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Flügel, J.C. (1924). Polyphallic Symbolism and the Castration Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:155-196.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:155-196

Polyphallic Symbolism and the Castration Complex

J. C. Flügel


Ferenczi and Freud have recently called attention to the connection between that impressive item of Greek mythology, the Medusa head and the castration complex; the particular aspect of the castration complex that is concerned being that connected with the absence of the penis in the female. Ferenczi tells us that, in dealing with dream material and free associations, he has repeatedly found that the Medusa head is to be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the external female genitalia. In this representation the idea of castration aroused by the absence of the penis is (in virtue of a 'displacement from below upwards') referred to the severed head instead of to the genital region, while the central thought itself—that of the lacking member—is (in virtue of a process of 'representation through the opposite') conveyed by a multitude of phallic symbols —i.e. the snaky hair of Medusa. In the present communication an endeavour will be made to confirm the occurrence of this latter symbolism, to illustrate other forms of polyphallic symbolism, to show that these also are related in the same way to the castration complex, and to indicate some further problems to which this polyphallic symbolism gives rise. The material used will be drawn partly from psycho-analytic data obtained from my own work or recorded by others, and partly from mythology.

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