An overview of the debate on animal sacrifice in modern practice

Terence P Ward —  November 5, 2014 — 207 Comments

TWH – Many modern Pagans and Heathens shy away from — or are downright horrified by — the idea of animal sacrifice. Arguments against the practice generally come from a place of concern for the animals involved, or a fear that it would result in an “othering” by mainstream society. On the other hand, the sacrificial priests say that the practice is rooted in compassion and community, and that criticisms of their work reveal a fundamental disconnect with the food system, and perhaps a smoldering of racism as well.

In recent weeks, a debate has heated up around this topic. It is clear that the very idea of killing animals in a sacred ritual evokes strong emotions among proponents and opponents alike, which can obscure the arguments and factual details as well as the religious reasons for carrying it out. Today we take a closer look at this difficult topic.

Technical details of sacrifice

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

. . . under optimum (e.g. correct, humane) circumstances of animal sacrifice, the animal has been raised in small farming set-ups (rather than industrial meat factories), handled by people it is familiar with interpersonally who regard them with respect and dignity from the start, and in the time leading up to the ritual, treated as living kings. A distressed animal, which is the standard state of industrial slaughter, is literally unfit for most sacrificial rites: the calmness and comfort of the animals is the primary logistical concern. — Anomalous Thracian

Trained as a sacrificial priest, Thracian argues that modern standards of sacrifice demand specialists who understand how to end life without suffering. As in the Kosher method of animal slaughter, the throat must be cut with a single stoke that slices through the arteries, veins, esophagus and trachea, but leaves the spinal cord intact. The reason for this precision was explained by another sacrificial priest, Tēlemakhos Night. He said:

A single cut is made at the neck, severing all vitals instantly, without compromising the central-nervous-system (the spine and neck bones). By leaving the CNS intact, the animal’s natural and biologically programmed response kicks in, which settles the animal into a state of euphoria and death, rather than agitation or panic. (Severing the CNS prevents necessary full-body signals, including hormonal release signals, from being delivered.)

Such exactness in the act was also stressed by Galina Krasskova, a Heathen priestess trained in sacrifice, who said:

Galina Krasskova

 . . . the animal is carefully chosen. It is cared for, pampered, fed well, and on the day of the sacrifice decorated, soothed, and kept calm. When the sacrifice is made, it is done with a scalpel-sharp blade and a clean, quick cut. Compassion is not what I look for in a sacrificial priest. I look for training and skill. Having the proper skill guarantees that the animal will not suffer, whereas if one approaches the act of sacrifice awash in strong emotion there’s actually a greater likelihood that a mistake will be made, the priest will hesitate, and as a result the animal will have pain.

The idea that an animal that has suffered physically or psychically is unsuitable for sacrifice may be a modern convention. Did the ancient practice of drowning horses as a sacrifice to Poseidon take into consideration the feelings of the animal? Did those people have the same 21st-century understanding of anatomy?

While a portion of the animal itself is often part of the offering, usually the bulk of the meat is consumed, a tradition which is described by Australian Hellenic polytheist Markos Gage:

In Greece when these sacrifices happened people would had been used to life and death. As a community they raised the beasts themselves, they saw them born, they fed them, treated them when ill, they killed them, they ate them. There was an intimacy that only livestock farmers know today. We live in a time of decadence where our guilt for killing an animal is non-existent because the creatures are slaughtered somewhere else and we see their meat as nothing but a product.

Many who support sacrifice see the disconnect from where our meat comes as being the driving force in the pushback against the practice this rite. Conor O’Bryan Warren, in a column on, speaks of growing up in an agricultural family, and how his view of the killing of animals differed greatly from many of his college classmates:

Most of the people in the class are inculturated with a Western Protestant worldview which sees the exploitation and torture of animals for profit (and thus a cog in the machine of Corporate Capitalism) as being completely acceptable but which views their sacrifice for religious purposes as being terribly barbaric and backwards.

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

The Druid organization Ár nDríaocht Féin does not permit any form of blood sacrifice in public rituals. Archdruid Kirk Thomas said that it’s fraught with problems for the inexperienced practitioner and from a public relations standpoint.

The reasons are many. One is it would be bad public relations — most people are more than happy to eat meat slaughtered in abattoirs in inhumane ways as long as it’s cheap and they don’t have to witness the killings. But to kill an animal in front of them would bring the horror of violent death far too close for comfort. Also, none of us are trained in the art of killing an animal in a painless and humane way. In the end we’d probably end up with a bloody mess.

However, we don’t regulate non-public rites. We actively discourage animal sacrifice but should some member own a farm and be trained in the slaughter of his or her own herds, then who are we to stop them from praying over their animals before dispatching them? Personally, I’d rather the poor creatures be commended to the Gods before their deaths than not, with forgiveness asked and, hopefully, given.

While it was often a public event in antiquity, modern sacrifice is largely a private affair, noted Night in his explanation of the mechanics of sacrifice.

Ritual context

The traditions which include sacrifice vary widely, crossing racial, ethnic, and religious lines. While there are sacrificial practices in all of the three major branches of Abrahamic religion, discussing them could distract from understanding the Pagan context. That includes sacrifice as it is understood in polytheist and African traditional religions, both of which categories have some participants who identify as Pagan. Confining the discussion in this way still results in a huge diversity of sacred practices, but clear similarities emerge.

Consent seems to be universal among these religions, and it must be obtained from the participants, the deities, and the animals involved. No one should participate in animal sacrifice if it makes them uncomfortable or violates taboos. This act is also not performed simply to do it; divination is generally used to confirm that a particular deity wants such an offering in the first place. Divination is also one of the ways that the consent of the animal is established. Although, an experienced priest may also observe the animal’s body language and ascertain the emotional state of the creature.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

While sacrificed animals are often offered in part (or, in some cases, entirely) to the god or gods in question, that is not the only reason these rites are performed. This is a detail touched on by Lilith Dorsey, author of the blog Voodoo Universe, when she spoke to us for this story:

I understand that this is a very difficult topic for many, and is obviously one that I could speak about for volumes. Let me start by saying I am an anthropologist, filmmaker and author in addition to being an initiated practitioner of Haitian Vodou and La Regla Lucumi (more mistakenly known as Santeria), both of which include animal sacrifice as part of their rites.

Sacrifice is performed for annual feasts and also to heal individual issues.The way I explain it to people is that if you went to a medical doctor and was told that in order to save the life of a loved one you needed to give them medicine that came from a chicken gizzard, would you do it? If you would offer up the human life refusing on moral grounds, then my hat is off to you.There are several African Traditional Religious houses you can join that do not practice sacrifice of animals. Most people would choose their daughter, their father, or their true love over a chicken, and then the issue really comes to light, which is one of faith.This is a spiritual prescription, you can choose to take it or not. People put much more faith in modern medicine than they do in “scary” (meaning unknown and stereotyped) magicks that may, in reality, be much more effective.This is just one reason we perform these sacrifices, to heal. Another reason is for feasts where the ritual animals are very often eaten, which seems to quell a lot of peoples’ fears. For practitioners, myself included, the animals for ceremony are just what the Orisha or Loa (divine forces) eat. The same way lions are fed steak, the energies call for this type of offering.This is substantiated by time, tradition, divination, and success rate. People who perform these sacrifices are also highly trained, both in the spiritual art and practical design of carrying out these sacred rites.The implementation in most cases is much more humane than your friendly neighborhood slaughterhouse.

While the ADF does not advocate for the practice, Archdruid Thomas is familiar with its place in religious observance:

If we look at the ancients, we see that the sacrifice was seen in a variety of ways, such as the shared meal and as a form of reciprocity. In the shared meal we are sharing our food with the Gods, and this brings about the sense of community. And for animal sacrifices then, it was the chance for a great barbecue. According to Walter Burkert, in ancient Greece the only animal protein available for most people was from the meat of the sacrifice. Even today we often refer to our holidays as ‘feasts’. This is where that comes from.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

But even as some find the practice of sacrifice life-affirming, it’s a clear violation of what other Pagans feel is expected of them by their gods. That’s where Jason Mankey is on the issue.

As a Wiccan I do not practice animal sacrifice, nor would I ever consider such a thing. In the Charge of the Goddess, it’s all spelled out pretty clearly: ‘Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.’ If the Lady demanded sacrifice She would have said so, instead she said it was not required. If it was good enough for Gerald and Doreen then it’s good enough for me.

In addition to my Wiccan practice, I also participate in Hellenic Ritual from time to time.The Ancient Greeks sacrificed animals, like most ancient pagans, and they did so with reverence towards the gods and with a sense of practicality. People often sacrificed to the Greek gods in order to get a good meat dinner, and it was also rare (the practice, not how they cooked the meat). People were far more likely to leave the god Pan honey cakes and wine than they were to sacrifice a goat in his honor.

Should people be free to practice animal sacrifice in 2014? Of course. Eating and hunting are both legal practices, and there is a long tradition of animal sacrifice within many different pagan traditions. As long as the animals in question are being slaughtered humanely and their meat is being eaten, I don’t personally have a problem with it. In addition, if people are sacrificing animals, I hope it’s from a real place of devotion and not simply to ‘prove a point.’ If everyone’s intentions are honorable, I don’t think it’s my place to tell people what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ To some degree we’ve all got to figure that out for ourselves.

Legal and cultural context

In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that animal sacrifice is legal in the landmark decision of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, in which decision Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”

That said, many Pagans, such as David Salisbury, object to the practice on moral grounds, or because it may lead to connecting these religions with “Satanic panic”-style hysteria associated with the abduction and unwilling sacrifice of house pets. Others maintain that all life is sacred, and that taking any life is never acceptable. In his recent blog post, Salisbury concluded:

Animal sacrifice boils down to ego. Our human egos want us to think that taking a life in our own hands will impress our gods and show them that we’re willing to do big things to appease them. But we must get over ourselves. Animal sacrifice serves only to tell our minds that we’re more important than the majority of other living beings who we share this planet with.



Sannion is a Hellenic polytheist who, while is does not perform these rites himself, is an outspoken champion of the practice. He questions the notion that animal sacrifice is less ethical than consuming supermarket meat, or even a vegan lifestyle:

Unless you get all of your meat from local-sourced, free-range, organic farms who practice ethical slaughter you’ve got no room to object. Animals are tortured, raised in filth and never permitted to move about, pumped full of dangerous chemicals and antibiotics, shipped ridiculously long distances so that their meat can end up at your neighborhood supermarket or fast food chain. How is that preferable to what we’re doing? And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you do realize that you’re still responsible for the taking of life, right? Life that science is increasingly coming to recognize as sentient and capable of suffering. All you’re doing is prioritizing one form of life over another — a form of life, by the way, that unlike all other forms of life derives its nutrients from sun, soil and water, and therefore causes no harm to other living creatures. If you’re strictly approaching this from an ethical position, plants are the most innocent things on this planet and so should be spared from predation.

