Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs: Three Essays on the Powers of Reproduction
by John Davenport
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Transcriber's note: Old spellings and syntax in the French and English texts have not been corrected except the typos. The letter "m" with a macron have been replaced by "mm" as there is no unicode symbol or symbol combination to display this character satisfactorily. Footnote 224 is referenced twice.


Aphrodisiacs and Anti-Aphrodisiacs:




Ubi stimulus, ibi fluxus.—HIPPOCRATES.



The reproductive powers of Nature were regarded by the nations of remote antiquity with an awe and reverence so great, as to form an object of worship, under a symbol, of all others the most significant,—the Phallus; and thus was founded a religion, of which the traces exist to this day, not in Asia only, but even in Europe itself.

That scarcely any notices of this worship should appear in modern works, except in the erudite pages of a few antiquarians may be accounted for by considering the difference of opinion between the ancients and the moderns as to what constitutes—modesty; the former being unable to see any moral turpitude in actions they regarded was the designs of nature, while the latter, by their over-strained notions of delicacy, render themselves, in some degree at least, obnoxious to the charge that, in proportion as manners becomes corrupt, language becomes more guarded,—modesty, when banished from the heart, taking refuge on the lips.

To supply, to some extent, this lacuna in our popular literature has been the object of the present work, in which, it is hoped, may be found much curious and interesting physiological information, interspersed with recherché and festivous anecdotes.

The text is illustrated by a few plates, drawn from antiquarian sources.

J. D.


NOTE.—As it was found impossible always to insert the illustrations opposite the explanatory text, the following List will assist the reader to those pages which explain the objects represented:—

Plate Described on page

FRONTISPIECE, INSCRIBED VOTIVE COLUMNS Facing title Of small size and of great antiquity; in use amongst the Oscan people, who were finally subjugated by the Sabines.

I. Figure 1, EGYPTIAN PHALLUS 1, 2, 3 From "Recueil d'Antiquités Egyptiennes, &c., par le Comte de Caylus."

" 2, DO., different view 1, 2, 3

" 3, Two views of a double figure 1, 2, 3

" 4, ROMAN PRIAPUS over a baker's door at Pompeii 11 From "Musée secret de Naples."

II. Figure 1, LINGHAM 1, 2, 3

From M. Sonnerat's "Voyage aux Indes Orientales."

" 2, PAN'S HEAD 9, 10

From the Collection of Antiquities at Pompeii, vide "Musée secret de Naples."

III. Figure 1, LEADEN PHALLUS 5 From the "Forgeais Collection of Plombs Historiques."

" 2, DITTO, a different view 5

" 3, DITTO ditto 5

" 4, DITTO ditto 5

IV. Figure 1, ROUND TOWER 5, 6, 7 From O'Brien's "History of the Round Towers of Ireland."

" 2, THREE-HEADED OSIRIS 7, 8, 9 From the Comte de Caylus' "Recueil d'Antiquités Egyptiennes," &c.

V. Figure 1, CROSS 12, 13, 14

From Higgin's "Anacalypsis."

" 2, Another example 12, 13, 14 From the same work.

" 3, Another example 12, 13, 14 From the same work.

" 4, Another example 12, 13, 14 From the same work.

VI. Figure 1, EX VOTO, in silver 18, 19, 20 From the British Museum copy of R. Payne Knight's "History of the Worship of Priapus."

" 2, DUDAÏM or MANDRAKE 67, 70, 71, 74

From Dr. Kitto's "Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature."

VII. Figure 1, FIBULA 142, 3 From Holyday's "Juvenal."

" 2, Another example of a different construction 142, 3




Phallic Worship the most ancient and general 1-2

Phallic Worship found to exist in America 2

Indian Trimourti or Trinity 3

Lingham 3

Yoni or Cteis, and Pulleiar 4

Taly, Anecdote of the 4

Leaden Phalli found in the river Rhône 5

Round Towers in Ireland—Phallic temples 6

The May-Pole a relic of phallic worship 6

Phallus held in reverence by the Jews—King David 6

Le prerogativi de' Testicoli (note) 6

An Egyptian Phallic Oath 8

Ancient Welsh Phallic Law 8

London Costermongers' Oath "By my taters" 9

Bembo (Cardinal), his saying (note) 10

Priapus, derivation of the word 10

Priapus, how reverenced by Roman women 10

Priapus, decline of his worship 11

The Cross [Symbol: Tau] known to the Buddhists and the Lama of Thibet 12

Cross (the) regarded by the Ancients as the emblem of fruitfulness 12

Rev. Mr. Maurice quoted 12

The Tau, Crux-Ansata, or triple Phallus 14

Remains of Phallic Worship in Europe 14

Lampsacus, the Birth-place of the deity Priapus (note) 14

Saint Foutin 14

The Phallus of Foutin at Embrun—the holy vinegar 16

Curious Phallic Customs 16-17

Godfrey de Bouillon and the Holy prepuce 18

Il santo-membro 18

Sir W. Hamilton's account of the Worship paid to Saints Cosmo and Damianus 18

Ex votos 18



Impotency, three kinds of, according to the Canon Law 21

Impotency, Causes of, proper to Men 21

Impotency, Causes of, proper to Women 21

Sterility and its Causes 21

Morgagni quoted 21

Clitoris, its length sometimes prevents the sexual union—case quoted by Sir Everard Home 24-25

Columbus, Martial, Haller, Juvenal, and Ariosto quoted 25-26

Impotency, Moral Causes of 28-29

Montaigne's Advice 32

Impotency caused by too great warmth of Clothing—Hunter's Opinion 33

Point-Tying—Voltaire's Pucelle d'Orléans quoted 35

Point-Tying known to the Ancients—instances quoted 37-38

Point-Tying among the Moderns recognised by James I. 40

Counter-Charm to Point-Tying 41

Agreeable Mode of curing such Enchantment 42

Case of Point-Tying related by Venette 43

Montaigne's curious Story 44

Judicial Congress in Cases of alleged Impotency 47

Manner of conducting the Congress 48

Judicial Congress originated with the Church 52

Judicial Congress practised in France during the 16th and 17th Centuries—Forbidden in 1677 52

Boileau quoted 55-56

Cases determined by the Judicial Congress 54-58

Willick, Dr., his Remarks and Advice upon the Sexual Intercourse 58-63



The Mandrake or Dudaïm the most ancient aphrodisiac 66

Rachel and Leah 66

Solomon's Song 67

Pliny the Elder quoted 68

Sappho's love for Phaon accounted for 66

Superstitious ideas respecting the mandrake during the Middle Ages 69

The Knights Templars accused of adoring it 69

Mandrake, Weir's description of it 70

Mandrake under the name of Mandragora used as a charm 70

Macchiavelli's Comedy of La Mandragora and Voltaire's account of it 71

Love potions, Venetian law against them 72

Richard III. accuses Lady Grey of witchcraft 72

Maundrell's account of the Dudaïm 73

Singular Aphrodisiac used by the Amazons 75

Philters, or love potions used by the ancients 75

Hippomanes, wonderful powers of, as an aphrodisiac 79

Recipes for love-potions 80

Fish an aphrodisiac—Hecquet's anecdote 86

Mollusca, truffles and mushrooms used as aphrodisiacal 88

George IV.'s appreciation of truffles (note) 88

Effect of truffles described by a lady 89

Latin epigram on the vices of the monks 90

Naïveté of a monk on the score of adultery 91

Curious Quatrain in the Church of St. Hyacinth 91

Madame Du Barri's secret 93

Do., Do., description of (note) 93

Tablettes de Magnanimité—Poudre de joie—Seraglio Pastilles 94

Musk, Cantharides—effects of the latter 96

Cardinal Dubois' Account of a Love-Potion 98

Caricature upon Dubois (note) 98

Indian Bang 104

Stimulating Powers of Odours 106

Cabanis quoted 107

D'Obsonville quoted 108

Portable Gold—Shakespeare quoted 109-110

Bouchard's Account of Aphrodisiacal Charms 111

Flagellation—Graham's Celestial Bed—Lady Hamilton—Lord Nelson, &c. 121-126

Burton quoted 126


Refrigerants—Recommendation of Plato and Aristotle 128-129

Sir Thos. Brown quoted 130

Origen 130

Camphor an anti-aphrodisiac 134

Coffee an anti-aphrodisiac—Abernethey's saying (note) 137

Infibulation, Holyday quoted 141-144

Bernasco Padlocks 144

Voltaire's poem of the Cadenas 146

Rabelais' anti-aphrodisiacal remedies 147-154



From the investigations and researches of the learned, there appears to be no doubt but that the most ancient of all superstitions was that in which Nature was contemplated chiefly under the attribute or property of fecundity; the symbols of the reproductive power being those under which its prolific potencies were exhibited. It is not because modern fastidiousness affects to consider those symbols as indecent, and even obscene, that we should therefore suppose them to have been so regarded by the ancients: on the contrary, the view of them awakened no impure ideas in the minds of the latter, being regarded by them as the most sacred objects of worship. The ancients, indeed, did not look upon the pleasures of love with the same eye as the moderns do; the tender union of the sexes excited their veneration, because religion appeared to consecrate it, inasmuch as their mythology presented to them all Olympus as more occupied with amatory delights than with the government of the universe.

