Phallic worship around the world in ancient times

The Hohle phallus, a 28,000-year-old siltstone phallus discovered in the Hohle Fels cave and first assembled in 2005, is among the oldest phallic representations known. The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura. The prehistoric “tool” was reassembled from 14 fragments of siltstone. Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report. “In addition to being a symbolic representation of male genitalia, it was also at times used for knapping flints,” explained Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University. “There are some areas where it has some very typical scars from that,” he told the BBC News website. Researchers believe the object’s distinctive form and etched rings around one end mean there can be little doubt as to its symbolic nature. See news report below:

Ancient phallus unearthed in cave BBC News, 25 July 2005 By Jonathan Amos

It may also have been used to knap, or split, flints

A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say.

The Hohle Fels bird

“It’s highly polished; it’s clearly recognisable,” said Professor Conard. The Tübingen team working Hohle Fels already had 13 fractured parts of the phallus in storage, but it was only with the discovery of a 14th fragment last year that the team was able finally to put the “jigsaw” together. The different stone sections were all recovered from a well-dated ash layer in the cave complex associated with the activities of modern humans (not their pre-historic “cousins”, the Neanderthals). The dig site is one of the most remarkable in central Europe. Hohle Fels stands more than 500m above sea level in the Ach River Valley and has produced thousands of Upper Palaeolithic items…. read more


The Middle East

Phallic Figurines Found in Israel Stone Age Burials by Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel for National Geographic News September 5, 2008 Prehistoric graves with an unusual abundance of phallic figurines and oddly arranged human remains have been found in Israel, archaeologists announced recently. Near Nazerat (Nazareth), the Stone Age site, called Kfar HaHoresh, dates to between 8,500 and 6,750 B.C. The site was uninhabited and probably served surrounding villages as a centralized burial and cult center, said excavation leader Nigel Goring-Morris of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. Archaeologists have primarily found female symbolic figurines in other nearby burials of this time period. “At Kfar HaHoresh, all the gender-oriented symbolism seems to be male,” Goring-Morris said. “Researchers in the past have put more emphasis on the ‘mother goddess’ of agriculture.” Among other oddities at the newly excavated site are human bones arranged into shapes and even buried with human remains. … Read more


Egypt and the Mesopotamia The phallus played a role in the cult of Osiris in ancient Egyptian religion. When Osiris’ body was cut in 14 pieces, Seth scattered them all over Egypt and his wife Isis retrieved all of them except one, his penis, which was swallowed by a fish; see the Legend of Osiris and Isis. Supposedly, Isis made a wooden replacement.

Statue of Osiris

The phallus was a symbol of fertility, and the god Min was an ancient Egyptian god of fertility, often depicted as ithyphallic, that is, with an erect penis. In Egyptian art and statues, Min is always shown holding his member with his left hand and a threshing flail in his raised right hand.

Min rose to prominence during the Middle Kingdom era, about 2050 BC, and by the New Kingdom era (1550 BC) he was the central figure in the Coronation Ceremony of every new Pharaoh. Read more …


The founding of the Phoenician city of Tyre is associated with the legend two “Ambrosial Rocks”, wandering rocks floated over the sea; on one of them was a burning olive tree with an eagle perched on top of it, together with a bowl. A snake was entwined around the tree; both eagle and snake lived in harmony. Melqart ordered the native population to build a ship and follow after the wandering rocks. The god’s oracle was to sacrifice the eagle so that the Ambrosial Rocks would stop wandering, indicating the place for the foundation of the city of Tyre. The myth is symbolically described on one of the cointypes of the city, minted between the reigns of Elagabal (218-222 CE) and Gallienus (253-268 CE): two semi-circular objects, representing the rocks, flank an olive-tree. The rocks are identified by the Greek inscription: AMBROCIE PETRE. Several coin specimens struck under Gordianus III (and only by this emperor), depict elongated “stelae-like” Ambrosial Rocks, are believed (Bijovsky) to describe a specific site in Tyre: the sacred sanctuary built in honour to Melqart.

Rome, Elagabalus Tyre mint AE28 218 – 222 AD

“Until the first century CE, there was no statue of the god within the temple of Heracleon. Strabo tells us about two bronze pillars of three meters-high, that stood in the shrine (Geography III: 5, 5). People who completed a successful voyage visited the pillars and made sacrifices to Heracles. Philostratus records that the two pillars were made of gold and silver, and were inscribed by Heracles (Vita Apol. V, 5). Despite the differences between these two versions, it seems that both writers refer to the same objects, which clearly recall the stelae from Tyre.”


