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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in blood sacrifice

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The dead god lies stretched out on the altar. Mine is one of the knives that killed him.

Tears run down my face. In the hunter's immemorial gesture, I dip my fingers into the pooled blood on his chest and paint it across my forehead.

We're witches, of the Tribe of Witches. What we do, we own. I've been vegetarian for nigh on 50 years now, but others still die that I may live. Acknowledging this, owning this, the hurt that I do in the world, I take the blood. On myself, I take it.

It's called responsibility.

The gore rills down, over my eyelids, my nose, my mouth. The face that I present must be one of red horror.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Well, now, there's something you don't see every day, Chauncey.”

What's that, Stanley?”

Oh, a bunch of pagans out on the front steps performing a sacrifice.”


Humans are herd animals. When we see a large group of people, all with their attention focused one way, we want to look with them to see what's going on. It's automatic, instinctive.

But, of course, this is Minnesota.


After the Rite of the Gates at Jane Hawkner's funeral yesterday—it's very simple, really: you open the Gates, the departed passes through, you close the Gates—we'd all trouped out onto the front steps of the domed and columned Lake Harriet Spiritual Community building to offer the traditional Fire Sacrifice in honor of the occasion.

(Let's be frank: pagan ritual has, for the most part, rung pretty hollow since the end of the days of animal sacrifice. But, of course, you don't have to kill an animal to offer sacrifice. Even in the old days, animal sacrifice was only one form of sacrifice.)

We'd set up the brazier on the landing between the two flights of stairs leading up to the door. As presiding priest, then, I stood with my back to the street, facing the Fire and the people coming out of the building.

So, unlike the rest of the worshipers there present, I didn't get to see the reactions of the passers-by.


Different places, different customs. Minneapolis having been, in its early days, largely populated by Scandinavians, we have—thanks to the infamous Founder Effect—a local culture of public privacy. You don't stare at other people, especially not at strangers. Really—so long as they're not doing anything harmful—it's best to act as if they're not even there.

(Dysfunctional as this may sound, it's probably the reason why there's such a large, self-assured pagan community here. Here, we could get away with it.)

So that's how it came to be that, on a beautiful early Saturday afternoon in high Summer, there can be a whole tribe of pagans out on the front steps doing something interesting with Fire, and the Minnesotans walking, biking, and driving by are wrestling—wrestling—with themselves not to look.

They'redoingsomethingthey'redoingsomethinginterestingIwannalookIwannalookI'mnotgonnalookI'mnotgonnalook I'm looking I'mnotlookingI'mreallynotlookingI'mjustwalkingjustwalkingby.

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  • Katie
    Katie says #
    As the offerings were given to the fire, two people drove by in a fancy convertible with a huge sparkly (I mean unicorns for littl

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacrifice Revisited

So: here was my evil plan.

Step 1. To lay the groundwork, as it were, the first year we'd do the presentation: “Sacrifice in Theory and Practice.”

Step 2. The next year, we'd bring in the cute little lambie and let the kids get to know it through the course of the festival.

Then at the big ritual we'd kill it and eat it.

Needless to say, we never even got to Step 1.


Thirty years ago, they wouldn't even let us talk about sacrifice at PSG. “Too controversial,” they said.

Well, that was 30 years ago, and this is Paganistan.

Moral of the story: Don't wait for Step 2.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Banned at PSG!

25 years ago, they wouldn't let me give this workshop at PSG.

"Too controversial," they said.

But you'll be able to hear it in full—new and improved—at next year's Paganicon 2019.

Lucky you.


Sacrifice Revisited

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A Technology of Connectivity: New Light on Animal Sacrifice

Exciting new scholarship is exploding many of the old “myths” about animal sacrifice and casting fresh light onto the origins and meanings of this ancient and—to many of us today—mysterious practice.

Some findings from the emerging new consensus on the topic:

Animal sacrifice is a phenomenon of pastoral and agricultural societies. Hunters-gatherers don't practice animal sacrifice. (Think about it: how could they?) Of course, they do make offerings; hunters may set aside the god's portion from their kill. But in virtually all known examples, animal sacrifice comprises the offering and sharing of a domestic animal.

Animal sacrifice is not a “primitive” phenomenon. The old “evolutionary” paradigms for understanding the history of religions broke down long ago. Some religions sacrifice; some don't. The absence of animal sacrifice in contemporary Judaism and Christianity is due to specific developments in the history of these particular religions, which cannot properly be generalized to other religions.

There is no single reason for, or meaning of, animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice is polysemous: it means different things to different people. It may mean something different to every single person attending any given sacrifice. Previous theorists attempting to extract a single origin, purpose, or meaning for animal sacrifice were mistaken. While it makes sense to compare sacrificial practice across cultures, there are no universals when it comes to meaning.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacrifice: The Ritual

Animal sacrifice having been one of the primary expressions of public worship in the old days, the ancestors took it pretty much for granted, and as a result, there are, rather surprisingly, no step-by-step descriptions in the surviving literature of how sacrifices were actually performed.

So here's the entire ritual, as reconstructed by Classicist Ken Dowden in his 2000 book European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (174).

Just in time for Pantheacon.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Whenever I read of sacrificial animals I start thinking community barbecue. From what I've read in archaeology the shift to grain

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Tribe of Deicides

The world began with a sacrifice.

That's how the ancestors saw it, 6000 years ago.

6000 years later, that's still how witches see it.

Throughout Indo-Europeandom (and beyond it as well), one finds tales of the Primal Sacrifice. A divine or semi-divine being is killed; from his body, the world as we know it is created.

And so sacrifice becomes the central rite of public worship. Every sacrifice reenacts—reembodies—that primal, cosmogonic sacrifice.

Every sacrifice recreates the world.

Moreover, this is a true story. Truly, life lives on life. No matter what kind of -vore you are, others die so that you can eat them and live.

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