Ancient Origins of Jewish Ritual Circumcision
In Modern Society

By R. D. Gray

© 2008

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven…


                                                               – Excerpt from the misunderstood Lord’s Prayer


Circumcision is a religious ritual practiced in ancient matriarchal societies. Its popularity was limited in the United States until the 20th century when medical professionals began to encourage the procedure. The claimed benefits have since been found questionable in nature and inconclusive, yet the community continues its support for the procedure unabated. As such, it appears that circumcision today is – at minimum – a sacrificial ritual performed by a proxy priesthood. This is done in a secular medical environment and is in accordance with ancient matriarchal beliefs that have been reincarnated in modern form.

Historical Background and Perspectives of Circumcision

– Documented in Ancient Times

Circumcision is a surgical procedure proven to originate earlier than the second millennium before Christ. It is historically documented in stone at Saqqara, Egypt (ca. 2400 B. C.) [[1]] Mummies pre-dating Saqqara indicate occurrences of it as early as 4000 B. C.  [[2]] Its true origins in place and time are still unknown and are widely disputed by historians and scholars. For example, Albert Churchward stated it to exist in Central America ca. 10000 B. C., having also originated from Egypt. [[3]] Gairdner cites a date as far back as 15000 B. C. [[4]]

– Biblical Origin

This procedure is a cornerstone of modern Jewish religion. It is also recognized and accepted in both Christian and Islamic faith. The foundation of the procedure in these communities is their belief that circumcision is a part of a covenant between the god of Abraham, Abraham, and his descendants. [[5]] As shown by the history above, the ritual was documented before these religions were created. Therefore, it could only have been adopted within the religion as described by end of the sixth century BC.   

– Nommo Found Globally

Ritual circumcision has been found and documented extensively across Africa, in the Americas and in Pacific Aborigine tribes as well.  Islamic influences were not responsible for its presence in all cases. These Afro-Asiatic communities do not necessarily parallel Western ideology or beliefs.  In the case of the Dogon – a tribe in Africa whose priests are called Hogons – for example, Amma is believed to be the god supreme. Circumcision is a key part of Dogon religion as well. Here, however, it involves not only humans, but also an ancestor of humans – a giant fish-god, half-man half-fish, called Nommo. [[6]]  A version of the Nommo’s story was documented in Babylonian mythology by the character called Oannes. Oannes was half-human, half-fish and came from the sea each day to teach Babylonian priests how to write, grow crops, build houses as well as the sciences of mathematics and astronomy. [[7]]. Other versions of Nommo is found in Sumerian and Phyrigian religion also, in the form of the character called Agdistis. [[8]]

– Haskalah Origins in Germany

In modern times the presence of circumcision was seen to coincide with the Haskalah movement of Jewry. Starting in the late 18th century Jews began to leave the ghetto or shetl lifestyle where they lived isolated amongst themselves.  They began integrating into European society. Haskalah marked the beginning or exposure of Judaism with the secular world. [[9]] Events that occurred indicated that circumcision appeared to be on the decline as differences of opinions between Orthodox and Reform factions grew concerning such issues as ritual versus ethnic identity. A major issue surrounded extending the practice into the German culture and society by means of medical or health care. Ephron detailed how Jewish doctors promoted circumcision of gentiles using medical science as the background of their arguments. [[10]]

– Immigration Connection in USA

In similar fashion to Germany, the history of circumcision in the United States today paralleled Jewish immigration and integration. Little debate or practice was seen with the early immigrants, as they were predominately from Western Europe and more culturally assimilated. A major shift was seen in the early 1900s with the arrival of more central and Eastern European Jews – Orthodox types – who still retained the more traditional perspective towards the ritual. [[11]] Since then the procedure has been encouraged and performed extensively since the early 20th century on millions of boys and men by various medical associations and independent doctors who claim various benefits from it. During the periods of the First and Second World Wars the number of circumcisions increased dramatically when the US Government performed an active campaign of circumcising American soldiers fighting in the European theaters against Germany. [[12]]

– Uncertain and Disputed Benefits

Claims about the benefits from circumcision became widespread and exaggerated in 20th century United States. Phimosis – a simple constriction of the foreskin found in both males and females – was identified as a medical problem. Doctors sympathetic to the ritual procedure used it to justify the surgery. Circumcision, in curing phimosis for example, indirectly became a cure-all.  Hodges summarized the extent of which. He noted it was not only a medical cure-all, but a psychological, social and moral one as well.

"Rather than a symptom of disease, phimosis has been classified as a disease sui generis as well as a cause of disease, and as such, for nearly 200 years, presumably responsible physicians, writing in leading medical journals and textbooks, have further claimed that the results of their research `prove’ that phimosis is the cause of such diseases as cancer of the male and female reproductive organs, venereal disease, malnutrition, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, insanity, idiocy, masturbation, heart disease, homosexuality, deafness, dumbness, urinary tract infections, criminality, and death, to name but a few. The drive to cure and prevent phimosis, thus, has been presented as a surgical solution to the most pressing social and moral problems." [[13]]

[13]  WORLD JOURNAL OF UROLOGY, Volume 17, Number 3: Pages 133-136, June 1999, Phimosis in antiquity, Frederick M. Hodges – citing –

– Nature of African Ritual

In Africa today the procedure is performed extensively. The Dogon tribe performs circumcision as a key sacrificial ritual in their culture – but not as a medical procedure.   Common elements of Dogon cultural history and religion have led to theories that the Dogon culture originated in ancient Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs. Scranton, for one, covers the parallels between Dogon culture and the Egyptian religion of that era. [[14]] Their relative isolation in Africa has led to less cross culture contamination over the millennia. In this ancient matriarchal culture based on the womb, circumcision is seen in its original form  -  as a sacrificial religious ritual.