The reflecting men of those times, more simple, but, it must be confessed, more profound, than those of our own day, could not see any moral turpitude in actions regarded by them as the design of nature, and as the acme of felicity. For this reason it is that we find not only ancient writers expressing themselves freely upon subjects regarded by us as indecent, but even sculptors and painters equally unrestrained in this particular.

The statesman took advantage of these religious impressions: whatever tended to increase population being held in honour. Those images and Priapi so frequently found in the temples of the ancients, and even in their houses, and which we consider as objects of indecent lewdness, were, in their eyes, but so many sacred motives exciting them to propagate their species.

In order to represent by a physical object the reproductive power of the sun in spring-time, as well as the action of that power on all sentient beings, the ancients adopted that symbol of the male gender which the Greeks, who derive it from the Egyptians, called—Phallus.[1] This worship was so general as to have spread itself over a large portion of the habitable globe, for it flourished for many ages in Egypt and Syria, Persia, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy: it was, and still is, in vigour in India and many parts of Africa, and was even found in America on its discovery by the Spaniards. Thus Garcilaso de la Vega informs us[2] that, in the public squares of Panuco (a Mexican town), bas-reliefs were found which, like those of India, represented, in various ways the sexual union; while at Tlascala, another town of that country, the reproductive act was worshipped under the joint symbol of the generative organs, male and female.

A more surprising fact is, that this worship has, as will be shewn hereafter, been perpetuated to a very late date, among the Christians of Europe.

In its origin, the Phallus or emblem of the generative and procreative powers of nature appears to have been of a very simple and inoffensive character—although it was afterwards made subservient to the grossest and most superstitious purposes.

In India this worship is everywhere to be found accompanying the triune God, called by the Hindoos, Trimourti or Trinity, and the significant form of the single obelisk or pillar called the Linga or Lingham;[3] and it should be observed, in justice to the Hindoos that it is some comparative and negative praise to them, that this emblem, under which they express the éléments and operations of nature is not externally indecorous. Unlike the abominable realities of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, we see this Indian phallic emblem in the Hindoo religious exhibitions, without offence, nor know, until information be extorted, that we are contemplating a symbol whose prototype is obscene.[4]

Besides the Lingham, the equally significant Yoni or Cteis is to be seen, being the female organ of generation. It is sometimes single, often in conjunction, for the Indians, believing that the emblem of fecundity might be rendered more energetic by combining the organs of both sexes, did so unite them, giving to this double symbol the name of Pulleiar, confounded by some writers with the Lingham itself. This pulleiar is highly venerated by the sectarian worshippers of Siva (the third god of the Trimourti), who hang it round their neck, as a charm or amulet, or enclosing it in a small box, fasten it upon their arm. The Indians have also a little jewel called taly, worn, in like manner, by females round their necks as a charm. It is presented to them on their wedding day by their husbands, who receive it from the hands of the Brahmins. Upon these jewels is engraved the representation, either of the Lingham or of the Pulleiar. The following anecdote connected with this custom is given by M. Sonnerat.[5]

"A Capuchin missionary had a serious dispute with the Jesuits residing at Pondicherry, which was referred for decision to the judicial courts. The disciples of Loyola, who can be toleration itself when toleration furthers their crafty and ambitious views, had declined all interference with the above custom. M. Tournon, the Pope's legate apostolic, who regarded the matter as one not to be trifled with, and with whom, moreover, the Jesuits were no favourites, strictly prohibited the taly, enjoining all female converts to substitute in its place either a cross or a medal of the Virgin. The Indian women, strongly attached to their ancient customs, refused obedience. The missionaries, apprehensive of losing the fruits of their zealous labours, and seeing the number of their neophytes daily diminishing, entered into a compromise by adopting a mezzo-termine with the females in question, and it was agreed that a Cross should be engraved upon the taly, an arrangement by which the symbol of Christian salvation was coupled with that of the male and female pudenda."

The deep and enthusiastic veneration felt by the Hindoos for this worship is naturally explained by their intense anxiety and desire for having children who might perform those ceremonies to their manes which they firmly and piously believe will have the effect of mitigating their punishment in the world to come. They worship the Lingham, therefore, for the sake of having progeny, and husbands, whose wives are barren, send them to adore that symbol, and, if report be true, the ladies take especial care not to disappoint the wish of their dear spouses.

It is probable that the introduction of this worship is due to the Indians who founded the sect of Siva, imagining, as they no doubt did, that the most effectual means of propagating it would be by presenting their deity under the form of that organ by which the reproduction of the human race is effected.

Nothing can be a greater proof of the high antiquity of the Indians than this worship, it being certain that the Egyptians did not establish it, as well as the dogma of the Metempsychosis, among themselves, until after they had travelled in India.

Phalli, usually in lead, have been even found in the river Rhône. These were most likely the signs and tokens belonging to some secret society probably of a licentious character. Similar ones are in the Forgeais collection, and were engraved in the Plombs Historiés of that antiquarian.[6]

According to an ingenious writer,[7] who is of opinion that the Indians sent, at a very remote period, colonists to Ireland, the round towers, so numerous in that island, are no other than ancient Phallic temples erected in honour of the fructifying power of nature emanating, as it was supposed to do, from the sun, under the name of Sol, Phbus, Apollo, Abad, or Budh.[8]

Alluding to these towers, Mr O'Brien observes, "the eastern votaries, suiting the action to the idea, and that their vivid imaginations might be still more enlivened by the very form of the temple, actually constructed its architecture after the model of the membrum virile, which, obscenity apart, is the divinity-formed and indispensable medium selected by God himself for human propagation and sexual prolificacy." There is every reason to believe that our May-pole is a relic of the ancient Phallic worship.

The manners of the ancient Hebrews seem to have differed little, if at all, in this respect, from those of the nations surrounding them: thus, David, dancing with all his might before the ark, lifted up his ephod and exhibited his nakedness to "the eyes of the handmaids of his servants." No blame is attached to the king for such gross indecency during a public and religious ceremony; while Michal, his wife, was punished with barrenness, for expressing her disapprobation of his conduct.[9]

This example attests the great respect entertained by the Hebrews for the organs of generation;[10] but we have a further proof of this reverence for them in the fact that, when taking a solemn oath, they placed their hand upon them in token of its inviolability: When Abraham, addressing "his oldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had," is made to say, "Put I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and I will make thee swear, by the Lord, the God of Heaven, and the God of the earth that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son, of the daughters of the Canaanites:"[11] and when Jacob, at the point of death, called his son Joseph, and said unto him, "If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt,"[12] the Hebrew text has been incorrectly translated in both these instances; for, according to learned commentators, it is not the thigh, but the phallus that is meant; such tact having, in the opinion of the Rabbins, been introduced for the purpose of doing honour to circumcision.

This custom obtains in Egypt, even in our own day, for many travellers assert that the Arabs, when desirous of saluting or making a promise with great solemnity, place their hand upon the part in question. A case in point is related in a letter of the Adjutant-General Julian to a member of the Institute of Egypt.[13] An Egyptian, who had been arrested as a spy, and brought before the general, finding that all his asservations of innocence could not be understood "leva sa chemise bleue, et prenant son phallus à la poignée, resta un moment dans l'attitude théatrale d'un dieu jurant par le Styx. Sa physionomie semblait me dire: Après la serment terrible que je fais pour vous prouver mon innocence, osez-vous en douter? Son geste me rappela que du tems d'Abraham on jurait vérité en portant la main aux organes de la génération." The vast antiquity of this custom among the ancient Egyptians is proved by figure 2, Plate IV. This figure, which is copied from Caylus, Vol. VI., Plate I., figure 4, represents Osiris grasping his phallus while taking an oath.

A custom greatly resembling this manner of swearing existed also in the north of Europe, as is proved by an ancient law still extant: thus, one of the articles of the Welsh laws enacted by Hoel the Good, provides that, in cases of rape, if the woman wishes to prosecute the offender, she must, when swearing to the identity of the criminal, lay her right hand upon the relics of the saints and grasp with her left one, the peccant member of the party accused.[14]

It may be mentioned, en passant, that the low Irish in Dublin, and the London costermongers, often make use of an expression which, whether connected or not with the custom above noted, offers for our consideration a curious coincidence at least. If extra force is to accompany an assertion, it is very common for the vulgar to say in conclusion: "S'elp my taters!" or "So help me TESTES"—equal to saying, "I swear by my member." That the word "taters" is a corruption of, and vulgarism for, "testes" we see very readily in the expression "strain my taters"—i.e., to pass urine or make water.

