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Erotic Dreaming: Embodying the Divine Phallus

Erotic Dreaming: Embodying the Divine Phallus

Welcome to Erotic Dreaming, a monthly column in which writer, editor, artist, and dreamer, Manisha Anjali, engages with our readers sex dreams.
By Manisha Anjali

"I have really bad performance anxiety sex dreams. I dream that I’m about to have public sex, but that I can’t get it up. People begin to laugh until I get smaller and smaller and eventually fall through the floor.

For some reason, the sex always happens next to water. Like a fountain in a CBD, a lake at a park, etc. Since the pandemic, the frequency of the dreams has really increased.

It happens at least once a week. Sometimes the visual pops into my head during sex, which is less than ideal. Any advice?"

The ancient Roman magic cult of fascinus celebrated the image of the phallus in all its glory with public laughter. Fascinus or fascinum is the term for the embodiment of the divine phallus, in ancient Roman magic and religion. It also refers to talismans, charms and ornaments in the shape of the erect penis. The Vestal Virgins, chaste guardians of Rome’s sacred hearth and flame, were the custodians of the cult of fascinus, who regarded the sacred image of the phallus as one of the keys of the safety of the state. It was a public symbol of fertility, but also welfare, care and protection. Similar to the way that the nazar or evil eye charm is worn on the body and adorned in houses, shops and cafés, the fascinus also decorated the dwellings of cities and villages for the same purpose, to ward off bad luck. Carvings depicting fascinum ejaculating into floating eyes have been unearthed, expressing triumph over the evil eye. Phallic effigies were depicted with wings, as wind chimes, pendants and lamps.

Jacques Antoine Vallin, The Worship of Fascinus

Public laughter was an encouraged reaction to these phallic charms. Laughter was seen as a medicinal component of the apotropaic phallus, believed to reinforce the protective and magical power of the fascinus. Interestingly, fascinus is also the root word for the term, fascinate.

The phallus, in all its mystery and illusion, is a universal point of fascination. To understand this dream, we must perceive the phallus, erections and impotence as global symbols and signifiers. A phallus is not the penis itself, but its likeness, its associations, representations and metaphorical families. In drawing from ancient magic and symbolism of the phallus, we begin to understand the roots of the image, and how the inherited associations can be relevant today.

To ascribe the medicinal laughter of the cult of fascinus to the public laughter in this dream is to accept the lighthearted and healing power of humour. Ancient phallic magic acknowledges the power of genitalia, but also, the comical and medicinal aspects of genitalia and all its functions. Laughter is the best medicine.

If the erect phallus as fascinus is a metaphor for fertility, safety and protection, then impotence can be perceived as a metaphor for the opposite. When experienced, in a dream or otherwise, a grave amount of personal and social distress is brought forth. Erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety or impotence is symptomatic of psychosocial fears and insecurities, often associated with manifestations of trauma, an underlying lack of belief in oneself, or a fear of an important phase or expectation in life.

Water is a primordial entity which in dreams, traditionally corresponds with our emotions and unconscious. The bodies of water seen by the dreamer are contained ⸺ man-made water features such as fountains, or lakes in parks, as opposed to flowing river streams or eternal, deep oceans. This is suggests an emotional world that is also contained, and perhaps, even restricted. Sex represents a desire to unite, and the inability of the dreamer to physically enact the union signifies a block in being able to access an aspect of their true emotional life, which is essential to feed the fire of their libido. Water balances the symbol of the phallus, as another symbol of creation and destruction, which counteracts the fire in which the erections are traditionally associated with. Like fire, water should not be contained.

The dreamer is not able to ‘perform’ the act not because of emotional overwhelm, but emotional containment, restriction and access limitations. But the emotion is there, trapped inside the lake or in the fountain. The dreamer will need to unearth the specific aspect that is being called to attention ⸺are sex and emotion entwined for me? Is my public life or career devoid of soul? What aspect of myself have I hidden? Do I feel like I am good enough? A primal and important piece of the jigsaw is missing from the way the dreamer is currently living their life. The union with this watery aspect of the hidden self will alleviate the dreamer of these recurring anxious dreams. It is as simple as that – to unite with the hidden self. The stabilisation and true manifestation of libido, for the dreamer to achieve equilibrium, is both personal and social. The healing of eros will take place on both realms.

This dream also indicates fear of the little death – la petit mort – metaphorically speaking. Perhaps the union between the dreamer and the hidden emotion would trigger the annihilation of another aspect of their lives. The orgasm is an agent of death and rebirth. Eugene Monick, a Jungian analyst, says that every time the phallus experiences orgasm, it dies, and returns to life again and again and again. The dreamer is being invited to undergo this metaphorical death, to step forward into surrender, to enter the next phase of creation. The pandemic is also a period of collective death, and for the frequency of these dreams to have increased since then, signifies a need for the individual to undergo a personal death.

It is important, as a society, to take a leaf out of the ancient Roman school of thought and reconsider our bodies as symbols of magic, especially when we are concerned with harnessing libido, life force and creative energy. Magic is the force that supports all action in the material realm that we perform as living beings. This is inclusive of imagination, artmaking, world building, organising, serendipity and creating the personas and lives in which we want to live. To reconsider our bodies as apotropaic charms, we return them to the power and magic they inherently have.

Manisha Anjali

– Writer, Editor, and Artist

Manisha Anjali is a writer, editor and artist. Manisha is the founder of Neptune, a research and documentation platform for dreams, visions and hallucinations.