Anomalous Thracian was willing to tackle the question of perception in the overculture:

Whether a person supports or is uncomfortable with animal sacrifice, none of us wants to see the evangelical right come with pitchforks. I guarantee that in the list of ways to strategical prevent this, coming after our own with pitchforks is not a suitable answer.

If anyone on any side of this issue is serious about wanting to see peaceful, progressive, enlightened resolution take place, the issue needs to be framed as it is: a topic of prejudice against certain lawful and protected practices, which is definable as religious intolerance and discrimination. It is never acceptable to attempt to pathologize people whose cultures or religions call for the ethical slaughter and sanctification of animals. Instead we should as a movement be examining the pathology of intolerance, prejudice, and panic.

Thracian also raises the thorny question of racism as it has manifested in dialogue around animal sacrifice, a subject which River Devora addressed in her own piece on about the practice:

I have heard the argument made that reconstructionist Polytheists who engage in ritual animal sacrifice are problematic, while those who are part of African Diasporic or Derived Traditions and African Traditional Religions get a ‘pass,’ as though somehow letting us ‘off the hook’ for our practice of animal sacrifice makes the speaker ‘enlightened’ or more ‘understanding’ of traditional religions.These kinds of arguments are racist and offensive. It is as though you are saying to us,’European traditions, and the (mostly) white people who practice them, should know better –- Europeans are supposed to be more enlightened.Traditions primarily being practiced by African, African American, and Latino folks can get a pass because we already know those folks are unenlightened savages.’ This is far more offensive than if you simply condemned the practice of animal sacrifice across the board.This may not be what you mean, but this is what we hear when you say it.

While animal sacrifice is legal and, in modern America, generally more humane than industrial slaughter, it evokes strong reactions in many Pagans and Heathens. We may never agree on whether or not animal sacrifice has a place in religious practice. However, the dialogue is opening up, as individuals carefully examine their own feelings toward sacrifice within their own belief structures and within their relationships with the gods.

Terence P Ward


Terence P Ward is a moneyworker, journalist, Hellenic polytheist and convinced Friend who lives in the bucolic Hudson Valley with his wife, five cats, and multiple household shrines.
  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I support animal sacrifice as part of my Heathen practice but, as I cannot do it properly, I do not currently perform such offerings – An offering should be the best that you can offer, and it is better to give nothing than to give too much.

    If others do not feel comfortable with the practice, that is their prerogative. The practice only becomes an issue when people start claiming moral superiority.

    That said, when people start questioning whether they should do a practice or not because of what others think, then I would suggest that they have a long, hard look at their religious choices in general. After all, animal sacrifice is no less savoury for certain “mainstream” religions than magic or polytheism is.

    • Boris

      But what if some neo-Aztec or neo-Mayan group wanted to reintroduce human sacrifice? What if some Hindu sect wanted to reintroduce suttee (the burning of widows)? They can prove that it is a part of their tradition. Taking a human or an animal life should not be done lightly.

      • linguliformean

        Killing other humans is illegal in just about every country. Humane killing of animals is not.

      • Ah, a classic “slippery slope” argument. Because eating bacon is just a short step away from becoming a cannibal?

        I don’t think so.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I’m actually pro-human sacrifice, in the right context (which would align with euthanasia, in case anyone wonders).

        No life should be taken lightly, but a sacrifice is far less “light” than having a craving for a bacon sandwich.;

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    As far as public ritual is concerned, the whole point is to connect with the public. As someone who has helped design public rituals I would no more include animal sacrifice than a literal Great Rite or a Kink demo. Whatever place it has with the people performing it, it would be the only thing the public would take home.

    • Well, there are different levels of “public.” There’s the kind of public that involves unknowns and outsiders as a deliberate form of outreach, like a Pagan Pride Day… but I’d say that rituals at large Pagan gatherings are “public” in a different way: though they are limited to registrants, they draw from widely different levels of knowledge and experience, and sometimes attract non-Pagans as well as a range of Pagan folks. And finally, there’s the category I’ve heard called “open-invitational,” where not everyone present is known to everyone else, but in order to be invited, you have to know someone. Not as private as a closed coven, or perhaps not so private as a Druid grove… but not exactly open to the public, either.

      I can imagine open-invitational settings where it might be appropriate. Though I have little trouble imagining it bungled, too.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I would not regard any of this spectrum as public in the sense I used the word: you are not going to get strangers who were walking by stopping, watching and picking up superficial impressions. That being said, I’ve been involved in organizing a modest campout and would think long and hard before putting on anything that could drive the trade away.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      If I was trying to connect with the public, I don’t think I’d use a full Blōt as an introductory rite.

      I’d probably go with a Symbel, personally.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Yeah, use your intuition about your own liturgy. Probably a surer guide than principles someone posted on line. 😉

    • Diomedes

      I mean, within the context of Hellenismos, animal sacrifice is sort of the main bit of most public rights. You sacrifice the animals, the Gods get their bits and the congregation has a big meal. Pretty much our equivalent of a Church barbecue.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        And in that context my admonition would make no sense. But it’s intended in the context of Pagan Pride in Cleveland, eg.

        • Derek_anny

          Now I’m confused. Are you saying that Hellenic ritual has no context in Pagan Pride Day? Or that “rituals” at the event aren’t actually rituals but public-relations performance art?

          edited to add: that “aren’t” is more accurately stated as “should’nt be”

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Public rituals represent the honorable work of people who promised an event. Therefore there will be some vibe with the public in the spiritual mix. That’s not a corrupting vibe, just an unusual one.I mentioned Hellenismos because I was addressed in that context not because I know anything about it. Teach not what one knows not.


        And in parts of the South, particularly Louisiana, they do neighborhood pig-roasts where the animal is butchered and spitted right there in the backyard so this is very much a cultural and regional issue.

        • And the funny thing is, assuming the people doing that are Christian, if they said a Christian prayer thanking Jesus for the life of the animal before slaughtering it, no one would bat an eye. Slaughter an animal after praying to another deity and people freak out.

          • Naali

            That’s along the lines of what I was thinking. I don’t know too much about Halal and Kosher methods of slaughtering, but I know it is religiously ritually proscribed methods that are followed, and if I remember correctly, a prayer is said before slaughtering animals in at least the Islamic case. Same deal, a majority of people to my knowledge don’t have a problem with other religiously affiliated methods of slaughtering from more mainstream religions unless they are vegetarian or vegan.

        • Myra Esoteric

          I think that’s the case in rural areas around the world, and that a lot of the PETA types only know about urban life.

          • dantes

            a lot of the PETA types only know about urban life.


          • Myra Esoteric

            PETA videotapes people prodding downed cows to get them back up, and says it’s cruel, yet PETA kills stray animals

  • What a great article! Well-reasoned and thorough. Especially as this is a topic that often generates more heat than light, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of the responses quoted here.

    While I agree with the caveats raised by Kirk Thomas and David Salisbury–there is, sadly, every probability that, were we to advocate for widely adopting this practice, there would be those doing it badly, those doing it for the wrong reasons (thinking it make a dramatic spectacle) and those whose bungling would cause public relations catastrophes. I have been to my share of bad rituals, and I’m pretty confident that Pagans could make horrific ritual from animal sacrifice.

    I also agree with Jason Mankey that there’s really nothing in Wicca that calls for this rite… but Sannion is quite correct, in my opinion, that in a world where meat is eaten, objecting to sacrifice on the face of it is absurd.

    As for the place of locally sourced meat? The only time I was ever present, personally for an animal sacrifice was for the butchering of the hand-reared goats of a farm Pagan family I am close to. Those animals were reared with great respect, and none of the meat was wasted. As with my Pagan friends who hunt, the animal’s life was ended skillfully and reverently. There is no question in my mind that animal sacrifice, as with farming animals for meat, can be done with respect and compassion. (Though I think that Galina is right, too, and that skillfulness matters at least as much as the less pragmatic aspects of slaughter.)

    It was still disturbing to me on a personal level. There’s a reason I almost never eat red meat: ethically, I feel that it is not right for me to eat meat that comes from an animal I would be unwilling to kill myself. I stretch the point with poultry–I have yet to actually undertake to raise our own for the freezer, but I have looked into it as a possibility, and have a friend who would train me in humane slaughter–and for approximately annual meals involving red meat. (I know I would not be personally able to butcher a cow or a pig.)

    Samhain, for example, is one occasion when I do eat meat at my dumb supper, as all of my immediate ancestors were enthusiastic carnivores. (I think Pappy would simply refuse to participate in a meal that didn’t feature meat!) I’ve also shared locally-raised bacon and venison in a form of communion, with my gods and with my community. No, I didn’t take the lives myself… but from my perspective, their deaths were every bit as much a matter for solemn reverence as if I had. I try to remember with each bite, and to give honor and thanks to the animal and to the gods as I eat.

    Again, thanks for a thought-provoking, even-handed exploration of one of our community’s hot topics. Much appreciated.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      “…there is, sadly, every probability that, were we to advocate for widely
      adopting this practice, there would be those doing it badly, those doing
      it for the wrong reasons (thinking it make a dramatic spectacle) and
      those whose bungling would cause public relations catastrophes.”

      I have to agree with this. Which is why I think that, for some things, a level of organisation is a good thing.

    • Deborah Bender

      “There’s a reason I almost never eat red meat: ethically, I feel that it is not right for me to eat meat that comes from an animal I would be unwilling to kill myself. I stretch the point with poultry–I have yet to actually undertake to raise our own for the freezer, but I have looked into it as a possibility, and have a friend who would train me in humane slaughter–and for approximately annual meals involving red meat. ”

      That is exactly the standard I adopted about fifteen years ago. I’m not wiling to pay someone else to do things I wouldn’t do, just for convenience or a passing pleasure. I don’t fish, hunt or raise poultry, but I would be willing to do at least one of those things in order to have animal protein in my diet. Looking a lamb, pig or cow in the eye and then killing it, when other food is available, not so much. I eat farm raised mammal flesh very rarely, and try to be mindful of what I’m eating when I do.

      I’ve talked to friends who raise meat animals and they have different standards.


      Animal sacrifice is disturbing. Taking a life, especially in a religious context, is not something to ever be done lightly and thoughtlessly. It forces us to confront death and some very hard facts about life. I think it’s a sacred and (for my tradition) necessary act and I have no problem performing it when it’s requested – but it’s not like I gleefully look forward to it. I love animals! Hell, I’d rather hang out with stray cats and raccoons than most humans on this planet. People who torture animals – I don’t think there’s a punishment harsh enough for them.