In ancient Scandinavia and Europe Some image stones, such as the Stora Hammers and Tängelgårda stones, were phallic shaped.

Phallic representation in the Cucuteni culture, 2000 BC

Phallic representation is also seen in the Cucuteni-Trypolye Culture dated to around 3000 BC.  Figurines with a phallic aspect are said to be like their Anatolian, European or Mediterranean counterparts, representative of male deities are marked with M or W signs with lines, dots, a sun or a pillar.

From the Balkans, comes the veneration of Kuker is a divinity personifying fecundity, sometimes in Bulgaria and Serbia it is a plural divinity. In Bulgaria, a ritual spectacle of spring (a sort of carnival performed by Kukeri) takes place after a scenario of folk theatre, in which Kuker’s role is interpreted by a man attired in a sheep- or goat-pelt, wearing a horned mask and girded with a large wooden phallus. During the ritual, various physiological acts are interpreted, including the sexual act, as a symbol of the god’s sacred marriage, while the symbolical wife, appearing pregnant, mimes the pains of giving birth. This ritual inaugurates the labours of the fields (ploughing, sowing) and is carried out with the participation of numerous allegorical personages, among which is the Emperor and his entourage.

In “Old Europe: A New Awakening!” an Old European origin is given for both the combined Cosmic Egg and Fish mythology…

The Fish

Although the engraving of two fishes evidently belong to another period and seem out of context, it should be remembered that the fish as a symbol is not the exclusive prerogative of Christian faith. In Old Europe, the usual symbolism connected with the fish ranges from its being an emblem of the vulva, or the phallus, to a symbol of the soul or the ‘mystic ship of life‘. At Lepenski Vir, a prehistoric site located on the banks of Danube river in eastern Serbia, a complex belonging to the Starčevo culture dated to the early sixth millenium B.C.E., the fish represented a dominant deity and assumes the shape of an egg and is anthropomorphized. In Old Europe, geometric motifs of various kind engraved on stones often appear on acquatic divinities associated with cosmogonical imagery.”

Romans and the Greeks

The Romans are famous for their mystery cults, among whom very popular was the worship of the god Bacchus, whose symbol was the phallus.  Once accepted into the cult devotees were expected to castrate themselves as offering of their fertility in exchange for the fertility of the world. Cults for Isis and Osiris and Mithras were popular with traders and soldiers. [“World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York] (See Ancient Roman Religion). For depictions of Bacchus or Dionysus, see this page.

Abbé Banier’s Ovid commentary has details of how phallic worship was conducted by the Romans:

Of the survivals of purely phallic worship evidence abounds, and also of the fact that women were generally the more active participants. St. Augustine says : — ” The sexual member of man is consecrated in the temple of Liber, that of woman in the sanctuaries of Libera, the same goddess as Venus, and these two divinities are called the father and the mother because they preside over the act of generation” {De Civitaie Dei, vi., 9). Liber was a title of Bacchus, in whose honour the festival of the Liberales was held in March, six days after the Greeks celebrated their Dionysia, in honour of the same divinity. The Phallus, styled by the Romans Mutinus or Tutinus, when isolated from the representa- tion of a human figure, played a prominent part in these celebrations. On the authority of Varro, St. Augustine states that at certain places in Italy this emblem, placed upon a chariot, was solemnly and with great honour drawn about the fields, the highways, and finally the towns. “At Lavinium the festival of the god Liber lasted a month, during which all gave themselves up to pleasure, licentiousness and debauchery. Lascivious ditties and the freest speech were kept company by like actions. A magnificent car bearing an enormous Phallus was slowly drawn to the centre of the forum, where it came to a halt, and the most respectable matron of the town ad- vanced and crowned this obscene image with a wreath” {De Civitate Dei, vii., 21). Some days later was cele- brated the festival of Venus, also associated at Rome with the emblem of virility. During this festival the 284 Appendix.

