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Romans Used to Ward Off Sickness With Flying Penis Amulets
Centuries ago, before modern medicine, in a time when humans fought disease and sickness in more, uh, mystical ways, ancient Romans centered on a solution that today might get you reported, or at least looked at askance: amulets for you and your children shaped like giant penises. The amulets—and also, frequently, wind chimes—were shaped like a fascinum, or a divine penis, to ward off disease and the evil eye.
But they were used for more than that, too, as ancient Roman boys also wore the amulets, called bullae, to indicate their social status (like whether they were slaves or free boys), while young girls had a similar counterpart. In order to increase the efficacy of a bulla or another adornment, such as a kid’s ring, they were crafted into the shape of, or adorned with, giant penises.
“The sexual energy of the phallus was tied directly to its power in reproduction,” according to classicist Anthony Philip Corbeill. The fertile power of a phallus, it was thought, would keep them safe.
This was important, primarily because in the Roman world, children were exceptionally vulnerable to sickness, with up to half of all Roman children dying before the age of five, according to the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Which made it understandable, then, that mothers resorted to magical methods to protect their offspring.
A winged phallus at the British Museum in London Ashley Van Haeften
But, as Pliny the Elder noted in his Natural History, fascina weren’t just limited to kids: “Infants are under the especial guardianship of the god Fascinus, the protector, not of infants only, but of generals as well.” Which means that when a general was parading through Rome in triumph, surrounded by booty and slaves, he’d likely also have a fascinum hanging on his chariot. Or, as Pliny described: “It is the image of this divinity that is attached beneath the triumphant car of the victorious general, protecting him, like some attendant physician, against the effects of envy.”
Other fascina are double-headed. One side of the amulet is a penis, the other a clenched fist. What does the latter symbolize? A fist with the thumb thrust up between the index and middle figures is often called the “fig,” or mano fica. It’s a dirty thumbs-up that’s symbolic of a penis and genitalia in general so carving both a talisman with both a fascinum and a “fig” on it would make this twice as powerful at warding off evil.
Another winged phallus at the British Museum, dating to the 1st century. Todd Huffman
And then there are the penis bullae with wings carved on them (cue the Red Bull ad here). Why turn a fascinum into a half-genital, half-bird hybrid? Flying capabilities made them more effective threats—and thus better protectors—against invidia (envy, or the evil eye), but they were also a throwback to the ancient Greeks, from whom the Romans co-opted some cultural and religious ideas. In this case, it might’ve started with language. “The Greek word for ‘wing’ also served as a euphemism for phallus,” Erich Segal wrote in The Death of Comedy. This pun also rears its head in Plato’s Phaedrus, in which Eros (erotic love) has to grow his wings before he can “take flight.”
As a result of the fascinum’s effectiveness, Pliny claimed its worship formed “part of the Roman rites.” Its worship was “entrusted to the Vestal Virgins,” the chaste priestesses of the goddess Vesta. It might seem a bit odd to give a giant phallus monument to virgins, but the Vestals were actually all about fertility. As the classicist Mary Beard noted in a 1980 article, “it seems as if the virgin was not looked upon as sterile but as a mediator of stored up, potential procreative power.”
And, today, fascina live on in the English language, in the word “fascinate.” If you’re fascinated with something, in other words, you might just be thinking that it looks like a penis.
Scissors Enter the 18th Century
Although the actual inventor of scissors is hard to identify, Robert Hinchliffe, of Sheffield, England, should be rightfully acknowledged as the father of modern scissors. He was the first to use steel to manufacture and mass-produce them in 1761—more than 200 years after da Vinci’s death.
Pinking shears were invented and patented in 1893 by Louise Austin of Whatcom, Washington. As Austin noted in his patent application, which was granted on Jan. 1, 1893:
Check out the reviews on Amazon or GoodReads to see what people are saying about it. It’s available in book, eBook and audiobook formats, and it’s written with the hope of making you laugh while you learn surprising stuff about why your life is the way it is.
