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Anasyrma (Ancient Greek : ἀνάσυρμα) composed of ἀνά ana "up, against, back", and σύρμα syrma "a dragging motion"; plural: anasyrmata (ἀνασύρματα), also called anasyrmos (ἀνασυρμός), [1] is the gesture of lifting the skirt or kilt. It is used in connection with certain religious rituals, eroticism, and lewd jokes (see, for example, Baubo). The term is used in describing corresponding works of art.

Contents

  • Greek antiquity
  • Apotropaic effect of nakedness
  • See also
  • References
  • Sources
  • Further reading
  • External links

Anasyrma may be a deliberately provocative self-exposing of one's naked genitals or buttocks. The famous example of the latter case is Aphrodite Kallipygos ("Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks"). In other contexts, this gesture has an apotropaic character, that is, a means to ward off a supernatural enemy, or it may be a sign of mockery, analogous to mooning.

Greek antiquity

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Ritual jesting and intimate exposure were common in the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, and figure in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries associated with these divinities. The mythographer Apollodorus says that Iambe's jesting was the reason for the practice of ritual jesting at the Thesmophoria, a festival celebrated in honor of Demeter and Persephone. In other versions of the myth of Demeter, the goddess is received by a woman named Baubo, a crone who makes her laugh by exposing herself, in a ritual gesture called anasyrma ("lifting [of skirts]"). A set of statuettes from Priene, a Greek city on the west coast of Asia Minor, are usually identified as "Baubo" figurines, representing the female body as the face conflated with the lower part of the abdomen. These appeared as counterparts to the phalluses decorated with eyes, mouth, and sometimes legs, that appeared on vase paintings and were made as statuettes.

Terracotta hermaphrodite figurines in the so-called anasyromenos pose, with breasts and a long garment lifted to reveal a phallus, have been found from Sicily to Lesbos, dating back to the late Classical and early Hellenistic period. The anasyromenos pose, however, was not invented in the 4th century BCE; figures of this type drew on a much earlier eastern iconographic tradition employed for female divinities. [2] Ancient literature suggests that the figures represent the androgynous Cypriot deity Aphroditus (possibly a form of Astarte), [3] whose cult was introduced into mainland Greece between the 5th–4th century BCE. The revealed phallus was believed to have apotropaic magical powers, averting the evil eye or invidia and bestowing good luck.

Apotropaic effect of nakedness

Many historical references suggest that anasyrma had dramatic or supernatural effect—positive or negative. Pliny the Elder wrote that a menstruating woman who uncovers her body can scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning. If she strips naked and walks around a field of wheat, caterpillars, worms and beetles fall off the heads. Even when not menstruating, she can lull a storm out at sea by stripping. [4]

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According to folklore, women lifted their skirts to chase off enemies in Ireland and China. [5] A story from The Irish Times (September 23, 1977) reported a potentially violent incident involving several men, which was averted by a woman exposing her genitals to the attackers. According to Balkan folklore, when it rained too much, women would run into the fields and lift their skirts to scare the gods and end the rain. [6] Maimonides also mentions this ritual to ward off the rain while expressing his disapproval. Stripping away clothing was perceived as creating a "raw" state closer to nature than society, facilitating interaction with supernatural entities. [7] In Jean de La Fontaine's Nouveaux Contes (1674), a demon is repulsed by the sight of a woman lifting her skirt. Associated carvings, called sheela na gigs, were common on medieval churches in northern Europe and the British Isles.

In some nations of Africa, a woman stripping naked and displaying herself is still considered a curse and a means to ward off evil. [8]

In Nigeria, during mass protests against the petroleum industry, women displayed themselves in anasyrma. [9] Leymah Gbowee used anasyrma when trying to bring peace during the Second Liberian Civil War. [10]

See also

  • Can-can – Music-hall dance
  • Exhibitionism (Martymachlia)
  • Indecent exposure – Public indecency involving nudity
  • Mooning – Display of the buttocks
  • Nudity and protest – Use of the nude human form to further political or social change
  • Pantsing – The act of pulling down a person's trousers
  • Upskirt – Nonconsensual photographs under a person's skirt

Related Research Articles

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Aphrodite is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion, procreation, and as her syncretized Roman goddess counterpart Venus, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory. Aphrodite's major symbols include seashells, myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans. The cult of Aphrodite was largely derived from that of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, a cognate of the East Semitic goddess Ishtar, whose cult was based on the Sumerian cult of Inanna. Aphrodite's main cult centers were Cythera, Cyprus, Corinth, and Athens. Her main festival was the Aphrodisia, which was celebrated annually in midsummer. In Laconia, Aphrodite was worshipped as a warrior goddess. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes, an association which led early scholars to propose the concept of "sacred prostitution" in Greco-Roman culture, an idea which is now generally seen as erroneous.

