THINGS FEMALE Benjamin Walker - edited and adapted by Gilgongo! Birth The biologist Lyall Watson says 'the journey down the four-inch birth canal is probably the most dangerous we ever take.' It has been said that for some weeks before birth the foetus is aware of the catastrophic nature of its forthcoming experience. Occasionally its fear is expressed vocally. Cases have been recorded of children crying out while still in the womb. This cry, called the vagitus uterinus, 'uterine cry,' may sound like a whimper, or like a bleat, a howl or yelp. People who have heard it describe the experience as unforgettable, and one of the most eerie imaginable. It is entirely different from the first normal cry the baby makes after birth. New-born children have commonly been regarded as unclean creatures. The Mahabharata says, 'Man is born out of lust, engendered by blood and semen, and emerges mixed with excrement and water.' St Augustine wrote 'Inter faeces et urinam nascimur' (We are born between excrement and urine.) Many mammals eat the placenta after the birth of their young, and it is believed that in earlier times humans always did the same thing. Until a century ago many chemist shops in Europe dispensed dried human placenta as a regular item. In modern medicine, placentas are processed into gamma globulin, a life-saving protein that increases the level of antibodies when injected. The Philippines export about 230,000 placentas every year to the USA for this purpose. Breasts Breasts have a prolific symbolism. The association patterns built up in the infant's mind with the maternal bosom are regarded by many psychologists as the origin of a wide range of cultural and social activities, and have been attributed to the development of sculpture and the plastic arts. In Christian Europe, exposure of the breasts followed the vagaries of fashion, although it was always opposed by the church. Tudor women wore bodices which displayed the nipples, a fashion that returned in the eighteenth century. Revealed breasts were also a sign of virginity, and Queen Elizabeth I, 'The Virgin Queen,' often wore gowns that exposed her breasts for reasons of state. Not uncommon in medical annals are cases of women having more than two breasts (polymastia), more than two nipples (polythelia), or false nipples situated outside the area of the bosom (hyperthelia or pseudothelia). Anne Bolyn, second wife of Henry VIII, was multibreasted. Menstruation In earlier times woman's periodical association with dark and evil-smelling blood, exuded from the innermost recesses of her person, made her a symbol of psychic pollution. It has been said that the reason why the adjective 'bloody' is regarded as indecent is because of their implied association with menstrual blood. It has been suggested that the segregation of menstruating females in a special area reserved for them, a practice common in many societies, was the foundation of all taboos and initiation rites. Here girls were taught the secrets of the feminine functions, fertility rituals, the rules of sexual intercourse, ways of preventing conception and love-magic, including the use of herbs and poisons. This secrecy surrounding menstruation may have aroused sex-envy in the male and caused him to adopt his own 'mysteries' in imitation of these exclusive female rites. Virginity In folk etymology the word virgin comes from vir (Latin. 'man') and gyne (Greek. 'woman'), a man-woman or androgyne, a complete person. A virgin has the whole potential of the total original human being. The true virgin is unique, and can be recognised by her behaviour, her voice, her walk, her looks, the shape of her breasts, her urine, her smell and various other characteristics. The act of taking the virginity of a girl is known as defloration. For the girl it is the end of maidenhood and the beginning of womanhood; the transition from 'maidenflower to fruit-mother.' Some occultists also believe that at the moment of defloration a powerful impulse of psychic energy is released. To the black magician, a virgin represents an untapped source of occult energy, and in one secret sex rite he deflowers a girl, and uses the spark that flashes forth to empower his magical operation. Thereafter she is of no more use to him than the husk of a shelled peanut. Yeah. Vulva The word vulva has a root meaning signifying a revolving and circular motion, and in occultism the vulva is conceived of as a talismanic vortex, a whirling life force that concentrates a fiery essence. Hence the once common practice of baubism, or the exposure by women of their genitalia. The sex organs are invested with a deep occult significance, and in different peoples, depending on their religious beliefs, the pictorial, sculptural or symbolical representations of the vulva may inspire awe, fear, horror, or be a symbol of good luck and divine beneficence. Quite frequently during intromission of the penis, the vagina seems to receive and draw the organ with a kind of pulling motion; the muscles contract in forceful spasms and give the impression of sucking in the phallus. This process, called invagination, may have contributed to the deep-seated fear that some men have of the opposite sex and sexual intercourse. This is manifest in the curious belief in the vagina dentata or 'toothed vulva.' The early Jews spoke of the vagina as beth shenayim, 'the toothed place,' and stressed the need for vigilance while entering. The fear that a girl might obtain satisfaction by herself before marriage, and, after marriage, by someone other than her lawful husband, has also led to considerable tampering with the vulva in many parts of the world. The chastity of daughters and wives was maintained, and the honour of families protected by occlusion (closure) of the vulva by various means such as infibulation (stitching), or by clitoridectomy (excision of the clitoris), circumcision (excision of the labia) and the chastity belt. Womb Classically, the womb was regarded as an independent organism, a kind of animal within the female body hungry to bear children. The Book of Proverbs speaks of the grave and the womb being equally insatiable. Plato in his Timaeus wrote that the womb was a creature longing to be fertilised. If unfruitful for long it became restless and angry and left its proper place and wandered about the body, closing the passages for air, stopping respiration and causing anxiety, feelings of dread and other symptoms of illness. Hysteria (from the Greek hystera, meaning 'womb') was long thought to be caused by the womb tearing itself loose from its anchorage and wandering in the female body. In Bavaria, the hungry uterus was offered small round morsels made of cat's grease, honey, nutmeg and other ingredients. It was believed that while the woman slept, the womb-creature would emerge from the woman's mouth and partake of the fare and be appeased. In modern societies, "pre-menstrual syndrome" is a medically recognised condition that has also recently been accepted as a legitimate legal defence in a number of court cases in the US and Europe. THINGS MALE BEARD Regarded by the ancients of the Middle East as a token of wisdom and a sign of power. So much so that even Great Godesses of the early Mediterranean cultures were depicted with beards, including a number of Bearded Venuses in Greece. The Jews were enjoined 'not to mar the corners of the beard' (Lev. 19:27) suggesting that the bearded was to be allowed to grow untouched. Mohammed, who was bearded himself, charged his followers: 'Do the opposite of the polytheists, and let your beard grow long.' In the reign of Elizabeth I, there was a tax on beards in England, which was levied according to the age and status of the person concerned. When Peter the Great decided to reform Russia and bring it into line with Western Europe, he put a tax on beards, and personally removed the beards of anyone he came across. It has been argued that the beard must require a considerable amount of male energy to help its growth. But when the beard is full grown, the energy normally diverted to grow it becomes available for virile purposes. The beard should therefore never be cut by anyone who wishes to preserve his manhood unimpaired. ERECTION In many early societies the phallus was thought to have a separate life, mind and movement. Plato said, 'In men the nature of the genital organs is disobedient and self-willed, like a creature that is deaf to reason, and it attempts to dominate all because of its frenzied lusts.' Even St Paul wrote, 'I see a another law in my members, warring against the law in my mind.' It was the devil and his minions who controlled the penis. Leonardo da Vinci, however, wrote in one of his notebooks of the unruly member: "Sometimes it starts to move without permission of the man, whether he is sleeping or waking. Often the man is asleep and it is awake; and many time the man is awake and it is asleep. Frequently the man wishes it to act and it does not desire to do so; many times it wishes to act and the man is compelled to forbid. It seems therefore that this creature has a life and intelligence separate from man. Man is therefore wrong in being ashamed to give it a name or to exhibit it, seeking constantly to conceal what he ought to adorn and display with ceremony as a ministrant." It has been observed that as a rule in the case of holy men no amount of excitement stimulates erection. Modern observation suggests that this state of apathy is brought about by the habitual use of weights which are tied to the organ and soon render it permanently flaccid. FORESKIN In many places the foreskin, or prepuce, is regarded as a source of defilement, and it is said that the devil hides under it, perhaps an allusion to the smegma, the evil-smelling secretion that quickly forms under it, or to the fact that it is the crown of the penis head, which is the domain of evil powers. The Yiddish word schmuk, now most