Roman ladies proceeded in state to the Quirinal, where stood the temple of the Phallus, took possession of this sacred object, and escorted it in procession to the temple of Venus Erycina, where they placed it in the bosom of the goddess. A cornelian gem,* with a representation of this cerernony upon it, has been engraved in the ” Culte Secret des Dames Romaines.” A triumphal chariot bears a kind of altar, on which rests a colossal Phallus. A genius hovering above this object holds a crown of flowers suspended over it. The chariot and genius are under a square canopy, supported at the four corners by spears, each borne by a semi-nude woman. The chariot is drawn by goats and bulls, ridden by winged children, and is preceded by a group of women blowing trumpets. Further on, and in front of the car, is an object characteristic of the female sex, representing the sinus veneris. This emblem, the proportions of which correspond to those of the Phallus on the chariot, is upheld by two genii. These appear to be pointing out to the Phallus the place it is to occupy. The ceremony accomplished, the Roman ladies devoutly escorted the Phallus back to its temple. The mysteries of Bacchus were celebrated at Rome in the temple of that god and in the sacred wood near the Tiber, styled Simila…

As Bacchus won the Love of the People amongst whom he travelled; as he applyed himself to cultivate the Vine, and taught his Subjects several profitable and necessary Arts, he was honoured as a great Divinity; and his Worship spread far and near. Several Feasts were instituted in honour of him, of which we may see the Ceremonies in Meursius, Fasoldus, Castellanus, and other Authors who have written on that Subject. The greatest of all those Feasts, and that which gave occasion to the Tragical History of Pentheus, of which I am going to explain the Fable, was celebrated every Three Years, and named Trieterica. In that tumultuous Feast, the Bacchants had the Figure of that God, with the obscene Representation of Phallus placed in a Chariot drawn by Two Tygers or Two Panthers. Those Women, crown’d with Vines and holding Thyrsuses in their Hands, run in a frantick manner about the Chariot, as we may see in several antick Figures and Pieces of Basso Relievo, in which the Mysteries of Bacchus are represented. Those Bacchants filled the Air with the Noise of several Drums and other Instruments of Brass, crying Euohe Bacche! And calling that God, Bromius, Lyaeus, Euan, Leneus Sabazius etc. The Greeks having received that Feast, so well known in the Indies and Egypt, added to it several particular Ceremonies.

Altars for Hercules Roman initiation ceremonies depicted in a painting at the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, showed devotees who read liturgy,  made offerings, symbolically suckled a goat, unveiled the mystic phallus, whipped themselves (symbolic of ritual death), danced to resurrection and prepared for holy marriage.”

We have a more explicit explanation in “The Cults of the Greeks Vol. V.” that the Trieterica is so-called because in the days down to Plutarch, “there existed a college of women reputed to be the daughters of the three Minyas, ‘who in madness craved human flesh’ and in madness devoured one of their own children, in the year of … every other year, the O== were pursued by the priest of Dionysus with a drawn sword, and that anyone he could catch was slain, .. This pursuit by the incarnation of the god, descends from the Lykurgeon ritual of Thrace” . The Trieterica also alluded to the enactment of the dismemberment of a god.

“The Bacchoi worship orgiastically the mad Dionysos celebrating the mad service by devouring raw flesh and they distribute the flesh of the murdered victim, crowning their heads with snakes and raising the cry of the Euoi. …The legend that the women of the Minyai rent asunder a ‘tender child as if it were a fawn’ reflects an old ritual that evidently surived here and here in the historic period; … in Chios, a man was rent asunder in sacrifice to Dionysos ‘the eater of raw flesh’ and a similar charge of Dionysiac human sacrifice is brought against the Lesbians by Clemens … and in fact, according to Porphyry, the human sacrifice existed once in Tenedos, as in Chios.  Therefore we can understand why when the Greeks discovered a Celtic god worshipped in an island at the mouth of the Loire by wild women, one of whom was dismembered yearly in his service, they identified him at once with Dionysos.  … the god himself, or the priest who incarnates the god, … is led solemnly through the city in the same female attire that the deity occasionally wears; he is hung on a tree and pelted at, and we find the image of Dionysos commonly hung on trees; then follows the dismemberment, and then we may suspect, either in reality or in simulation, ‘the sacrificial banquet of men’s flesh’…”

That there is a prevalent belief that the Delphic trieterica are especially favored by divine presence and communion, and that there exist various Petra- and Egyptian, Thracian and Cretan versions of the Bacchoi-Dionysiac orgy-rituals– are noted, including the association of the dismembered body parts being stashed in a chest which is guarded by a snake.  And then of the dismemberment, the author notes that while the story of the seven male Titans divided the infant god into seven parts, in a fragmented Homeric hymn, the dismemberment is in three parts, and that the parts are scattered over various altars, but then gathered together again as a whole.