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In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the Olympian goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over crops, grains, food, and the fertility of the earth. Although Demeter is mostly known as a grain goddess, she also appeared as a goddess of health, birth, and marriage, and had connections to the Underworld. She is also called Deo. In Greek tradition, Demeter is the second child of the Titans Rhea and Cronus, and sister to Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Like her other siblings except Zeus, she was swallowed by her father as an infant and rescued by Zeus.

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Venus is a Roman goddess, whose functions encompass love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory. In Roman mythology, she was the ancestor of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Iacchus was a minor deity, of some cultic importance, particularly at Athens and Eleusis in connection with the Eleusinian mysteries, but without any significant mythology. He perhaps originated as the personification of the ritual exclamation Iacche! cried out during the Eleusinian procession from Athens to Eleusis. He was often identified with Dionysus, perhaps because of the resemblance of the names Iacchus and Bacchus, another name for Dionysus. By various accounts he was a son of Demeter, or a son of Persephone, identical with Dionysus Zagreus, or a son of Dionysus.

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Indecent exposure is the deliberate public exposure by a person of a portion of their body in a manner contrary to local standards of appropriate behavior. Laws and social attitudes regarding indecent exposure vary significantly in different countries. It ranges from outright prohibition of the exposure of any body parts other than the hands or face to prohibition of exposure of certain body parts, such as the genital area, buttocks or breasts.

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Exhibitionism is the act of exposing in a public or semi-public context one's intimate parts – for example, the breasts, genitals or buttocks. The practice may arise from a desire or compulsion to expose oneself in such a manner to groups of friends or acquaintances, or to strangers for their amusem*nt or sexual satisfaction, or to shock the bystander. Exposing oneself only to an intimate partner is normally not regarded as exhibitionism. In law, the act of exhibitionism may be referred to as indecent exposure or exposing one's person, or by other expressions.

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A sheela na gig is a figurative carving of a naked woman displaying an exaggerated vulva. These carvings, from the Middle Ages, are architectural grotesques found throughout most of Europe on cathedrals, castles, and other buildings.

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A Venus figurine is any Upper Palaeolithic statue portraying a woman, usually carved in the round. Most have been unearthed in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia and distributed across much of Eurasia.

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Baubo is a minor figure in Greek mythology who does not appear in surviving sources before the fourth century CE. A fragment from Asclepiades of Tragilus states that she is the wife of Dysaules, who was said to be autochthonous, that they had two daughters - Protonoe and Nisa - and that the couple welcomed Demeter into their house.

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The Aphrodite of Knidos was an Ancient Greek sculpture of the goddess Aphrodite created by Praxiteles of Athens around the 4th century BC. It was one of the first life-sized representations of the nude female form in Greek history, displaying an alternative idea to male heroic nudity. Praxiteles' Aphrodite was shown nude, reaching for a bath towel while covering her pubis, which, in turn leaves her breasts exposed. Up until this point, Greek sculpture had been dominated by male nude figures. The original Greek sculpture is no longer in existence; however, many Roman copies survive of this influential work of art. Variants of the Venus Pudica are the Venus de' Medici and the Capitoline Venus.

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Apotropaic magic or protective magic is a type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Apotropaic observances may also be practiced out of superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charms, amulets, or gestures such as crossed fingers or knocking on wood. Many different objects and charms were used for protection throughout history.

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The history of nudity involves social attitudes to nakedness of the human body in different cultures in history. The use of clothing to cover the body is one of the changes that mark the end of the Neolithic, and the beginning of civilizations. Nudity has traditionally been the social norm for both men and women in hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, and it is still common among many indigenous peoples. The need to cover the body is associated with human migration out of the tropics into climates where clothes were needed as protection from sun, heat, and dust in the Middle East; or from cold and rain in Europe and Asia. The first use of animal skins and cloth may have been as adornment, along with body modification, body painting, and jewelry, invented first for other purposes, such as magic, decoration, cult, or prestige. The skills used in their making were later found to be practical as well.

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Dilukai are wooden figures of young women carved over the doorways of chiefs' houses (bai) in the Palauan archipelago. They are typically shown with legs splayed, revealing a large, black, triangular pubic area with the hands resting on the thighs. These female figures protect the villagers' health and crops and ward off evil spirits. They were traditionally carved by ritual specialists according to strict rules, which, if broken, would result in the deaths of the carver and the chief. Female figures presenting their vulva can be found in many cultures: they symbolize fertility, (spiritual) rebirth, and they protect from evil.

In Ancient Greek Religion and mythology, Enodia is a distinctly Thessalian Ancient Greek goddess, identified in certain areas or by certain ancient writers with Artemis, Hecate or Persephone. She was paired with Zeus in cult and sometimes shared sanctuaries with him. Enodia was primarily worshipped in Ancient Thessaly and was well known in Hellenistic Macedonia.

