Animal Sacrifice: a bloody mess of a topic

Based on the comments from Ancient Cans of Whoop-Ass, I figured I may as well compile some of my own thoughts on the topic of animal sacrifice.  The topic came up because, in the process of bringing up a ritual from the PGM, it was noted that the use of the blood and head of a donkey (an animal sacred to Set-Typhon) or any animal was abhorrent to some people.  I have my own points of view on the matter, as surely we all do, and it’s definitely a touchy or messy subject for a lot of us to think clearly about.  To be blunt, I don’t have an issue with it.  For some people and paths, it’s not only a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.  For others, it’s the wrong thing to do and can cause more harm.  Like everything else, there’s no clear-cut answer, and the acceptability of animal sacrifice depends on the context in which it occurs.

First, let’s clear up a few terms:

  • Sacrifice is the ritual offering of something to a god or spirit.  It literally means “to make holy”, and refers to the dedication of some act, object, or intent to a higher purpose.  A material object, a physical action, an emotion, invention, or discovery of thought or resource can all be sacrificed and made holy to a god.
  • Animal sacrifice, then, is the ritual offering of an animal to a god or spirit.  This can take two forms: giving a live animal to a god, such as the Asclepian snakes living in the temples to Asclepius back in the day, or killing an animal to dedicate its life and blood to the god.  For the purposes of this post, I’ll be referring to the latter method of killing an animal.
  • Animal sacrifice is not the same thing as the use of animals, animal parts, or animal life in magical rituals, especially “low magic” that doesn’t involve the gods but relies on the animal’s own occult virtues.  Of course, things always get hairy when discussing the differences between magic and religion, but I hope the difference is clear.

There’s a lot of drama between people who support animal sacrifice and those who don’t, and even those who aren’t against animal sacrifice and don’t properly belong in either group (but for some reason or another often get thrown into one side by the other).  Emotions run high and a lot of assumptions remain hidden, and it’s often these basic philosophical ideas and assumptions that are at the real root of the matter.  Here’s a rough sketch of the Hermetic and Western philosophical background I’m coming from:

  • All things descend from the divine Source.  This means that humans, animals, plants, metals, stones, angels, demons, and everything from the lowest hell to the highest heaven share the same spark of holiness.  This does not, however, mean that all things are on the same level of holiness or that all things share equally in consciousness or power.
  • Animals have spirit and intelligence and consciousness; nobody’s debating that.  What would the point of animal sacrifice be of something without spirit, intelligence, or consciousness?
  • Animals are connected into the cosmos as humans are; we all have our part to play.  Just as animals fight and kill other animals for their survival and betterment, humans fight and kill animals for their survival and betterment.  Let’s assume that we’re not talking about intra-species killing, e.g. wolves against wolves or humans against humans.
  • Even though (individual?) animals have spirit and intelligence and consciousness, they’re on the same level of spirit, intelligence, or consciousness as humans.  In terms of activity, spirituality, and food acquisition, humans are higher on the food chain and have been for most of our evolution.  We don’t interact with them in the same ways as humans, even humans whose languages and cultures are utterly different from our own.  Likewise, some animals treat predators on their level in similar ways or fight them for dominance, and predators treat prey further below them as, well, prey.
  • Humans are higher than animals, and as humans made in the image of God and act as an intermediary between the physical and metaphysical realms, we are entrusted with the care and use of the world and things around us in the cosmos.  If something works for us in a way that brings us what we desire, we’re enabled to go ahead and do it according to our means and power, which we should be increasing anyway.
  • Just as humans are higher than animals, the gods are higher than humans; so, the gods will make use of humans for their power just as humans will animals.  However, because we’re higher than animals and operate in different ways, this means that the gods have the option to make use of us in different ways than animals, and may appreciate the slaughtering of animals and not that of humans, accepting the worship and service of humans instead.

Am I saying that animal sacrifice is kick-ass awesome and everyone should get in on it?  No.  For one, there are other means to achieve the same ends that animal sacrifice obtains; it’s far from the only method of raising energy or empowering devotional or magical acts, though it’s certainly a powerful one.  For two, not all sacrifices have to be made with animal life, and sometimes an offering of plant life or symbols of prosperity will suffice.  Not everyone should kill, or even can; Pythagoreans were prohibited from killing or eating animals, and Buddhist and Jain monks are prevented from killing any living thing, though other devotees may make use of killing in trantric paths.  People involved in African diasporic religions make frequent use of the ritual killing of animals, and those involved with seriously reconstructing any number of ancient pagan paths from the Hellenic to Nordic to Semitic will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that the gods accepted, approved, and desired animal sacrifice.  This has happened across almost every culture, especially Indo-European and Abrahamic ones, for thousands of years, and for thousands of years into prehistory before or as cultures were coming together into civilizations.

