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tree with phalluses

So, you may or may not have read the fabulous article posted by Broadly about witches from the Middle Ages, who allegedly stole penises and kept them as pets. Linking penises, religion, and the supernatural was commonplace in the Medieval cultural imagination — in fact, it was believed that the very real phenomenon of penis captivus, in which the phallus becomes lodged in an orifice, was a punishment from God for the sin of adultery.

 

It's no wonder that in the Middle Ages the character of the ‘Witch’, whose construction is inextricably tied to sex and gender, would include penises in a few different regards. The Witch, as a cultural figure, represented the corrupted, polluted woman, and frequently was presented as a twisted housewife figure. A large part of this construction was rooted in the fear of female pleasure, and as such, The Witch’s crimes were often sexual transgressions, such as adultery, causing abortion and stillbirth, and causing infidelity. These myths often specifically focused on male anxieties — and, in particular, sexual and phallocentric fears.

Here are three myths about witches and penises that we think are *pure* *magic*.

1. Broomsticks == Dicks

Yes, one of the most iconic images of The Witch may be a bit more loaded that you originally thought! The "broomstick" that witches were portrayed as riding probably actually represented phalluses — human or otherwise. This may have something to do with the fact that witches were often portrayed in a domestic setting, often dressed in simple housewife’s clothing. The Witch represented the “Anti-Housewife,” as a woman who brought pollution and disorder into the home.

It has long been believed that witches of the Middle Ages masturbated with brooms. Historians suspected that they coated the handle of the broomstick in a “Witch's Brew” ointment -- a compound made from hallucination-inducing ingredients such as hemlock, nightshade, mandrake, and ergot (a poisonous mold that grew of rye, and caused powerful visions in small doses). The drugs were most easily absorbed through membranous parts of the body, and so as the witches masturbated, they would undergo a powerful trip (perhaps, it is believed, giving the user a sensation of flying.)

Quidditch, anyone?

2. Those Greedy Witches Stole ALL The Dicks

In the Middle Ages fear of penis-stealing sorceresses was rampant. The so-called “penis panics” were first recorded as having occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries, largely in Central Europe. A German clergyman, Heinrich Kramer, wrote about the epidemic in his work Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1486. One of the most famous medieval works on witches, he wrote that “Witches ... collect male organs in great numbers, as many as 20 or 30 members together, and put them in a bird’s nest, or shut them in a box.” The dismembered members, apparently, took on a life of their

own and behaved like little animals. But the disembodied penises didn’t just hang around. “They move themselves like living members and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many.”

Look, hey, respect. When a witch *wants the D* she's gonna GET. THE. D.

3. And Kept Them In Penis-Trees

in the middle ages witches allegedly kept disembodied stolen penises as pets body image 1474311931


Penis trees are a well-documented Medieval phenomenon and manifest in legend, record, and art. In 2000, archeologists in Tuscany discovered an enormous mural depicting a frankly beautiful penis tree. All over the tree are large, erect penises, and around its roots stand eight women eagerly trying to pick the phalluses — two of the women are fighting over a penis, and another is knocking one off a branch using a stick. Still another woman stands to the side with a penis protruding from her bottom.

According to George Ferzoco, the director of the Center for Tuscan studies, the mural constitutes "the earliest depiction in art of women acting as witches," and he then cites ancient Tuscan folklore about witches keeping penises captive in nests (witches keeping dicks in nests seems to be a recurring trope, here).

Returning to Germany and our Malleus Maleficarum, witches seem to be responsible for the existence of these penis trees. They steal the phalluses from different men and hoarding them up in a nest in a tree. The text describes that witches, though often portrayed as cruel and emasculating, would occasionally show mercy to their victims. When one penis-less man asked that his genitals be restored, The Witch “told the afflicted man to climb a tree ... and take which he liked out of a nest where there were several members...When he tried to take the big one, The Witch said: ‘You must not take that one, because it belonged to a parish priest.’

Hey, we understand the impulse to wanna size up, dude, but trust me, your dick is just lovely, no matter the size.

Except that a witch stole it from you and hung it up in her penis-tree and now it's noshing on oats. 

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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