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Author Topic: Human sacrifice  (Read 38103 times)
BGMarc
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« Reply #15: August 25, 2010, 06:10:33 am »

Thank you for being sensitive and asking thought-provoking questions. Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm seeing that I've got a lot of defensive reactions in regards to this topic, which has me surprised. I'll try to do better about articulating myself. ...I hope that makes more sense.

You're welcome Smiley I find it can be difficult getting ideas in this sort of area explicit and coherant on the first few (hundred) tries. I think you did really well, it made a lot of sense Cheesy It made sense in all sorts of ways the first time, but I really wanted to understand more about which ones you intended. That said, I'd like to pull apart the bits because you've got some really interesting and complex bits in there Smiley

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I suppose the reason actual human sacrifice disturbs me is the fact someone had to be killed for it to happen.

From a shamelessly Stoic perspective; all people die, which is not to be as glib as might first appear.

Across a broad range of belief systems (e.g. secular humanism, Christianity (some), Islam (some), Hellenic and Roman polytheisms) the circumstances of a person's death can have great impact on the 'meaning' of their life. Unfortunately, that's a poor and slippery word for the job, yet it's the the best I can manage; so, I'll try and tease it apart somewhat. Be it the suffering of the Christ, the deaths of the martyrs, Achilles or Erechtheus, or death in the service of some secular cause, people across time and culture have placed great importance on the manner of a person's death. It sort of makes sense when I consider something my grandmother told me when she was alive -dying is easy, everybody does it. I didn't understand at the time, but over the years it's come to mean that death of itself is nothing special. It's life or the afterlife (for those who believe) that has the focus of most people. This seems such a truism that it is hardly surprising to me that Bhuddism arose, in part at least, in response to it. Whether death is a conscious experience, a non-conscious experience, or no experience of any kind, dying marks its border.

The fact that you focus on the manner of the dying makes sense taken in this context. The point I suppose I'm trying to make is that the fact that the person will be dead after it, the fact that they will no longer be alive after it, aren't relevant. It is just the manner of the dying. So, what sort of dying is it?

It seems to me that it is a is a death that has been chosen and imbued with purpose, sometimes even by the individual concerned. Certainly by those who perform the sacrifice. It is a way of dying that places the individual apart from the vast majority of other people. Their life has been gifted to a god, or given in service of their family/people (in some ancient societies the boundary was nowhere near as sharp as it tends to be recently); made sacred and set apart from other things.

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Whatever the thoughts were on the proper use of prisoners of war, or the desires of the gods, the modern values I was raised with tell me that murder is wrong.

I think it would be hard to argue that murder is ever right (or at least not often so); however, for many people murder and killing are not the same thing. Murder is a legal concept and many classes of killing are deemed not to count. Killing in self defence, or in service of one's country are generally not seen as murder. Revenge killings by the state are condoned in many countries. A lot of people are in favour of euthenasia; I'm sure you get the point. Not all killing is murder.

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Human life is sacred, and the act of killing should have very good justification behind it (for example, in self-defense of oneself or loved ones, or in capital punishment involving serial killers). To me, "because (I think that/my culture or religion tells me that) the gods want me to" isn't a nearly good enough excuse.

I had several responses to this cross my mind, but I hope you will let me ask a little further first. What are the gods to you? I ask in terms both of what role do they play in the greater reality and in terms of what they mean to you personally. I would also ask what do you think they mean/meant to other people, now and in the past?

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Going to why I don't like the idea of gods accepting that sort of sacrifice... because murder is such a Very Bad Thing in my eyes, I don't like thinking that my gods are associated with Very Bad Things.

I would like to suggest that you are absolutely right, but not in the way I think you meant Smiley Murder is a Very Bad Thing. If your gods are, or have been, associated with the killing of people (or anything else for that matter) and it is true that not all killing is murder, then you would be right in believing that your gods were not associated with murder if it were also true that killing in sacrifice is not murder.

