Sunday, October 25, 2015

TFBT: Adonis Too Was Castrated

I assume my readers, if any, are bibliophiles; lovers of books.  If so, I am sure you had this experience.  You end up reading a book that is badly written and has a lame ending. In order to save someone else from getting sucked into this mess, you toss it into the garbage rather recycling or donating it to the library.  Or it ends up being a piece of propaganda full of lies and half truths.  Or it is full of illogic and bad science.  I read one of these books, recently; Walker 1983. I would have tossed it, but I was on a five hour flight. In between the waves of nausea and disgust there were a few interesting if odd insights on Greek mythology.  This is the first in a series of blogs investigating these possible gems in the rubbish.

"Adonis too was castrated: gored in the groin by Aphrodite's boar-masked priest.  His severed phallus became his son the  ithyphallic god Priapus...Priapus carried a pruning knife in token of (Adonis') necessary castration before new life could appear on earth.  Castrating the god was likened to reaping the grain which Adonis personified.  His rebirth was a sprouting from the womb of the Earth."  

So, if I can translate this a bit. The “boar-masked priest” is usually described as Aphrodite’s jealous lover, the god of War; Ares (Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 1)  Only one source describes Priapus the god of lust, as the son of Adonis.  Occasionally he carries a sickle, (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.)  The author goes on to suggest that other heroes are sacrificial fertility figures, like Ancaeus of Arcadia, and the Trojan Prince Anchises.

Ovid, in Metamorphosis 8.391 reports that during the Calydonian boar hunt;

“Ancaeus wielding his war-axe, and rushing madly to his fate, exclaimed, “Witness it! See the weapons of a man excel a woman's! Ho, make way for my achievement! Let Diana shield the brute! Despite her utmost effort my right hand shall slaughter him!” So mighty in his boast he puffed himself; and, lifting with both hands his double-edged axe, he stood erect, on tiptoe fiercely bold. The savage boar caught him, and ripped his tusks through his groin, a spot where death is sure.—Ancaeus fell; and his torn entrails and his crimson blood stained the fair verdure of the spot with death.”

In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite the Trojan Prince Anchises fears a fate similar to Adonis.  Awakening with the goddess in his bed, says to his lover,  Yet by Zeus who holds the aegis I beseech you, leave me not to lead a palsied life among men, but have pity on me; for he who lies with a deathless goddess is no hale man afterwards.”

Apollonius Rhodius ARGONAUTICA 2.815 “And here his destined fate smote Idmon, son of Abas, skilled in soothsaying; but not at all did his soothsaying save him, for necessity drew him on to death. For in the mead of the reedy river there lay, cooling his flanks and huge belly in the mud, a white-tusked boar, a deadly monster, whom even the nymphs of the marsh dreaded, and no man knew it; but all alone he was feeding in the wide fell. But the son of Abas was passing along the raised banks of the muddy river, and the boar from some unseen lair leapt out of the reed-bed, and charging gashed his thigh.”

Apollodorus. The Library 1.9.12 “Phylacus marveled, and perceiving that he was an excellent soothsayer, he released him and invited him to say how his son Iphiclus might get children…And having sacrificed two bulls and cut them in pieces he summoned the birds; and when a vulture came, he learned from it that once, when Phylacus was gelding rams, he laid down the knife, still bloody, beside Iphiclus, and that when the child was frightened and ran away.”

Hesiod Theogony 176 “And Heaven (Uranus) came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Earth spreading himself full upon her. Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members”

Aaron Atsma observes; “There is also a vase painting depicting Khrysaor's son Geryon holding a shield emblazoned with the emblem of a winged boar--a likely representation of Khrysaor considering his boar-tusked, winged mother Medusa”  Various sources explain the name Chrysaor as meaning “golden aor”, “golden sword”, “golden falchion” or “golden sickle” 

 So in summary; Adonis castrated by the tusks of an apparent boar.  A boar “ripped his tusks through (Ancaeus’) groin.”  Prince Anchises fears a similar fate.  “…the boar from some unseen lair leapt out of the reed-bed, and charging gashed (Idmon’s) thigh.”  Iphiclus was psychologically castrated by watching his father wield a knife while castrating rams.  Uranus was castrated by a sickle.  And finally Chrysaor, the Golden Sickle was born when Perseus cut off his boarish mother’s head with a sickle.  

What that all means, I don’t know.


  1. You apparently hate the book so much that didn't even give its title! (It must be Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.)
    Why did you find it so disgusting: because Walker is pompous and sucks an entire "encyclopedia" out of her thumb, or because she hates men, or because she hates Christianity, or because she is intellectually dishonest (IMHO you cannot invoke a "Goddess" while claiming to be an atheist), or because she doesn't write well?
    My experience shows that it is healthy to avoid texts written specifically for women, especially if they contain "encyclopedia" in their title.

  2. Thank you!

    "He who lies with a deathless goddess is no hale man afterwards."
    It seems that a mortal man liked by a goddess is cursed if he does it, cursed if he doesn't. We know how Aphrodite destroys Hippolytus. However, those who accept her - or another goddess - do not seem to be much better off. Adonis, Tithonus, Endymion; Anchises is actually lucky, compared to the others. Gilgamesh mentions the fate of Adonis (Tammuz) as the reason not to accept the love of Ishtar (Aphrodite).
    What about Peleus? He seems at least functionally castrated. As far as we know, after Thetis leaves him, he never makes sex again.
    BTW, I recently read two almost identical folk tales. In them, a man marries a mermaid under the condition that he will die if he ever betrays her. Later, while he is visiting his kin, they convince him to forget his fairy wife and to remarry. At his second wedding, the mermaid comes on the top of a wave. She reminds him of their pact, and he, accepting his fate, says, "My lips betrayed you but my heart has always belonged only to you." Her wave kills him and then she mourns him.

  3. You once wrote about a shephard who took a nymph as "common-law wife" and ended up blinded.
    Our "favorite" Odysseus is an exception. He is knocked by not one but two goddesses and still gets away with only a decade of lost time. Indeed, he avoids long-term commitment. He is actually dragging to win time until Olympians come to rescue. Much like Shahrazad. I can easily imagine the smooth-tongued liar telling Calypso stories night after night.

  4. Peleus fits the fairy-wife motif perfectly. He Trapped the fairy into marriage but there is always a catch, an oath he must swear Man breaks the promise and the fairy disappears. In Thetis' case it was roadting their son over the fire and basting him with ambrosia. Achilles had a younger sister. So Peleus wasnt that unmanned.

    I will have to think about Odysseus and the fairy tale motif. He does't wuite fit.


  5. I had quite overlooked Achilles' sister, thank you for pointing her out! But I think she was from a previous marriage.