Q: What fascinating object did most Romans young and old, male and female, wear around their necks?
A: An amulet. But not just any lucky charm. They wore a phallus, called fascinum in Latin. It’s the root of our word ‘fascinate.’ Why a phallus? To them, it was a powerful symbol to ward off the evil eye, a deeply feared superstition in ancient times. (And even today, in parts of the world.)
• Back then, protective phalluses came in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Worn as jewelry, they could also be found over doorways of businesses, on home hearths, and carved into walls or sidewalks. There were phallic statues in the gardens; phallic wind-chimes; even lamps shaped like male organs.
• In long-ago Greece, the most popular apotropaic or protective symbols were Medusa heads and staring eyes. Today such blue-eye charms are still popular—and are still on the job in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and other parts of the Mediterranean world.
• For more fascinating details, please see my blogpost of August 13, called “Happiness lives here: Fascinated by the evil eye.”