The Greeks had consecrated the same symbols of universal fecundity in their mysteries, the phallus and the cteis being publicly exhibited in the sanctuary of Eleusis. The membrum virile or active principle of generation was carried to the temple of Bacchus and there crowned with a garland by one of the most respectable matrons of the town or city. The Egyptian Osiris, and the female pudenda, or symbol of the passive principle of generation were, in like manner, carried in procession to the temple of Libera or Proserpine.

The worship of Priapus among the Romans was derived from the Egyptians, who, under the form of Apis, the sacred Bull, worshipped the generative power of nature; and, as the syllable pri or pre signifies, in the Oriental tongue, principle, production, or natural or original source, the word Priapus may be translated principle of production or of fecundation of Apis. The same symbol also bore among the Romans the names of Tutunus, Mutinus, and Fascinum. Among the many places where this divinity was worshipped, Lampsacus,[15] in Asia Minor, was the most noted on account of the obscene rites there practised. The Priapi were of different forms; some having only a human head and the Phallus; some with the head of Pan or of a faun—that is, with the head and ears of a goat.[16] Others, with their indecent attribute, were placed in the public roads, and were then confounded with the divinities Mercury and Terminus, who presided over boundaries. Scaliger says that he saw at Rome, in the palace of a cardinal,[17] a similar statue, whose phallus had served as a sign post.[18] All the human part of these Priapi were invariably painted red.[19]

When furnished with arms, which he was when representing Terminus, Priapus held in one hand a reaping hook, and, like Osiris, grasped with the other the characteristic feature of his divinity, which was always of a monstrous size and in a state of energy.

In the towns, Priapus had public chapels, whither such devotees as were suffering from maladies connected with his attributes repaired for the purpose of offering to him ex-votos representing the parts afflicted; these ex-votos being sometimes paintings and, at others, little figures made of wax or of wood, and occasionally, even of marble.

Females as superstitious, as they were lascivious, might be seen offering in public to Priapus, as many garlands as they had had lovers. These they would hang upon the enormous phallus of the idol, which was often hidden from sight by the number suspended by only one woman.

Others offered to the god as many phalli, made of the wood of the willow tree, as they had vanquished men in a single night.

St. Augustine informs us that it was considered by the Roman ladies as a very proper and pious custom to require young brides to seat themselves upon the monstrous and obscene member of Priapus: and Lactantius says, "Shall I speak of that Mutinus, upon the extremity of which brides are accustomed to seat themselves in order that the god may appear to have been the first to receive the sacrifice of their modesty?"[20]

These facts prove that the worship of Priapus had greatly degenerated with the Romans, since, losing sight altogether of the object typified, they attach themselves to the symbol alone, in which they could see only what was indecent; and hence religion became a pretext for libertinism.[21]

Respected so long as the Roman manners preserved their pristine simplicity, but degraded[22] and vilified in proportion as the morals of that people became corrupted, the very sanctuary itself of Priapus failed to protect him from obloquy and ridicule. Christian writers added their indignant invectives to the biting sarcasms of the poets, and the worship of Priapus would have been annihilated had not superstition and the force of habit, that most indestructible of all human affections, come to the rescue. These two powerful levers of mankind triumphed over reason and Christianity, and succeeded, notwithstanding the strenuous and continued efforts of the latter, in maintaining in some degree the worship of that filthy deity; for the Christian priests, while opposing à l'outrance, the superstitions and impure practices already adverted to, did not so do, as regarded the other customs equally repugnant to decency and true religion. Less austere to these, and consulting their own interests, they turned to their profit the ancient worship established by the Romans and strengthened by habit: they appropriated to themselves what they could not destroy, and, in order to attract to their side the votaries of Priapus, they made a Christian of him.

But besides the Lingham of the Indians, the Phallus of the Greeks, and the Priapus of the Romans, the Cross ([Symbol: Tau]), although generally thought to be exclusively emblematical of eternal life, has also an account of its fancied similarity to the membrum virile, been considered by many as typical of the reproductive powers of nature. It was known as such to the Indians, being as common in their country as in Egypt or in Europe.[23] "Let not the piety of the Catholic Christian," says the Rev. Mr. Maurice, "be offended at the preceding assertion that the Cross was one of the most usual symbols among the hieroglyphics of Egypt and India. Equally honoured in the Gentile and the world, this Christian emblem of universal nature, of that world to whose four corners its diverging radii pointed, decorated the hands of most of the sculptured images in the former country (Egypt), and the latter (India) stamped its form upon the most majestic of the shrines of their deities."

It is well known that the cross was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the emblem of fruitfulness. Thus the Rev. Mr. Maurice describes a statue bearing a kind, of cross in its hand as the symbol of fertility, or, in other words, of the procreative and generative powers.[24] The cross [Symbol: Tau] so common upon Egyptian monuments was known to the Buddhists and to the Lama of Thibet 700 years before Christ. The Lama takes his name from the Lamah, which is an object of profound veneration with his followers: "Cequi est remarquable," says M. Avril, "c'est que le grand prêtre des Tartares porte le nom de Lama, qui, en langue Tartare, désigne la Croix, et les Bogdoi qui conquirent la Chine en 1664, et qui sont soumis au Dulai-Lama dans les choses de la religion, ont toujours des croix sur eux, qu'ils appalent lamas."[25]

The letter Tau [Symbol: Tau], being the last one of the ancient alphabets, was made to typify, not only the end, boundary, or terminus of districts, but also the generative power of the eternal transmigratory life, and was used indiscriminately with the Phallus; it was, in fact, the Phallus.[26] Speaking of this emblem, Payne Knight observes: "One of the most remarkable of those symbols of generation is a cross in the form of the letter [Symbol: Tau], which thus served as the emblem of creation and generation before the church adopted it as the sign of salvation, a lucky coincidence of ideas which, without doubt, facilitated the reception of it among the faithful."[27] And again, "the male organs of generation are sometimes represented by signs of the same sort, which might properly be called symbols of symbols. One of the most remarkable of these is the Cross in the form of the letter [Symbol: Tau], which thus served as the emblem of creation and generation."[28]

The famous Crux ansata[29] which may be seen on all the monuments of Egypt is what is alluded to by the Prophet Ezekiel,[30] and is affirmed by the learned L. A. Crozius to be nothing else than the triple Phallus mentioned by Plutarch.[31]

We shall now proceed to notice a few of the traces of the phallic worship as were still to be found lingering in some parts of Europe so late as the 18th century, a tenacity of existence by no means surprising if it be considered that of all the human affections none is more dangerous to oppose, none more difficult to eradicate, than habit. Accordingly it will be found that the above superstition has maintained itself in countries where Christianity was already established, and that, bidding defiance to the severe precepts of that pure faith, it successfully resisted for at least seventeen centuries every effort made to extirpate it by the Christian clergy backed by the civil power. Its triumph was, however, by no means complete, for this worship was constrained to yield to circumstances and to use a disguise by adopting the forms and designations peculiar to Christianity, a mask which on the other hand, favoured not a little, its preservation.

Hence it was that the names of certain legendary saints were given to the ancient God of Lampsacus,[32] the said names having some relation either to the act over which that deity presided, or to his most prominent attributes.

The first bishop of Lyon was honoured throughout Provence, Languedoc, and the Lyonnais as a saint, and as his name happened to be Pothin, Photin, or Fotin, commonly pronounced by the low orders Foutin, these people, who are very apt to judge of the nature of things by the sound of the words by which they are designated, thought St. Foutin worthy of replacing Saint Priapus, and accordingly conferred upon him the prerogatives of his predecessor.

Saint Foutin de Varailles had particular reverence paid to him in Provence, nor is this to be wondered at, since the power was attributed to him of rendering barren women fruitful, stimulating flagging husbands, and curing their secret maladies. It was consequently the custom to lay upon his altar, as was formerly done on that of the god Priapus, small votive offerings, made of wax, and representing the weak or otherwise afflicted parts. Sanci says, "To this saint are offered waxen models of the pudenda of both sexes. They are strewn in great numbers over the floor of the chapel, and should a gust of wind cause them to rustle against one another, it occasioned a serious interruption to the devotions paid to the saint. I was very much scandalized," continues he, "when, passing through the town, I found the name of Foutin very common among the men. My landlord's daughter had for godmother a young lady whose name was Foutine."

The same saint was similarly honoured at Embrun. When the Protestants took that town in 1585, they found, among the relics of the principal church, the Phallus of St. Foutin. The devotees of that town, in imitation of pagan ones, made libations to this obscene idol. They poured wine over the extremity of the Phallus, which was dyed red by it. This wine being afterwards collected and allowed to turn sour, was called the holy vinegar, and, according to the author from whom this account is taken,[33] was applied by women to a most extraordinary purpose; but what that purpose was we are not informed, and therefore can only guess it.