Reasons are  given to suppose that “the  dismemberment of the god was only reenacted in a trieteric ritual and if we may take the Delphic practice as typical, in the depth of winter. … many a scholar has taken the death of the god as an emblem of the decay of the vegetation; while a recent writer has tried to explain the Titans in the Delphic ritual as the Frost-Giants of Parnassos who rend the tender body of the vegetation-god”. The author also notes that a winter trieteric “death of the vegetation god” theme cannot always be made out in the Greek Dionysos celebrations, “but in the annual ceremonies the idea of his periodic disappearance or slumber beneath the earth or water may have been fairly prevalent, and to this would be linked the idea of his speedy resurrection or return….And in Phrygia and probably in Lydia, the passing away of Dionysos and his return or resurrection were beliefs that obviously reflected the impressions made by the changes of the seasons; for we are expressly told that the Phrygians believed that the god was asleep in the winter and arose when the summer returned; and the Lydians greeted his return in spring with joyous choruses. Here in Phrygian religion, his personality is partly fused with that of Attis, whose resurrection was an occasion of a spring festival of great moment for the Graeco-Roman world.”

The author then points out that there was “a rite observed in the Argolid, the Argives blew trumpets and summoned Dionysos to arise up from the waters and at the same time they threw a lamb into the bottomless pool [identified as Lake Alkyonia, near the Lerna] as an offering to the ‘warder of the gate’ ” and “according to local legend, into which Dionysos descended in order to bring back Semele from the lower world. It was into these mysterious waters that Perseus flung the body of Dionysos.” The author also says “We can believe the practice or the memory of it survived in this locality of throwing the dead or decaying image or incarnation into the water, perhaps in the autumn or winter” … and the “late Orphic verse speaks of the travail of Semele as a part of the mystic trieteric service“.

One more detail is noted, that the whole festival of the Thyiades is called by Euripedes, the ‘Torches of Bakchos‘ to give it mystic power, and that “the ritual of throwing lighted torches into a pit in the service of Kore [moon goddess]suggests the desire to strengthen by magical means the vivifying  warmth of the earth…this is the most natural explanation to give the Bacchic torch-celebration in the depth of winter. But in much of the vegetation-magic of Europe and other countries, fire is used for a purificatory purpose: as the Cretan Bacchos was made holy by raising the torch in honor of the mountain-goddess, so the waving of the Maenads torch may have been supposed to purge the air of evil.

Note: Hellenic sacrifice it is suggested here does not involve wine in the winter n..the wine would not be ready till the spring festival after February (Greeks) and April (Romans) and that wine casks were opened only twice a year– instead sacrifice to Dionysus consisted of a blood offering and oblations of fruit and cakes…or sober libations of milk, honey and water (wine was tabooed). It is also impressed upon us that the idea that Dionysus or Bacchus is the god of wine might be a misconception that came about through confusing the Dionysus festival with the occasion of the Oeoivia feast of the wine-god. Also the Dionysiac festivals were dedicated to the deity of fertility and not to the god of wine (p. 204 The Cult of the Greek States, Vol. 5)

The city of Tyrnavos in Greece holds an annual Phallus festival … on the first days of Lent (which has a Japanese counterpart in the Kawasaki phallus festival, the Hounen Fertility Festival or the Mara Kannon Shrine festival (said to go back over 400 years). Hermes, the god of boundaries and exchange (popularly the messenger god) is considered to be a phallic deity by association with representations of him on herms (pillars) featuring a phallus.

Pan, son of Hermes, was often depicted as having an exaggerated erect phallus. According to Jennings,  “Though the Greek writers call the deity who was represented by the sacred goat at Mendes, Pan, he more exactly answers to Priapus, or the generative attribute considered abstractedly {Diodor. Sic, lib. i., p. 78) ; which was usually represented in Egypt, as well as in Greece, by the Phallus only.”

