Sinful Sunday: anasyrma

In The Soul of Sex, Thomas Moore (no, a different Thomas Moore) discusses a few poses in which Aphrodite/Venus is commonly portrayed. I thought those poses would make an interesting theme for a series of images, and when I saw the February Sinful Sunday prompt, I knew it was the perfect time to get cracking.

So, “A is for…” anasyrma (ἀνάσυρμα), “lifting the skirt”.

This was done to display the genitals or buttocks in connection with religious rituals, eroticism or lewd jokes. The purpose is not the sexual gratification of the subject (i.e. exhibitionism), but the effect on onlookers. Here’s a classical example of front anasyrma, so you know what I’m on about:

Ägyptisches Museum Leipzig 206
Isis-Aphrodite, 2nd to 1st c. BC, Hellenistic Egypt
And here’s my slightly more demure take on it:


Lifting the skirt is a powerful act in a number of cultures, especially for its apotropaic effect (warding off evil). It connects with the sheela na gig, who scares away the devil with her vulva. Take that!

Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century AD that a menstruating woman who exposes herself can scare off hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning. This is echoed in the Catalan saying “La mar es posa bona/ si veu el cony d’una dona” (The sea calms down if it sees the cunt of a woman).

As I was doing a spot of research for this post, I came across an interesting and powerful website called Raising the Skirt, which is “constructing a community of courageous and fearless women to join me in the act of Raising the Skirt and reclaiming our Cunts.”

badge Sinful Sunday

29 thoughts on “Sinful Sunday: anasyrma

  1. I had not heard that word before but I love it and the history that surrounds it is quite frankly magical. Thank you for the link to the Raising the Skirt website, what a fabulous project. Oh and your image is stunning


    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s so much in this image for the eye to take in. I love the drape and ruffle of the fabric against the clean lines of your body, not to mention the very modern take on ancient imagery. Just wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Who put the “rude” in erudite? Isis! And you! Good company. And nicely written: Nice and clear and slightly obscure stuff. I love clarity.

    Also, anasyrma is my current fave word, though I haven’t had a good excuse to use it yet.

    Early in the Second World War, Sir Apirana Ngata came to visit the Maori Queen, Te Puea, to try to persuade her to encourage Maori tribes involved in the King movement to provide soldiers for the war effort. (A lot did go, and they scared the shit out of Rommel. He complained that the Maori troops didn’t take prisoners: they ate them. This may have been true, in a ceremonial sort of way.)

    Anyway, there was a strong faction who felt that Pakeha hadn’t kept sufficiently to the Tiriti o Waitangi to deserve support. So when Ngata arrived the women turned their backs, raised their skirts and displayed their arses and cunts. That’s whakapohane. It’s the most powerful Maori gesture of disrespect. It reduced Ngata to tears.

    He still had to do what he’d come for, though. But Ngata was a tough man, of enormous mana; it took a lot to make him cry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I’ve got clarity, I’ve got obscurity! Er, no chiaroscuro, though.

      That’s interesting about whakapohane and disrespect. Different cultures come to different conclusions about the effect of anasyrma: public shaming; warding against evil; telling rude but magical jokes (Baubo and Demeter); bold defence or stopping war; scaring away dangerous animals. But they all seem to agree that the cunt is powerful – taboo in its original sense of “not ordinarily to be shown because it’s sacred”. Magic aside, I think there’s some deep psychological truth in this notion.

      Unfortunately, the Western view seem to retain the hiding while changing the meaning, replacing power with shame. And that is a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have done an absolutely wonderful job with this post. Your research to discover how the letter “A” can be used. This post is so informative about a new word to me plus the explanations of how and where the raising of a skirt is used. I knew none of this.

    Your pose is absolutely stunning, meeting the meaning of the word and displaying your shapely thighs. You always astonish me with your skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, all the info about anasyrma on the raising the skirt website is taken from my 2003 book The Story of V. I am Dr Catherine Blackledge and I spent years researching the act of anasyrma for my book celebrating the beauty and power of female genitalia. It was a worldwide success – published in 13 countries It is due to be reissued in the UK at the start of 2020 as Raising the Skirt:the Unsung Power of the Vagina so that a new generation of women can learn about anasyrma


Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.