The pig-riding Baubo
Approx. 100 BC
Antikensammlung Berlin, Germany

5-15-Baubo auf dem Schwein

Rights (Photo / Work):
© SMB/Antikensammlung, Johannes Laurentius, 2013

List of sources:
Antiksammlung Staatliches Museum Berlin


According to modern-day research this naked female figure is a juggler or acrobat.[1] Referring to older sources, there are various theories on the interpretation of the figure riding on a pig's back which will be briefly outlined here. In Goethe's first part of Faust, „Baubo riding on the pig" appears as follows:„Old Baubo comes alone, I see; Astride on farrow sow is she!" And further:
„So honor be where honor is due! Dame Baubo first! To lead the crew! A hag upon a sturdy sow! All witches come and follow now!"[2] Baubo acts as witch leader in the Walpurgis Night.[3] The connection between Baubo and the goddess Demeter has already been discussed in the context of the Baubo figurines from Priene.[4] Demeter who stands for fertility amongst other things was depicted riding on a pig which is also a symbol for fertility. Some researchers assume that Baubo was Demeter's nurse.[5] The woman sits with her legs wide apart on the horse and exposes her vulva which is diamond-shaped and has suggested labia. Compared to the Baubos from Priene, this representation is clearly vividly and more daring since the vulva is directly exposed althoug it is not a completely realistic image. In the mystery cults of Eleusis, Baubo was called „dea impudica"[6], the shameless goddess. Mithu M. Sanyal argues that the exposure of the vulva was a common gesture during ritual ceremonies in Demeter's honour (as well as in other cults).[7] She further states that in Demeter's honour there were also pastries in the shape of vulvae. Such exposure of the vulva resulted in the new word „Ana-suromai" which was created by Herodot, who had observed this gesture in Egyptian women.[8]

(Translation: C. Wilhelm)