Penis amulets and bas reliefs were fairly common in the late Roman era, especially in the outlying regions of the Empire. The bronze penis amulet shown here is 2" long and dates to the first century AD. It was found in a spring at an old Roman settlement near York, England.
Although most modern practitioners of witchcraft and other forms of magic immediately think of sex magick or some form of sacred sex rite when they see amulets like this, in anicent times such charms were often used as votive offerings, tossed into holy wells or springs in the same way we might toss a penny or dime in a wishing well for luck or when making a prayer-wish for healing. That this amulet was not made to be worn in a sex magick rite is evident by the fact that it has no loop or hole for hanging; instead it ends in a tang-like extenstion, which gives the impression that it might have been inserted into a terracotta, stone, or bronze figurine of a man or god.
The glans of the penis is comprised of a grape leaf, the testicles are made up of pomegranates, and bunches of grapes simulate lush public hair, giving this amulet the distinct look of an agrarian fertility charm. It may have been an offering to Bacchus, the god of vintners. The foliated glans is also reminiscent of the post-Roman British development of the Green Man image -- a man whose face is made up of leaves.
Other late Roman penis amulets and bas reliefs depict the penis with lion haunches, sometimes wearing a bell around its neck like a little pet animal, and sometimes winged like a bird. Many of these lion-haunched penis-animals have diminutive penises of their own. These bear an uncanny resemblance to the lion-haunched bronze, brass, pewter, and silver penis amulets of Thailand, manufactured from the 8th century to the present day.
The engraving shown here is from "The Worship of the Generative Powers" by Thomas Wright (1866). It depicts a Roman bas relief found on a monument at Nimes, France in 1825. In this image, the penis forms the tail of a belled, crested bird who sits upon a nest of egg-like vulvas.
For other lucky charms in the form of genitalia or copulating couples, see:
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