Jerome & Augustine valued men’s sexuality against Galli servants

Two thousand years ago, traditional Roman beliefs included foundational gynocentric privileging of the Sabine women. Even worse, Roman religion embraced a theogony in which the earth goddess successfully schemed to have her husband castrated. Castrated young men called Galli served this earth goddess in prominent temples. Among mortals, Roman women gained judicial favor merely by baring their breasts. Roman men, in contrast, had to suffer war wounds on their chests to receive public acclaim. Recognizing men’s disadvantaged social position in relation to women, Roman men, like many men even more so today, were reluctant to marry. Jerome and Augustine, highly learned fourth-century figures later honored as Christian saints, insisted on the importance of men’s sexuality against Roman castration culture and Roman gynocentrism.

Jerome valued highly marital, heterosexual intercourse, but he valued virginity more highly. Jerome had an earthy sense of humor. He passionately engaged in theological arguments. Moreover, Jerome had many women friends and frequently communicated with them. In 414, Jerome wrote to the young Roman woman Demetrias. Although ranking “first in Rome in nobility of lineage and wealth {nobilitate et divitiis prima est in orbe Romano},” she had taken up the vocation of a Christian virgin. Jerome urged Demetrias to follow her vocation so as to obtain the life of angels:

 A young woman’s passionate heat is extinguished by Heaven’s dew and the chill of fasts. That enables her in her human body to obtain in her virgin spirit the life of angels. About this, the chosen vessel of virginity Paul himself said that he has no commandment of the Lord. But you should not exercise what is your birthright. You should behave contrary to nature, or rather beyond nature. You should destroy in yourself your root origin, gather solely fruits of virginity, know not the marriage bed, shiver at all physical contact with men, and act in your body to live outside your body.

{ in animo virginali, rore coelesti, et jejuniorum frigore, calor puellaris extinguitur, et in humano corpore, angelorum impetratur conversatio. Quam ob rem et vas electionis de virginibus se dicit Domini non habere praeceptum, quia contra naturam, imo ultra naturam est, non exercere quod nata sis: interficere in te radicem tuam, et sola virginitatis poma decerpere, nescire thorum, omnem virorum horrere contactum, et in corpore vivere sine corpore. }[1]

Jerome recognized young women’s “passionate heat {calor}.” He implies that women, like men, are entitled by birthright to fulfilling sexual relations. Moreover, his reference to Demetrias’s “root origin {radix}” implicitly refers to the vitally important work of a skillful penis. “To shiver {horrere}” at all physical contract with men suggests virginal sexual responsiveness. In fact, the Latin verb horreo is etymologically associated with “standing erect” and enjoyment. Jerome understood and respected life in the body for both women and men. But he praised and supported Demetrias in seeking to obtain, while still in her body, the life of angels.

Great Mother goddess Cybele

To Jerome, virginity meant passionate devotion to God, exclusive of human sexual relations. Jerome followed that vocation himself. In a letter he wrote in 384, Jerome explained to Eustochium, the daughter of a wealthy Roman senator:

“Increase and multiply.” This command was fulfilled after paradise and nakedness and fig-leaves signifying itching for nuptials. Let them marry and be given in marriage, those who by the sweat of their brow eat their bread, whose earth generates thistles and thorns, whose pasture chokes with brambles. My fertile seed is fruitful a hundredfold. “Not all can seize God’s saying, but only those to whom it is given.” Others are made eunuchs by necessity. I am one by my will. “There is a time for embracing and a time for abstaining from joining hands, a time for casting stones and a time for gathering.”

{ “Crescite et multiplicamini.” Hoc expletur edictum post paradisum et nuditatem et ficus folia auspicantia pruriginem nuptiarum. Nubat et nubatur ille, qui in sudore faciei comedit panem suum, cui terra tribulos generat et spinas, cuius herba sentibus suffocatur: meum semen centena fruge fecundum est. “Non omnes capiunt verbum Dei, sed hi quibus datum est.” Alium eunuchum necessitas faciat, me voluntas. “Tempus et amplexandi et tempus abstinendi manus a conplexu; tempus mittendi lapides et tempus colligendi.” }[2]

Expelled from paradisaical Eden, ordinary women and men work and marry as their circumstances require. Yet the world also includes others — highly privileged Roman women “who surround themselves with troops of eunuchs {quas eunuchorum greges saepiunt}.”[3] Jerome wasn’t a fawning, sexless eunuch seeking material benefits through closely serving a wealthy woman. Jerome valued seminal fruitfulness. He also recognized an alternate way for such fruitfulness. With manly bravado, Jerome bragged that his fertile seed was a hundredfold fruitful in witnessing to the good news of Jesus Christ. Given the seminal influence of Jerome’s Vulgate bible translation, Jerome arguably under-estimated by a large margin his spiritual fruitfulness.[4] Just as he advised Demetrias, Jerome led an angelic life. He led a life like that of the angel Gabriel announcing the incarnation of a fully masculine male in Mary’s womb.

Augustine even more vehemently insisted on the importance of men’s seminal capabilities. He ridiculed the traditional gynocentric Roman religious practice of worshiping the Great Mother earth goddess:

No doubt there is a single earth. The one we see is full of its living creatures. It is also a great body within the lowest part of the world’s elements. Why do Romans wish to make it a goddess? Because it is fruitful? Then why is it not better to regard as gods human beings, who render the earth more fruitful by cultivation — that is, by plowing the earth, not worshiping her? But they say that the part of the world soul that permeates the earth makes her a goddess. As if a soul were not more evident in human beings, where its existence is not questioned! Yet human beings are not regarded as gods.

{ Nempe una est terra, quam plenam quidem videmus animalibus suis, verum tamen ipsam magnum corpus in elementis mundique infimam partem. Cur eam volunt deam? An quia fecunda est? Cur ergo non magis homines dii sunt, qui eam fecundiorem faciunt excolendo; sed cum arant, non cum adorant? Sed pars animae mundi, inquiunt, quae per illam permeat, deam facit. Quasi non evidentior sit in hominibus anima, quae utrum sit nulla fit quaestio; et tamen homines dii non habentur }[5]

Castrated men known as Galli served the earth goddess in traditional Roman religious rituals intended to bring about fruitful harvests. Augustine highlighted the absurdity of destroying men’s seminal blessing to perform gynocentric religious rituals for fruitfulness:

The castrated Galli serve this great goddess in order to signify that those who lack seed should follow after the earth. Is it not rather this service that caused the Galli to lack seed? Do they by following this goddess acquire seed that they lack? Or are they by following her deprived of seed that they had? … If the earth were not a goddess, men would lay their hands on her to obtain by work seeds from her. Men would not savagely lay hands on themselves in order to lose their seed for her sake. If the earth were not a goddess, she would be made fruitful by the hands of others, without forcing a man to be made sterile by his own hands.

{ Itane propterea Galli abscisi huic Magnae deae serviunt ut significent qui semine indigeant terram sequi oportere; quasi non eos ipsa potius servitus semine faciat indigere? Utrum enim sequendo hanc deam, cum indigeant, semen adquirunt, an potius sequendo hanc deam, cum habeant, semen amittunt? … Si dea terra non esset, manus ei homines operando inferrent ut semina consequerentur per illam, non et sibi saeviendo ut semina perderent propter illam; si dea non esset, ita fecunda fieret manibus alienis ut non cogeret hominem sterilem fieri manibus suis. }

Attis dancing for Great Mother goddess Cybele

The first of the Galli was a beautiful young man named Attis. The earth goddess murdered Attis’s girlfriend. He then castrated himself. Traditional Roman religion naturalized this story of violence and sexual oppression of men:

Because the earth’s face is more beautiful in spring than in other seasons, Porphyrius, a famous philosopher, asserted that Attis symbolized flowers. Attis for that reason was castrated because the flower falls before the fruit. The man or quasi-man called Attis himself was not therefore compared with a flower, but rather his male genitals. His genitals while he remained alive indeed fell to earth. Or actually, they did not fall, nor were they picked off, but they were plainly torn away. When that flower was lost, no fruit followed afterwards, but rather sterility. What then about this remnant, what remained after his castration? What does one say this signifies? To what does it refer? What interpretation is henceforth offered?

{ Propter vernalem quippe faciem terrae, quae ceteris est temporibus pulchrior, Porphyrius, philosophus nobilis, Attin flores significare perhibuit, et ideo abscisum quia flos decidit ante fructum. Non ergo ipsum hominem vel quasi hominem, qui est vocatus Attis, sed virilia eius flori comparaverunt. Ipsa quippe illo vivente deciderunt; immo vero non deciderunt neque decerpta, sed plane discerpta sunt; nec illo flore amisso quisquam postea fructus, sed potius sterilitas consecuta est. Quid ergo ipse reliquus, et quidquid remansit absciso? Quid eo significari dicitur? Quo refertur? Quae interpretatio inde profertur? }

The answers to Augustine’s questions are obvious: Attis’s castration and the sackless Galli serving the earth goddess signify oppressive castration culture and totalitarian gynocentrism. Augustine castigated the appalling degeneration of human reason that generated the Galli:

How much better and more honorable to read Plato’s books in a temple of Plato than that in temples of demons the Galli should be castrated and the effeminate consecrated, that madmen should cut themselves, and whatever other cruel or shameful or shamefully cruel or cruelly shameful ugliness should be customarily celebrated in the sacrifices of such gods!

{ Quanto melius et honestius in Platonis templo libri eius legerentur quam in templis daemonum Galli absciderentur, molles consecrarentur, insani secarentur, et quidquid aliud vel crudele vel turpe, vel turpiter crudele vel crudeliter turpe in sacris talium deorum celebrari solet! }

Augustine rejected the ugly Roman goddess of castration culture. The troops of eunuchs serving wealthy Roman women were the secular counterpart to castrated Galli serving the earth goddess. Jerome urged Demetrias and Eustochium not to be like those women. You too should reject castration culture and goddess worship.[6]

Resisting castration culture requires concerted effort. In reasonable understanding, Jewish law forbid even just injuring the organ of seminal blessing in any animal:

You shall not offer to the Lord any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut, nor shall you do this within your land. [7]

{ omne animal quod vel contritis vel tunsis vel sectis ablatisque testiculis est non offeretis Domino et in terra vestra hoc omnino ne faciatis }

{ וּמָע֤וּךְ וְכָתוּת֙ וְנָת֣וּק וְכָר֔וּת לֹ֥א תַקְרִ֖יבוּ לַֽיהוָ֑ה
וּֽבְאַרְצְכֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תַעֲשֽׂוּ׃ }

Jewish law honored a man’s penis as well as his testicles:

No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off shall enter the Lord’s assembly.

{ non intrabit eunuchus adtritis vel amputatis testiculis et absciso veretro ecclesiam Domini }

{ לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א פְצֽוּעַ־דַּכָּ֛א וּכְר֥וּת שָׁפְכָ֖ה בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהוָֽה׃ ס }

The seminal blessing is central to Jewish understanding of the relationship between God and his people. Jewish law represents injury to male genitals as an insult to God.

Archigallus making sacrifice to Great Mother goddess Cybele

Despite the importance of Jewish law to Christianity, some Christian priests faltered under the horrible historical legacy of Roman castration culture and gynocentrism. In 325 in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day Turkey), the first world council of Christian bishops established a canon law against clerical self-castration:

If anyone due to sickness has undergone a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, he is allowed to remain among the clergy. But if anyone enrolled among the clergy has castrated himself when in perfect health, it is agreed that he must leave the ministry. From now on, no such person should be promoted to the clergy. But since this applies only to those who willfully castrate themselves, if anyone has been made a eunuch by barbarians, or by his master, and is otherwise fit for office, church law admits him to the clergy.

{ Si quis in morbo a medicis excisus, vel a barbaris exsectus est, is maneat in clero. Si quis autem sanus seipsum abscidit, hunc, etiam in clero constitutum, abstinere convenit, et deinceps nullum talem promoveri oportet. Sicut autem hoc manifestum est, quod de iis qui de industria hoc agunt, audentque seipsos abscindere, dictum est: ita si qui vel a barbaris, vel a dominis eunuchi facti sunt, et ii alioqui digni inveniantur, tales in clerum admittit canon. }

{ Εἴτις ἐν νόσῷ ὑπὸ ἰατρῶν ἐχειρουργήθη, ἢ ὑπὸ βαρβάρων ἐξετμήθη, οὗτος μενέτω ἐν τῶ, κλήρῳ· εἰ δέ τις ὑγιαίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐξέτεμε, τοῦτον καὶ ἐν τῷ κλήρῷ ἐξεταζόμενον πεπαῦσθαι προσήκει· καὶ ἐκ τοῦ δεῦρο μηδένα τῶν τοιούτων χρῆναι προάγεσθαι. Ὤσπερ δὲ τοῦτο πρόδηλον, ὅτι περὶ τῶν ἐπιτηδευόντων τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ τολμώντων ἑαυτοὺς ἐκτέμνειν, εἴρηται, οὕτως εἴτινες ὑπὸ βαρβάρων ἢ δεσποτῶν εὐνουχίσθησαν, εὑρίσκοιντο ἄλλως ἄξιοι, τοὺς τοιούτους εἰς κλῆρον προσίεται ὁ κανών. }[8]

Jesus recognized that some men castrate themselves for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. That group includes men who castrate themselves not literally, but in the effective sense of refusing to act on their sexual desire in order to ensure that they can freely worship God. At the same time, Jesus regarded as beneath mentioning those men who castrate themselves for worldly advantage in gynocentric society.[9] Through canon law, the early Christian bishops foreclosed the clergy from the careerist self-castrators common in royal courts and among today’s university administrators.

Castration culture is intimately intertwined with disparagement of men’s sexuality. For example, early in the thirteenth century, a monk from Clairvaux named Bernard repeatedly experienced sexual desire for a woman. He strongly opposed this desire, but finally decided that he had to give up being a monk, “because he could not be without a woman {eo quod non posset carere muliere}.” Bernard’s prior urged him to remain at the monastery for one more night. That night Bernard had a terrible dream:

Just after the monk had fallen asleep, behold, he saw at a distance a horrible man who looked like an executioner. Hastening toward him, the man held in his hand a long knife. A huge black dog followed him. At this sight, the monk trembled, not surprisingly. The man, seizing him violently, cut off his genitals and threw them to the dog. The dog immediately devoured them. Waking up from the horror of this vision, the monk thought that he had been castrated. Indeed his condition was so, and yet not by a material knife as the vision showed, but by spiritual grace.

{ Vix tenuiter obdormierat, et ecce conspexit eminus virum horribilem in effigie carnificis ad se properantem, et cultellum longum in manu tenentem, sequebaturque eum canis magnus et niger. Quo viso contremuit. Nec mirum. Ille vero multum impetuose arreptis eius genitalibus abscidit, canique proiecit. Quae mox ille devoravit. Evigilans autem ex horrore visionis, putabat se fuisse eunuchizatum. Quod revera ita erat, et si non ut visio ostendit cultro materiali, gratia tamen spirituali. }[10]

Men have long been disparaged as being sexually like dogs. Cutting off the monk’s genitals and throwing them to a “huge black dog {canis magnus et niger}” symbolically excised the socially constructed bestial aspect of the man’s sexuality. Once his sexuality’s bestial form had been consumed, the monk no longer was tormented with sexual desire for a woman. That suggests that the drive underlying his sexual desire for a woman was desire to have his sexuality affirmed in action as source of joy.[11] More generally, disparagement of men’s genitals hurts men’s sexual freedom and prompts them to seek castration, either figuratively or literally.

