Rabbi Gedaliah ibn Yachya in his work Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah (Jerusalem, 1962), p. 223 alleges that when sacrificing animals, some pagans would remove the gallbladder (מרה, marah) from the animal in order to symbolize that they request sweet things from their god, not bitterness (מרה, marah). Is there any evidence of such a practice in the ancient world? If so, which cult(ure)s followed such a practice?


My esteemed brother-in-law just emailed me an answer. He wrote:

Shalsheleth Haqabbalah may not be as good as a bona fide dead clock which (assuming it is analog) is exactly correct twice a day, but note Clement of Alexandria in Protrept. I 2, PG VIII, 76a.

Although there we see the removal of the heart, the consumption of bile may well be associated with the gallbladder. Perhaps it is my ignorance, but I thought that מרה was bile. If so, you may have your source. The question is whether Clement referred to the consumption of bile specifically from sacrifices, (whether the removal of the bile was itself a form of sacrifice, etc.)

For an old English translation of the Greek, see here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ante-Nicene_Christian_Library/Exhortation_to_the_Heathen#28

So there it is!

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    I don't think you are correct. I am positively sure to have read somewhere, i can't get it right now, that the gall bladder was removed to be offered to the god (as it is uneatable). I am pretty sure to have read that somewhere in a Greek author complaining about that. You have that also in Aeschyleus: "what colour the gall bladder ought to have to please the gods, and the best symmetry for speckled lobes on liver" (Prometheus 490 +) Prometheus is here describing how he taught sacrifice to human beings. So in greek time it is sure the gall blader played one role or another – Gibet Nov 13 '18 at 10:49
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    @Gibet interesting. any sources for that? Could you perhaps write your own answer? – Reb Chaim HaQoton Nov 13 '18 at 19:21
  • Time is something I have few and thus precious. It is always on the safe side to assume I can't answer. But I will try to put something. I am sure for the Greeks, I am almost certain for Mesopotamians (divination in Mesoptomia is so important). I have no recollection of that in Egypt but divination is also a huge part (remind Joseph is able to befriend the Pharaoh due to its dream interpretation, very Egyptian). don't expect too much before sunday. – Gibet Nov 14 '18 at 8:09

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