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Perv Paradise: Ancient Rome III

X-Rating Literature

If you thought 50 Shades was dirty, wait till you hear about Roman literature. As with everything else in their lives, it revolved strictly round sex – and not just regular sex: weird, kinky, messy fetish sex. Take Sa tyricon, one of only two surviving Roman novels. The plot focuses on the adventures of a Roman man and his child lover as they navigate a world of orgies, flagellation and dildo-wearing priestesses. Sound a little, uh, extreme? Buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The poet Juvenal routinely wrote about animal sex, violent rape and sodomy; while Martial churned out ‘epigrams’ along the line of:

“With your giant nose and cock

I bet you can with ease

When you get excited

Check the end for cheese.”

In short, their books were like their lives: rude, sex-obsessed and very-much X-Rated.

Pederasty

When talking about an ancient culture, it’s important to remember their standards are always going to vary wildly from ours. So when I say the Romans practiced pederasty, bear in mind that it was totally acceptable back then. It’s only when you look back on it from our own cultural standpoint that it all seems a little, well, distasteful.

See, in Rome, there wasn’t exactly an age of consent. If you were going to engage in a homosexual relationship with a free-born male, you had to wait until they were at least 12. But, as far as slaves were concerned, anything went – and it usually did. Aside from the Warren Cup, we have the writings of Juvenal and Quintilian; both casually informing us that schoolmasters liked to groom young boys. Then there are the numerous laws issued on the subject – preserved to this day – to stop the practice spilling over into ‘regular’ life. So pervasive, in fact, was this pederasty that Romans who didn’t fancy young boys were generally considered a little odd – a belief that only vanished when Christianity finally took hold.

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Perv Paradise: Ancient Rome II

Lewd Graffiti

Next time you get bored and scrawl a massive dong on the wall of a public toilet, you should know that you’re simply carrying on an ancient tradition that stretches back to Roman times. That’s right: the Romans were no more high-minded about this sort of thing than you or me. When they dug up Pompeii, one of the first things everyone clocked was the sheer amount of graffiti defacing every wall. And you better believe it was rude. One example reads:

“Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!”

Believe it or not, that’s one of the tamer ones. There’s a fairly comprehensive list, but the best ones feature advice on oral sex, bizarre opinions on people’s privates and boasts along the lines of:

“Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.”

Hey, at least it makes a change from ‘Andre the Giant has a Posse’.

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Obscene Gravestones

As you may have gathered, no aspect of Roman life was far removed from thoughts of coitus – and that included death. Unlike our sparse epitaphs, Roman men and women would include whole biographies on their tombstones, detailing every little moment of their lives. And since their lives were often pretty bawdy, that made for some X-Rated tombstones. For example, one is known to have read:

“Put on your party hats and don’t say no to sex with pretty girls, as you won’t get a chance when you’re dead.”

Wow, interesting advice, huh? Others, marking the spot where husbands have buried their wives, describe the first night of copulation – with one memorable one boasting about how the ‘wife’ was first seduced aged seven. One in particular is famous for describing in great detail a three-way relationship between two men and a woman; including complimentary passages on the woman’s nipples and how punctual she was at dealing with body hair. What a trait to be remembered for.

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Perv Paradise: Ancient Rome

Sex Slavery

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It’s no secret that Roman society ran on slavery. Men and women captured during military conquests were shipped all over the Empire and auctioned off to the highest bidder – at which point they became the property of some aristocrat or other. And those aristocrats usually had one thing on their minds when buying a young slave: sex.

See, slaves were absolutely devoid of rights in Roman law. They were part of the furniture, no better than the objects surrounding them. And just as it’s technically impossible to have an affair with your bookcase, Roman law didn’t consider slave-sex to be infidelity. So when Augustus outlawed adultery in 31BC, the horny Romans did what any sex-addict would do and started molesting their slaves at an unprecedented rate. Looks, gender and even age were no barrier: the Warren Cup, for example, is a Roman goblet dated to 5 AD that sports an image of a guy casually molesting a child. In essence, being a slave in ancient Rome basically meant being a walking sex aid – speaking of which…

Public Pornography

If you think top shelf ‘lad’s mags’ and saucy billboards are rude, just be thankful you’re not living in Roman times. Step out of a time machine in, say, 50BC and you’d find yourself completely surrounded by penises. Literally every available surface in the Empire was imprinted with images of penises. Don’t believe me? There is a Roman coin featuring some sodomy and a statue that used to be displayed in the open, of the God Pan having sex with a goat.