Ideological Perspectives and Background of Ritual Circumcision

– Ancient Ritual Now Medical Procedure

Today historians view circumcision as a surgical procedure originating in ancient Egypt, the purpose of which seemingly resists explanation. Some claim it originated for medical reasons such as minimizing diseases. We see in later history, however, it is recognized and accepted as a sacrificial ritual.  In the Old Testament the Western origins of circumcision is in Genesis, Chapter 17 9-14. Cohen indicates that this chapter was written somewhere between the eighth and sixth century B.C. [[15]] Therefore, what had existed for supposedly unknown medical reasons in Egypt for more than a thousand years prior to the creation of Judaism in Egypt, was suddenly utilized in the Jewish religion as sacrificial ritual.  Despite this contradiction of origins described by modern historians, the purpose of the procedure is clear as stated in chapter 17 of Genesis. It clearly was adapted and became a spiritual rite in the traditional orthodox perspective of Judaism.

[15] Cohen, Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?, p9.

– Claimed Patriarchal Oppression

Convoluting this medical versus ritual origin by historians today, some liberal feminists attempt to identify male circumcision as a symbolic tool with the oppression of women by patriarchal culture. They view circumcision not only as a symbol of male bonding, but something associated with a catastrophic change in global history. For example, Pollack writes:

"This shift from the goddess worshipping matrilineal non-hierarchical cultures to the god worshipping, patriarchal, dominance and violence-based culture was actually the nexus of a cataclysmic paradigm shift whose ripples continue to resonate throughout the fabric of our contemporary secular and religious cultures." [[16]]

[16] Miriam Pollack from Jewish Women Speak Out, p. 171-185, Canopy Press 1995, cited from .

– The Original "Pro-Choice" Ritual

Although rightly viewed as a ritual used in patriarchal theology – and in part for the purpose of oppressing women in society – they nevertheless ignore the elements of Matriarchal worship they espouse. Amidst these resonating ripples, Nettleton in contrast considers the adoption of circumcision as an integral part of the evolution of Judaism. This evolution was not anti-feminist in nature or intent but was simply the adoption of new social values – it was the original concept or version of ‘pro-life choice’ by society towards its males. [[17]]

"After the return from Exile, the practices that prevailed at the time of King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre, who was a priest of Melkarth where child sacrifice was common, were no longer relevant. The new Jewish approach recognized the absurdity and cruelty of murdering able-bodied men. Annual male sacrifice became redundant with the cut of ritual circumcision of the male phallus. It was sufficient evidence of God’s Covenant with man."

– Castration Substitute

Likewise, Nettleton also points out that in Genesis Zipporah used circumcision as a substitute sacrifice in order to save her husband from the requirement of castration. Complete castration was sometimes a requirement in matriarchal religions such as the worship of Cybele and others. The Matriarch who demanded the phallus was evidently present in Pollack’s own ancient Jewish religion at the time of Moses.

[18] Nettleton, Alchemy Key, p. 88.

– Ritual of Equality

Griaule states that one reason for circumcision in the matriarchal Dogon tribe is the obligation of equality and fellowship between men and women. This includes the belief that men should suffer like women. [[19]] This follows a similar such statement stating the cut foreskin symbolized the pain of circumcision, the latter of which related to the need for man to suffer in sex as the female does. [[20]] These reasons – held in matriarchal theology still today – are hardly consistent with feminist theory.

– Female Equality Omitted In New Ideology

Likewise, it is notable that Abusharaf indicates that Jews practiced female circumcision to some extent in the past while Ethiopian Jews did so until just recently. [[21]] With this in mind – the ancient nature of male circumcision together with the lingering practice of female circumcision by the Jewish cults – it raises the question to what degree the changes seen are due to the evolutionary nature of the religion itself. Apparently, both sexes were circumcised equally until the female ritual was phased out and the male ritual was adapted under the newer patriarchal ideology.

[21] Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf, Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives, page 50

– Overview of the Evolution

From this history it seems clear. Modern Judaism was created in Babylon during the 6th century B.C. captivity phase. There, matriarchal circumcision – an ancient matriarchal ritual of substitution and suffering – was adapted for a new role.  It was reinvented and established as a required patriarchal ritual in the Torah as part of Judaism’s new patriarchal perspective. In the centuries prior, the ritual was part of matriarchal ideology common to the Israelites and other Afro-Asiatic cultures. Judaism experienced a strong evolutionary period between the time of Soloman and captivity where outside ideas and beliefs were often adopted and incorporated. This evolutionary period followed other civilizations which were already patriarchal in nature e.g. Greece and Rome.  In this evolution older ideas and rituals were reinvented and used in the new patriarchal order for new purposes.

– Common Ritual In All Perspectives

Despite this period of evolution and change, patriarchal Judaism retained some elements of matriarchal worship. And Judaism still treated circumcision as a ritual instead of a medical procedure. Regardless of the dominant ideology – matriarchal or patriarchal  – both systems of thought incorporated and utilized circumcision as a ritual.  In matriarchal or genetrix worship, it was a substitute for the sacrificial ritual of complete castration. Sometimes it was a ritual of equality of the sexes as pointed out by Griaule above.  In patriarchal Judaism circumcision became a ritual of rejection of the genetrix covenant. Feminist perspectives often overlook how circumcision was an integral part of matriarchal ideology long before it was a patriarchal creation.

