The Fascinus

In Ancient Rome, the fascinus was the embodiment of the divine phallus. A Roman effigy or amulet in the shape of a penis is known as a fascinum. The English word “fascinate” derives from the Latin fascinum and the related verb fascinare, that is: “to enchant or bewitch using the power of the fascinus." In Ancient Rome it was believed that if a person cast a hostile look towards somebody else, the victim of this evil eye would be cursed - envy was thought to bring bad luck to the person envied. The humorous fascinus was believed to work as a medicus invidiae or a "doctor for envy” by making people laugh and thus preventing any jealous or malicious glances towards the person who wore or held it. The phallus is often winged or comically enlarged because the Ancient Romans considered exaggerated or strange images to be the most amusing - besides the fascinus, effigies of hunchbacked men or deformed women were also used to deflect the evil eye.

Graphic representations of the effect the fascinus had on the evil eye can be seen in many Ancient Roman artworks - one mosaic depicts a phallus ejaculating into a disembodied eye, and a 1st-century terracotta sculpture shows two phalluses with arms and legs working together to saw an eyeball in half.


Dutch Christians in the middle ages wore badges shaped like flying, erect penises as a sign that they had made their pilgrimage.

They got the idea from the Romans, who used them as protective amulets. They were called fascinum and were considered to be the “embodiment of the divine phallus.”

That’s where the word fascinating comes from, by the way. From flying penises.

Fascinum: Old World Truck Nuts

From Wikipedia.org

Sometimes, when you’re just casually doing historical and mythological research, you stumble upon things you kind of wish you didn’t know.  Fascinum (pictured above) were charms or carvings of the divine, erect phallus created by Romans to invoke the blessings of the deity Fascinus and the generative male force.  They were also a good way to bless and counter invidia, which is basically the Roman version of the evil eye.  All that is well and good, but Wikipedia also specifically notes that, “When a general celebrated a triumph, the Vestals hung an effigy of the fascinus on the underside of his chariot to protect him from invidia.”

Yes, that’s right.  Fascinums served as the pagan Roman version of truck nuts.  Excuse me, truck nutz.

Is this a bizarre mythological case of convergent evolution?  The world is a strange place.

  • An Account of the remains of the worship of Priapus, lately existing at Isernia, in the kingdom of Naples; in two letters, one from Sir William Hamilton to Sir Joseph Banks and the other from a person residing at Isernia; to which is added, A discourse on the worship of Priapus, and its connexion with the mystic theology of the ancients (1786).
  • A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, and Its Connexion with the Mystic Theology of the Ancients. Richard Payne Knight, esq. London: R.P. Knight, 1865
  • Roman Fascinum.
  • In ancient Roman religion and magic, the fascinus or fascinum was the embodiment of the divine phallus. The word can refer to the deity himself (Fascinus), to phallus effigies and amulets, and to the spells used to invoke his divine protection. Pliny calls it a medicus invidiae, a “doctor” or remedy for envy (invidia, a “looking upon”) or the evil eye. […] The English word “fascinate” ultimately derives from Latin fascinumand the related verb fascinare, “to use the power of the fascinus,” that is, “to practice magic” and hence “to enchant, bewitch.”

My favorite fidget toy.

Palad khik are produced in Thailand. Originally fashioned by Buddhist monks, decorated with invocations and praises to Buddha and Shiva, these phallic amulets were created for male Thai citizens to wear around the waist, to protect the obvious.

They’re often fashioned from wood and bone. This particular amulet dates back to the 1940s and is made of brass (smoothe and soothing to handle). The lion-haunched figure is reminiscent of Roman fascinum, the amulets male and female Romans wore to ward off the evil eye and to encourage fertility and prosperity.