Sunday, 26 August 2012

Here we go gathering nuts in May...

[click to enlarge]

Today is the day I'm giving my annual walk/talk on Tree Folklore and Story, so I thought I'd post this picture of a 13th Century tree fresco found in Massa Marittima, Tuscany. Hidden behind a layer of whitewash on the public fountain for centuries, it was rediscovered in 1999-2000 and restored 2008-11 (to some controversy - read all about that here).

It depects a group of women standing beneath a tree, whose branches are laden with very large phalli. Its meaning is obscure - they were originally assumed to be harvesting cocks from the Penis Tree (as you do) but later claims have a more negative spin, interpreting them as witches. In local folklore, apparently, witches were said to steal men's genitalia and put them up in birds' nests in trees, where they lived on independently. Certainly, in this picture, one of the cocks seems to have snuck down and is poking the woman at the left of the line in the botty!

(In northern Europe witches were said to keep their stolen penises under the bed, a theme I use in Named and Shamed). I think if I were a disembodied penis I'd prefer to be free-range, so long as the weather was nice.

So, if you ever wake up and find your penis is missing, you know here to look.


Jo said...

Not sure what to say about the nuts in May!

However, this year your weather certainly is better, hope it stays fine for you!

Janine Ashbless said...

Hah - of course the proper wording of the nursery rhyme used to be "knots of may" which made a lot more sense: knots = flowerheads

Jeremy Edwards said...

The first interpretation could be nicely adapted into a tree-and-mannequin tableau for the display window of a large metropolitan emporium looking to feature the merchandise from their sex-toy department.

Janine Ashbless said...

Love it! What a great idea!