Statues of Priapus that guarded gardens can still be found in gardens today. Priapus was a Greek god of fertility characterized by an exaggerated phallus. The son of Aphrodite and either Dionysus or Adonis, according to different forms of the original myth, he is the protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens, and male genitalia. The phallus was ubiquitous in ancient Roman culture, and phallic charms were resorted to by citizens to to ward off the evil eye and other malevolent influences. Roman boys wore the bulla, an amulet that contained a phallic charm, until they formally came of age. According to Augustine of Hippo, the cult of Father Liber, who presided over the citizen’s entry into political and sexual manhood, involved a phallus. The phallic deity Mutunus Tutunus promoted marital sex.


In Indonesia and Indian subcontinent

According to Mahadev Chakravarti:

“The Concept of Rudra-Siva Through the Ages (p. 130) presents  the”Linguistic evidence indicates that the post-Vedic Hindus not only adopted the tradition/ cult of the linga from the pre-Vedic non-Aryans, but even the term itself is of Austric origin. The word “linga”, while ubiquitous in the Austro-Asiatic world, cannot be seen originally to be occurring in the Indo-European languages. He[who?] further says that when these two words entered Sanskrit, they, along with another word “langula” (tail) were derivations of the same root syllable “lang” or “lng”. If this correlation is accepted on the basis of the obvious phonetic proximity between the three words linga ~ langala ~ langula, then it is not hard to recognize the semantic evolution of the words — because the usage of the phallus or the male generative organ in human procreation and the usage of a tool/implement like the ploughshare (langula) to till the earth for its fertility to bring forth life-supporting vegetation have a natural and spontaneous symbolical parallel and similarity to each other.

Stone lingams have been found in several Indus Civilization sites, found to be of steatite, sandstone and burnt clay. Phallic worship was prevalent in India and it was closely associated with magical rites based religion of that time. According to Gayatri’s “Interpreting symbolism of the linga“, the famous Harappan seal depicting a seated yogi with an erect phallus suggests that the phallic Saivism cult could have originated at least 5,000 years before. The earlier iconography was far more ornate and often anthropomorphic than the abstract “formless” forms of the later medieval periods. Clear associations with Siva worship arise by 2nd c. B.C. The earlier myth on the origin of lingam worship emphasizing fecundity, goes as follows:

One version of the Dâruvana myth occurs in the Kûrma Purâna (2.36.49–2.37.164; Davis 2002, pp. 150–61), a work compiled around the eighth century ce. It tells of how Siva was once wandering as an ascetic through a pine forest, when he sexually aroused and tempted the wives of a group of formidable sages. In retaliation, the sages cursed Siva, causing his penis to fall to the ground. When it fell, it erupted into flames and threatened to destroy the entire universe. In order to appease Siva and halt the impending doom, the sages began to worship the phallus; it is said that they were ordered to this fate as a punishment for their transgression against Siva. According to this popular medieval tale, this was how linga worship first originated. ” –The Form and Formlessness of Siva

The prehistoric “man-size” lingam called the “Gudimallam Lingam” in the Parashurameshwar Temple in the Chitoor District of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, is about 1.5 metres in height, carved in polished black granite. It dates back to ca. 2300–2800 BC (see “Mysterious saga of the lingam” below).

Banaras: Vision of a Living Ancient Tradition by Winand M. Callewaert, Robert Schilder “…the earliest lingams are apparently of the 2nd century B.C. Possibly the myths explaining the worship of the lingam have to be dated in that period.” “In Bhuvaneshvar (Orissa), a Buddhist Ashoka pillar was installed in the temple as a lingam.”

Mysterious saga of the lingam:

