The world is a complicated place, and it’s tempting to divide it up into good guys and bad guys to simplify things, make life a little easier to digest. A good example of this kind of simplification is the Minoans of ancient Crete.
I’ll admit, when I first discovered this fascinating Bronze Age civilization, I felt like they were practically a utopia: equality for women, no military, a beautiful religion based around nature. Heck, they even had paved streets and flush toilets.
At one time, animal sacrifice was the most common form of public worship in the West.
So what happened to it?
We tend to think of Judaism as mother and Christianity as daughter, but in fact Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are sister religions that arose at the same time in response to the self-same trauma: the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE.
In ancient Hebrew religion, anyone could build an altar anywhere and offer up sacrifice there, but with the rise of the Jerusalem temple, a hard-fought process of centralization set in which eventually banned sacrifice anywhere else, on the logic of “one god, one temple.”
If I had to characterize Kirk S. Thomas' Sacred Gifts: Reciprocity and the Gods in only two words, it would be: “accessibly profound.”
Don't be put off—as I initially was—by his bantering tone, hyper-colloquial diction, or home-spun analogies. This book speaks as an incisive work of contemporary pagan scholarship and philosophy, and (best of all) points the way forward for future pagan thought.
There can be no relationship without communication. How, then, do we communicate with the gods?
In Sacred Gifts, Thomas answers this question elegantly and authoritatively by beginning with a careful examination of ancestral precedent. From these specifics, he deduces the general principles of the divine economy.
We were discussing the previous night's old-style witches' sabbat. (“Old Style” as in “just like the woodcuts.”)
Of the housel*—the feasting on the god's flesh and blood—someone suggested provision of a gluten-free option next time around.
Sometimes, I think, we need to be wise enough to listen to the wisdom of other traditions.
In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas poses the question: If the body of Christ is present in the consecrated host, just what part of Christ's body is present there? The head? The heart? The phallus?
At 6:05 p. m. on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis collapsed. Thirteen people were killed.
Thirteen. On Lammas Eve.
Of many rivers, it is said that they require a life every year. The Mississippi, our “strong brown god” (Tom Eliot) takes many more than that. Last year, here in the metro alone, it was 17.
In the old days, they say, they used to offer to rivers. Nowadays, we mostly don't. But the sacrifices continue, as they will while ever the world endures. Willing or unwilling, they offer themselves, because sacrifice is in the nature of things.