Apotropaic Striptease

In his encyclopaedic Natural History, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus 23 AD – August 25, 79 AD) wrote that a menstruating woman who uncovers her body can scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning. If she strips naked and walks around the field, caterpillars, worms and beetles fall off the ears of corn. Even when not menstruating, a nude woman can still lull a storm out at sea by stripping.

In Ireland and China, women have been known to lift up their skirts to chase off enemies. A story from The Irish Times (September 23, 1977) reported a potentially violent incident involving several men, that was averted by a woman exposing her genitals to the attackers.

According to Balkan folklore, when it rained too much, women would run into the fields and lift their skirts to scare the gods and end the rain. In Jean de La Fontaine’s Nouveaux Contes (1674), a demon is repulsed by the sight of a woman lifting her skirt.

These examples of women exposing their breasts or genitals had a so-called apotropaic function: ritual nudity was supposed to ward off malevolent influences or evil spirits.

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