At Orange there was also a phallus much venerated by the inhabitants of that town. Larger than the one at Embrun, it was, moreover, covered with leather, and furnished with its appendages. When, in 1562, the protestants destroyed the church of St. Eutropius, in this town, they seized the enormous Phallus and burned it in the market place. Similar Phalli were to be found at Poligny, Vendre in the Bourbonnais, and at Auxerre.

The inhabitants of Puy-en-Velay even to this day speak of their St. Foustin who, in times not far remote from our own, was invoked by barren women who, under the idea of giving greater efficacy to their prayers, scraped the phallus of the saint, and, mixing the particles so abraded in water, devoutly swallowed them, in the hope of thereby being rendered fruitful.

It is no doubt to one of these phallic saints that Count de Gebelin refers when, speaking of the goat Mendés, he says: "I have read somewhere that in the south of France there existed not long ago a custom resembling the one mentioned; the women of that part of the country devoutly frequented a temple containing a statue of the saint, and which statue they embraced, expecting that their barrenness would be removed by the operation."[34]

In the neighbourhood of Brest stood the chapel of the famous Saint Guignole, or Guingalais, whose Phallic symbol consisted of a long wooden beam which passed right through the body of the saint, and the fore-part of which was strikingly characteristic. The devotees of this place, like those of Puy-en-Velay, most devoutly rasped the extremity of this miraculous symbol for the purpose of drinking the scrapings mixed with water as an antidote against sterility, and when by the frequent repetition of this operation, the beam was worn away, a blow with a mallet in the rear of the saint propelled it immediately in front. Thus, although it was being continually scraped, it appeared never to diminish, a miracle due exclusively to the mallet.

Antwerp was the Lampsacus of Belgium, Priapus being the tutelary god of that city. Ters was the name given to him by the inhabitants who held this divinity in the greatest veneration. Females were accustomed to invoke him on the most trivial occasions, a custom which Goropius informs us continued as late as the 16th century.[35]

So inveterate was this superstition that Godefrey de Bouillon, marquis of that city, the illustrious leader of the first crusade, in order to eradicate it, or to replace it by the ceremonies of the Christian church, sent to Antwerp, from Jerusalem, as a present of inestimable value, the foreskin of Jesus Christ.[36] This precious relic, however, found but little favour with the Belgian ladies, and utterly failed to supersede their beloved Fascinum.[37]

In the kingdom of Naples, in the town of Trani, the capital of the province of that name, there was carried in procession, during the Carnival, an old wooden statue representing an entire Priapus, in the ancient proportions; that is to say, that the distinguishing characteristic of that god was very disproportioned to the rest of the idol's body, reaching, as it did, to the height of his chin. The people called this figure il Santo Membro, the holy member. This ancient ceremony, evidently a remains of the feasts of Bacchus, called by the Greeks Dyonysiacs, and by the Romans Liberalia, existed as late as the commencement of the 18th century, when it was abolished by Joseph Davanzati, archbishop of that town.

Sir W. Hamilton's account of the worship paid to St. Cosmo and St. Damianus is very curious. "On the 27th September, at Isernia, one of the most ancient cities of the kingdom of Naples, situated in the province called the Contado di Molise, and adjoining the Aruzzo, an annual fair is held which lasts three days. On one of the days of the fair the relics of Sts. Cosmo and Damianus are exposed. In the city and at the fair, ex-votos of wax representing the male parts of generation, of various dimensions, sometimes even of the length of a palm, are publicly exposed for sale. There was also waxen vows that represent other parts of the body mixed with them, but of those there are few in comparison of the number of the Priapi."

The distributors of these vows carry a basket full of them in one hand, and hold a plate in the other, to receive the money, crying out, "Saints Cosmo and Damianus!" If you ask the price of one, the answer is, "più ci metti, più meriti;" the more you give, the more the merit. The vows are chiefly presented by the female sex, and they are seldom such as represent legs, arms, &c., but most commonly the male parts of generation. The person who was at the féte, in the year 1780, and who gave me this account (the authenticity of which has since been confirmed to me by the governer of Isernia) told me also that he heard a woman say, at the time she presented a vow, "Santo Cosmo, benedetto, cosi lo voglio." Blessed St. Cosmo, "let it be like this!" The vow is never presented without being accompanied by a piece of money, and is always kissed by the devotee at the moment of presentation.[38]

But, as might naturally be expected, this does not suffice to fructify barren women; and consequently another ceremony, one which is doubtless more efficacious, was required.

The parties who resort to this fair, slept for two nights, some in the church of the Capuchian friars and the others in that of the Cordeliers, and when these two churchs were found to be insufficient to contain the whole of such devotees, the church of the Hermitage of St. Cosmo received the surplus.

In the three edifices, the women were during the two nights, separated from the men, the latter lying under the vestibule, and the women, in the church, these, whether in the church of the Capuchins or in that of the Cordeliers, were under the protection of the Father guardian, the vicar, and a monk of merit. In the hermitage, it was the hermit himself who watched over them.

From this it may easily be imagined how the miracle was effected without troubling Saint Cosmo and Saint Damianus at all, in the matter, as well as that the virtue, possessed by those two saints was extended even to young maidens and widows.

Essay II.


A description of the symbols under which the reproductive power was anciently worshipped, having been given in the preceding Essay, the present one will contain some account of the negation or absence of that faculty, whether total or partial, as known under the names of Impotency and Sterility.

Potency or power, as regards the generative act, may be defined as—the aptitude or ability to beget; and Impotency, the negation or absence of such power.

The canon law distinguished three kinds of impotency—viz., that which proceeds from frigidity; that which is caused by sorcery (ligature or point-tying), and that which proceeding from some defect of conformation is properly designated as impotentia coeundi. The different lends of impotency may be thus classed—1. Those which are proper to men; 2. Those proper to women, and 3. Those common to both sexes.

The causes of impotency proper to man are natural frigidity; defect of conformation, and accident.

The causes of impotency proper to women are all such obstacles as arise ex clausurâ uteri aut nimia arctitudine.

The causes common both to men and women are the defect of puberty and imperfect conformation.[39]

Impotency may also be divided into natural and accidental; the former being that which a person is born with, or which proceeds ex vitio naturalis temperamenti vel partium genitalium; and the latter that which arises from some accident, as ex casu vel morbo.[40]

Another definition of impotency in man is the non posse seminare in vase idoneo; three things being considered as indispensable to his due performance of the generative act.—Ut arriget or erection; 2, Ut vas fmineum resaret, or intromission, and 3, Ut in vase seminat, or emission.

Sterility must not be confounded with impotency. Many women are barren, but very few are impotent; while, on the contrary, many men are impotent who ought not, on that account, to be regarded as barren. In either sex impotency is present when from whatever cause an individual cannot concur in the sexual contact. Sterility exists when the contact, after having been regularly accomplished, is followed by no productive result.

With the exception of those pathological cases in which deformities are sometimes, but very rarely, met with, it may be affirmed that woman is never impotent, for her organization opposes it. Radical impotence, in fact, results in the female from the complete absence, or the occlusion simply, of the vagina. Now, these cases are extremely rare, and may there fore be considered as exceptions or as real monstrosities.

As the causes of sterility in women are numerous and of various kinds, we shall briefly enumerate them.

The absence of ovaries or their deceased state are the radical cause of sterility. These causes may be suspected but not cured. When there is no uterus, still fecundation and pregnancy are not impossible, since extra-uterine pregnancies are occasionally observed, that is to say, cases in which the product of conception has escaped the uterus, end proceeded to establish itself in some point of the lower belly. Neither is the vagina indispensable, for cases are cited of the contraction of this organ accompanied by the rectovaginal fistula, in which fecundation is effected, although the fecundating fluid had been confined to the rectum.

Female masturbation is another rife cause of barrenness in women. If it be true that the number of eggs is limited, and that there are not more than from 15 to 20 in each ovary, it is evident that sterility must ensue when these 15 or 20 eggs have been detached without fecundation. If, on the contrary, new eggs are continually secreted by the ovaries, it is equally evident that the secretory action must, sooner or later, become exhausted by the over excitement caused by the indulgence above mentioned.

Another very great cause of sterility, and which must be of frequent occurrence, is found in the obstructed or choked-up state of the Fallopian tubes. These passages, which establish the communication between the ovary and the uterus, may be obstructed by inflammation, either acute or chronic, to which they must be subject in all diseases to the abdomen, as well as by frequent excitement.

Morgagni speaks of certain women of the town, with whom the Fallopian tubes were completely obliterated by the thickening of the parietes or sides, an evident consequence of the continual orgasm in which they were kept by immoderate indulgence in coition.

The absence of menstruation almost always induces barrenness. Cases are, notwithstanding, reported in which women have their menses during pregnancy, but these are exceptions which so far from invalidating the rule, confirm it.