The ideological apparatus of gynocentrism and castration culture has induced many women and men today to refer to men’s genitals as “junk.” Those women and men are acting as ancient Roman adherents to the cult of the earth goddess and her castrated servants the Galli. Most men in the center of their being understand castration to be a horror. Most women value the seminal blessing that comes through men. The learned, critical analysis of Jerome and Augustine has enduring value. The barren cultural legacy of the Roman earth goddess and her castrated Galli servants must be consciously recognized and affirmatively resisted.[12]

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[1] Jerome, Epistle 130 (To Demetrias) section 10, Latin text from Hilberg (1910) via Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Letters, my English translation, benefiting from those of Freemantle (1892) and Amy Oh. The prior short quote is from section 1 of this letter.

Freemantle favors the reading jejuniorum rigore {rigor of fasts} relative to the alternate jejuniorum frigore {chill of fasts}. But the context suggests a rhetorical contrast with passionate heat. Moreover, the next section of the letter disavows immoderata jejunia {immoderate fasts}. Hence above I’ve used the reading jejuniorum frigore.

In Acts 9:15, the Lord describes Paul of Tarsus, who turned from persecuting Christians, to be a chosen vessel of the Lord. In discussing whether Christians should marry, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:25 says that he has no commandment from the Lord. Paul himself apparently was married and then became and remained a widower. Burk (2018).

[2] Jerome, Epistle 22 (To Eustochium) section 19, Latin text from Wright (1933) pp. 90, 92, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. and Freemantle (1892). Jerome quotes Latin translations of Genesis 1:28, Matthew 19:11, and Ecclesiastes 3:5. I translate the Latin text of these quotations as given by Jerome. The quotation marks are editorial. Christian readers of Jerome’s letter would have recognized his quotations without any punctuation.

[3] Jerome, Epistle 22 (To Eustochium) section 16, sourced as previously.

[4] Jerome’s invocation of being a hundredfold fruitful comes from the Gospels’ parable of the sower, specifically Matthew 13:23.

[5] Augustine, On the city of God against the pagans {De civitate Dei contra paganos} (The City of God) 7.23, Latin text from Green (1963), my English translation, benefiting from that of id. and Dods, Wilson & Smith (1871). The subsequent three quotes are similarly from Augustine’s De civitate Dei 7.24, 7.25, and 2.7. Augustine disseminated De civitate Dei by books between 413 and probably 427.

Prudentius also assailed men castrating themselves to serve the Great Mother goddess. In his account of St. Romanus’s martyrdom, Prudentius has Romanus, while he’s being viciously tortured, condemn the senseless brutality of traditional Roman goddess worship:

There are sacred rites in which you break down your very self,
and with maimed limbs offer your pain.
The divine fanatic thrusts a knife into his arms
and cuts his limbs to propitiate the Mother goddess.
Whirling frenzy is thought to be the order of her mystery;
sparing from proper cutting is held up as impiety.
The severity of wounds determines the merit for Heaven.
Yet another one here dedicates his genitals,
appeasing the goddess by cutting them away from his groin.
This semi-man offers a shameful gift to the goddess,
plucking off that which provides male seed.
Both sexes are displeasing to the holy goddess,
so he holds to a medium between the two types.
He ceases to be a man while not becoming a woman.
The Mother of gods enjoys herself with beardless
servants by means of a well-ground razor.

{ sunt sacra quando vosmet ipsi exciditis,
votivus et cum membra detruncat dolor.
cultrum in lacertos exerit fanaticus
sectisque Matrem bracchiis placat deam,
furere ac rotari ius putatur mysticum;
parca ad secandum dextra fertur inpia,
caelum meretur vulnerum crudelitas.
ast hic metenda dedicat genitalia,
numen reciso mitigans ab inguine
offert pudendum semivir donum deae:
illam revulsa masculini germinis
vena effluenti pascit auctam sanguine.
uterque sexus sanctitati displicet,
medium retentat inter alternum genus,
mas esse cessat ille, nee fit femina.
felix deorum mater inberbes sibi
parat ministros levibus novaculis. }

Prudentius, Book about the Crowns {Liber Peristephanon} 10, The Declarations of Saint Romanus the Martyr against the Pagans {Sancti Romani Martyris contra Gentiles Dicta}, vv. 1059-75, Latin text from Thomson (1949) vol. 2, pp. 298, 300, my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

[6] With admirable courage and vigor in addressing sexual violence against men, Augustine further denounced the Great Mother earth goddess:

The Great Mother triumphed over all her children gods not with greatness of divinity, but with greatness of crimes. To this monster not even the monstrosity of Janus compares. Janus had deformity only in his appearance. The Great Mother had deformed cruelty in sacred rites. He had members added in stone. She had testicles lost from men. … this Great Mother of the Gods even brought her castrated men into Roman temples and has maintained that savage practice. Cutting off the manliness of Roman men is believed to add to Rome’s power. Compared to this evil, what are Mercury’s thefts, Venus’s lasciviousness, and the rapes and disgraces of others?

{ Vicit Matris Magnae omnes deos filios non numinis magnitudo, sed criminis. Huic monstro nec Iani monstrositas comparatur. Ille in simulacris habebat solam deformitatem, ista in sacris deformem crudelitatem; ille membra in lapidibus addita, haec in hominibus perdita. … ista Magna deorum Mater etiam Romanis templis castratos intulit atque istam saevitiam moremque servavit, credita vires adiuvare Romanorum exsecando virilia virorum. Quid sunt ad hoc malum furta Mercurii, Veneris lascivia, stupra ac turpitudines ceterorum }

De civitate De 7.26, sourced as previous quotes from Augustine. Here are explorations of historical sources on the Great Mother Cybele and Attis.

Men’s tendency to treat women as goddesses is well established in literary history. Seeking to win her favor, Odysseus greeted Nausicaa:

I clasp your knees, my queen — are you a goddess or a mortal?
If you are a goddess, one of those who rule the broad heaven,
to Artemis, the daughter of great Zeus,
I liken you most nearly in looks, stature and lithe form.

{ γουνοῦμαί σε, ἄνασσα· θεός νύ τις, ἦ βροτός ἐσσι;
εἰ μέν τις θεός ἐσσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσιν,
Ἀρτέμιδί σε ἐγώ γε, Διὸς κούρῃ μεγάλοιο,
εἶδός τε μέγεθός τε φυήν τ᾿ ἄγχιστα ἐίσκω· }

Homer, Odyssey 6.149-52, ancient Greek text and English translation (with my changes) from Murray (1919). Uncaring about men’s abasement to women, Dronke suggested that such a “gambit” shouldn’t be taken seriously. Dronke (1965) vol. 1, p. 212.

Men’s prevalent practice of regarding women as goddess should be taken seriously. Writing to Abbess Cecilia of Normandy in early twelfth-century France, Hildebert of Lavardin began:

He who is accustomed to be more skillfully speaking than Cicero before men,
is less eloquent when he comes before gods.
Thus I, while among common persons, speak with a skill mouth,
I am able to say little to your face.
Your majestic bearing stupifies. All about my wandering
eye ran. I thought you must be a goddess.

{ Qui solet ante homines Cicerone disserior esse,
facundus minus est, cum venit ante deos.
sic ego, cum medio plebi loquor ore diserto,
in vultu potui dicere pauca tuo.
maiestate tua stupui, totamque vagenti
percurrens oculo, sum ratus esse deam. }

Hildebert of Lavardin, Short Songs {Carmina minora} 46.1-6, “Verses to Ceclia, Abbess of Caen {Versus ad Ceciliam abbatissam Cathomi},” Latin text from Scott (1969) p. 37, my English translation, benefiting from those Dronke (1965) vol. 1, p. 212, and Otter (2001) p. 103. Cecilia of Normandy was the eldest daughter of William I (William the Conqueror). She became Abbess of the Abbey of the Holy Trinty of Caen / Women’s Abbey {Abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité de Caen / Abbaye aux Dames} in 1113. She died in 1127. Previously, Patrologia Latina 117, col. 1443, attributed this song to be “to a queen of England {Ad Angliae reginam}.” Baudri of Bourgueil similarly described Countess Adela of Blois, the youngest daughter of William the Conqueror, as more beautiful than the goddess Diana. Baudri of Bourgueil, “About Countess Adela {Adelae Comitissae},” v. 88, English trans. in Otter (2001).

While recognizing grounds for men’s sexed protest, Hildebert clearly understood the value of depicting women as goddesses in gynocentric society. Writing to Adela of England, Countess of Blois, Hildebert declared:

He is foolish and sins who equates you to mortals.
It is little in praise, but you will be first to me among goddesses.

{ Desipit et peccat qui te mortalibus equat
est in laude parum sed eris mihi prima dearum }

Latin text from Scott (1969) p. 4, English translation from Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Letters.

Describing women as goddesses wasn’t just a practice of verbally shrewd men flattering elite women to win their favor. Lucretius described how ordinary men idolize their wives. Lucretius was regretfully unsuccessful in dispelling the prevalent delusions of gyno-idolatry.

Modern scholars have tended to obscure the radical social and political relevance of Jerome and Augustine’s critiques of Roman castration culture and gynocentrism. Nichols argues that Jean de Meun in the Romance of the Rose “sees Saturn’s castration as generative, a primordial act giving birth to sexuality.” Nichols (216) p. 16. That’s myth like the myth of Pygmalion. In fact, Jean de Meun urged readers to reject mythic worlds and instead to plow for fertility. Nichols also abstracted Augustine’s critique to argue “the futility of castrating language or of repressing what the imagination evokes.” Nichols (2020). Modern philology is far more guilty of castrating language than medieval authors ever were.

[7] Leviticus 22:24, original Hebrew text (Westminister Leningrad Codex) from BlueLetterBible, Latin text of Jerome’s Vulgate, my English translation drawing on standard biblical translations. Whether “nor shall you do this” refers to violence against testicles, or offering to the Lord a male whose testicles have been injured, isn’t clear. Jerome’s Vulgate favors the first interpretation. Most modern English biblical translations favor the latter interpretation. The subsequent quote is from Deuteronomy 23:1 and is similarly sourced. On these biblical law texts, Nichols (2016) pp. 6-8, Nichols (2020) pp. 3-5.

[8] Canons of the Council of Nicea 1, Greek text from Bright (1892) p. ix, Latin text from Dionysius Exiguus, Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Universae (Patrologia Latina 67, col. 0040D), English translation (with my minor changes) from Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) V2-14. The original language of the canon was Greek.

[9] Matthew 19:12. Here’s some analysis of Jesus’s sayings on eunuchs.

[10] Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles {Dialogus miraculorum} 4.117, Latin text from Strange (1851) vol. 1, pp. 265-6, my English translation, benefiting from that of Murray (2019) p. 111 and the bowdlerized translation of Scott & Bland (1929) vol. 1, pp. 302-3. The previous short quote is similarly from this story. Caesarius of Heisterbach wrote Dialogus miraculorum about 1221 near Oberdollendorf in present-day Germany.

Murray notes that “by the twelfth century mulier was commonly understood to mean married woman or wife.” Murray (2019) p. 111, n. 61. Mulier was also commonly understood to mean woman. I’ve used the latter, broader translation above.

[11] Murray ignored historical disparagement of men’s genitals, ignored the huge black dog that consumed Bernard’s genitals, and evoked the trite academic myth of medieval misogyny. Thus Bernard’s dream concerned not primarily Bernard and castration, but misogyny:

Caesurius conveys something of the fear and violence of castration in lived reality, as well as in the monk’s dream. This fear, however, fades in comparison with a more abiding monastic fear: the monk avoided the snare of marriage and the lust that necessarily accompanied having a wife. … It is also a story imbued with misogyny: castration is preferable to legitimate conjugal relations.

Murray (2019) pp. 111-2. That’s fashionable academic nonsense. Bernard’s dream doesn’t indicate that castration is preferable to marital sexual intercourse.

[12] Like gynocentrism, castration culture has been historically entrenched worldwide:

History shows that numerous castrates existed at varying times and in widely diverse areas of the world … Castrates existed in large numbers in societies across the ancient world throughout many periods of history. They were present in the imperial systems of the Roman, Persian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, the Islamic caliphates, the early Christian Church, a sect of Christianity from the late eighteenth century to the modern day, religious sects in India, and choirs and opera troupes of early modern Europe.

Reusch (2013) pp. 30-2 (notes omitted). Castrated men are “one of the most important and long-lasting human phenomena.” Id. p. 47. Reusch, however, offers no critical perspective on men’s social status. Another scholar declared, “Medieval records of castration as either a legal or extrajudicial punishment or humiliation are unsurprisingly numerous.” Steel (2016) p. 1. Why would an academic faithfully believing in the myth of patriarchy and in the master narrative of men’s oppression of women around the world throughout all of history regard as “unsurprising” that numerous men have been humiliated or punished with castration?

[images] (1) Great Mother goddess Cybele seated. Marble sculpture made c. 50 GC. Preserved as accession # 57.AA.19 in J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA), Getty Villa. Source image thanks to Marshall Astor and Wikimedia Commons. (2) Attis dancing for Great Mother goddess Cybele. Marble statue made during the Roman Empire. Preserved as accession # Inv. 1656 in the Vatican Museums / Museo Chiaramonti (Rome, Italy). Image thanks to Marie-Lan Nguyen and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Archigallus making sacrifice to Great Mother goddess Cybele. Marble relief made in third century. Preserved in Museo Archeologico Ostiense (Rome, Italy). Image thanks to Sailko and Wikimedia Commons.


Bright, William. 1892. Canons of the first four General councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Burk, Denny. 2018. “Was the Apostle Paul Married? Yes, He Was. Here’s How We Know.” ChurchLeaders. Online March 18, 2018.

Dods, Marcus, George Wilson, and J. J. Smith, trans. 1871. Augustine. The City of God. In Schaff, Philip, ed. 1886. A Select Library Of The Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers Of The Christian Church. V1-02. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Freemantle, William Henry, trans. 1892.  The Principal Works of St. Jerome.  Philip Schaff, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 6. Oxford: Parker.

Green, William M., ed. and trans. 1963. Augustine. City of God. Volume II: Books 4-7. Loeb Classical Library 412. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hilberg, Isidorus, ed. 1910-1918. Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae {Letters of Saint Eusebius Hieronymus (Jerome)}. Vindobonae: Tempsky. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) 54 (Epistulae 1-70), 55 (Epistulae 71-120), and 56 (Epistulae 120-154).

Murray, A. T., ed. and trans, revised by George E. Dimock. 1919. Homer. Odyssey. Volume I: Books 1-12. Loeb Classical Library 104. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Murray, Jacqueline. 2019. “The Battle for Chastity: Miraculous Castration and the Quelling of Desire in the Middle Ages.” Journal of the History of Sexuality. 28 (1): 96-116.

Nichols, Stephen G. 2016. “The Trouble with Castration: Saint Augustine and the Roman de la Rose.” Online preprint.

