Monday, July 18, 2011
Gods and Penises
by Fred Zackel
Does your god have a penis?
No, really. Yes, I am going somewhere with this train of thought. See, for example, if Jesus was married, then He had to use His penis, or He really wasn’t married, was He? Oh. You don’t like the image in your imagination. Geez, you got a naughty mind.
A question of morality, you say? If we think it’s disgusting, then we mean it’s immoral. A good working definition right out of Evolutionary Psychology for a world of relativism.
Think of Osiris. In one version, he got chopped piece by piece by his enemy Set, who scattered the god’s pieces everywhere on the planet. Isis, who was Osiris’s sister and wife, scrambled around on all fours and found all the pieces of Osiris, save one. You guessed it. Her spouse’s penis. Think about it: Isis, the goddess of fertility with an impotent husband. Sheesh. That is the very definition of irony, right?
(I have noticed the God of Irony always seems to trump the God of Justice. I always wondered: Was Oedipus alive just to entertain the gods?)
I bring up Isis because wives are linked to their husbands’ penises; she cannot be his wife if he has no penis, right? Well, conventional wisdom says.
The Greek god Dionysus is a sort of variation on the Osiris theme. He got ripped to pieces, too, and once he got recombined, he too was missing his penis. So there is precedence here. And what can you say about him that everybody doesn’t already know? That he is the other side of the coin to the sun god Apollo? That he represents Wine, Theatre, Madness, Irrationality, Animalism, Debauchery, Bestiality …? Well, I suppose we can say that the Greeks borrowed him from the Egyptian pantheon, proving we humans are adaptive creators because, yes, we create our Divines according to our own situational needs and wants.
So the gods we create must have a penis like ours, right?
Moving along, the divine Uranus is flat-out boring. Important only because he was the first of the gods, and his son Cronus (or Cronos) sliced and diced him, which is how sons often assume their fathers’ thrones. I suppose the penis is equivalent to the crown or the throne or the scepter or …
OTOH, the Furies had an interesting genesis. When the titan Cronos castrated his own father Ouranos (or Uranus) and threw the bloody package into the Mediterranean, well, the Furies emerged from the drops of blood from the severed dingus. Mutilating your old man’s crotch was not righteous, we all seem to agree, so the Furies pop up in mythology whenever some event is horrible … and not righteous … and they actively demand blood revenge.
An eye for an eye, or a dingus for a dingus, or …
As a sidebar, Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was born when Uranus got castrated by his son Cronus, who pitched his severed genitals into the sea. "Aphros" means “sea foam” (more like “sea milk”) in Greek, and thus the snickering ancient Greeks claimed that the erotic goddess of love and beauty arose from the churning surf off the coast of Cyprus. No, I will not tell you what “sea foam from Poseidon” they were snickering about. The children might be listening.
(Shsshh. Aphrodite was also Yahweh’s girlfriend. But I’ll tell you more later.)
BTW, in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400 BCE) when the city of Ugarit flourished, Cyprus was the main exporter of copper, the base of Ugarit's economy. Ugarit's favorite goddess, “Lady Asherah of the Sea” aka “She who walks upon the sea,” stepped off a boat in Cyprus, strode magnificently, if nakedly, through the milky sea foam, and over time and crossing various cultures became Aphrodite. Just ask Sandro Botticelli. Or Kurt Vonnegut, Junior. Or Thomas Pynchon. Don’t ask me what the sea shell represents. Kids might be reading this book.(I blame the teachers for corrupting our youth. We should make them chug poison.)
“The Castration of Uranus” is one of greatest works of the Renaissance (co-created by Giorgio Vasari and Gherardi Christofano.) It is a very violent, vivid and lucid depiction. It seems to roam the dual arena of hard-boiled and noir. A great painting, of course. (But what’s with the woman off to the right watching and tweaking both of her own nipples?)
The title of the painting has an alternative translation from the Italian: “The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn.” And those two graphic titles say a lot about what we humans actually want to do to our Divines. Could be we subconsciously want to get back at God for what He demanded from Abraham, for example?
(Yahweh wants us to do what to our penis? Yikes!)
When Osiris got reassembled, his penis became the problem child.