Polypi, or the developement of fibrous bodies in the uterus, present an equal obstacle to fecundation, their presence having the effect of perverting the physiological functions of the uterus, nor does their removal always cause sterility to disappear.

Impotency in women can only result from the absence of the vagina, or from its excessive narrowness which does not allow of the approach of the male, although instances have occured of fecundation being effected without the introduction of the male organ. Thus cases have been found of women who have been fecundated, and have even arrived at the term of pregnancy, having been obliged to submit to a surgical operation for the removal of the Hymen, which membrane had not been broken in the acts which had nevertheless effected the fecundation. Lastly, the excessive length, when it does exist, of the clitoris, also opposes the conjugal act, by the difficulty it presents to the introduction of the fecundating organ; the only remedy to employed in this case consists in amputation, an operation which has been frequently performed. The organ in question is known to resemble, in a very great degree, the virile member, both in external form and internal structure, to be susceptible of erection and relaxation and endowned with exquisite sensibility. It has been seen equal to the penis in volume. A remarkable instance is given by Home.[41] It occured in a negress who was purchased by General Melville, in the island of Dominica, in the West Indies, about the year 1744. She was of the Mandango nation, 24 years of age, her breasts were very flat, she had a rough voice, and a masculine countenance. The clitoris was two inches long, and in thickness resembled a common sized thumb, when viewed at same distance the end appeared round and of a red colour, but upon closer examination was found to be more pointed than that of a penis, and having neither prepuce nor perforation; when handled it became half erected, and was in that state fully three inches long and much thicker than before: when she voided her urine she was obliged to lift it up, as it completely covered the orifice of the urethra. The other parts of the female organs were found to be in a natural state. Columbus quotes the existence of a woman who had a clitoris as long as the little finger. Haller speaks of another in whom this organ was seven inches in length. Some have even been said to be of the monstrous length of twelve inches. These are the enormous dimensions which sometimes deceive as to the real character of the sex, and which have occasioned a belief in the existence of real hermaphrodites. Women so formed have also a great disposition to usurp the virile functions; they preserve scarcely anything of their sex except their habits and manners. Their stature is in general tall, their limbs muscular, their face masculine, their voice deep, and their deportment bold and manly—in a word, they completely justify the words of Martial:

"Mentiturque virum prodigiosa Venus."[42]

In the case of man's impotency it often happens, on the contrary, that, with organs to all appearance perfectly formed, he is, nevertheless, impotent.

If the woman be organized for receiving, the man is formed for imparting; now, in the majority, of cases, his impotency is such that, although he seems to be provided with abundant stores he is precluded from offering them.

... "Si Coneris, jacet exiguus cum ramice nervus Et quamvis tota palpetur nocte, jacebit."[43]

Such, in fact, is the great difficulty of those individuals who have abused their organs and destroyed their sensibility. The erectile tissue whose turgescence is indispensable, no longer admits into its vascular plexus or network, a quantity of fluid sufficient to give the organ the power of penetrating—jacet exiguus—and, although it may be supposed that the seminal glands perform their functions perfectly well, and secrete abundantly the fluid peculiar to them, the copulative organ remains paralyzed. This is the impotence which is brought on by old age, and which Ariosto has so forcibly described in the following lines, wherein he relates the futile attempts made upon Angelica by the hermit:

Egli l'abbraccia, ed a piacer la tocca: Ed ella dorme, e non più fare ischermo: Or le baccia il bel petto, ora la bocca, Non è, ch'l veggia, in quel loco aspro ed ermo. Ma nel incontro, it suo destrier trabocca Che al desio non risponde, it corpo infirmo: ......... ......... ......... Tutte le vie, tutti i modi tenta, Ma quel pigre rozzo non però salta Indarno el fren gli scoute e li tormenta E non può far che tenga la testa alta.[44]

At other times the impotency of the man is independent of the secretion of the fecundating fluid and even of the erection, both of which are regular. In such case it is caused either by the gland not being properly perforated, or by a contraction of the urethral canal, which contraction arrests the seminal fluid at the moment of expulsion, causing it to flow back towards the bladder, or else intercepting the continuous stream and allowing it to run by dribblets only. The former of these imperfections technically called Hypospsdiæos is a vice of conformation in which the penis, instead of being perforated at the summit of the gland, presents its opening at a greater or less distance from the gland, at the lower part of the urethra or at the perinæum.

As might be expected, impotency when precocious, influences, in no small degree, the moral character. Cabanis knew three men who, in the vigour of age, had suddenly became impotent, although in other respects they were in good health, much engaged in business, and had but little reason to be affected by the loss of pleasures in which they indulged but very rarely and with great moderation, yet their character became gloomy and irascible, and their mental powers appeared to diminish daily.[45] The celebrated Ribeiro Sanchez, a pupil of Boerhaave, observes in his "Traité des maladies Vénériennes chroniques," that these diseases particularly dispose those subject to them to superstitious terrors.

Impotency may, however, equally proceed from moral as from physical causes. In this case it consists in the total privation of the sensibility peculiar to the reproductive organs. This insensibility is by no means infrequent in persons whose mental powers are continually in action, as the following case will shew:—

A celebrated mathematician of a very robust constitution, having married a young and pretty woman, lived several years with her, but had not the happiness of becoming a father. Far from being insensible to the charms of his fair wife, he, on the contrary, felt frequently impelled to gratifying his passion, but the conjugal act, complete in every other respect, was never crowned by the emission of the seminal fluid. The interval of time which occurred between the commencement of his labour of love and the end was always sufficiently long to allow his mind, which had been for a moment abstracted by his pleasure, to be brought back to the constant objects of his meditation—that is, to geometrical problems or algebraical formula. At the very moment even of the orgasm, the intellectual powers resumed their empire and all genital sensation vanished. Peirible, his medical adviser, recommended Madame —— never to suffer the attentions of her husband until he was half-seas-over, this appearing to him the only practicable means of withdrawing her learned spouse from influence of the divine Urania and subjecting him more immediately to that of the seductive goddess of Paphos. The advice proved judicious. Monsieur —— became the father of several fine and healthy boys and girls, thus furnishing another proof of the truth of the maxim, "Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus."

But the impotency arising from the predominance of the intellect is the least formidable of all. The one most to be dreaded is that which results from the excessive and premature exercise of the reproductive functions, for, as has been well observed, "the too frequent indulgence of a natural propensity at first increases the concomitant desire and makes its gratification a part of the periodical circle of action; but by degrees the over excitement of the organs, abating their tone and vitality, unfits them for the discharge of their office, the accompanying pleasures are blunted, and give place to satiety and disgust."[46]

Such unfortunate persons as are the victims of this kind of anaphrodisia become old long before their natural time, and have all their generative apparatus blasted with impotency. Their testicles withered and dried up secrete nothing but a serous fluid void of all virtue; the erectile tissue no longer admits into its plexus the quantum of blood necessary for turgescence, the principal organ of the reproductive act remains in a state of flaccidity, insensible to the reiterated and most stimulating solicitations; the muscles destined to favour erection are stricken with paralysis, and the violence of their desires, joined to the want of power to gratify them, drives the unhappy victim to acts of the most revolting lubricity and thence to despair.

An instance of this kind occurred in the case of a young man, the son of an opulent family. He had arrived at puberty, but from the early age of ten had been accustomed to indulge in indecent familiarities with young girls, who had gratified him by lascivious manipulations; the consequence was an entire loss of the erectile power. Travelling being recommended, he proceeded to France, where he consulted, but without avail, several celebrated physicians. He then went to the waters of Spa, and there his case was attentively and anxiously considered by Van-Hers.

The sensibility and weakness of the genital member were so great that on the slightest touch, and without any sensation or desire to sexual intercourse the young man emitted a fluid similar to whey. This secretion continued night and day, every time that he made water, or upon the slightest friction of his linen. After various remedies being proposed, without any beneficial results, Van-Hers considered the disease as incurable; but, as the patient would not coincide in his opinion and was very rich, he continued his travels in Italy, France, and Germany, in the hope of recovering his powers of virility. He failed not, as usual, to meet with physicians who, from mercenary motives, held out to him the most illusory prospects of a perfect cure. At length, after six years passed in travelling and in vain attempts to regain the generative faculty, he returned to the candid and able physician from whom he had the truth, and whose opinion he was now convinced was but too well founded. As may be supposed, Van-Hers perceived no new circumstance to justify an alteration in his view of the case, and the unfortunate young man returned home, deeply deploring the advantages of a fortune which had made him the victim of the precocious abuse of pleasures to which he must now bid adieu for ever.[47] Too great warmth of passion may not only defeat its own object, but also produce a temporary impotency. A lover, after having, with all the ardour of affections, longed for the enjoyment of his mistress, finds himself at the moment of fruition incapable of consummating his happiness. The only remedy for this misfortune is to allay the over-excitement and to restrain the exuberance of the imagination. It would be madness to persist in endeavouring to obtain a victory which must be certain, as soon as the heat of the animal spirits being abated, a portion of them proceeds to animate the agents of voluptuous passion. The following are cases of this description.