Nichols, Stephen G. 2020. “Castration as Exemplum: The Making of a Medieval Trope.” In Kelly Fender McConnell and Michael Meere, eds. Coups de maître: studies in medieval and early modern literature and culture in honour of John D. Lyons. Medieval and Early Modern French Studies, Vol 18. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Otter, Monika. 2001. ‘Baudri of Bourgueil, “To Countess Adela.”‘ The Journal of Medieval Latin. 11: 60-141.

Reusch, Kathryn. 2013. “Raised Voices: The Archaeology of Castration.” Ch. 1 (pp. 29-47) in Larissa Tracy, ed. Castration and Culture in the Middle Ages. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: D.S. Brewer.

Scott, A. Brian, ed. 1969. Hildebert of Lavardin. Hildeberti Cenomannensis episcopi carmina minora. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Leipzig: Teubner.

Scott, Henry von Essen and C. C. Swinton Bland, trans. 1929. Caesarius of Heisterbach. The Dialogue on Miracles. 2 vols. (vol. 1, vol. 2). London: Routledge.

Steel, Karl. 2016. “Logsex in Hell: What a Body Can’t Do.” Paper presented at the conference The Body Unbound: Literary Approaches to the Classical Corpus, Brooklyn College, Oct 7-8, 2016.

Strange, Joseph, ed. 1851. Caesarius of Heisterbach. Dialogus miraculorum: textum ad quatuor codicum manuscriptorum editionisque principis fidem accurate. 2 vols. (vol. 1, vol. 2). Coloniae: J.M. Heberle.

Thomson, Henry John, ed. and trans. 1949. Prudentius. Loeb Classical Library 387, 398. Vol. 1, Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Wright, F. A., ed. and trans. 1933. Select Letters of St. Jerome. Loeb Classical Library, no. 262. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Rabelais added dog piss to Flamenca’s mockery of elite pretenses

Gently mocking the absurdities of courtly love, the thirteenth-century Old Occitan romance Flamenca narrates an elite man, through meetings in church, soliciting an elite woman for sexual trysts in a nearby bathhouse. Flamenca inspired singer-songwriter Rosalía to produce her recent, high-selling Latin pop album, El mal querer {The Bad Loving}. Known only through a single manuscript recovered in the nineteenth century, Flamenca apparently had significant influence centuries earlier. Pantagruel, authored by the learned Benedictine monk François Rabelais in 1532, similarly mocked courtly love through sexual solicitation in church. Rabelais in Pantagruel added to Flamenca’s story-pattern a radical attack on elite pretenses and gender domination. Pantagruel depicts a hypocritical, highly privileged “great lady of Paris {grande dame de Paris}” drenched in streams of dog piss. That’s an outrageous fantasy of gender revolution.

Deeply entrenched systemic sexism vastly disproportionately burdens men with soliciting amorous relationships and enduring amorous rejections. Gynocentric governance of penal systems in turn tends to criminalize seduction and acutely bias punishment toward persons with penises. In Rabelais’s Pantagruel, the character Panurge repeatedly recognizes that he is vulnerable to penal punishment. Yet particular social circumstances embolden him:

Panurge started to grow in reputation in the city of Paris because of that disputation he had won against the Englishman. From then on, he embellished his codpiece and decorated it on top with embroidered stitching in the German style. Fashionable society praised him publicly, and a ballad was composed about him that young boys knew well. He was welcomed at all gatherings of old women and young women. As a result, he became vainglorious, so much so that he undertook to come to be above one of the great ladies of the city.

{ Panurge commença à estre en reputation en la ville de Paris par ceste disputation qu’il obtint contre l’Angloys, et faisoit des lors bien valoir sa braguette, et la feist au dessus esmoucheter de broderie à la Tudesque. Et le monde le louoit publicquement, et en fut faict une chanson, dont les petitz enfans alloient à la moustarde: et estoit bien venu en toutes compaignies de dames et damoyselles, en sorte qu’il devint glorieux, si bien qu’il entreprint de venir au dessus d’une des grandes dames de la ville. }[1]

Great ladies are the true rulers of gynocentric society. Men are expected to know and accept subordination to the ruling women controlling the nominal head-men-in-charge.

Panurge goes to great lady of Paris

Using men’s gender burden of amorous solicitation as a vehicle for social mobility, Panurge sought, through a mutually beneficial sexual relationship, to achieve gender equality with the great lady of Paris. He proposed to her:

Madame, it would be of very great utility to the whole republic, delightful to you, an honor to your lineage, and a necessity to me, if you would make a covering of my breed. Believe me, for the experience will so demonstrate it to you.

{ Ma dame, ce seroit ung bien fort utile à toute la republicque, delectable à vous, honneste à vostre lignée, et à moy necessaire, que feussiez couverte de ma race, et le croyez, car l’experience vous le demonstrera. }

Panurge here mocks elite public discourse. He links broad claims of public utility to narrow interests of personal delight and sexual need. He ridicules the great lady’s pretense of hereditary superiority with his claim that her being on top in having sex with him (her making a covering of his breed) would bring honor to her lineage. In short, Panurge with great rhetorical sophistication resists structures of gender domination.[2]

The great lady of Paris responded in accordance with her socially privileged position. She not only harshly rejected him, but also invoked her social superiority and her capacity to command that he be brutally punished:

At these words the lady thrust him more than a three hundred miles away, saying: “You evil fool, why do you presume such remarks interest me? And to whom do you think you are speaking? Go away, never again be found in front of me! Don’t you know that it would be a trivial matter for me to have your arms and legs cut off?

{ La dame à ceste parolle le reculla plus de cent lieues, disant. Meschant fou vous appertient il de me tenir telz propos? Et à qui pensez vous parler ? allez, ne vous trouvez iamais devant moy car si n’estoit pour ung petit, ie vous feroys coupper bras et iambes? }

All Panurge did was speak to this great lady. She in response threatened to invoke the penal authority to have his arms and legs cut off. That’s utterly disproportionate punishment for what shouldn’t be regarded as a crime. The great lady’s response indicates both her socially constructed superiority to Panurge, her implicit common sexual interest, and the brutal gender bias of penal systems.

Panurge at first accepted the woman’s social privilege and attempted to bargain personally with her. He declared that his bodily wholeness was less important than providing her with an occasion of intense pleasure that might lead to marriage:

“Now,” he said, “it would be nothing to me to have my arms and legs cut off, on the condition that we, you and me, would make a cheerful deal, connecting to play with the little man on your lower steps. Because,” (he displays his long codpiece), “here’s my Mr. John Goaty. He’ll strum you in an ancient way such that you’ll feel your body to the very marrow of your bones. He’s a chivalrous scholar who can find well for you the alternate stallholders and the little young horses that you seed in the ratcatcher, and after him there’s nothing to do but some spousal dusting.”

{ Or (dist il) ce me seroit tout ung d’avoir bras et iambes couppez, en condition que nous fissions vous et moy ung transon de chere lie iouant des manequins à basses marches: car (monstrant sa longue braguette) voicy maistre Iehan ieudy, qui vous sonneroit une antiquaille, dont vous vous sentiriez iusques à la mouelle des os: car il esrt galland, et vous sçait bien trouver les alibitz forains et petitz poullains grenez en la ratouere, que apres luy il n’y a qu’espousseter. }

Panurge emphasizes the natural, agricultural reality of living bodies. Panurge is the great lady’s equal as a human being, even though he’s a male human being. The great lady’s socially constructed sense of superiority denies natural reality.

The great lady responded to Panurge’s words with another threat to invoke the penal system. She demonized him as evil and insisted that he be silent in her presence:

Go away, evil one, go way! If you say even one more word to me, I’ll call in the world and right here you’ll be slaughtered with blows.

{ Allez meschant allez, si vous m’en dictes encores ung mot, ie appelleray le monde, et vous feray icy assommer de coups. }

A woman’s words can easily get a man slaughtered. Is it any wonder that most men today remain silent about being deprived of any reproductive rights?

After being amorously rejected, Panurge shifted to acting like a courtly lover flattering a human woman having the imagined status of a goddess. Many men today are still indoctrinated to address women in this way:

Your beauty is so excellent, so singular, so celestial, that I believe Nature placed it in you as a model in order to give us understanding of what Nature can do when She wants to employ all Her power and all Her knowledge. Nothing but honey, nothing but sugar, nothing but manna from Heaven, is all that’s in you. It’s to you that Paris should have awarded the golden apple, not to Venus, nor to Juno, nor to Minerva, for never did Juno have such greatness, nor Minerva such prudence, nor Venus such elegance, like there’s in you. Oh, gods of the heavens, what happiness will be his to whom will be given the grace to embrace you, to kiss you, and to rub his bacon with you.

{ la vostre est tant excellente tant singuliere, tant celeste, que ie croy que nature l’a mise en vous comme en parangon pour nous donner à entendre combien elle peult faire, quand elle veult employer toute sa puissance et tout son sçavoir. Ce n’est que miel, ce n’est que sucre, ce n’est que manne celeste, de tout ce qu’est en vous. C’estoit à vous à qui Paris debvoit adiuger la pomme d’Or, non à Venus non, ny à Iuno, ny à Minerve: car oncques n’y eut tant de magnificence en Iuno, tant de prudence en Minerve, tant de elegance en Venus, comme il y a en vous. O dieux desses celestes, que heureux sera celluy à qui ferez ceste grace de vous accoller, de vous bayser, et de frotter son lart avecques vous. }

Panurge’s concluding reference to rubbing bacon deflates the ridiculous, learned pretenses of courtly love. In response to Panurge’s mock-courtly words, the great lady pretended to summon her neighbors to slaughter him. He wisely fled immediately.

annunciation preceding Mary's Magnificat

Panurge then played Flamenca’s game of courtship in church. When the great lady went to Mass the next morning, Panurge bowed to her at the church door and offered her holy water. He then went in and knelt beside her in the pew. Perhaps hoping that the church would offer sanctuary from punishment, he daringly spoke to her:

Madame, you know that I am so in love with you that I can neither piss nor shit. I don’t know what you’ve heard of it. If I should come to some harm, what would that be?

{ Madame saichez que ie suis tant amoureux de vous, que ie n’en peuz ny pisser ny fianter, ie ne sçay comment l’entendez. Si m’en advenoit quelque mal, qu’en seroit il? }

Men with serious bodily ailments deserve concern and compassion, especially from faithful Christians. But the great lady responded with hard-hearted indifference:

“Go away, go away,” she said. “I don’t care at all. Leave me alone here to pray to God.”

{ Allez allez, dist elle, ie ne m’en soucie pas: laissez moy icy prier dieu. }

Guillem wooed Flamenca in church with extensive knowledge of the liturgy and learned, poetic words. Panurge similarly sought to display to the great lady his well-developed mind:

“But,” he said, “do you know how to say differently with equal parts ‘to Beaumont-le-Viconte’?” “I don’t know,” she said. He responded, “It’s ‘up the beautiful cunt a cock mounts {à beau con le vit monte}.’ And by this I pray to God that He grants me what your noble heart desires.”

{ Mais (dist il) equivoquez sur A beau mont le vicomte. Ie ne sçauroys, dist elle. C’est (dist il) à beau con le vit monte. Et sur cella priez dieu qu’il me doint ce que vostre noble cueur desyre }

Such word-play draws on a rich tradition of Latin literature. Only a few years after Rabelais had published Pantagruel, Théodore de Bèze, who in 1564 succeeded John Calvin as the spiritual leader of the Calvinists, wrote a Latin epigram engaging in fleshly word-play:

Recently I greeted my little Candida.
I said, “Greetings, my mind, my joy,
my lovely little ass.” Then eloquently,
wishing to prove herself to me,
she said, “Greetings, my little dickhead.” O eloquent
and well-learned intellectual woman!
If I’m accustomed to saying “lovely little ass,”
why can’t she say “little dickhead”?

{ Nuper, Candidulam meam salutans,
Salve, inquam, mea mens, mei et lepores,
Corculumque meam. Illa tunc disertam
Cum sese cuperet mihi probare,
Salve, inquit, mea mentula. O disertam
Et docto bene feminam cerebro!
Nam si dicere corculum solemus,
Cur non dicere mentulam licebit? }[3]

Men have a gendered burden of performance in relation to women. Misconstruing that gender inequality, some women in response compete aggressively with men. Women striving to compete with men neither helps men nor promotes social justice.

Panurge immediately followed his demonstration of cultivated, broad-minded learning by boldly requesting that the great lady of Paris extend to him her gold-laced rosary. Perhaps through the success of his word-play stunner, she compliantly did so. He whipped out one of his knives and immediately cut it loose. Obliquely referring to another so-called knife accompanied with balls, he asked her if she would like to have his knife. She emphatically declined, “No, no {Non non}!” Panurge then again mockingly invoked men’s courtly subservience to women: “it is fully yours to command — body and goods, stomach lining and guts {il est bien à vostre commandement corps et biens, tripez et boyaulx}.” With that, he went off to sell the great lady’s gold-laced rosary. She lamented losing it “because it was one of her marks of status in the church {car c’estoit une de ses contenances à l’esglise}.” She resolved to tell her husband that a thief had stolen it.

Recognizing the great lady’s avariciousness, that evening Panurge visited her. He brought with him a purse stuffed with fake coins. He began by questioning her about love:

“Between the two of us, which loves the other more, you me, or me you?” To that she responded, “As far as I’m concerned, I certainly don’t hate you, because as God has commanded, I love everyone.” “But on this subject,” he said, “don’t you love me?” “I have said to you many times already,” she declared, “that you should no longer address such words to me. If you talk of it to me again, I will show you that I’m not one to whom you should thus talk of dishonor. Get out of here, and bring me back my rosary in case my husband asks me for it.”

{ Lequel des deux ayme plus l’aultre ou vous moy, ou moy vous? A quoy elle respondit. Quant est de moy ie ne vous hays point : car comme dieu le commande, ie ayme tout le monde. Mais à propos (dist il) n’estes vous pas amoureuse de moy? Ie vous ay (dist elle) ià dit tant de foys que vous ne me tenissiez plus telles parolles, si vous m’en parlez encores ie vous monstreray que ce n’est pas à moy à qui vous debvez ainsi parler de deshonneur allez vous en, et me rendez mes patenostres, que mon mary ne me les demande. }

The great lady hypocritically makes Jesus’s commandment to love a matter of dishonoring in practice. Testing her love, Panurge offered her a luxurious rosary made from gold, rubies, and diamonds, or better yet, one composed of emeralds and a large Persian pearl. Shaking the fake coins in his bulging purse, Panurge offered the great lady gifts worth up to fifty thousand ducats:

The power of these words made her mouth water. But she said to him, “I thank you, yet no, I don’t want anything from you.”

{ Par la vertuz desquelles parolles il luy faisoit venir l’eau à la bouche. Mais elle luy dist. Non, ie vous remercie ie ne veulx riens de vous. }

Despite her apparent desire, the great lady insisted on maintaining her position of superiority with respect to Panurge. She claimed that she needed nothing from him. Her privileged position and unyielding, hypocritical support for the oppressive social-gender hierarchy angered Panurge:

“By God,” he said, “I want a good thing from you, and this thing will cost you nothing, and you will not be dishonored. Get hold of this!” Displaying his long codpiece, he said, “Here’s he who asks for lodging!”

