Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

On the other hand, from the earliest days of the Christian era, attempts were made to assimilate important Christian figures to the old religion by attributing to them the power to grant fertility. In the fourth century, for instance, we find complaints that certain women were offering cakes and honey to the Virgin — that is, they were making to her the offerings traditionally appropriate to Ceres. (71) Such a development was probably encouraged rather than hindered by the Church’s policy of adopting pagan deities into its calendar. Thus in England and Scotland we find St. Bridget acting as patroness of the fertility of crops — Brigit having been the Celtic mother deity; in a characteristic ceremony, a sheaf of corn was put to bed and watched over all night, and this continued at least until the Reformation. (122) The harvest festival which forms one of the most likeable of Church festivals today derives directly from this, and there is no reason to suppose that the spirit in which thanks are given to God for His bounty on such occasions differs from the spirit of corresponding ceremonies in the worship of the Corn Mother. Nor has awareness that this deity was indeed a mother altogether vanished, for in a few villages the Corn Dolly is still set up at the end of harvest, or a pretty girl is elected Harvest Queen. Brand quotes Hutchinson as saying:

“I have seen, in some places, an image apparelled in great finery, crowned with Rowers, a sheaf of corn placed under her arm, and a scythe in her hand, carried out of the village in the morning of the conclusive reaping day, with musick and much clamour of the reapers, into the field, where it stands fixed to a pole all day, and when the reaping is done, is brought home in like manner. This they call the Harvest Queen, and it represents the Roman Ceres.”

But the worshippers felt that if God could control the fertility of crops and the soil, He could also bestow fertility on human beings. We have already seen how the Virgin Mary was made the special patron of fertility. Phallic saints were also created, for instance St. Foutin, by assimilation of the name of Pothin, first bishop of Lyons, to the verb foutre. There were many others, such as St. Guerlichon, or Greluchon, at Bourg Dieu — whose name has become a synonym for prostitute; St. Gilles at Cotentin; St. Rene in Anjou (by-a confusion with reins, kidneys — the supposed seat of sexual power) and St. Guignole, who was the first abbe of Landevenec, and who acquired his priapic attributes by confusion of his name with gignere (Fr. engendrer, to beget). His chapel was not closed until 1740.

The statues of these saints were usually equipped with large phalli: when the Protestants took Embrun in 1585, they found the people worshipping the phallus of St. Foutin and pouring wine on it, whence his sobriquet, le saint vinaigre. Women wishing to conceive would make use of the phallus in the same way that Roman wives would, before entering the marriage bed, make use of the wooden phallus of Mutunus Tutunus. A large wooden phallus covered with leather was found in 1562 when the Protestants destroyed the church at Orange, which was doubtless used for similar purposes. (71)