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What Phallic Means

From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: What "Phallic" Means (was:Re:saints of mass:was crowley on women
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 19:24:57 -0800

This is being sent to the thelema93 e-list 
in response to a query there about the meaning of the word "phallic,"
but it is also crossposted to the Sacred Landscape list
as it deals with ancient religious monuments. wrote:
> Hello Cat,
> > Phallus means "penis or clitoris" (that is, the external genital
> > organ of pleasure) in Greek and in English.
> I have heard this before, notably in Hymenaeus Beta's Address
> to the Women's Conference. He ascribed the gender-neutral
> meaning of "phallus" to Jung and Freud. 

If so, he may have been wrong. They used it to mean exclusively male
symbols. (They were wrong.)

> I did not find such a usage in their work. 

I am not surprised. 

> I also did not find any such usage in the
> usage examples in the Oxford English Dictionary or the
> Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon. If I was mistaken in this, could you
> please cite a specific reference that I can use to verify that?

I already posted the Webster's 5th Collegiate Dictionary definition from
1936, reprinted in 1941: Phallus (2): "penis or clitoris." 

> > Go read the works of that wonderful Gniostic Saint Hargrave
> > Jennings.
> Well, I try from time to time, but somnolence soon ensues
> uncontrollably. I have just awoken from a nap induced by reading
> a few chapters from "The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and
> Mysteries" and I did see some references to the phallus, but
> none of them appeared to be gender-neutral. 

See below, and in addition to Jennings as a source, you will also get
(free of extra charge) a reference to female-gendered Phallic Emblems by
Richard Brash. 

My sincere thanks to nagasiva yronwode for typing out the following from
my reading aloud of the passages. 


Hargrave Jennings 
"Phallic Objects and Remains: 
Illustrations of the Rise and Development of the Phallic Idea (Sex
Worship) and its Embodiment in Works of Nature and Art"
Privately printed, 1889 

[frontispiece shows a penile form of "phallic object" titled "Round
Tower, Central America" and a vulvar form of "phallic object" titled
"Stone of Constantine, Cornwall;" the latter is a large triangular holed

Chapter 6

[the first five chapters deal with the penile forms of phallic objects;
what follows is a series of extracts developing the idea of holed or
vulvar stones as phallic objects.]

   Stone Worship has not been confined to pillars or any other 
   particular form; in every quarter of the globe, north, south, east 
   and west, it has existed in connection with the cromlech, the 
   pillar, the circle, the rocking-stone, and the holed stone. 
   It is a singular thing that notwithstanding the ages that have
   passed since these things first came into existence, 
   superstitious memories and practices still linger in 
   connection with them. If we look across to Ireland we 
   shall find a number of them, with most of which some 
   remote and extraordinary tradition is associated.

   Ryan, in his "History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow,"    
   describes one standing two miles south of Tullogh in the parish of 
   Aghade, it is called Cloch-a-Phoill, i.e. in Irish, the "hole stone." 
   He says -- "It is about twelve feet in height, and four feet in 
   breadth, having an aperture through near the top. There is a 
   tradition that the son of an Irish king was chained to this
   stone, but that he contrived to break his chain and escape. The 
   stone is now thrown from its perpendicular; and it was a practice    
   with the peasantry to pass ill-thriven infants through the aperture 
   in order to improve their constitutions. Great numbers formerly 
   indulged in this superstitious folly, but for the last twenty years 
   this practice has been discontinued. My informant on this occasion    
   was a woman who had herself passed one of her infants through the 
   aperture of this singular stone."

page 62

   The Dublin Penny Journal for 1832 gives an account of one of these    
   stones at Ballyveruish, about a mile from the village of Doagh, in 
   the parish of Kilbride and county of Antrim. It is a large slab of 
   whinstone, according to the drawings extremely rough and unhewn, 
   about five feet high, two feet six inches wide at the base, and about 
   ten inches in thickness. The hole is three feet from the ground and 
   two and a half inches in diameter.

page 63

   There is another in the churchyard of Kilquare, near Mallow,
   of  Cork, six feet high, two feet four inches wide with a hole four 
   inches in diameter, of dark red sandstone. It is called Cloch 
   na-Pecaibh, or the Sinner's Stone, as it is marked on the maps. It 
   was the custom for the women to draw clothes through the hole, as 
   children through holes of greater dimensions.

page 64

[snip descriptions of 8 more similar holed stones in Ireland.]

   We now turn to Cornwall, a most remarkable country; the country "par
   excellence" says the Gentleman's Magazine, "of megalithic 

   Borlase, in his "Antiquities" [written in the mid-1700s -- cat] 
   says, after describing certain forms of rocks -- "There is
   kind of stone-deity which has never been taken notice of by any 
   author that I have heard of. Its common name in Cornwall and Scilly 
   is Tolmen; that is, the Hole of Stone. It consists of a large   
   orbicular stone, supported by two stones, betwixt which there is a 
   "... I am apt to think that [these] were erected ... with an intent 
   to consecrate and prepare the worshippers by passing through these
   holy rocks for the better entering upon the offices which were to be
   performed in their penetralia [in English, this is the inner sanctum
   of a holy site -- cat], the most sacred part of the temple....