Thanks to their complicated ideas of Gods and fertility, the Romans had literally no problem with the sight of one another’s wieners – and that’s just as well, really. Housewives would use tiny metal penises as wind chimes, well-endowed slaves would be forced to keep theirs on show at all times; and images of the fertility God Priapus weighing his own gigantic member would appear over the entrance of houses as a form of good luck. And that’s before we even get onto the murals that filled the Public Baths, depicting all sexual couplings imaginable. But it wasn’t just frescos and statues. The Romans were also masters of…

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The Salacious Origin of Witches’ Broomsticks

Among the throngs of pop culture costumes that are sure to astound the less mundane crowd, this Halloween countless Americans will go with a fail-safe getup. “Witch” once again reigns as the No. 1 costume for adults, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 Halloween survey.

Many of the pointy-hatted sorcerers who roam the streets this Oct. 31st will be carrying broomsticks or “besoms”. But, should you take the time to educate them, I’m sure few know the murky tale of how witches came to be associated with those familiar household objects.

The story , as with most things worth reading, is full of sex, drugs and Christian inquisitors. It all starts with poisonous plants like black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), sometimes called stinking nightshade…

Ingesting henbane, which is rich in powerful alkaloids, can cause hallucinations (if it doesn’t kill you first). According to legend, witches used herbs with psychoactive properties like henbane in their potions, or “flying ointments.” Some historical accounts suggest witches applied these ointments to their nether regions. And what better applicator than a wooden staff?

Lady Alice Kyteler, Ireland’s earliest known accused witch, was condemned to death for using sorcery to kill her husband in 1324. (Kyteler escaped, and her maid was burned at the stake in her stead.)

This case was later recounted by the English historian Raphael Holinshed, in which he described some of the supposedly damning evidence authorities found against Kyteler: “In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of ointment wherewith she greased her staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”

Another oft-cited account comes a from 15th-century manuscript by theologian Jordanes de Bergamo. In his “Quaestio de Strigis” of 1470, Bergamo writes of witches who on “certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.”

It’s hard to know whether or not witches actually did the deeds they were rumored to have done (like mounting hallucinogen-laced wooden staffs in their covens). Sources from the era when fears about witchcraft peaked are unreliable and biased, noted Charles Zika, a professor at the University of Melbourne, who has written about the imagery of witchcraft. Modern knowledge of witches often comes from manuals written by inquisitors, ecclesiastical judges and testimony by accused witches — much of it produced under duress or torture, Zika explained.

“A lot of it we can’t trust as descriptions of social reality at all,” Zika told LiveScience.

Based on these accusations, it is not difficult to deduce where the idea of the “sexy witch” originates. The explicit implications of staff riding, and the sexual nature of witches in images throughout the Renaissance, are difficult to ignore. Artists like Albrecht Dürer and Hans Baldung depicted them naked. The witch in one engraving by the Italian artist Parmigianino is not riding a broom, but rather a gigantic, anatomically graphic phallus.

German artist Albrecht Dürer created this engraving around the year 1500, showing a witch riding a goat. Between her legs, she holds a distaff, or stick used for spinning wool.

But racy images of witches fit in with a culture in which there was much speculation about female sexuality, Zika said.

“It’s bound up with an anxiety about women and what place they have in society at a time when Europe was undergoing fundamental changes and transformations in society,” Zika said. With the Protestant Reformation, some religious leaders established bans on drinking and dancing, brothels were closed and marriage was more strictly codified and controlled.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, images of witches riding up and out of chimneys start to dominate. During this period, women also were more closely associated with domestic space than they were 200 years earlier, Zika said. At that time, too, brooms are depicted more and more often in relation to domestic work in art.

“It seems to me that this idea of them flying out the chimney is actually kind of a protest against this confinement in domestic space,” Zika said. “Witchcraft is symbolically in some ways freeing individuals from that kind of conception of their realm.”

Though the image of the broomstick stuck, early depictions in 15th- and 16th-century Europe show witches flying on a wide range of items, including stools, cupboards, wardrobes and two-pronged cooking forks, Zika said. But rarely are witches shown getting aloft on their own.

“There are very few representations of what you might call flying witches — they’re usually riding some implement or animal,” he explained.

“It’s not their own bodies that are propelling them,” Zika said. “The explanation in the theological handbooks is that they are being supported by demons and devils that are holding them.”

