Rabbi Solomon ibn Verga writes the following in his work Shevet Yehuda (Ch. 7):

A temple of Lucifer/Venus had a statue with a phallic device which was used to deflower virgins brought in for that purpose. The priests would then gather the blood of the girl’s broken maidenhead and knead it into dough used for baking bread. The men who ate those breads would be rendered “holy”. The girls themselves were not allowed to marry afterwards, but would instead prostitute themselves to anyone who came to the temple at high prices because they believed that any man who engaged in intercourse with them would be absolved of all his sins. The monies received from their services would be split between sustaining the girls themselves and paying the administrating priests of the temple.

What is the source for this legend?

  • 2
    Did the rabbi ever say where the temple was?
    – Spencer
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 0:08
  • @Spencer he merely writes "in the far-off isles of the sea".
    – Harel13
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


Definitely seems consistent with pagan fertility rites, religious mysteries, and rituals for expiation of sin.

For instance, the association of virginity and bread comes via the Kore. Quite literally it is her marriage to Hades that ultimately results in the rebirth of spring, and the growing of grain. (Zagreus/Dionysus is the male parallel, associated with blood/wine, and the two together parallel the Jewish blessings over bread and wine, which later becomes a Christian sacrament.)

Reminds me of something you might find in Herodotus, though the only passage that comes to mind offhand is a description of a Babylonian temple to a form of Aphrodite:

The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite).
Herodotus, Histories 1.199

I did find this entry on blood in bread in the entry on Thesmophoria in a old dictionary of antiquities:

They believed that the flesh of the swine so offered to Demeter would, if mixed with the seed-corn, magically add to its fertility... the custom of mixing blood with the seed-corn ... examples of the Pawnees of America, who used to mix the blood of a human victim with the seed-corn...
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890): THESMOPHO´RIA

[Note that "corn" can refer to grain in general.]

Histories were still highly unreliable during Verga's time, and there were probably a lot of texts with apocryphal material. Possibly this arose out of an oral history? Because of the conflation of Venus/Aphrodite, I'm guessing any direct source would likely be medieval.


I would say the source was the Rabbi's fantasies because there is no way a Rabbi from the time of Columbus could have known about this practice, unless it was still being practiced.

Explanation: Dildos are commonly found in European caves. In the Early Upper Paleo, arranged marriages were not uncommon. It was also not uncommon for girls to break their hymens rather than submit. Only virgins were marriageable, tramps had to "get thee to a nunnery" because no one wanted them. At nunneries like Chauvet these tramps raised the motherless and breastfed for mothers who could not. They were the village that raised the many orphans. They served as the inspiration for and worshiped Hecate, Artemis, and Aphrodite as the Triple Goddesses of Crones.

The blood they collected was mixed with ochre and a palm print of it was placed at the entrance to the temple caves where they prayed. I only figured this out with the internet and a lot of research, I cannot imagine how he came up with that except that Lucifer / Venus is the kind of mixed period naming convention one would expect in a time and place where liturgies were being mixed. That would intimate that his knowledge could have been 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th hand, perhaps?

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