Not all gods will want this to happen: some gods have begun to accept other sacrifices despite being accustomed to animal sacrifices over the centuries, while others are too young to ever have developed a taste for it.  However, to assume that all gods in every path and pantheon have “evolved” with humanity (a gross misuse of the term) to live without animal sacrifice is both short-sighted and hubristic.  Evolution does not suggest improvement, but only change and adaptation; the gods, being eternal and (usually) immortal, don’t have to evolve if they don’t want to., and the gods don’t have to change along with humanity if they don’t want to.  If anything, humans are changing faster and more than the gods ever will, and it may very well be that humans are changing in ways disagreeable to the gods rather than the gods ever having done disagreeable things.  Further, if you’re assuming anything on the part of the gods, you may have to answer for it if you happen to assume differently than how they actually think, and historically as well as mythologically this has ended poorly.  Consider Abel and Cain: they each made their offerings to the Lord, one of meat and one of grain, and Abel’s offering of meat was accepted while Cain’s wasn’t.  Cain thought that sucked, and so killed Abel; he assumed that this would be okay, and it wasn’t.  Consider, also, the siblings Antigone and Creon: Antigone wanted to obey the gods’ injunction to bury their deceased brother who had unfortunately committed treason, while king Creon threatened death against anyone who would dare it.  Antigone buried their brother; Creon had her buried alive as punishment.  Since it was the will of the gods that their brother should be buried as due to him, and since Creon hubristically decided otherwise, Creon got smacked and hard by the gods.

As for respecting animals and their spirits, that’s to go without saying.  Being the caretakers of the cosmos, born into it both as natives and visitors from the Source, we can’t just say “take it, rape it, it’s yours”.  That’s ascribing too much to ourselves and is dangerously prideful, and denies the holiness of everything else in the cosmos.  Animals are to be respected, honored, and cherished, but (based on the above cosmological framework), not put on the same level as humans.  I’m not saying you should grab any old cat or dog or raccoon off the roads, break their backs or skin them alive or douse them in lighter fluid, and drop them whole onto an altar; that’s disrespectful and needlessly painful.  When an animal sacrifice is to be done, it should be done to respect the humanity of the officiant, the divinity of the divine, and the holiness of the animal sacrificed/made sacred.  This is how we developed ritual acts of killing to begin with, done in prescribed ways to provide as clean and painless a death to the animal as needed, from which we have laws of kosher and halal butchery (which are known for being among the most sanitary, efficient, and respectful ways to kill animals for food and sacrifice).  Even then, some gods and practices require extreme forms of sacrifice, such as the tearing apart of goats in the Dionysian mysteries or the aspersion of blood in ancient Judaism, but these are also acceptable in their own contexts, because they’re allowed and supported by the gods that ask for them.*

Nothing’s stopping you or anyone else from respecting animals as humanity’s equals, if that’s your philosophy or cosmology, but by doing so in the Western framework you may be elevating animals to a position they may not have earned or lowering humans to a level they may be beyond.  Some (many?) humans are indeed on or below the level of animals, and some animals are indeed on or above the level of humans; these entities are exceptions to the rule, and again have their own context to consider.  Just as one wouldn’t be casting pearls before swine, one may want to think twice before sacrificing a certain animal that’s exhibited far and beyond normal animal qualities.

