Temple To Phallic God Priapus Found In Bulgaria?

There’s something weird going on in the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Sozopol.

Last year, Bulgarian archaeologists dug up the graves of two vampires and analyzed the purported bones of John the Baptist. Now the Sofia Globe reports they’ve found a temple to the Classical god Priapus. This deity, best known for his huge erect penis, was the god of fertility and its opposite – erectile dysfunction. He acted as a sort of metaphysical Viagra.

Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum, said archaeologists excavating in Sozopol have found a clay phallus inscribed with the words “to Priapus.” This sort of item was common as a votive offering to the god. There’s no report on whether a building was found on the site. Actual temples to Priapus are rare, since he was a minor god worshiped mostly in the countryside or in gardens. His fertility extended to plants as well as people and he was also the god of merchant sailors, which would have been important in a thriving port such as Sozopol.

Priapus was a popular god in the Roman Empire. The above image, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, is of a fresco in Pompeii. You can find statues of the god and little phallic amulets in any large collection of Roman antiquities. The British Museum has several. Jump the cut to see a cute little figurine of Priapus with a little surprise.
This is actually two shots of the same bronze figurine dating to the first century AD and found in Picardy, France. On the right it appears as a man walking with a cloak wrapped around him, but pull the top off and presto! Instant fertility. It’s on display in the Musée de Picardie à Amiens. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Evolution of travel complaints: TSA just the latest target

This week saw the vitriol of travelers (and travel writers) directed at the TSA. The new TSA regulations that were imposed in light of the terrorist attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight led many to unleash the proverbial hounds and attack both the TSA and Department of Homeland Security with great fervor. It became quite fashionable (and deservedly so) to use blogs and Twitter to mock the TSA’s plans for keeping us safe.

However, this hysteria is not new in the travel community. Travelers have a long history of finding a target for their angst and attacking it like cat on a Roomba. The TSA is just the latest object of travelers’ derision. There were others before it and there will be others after it.

Let’s take a look back at travel complaints through history.God – The Garden of Eden was the original all-inclusive resort. Despite the absence of a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” policy, the Almighty actually had pretty stringent rules. While there was a veritable buffet for Adam and Eve, apples were off limits. The first guests to violate this policy were removed from the property and led management to blacklist all human visitors. Is that species profiling? Sure seems like it.

Christianity vs. Islam – Europeans have always enjoyed traveling. However, their motives for getting out and about during the Crusades were pretty shady.

India – Christopher Columbus never forgave India for not being in the Americas. Annual parades have yet to appease him.

Lack of produce – Scurvy was no joke back in the day. Now it’s a pretty good joke anytime someone offers you an orange.

Babies – They cry. They kick the back of your seat. They have little comprehension of the expletives that you’re shouting at their mothers.

People who recline their seats – I am one of these people. I make no apologies to anyone.

Airline food – Did you hear that airline food is gross? Yeah, so did every comedian in the 1990s.

Travelers vs. Tourists – The travelers vs. tourists debate is an epic one pitting blowhards against windbags. It has, however, kept the soapbox industry in business.

Cruises – When you’re the cause of a Twitter hashtag getting hijacked, you’ve officially made it as a preeminent target for travel complaints.

TSA – They’ve been accused of racial profiling, enforcing their policies arbitrarily and reacting to incidents with asinine updates to their rules. This latest episode is practically old hat for them. A hat that must be removed during the screening process, of course.

So, what’s my point here? At the end of the day, travelers will always find something about which to complain. Sometimes it will be justified while other times it will simply be a matter of opinion. People will always enjoy pointing fingers, making judgments and mounting their high horses.

But I think we can all agree that people who wear socks with sandals are just plain wrong.

Photo by Flickr user Aardvark of Fnord.

Least Religious Countries

When you travel to Europe, don’t be surprised to find that many Europeans don’t believe in God. I have even witnessed some alcohol-infused conversations between Americans and Europeans that almost ended in fistfights over His/Her existence. When you travel to the following countries, you might want to pick a less controversial topic of conversation … umm, maybe George W?

Here are the Top 10 least religious countries in the world:

1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
2. Vietnam
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Japan
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. France
9. South Korea
10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)

The one that surprised me was Israel, ranking 19th, with up to 37% claiming to be non-believer, atheist, agnostic. Compare that with the United States, ranking 44th, with 3-9% non-believers, atheists, agnostics. (I think I have met them all on the streets of New York City, too.)

The survey concluded that “high levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism. In some societies, particularly Europe, atheism is growing. However, throughout much of the world — particularly nations with high birth rates — atheism is barely discernable.”

“God” Edited Out Of In-Flight Movie

It’s long been common practice for airlines to show in-flight movies that have been edited for “offensive” content, as passengers vary considerably in age, culture, etc, and no one wants to offend a paying customer. But by bleeping out all mentions of the word “God” when showing the Oscar-nominated movie, “The Queen,” one company went a little too far.

“[Bleep] bless you, ma’am” is just one of seven instances in which the word “God” was accidentally removed.

While Jaguar Distribution, the company that distributed the movie to the airlines, regularly removes “foul language, excessive violence and nudity,” according to Jack Klein, company president, “A reference to God is not taboo in any culture that I know of.”

So how did this happen? Human error, apparently. An inexperienced employee was told to edit out all profanities and blasphemies, and was somewhat overzealous.

Let’s pray to [bleep] that the poor guy doesn’t get fired over this rather embarrassing mistake.