often used as a term of abuse in North America, means a circumcised foreskin. Circumcision is practised in many societies either at birth, or at the onset of puberty as part of a rite of passage into manhood. In some places the prepuce is regarded as being intimately connected with the person to whom it belonged, and has to be carefully preserved, hidden or destroyed. Some men are born without a foreskin, the condition known as aposthia, although this has no ill effects. The prophet Mohammed, according to popular tradition, was born circumcised, that is, he lacked a foreskin. PENIS The human penis is quite small compared with the dimensions of other animals in proportion to their size, although the preoccupation of Western males with the dimensions of their organ seems to be a modern phenomenon. The psychoanalyst, Phyllis Greenacre, uses the term 'penis awe' to describe the feelings certain people get from the sight of a penis. Some have even described it as being surrounded by a halo. Sex-worship at various times has centred on the phallus and phallic objects, manifesting itself in tree-worship, pole-worship, snake-worship and so on. Although the vulva had received homage, it is primarily the penis, the erect phallus, that has been the special object of devotion. J M Allegro has advanced a modern theory of the identity of Jesus Christ which traces him to the personification of a phallic mushroom. The penis was regarded in medieval Europe as the devil's organ, and the devil and his demon company who attended the sabbat had enormous phalluses, rough and scaly, often bifurcated so as to penetrate both vagina and anus the same time. Witches had the power to deprive men of their penises, which they used to collect in great numbers and secrete them in the nests of birds or shut them in boxes where they would move about like living things and would be fed on oats and corn. The existence of such 'treasuries' is mentioned in the Malleus Maleficarum and other writings on witchcraft. Because it was an organ of procreation, a source of intense pleasure, and thought to have life of its own, the penis has been accorded great reverence. The practice of penis-kissing, for instance, is of very ancient origin. In early societies, kissing the penis of a chief was said to cure disease and bring strength. Barren women were especially helped if they kissed the fecund organ of a male. The priests of Canara (India) at certain times go naked down the streets ringing bells so that women can perform the religious duty of kissing their sacred member. If during the operation the penis ejects, the mouth is applied and the life-bearing fluid is sipped. SEMEN The composition of semen, and how it comes into existence, was a question that greatly exercised the ancients. Egyptian, Talmudic and Tibetan theories describe semen as being produced through various stages of the digestion of food. The Englishman Robert Fludd wrote that semen had a twofold character, an external, visible substance and an invisible, flame-like presence descending from above. Since semen was produced as a result of 'burning' passion and 'raging' lust, the word for burning was sometimes used for the seed and seminal fluid, like the English word spunk, which signifies a spark or flame. This idea of the thermic properties of semen is common, and in the rite of tummo Tibetan adepts have developed special techniques by which the gross sperm-energy can be used to generate internal bodily heat and other physical powers. The expenditure of semen was sometimes regarded as a good thing, and sometimes as a great evil. The Catalonian physician, Arnold of Villanova, recommended the daily ejection of semen either manually or in intercourse. The phenomenon of nocturnal emission is one of the great male taboos, and men have often been instructed to release 'excess' semen in their waking hours in order to prevent this embarrassing occurrence. On the other hand, there were many who valued the semen as a magical and life-giving fluid to be preserved at all costs. This has led to the practice of encratism, or sexual restraint, with the object of developing spiritual and psychic power. All the great spiritual leaders at the critical period of their careers were celibates. They were thus overflowing with psychic energy which they were able to utilise. TESTICLES The testes are the ultimate badge of a man's virility and the test of his worth as a male. Hence the possession of a penis, but especially of the testicles, was an essential prerequisite for the priesthood in many religions. No pope could be elected to the papal office who lacked testicles, and his eligibility was accordingly tested in the specially built Porphyry Chair, a model of which can be seen in the Louvre, in Paris. The Pope, it is said, would sit on the horseshoe-shaped seat and a cardinal, after checking by manual examination, would proclaim 'Testiculos habet et bene pendentes' (He has testicles and they hang well).