Lunar Ideology In Greece and Rome

– Lunar Religious Beliefs

In Greek and Roman times Judaism was a small religion competing and conflicting with other religions, beliefs and practices. They could be collectively described as "lunar" in nature, as done by Julius Evola in his book Revolt of the Modern World. Geographically, these Afro-Asiatic practices were global in former times, more so than today. Their ideology varied but collectively related to the spiritual concepts of Mother Earth and Matriarchy. Time was calculated as a function of the moon’s phases, as Jewish religion does today still. Another common concept was that the moon’s rhythm was believed to be associated with female menstrual cycles. It connected with or affected sexual and other activities of life. Campion points out the moon’s involvement in fertility was widely believed and accepted by rural communities and can be amply documented. [[22]]

– Cosmic Uterus

Martriarchal cosmogenesis conceptualized the creation of the universe in some form of a cosmic egg or cosmic womb giving birth. This may have been an attempt by early man to explain the unknown based upon what he saw around him. In other words, he felt that cosmic genesis had to be similar to birth processes that occurred around him in his everyday life. From these ideas evolved genetrix worship, which then degraded in various different forms. More extreme and crude forms of female genital worship arose in time as society became more complex and interconnected. In the worship of Cybele for example, male priests practiced the extreme forms of genetrix worship including complete self-castration and sacred prostitution. In the environment of these beliefs, circumcision was practiced religiously, both literally and figuratively.

– Solar Religious Beliefs

Other cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans, possessed solar and patriarchal ideology.  Solar ideology conceptualized the sun as a god and the creation of the universe by solar gods. These elements were founded in general in Vedic astrological and astronomical expertise. Time was primarily based upon the sun and its seasons. Planets were observed and believed to influence life on Earth also.    At the peak of their cultures, multiculturalism contributed to the degraded forms of worship that arose, including that related to the male organ or phallus.  Despite the included reverence of phallic imagery in Greek and Roman cultures, it did not include circumcision as a ritual. In response to the matriarchal ritual in Roman society, the emperor Hadrian passed laws forbidding circumcision and castration as performed by these lunar religions in their practices. In short, patriarchal culture did not share the same perspective as the new patriarchal Jewish religion, which maintained its lunar roots.

– Rejection and Extremism

In contrast to the effects Jewish and other matriarchal practices had on Roman culture, the reverse was also seen as well. Roman culture paralleled Greek regarding the foreskin. Hodges states that Greek culture regarded the foreskin with esteem as a "defining feature of the male body." [[23]] Neither did Romans aesthetically appreciate the image of the circumcised phallus. Both Greeks and Romans valued the foreskin, the latter passing several laws to protect it. [[24]] When visibly marked as such, the circumcised did not fit into society as well. As a result, ways were sought and found to minimize the unappreciable image that resulted from the process. Efforts were made and methods devised to appear not circumcised.  One such method was to wear a bronze weight on the residual foreskin, stretching it back out. This was called a Judaium Pondum. [[25]]
Up until these times, circumcision often consisted simply of removing the foreskin that extended beyond the glans itself. This process of minimal removal left the majority of the foreskin intact and at least some form of reversion was possible. However, Rabbis became incensed over these events and reacted by requiring a new radical circumcision known as periah, which completely stripped and sheared the foreskin. This occurred circa 140 AD and is referenced in Kohler 1,964. This is the same procedure performed by the Orthodox factions today, known as synechotomy.

[23] Frederick M. Hodges, Phimosis in antiquity, WORLD JOURNAL OF UROLOGY, Volume 17, Number 3: Pages 133-136, June 1999

– Ritual in Greece & Rome Also

In summary, we see again that historical events relative to circumcision in ancient Greece and Rome circa 140 A.D. reinforce the idea that circumcision was a religious ritual and not a surgical procedure performed for medical reasons. Laws regarding circumcision reflected religious objectives rather than medical ones or improvements in medicine. Victims of the laws made active efforts to reverse the results of the ritual procedure. With this confirmation in mind, we now turn to Jewish sources to justify or provide insight to the reasoning behind their covenant.

Moral, Spiritual and Sacrificial Reasoning

– Spiritual Justification

In Orthodox Judaism, moral and spiritual reasoning embellishes the ritual of circumcision. Pollack states that traditional Judaism views circumcision as a "spiritual rite." [[26]] Cohen notes that Pirqei de Rabbi Eleizer equated circumcision with sacrifice, in addition to the same viewpoint expressed by Leviticus 12 and certain midrashi collections. [[27]]

[26] Miriam Pollack from Jewish Women Speak Out, p. 171-185, Canopy Press 1995, cited from  "Some secular Jews as well as fundamentalist Christians still justify circumcision as divinely inspired ritual of health care, even though, traditionally, Judaism has viewed circumcision as a spiritual rite."

-Maimonides Says Moral Perfection Objective

Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish historian and rabbi, likewise offers to explain or justify ritual circumcision in terms of morality. He stated in his well-known and widely influential works, The Guide of the Perplexed (1190) that the objective of the circumcision commandment was moral perfection, and had nothing to do with congenital defects. [[28]]

[28] Maimonides, The guide of the Perplexed (1190) – quote follows:

-Maimonides Says No Medical Objectives

Therein Maimonides’ explanation for the practice of circumcision cited correction of social problems, specifically violent concupiscence, lust and women’s overcharged libidos.  He further clarified that the main objective of the process is moral perfection and not congenital defects. This moral perfection is achieved through the pain acquired during the physical process. In other words, and simply put, spiritual moral perfection is achieved through physical pain. These reasons concern spiritual ideas and social issues and not medical or physical necessity.

– Medical Support For Ritual in Germany

The "spiritual rite" role, as referred to by Pollack, has been at odds against the utilitarian procedure, but only since the 19th century when the medical institution started to justify the surgery for various reasons. Ephron detailed in his book how

German Jewish medical doctors used medical science to develop arguments to defend and justify ritual circumcision, thus promoting the practice amongst gentiles in the 19th and early 20th centuries. [[29]]

[29] Medicine and The German Jews: A History by John M. Ephron.