   "The inhabitants of Shetland and the Isles used to pour libations of
   milk or beer through a holed stone in honour to the spiritual Browny
   which is therefore called Browny's Stone. Now whether the Cornish
   Druids applied this stone to the use of such offerings I cannot say,
   but the Cornish to this day invoke the spirit Browny when their bees
   swarm, and think that their crying 'Browny, Browny,' will prevent
   their returning into their former hive, and make them pitch and form
   a new colony. It is not improbable but this holed stone (consecrated,
   as by its structure and present uses, it appears to have been) might
   have served several delusive purposes. I apprehend it served for
   libations, served to initiate and dedicate children to the
   of rock-worship by drawing them through this hole, and also to 
   purify the victim before it was sacrificed; and considering the many
   lucrative juggles of the Druids (which are confirmed by their
   monuments) it is not wholly improbable that some miraculous
   restoration of health might be promised to the people for themselves
   and children upon proper pecuniary gratifications, provided that at
   a certain season of the moon and whilst a priest officiated at one
   of the stones adjoining, with prayers adapted to the occasion, they
   would draw their infirm children through this hole. And, I must
   observe, that this passing through stones and holes in order to
   recover or secure health, is the more likely to be one of the Druid
   principles because I find that they used to pass their cattle 
   through a hollow tree or through a hole made in the earth (for like
   superstitious reasons probably) which was therefore prohibited by 
   law.... When I was last at the monument, in the year 1749, a very 
   intelligent farmer of the neighborhood assured me that he had known 
   many persons who had crept through this holed stone for pains in 
   their back and limbs, and that fanciful parents at certain times of 
   the year do customarily draw their young children through in order 
   to cure them of the rickets. He showed me also two pins carefully 
   laid across each other on the top of this holed stone. This is the 
   way of the over-curious, even at this time, and by recurring to 
   these pins and observing their direction to be the same, or 
   different from what they left them in, or by their being lost or 
   gone, they are informed of and resolve upon some material incident 
   of love or fortune, which they could not know soon enough in a 
   natural way...."

pp. 65-8

[snip mentions of 7 more neolithic holed stones in England by Jennings
and a long except from Daniel Wilson's "Pre-historic Annals of Scotland"
concerning holed stones in Scotland.]

   Stones of a very similar character are found in various parts
   India, especially in Southern Bengal; some of these are rude to a 
   degree while others are refined and delicate, or as Dr. Wise says, 
   of beautifully dressed stone, richly ornamented.

page 72

[Then, from Captain Wilford, writing in "Transactions of the Royal
Asiatic Society" is an account about holed stones of India.]

   "...perforated stones are not uncommon in India, and devout people 
   pass through them when the opening will admit of it, in order to be
   regenerated. If the hole be too small, they put either the hand or 
   foot through it, and with a sufficient degree of faith, it answers 
   nearly the same purpose. ... 

[Next, also from Captain Wilford in "Transactions of the Royal Asiatic
Society," comes a long account of two Hindus who came to England on a
"political expedition" at the behest of their ruler but who, upon
returning to India, where found to have "lost caste" by eating food not
permitted to those of the Brahmin caste. Consultations with Brhaminical
authorities disclosed that in former times a person in this situation
could be placed inside a huge statue of a goddess and "rebirthed"
through her vagina but now, in the 19th century...] 

   "...As a statue of pure gold and of proper dimensions [for an adult 
   to  pass through the birth canal] would be too expensive, it is 
   sufficient to make an image of the sacred Yoni [vulva,
   genitalia], through which the person to be regenerated is to pass. 
   Rayhu-Nath-Raya had one made of pure gold and of proper dimensions; 
   his ambassadors were regenerated, and the usual ceremonies of 
   ordination having been performed, and immense presents bestowed on 
   the Brahmins, they were re-admitted into the communion of the 

pp. 74-75

   Mr. Richard Brash, writing in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1864,
   winds up an article on these [holed] stones [of Ireland by listing 
   their attributes] as follows: " ... the virtues attributed [to holed 
   stones] are the binding nature of contracts made through them [and] 
   the regenerative power supposed to be communicated by passing 
   through the orifice, whether it be of a diseased limb, or the weakly 
   and rickety infant, or the linen about to be used in childwork 
   [childbirth, labaur]. ... It undoubtedly was a Phallic emblem.... 
   In Ireland ample evidences are not wanting to show that Phallic 
   dogmas and rites were very extensively known and practiced in 
   ancient times. ..."

page 75

[Snip an account of the Constantine stone, the large triagular holed
stone whose image is one of two in the frontispiece of "Phallic Remains"
-- and how its triangular shape, and the triangular shape of several
other large holed stones, is reminiscent of the public triangle of a

   The object we set out with has now been achieved, and we have in
   the foregoing pages endeavoured as clearly as possible to describe
   three particular forms of "objects, monuments and remains," viz.,
   the Round Towers, the Pillar Stones, and the Holed Stones. That the
   bulk of them were not of Christian origin, to whatever uses they
   may have been put in Christian times, has probably struck the
   reader as unquestionable. ... little difficulty will probably be 
   felt in coming to the conclusion that the theory which regards them 
   as emblems of the male and female organs of generation, and
   therefore as Phallic Remains has the preponderance of argument
   in its favour.

page 76


For other 19th century treatments of female genital images as "Phallic,"
see also the following by Hargrave Jennings:

"Phallicism: A Description of the Worship of Lingam-Yoni in Various
Parts of the World, and in Different Ages" (1888) 


"Fishes, Flowers, and Fire as Phallic Symbols" (listed as forthcoming in
the back of "Phallic Reamins") 

I have never seen this latter book, but since fishes and flowers are
generally seen by human beings as "female" symbols, the title
("Phallicism") speaks for itself. 

cat yronwode 

Karezza and Sacred Sex ------
The Sacred Landscape -------

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