        Killing an animal, I feel it needs to be pointed out, is not the same as torturing one.

  • Growing up we raised our own food animals: pigs, cows, and chickens. The cows roamed freely through the pastures with the horses and were fed grain and rich hay. The chickens had a large enclosure to protect them from foxes and other wild predators, fresh water, quality feed, and their enclosure was routinely cleaned of droppings and other contaminants. The pigs had their own large pen to keep them from wandering off under the barbed wire fences that contained the horses and cows. They had a good mud wallow to roll in, fresh, clean straw to sleep on, fresh water and all the Pig Chow (yes, that’s an actual product) and vegetable scraps they wanted. We also took the time to get them used to riding in the stock trailer so it wasn’t scary for them. When they were big enough, we loaded them into the trailer and took them off to be professionally slaughtered, butchered and packaged for the freezer. The fact we went to a professional ensured the animals were treated as humanely as possible, something my father (who was also a hunter) was always adamant about. No one would ever say there was anything wrong with this.

    Our animals were well cared for while they were alive, even played with almost as pets, and appreciated and enjoyed by the whole family after they were slaughtered. I fail to see why having the slaughtering take place in a religious ceremony in accordance with religious tradition, with the life of the animal and a portion of its meat (muscle or organs) being offered to one’s god(s) should make the slightest difference. After all… isn’t that part of what makes something “kosher?”

    Today, as an adult living in a modern city, the best I can do is try to ensure the meat, eggs, and dairy products I buy comes from free range sources and are cared for and slaughtered as cleanly and humanely as possible. I do not have the same intimate connection to the animals my meat comes from that I had as a child but I do at least offer a prayer of thanks to the spirits of the animals my meat comes from. It may not be much, but I do what I can.

    • Franklin_Evans

      About kosher: we were posting at the same time. Chalk it up to serendipity. 😀

  • Franklin_Evans

    Our Jewish brethren have long since defined (in my opinion, of course) how this should work. Excerpt from

    Kosher slaughtering

    The mammals and birds that may be eaten must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law. (Deut. 12:21). We may not eat animals that died of natural causes (Deut. 14:21) or that were killed by other animals. In addition, the animal must have no disease or flaws in the organs at the time of slaughter. These restrictions do not apply to fish; only to the flocks and herds (Num. 11:22).

    Ritual slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet, both from the Hebrew root Shin-Cheit-Teit. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible.

    Another advantage of shechitah is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher.

    The shochet is not simply a butcher; he must be a pious man, well-trained in Jewish law, particularly as it relates to kashrut. In smaller, more remote communities, the rabbi and the shochet were often the same person.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      It’s very similar to Halal.

      • dantes

        I have heard quite many horror stories about Hallal and how the animals sacrificed this way actually suffer quite a lot. Does anyone with more knowledge about the two practices (k. and h.) tell me in which ways they differ?

        • Franklin_Evans

          According to

          The food must come from a supplier that uses halal practices. Specifically, the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, who must precede the slaughter by invoking the name of Allah, most commonly by saying “Bismillah” (“In the name of God”) and then three times “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest). Then, the animal must be slaughtered with a sharp knife by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck, causing the animal’s death without cutting the spinal cord. Lastly, the blood from the veins must be drained.

          It looks similar to kashrut, and I opine that it makes sense since the two cultures (if you go back far enough) have a common source.

          • Derek_anny

            If you’re looking for a more “reputable” than wikipedia, one person to look to is Temple Grandin. (Remember to cross-check sources, of course.) Her website is particularly thorough.

            I mean, even PETA approves of her. At least, they gave her an award.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          I don’t know about Kosher, but I know a fair bit about Halal slaughter, having worked in the (UK) poultry industry. Specifically in a factory that made the shift to the Halal method of slaughter whilst I was employed there.

          I can tell you that, for chickens, at least, the only change made from conventional slaughter to the form of Halal slaughter we were licensed for was that a Muslim man of good standing had to say a prayer as each bird was killed.

          The rest of the process was identical.

          • dantes

            Thanks for both of you!

          • Some similar things happened in the American Kosher industry, where the actual process itself didn’t match the stated intention. The largest producer was found to have not been following the precise process and also hiring undocumented workers well below minimum wages and without bathroom breaks (!).

            In that case (and maybe in your former employers?), it sounds a bit like the logics of profit and industrialized meat production may have trumped the ancient rules.

          • I remember encountering an ultra-orthodox rabbi some years back (I think he was Chabad) who was a vegetarian because he’d discovered that while the animals who were slaughtered for kosher meat were slaughtered according to Jewish law, the animals had otherwise been subjected to the same cruel, industrialized farm setting as the non-kosher animals up until that point. Basically, all of the animals were raised in the same horrific conditions, it’s only on the way to the slaughterhouse that they were separated out for kosher slaughter. As part of the laws of kashrut prohibit such cruel treatment of the animals, this rabbi felt that the meat labeled as kosher wasn’t genuinely so. So he became vegetarian.

          • Aunt Bat

            I have a Muslimah friend who basically does the same thing. In her mind, being marked “halal” and actually BEING halal are two different things. So she sticks to plants unless she really knows and trusts the source of the meat.

            Now, if only there were religious requirements concerning the proper production of plant foods… but perhaps that’s a problem for another day.

          • Aye. Capitalism ruins EVERYTHING. 🙁

          • Looking around, I found this, which seemed relevant: in the Talmud (Baba Metsia 85a) there is a story about Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history, compiler of the Mishnah. The Talmud says that once, while leading a calf to be slaughtered, he was cruel to the animal, causing God to punish him with kidney stones for six years, and then scurvy for 7 years. It wasn’t until he showed kindness to another animal that God relented.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It was certified by a Muslim organisation, one that allows for stunning of the animal.

            Basic process – the chicken is hung upside down, stunned, has its neck sliced, but leaving the spinal cord intact, then bled out.

            The whole process takes under a minute, on a conveyor system. (Indeed, it usually ran at about 70 birds a minute.)

            Prior to the shift to Halal, there was a person stood at the neck slicer with a knife to make sure that none of the birds were missed by the slicer, as the next process was “scalding” and there were animal rights to consider.

            When the factory shifted to Halal, that person was defined as “a Muslim man of good standing within the faith”. I believe he had to be sanctioned by the local mosque.

            From what I can gather, the practice is pretty much standard for most forms of Halal slaughter in the UK.

          • dantes

            Okay but as far as I know, there are branches of islam that do not accept animal stunning prior to bleeding am I right?

            Also, are you saying that the birds have their throats cut by a machine? Like a guillotine? That’s quite a disturbing thought…

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            There are branches of Islam that prohibit pre-slaughter stunning, yes. However, these denominations are not the most numerous ones in the UK, to my knowledge.

            Why is that disturbing? There are a lot of people that need feeding. The old fashioned way is not efficient enough. This method causes no more suffering than the other.

            If you want to talk about suffering, it is the methods of rearing, not slaughter that should be examined.

          • dantes

            I totally agree that an industrially-raised animal won’t have a much better death (or life for that matter) with a human doing the slicing. It’s just that, I don’t know, the idea of literal killing machines creeps me somewhat. Sounds clinical, like something coming out of a bad science-fiction novel.

            When it comes to meat overall, I totally agree that one should treat animal respectfully and that our contemporary multinational agricultural industry is quite the damaging thing. Of course not everyone can raise his or her own animals or be vegan, but ultimately it should be.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am loathe to dictate to others how they *should* live – it’d be a slippery slope for me.

  • dantes

    Well, I am happy to see that the question of Animal Sacrifice appears to be turning into a non-issue. Something it should have been since the beginning.

    I personally don’t partake in animal sacrifice because I am currently city-based and my meager agricultural background would not permit me to do so.

    Once I (finally) end up on my plot of land down by the fjords, I will probably raise animals on my own and then, butcher them, potentially in a religious context. In any cases, all of those animal will end up having a much nicer life than just about 100 per cent of the industrial animals nowadays.

    Until then, I guess I’ll just keep on making my own cheese, bread and chocolate as offerings.

    • Don’t forget the beer and mead! There really is something different about offering libations you’ve brewed yourself. (It was actually my own motivation for learning to brew.)

      What kind of cheese do you make, if I may be so bold? I’ve only progressed as far as cream cheese and paneer, myself–the easiest of cheeses. My motivations, interestingly enough, are pretty much the same as my motivation for forgoing factory farmed meat: the only way I can afford cheese from local, organic herds of cows is to make it myself. (I’m lucky to have a small local dairy farm nearby I can buy from. It’s still pricey, but much cheaper than the boutique cheeses from a farmer’s market.)


        Oh my gods, I cannot recommend offering alcohol you’ve brewed yourself highly enough. Not only is it something that comes from your own hands and labor – but you get to shepherd it through the process and learn so much that way. As a devotee of a god of alcohol that meant a lot for me. This totally makes me want to start home-brewing again.


        Also, I really miss the Eugene farmer’s market. They’ve got one out here, but it’s not the same.

      • dantes

        I actually have never made alcohol but I sure wish I could! Sadly, there isn’t that much space in my flat right now and in addition to that I live in the arctic where wares for producing such goods are rather expensive. In addition, I live so far North that there’s no cereal-growing land at all here so it adds to the difficulty.

        The cheese I make is very much like Paneer (Queso Blanco mostly): a liter of Milk, 190 Fahrenheit, salt, pepper and about a shotglass of vinegar (poured slowly). The good thing with this is that depending on how long you let i drain you can adjust the spreadability of the final product. also I have plan on makjng hard cheeses but again, it calls for some more equipment.

  • Nicholas Haney

    I have been following this debate with interest, and this is a really good article. However, I feel some very important questions have not been raised.
    For context sake, I am an animistic pagan and hunter. So here are my questions.
    1) Small-farm, loving-raised animals have been addressed as acceptable for sacrifice. What about wild animals? “Nature” raised?
    2) Hunting is very much a game of chance, and prey species often withhold consent (my experience). They don’t give their lives willingly, especially to a predator/hunter. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?
    3) What about if the kill is not “humane”? Bad shots happen in hunting, for many factors. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?

    I have my own thoughts, but I just wanted to see what others think.

    • I don’t see what difference it makes if the animal is farm raised or wild hunted. It all depends on the attitude of the hunter, IMHO. I have never understood the animosity directed towards people who hunt for food. Given the opportunity, hunting your own meat is undoubtedly much healthier than stalking the wild Ball Park frank or pot roast from the local Stop & Shop.