One more thing: karma.  Though a useful concept in the contexts in which it arose (with different definitions for different dharmic paths), karma doesn’t have a place in Western traditions.  It’s an import, it doesn’t make sense when used by a lot of poorly-understanding laypeople, and it doesn’t quite fit with a lot of other things even when well-understood.  In Western philosophies and paths, we often have the notion of a divine, infinite Source, and when you throw anything infinite into the mix, all notions of balance and zero-sum games get thrown out of the window.  The physical universe and metaphysical cosmos is not limited, in the Western framework in which I operate, and so there is no need for ancient actions to have to have effects except for those allowed by those involved, though it may be difficult to escape them.  When you have infinity on your side, you really can do anything, and it’s hinted at that devas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas in dharmic paths are enabled to act without generating karma.  Even in Vedic Hinduism in which the notion of karma first arose, there were common thoughts of karma being dispensed by the gods themselves which could be placated into dealing less punishment or more blessings.  Hinduism, too, also allows and supports animal sacrifice in some contexts (primarily those worshipping Shakti, the divine feminine), and if they with their notions of karma can get by with it, I don’t see why others can’t.  Saying that animal sacrifice is “karmically bad” or “continuing suffering” is short-sighted; this ignores the past karma of the animal that led it there to be sacrificed, whether its karma warranted a more severe or painful death than the one given to it, whether the combined karma of animal and officiant was overall a good or bad thing, whether the animal sacrifice was an expedient means to solve bigger problems, and so forth.  Again, generalized and myopic use of misunderstood terms won’t help here.

You’ll notice that I keep using the word “context”, and it’s important you recognize what I mean when I use it.  I refer to the culture in which something occurs, the reasons and circumstances for something, and the people and entities involved with it.  Cultural appropriation is the act of taking something from one context and using it in a radically different one, dogmatic purity is the restriction of allowing any externally-derived innovation in a certain context, and so forth.  When I say “context”, I’m really saying “it depends”, because a lot depends on how, when, where, why, for what, and by whom something occurs.  Calling something “barbaric” or “abhorrent” disregards the notion of context, and is a kind of appropriation and judgment that often cannot be reasonably or reliably made from outside the relevant context; it’s a different story if you’re operating within that context.  Blanket statements cannot be made except at the highest, most general level, and at that level you can’t get much more specific than “it is” or “shit happens”; when you get any more specific or specialized than the cosmos taken as a complete whole in which everything occurs as it should, you’re going to run into different paths with different notions of acceptability.  Just as I wouldn’t use Solomonic conjurations to get the Greek gods to do something for me, so too would I not use animal sacrifice for a god that didn’t want it.  Different people have different views of divinity, and have different relationships with their gods than you may have; telling them that their practices are wrong when they’ve got it on good authority (assumingly) that they’re right is, simply, disrespectful and ignorant of their context.

As for my own practice, I do not make use of animal sacrifice, but am generally not against it.  I offer praise, wine, food, candles, incense, and the occasional flowers to the gods and spirits I work with, and while sufficient, I also don’t work with gods or spirits that I know demand animal or blood sacrifices (that I know of).  The god Hermes, with whom I’m starting a much closer relationship than I had expected to, has said that he would appreciate the sacrifice of small birds or larger animals, but understands that I am not in a place or position to do so; this may change when I move out of an apartment into a place with my own land and yard, and when I learn the proper procedures and handling involved.  The use of animal blood, organs, or other body parts are well-attested in Solomonic, ceremonial, and Western magic generally, and are not always some “witch’s code” or blind that swapped out names of herbs or bodily fluids with exotic names of animal parts.  Sometimes substitutions can be made, like this nasty mixture I’m setting for consecrating the Solomonic black-handled knife to stand in for the blood of a black cat; sometimes, the use of animal fluids, parts, or life cannot be substituted without a much greater cost.

I understand that even a position as mild(?) as mine will get some people riled up, angry, vitriolic, and downright spiteful of my very existence.  Some people, like militant vegans or extreme PETA activists, will vociferously argue against the use of any animal life for personal gain in any way; that’s okay, though I find their arguments against killing animals in any case to be more emotionally than logically or philosophically driven, not to mention ideologically oppressive.  Honestly, if a topic like animal sacrifice is all it takes to set someone off and think less of me, I’m sure they’d find more unsavory and disagreeable things to hate me over.  If you’d like to discuss this further, privately or publicly in the comments, feel free to, but keep it respectful, reasonable, and rational.

*  Remind me to work out my own notion of holiness and fix Socrates’ issues with piety later.

23 responses

  1. You raise many good points on an emotive subject. Here follows a few comments of my own:

    1. My outlook is animist (everything has a spirit); and shamanistic (I work with spirits). I might call these spirits patterns, archetypes or genius loci in my blog.

    2. I have a working relationship with a genius loci of my local river. I have a trade contract that if I find any coin, I throw it in the river in return for certain outcomes.

    3. I consider that a spirit of place (genius loci) can take the form of an animal or other concrete object associated with that place. For instance the river spirit is a swan. There are two swan families on the stretch of river I am dealing with, I feed them and look out for them. Although on the material level they seem to be just birds on a river, the relationship has taken on a certain otherworldly manifestation, little adventures, insights that is rippling out to touch me in different ways.

