We Have Always Had Needs

Recently, I stumbled across an article entitled “12th-Century Poem About A Virgin Arguing With Her Vulva Uncovered in Austrian Monastery”. I ask you, how could one not be intrigued? I had to read more.

It seems that this is the oldest known copy of this satire, but it is not the only one that has been found. In it, a woman is debating with her vulva about what attracts men more, it, or the woman’s general physical appearance. (I don’t think that question has been answered definitively, even all these centuries later.)

What fascinates me most about this poem is that there was obviously a frank discussion about sexuality even back in the 12th Century. We seem to hold two contradicting notions in our head: Ancient peoples were devoid of morals and self-control, whereas we are more sophisticated (read: prudish) now. But at the same time, we look back at past history, at least in the European, Christian sense, and tend to believe that humans have become more open, less conservative, over time. Clearly neither theory tells the whole story.

I also remember reading an article (which I can no longer find) about a wooden dildo that was found hidden up inside a fireplace niche in Colonial Williamsburg. Well, the “hidden” aspect of it implies there was a source of shame there, but its existence confirms that people have always had needs, and were willing to get creative to fulfill them.

If you look at art through the centuries, you’ll see that there has always been a fascination with genitalia. Most historians nervously attribute these things to fertility, the need to procreate, and take the sexuality out of it.


According to this article, sex toys have been found that date back 28,000 years. So who’s to say that fertility statues weren’t also used for pleasure and visual titillation? I mean, come on. Most of us appreciate a little stimulation now and again. Do we really think pornography originated in the 1900’s? Do we think the more artistic depictions of all things taboo began with Georgia O’Keefe?

We also seem to want to quash the fact that once upon a time, women were considered powerful by more than just those of us who are woke. (Women can create men inside their own bodies. The reverse cannot ever be claimed. That’s magical.)

This article discusses a variety of artistic depictions of female genitalia, including sculptures of the sacred yoni in Hindu art, Venus figurines that are at least 35,000 years old, and Sheela-na-gig carvings of women with exaggerated vulvas that are found throughout Europe.

Further, Baubo figurines were popular in ancient Greece. They were often depicted as a naked headless body with a female face emerging from the torso, and a vulva on the chin. Hmmm.

In the Palauan archipelago, one could often find Dilukai, or carvings of women with their legs splayed open, above the doors of the houses of the chiefs. These were said to be sacred carvings to ward off evil, and symbolize fertility and spiritual rebirth. But missionaries tried to claim they were there to shame immoral women. (I suspect that what went on in the chief’s house had little to do with lessons in morality.)

It is even said that the Vesica Piscis, an almond-shaped symbol that appears all over the place throughout history, including in the ancient Christian fish symbol, is actually a depiction of the female vaginal source of creation.

Personally, I see no reason to cast shame upon those who believe in the sacred female, nor should we feel shame about the body parts that have allowed all of us to walk upon this earth, nor in the urges that have caused us to make use of said body parts. More power to us all.

A 12th-century Sheela Na Gig on a Church in Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England

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Witch Bottles, Desiccated Cats, Concealed Shoes, and Witch Balls

I always find it a little disconcerting when I discover that something exists in the world that up to this point I knew nothing about. That’s the height of arrogance, I know. It’s crazy to expect to know everything. But it always makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing all along.

Case in point: witch bottles. I can’t even begin to tell you how I came across this topic. It was at the end of a crazy internet surfing expedition designed to keep me awake during an unanticipated graveyard shift. I remember that the original google inquiry was “Crows and Facial Recognition” for a previous blog entry, but how I got from there to witch bottles is a mystery. I doubt I could retrace my path if my life depended on it.

Anyway, witch bottles were very popular in the 17th through 19th centuries. Apparently they were used to ward off witchcraft. People would fill these bottles with a variety of things, including (my apologies in advance if you’re reading this over breakfast) urine, menstrual blood and human hair. Then they’d add sharp objects like needles, thorns and nails. In theory, witches would be attracted to your “essence”, enter the bottle, and be impaled forever on the sharp objects. People would seal these bottles tightly, and then bury them, often upside down, under their fireplaces. In later years the fluid of choice seems to have been holy water. Thank goodness.

After reading up on this bizarre tradition, that took me to another creepy topic; that of desiccated cats. It seems Europeans and Americans used to board these up in the walls of their houses to either bring good luck or ward off evil. It makes me shiver to think about these poor cats. I couldn’t intentionally kill one even if it meant bad luck would rain down upon me for life.

From there I went on to concealed shoes. Archaeologists have found thousands of them in the walls of buildings, and they assume they were placed there either to ward off evil or encourage fertility, or perhaps as an offering to a household deity. If you think we’re less superstitious now, think again. People still tie shoes to the bumpers of newlywed’s cars, which gives credence to the odd connection between shoes and fertility.

