Priapus & Free Love

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The number of new marriages is at its lowest for one hundred years. Times change and so one must pretend to change with them. But, of course, if I had my way we’d still be taking our cues from the ancient Greeks and the high minds of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, The Gang of Three – so called after their habit of loitering menacingly around the gymnasium showers, hands on hips and wearing nothing but disapproving, predatory scowls.

Kneel before Hymen! Greek god of membranes. A curious celestial duty indeed, although he was also god of marriage ceremonies, exalted in the ancient wedding song Hymen o Hymenae, Hymen – from which both hymn and hymen derive their names.

It was believed essential that Hymen attend every wedding, lest the marriage prove disastrous. Thus, in ancient Greece, the wedding guests would run about calling his name aloud. Certainly not the way to behave in the parish church today, but a splendid method of getting an especially irritating page boy a sound public thrashing from his mortified parents.

Of particular medical interest is Hymen’s brother Priapus, a minor rustic fertility god renowned for his colossal genitals and his permanent erection, who generously donates his name to Priapism – a dangerous and painful condition in which the erect member declines to return to its flaccid state.

The causes for this are many and various, but my favourite is the bite of the Brazilian Wandering Spider. This is quite embarrassing for the arachnid, who is constantly mocked by his peers for his laughable status in Venomous Spider Top Trumps.

But George, you ask, how did Priapus come by such weighty tackle?

Well, there are various stories flying about, but the Greeks will tell you that the Gods were having a garden party on Mount Olympus, a very convivial affair by all accounts. The nymph Lotis falls into a drunken slumber. Priapus spies Lotis having a little doze – beautiful, innocent Lotis –, and at times such as these, a young God’s thoughts turn to free love – or rape depending on the reliability of one’s moral compass.

Now, it’s not entirely his fault. The fact that Dionysus had brought along a donkey had perhaps set the tone of the party in Priapus’s mind and he was imagining a more debauched and hedonistic affair.

So, Priapus advances upon the nymph with stealth, at which point the donkey spies what’s afoot and alerts the other partygoers to the imminent penetration by means of loud braying. Lotis awakes just in time to fend off the looming shaft, runs off and transforms herself into a lotus flower to escape him. The other gods are displeased, and Priapus is cursed with gargantuan, useless, wooden genitals.

Priapus is a trifle miffed to say the least. He marches up to the donkey and bludgeons him to death. With his penis. He bludgeons a donkey to death with his gargantuan, useless penis.

Greek Mythology. You couldn’t make it up.

And quite a mental picture isn’t it? I imagine he took out the forelegs first, thus immobilising the donkey and allowing him to mash it slowly to death at his leisure.

Well, as you can imagine, by now the convivial atmosphere of the party is on the wane and Priapus is cast down from Mount Olympus to earth as punishment.

The end.

You would think. However, there are plenty of foolish earthlings always on the lookout for some miscreant in need of worshipping.

And so he became revered as a guardian, chiefly of the home and garden – much like Alan Titchmarsh – and was most commonly represented as a misshapen gnome-like figure with an enormous erect phallus. Much like Alan Titchmarsh.

Statues of Priapus were common in ancient Greece and Rome, standing in gardens, doorways, crossroads and at the Chelsea Flower Show where, by way of appeasement, travelers would stroke the penis as they passed by – Titchmarsh would not miss the flower show for the world and has always been passionate about meeting his fans.

The statues were often hung with signs threatening sexual abuse upon any would-be trespassers:

“I warn you, boy, you will be screwed; girl, you will be fucked; a third penalty awaits the bearded thief. If a woman steals from me, or a man, or a boy, let the first give me her cunt, the second his head, the third his buttocks. My dick will go through the middle of boys and the middle of girls, but with bearded men it will aim only for the top.”

Comforting to note that bearded transgressors, such as myself, get special dispensation, receiving a mere throat-rogering. But whichever punishment it may be, one must accept that this is the price one pays for trespassing. As three of my medical interns discovered to their cost when I caught them playing silly-buggers with the cadavers in my lab. There was a lady and two young gentlemen – upon one of whom I drew a beard so that between them they could experience the full gamut of prescribed punishment and learn a valuable lesson about respect.

Dr Ryegold is the author of several best-selling books based on his many years experience as a healer, research scientist and polymath. He vigorously denies recent, slanderous accusations by the RSPCA regarding the bludgeoning to death of a Brazilian Wandering Spider.

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