“Hermaphroditus” by Alice Ferox.


being frequently met among gods and primogenitors of mankind in the Indo-European mythologies. Although the genesis of androgynism is not certain, it can be connected to the anatomical expression of a belief in the coexistence of the male and female elements which depict the fullness of a deity as well as the idea on the common source of both genders. Most possibly it is also related to the ritual transvestism (see ALCIS; ANTAGORAS). The typical androgynes were: Phrygian ➚ Agdistis, Hindu ➚ Aditi, ➚ Prajapati and Ardhanarishvara (see SHIVA), Celtic Dôn (see DANU), Italic ➚ Pales, Iranian ➚ Zurvan, Gypsy ➚ Poreskero, Dardic ➚ Balumain, Greek ➚ Hermaphroditus, and in Orphic tradition ➚ Phanes, ➚ Zeus [1], ➚ Athena [2], Dionysus [3], ➚ Iacchus [4], ➚ Protogonus [5] and ➚ Selene [6].

The echoes of bisexuality survived in:

– the Cypriot iconography of the bearded ➚ Aphrodite [7] and her depictions with male sexual organs,

– Roman Bald Venus (compare with [8], see VENUS),

– the ➚ Artemis’ epithet – Orthía, Orthōsía (“Erect”, “Standing Straight”) – rendering her ithyphallic character,

– the information that ➚ Adonis behaved as man in the presence of Aphrodite and as a woman in the presence of ➚ Apollo,

– the statement of Soranus that ➚ Jupiter “is forefather and mother” [9]; compare with Jupiter’s agnomen – Ruminus “Breast Feeder” [10],

– the euphemistic descriptions of ➚ Thor – Swedish gofar and gomar “good father” and “good mother”,

– the temporary transsexualism of ➚ Loki,

– the information on the enchantments (seidhr) which made ➚ Odin act as a woman during the sexual intercourse,

– Roman apostrophic and prayer formula sive mas/deus sive femina/dea “whether you are a man/god or a woman/goddess” [11,12],

Ancient ideas on bisexuality can be traced in the widely spread correlative construction of names such as Zeus (genitive Dios)-Dia, Vishnu-Vaishnavi, Indra-Indrani, Rudra-Rudrani, Dius (=Jupiter)-Dia, Fors-Fortuna, Faunus-Fauna, Janus-Jana, Liber-Libera, Frey-Freya, Njörd-Nerthus, Zhempatis-Zhemina, Audros-Audra, Bran-Branwen, Bormo-Bormana, Grannos-Gráine, Perun-Perperuna etc.

All examples of divine androgynism were undoubtedly the variants of the one paradigmatic deity existing “at the very beginning”. According to [13] in that time there existed only ➚ atman, who was as big as the entwined couple; he broke into two parts, from which husband (pati) and wife (patni) came into being. In the Scandinavian tradition “in the beginning of the world” (ár var alda) there existed only ➚ Ymir [14] – name derived from Indo-European *iem- “twofold, double, twin” (compare with ➚ Jumis, ➚ Imra). The variants of the divine hermaphroditism seem to be a degraded reflection of a primal pre-androgyne, from whom the world (i.e. heaven and earth) came into existence (see COSMOGONY).

Parallel to the theogonic and cosmogonic ideas, also the Indo-European ➚ anthropogenesis contains a memory on bisexuality of the mankind ancestors, e.g.: ➚ Purusha was an androgyne, Aristophanes in the Plato’s Symposium (189 D-192 E) talked about the double – including bisexual – first people (see also [15]). The name of the forefather of the Germans, ➚ Tuisto, has connection with the Gothic twai “two”; probably from this numeral (Indo-European *duwo) the name of the man – duine (compare with Welsh dyn) – was derived. The first people according to Indo-Iranians were ➚ Jama and ➚Jima; their names originating from Indo-European *iem-. The Zarathustrian anthropogenesis drew out the mankind from the “Siamese” siblings ➚ Mashya and ➚ Mashyana [16] and after the Scandinavian ➚ Ragnarök humanity will be reborn from the couple ➚ Lifthrasir and Lif [17]. The androgynism of the pre-human beings seems to be evidenced by Polish połowica “wife” and druga/lepsza połowa (on the spouse – “other/better half”); compare with German bessere Ehehälfte, French chère moitié, Spanish cara mitad, English moiety; see also comparison of the spouses to heaven and earth [18,19]. The past bisexualism in the name-correlative form survived in the Roman wedding formula: ubi tu Gaius, ibi ego Gaia [20]; see also myths on the temporary or permanent change of gender (ILA; SIPROITES; TIRESIAS; CAENEUS) and the feminine ailments of men (see ENAREI; XAMIC; MACHA; compare with the circumstances of Dionysus’ and Athena’s births).


[1] A r i s t o t., De mund., 7; [2] H. orph. XXXII, 11; [3] H. orph. XXX, 2; [4] H. orph. XLII, 4; [5] H. orph.VI, 1; [6] H. orph. IX, 4; [7] S e r v. de Verg. Aen., II, 632; [8] M a c r o b., Sat., III, 8, 3; [9] A u g u s t., De civ. Dei, VII, 9; [10] A u g u s t., De civ. Dei, VII, 11; [11] C a t o., De agri cultura, 139; [12] M a c r o b., Sat., III, 9 ,7; [13] Bryhadaranyaca-upanishady I, 4, 1; [14] Völuspa, 3; [15] L u c r e t., De rer. nat., V, 838 f.; [16] Bundahiszn, 15; [17] Vafthrúdnísmál, 45; [18] AV, XIV, 2, 71; [19] Bryhandaranyaca-upanishady IV, 4, 20; [20] P l u t., Quest. rom., 30.

B a u m a n n, Das doppelte Geschlecht, Berlin 1955; M. D e l c o u r t, Hermaphrodite. Mythe et rites de la bisexualité dans l’Antiquité classique, Paris 1958; W. D. O ‘ F l a h e r t y, Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts, Chicago 1980; A. M. K e m p i ń s k i, Androgyne w wierzeniach Indoeuropejczyków, “Euthemer” 2, 1991; M. E l i a d e, Méphistophélès et l’androgyne, 1962.


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