within a certain context of time and place. The 20th century didn’t create homosexuality or the “homosexual lifestyle”, but instead rediscovered and made known something that has been with us in one way or another throughout history and throughout the many cultures of the world.

 


Conceiving Historical Homosexuality

I have often heard historians and historical writers on the topic of homosexuality suggest there was no such thing as homosexuals or gay people in ancient history, only homosexual acts. The implication is that there were no folks in the past with exclusive homosexual orientations and that homosexuality and gay identity are a fairly modern concepts. It’s become a trendy concept even among LGBT historians and writers. I say “bullshit” for a number of reasons.

While I see these historians and writers taking on the role of gay apologist, I get where these people are coming from. They’re just trying to show objectivity. A basic concept in scientific method and reason is that something can’t be said to exist unless it has been proven conclusively. These folks are just doing their due diligence, or are they?

Science and history are not entirely the same things, and historians and anthropologists frequently make inferences about history, ancient cultures, and the people who lived in them based on everything from existing primary source documents to comparisons of contemporary or similar historical cultures to making educated guesses about what might have been going on.

When reading historical or mythological stories about same-sex folks who were close friends or where homoerotic undertones can be read in, many would be reluctant to reach the full conclusion that homosexuality was actually involved. It’s all part of being objective after all.

I’ve been reading The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Society by James Neill. Very early in the book (I can’t pinpoint the exact page, but somewhere within the first three chapters), he makes a startling suggestion that I like very much. He suggests that in cultures where homosexuality exists openly and even in those cultures that just don’t condemn it, that it’s actually a bigger stretch to assume that these weren’t examples homosexuality and homosexual relationships.

There are several reasons to come at things from this angle:

  • For one, we come from a culture that assumes homosexuality and homosexual relations are unnatural and an exception to the rule, whereas homosexuality and ambisexuality are actually quite natural and common. They even exist in cultures that strongly oppose same-sex expression, though in such cultures they often must remain closeted under the ruse of being just close friends.

  • Early Christians went to a lot of trouble to destroy cultures, cultural references, and primary sources related to anything that went against their teachings – this included destroying people, cultures, and primary sources related to homosexuality especially where it was treated positively. Homosexuality and most other alternate forms of sexuality were effectively written out of history.

  • In many writings of the time, it was not necessary to say what people already knew or culturally accepted. It’s kind of like recent arguments over the term “gay” marriage. Once homosexuality is finally accepted into society, it may just be referred to as… get this… “marriage” without the “gay” qualifier.

  • There’s also the “none of your business” principle. The sex lives and sexual acts and preferences of most people regardless of their sexual orientation is rarely written about or accounted for unless there’s some overriding reason for doing so.

  • Heterosexual bias and heterosexism permeate most historical research into the sexuality and sexual norms of most cultures until recently and still permeate some pockets of historical researchers today. Even fairly recent anthropologists have brought this bias into their research into modern tribal cultures, and the people in those cultures are often reluctant to share practices they believe will cast them in a negative light to the researchers.

With all that said there are plenty of primary sources that suggest exclusive homosexuality and homosexual relationships did exist in ancient civilizations. Plato in his Symposium talks about how some people seek out their same-gender soulmates who are literally their “other half”, how some are drawn exclusively to one sex or the other, and how same-sex lovers have a higher and more spiritual love because they aren’t weighed down by reproductive obligations. The Native Americans had a special place for effeminate men who took on female roles including female sexual roles and women who took on male life and sexual roles. They were identified as children – suggesting some naturally occurring predisposition. Among the Norse, priests of the god Freyr took on feminine roles including passive homosexual roles in religious rites. Celtic warriors were reported to have male lovers, and perhaps even prefer them to females. Blood brotherhood rites in many cultures have been equated as homosexual relationships. The list goes on for many other cultures.

I will relent one point that is often made about historical homosexuality. In general, men in ancient societies had both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Often as young men, homosexual relationships were part of their education and rites of passage. This includes the ancient Greeks, the Norse, and many warrior societies. After a certain age, these men were generally expected to marry and have families, except some didn’t. There are historical reports of men who continued their homosexual relationships beyond the accepted age and were said to prefer the company of men. There have been reports of homosexual “marriages” or at least marriage type relationships in many ancient civilizations. There were always ways one could escape the heterosexual marriage obligation – joining the military or joining a priesthood are among the top options for such individuals and these institutions always have had more than their fair share of reported homosexuals and homosexual acts.

Now back to my original argument about the existence of historical homosexuality. Some say that no gay people existed, but I beg to differ. I will concur that modern gay identity is a new concept and but so is modern straight identity. We don’t argue that there were no heterosexuals in the past even though the modern nuclear family is a relatively new concept. In ancient times, heterosexual marriage was often a political arrangement, a barter of some kind, or an economic arrangement. Having many wives and many concubines was not at all unheard of. Women were often treated as property rather than equal partners. Marrying for love or even sexual attraction was not always the norm for heterosexuals, but we don’t claim a heterosexual orientation didn’t exist in the past.

I personally believe that there have always been people of both heterosexual and homosexual orientation and there probably always will be. There are probably also lots of bisexuals out there who blur the lines for those seeking an exclusive binary between homosexuality and heterosexuality. I recommend the works of Alfred Kinsey who suggested that human sexuality is actually on a natural bell curve with exclusive homosexuality or exclusive heterosexuality making up only a small proportion on either end of the scale. Perhaps as society becomes more accepting and open we’ll see many more bisexuals coming out of the closet, in addition to those who claim to be exclusively gay or straight. That’s not even touching on other sexual and gender orientations that may come to light once society stops viewing them as deviant and starts accepting them as human.


Uranian and other 19th Century Terms for Homosexuals

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.


The Green Man and Gay Archetypes

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.


Norse Homosexualities

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:

Phallos by Thorkil Vanggaard
http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/gayvik.shtml
http://freya.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/?page_id=211
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergi


Phallos

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.


Mercury on my mind

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.