Labiaplasty — the procedure that clips off portions of a woman's labia minor (the inner lips of her vulva) so that she looks more like a pristine porn star — is the most common "vaginal rejuvenation" surgery. One Southern California doctor says his most popular procedure is "The Barbie," which whacks out the entire labia minora so that only the outer labia are visible, as smooth as plastic. Where did we go wrong?
Props to Guernica's Kirsten O'Regan, who didn't exactly go under the knife but got creepily close to it for her investigation into labiaplasty. Her consultation with Dr. Ronald Blatt took place in a ominously girly room with pink curtains, plump cushions, and a poster on the wall depicting a female body with the words "Rejuvenate. Repair. Rejoice." Cool, The Stepford Wives is real!
Dr. Blatt showed O'Regan what her vulva would look like without those disgusting inner lips getting in her way — "Basically, if you can imagine it'll be a straight line down from your clitoris," he said. "Nice and tidy." — and when she eventually elected not to mutiliate her body to look like Skipper's older sister, he seemed disappointed (and patronizing):
With my feet wedged into fluffy pink stirrups, Dr. Blatt carefully normalized my request. He reassured me that I am "about our regular" labiaplasty patient (reminiscent of the time my dentist told me I was a perfect candidate for tooth-whitening). When I express doubt at the end of the consultation, wondering aloud if I need the surgery, he shrugs his shoulders and smiles benevolently.
"Whatever makes you happy."
Dr. Blatt, by the way, is less of a vulva-hater than some of his colleagues. Consider Dr. Red Alinsod, a Laguna Beach-based urogynecologist who invented the "Barbie" surgery, which amputates the entire icky labia minora:
This results in a "clamshell" aesthetic: a smooth genital area, the outer labia appearing "sealed" together with no labia minora protrusion. Alinsod tells me he invented the Barbie in 2005. "I had been doing more conservative labiaplasties before then," he says. "But I kept getting patients who wanted almost all of it off. They would come in and say, I want a ‘Barbie.' So I developed a procedure that would give them this comfortable, athletic, petite look, safely."
Why the fuck do women want their vulvas to look like they're made out of plastic? (A minority of women seek out labiaplasty for non-aesthetic reasons, but most do because they're embarrassed or ashamed of their "abnormal" lower lips.) We can blame Brazilian bikini waxes, the mainstream media, and, of course, porn. "Girls are more aware of what they look like now," Alter admits. (And lucky for him!) Blatt's website entices clients by stating that "Some women just want to look ‘prettier' like the women they see in magazines or in films." Ugh.
We can also blame the doctors themselves for perpetuating the "Barbie" ideal. Obviously doctors want their patients to feel self-conscious about their bodies so that they'll pay them for alterations; labiaplasty can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000. "Plastic surgery in private practice is really about money-farming," one anesthesiologist said. Some more number-crunching here:
The American College of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recorded 2,140 vaginal rejuvenation surgeries in 2010. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons estimates that 5,200 procedures are performed annually. While this is markedly less than breast augmentation surgeries, over 300,000 of which were performed in 2011, the figures are alarming given the relative newness of vaginal rejuvenation procedures-the first recorded labiaplasty occurred in 1984, but the surgery remained relatively obscure until the late 90s-and the lack of auditing and regulation in the field. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the vaginal rejuvenation industry was worth around $6.8million in 2009. This number is now undoubtedly much higher and does not take into account any procedures performed by gynecologists.
But doctors also help push that desired "look" — an unobtrusive vulva that's becoming "increasingly minimalist" — through the way they discuss women's bodies:
The escalating pathology of the vagina is just one manifestation of a fairly ubiquitous desire to deny natural variations in female anatomy by casting them as aberrations. Alinsod and Alter speak with enthusiastic distaste about female genitalia-"this big, fat pad", "like a golf ball", "she has a fatty majora"-and they don't necessarily consider it a doctor's obligation to advise patients if they are within normal range. Interestingly, a 2011 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that male physicians are more likely to recommend cosmetic labiaplasty than their female counterparts.
Alinsod told O'Regan that he only considers his patients' mental health "if their requests are unusual." That statement implies that wanting your labia minora amputated is normal. Increasingly, that seems to be the case. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology condemns vaginal rejuvenation procedures — back in 2007, it declared that it was "deceptive to give the impression that… any such procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices" — but will that change with the times? Probably. Last year, the Federation of International Gynecologists and Obstetricians included an extended presentation on cosmetic gynecology.
How can we convince our younger sisters and cousins and daughters that it's perfectly okay if your vagina doesn't resemble the porno or plasticized ideal? O'Regan notes some pushback, such as a Tumblr called "Show Your Vagina", which showcases vaginas of all shapes and sizes and colors. Inspiring, yes, but not exactly persuasive enough to remind women bombarded with Photoshopped images of "minimalist" vag that there's no such thing as a perfect vagina. Wait, scratch that: there is such a thing as a perfect vagina. It looks exactly like yours.

