God (of Fertility) Save the Queen

That the Cook Islands, long a British protectorate, would honor Queen Elizabeth II on their currency is no surprise. Indeed, there is nothing unusual whatsoever about the obverse of this 5-cent coin:

Flip it over, however, and the image on the reverse gives one pause:

Can there be a sharper contrast between the Anglo-Saxon regality of one side and the exotic figure of the other?

Tangaroa is the Polynesian god of the sea—obviously a major deity in a land of South Pacific archipelagos. On Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, Tangaroa doubled as the god of fertility, which natives represented in their famed wood carvings by a pronounced phallus.

Early Christian missionaries to the Cook Islands were so flabbergasted by the brazen display of priapic might that they went about systematically removing the offending organ from the statues, turning Tangaroa into a sort of castrati.

But James Berry, the daring designer of this coin, chose to restore Tangaroa to power, so to speak. The symbol of his mighty fertility is clearly visible, making this five-cent Cook Islands coin the only piece of legal tender to show both the Queen and the male member.

Rumors that the flip side is not Tangaroa but Prince Philip, while amusing, are unfounded.

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