      Trophy hunters, on the other hand, who only take the head, horns, or skin and leave the rest to rot are as***les who deserve nothing more than to be treated in kind, if the law permitted such.

      If I still lived in a situation where hunting was feasible, I would hold a ritual of blessing and dedication to Herne, the Hunter and ask him to bless my bow (or rifle depending on the season in question). If my hunt was successful, I would offer a prayer of thanks to Herne and offer a prayer of blessing and gratitude to the spirit of the animal hunted. While field dressing the animal, a portion would be left behind as an offering to the Lord and Lady of Animals in thanks and ask that they ease any lingering fear or pain attached to the spirit of the animal I just killed and that it be allowed to return to the herd in the next birthing season.

      As for hunts where, as you say ‘bad shots happen” it is the responsibility of the hunter to do everything they can to track the animal and put it down as quickly as possible when they find it. But in the context of a bad hunt, I don’t see the suffering of the animal as any different than if it had been pulled down by a wolf pack, a mountain lion, or any other “natural” predator. The same prayers and blessings should be offered to the spirit of the animal, maybe augmented with an apology for the “bad shot” and then carry on.

      • dantes

        Hunting used to be very much regarded as a magical event. In Medieval literature, it’s often while hunting that people cross the Veil or make divine/supernatural encounters.

        • Good point.

        • It’s not surprising since, even after Christianization, for the peoples of Europe the forest was still very much a place alive with all kinds of spirits, and hunting often involved gaining the favor of those spirits. In Finland, (male) hunters prayed to the (female) forest spirits with very erotic prayers, boasting of their prowess to get the forest spirits to help them find and kill prey.

          • dantes

            That sounds cool, do you have a source for that? M’getting curious because I’m currently researching Bear-hunt-related rituals and religiosity in the Viking Age and I know there must be lots of stuff in Finland.

          • I’ve heard it discussed by pagans in Finland, but I just went looking quickly for an academic reference or discussion of it, but couldn’t find one off hand. I did find a text which seems relevant, I’ll post in reply to Cat C-B’s comment below since she asked for an example.

            Also, in case you don’t already have it, if you want a good book on bear hunting in northern Europe specifically, Juha Pentikäinen has written a book called Golden King of the Forest: The Lore of the Northern Bear. Its focus is mostly toward the Finnish/Karelian bear hunt, but there are chapters on the bear in antiquity, Scandinavia, the Sámi, and other Finno-Ugric peoples.

          • Nicholas Haney

            I can add a couple of others, since I have an interest in such things. Bears and Meaning among Hunter-Fisher-Gatherers by Knut Helskog, and one I am working my way through now called; Initiation Rituals in Old Norse Texts and their Relationship to Finno-Karelian Bear Cult Rituals by James Haggerty.
            I will have to check out the source you mentioned.

          • Kauko, are any of those prayers available in translation? They sound wonderful.

          • I found this text, called ‘Departure to the Forest’, recorded in 1819 in Savo, Finland. I’ll skip the first couple of stanzas, which just describe the hunter leaving the village/farm secretly to go hunting.

            There the spruce-tree shines
            the blue backwoods shimmer blue:
            that is where I want to go
            for that my deeps throb.
            No other man has bluer eyelashes
            or clearer eyebrows
            than the man I am.

            Soften, forest, moisten, woods
            yield, dear Tapio
            be kind, world of gods
            as a man goes to the hunt
            be gracious, forest mistress
            careful maid of Tapiola
            open the wide shed
            break your lock of bone
            let the quarry run
            along golden paths
            along silver roads!
            Ukko, it will only be
            you it you give me a sign:
            drive your game, O god
            round it up yourself!
            If it is not nearer here
            bring it from farther away
            out of Lapland’s wide backwoods
            from the north’s cold hinterland
            all claws and all hair
            from between five Vipuris
            out of earshot of six towns
            May the fence collapse
            between seven stakes
            which delays them on the road
            makes them rest on their journey
            that the stock may teem
            the red-clad stretch forth
            as the man I am walks by.

          • “Soften, forest, moisten, woodsyield, dear Tapio
            …be gracious, forest mistress
            careful maid of Tapiola
            open the wide shed…”

            Yeah, that surely has some erotic overtones! It is also lovely, even in translation. (And I also appreciate the reference to the title addressing bear hunting–not an animal much discussed in Wicca, but one of great importance near my home.)

          • The funny thing in that line is that Tapio is a male forest spirit/deity! The forest mistress a few lines later I’d guess would most likely be Tellervo, since she was the female forest deity most associated with hunting game, if I’m remembering correctly.
            My father’s side of the family–the Finnish side–have all been hunters, my father certainly is. Since I’ve begun to explore Finnish religion, in which hunting was obviously very important since Finland straddles the border of where agriculture was possible and where people had to rely on hunting, fishing, and gathering, I’ve become a little resentful that my father never attempted to pass that on to me or my brothers. Of course, young me would have hated it, being bookish and sensitive, not at all energetic and outdoorsy. As an adult though, I do feel like it’s something that would be a strong link between me and my ancestors, something that I’m missing as a very (sub)urban person studying the folk religion of a completely rural people. Modern American hunting culture, though, often comes across as being all about sport and trophies, which disgusts me to be honest. I have the utmost respect for people hunting to feed their families, and who act respectfully toward the animals and the forest. If I were to take up hunting as an adult, I’d want to make sure to learn from the latter and not the former type.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It’s not to late to learn, you know.

            I’d love to be able to bag meat for the table. Even if it is just rabbit and pigeon.

          • dantes

            Thank you all for your recommendations, I will definitely have a look on those!

          • Thanks for the correction over Tapio vs Tellervo. It’s certainly difficult, as an outsider to a culture, to understand as completely as one would like from context alone.

            As for American hunting culture, I think it varies a good deal regionally. Where I live, in New England, there are strong family traditions… but the animals killed are used for meat, and it is much more about family heritage and venison or duck than trophies or machismo, at least, if my own encounters with hunting culture are anything to go by. I do not find the kind of reverence for the land and the animal that would feel most appropriate to me, as a Pagan, but neither do I find it an egotistical or unethical practice.

            There have been a short list of Pagan hunters I’ve known I would gladly learn from. (Bow hunting, by preference, for a raft of reasons.) Alas, they have mostly moved away, to warmer climes.

          • It’s likely one of those things where the ones who make the most noise about it are trophy hunters who just want the awesome picture of them with the dead animal propped up so they can post it on Facebook or whatever, but the hunters genuinely doing it for meat don’t need to brag about it; they just quietly go about their business.
            The kind of thing that typifies the kind of hunting I find disgusting is a video I saw on Youtube at some point in the last few years. In it a bunch of young men are out in the woods, laughing and cracking jokes while one of them with a rifle casually shoots a bear that has climbed a tree. As it falls from the tree dead they all cheer and laugh, because, you know, needlessly killing an animal is all for funsies.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            You know what gets me about sports hunting?

            There are “sporting estates” in places like Scotland where people pay a lot of money to go shoot deer, but they do not keep the deer. They have to pay extra for the head/antlers, but the deer is sold to restaurants.

            So much money is made off the practice, it has created an industry that has destroyed much of our upland wilderness.

          • Wolfsbane

            All this stupid whining about trophy hunting.

            So what?

            Something in the local environment always benefits and feeds off what is left. It’s not for you to decide and make judgments on who or what is allowed to benefit from it.

            You need to stop drinking PETA’s poisoned Christian capitalist inspired Kool-Aid and pretending that it’s some sacrosanct message from above.

          • Wolfsbane

            All this stupid whining about trophy hunting.

            So what? There’s no such thing.

            Something in the local environment always benefits and feeds off what is left and passes it on to continue powering the natural circle of life. It’s not for you to decide and make judgments on who or what is allowed to benefit from it.

            You need to stop drinking PETA’s poisoned Christian capitalist inspired Kool-Aid and pretending that it’s some sacrosanct message from above.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            There really is such a thing as trophy/sport hunting. It’s a big industry that has devastated much of the British environment.

        • Nicholas Haney

          Not just ‘used’ to be! It is one of the core aspects of my spiritual practice. It is a very powerful experience.

      • I agree completely about trophy hunters!
        My husband’s family hunted in Pennsylvania for deer, as a way of keeping the populations in check. No more than two deer a season, with a bow used.
        His mother’s family raised their own meat animals and supplemented that wtih wild critter meat.
        His mother’s second husband’s family moved to the wilds of the Florida panhandle in the early 30’s, with no grocery nearby and unpaved track roads the rule. Irby hunted a lot of critter for family food…and later, became a charter fishing boat captain in the Gulf of Mexico. You know, “three hour trips”? He and many of the other captains had a limit of fish per trip that could be caught, to prevent overfishing.

        • dantes

          For one household, three deer or a moose is enough to provide meat for most of the winter. We really could do good with hunting if the overall culture was less perverted.

    • linguliformean

      Wild hunted animals have led a better life and probably are a more humane option than even well reared farm ones.

      Incorporate divining and prayer before the hunt – make it as clean a kill as possible, dispatch quickly if needed and make an offering when dead.

      if it’s bad, finish it off and make some recompense – apologies to the animal, take a week off or something.

      • Agreed. No one in my immediate family hunts, and I have never had the opportunity to learn. But, to the extent that I do eat meat, I would prefer eating meat I’d hunted from the wild–I know those animals have lived their lives fully according to their natures.

        Lacking the skill, I stay home, and do my best to eat ethically sourced meat when I eat meat at all. But modern factory farming is a tragedy: no life worth living for the animal, and a horrific cost to the earth. Certainly, it makes both hunting and appropriate sacrifice seem highly ethical!

    • Consult your deities! Depending on your tradition, there may be some teaching laid down already of course… but checking in with those we seek to honor is a good idea in any case, I’d think.

      But it is very true–even with the best will in the world, hunters do not have perfect control over a shot. And it is best to understand up front that the ideal, of an animal that does not find its suffering prolonged, may not always translate to the real. I suspect our ancestors were well aware of this–and I’m quite confident my gods are. In reality, the best we can manage is likely, “no needless suffering.”

      (I wonder–do my thoughts align with yours? I have not hunted, personally, so there’s a lot that I don’t know, despite having friends I love and respect who do.)


        Couldn’t agree more! Every animal sacrifice I’ve been a part of there was tons of divination done beforehand, afterwards and to an extent even during. The lore gives you the framework but the particulars need to be determined by the gods, especially whether the offering was accepted and pleasing to them.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      In the context I am knowledgeable of, wild animals do not seem to have been used as sacrificial offerings. Possibly due to the lack of connection between the sacrifice and the sacrificer.