Hundreds of years later, it can be tough to tease out what people and artists of the Renaissance actually believed about witches. In any case, some brave, if ill-advised, modern accounts suggest witches’ flying potions probably worked. In his book “The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia” (Daily Grail Publishing, 2008), author Paul Devereux recounts folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert’s 20th-century experimentation with a mixture of belladonna, henbane and Datura:

“We had wild dreams. Faces danced before my eyes which were at first terrible. Then I suddenly had the sensation of flying for miles through the air. The flight was repeatedly interrupted by great falls. Finally, in the last phase, an image of an orgiastic feast with grotesque sensual excess.”

Just something to thing about, next time your youngster wants to dress up as a witch…

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Bacchus cult

Roman women of the senatorial elite frequently played major roles as patrons of and participants in mystery cults. While traditional Roman, public religion offered a place for women, it did not offer them much of an active role in ritual observations and, with very few exceptions, offered them no positions of religious authority. Female worshippers of Dionysus were called Bacchants and celebrations in his honor were called the Bacchanalia.

Originally the Roman initiation into the cult of Bacchus was attended by women only, on three days in the year in the grove of Simila near the Aventine Hill, around March 16 and 17. But democratic growth brought all sexes and classes into a weekly observance. The growth of the powerful female priesthood attracted the attention of the Roman Senate.

The Bacchic cult had been established in Greece for centuries and was established in Etruria and southern Italy long before Senatorial decree of 186 BCE and for some time in Rome as well.

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The Roman fertility deities Liberia and Liber became synonymous with Bacchanalia  although Liberia resembled the Greek agricultural goddess Persephone more than Dionysus’ wife Ariadne All three goddesses are preservers of marriage and the sacred law

Thus, the Senate’s action was taken against a cult it had tolerated for a long while but whose influence was growing and whose hierarchy threatened the elite. The free participation in Dionysian rites by slaves and free, Romans and foreigners, and men and women was undermining the rank of the powerful men. The “ecstatic” practices – which included drink and an encounter with the god described in erotic language might be found unsettling or even threatening.

While much of the Roman propaganda against the cult focused on critiques of ritual practice, the Senate’s edict was, in fact, directed only against the hierarchical organization of the cult. It forbade Romans to be priests. It forbade adherents to share money and property in kind. It forbade adherents to recognize the authority of Bacchic priests in their daily lives. Thus, devotees of Bacchus could get drunk and have sex as much as they liked, as long as their worship didn’t create a structure of social and religious authority that members of the Senatorial elite could not control. Similarly, in the propaganda Livy reiterates attacks on the role of women in the cult, what appears to have prompted at least part of the Senatorial response was the fact that cult had begun to become popular with Roman men. Thus the existing cult structure would have permitted women authority over the lives of male adherents.

Nevertheless, as throughout the empire, the cult of Dionysus continued to remain the most practiced and popular, yet the action no doubt enhanced the advantage to rival cults. The women only cult of Bon Dia, where the name Bacchus could not be mentioned appears to have become the place for the elite women of Rome.

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Swan Song

A “swan song” is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement. The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song in the moment just before death, having been silent (or alternatively, not so musical) during most of their lifetime.

There have been many post-classical references to the swam song in poem such as,

“The silver Swan, who living had no Note,

when Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.

Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,

thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:

“Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!”

More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.”

Or

The wild swan’s death-hymn took the soul

Of that waste place with joy

Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear

The warble was low, and full and clear;

…But anon her awful jubilant voice,

With a music strange and manifold,

Flow’d forth on a carol free and bold;

As when a mighty people rejoice

With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold…

Others, such as  Samuel Taylor Coleridge made comic use of the legend:

“Swans sing before they die— ‘t were no bad thing

Should certain persons die before they sing.”

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Budget Halloween pt 4

Scary Outdoor Halloween Decor - iVillage

For this one you can use plastic hands, stickers, or if you have a printer why not print out hands, cut them out, and stick them on a high window, like a garage or bathroom. Every time you turn on the light, you’ll get this eerie back-lighting

DIY Halloween Spell Book, includes free printable spell book pages:

If you’re going for a witch theme why not print out some free pages “spell book” pages, or maybe you have your own  grimoire (word of the day!) book laying around. Throw down some black fabric like the one pictured above and a crow (99c store) and voila. Add some black candles for an instant centerpiece. If you want a more “Snow White” theme, try a basket of blood red apples.

Creepy Eyeball Flowers - blue eyes:

Another idea for those cheap plastic eyeballs. Grab a bouquet, or make one of some cheap flowers and hot glue eyes in the center. Make sure you get flowers with petals that will cover most of the eyeball, but not all of it. Black flowers are also available this time of year.