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I acknowledge that most of the gods we have written myths for were/are involved in some pretty terrible things, though I think that there's a deity, and then there's the deity as represented by a certain author, in a certain time period, writing with as much bias as an author today.

True, but these myths have stood the test of time and culture; if not unbroken to now, then at least over long periods. That suggests to me that the truths about the world and the gods that people found in them were more than those of any few poets, bards or other nameless godbotherers. At the very least, it invites me to think deeply on the place of the things that horify me within the greater patterns of reality.

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And with the relationships I've kindled over the years, I can't imagine ever being okay with the gods I know and love accepting a human sacrifice.

Just reiterating that it is not my intent to question or comment on that relationship or experience.

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That's condoning actual murder - not the mythological or figurative kind, but the real kind - and that's not right by me.

Once again, I question whether this is necessarily so.

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Finally, as far as my dislike of human effigy goes... an effigy is supposed to be a stand-in of the real thing. Since I view literal human sacrifice as unjustified murder, I have a hard time understanding why someone would want to reproduce that, even without the loss of human life. However, since there are definitely intentions other than that (even if I can't think of them right now), if the intent of the sacrifice is clearly stated and there's a certain reasoning there for why someone wants to include that... I'd be willing to listen. I don't think I could participate in that ritual, but I would try to understand it.

There's an old thread or two around here that explore that part a bit more than I want to here (but I haven't time to find them just now - sorry). I hope that it makes more sense though in the context of what I have already written here, as well as in response to your ongoing introspection on the issues. Thanks for a post with such interesting facets Smiley
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« Reply #16: August 25, 2010, 07:29:45 am »

the modern values I was raised with tell me that murder is wrong. Human life is sacred, and the act of killing should have very good justification behind it (for example, in self-defense of oneself or loved ones, or in capital punishment involving serial killers). To me, "because (I think that/my culture or religion tells me that) the gods want me to" isn't a nearly good enough excuse.

I have no idea where I'm even going with this, but this thought jumped out at me:  I find it interesting that you first acknowledge the role of cultural values in your own views on the situation, and then say that cultural values are not good enough justification for a particular action.  It seems a little contradictory to me.  If cultural values are a solid enough foundation for your position against human sacrifice, why would they not be a solid enough foundation to support a position that allows it?

There are a couple of other things about this that are nagging at me...  One is the distinction between murder and killing.  I don't know a lot about ancient human sacrifice practices, so I don't know if this applies, but--what if the sacrifice were willingly given?  Is it still murder then?  In addition, I wonder why you don't feel that "the gods want it", in the context of an ancient society, is good justification.  When you believe that the livelihood of your entire city rests on ensuring that the city is in the gods' good favor, what is better justification than ensuring the gods' good favor and thus the survival of your people?

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I acknowledge that most of the gods we have written myths for were/are involved in some pretty terrible things, though I think that there's a deity, and then there's the deity as represented by a certain author, in a certain time period, writing with as much bias as an author today.

How do we know the difference, then?  When a relationship exists between a deity and a human, obviously that's one way of knowing, but not everyone has that.  Most people, in fact, do not, and those who do don't generally seem to have that kind of contact with every deity.  In the absence of firsthand experience, how do we tell what's the author's bias and what's an accurate depiction of the deity?

...Which, come to it, might be a good candidate for a new thread.

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And with the relationships I've kindled over the years, I can't imagine ever being okay with the gods I know and love accepting a human sacrifice.

There are plenty of things I can't imagine people I know doing.  People have a way of surprising me in that regard, though, and I would be surprised if the Gods were not capable of doing the same.

(As I said, I have no idea where I'm going with this.  Just throwing out thoughts as they come...)
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« Reply #17: August 25, 2010, 11:34:30 am »

\

It seems to me that it is a is a death that has been chosen and imbued with purpose, sometimes even by the individual concerned. Certainly by those who perform the sacrifice. It is a way of dying that places the individual apart from the vast majority of other people. Their life has been gifted to a god, or given in service of their family/people (in some ancient societies the boundary was nowhere near as sharp as it tends to be recently); made sacred and set apart from other things.

