The Svithe With a Warning Attached


WARNING: If, after reading the real titles and the epigram attached to this svithe, you think it may not be for you, it probably isn't and I suggest you steer away. For instance, in this past week, you may have missed the Eighth Books (comments now working!), my comments on Tolkien Boy and Earth Sign Mama, a nice bit of domesticity, or a funny little story about my eyeballs. If you prefer a svithe, last week's had some straight talk, or you could always visit one of my old favorites--Success & Jealousy perhaps, the one based on Everyman, or the ever-popular-in-Sunday-School Parable of the Drunk Driver. But if you are worried about disgusting bodily fluids (other than the canonized blood, of course) being used as religious metaphor, this week's entry may not be for you.

The Circumcised of Heart
A Svithe on Semen

It is impossible for any man to forget his penis, his own personal life force.
------Thomas Cahill


This svithe comes from a number of things which have been on my mind lately that are all related and spiritualish in nature. It's a weird combination of things resulting in me in discussion about things I usually don't think much about. Such as semen.

I'm not much of a bodily-fluids guy and honestly, as I set out writing this I'm really not sure where I'm heading, but let's just start with those things I mentioned.

1. Levitical Lesbianism

When I was looking for information for the Sharing Time I did a couple weeks ago, I ran across a ... let's call him a Jewish Apologist. I'm not going to spend half an hour looking for his site again, but essentially, the gist of his post was this: In Mosaic Law, all sorts of sexual activities are forbidden: homosexuality, fornication, bestiality, et cetera. One thing conspicuously absent is lesbianism. As I thought about this, I thought back on our recent rereading of the books of Moses and thought that perhaps the issue here was the proper (not wasteful) use of semen. Even nocturnal emissions make a man unclean, after all. Then I thought of women and remembered the laws regarding--practically regulating--menstrual blood. I've returned to these thoughts in idle moments over the last couple weeks, never caring to reach conclusions, but the questions are interesting.

2. Bathtime

Last Thursday's visit to the midwife included some suggestions regarding how we can encourage the baby to hurry things up. For instance, visiting the ocean. Something about the waves, apparently.

She also suggested---

Midwife: At this point I would suggest you start bathing your cervix in sperm every night.

Me (interrupting): Do you have ANY IDEA how long it will take me to fill the tub? And you want me to do this every night?!?!

Actually, I did not say this. Alas. But she's right of course--semen contains the same chemicals that are used in the artificial induction of labor. And there are plenty of anecdotes demonstrating the usefulness in whoopie in not only starting the pregnancy process, but also in ending it. Ask around.

3. See above

The Thomas Cahill quote comes from a book of his I am back to reading after a near-decade hiatus. I'm zipping through it now, so expect it to appear in my next five books when they post.

The topic under discussion is circumcision, and why it was a powerful symbol. Considering the stats I run across every year or so about how many men would rather lose a leg--or their prime hand--than their penis, a symbol engraven right upon it should indeed be memorable. And blood was always the method of making a proper covenant. Even today, the idea of a blood oath or a blood pact is powerful, even if we've never actually pushed a bloody thumbprint into a parchment bearing the arms of our liege.

But the covenant God made with Abraham didn't mean nothing when it was blood alone--even if that blood was drawn from Abraham's penis. The covenant was a mere intellectual exercise until Isaac was conceived of the semen from Abraham's bloodied member.

semen svithe dots
In ancient, polytheistic societies, one wouldn't have to travel far to find a temple where one's semen (or the semen of the presiding priest, if it was a temple for girls) was put to ritualistic use. The Judeo-Christian tradition has removed that particular fluid from the temple to the bedroom, but, speaking particularly as a Mormon with our emphasis on family, semen (and other fluids from that neck of the woods) are still heavy with religious importance. If we are to emulate God by becoming parents, we must spend seed.

Although the Song of Songs was not accepted by Joseph Smith as "inspired" scripture, I think its presence in the Bible is still appropriate--and, in particular, that it fills a need. There is very little discussion of the importance of romantic love in the Canon, yet without it, wherefore multiplying and replenishing the earth? wherefore the concern about failure in the home?