      With a domesticated animal, there is a sense of ownership – you are giving up something of your own. A wild animal is not owned, in the same way.

      There is also the issue of quality control – the animal offered should be the best you can present. This involves having raised it yourself to ensure that it is the best of the flock/herd. When you hunt, there is no guarantee that your quarry will be suitable.

      Finally, there is methodology – right practice is an extremely important part of ritual. When you kill an animal on the hunt, you do not have the surety of a tried and tested method of sacrifice.

      • Northern_Light_27

        There was a good thread on FB on this from a Heathen perspective. IIRC wild animals are not acceptable for blot because they belong to the utgard. The tradition is that domestic animals were given by the gods to humanity, so we offer back that gift.

        • dantes

          That’s quite strange…

          The tradition is that domestic animals were given by the gods to humanity, so we offer back that gift.

          I have never heard of that before, do you know from what they base this tenet?

          • Nick Ritter

            I believe it is ultimately based on a theoretical framework developed by Bruce Lincoln, in his book “Priests, Warriors, & Cattle.”

          • dantes

            The guy seems legit, but it seems that he’s not much of an expert on Heathenism though…

            Still, Mircea Eliade as a doctoral adviser, that’s rather street-credible.

          • Nick Ritter

            Yes, he wrote some interesting things early on in his career.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          I think I saw that one too, on A&H.

    • Nicholas Haney

      Hey guys, thank you all for your thoughts. In some way, you all have touched upon aspects of my practice. I have pre-hunt (equipment, skill blessing) hunt (finding/attracting prey) and post-hunt (spiritual appeasements, treatment of remains.) As well as consultations with deity, ancestors and spirits I work with. It is all very complex and nuanced, and I may have to write a blog post about it. I would be interested in maybe discussing this elsewhere. I can be found on FB and my blog on wordpress covers a lot of these things, including some of the Bear stuff Kauko is talking about.

    • Nicholas Haney

      Would anyone have a problem being quoted? Just wondering…

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren


      • dantes

        Neither, but I’m not on FB, so what´s the name of your blog?

      • Not at all…

      • Thanks, I got the post up now. You can find my blog through my profile, or at

    • Chas S. Clifton

      I shot a buck deer yesterday. He ran a short distance, then stood still . . . It sort of felt like an offering, but maybe it was just typical mule deer behavior. I was still very thankful.

  • FourgeN.

    I have to strongly disagree with David Salisbury. It’s not an Ego trip. In Santeria, the Orisha themselves tell us through divination that they want sacrifices to them. It isn’t us trying to make like some big shots. And there have been cases where the Orisha, such as Eleggua, have come down and “mounted” their devotees during drumming ceremonies, and ripped off a chickens head and drank of its blood. Blood is the life force those Gods feed on, while the meat is left for human consumption. Sure, maybe the Goddess of Wicca demands no sacrifice, but the Orisha of Lukumi do. And I speak as a Vegetarian here who does choose the consumption of the life of plants and their plenty over the life of animals.

    • I think his point was that for some Pagans, it would be such, not that, for all Pagans, it inevitably is. And since there’s very little I’ve seen that can’t be turned into an ego trip by some of the Pagans I’ve met, I take that as likely.

      Which is not really relevant to those who are practicing in a more genuine manner… but it is a consideration when we think about the movement as a whole.

      Of course, individuals and traditions do vary.


        Absolutely! And I stand in firm support of those who say, “animal sacrifice isn’t part of my tradition” though it is very much part of mine. It’s when people move beyond that and start trying to dictate what’s appropriate for others that I find their position problematic. There’s a strong and vocal core of Hellenic polytheists who are dead-set against magic and will often lecture Wiccans and other neopagans about how wrong it is. Not only do I find that historically inaccurate and socially inappropriate – to the point that it’s one of the reasons I don’t identify as part of that community, even though my tradition is rooted in Southern Italy which was heavily colonized by the Greeks – it doesn’t actually work. I don’t think all that hectoring has managed to convince more than a handful of Wiccans to abandon their magical practices – nor is this going to do anything but tick off and make the pro-sacrifice camp more resolute.

        • I see disputes like these are part of the “separation and individuation” process of our still-adolescent traditions. No one has a greater need to define themselves, and to define themselves as unique, than does an adolescent! And many of our traditions suffer from that same adolescent tendency to need to pass judgement on one another.

          Long-winded way of saying, as we mature, both as individuals on our own spiritual paths, and as traditions working around coherent centers, I think we’ll find less of that annoying trait, of trying to tell others what is right and best for them.

          At least, I sure as hell hope we will… *rueful smile*

          • (And don’t you go quoting me out of context on this one, Sannion! In case it is not dead obvious, let me state it outright: I am not referring to you, to Hellenic polytheism, OR to Wicca as somehow “immature.” I do, however, see all of the related Pagan traditions wrestling with issues of identity and self-definition that do seem to mirror what I know of adolescence. And I think that each of us, as we grow into any newfound spiritual path, experiences a kind of rebirth… and regrowing into maturity in our new way of living. Got it?)


            Would I do such a thing? *wicked grin*

          • *eyebrow lifted, a la Spock*


            Ginestho! (May it be so!)
            And if we can keep egos and tempers out of it (something I’m as guilty of as anyone else, I readily admit) I think we’ll all be the better for it. These are important and necessary discussions. Sometimes we’ll find we’re on diametrically opposed sides, sometimes we’ll find more common ground than we expected – but we talk sensibly and level-headedly about it and don’t toss out friendships because we’re not in lock step on every single issue – we’ll all be the better for it. Different doesn’t have to mean better or worse than – it just means not the same. Viva diversity!

          • Preach!

    • He is a vegan, him thinking it is an extension of ego and just terrible is pretty much par for the course.

      • Naali

        I’ve often seen the “extension of ego” argument about ANY practices dealing directly with deities. I think it’s the go-to argument from people who either don’t really believe in the deities, or who like the idea of deities but get nervous when they actually show themselves.

  • damonleff

    In South Africa, traditional law allows for the sacrifice of animals for religious purposes. I suspect Pagans who farm with livestock are not against the offering of blood sacrifice when appropriate.

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    For me, personally, why vegetables and not meat? Meat involves a relationship with one set of Beings, vegetables another, wood and paper yet another. My relationship with mammals and birds prevents me from eating them given my current economic and lifestyle constraints; my relationship with plants permits limited and mindful use. Callous indifference toward any would be a wrongful act.

  • Merlyn7

    As a Wiccan, it’s thankfully a non-issue as Mankey points out: “‘Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.’”

    As someone who works in public relations, if I were ever to be asked for advice from someone who wants to sacrifice, (and I haven’t been) it would be: Offer the Gods a Foster Farms chicken instead, the general public is not ready for this.

    • trueinar .

      Maybe Wiccans and others should stop with magick as the public isn’t ready for that either. Perhaps we all should stop having any rituals that come off as weird. Maybe we should not talk about the Gods and Goddesses because the general public isn’t ready for it. Maybe avoid ceremonial clothing as that might make some uncomfortable. Maybe avoid wearing a pentagram or a Thor’s hammer. If we start avoiding practices just because the general public might be uncomfortable with we might as well go be a part of a more mainstream religion. Nobody will ever understand or accept us for who we are if we are too afraid to be ourselves. If we dilute and bastardize our faiths for the sake of acceptance why even bother? We would just be insulting the Gods and Goddesses and the spirits with such weakness.

      • Merlyn7

        There is little that we do that is in line with what the general public is comfortable with but in the minds of many people animal sacrifice is an order of magnitude more terrifying than a batty person who dresses in robes and lights candles to celebrate the solstice.

        • Though I’m ok with animal sacrifice (done right) I’m not offended but what you’re saying. In ADF we do not allow animal sacrifice because our rituals are *public*. Same reason we wear robes and don’t have sex in our rituals. Doesn’t mean ADF folks can’t do those things in private.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        This comment confuses doubly. First it puts behavior that’s eccentric but harmless on the same level and killing an animal, which are just not equivalent in the eyes of the public. Second, foregoing certain practices in public space is not avoiding them altogether; many of our paths include distinctions between inner-court and outer-court ritual, and this is simply another distinction.

      • Is there an advantage in performing a sacrifice in public, as far as our relationships with the gods go? If not, why would we engage in it?

        • kenofken

          From the standpoint of modern Wicca? Probably not. Historically though, if we look to ancient Rome or other cultures, we see that pagan religion was, at some level, a public and communal affair. We see religion as an intensely personal and individualized relationship with deity. They saw religion in large part as a civic function. There was a relationship between the gods and the people which had to be nourished. Public religion and piety was also seen as a way to reinforce virtue and, in no small measure, fealty to the state.

          I don’t see any particular theological need to perform animal sacrifice in Wicca. That said, it’s matter to take up with one’s own gods and goddesses. If we are called to such sacrifice, I see no inherent reason why we should not do so in a public ritual.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          I’m not sure what advantage there is to performing rituals in public, generally.

          That being said, I can also agree with KenofKen – religion was celebrated as a (physical) community, with everyone locally being involved.

          • Certainly this is how I teach about sacrifice, when it comes up in the context of Greek Mythology at a high school level. (Oh, how I love to be able to give that context! “Barbecue with the gods” may be a little over-simplified, but kids get it, and it’s very different from any way they’ve ever really thought about such matters before.)

    • MadGastronomer

      So let me get this straight: Other people shouldn’t practice their religions fully because you don’t think “the general public” will like it. And somehow this opinion of yours should outweigh the wishes of other people’s gods.

      • Merlyn7

        Where do I indicate that I think my opinion should outweigh someone else’s wishes?

        • MadGastronomer

          Well, you know, the bit where you want people to take your advice over the wishes of their gods.

          • Merlyn7

            I point to this part of what I wrote: “…if I were ever to be asked for advice from someone who wants to sacrifice…” It supposes that I was asked.

            Also, no I wouldn’t advise people to sacrifice to their gods whatever they believe they have been asked for. It seems to be a very political topic as I’ve heard a lot of people defending the sacrifice of farm animals but no one who seems OK with sacrificing cats or people.

          • kenofken

            It turns out the gods, like us, have more cats than they know what to do with. We don’t trouble with human sacrifice anymore because the Abrahamics have flooded the market, so to speak! 😉


            Plus, you’re only supposed to give the best to the gods, right? Someone raised on a steady diet of fast food, processed sugar and carcinogens whose only exercise is walking to and from their car and who watches nothing but reality tv and partisan news channels doesn’t exactly meet the health and purity requirements of our sacrificial tradition. Find me an organic, free range human who doesn’t know what a Kardashian is and maybe I’ll reconsider my firm stance on the inappropriateness of human sacrifice. /sarcasm

          • kenofken

            If I offered a Kardashian to the gods, Ceridwen would hunt me to the ends of the Earth and put me down in horrid fashion, and she would be fully justified in doing so!