{ Par dieu (dist il) si veulx bien moy de vous: mais c’est chose qui ne vous coustera riens, et n’en aurez de riens moins, tenez: monstrant sa longue braguette, voicy qui demande logis }

Men’s sexuality is a blessing, irrespective of the wealth and social status of men. In contrast to misandristic common descriptions, men having consensual sex with women doesn’t “deflower” or “defile” women. Sex with men typically makes women joyful, particularly if the man is endowed like a donkey. Wrongfully and inexplicably, Panurge attempted to embrace the despicable great lady of Paris. She cried out, not even loudly, and he immediately stopped. He fled quickly for fear of being beaten by the vast penal apparatus addressing such crimes.

The next day was the festival of Corpus Christi. The wealthy, privileged Parisian women went to church dressed in their magnificent finery to celebrate this festival of the beaten and crucified Christ. The great lady “clothed herself in a very beautiful robe of crimson satin and a tunic of very costly white velvet {s’estoit vestue d’une tresbelle robbe de satin cramoysi, et d’une cotte de veloux blanc bien precieux}.” The colors of the great lady’s luxurious clothes parallel Christ’s bare white skin and bleeding wounds.[4]

Panurge contrived to humiliate brutally the great lady. The previous day he had sought and found a female dog at the time in her reproductive cycle when she is eagerly receptive to male dogs. He fed her well to stimulate her lust. Then he extracted from the female dog a drug well-known to ancient Greek authorities.

The next morning Panurge went to the church where the great lady was attending the Corpus Christi festival. He sat next to her and handed her a letter. In it was a rondeau written in the pathetic spirit of courtly love, except for its penultimate verse. In that verse, Panurge crudely expressed his desire that they join vagina and penis. As the great lady opened the letter, Panurge seeded the folds of her sleeves and gown with the drug he had extracted from the female dog in heat.

That natural drug had revolutionary effects. It put down the great from her privileged place and inspired those of low degree:

Attracted by the smell of the drug that he had spread on her, all the dogs in the church came to this lady. Dogs little and big, fat and small — all came there to pull out their dicks and smell her and piss all over her. And Panurge chased them a little and then left the lady and went to a side-chapel to watch the sport. Those common dogs fully shitted and pissed all over her clothes. It went to the point that a huge hound was pissing on her head and humping her neck from behind, others her sleeves, others were at her buttocks, and the little ones were humping her slippers.

{ tous les chiens qui estoient en l’esglise ne s’en vinssent à ceste dame pour l’odeur des drogues qu’il avoit espandues sur elle, petitz et grans, gros et menuz tous y venoient tirant le membre et la sentant et pissant partout sur elle. Et Panurge les chassa quelque peu et print congié d’elle, et s’en alla en quelque chapelle pour veoir le deduyt: car ces villains chiens la conchioent toute et compissoient tout ses habillemens, tantq u’il y eut ung grand levrier qui luy pissa sur la teste et luy culletoit son collet par derriere, les aultres aux manches, les aultres à la crope: et les petitz culletoient ses patins. }[5]

The unruly, uppity Panurge laughed at the great lady’s distress. Men historically have been disparaged and dehumanized as being sexually like dogs. Now the dogs were having their day. Panurge sought out his counterpart Pantagruel:

And arriving at Pantagruel’s lodgings, he said to him: “Master, I pray that you come to see all the dogs of this city that have assembled around the most beautiful lady of this city. They all want to hot-cock her. Pantagruel readily agreed to go. He witnessed this mystery that he found very beautiful and new. But the best was during the procession, because then six hundred dogs were about her. They inflicted a thousand ordeals on her. And wherever she passed, fresh dogs came and followed her trail. They pissed along the road where her robes had touched. Everyone stopped at that spectacle, pondering the faces of these dogs who were mounting her up to her neck and ruining her beautiful attire. She didn’t know where to find a remedy, except to go back to her shelter. And the dogs went after her, and when she had entered her house and closed the door after her, all the dogs from a mile and half around gathered and pissed so well on the door of her house that they formed there a urine stream in which ducks could easily swim.

{ Et arrivé au logis dist à Pantagruel, maistre ie vous pry venez veoir tous les chiens de ceste ville qui sont assemblez à l’entour d’une dame la plus belle de ceste ville et la veullent iocqueter. À quoy voulentiers consentit Pantagruel, et veit le mystere qu’il trouva fort beau et nouveau. Mais le bon fut à la procession: car il se trouva plus de six cens chiens à l’entour d’elle, qui lui faisoient muille hayres: et partout où elle passoit les chiens frays venuz la suyvoient à la trace, pissans par le chemin ou ses robbes avoient touché. Et tout le monde se arrestoit à ce spectacle consyderant les contenances de ces chiens qui luy montoient iusques au col, et luy gasterent tout ses beaulx acoustremens, qu’elle ne sceut y trouver remede, sinon s’en aller à son hostel. Et chiens d’aller apres, et quand elle fut entrée en sa maison et fermé la porte apres elle, tous les chiens y accouroient de demy lieue, et compisserent si bien la porte de sa maison, qu’ilz y feirent ung ruysseau de leurs urines, ou les cannes eussent bien noué. }[6]

In ancient Greek literature, Socrates’s students threw bones at the philosophical gadfly / dog Diogenes the Cynic. Diogenes in turn pissed on them. Rabelais apparent built upon that literary inheritance to depict an astonishing, scarcely permissible fantasy of rude revolution in the world’s usual gender order. Men throughout history have largely licked the boots of an oppressive gender order. Perhaps dogs pissing is a superhuman path for change.

dogs piss on great lady of Paris

Recent decades’ scholarly criticism of Panurge overthrowing the great Parisian lady is best regarded as a crude, risible spectacle of ignorance and bigotry. In 1982, a gynocentric scholarly article on Rabelais set the context for grotesque scholarship:

I have chosen the feminist challenge as perhaps the most important, if only because it is the only one that is presented directly to everybody who deals with any literature of any period or culture. As I offer a version of it now, I naturally hope that you will find it recognizably close to what you think about misogyny or androcentrism in literature, in any of their forms, open or disguised.[7]

Gynocentrism directs everyone, at all time, in all matters, to focus on feminism, filled out with feminism’s world-encompassing counterparts misogyny and anti-feminism. Gynocentrism has been a fundamental social problem at least since the Sabine women insisted on special privileges at Rome’s founding. Yet this scholar, and many others before and after him, have solemnly pondered:

What might it mean to say, as many have said before me, that Rabelais’ great works, Gargantua and Pantagruel, are flawed by their sexism — or, in the earlier language, their antifeminism?

What does it mean to recognize that, going all the way back to Peisistratus with respect to Megacles’s daughter, men have lacked reproductive rights? That would require actually thinking, rather than merely seeking credit in academic status markets through comic confusion of learned gravitas and idiocy:

neither Rabelais nor Bakhtin can be given the credit for vexing me out of laughter and into thought: it is feminist criticism that has done it.

A good man, truly a good man! Such fetishes have developed to the extent that an edited volume of leading academic authorities on Rabelais includes one excluded scholar solemnly prophesizing the death of the “fetishized master” Rabelais. According to this included, excluded scholar, Rabelais’s death is necessary to enjoy the “pleasure” of this scholar’s tedious, tendentious included contribution.[8] A woman scholar, taking advantage of gendered freedom to offer a scholarly judgment that would be career-canceling for any man academic, aptly characterized the intellectual merit of this excluded contribution: “Carla Freccero’s bad-tempered rehash of her objections to Wayne Booth, with added references to Anita Hill, has no discernible relevance to Rabelais.”[9] Can dogs somehow be drugged enough to piss on such a contribution? The editor of the volume of leading authorities on Rabelais, a volume which included no meninist studies, lamented:

Feminist studies, conspicuously absent at the Tours quincentenial conference, is still struggling to assert its place and its voice within or against the current male-dominated scholarship.[10]

At the heights of academia, the answer is clearly no. No drugs are powerful enough to enable dogs to regain their sense of smell.

Literature students must be taught. Appreciating rhetoric is fundamental to understanding language. Here’s how to fail in a university course on Rabelais:

Few modern readers may fail to interpret the attitude of Panurge toward the Parisian lady as a classic case of sexual harassment.[11]

A student writes in her notes: “Panurge attitude to Parisian lady = sexual harassment.” At least that student won’t be among the few modern readers who fail in their reading of Rabelais. But what about the liberal arts enlarging students’ minds and engaging them in practices of critical thinking? Consider:

Recent critics have presented radically opposite views: is Panurge subverting the foundations of social order by “dissolving all respect for hierarchy, feminine honour and marriage”, or is he humbling a rich, haughty, pharisaical character who has sinned against caritas and thus serving the larger “redemptive design” of Rabelais’s “Christian epic”?

Those are radically opposite views only to a scholar ignorant of the gynocentric social order. Panurge outrageously overthrowing the great lady of Paris both subverts the gynocentric social order and serves the redemptive design of God’s incarnation as the fully masculine human being Jesus Christ. Such reasoning isn’t permitted within the constraints of today’s scholastic orthodoxy. Laughing at the absurdities of that orthodoxy isn’t permitted either: “misogyny is the precondition for lightness.”[12] One scholar in one instance let a little of the postmodern truth slip out:

this approach ultimately raises the question whether, in a postmodern reading of Rabelais, misogynist ideology is represented by the “little jollities” and feminist ideology assumes the place of the holy text.[13]

Feminist ideology has become the holy text in modern societies. Go ahead and laugh heartily at that grotesque spectacle. But don’t just laugh. Start thinking. Then act to incarnate true gender justice as best as you can.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Pantagruel, Ch. 14, French text from the first edition that Claude Nourry of Lyons published probably in 1532 (via Wikisource), my English translation, benefiting from that of Screech (2006) p. 110. Subsequent quotes are similarly sourced. For a freely available English translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Le Clercq (1936).

The books of Gargantua and Pantagruel were published serially across years. Although Pantagruel is usually placed as the second book of Gargantua and Pantagruel, it was published first. It’s thus Book 1 in Screech’s translation of the first editions. Rabelais made significant changes to Pantagruel in its subsequent editions. Since Rabelais was subject to censorship and various forms of social coercion as a result of what he wrote in Pantagruel, the first edition is to be preferred for fully appreciating Rabelais’s critique of gynocentric gender domination.

The above quotes from Pantagruel come from the chapter entitled, “How Panurge was in love with a haughty lady of Paris, and about the trick he played on her {Comment Panurge fut amoureux d’une haulte dame de Paris, et du tour qu’il luy fist}.” This is chapter 14 in the first edition. In later, revised editions, chapter 14 was moved and split into Book 2, Chapter 21, “How Panurge was in love with a haughty lady of Paris {Comment Panurge feut amoureux d’une haulte dame de Paris}” and Book 2, Chapter 22, “How Panurge played a trick on the lady of Paris, which was not at all to her advantage {Comment Panurge feist un tour à la dame Parisianne, qui ne fut poinct à son adventage}.”

The full title of Pantagruel is:

The Horrifying and Dreadful Deeds and Prowesses of the Very Famous Pantagruel, King of the Dipsodes, Son of the Great Giant Gargantua, newly composed by Master Alcofrybas Nasier

{ Les Horribles et Espoventables Faictz et Prouesses du très renommé Pantagruel, roy des Dipsodes, filz du grand géant Gargantua, composez nouvellement par Maistre Alcofrybas Nasier }

Alcofrybas Nasier a pseudonym and anagram for François Rabelais.

[2] Panurge’s amorous solicitation of the great lady of Paris parodies “the four topics essential to any set rhetorical theme: utile, iucundum, honestum, and necessarium.” Bowen (1998) p. 129, cited in Hayes (2007) p. 51, n. 19.

[3] Théodore de Bèze, Iuvenilia (first edition, 1548), Epigrams 67, “To Candida {Ad Candidam},” Latin text from Summers (2001) p. 272, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. p. 273. For more on Théodore de Bèze, see note [8] and associated text in my post about Guillem’s prayers, Rosalía’s “Di mi nombre,” and gyno-idolatry.

Screech noted that Rabelais’s writings attracted widespread acclaim and admiration, including from Théodore de Bèze:

Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza both admired him and enjoyed him; he was astonished at the philosophical depths of Rabelais even when he was jesting and wondered what he must be like when he was serious.

Screech (2006) p. xiv.

[4] In the subsequent edition of Pantagruel, Rabelais changed the feast of Corpus Christi to the “the great feast of the coronation {la grande feste du sacre}.” That change mutes the biting contrast between Christ’s suffering and the great lady’s finery. On the significance of the great lady’s finery in relation to medieval French farce, Hayes (2007) pp. 47-8. Cf Rigolot (1994) p. 231.

[5] Screech silently bowdlerized the last line of the above quote. His translation:

until there was one huge hound which was pissing all over her head while others did it over her sleeves and her crupper and the puppies did it over her shoes

{ tantq u’il y eut ung grand levrier qui luy pissa sur la teste et luy culletoit son collet par derriere, les aultres aux manches, les aultres à la crope : et les petitz culletoient ses patins. }

Screech (2006) p. 116, French text from the Pantagruel first edition of Claude Nourry. Cf. Screech’s editorial note on culleter at id. p. 115.

The French text “Panurge les chassa quelque peu” could mean that Panurge encouraged the dogs to befoul the great lady. That’s Screech’s interpretation: “Panurge chased them up a bit.” Screech (2006) p. 116. But Panurge would have feared punishment for his abuse of the great lady. He plausibly would have wanted to pretend that he wasn’t at fault for what was happening to her. That’s Le Clercq’s interpretation: “Panurge pretended to chase them off.” Le Clercq (1936) p. 248. My translation leaves open either possible interpretation.

[6] The dogs pissing even where the great lady’s robe had touched the road parodies Matthew 14:34-6 (the sick seeking to touch even just the hem of Jesus’s garment). Broadly interpreting the great lady of Paris as a Christ figure isn’t warranted. The point is that pissing even merely on traces of her is a redemptive act for dehumanized men.

[7] Booth (1982) p. 55. The subsequent two quotes are from id. pp. 56, 58. Booth’s gynocentric focus remains prevalent:

this episode raises the issue of misogyny that must be central to any interpretation of Rabelais’s cruel prank

Simon (2019) p. 426. Will the penal authorities cut off the arms and legs of any scholar who doesn’t make misogyny central to interpreting Rabelais’s literary story? Everyone knows that there isn’t and never has been any great ladies of Paris. Any such great lady of Paris is merely “a paranoid projection of misogyny.” Id. p. 433.

[8] Freccero (1995) p. 82.

[9] Bowen (1997) p. 915. Freccero’s earlier, highly acclaimed article is Freccero (1985). Apparently unable to get a grip on his penis or on his Phallic language, Rigolot, who called Panurge a “typical sexual aggressor,” singled out Freccero (1985) for praise as providing “probing critical scrutiny” of Panurge amorously soliciting the great lady of Paris. Rigolot (1994) pp. 226, 233 (“typical sexual aggressor”), nearly identically Rigolot (1995) pp. 85, 99 (“typical sexual harasser”).

[10] Carron (1995), Carron’s introduction, p. xiii.

