17 June 2007

Crown of Thorns [Vagina Dentata]

Don't be afraid - these are only artist's renderings - click to enlarge.
Left: Rolf Geissler
Center: Gretchen Schermerhorn
Right: Temple Terkildsen
More actual dentata photos at the Goddess Cafe.

DO BE very very AFRAID!! - this working version.

From Barbara Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983-

"Toothed vagina," the classic symbol of men's fear of sex, expressing the unconscious belief that a woman may eat or castrate her partner during intercourse. Freud said, "Probably no male human being is spared the terrifying shock of threatened castration at the sight of female genitals." But he had the reason wrong. The real reason for this "terrifying shock" is a mouth-symbolism, now recognized universally in myth and fantasy: "It is well-known in psychiatry that both males and females fantasize as a mouth the female's entranceway to the vagina."

The more patriarchal the society, the more fear seems to be aroused by the fantasy. Men of Malekula, having overthrown their matriarchate, were haunted by a yonic spirit called "that which draws us to It so that It may devour us." The Yanomamo said one of the first beings on earth was a woman whose vagina became a toothed mouth and bit off her consort's penis. Chinese patriarchs said women's genitals were not only gateways to immortality but also "executioners of men." Moslem aphorisms said: "Three things are insatiable: the desert, the grave, and a woman's vulva." Polynesians said the savior-god Maui tried to find eternal life by crawling into the mouth (or vagina) of his mother Hina, in effect trying to return to the womb of the Creatress; but she bit him in two and killed him.

Stories of the devouring Mother are ubiquitous in myths, representing the death-fear which the male psyche often transformed into a sex-fear. Ancient writings describe the male sexual function not as "taking" or "posessing" the female, but rather "being taken" or "putting forth." Ejaculation was viewed as a loss of a man's vital force, which was "eaten" by a woman. The Greek sema ir "semen: meant both "seed" and "food." Sexual "consummation" was the same as "consuming" (the male). Many savages still have the same imagery. The Yanomamo word for pregnant also means satiated or full-fed; and "to eat" is the same as "to copulate."

Distinction between mouths and female genitals was blurred by the Greek idea of the laminae -- lustful she-demons, born of the Libyan snake-goddess Lamia. Their name meant either "lecherous vaginas" or "gluttonous gullets." Lamia was a Greek name for the divine female serpent called Kundalini in India, Uraeus or Per-Uatchet in Egypt, and Lamashtu in Babylon. Her Babylonian consort was Pazuzu, he of the serpent penis. Lamia's legend, with its notion that males are born to be eaten, led to Pliny's report on the sexual lives of snakes which was widely believed throughout Europe even up to the 20th century: a male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head into her mouth and allowing himself to be eaten.

Sioux Indians told a tale similar to that of the Lamia. A beautiful seductive woman accepted the love of a young warrior and united with him inside a cloud. When the cloud lifted, the woman stood alone. The man was a heap of bones being gnawed by snakes at her feet.

Mouth and vulva were equated in many Egyptian myths. Ma-Nu, the western gate whereby the sun god daily re-entered his Mother, was sometimes a "cleft" (yoni) and sometimes a "mouth." Priestesses of Bast, representing the Goddess, drew up their skirts to display their genitals during religious processions. To the Greeks, such a display was frightening. Bellerophon fled in terror from Lycian women advancing on him with genitals exposed, and even the sea god Poseidon retreated, for fear they might swallow him.

According to Philostratus, magical women "by arousing sexual desire seek to devour whom they wish." To the patriarchal Persians and Moslems this seemed a distinct possibility. Viewing women's mouths as either obscene, dangerous, or overly seductive, they insisted on veiling them. Yet men's mouths, which look no different, were not viewed as threatening.