I guess I would have to question the willingness of the sacrifice. From what I remember from my Old Testament and Classical Archaeology classes, at least some of the humans to be sacrificed were prisoners of war, and I doubt they were happy with their lives being set apart for the gods. And if someone's told that the only way the city will survive is if the gods get a human sacrifice... well, at least a few folks would want to be a hero.

Although I could see the argument that the sacrifice of a willing, consenting individual being similar to assisted suicide and thus not as morally reprehensible as sacrificing someone who wasn't willing.

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I think it would be hard to argue that murder is ever right (or at least not often so); however, for many people murder and killing are not the same thing. Murder is a legal concept and many classes of killing are deemed not to count. Killing in self defence, or in service of one's country are generally not seen as murder. Revenge killings by the state are condoned in many countries. A lot of people are in favour of euthenasia; I'm sure you get the point. Not all killing is murder.

I think the line is a very fine one, yeah. I think there are very few legitimate (to me, anyway) examples of killing that isn't murder, or justifiable murder, and I don't think that human sacrifice is one of them.

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I had several responses to this cross my mind, but I hope you will let me ask a little further first. What are the gods to you? I ask in terms both of what role do they play in the greater reality and in terms of what they mean to you personally. I would also ask what do you think they mean/meant to other people, now and in the past?

Good question. Smiley Oftentimes I don't know what the gods are to me. I have a lot of ideas, but since I doubt that I can ever know for certain who or what they are, I don't often ponder it too deeply. (Maybe this is something that needs to change!) I know that when the gods feel real to me (because I've got days where I swear I wake up with the 'atheist and skeptic' switch flicked on in my brain) they feel like individual energetic/spiritual beings with whom I can interact and talk with. I think their role in the universe, whatever that is, is limited and defined. Just as there are things humans can't do without breaking the laws of physics, there are things gods can't do either (without breaking the laws of metaphysics, maybe?). Our relationship seems to be mutually beneficial, with us giving time and attention (and often offerings) and receiving blessings and attention (and often love, or at least a sense of friendship) in return.

I hold gods to pretty much the same moral standards as I do humans, which is probably the reason I don't want to think of my gods accepting human sacrifice (which I'm still not convinced doesn't count as murder, but at least I'm open to hearing the arguments for it, now). They don't get to get away with doing bad things, any more than I would condone a human doing the same. I think that's why I do a bit of a crazy dance around mythology and separate the gods as I believe them to be and the gods as they are represented by humans. If I believed that the myths were literally true, and that my gods did all the raping and pillaging and killing that the myths say they do, I wouldn't even bother with them because I couldn't respect them.

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I would like to suggest that you are absolutely right, but not in the way I think you meant Smiley Murder is a Very Bad Thing. If your gods are, or have been, associated with the killing of people (or anything else for that matter) and it is true that not all killing is murder, then you would be right in believing that your gods were not associated with murder if it were also true that killing in sacrifice is not murder.

I'm open to the idea now that human sacrifice might not in all situations be an instance of murder, so thanks for bringing this up. I'll remember it if you end up changing my mind. Smiley

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True, but these myths have stood the test of time and culture; if not unbroken to now, then at least over long periods. That suggests to me that the truths about the world and the gods that people found in them were more than those of any few poets, bards or other nameless godbotherers. At the very least, it invites me to think deeply on the place of the things that horify me within the greater patterns of reality.

Interesting. Could you explain more about that last bit? How would you personally reconcile interacting with a deity whose actions as represented in myth horrify you?