[11] Rigolot (1994) pp. 226-7, identically Rigolot (1995) p. 85. The subsequent quote is from Rigolot (1994), identically Rigolot (1995) p. 85. I’ve omitted from the second quote internal references to the internal quotes. Those references are serially Schwartz (1990) p. 39 and Duval (1991) pp. 75, 119, 140.

Rather than presenting with tendentious rhetoric Panurge conspiring to have six hundred dogs piss and shit all over a great lady of Paris as a “classic case of sexual harassment,” this literary story from Rabelais’s sixteenth-century Pantagruel could be better used to instruct students in techniques of rhetoric. Panurge himself is a master of rhetoric. On that, Bowen (1998).

With praiseworthy scholarly integrity and courage, Bowen forthrightly stated:

{Rigolot (1994)} repeats almost word for word his differently titled article {Rigolot (1995)}. I don’t find his Parisian Lady as a figure for the suffering Christ any more convincing on second reading.

Bowen (1997) pp. 915-6. A crude measure of scholarly merit, one commonly invoked implicitly and explicitly, is counting publications. Such a measure is obviously subject to strategic manipulation.

As a Benedictine monk extensively learned in sophisticated medieval literature, Rabelais makes many references in various ways to the Gospels. Overall, the best Biblical intertexts for understanding Panurge dethroning the great lady and elevating dogs is 2 Kings 9:36-7 (Jezebel being thrown to dogs) and Luke 1:46-55 (Mary’s Magnificat). On the former reference, Hayes (2007) p. 52, n. 27. Describing the great lady of Paris as a figure of Christ is utterly inconsistent with faithful interpretation of Rabelais.

[12] Simon (2019) p. 439.

[13] Rigolot (1994) p. 235, which are the concluding words of the article. This reference to the holy text of feminist ideology is excluded in Rigolot (1995). Perhaps that exclusion is an instance of a scholar’s repentance for offense against the dominant gynocentric order.

While Hayes (2007) insightfully connects the story of Panurge and the great lady of Paris to medieval French farces, that article remains doctrinally faithful to the holy text of feminist ideology. The analysis is thus fully colored with the women-are-wonderful effect and poor-dearism:

A distinguishing characteristic of this farcical episode is the fact that it is a woman who is being exposed. Women are nearly universally cast as the winners in traditional farce, owing to the misogynistic stereotyping of women as being crafty and deceptive. Also, in farces that focus on sexual desire, it is almost always the woman who is portrayed as being concupiscent. The Lady of Paris represents a drastic reversal from a female role in farce: she is guilty of excessiveness; she is neither cunning nor wily, nor sexually aggressive. While this episode may employ another form of gender-based stereotyping, it is important to note that it also represents a radical departure from the standard female characterizations found in the genre from which it draws its structure.

Hayes (2007) p. 43, identically in Hayes (2010) pp. 131-2.

[images] (1) Panurge goes to see the great lady of Paris. Illumination by Gustave Doré. From Urquhart & Motteux (1894) (excerpted, color-corrected), preceding Book 2 (Pantagruel), Chapter 21. (2) The Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel, prompting Mary’s Magnificat. Salomon Koninck painted this oil-on-canvas work in 1655. Preserved as accession # HWY XXXII:B.119 in the Hallwyl Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Dogs mobbing the great lady of Paris. Wood print (excerpted, color-corrected) in Bracquemond (1872). From The New York Public Library, via Wikimedia Commons. Here’s another print depicting this story. It’s by Albert Robida and published in Oeuvres de Rabelais (1928)


Booth, Wayne C. 1982. “Freedom of Interpretation: Bakhtin and the Challenge of Feminist Criticism.” Critical Inquiry. 9 (1): 45-76.

Bowen, Barbara C. 1997. Review. “Jean-Louis Carron, ed. François Rabelais: Critical Assessments. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. xxi + 227 pp. $38.50. – André Tournon. “En sens agile”: Les acrobaties de l’esprit selon Rabelais. Paris: Champion, 1995. (Etudes et Essais sur la Renaissance, 9.) 193 pp.” Renaissance Quarterly. 50 (3): 915-917.

Bowen, Barbara C. 1998. “Rabelais’s Panurge As Homo Rhetoricus.” Pp. 125-133 in James V. Mehl, ed. In laudem Caroli: Renaissance and Reformation studies for Charles G. Nauert, Jr. Sixteenth century essays & studies, v. 49. Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press.

Bracquemond, Félix. 1872. Eaux-fortes de Rabelais. Paris: A. Lemere.

Carron, Jean-Claude, ed. 1995. François Rabelais: critical assessments. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

Duval, Edwin M. 1991. The Design of Rabelais’s Pantagruel. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

Freccero, Carla. 1985. “Damning haughty dames: Panurge and the Haulte Dame de Paris (Pantagruel, 14).” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 15: 57-67.

Freccero, Carla. 1995. “Feminism, Rabelais, and the Hill/Thomas Hearings: Return to a Scene of Reading.” Pp. 73-82 in Carron (1995).

Hayes, E. Bruce. 2007. “Putting the ‘Haute’ Back into the ‘Haute Dame de Paris’: The Politics and Performance of Rabelais’s Radical Farce.” French Forum. 32 (1-2): 39-52.

Hayes, E. Bruce. 2010. Rabelais’s Radical Farce: Late Medieval Comic Theater and Its Function in Rabelais. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate. This work incorporates Hayes (2007).

Le Clercq, Jacques, trans. 1936. The Complete Works of Rabelais: the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel. New York: Random House.

Rigolot, François. 1994. “Rabelais, Misogyny, and Christian Charity: Biblical Intertextuality and the Renaissance Crisis of Exemplarity.” PMLA. 109 (2): 225-237.

Rigolot, François. 1995. “The Three Temptations of Panurge: Women’s Vilification and Christian Humanist Discourse.” Pp. 83-102 in Carron (1995).

Screech, M.A., trans. 2006. François Rabelais. Gargantua and Pantagruel. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin Books. (review by Barbara Bowen)

Schwartz, Jerome. 1990. Irony and Ideology in Rabelais: structures of subversion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Simon, David Carroll. 2019. “Vicious Pranks: Comedy and Cruelty in Rabelais and Shakespeare.” Studies in Philology. 116 (3): 423-450.

Summers, Kirk M., ed. and trans. 2001. A View from the Palatine: the Iuvenilia of Théodore de Bèze. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, v. 237. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Urquhart, Thomas and Peter Anthony Motteux, trans. 1894. The Works of Rabelais, faithfully translated from the French, with varioram notes, and numerous illustrations by Gustave Doré. Derby, England: Moray Press.

literary progress: perceiving systemic sexism in medieval love poetry

Medieval European love poetry built upon classical Greek and Latin love poetry and its sophisticated literary games. Medieval love poetry was also structured through the systemic sexism that shaped medieval women and men’s lives together. For literary criticism to progress, systemic sexism in medieval love poetry must be better appreciated.

Consider a medieval Latin love poem written in the eleventh century. A woman addresses a man who seeks her love:

The joys of young women: violets and rose blossoms,
dazzling-white lilies and delicious apples,
a pair of doves, to which is added their mother,
purple clothes, adorned in which the woodland goddesses
I could conquer in dress so much as I surpass them in face,
and also silver, jewels, and gold — these you promise.
You promise all these, but nevertheless you send to me none.
If you loved me, and if you had what you promised,
the things would have come, and then words would have followed.
Therefore either you’re false and you don’t know desire’s stings,
or you’re rich in empty words and lacking in things,
because if you are filled with many riches,
you’re an unlearned peasant believing that I love not you, but what’s yours.

{ Gaudia nimpharum, violas floresque rosarum,
Lilia candoris miri quoque poma saporis
Parque columbarum, quibus addita mater earum,
Vestes purpureas, quibus exornata Napeas
Vincere tam possim cultu quam transeo vultu,
Insuper argentum, gemmas promittis et aurum.
Omnia promittis, sed nulla tamen mihi mittis.
Si me diligeres et que promittis haberes,
Res precessissent et verba secuta fuissent.
Ergo vel es fictus nescisque cupidinis ictus
Vel verbis vanis es dives, rebus inanis,
Quod si multarum sisplenus diviciarum,
Rusticus es, qui me tua, non te credit amare. }[1]

The woman expects the man who loves her to give her expensive gifts. Men predominately shoulder the gender burden of soliciting amorous relationships and enduring amorous rejections. Most men have much worse sexual opportunities than most women. Men historically have paid women for sex. That’s systemic sexism. Recognizing systemic sexism is necessary to appreciate this medieval Latin love poem.

This poem is a learned work. It apparently was directed to Marbod of Rennes. Marbod in 1076 became the cardinal archdeacon of Angers in Anjou, France. He also served as the canon-master of the cathedral school at the Cathedral of Saint Maurice of Angers. Marbod and his peers were highly educated men who engaged in formal reasoning and teaching. One of them may have written this poem in a female voice. If a woman wrote the poem, she would have been a learned, elite medieval woman such as Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, Hildegard of Bingen, or Heloise of the Paraclete.[2] Only the educated elite wrote medieval Latin love poetry.

This poem mocks formal reason. Verses 8-9 describe normative heterosexual courtship practice under systemic sexism. The woman declares to the man:

If you loved me, and if you had what you promised,
the things would have come, and then words would have followed.

{ Si me diligeres et que promittis haberes,
Res precessissent et verba secuta fuissent. }

The man, however, resisted normative practice under systemic sexism. He didn’t give the woman expensive gifts. She gives possible reasons for his behavior. One possibility: “you’re false and you don’t know desire’s stings {es fictus nescisque cupidinis ictus}.” In other words, “you’re pretending to love me in your words, but you don’t really love me, because if you really loved me, first you would give me expensive gifts.” That’s an understandable explanation for the man’s behavior, given systemic sexism in heterosexual love relations. Perhaps he’s just playing with her.

The second possible explanation for the man’s behavior reveals women’s sense of entitlement under systemic sexism. The woman reasons: “or you’re rich in empty words and lacking in things {vel verbis vanis es dives, rebus inanis}.” In other words, the man lacks the resources to follow normative practice in heterosexual courtship under systemic sexism. The woman never considers that the man is consciously resisting that systemic sexism. She further reasons about the man’s hypothesized incapacity for expensive gift-giving:

because if you are filled with many riches,
you’re an unlearned peasant believing that I love not you, but what’s yours.

{ Quod si multarum sisplenus diviciarum,
Rusticus es, qui me tua, non te credit amare. }

That’s amusingly ridiculous reasoning. The medieval poet Hugh Primas brilliantly recounted his experience with a greedy courtesan. The Archpoet’s love for women impoverished him under systemic sexism. Women having sex with men in order to acquire men’s possessions has been common practice throughout history. Moreover, a woman, not distinguishing a man from his possessions, can understand herself to love both a man and his possessions. Having written to the woman elegant words of learned love poetry, the man cannot be an “unlearned peasant {rusticus}.” He’s an unlearned peasant only in the figurative sense that he’s ignoring normative practice in heterosexual courtship under systemic sexism.

medieval Galician courtesan

Medieval men poets explicitly critiqued systemic sexism in heterosexual courtship. In a Galician-Portuguese song written late in the thirteenth century, a man trobairitz explained:

Should any horseman wish to call
on Maria Pérez, take money along,
or else you’re not going to get very far.

{ O que veer quiser, ai, cavaleiro,
Maria Pérez, leve algun dinheiro;
Senon, non poderá i adubar prol. }[3]

Rather than being appreciated for his riding skill, a horseman will be charged for his sexual work. Such a social order exacerbates inequality. An impoverished Galician man trobairitz writing in the first half of the thirteenth century attempted, not surprisingly, to bargain to meet his sexual needs:

I asked a woman for her cunt.
She quoted me a high price,
and so I said: “It isn’t right
to charge me such an outrageous sum.
Now do me and yourself a favor –
sell me a portion of your wares,
as my love won’t require much.

Merchants sell small portions of gold,
worth more than your cunt, you will agree.
They sell small portions of bread and honey;
for meat and salt, the same thing holds.
Thus also you should sell your cunt,
since other men are sure to come
and buy the portions still unsold.

And you’ll be able, by this art,
to sell it all, for once word spreads
that you sell piecemeal, many men
like me will gladly buy a part.
And I’ll do you a special favor:
if you want to keep your navel,
I’ll be happy to take your ass.”

{ Pedi eu o cono a ũa molher,
e pediu-m’ela cem soldos entom;
e dixe-lh’eu logo: – Mui sem razom
me demandades; mais, se vos prouguer,
fazed’ora – e faredes melhor –
ũa soldada polo meu amor,
a de parte, ca nom hei mais mester.

Fazem soldada do ouro, que val
mui mais ca o vosso cono, de pram;
fazem soldada de vinh’e de pam,
fazem soldada de carn’e de sal;
por en devedes do cono fazer
soldada, ca nom há-de falescer,
se retalhardes, quem vos compr’o al.

E podede-lo vender, eu o sei,
tod’a retalho, porque saberám
que retalhades, e comprar-vos-am
todos del parte, como eu comprei.
Ainda vos d’al farei mui melhor:
se do embiigo havedes sabor,
contra o rabo vo-lo filharei. }[4]

Sex is fundamental to human welfare. Men, if they so desire, deserve the whole person of a woman in a loving relationship. Deprived of such a gift, men are commonly thrown into the sexual market. If the sexual market is generating unreasonably high prices and unfair product bundling, that market should be reformed. Systemic sexism that continually worsens will not endure. If governing elites are contemptuous of men’s welfare, ordinary men eventually will take the matter into their own hands to the detriment of posterity.

Women and men must regain the capacity to speak frankly about women’s sexual exploitation of men. More than two millennia ago, the procuress Acanthis advised Propertius’s girlfriend Cynthia:

Inspect their gold and not the hand that offers gold.
Listening to verses — what will that get you but words?
When a man offers verse, not gifts of silken clothing,
you must be deaf to his unsophisticated lyre.

{ aurum spectato, non quae manus afferat aurum!
versibus auditis quid nisi verba feres?
qui versus, Coae dederit nec munera vestis,
istius tibi sit surda sine aere lyra. }[5]

Propertius cursed that old woman’s complicity in Cynthia’s sexual exploitation of him:

May earth, procuress, overgrow your grave with thorns,
and what you wouldn’t wish, your ghost feel thirst,
your soul not rest in the ashes, and avenging hell-dog Cerberus
scare your vile bones with hungry howl.

May the bawd’s tomb be an ancient wine-jar with chipped neck
and may a wild fig-tree’s vigor burst it.
You lovers all, break up this grave with jagged stones
and add, while stoning, miscellaneous curses.

{ Terra tuum spinis obducat, lena, sepulcrum,
et tua, quod non vis, sentiat umbra sitim;
nec sedeant cineri Manes, et Cerberus ultor
turpia ieiuno terreat ossa sono!

sit tumulus lenae curto vetus amphora collo:
urgeat hunc supra vis, caprifice, tua.
quisquis amas, scabris hoc bustum caedite saxis,
mixtaque cum saxis addite verba mala! }

Propertius was enslaved in love with Cynthia. She also held another man, Lygdamus, as her household slave. Too many men today suffer similarly from women’s domination.