Hello! Right, let’s do the caveats first off. The history of periods is a subject exclusively about women’s experience, and I am a man. If this pisses you off, that’s totally fine. But what I will say is that I’m a historian interested in the lives of all 108 billion people who have ever lived, and half of those people were female. For too long women’s history has been relegated to minor sub-interest, and that’s a poor state of affairs.
So, why blog about the history of periods, and not something else?
As the Chief Nerd to CBBC’s multi award-winning comedy show Horrible Histories, I spend quite a lot of my time answering people’s questions about daily life in the past (It became so frequent, I decided to write a book about it.)
Often these queries slip out from mouths that are already contorted by wrinkle-nosed disgust, and I’ll see my interrogator pre-emptively braced for gruesome tales of toilets, unwashed bodies, and rotten teeth festering in diseased gums. For many of us, the past is synonymous with ghastliness, and that’s part of its disgusting allure. But there is a particular question that only gets asked by women, and it’s usually delivered in a hushed, wincing tone: “how did women use to deal with their periods in the past?”
The fact that this question comes up so often at my public talks suggests to me that this is a subject deserving of wider attention. So, while I’m certainly no expert, I’ve had a go at briefly summarising some of the more obvious elements in the history of menstruation.
WERE WOMEN’S PERIODS REGULAR?
Firstly, it’s worth noting that a regular cycle might not have always been so common. In the pre-Antibiotic Age, when nourishing food could be scarce and workplace Health & Safety didn’t exist, many women were likely to suffer from vitamin deficiency, disease, or bodily exhaustion. As is still the case, such stressors could interrupt the body’s hormonal balance and delay or accelerate the arrival of menses. Aware of this, medical writers dedicated much effort to discussing menstrual abnormalities, and in 1671 a midwife called Jane Sharp noted that periods: “sometimes flow too soon, sometimes too late, they are too many or too few, or are quite stopt that they flow not at all. Sometimes they flow by drops, and again sometimes they overflow sometimes they cause pain, sometimes they are of an evil colour and not according to nature sometimes they are voided not by the womb but some other way sometimes strange things are sent forth from the womb.”
But despite the dangers of disease and diet, women have always had periods: so how did they cope? Let’s go back to the time of the Greeks and Romans.
DID THE ROMANS USE TAMPONS?
The point often made in online blogs is that, even in the ancient world, women were using what may seem similar to modern hygiene products. The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos, who is known as the Father of Medicine, is widely referenced on the internet as mentioning that small wooden sticks, wrapped with soft lint, might be inserted into the vagina as a primitive tampon. This is a claim that doesn’t stack up, as shown here by Dr Helen King. It’s also been suggested that Egyptian women used a tampon of papyrus fibres, while Roman women perhaps preferred a similar device woven from softer cotton. Frustratingly, these are theories founded in modern supposition rather than good evidence. Not to say it didn’t happen, but we can’t prove it. Thankfully, there’s better proof for the widespread use of absorbent cotton pads that lined a Roman woman’s linen knickers (subligaculum). For more on that, check out this other post by Dr Helen King.
Such “menstruous rags”, as they are called in the Bible (in 1600s England they were called “clouts”) continued in use for millennia, despite the fact that most Western women wandered about knickerless between the medieval era and the early 1800s, with the only exceptions having been the fashionable ladies of 16 th century Italy. If women really did spend a thousand years going commando, then an alternative method was to suspend such pads between their legs using a belted girdle around the waist. We know, for example, that Queen Elizabeth I of England owned three black silk girdles to keep her linen sanitary towels, or “vallopes of Holland cloth”, held in the right place.
THE HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS ATTITUDES TO MENSTRUAL BLOOD
Queen Lizzie also famously took a bath once a month “whether she needed it or not”, and this was likely at the end of her flow. Such intimate hygiene may now strike us as purely practical, but there was an ancient spiritual significance to such things. In Judaism’s Halakha laws, as soon as a woman begins bleeding she enters into the profane state of Niddah and is not allowed to touch her husband until she has slept on white sheets for a week, to prove the bloodshed is over. Only when the fibres are verifiably unstained can she then wash herself in the sacred Mikvah bath and return to the marital bed. Similarly, Islamic tradition also dictates that a woman must have conducted her post-menstrual ritual ablutions before she can make love to her husband. What’s more, during her period a Muslim woman is not allowed inside a Mosque, and cannot pray or fast during Ramadan.