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There's an old thread or two around here that explore that part a bit more than I want to here (but I haven't time to find them just now - sorry). I hope that it makes more sense though in the context of what I have already written here, as well as in response to your ongoing introspection on the issues. Thanks for a post with such interesting facets Smiley

I think this has easily become the thread I've put the most intellectual effort in, ever. I think it's good for me to examine my beliefs and reactions like this, even if I'm struggling sometimes to word things the way they make sense to me in my head.
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« Reply #18: August 25, 2010, 11:38:35 am »

If you are following a path that has a historical connection to ritual human sacrifice (whether proven or simply probable) - how do you see that in the modern world? Do you enact some sort of symbolic sacrifices (like burning a poppet) to serve a similar purpose in your worship? Or do you feel that it was something entirely for another culture in another time, and not something that is significant to your path?



I would go for the *why* of the sacrifice before attempting any substitutions.  Eg.  Aztec/ Mayan paths could acceptably use a self sacrifice of blood, because in many cases the root of the sacrifice was to feed the gods and keep the sun moving across the sky and within the practices self sacrifice is well documented.  The average joe of that unit wasn't out sacrificing the neighbors kids.  That was reserved for the priestly class. ;-)

At that, were I to be working within the context of that practice, I would practice it as an individual using self sacrifice as opposed to attempting to recreate the social structure which allowed for large scale human sacrifice.
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« Reply #19: August 25, 2010, 11:58:11 am »

I have no idea where I'm even going with this, but this thought jumped out at me:  I find it interesting that you first acknowledge the role of cultural values in your own views on the situation, and then say that cultural values are not good enough justification for a particular action.  It seems a little contradictory to me.  If cultural values are a solid enough foundation for your position against human sacrifice, why would they not be a solid enough foundation to support a position that allows it?

Good point, and I honestly don't think I have a good answer to that. I'll rethink that and see if I can come up with something less contradictory.

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There are a couple of other things about this that are nagging at me...  One is the distinction between murder and killing.  I don't know a lot about ancient human sacrifice practices, so I don't know if this applies, but--what if the sacrifice were willingly given?  Is it still murder then?  In addition, I wonder why you don't feel that "the gods want it", in the context of an ancient society, is good justification.  When you believe that the livelihood of your entire city rests on ensuring that the city is in the gods' good favor, what is better justification than ensuring the gods' good favor and thus the survival of your people?

If the sacrifice were willingly given, with full consent... I might be able to see human sacrifice more akin in that instance to assisted suicide, where killing takes place but it isn't murder.

As far as "the gods want it" not being good justification... to put it plainly, to me, a god wanting a human sacrifice makes that god bad. If a god is going to punish a city for not giving them human sacrifice, he or she's just kind of a jerk, aren't they? What right do they have to demand that sort of offering? And how did the priests or whoever decide that was really what the gods wanted?

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How do we know the difference, then?  When a relationship exists between a deity and a human, obviously that's one way of knowing, but not everyone has that.  Most people, in fact, do not, and those who do don't generally seem to have that kind of contact with every deity.  In the absence of firsthand experience, how do we tell what's the author's bias and what's an accurate depiction of the deity?

I suppose everything in the myths is questionable to a degree. I just feel that there's a difference between the deity and how they're represented, and taking the myths as being 100% literal truth is problematic (especially since we do have conflicting versions of most myths). I don't know how you can tell what's a keeper in terms of information and what's bias, other than taking everything with some grain of salt until interaction with a deity proves one way or another. (Even though I know isn't foolproof, because how do you know you're talking with the 'real' deity, or the one the ancient whoevers worshiped, or that you're interpreting responses correctly. I don't have any answers except that UPG has a lot to do with it.)

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...Which, come to it, might be a good candidate for a new thread.

It really would. It's something I've been pondering myself, and probably lends well to a similar question of "How do gods and humans influence each other?" I believe there's a considerable amount of influence, but I'm having problems articulating exactly what that is.

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There are plenty of things I can't imagine people I know doing.  People have a way of surprising me in that regard, though, and I would be surprised if the Gods were not capable of doing the same.

But there's being surprised about someone, and then there's finding out something that crosses a moral line for you.
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« Reply #20: August 25, 2010, 12:09:54 pm »

At that, were I to be working within the context of that practice, I would practice it as an individual using self sacrifice as opposed to attempting to recreate the social structure which allowed for large scale human sacrifice.

