The Egyptian God of… Lettuce? (ca. 3300 – 300 BC)

By: The Scribe on Tuesday, June 26, 2007

*Note of Forewarning: This article deals with the topic of ancient sexuality, and may not be suitable for younger eyes.

Egyptian fertility god

One of the earliest gods of the ancient Egyptian pantheon was a god named Min, originally identified with Horus during the Predynastic period. First called the “Chief of Heaven” and associated with the sky, it was not long until Min became the primary fertility god of ancient Egypt.

In Egyptian art, Min was depicted wearing a tall feather crown, holding a flail in his right hand, and in his left hand… well, that’s where things start to get a bit awkward. Min is what can be called an ‘ithyphallic’ god, which means that he is shown in artwork with an uncovered and erect phallus – however, it should be noted that this kind of imagery was not necessarily seen as a sexual image by the Egyptians. Instead, it was a normal way of showing Min’s role as an agent of fertility.

In his role as a fertility god, Min was in charge of the rain, and each year at the beginning of the harvest season, there was a “Festival of the Departure of Min” – his statue would be taken out of his temple and brought into the fields, where participants would sing praises to Min and play games in the nude, hoping this would cause him to bless their harvest with his favor.

Playing games in the nude was not really a big deal to the ancient Egyptians – after all, in their hot and humid climate, serving women, dancers, and even farmers would work in the nude. Children typically didn’t even wear clothing at all until their official coming of age ceremonies.

Min, Egyptian god of fertilityWhere things get a bit awkward for modern historians, however, is in the discussion of Min’s symbols. All the ancient gods had their own symbols, since religion was such an integral part of daily life in ancient Egyptian culture. Min’s symbols were mostly typical of a fertility god: a white bull, a barbed arrow, and… lettuce?

Lettuce, an item not usually associated with fertility, was apparently a favorite food of Min. Why? According to the ancient Egyptian texts, this particular variety of lettuce was considered to be an aphrodisiac – and not only that, but this lettuce plant was tall, straight, and when pressed… it produced a white, milky sap substance that was, of course, easily associated with another male bodily fluid.

In fact, ancient Egyptians considered a lot of things to be aphrodisiacs… some varieties of onion were forbidden to celibate priests, in fear that they might desecrate themselves if they took a bite! Regardless, Min was an extremely important ancient Egyptian god, and well respected among the people. Although seeing a depiction of a man holding himself on the side of a building or as a public statue would have a completely different meaning today, to the Egyptians, this was perfectly normal and acceptable. In fact, if Min and his phallus weren’t around – they might not have anything to eat next harvest season.

Tomorrow: Tasty jelling stones!


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9 Comments so far

Hammus Corheim at October 7, 2007

…what? why did he have the erected penis? why couldnt he have had something more tasteful like a powerful staff or somethin like that? Or better yet, why couldnt they have just stuck with the lettuce? im srry. i just dont understand their need to have a god’s penis erected in order to show fertility.

Thanks for posting though!

Cole at October 20, 2007

@ Hammus. As stated in the article, the ancient Egyptians had no concept of what we, as 21st century humans, consider to be “tasteful.” What is distasteful to us, was not considered so in their society. An erect penis is a blatant and easily recognized symbol of fertility, no wonder they used it.

Ukobach at October 21, 2007

What does it matter, Hammus? They were all heathen pagans and they’re burning in hell for worshiping idols, so it doesn’t even matter that they depicted this *gasp* erect phallus, am I right?

Take your conservative jackassery elsewhere. I’m sure the fox news forums will love you– and you won’t have to worry your little head about seeing any exposed genitals on there. They made Bill O’Reilly quit posting pics of his jimmy after the falafel scandal.

nicole at December 3, 2007

ukobach: i wholeheartedly agree!

lance at March 13, 2008

Ignorance rules! White ignorance Rules! condeming what the egyptians worshiped? Christianity, judaism and Islam all came from African (kemet) Egyptian religion. Read about Aset and Heru greeks changed to Isis and Horus hence (black Madona). The so called bible stories from African folkore (cain and Abel)— Osiris and Setiphus.
kemet dynastics 3200 BC Greeks come into existance 470BC
stories of Immaculate conception, virgin mary and resurection are in many temples 6000yrs before the story of jesus and Mary!
So called 10 commandments were plagarized from the 42 negative confessions to goddes ma’at (god of justice). You can check all this out to uncover white mans lies that are falling apart.

MARIAH mm at October 1, 2008

i apsolutly loved this segment on the egyptian sexuality it really moved me, i wsh i was an egytian

Kharlia at October 6, 2008

While i must say i have never considered the erect penis to be a beautiful sight, i have to agree that today’s society is far too prudish, and that this symbol is both obvious, and an rather innocent in its meaning.

for what is more natural than the form of a nude, and what comes to us more naturally than the need to procreate?

kharlia x

ben at November 20, 2008

i think that a masturbating god is sick in many ways why would the egyptians worship a guy holding his cock i mean its just wrong

isis at November 8, 2009

Being an academic in ancient history and archaeology it amuses and also saddens me to read some of the comments above.
They are, as many do who are not involved in certain areas of the social sciences, comparing their own tenets and traditions of ‘today’, with those of an ancient, and very sophisticated civilization of ‘yesterday’… well as judging them with their own personal feelings….
When studying an ancient civilization, one should not, in any way, compare what is ‘modern’ or ‘personal’ with what ever civilization or culture one is studying…but, approach each one with an open mind, and attempt to understand the ancient’s point of view…..
Without honoring Min, [to the AE], one might have no food…for he was, in fact, a fertility deity…which not only meant ‘humans’…it also meant agriculture.
Those who put modern connotations on ancient depictions should study instead of being blindly opinionated…..

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