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Other Festivals

Besides these great and general priapic festivals, there were doubtless others of less importance, or more local in their character, which degenerated in aftertimes into mere local ceremonies and festivities. This would be the case especially in cities and corporate towns, where the guilds came in, to perpetuate the institution, and to give it gradually a modified form. Most towns in England had once festivals of this character, and at least three representatives of them are still kept up, the procession of Lady Godiva at Coventry, the Shrewsbury show, and the guild festival at Preston in Lancashire. In the first of these, the lady who is supposed to ride naked in the procession probably represents some feature in the ancient priapic celebration; and the story of the manner in which the Lady Godiva averted the anger of her husband from the townsmen, which is certainly a mere

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fable, was no doubt invented to explain a feature of the celebration, the real meaning of which had in course of time been forgotten. The pageantry of the Shrewsbury show appears to be similarly the unmeaning reflection of forms belonging to older and forgotten practices and principles. On the Continent there were many such local festivals, such as the feast of fools, the feast of asses (the ass was an animal sacred to Priapus), and others, all which were adapted by the mediæval church exactly as the clergy had taken advantage of the profit to be derived from the phallic worship in other forms.


103:70 See the authorities for these statements in Dulaure, pp. 254-256.

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