Were I to attempt to create a Recon version of human sacrifice as practiced in MesoAmerican faith, then I would first need a town full of people who recognized my right to perform the sacrifice and believed it necessary.  The society demanded sacrifice not the individual practitioner.  Without the society to sacrifice on behalf of, ritualized killing in this case, can't be recreated in any meaningful way.


To the thread, in these cultures you grew up knowing that you very well might end up on the block.  It was considered an honor.  A whole different way of thinking.  To the degree of making yourself willing as not to shame your gods or your family.

The Aztec Flower Wars were religious ritual drama, essentially 'capturing' prisoners who had gone into the battle knowing the dice roll.  They would either be venerated as a great warrior, or as an honored offering.  They accepted it the moment they laced up their sneakers in the morning.  When a prisoner was offered up, it was as "my most honored son".

Eventually people did get less willing when it became more of a political tool and some towns were bearing more of the 'honor' than they felt fair, but in a purely religious context the sacrifices were usually willing.

As for the blood obtained in self sacrifice, the uses and methods vary.  A maguey or agave thorn - or the edge of the plant (toothed) was a fairly common method of obtaining blood, as was obsidian blades or other piercing tools.  The mouth, ear, heel and arms are all well workable and recon correct locations.  Depending on the god or the query, depends on the use of the offering.  Eg. an offering made before traveling might involve a cut to the back of the heel and allowing the blood to run till it touched the ground and dry naturally before being allowed to wear away over the course of the journey.
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« Reply #21: August 25, 2010, 02:12:07 pm »

I guess I would have to question the willingness of the sacrifice. From what I remember from my Old Testament and Classical Archaeology classes, at least some of the humans to be sacrificed were prisoners of war, and I doubt they were happy with their lives being set apart for the gods. And if someone's told that the only way the city will survive is if the gods get a human sacrifice... well, at least a few folks would want to be a hero.

I think this is really a major part. I'm not sure how things worked elsewhere because the only place I've really learned about it was ancient Mexico, but in Mesoamerica human sacrifice was pretty complex. In a lot of cases, it was an honor. In the Mayan ballgames, sometimes it was the loser (a prisoner chosen for the purpose) who was sacrificed, but in other cases there are images of the winning team or their captain being sacrificed, presumably willingly. The Aztecs had several yearly sacrifices that involved choosing someone to "be" the god for a year, getting the best food, not having to work, being pampered and provided with sexual partners, etc. At the end of the year, they'd be sacrificed. The person chosen was generally quite willing, because the sacrifices were an honor and were also seen as necessary to keep the universe from being destroyed.

That said, those societies also had things like child sacrifice, and they definitely did sacrifice prisoners of war (considered an honor by the winning side, but probably not by the losers). They also expected their upper classes to offer blood in ritual, and some of them sounded pretty painful (dragging a spiked rope through a hole in your tongue? ouch).

But sacrifice was viewed very differently by the people of historical societies than it is now, and I think that's important to remember.

As far as sacrifice in a modern setting, most modern societies not only don't find it ethical but have enacted laws against it, and as a member of one of these societies, I can't see using human sacrifice even if it were suddenly legal. We're all products of our times. I could see substituting bloodletting or a poppet, though, depending on the purpose of the ritual. (I know some people use animals, but I don't think I could do that myself, on a personal level. But I think it's also a valid substitute.)
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« Reply #22: August 25, 2010, 03:23:26 pm »

Interesting. Could you explain more about that last bit? How would you personally reconcile interacting with a deity whose actions as represented in myth horrify you?

I'm interested in that as well, please... either here or in a spin off. It's something I wonder about myself and I wonder how others process these things!
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« Reply #23: August 25, 2010, 03:43:05 pm »

If you are following a path that has a historical connection to ritual human sacrifice (whether proven or simply probable) - how do you see that in the modern world? Do you enact some sort of symbolic sacrifices (like burning a poppet) to serve a similar purpose in your worship? Or do you feel that it was something entirely for another culture in another time, and not something that is significant to your path?


