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PRINT November 1975

The Myth of the Androgyne

THE TERM ANDROGYNE, TAKEN FROM the Greek words for male and female, literally means a combining of the sexes, or at least attributes of both sexes, in one figure. Though it can represent the purely physical bisexuality of the hermaphrodite so popular with the decadent writers of the 19th century, this is a very limited and often misunderstood usage of the term. In Classical times the lines of separation between the spiritual concept and the physical concept were clearly drawn. As an idea manifested by myth, or in initiation rites of transference, it was pure, a unifying principle; as a physical reality it was a monstrosity—something to be abhorred. Because the androgyne is a myth, it is constantly reinterpreted to agree with the widely varying concerns of different cultures and different times. The universality of its structure (the unification of opposites) enables it to carry meanings

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