Phil Harland at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean gives us a roundup of pagan rumors about what “really” went on behind the closed doors of the Christian liturgy. A sample: “An infant, cased in dough to deceive the unsuspecting, is placed beside the person to be initiated. The novice is thereupon induced to inflict what seems to be harmless blows upon the dough, and unintentionally the infant is killed by his unsuspecting blows; the blood — oh, horrible — they lap up greedily…” You can see how these stories of cannibalism got started: “My flesh is real food, My blood real drink.” The problem, for Christians, was that such rumors could lead to mob violence or even official persecutions.
I included several of these urban legends in my book The Mass of the Early Christians.
Go, read the whole post. Mr. Harland also gives us Tertullian’s tactful-as-ever response to the rumors: “Come on, plunge the knife into the baby!”
Hat tip: The other Phil at hyperekperisou.