– Medical Support For Ritual Migrates to USA

This encouragement as already mentioned above, continued into U.S. in the 20th century, when medical professions and the national government began promoting it, circumcising millions in hospitals and in the military.  Hitherto, it was viewed as ritual.  In the Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th edition (1876), it not only refers to it as a religious rite but indirectly suggests it to be a substituted sacrificial rite, paralleling the view and points herein.

"Like other bodily mutilations … [it is] of the nature of a representative sacrifice. … The principle of substitution was familiar to all ancient nations, and not least to the Israelites. … On this principle circumcision was an economical recognition of the divine ownership of human life, a part of the body being sacrificed to preserve the remainder.

– Cloaking the Ritual

By the 11th edition, the basis of reasoning had been reversed and it was now referred to primarily as a medical procedure and secondarily as an initiation rite.

"This surgical operation, which is commonly prescribed for purely medical reasons, is also an initiation or religious ceremony among Jews and Mahommedans"

– Best Explained by Global Presence

Regarding the documented presence of circumcision almost globally – in Australian, Malay and Polynesian aboriginal tribes, in the Balkans, Asia Minor, Persian and India – the ritual perspective is omnipresent. Often ignored by researchers it is best explained by the simplest idea, i.e., a common ancestral religion or cosmogonic theory. In the future, when more comparative research of these groups has been performed, this may likely come to pass.

– Issue of Perception Versus Reality

Hitherto, we see that arguments vary considerably regarding the practice, perception and reality of the issue. While the medical profession has claimed benefits to various diseases such as cancer, infections, and STDs, psychologists have claimed widespread psychological and social improvements from it. Feminists have criticized it as a symbol of oppression of women and matriarchy in some patriarchal new world order.  Only a minority of researchers and historians support the observation that circumcision was always and still is an ancient sacrificial ritual of matriarchal origin, purpose and reasoning. With this in mind we turn to examining the Brit Milah procedure in more detail.

The Jewish Ritual

– Orthodox and Reform Differences

There are various forms of Jewish ritual circumcision today. Differences arose with the creation of the Reform and Conservative factions of Judaism around the 19th century, with the Reform movement declaring the strict procedure unnecessary at Frankfort in 1843. [[30]] Relaxation of the strict requirements permitted a new approach to the ordeal of civility Jews encountered in their new world outside the shetls and also allowed promotion of the ritual cloaked by secular modern medical associations. The work of Ephron in detailing how Jewish doctors in 19th-century Germany developed arguments to promote circumcision was mentioned above. Here we focus on orthodox aspects.

– Origin and Rules

The Orthodox faction of Judaism still continues to operate in strict fashion according to the ancient laws written in the Torah and Talmud.  In the Orthodox Jewish religion, the ritual is call the Brit Milah meaning "covenant of circumcision", and is referred to in many places in Jewish literature. [[31]] The primary references include Beresheit (Genesis) 17:4 -14.  The covenant mandates that all Jews be circumcised on the 8th day after birth as well as all servants (Gentile slaves) who are "born in the house" or who is "bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants."

[31] See: Yochanan 7:22-23; Acts 7:8; Romans 4:11; Galates 5:11; Philippians 3:5;  Beresheet 17:13; Shemot 4:25-26; Jer 11:16

– Salvation Irrelevant

It is clearly stated that the procedure is not related to the idea of salvation, which can only be acquired through the work of Yeshua. In their own words:

"Circumcision and commandment found in the Torah teaching it is not the basis of Salvation. Circumcision of the flesh cannot save you. It is for the purpose to establish Avrahamic Covenant. Salvation by put your faith in the redemption work of Moshiach Yeshua alone."  [[32]]


– Importance of Circumcision Ritual

Orthodoxy stresses the importance of the procedure and strictly defines the procedure to include three parts – Milah, Periah, and Metzitza. The latter of which was introduced by the Talmud in the 6th century A.D. [[33]] In the words of one Mohel (Ritual Circumciser) :

"It is Equivalent to All the Mitzvot in the Torah. Milah is a great mitzvah because it is equal in importance to all the other commandments combined." [[34]]


Moreover, the world seemingly would never have been created without it:

"If it were not for the Milah, G-d Would Not Have Created the Heaven and the Earth. The Sages say, Great is Brit Milah, for were it not for Brit Milah, heaven and earth would not have endured, as it is written, "Were it not for My Covenant, I would not have created day and night, the laws of heaven and earth." (Jeremiah/Yirmiyahu 33:25) (Talmud Shabbat 137b) " [[35]]

– Strict Requirements

Regarding the three parts, Milah, Periah, and Metzitza,  Milah refers in general to a ‘revealing’ by cutting. A warm fuzzy feeling might be best acquired from their own words concerning the procedure and the importance placed upon it :

"The proper way to perform the Mitzvah of Milah is to cut the foreskin with an iron knife and afterwards to separate the skin of the Periah with the nails and to pull it back to this side and that side (And not cut the skin together with the foreskin) and after that is done, The Mohel has to suck the blood from the cut with his mouth (The Metzitza).