Men must affirm the intrinsic value of their own sexual person. In thirteenth-century Galicia, the greatly under-appreciated man trobairitz Afonso Anes do Coton depicted an impoverished, anonymous man speaking boldly to the elite lady Maria Garcia. He refused to be her unpaid sexual servant:

I was convinced, Maria Garcia,
when I fucked you the other day,
that I wouldn’t leave you
as I left you, empty-handed.
Despite much service I did for you,
you didn’t give me, as people commonly say,
even a coin for my dinner for one day.

But from this I’ve learned my lesson:
not to fuck another woman like you
if she doesn’t first put something in my hand,
because I don’t have to fuck for free.
And you, if you want to fuck,
you know how: go do it
with whom you have provided clothes and shoes.

Because you have provided neither clothes nor shoes,
nor do I live in your house,
you don’t have such power over me
to make me fuck you, if you don’t
pay me very well beforehand. And more I’ll say to you:
I’m not afraid, thanks to God and the King,
of violence that you might impose on me.

Also, my lady, those who ask aren’t wrong.
So you, by God, send an inquiry to ask
the native-born of this place
if they ever fucked, in peace or in war,
unless in exchange for money or for love.
Go about your affairs, so-called noble one,
for this you see: thanks to God, the King has this land.

{ Ben me cuidei eu, Maria Garcia,
em outro dia, quando vos fodi,
que me nom partiss’en de vós assi
como me parti já, mão vazia,
vel por serviço muito que vos fiz,
que me nom destes, como x’homem diz,
sequer um soldo que ceass’um dia.

Mais desta seerei eu escarmentado:
de nunca foder já outra tal molher
se m’ant’algo na mão nom poser,
ca non hei porque foda endoado;
e vós, se assi queredes foder,
sabedes como: ide-o fazer
com quen teverdes vistid’e calçado.

Ca me non vistides nen me calçades,
nen ar sej’eu eno vosso casal;
nen havedes sobre min poder tal
por que vos foda, se me non pagades
ante mui ben; e máis vos én direi:
nulho medo, grado a Deus e a el-rei,
non hei de força que me vós façades.

E, mia dona, quen pregunta nom erra
e vós, por Deus, mandade preguntar
polos naturaes deste lugar
se foderam nunca, em paz nen en guerra,
ergo se foi por alg’ou por amor.
Id’adubar vossa prol, ai senhor,
ca vedes: grad’a Deus, rei ha na terra. }[6]

Men historically have carried the gender burden of materially provisioning women and children. But a woman who loves a man should be willing to provide him with housing, clothing, and shoes. If she’s not willing to do that, then she doesn’t truly love him. If she doesn’t love him, then she should pay him money for having sex with her. Her doing so would be merely a small reparation for the systemic sexism that men have endured from civilization’s founding.

Within the gynocentric status economy of modern academic courts, scholars pursuing their own interests in material gain and career advancement have produced astonishingly perverse interpretations of men feeling compelled to purchase sex from women. A scholar feigning an otherworldly position of authoritative objectivity opined:

The frequent jokes in the cantigas d’escarnho e de mal dizer about female sex workers, or soldadeiras, reveal courtly preoccupations concerning labor as well as gender. These repeated poetic games among men, shared within a symbolic economy of jesting (Freud’s joke-work) that targets women’s sexual labor, reproduce the social dispositions of masculine domination, while also concealing, through negation and comic displacement, the courtiers’ own self-interest in material gain and social advancement.[7]

To make his work academically impressive, this scholar mustered eminent scholastic authorities: Sigmund Freud, Pierre Bourdieu, Henri Bergson, Jacques Le Goff, Marcel Mauss, and Gayle Rubin. Promoting further criminalization of men through interpreting as violence anything that men do or say, or even just a man’s virtual presence on Facebook (“It makes me feel unsafe!”), is now a well-established practice. Thus men paying women for sex is “economic violence – the sexual usage – performed on the courtesan’s body.”[8] Such claims complement more mundane claims about the silencing of women’s voices, the objectification of women’s bodies, women’s social and economic subordination, and of course, the misogyny that motivates men to purchase sex from women.

Medieval love poetry shouldn’t read as if systemic sexism doesn’t exist. Systemic sexism is real, but it isn’t natural and necessarily eternal. With more curses, complaints, critical analysis, protests, and transgressive poetry, old women and young women, as well as their old and young men enablers, will became ashamed of being complicit in systemic sexism. Then a broad-based coalition of progressive voices will rise to support social justice in which men’s lives matter.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Marbod of Rennes (questionably attributed), “Young woman to her boyfriend who promises gifts {Puella ad amicum munera promittentem},” Latin text from Bulst (1984), p. 185, via Camino Plaza (2019) p. 444, my English translation, benefiting from those of Brower (2011) p. 220, Newman (2016) p. 33, and Mews (2008) p. 95. The Latin reading blog provides some Latin help for this poem.

This poem was included in a late-eleventh-century anthology of poems sent to Marbod of Rennes. That anthology includes many poems known to be by Marbod and none known to be by any other person. Marbod lived from about 1035 to 1123. If Marbod wrote this poem, he probably wrote it in the first half of his life. Mews, however, regards this poem as “unlikely to have been one of Marbod’s own compositions.” Mews (2008) p. 95.

Men, particularly men insanely in love with a woman, often act oblivious to systemic sexism. So it was with Marbod of Rennes. Instead of denouncing his girlfriend’s complicity in systemic sexism, Marbod responded:

What was sent by you to me, dearest, I read rejoicing,
for it holds there that I have pleased you.
If I knew truly what you are saying, most beautiful of things,
I would then be happier than if I became king.
I would not value Octavian’s treasure so much
as I value having pleased you, just as it has there.
Your letter has conquered me. It says I am sweet to you;
my heart solicits for me the kisses that it recites.
Happy tablets, happy pen and hand,
and happy letter written by your right side.
Your letter to me is a messenger of happiness, a messenger of life —
if to it you at least grant the voice that you have within you.
In you is thus my death and my life —
you make these two to be subject to ambiguity.
If you give me what you owe, you offer me gifts of life.
If less, you lead me to an undeserved burial.
Live remembering the one who remembers you, my gem of precious beauty,
and on this wax tablet, place what is of your mind.

{ A te missa michi gaudens, carissima, legi,
Namque tenetur ibi me placuisse tibi.
Si scirem verum quod ais, pulcherrima rerum,
Quam si rex fierem, letior inde forem.
Non facerem tanti thesauros Octauiani
Quam placuisse tibi, sicut habetur ibi.
Littera me vicit, que dulcem me tibi dicit,
Basia que recitat, cor michi sollicitat.
Felices tabule, felix grafiusque manusque
Et felix dextra littera facta tua.
Littera leticie michi nuncia, nuncia vite
Si tamen hoc perhibes voce, quod intus habes.
In te namque sita mea mors est et mea vita,
Esse sub ambiguo tu facis ista duo.
Si das quod debes, michi vite munera prebes,
Si minus, immeritum trudis in interitum.
Viue memor memoris, preciosi gemma decoris,
Hisque nota ceris, qualia mente geris. }

Mabod of Rennes, “Reply to his girlfriend {Rescriptum ad amicam},” Latin text from Bulst (1984), p. 185, via Camino Plaza (2019) p. 446, my English translation, benefiting from the partial translations in Brower (2011) p. 220 and Mews (2008) p. 96.

Scholars have done no better than the insanely loving Marbod in recognizing the systemic sexism structuring the woman’s poetic letter. Mews declared, “What matters about these poems … is that they open up a space in which a woman’s voice is able to be heard.” Mews (2008) p. 97. Newman describes the women’s letter as a “light-hearted poem.” She approvingly notes, “The girl, or whoever voiced her complaint, calls her lover’s bluff on two counts.” Newman (2016) p. 33. Brower rightly observed: “Marbod’s reply to the girl’s complaint dodges the question of gifts entirely, focusing instead on how the girl’s letter pleases him because it makes him feel loved.” But that observation doesn’t lead to needed analysis of systemic sexism against men and proposals to achieve social justice. Instead, Brower complains that the man hasn’t paid the oppressive tribute to systemic sexism that he owes:

Marbod’s reply showcases both his self-centeredness and his debt to elegy. … Marbod’s empty promises thus recall the analogous insincerity of the elegiac male. … Marbod uses Ovidian allusion to depict himself manipulating a woman by extorting love with the promise of gifts he has no intention of giving.

Brower (2011) pp. 221-2. Camino Plaza recognizes the “strongly volitional {fuertemente volitiva}” aspect of Marbod’s reply, but not its strongly delusional aspect. Camino Plaza (2019) p. 64.

[2] Dronke thought that a woman at the convent of Le Ronceray at Angiers sent the letter to Marbod during the 1060s or 1070s. Dronke (1965) vol. 1, p. 213. Baudri of Bourgueil also corresponded with women of the Le Ronceray convent. Mews (2008) p. 335, n. 58.

[3] João Vasques de Talaveira, “Should any horseman wish to call {O que veer quiser, ai, cavaleiro}” vv. 1-3 (stanza 1), Galician-Portuguese text (manuscript B 1546) from Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas, English translation (with my change) from Zenith (1995) p. 137 (song 64). Zenith translated cavaleiro as “gentleman.” But a more literal translation is “horseman” (alternate glossary). The later translation, which I’ve used above, preserves the allusion to chivalry. João Vasques de Talaveira served both King Alfonso X and his successor, King Sancho IV.

In v. 2, the reference to Maria Pérez apparently refers to the now-revered soldadeira Maria Pérez Balteira. On Maria Pérez Balteira the soldadeira, see note [4] in my post on King Alfonso X the Learned and the dean of Cádiz. The second stanza of this song has been interpreted to testify to Maria Pérez’s entertainment skills:

Whoever would pay an evening visit
to Maria Pérez, have money in fist,
or else you’re not going to get very far.

{ Quen’a veer quiser ao serão,
Maria Pérez, lev’alg’em sa mão,
senom nom poderá i adubar prol. }

Sourced as for stanza 1. Serão is the only possible reference in the whole corpus of Galician-Portuguese cantigas to entertainment activity of Maria Pérez Balteira beyond having sex. Rivas (2019) pp. 77-8. Despite broad interpretations of serão {evening}, an evening visit doesn’t necessarily imply any activity beyond sex. On the activity of a soldadeira, Santos Bastos (2016).

In interpreting this song, Rivas ignores systemic sexism against men and strains to honor Maria Pérez Balteira:

If we pay attention to the references that appear in other cantigas, she was a woman with a great personality, very different from others, with her own rebellious voice that can be understood almost as proto-feminist. The verses “Quena veer quiser ao serão, / María Pérez, lev’algu’en sa mão” (vv. 4-5; ‘Whoever would pay an evening visit / carry something in his hand’) express the high level of demand for the woman, who would not accept just any relationship. What is normally presented as a song of derision and mockery, in which the troubadour humiliates María Pérez for her economic interest — without giving importance to the camp-prostitute’s opinion or perception of the love, which would correspond to the first reading mentioned — can be perfectly understood as a situation in which the decision-making capacity of women stands out, which would be the second meaning that we have just indicated.

{ Si hacemos caso de las referencias que aparecen en otras cantigas, ella era una mujer con una gran personalidad, muy diferente de otras, con una voz propia, rebelde y que se puede entender casi como una proto-feminista. Los versos “Quena veer quiser ao serão,/ María Pérez, lev’algu’en sa mão” (vv. 4-5; ‘quien la quiera ver en el serán,/ lleve algo en su mano’) expresan el alto nivel de exigencia de la mujer, que no aceptaría cualquier relación. Lo que se presenta normalmente como una cantiga de escarnio y maldecir, en la que el trovador humilla a María Pérez por su interés económico —sin importar la opinión o la percepción del amor de la soldadeira, lo que correspondería a la primera lectura mencionada—, se puede entender perfectamente como una situación en la que se destaca la capacidad de decisión de la mujer, lo que sería el significado segundo que acabamos de indicar. }

Rivas (2019) p. 77. The thirteenth-century Old Occitan romance Flamenca has with similar reason been characterized as protofeminist. See note [12] and related text in my post on Rosalía’s “Di mi nombre” and Flamenca.

[4] Pero Garcia de Ambroa, “I asked a woman for her cunt {Pedi eu o cono a ũa molher},” Galician-Portuguese text (manuscript B 1576) from Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas, English translation (with my small changes) from Zenith’s  translation provided there. Zenith (1995) p. 27 (song 13) provides a slightly different translation. Pero Garcia de Ambroa was a Galician man trobairitz who wrote his songs in the middle of the thirteenth century.

The “high price” in v. 2 is literally “one hundred soldos {cem soldos}.” A soldo was a medieval Portuguese gold or silver coin, perhaps adapted from a similar coin in medieval Italy. One hundred soldos surely would be a high price for a soldier to pay a camp prostitute for sex.

Another cantiga protests against exploitation of men in sexual commerce. But the song ends only in an appeal to a holy, blessed woman and antagonism between men:

And we all are victims of trickery
regarding this merchandise
and we shall never be vindicated,
but may Saint Mary command
that the man of Ambroa, who fucks Baltiera,
be taken into evil play
and also her because she promises
cunt and doesn’t have any left to give.

{ E somos mal enganados
todos desta merchandia
e nunca imos vingados:
mais mande Santa Maria
qui prenda i mal juguete
o d’Ambrõa, que a fode,
e ela porque promete
cono, poi-lo dar non pode. }

Vaasco Perez Pardal, “You are taken in guile about that {De qual engano prendemos}” (manuscript B 1506), Galician-Portuguese text from Arias Freixedo (2017) p. 382, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. p. 383. Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas provides a substantially identical original text. The “man of Ambroa” is the Galician man trobairitz Pero Garcia de Ambroa. This song can be read as ultimately supporting an entrenched social hierarchy. Gouveia Fernandes (2011).

Without any recognition of systemic sexism and the historical demeaning of men’s persons to penises, an academic declared that this song:

is less equivocal and more brutal about the buying and selling of this woman’s “cunt” (in such phrases as “cono mercado” and “de molher cono […] vender”), which is considered simply merchandia, “merchandise”.

Liu (2009) p. 5. A frank description of a woman’s sex work isn’t “brutal.” Within the ninteenth-century origin of social science, men were blamed for women working as prostitutes. That led to the criminalization of men in the gender-bigoted Mann Act.

[5] Propertius, Elegies 4.5.55-8, Latin text from Goold (1990), English translation (with my small changes) from Lee (2009). These verses may have influenced “Puella ad amicum munera promittentem,” quoted earlier above. The subsequent quote is similarly from Elegies 4.5.1-4, 75-9.

A. S. Kline offers all of Propertius’s poems in English prose translation in a web-native presentation. Holcombe (2009) is an outstanding, freely available book of Propertius’s elegies, with both Latin text and an English verse translation.

[6] Afonso Anes do Coton, “I was convinced, Maria Garcia {Ben me cuidei eu, Maria Garcia},” (manuscript B 1506), Galician-Portuguese text from Arias Freixedo (2017) p. 83, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. p. 84. Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas provides a substantially identical original text, with the main difference in transcribing word-ending n’s / m’s. Mendonça Lopes (2019), which aptly notes that this is a quite unusual song, provides a Portuguese translation. For additional commentary, Gouveia Fernandes (1995).

Afonso Anes do Coton was a Galician man trobairitz active in the 1240s in Castilian Court of King Fernando III. He may have been from the Coruña town of Negreira. On difficulties in identifying his works, Marcenaro (2015).