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In ancient Roman religion and magic, the fascinus or fascinum was the embodiment of the divine phallus. The word can refer to phallus effigies and amulets, and to the spells used to invoke his divine protection. Pliny calls it a medicus invidiae, a "doctor" or remedy for envy or the evil eye.

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Nudity is the state of being in which a human is without clothing. While estimates vary, for the first 90,000 years of pre-history, anatomically modern humans were naked, having lost their body hair and living in hospitable climates. As humans became behaviorally modern, body adornments such as jewelry, tattoos, body paint and scarification became part of non-verbal communications, indicating a person's social and individual characteristics. Indigenous peoples in warm climates used clothing for decorative, symbolic or ceremonial purposes but were often nude, having neither the need to protect the body from the elements nor any conception of nakedness being shameful. In many societies, both ancient and contemporary, children might be naked until the beginning of puberty. Women may not cover their breasts, being associated with nursing babies more than with sexuality.

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Mooning is the act of displaying one's bare buttocks by removing clothing, e.g., by lowering the backside of one's trousers and underpants, usually bending over, and also potentially exposing the genitals. Mooning is used in the English-speaking world to express protest, scorn, disrespect, or for provocation, but mooning can be done for shock value, for fun, as a joke or as a form of exhibitionism. The Māori have a form of mooning known as whakapohane that is a form of insult.

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The Venus Callipyge, also known as the Aphrodite Kallipygos or the Callipygian Venus, all literally meaning "Venus of the beautiful buttocks", is an Ancient Roman marble statue, thought to be a copy of an older Greek original. In an example of anasyrma, it depicts a partially draped woman, raising her light peplos to uncover her hips and buttocks, and looking back and down over her shoulder, perhaps to evaluate them. The subject is conventionally identified as Venus (Aphrodite), though it may equally be a portrait of a mortal woman.

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Aphroditus or Aphroditos was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens.

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Dea Gravida or Dea Tyria Gravida was either a goddess or representation of mortal women that were associated with procreation and fertility deriving from Phoenician culture and spreading within the Phoenician circle of influence. Although not much is known about the cult surrounding Dea Gravida, votive terracotta statues have been found throughout the Mediterranean, most notably in Phoenicia and Cyprus. The figure differs from kourotrophic figures that hold babies and are not visibly pregnant.

References

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FAQs

What does the Greek word anasyrmos mean? ›

Anasyrma may be a deliberately provocative self-exposing of one's naked genitals or buttocks. The famous example of the latter case is Aphrodite Kallipygos ("Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks").

What is the ancient Greek warding off evil gesture? ›

In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, their Ancient Greek warding-off-evil gesture is a three-fingered claw over the heart, then pushing the hand outward. Several Elene characters in TheElenium use hand gestures to ward off Styric magic.

Who is the most beautiful Greek goddesses? ›

There was once also a contest between the three most beautiful goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, about who is the most beautiful.

What is the Greek word for forgiven in the Bible? ›

Another important meaning is to pardon/forgive. In this sense, aphiēmi may describe the cancellation of a loan or debt (Mt 18:27,32), but it more commonly means to forgive sins (Mt 6:12,14-15; Mk 2:5,7,9-10; 3:28; Lk 7:47-49; Jn 20:23; Rm 4:7).

Why do Greeks wear the evil eye? ›

Generally speaking, the Greek Eye charms are placed in homes, offices, cars, schools, on your clothing, on your body to protect yourself from the evil eye. The eye is said to reflect the evil around you.

What is the Greek rude finger? ›

The middle finger originated as a phallic gesture

A few sources from ancient Greece reference middle fingers being used to prod or poke people's persons, from nostrils to, well, nethers. The Greek playwright Aristophanes was also purportedly a fan of the gesture, referring to “the long finger” in several of his plays.

What does giving someone the fig mean? ›

The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture that uses a thumb wedged in between two fingers. The gesture is most commonly used to ward off the evil eye, insult someone, or deny a request. It has been used at least since the Roman Age in Southern Europe and parts of the Mediterranean region, including in Turkish culture.

What is the meaning of the Greek word Anastasis? ›

Anastasis (Greek: ανάσταση), resurrection, most commonly the resurrection of Jesus.

Does anaklusmos really mean riptide? ›

Anaklusmos (Greek for Riptide) is the prized sword of Percy Jackson that is made of Celestial Bronze, a material that is only deadly to demigods and monsters. It does not affect mortals, as it just passes through them harmlessly.

What does anaklusmos mean in ancient Greek? ›

Anaklusmos is a celestial bronze sword. It's Ancient Greek for Riptide. Mr. Brunner (or Chiron) gives Percy the pen to defend himself against Mrs. Dodds.

What is the Greek word for grumbling in the Bible? ›

The two Hebrew words translated “grumble” are lun and ragan. Lun connotes growling; ragan is a whispered rebellion. The Greek word translated “grumble” is gogguzo. These three words capture the state of our hearts when we grumble. Grumbling is growling against God.

References

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