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The milkwoman finally arrives at the tower. Mulligan makes another crack, as a kind of mock anthropologist speaking about the beliefs of “the islanders.” God is the “collector of prepuces”–which is not to suggest that the Irish were much into circumcision [fascinating map of circumcision prevalence around the world here], but is more about circumcision being God’s will for his chosen people–a sign of his covenant.
As for the milkwoman — we’ll talk more about her in the coming panel. For now, two observations — first, who do you think is “saying” the “Rich, white milk” passage. Is it Stephen? Are you sure? Second, the milkwoman is referred to as “maybe a messenger.” Joyce seems to be tipping his hand here, basically announcing MILKWOMAN = ATHENA. So if the first passage is in Stephen’s head, is this in Stephen’s head too? Is Stephen projecting any of the Odyssey parallels onto the scene?