“The most ancient Shiva lingam known to mankind is standing at the crossroads. Sri Parasurameshwara temple, located in Gudimallam, a hamlet 13 km from Renigunta junction in Chittoor district in southern Andhra Pradesh, has a 2,200-year old history as the longest continuously worshipped Shiva temple in the world. Dating back to the third and second century BC, it is a simple structure consisting of a single semicircular chamber below ground level. Walking down the few steps into the garbha griha brings one face to face with a 1.35-metre, seven-sided monolithic lingam. The front plane has the figure of Parasurama standing on the crouching figure of a Yaksha. It rests on a base of seven concentric rings, or peethams, only two of which are visible above the surface. The main lingam and peetham, which were once out in the open under a tree, are dated 3rd century BC, while successive rulers of Pallavas, Banas, Cholas and Rayas made later additions to the temple. The semicircular shrine is a clear feature of the influx of Buddhist architecture into Hindu ones, as was common in the period. The low railing surrounding the idol has floral patterns typical of Buddhist and Jain architecture. Inscriptions on the temple walls in ancient Tamil describe the royal donations made to the temple, besides the various modifications made by rulers…. The rising sun’s rays pass through the grills carved on the stone walls twice a year during the solstices (uttarayana and dakshinayana) and fall directly on the forehead of the main Shiva lingam. The modern chapter in the temple’s history begins with the ASI taking it over in 1954. The former director of the ASI, Dr I.K Sarma, made important discoveries while excavating the region, and calls it the earliest extant Shiva lingam in India. He unearthed a two feet of the structure in 1994, and asserts that the iconographic features of the central engraved figure indicate it to be that of Agnirudra Shiva, and not Parasurama.” A Puranic tale tells of Parasurama having beheaded his mother at the behest of his father. The sage was advised by rishis to locate the temple and to worship the lingam as a penance. The lingam is believed to be a manifestation of the Trinity, with Brahma at the bottom, Vishnu in the middle and Shiva on top. A riveting legend is associated with how this came to be.

The articles Interpreting the Symbolism of the Linga and The Form and Formlessness of Siva cover the self-castration imagery of Saivite asceticism and the cosmic significance of the lingam respectively:

… the phallic imagery of early lingas was transformed into more abstract forms that resonates with theological ideas about Siva as distant, formless, and transcendent. By contrast, the Dâruvana myth explicitly presents the linga as the phallus of the god. As such, it may point to the reception and resonance of the older phallic iconography, even into the medieval period. That this myth was widespread, for instance, is suggested by the integration of versions into a number of different Puranas.8 By contrast, the Lingodbhavamûrti myth explains the mysterious origins of the linga with an emphasis on its cosmic significance. …

… it begins with a fight or argument between the gods Brahma and Višhnu, each of whom claims to be the highest lord in the universe (jagatprabhû; Skanda Purâða Then, between the two deities, a splendid column of fire or light suddenly appears; it is so enormous that its limits lie beyond their vision or perception. Viš{u, in the form of a boar, thus digs underground to search for the base of the column; BrahmA, in the form of a swan, attempts to fly to its apex. Both are unsuccessful, as the column is infinite – without beginning or end (e.g., Fig. 6).

Viš{u thus comes to realize that the column is a form of Siva; he praises
the god, recognizing him as the one who is truly the highest lord in the
universe. Brahma, by contrast, contrives a lie; he claims that he had, in
fact, reached and seen the top of the column. Œiva himself immediately
appears, and Brahma is exposed as a fraud. As a result, the god is subordinated to Siva.

Whereas the Dâruvana myth recounts the origins of liðga worship in
relation to Œiva’s body, the Lingodbhavamûrti myth instead emphasizes its
timeless and cosmic significance. The column of light is here described as
Œiva’s ‘jyotirliðga’ (‘liðga of light’; Skanda Purâða, and it is said
to have no beginning or end. The image of Siva, in this myth, is that of
a distant and abstract god. Different versions of the story describe the
cosmic column in various ways; it is notable, however, that many emphasize that the linga is beyond the senses, thus evoking the view of Œiva as formless and without attributes. …

These sources celebrate Siva as a deity who is ‘formless’ (nirguða) and ‘without attributes’ (niŠkala).2 Such descriptions reflect their theological positioning of Siva as the ultimate concept in the universe. They evoke the formless Siva at the top of a cosmic hierarchy. Examples can be found in traditions about Siva’s presence in Varanasi, a city celebrated as sacred to the god.3 In the Jñâna-saMhitâ (49) of the Siva Purâna tradition, for instance, it is said that all extant matter, divine beings, earthly creatures, etc., emanated in progressive stages of manifestation and materialization from Siva’s state of formlessness. — The Form and Formlessness of Siva

Southeast Asia – Cham kingdom

Photo: Vietnam News Agency

A Siva Lingam monument, a relic from the lost Champa Kingdom, stands proudly at the My Son site in Vietnam. Statues depicting Lingam and Yoni can be found in Hindu-influenced cultures across the entire Asian region. But the Cham religion in Vietnam has taken these images and fashioned them into a distinctive and different form.

