Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

It is against this background that we have to set the fact that Luther received his great moment of enlightenment — the moment when he perceived that man’s salvation depends not upon his achievements but upon his faith — when he was sitting upon the privy. This is the celebrated ‘Turmerlebnis‘. Luther was continuously constipated, itself typical of excessive cerebral control, and it was in one of his prolonged sojourns in the Temple of Cloacina that he had his vision of the Devil. (20) Melancthon describes one of Luther’s affrays with the Fiend in the following words, which had better remain in Latin:

“Hoc dicto, victus Daemon, indignabundus secumque murmurans abiit, eliso crepitu, non exiguo, cujus fussimen tetri odoris dies aliquot redolebat hypocaustum.” (16)

The tradition that the Devil was accompanied by an evil smell is of great antiquity, and it did not take much imagination to attribute this to his crepitations. Schurig devotes a whole article to the subject in his “Chylologia“. Luther, however, breaks new ground by recounting in his “Table Talk” how a lady put the devil to flight by this very means. Since the association of aggressive and sadistic impulses with anal fixation is one of the best established facts in psychology, Luther’s anecdote may well, like any other myth, be indicative of a change in the unconscious preoccupations of the myth-maker.

Finally, it is significant that the Puritans also extended their taboos on the making of verbal references to sexual matters to cover excretory matters also. Since this taboo is still with us today, if slightly weakened, it is easy to think this association natural. In point of fact, the sense of repulsion from faeces is by no means inborn, as anyone who observes children knows. (Similarly, those tribes which regard it as shameful to be seen eating also explain this as being self-evident.)