As Spring thaws the Winter freeze and the days lengthen and warm, sprouts peak eagerly through earthen shell. Life quickens with a renewed instinct to create, reproduce, and grow. This is planting season, the blossom months, the verdant playground. Spring is the lover’s specialty.
What better way to celebrate new beginnings than with a fertility festival?
Episode three of The Chopra Well’s Holy Facts, hosted by Gotham Chopra, explores such festivals in different parts of the world. The show is witty and playful as always, and just a bit sexier than usual this time.
The March 15 Hounen Matsuri festival, a Japanese tradition dating back 1,500 years, celebrates fertility, renewal, and prosperity. It is sacred as an affirmation both of human reproduction and of the year’s bountiful harvests. The largest and best known of these festivals takes place in Komaki, a city of roughly 150,000 people. Despite the festival’s holy foundations, Hounen Matsuri has become famous (or infamous) for featuring a 2.5-meter, 600 pound wooden phallus, which participants enthusiastically parade through the streets.
Woody the Giant Phallus isn’t alone in this festival. Smaller statues, candies, and costume pieces also pay tribute to the reproductive member, and, to be honest, it looks like quite the party. A far cry from the tamer springtime barbecue of middle American suburbia…
Prior to the phallus festival, a neighboring city celebrates the companion vagina festival, Hime-no-miya. During this festival, parents dress up their children, who carry small vagina statues to a nearby shrine. Later, adult men haul a massive vagina through the streets, all the while praying for healthy children, a bountiful harvest, and a cold glass of sake at the end of the parade. Before you jump to accuse the country of penis/vagina fixation, keep in mind that Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world… Let’s cut them some slack.
And anyways, Japan is far from the only country in the world to practice fertility rites and celebrations. Such practices exist throughout the globe and throughout time. In fact, Easter, a beloved springtime ritual of Western cultures, may trace its lineage to the ancient European fertility festival, Ostara.
In the northern hemisphere, Ostara marks the Spring equinox and celebrates the goddess of springtime. It traces ancient Pagan roots and is now the highlight of many a neo-Pagan’s year. But despite its magical beginnings, the holiday was actually fairly practical. Celebrations featured eggs, babies, and seed planting – all typical markers of fertility, life, and growth. And, as Gotham points out, the secular Easter is basically Ostara with new packaging.
Giant phalluses. Eggs. Bunnies. Have you ever been to a fertility festival? We bet you have. Tell us about it in the comments below!