– Periah and Metzizah Required

Now some Mohels annul the Mitzvah of Periah and the Mitzvah of Metzitza completely meaning that they cut the foreskin together with the skin of the Periah and also they annul the sucking of the blood for they don’t suck the blood at all. These things are parts of the Mitzvah of Milah for which our forefathers were ready to give up their lives and now without any coercion these new "Mohels" come and disdain and disregard the tradition of the Jews of all generations. " [[36]]

Should the procedure not include the peeling of the skin and its tearing by fingernails or the sucking of the blood orally, the procedure is considered to be unacceptable. Brit Milah is not complete unless blood is actually drawn. [[37]] Cohen cites Michel de Montaigne’s observations and records of his witnessing a circumcision ritual in Rome in the 16th century book Travel Journal which confirmed the procedure. [[38]] He noted therein a reluctance of the Mohel to clean or remove the blood from his mouth after performing the Metzitza. [[39]] Cohen notes that it was custom to cite the post-Metzizah benedictions with blood still on the mouth in Modena, ca. 1805. In addition he calls attention to Polish Rabbi who preferred to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah with his mouth "dirtied by the blood of circumcision." [[40]]

– Disposal of Foreskin

After the procedure is performed, the foreskin is disposed of in various but common ways. This author recalls his first attention to this subject matter occurred when a news story about a Rabbi stated he placed or buried the foreskins in flower boxes along the busy New York streets where he lived. Rubin and others state burial in dirt or sand is customary. [[41]] Likewise, it is customary to plant a tree on the location. The author also recalls reading that rose bushes were particularly desirable. Few if any explanations for these customs seem to exist. Rubinowitz notes a preference in the choice of trees. In the case of boys, a cedar is appropriate – for girls, an acacia. [[42]] These trees are cut and used later in the bridal canopy (huppa) during the child’s marriage. (More on this below.) It is Interesting to note that the Acacia was found in the temples of Astarte, whose name meant ‘womb.’ [[43]]

[41]  (1 of 8)12/5/2007 12:17:10 PM April Rubin, M.D. – Mohel in Washington, D.C.


– Risks of Metzizah

We note that the Metzizah procedure is not performed with all precautions. Recent (2007) examples include a New York Rabbi that infected three babies with Herpes virus during the oral Metzizah portion of the procedure, one of which died. Despite this, the appropriate United States government agencies refused to put any restrictions on the procedure from the perspective of a medical surgery being performed by anyone without a license to practice medicine. [[44]]

– Meaning Needed

With this as a background, we now turn to the Dogon tribe and it religious beliefs to help clarify the origin and meaning of Brit Milah.  What follows may appear to digress sharply from the subject matter herein but serves to place ritual circumcision into its proper cosmic perspective. Hitherto, we have discussed the subject matter as an end result of a covenant, or as a medical, social or psychiatric problem. It has also been viewed and discussed in context of an element in social theory. Brit Milah has been presented in adequate and somewhat gory detail. However, we still have not conceptualized the cosmic or spiritual meaning of ritual circumcision. There is more to it than simply cutting off the foreskin to make someone’s god happy or to cure a slew of medical and social problems. Beyond the excised foreskin one will find the god of matriarchal belief, his cosmogenesis and the fish-being called Nommo.  

Foreskin and the Tree of Life

– Amma’s First Creation

To understand the cosmic character of Jewish ritual circumcision we turn to the Dogon tribe of Africa for insight. In their religion the supreme god Amma created the first world, which was used to create the first universe. Before this however, the first thing created was the sene na, or Acacia (Faidherbia) albida.  [[45]] Faidherbia is a thorny tree important to African life. Uses include bee raising, livestock food, lumber for construction, medicinal use, etc. [[46]] Found widespread, Acacia is omnipresent in ancient religions. For example, in the temples of Astarte as mentioned above and in Free Masonry where it is viewed as a ‘new plant’ associated with resurrection. [[47]]

[45] Griaule, Pale Fox, pg 112.

– Tree Used in Creation

In this creation story Amma planted the seed of the Acacia tree, which was the same shape as the tree’s thorns. He placed a bell-shaped cap of the same wood on top of it and held it in place with another thorn (seed) that was inverted. Similar to a gyroscope or top, the inverted cap, which received everything in the ‘sky’, next spun until it eventually exploded. The germs within the cap were fertilized by the thorns before eventually being scattered to form the universe. [[48]]

[48] Griaule, Pale Fox, pg 112.

– Symbolism of Seeds/Thorns

Griaule specifically records here the cosmic image of the thorns:

".. the two (thorns) which remained were like a man and a woman who lie down
and unite (literally; to enter into). These two thorns (represent) the union of the sky and the earth." [[49]]

[49] Griaule, Pale Fox, pg 114.

The Acacia symbolizes therefore not only the first plant, but also the first object created by god. It also was used in the creation of the universe. Two triangular Acacia thorns pointing towards each other are viewed as male and female united sexually, and is symbolic of the union of the male sky and the female Earth.

– Similar Symbolism in Huppa

With this in mind, we return to the orthodox ritual recalling how the foreskin is buried. This is often at the roots of either some type of tree or bush. Sometimes this tree is later cut down and the trunk used for the four poles of the marriage canopy (huppa). The canopy is said to signify god’s presence. In addition, it is a symbol of the home the couple will eventually establish. [[50]] Gutmann points out that the huppa was originally a bedroom canopy until the 16th century. [[51]] After that time the use changed when marriages were held in the synagogue instead of in homes. Gutmann, referring again to the huppa, also points out that the couple in ancient times were rolled in it, rather than simply being under it. Apparently it was associated more with nuptial behavior.  In signifying god’s presence, the huppa canopy today symbolizes the sky above (or held up by) the poles of the four corners of the universe (or trees). This would be consistent with the ancient belief that the sky god was male in character, the upper thorn or seed as described above.

– Importance of Milah

The parallel in the importance of the tree found in both Jewish ritual circumcision and in Dogon cosmogenesis is reinforced by Yitzchak. He, et al., considers Milah to be "equal in importance to all other commandments combined." [[52]] Heaven would not have ‘endured’ without it in Jewish literature, and the universe would not have been created without it in Dogon mythology.