Derivative of the Oriental Great Goddess as Cunti, or Kunda, the
Yoni of the Uni-verse. 1 From the same root came county, kin, and kind
(Old English cyn, Gothic kuni). Related forms were Latin cunnus,
Middle English cunte, Old Norse and Frisian kunta, Basque cuna.
Other cognates are "cunabula," a cradle, or earliest abode; "Cunina,"
a Roman Goddess who protected children in the cradle;
"cunctipotent," all-powerful (i.e., having cunt-magic); "cunicle," a
hole or passage; "cuniculate," penetrated by a passage; "cundy," a
coverted culvert; also cunning, kenning, and ken: knowledge, learning,
insight, remembrance, wisdom. Cunt is "not slang, dialect or any
marginal form, but a true language word, and of the oldest stock." 2
"Kin" meant not only matrilineal blood relations, but also a cleft or
crevice, the Goddess's genital opening. A Saharan tribe called Kuntahs
traced their descent from this holy place.3 Indian "kundas" were
their mothers' natural children, begotten out of wedlock as gifts of the
Goddess Kunda.4 Of old the name applied to girls, as in China where
girls were once considered children of their mothers only, having no
natural connection with fathers. 5
In ancient writings, the word for "cunt" was synonymous with
"woman," though not in the insulting modern sense. An Egyptologist
was shocked to find the maxims of Ptah-Hotep "used for 'woman' a
term that was more than blunt," though its indelicacy was not in the
eye of the ancient beholder, only in that of the modern scholar.6
Medieval clergymen similarly perceived obscenity in female-genital
shrines of the pagans: holy caves, wells, groves. Any such place
was called cunnus diaboli, "devilish cunt." Witches who worshipped
there sometimes assumed the name of the place, like the male witch
Johannes Cuntius mentioned by Thomas MoreJ "Under painful circumstances"
this witch died at the hands of witch hunters, but it was
said he was resurrected, and came back to earth as a lecherous incubus.8
Sacred places identified with the world-cunt sometimes embarrassed
Victorian scholars who failed to understand their earlier
meaning. A.H. Clough became a laughing-stock among Gaelic-speaking
students when he published a poem called Toper-na-Fuosich,
literally "bearded well," a Gaelic place-name for a cunt-shrine. The
synonym "twat" was ignorantly used by another Victorian poet,
Robert Browning, in the closing lines of his Pippa Passes:
Then, owls and bats,
Cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!
Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary hesitantly asked
Browning where he learned the word. He said it came from a bawdy
broadside poem of 1659: "They talked of his having a Cardinal's Hat;
They'd send him as soon an Old Nun's Twat." Browning thought the
word meant a wimple, or other headgear corresponding-to "hat."9
From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets


"Vulva," the primary Tantric object of worship, symbolized variously
by a triangle, fish, double-pointed oval, horseshoe, egg, fruits, etc.
Personifying the yoni, the Goddess Kali bore the title of Cunti or
Kunda, root of the ubiquitous Indo-European word "cunt" and all its
relatives: cunnus, cunte, cunning, cunctipotent, ken, kin, country.
The Yoni Yantra or triangle was known as the Primordial Image,
representing the Great Mother as source of all life.1 As the genital
focus of her divine energy, the Yantra was adored as a geometrical
symbol, as the cross was adored by Christians.
The ceremony of baptismal rebirth often involved being drawn
bodily through a giant yoni. Those who underwent this ceremony
were styled "twice-born." 2
From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

 Yoni Yantra

 Yoni Mudra

Yoni Yogini


Feminine life force, a Chinese cognate of "yoni"; usually represented
as a fluid emanating from a female "Grotto of the White Tiger"
(genitals).' According to the doctrines of Tao, the power of yin was
stronger than any male power; therefore men had to learn to take
feminine fluids into themselves, to gain wisdom and health.

Yang and Yin

Chinese mandala of light and dark, male and female, summer and
winter, death and life, etc.: an S-curve dividing black and white halves of
the circle, each half containing a spot of the opposite color. Though
now regarded as a bisexual emblem, the Yang and Yin symbol was once
wholly feminine. During the Sung period it referred to the cyclic
phases of the moon.1 Yin, the female power in the mandala, was a
cognate of "yoni."