Such menstrual ‘impurity’ is also visible in ancient medical beliefs, though in Ancient Egypt period blood could be used positively as a medical ingredient. For example, a cure for sagging breasts was to smear it over the drooping mammaries and thighs, perhaps because the womb was the incubator of new life and so its blood possessed rejuvenating powers? However, the Greek physician Hippocrates – though, himself, a man with many curious medical remedies – instead believed menstruation to be potentially dangerous to a woman’s health.
MENSTRUATION: MEDICINE AND SUPERSTITION
During the glorious height of Greek civilisation, about 2,500 years ago, it was widely-believed that periods began when a girl reached 14, but if the process was delayed then the excess blood slowly gathered around her heart, producing symptoms of fever, erratic behaviour, violent swearing, and even suicidal depression (later in the 19th century this became known as hysteria, after the Greek name for womb, hystera). If the girl’s period refused to flow in good time, then Hippocrates had no qualms in bleeding her from the veins, as he had no understanding of the womb’s lining being shed. To him, all blood was the same. Bizarrely, this intervention was thought essential otherwise medical theory suggested her womb would wander aimlessly around her body!
Other ancient scholars repeated even stranger beliefs. Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist who died rushed headlong towards Mt. Vesuvius’ famous eruption of 79AD, warned that contact with menstrual blood: “turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens dry up, the fruit falls off tress, steel edges blunt and the gleam of ivory is dulled, bees die in their hives, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.” Such superstitious attitudes clung on through the ages, and reinforced the medieval Church’s suspicion towards women.
Though it was Adam who tasted the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Catholic doctrine argued Eve was to blame for humanity’s eviction from blissful Eden. In divine retribution, it was said by Hildegard of Bingen that Eve’s female descendants would endure painful childbirth, and therefore the monthly cramps of menstruation. Given Pliny’s dire warnings of bloody peril, coupled with the Church’s institutional misogyny, it’s unsurprising that medieval European women were therefore believed to temporarily possess supernatural powers of evil during their monthly visits from Mother Nature.
These outlandish scare-stories could be truly bizarre. Not only would beehives allegedly empty, swords rust, and fresh fruit rot in their presence, but nearby men could be cursed with just a glance, and a drop of blood on the penis could allegedly burn the sensitive flesh like it were caustic acid. If a bloke were brave enough, or horny enough, to penetrate a woman during her period then it was claimed the resulting baby would be weak, deformed, and ginger (sorry, redheads…) What’s more, the risk didn’t dampen with age – pre-menopausal women were believed to have stored up a lifetime of excess blood (in line with Hippocrates’ theories) and this meant the poisonous vapours might escape through their eyes and nose, and contaminate – or even kill – babies and animals in their vicinity.
DID WOMEN IN THE PAST TRY TO HIDE THEIR PERIODS?
With a certain amount of shame attached to menstruation as a process, and genuine horror affixed to the blood itself, it’s no surprise that women took pains to mask their cycles from public view. In medieval Europe they carried nosegays of sweet-smelling herbs around their necks and waists, hoping it would neutralise the odour of blood, and they might try to stem a heavy flow with such medicines as powdered toad. However, pain relief was not readily permitted by the Church: God apparently wanted each cramp to be a reminder of Eve’s Original Sin. The fact that nuns – who were often fasting, or on drastically reduced diets – suffered such iron deficiency as to completely suppress their cycle merely highlighted to medieval thinkers how concerted holiness could, at least to their understanding, reverse Eve’s error and bring a woman’s body back into divine grace.
WHAT IF A WOMAN STOPPED HAVING REGULAR PERIODS?