"Mouth" comes from the same root as "mother" -- Anglo-Saxon muth, also related to the Egyptian Goddess Mut. Vulvas have labiae, "lips," and many men have believed that behind the lips lie teeth. Christian authorities of the Middle Ages taught that certain witches, with the help of the moon and magic spells, could grow fangs in their vaginas. They likened women's genitals to the "yawning" mouth of hell, though this was hardly original; the underworld gate had always been the yoni of Mother Hel. It has always "yawned" -- from Middle English yonen, another derivatave of "yoni." A German vulgarity meaning "cunt," Fotze in parts of Bavaria meant simply "mouth."

To Christian ascetics, Hell-mouth and the vagina drew upon the same ancient symbolism. Both were equated with the womb-symbol of the whale that swallowed Jonah; according to this "prophecy" the Hell-mouth swallowed Christ (as Hina swallowed her son Maui) and kept him for three days. Visionary trips to hell often read like "a description of the experience of being born, but in reverse, as if the child was being drawn into the womb and destroyed there, instead of being formed and given life." St. Teresa of Avila said her vision of a visit to hell was "an oppression, a suffocation, and an affliction so agonizing, and accompanied by such a hopeless and distressing misery that no words I could find would adequately describe it. To say that it was as if my soul were being continuously torn fro my body is as nothing."

The archetypal image of "devouring" female genitals seems undeniably alive even in the modern world. "Males in our culture are so afraid of direct contact with female genitalia, and are even afraid of referring to these genitalia themselves; they largely displace their feelings to the accessory sex organs -- the hips, legs, breasts, buttocks, etc. -- and they give these accessory sex organs an exaggerated interest and desirability." Even here, the male scholar inexplicably "displaces" the words sex organ onto structures that have nothing to do with sexual functioning.

Looking into, touching, entering the female orifice seems fraught with hidden fears, signified by the confusion of sex with death in overwhelming numbers of male minds and myths. Psychiatrists says sex is perceived by the male unconscious as dying: "Every orgasm is a little death: the death of the 'little man,' the penis." Here indeed is the root of ascetic religions that equated the denial of death with the denial of sex.

Moslems attributed all kinds of dread powers to a vulva. It could "bite off" a man's eye-beam, resulting in blindness for any man who looked into its cavity. A sultan of Damascus was said to have lost his sight in this manner. Christian legend claimed he went to Sardinia to be cured of his blindness by a miraculous idol of the Virgin Mary -- who, being eternally virgin, had her door-mouth permanently closed by a veil-hymen.

Apparently Freud was wrong in assuming that men's fear of female genitals was based on the idea that the female had been castrated. The fear was much less empathetic, and more personal: a fear of being devoured, of experiencing the birth trauma in reverse. A Catholic scholar's curious description of the Hell-mouh as a womb inadvertently reveals this idea: "When we think of man entering hell we think of him as establishing contact with the most intrinsic, unified, ultimate and deepest level of the reality of the world."

citation: Barbara G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopeadia of Myths and Secrets", HarperCollins, 1983, isbn 006250925X

13 June 2007

First, the Dome, then the Minarets

photo credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images, left, and Hameed Rasheed/AP