It is an easy thing to forget in a clean, almost hermetic, world like ours that humanity is composed of things like blood and semen and other unpleasant humours and ichors. Little by little we lose track of mortality's brutality and why we need a Greater Hope.

Richmond Lattimore's New Testament translation -- Chip Kidd CoverThe outrage over the bloody cover on a new translation of the New Testament a decade ago missed the point I think. Though I, like any Mormon, prefer a Resurrected Christ to a Crucified Jesus dripping blood on the altar, choosing to completely cut ourselves off from the blood-soaked Son of Man is not doing us any favors. Blood represents life; lost blood, lost life; in this case, the greatest gift of all.

And the other fluid under discussion today is much the same: With it, life continues. Without it, the line ends. Adios humanity.

I have no grand conclusion to all this, as I stated plainly up front, but if nothing else, we do well to remember that everything in life is metaphor, nothing in life is grounded solely in the present. But while we as a species were made for something better than this, yet also the joys and goodnesses of mortality--no matter how messy or finally tragic--were also made for us. And while looking to the future, we should also live firmly in the present.

This is no paradox or mistake or error in reasoning. And it is not hedonism, though it could be easily construed as such.

Our Heavenly Father, after all, did not have to make the planet beautiful with trees and mountains and oceans. He did not have to plant thyme and cinnamon and rosemary and chives. A plain barren rock with nutritious ooze seeping forth would have been enough to set the stage for Choice and Sin and Redemption. Every bit of glory on this planet is a gift from He who loves us.

This is what we need to remember. And why the circumcision of the heart is so important. The heart pumps the blood we require to live, always!, so no matter how much a body may dwell on its genitals, without its heart, they mean nothing.

When we engrave our gratitude on the very machine powering our continued existence, then we are truly the Sons and Daughters of God--every pump of lifeblood reminding us of our faith and covenant--beholden to him--while still appreciating that blood which gives us the chance to live the life that is ours today.

Both Now and Eternity, brought to you by nothing more than fluid.

crap; i really should have just reread last week's svithe


  1. The title of your post was a little scary at first, but you do have a good point that blood is sacred and canonized, so why not semen? I think this is probably because extracting blood is painful, unlike extracting semen. (Although filling a bathtub with semen by oneself is a painful though).

    BTW: isn't it strange that we use Latin roots for semen (and penis for that matter), while blood is a good old Germanic word? Russian is exactly the same (substituting Slavic for Germanic, of course). Maybe taboos on discussing semen and penis have been around for a long time, which is why we haven't conserved their ancient roots?

  2. .

    I think that's almost certainly true. Which is also why so many people find the words funny--or at least part of the reason.

    As for whether I have a good point, who knows? That's the problem with my blogging--things that don't deserve to be read go out instead of sitting around for a month only to be condemned to obscurity.

  3. I find an interesting contradiction between the sacredness of the procreative process and the amount of wastage involved. Women ovulate every month, yet 99% of the time the egg is wasted. Most semen goes to waste too. Not sure what that means...

  4. I love being friends with people who think...and who write well. Yes, those two things.

  5. .

    Right back atcha, Queenie. And I've been thinking and I have a better answer to RC's good-point question that is both more true and less simultaneously:

    A literary goal I often flirt with is RAA--reader as artist--and blogging, with its happens-to-fast nature, puts a large portion of the onus of assigning meaning onto the reader, for I as writer haven't taken the time to reach the conclusions, only to arrive at their doorstep. So, in other words, this is laziness as a sign of great artistry. Beat that!

    As for the pain/pleasure split, I think it's interesting and impelling but possibly unimportant--after all, both blood and semen are necessary for Continuation--of individual, of species.


    I too have noticed that huge amount of waste, but I have nothing to say about it besides 100000000 sperm put to waste every time, success or failure, is certainly a lot of potential half-humans lost forever.

  6. this was amazing. :)

    coming from me, (and I really do have a thing for body fluids) this was absolutely powerful.

  7. .

    [Edit: Added link to review of Cahill book.]

  8. Also, adding this Wikipedia entry in case it's interesting:

  9. .

    Well thank you for thinking of me.

    (If I ever do a serious study on the topic, this deserves close consideration.)

  10. .

    Well thank you for thinking of me.

    (If I ever do a serious study on the topic, this deserves close consideration.)