That image makes metaphorical sense. The penis is like the Prodigal Child, wayward, restless, squandering its inheritance, and inevitably it returns home with its tail between its legs, fully expecting to get a whupping for what it’s done on its night on the town. (Ask any politician. Well, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.)
That’s when it’s been a (relative) good boy, of course. Consider the penis when it’s been bad (or worse, when it’s wicked and evil.) Oh, the rage. Oh, the lust. Oh, the shame. The penis should hang its head in shame. I mean, really, can we even talk about the penis without mentioning shame? I don’t think so. Which leads us to the silly side of the Divine Penis.
Well, yes, of course, the penis is a silly cosmic force. After all the ‘lil prick has a mind of its own. Instinctually men understand this. Or at least proclaim it. On the other hand, when women hear that, they groan and roll their eyes over the vanity and silliness of men. The Pride of Man always challenges the Gods, if you ask the guys. Women just think it's male ego barking at the moon. Because men cannot sustain the argument that God wills the penis to be erect. But it is of the Divine. Therefore, men point out, "the devil made me do it."
Some gods, once imagined, lingered just for the dangerous fun of giggling over them. In short, find a need and then get a chuckle as a sidebar. Priapus served the ancient Romans as a scarecrow in the gardens, his long red rod pointing straight outward and onward to scare off the birds and thieves. Yes, he was grotesque. But then the Roman males were heavily into bawdy irony. Let us laugh and slap a leg about poor Priapus’ discomfort when a jackdaw roosts. Satyrs were half-men and half-goats; they too were for comic relief.
We all know males who act like that. Comic relief, right. (Like some recent Congressmen.)
The Romans had a bawdy sense of humor about the penis. That’s one reason they loathed the Jews, who in piety mutilated theirs as a symbol of their covenant with their Divine Yahweh. Yes, anti-Semitism does begin at the penis. Circumcision, when it’s misunderstood or practiced religiously by strange desert peoples, is frighteningly barbaric to those cosmopolitans who revere urbanity.
Fifteen centuries later Michelangelo sculpted David … the first great King of the Jews … and left him uncircumcised. Should we believe the thought never crossed his mind? Or was M. making a religious criticism?
So we don’t like thinking about Osiris’s penis. Or anybody’s penis, really. Too many sharp edges in that bag of knives. Sticking our hands into that dark realm means they’re coming back bloody. Like thinking about our parents having wild and crazy sex. Only worse ‘cause it’s us imagining the Divine’s Penis.
By the way, if you ever get back in the basements and warehouses of our Western museums, you will notice that many, if not most, of our ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman statues of male divines are missing their … cosmic members. Seems that Christians and / or Muslims deliberately and consciously lobbed off the divine members – to slice away at their powers.
By the way, would you eat Oxyrhynchus? In a different version of the Osiris myth that the one mentioned above, he’s the little “sharp-nosed” fishy (i.e., the sturgeon) who ate Osiris’ penis after it got hacked off by his maniac brother Horus. Depending upon where you lived along the Nile, the fishy got eaten because it had eaten the god’s penis or because it wasn’t eaten because eating a divine penis would be sacrilegious. Not surprising, the oxyrhynchus fish is never seen in funeral art for the Egyptians. They figure it was…well… bad taste.
OTOH, does your god have a vagina?
Why? Is that important somehow? What’s wrong with asking? We have God the Father and God the Son. Where is God the Mother? God the Daughter? God the Sister? Where is “the Sacred Feminine” in our Judeo-Christian-Islamic Divine? Half the population of our world insists that the Divine has a gender, a word applicable solely in our limited reality. Why are the Pulpit Bullies so anal?
Pope John Paul I, whose real name was Albino Luciani, was born 17 October 1912 and died on 28 September 1978, having spent about a month as Pope. Some say he was murdered.
Anyways, he was reported in the press that we should see God not only as Father, but also as Mother. This remark reinforced the image of a pastoral pope.
He died too soon. I wonder what he could have changed. I wonder if he got whacked for saying God the Mother. We kill heretics, don’t we?
