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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

While researching the famous medieval treatise on witches, Malleus Maleficarum, I stumbled upon a particularly amusing passage. The passage is concerned with a nest of disembodied penises, taken from their owners by witches. The citation comes from from chapter VII and bears the title "How, as it were, they Deprive Man of his Virile Member":

"And what then is to be thought of those witches who in this way sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members, and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report?
For a certain man tells us that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take which he liked out of a nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take a big one, the witch said : You must not take that one; adding, because it belonged to a parish priest."--tr. Montague Summers[1][2]

While searching for an appropriate image to illustrate this fine passage, I hesitated between Louise Bourgeois's Cumul I and the image on the cover of Medieval Obscenities (but I have previously[3] featured it so, no). I finally settled on "Nude woman holding a bird and uncovering a basket full of phalluses decorated with eyes"[4] (see above), taken from The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (New York: Harper & Row, 1985) by Eva Keuls.

There are more examples of phallic humor on vase-paintings from that book here [5].

The "nest of penises" will one day make its way in the chapter on disembodied genitalia in the book Metamorphic Genitalia and Fantastical Sexual Images. Until that day, enjoy it here.

P.S. If you are really interested in this kind of imagery, a must-read is The flying phallus and the laughing inquisitor: penis theft in the Malleus Maleficarum by American scholar Moira Smith.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jahsonic/A basket full of phalluses" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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