In “Ben me cuidei eu, Maria Garcia,” Afonso Anes do Coton might be regarded as representing an uppity man mouthing off to his social superior. An academic has declared:

Medieval Iberian literature is full of uppity women mouthing off. It is striking that the very first poem in Lapa’s edition of the Cantigas de escarnio e de mal dizer (CEM) {Songs of scorn and derision} features an extended rant by an angry woman who threatens the king himself because he tried to silence her. Most studies of female voices in Galician-Portuguese lyric focus on the cantigas de amigo {songs of love}, perhaps obviously, since all songs in that genre are voiced by women

Filios (2004) pp. 135-6. Another academic categorically asserted, “since ancient times, women have struggled to have their voices heard and to remain in their rightful position {desde outrora a mulher luta para ter sua voz ouvida e se manter na posição que lhe é de direito}.” Silva (2018). That’s even more true for most men.

[7] Liu (2009), from article abstract.

[8] Liu (2009) p. 8. Medieval scholars have been astonishingly unconcerned about literal medieval violence against men’s genitals. Medieval philology itself has failed to represent adequately men’s genitals.

[images] (1) Courtesan dancing. Illumination from folio 16r of the Cancioneiro da Ajuda, a Galician-Portuguese songbook made in the last quarter of the thirteenth century and preserved in the library of the Ajuda National Palace, Lisbon, Portugal. Via Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas, also available on Wikimedia Commons. (2) Maria Manseliña’s performance (2019) of João Vasques de Talaveira, “Should any horseman wish to call {O que veer quiser, ai, cavaleiro}.” This is the first song in her performing a series of songs about the soldadeira Maria Pérez Balteira. The medieval melody to João Vasques de Talaveira’s song has been lost. This recording uses a medieval contrafactum. Via YouTube.


Arias Freixedo, Xosé Bieito. 2017. Per Arte de Foder: Cantigas de escarnio de temática sexual. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

Brower, Susannah Giulia. 2011. Gender, Power, and Persona in the Poetry of Baudri of Bourgueil. Ph. D. Thesis. University of Toronto, Canada. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.

Bulst, Walther. 1984. “Liebesbriefgedichte Marbods.” Minor revision of an article published in 1950. Pp. 182-196 in Walter Berschin, ed. Lateinisches Mittelalter: gesammelte Beiträge. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Camino Plaza, Laura María. 2019. Carteándose con mujeres: tradición literaria, género y afectos en el círculo del Loira (Francia, ss. XI-XII). Ph.D. Thesis. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Filios, Denise K. 2004. “Female voices in the Cantigas de escarnio e de mal dizer: index and commentary.” Bulletin of Spanish Studies. 81 (2): 135-155.

Goold, G. P., ed and trans. 1990. Propertius. Elegies. Loeb Classical Library 18. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Gouveia Fernandes, Raul Cesar. 1995. “O Escárnio de Amor de Afonso Eanes do Coton.” Atas Do I Encontro Internacional de Estudos Medievais (Congresso). USP/UNICAMP/UNESP.

Gouveia Fernandes, Raul Cesar. 2011. “A cantiga de escárnio como instrumento de segregação social.” ângulo 125/126: 8-15.

Holcombe, Colin John, trans. 2009. Sextus Propertius Elegies. Latin text and English translation. Ocaso Press. Online. Holcombe’s review of previous translations and characterization of his translation.

Lee, Guy, trans. 2009. Propertius. The Poems. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Liu, Benjamin. 2009. “Joke work and sex work: courtiers and soldadeiras.” Revista Eletrônica de Estudos Literários – REEL. 5: 1-9.

Marcenaro, Simone. 2015. “La tradición manuscrita de Afonso Anes do Coton (XIII sec.): problemas de atribución.” Pp. 901-916 inAlvar, Carlos, ed. Estudios de literatura medieval en la Península Ibérica. San Millán de la Cogolla: Cilengua.

Mendonça Lopes, Carlos. 2019. “Bem me cuidei eu, Maria Garcia — um poema de Afonso Eanes do Cotom.” vicio da poesia. Online, September 1, 2019.

Mews, Constant J. 2008 / 1999. The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: perceptions of dialogue in twelfth-century France. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Newman, Barbara. 2016. Making Love in the Twelfth Century: Letters of two lovers in context. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rivas, Aitor. 2019. “O Que Veer Quiser, ai Cavaleiro, / Maria Pérez, Leve Algum Dinheiro: Amor, Dinero y Género en las Cantigas Gallego-Portuguesas.” Pp. 59-87 in Baumann, Inga, and Slaven Waelti, eds. Vom Liebespfand zur Singlebörse über die ökonomische Rhetorik der Liebe. FOLIES, Band 10. Berlin: Münster LIT. Alternate online source.

Santos Bastos, Douglas. 2016. Jogralesa, soldadeira ou prostituta? Um estudo sobre a representação do feminino medieval. Ph. D. Thesis. Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Silva, Alessandro. 2018. “A identidade galega nas palavras de mulheres.” Homo Literatus. Online, April 30, 2018.

Zenith, Richard, trans. 1995. 113 Galician-Portuguese Troubadour Poems. Manchester: Carcanet, in association with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Instituto Camões.

Gulinus tortured knight for love in misandristic, unfruitful vineyard

In a stunning medieval vision in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, King Gulinus ordered his ministers to torture brutally a knight in love with Gulinus’s beautiful daughter. The torture of the knight proceeds significantly from torturing his penis to bathing him in boiling water, then in frigid water, and then to batting him around until his members are torn and his head bashed open. This medieval vision represents Gulinus and his ministers as wicked, misandristic tenants in the unfruitful vineyard of gynocentric society.

In 1170, the knight entered Saint Patrick’s Purgatory on Station Island in Lough Derg {Red Lake} in Ireland. The knight then found himself in King Gulinus’s large, lavish palace. Gulinus, who apparently had been out hunting, returned in a bustle of clanging chariots and neighing horses to tumultuous cheers of the people. Gulinus had a young, beautiful daughter. The knight was merely an ordinary knight. Yet when he saw Gulinus’s daughter, he immediately burned in love for her. She seemed to him more beautiful than any other woman in the world.

The knight explained to Gulinus that he had come to purge his sins in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory. But the knight’s experience seemed to be developing in a different direction:

Then Gulinus asked the knight if he had ever seen such a beautiful young woman and if he wanted to enjoy her embraces. He immediately replied that he had never seen such a beauty and that he would most gladly marry her. Then Gulinus gave his consent and ordered a minister to prepare a bed for them. That indeed was done.

{ Quesiuit autem Gulinus a milite si unquam talem et tam pulchram puellam uideret et an uellet uti amplexibus eius. Ille autem respondit se nunquam tam pulchram uidisse et quod libentissime uteretur connubio illius. Tunc concessit ei Gulinus, et precepit ministro ut pararet illis in camera stratum. Quod et factum est. }[1]

What Valerian heard from Cecilia on their wedding night was a minor annoyance compared to what this knight then experienced:

And behold, when the knight believed he was about to consummate marriage with this young woman, his eyes were opened and he saw a most ancient, arid, and misshapen trunk lying between his arms. His penis itself was squeezed into a certain hole made in that trunk. A minister, deputed to the task by Gulinus, shredded and weakened his penis by striking a nail into it with a hammer with manly force and very frequently. The minister thus confined the knight’s penis in that hole. The knight desired a hundred times to incur death, if it were possible, rather than sustain such agony even for a brief while. The minister very frequently repeated the blows on the nail with the hammer and more narrowly compressing the knight’s very penis, dashed, smashed, battered, and pounded it. This knight suffered these dire straits of agony and cried out and wailed for most of the day. He was tortured to the point of death. Gulinus then said to his ministers, “How’s that knight, our son-in-law, doing?” And they responded, “He’s fine.” “Go,” he commanded, “and bring him to me.”

{ Et ecce cum crederet se miles uti connubio illius puelle, aperti sunt oculi eius et uidet truncum uetustissimum et aridissimum et deformem iacere inter amplexus eius, et uirilem ipsius uirgam in quodam foramine facto in illo trunco coartatam, quam minister ad hoc deputatus a Gulino contriuit et eneruauit percutiendo uiriliter et sepissime maleo clauum stringens in illo foramine uirilem uiram illius, ut miles desideraret centies si fieri posset incurrere mortem magi squam talem cruciatum uel ad modicum horam sustinere. Cumque predictus minister sepissime claui cum malleo percussiones iteraret, et uirilem ipsius uirgam arctius stringendo collideret, confringeret, quassaret, et contereret, et miles ille per multum diei tempus inter has angustias crutiatuum laboraret, clamaret, eiularet, et usque ad mortem fatigatus esset, ait Gulinus ministris suis, “Quomodo se habet miles ille gener noster?” At illi responderunt: “Bene se habet.”. “Ite,” inquit, “adducite eum ad me.” }

A mother-in-law in medieval Verona caused a wife considerable distress. But that mother-in-law didn’t directly torture her daughter-in-law’s vagina. When the knight was brought to his father-in-law, he might have hoped for emergency first aid, a quick grant of divorce, and a fast horse to flee from that place:

When freed from penal punishment, the knight was placed in the presence of Gulinus, who asked him: “How are you?” The knight described all his pain. Gulinus asked him: “Do you wish to enter into a warm bath so that you can revive your broken and aching members?” And he replied: “Very gladly!” Immediately he was thrown into boiling water, which was hotter than any fire. In that bath, all his members were consumed, liquefied like wax in fire. The previous agony he counted as minimal in relation to this one. In this bath the knight was tortured for a long time. He was screaming and complaining all the time. Then Gulinus asked his ministers: “How is our son-in-law doing?”

{ Qui cum laxatus a penis stetisset coram Gulino, ait ei: “Quomodo te habes?” At ille omnem dolorem eius exposuit. Cui Gulinus: “Vis,” inquit, “intrare calidum balneum, ut in eo refoveas confracta et dolentia membra tua?” Qui respondit: “Libentissime.” Statimque proiectus est in aquam bullentem, omni igne calidiorem. In quo balneo, tamquam cera in igne, liquefacta sunt omnia membra illius et depasta. Cruciatum priorem iam pro minimo reputabat respectu sequentis. Cumque diu in hoc balneo fatigaretur et semper exclamaret et eiularet, ait Gulinus: “Quomodo facit gener noster?” }

As King Gulinus knew, his son-in-law was suffering brutal bodily torture. That means, in a common-sense understanding, that his son-in-law was doing very badly. But these circumstances weren’t a matter of common sense:

From this, like the prior misery, the knight was pulled out into the presence of Gulinus. The knight was scarcely able to speak. Gulinus said to him, “Do you wish, just for tempering the heat that you have in your members, to enter into cold water?” The knight responded, “Very gladly!” Immediately he was thrown into an extremely cold bath, a bath whose coldness exceeded that of snow and ice. Now he was plunged under water, now propelled upwards onto sharpened points of ice, sharper and harder indeed than all iron spikes. On all sides his body was thrown back, penetrated and perforated and torn apart. After his life was pulled into the most miserable misery for a very long time, he regarded all the previous penal punishments as having no importance in relation to this one.

{ Ab hac autem sicut et prius miseria miles eductus coram Gulino uix loqui potuit. Cui Gulinus: “Vis,” ait, “ad temperandum calorem istum quem habes in membris tuis, intrare in frigidam aquam?” Cui cum respondisset: “Libentissime,” statim proiectus est in balneum frigidissimum, quod frigiditate sui omnem niuem et gelu superaret. Quandoque sub aquis mergebatur, quandoque sursum proiectus, super acutas cuspides glaciei, acutiores et duriores omni acuto et clavo ferreo, que undique corpus suum intrabant et perforabant et laniabant, reiectus est. Cumque diutissime in hiis miseriis miserrimam uitam duxisset, omnesque penas precedentes respectu istius pene tamquam nullius momenti reputasset }

After burning with passion for King Gulinus’s daughter, the knight first had his penis smashed and pounded, then he was thrown into boiling water, and then into a cutting ice bath. No knight would want such an adventure, no matter how game he was in love:

Finally, just as from the first penal punishment, the knight was pulled out from this bath and placed in the presence of Gulinus, who asked him, “How are you?” The knight responded by describing all his pains. Gulinus said: “I lament for all the miseries that you have endured. Hence I have deliberated: to the extent that you wish to relieve your pain, you should play a certain game that men usually use to relieve their pains.” The knight responded that he greatly need to have such a game. Gulinus then said to his ministers: “Lead him into our game house and make him play there to satiation.” So the ministers led him into a square house constructed from four stone walls. Pointed stones protruded slightly everywhere all around in the walls of this house. On top of the walls a beam went across the house. To that beam was tied a single rope that hung downwards. The ministers bound to the rope the knight’s feet so that his head was hanging downwards. They pulled him upwards a little. Then they threw him and batted him back from side to side like a ball. The ministers didn’t cease from playing this game until all the knight’s members were torn and cut from the sharp stones and his head was bashed, broken, and pulped such that his brains poured out. The knight said that this torture was incomparably more intolerable than all the previous penal punishments.

{ tandem ut prius eductus de hoc balneo stetit coram Gulino. Cui Gulinus: “Quomodo te habes?” Cui respondenti et exponenti omnes dolores suos, ait Gulinus: “Doleo de miseriis tuis quas passus es. Vnde consulo, uolens releuare dolores tuos, quatinus ludas de cetero quodam ludo quo solent homines releuare dolores suos.” Quo respondente se tali ludo, opus habere, dixit Gulinus ministris: “Ducite illum in domum ludi nostri et facite eum ibi ludere ad satietatem.” Duxerunt igitur eum ministri in domum quadratam super quatuor muros lapideos constructam. Erant autem undique per girum domus istius in parietibus acuti lapides aliquantulum prominentes. Et erat trabes quedam sursum super muros in transuersum posita, ad quam funiculus unus alligatus deorsum dependebat. Ad hunc autem funem ministri alligabant pedes militis, capite deorsum dependente. Sursumque illum paululum trahentes proiecerunt et repulerunt eum quasi pilam de pariete in prietem, nec unquam ab hoc ludo ministri cessauerunt donec omnia membra militis predictis lapidibus acutis excerperentur, desecarentur et caput eius collideretur, confringeretur, contunderetur usque ad effusionem cerebri. Hanc autem miseriam dixit predictus miles omnibus predictis penis suis incomparabiliter fuisse intolerabiliorem. }

That was no game of love. The knight’s situation would have been worse if he had been brought before Gulinus and that psychotic father-in-law had again asked, “How are you?” as a prelude to further torture. But the chilling horror that began with the knight’s burning desire for Gulinus’s young, beautiful daughter ended abruptly:

After the knight had been thus violently played with for a long time and the morning of the next day had already come, all those ministers of evil along with their king Gulinus disappeared. All of the knight’s penal punishments and his vision vanished. The knight found himself at the entrance of the purgatory that he had previously entered. He no longer saw any of what he had seen. But he then suffered such infirmity in bodily debilitation that he entirely expected to die.

