Medieval woman. Credit:  grape_vein / Adobe Stock

The World’s Oldest Talking Vagina is Discovered…in an Austrian Abbey!


The Vagina Monologues  is a play written by  Eve Ensler which featured on an Off-Broadway run in 1996 at Westside Theatre exploring consensual and nonconsensual sex, body image, genital mutilation, and sexual life through the eyes of women of various races and sexualities. But the oldest literary exploration into aspects of women’s sexuality originated in the Middle Ages in ‘ The Rose Thorn’ ( Der Rosendorn ), an argument between a woman and her vulva as to who offers men more pleasure, and it has now been dated to ‘200 years’ earlier than previously thought.

And article in The Guardian quotes Dr. Christine Glaßner, of the Institute of Medieval Research at Austria’s Academy of Sciences ( ÖAW) who discovered fragments from ‘ Der Rosendorn ’ on a thin strip of parchment in the library archive of the baroque  Melk Abbey  on the banks of the Danube in Austria’s Wachau Valley.

The fragment, measuring 22 cm by 1.5cm (8.66 by 0.59 inches), according to Dr. Glaßner, “rewrites the history of sexuality in medieval literature” because it dates to about 1300 AD and until this discovery it was believed that ‘ Der Rosendorn‘  was written the end of the Middle Ages, about two centuries later than this version.

The strip of the poem ‘Der Rosendorn’ was tied around a Latin text. (Melk Abbey)

The strip of the poem ‘Der Rosendorn’ was tied around a Latin text. ( Melk Abbey )

How to Address One’s ‘Fud’

In the poem ‘ Der Rosendorn ’, a virgin (junkfrouwe) confronts her sexual organ (fud) in a direct dialogue about which of them is desired more by men. Convinced her appearance is what men love, the woman is contradicted by her vagina who advises her not to lean too heavily on her appearance, for it’s really the sexual organ that provides ‘true pleasure’ to men.

Having separated, they are deeply unhappy, so they reunite, and Dr. Glaßner discussed the underlying messages in the verse and said, “at its core is an incredibly clever story, because of the very fact that it demonstrates that you cannot separate a person from their sex ”.

A medieval woman painting a self-portrait. (Public Domain)

A medieval woman painting a self-portrait. ( Public Domain )

While it might be the first time you’ve considered a ‘talking vagina’, within mythology, the “vagina loquens” or “talking vagina’’ is a literary archetype involving talking vaginas connected with magic and charms, where the vagina often admits to the woman’s unchastity. Now, having learned that the first written reference to talking vaginas was made in the 13th century, let’s look at when the first artistic representation was executed.

Ancient Origins of the Talking Vagina

In ‘ Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature ’ author or Gwendolyn Leick tells us that ancient Sumerians regarded the vulva as sacred and they wrote poems praising it. The goddess Nin-imma is the divine personification of the vagina, with her name translating to “lady female genitals.” Two-dimensional and three-dimensional paintings and female figurines have been dated to the Gravettian period (28,000–22,000 years ago), but the ‘ Venus of Hohle Fels’ is the oldest example of a vulva in art - dating back at least 35,000 years, to the Aurignacian.

The ‘Venus of Hohle Fels.’ (Ramessos/CC BY SA 3.0)

The ‘Venus of Hohle Fels.’ (Ramessos/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

All this talking of vaginas reminds me of a story which ranks in anyone’s top three of “just ridiculous” things to happen in history. In 1559, Renaldus Columbus (not the 1492 navigator of the ocean blue) claimed to have ‘discovered’ the clitoris and he made a legal claim for his find.

This article explains that he inspired many others to come forward claiming they had actually discovered the clitoris. I mean, a guy coming forward claiming to have discovered a woman’s body part that has always been there is just wrong on so many levels; it’s as ridiculous as someone landing in a foreign country populated by tens of millions of people and claiming they were the first to find it . Hang on a second…

Top Image: Medieval woman. Credit:   grape_vein / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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