PHALLICISM, or PHALLISM (from Gr. #aXX6s), an anthropological term applied to that form of nature worship in which adoration is paid to the generative function symbob'zed by the phallus, the male organ. It is common among primitive peoples, especially in the East, and had been prominent also among more advanced peoples, e.g. the Phoenicians and the Greeks. In its most elementary form it is associated with frankly orgiastic rites. This aspect remains in more advanced forms, but gradually it tends to give place to the joyous recognition of the principle of natural reproduction. In Greece for example, where phallicism was the essence of the Dionysiac worship and a phallic revel was the origin of comedy (see also HERMES), the purely material and the symbolical aspects no doubt existed side by side; the Orphic mysteries had to the intellectual Greeks a significance wholly different from that which they had to the common people. Phallic worship is specially interesting as a form of sympathetic magic: observing the fertilizing effect of Sun and rain, the savage sought to promote the growth of vegetation in the spring by means of symbolic sexual indulgence. Such were the rites which shocked Jewish writers in connexion with the worship of Baal and Astaroth (see BAAL, and cf. ATARGATIS, ISHTAR). The same principle is at the root of the widespread nature worship of Asia Minor, whose chief deity, the Great Mother of the Gods (?..), is the personification of the earth's fertility: similarly in India worship is paid to divine mothers. Generally it should be observed that phallic worship is not specially or perhaps primarily paid to male deities, though commonly the more important deity is accompanied by a companion of the other sex, or is itself androgynous, the two symbols being found together.
In the Dionysiac rites the emblem was carried at the head of the processions and was immediately followed by a body of men dressed as women (the ithy phalli). In Rome the phallus was the most common amulet worn by children to avert the evil eye: the Latin word was fascinum (cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. xix. 50, satyrica signa; Varro, Ling. Lot. vii. 97, ed. Miiller). Pollux says that such emblems were placed by smiths before their forges. Before the temple of Aphrodite at Hierapolis (q.v.) were two huge phalli (180 ft. high), and other similar objects existed in all parts of the ancient world both in statuary and in painting. Among the Hindus (see HINDUISM) the phallus is called linga or lingam, with the female counterpart called yoni', the linga symbolizes the generative power of Siva, and is a charm against sterility. The rites classed together as Sakti puja represent the adoration of the female principle. In Mexico, Central America, Peru and other parts of America phallic emblems are found. The tendency, however, to identify all obelisk-like stones and tree-trunks, together with rites like circumcision, as remains of phallic worship, has met with much criticism (e.g. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., pp. 456 sqq.).
For authorities see works quoted under RELIGION: A and B ad fin.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)