{ Cumque sic diutissime illuderetur, mane iam die adieniente, disparuerunt omnes illi ministri iniquitatis cum rege suo Gulino, et omnes pene eius euanuerunt cum ipsa uisione sua, et inuenit se miles in introitu purgatorii a quo prius in purgatorium intrauerat, nichil eorum que uiderat uidens. Tantaque infirmitate seu corporis debilitate tunc laborabat, ut se omnino deficere estimaret. }

The knight’s bodily debility testified to the veracity of his vision. The authenticity of his vision is also attested in its written text through explicit citation of a chain of authorities leading back to this knight.[2]

The knight’s vision of penal torture in the palace of King Gulinus is no mere folk nightmare. The Latin text is filled with sophisticated verbal echos and allusions.[3] The four instances of torture are clearly patterned. After feeling burning sexual desire for Gulinus’s beautiful daughter, the knight undergoes tortures that progress from penal pounding to a burning bath, then to the allopathy of an ice bath, and then to a torture game that’s the end-game for a knightly game of love radically re-interpreted.

Jesus’s parable of the vineyard-owner and his wicked tenants, itself a re-interpretation of prophetic verses from the Hebrew Book of Isaiah, seems at least in part to have inspired the knight’s vision. In Jesus’s parable, a man planted a vineyard, protected it with hedges, dug a pit for a wine press, and built a tower. He leased all these assets to tenants. He expected the tenants to manage the vineyard fruitfully:

When the right time came, the vineyard owner sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the fruit of his vineyard. But the tenants seized the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant. They wounded that one in the head and treated him shamefully. He sent yet another, and that servant they killed. So, too, with many others. Some they beat, others they killed. He had still one other to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, thinking, “They will respect my son.” But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

{ καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον κἀκεῖνον ἐκεφαλίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμασαν καὶ ἄλλον ἀπέστειλεν κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους οὓς μὲν δέροντες οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοὶ πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπαν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτόν καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος }[4]

The injuries against the vineyard-owner’s successively sent servants for the most part increase in severity. The second servant being handled shamefully {ἀτιμόω} suggests in context sexual abuse.[5] The incidents of injury culminate in killing the vineyard-owner’s son and treating his corpse disrespectfully. The vineyard-owner in this parable, like the knight in Gulinus’s palace, suffers a terrible injury to fruitfulness and generation.

The parable of the vineyard-owner and his wicked tenants is an allegory for God and his wayward people in salvation history. The vineyard-owner (God) sends servants (Hebrew prophets) to receive what is due to him from his tenants (God’s people). Yet the wayward tenants / God’s people only increase in their waywardness. Finally the vineyard-owner sends to them his son. In Christian understanding, the sending of the son represents God incarnating himself in the Virgin Mary’s womb as his beloved, fully masculine son Jesus.

The knight’s vision similarly represents men’s love for women under misandristic gynocentrism. From a Christian perspective, loving, conjugal heterosexual intercourse of reproductive type follows the pattern of God’s love for his people. It’s potentially an act of creation and incarnation. Yet in today’s rape-culture culture, leading organs of the public propaganda apparatus proclaim that nearly a quarter of husbands rape their wives. Men have been criminalized in criminalizing their gender role in seduction. In defining crimes and administering criminal justice, penal punishment is predominately aimed at persons with penises. Just consider the gender composition of persons locked up in prisons and jails. Those locked-up men have have little opportunity to love women and incarnate new human beings. The wicked tenants of the world’s unfruitful, dying vineyards don’t care about having babies.

Persecution of the penis is worse than just criminalization. In addition to penal crimes and punishments, men endure civil burdens like those of indentured servants. If a man encounters unplanned parenthood and his woman-partner doesn’t choose to have an abortion, he has no choice but could be legally compelled to pay about a third of his income to her for 18 years or more as so-called “child support.” He then becomes an indentured servant who must produce his assigned monthly financial quota or be incarcerated. Few even bother to ask, “How are men doing?” The wicked tenants of the world’s unfruitful, dying vineyards don’t care about men.

Across the long span of civilization, men’s situation with respect to women has continually worsened. Men have long suffered dire consequences from false accusations of rape. Punishment for adultery has long been gender-biased against men. Now misandristic, totalitarian gynocentrism has developed to the extent that an academic has declared that castration “gifts men with wholeness and a better maleness.”[6] Men are smeared as rapists for seeking burning passion with women rather than act-by-act negotiation and contracting. Men are castigated as haters for expressing icy disinterest in women today. Both men and women leaders favor women. Inventing new ways of pandering to woman and bashing men is a common media game of our age. Most women are less happy living with cats or yes-dearing men than living with strong, self-valuing, fully human men. The wicked tenants of the world’s unfruitful, dying vineyards don’t care about women.

You can perceive gender reality through an underground vision like that of the knight in Gulinus’s palace. While medieval men didn’t endure gender injustice as oppressive as that which exists today, medieval women and medieval men protested men’s gender subordination to women. Most academics have rejected Matheolus’s brilliant medieval lamentations as being unworthy of serious study. Read and ponder Matheolus. Study medieval Latin literature. Through this special journey, you will gain a vision of the misandristic, totalitarian gynocentrism that threatens men in ordinary life today.

medieval sexual abuse: woman riding and beating man

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[1] Peter of Cornwall, Liber revelationum, vision in St. Patrick’s Purgatory, sentences 32-5. Latin text from Easting (1979) via Maggioni, Tinti & Taviani (2018), my English translation, benefiting from the Italian translation of id. Subsequently quotes are seriatum from this vision and are similarly sourced. For the Latin text, with English translation, Easting & Sharpe (2013). I have unfortunately not been able to access that book.

Peter Cornwall’s Liber revelationum has survived in only one manuscript: London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 51. This manuscript is Peter’s own and includes annotations in his hand.

In Liber revelationum, the anonymous knight’s vision in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory follows a copy of the Treatise on Saint Patrick’s Purgatory {Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii}. The latter transmits, among other important stories, the knight Owein’s vision in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory.

Peter of Cornwall directed the compilation of his Liber revelationum in 1200 and perhaps for a few years afterwards. He intended this work to document revelations and spiritual visions in which souls of persons continue to live after their body’s death. Liber revelationum is a massive book of 1,105 chapters and about a half-million words. Three scribes wrote it under Peter’s direction.

Peter compiled Liber revelationum as prior of Holy Trinity Church, Aldgate, London. Peter lived from about 1140 to 1221. A widely learned man, he also participated in high ecclesiastical politics in England. On Peter’s life and books, Barbezat (2013) pp. 16-27.

The story of the knight being tortured for love in King Gulinus’s palace is not elsewhere attested, nor is King Gulinus known. Gulinus is plausibly an Irish name. Yolande de Pontfarcy associated Gulinus with Culann and the forge Slieve Gullion {Sliabh gCuillinn} near Newry, Ireland. Haren & de Pontfarcy (1988) pp. 43-8, as cited in Sharpe (2016) p. 200. Sharpe doesn’t find that attribution convincing.

Sharpe interprets Gulinus to be the Irish name Guile with an added Latin suffix -inus. He associates the story with the early modern Irish story “The complaint of Guile’s daughter {Ceasacht inghine Guile}.” An earlier version exists in Middle Irish, “The excuse of Gulide’s daughter {Erchoitmed ingine Gulidi}.” Here’s the Irish text (from Ms Rawlinson B 512, f. 114c – 115c) and an English translation by Kuno Myer.

A woman having sex with a guest visiting her home is common in literary history. It’s a typical structure in stories of men being cuckolded. But of course sex with guests isn’t limited to cuckolding, e.g. a young, unmarried princesses falls in love with a visiting knight and sleeps with him. For a slightly different class of Irish examples, see “sex hospitality” (motif T281) in Cross (1952), cited in Steel (2016) p. 10, n. 32.

The knight’s vision in Gulinus’s palace in Saint Patrick’s Purgatory has been mischaracterized as “a barely Christianized account of the dangerous hospitality of the fairy folk.” Green (2016) p. 183. Christianity has always coexisted with folk myths, including those of academia. What’s most interesting about the “dangerous hospitality” that the knight received in Gulinus’s palace isn’t its relation to folk myths, but its relationship to social reality. This story is similar to other stories in Walter Map’s De nugis curialium. It may have drawn upon the account of two of Lucian’s men being captured in having sex with vine-women in Lucian’s True Story {Vera Historia}.

[2] According to Liber revelationum, the knight recounted his vision to Bishop Lawrence of the Church of Downpatrick, whose episcopate encompassed Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, and to the monk Walter, who was staying with Bishop Lawrence. After Lawrence died, Walter returned to his abbey at Mellifont in County Lough, Ireland, and told the story to Bricius, the Cistercian abbot of the monastery of Saint Patrick in Ireland. Bricius, visiting London in 1200, told the story to Peter of Cornwall, a scholar and prior of Holy Trinity Priory in London. Peter immediately recorded the knight’s vision in his Book of Revelations {Liber revelationum}. The knight’s vision has survived to the present only in the one known manuscript of Peter of Cornwall’s book.

Bricius’s abbey of Saint Patrick is thought to have been in Newry, near Belfast. Sharpe (2016) p. 199. The modern Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman is now located in Newry.

Documenting an authoritative chain of transmission is also a feature of Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii. Hadith studies of Islamic scholars developed sophisticated methods for analyzing the reliability of transmitted historical accounts. That aspect of Islamic learning may have influenced learned scholars in twelfth-century Europe.

[3] This include poena / pena {punishment} in relation to penis {penis}, membrum (meaning both “limb” and “penis”), truncus (meaning both “tree trunk” and “torso of a human body”), virga (meaning both “twig” and “penis”), and various Latin verbal forms for enter and withdraw.

[4] Mark 12:2-8, Greek text from BlueLetterBible, my English translation, based on standard English biblical translations. Similarly, Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19. This parable re-interprets Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 118:22-23.

[5] Cf. Romans 1:24.

[6] Steel (2016) pp. 6-7. Steel embeds that declaration in an even more fulsome paragraph:

Castration delivers a sense of newfound wholeness, a newly unified self, undistracted and in control, and suggests that it was the burden of the penis that stymied self-mastery. If, in the logic of medieval misogyny, the female body was disordered desire incarnated,22 and if excessively practiced sexuality, with whatever partner, effeminized men,23 then the genitalia was the most female part of a man’s body.24 Unmanning thus paradoxically gifts men with wholeness and a better maleness.25 Castration becomes the surest route to bestowing on men the illusory gift of the phallus, male power’s mythical thing, which should never be confused with the actual, always inadequate genitalia.

Id. The footnote texts, referenced with the superscripted numbers, both signal academic authority and flatter similar quality academic work. Imagine Professor Steel lecturing undergraduates with this paragraph. A typical student might scribble in her class notes: “Genitalia = female part of male body, castration = better maleness. Male power mythical -> inadequate genitalia.” This is how today’s universities educate students into castration culture and oppressive idiocy.

Perhaps to demonstrate his academic merit, Steel solemnly affirmed the absurd. For example, castration “sought to make the (male) self whole.” Steel (2016) p. 2. Steel explored “the ethics of interpreting literary accounts of torment.” Id. p. 1. He forcefully imposed meaninglessness on the knight’s genital injury:

What may be strangest of all is a story of injury to a man’s genitals that just takes it as one among many injuries — a bad one, to be sure, but not the one. The knight suffers the genital injury first; afterwards, he is boiled and frozen, thrashed about, his whole body hideously damaged, but with no sense of order or purpose, without any hint that he gradually learns anything. Juridically and morally speaking, this is parataxic punishment, without the subordination of one injury to another, because things just happen, and then more things happen, horribly, but without any one injury taking absolute precedence over the others. Then he’s expelled and everything stops.

Steel (2021). Steel then offers a disciplined ethics (no apophasis allowed) of meaninglessness in interpreting the knight’s penis being tortured:

it may be just a strange injury, something that just happens. … genital injury is just something that happens. … the very meaninglessness of the knight’s suffering should be preserved as meaningless, and that the best response to his pain may be to refuse to interpret it.

Id. pp. 1, 13, 14. To face down those lacking his ethical sophistication, Steel deploys a mendacious rhetoric of truth-telling: we must interpret the story “without denying the bizarre hilarity of what the knight undergoes.” Id. p. 13. Is it any wonder that about twice as many women as men are earning advanced degrees in literary and humanistic fields in the U.S. today? See note [8] in my post on Peter Dronke and medieval Latin literature.

Other have readily found superficial meaning in the tortures that the knight suffers. Those tortures have been interpreted as love tests: “a certain King Gulinus tests the knight’s love for his daughter.” Flechner (2019) p. 183. No specific textual support exists for that interpretation. Alternatively, the knight undergoes these horrible tortures “to purge him of the sin of Lust, and cause the sin to have associations with a more demonized memory.” Kuykendall (2020) p. 41. That interpretation recognizes the patterning of the tortures, their allegorical associations with love (hot, cold, game), and a plausible allusion to demonic torturing. The story of torturing the knight in Gulinus’s palace has, however, broader significance in relation to castration culture and gynocentrism.

[image] Medieval woman riding and beating a man. Illumination from a fifteenth-century manuscript of Aristotle’s Politics translated into French by Nicolas Oresme. Detail from illumination on folio 1r of Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Français 22500. Via Gallica.


Barbezat, Michael. 2013. Doubt, Faith, and the World to Come in Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations. Ph.D. Thesis. Toronto: University of Toronto.

Cross, Tom Peete. 1952. Motif-index of early Irish literature. Bloomington: Indiana University.

Easting, Robert. 1979. “Peter of Cornwall’s Account of St. Patrick’s Purgatory.” Analecta Bollandiana. 97 (3-4): 397-416.

Easting, Robert and Richard Sharpe. 2013. Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations. British Writers of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, 5. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. (review by Eileen Gardiner)

Flechner, Roy. 2019. Saint Patrick Retold: The Legend and History of Ireland’s Patron Saint. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Green, Richard Firth. 2016. Elf Queens and Holy Friars: fairy beliefs and the medieval church. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. (review by Cathy Hume, by Krisztina Ilko, by David Russell Mosley, by Alastair Minnis)

Haren, Michael, and Yolande de Pontfarcy, eds. 1988. The Medieval Pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory: Lough Derg and the European tradition. Enniskillen: Ireland.

Kuykendall, Victoria. 2020. Wonderland: Myth or Fairy-Tale? M.A. Thesis. Texas State University.

Maggioni, Giovanni Paolo, Roberto Tinti, and Paolo Taviani. 2018. Il purgatorio di San Patrizio: documenti letterari e testimonianze di pellegrinaggio (secc. XII-XVI). Firenze: SISMEL, Edizioni del Galluzzo. (review by Robert Bartlett, by Marie-Céline Isaïa)

Sharpe Richard. 2016. “Varia III: Gulide, Guile and Gulinus: an Irish type for a twelfth-century Latin story.” Ériu. 66: 199-201.

Steel, Karl. 2016. “Logsex in Hell: What a Body Can’t Do.” Paper presented at the conference The Body Unbound: Literary Approaches to the Classical Corpus, Brooklyn College, Oct 7-8, 2016. Expanded / revised into Steel (2021).

Steel, Karl. 2021 (forthcoming). “Nothing to Lose: Logsex and Genital Injury in Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations.” In Katherine Lu Hsu, Brian P. Sowers, and David Schur, eds. The Body Unbound. Palgrave MacMillan. (preview of first part)