If an ordinary woman stopped having periods then this was considered bad news: firstly, procreation was an important religious and social duty. Secondly, as dictated by Hippocrates, an infertile wife was also more likely suffer a build-up of maddening blood that might tip her toward fevers, fits and – shock, horror! – manly behaviour. Thankfully, the best advice was simply to have regular sex and eat healthily. If that didn’t work, gentler remedies included potions of herbs and wine, or vaginal pessaries made up of mashed fruits and vegetables. The barber’s knife was wisely the last resort.
DID WOMEN IN THE PAST WEAR SANITARY PADS/TOWELS?
Assuming that women were healthy, it’s possibly quite shocking that not all our female ancestors seemed to have used pads, tampons, cups or other devices to catch the blood. Indeed, many simply bled into their clothes, while others are said to have dripped droplets of blood as they walked, leaving a trail behind them. But, given what we known about Edwardian attitudes to hygiene and decency, it’s perhaps not surprising that it was during this period that more modern solutions began to appear.
For starters, an elegant Edwardian lady hoping to avoid unsightly staining might well have worn a Menstrual Apron under her skirts – this was a washable linen nappy for the genitals, held in place by a girdle and joined at the rear by a protective rubber skirt. To ensure warmth and decency (if a sudden gust of wind lifted up her skirts) ankle-length knickers were also worn beneath the apparatus, but they would be special open-crotch pantalettes so no blood would stain them. But gradually these cumbersome contraptions were phased out as a new twist on an ancient technology began to emerge.
THE HISTORY OF TAMPONS
The modern sanitary hygiene business properly began when a company called Cellucotton discovered its wood fibre field bandages were being used for non-military purposes during WW1. Field nurses looking after injured soldiers had been stuffing the bandages down their pants during their periods, and found them to be surprisingly effective. Cellucotton got wind of this and decided to market the pads as Kotex, using advertising campaigns that highlighted the comfort and relief given by their reliable product. When Kotex pads flew off the shelves, Cellucotton figured it was onto a winner and changed its name to mirror their miracle product.
Though we suspect the Ancient Egyptian and Romans were the first to use tampons, it wasn’t until 1929 that an American osteopath called Dr Earle Haas re-invented this product. His ‘applicated tampon’ allowed the user to slide the absorbent diaphragm into her vagina without having to touch her genitals, so it was more hygienic. It was clearly a good idea but, after struggling to market them himself, in 1933 Haas sold the patent to an industrious German immigrant called Gertrude Tendrich who started making the tampons by hand with little more than a sewing machine and an air compressor.
From those humble beginnings, hunched over a sewing machine while individually crafting each tampon by hand, Tendrich’s company flourished. Today, it accounts for half of all tampon sales worldwide, and was bought by Proctor and Gamble in 1997 for $2 billion. Tampax is now a global brand.
Check out the online Museum of Menstruation for more images and info. If you want much more detail on menstruation in 16th and 17th centuries, here’s a very readable academic article by Sara Read
Hand Door Knockers
Thought to originate from the Hand of Fatima —a palm-shaped amulet used to protect against evil—hand-shaped knockers are common in countries bordering the Mediterranean whence they spread to neighboring countries.
Hand door knocker, Trujillo, Spain. Credit Julius Eugen Hand door knocker from Jaén, Spain. Credit Zarateman Door knocker in Orleans, France
Hand knocker from Bort-les-Orgues, France. Credit OliBac
Altmans Tub, Lav, kitchen Parts and Fixtures - Division Of Auburn Bath Intl
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WE Are Green
We are proud to announce that we are a Green Company doing our part to save the Earth for future Americans. Auburn Bath International does it's part by recycling and reusing all products. We are 100% compliant with Federal law, E.P.A. & N.S.F. Safe Drinking Water Act Federal law: S3874 Amendment: 1417 California low lead law: AB1953 Vermont low lead law: 193 Which prohibits all parts that are manufactured for drinking water to contain less then 0.25% lead in pipes, fittings, and fixtures used to convey drinking water on wet surfaces. We strictly enforce this law to ensure your safety.
Our History In The Industry!