            It is not possible to like this comment enough.

          • Merlyn7

            It’s the only possible explanation 🙂

          • Yeah, I see that “if I were ever to be asked for advice” as very important. It’s a signal that only those who are unsure of their path enough to be asking of Merlyn7 his/her advice are being advised.

            I don’t think there’s a need to pick a quarrel where none has been offered… Your mileage may vary on that.

          • Merlyn7

            Yes, thank you. Also my advice only comes from the perspective of PR, not as clergy.

          • kenofken

            From a PR perspective, I would argue that the secrecy of initiatory traditions in Wicca and other religions invites more public contempt than what we do in public, even when that includes controversial things like nudity or animal sacrifice.

            What people don’t see invites wild speculation and cynical fear mongering. Historically we see that in the blood libel of the Jews, the Roman persecution of early Christians, and the Christian persecution of just about anyone else. The fate of the Templars is a classic case. In all of these cases, the persecuted were accused of incest, cannibalism, human sacrifice, whatever was deemed the most outrageous accusation the mind could conceive. Their insularity and secrecy combined with their strong cohesiveness and group identity drew more fire than anything they did in public.

          • kenofken

            “I don’t think there’s a need to pick a quarrel where none has been offered… :……………………

            You’re new to the Internet, aren’t you? 😉

          • Or a master of verbal irony.

            Take your pick. 😉


            Nor would we. Speaking as a Magna Graecian polytheist, our traditions are very specific about what category of animals may be offered and how that is to be carried out. Deviation from these norms is acceptable only under extraordinary and very precisely defined circumstances – and it would take a whole hell of a lot more than “my god told me to” for me to be behind that.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am okay with those. In the correct context.

          • MadGastronomer

            Except that you just offered your opinion unasked, which kind of negates that bit.

            As for the others, an important part of many sacrificial traditions is that the animals are at least partly eaten by people afterwards. Eating the meat of predators can be hazardous, and eating the meat of humans is incredibly so, and, of course, not a lot of modern people are actually following traditions in which sacrifice of humans was a thing.


            *raises hand* Human sacrifice was believed by the ancients to have been a part of Dionysian worship, to the point that it gave rise to at least six separate epithets. I say “believed” because whenever it comes up among these authors it’s usually a practice confined to the remote past or mythology which has been discarded or with an animal substitute swapped for the human with a few notable historical exceptions. Those exceptions are either, like Livy, most probably the result of negative propaganda or extreme circumstances. Herodotos mentions the slaughter of Persian prisoners of war to Dionysos and Plutarch relates how a Dionysian priest named Zoilus got a little too enthusiastic and instead of just chasing the maenads with a sword he actually caught one and ran her through. Zoilus ended up contracting a debilitating illness and his family suffered bad luck for a couple generations after so anyone who is considering reviving this element of Dionysian worship better be damn certain that’s something he wants. (And for the record if he ever asked it of me I’d do what I could to talk him down to accepting a different offering. Greeks are the masters of the haggle – some will even get insulted if you accept the first offer they make. Perhaps it’s true of their gods as well.)

          • MadGastronomer

            I didn’t say no one, I said not a lot of modern people, as an explanation for why merlyn7 hasn’t seen anyone defending it. (I saw your post about it, even if he didn’t.)


            I figured. 😉
            Just commenting to play devil’s advocate. Plus, as you point out, there are sad corners of the internet that have never been exposed to my writings.

    • The will of the general public has not stopped Santeros or Vodousaint in performing their necessary rites. The general, Protestant-influenced public should not have any bearing on one’s rites, rituals, and offerings.

    • kenofken

      If my spiritual journey was aimed at being an easy PR sale, I would have passed Wicca by and gone straight for nominal suburban Protestantism. I couldn’t give a rat’s posterior about what the general public thinks of my religion or my relationship with the gods.

      • dantes

        Slow Clap.

    • Trevelyan

      A Foster Farms chicken is an insult to the Gods at the very least. Factory farming is one of the most harmful and unclean practices out there. You really think that insulting deity and engaging in cruelty should be prioritized due to ‘public relations’? Yeah, pardon me while I go underground then. I want no association with that kind of @&$*% ethics.

      • Merlyn7

        The “Foster Farms” part of the comment was a tongue in cheek way of saying “don’t sacrifice a live animal publicly because people will wear leather and eat bacon but still get squicked out at the thought of sacrificing an animal.”

        Conversely, the narrative of the Foster Farms chicken is these two puppets aren’t regarded highly enough to get into FF:

    • Frith Wierdman

      I was recently asked to give a very brief summary of my “spiritual practice”. The very best I could come up with was “Idolatry, animal sacrifice and worshiping the dead.” Best to rip that bandage off quickly when faced with a direct question which merits an honest answer.

      Aside from being a tongue-in-cheek reference to Christian taboos, this short list really does define three practices I understand to be fundamental- even obligatory- to heathen custom. Not to say that every heathen must conduct such sacrifices themselves, this is obviously neither practical nor desirable, but rather that proper communal sacrifice is a foundational activity to the development if an authentically heathen custom and worldview.

      So, from a PR perspective I’m already sunk. I am fully “out” with my practices when confronted by honest queries from the curious, and I avoid molesting the uninterested with the specifics of my religious life. It’s worked pretty well so far.

      • dantes

        “Idolatry, animal sacrifice and worshiping the dead.”

        Now that’s a street-credible Religion !

      • linguliformean

        “Idolatry, animal sacrifice and worshiping the dead.”

        Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

    • Offer the Gods a better level of chicken.

      • Merlyn7

        Cornish game hens perhaps?

    • Segomâros Widugeni

      Thing is: it’s going on already, and has been for years, no matter what the general public thinks. The question isn’t “should we do it?”. Afro-Diasporic religions *do*. Certain Heathens *do*. The question is: “should we join in persecuting our fellow Pagans to keep the general public happy?” To that, the resounding answer should be: “F*ck no!”

  • mptp

    “Nor do I demand” is no more the same as “I forbid” than “If it harms none, do what you will” is the same as “do no harm”.

  • Myrrdin Greyoak

    As a Wiccan I do not perform ritual sacrifice. That said I have hunted and killed for food. I have no problem with any faith that performs ritual sacrifice as long as they do it humanely which as this article points out they do.

  • Maybe I’m misreading, but it sounds like the arguments for animal sacrifice come down to two things:

    – The gods tell me to.
    – Cultural ancestors did it, so I’m doing it.

    Personally, I think even with the gods and ancestors there is room for personal choice and free will. We don’t need to do everything divine beings ask of us, and although ancestors are important we are living in a much different world than they did. Just my two cents.


      That’s how our arguments are being presented – not actually what we say. If you’re interested in reading the rest of my interview I’ve posted it here:

    • kenofken

      We don’t need to do anything deities ask of us, but as with any relationship, we get out what we put in.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      You do not have to do what the gods ask of you.

      Nor do they have to do what you ask of them.

      Reciprocal relationships are about giving so that you will receive.

    • linguliformean

      The key one that is being put forward and which isn’t on your list is:

      -people need to eat

      Therefore why not prepare that meal from an animal that has had a good life and a good death and share it not only amongst your community but also with the gods.

  • As always, the choice is left to us. The Gods don’t make us do anything. Traditions can be changed, or abandoned, or sincerely embraced and perpetuated.

    The Pythagoreans provide a very ancient and respected precedent for turning away from blood sacrifice in favor of offering grain and incense.

    But the Emperor Julian provides another powerful ancient (or at least “late antique”) precedent for the enthusiastic revival of the practice of blood sacrifice – and he also provides a reminder that the suppression of sacrifice was a cornerstone of the suppression of Paganism by the Christians.


      Close, but not quite:

      Diogenes Laertios, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.19-21
      Above all, Pythagoras forbade as food red mullet and blacktail, and he enjoined abstinence from the hearts of animals and from beans, and sometimes, according to Aristotle, even from paunch and gurnard. Some say that he contented himself with just some honey or a honeycomb or bread, never touching wine in the daytime, and with greens boiled or raw for dainties, and fish but rarely. His robe was white and spotless, his quilts of white wool, for linen had not yet reached those parts. He was never known to over-eat, to behave loosely, or to be drunk. He would avoid laughter and all pandering to tastes such as insulting jests and vulgar tales. He would punish neither slave nor free man in anger. Admonition he used to call “setting right.” He used to practise divination by sounds or voices and by auguries, never by burnt-offerings, beyond frankincense. The offerings he made were always inanimate; though some say that he would offer cocks, sucking goats and porkers, as they are called, but lambs never.

  • Segomâros Widugeni

    To be sure, I don’t make animal sacrifices, otherwise, either, but that is just because I lack the requisite skill sets. If I were trained in humane slaughtering, and the Gods gave me good reason, I would surely do so. I strongly support those who engage in animal sacrifice according to traditional and humane custom.
    Note that different traditions are different, and have different practices. Animal sacrifice is not a part of Wicca, as Jason noted. In consequence, when I do *Wiccan* rituals, I don’t make animal sacrifices, not would I ever.

    Animal sacrifice is an ancient and near-universal rite of communion with the Gods. It has the potential to be as awe inspiring and beautiful as any other religious ritual. It brings people together with Gods and sacrificial victims in a sacred bond of reciprocity. In most modern descendants of ancient religion, animal and blood sacrifice have been replaced by non-living or vegetable substitutes, but there are also many traditions where the practice is still part of the living religion, and there it should be continued. Where it is a strong part of reconstructed or inspired practice, it is likewise appropriate, provided the practice is humane, which it almost always is.

    Many of us remember the Satanic Panic, when rumors abounded of secret cults sacrificing animals and children. Pagans in that era did everything we could to distance ourselves from the rumors and accusations. We tried as much as possible to be as respectable as we could, to pass unnoticed. In more recent years, we have been doing our best to earn acceptance into mainstream society. There was, and is, nothing wrong with these efforts. The Charge of the Goddess and Wiccan Rede support the lack of sacrifice by Pagans in a Wiccan context, and so support the image of Paganism as “harmless”.

    But in our efforts to survive that era, and to put it behind us, we may have stigmatized practices and people unfairly.

    • mptp

      I’d say the Charge and the Rede support the lack of _requirement_ of sacrifice.