From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets


Tantric tradition said the triangle was the Primordial Image, or the
female Triangle of Life.1 It was known as the Kali Yantra, representing
Kali as Cunti, or else as the Yoni Yantra, or sign of the vulva.2 In
Egypt the triangle was a hieroglyphic sign for "woman," and it carried
the same meaning among the gypsies, who brought it from their
original home in Hindustan. 3 In the Greek sacred alphabet, the delta or
triangle stood for the Holy Door, vulva of the All-Mother Demeter
("Mother Delta").
Most ancient symbol systems recognized the triangle as a sign of
the Goddess's Virgin-Mother-Crone trinity and at the same time as
her genital "holy place," source of all life. The triangle represented the
Virgin Moon Goddess called Men-Nefer, archaic deity of the first
Mother-city of Memphis. 4 The triangle itself was worshipped in much
the same way that modern Christians worship the cross. Concerning
this, Oriental sages said: "The object of the worship of the Yantra is to
attain unity with the Mother of the Universe in Her forms as Mind,
Life, and Matter ... preparatory to Yoga union with Her as She is in
herself as Pure Consciousness." 
 The triangle was everywhere connected with the female trinity,
and a frequent component of monograms of Goddesses. To the
Gnostics, the triangle signified "creative intellect." 
Kali Yantra

Vesica Piscis

"Vessel of the Fish," a common yonic symbol, the pointed oval,
named from the ancients' claim that female genitals smelled like fish.
Mother Kali herself appeared in a Hindu story as "a virgin named
Fishy Smell, whose real name was Truth," like Egypt's Goddess Maat.1
Egyptians said Abtu, the Abyss, was "a fish who swallowed the penis
of Osiris," but this abyss was also "The Fish of Isis," therefore a sexual
metaphor. Aphrodite's principal rites at Paphos took place under the
sign of Pisces, the Fish. Aphrodite, Isis, Freya, and other forms of the
Goddess in sexual aspect appeared veiled in fish nets. 2 See Fish.
The vesica piscis was an unequivocally genital sign of the sheilana-
gig figures of old Irish churches. The squatting naked Goddess
displayed her vulva as a vesica, as did the temple-door images of Kali in
India. 3 One of the old pagan ideograms of sexual union was adopted
by the church to represent the Feast of St. Nicholas on the runic
calendar: a vesica piscis enveloping a male furka.4
The pointed-oval fish sign was even used by early Christians to
represent the mystery of God's union with his mother-bride- which
is why Jesus was called "the little Fish" in the Virgin's fountain. 5
This female enclosure was much used in Christian art, especially
as a superimposition on Mary's belly, with her child within. Sometimes
Christ at his ascension was shown rising into a heavenly vesica, as
if returning to the Mother-symbol. The vesica was also shown as a
frame for figures of Jesus, God, and saints.
Another name for the same sign was mandorla, "almond," which
also represented a yoni. In the cult of the Magna Mater, an almond
was the feminine conception-charm for the virgin birth of Attis.

 Sheilanagig Isis-Aphrodite

Vesica Piscis on Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral in France

 17th Century Central Tibeten Thanka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra Rubin Museum of Art