Speaking of Jesus H. Christ …
Yes, it does sound like something naughty Robin might have said to a leering Batman back in the 1960s television shows. No, I’m not being blasphemous, either. Because Jesus was a Jew, so the story goes, He had to be circumcised shortly after birth. (Check your crucifixes.) Eight days later, in fact. And when He ascended into Heaven, He left a few of His Favorite Things behind.
And some of His Favorite Things we might think there was only one of, turns out there were lots of. In fact, there may have been as many as eighteen (yes, 18) foreskins (or prepuces) as relics in medieval European churches.
Eighteen foreskins. Wow, was He ... ! (Better than a three-headed dog. Or the three Holy Heads of John the Baptist that still survive in churches and mosques.)
His foreskin was all He left behind. Not counting any cut hair, spilled blood, sweat and tears, fingernail and toenail clippings, dandruff, and well … sacred coprolite. (Somebody must be selling it on Ebay.)
Charlemagne gave his relic to Pope Leo III who had crowned him the Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. (Might have been a pay-off.) One story claims he got it directly from an angel of god at Aix-la-Chapelle, while another said he got it from the Empress Irene of Byzantium. Another foreskin was bought during the First Crusade. (I hope King Baldwin I of Jerusalem got a good deal on it.) About five hundred years ago Pope Clement VII promised to forgive ten years of a person’s punishment in the Afterlife just for making a pilgrimage to another foreskin in the 11th century abbey of Charroux. A fourth, by the way, was stolen in 1983 from a jewel encrusted box in the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Calcata, Italy, north of Rome. A fifth may have been sent to King Henry V of England in 1421 so that his wife Catherine of Valois could smell the “sweet smell” of the foreskin and thus have an easy childbirth. (Some guys, geez!) Perhaps a sixth might have been carried off in the Sack of Rome in 1527, but I might have gotten confused; there were so many foreskins loose.
I also keep hearing that Saint Catherine of Sienna (one of my favorite saintly whack jobs) said that Jesus wrapped his foreskin around her third finger left hand when they were “married.” Their “wedding ring,” I suppose. She was a very strange woman, by the way. People at that time thought so, too.
In Latin, the language of the Church, it was called the præputium or prepucium. In Italian, its name is “Il Santissimo Prepuzio.” In English: "The Holy Foreskin." Not only did the Blessed Virgin Mary have the prescience to save it for posterity … she knew how to preserve it. (No, don’t imagine its condition after several centuries of preservation.)
And the Holy Foreskin is miraculous, too. Rubbing the sacred foreskin against a blind man’s eyes heals him! Healing a blind man, that’s what I figure the thieves in Calcata, Italy, stole it for. OTOH, I’m not sure a blind man wants his eyes rubbed with some ancient gnarly ol’ foreskin. (I told you not to imagine it.)
Curiously enough, the day of Jesus’ circumcising was January 1st. Well, it is exactly seven days after Christmas. Someday I must do research to see if the 1st of January was named the 1st because a boy child’s life begins when he is circumcised.
Now the Church celebrated the Holy Foreskin for eleven centuries, but around La Belle Époque (that is, 1900) the whole story had such a sleazy feel to it, that the Church officially shut down all festivities and said anybody who speaks or writes about the Holy Foreskin would be excommunicated. A half-century later the penalty was hoisted higher: excommunication with serious circumstances (or something equivalent.) Around 1960 the Feast got wiped off the Catholic calendar.
Every single one of the Holy Foreskins has disappeared, by the way. The signs point to the Vogons from the Vatican surreptitiously having snatched them all up in the dead of night. Having both read the book and seen the movie, I believe that Opus Dei and an albino monk pulled off the heists and then hushed it up. (Was that Holy Foreskin the Lost Symbol Dan Brown is always chasing?)
If we get any of those 18 foreskins back, in a few years we can clone the Christ.
Wouldn’t that be Divine? And wouldn’t that be a great movie?
Wha? What did I say?
If you think I am being outré, in one of the Left Behind novels, or maybe one of The Jesus Chronicles, Jesus slaps a biting insect on his neck and then resurrects it. He just can’t stop being Himself, eh? And you’re worried about Him having a penis? Sheesh.
Or was this story just Imagination running off at the mouth?
Does your god have a vagina?
Then she is a goddess.
Posted by Frederick William Zackel at 12:30 AM | Permalink