      • linguliformean

        Personally, animal sacrifice just doesn’t feel right within a Wiccan context.

        my other practices though it would be fine – iIwould ideally like to perform the Horse Sacrifice but that is WAY beyond what I am able to do in central London

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          If you ever do, can I have the head… :p

          • linguliformean

            Is it bragging to say i own a magnificent horse skull as a cultic object ? 😀

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Depends, do you make Nīþing-poles?

        • dantes

          Talking about that, how taboo is it to eat Horse flesh in England? In most Mediterranean countries and thanks to catholicism, it’s often considered tantamount to crime against humanity.

          • linguliformean

            Pretty taboo, certainly not the done thing by a long way. France is big on it – I ate some when there this summer. Not sure anyone has a decent reason as to the taboo.

          • dantes


          • linguliformean

            Do you mean Freyr worship as a reason it is taboo or that horse sacrifice and eating was part of Freyr worship?

            interested to know more!

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            The eating of horse flesh was an activity associated with archaeo-Heathen practice and was suppressed by the coming of Christianity.

            One of the few places this practice wasn’t stopped was Iceland, because they didn’t really have that much choice for meat.

          • Nick Ritter


            Among other reasons. Horses seem to have been just about the highest victim one could offer in various Indo-European cultures, short of human sacrifice. As such, I suspect that horse-flesh was consumed primarily in sacrificial settings. The forbidding of horse-flesh was, I think, a blow struck against the indigenous religions of Europe.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It’s not explicitly taboo – I’ve eaten zebra (didn’t like it) – but there was a rather large outcry when horse meat was found in

            products labelled as beef.

  • Segomâros Widugeni

    Many of you have seen the attached video. It acquires added value, however, as part of the animal sacrifice debate. It depicts the religious and other customs of people who follow an unbroken “Pagan” religious tradition in Europe. Here we see the reality of sacrifice, animal and otherwise, and something very like the customs of Pagan Europe in ancient times.

  • Spawn_of_Santa

    It is an interesting article. Animal sacrifice, whether people choose to admit it or not is still very much a part of modern religion. Friday fish fries at the Catholic church during Lent, Sunday potluck at the local Baptist Church (do they still do those?), Eid, these and others involve an animal coming to the table, and while the sacrifice (slaughter) of the animal may be far removed from the ritual, it is, in my mind still an animal sacrifice.

    As with the Druids of old, eating the meat of animals slaughtered at Samhain until they hallucinate (though I suspect that large amounts of mead were involved as well) is a ritual that I will never be able to partake in (I will be puking my guts up long before I’m hallucinating thanks to my stomach surgery), feasting is still an important part of the religion of the Celts.

    Kirk Thomas seems to be a somewhat wiser leader of the Ar nDriaocht Fein than Bonewits was, he is 100% correct that the vast majority of people are happy with eating meat as long as they don’t have to take part in the slaughter and butchering of the animal. I’m of a different ilk myself, though I seldom get to practice it, believing that it is more honest to the do the work yourself, and honor the animal’s sacrifice for your life.

    I disagree with David Salisbury’s position though that animal sacrifice may lead to “Satanic Panic” (Really? REALLY??? I’m having a T-Shirt made). It may lead to that only if we are not open and honest about our intentions and our practices.

    The Idea that we must maintain secrecy, stay in the Broom Closet, because we may upset some people’s sensibilities is abhorrent to me. Utterly, completely and totally abhorrent. We live in a nation where our Faith is protected by the highest law in the land, and if we abdicate those rights in the name of fear of criticism, then who do we have to blame other than ourselves when the zealots come knocking down our doors in the dead of night out of fear?

    Sannion is correct as well to all those who would criticize the practice of animal sacrifice by WELL-TRAINED priests and priestesses; “Unless you get all of your meat from local-sourced, free-range, organic farms who practice ethical slaughter you’ve got no room to object. Animals are tortured, raised in filth and never permitted to move about, pumped full of dangerous chemicals and antibiotics, shipped ridiculously long distances so that their meat can end up at your neighborhood supermarket or fast food chain. How is that preferable to what we’re doing?”

    How is it?

  • Skye

    we have all gone “fluffy bunnies and rainbows everywhere” now? This is
    something that is cultural and ingrained. Some may choose to not
    sacrifice animals while others do, and that is ok. To stand there, and
    demand that someone from a different path or
    culture to cease what they are doing(because you don’t like it and
    therefore it is wrong) is in of itself wrong. That has been done over
    and over again. It’s not working. Perhaps one should fix the ills of
    ones own culture(community, coven, etc) before demanding that others
    change to suit ones own sensibilities. Then, open a dialogue with those
    of other groups—-a NON-demanding dialogue. If another sees ills in
    their own culture that need fixing, and they align with what oneself
    sees as ills, then give that person the aid they need to change their
    culture. however, it MUST be them wanting and making the changes. Not
    one who is from outside the culture. That being said, those who eat meat
    are going to eat meat. That blood is spilt anyways. Why not offer it up
    to those who guide our paths to the divine? Is it not better to have
    the blood that is spilt be offered up in thanks than to have it be spilt
    for nothings? The meat will be eaten anyways, so why not? I prefer to
    keep in the balance of things wherever possible. Also, I am a carnivore.

  • tkroah

    I don’t actually approve of killing animals for religious purposes. I don’t think it’s the worst thing either. And magically, especially as a last ditch supernatural healing effort for a loved one I could easily look the other way. Kind of like the way I feel about the execution of terrorists and war criminals. I can’t condone the act itself or the death penalty, but occasionally never saying “never” is a needful thing. The problem with animal sacrifice is that like others have commented it’s almost an immediate removal of the purpose and reason behind spiritual, religious and magical sacrifice in the first place, in favor of a reason to have a feast. Those reasons should not be valid in the twenty-first century and it’s a real shame there are any poor or starving people in the world at all, anywhere anymore. Killing animals for food is difficult enough without bringing God into it. Eventually when cheap protein and carbs are factory produced to look and taste like the best steak dinner that never came from a real live animal, people will still be killers, killing things in their environment. Spiritual sacrifice is meant to honor that basic truth on a fundamental level. No it doesn’t HAVE to include actual animals being killed, even when they are immediately used for food as a secondary purpose. I make the absolute best spaghetti with ground venison from a family recipe. So, yes, sometimes I have to comply with and even encourage hunting for all of its reasons, purposes and consequences. And I don’t like factory farming at all and encourage anyone who can afford it to buy organic and free range (which isn’t a whole lot of folks these days), but if there is anything more ironic and counterproductive in recent history than ‘green’ and animal rights terrorism I can’t think of it.

    • Nick Ritter

      “even when they are immediately used for food as a secondary purpose.”

      By suggesting that eating the animal is a secondary purpose, you are imposing a “primary (spiritual) vs. secondary (material)” structure on the act that may have nothing to do with how the sacrificers and participants view it. Your understanding of things may include that kind of Platonic dualism, but that does not equate to a universal truth.

      If I am sacrificing an animal (I haven’t, yet, but my religious tradition has been practicing animal sacrifice for decades), I am doing it as an act of reciprocal giving with the gods I worship. The eating of the animal is part of that act, and is by no means a kind of material “side-effect” or afterthought. The eating is a vital part of the religious act, so much so that we have a specific word for “sacrificial feast” as part of our religious vocabulary (Anglo-Saxon ‘húsl’, Modern English ‘housel’).

  • ~Eyre Muse~

    Personal I’m not for any sacrifice but my own. From what my ancestors did, if an animal was to be sacrificed, they would will an animal to cross their path of its own will would it be sacrificed. Later own, my family used their own blood by cutting open the palms are the hand. That always seemed to appease the gods and goddess. It also secured the favor of the deities.
    As the one and only pagan in my family that practice, its alot to take in. The other pagan is translating all the books Nanny brought with her when she immigrated from Ireland. My godmother placed a bind on me for five years due, lack of a teacher and all the uncontrollable emotional backlash of personal issues all in the name of family. She crossed over in January so now, I’m playing catch up with my gifts and in Agriculture /herbalogy.
    I have found it far easier Solitary versus a Coven. And following the healing arts,since I’ve been in and out for the last 18years, but always dealing with death. I’ve suddenly become ill with the idea of ever going that way. I prefer the physical parts, My brood has only been to doctors if I couldn’t get rid of the infection myself and to get shots.other than that, I’ve been blessed with healthy kidlings
    Blessed Be to thee times three ❤

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      “From what my ancestors did, if an animal was to be sacrificed, they
      would will an animal to cross their path of its own will would it be

      What culture was that, and do you have any more information on it?


        Read down a bit and they explain that this … ahem … lore was carried over by their Nanny from Ireland.

        • Nick Ritter

          I am in that curious state where I don’t know if the post in question was satirical or not.


            I am a pessimist, so I’m gonna go with it being something the person either sincerely believes or wants others to sincerely believe.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          My question stands.

  • This has been one of my sigs for a while now:

    “Although the practice of animal sacrifice may seem abhorrent to some,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 1993 decision of a 1st Amendment case, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.” It involved a Santería church, Lukumi Babalu Aye, and its priest, Ernesto Pichardo, against the city of Hialeah, Florida. Many mainstream religious and civil-rights groups lined up with the church, while animal-rights proponents sided with the city.

    I find that Sannion’s reaction or response to David Salisbury is spot on, put better than I might have, but in the same vein.

    Now that I’ve read all the 135 comments, I note that halal, Kosher, and Tēlemakhos Night’s sacrificial methods are all pretty much the same, especially wrt leaving the neck and spine bones, as well as the spinal cord, intact, presumably for all of them as a way of slaughtering the animal more humanely.

    I thank you all, Terence Ward and commenters, for the education on this subject.

  • DruidofParadise

    No way. Uh uh. Nope.

    Spilling blood in the name of the divine is a stupid mistake humans have been making since we could perceive of the gods. And as is the historical case, it almost always starts with animals before moving up the food chain, and then ends up with you justifying war to please your deities. Look at ALL the Abrahamic religions if you doubt my words. They started out with lambs, and ended up with Canaanites.

    No, it’s too slippery a slope, spiritually. Too gruesome, functionally. NeoPagan practice should be life affirming, and not involve the taking on an innocent life. I don’t care how well you treat it before you cut its throat…

    • dantes

      NeoPagan practice should be life affirming

      Thumbs up!

      Otherwise regarding these words:

      And as is the historical case, it almost always starts with animals before moving up the food chain, and then ends up with you justifying war to please your deities.

      Can you name many, if any example of Pagan people attempting to genocide another ethnic group on the grounds of their faith? Because I personally can’t.

      Also, if we are bound to eat meat, why not having some religious decorum around it? Especially when it’s a rather well-established decorum that can be symbolically explained and was shared by almost all Pagan traditions the world over?

