Dionysiac celebrations

Phallic processions

Phallic processions, or Penis Parade, originally called phallika in the Ancient Greece, were a common feature of Dionysiac celebrations; they were ceremonial group walkings that advanced to a cult center, and were characterized by obscenities and verbal abuse. Among the "obscenities", a common one was the display of the fetishized phallus".

Aristotle, in a famous passage of the Poetics, formulated the hypothesis that comedy originated from "those who lead off the phallic processions", which were still common in many towns at his time.

This sacred religious ceremonies and cults, are instead categorized as profane by the monotheistic religions' worldview. In August 2000, to promote a representation of Aristophanes' The Clouds, a traditional Greek phallic procession had been organized, with a long phallus paraded by the cast with the accompaniment of Balkan music; the phallic device was banned by the staff of the Edinburgh Festival.

Similar parades of Shinto origin have long been carried out in Japan. Although the practice has been mostly eradicated in Japan through the urgings of Western values, a few phallic parades continue to this day.



  • Richardson, N. J., The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Oxford, 1974, pp. 214-15
  • O’Higgins, Laurie, Women and Humor in Classical Greece. Cambridge, 2003. p. 57
  • For the outrageous practice of "abuse from the wagons" see Fluck, H., Skurrile Riten in griechischen Kulten. Diss. Freiburg. Endingen, 1931., pp. 34-51
  • Pickard-Cambridge, Arthur, Dithyramb, Tragedy, and Comedy. 2nd edition, rev. by T.B.L. Webster. Cambridge, 1962.
  • Reckford, Kenneth, Aristophanes’ Old-and-New Comedy. Chapel Hill, 1987. pp.463-65
  • [Ralph M. Rosen] (2006) Comic Aischrology and the Urbanization of Agroikia, pages 219-238
  • The Problem of Origins in Cornford, F. M. the Origin of Attic Comedy. Ed. T. H. Gaster. Intro Jeffrey Henderson. Ann Arbor: U of MI P, 1993.
  • Eric Csapo Riding the Phallus for Dionysus: Iconology, Ritual, and Gender-Role De/Construction Phoenix, Vol. 51, No. 3/4 (Autumn - Winter, 1997), pp. 253-295 doi:10.2307/1192539
  • THE RURAL DIONYSIA of Apollonius Sophistes
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