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Author Topic: Kemeticism and Sacrifice  (Read 4756 times)
Carnelian
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« Topic Start: August 17, 2009, 11:26:39 am »

I'm curious whether or not animal sacrifice was common in Egypt as a religious practice. In ancient Greece it was definitely a common aspect of public religion to sacrifice an animal to a deity and for the community to eat the meat and burn the bones and fat to the deity. I've seen some references to animal sacrifice in ancient Egypt, but I haven't been able to find out whether it was a common aspect of ancient Egyptian religion. I know they honoured their gods in temples in ancient Egypt, and gift offerings and prayers were given to deities, and the priests maintained the cult image similar to how the Hindus still do for their gods, but I haven't seen animal sacrifice emphasized as a major part of ancient Egyptian worship. If someone could explain to me the role of animal sacrifice in ancient Egyptian religion, or paoint me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.

I doubt that, even if it was practiced in ancient Egypt, that it's still done today Tongue
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Nehet
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« Reply #1: August 17, 2009, 08:26:03 pm »

I'm curious whether or not animal sacrifice was common in Egypt as a religious practice. In ancient Greece it was definitely a common aspect of public religion to sacrifice an animal to a deity and for the community to eat the meat and burn the bones and fat to the deity. I've seen some references to animal sacrifice in ancient Egypt, but I haven't been able to find out whether it was a common aspect of ancient Egyptian religion. I know they honoured their gods in temples in ancient Egypt, and gift offerings and prayers were given to deities, and the priests maintained the cult image similar to how the Hindus still do for their gods, but I haven't seen animal sacrifice emphasized as a major part of ancient Egyptian worship. If someone could explain to me the role of animal sacrifice in ancient Egyptian religion, or paoint me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.

I doubt that, even if it was practiced in ancient Egypt, that it's still done today Tongue

Er, yes, if you define sacrifice to mean offering something or surrendering it up in the name of some perceived higher purpose. 

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sacrifice

The word sacrifice is tricky.  It suggests an image of some animal being restrained on an alter and then slain during the ritual.  I know that meat offerings were common in ancient Egypt, but to my knowledge, animals were not killed inside the temples in front of cult statues.  They were killed beforehand.

Plenty of modern practitioners make offerings of meat, but I haven't heard of anyone slaughtering a goose in front of their home shrine.  Not yet, anyway Tongue
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« Reply #2: August 17, 2009, 08:40:15 pm »

Er, yes, if you define sacrifice to mean offering something or surrendering it up in the name of some perceived higher purpose. 

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sacrifice

The word sacrifice is tricky.  It suggests an image of some animal being restrained on an alter and then slain during the ritual.  I know that meat offerings were common in ancient Egypt, but to my knowledge, animals were not killed inside the temples in front of cult statues.  They were killed beforehand.

Plenty of modern practitioners make offerings of meat, but I haven't heard of anyone slaughtering a goose in front of their home shrine.  Not yet, anyway Tongue

From what I've read, you would never kill an animal within the temple. Blood is a big no-no in temple rituals and practice, so I doubt it would have been very common, if practiced at all. So far, I have yet to hear of any sort of animal sacrifices, but I could be wrong.
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« Reply #3: August 17, 2009, 10:56:14 pm »

From what I've read, you would never kill an animal within the temple. Blood is a big no-no in temple rituals and practice, so I doubt it would have been very common, if practiced at all. So far, I have yet to hear of any sort of animal sacrifices, but I could be wrong.
-Devo

Interesting. Animals weren't slaughtered inside Greek temples either. I've read things here and there that imply some kind of animal sacrifice, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as emphasized as it was in Greek religion.

Er, yes, if you define sacrifice to mean offering something or surrendering it up in the name of some perceived higher purpose.

Yes, but I thought I specified animal sacrifice in the actual post Wink
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« Reply #4: August 18, 2009, 02:30:35 am »

Yes, but I thought I specified animal sacrifice in the actual post Wink

The distinction is still relevant. The death of an animal can be offered at the time of killing, at the time of consumption or at some other (generally designated) time. Likewise, the material flesh of the animal may be offered, its life force (or soul) or the spiriual substance of its body.

So I could say "May the God accept the life of this animal that I am about to kill" and then slaughter the beast. Or, I could say "May the God accept the life of this animal that has died, so that we may live" and then cook/eat the meat of a previously-slaughtered beast. Or, I might wait until a Day of Thanksgiving and say "May the God accept the lives of all the animals that have died, so that we may live this year". In the same manner, I might make the offering to the God and leave it/burn it/give it in charity at a later date. Or, I might make the offering to the God and then consume it myself after the God has accepted the spiritual substance of the animal.

I'm sure that there are lots of other variations that are possible, or historically attested. But the point that was made was not actually as irrelevant as it may have seemed Smiley
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« Reply #5: August 20, 2009, 08:29:56 pm »

The distinction is still relevant. The death of an animal can be offered at the time of killing, at the time of consumption or at some other (generally designated) time. Likewise, the material flesh of the animal may be offered, its life force (or soul) or the spiriual substance of its body.

So I could say "May the God accept the life of this animal that I am about to kill" and then slaughter the beast. Or, I could say "May the God accept the life of this animal that has died, so that we may live" and then cook/eat the meat of a previously-slaughtered beast. Or, I might wait until a Day of Thanksgiving and say "May the God accept the lives of all the animals that have died, so that we may live this year". In the same manner, I might make the offering to the God and leave it/burn it/give it in charity at a later date. Or, I might make the offering to the God and then consume it myself after the God has accepted the spiritual substance of the animal.