      • DruidofParadise

        DISCLAIMER: Everything I am about to type is my own opinion, and I in no way desire anyone else pick it up as their own. It’s mine and you can’t have it. Neener X3.

        As far as other Pagan peoples who got carried away with killing for their gods, the Aztecs are the first to come to mind, and I’m sure it wouldn’t take much research to look up others.

        And as far as giving thanks before killing meat that you will eat yourself: have at it, Hoss! That’s a form of respect we should all aspire to, and I even have long term plans to switch my meat intake to only that which I kill. No, we have no conflict there.

        My issue is ritually killing something for the purpose of making a deity happy. If the gods are beings that we should all be inspired by, and strive to be (see disclaimer); how would an advanced being who is supposedly above a 21st century computer engineer in celestial pecking order be benefited by an offering of guts and gore?

        In the Bronze / Iron Ages? Sure, we still thought headaches were caused by ghosts back then, so the gods took our gross offerings with a “it’s the thought that counts” kind of attitude. Now? C’mon… We’ve split the atom and walked on the moon FFS, and have also decimated the world’s animal population by 50% in the last 40 years.

        I don’t think we should be killing for the gods anymore, but that’s just me. Flame away…

        • linguliformean

          I think part of this is a different view on the nature of deity. To ME my gods are the world around me; the storms, the sea, the landscape and the sky. each of those has it’s qualities; some nurture, some kill. Central to it all is the fact it all exists because something was sacrificed/died. Everything.

          Partaking in my life in a way that involves the gods throughout, means involving them when food is prepared and eaten and to me dedicating part of that – particularly the killing (going back to that central Mystery) – is a sacred act.

          My gods don’t demand it, but I offer it and thus have a relationship of hospitality and obligation with the gods.

          • DruidofParadise

            And that’s beautiful! You are living your path exactly as you are inspired. But it sounds to me that you are being pious and grateful, which I’ve said over and over was a good an noble thing. I respect that. Sharing the finished meal with the ancestors, or the gods: that’s the good stuff.

            It just doesn’t read to me like you are killing the animal for the sake of killing it, and offering the remains as a gory gift. Cats do that, and it sucks for us, my gods kinda see it the same way.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I think you are looking at it backwards.

            It is about the gift, with killing being a necessary component of the giving.

            As for your cats, when a cat kills a mouse, is it bad or a good cat?

          • dantes

            I agree that we are not living in the same world that our ancestors. However, it is my belief that we should strive to live in, more or less, the same way as they did. I don’t really feel like offering a twinkie would be any better than offering a goat. Actually, unless the twinkie has been grown and raised by you alone (:D) it’d probably be worse.

            Couldn’t we say that the sacrifice of an animal is ultimately acknowledging the natural world and that by sacrificing it to the gods we shown that we respect life and highly regard the animal that has to depart ?

    • Diomedes

      The slippery slope is a logical fallacy. And how can an act backed up in the theology and mythology of just about every polytheistic culture in the world be a “mistake”? Also, most of us who are in favor of animal sacrifice are not “neopagans”; y’all can do your own thing.

      • DruidofParadise

        Probably a foregone conclusion that I was actually speaking to my own path. Maybe I should have clarified it better, but I also don’t see where I say everyone else should think the way I do.

        • Diomedes

          Not to offend, but the way you wrote it came across like a huge blanket statement. You said that spilling blood was a mistake humans have been making forever; not people in your tradition, but every tradition. Also, the whole animal sacrifice leads to killing people argument has absolutely zero evidence and is incredibly offensive. If you’re only referring to your own tradition, then by all means do so, but make it clear you are only talking about your tradition because this is the internet and being clear about your intent is really important.

          • DruidofParadise

            Not to offend, but I find your taking of offense incredibly offensive. This being the internet, maybe you should have been better prepared for the possibility of others not always thinking the same way you do? I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.

            I will include disclaimers for the over sensitive types from now on, and I stand by everything I say, without apology. If you are killing animals for the sole purpose of appeasing your gods, you are a brute. In my opinion, according to my path, and as a result of my perceptions; you are a brute…nothing more.

            Raising and slaughtering animals with prayers for your own consumption, or for ritual sharing, that’s beautiful. It beats factory farming and pleases the Kindred (in my opinion). Killing something just to bleed it and dedicate its corpse to a spirit is just as gross as a cat leaving a dead mouse at your door.

          • Diomedes

            Not even salty here, dude. You don’t seem to understand that you’re approaching super sensitive issues that are really important to people. Instead of understanding what people do when they preform sacrifice, you keep making these weird baseless accusations that people are just killing animals for lolz and calling it animal sacrifice to make it acceptable. No one here is torturing an animal to death and just leaving the corpse out in the middle of the road and calling it a sacrificial rite, so quit pretending that people are. You’re making huge, blanketing statements about people who do preform these rites (calling such actions “stupid mistakes”) and then backpedaling by saying you were really only talking about your tradition. When you’re talking about religion, you have to be prepared to deal with people with other views and to approach those views with respect, you have to be clear about what you’re saying so it doesn’t get muddied up in between your keyboard and another person’s screen.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That cat is offering you its kill. It’s an expression of at least community if not love. Be glad it’s dead and you didn’t get it in your bed alive so you could share in the hunt; that’s real love.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            And this is why mixing rites/religions doesn’t work.

          • dantes

            In regard to Aniaml sacrifice >>>>>>>> Religious Holocaust, I indeed forgot about the nutcases Atztecs. True. Now please, let’s find a European example!

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      They started out with lambs, and ended up with Canaanites.This is an intriguing progression. Do you have another example to draw from? Can you explain blood sacrifice traditions, like Diaspora African, that haven’t gone to human sacrifice?


      According to Porphyry you got it wrong. The first offerings were the produce of the fields. Men went to war in defense of their fields, which led to offering human sacrifices for the fertility and defense of those fields. And over the course of time animals were substituted for men. I don’t think either you or Porphyry are correct, but it shows that the slope doesn’t necessarily have to slip the way you think it does. Personally, I’m not too worried about animal sacrifice leading to human sacrifice – plenty of folks eat cheese burgers without developing a hankerin’ for long-pig.

      • DruidofParadise


        Correct, schmorect. The second we have full consensus on anything to do with the spiritual is the moment we need to be afraid. I will not judge any Pagan who performs this sort of rite, and they would be as equally welcome in my grove as any other (sans the blood). I simply will not allow it as any part of my practice / crafting.

        Giving thanks to both the animal and the spirits that nurtured it before killing and consuming said animal is a noble thing, however. Most of my gods (read “mine” as in part of MY path, not yours) however, would most likely react with the inspirational equivalent of “eeew, gross, man, why?” if I ever killed something for them.

        That and it would give all those insufferable fundies of the dominant religion cause to point and say “see I told you so” about us being their vision of evil. Just not going to happen. Not with me anyway, have at it yourself, you’re still as respected to me.

        Also Porphyry didn’t know about Gobekli Tepe….

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          You keep talking about “your” gods… You call yourself a Druid, so I am presuming one of the Celtic pantheons.

          The Celts were a pretty bloodthirsty bunch, and plenty of recons will likely state that the gods still enjoy a blood & flesh offering. (Morrígan, I’m looking at you.)

          So, it may be better to state that “your” gods do not ask blood offerings of you.

          • DruidofParadise

            Nah, I don’t think I’ll be restating anything. The Paleo-Pagan Druids from which my path takes its namesake certainly had their charms, but it’s the 21st century.

            I’ll not kill anything for a deity, your mileage may vary, go about your business, thank you, drive through.

            They seem to like the 30 year old rum I give them enough anyway, so why mess with a good thing? AGAIN: this is just me.

          • dantes

            We respect the path you take in cases but you seem to have a weird conception of time: “it’s the 21st century

            IMO, the XXIst century ain’t either that great or that different that the VIIth or the VIIIth. Deep down, we still have to grow food, live off the land and try to leave some descendants behind. What once was…

  • Amanda C.

    To my mind, the anti-sacrifice rhetoric is a classic example of West Knows Best. Most of the time, there is no knowledge of the actual practice or context in which animal sacrifice is conducted, and the objections are based upon what the first world society *assumes* is happening due to second-hand or outright biased information. Or worse, TV and movies. At my small town Midwest school, there were classes for students in FFA (Future Farmers of America) with a study unit in which you could learn how to raise – and later humanely kill – your own livestock for food. Is this not a basis for animal sacrifice? I personally don’t practice animal sacrifice, but I’ve been around rural/farm culture enough to not be particularly squeamish about others doing it in humane fashion.

    And to be more tongue-in-cheek: couldn’t Thanksgiving be termed as one giant animal sacrifice? Technically, it’s people getting together to kill/eat a specific animal in conjunction with a cultural ritual. Just because the turkey was obtained at the supermarket doesn’t mean it wasn’t slaughtered for the deliberate purpose of Thanksgiving dinner.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      I wonder how many of those turkeys are killed according to Halal/Kosher rules?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I’ll never again feel the same at a Thanksgiving dinner.

  • ecstaticearth

    Do those animals give of themselves freely? Is it not egocentric to have a belief that we as humans have the right to take another animal and slaughter it for our desire’s? Honestly, those upholding these practices claim to be making a sacrifice but its the animal who is actually making the sacrifice, of its life, and dare I saw unwillingly so. If you want to be truly offering a sacrifice give of yourself not another.

    • linguliformean

      That isn’t the meaning of the word sacrifice in this context, in the vernacular these days yes that is what it means.

      The ritual context is all about making the event sacred – being in a moment with community and deity and partaking in something sacred, something beyond the profane simple taking of a life.


      I won’t speak for other traditions, but the consent of the animal is an integral part of Hellenic thusia; consent is determined at several places and in several ways throughout the rite, and if it is not given, if there are other anomalies (such as noticing a defect in the animal or its display of bizarre behavior) or if the series of divinations and omen-takings come up short the ritual must be stopped or else it will prove gravely offensive to the gods. At that point either a different victim needs to be procured or an entirely different ritual performed – which is the mantis’ job to figure out. Thusia is very methodical – we don’t run around with hatchets indiscriminately killing anything that moves. That’s another ritual altogether.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      Considering that, for most of human history, humans were hunter-gatherers, and that human evolutionary history shows a jump when the species made the shift to eating meat, I don’t think that ego has anything to do with the issue.

      Humans are evolved omnivores. Science backs this up. That means they are predators (or, at the very least, carrion feeders, but the invention of tools goes against that one).

      The animal’s consent to becoming prey seems to matter little to the wolf.