phallic worship

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phallic worship

phallic worship (fălˈĭk), worship of the reproductive powers of nature as symbolized by the male generative organ. Phallic symbols have been found by archaeological expeditions all over the world, and they are usually interpreted as an expression of the human desire for regeneration. Phallic worship in ancient Greece centered around Priapus (the son of Aphrodite) and the Orphic and Dionysiac cults. In Rome, the most important form of phallic worship was that of the cult of Cybele and Attis; prominent during the empire, this cult was notorious for its festive excesses and its yearly “Day of Blood,” during which the frenzied participants wounded themselves with knives; self-inflicted castration, a prerequisite for admittance into the priest caste of this phallic cult, took place during the festival. In India, the deity Shiva was often represented by and worshiped as a phallic symbol called the lingam. Phallic worship has also been practiced among the Egyptians in the worship of Osiris; among the Japanese, who incorporated it into Shinto; and among the Native Americans, such as the Mandan, who had a phallic buffalo dance. See also fertility rites.


See C. G. Berger, Our Phallic Heritage (1966); T. Vanggaard, Phallos (1972).

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Phallic Worship

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The term phallism, although specifically referring to worship of the male sex organ or phallus, is frequently used in reference to any sex worship or reverence. Phallus and kteis, or lingam and yoni, are the terms most often used for the male and female generative organs. In ethnology and folklore, the term phallism is restricted to beliefs and practices associated with magic and religion.

The start of the spring rites of Dionysus were signaled by a procession into the fields. This was led by a maiden carrying a phallus. She was followed by the farmer and his wife and daughters. Dionysus was the Greek god of vegetation. Similarly, Osiris was the ancient Egyptian god of vegetation, and his rituals included processions in which his effigy was carried by women. The image of Osiris was adorned with an overly large phallus, according to Herodotus, the fifth century Greek historian. The sex organs, both male and female (see Sheela-na-gig), were frequently modeled in disproportionate size to stress their power and importance.

Benjamin Walker says that the powers of reproduction were thought to be among the fundamental potencies of the universe. The largely Christian feeling that the sex organs are "dirty" has not been shared by most of the world's population. Evidence of phallism has been found in prehistoric cave art; paintings and carvings show that, as early humankind was surrounded by the vagaries of nature, people developed an increasing awareness of the need to ensure the fertility of humans, livestock, and crops. Many Egyptian temples bear murals that include phallic representation.

Phallism is found throughout India and much of China and Japan. Ireland, Africa, ancient Rome, and Greece were all places where divinities associated with sexuality were recognized and honored.

In Witchcraft, the ends of the handles of broomsticks, pitchforks, and riding poles were frequently carved to represent a phallus. These were ridden, like hobbyhorses, between the legs for rites associated with bringing fertility to the fields. In some modern traditions of Wicca, a phallic wand is used in the rites. This may be carved like a penis or tipped with a pine cone to represent the organ of fertility.

There was much more reference to the phallus and to phallic symbolism in the Christian Bible in its original forms, before later censorship. Typical, perhaps, is the Old Testament reference to making an oath, made by Abraham when addressing Eliezer: "Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh and I will make thee swear by the Lord. . . ." The thigh was the generic term for the organ of creation. It was common to place a hand over the genitals, as a sacred object, when swearing an oath. Words like "loins" and "rock" became euphemisms for the phallus, while "knowledge" meant sexual intercourse. Goldberg points out the sanctity of the Holy Prepuce, the foreskin of Jesus. Although there were claimed to be twelve such prepuces scattered about churches throughout Europe, the one at the Abbey Church of Coulomb, Chartres, France, was believed to posses the power of making sterile women fruitful—another example of paganism in Christianity.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Knight's belief in the perfection of ancient Greek morality and taste, until corrupted by the pernicious influence of Christianity, lay behind his Discourse on the Worship of Priapus (1786), an extraordinary study of the survival of phallic worship in the contemporary Catholic church.
It comprised a multilingual dream sequence in pagan terms, not disdaining verbal and pictorial descriptions of dismemberments by Cupid and phallic worship of Pan.