miss christian elspeth mallock by edward arthur walton 1860-1922 scotland

I know I am, I cannot help it, it’s just my charisma, my natural magic. But enough of me, even the word ‘fascinating’ is fascinating. It crops up all over the place, the ‘fascinator’ which started off as a light crocheted hood, evolved into a ‘cocktail hat’ which perches precariously on top of the hair, and now apparently we have the hatinator, which is the bastard offspring of the fascinator and the hat.


Now the origin of the term fascinator is reasonable, it derives from the Middle French fasciner, which means ‘to enchant’ or ‘bewitch’. Thus a pretty girl wearing a fascinator can look enchanting or bewitching. Note that this is involves a modern definition of enchanting and bewitching but we’ll let that one pass.

The French term goes back to the Latin, fascinare which also means bewitch or enchant, and derives from the Latin word fascinus which was a charm or enchantment.

Still following me?


But for the Romans, Fascinus was also the living embodiment of the divine phallus. In Rome the Vestal Virgins were the guardians of the cult of the fascinus populi Romani, or the giant phallus which was one underpinnings of the Roman Republic or Empire.


Augustine, in his seminal work, ‘The City of God’ comments about Roman religion

“Varro says that in Italy, at the places where roads crossed each other the rites of Liber were celebrated with such unrestrained turpitude, that the private parts of a man were worshipped in his honour. Nor was this abomination transacted in secret that some regard at least might be paid to modesty, but was openly and wantonly displayed. For during the festival of Liber this obscene member, placed on a car, was carried with great honour, first over the crossroads in the country, and then into the city. But in the town of Lavinium a whole month was devoted to Liber alone, during the days of which all the people gave themselves up to the must dissolute conversation, until that member had been carried through the forum and brought to rest in its own place; on which unseemly member it was necessary that the most honourable matron should place a wreath in the presence of all the people. Thus, forsooth, was the god Liber to be appeased in order to the growth of seeds. Thus was enchantment to be driven away from fields, even by a matron’s being compelled to do in public what not even a harlot ought to be permitted to do in a theatre, if there were matrons among the spectators.”



As the man said, “Thus was enchantment to be driven away from fields.” So there we are, back with the very roots of the word, a charm or enchantment.


So what does this show? Well what struck me was it shows that we don’t really understand our ancestors. What is perfectly normal to one generation can be regarded as utterly bizarre a few generations later. In fact I would go so far as to say that it WILL be regarded as utterly bizarre.

I suppose that this is a hint to us all that an element of humility in our attitudes would not be a bad thing. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, how right-on and politically correct you are in your thinking, your great grandchildren will regard you as some sort of freak, a throw back to the dark ages. As they clean out the attic they’ll look with horror at your ‘Gay Whales Against Racism’ T shirt, your author signed copy of ‘The Female Eunuch’ and your Open University course books on Existentialism, Phenomenology, Structuralism and Post-structuralism and frantically drop them into the shredder before the neighbours notice.


Actually I find this all really liberating. In reality, you don’t have to read that stuff. There is no point in appearing cutting edge and cool, because history has already got you marked down as the barely sentient ancestor whose beliefs we have already advanced beyond.

So revel in your liberation, instead just sit back with a good book. Remember that the bawdy comedy ‘Satyricon’ of Gaius Petronius is read far more often than the worthy and learned letters of Sidonius Apollinaris. So abandon the worthy stuff and read literature that lasts!


May I humbly recommend the much acclaimed book ‘Learning a Hard Trade’ by that celebrated author Jim Webster. Available in paperback or as an ebook it’s much acclaimed because I never shut up about it, and if you buy a copy I promise to celebrate


 As a reviewer commented “In this very engaging story we follow Trulor in his education and coming of age in the Land of the Three Seas. His father owned an apparently magical belt decorated with seven plaques, which was broken up and distributed to several people. He decides to try to reunite these parts and have the belt renovated. Jim Webster writes some excellent fight scenes, action packed but believable. He also writes with a whimsical humour which I very much enjoy.

I have read all the stories of the land of the three seas and this is by far my favourite. I felt the characters were so well drawn and I really cared about their fate. Fantasy readers – form a queue for the next book – but I’ll be first!”

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17 thoughts on “Fascinating

  1. Sue Vincent February 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Daily Echo and commented:
    “There is no point in appearing cutting edge and cool, because history has already got you marked down as the barely sentient ancestor whose beliefs we have already advanced beyond.”

    • jwebster2 February 12, 2016 at 1:55 pm Reply

      It has occurred to me that I might be the only significant exception on the grounds that because I already accept this, I will inevitably remain cutting edge through the rest of time….

      • Sue Vincent February 12, 2016 at 2:40 pm

        As I have always been strange rather than cutting edge, I have nothing to lose either way 🙂

      • jwebster2 February 12, 2016 at 2:49 pm

        pushing envelopes is not a bad way to shift the dust. Not the best way, but not a bad one 🙂

      • Sue Vincent February 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        I was never much of a lover of housework 😉

      • jwebster2 February 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        I’m not sure how a reasonable person could be a lover of housework. It might explain why men so rarely do it 😉

      • Sue Vincent February 12, 2016 at 3:49 pm

        That has to be the best excuse yet 😉

  2. cmblackwood February 12, 2016 at 8:00 pm Reply

    Thanks for such a well-written and informative post, sir. Looks like I’ve found another “keeper” blog. 🙂

    • jwebster2 February 12, 2016 at 10:05 pm Reply

      Oh you say the nicest things 😉

      • cmblackwood February 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm


      • jwebster2 February 12, 2016 at 10:55 pm


  3. M T McGuire February 12, 2019 at 8:27 am Reply

    That was interesting. And an intriguing point, although I think, looking back at them, that a couple of my ancestors still come over as pretty cutting edge. 😊 But I do get what you mean I find this when I’m researching at the artefacts I dig up. There are a fair few, they did WHAT? moments.



    • jwebster2 February 12, 2019 at 9:50 am Reply

      My grandfather was regarded as cutting edge, he educated his daughters 🙂

      • M T McGuire February 12, 2019 at 10:28 am

        Yeh, my grandmother trained as a concert pianist. Then she got married and was a stay at home mum.

      • jwebster2 February 12, 2019 at 10:35 am

        My mother and all her sisters married farmers. So whilst my mother continued to teach after having children, the others merely worked at home. Two ran B&B businesses, whilst another ran part of the farm enterprise. No farmer’s wife ever had the luxury of being a stay at home mum, even if they stayed at home 🙂

    • M T McGuire February 12, 2019 at 10:52 am Reply

      Mwahahahaaaaargh! Yeh, my great aunt was a farmer’s wife so that makes perfect sense, although anyone who says that being a stay at home mum is a luxury hasn’t tried it. 🤣🤣



      • jwebster2 February 12, 2019 at 11:06 am

        the problem is that you become career for three generations. Mind you as a farmer’s wife you added another enterprise to that. My grandmother would normally expect to feed a dozen people at a time, but she would normally have a ‘girl’ to help her. Some of the girls were married women in their forties 🙂

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