Ancient History & Civilisation

Section II

Sexual Pioneers Around the Mediterranean

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Egyptian Fertility:
Lettuce love & lust

Many millennia ago in Egypt, a nation that extravagantly admired fertile women, adored its children, and celebrated lovemaking, stumbled on a discovery with deep implications for deity worship, family planning, and personal intimacy.

In a word, lettuce. To be specific, Lactuca serriola and Lactuca sativa, a prickly variety found on Egyptian soil that was a dynamite aphrodisiac. (To the Egyptians, anyway; the Greeks thought otherwise and viewed lettuce with horror, as you’ll learn from the entry in this book on anti-aphrodisiacs.)

The lettuce discovery occurred in conjunction with the early worship of a god called Min, whose fertility cult was in full swing even before human pharaohs started to reign in 3150 B.C. As the lead deity of male sexual potency, Min carried a harvesting flail in one hand and his upright organ in the other. His festivals were spectacular, at times orgiastic.

Just before the harvest began, the statue of Min was taken from the temple and brought into the fields lining both banks of the Nile River so that he could bless the crops. Folks at the festival played games in the nude, the climax of the shindig being a maypole-climbing competition.

Naturally, the festival food revolved around lettuce. This particular variety was romainelike in appearance, tall and straight-leafed. When squeezed or rubbed, the lettuce gave off a milky substance that looked a lot like semen to the Egyptians. Since this type of lettuce was described as having opiate and aphrodisiac properties, those festivals must have been memorable.

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Although the Greeks condemned lettuce as a virility killer, the Egyptians drew the opposite conclusion. Lettuce played a prominent role in their fertility festivals.

Being a relaxed and sensuous society even after the rigid, top-down pharaoh system of governance was instituted, Egyptians continued to worship Min. In fact, whenever a new pharaoh came to power, he was obliged to honor Min in a special way. At his coronation ceremonies, the new pharaoh had to sow his seeds. Literally. Some experts and wishful thinkers take this to mean that he hunkered down in the dirt and planted some brussels sprouts. But ancient accounts hint that the incoming ruler had to demonstrate his virility by manfully cuffing the camel, shall we say, then ejaculating into the Nile River. Only then could the annual flooding of the Nile be assured, a phenomenon that all of Egypt depended on for life to thrive.

The Egyptians had additional myths in which lettuce took a leading role, including the hot competition as to who would reign over Egypt, the sky god Horus or his uncle Seth.

These gods being extravagantly sexual beings, Uncle Seth greets his nephew by attempting an anal probe, which misses, spattering semen between the legs of Horus. The quick-witted Horus wipes up some of his uncle’s sperm sample and tosses it into the Nile.

Somewhat later, Horus collects a sperm sample of his own, then invites his uncle over for lunch. He serves Seth his favorite food, lettuce, made with a white “dressing” of his own invention. Seth apparently enjoys his lunch, after which the two go down to the river to ask the rest of the gods to help settle their rivalry.

The end result? Horus wins the wank-off. He becomes Egypt’s leading god, thanks to his quick wit and clearly superior procreative juices.

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