Priapus was a minor god within the Olympian pantheon, known as a god of fertility, gardens and orchards and livestock. Often times, Priapus was a comedic figure in myths and stories about the gods.
Origin of Priapus
The accounts as to Priapus’ parentage vary from story to story. In some stories, he’s the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of Love and Dionysus, the god of Wine and Fertility. In others, Priapus is the son of Dionysus and Chione, a minor goddess. In still other tales Priapus’ father is Hermes, Pan or even Zeus.
In the stories in which Priapus is the son of Aphrodite, the goddess Hera curses Priapus in the womb. The curse renders Priapus impotent, ugly and mean-spirited and foul tempered. Hera curses Priapus as revenge for the fact that Paris chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite when asked who was most lovely.
After Priapus was born, the gods threw him down from Olympus, refusing to let him live with them. Priapus was raised by shepherds and grew up their rustic ways. Eventually, Priapus ended up joining Pan, the god of the Wild.
Myths Involving Priapus
Priapus tends to feature in ribald and humorous stories, where he’s often the butt of various jokes and put into situations in which he looks like a fool. Many of these stories are obscene in nature, and focus on Priapus’ lustful pursuits and failures.
In one story, he pursues a nymph named Lotis to the point where the gods transform her into a lotus plant to give her peace from Priapus’ constant pursuit. Many other stories center on Priapus’ attempts to mate with or romantically pursue various goddesses, nymphs and mortals.
Worship of Priapus
Priapus tended to be very much a rural god. In large cities and towns, he was often an object of ridicule and scorn. But in the countryside, he was a popular deity as a powerful symbol of fertility and abundance. He was believed to be a guardian of livestock and other domesticated animals, as well as the protector of gardens and orchards.
Sailors and fishermen also regarded Priapus as a guardian or patron god, and it was believed that his presence could protect against the evil eye. Eventually, Priapus became a protector god for merchant sailors, and believed to aid in navigation and protect against shipwrecks.
In addition to his connection to agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry, Priapus was worshiped as part of a number of fertility cults in ancient times. Traditionally, donkeys were sacrificed to Priapus, and worshippers would leave offerings of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products.
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