A world-wide symbol of the Great Mother was the pointed-oval sign
of the yoni, known as vesica piscis, Vessel of the Fish. It was associated
with the "Fishy Smell" that Hindus made a title of the yonic Goddess
herself, because they said women's genitals smelled like fish. 1 The
Chinese Great Mother Kwan-yin ("Yoni of yonis") often appeared
as a fish-goddess. 2 As the swallower of Shiva's penis, Kali became
Minaksi the "fish-eyed" one, just as in Egypt, Isis the swallower of
Osiris's penis became Abtu, the Great Fish of the Abyss. 3
Fish and womb were synonymous in Greek; delphos meant both.4
The original Delphic oracle first belonged to the abyssal fish-goddess
under her pre-Hellenic name of Themis, often incarnate in a great fish,
whale, or dolphin (delphinos). The cycles in which she devoured and
resurrected the Father-Son entered all systems of symbolism from the
Jews' legend of Jonah to the classic "Boy on the Dolphin." Apuleius
said the Goddess playing the part of the Dolphin was Aphrodite Salacia,
"with fish-teeming womb." 5
Her "boy" was Palaemon, the reincarnated young sun, made new after sinking into the same abyssal womb as the dying god Heracles.6
The fish-goddess Aphrodite Salacia was said to bring "salacity" through
orgiastic fish-eating on her sacred day, Friday. The Catholic church
inherited the pagan custom of Friday fish-eating and pretended it was a
holy fast; but the disguise was thin. Friday was dies veneris in Latin,
the Day of Venus, or of lovemaking: Freya's Day in Teutonic Europe.
The notion that fish are "aphrodisiac" food is still widespread even
The Celts thought fish-eating could place new life in a mother's
womb. Their hero Tuan was eaten in fish form by the Queen of
Ireland, who thus re-conceived him and gave him a new birth.7 In
another myth, fish were associated with the clots of "wise blood"
emanating from the Mother-tree with its sacred fountain, in Fairyland.8
They were called blood-red nuts of the Goddess Boann, eaten by
"salmon of knowledge" who swam in her sacred fountain. "Poets and
story-tellers, speaking of any subject difficult to deal with, often say,
'Unless I had eaten the salmon of knowledge I could not describe it."' 9
The fish symbol of the yonic Goddess was so revered throughout
the Roman empire that Christian authorities insisted on taking it
over, with extensive revision of myths to deny its earlier female-genital
meanings. Some claimed the fish represented Christ because Greek
ichthys, "fish," was an acronym for "Jesus Christ, Son of God." But the
Christian fish-sign was the same as that of the Goddess's yoni or
Pearly Gate: two crescent moons forming a vesica piscis. Sometimes the
Christ child was portrayed inside the vesica, which was superimposed
on Mary's belly and obviously represented her womb, just as in the
ancient symbolism of the Goddess.
A medieval hymn called Jesus "the Little Fish which the Virgin
caught in the Fountain." 10 Mary was equated with the virgin
Aphrodite-Mari, or Marina, who brought forth all the fish in the sea. On
the Cyprian site of Aphrodite's greatest temple, Mary is still worshipped
as Panaghia Aphroditessa.11 In biblical terms, "Jesus son of
Maria" meant the same as Yeshua son of Marah, or Joshua son of
Nun (Exodus 33:11), which also means son of the Fish-mother. Mary's
many Mesopotamian names like Mari, Marriti, Nar-Marratu, Mara,
were written like the Hebrew Mem with an ideogram meaning both
"sea" and "mother." 12 The next letter in the Hebrew sacred alphabet
was Nun, "fish."
Another biblical name for the Goddess was Mehitabel, none other
than the Egyptian Fish-mother Mehit in a Hebrew disguise. 13


Hindus, Arabs, and Celts regarded the yonic shape of the horseshoe
as a symbol of the Goddess's "Great Gate," thus it was always esteemed
as a prophylactic door charm. Druidic temples were constructed in
the shape of a horseshoe.1 So were some Hindu temples, with the frank
intention of representing the yoni. The horseshoe arch of Arabic
sacred architecture developed from the same tradition. 2
Greeks assigned the yonic shape to the last letter of their sacred
alphabet, Omega, literally, "Great Om," the Word of Creation
beginning the next cycle of becoming. The implication of the horseshoe
symbol was that, having entered the yonic Door at the end of life
(Omega), man would be reborn as a new child (Alpha) through the same Door. It was everywhere represented as "a horseshoe, the very
figure that is nailed to so many doors in various parts of the world, as an
emblem of luck. Mighty few of those who live in such houses know
that the horseshoe is only a symbol of the yoni and that by nailing it to
their doors, they follow out a custom older than the history of their
race." 3
The Christian God who claimed to be the "Alpha and Omega"
(Revelation 1 :8) was only copying one version of this very ancient
symbolism, whose meaning seems not to have been understood by the
biblical writer.
From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets


Asia's primary symbol of the yoni (vulva), often personified as the
Goddess Padma, "Lotus," also known as Cunti, Lakshmi, or Shakti. The central phrase of Tantrism, Om mani padme hum, meant the
Jewel (male) in the Lotus (female), with interlocking connotations: the
penis in the vagina, the fetus in the womb, the corpse in the earth,
the God in the Goddess representing all of these. 1
The father-god Brahma claimed to be a universal creator; nevertheless,
he was styled "Lotus-born," for he arose from the primal
Goddess's yoni. Egypt's fatper-god Ra also claimed to be a creator but
owed his existence to the Goddess called "great world lotus flower,
out of which rose the sun for the first time at the creation." 2
Virtually all Egyptian Goddess-forms were symbolized by the
lotus. 3 Pharaohs were sexually united with the World Lotus to
achieve rebirth after death. The funeral hymn of Unas declared that he
"had union with the goddess Mut, Unas hath drawn unto himself the
flame oflsis, Unas hath united himself to the lotus." 4
One way of uniting oneself to the lotus was the custom of ritual
cunnilingus, widely practiced throughout the east as communion
with the feminine life-principle. 5 This was probably the true meaning of
the Land of Lotus-Eaters visited by Odysseus and his crew. The
sensual Land of Lotus-Eaters was described as a tropical place beyond
the southern sea, which could apply to any land from Egypt to lndia.6
Ascetic Jain Buddhism tried to eradicate the lotus symbol because
of its erotic implications. Nevertheless, a few centuries after Buddha's
time, the most prominent figure on Buddhist monuments was again
Padma, openly displaying her genital lotus. 7 A similar resurgence of
erotic imagery overtook ascetic Christianity, when "obscene" figures
proliferated in cathedrals and churches, for example the Irish sheilana-
Most Oriental mystics held that spiritual knowledge began with
carnal knowledge. The lotus was the Goddess's gate, and sex was the
Way through the gate to her inner mysteries. With proper sexual
exercises, a true sage might achieve the final flowering of revelation
described as the thousand-petaled lotus of invisible light emanating from
the top of the head after ascending the spinal chakras from the pelvis.
Worshippers of Vishnu sometimes painted their god as the source
of the World Lotus, which grew on a long stem from his navel. But
since "the primary reference of the lotus in India has always been the
goddess Padma, 'Lotus,' whose body itself is the universe, the long
stem from navel to lotus should properly connote an umbilical cord
through which the flow of energy would be running from the
goddess to the god, mother to child, not the other way." 8 Some Hindu
cosmogonies saw the whole world as the lotus flower, with seven
petals representing the seven divisions of the heavens where the cities
and palaces of the god were located.9
In the Middle East, the lotus was lilu, or lily.10 It was the flower of
Lilith, the Sumero-Babylonian earth mother claimed by the Jews as
Adam's first wife. The three-lobed lily or fleur-de-lis, like the shamrock,
once stood for the Triple Goddess's three yonis, which is why the lily
was sacred to the triune Queen of Heaven. The Blessed Virgin Juno
conceived her savior-son Mars by the lily, and the same flower was
adopted as a conception-charm of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 11 When Isis
was assimilated to the burgeoning legends of the Virgin, her Egyptian
images held the phallic cross in one hand, the female lotus seed-vessel in
the other, like the Goddess shown on the Isiac Table. 



The flower of Lilith, Sumero-Babylonian Goddess of creation; the
lilu or "lotus" of her genital magic. The lily often represented the virgin
aspect of the Triple Goddess, while the rose represented her maternal
aspect. The lily was sacred to Astarte, who was also Lilith; northern
Europeans called her Ostara or Eostre, the Goddess of "Easter"
Because of its pagan associations with virgin motherhood, the lily
was used to symbolize impregnation of the virgin Mary. Some
authorities claimed the lily in Gabriel's hand filtered God's semen which
entered Mary's body through her ear. 2
Mary's cult also inherited the lily of the Blessed Virgin Juno, who
conceived her savior-son Mars with her own magic lily, without any
male aid.3 This myth reflected an early belief in the self-fertilizing
power of the yoni (vulva), which the lily symbolized and Juno
personified. Her name descended from the pre-Roman Uni, a Triple
Goddess represented by the three-lobed lily or fleur-de-lis, her name
stemming from the Sanskrit yoni, source of the Uni-verse.
In 656 A.D., the 10th Council of Toledo officially adopted the holy
day of Juno's miraculous conception of Mars into the Christian
canon, renaming it the Festival of the Mother of God, or Lady Day,
insisting that it commemorated Mary's miraculous conception of
Jesus with the aid of a lily.4 Christian artists showed the angel Gabriel
holding out to Mary a scepter surmounted by a fleur-de-lis on a lily
stalk. A scroll usually issued from Gabriel's mouth, with the words Ave
Maria gratia plena, the seminal "Word," which made Mary "full."
Aphrodite's dove, that other yonic symbol, hovered about the scene. 5
Celtic and Gallo-Roman tribes called the virgin mother Lily Maid.
Her yonic emblem appeared not only as the French fleur-de-lis but
also as the Irish shamrock, which was not originally Irish but a sacred
symbol among Indus Valley people some 6000 years before the
Christian era. Christianized France identified the Lily Maid with the
virgin Mary, but she was never completely dissociated from the pagan
image of Juno. Among the people, Lady Day was known as Notre
Dame de Mars.6
The Easter lily was the medieval pas-flower, from Latin passus, to
step or pass over, cognate of pascha, the Passover. The lily was also
called Pash-flower, Paschal flower, Pasque flower, or Passion flower.
Pagans understood that it represented the spring passion of the god,
like Heracles, for union in love-death with the Virgin Queen of
Heaven, Hera-Hebe, or Juno, or Venus, all of whom claimed the lily.
When Hera's milk spurted from her breasts to form the Milky Way, the
drops that fell to the ground became lilies. 7
Sometimes, the
Easter flower was not a
white lily but a
scarlet or purple
anemone, emblem of
Adonis's passion and
called identical with
his bride Venus.8

