Vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) describes a folk tale in which a woman's vagina is said to contain teeth, with the associated implication that sexual intercourse might result in injury, emasculation, or castration for the man involved. The topic of "vagina dentata" may also cover a rare medical condition affecting the vagina, in which case it is more accurately termed a vaginal dermoid cyst.
Erich Neumann relays one such myth in which "a fish inhabits the vagina of the Terrible Mother; the hero is the man who overcomes the Terrible Mother, breaks the teeth out of her vagina, and so makes her into a woman."
In Hinduism, the asura Andhaka, son of Shiva and Parvati (but not aware of it), is killed by Shiva when he tries to force the disguised Shiva into surrendering Parvati. Andhaka's son Adi, also an asura, takes the form of Parvati to seduce and kill Shiva with a toothed vagina in order to avenge Andhaka, but is also slain.
Ainu and Shinto legends
The Ainu legend is that a sharp-toothed demon hid inside the vagina of a young woman and emasculated two young men on their wedding nights. Consequently, the woman sought help from a blacksmith who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth.
The legendary iron phallus is considered that enshrined at the Kanayama Shinto Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan, and there the popular Festival of the Steel Phallus (かなまら祭り) is held each spring. Also, prostitutes considered that praying at that shrine protected them against sexually transmitted diseases.
In Māori mythology, the trickster Māui tries to grant mankind immortality by reversing the birth process, turning into a worm and crawling into the vagina of Hine-nui-te-pō (the goddess of night and death) and out through her mouth while she sleeps. His trick is ruined when a pīwakawaka laughs at the sight of his entry, awakening Hine-nui-te-pō, who bites him to death with her obsidian vaginal teeth.
In her book Sexual Personae (1991), Camille Paglia wrote: "The toothed vagina is no sexist hallucination: every penis is made less in every vagina, just as mankind, male and female, is devoured by mother nature."
In his book The Wimp Factor, Stephen J. Ducat expresses a similar view, that these myths express the threat sexual intercourse poses for men who, although entering triumphantly, always leave diminished.
In rare instances, dermoid cysts (a type of tumor) may grow in the vagina. Dermoid cysts are formed from the outer layers of embryonic skin cells. These cells are able to mature into many different types of tissues, and these cysts are able to form anywhere the skin is or where the skin folds inwards to become another organ, such as in the ear or the vagina. However, when dermoid cysts occur in the vagina, they are covered by a layer of normal vaginal tissue and therefore appear as a lump, not as recognizable teeth.
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- Neumann, Erich; translated by Ralph Manheim (1955). The Great Mother. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 168.
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