Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

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GakuseiDon
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Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

Post by GakuseiDon »

There is a connection between Tertullian's "Ad nationes" and Minucius Felix's "Octavius", in which one seems to have been influenced by the other, though which one was written first is disputed. Tertullian wrote around 200 CE, and Felix somewhere from 160 CE to 250 CE.

Both sources refer to claims by pagans that Christians used dogs in their shameless rites. The accusation is that dogs are tied to candles and are provoked to run off and thereby extinguishing the source of light, at which point an incestuous orgy begins.

Tertullian, Ad nationes:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... ian06.html

What am I saying? Since your researches for rooting out our society must needs be made on a wide scale, you ought to extend your inquiry against our friends and companions. Let our infanticides and the dressers (of our horrible repasts) be brought out,--ay, and the very dogs which minister to our (incestuous) nuptials; then the business (of our trial) would be without a fault.

For no doubt, when any desire initiation in the mysteries, their custom is first to go to the master or father of the sacred rites. Then he will say (to the applicant), You must bring an infant, as a guarantee for our rites, to be sacrificed, as well as some bread to be broken and dipped in his blood; you also want candles, and dogs tied together to upset them, and bits of meat to rouse the dogs. Moreover, a mother too, or a sister, is necessary for you. What, however, is to be said if you have neither? I suppose in that case you could not be a genuine Christian...

I am now come to the hour for extinguishing the lamps, and for using the dogs, and practising the deeds of darkness...

Minucius Felix, Octavius:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... avius.html

On a solemn day they assemble at the feast, with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of every sex and of every age. There, after much feasting, when the fellowship has grown warm, and the fervour of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to the chandelier is provoked, by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound, to rush and spring; and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness, the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate...

Can anyone shed any light (no pun intended!) on this practice? I can see how the accusation of "Christians eat flesh and drink blood in their rites" might develop, but not the accusation of dogs being used to extinguish candles to start orgies. Any thoughts?
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Peter Kirby
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

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Another reference:

A judge should wring out of each one of us how many murdered babies we had tasted, how many incestuous orgies we had joined in the dark — who were the cooks and how many dogs were present? My, how great would be the glory of the judge who uncovered a Christian who had eaten one hundred babies! (Tert. Apology, 2.5)
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

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Speculations here:

The detail was graphic, helped the story stick, and that could be the whole thing.

Or.. maybe the implication is that they knew what they were doing was wrong, so they wanted there to be no witnesses. They then needed a way to bring darkness without a witness of who started it. Hence the dog trick.
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

Post by schillingklaus »

Doesn't the talmud hve something with a donkey overturning the lamp?
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GakuseiDon
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

Post by GakuseiDon »

Peter Kirby wrote: Thu Jan 13, 2022 8:39 pm Speculations here:

The detail was graphic, helped the story stick, and that could be the whole thing.

Or.. maybe the implication is that they knew what they were doing was wrong, so they wanted there to be no witnesses. They then needed a way to bring darkness without a witness of who started it. Hence the dog trick.
Yes, that's an interesting possibility: done so that no human starts the indecency. I had in mind some kind of underworld connection to Anubis and magic (so it is Anubis who starts the orgy), but I have no data to support that.

Given that the other accusations by pagans have some kind of connection to Christian rites, although very distorted, I suspect that this also has its origin somehow in a distorted view of Christian rites.
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

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schillingklaus wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 2:53 am Doesn't the talmud hve something with a donkey overturning the lamp?
Thanks for that, schillingklaus. I just looked that up: https://www.sefaria.org/Shabbat.116b.3?lang=bi

The Gemara relates: Imma Shalom, the wife of Rabbi Eliezer, was Rabban Gamliel’s sister. There was a Christian philosopher [pilosofa] in their neighborhood who disseminated about himself the reputation that he does not accept bribes. They wanted to mock him and reveal his true nature.

She privately gave him a golden lamp, and she and her brother came before him, approaching him as if they were seeking judgment. She said to the philosopher: I want to share in the inheritance of my father’s estate. He said to them: Divide it. Rabban Gamliel said to him: It is written in our Torah: In a situation where there is a son, the daughter does not inherit. The philosopher said to him: Since the day you were exiled from your land, the Torah of Moses was taken away and the avon gilyon [the Gospels] was given in its place. It is written in the avon gilyon: A son and a daughter shall inherit alike.

The next day Rabban Gamliel brought the philosopher a Libyan donkey. Afterward, Rabban Gamliel and his sister came before the philosopher for a judgment. He said to them: I proceeded to the end of the avon gilayon, and it is written: I, avon gilayon, did not come to subtract from the Torah of Moses, and I did not come to add to the Torah of Moses. And it is written there: In a situation where there is a son, the daughter does not inherit.

She said to him: May your light shine like a lamp, alluding to the lamp she had given him. Rabban Gamliel said to him: The donkey came and kicked the lamp, thereby revealing the entire episode.

It seems to be a story exposing the hypocrisy of the Christian philosopher. Interesting! But probably not a connection to the dogs upsetting the candles, unfortunately.
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

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Isn't Andrew the best? My vote for best contributor to these forums. Should be in our hall of fame if we ever develop one. Star on the walk of fame.
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GakuseiDon
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

Post by GakuseiDon »

andrewcriddle wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 10:38 am See Visotzky Overturning the lamp
https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/ ... frontcover
https://www.jjs-online.net/archives/article/1309

Andrew Criddle
Holy cow! There's a lot of good information there! Thanks so much Andrew. :notworthy: :notworthy:

I'll pull out the references to the Church fathers when I get the chance and post them here for those interested. From reading though it looks like the use of dogs didn't have any special significance (and sadly, no connection to Anubis) as I first suspected. It is more the action of extinguishing the light as the initiator of illicitness that is important. Which makes me think that schillingklaus's reference to the Talmud's use of the metaphor of the donkey overturning the golden lamp may be relevant after all.

This is why I love this forum! :cheers:
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Re: Dogs tied to candles... what is the origin of this?

Post by Peter Kirby »

Secret Alias wrote: Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:41 am Isn't Andrew the best? My vote for best contributor to these forums. Should be in our hall of fame if we ever develop one. Star on the walk of fame.
Definitely in the running for GOAT
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