    4. In my world view nothing is master of another; all are equal from bug to swan to human.

    5. The only reason to take the life of a living creature is survival.

    6. Karma in my view is the consequences of a choice acted upon.

    7. No spirit in the Cosmos owns another spirit, what is the point of sacrificing an animal to another spirit that neither the individual or the spirit the sacrifice is dedicated to can own?

    8. At death an animal spirit heads straight back to the Source, it then is reborn in a new animal form. I neither see the point, or the logic of animal sacrifice.

    9. In the hunter-gatherer society there are only two paths involving an animal death that I know of which is legitimate:
    a. Survival : A Bison is killed to release its gifts of meat, bone tools, skin for clothes. There is a testing via battle to test if the hunter is worthy to gain those gifts.
    b. Transformation : The initiate may face a Bison in battle, it tests if the initiate is worthy, both usually kill each other, and the initiate is transformed/reborn as a warrior.

    At all times the animal spirit is honoured in its own right, never given to another spirit. The curse of the invention of civilisation corrupted the old ways to turn it into a sacrifice to please gods – ignorant and arrogant.

    • I feel pity for modern-day people who are stuck in the insular mentality that they must appease the “gods,” or barter with the “gods” with sacrificial blood, be it animal or human, for favors, wishes, outcomes, powers that they feel will be “granted.”

      I also feel pity for the practitioners in a past culture who devoted their time to invoking death of another, as depicted in this excerpt from “Ancient Cans of Whoop-Ass.”:

      “The other, from PGM XIV.675, is much more involved, and is meant as a full-on curse against someone to cause an “evil sleep”, like a coma or catalepsy, to befall someone, but if done for a longer period of time can kill. For this one, take the head of a donkey and put it between the feet facing the opposite way from the Sun, to the west at dawn just before sunrise and to the east at dusk just before sunset. Anoint the right foot with yellow Syrian ocher, the left with clay; place the right hand in front of the head and the left behind. Anoint one hand and the corners of the mouth with blood of a donkey. Say the following at dawn and dusk for four days to induce “evil sleep”, or for seven for death.”

      Violence is violence, no matter how you spin it.

      • mirabella, you’re starting to sound pretentious without offering any logical reason for doing so, calling people who support or accept animal sacrifice “insular” and any other number of unsavory descriptions (cf. your past comments). If you want to continue saying things like this, I suggest you come up with a logical or philosophical background for it and that you also at least accept the possibility that, hey, some gods are okay with this, and so are their practitioners. By claiming otherwise and sticking your head in the sand, you’re showing yourself to be a little immature about the matter. Your very modern, pacifist viewpoint on the gods and sacrifice is a valid one, don’t get me wrong, but by no means is it the only valid one. That was the whole point of the post: that different people have different means of approaching and conducting business with divinity, and that’s alright.

        Besides, I was wondering when you’d pick up on the fact that the two spells from the other post were meant for violence and harm. Magic is just a tool to obtain some set of means, be it peaceful or violent; and violence, though violent, can be good or evil, since it too is also just another tool to obtain some set of means. Magic has been used for getting laid, getting paid, and getting back at others since time immemorial, and will for a long time to come. Lest you forget, there are whole gods and pantheons surrounding warfare, fighting, and violence, and petitioning them for success, defense, offense, strength, and victory has always been in the repertoire of warriors, vigilantes, guards, and the like. In an ideal, perfect universe, we may have no use for war or violence at all, but we’re not there and have real problems to deal with.

      • These sort of convoluted rituals are a sign of a typical scam involving money. No doubt the temples that offered such services made good money from it, the more dramatic and complex the ritual the more impressed was the ignorant paying customer.

        • Actually, these would be the kinds of rituals that would have to be done by individual magicians, since Typhon-Set was strongly feared and disapproved of by the establishment and would have to be done covertly and in secrecy; flashiness wouldn’t be part of this. If it were a priestly thing, there’d be more documentation about these types of rituals, and although Set was honored in some of the more distant Egyptian towns, there’d be nothing like this in a temple.

      • You really sound as if you think people who do barter or ask for “favors” from the gods and spirits as less-than-you in their practices. Am I correct in this assumption?

