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The virgin birth was believed to be the divine impregnation of a young woman by a god. The virgin mother-to-be deflowered herself be straddling the sacred lingam--the god's erect penis--so it penetrated her. While conceiving the god's son, the virgin placed a wreath of flowers upon the head of the god's image. This was a symbolic act and reminiscent of the ancient Indian svayamara ceremony. The wreath symbolized the virgin's genitals, and the head represented those of the god's. Both the head and the lingam were anointed with holy oil in honor of the divine marriage and for the protection of the young woman during penetration. Such ceremonies were customary throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. The holy oil was chrism and the god was a Christos or "Anointed One."
In Roman times this ceremony was very popular with young women. They deflowered themselves upon the carved phalli of Hermes, Tutunus, Priapus or some other "anointed" god before lying with their bridegrooms. Then the firstborn child was thought to be god-begotten. Thus came the phrase "born by the grace of God."
Generally the early Church fathers were opposed to such a deflowering ceremony as it was turning the birth of a Christos which they claimed to be miraculous into an everyday event. Saint Augustine denounced older women for encouraging young, engaged women to participate in the ceremony because he claimed the young women were mislead when viewing it as "very honest and religious." However, Lactantius, another early Christian writer and Church father, explained the ceremony as rendering the bride fruitful "by her communion with the divine nature."
Eventually the "divine nature" seemed to have evolved into a devilish nature which gives rise to the speculation that the ceremony lingered long after it was condemned. This is indicated in the confessions which came out of the medieval witch trails where witches confessed to having sexual intercourse with the devil. "They claimed his penis was hard and cold, and his body was 'cold all over, like a creature of stone.' Such a 'devil' could well have been a creature of stone in fact--that is, a statue of Priapus or one of the other phallic gods, believed to beget Antichrist in the classical manner, as the firstborn of a virgin mother." A.G.H.