From Mr John Clay Sir: There is more to add to James Delingpole's review of David M. Friedman's A Mind of Its Own (Books, 14/21 December). The glossist to Horace's Satires tells us that fascinum was originally a Sabine dialect word, and that it referred to the ten-footlong wooden phalluses that were carried about the Sabine villages as part of the spring fertility rituals. Infertile women stared at the fascinum, fell into a trance (known as 'fascination') and shortly thereafter became pregnant. The subsequent Roman tradition was much less specific.
John P. Clay
New York, USA