The rosary was an instrument of worship of the Rose, which ancient
Rome knew as the Flower of Venus, and the badge of her sacred
prostitutes.1 Things spoken "under the rose" (sub rosa) were part of
Venus' s sexual mysteries, not to be revealed to the uninitiated. 2 The red
rose represented full-blown maternal sexuality; the white rose or lily
was a sign of the Virgin Goddess. Christians transferred both of these
symbolic flowers to the virgin Mary and called her the Holy Rose.
Rose windows in Gothic cathedrals faced west, the direction of the
matriarchal paradise, and were primarily dedicated to Mary as the
female symbol opposing the male cross in the eastern apse. At Chartres,
the window called Rose of France showed "in its center the Virgin in
her majesty .... Round her in a circle, are twelve medallions; four
containing doves; four six-winged angels or Thrones; four angels of a
lower order, but all symbolizing the gifts and endowments of the Queen
of Heaven." Beneath, the Marian number of five windows centered
on Mary's mother, "the greatest central figure, the tallest and most
commanding in the whole church." 3
Five was the Marian number because it was the number of petals
in the rose, and also in the apple blossom-another virginity-symbolgiving
rise to the five lobes of the mature apple, the corresponding
symbol of motherhood, fruition, regeneration, and eternal life. Five was
considered "proper to Marian devotion" because Rose-Mary was the
reincarnation of Apple-Eve. Christian mystical art showed apples and
roses growing together on the Tree of Life in Mary's "enclosed garden"
of virginity.
The fivefold rose and apple were also related to numerous preChristian
images of the Goddess, the witches' pentacle, the
five-pointed Star of Ish tar, and the Egyptian symbol of the uterine
underworld and cyclic rebirth. Mysteries of the Rose belonged to
Aphrodite, according to the poet Nossis: "Anyone the Cyprian does not
love, knows not what flowers her roses are." Aphrodite was represented
by a Rose-Mary plant, named for her as rosmarina, the Dew of
the Sea.4
In the great age of cathedral-building, when Mary was worshipped
as a Goddess in her "Palaces of the Queen of Heaven" or NotreDames,
she was often addressed as the Rose, Rose-bush, Rose-garland,
Rose-garden, Wreath of Roses, Mystic Rose, or Queen of the Most
Holy Rose-garden.5 The church, the garden, and Mary's body were all
mystically one; for she was Lady Ecclesia, the Church, as well as "the
pure womb of regeneration." Like a pagan temple, the Gothic cathedral
represented the body of the Goddess who was also the universe,
containing the essence of male godhood within herself. This .was largely
forgotten after the passing of the Gothic period. In later centuries,
"Gothic" became an epithet of contempt, synonymous with "barbarous."
The symbolism of the Palaces of the Queen of Heaven was no
longer understood. By the 18th century, its secrets were as obscure as
the crypto-erotic art of the temples of India. 6
In fact it was in India that the Great Mother, whose body was
the temple, was first addressed as Holy Rose. 7 The "Flower of the
Goddess" was the scarlet China rose. 8 This was sometimes identified
with the mystic Kula flower, source of a virgin's menstrual blood,
representing the life of her future children and her bond of union
with the past maternal spirit of her clan.9
The eastern World Tree was often envisioned as a family rosetree,
a female Tree of Life and Immortality. In central Asia the tree
was called Woman, the Wellspring, Milk, Animals, Fruits. "The
Cosmic Tree always presents itself as the very reservoir of life and the
master of destinies." Mongols knew the tree as Zambu, whose roots
plunge to the base of Mount Sumer; it is the Mother-tree whose
fruits feed the gods. 10 Zambu was undoubtedly the same as the Hindu
paradise, Jambu Island, home of the cosmic Rose-Apple tree. The
island was shaped like a yoni. In its "diamond seat" (a symbolic clitoris),
one could be reborn as a human being with keen intelligence. 11
J udeo-Christian tradition associated this tree of ancestors with a
male Tree of Life (genitalia), regarding male ancestry as the only
important kind. The genealogy of Christ was depicted in medieval art as
a tree-phallus rising from the loins of a recumbent Jesse, with its
flowers and fruit surrounding the figures of David, Mary, and Jesus.
