by LJ Frank
It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary…to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age ~ Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
The intrigue of human evolution, especially physical and mental traits, and musings about lifestyles thereof, is hardly ever simple. Modern day humans walk upright. Key to the balance of course is the foot along with the evolutionary process and associated behavioral characteristics affecting movement and perception of the world around them. How the developing humans interpreted themselves within the context of their environs is a continuous, fascinating field of study. And it’s actually a bit more complicated than what I write but the idea focuses on the evolutionary process of how humans translate their existence.
The biblical allegory of humans birthed from dust to which they will return is factual. Once born, the human body under existing physical, natural law begins its journey of decay and eventual death.
Humans need metaphors and allegories spiced with passion and meaning to enhance life’s value. I suspect symbolism in part arises from pleasure, pain, and the search for measurable justification of life on a deeper level. “It is what it is” doesn’t cut it.
Merely walking upright is in part one of necessity for survival as well as pleasure. The provocative significance of the foot is centered on its purpose of maintaining balance…the feet invited exploration on a larger scale than that of crawling or scampering on all four limbs.
The toes are a distinguishing feature of the foot in maintaining balance and serve as opportunity for adventure and gratification. Watch a baby suck their toes, though more specifically large toe sucking is not limited to babies in various cultures, rituals, and lifestyles.
As one ages, learns, and gains insights into self, knowledge has an opportunity to grow. I suppose one could surmise a Freudian application to toe sucking, particularly of the large toe, or what I refer to as the Double Hallux-Erotic or what is known in a few therapeutic circles and private practices as the phallus toes, exceeding the typically translated “great toe” or more prosaic name of the big or thumb toe. And the history of what constitutes erotic indicates diversity in meaning within a given cultural or lifestyle context.
In general, the entire foot is viewed as possessing phallic significance according to some researchers. In his work on The Sex Life of the Foots and Shoe, the scholar William Rossi’s research points to the foot as a “natural phallicism…commonly used in sexual foreplay and even coitus.” Guiding the foot into a shoe is similar to placing the phallus into the vagina.
Further anthropological research shows the key to the Hallux. Etymologically, Klein’s Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged One Volume Edition and Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged note the Latin medical roots.
The researchers must dig deeper in both archaeological and anthropological studies to begin to uncover the significant utilization of the toe in phallic oriented rituals dating back to the ancient Greeks and as well as Egyptians among other tribal ceremonies in the Levant.
Interestingly, the phallic symbolism of the foot and the large toe can be found in ancient China and Japan. Binding the foots (and toes) may be viewed as a form of chastity/beauty as some 19th century observers claim and as a form of beauty to keep the foot or phallus small. Large feet and large toes like large phalluses were viewed as visually noteworthy but unseemly and out of proportion to the smaller framed body and their value was questioned.
Geography, culture, and tradition are woven together in the characterization of what constitutes the worth as an object of worship, fetish, artistic rendering or of religious and economic value. That which is of erotic value in one place may be seen as poor taste or repugnant, or blasphemous, and illegal in another place – local custom, politics, economics, and religious fervor may dictate a response. And a ritual may be viewed as delightful in one epoch is viewed as abusive and detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of the individual in another. And while in a few the ritual evolved into an aspect of an enriched lifestyle.
Though the above observations are open to debate, the appreciation for the erotic perspective existed as the phallic nature of the foot and Hallux evolved and became an ingredient in the metaphorical and otherwise symbolic naturalism and ceremonial rituals of “beingness” – the desire for a process that would serve as a liberating pleasure and possessing a “magical” quality that was viewed in part as a necessary adaptation in counteracting pain, both physical and emotional linked to the drudgery of people’s everyday existence. That which constitutes a pleasurable lifestyle evolves while serving as a link to our human past.