I'm sure that there are lots of other variations that are possible, or historically attested. But the point that was made was not actually as irrelevant as it may have seemed Smiley

I guess I haven't given much thought to the reason for that distinction.  When you look at it that way, then yes, there does seem to be a HUGE qualitative difference between "sacrifice" and the meat offerings that Kemetics might give their gods.   Thank you for pointing it out.  
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« Reply #6: August 22, 2009, 06:03:22 pm »

I'm curious whether or not animal sacrifice was common in Egypt as a religious practice. In ancient Greece it was definitely a common aspect of public religion to sacrifice an animal to a deity and for the community to eat the meat and burn the bones and fat to the deity. I've seen some references to animal sacrifice in ancient Egypt, but I haven't been able to find out whether it was a common aspect of ancient Egyptian religion. I know they honoured their gods in temples in ancient Egypt, and gift offerings and prayers were given to deities, and the priests maintained the cult image similar to how the Hindus still do for their gods, but I haven't seen animal sacrifice emphasized as a major part of ancient Egyptian worship. If someone could explain to me the role of animal sacrifice in ancient Egyptian religion, or paoint me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.

I doubt that, even if it was practiced in ancient Egypt, that it's still done today Tongue

As others have already stated, the offering of meat was common practice both to the gods and to ancestors, and this is maintained in most recon/revival forms of the religion (I do, anyway). It used to be believed by Egyptolgists that animals were butchered within the temple, but this is now essentially disproved. More in depth studies of Egyptian texts shows that it would most likely conflict with concepts of ritual purity, and also is just plain impractical. One structure that early excavators supposed was a "slaughterhouse" has been shown to be clearly unsuited to any such task. From what can be seen from temple artwork, joints of meat rather than complete animals were presented on offering tables, with the exception of fowl suggests that complete animals weren't simply dumped on offering tables, which would often have been impractical in any case.

It should also be noted that there is the distinction between what temples own and what counts as offerings. Temple estates technically all belonged to the god they served, but only a small fraction of that would become literal offerings. Therefore the presentation of X number of cattle to Amun-Ra is not necessarily a case of chopping them up and putting them on the table, but rather donating them to His economic holdings.

However, this is the more awkward issue of animal cemeteries. Certain religious centres have large, sometimes massive, burials of animals sacred to a certain cult, such as cats for the cult of Bast, and the ibis and baboon of Thoth. These were sacrifices in the more literal sense, animals killed to be mummified and offered by pilgrims to a specific god. However, this practices only takes off in Greco-Roman era, and is not characteristic of Egyptian religion prior to this period.

Rams, bulls and crocodiles also were buried in dedicated cemeteries, but were not generally scarified, but were sacred animals who revered as heralds or images of a certain god who died naturally and would be succeeded by others.

Overall, therefore, I'd say there is no evidence of consistent animal sacrifice in the generally accepted meaning of the term before the Greco-Roman period.
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« Reply #7: August 24, 2009, 05:36:00 pm »

However, this is the more awkward issue of animal cemeteries. Certain religious centres have large, sometimes massive, burials of animals sacred to a certain cult, such as cats for the cult of Bast, and the ibis and baboon of Thoth. These were sacrifices in the more literal sense, animals killed to be mummified and offered by pilgrims to a specific god. However, this practices only takes off in Greco-Roman era, and is not characteristic of Egyptian religion prior to this period.

The book The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek mentions a theory on these "sacrifices" which I find to be very reasonable and likely- further study will need to be done to prove or disprove it.  So far most of the mummified cats which have survived and been studied reveal young cats, likely males, who died as a result of a broken neck.  Of course, many people would have mummified and enshrined their own pet cats who died of natural causes.  However, it is suspected that the young cats found with broken necks were killed as a necessary culling of the temple catteries when their numbers became too unmanageable- after all, they didn't have spay and neuter clinics back then, and an uncontrolled feline population increases at an astounding rate.  The Egyptians revered and protected their cats, but they were also very practical- their reasoning was likely that it was better to swiftly send a young cat back to the gods than to let it suffer all its life because they were unable to provide for it.  However, the cats still deserved funerary honors, and it became an act of piety for visiting pilgrims to pay for the deceased cats' mummification and enshrinement.  Later on, when the practice became popular, it seems that there were more pilgrims wanting to donate then there were cats to be mummified- we start to see "mummies" with incomplete skeletons.  It's possible that this is accidental damage, or it may even represent a degeneration of the practice- but given the potency of symbols and magically activated models in ancient Egypt it is also possible that this wouldn't have made a big difference to the pilgrim who purchased it.  The important thing was the gesture of providing for these cats, and by offering a "dummy mummy," quite possibly the person was able to symbolically pay his respects and participate in this act of pilgrimage.

Of course, now veterinary medicine has advanced- a far better offering than culling and mummifying a young cat would be to have your pet spayed or neutered, or to contribute time or money to a shelter, or one of those organizations who spay/neuter and release feral cats.  Of course, if you really wanted to, you could still create a model mummy and offer that.  The actual sacrifice of a cat would not be necessary, and with the options we have available to us now would seem contrary to the intentions of the original practice.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2009, 05:38:27 pm by WebenBanu » Logged

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