Celibacy is a worldwide practice that is often adopted, rarely discussed. Now, in Elizabeth Abbott’s fascinating and wide-ranging history, it is examined in all its various forms: shaping religious lives, conditioning athletes and shamans, surfacing in classical poetry and camp literature, resonating in the voices of castrati, and permeating ancient mythology. Found in every society of the past, practiced by both the anonymous and the legendary (St. Catherine, Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth I, Gandhi), celibacy has as many stories as adherents, and Abbott weaves them into a provocative, seamless tapestry that brings history alive.

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