Lingam and Yoni in the Cham religion differ from their Indian progenitors and their presence in Vietnam is evidence of the profound influence of Indian culture and religion in the country.

It is also proof of the strong sense of identity of the Cham people, who borrowed from Hinduism and created statues and temples with a style all of their own.

Cham Linga sculptures generally have a flat top, with only a few featuring spherical shapes. they are generally found in three different styles: square; another in two parts, one cylindrical and one square; and another has a cylindrical upper, the middle is octagonal and the bottom is square. Linga and Yoni are usually constructed as one structure. Traditionally only one Linga is attached to the Yoni, but in some Cham sculptures many Linga can be found on a single Yoni platform. The differences between Cham sculptures and those found else where in the Hindu world demonstrate subtle changes from their origins.” – Suvarnabhumi: Greater India citing Giving new image and likeness to old beliefs – by Nguyen Van Ngoc

Linga-yoni at the Cat Tien sanctuary, Lam Dong province, Vietnam Photo: Wikipedia

And in the jungle of Cambodia, at the site of Phnom Kulen, 20 miles from the temple complex at Angkor Wat, “a priceless devotional work of art, the “River of a Thousand Lingas,” has been discovered. Carved in the rock of a riverbed, the Siva Lingas blessed the water flowing over them from the mountain as it irrigated the rice paddy fields or provided a water source to the ancient city of Angkor on the plains. Similar river carvings exist in India. Dating as far back as 802 ce, when the Hindu Khmer Empire ruled most of Southeast Asia, the Phnom Kulen plateau has multiple temples with sculptures of elephants and lions six meters high” — Sacred River Discovered in Cambodia, Sunday Times, London

Khmer Monarch pays homage to Lord Shiva while his personal priest pours offering of melted ghee and lotus.
(image source: Splendors of the Past: Lost Cities of the Ancient World – National Geographic Society. p. 197).


Observers have remarked upon the uncanny similarities between the phallic mythical elements between Indian and Japanese myths, self-identification as ‘children of the sun’ or descent from sun-god, similarities in the cairn and stone circle pillars, tumuli-pyramidal architecture, shrine-gate iconography, and more. These have been traced to Saka, Sassanian-Persian as well as Hurrian-Mittani cultural elements and origins…see Isani-and-Iswara vs Izanagi and Izanami: Similarities and common Saka-Sassanian-Sila roots of the royal myths of Indian and Japanese tribes.

Japan also has its annual phallus festivals, such as the Kanamura Matsuri in which men in drag and traditional costumes parade giant phalluses through the streets of Kawasaki. They are held April 5 around the city’s Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine, near Keikyu Kawasaki-Daishi Station.


Phallic representations have been found in China that date back as early as the New Stone Age, that’s more than 12,000 years ago and most recently a tomb was uncovered from the Han Dynasty in Xian, China that was home to a rather interesting collection of phalluses (see photo below)


Sources & References:

Gods of Myth and Stone: Phallicism in Japanese Folk Religion” by Michael Czaj Jennings, Hargrave, 18177-1890.

Phallicism, celestial and terrestrial heathen and Christian, its connexion with the Rosicrucians and the Gnostics, and its foundation in Buddhism, with an essay on mystic anatomy

Bijovsky, Gabriela, The Ambrosial Rocks and the sacred precinct of Melqart in Tyre

Phallus (Wikipedia)

Gamble, Eliza Burt The God-Idea of the Ancients or Sex in Religion

Banier: Egyptian-Phoenician origins of the Roman phallic cult of Bacchus (and Dercetis/Atergatis/Adir-Dagon)

The Cults of the Greek States

Fleming, Benjamin J., The Form and Formlessness of Siva: The Linga in Indian Art, Mythology, and Pilgrimage Religion Compass 3/3 (2009): 440–458, 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2009.00141.x

3 thoughts on “Phallic worship around the world in ancient times

  1. what became of the men with two penises?
    they appeared in Egyptian wall carvings

  2. […] Phallic worship around the world in ancient times … – Pages. Japanese cattails (gama no nakama) and the legend of Okuninushi and the white hare of Inaba Beach; Shiromi Kagura, a unique act called shishitogiri (boar …… […]

  3. […] more information Japanese Mythology and Folklore has an excellent blog post about other phallic objects that are sacred and venerated around the […]

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