...My question is, how MANY of the ancient paths had some sort of blood sacrifice, animal or human?  I know lots of the major ones did; Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, Mesoamericans... It's so very prevalent (and I'm a little ignorant, too, of what other possibilities there are), that I don't know how many blood-free paths based on actual ancient practices are out there for us squeamish folk who feel that recon is important.

That having been said, I know that some of these ancient peoples also used things like poppets and clay figurines in place of real sacrifices... so for me, when worshiping Sequana, if I ever were to ask a favor dealing with the health of my body, I'd potentially do as her ancient followers did, and fashion a clay limb or organ or whatever to put on the altar... 
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« Reply #24: August 25, 2010, 05:09:35 pm »

I come close to passing out every time the doctors take blood for tests - I can't imagine having the stones to actually give blood in that manner myself. Although I wonder what they do with the blood afterward?

I sometimes give my menstrual blood (When I use a Moon Cup ; it's quite easy then !!)...
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« Reply #25: August 25, 2010, 06:14:29 pm »

...My question is, how MANY of the ancient paths had some sort of blood sacrifice, animal or human?  I know lots of the major ones did; Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, Mesoamericans... It's so very prevalent (and I'm a little ignorant, too, of what other possibilities there are), that I don't know how many blood-free paths based on actual ancient practices are out there for us squeamish folk who feel that recon is important.

That having been said, I know that some of these ancient peoples also used things like poppets and clay figurines in place of real sacrifices... so for me, when worshiping Sequana, if I ever were to ask a favor dealing with the health of my body, I'd potentially do as her ancient followers did, and fashion a clay limb or organ or whatever to put on the altar... 

I think we need to look at the bigger picture as well,and understand that sacrifice was usually the giving to the gods of something very valuable. For some peoples, it was grain, or livestock. And that might be really valuable if the spring was late and harvest poor...

For other peoples, blood or human life was the most valued, and so was that which was sacrificed. Others sacrificed works of craft or art, pieces that may have taken years to craft and were highly value at the time.

In the modern world, perhaps another commodity has more value. How many would tie a hundred dollar bill around a candle and watch it burn? Is that the modern equivalent?

I know this sounds shallow, but sacrifice is about giving up something not easily replaced. For many, that equates to money in the modern world.
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« Reply #26: August 25, 2010, 07:19:19 pm »

The average joe of that unit wasn't out sacrificing the neighbors kids.  That was reserved for the priestly class. ;-)

At that, were I to be working within the context of that practice, I would practice it as an individual using self sacrifice as opposed to attempting to recreate the social structure which allowed for large scale human sacrifice.

I think that these are valuable points - particularly the fact that it wasn't something that regular folks were doing, that the actual act of human and other ritual sacrifice was primarily performed by the priests. There are instances of non-priests in different religions performing animal sacrifice, I don't know of any non-priest human sacrifice? That said, I haven't actually studied human sacrifice in historical religions -- I've mostly just written it off as an expression of a culture that has passed, rather than something that might have any role in modern life. Mostly for the reasons Ellen's brought up about morality, and not feeling that any god worthy of respect would require it or even be particularly pleased by it.
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« Reply #27: August 25, 2010, 08:56:52 pm »

...My question is, how MANY of the ancient paths had some sort of blood sacrifice, animal or human?  I know lots of the major ones did; Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, Mesoamericans... It's so very prevalent (and I'm a little ignorant, too, of what other possibilities there are), that I don't know how many blood-free paths based on actual ancient practices are out there for us squeamish folk who feel that recon is important.

That having been said, I know that some of these ancient peoples also used things like poppets and clay figurines in place of real sacrifices... so for me, when worshiping Sequana, if I ever were to ask a favor dealing with the health of my body, I'd potentially do as her ancient followers did, and fashion a clay limb or organ or whatever to put on the altar... 

