Published Article Full-text Now Available At:

Document Type


Publication Date



Voluntary castration has existed as a religious practice up to the present day, openly in India and secretively in other parts of the world. Gods in a number of different cultures were castrated, a mutilation that paradoxically tended to increase rather than diminish their powers. This cross-cultural examination of the eunuch gods examines the meaning associated with divine emasculation in Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece, the Roman Empire, India, and northern Europe to the degree that these meanings can be read from the wording of myths, early accounts, and the castration cults for some of these gods. Three distinct patterns of godly castration emerge: divine dynastic conflicts involving castration; a powerful goddess paired with a weaker male devotee castrated because of his relationship with her; and magus gods whose castration demonstrates their superiority. Castration cults associated with some of these gods—and other gods whose sexuality was ambiguous, such as Jesus—some of them existing up to the present day, illuminate the spiritual powers associated with castration for gods and mortals.