"The Sages say, Great is Brit Milah, for were it not for Brit Milah, heaven and earth would not have endured, as it is written, "Were it not for My Covenant, I would not have created day and night, the laws of heaven and earth." (Jeremiah/Yirmiyahu 33:25) (Talmud Shabbat 137b)" [[53]]

[52]Brit Yosef Yitzchak,

– Babylonian Tree Ceremony

In general Goldberg recognizes the extent of ancient tree worship, considering it once to be a "universal religion." [[54]] This universal nature apparently accounts for the origin of the Jewish idea because we find the same concept in the Babylonian festival of New Year For Trees. In this festival trees were planted for each child born. Levy agrees with scholars that Tu B’Shvat, Jewish Earth Day, was adopted and adapted from a Babylonian festival for the goddess Asherah. Hoffman points out that the festival included ritual prostitution under trees or in the groves. The later disdain for the trees supposedly related to their use for this purpose. [[55]] (This may have more to do with the problem of comparative competition by Jewish women as seen in the Maimonides quote.)  Prohibiting any form of tree worship, the rabbis converted it into a tax-collecting day. [[56]] Understandably, it was difficult to eliminate or convert this festival and its sinful activities.  Nevertheless, the symbolism of the huppa is the same as the Babylonian tree festival.  Nuptial behavior took place under the presence of god, entwined with him one might say, in the groves.

[54] Goldberg, Sacred Fire, pg. 110.

– Sumerian and Phyrgian Nommos

Seeing the parallel between Jewish ritual circumcision and Babylonian mythology, we need simply the parallel concerning the relationship between the foreskin and tree. The antiquity of the relationship is confirmed by the story of Agdistis from Sumerian myth. Probert records that Agdistis was a ‘hermaphrodite monster’ drugged with wine by the gods. While unconscious his genitals were tied to a tree. He castrated himself upon awakening after which a tree grew from his genitals. [[57]] The parallel between Agdistis and Nommo is intuitively obvious. Griaule, however, provides the link in detail.


– Ogo, The Mischievous Nommo

In the Dogon story the character named Ogo was a mischievous nommo who created disorder within the universe. Amma (the supreme god) sought to restore universal order by means of a sacrifice of another Nommo. The sacrifice was carried out in utero by separating the nommo from his uterus at the same time he was completely castrated. The blood of the penis rejuvenated or revitalized the damaged placenta at the same time the yayaga plant was formed on the spot of the fallen blood. [[58]] In this scenario, the contents of the genitals were sacred and sought after by Ogo. He took the contents along with the four sex souls located in the prepuce and attempted to steal it all. [[59]] His escape was thwarted by a nommo guard who recovered the four sex souls by circumcising Ogo using his teeth. [[60]]

– Periah of Ogo

It is important to note here that Ogo was circumcised with the teeth of the nommo, i.e., the skin was ripped off and torn out, not cut. This corresponds to the periah mitzah performed in the Jewish ritual. Griaule states also states that the ritual circumcision of a human being is a reenactment of this mythological story of Ogo.  More important, the four recovered sex souls, known as the kilena, changed into a saselu (Boscia salicifolia, Oliver) tree and grew on the blood of the circumcision. [[61]]

[61] Griaule, The Pale Fox, p 269.

– Ritual Re-enactment of Nommo Circumcision

From these parallel stories it is clear that Jewish ritual circumcision is a reenactment of ancient matriarchal mythology. The foreskin from Brit Milah, taken on the 8th day, planted as such, grows into a tree, which in turn one day embellishes the nuptial activities of the newlywed couple. These activities serve as a reenactment identical to that of the Babylonian tree festival where male and female conjoined in the groves under the open sky. This sexual activity in itself, was a reenactment of creation of the universe, where Mother Earth once conjoined with the sky (Amma).  The huppa trees themselves grow from the circumcised genitals of its sacrificial victim, as did those of the sacrificial victims who were castrated – Agdistis and Nommo Semu.  The foreskin from the Milah circumcision, ripped away as such, reenacts the battle of the nommos over the digressions of Ogo where the latter was circumcised violently. The Metzizah or oral part of Milah where the rabbi orally suctions the sacrificial wound, reenacts the battle between the nommos where Ogo is orally circumcised. The blood of circumcision – from which trees grow – parallels other mythologies as it symbolizes life cycle rejuvenation and regeneration. In the mouth of a rabbi blowing a shofar, is seen to symbolize the life cyle celebration of the Jewish race.  The ritual of Brit Milah, performed on the eighth day, reenacts the sacrifice of the nommo semu, also sacrificed in eight time periods. [[62]]

[62] Griaule, The Pale Fox, p. 253.

Dual-Soul in Dogon Cosmogenesis

– Dual Soul Concept Important

As seen in the previous sections, circumcision and castration is a key element in the creation and life-cycle mythology of ancient matriarchal religions. From these mythologies the sacrificial rituals of the Dogon, Sumerian, Babylonian, etc. were adopted and adapted into the Jewish religion. These symbols of creation of the universe were adapted in the creation of the new patriarchal religion and were transferred to the Jewish race or people themselves. Priests were replaced with rabbis. But the concepts of genetrix worship (egg, womb, placenta, uterus) were not the only ideas in which circumcision would play a role. The concept of the dual soul is important also.