I think there is a good amount of evidence that the Celts did indeed practice human (and animal) sacrifices. I realize that some are uncomfortable with the idea, that a group like "the druids" who were "paragons of philosophy" could also perform "barbaric rites" like human sacrifice. Peter Berresford Ellis, for example has tried to argue that it is reflective of nothing more than Roman propaganda to legitimize the Gallic wars. However this seems to be for no other reason than "its icky", and people as bright and wonderful as the Celts would NEVER do something like that! But my issues with Ellis's scholarship aside, there is enough evidence to reasonably support the idea that it was a feature of the Celtic peoples at some point.

Now, I mentioned before the cosmological significance of sacrificial offerings. Unfortunately there isn't a surviving version of a Celtic cosmogenic myth; mostly there are possible fragments in existing sources and comparison with other Indo-European cultures myths. As such there is a general theme (with all manner of cultural and regional variation) in which the cosmos are made from the dismemberment of some primordial being (i.e. Ymir in Norse myth) by another force or a group of gods. From the dismembered parts are fashioned the cosmos (ranging from the universe to aspects of the earth, rivers, rocks, plants, etc.), thus with the sacrifice afforded by the primordial being, can existence occur and the world is given shape. Anthropogeny, that is the creation of humans, is often a reversal of this original sacrifice, with humans being made of the recombination of these disparate elements. This later aspect is something which many observe in the so called "seven part adam", a Christian text to be sure, but it entails that Adam was made up of different parts of the world, so the potential for it being a hold over of pre-Christian beliefs is considerable.

As such it has been proposed that since the creation of humanity consumed aspects of the cosmos, that an imbalance was created, which could only be restored with a sacrifice (as a reflection of the primordial sacrifice), entailing a return of the consumed parts, renewing the cosmos. Of course since creation is an ongoing process, regular sacrifices were necessary to continue the cycle.

Of course this is all conjecture, but an example of the cosmogenic underpinnings of human sacrifice.
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« Reply #28: August 25, 2010, 09:35:21 pm »

I know this sounds shallow, but sacrifice is about giving up something not easily replaced. For many, that equates to money in the modern world.

This is definitely the common modern meaning, and certainly valuable things were sacrificed in the past. But there's another side, too; at least with the Greeks, the sacrifice was rarely "wasted" - usually it was consumed by the community, or sold at market as 'sacred' goods and the funds raised used for temple upkeep, and the gods got the inedible bits. (There's even a myth explaining why.  Wink)
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« Reply #29: August 25, 2010, 10:27:23 pm »



For other peoples, blood or human life was the most valued, and so was that which was sacrificed. Others sacrificed works of craft or art, pieces that may have taken years to craft and were highly value at the time.


I'm coming back to this, because in cultures that practiced human sacrifice, this is both true, but not.  The worldview of an individual life being of high value is a relatively young one.  I don't see the romance of the current perceptions of human sacrifice as being applicable in an Aztec context.  The individual was largely unimportant.  The 'loss' of an individual was not really 'mourned.'  That person was being given a high compliment to be chosen in some cases.

I was actually reading some pretty nifty stuff on sacred cannibalism that talks about why ritual decapitation in the Aztecs case was significant.  The individual, (Tonalli) resided in the head - the part that guided the day to day functioning, their body, their blood/ heart (Ollin) was where the force - the movement of a person lived (hence the need to give it to the gods, to keep the sun moving across the sky and to repay their sacrifice in creating the sun and the earth) and the more metaphysical spirit (nagual) were considered quite separate in some ways.

The individuals identity was removed, their generative force harvested and offered to the gods and their body, the product of their prosperity was then consumed or ritually disposed of in a way as to represent their prosperity being diverted back into the society.

The individuals significance was secondary and not really a factor of the sacrifice any more than any other ritual sacrifice - the money analogy is actually a good analogy, although rather than burning it it would be more like using it to pay a bill.  The lights stay on, you have the opportunity to generate more money and the individual properties of that bill aren't all that much different from any other of the same numeric value.

The person being sacrificed, was an avatar for their social unit.
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