"A young man whose wife's relations had promised him a considerable estate as soon as she proved to be pregnant, fatigued himself to no purpose by continued devotions at the shrine of love; his over anxiety defeating the very object he so ardently desired to accomplish. In despair at the failure of his repeated efforts, he was, at length, on the point of believing his wife barren, when, following the advice of a judicious physician, he absented himself from home for a fortnight, and upon his return proved by the success which attended his amorous labours, that absence is sometimes the best doctor."

"A noble Venetian, aged twenty years, was married to a very handsome lady, with whom he cohabited with a good deal of vigour, but never could emit semen in the coition, whereas in his dreams he could discharge very freely. This misfortune very much afflicted him and his family; and as no remedy could be found at home, the Venetian ambassadors residing at the different courts of Europe were desired to consult some of the most eminent physicians in the cities where they resided, to account for the causes, and to find a cure for this extraordinary complaint of the difference of the states when in sleep and when actually in coition.

"I was of opinion that it consisted altogether in the urethra being closely shut by the vigour of the erection in coition which found so great a resistance that the powers that throw the seed out of the vesiculæ seminals could not overcome it; whereas, in dreams, the pressure on the urethra being much less, an evacuation was affected."

The method of cure was not less successful than obvious from the foregoing account: for gentle evacuations and a slender diet brought about and fully completed their desires.[48]

Cabanis is of opinion that debility of the stomach almost always produces a similar state in the organs of generation. "L'énergie ou la débilité de l'éstomac produit, presque toujours, un état analogue dans ceux de la génération. J'ai soigné un jeune homme chez qui la paralysie accidentelle de ces derniers avait été produit par certains vices de la digestion stomachique; et qui reprit la vigueur de son âge, aussitôt qu'il eût récouvré la puissance de digérer."[49]

Old Montaigne's advice in cases similar to those above cited is worthy of notice. "As to what concerns married people," says he, "having the year before them, they ought never to compel, or so much as offer at the feat, if they do not find themselves very ready. And it is better indecently to fail of handling the nuptial sheets, and of paying the ceremony due to the wedding night, when man perceives himself full of agitation and trembling, expecting another opportunity at a better and more private leisure, when his fancy shall be better composed, than to make himself perpetually miserable for having misbehaved himself, and being baffled at the first result. Till possession be taken, a man that knows himself subject to this infirmity, should leisurely and by degrees make certain little trials and light offers, without attempting at once to force an absolute conquest over his own mutinous and indisposed faculties; such as know their members to be naturally obedient to their desires, need to take no other care but only to counterplot their fancy. The indocile and rude liberty of this scurvy member, is sufficiently remarkable by its importunate, unruly, and unseasonable tumidity and impatience at such times as we have nothing for it to do, and by its most unseasonable stupidity and disobedience when we stand most in need of its vigour, so imperiously contesting the authority of the will, and with so much obstinacy denying all solicitations of hand and fancy. And yet, though his rebellion is so universally complained of, and that proofs are not wanting to condemn him, if he had, nevertheless, feed me to plead his cause, I should, peradventure, bring the rest of his fellow-members into suspicion of complotting the mischief against him, out of pure envy of the importance and ravishing pleasure peculiar to his employment, so as to have, by confederacy, armed the whole world against him, by malevolently charging him alone with their common offence."[50]

Too great warmth of clothing round the parts of generation, or too great pressure upon them, may be reckoned as causes of impotency. The custom of wearing breeches was considered by Hippocrates[51] as a predisposing cause of the impotency so common among the ancient Scythians. Mr. Hunter was also of opinion that this article of dress by keeping the parts too warm, affording them a constant support, and allowing the muscles but little freedom of motion, may, at least, relax and cause them to become flaccid, if it do not totally incapacitate them for the due performance of their functions.

Equally disadvantageous, in this respect, is the practice of riding upon horseback, as the organs of generation are, of necessity, frequently compressed either against the saddle or the horse's back. Lalemant, in his Commentaries upon Hippocrates, adduces the case of bakers, upon whom, by their not wearing breeches, the contrary effect is produced. "We have often heard," says he, "that bakers and others whose parts of generation are not covered by clothing, but hang freely, have large, well-grown testicles."[52]

Another cause of impotency is the allowing the parts of generation to remain too long in a state of inaction. Those parts of the body which are most exercised are always found to be better grown, stronger, and more fitted for the discharge of their natural functions provided the exercise be neither too violent nor too frequent. The parts, on the contrary, which are condemned to rest and inactivity wither and gradually lose their tone, as well as the power of effecting the movements natural to them. Galen observes that the genital organs of the athletæ, as well as those of all such whose profession or calling compelled them to remain chaste, were generally shrunken and wrinkled like those of old men, and that the contrary is the case with those who use them to an excess. "All the athletæ," says he, "as well as those who for the sake of preserving or improving the voice, are, from their youth, debarred the pleasures of love, have their natural parts shrunken and wrinkled like those of old men, while, in such as have from an early age indulged in those delights to an excess, the vessel of those parts, by the habit of being dilated, cause the blood to flow there in great abundance, and the desire of coition to be proportionately increased, all which is a natural consequence of those general laws which all our faculties obey. Thus it is that the breasts of women who have never had children remain always small, while those of females who have been mothers, and who suckle their children, acquire a considerable volume, that they continue to give milk as long as they suckle their infants, and that their milk does not fail until they cease to nourish them."[53] So well, indeed, was this fact known to the ancients, that Aristophanes uses the expression, [Greek: pôosthên mikran], penem exiguum, as an attribute of a youth who has preserved his innocence and [Greek: kôlên megalên], penem magnum, as the sign of a dissolute one.

It will easily be supposed that superstition when brought to act upon weak and ignorant minds, is capable of producing temporary impotence. The pretended charm or witchery common in France as late as the close of the 17th century, and known by the name of nouer l'aiguillette (point tying) is a proof of this:

Ami lecteur, vous avez quelquefois Oui conter qu'on nouait l'aiguillette, C'est une étrange et terrible recette, Et dont un Saint ne doit jamais user, Que quand d'un autre il ne peut s'aviser. D'un pauvre amant, le feu se tourne en glance; Vif et perclus, sans rien faire, il se lasse; Dans ses efforts étonné de languir, Et consume sur le bord du plaisir. Telle une fleur des fear du jour séchée, La tête basse, et la tige penchée, Demande en vain les humides vapeurs Qui lui rendaient la vie et les couleurs.[54]

In olden times, prior to the invention of buttons, the femoral habiliments of men, or hose, as they were called, were fastened up by means of tags or points (Gallice) aiguillettes. Thus, Falstaff says, "Their points being cut, down fell their hose." From this French word aiguillette was derived the term nouer aiguillette (to tie up the points), equivalent to—button up the flap, to express the rendering, by enchantment, a husband incapable of performing the conjugal rite. The whole secret of this charm consisted in the impostor choosing for his victim an individual whose youth, inexperience, or superstition presented him with a fit subject to work upon. The imagination of the party being already predisposed for the trick, a look, a sign, a menace, either of the voice or of the hand, accompanied by some extraordinary gesture, was sufficient to produce the effect, and, as the mere apprehension of an evil frequently occasions its occurrence, it followed that, superstition having prepared the event, the latter, in his turn, fortified the superstition, a vicious circle which may justly be considered an opprobrium to a man's intelligence.

That such was the opinion entertained of it by sensible men when it was in vogue, will be seen by the following curious passage from an old and quaint French writer:

"Quelques uns tiennent cela pour superstition, qui quand on dit la Messe des espousées, lorsque l'on prononce ce mot Sara, à la bénédiction nuptiale, si vous estrerignez une esguillette, que le marié ne pourra rien faire á son espousée la nuict suyuante, tant que la dite esguillette demeurera noüée. Ce que j'ay veu expérimenter faux infinies fois: car pourveuque l'esguillette du compagnon soit destachée, et qu'il siot bien roide et bien au point il ne faut point douter qu'il n'accoustre bien la besongne, comme il appartient. Aussi donne l'on vn folastre amulette et digne du subject: c'est à sçavoir que pour oster le sort, it faut pisser au travers d'une bague de laquelle on a esté espousé. Véritablement ie le croy: car c'est à dire, en bon Français que si on degoutte dans cet anneau de Hans Carvel, il n'y a charme qui puisse nuire. Aussi nouer l'esguillette ne signifie autre chose qu'vn coüard amant qui aura le mbre aussi peu disposé, que si l'esguillette ne sa brayette estoit nouée."[55]

As to the mode itself of conjuration, Bodin, a writer upon these subjects, asserts that there are not less than fifty different ways of performing it: of all which the most efficacious one is to take a small strip or thong of leather, or silken or worsted thread, or cotton cord, and to make on it three knots successively, each knot, when made, being accompanied by the sign of the cross, the word Ribald being pronounced upon making the first knot, Nabal upon making the second one, and Vanarbi upon making the third and last one; all which must be done during the celebration of the marriage ceremony. For the sake of change, one of the verses of the Miserere mei, Deus! may be repeated backwards, the names of the bride and bridegroom being thrice pronounced. The first time, the knot must be drawn rather tight; the second time still more so, and the third time quite close. Vulgar operators content themselves with pronouncing some cabalistic words during the marriage rite, tracing, at the same time, some mysterious figures or diagrams on the earth with the left foot, and affixing to the dress of the bride or bridegroom small slips of paper having magical characters inscribed upon them. Further details may be found in the works of Sprenger, an inquisitor, Crespet of Sans, Debris, a Jesuit, Bodin, Wier, De Lancre, and other learned demonologists.