      • You say ‘violence’ as though it’s a troublesome and fixable issue. It happens all over the world, between all living things, from single cells to sequoias and whole civilizations. Violence is borne from conflict, which is in turn born from differently perceived necessity. So long as *variety* exists, violence will inevitably follow in some form and level of severity.

    • Clearly thought out, just what I was looking for! You’re not in favor of animal sacrifice; that’s okay, and that’s what I was trying to communicate in the post. Different people have different views on the matter, and that’s okay. I really like your views of animals as material manifestations of genii locorum, since that’s an idea I’ve been thinking about recently as well. As for the “point” of animal sacrifice (#8), while the animal’s spirit goes back to the source, the spirit is not synonymous with the life that animal has; the life or “energy” is given as a gift to a god who may find it delectable or helpful for their own purposes (maybe somewhat like the coins and the river), and so forth.

      The only bit I’d argue about is the last part about the “curse of the invention of civilisation”, since it’s unclear whether humanity first offered animal sacrifice at all. It remains that the gods seem to approve of it independently of the wishes of humanity; some of my friends only got into sacrifice in this way because their gods started demanding it more of them, not the other way around.

  2. I’m aligned with the goddess Kuan Yin.

    No blood-thirst or ritual sacrifice there.

    I’m also aligned with Alex Jones’ treatise on animism, shamanism, karma, & genius loci.

    • And that’s well and good; Kwan Yin, or Avalokiteshvara, is the bodhisattva of compassion, and unless you’re focusing on the wrathful or tantric aspects of Avalokiteshvara (Mahakala), and I assume you’re not, you’re probably never going to have to make any such sacrifices or practices that involve them. Consider, though, the use of skulls, bones, blood, and flesh in the same traditions that Kwan Yin comes from; just because this one deity doesn’t require these things in her practice, from a particular interpretation of a particular deity of a particular line of a particular tradition, doesn’t mean all gods don’t. And it’s not a matter of blood-thirst, either, which is a point I’ve been making that seems to have missed you entirely.

  3. Very meticulously thought out. Well done. Both of the deities with whom I claim some relationship accepted animal sacrifices in history. One of them accepted human sacrifice in history. I don’t have an issue with animal sacrifice, (Come to think of it, I don’t have a huge issue with a human choosing to be a sacrifice, which I realize puts me on something of an extreme end- though I will insist on dozens of levels of proof of the individual’s willingness) Perhaps this is a result of having grown up on a farm and killing my own food. I do also believe that sacrifices of time, energy and physical effort are very meaningful.

    • To me, your position isn’t particularly extreme, either. Human sacrifices were (in)famously performed in Mesoamerican cultures, but here’s the thing: they didn’t take prisoners in war. When they got someone for human sacrifice, they treated them like royalty, since they were to belong to the gods; people could offer themselves as human sacrifice as marks of nobility and honor, something like seppuku but with more grace in Japan.

      People who grow up on farms have to make tough decisions with animals, and though they may care for them, they’re still going to be sold off, used as food, or raised for their effects (milk, fur, fertilizer, etc.). Farms, as I’m sure you’ve noted, are not Disneylands where everyone gets along and lives happily ever after. Nature is, generally, not kind, nor is it easy or compassionate. Nature is refined, balanced, and well-adjusted to survival and adaptation, which often involves bloodshed and killing. The least we can do in the face of Nature, when killing is needed or asked of us, is to do it as humanely and kindly as possible. I claim.

      And again, animal or blood sacrifices are not the only kind of sacrifice possible. It depends on the god, practice, tradition, and specific request in question, the context of the sacrifice. Time, energy, effort, money, and physical goods are all also acceptable; Greek sacrifice wasn’t just about hecatombs and holocausts, it was also about statues and trophies and wine and food.

  4. My personal thoughts on animal sacrifice.

    I don’t do it and I would like to think that I would not do it in future (of course, I can’t claim that as true because all things change). I’d like to claim some reason that’s about how I have no need to practice it because of X, Y, and Z. What it comes down to is how much I love and respect animals, specifically mine. What it all boils down to is the fact that I have pets and if I should decide on an avenue of animal sacrifice, I don’t know if I would be able to disassociate my love and affection for the pets I have with the animal being sacrificed. Consciously, I would know that, you know, it’s *not* Fluffy being used in the ceremony or ritual, but emotionally… I don’t know. I know that’s probably not, like, the best reason or anything but it’s how I personally feel about it in regards to my own practice.