– Matriarchal Ideas Adopted

The Dogon religion being matriarchal in nature involves the idea of a "cosmic birth" from the genetrix or womb created by the supreme god. Reproduction is also a central theme. Some of these ideas and related concepts evolved and were adopted into Judaism and Christianity. One such example would be the Virgin Mary. Another example would be the covenant of Abraham – the subject matter of this paper. Through ritual circumcision the original concept of dual souls is enforced and carried through time. The role of circumcision in the Jewish life cycle – a form of rebirth – may also be viewed from the perspective of propagation or reincarnation.

– Amma Created Nommo

Amma, the supreme creator, is the focal point of the Dogon religion.  The universe was created by him though a process somewhat similar to that of female reproduction today involving a placenta and egg. The Earth was one of the many things created in the process.  Amma had intercourse with Mother Earth twice. The first time he fathered a creature called the Jackal. [[63]] The second time he fathered a pair of celestial spirits half human and half serpent, called Nommo. The pair was spirited to heaven. Nommo are equated with water and light by the Dogon. [[64]] By clothing the Earth with plants and providing it with language and words, the Nommo constructed the world. [[65]]

[63] Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmeli, pg 17.

– Nommo Created ‘Bi-Sexual’ Humans

Amma created a human pair from clay but they were provided with twin souls by the Nommo spirits.  The human pair were male and female but both were afterward viewed in the sense as "bisexual" because they had both male and female souls. The foreskin or prepuce was considered to be the female soul in the male, while the clitoris was considered to be the male soul in the female. [[66]32c] Humans were imperfect twins however, and not capable of supporting both beings or souls. [[67]33] These extra souls had to be removed for the human being to be whole, that is to say, to remove all the femininity and masculinity contained therein. Nommo circumcised the male, after which the foreskin changed into a lizard, a symbol of the female. The male was then whole. [[68]33a]

[66] Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmeli, pg 22.

– Female Circumcision

After his circumcision the male had intercourse with the female and she gave birth to the first two of eight total children. They in turn became the eight ancestors of the Dogon people. At the moment of this first birth an invisible hand excised the clitoris and turned it into a scorpion, the venom of which symbolizes the pain of childbirth. [[69]] The female was then whole.

[69] Griaule, Conversations with Ogotemmeli, pg 22.

– Necessity of Excision

Based on this story, circumcision is considered as a remedy and necessity of both human sexes because of the imperfect nature of humans. A similar parallel is found in Theosophy where the downfall of the races creates imperfect degenerated races, which resorted to physical intercourse in order to reproduce.  The dual souls possessed by the first humans were a danger to which circumcision was the cure. The Dogon story idea requires both the male and female to be circumcised in order to be whole and to restore cosmic order.

– Reversal of Ritual Idea

As stated above, female circumcision was apparently a part of the Jewish religion. It may be still present in isolated sects such as the Falasha. In general, the ritual has fallen into disuse since the creation of the Old Testament. Only the male has continued the propagation of the dual-soul concept through circumcision. Nydle confirms a strong parallel between ritual circumcision and Dogon belief when he wrote that the term ‘uncircumcised’ symbolized "that something is spiritually incomplete." [[70]] This was the same reason (i.e. to make whole) Griaule found in the Dogon religion. Genesis 17:14 itself refers to the foreskin as a soul thus further confirming the parallel. [[71]] In Dogon mythology the female soul lies either within or is the foreskin itself, which is then separated from the male soul which exists in the body. The blood – which parallels that of female menstrual blood – helps feed the foreskin to grow or rejuvenate into a tree. Taking the scripture cited literally, Judaism adapted the procedure by equating the male body with the Jewish race, people or culture. The feminist perspective was correct in this instance where patriarchal Judaism adopted the matriarchal idea of separation of the female soul from the male (and vice-versa) by circumcision, converting it into the patriarchal idea of conjoining the Jew to his people by circumcising away his female half, thus making him complete.  [[72]]

Citing Nydle once again, reading his interpretation of Bereshith using the Dogon perspective for interpretation, we note an interesting parallel regarding the metzizah. The uncircumcised child has broken the covenant with Yahweh passively, by some undisclosed means and he must suffer a penalty unless circumcised. Nydle states that the word "karat’ found therein means "to destroy, perish, or consume." 
[[73]] Using the latter meaning, the scripture would read "his life shall be consumed." If the life is equated with the soul and/or foreskin, in the larger context it would read:  “the   uncircumcised bisexual with two souls, shall have his life (foreskin) consumed.”

In other words, the rabbi, by performing the metzizah, symbolically consumes the foreskin (life) from his people (male body/soul), in an identical fashion to the sacrificed nommo story of Dogon theology. The blood of circumcision representing the ‘seed’ of Abraham would be the parallel Amma’s ‘seeds’ of the universe, stolen and recovered by the nommos.   Another parallel of Amma’s creation, adapted to the Jewish faith.

Reenactment of Dogon Cosmogenesis

– Ogo’s Revolt: A Story of Disorder

Returning to the creation of the Nommo by Amma, we find circumcision in another part of Dogon religion relating to a universal disorder or chaos created by one of the eight Nommo. During the gestation period of the Nommo, one of the males became problematic while still in utero. This was due to his desire to control or have his female twin. Still attached to his placenta, he broke away, taking a piece of the placenta with him. The torn piece of placenta turned into earth material and took the form of an ark, which descended into space. It then became Mother Earth, the planet. This Nommo was named or called Ogo.

– Theft of Kilena

Amma attempted to repair the damage to the womb done by Ogo by sacrificially castrating another of the celestial Nommos. The blood spilled and ran onto the forming universe of Amma. Ogo returned to the site of the celestial sacrifice and took the four sex souls (kilena) of the victim that were located in the foreskin. In addition, he took part of the semen of the victim also in his mouth and then attempted to flee.