This species of enchantment was not unknown to the ancients. Accordingly to Herodotus[56] Amasis was prevented enjoying his wife Ladice by a sorcery of this description, nor was it till after the Queen had vowed a statue to Venus, "si secum coiret Amasis," that the king's wishes and her own were gratified.

Plato warns married persons against such sorceries.[57] Virgil speaks also of impotency effected by ligature.

Terna tibi hæc primum, duplici diversa colore Licia circumdo.[58]

Ovid admits the power of such charms in the following lines:

Carmine læsa, Ceres sterilem vanescit in herbam Deficiunt læsi carmine fontis aquæ: Ilicibus glandes, cantataque vitibus uva Decedit, et nulla forma movente, flexunt. Quid vetat et nervos Et juveni et Cupido, carmine abesse viro.[59]

Of that most detestable of all tyrants, Nero, it is said that, finding he could not enjoy a female whom he passionately desired, he complained of having been bewitched.

The fables of Apuleius are full of the enchantments of Pamphilus.[60]

Numantina, the first wife of Plautius Sylvanus, was accused of having rendered her husband impotent by means of sorcery "injecisse carminibus et veneficiis vecordium marito."[61]

Paulus (Julius) of Tyr states that the law of the Twelve Tables contained an express prohibition against the employment of ligatures; "qui, sacra, impia nocturnave fecerint, ut quem incantarent, obligarent," &c.[62]

Gregory of Tours relates[63] that Eulatius having taken a young woman from a monastery and married her, his concubines, actuated by jealousy, put such a spell upon him, that he could by no means consummate his nuptials. Paulus Æmilius, in his life of King Clovis says that Theodoric sent back his wife Herméberge to her father, the King of Spain, as he had received her, a pure virgin, the force of witchcraft having incapacitated him from taking her maidenhead; which sorcery Aimoinus Monachaus[64] asserts to have been effected by Queen Brunchante.

The practise of point tying was formerly so general that princes and princess made it one of their most amusing pastimes. Louis Sforza having seen the young Princess Isabella, daughter of Alphonso King of Arragon, and who was betrothed to Geleas, duke of Milan, was so enamoured of her beauty that he point-tyed Geleas for several months. Marie de Padille, concubine of Don Pedro King of Castille and Leon, point-tied him so effectually that he could not give the least marks of his fondness to his consort Queen Blanche.

That the church acknowledged the power of these point-tiers is proved by the fact of their having been publicly anathematized by the provincial Councils of Milan and Tours, the Synods of Mont-Cassin and Ferriare, and by the clergy of France assembled at Mélun in 1579. A great number of rituals specify the means to be employed as counter-charms to the sorceries of the point-tiers; and the Cardinal Cu Perron,[65] a very able and experienced prelate, has inserted in the ritual of Evreux very sage directions for this purpose. Similar precautions may be found in the synodal statues of Lyons, Tours, Sens, Narbonne, Bourges, Troyes, Orléans, and many other celebrated churches. St. Augustine, St. Thomas and Peter Lombard positively recognise the power of point-tying and of disturbing, in this manner, married persons in the enjoyment of their dearest privilege. "Certum est," says St. Augustine, "corporis vires incantationibus vinciri."

Our James I., who prided himself so much upon his skill in demonology, declares positively that sorcerers and witches possess the power of point-tying, "Or else by staying married folkes, to have naturally adoe with other, by knitting knottes upon a point at the time of their marriage."[66]

The old parliament of France have generally admitted the power of these sorcerers. In 1582 the Parliament of Paris condemned one Abel de la Rue to be hung and afterwards burnt for having wickedly and wilfully point-tied Jean Moreau de Contommiers. A singular sentence was pronounced in 1597 against M. Chamouillard for having so bewitched a young lady about to be married that her husband could not consummate the marriage. But the most singular instance of the kind upon record is that of R. F. Vidal de la Porte, who was condemned by the judges of Riom to make the amende honorable, and afterwards to be hung, and his lady to be burnt until reduced to ashes for having by sorceries and wicked and sacrilegious words point-tied, not only the young men of his town, but also all the dogs, cats and other domestic animals, so that the propagation of these species so useful to man was upon the point of being stopped. In 1718 the Parliament of Bordeaux ordered a famous point-tier to be burnt. This pretended sorcerer had been accused and convicted of having point-tied a nobleman of high family, his wife, and all the men and women servants in his establishment.

It must not be supposed that no counter-charms or amulets existed. The Curate Thiers, who has written at large upon this subject, enumerates twenty-two different ones, the most potent of which were the following:

1. To put salt in the pocket before proceeding to church; pennies marked with the cross and put into the shoes of the bride and bridegroom were equally efficacious.

2. To pass three times under the crucifix without bowing to it.

3. For the bridegroom to wear upon the wedding day, two shirts, one turned inside out upon the other, and to hold, in the left hand, during the nuptial benédiction, a small wooden cross.

4. To lay the new married couple naked upon the ground; to cause the bridegroom to kiss the great toe of the bride's left foot, and the bride the great toe of the bridegroom's right foot: after which they must make the sign of the cross with the left hand and repeat the same with the right or left hand.

5. To take the bridegroom's point-hose and pass it through the wedding ring: knot the said point, holding the fingers in the ring, and afterwards cut the knot saying, "God loosens what the Devil fastens."

6. When the new-married couple are about to retire for the night to fasten upon the thigh of each a little slip of paper, inscribed with these words, Domine, quis similis tibi?

7. To broach a cask of white wine from which none has yet been drawn, and pour the first of the liquor which flows, through the wedding ring.

8. To rub with wolf's grease the door posts through which the married couple pass on their way to the nuptial bed.

9. To write upon virgin parchment before sunrise, and for nine days successively, the word Arigazartor.

10. To pronounce the word Temon three times successively at sunrise, provided the day promises to be fine.

But the mode of procedure in which the learned curate Thiers appears to place the greatest confidence is that employed by a priest of his acquaintance. This person's plan was to tie the bride and bridegroom to a pillar and administer to them with his own hand the stimulus with which the pedagogue awakens the genius of idle and sluggish pupils; after this flagellation they are unbound and left together, amply provided with such restorative and stimulants as are proper to maintain the condition so favourable to Venus, in which he had placed them. The result was in the highest degree satisfactory.

Bodin informs us that he knew at Bordeaux, a woman of middle age, but still lively and fresh, who professed to cure radically all enchantments of this description. Nothing could be more natural than her modus operandi. She got into bed with her patients, and there by the resources of her amatory powers succeeded so well in arousing their flagged and sluggish desires that their domestic peace was never afterwards disturbed by the reproaches of their disappointed spouses. Upon her mother's death, the daughter embraced the same interesting profession and in addition to acquiring considerable reputation by her successful practise, realized a handsome fortune.

Ridiculous and contemptible as this quackery now appears, so great at one time was its power, that persons every way qualified for the generative act, have been seen suddenly reduced to a humiliating nullity, in consequence of an impudent charlatan, a village sorcerer or a fortune-teller having threatened them with point-tying. Saint André, a French physician, gives an account of a poor weaver, who having disappointed Madame André in not bringing home some work was threatened by that lady with being point-tied by her husband the doctor. The poor fellow was so alarmed that the charm had the same effect as a reality, nor was it until the work he had in hand was finished, and the lady had consented to restore him to his natural state, that he could resume the exercises of his conjugal duties.

