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Penises and Vaginas and Festivals (oh my)

April 7, 2010

Thanks to Adam for sharing this article with me.

Every year in Japan, there are penis and vagina worshipping festivals.

The article (and pictures) will do a much better job describing these  festivals, but the gist is that these celebrations are part of a tradition dating back 1500 years. The purpose of these events is to promote fertility and good crops in the following year.

But Wikipedia and some blogs (like this one) give a slightly different account of things. According to them, these festivities have their origins in the myth of Vagina Dentata.

Here’s the story from the linked blog:

[A]n innkeepers daughter …had the misfortune of having a demon with sharp teeth fall in love with her. As demons are wont to do, the little bastard decided to take up residency in her vagina, and then wield his sharp teeth against the innkeeper’s daughter’s male companions. Enter Hero Blacksmith who crafted a fine steel phallus, which broke the poor demon’s teeth.

Scary. But luckily, I think the focus today is more on the celebration of fertility and the power of the parts, rather than these myths.

If anyone knows  about these festivals, or if I have gotten my facts wrong, please share! I would love to hear from you and learn more about them.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. adam permalink
    April 8, 2010 4:46 AM

    haha, awesome post! btw, phalli show up all over japanese mythology (well, i guess probably any mythology). that story sounded like so many others i’ve heard about great heroes out-mojoing demons. often, the phallus takes the form of a weapon. (no surprise– it’s hard to name many weapons that don’t invoke the phallus in some way or another…) i’ve heard about other stuff, too. take this with a grain of salt, but here’s what i remember…

    they still sell hamaya (demon-breaking arrows) at many shrines as protective charms, often with similar mythology attached. it’s relatively uncommon today, but people used to use “sword and sheath” to refer to a couple in certain situations. when a powerful samurai became recklessly angry and ignored his advisors, for example, his wife might be the only one able to calm him down (“sheathing the sword” …guess how).

    oh ya, and there’s these too:

    scholars have a lot of fun turning those into breasts.

  2. adam permalink
    April 8, 2010 4:48 AM

    heres a TANGENT!! in case anyone’s interested 🙂

    you know, i feel like there’s a reason genitalia show up so much in religious settings. a lot of people associate religion with abstinence, and in japanese traditions ritual purity is extremely important. however, it is only a means to an end. purifying oneself is what you do to become presentable to a diety. the diety might be associated with fertility though, with all of the accompanying imagery.

    in other words, you need to be pure to revere the miracle of sex in the abstract. i don’t think this is uncommon in religions all over the world. ever heard of esoteric buddhism (which we have to thank for the kama sutra)? not everybody USES orgasm to get toward religious experience, but religious devotion is often compared to sex. christianity’s got a lot of this stuff too, even if the emphasis in popular depictions of catholicism these days has to do with celibacy. people act surprised when priests break their vows, but it stands to reason– the boundary between love for god and love for another human being can be blurry!* here’s one of my favorites from the christian side (john donne, holy sonnet no. 14):

    Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
    As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
    That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
    Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
    I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
    Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
    Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
    But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
    Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
    But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
    Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

    …gotta love that last line. wow, this got really long (you touched my quirk spot). maybe i’m just a religion major cause i’m interested in sex…

    *this is in no way meant to excuse priests who have abused children (or anyone). it doesn’t get much worse than that.

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