But of all these things, the one that unsettled me the most was the witch ball, because I’ve actually seen a whole bunch of these hanging in people’s windows or placed in gardens. I wonder how many of these people have them without knowing their mystical origins, because up until I wrote this, I just assumed these round glass spheres were simply pretty baubles. But no. Originally they were meant to entice evil spirits and capture them, or ward off the evil eye, or perhaps prevent a witch from entering the area because they’re not supposed to be able to abide their own reflection.

Funny to think that people are keeping talismans that many don’t even realize they have. Even funnier to think that in this day and age, people could be still displaying them for their original purpose. I’m glad I’m not superstitious like that. Knock on wood. Cross my heart and hope to die.


I Love Kokopelli

Ah, Kokopelli, the trickster, the fertility God of the tribes of the American Southwest. I just love this guy! Not only is he a symbol of abundant crops and the production of game animals, but he is the purveyor of trinkets, and he chases away winter and ushers in spring.

He is known to bring babies on his back, so young girls tend to fear him, and heaven knows I can understand why. In addition he carries news from afar, is the ultimate story teller, and he has the gift of languages. And he also plays a pretty mean flute and has cool hair. What’s not to like?

What I admire about Kokopelli the most is that he’s accorded a complex character. He’ll play tricks on you, yes, but he’ll also bring you abundance. He’s the ultimate “I don’t care what you think” kind of dude, the quintessential bad boy, and he gets away with it! That is the epitome of freedom.

One of my favorite stories about Kokopelli is that he has been known to detach his phallus, float it down the river to a nearby village to impregnate all the women therein, and the men are actually grateful to him! Talk about charm. Talk about charisma. I mean, who gets away with stuff like that?

Kokopelli, if you’re reading this, call me, darlin’.


Addicted to Acupuncture

Many years ago I was walking my dog and I slipped on some wet grass on a slope and my feet actually flew up above my head. I landed squarely on my neck and slid all the way down the hill, landing in a heap. It knocked the wind out of me. Once I could breathe again I hobbled back to the house, fell asleep, and when I woke up I was in the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced in my life. And that pain lasted for 3 solid months. I had an MRI and learned I had herniated a disc. I went to a neurologist who basically tranquilized me to the gills. I tried physical therapy and pain management, and nothing was helping. Nothing. That kind of pain turns you into an animal. Nothing else matters. I used to just sit and cry.

Finally the neurologist said I needed surgery. He’d remove the disc and fuse the two vertebrae. I had a visceral reaction to that. No turning back. Sharp instruments. Cutting. Right next to my spinal cord. No. No, no, no! I decided that before I make that drastic, life-changing decision, I’d try one more thing. Acupuncture. The neurologist laughed and said, “You’ll be back.”

So I went to the Acupuncture and Holistic Health Center here in Jacksonville, Florida and saw Dr. Michael Kowalski. I didn’t know what to expect, but I definitely wasn’t expecting a 6’9” white guy! But he put me right at ease. Using both acupuncture (he is from the Five Elements school) and plant spirit medicine, he had me pain free on the first visit. I was crying tears of joy all the way home. But he said it was important to come back, and he was right, because the pain came back in less than 24 hours. And here’s where most people who are skeptical make their biggest mistake: I could have given up on acupuncture right then and been one of its naysayers for the rest of my life. But instead I went back, and at the end of the second visit I was pain free again, and this time the pain never returned. When I had my follow up MRI, the disc was no longer herniated. The Neurologist was speechless. I never saw that man again.

But I went back to see Dr. Kowalski many times, for years. He helped me with my back issues, my headaches, my energy level, my immune system…and I’ve talked to many people in his waiting room who say he’s helped them with their fibromyalgia, HIV symptoms, fertility issues, and a whole host of other health issues. I think the only thing that acupuncture can’t do anything about is broken bones. I carry a stack of his business cards in my purse, and give them out regularly. For some reason people are resistant to the concept though. They have no idea what they’re missing. During my time in Dr. Kowalski’s care, I never felt better in my entire life. I’d still be seeing him now except I can’t afford it.

But as I mentioned in my blog entry Reveling in the Red Tent, I won a door prize, and it was one session of Rhythm Acupuncture. Yeah baby! I was really looking forward to this. So I went there today and met Selena Wooley. Her office is in Orange Park, Florida, which is a little out of my way, but it was well worth the trip. I assumed I knew what I was in for, but she trained in TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is an entirely different school than that of Five Elements. She uses needles, yes, but she also used tuning forks, and that was intense. I could feel it throughout my body. She also incorporates her experience as a massage therapist, Reiki master, doula, and aromatherapist (just to name a few of her many talents) to really give you a well-rounded and in-depth treatment. I left there feeling so relaxed that you could have carried me out in a wheel barrow.

So do I recommend acupuncture? Always. Enthusiastically and without hesitation.

Don’t just stand there. Go!


(Image credit: holistichealthchicago.com)