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Third Eye In The Masonic Triangle
In modern times, famous authors, painters and poets have described the Third Eye and pineal gland as being nothing less than the “lost secret” of Freemasonry. In his 1918 book, The Wonders of the Human Body, Dr. George Washington Carey tells us:
“…the All-seeing eye…This is the eye of freemasonry, the third eye. While I am credibly formed that few Masons understand their own symbols, the fact remains that they use them…”
—Dr. George Washington Carey, The Wonders of the Human Body
In her fascinating 1924 book, Mystic Americanism, the obscure American author Grace Morey explained:
“The All-Seeing Eye…also emblematic of the pineal gland or third eye of the human being…has been found amid the ruins of every civilization upon the globe, thereby attesting the fact of a universal religion over all the earth at some remote period. As we now restore this universal religion, we set the All-Seeing eye upon the pyramid.”
— Grace Morey, Mystic Americanism
It comes as no surprise, then, that pine cones appear regularly throughout Masonic decoration. They are depicted in Masonic art, they hang from the ceilings of Masonic Lodges, and they are etched in stone on Masonic-constructed buildings throughout the world. A large Masonic design on the side of the Whitehall Building in the New York Financial District depicts two enormous intertwining snakes spiraling up to a pinecone (which is striking similar to the Staff of Osiris).
Above: A caduceus depicting a pine cone appears on the Whitehall Building in New York City.
Pine cones also adorn ritual instruments used by Freemasons inside Masonic lodges:
“The tops or points of the [Masonic] rods of deacons are often surmounted by a pine-cone or pineapple.”
” Operative Masonry, in the fullest meaning of that term, signifies the process by which the Eye…is opened. E. A. Wallis Budge has noted that in some of the papyri illustrating the entrance of the souls of the dead into the judgment hall of Osiris the deceased person has a pine cone attached to the crown of his head. The Greek mystics also carried a symbolic staff, the upper end being in the form of a pine cone, which was called the thyrsus of Bacchus. In the human brain there is a tiny gland called the pineal body, which is the sacred eye of the ancients, and corresponds to the third eye of the Cyclops. Little is known concerning the function of the pineal body, which Descartes suggested (more wisely than he knew) might be the abode of the spirit of man. As its name signifies, the pineal gland is the sacred pine cone in man – the eye single…”
—Manly P. Hall, Secret Teachings of All Ages
The Third Eye has been hidden in plain sight in the West, masked as the term “all seeing eye” and superficially said to be the eye of the Jewish deity. For this reason, Masons refer to it as the “all-seeing eye of God”, when in reality it’s the awakened Third Eye.
Masonic Lodge, Prague 18th Century, depicting a Third Eye inside a luminous triangle.
The term “all-seeing eye” in and of itself is indeed correct but it’s not the all-seeing-eye of the Hebrew God it is the all-seeing eye of you, the pineal gland that we all have.
Many highly trained and educated Masons who lived during the 20th century, including several noted authors and scholars, were convinced that the all-seeing Eye was not the Eye of the Bible’s God, and that the modern system of Freemasonry we’ve inherited, based on the Hebrew Bible, is in fact corrupted.
It is interesting to note that the famous American Author and Freemason Mark Twain, writing in 1899, referred to the All Seeing Eye not as the Eye of some distant heavenly deity or “old man upstairs,” but as a tangible gift that any person can use:
“The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the ‘all seeing eye’ pierces through, and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside didn’t indicate or promise, and which the other kind couldn’t detect.”
Interestingly, there is evidence that Hitler was aware of and understoo pine cone symbolism. One of the front panels on his desk displays clear pine cone symbolism:
Picture of Hitler’s desk. See the Left panel. A deity is flanked by staffs at the end of which are a pine cone.
Adolf Hitler believed in the Third Eye. This fact is affirmed by Hermann Rauschning, the former National Socialist Senate President of Danzig. In Hitler Speaks (London, 1939), Rauschning wrote:
“To have “magic insight” was apparently Hitler’s idea of the goal of human progress…There was the eye of the Cyclops, or median eye, the organ of magic perception of the Infinite, now reduced to a rudimentary pineal gland. Speculations of this sort fascinated Hitler, and he would sometimes be entirely wrapped up in them.”