    As far as other sacrifices, such as a blood sacrifice of a human nature, then I’m okay with that. As I’ve mentioned, I donate blood for Sekhmet on a regular basis. But I think the reason I am okay with is because (1) people claim on taboos in regards to blood for her as offerings and I like to fly in the face of “the standard” and (2) because I can consciously and knowingly make that decision on my own.

    Does this mean that I think animal sacrifice is wrong because the animal can’t decide for itself? No. Just from a voodoo perspective, I know how much care, devotion, and love is given to the animal in question prior to its use. I also know that it’s not a daily thing (so, maybe if it was done daily I’d have issues? I don’t know on that one, honestly) and it’s a VERY BIG DEAL in voodoo practices. I also know and understand that how I was raised to believe in things and what I practice now is not the same as how other Vodouisants and practitioners were raised to believe or how they were taught their practice.

    In summation, I have to say that I find it unfair and an act of gross misconduct to enforce one’s beliefs and superstitions and thoughts on others of a different set of said beliefs, thoughts, and superstitions. I think, too, it’s the act of a Western civilization feeling and believing that they are “so much better” than the more “primitive” religions because they’ve been “around longer.” In effect, even pagans are apt to fall into the proselytizing and missionary mindset of their Christian forebears and I think, truly, that is a severe injustice we, as pagans, can do to other religions.

    So, really, people should just stop forcing their thoughts on others because it’s WRONG.

    • You’ve explained your position perfectly. You don’t need to and don’t have to sacrifice animals; after all, you’ve already found good means of sacrifice for your gods and practice, and have justified your aversion to it because of your own life and experience. This is awesome. You also bring to the table an awareness of other paths than your own and how they do business, which shows that you’re not only learned, but you’re wise. You accept them as valid, and dislike an enforced orthodoxy over all people of various paths, traditions, and cultures because, basically, “blood is icky”.

      After all, truth is One, but the paths leading there are manifold, and just because someone’s path looks more crooked to you than yours doesn’t mean that it leads them astray.

      • Thank you!

        I really do enjoy learning about other paths. My blog roll is exceedingly eclectic, to say the least. If I can read about something and learn more about it, I’m pretty damn happy. Now, I just need to find places where I can look up Santeria and Palo Mayombe. Then, my desire for religious knowledge could be close to satisfied. (Yeah, right. My thirst for knowledge will never let me be “done”)

        Precisely! I love my path and I love going it on my own. But, just because I find something works doesn’t mean it shall be the same for everyone else. Hell, I can think of a few people who think some of my practices are questionable or downright “wrong.” But, as I am fond of saying, to each their own.

  5. I live on a farm where goats and sheep are slaughtered for food once or twice a year, and I’ve been present at two sacrifices in the last five years. Those involved killed the animals as quickly and humanely as possible, butchered them, and offered parts to the god(s) in question, while the rest was either portioned out and wrapped for the freezer or cooked and eaten right away. These were not done for magical purposes, but as offerings for various Norse deities. I guess they were more along the lines of ritually dedicating an animal before killing and butchering it, and then sharing the meal with the deities and those present than what most people think of when they hear the term “animal sacrifice.”

    There are others within the Heathen/Norse Pagan demographic who also sometimes offer animal sacrifices — called “blot” (long O), though it’s not exactly common — probably because the majority of pagans (of any tradition) live in urban or suburban environments. But there are many other ways in which one may sacrifice for one’s gods, as you’ve pointed out, and I myself have never felt moved to give Them such an offering on my own behalf. My patron gets plenty of booze and candy from me ;)

    • Actually, your experiences of sacrifice/sacrificial offering and dedication has a long, long history. That’s what was done as part of ancient Greek practice: the animal was slaughtered on or at the altar to a god or goddess, with a bone wrapped in fat or sweetmeats placed on top of the altar and burned. In some cases the entire animal was burned as a holocaust, but more often the gods got a portion and the rest of the animal was saved for a small festival or dinner party held by the celebrants or priest’s family. Then again, distinctions can easily be blurred between magic and religion, and sometimes the sacrifice of an animal as part of a magical working is done to entice or appease a god in the process.

      I’ve heard of blóts before; it’s where we get our word “bless”, if I’m right, and is cognate with “blood” and “bloom” in English, as well as Latin “flamen” or priest. Agreed on the bit about most worshippers being urban or suburban and not surrounded by farm life or the (potentially icky) facets of that way of life. Booze and candy, though, work plenty well. :D

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