Venette gives the case of one Pierre Buriel. "This man," to use Venette's own words, "was about thirty-five years of age, a cooper and brandy manufacturer by trade. Being at work one day for my father in one of his country houses, he offended me by some impertinent observations, to punish which I told him the next day that I would point-tie him when he married. It so happened that he had the intention of uniting himself with a servant girl who lived in the neighbourhood, and although I had threatened him merely in a jesting manner, it made so strong an impression upon him that although, when married, he felt the most ardent desire to enjoy his connubial rights, he found himself totally incapacitated for the work of love. Sometimes when he flattered himself with being on the point of accomplishing his wishes, the idea of the witchcraft obtruded itself, and rendered him for the time completely impotent. This incapacity alienated the affections of his wife, and produced on her part towards him the most repulsive coldness. I need not say what gain I felt on witnessing these effects, how I regretted having, I may truly say, unintentionally caused so unpleasant a state of things, and I did and said everything in my power to disabuse the man, and prove to him the folly of his impressions. But the more I did so, the more he testified his abhorrence of me, and his conviction that I had really bewitched him. At length the curate of Notre Dame, who had married them, interfered, and after some time succeeded, though with considerable difficulty, in freeing him from his imaginary bonds. They lived together for twenty-eight years, and several children, now citizens of Rochelle, were the issue of their union."

Montaigne gives us a curious story upon this subject, which he introduces thus: "I am not satisfied and make a very great question, whether those pleasant ligatures with which the age of ours is so fettered—and there is almost no other talk—are not mere voluntary impressions of apprehension and fear; for I know by experience, in the case of a particular friend of mine, one for whom I can be as responsible as for myself, and a man that cannot possibly fall under any manner of suspicion of sufficiency, and as little of being enchanted, who having heard a companion of his make a relation of an unusual frigidity that surprised him at a very unseasonable time, being afterwards himself engaged upon the same account, the horror of the former story so strangely possessed his imagination that he ran the same fortune the other had done; he from that time forward (the scurvy remembrance of his disaster running in his mind and tyrannizing over him) was extremely subject to relapse into the same misfortune. He found some remedy, however, for this inconvenience by himself frankly confessing and declaring beforehand to the party with whom he was to have to do, the subjection he lay under, and the infirmity he was subject to; by which means the contention of his soul was, in some sort, appeased; and knowing that now some such misbehaviour was expected from him, the restraint upon those faculties grew less, and he less suffered by it, and afterwards, at such times as he could be in no such apprehension as not being about any such act (his thoughts being then disengaged and free, and his body being in its true and natural state) by causing those parts to be handled and communicated to the knowledge of others, he was at last totally freed from that vexatious infirmity. After man has once done a woman right, he is never after in danger of misbehaving himself with that person, unless upon the account of a manifest and inexcusable weakness. Neither is this disaster to be feared but in adventures where the soul is over-extended with desire or respect, and especially where we meet with an unexpected opportunity that requires a sudden and quick despatch; and in these cases, there is no possible means for a man always to defend himself from such a surprise as shall put him damnably out of countenance. And yet I have known some who have secured themselves for this misfortune by coming half-sated elsewhere, purposely to abate the ardour of their fury, and others who being grown old, find themselves less impotent by being less able; and particularly one who found an advantage by being assured by a friend of his that had a countercharm against certain enchantments that would defend him from this disgrace. The story itself is not much amiss, and therefore you shall have it.—A count of a very great family, and with whom I had the honour to be familiarly intimate, being married to a very fair lady, who had formerly been pretended to and importunately courted by one who was invited to and present at the wedding. All his friends were in very great fear, but especially an old lady, his kinswoman, who had the ordering of the solemnity, and in whose house it was kept, suspecting his rival would, in revenge, offer foul play, and procure some of these kinds of sorceries to put a trick upon him, which fear she also communicated to me, who, to comfort her, bade her not trouble herself, but rely upon my care to prevent or frustrate any such designs. Now, I had, by chance, about me, a certain flat piece of gold, whereon were graven some celestial figures good to prevent frenzy occasioned by the heat of the sun, or for any pains of the head, being applied to the suture; where, that it might the better remain firm, it was sewed to a ribbon, to be tied under the chin. A foppery cousin-german to this of which I am speaking was Jacques Pelletier who lived in the house, presented to me for a singular rarity and a thing of sovereign virtue. I had a fancy to make some use of this quack, and therefore privately told the count that he might probably run the same fortune other bridegrooms had sometimes done, especially some persons being in the house who, no doubt, would be glad to do him such a courtesy; but let him boldly go to rest, for I would do him the office of a friend, and if need were, would not spare a miracle that it was in my power to do, provided he could engage to me, upon his honour, to keep it to himself, and only when they came to bring him his candle (a custom in France being to bring the bridegroom a candle in the middle of the night, on his wedding night) if matters had not gone well with him, to give such a sign, and leave the rest to me. Now, he had his ears so battered and his mind so prepossessed with the eternal tattle of this business, that when he came to it, he did really find himself tired with the trouble of his imagination, and accordingly, at the time appointed, gave me the sign. Whereupon I whispered him in the ear, that he should rise under pretence of putting us out of the room, and after a jesting manner, pull my night-gown from my shoulders, throw it over his own, and keep it there till he had performed what I appointed him to do, which was that when we were all gone out of the chamber, he should withdraw to make water, should three times repeat such and such words and as often do such and such actions; that at every of the three times be should tie the ribbon I put into his hand about his middle, and be sure to place the medal that was fastened to it (the figures in such a posture) exactly upon his reins; which being done, and having the last of the three times so well girt and fastened the ribbon that it could neither untie nor slip from its place, let him confidently return to his business, and withal not to forget to spread my gown upon the bed so that it might be sure to cover them both. These ridiculous circumstances are the main of the effect, our fancy being so far seduced as to believe that so strange and uncouth formalities must of necessity proceed from some abstruse science. Their inanity gives them reverence and weight. However, certain it is that my figures proved themselves more Veneran than Solar, and the fair bride had no reason to complain."

Upon a due consideration of this singular superstition, it must be obvious to any person of sense that these pretended ligatures are, in fact, the consequence of an enfeebled constitution, weak intellects, and sometimes of an ardent imagination, an over-excited desire which carries the vitality to the head, and diverts it from its principal direction. Do away with these circumstances and imagine a man in full health, and gifted with a young and vigorous constitution, alike incapable of allowing himself to be acted upon by vain terrors, and of permitting his passions an uncontrolable course; and all the charms and incantation of these redoubted point-tiers would immediately cease. Who, for instance, could pretend to point-tie that hero of ancient Greece so famous for his twelve labours, of which by far the most brilliant was the transforming, in the course of one night, fifty young virgins into as many women![67]

The most singular circumstance, however, connected with impotency is, that for a long time there existed exclusively in France a particular kind of proof called—The Judicial Congress. In the old jurisprudence of that country but little value was attached to moral proofs; all was made to depend upon material ones, which were made by witnesses. The whole enquiry after truth was made to depend upon the establishment of the fact, and, too frequently, the administrators of the law were not over-scrupulous as to the nature of the testimony by which it was to be proved. Provided there were such testimony, no matter of whatever kind, no matter how contradictory to common sense, justice pronounced itself satisfied, for, relying upon this testimony it was enabled to pronounce its decision, and this was all it required. Hence all those personal examinations of litigants, so often practised formerly, and hence the judge, whatever might be the nature of the suit or complaint, ordered a report to be made by parties chosen to that effect, and who were called experts or examiners. This mode of procedure was employed in cases in which a woman applied for a divorce from her husband on the ground of impotency: hence arose the Congrés, in which the justice of the application was to be proved in the presence of examiners appointed to give in a report upon the case to the court. "Ce qui est encore plus honteux," says a writer of the 17th century, "c'est qu'un quelques procés, les hommes ont visité la femme, et au contraire, les femmes ont été admises à visiter l'homme, qui a été cause d'une grande irrison et moquerie, que telles procédures ont servi de contes joyeux et plaisans discours en beaucoup d'endroits."[68] The whole was a most disgusting procedure, which, although greatly abused, was for a long time encouraged as offering a legal mode of dissolving a marriage which was incompatible with the happiness of both the parties, but which the law declared to be indissoluble. The judges who introduced or maintained the Congress, who, in fact, protected it, only contemplated it, but certainly most erroneously as a proper means of legalizing divorces.

All historians, and other writers who have treated of this disgraceful institution, pretty generally agree in giving it an origin not further back than the commencement of the 16th century; it is, however, but the extension of a custom almost as obscene which prevailed in the first ages of Christianity. This was nothing less than the subjecting a young girl, whether nun or otherwise, accused of fornication, to a rigorous personal examination, whence was to result the proof of her innocence or guilt. Siagrius, Bishop of Verona, and who lived towards the close of the fourth century, condemned a nun to undergo this disgusting and insulting examination. St. Ambroise, his metropolitan, disapproved of the Bishop's sentence, declared the examination as indecent, thus attesting its existence. The opinion, however of this prelate, supposed as it was by that of several others, did not prevent the continuance of this custom for a very long time. The ecclesiastical and civil tribunals frequently directed this proof to be made; and Venette[69] cites the procès-verbal of a similar examination made by order of the Mayor of Paris in 1672, in the case of a woman who complained of violence committed on her by a man of dissolute habits.

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