– Kilena Recovered

His escape was partially blocked however by another Nommo brother present in the form of a fish.  The brother Nommo could not stop the escape of Ogo, but managed to retrieve the four stolen sex souls by circumcising Ogo. This was done during the altercation by biting off the foreskin with his teeth. The stolen semen (seeds) was taken back by damaging Ogo’s teeth, tongue and voice. Ogo escaped to Earth incapable of speech or other sound and transformed into the Pale Fox.

– Collective Suffering

It is believed in Dogon mythology that all men must collectively suffer circumcision as punishment for Ogo’s theft of the placenta. The ritual is a reenactment of the cosmic story of Ogo performed on Earth. In addition, it commemorates Ogo’s injuries and eternal transformation into the Pale Fox. Bonnefoy confirms reenactment:"The rite would later be repeated for all men because by circumcising the human being one repeats what (on the cosmic level) Ogo had done in an attempt to seize his twin." [[74]]

"The rite would later be repeated for all men because by circumcising the human being one repeats what (on the cosmic level) Ogo had done in an attempt to seize his twin."

– Need To Be Whole

Based on Dogon mythology, circumcision is seen in two ways. First, it is considered to be a remedy and necessity when humans possess dual souls. Dogon mythology shows that the extra soul must be removed, and that both male and female need to be circumcised in order to be whole. The blood of circumcision is equated to that of female menstruation – both impure and the same.

– Concept of Debt and Punishment

Second, for all males, circumcision is a debt and punishment required to mother Earth. This debt must be paid by shedding one’s blood for the actions and antics of the Nommo called Ogo. Ogo later became the Pale Fox. Man therefore suffers for desiring his female twin and for creating the disorder of the universe in his attempt to have her.

– Equality of Debt

The debt of circumcision in males parallels that same debt for females. Women must be excised to be whole. Their menstruation is a punishment that parallels that from the story of mother Earth. [[75]] Griaule specifically explains that upon touching the soil when born, a debt is contracted with the Earth. The attachment to the earth by ‘The thread of God’ grew from the prepuce or clitoris and entered the soil. Established upon contact with the ground by the child upon birth, it is severed at circumcision. [[76]]

– Obligation of Fellowship

Griaule summarizes the reasons for circumcision to include: 1) the removal of an evil force, 2) payment of the blood-debt, as discussed above, and 3) an obligation of fellowship between men and women, that men should suffer like women. [[77]] The latter of which is quite a contradiction of the feminist position discussed above. While feminists claim that circumcision is a procedure or tool in the cultural oppression of women in society, we find that not only did Jewish women supposedly used it to save their husbands from the debt of complete castration as required from the Matriarch, but that the Dogon perform the ritual in part out of fairness towards women, a form of equality from suffering the pains of childbirth.

[77] Griaule, p159.


This article provides sufficient documentation and references regarding the ritual nature of circumcision. It is an ancient sacrificial ritual related to ancient matriarchal cosmogenesis. It dates far back in time, long before the creation of the Jewish religion.  Judaism adopted and adapted the ritual by way of Egypt sometime before or by the sixth century BC.

The procedures of Jewish ritual circumcision, Brit Milah, closely parallels the rituals performed by the Hogon priests of the Dogon tribe in Africa today.  Rabbis today   enforce the debt of all males to the genetrix of Mother Earth, whose placenta was damaged in the course of creation. The consort of Earth created humans who were perfected by divine beings, but were still incomplete. To be whole, circumcision was required. Likewise in Jewish religion, circumcision perfects the imperfect male, allowing him to marry thus forming and becoming an image of the perfect Nommo pair, thus maintaining the dual-soul concepts of matriarchal religion.  Through Milah and Metzizah the Rabbi simultaneously re-enacts in the Jewish life cycle the story of the Nommos – their blood and actions being an integral part in the creation of the universe. The story of Nommo essentially becomes the story of the Jews.

This ritual of matriarchal creation was mostly unknown in America until the early part of the 20th century because Protestants were inclined to ignore the Old Testament. Medical professions began to promote it as a cure-all for both medical and sociological problems. Dissension to the new politically correct research was repressed in many formats. Mandatory circumcision requirements by the U.S. military starting in World War I was a major factor in the rapid growth of the number of circumcisions in the U.S. throughout the 20th century. Today, the benefits and claims attributed to circumcision are still controversial and research confirming the claimed benefits appear lacking. In view of this background over the 20th century, it raises the question regarding the purpose of the millions of the surgeries that were apparently performed needlessly. It also suggests that the medical field serves to perform circumcisions more as a continuance of ancient religious beliefs rather than as a modern medical surgery with documented benefits.

Regarding the "Lords Prayer" which opened this paper, it ends with the word "Amen." Christian apologists claim various meanings to the word.  Amen, however, is the name of an ancient Egyptian god and therefore those who recite the prayer as such, essentially pray to and close the prayer in the name of Amen.

Some historians have identified or accepted the idea that the Egyptian god Amen equates with the African god Amma. To the extent that this is true, the statements of the Lord’s Prayer themselves apply equally to Amma. In this case, the statements found in the prayer would be subject to interpretation and understanding relative to the religion of Amma, and it would not be irresponsible to think that these statements are misunderstood as currently spoken.

In light of this idea and considering circumcision to be a ritual reenactment – as seen in Dogon cosmogenesis and Brit Milah of Judaism – it strongly appears that the Lord’s Prayer is a verbal confirmation of that reenactment.  In contrast to the simple idea that earth order parallels that of the cosmos, it is clear that the words ‘thy will be done’ pertains both literally and figuratively. Circumcision today serves to reenact a story of creation in accordance with matriarchal beliefs. The re-enactment is performed on a daily basis. Jewish and Christian scripture should be considered with this idea in mind.