Wednesday, 26 April 2017

V = Votives... not the glowing kind

Admittedly, I wasn't raised in a religious household, but I had no idea that a votive isn't just a little candle in a schmancy holder of some type. 
I did not know that the word votive is derived from vow, and so is used to describe an object or an act offered up to honour or thank a god. Now I think about it, that makes perfect sense — all those candles on altars are lit as vows, votives. 
Back 2500 years ago, the Etruscans were more hardcore about their conversations with the gods. Not prepared to risk their vows being snuffed out or lost in the afterglow, they made thousands of votives from long-lasting terracotta and apparently left so many of them lying and hanging about temples and holy places that pits full of them have been uncovered. 
And the most common of those votives are body parts. The academic jury is out about how these clay bits and pieces worked. Or didn't.

Perhaps they were a request for help, with a statue of the bit needing the most attention in case the deity got confused and answered the wrong prayer: "Please help me overcome these splitting headaches. And here's a replica of my head to help you find your way to me through the white-noise of the clamouring throng. Please, don't worry about my cleft chin. I can live with that."

Or, votives may have been a way of saying something less seriously medical in nature: 'Thanks for my awesome dandruff-free curly hair. I gave it a run at the Full Moon Feast last night and was the envy of every flaky-skulled centurion in Rome".

Or, they may even have been a sort of pre-emptory strike, a symbol associated with a completely non-health related request: 
" Oh great gods, it has been decreed that I must sit beside Dullius Volumnius at the Forum next month. Please help me to ignore the boring droning old fart, and give me the strength to speak up against his daffy old-fangled notions."

A tray of Etruscan penis votives.
 Image credit: Wellcome Library
Here's a museum tray of what, at first glance, appears to be fossilised lumps of doggy-doo. 
But of course it's not. 
In fact, this carefully labelled storage drawer leads me to speculate that, perchance, many votives may have been little more than bad Etruscan selfies. 
Well, not selfies so much as pecker pics. 

Fashioning an effigy of a boy's bit out of clay is not a quick process, I'll grant you that, but... like...well... you know... graffitiing on the side of a chariot with ... you know mosaics takes... like literally a lifetime. 
An Etruscan lad's gotta do something for a giggle.

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.


  1. Hmmm. those penis votives give a new meaning to " I am going to light a candle".

  2. What a fun post to read toady. Thank you for the laugh out loud commentary. Loved it.
    Grinning like a foolish fool after reading the comment above (Breathing Life).
    V is for Ventriloquist

    1. Thank you, Arti. It's a delight to have such positive feedback. I'm glad I found your funnybone.

  3. Your finds are priceless! Now I have to wonder about your experience with clay....:))

    1. I just snorted ny tea out my nose.
      Carmel, you are wicked.
      "If you can't say something nice, come and sit next to me."

  4. LOL. Totally cracked me up. Well, maybe not as cracked as that first head, but still...

    1. It's such a pretty androgynous head, isn't it? So pleased you are still with me and still enjoying the ride.

  5. YUCK, those penis votives are a bit off-putting to say the least!

  6. Agree with Judy - those sculptors didn't seem to have much expertise lol

    1. LOL... I agree, just a little off kilter in so many ways.

  7. I read your post once, I laughed, I read it again, laughed, I commented, and the page froze, and the comment vanished. :D Somehow took me back to a particular place where there's an aquarium with several tanks. Each one has one of those thingammajiggies with a tube that emits bubbles. Oxygen and all that. They are quite creative with the tubes, which are attached to different kinds of figurines. One such is a little boy holding his "bit" and relieving himself...and of course, people being people, crowd around the tank to watch the boy bubble via his "bit" at regular intervals.

    I love your conjecturing what the thought behind the votives may have been! :D

  8. Oh good grief...
    In Brussels there is a famous fountain of a little lad peeing and the souvenir shops were full of replicas in all sizes and of materials. I kept wondering if people actually bought them as serioussoucenirs or if all millkion of them were gag gifts.