Still, mystics generally assigned feminine gender to the rose-tree,
rose-garden, rose-wreath, etc., fully realizing that these were genital
symbols. The medieval scholar Pierre Col said the Gospel of Luke
represented the Holy Rose as a sign of the vulva.12
Britain had a traditional Mummers' dance known as The Rose:
five dancers formed a five-pointed star of swords over a victim, called
the Fool, who was symbolically slain and resurrected with a mysterious
elixir, the Golden Frosty Drop, or Dewdrop in the Rose. This was
simply a western version of the Jewel in the Lotus: i.e., a seminal drop
in the female flower. It is said the" 'garden' may symbolize the
uterus, as 'scarlet flower' may signify the vulva." The Frosty Drop, or
dew, signified the semen of the God reincarnating himself in the
Goddess. The Bible says dew was a poetic synonym for semen (Song of
Solomon 5:2). Meister Eckhart understood quite well the sexual
significance of both dew and rose when he wrote, "And as in the
morning the rose opens, receiving the dew from heaven and the sun,
so Mary's soul did open and receive Christ the heavenly dew." 13
The dance called The Rose seems to have been a pagan ritual so
vital that it couldn't be suppressed. The accompanying chant was
"ring-around-the-rose-wreath"; in German, Ringel Ringel Rosenkranz;
in English, Ring-Around-A-Rosy. 14 The "pocket full of posies" in
the nursery rhyme probably referred to' the cave of flowers, an old
symbol of the underground Fairyland. The final instruction, "All fall
down," was the behest of Morgan the Grim Reaper, or Mother Death
bringing an end to the fertility season. According to Danish folk
custom, roses decorated sacred groves for the dances of Midsummer
Eve, which had to be guarded by armed men against possible
Midsummer night upon the sward,
Knights and squires are standing guard;
In the grove a knightly dance they tread
With torches and garlands of roses red. 15
The Rose was likened not only to Mary but to other surviving
forms of the pagan Goddess. As Spenser's Faerie Queene she had a
Bower of Bliss signifying her sexual nature, where the central holy of
holies was the Rose of Love. 16 Medieval myths of Lady Briar Rose
pictured the Virgin as a rose in the midst of a thorn bush, a sexual
image established long ago by the poet Sedulius:
As blooms among the thorns the lovely rose, herself without a thorn,
The glory of the bush whose crown she is,
So, springing from the root of Eve, Mary the new Maiden
Atoned for the sin of that first Maiden long ago.17
No matter how consistently the Rose was assimilated to Mary, it
was obviously a sexual symbol of Goddess-worship brought back to
Europe from Arabia with the returning crusaders. 18 Sufi mystics in
Arabia wrote romantic-religious works centering on the rosary and the
Rose. Fariduddin Attar's Parliament of the Birds explained the
symbol in the words of the "passionate nightingale":
I know the secrets of love. Throughout the night I give my love call . ... It
is I who set the Rose in motion, and move the hearts of/overs.
Continuously I teach new mysteries . ... When the Rose returns to the
world in Summer, I open my heart to joy. My secrets are not known to
all but the Rose knows them. I think of nothing but the Rose; I wish
nothing but the ruby Rose . ... Can the nightingale live but one night
without the Beloved? 19
This Eros-nightingale reappeared in European romances as the
Spirit of the Rose, or a "devil" named Rosier in the 17th century.
According to the exorcist Father Sebastien Michaelis, the devil
Rosier whispers sweet words that tempt men to fall in love. Rosier's
heavenly adversary was St. Basil, "who would not listen to amorous
and enchanting language." 20 Still later, the same devil became the hero
of the classical ballet Le Spectre de la Rose in which he tempts a
young girl to fall in love.
Sometimes the male Spirit of the Rose was a briar rose with
"pricking" thorns. "Pricking flesh to acquire blood artificially is the
only way that men can 'produce' it. In the European romantic legend of
two heterosexual lovers, the female red rose is paired with th.e male
briar, or 'prick.' Prick, when used as a slang, taboo name for the penis, is
a descriptive-magical term for access-to-power. ... The briar is the
male rose." 21
From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets


Aphrodite's totem, the bird of sexual passion, symbolically equivalent
to the yoni. 1 In India, too, the dove was paravata, the symbol of lust. 2
Joined to her consort the phallic serpent, the Dove-goddess stood for
sexual union and "Life."
The phrase attributed to Jesus, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents,
and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16), was no random metaphor
but a traditional invocation of the Syrian God and Goddess.3 The
Oriental meaning was remembered by the gypsies, whose folk tales
said the souls of ancestors lived inside magic hollow mountains, the men
having been changed into serpents and the women into doves.4
Christians adopted the feminine dove as a symbol of the Holy
Ghost, originally the Goddess Sophia, representing God's "Wisdom"
as the Goddess Metis represented the "Wisdom" of Zeus. Gnostic
Christians said Sophia was incarnate in the dove that impregnated the
virgin Mary, the same dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism to
impregnate his mind (Matthew 3:16). Pious admirers of Pope Gregory
the Great made him even more saintly than J~sus by reporting that
the Holy Ghost in dove shape descended on him not once but many
times.5 All this was copied from Roman iconography which showed the
human soul as a dove that descended from the Dove-goddess's
oversoul to animate the body.6
Aphrodite as a bringer of death, or "peace," sometimes bore the
name of Irene, Dove of Peace. Another of her death-goddess names
was Epitymbria, "She of the Tombs." 7 Romans called her Venus
Columba, Venus-the-Dove. Her catacombs, mausoleums, and necropoli
were known as columbaria, "dovecotes." 8 Thus the soul
returning to the Goddess after death was again envisioned as a dove.
From this image, Christians copied their belief that the souls of saints
became white doves that flew out of their mouths at the moment of
death. In the Catholic ceremony of canonization, white doves are
released from cages at the crucial moment of the ritual.9
Christian iconography showed seven rays emanating from the
dove of the Holy Ghost: an image that went back to some of the most
primitive manifestations of the Goddess. 10 In the Orient, the mystic
seven were the Pleiades or "Seven Sisters," whose Greek name
meant "a flock of doves." They were daughters or "rays" of Aphrodite
under her title of Pleione, Queen of the Sea. 11 Hemdotus said seven
holy women known as Doves founded the oracles of Dodona, Epirus,
and Theban Amon.12 They were worshipped in the Middle East as
Seven Sages or Seven Pillars of Wisdom: the seven woman-shaped
pillars that had been upholding temples of the Goddess since the
third millenium B.c. 13 See Caryatid. Arabs still revere the Seven Sages,
and some remember that they were women, or "doves." 14 The
Semitic word for "dove," ione, was a cognate of"yoni" and related to
the Goddess Uni, who later became lune, or Juno.
The cult of the Doves used to incorporate primitive rites of
castration and its modification, circumcision. India called the seven
Sisters "razors" or "cutters" who judged and "critically" wounded men,
the Krittikas, "Seven Mothers of the World," root of the Greek
kritikos, "judge." They killed and gave rebirth to gods who were
castrated to make them fertile, like women. The name of Queen
Semiramis, legendary founder of Babylon, also meant "Dove" in the
Syrian tongue. She was said to have castrated all her consorts. 15
When circumcision replaced castration, the doves were involved in
that too. Even Christian symbolism made the connection. The
official symbol of the Festival of the Circumcision of Christ was a dove,
holding in its beak a ring representing the Holy Prepuce. "Christ's
fructifying blood" was linked with the similar emblem of Pentecost,
which showed the descending dove on a background of blood red,
officially described as a representation of the church fertilized by the
blood of Christ and the martyrs. 16
A certain "maiden ma~tyr" called St. Columba (Holy Dove) was
widely revered, especially in France, although she never existed as a
human being. 17 Another curious survival of pagan dove-lore was the
surname given to St. Peter: Bar-Iona, "Son of the Dove." 18 Some
survivals may have been invented to explain the doves appearing on
ancient coins as symbols of Aphrodite and Astarte. 19
From Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

Rwandan Women View The Elongation Of Their Labia As Positive

In Rwanda women practice the stretching and pulling of their labia minora in order to elongate them. Marian Koster MSc and Dr. Lisa Price of Wageningen University, Netherlands, emphasize that Rwandan women experience their elongated labia as positive and as having a positive impact on their sexual pleasure and that of their partner. The elongated labia are viewed by Rwandan women as facilitating female ejaculation and orgasm. In western countries, labiaplasty (labia reduction and beautification) is becoming increasingly popular as a form of female cosmetic surgery.
Koster and Price note that while practices that aim to reduce, enlarge or otherwise beautify the external female genitalia are influenced by cultural aesthetics they are nevertheless highly controversial.
Koster discovered this practice while conducting field research in Rwanda surrounding the effects of genocide on rural livelihoods and life-ways. She found that girls start pulling their labia during puberty and use local medicinal plants to facilitate the pulling. After learning how to pull the labia from female relatives or friends, girls and women continue to pull their own labia through to adulthood and marriage.

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