It seems that, almost 100 years ago, Hitler knew things about the Third Eye that most Americans are only now starting to rediscover.
The Third Eye can be seen above the French Declaration of Human Rights in a 1789 painting, and is on the back of the one dollar bill it floats above an Egyptian pyramid, itself a clear and obvious Masonic image:
Left: The Third Eye in the triangle is visible above the French Declaration of Human Rights. The Third Eye in the triangle above a truncated pyramid on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States.
Is it possible, then, that the pineal gland has been overlooked in Western society intentionally, so as to rob the masses of its power? Is it possible that the Third Eye is the lost secret of authentic Freemasonry, lost at some point in the mid 1800s? space
Types of Hammers
In general, hammers have metal heads and are used to strike metal objects. The curved claw hammer used to drive nails into wood is one example. Other hammers include the framing hammer with a straight claw that can be driven between nailed boards to pry them apart. It is often used in heavy construction where temporary forms or supports must be removed. The ball peen hammer has a semi-spherical end and is used to shape metal. A tack hammer is one of the smallest hammers. It is used by upholsterers to drive small tacks into wood furniture frames. A sledge hammer is one of the largest hammers. It usually has a long handle and is used for driving spikes and other heavy work. Other modern hammers include brick hammers, riveting hammers, welder's hammers, hand drilling hammers, engineer's hammers, and many others.
A related class of hammer-like tools are called mallets. They have large heads made of rubber, plastic, wood, or leather. Mallets are used to strike objects that would be damaged by a blow from a metal hammer. Rubber mallets are used to assemble furniture or to beat dents out of metal. Wood and leather mallets are used to strike wood handled chisels. Plastic mallets have smaller heads and are used to drive small pins into machinery. A very large wooden mallet is sometimes called a maul.
What is the Labrum in the Shoulder?
The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body it is held together by an intricate network of tendons, ligaments and soft tissue. The labrum is a piece of cartilage that serves an important function in this network.
The labrum surrounds the edge of the glenoid, or the shoulder’s socket. The humerus head, or the top of the humerus bone in the arm, fits into the glenoid—but it is not a tight fit because the humerus head is usually larger than the glenoid socket.
The labrum lies between the humerus and the glenoid - allowing the humerus head to fit more securely into the glenoid socket. At the same time, the labrum provides cushioning and a full range of motion in the shoulder.
Museum Reproductions Web Shop
No 107 Roman Silver Fibula
Roman Silver Fibula. Original was made of solid silver.
No 122 Roman Slide Key
Roman Slide Key, dating 2nd century, excellent condition
No 124 Roman Dress Pin
Roman Dress Pin, dating 2nd Century, showing bird on top
No 148 Votive Axe-Head
Votive Axe-Head, beautiful piece said to be Roman or Viking
No 168 Roman Bronze Double Phallus
Bronze Double Phallus, erotic piece, it does have a missing wing
No 238 Roman Bronze Phallic Ring
Bronze Phallic Ring, a wonderful and unusual artefact
No 242 Roman Bronze Head
Bronze Head, probably some sort of mount, excellent
No 261 Roman Brothel Token
Roman Brothel Token, 1.25" diameter, highly unusual piece
No 341 Roman Cockerel
Roman Cockerel, Dating to C.1stǘnd, 1.5" tall
No 387 Roman Dolphin Razor Handle
Dolphin Razor Handle, a perfect artefact, very fine
No 396 Roman Bronze Duck
Bronze Duck, similar to Number 341, a wonderful ornament
No 420 Roman/Celtic Bird Ring or Mount
Roman/Celtic Bird Ring or Mount, a lovely artefact
No 423 Roman God
Roman God, of Harpocrates, 77mm tall, weight 66 gms
No 488 Roman Military Belt Mount
Roman Military Belt Mount a heavy piece, splendid
No 560 Roman Fibula
Roman Fibula, Unusual type, excellent condition, no pin though