Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Cleopatra’s Moon, Anubis Speaks, and the upcoming Curses and Smoke, returns to the Over/Under this year to remind us all that there’s far more to ancient history than we could ever know. Take it away, Vicky!
Three Under-Exposed Facts About Those Naughty, Naughty Ancient Egyptians
In a season of “over” exposure, commercialism and excess, I thought it would be fun to share three interesting, little-known details about ancient Egyptians that I typically don’t (or can’t) write about. I have not made up these stories or facts, though the reason these little tidbits have been “under-exposed” will soon be made clear:
1) The hand job that started it all
One of ancient Egypt’s myths of creation went like this: The creator god, Atum-Re, brought himself into existence. But he quickly grew lonely. So he distracted himself from his pain with a time-honored tradition involving his right-hand (or it coulda been his left, we don’t really know).
(Atum liked to hold his “staff” of power)
The erm…release…of said activity resulted in the creation of his children – Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. From these two came Isis, Osiris, Nepthys and Set. And so that’s how the gods “came” into being.
2) An unfortunate birth control method
Ancient Egyptian women inserted honey-coated balls of crocodile dung as a barrier method of birth control. How anyone still wanted to have sex after that particular horror is beyond me (maybe that was its “magic”).
(Crocodile dung: not just a method of birth control in ancient Egypt-)
(-but probably an anti-aphrodisiac as well!)
Interestingly, modern doctors say it may have been moderately effective – crocodile poop is alkaline, which meant it acted like today’s spermicides.
3) The first magic dildo
In one of the myths of Osiris, mean-brother Set kills Osiris by tricking him into a box, sealing it up and tossing it down the Nile. Osiris’s wife Isis tracks the body down and recovers it, determined to give it a proper burial. Set discovers Osiris’s body hidden in the marshes and has a tantrum of godly-proportions. He chops up him up into 14 parts (or 16 or 42 parts, depending on the source) and flings them all over the place.
Isis hunts down all of her husband’s scattered pieces, except for one – his phallus, which had been gobbled up by an Oxhyrinchus fish.
(Maybe, the Egyptians figured, that accounted for the fish’s longish “nose.”)
With the help of Anubis, Isis puts him all back together again with what must have been the ancient equivalent of duct tape. She and Anubis bring him back to life though, unfortunately, he can only “live” in the afterworld as god of the dead. But before she sends him off, she magically recreates his phallus and impregnates herself with it, later giving birth to their son, Horus.
As an aside, some mummies have been found accompanied by wooden phalluses, presumably, so that the men wouldn’t have to worry about getting hardwood in the afterlife.
So there you go, three “under-exposed” details about the ancient world that prove history is always stranger than fiction!
So let no one ever dare say history is boring again!
Thanks again, Vicky!