From today's New York Times-

June 13, 2007
Minarets on Shiite Shrine in Iraq Destroyed in Attack

One of Iraq’s most sacred Shiite shrines, the Imam al-Askari mosque in Samarra, was attacked and severely damaged again today, just over a year after the previous attack on the site unleashed a tide of national sectarian bloodletting.
Angry demonstrations erupted in Samarra following the attack, which destroyed the mosque’s two minarets. Security forces fired in the air, and the Iraqi government announced a curfew in Baghdad starting at 3 p.m. today.
Shiite leaders called for calm. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, condemned the bombing, but appealed to Iraqis to show restraint.
It was unclear who carried out the attack in the predominantly Sunni town about 60 miles north of Baghdad. Iraqi security forces secured the area around the mosque and were investigating the cause of the explosion, the American military said. Iraqi police reported hearing two nearly simultaneous explosions coming from inside the mosque compound at around 9 a.m. today.
The official Iraqia television station reported that local officials said that two mortar rounds were fired at the two minarets.
The shrine was badly damaged in the February 2006 attack by Sunni insurgents, but the destruction of the remaining two minarets is expected to have powerful symbolic importance to Iraqis.
Radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called for peaceful demonstrations and a three-day mourning period to mark the shrine’s destruction.
Senior American military commanders in Iraq have said recently that they feared just such an attack on a Shiite shrine to refocus Sunni attention on the country’s struggle between Shiites and Sunnis.
But they expected that if such an attack did occur, it would most likely come at one of Iraq’s three other most-sacred Shiite sites, not the al-Askari shrine, which was already badly damaged.
Since the attack in 2006, the shrine had been under the protection of local — predominantly Sunni — guards. But American military and Iraqi security officials had recently become concerned that the local unit had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq.
A move by the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad over the last few days to bring in a new guard unit — predominantly Shiite — may have been linked to the attack today.
Speaking on Al Jazeera television, Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar, a prominent Sunni cleric, said the new guards had arrived at the shrine shouting sectarian slogans that may have provoked local Sunnis, in a sign that the attack was already being depicted as sectarian.
Gunfire was reported around the mosque last night, which may have been linked to the change of guards.
Attacks on Shiite holy sites have increased in the last two months and tensions in Samarra have also risen recently.
The attack in 2006 ravaged the mosque’s dome, which had been the defining feature of the shrine.
Before that attack, more than a million Shiites streamed into the mosque each year, visiting the graves of the 10th and 11th Imams. They also came to honor Muhammad al-Mahdi, who became the 12th Imam when he was only 5 years old, in A.D. 872.
Shiites believe that it was at the shrine that the Mahdi was put into a state of divine hiddenness by God to protect his life. Shiites believe that the Mahdi will return at the end of days, at a time of chaos and destruction, to deliver perfect justice.

John F. Burns and Damien Cave contributed reporting from Baghdad. Employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from elsewhere in Iraq.


04 June 2007

Crown of Thorns [Rings of Stones]

Rings of Stones continue our "Crown of Thorns" motif of vulvic circles of phallic points- [photo credits follow]

From Aubrey Burl's Preface, 1979- "In the years when Egypt was young, long before the pyramids, at time when the earliest forms of writing and numbering were being developed in the Near East and when pathless forests and swamps obscured most of Western Europe, at this time a group of people in the British Isles, somewhere, built a stone circle. Its very simplicity hinders our understanding of it. Upright stones as tall as a man around a space a person could stroll across in half a minute, a few bits of human bone, patches of charcoal, these are all that remain of a place that people struggled to build many years ago." -page 46, "It can be seen that the sacred circle, whether of earth or of stones [or of wooden posts - see next], had a long tradition behind it in prehistoric Britain, linked to cults in which human bones were used in rites so powerful that there had to be a barrier between them and the ordinary world of the living." -page 49 "At many megalithic rings. . .the circles had been found to stand on sites of earlier settings of posts, At the Sanctuary in Witshire four consecutive timber rings may have been put up and rotted before the concentric circles of stones were raised around 2300BC. Elsewhere in England other wooden rings have been discovered, at Woodhenge, at Arminghall and at Bleasdale. Others lie undiscovered, their postholes invisible beneath the grass." Citation: Aubrey Burl, Rings of Stone, Lincoln Publishers, 1979 isbn 0899190006 RINGS OF STONE

Which leads us to speculate, that in addition to the extremely necessary "rings of stones" by Tiffany for a mere $13,000usd, above right, popular culture still requires circles of vertical posts as a barrier between the dead and the living - new(er) and old(er) below.

Photos: left/top - Calanais, Isle of Lewis, Scotland by Chameleon; left/bottom - Swinside, Cumbria, England by Richard Mudhar; middle/top - Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England by Nick White and drawing by English Heritage. Right above - "Celebration" diamond rings by Tiffany NYC. Second photo: cemeteries in Riverside, Californa and Silver Plume, Colorado by author.


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