This section is from the book "Leonardo Da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study Of An Infantile Reminiscence", by Sigmund Freud. Also available from Amazon: Leonardo da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study of an Infantile Reminiscence.
The element of the vulture represents to us the real memory content in Leonardo's childhood fantasy. The association into which Leonardo himself placed his fantasy direw a bright light on the importance of diis content for his later life. In continuing the work of interpretation we now encounter the strange problem of why this memory content developed into a homosexual tendency. The modier who nursed the child, or rather from whom the child suckled was transformed into a vulture which stuck its tail into the child's moudi. We maintain diat the "coda" (tail) of the vulture, following the common substituting usages of language, cannot signify anything else but a male genital or penis. But we do not understand how die fantastic activity came to furnish precisely this maternal bird with the mark of masculinity, and in view of this absurdity we become confused at die possibility of reducing this fantastic structure to rational sense.
However, we must not despair. How many seemingly absurd dreams have we not forced to give up their sense! Why should it become more difficult to accomplish this in a childhood fantasy dian in a dream!
Let us remember the fact that it is not good to find one isolated peculiarity, and let us hasten to add anodier to it which is still more striking.
The vulture-headed goddess Mut of die Egyptians, a figure of altogedier impersonal character, as expressed by Drexel in Roscher's lexicon, was often fused widi other maternal deities of living individuality like Isis and Hathor, but she also retained her separate existence and her divinity. It was especially characteristic of die Egyptian pantheon diat the individual gods did not perish in this amalgamation. In addition to die attribute of divinity die simple divine image retained its independence. In most representations the vul-ture-headed maternal deity was formed by the Egyptians in a phallic manner.38 Her body which was distinguished as feminine by its breasts also bore the masculine member in a state of erection.
The goddess Mut dius evinced tire same union of maternal and paternal characteristics as in Leonardo's vulture fantasy. Should we explain diis concurrence by die assumption that Leonardo knew from studying his book the androgynous nature of die maternal vulture? Such a possibility is more dian questionable; it seems that the sources accessible to him contained nodiing of such a remarkable character. It is more likely that here as there the agreement is to be traced to a common, effective and unknown motive.
Mythology can teach us that the androgynous formation, the union of masculine and feminine sex characteristics, did not belong to die goddess Mut alone but also to other deities such as Isis and Hadior, but in die latter perhaps only insofar as diey also possessed a modierly nature and became fused widi die goddess Mut.39 It teaches us furdier that odier Egyptian deities such as Neitii1" of Sais out of whom the Greek Athene was later formed, were originally conceived as androgynous or dihermaphroditic, and that the same held true for many of die Greek gods, especially of the Dionysian circle, as well as for Aphrodite who was later restricted to a feminine love deity. Mythology may also offer the explanation that the phallus which was added to die feminine body was meant to denote the creative primitive force of nature, and diat all diese hermaphroditic deistic formations express the idea that only a union of the masculine and feminine elements can result in a worthy representation of divine perfection. But none of diese observations explain the psychological riddle, namely, diat die fantasy of men takes no offense at the fact that a figure which was to embody die essence of the mother should be provided with die mark of the masculine power which is the opposite of modierhood.
The explanation comes from the infantile sexual theories. There really was a time in which the male genital was found to be compatible with the representation of the mother. When the male child first directs his curiosity to die riddle of die sexual life, he is dominated by the interest for his own genitals. He finds this part of die body too valuable and too important to believe that it would be missing in odier persons to whom he feels such a resemblance. As he cannot divine that there is still another equally valuable type of genital formation he must grasp the assumption that all persons, including women, possess such a member as he. This preconception is so firm in the youthful investigator that it is not destroyed even by the first observation of the genitals in little girls. His perception naturally tells him that there is something different here dian in him, but he is unable to admit to himself as die content of this perception that he cannot find this member in girls. That diis member may be missing is to him a dismal and unbearable thought, and he therefore seeks to reconcile it by deciding that it also exists in girls but it is still very small and diat it will grow later.41 If this expectation does not appear to be fulfilled on later observation he has at his disposal another way of escape. The member also existed in the little girl but it was cut off and on its place there remained a wound. This progress of die theory already makes use of his own painful experience. He was threatened in the meantime that this important organ would be taken away from him if it became too much an object of his interest for his occupation. Under the influence of this threat of castration he would now interpret his conception of the female genital, and would henceforth tremble for his masculinity. But at die same time he would look with contempt upon those unhappy creatures upon whom, in his opinion, this cruel punishment had already been visited.
Before the child came under the domination of die castration complex, at the time when he still held the woman at her full value, he began to manifest an intensive desire to look as an erotic activity of his impulse. He wished to see die genitals of other persons, originally probably because he wished to compare them with his own. The erotic attraction which emanated from the person of his mother soon reached its height in the longing to see her genital which he believed to be a penis. With die cognition acquired only later that the woman has no penis, this longing often becomes transformed into its opposite and gives place to disgust, which in the years of puberty may become die cause of psychic impotence, of misogyny and of lasting homosexuality. But the fixation on the once vividly desired object, die penis of the woman, leaves ineradicable traces in die psychic life of the child, which has gone through that fragment of infantile sexual investigation with particular thoroughness. The fetish-like reverence for the feminine foot and shoe seems to take the foot only as a substitutive symbol for the once revered and missed member of die woman. The "braid-slashers,"12 without knowing it play the part of persons who perform the act of castration on the female genital.