Blood sacrifice and modern Paganisms

Last month The Wild Hunt asked five members of the community — Thracian polytheanimist Anomalous Thracian of the blog Thracian Exodus; Mambo Chita Tann of Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We; priestess, author, blogger, and Solar Cross Temple board member Crystal Blanton; OBOD Druid and Under the Ancient Oaks blogger John Beckett; and Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) Druid Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh — for their thoughts on sacrifice. The following continues the conversation with part two of that interview.

How is sacrifice separate from blood sacrifice? Does blood sacrifice include personal blood offerings or is it limited to animal sacrifice?

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Blood sacrifice is not a term that I use and I would argue it as vague and somewhat useless. Ritual bloodletting would be more appropriate in this context, if I am reading the question correctly, as it is general enough to include many things, such as: ritual cutting of one’s own flesh to create a bond or pact with a spirit; ritual cutting of a sexual partner’s flesh in a ritual or ceremony; ritual cutting of an animal (not for the purpose of killing, but for producing the essence of a specific animal’s life force); “marking” a person with your own essence under certain ritual circumstances, whether for positive (protective, warding) or negative (hostile, magically infectious) reasons. Similarly cutting one’s self to feed one’s own blood to a specific deity — exactly as you might use, say, a goat, but without an immediate death — could be considered a sacrifice, and is still generally categorizable as “bloodletting.” I would hesitate to call anything that does not involve intentional death a sacrifice, in personal use of the term, but I would consider “the feeding or offering of blood, without death, to a deity or spirit” to be a form of sacrifice when circumstances call for it. Note: In many traditions, there are HEAVY restrictions upon forms of bloodletting of this sort, as the spirits and deities in question will take this as indication that the person being bled is “food,” and they will be regarded as such.” — Anomalous Thracian, Thracian Exodus

Mambo Chita Tann

Mambo Chita Tann

“We do not ever offer human blood in Haitian Vodou, despite stereotypes to the contrary. Blood can be offered in the rituals around making animal offerings, which almost always become food for ritual participants, once the spirits have taken their share. It is possible to consider sacrifice in the sense of other offerings of great worth that are given to the spirits, such as the great amount of effort, money, resources, and time an entire Vodou sosyete will dedicate to initiation ceremonies or annual observances of special ritual, but we still do not place these offerings as being more precious or higher than the ultimate sacrifice of an animal’s life to provide protection, blessing, and sustenance for that sosyete and its members.” — Mambo Chita Tann, Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, Haitian Vodou

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“There are many different types of sacrifice, and it is not limited to blood sacrifice. Different traditions access this differently. I personally do not practice blood sacrifice, but I have made personal blood offerings. I honor the life force of the individual, and the power of the divine within me, adding magic in the process.” — Crystal Blanton, Daughters of Eve


John Beckett

John Beckett

“Blood sacrifice is a subset of sacrifice, a particular form of sacrifice. It can include personal blood offerings or it can include animal sacrifice.” — John Beckett, Under the Ancient Oaks

Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

“Sacrifice often is confused with “blood offerings.” Blood sacrifice really doesn’t have a place in a modern Neopagan context, yet there are established cultures that still perform blood sacrifices. In a modern Druid context, sacrifices are often things such as whiskey, grains, flowers, prayers, poems, songs, and anything else that is a tangible item used to give to the gods. There are instances where Neopagans will sacrifice some of their own blood as a form of blood oath, but that is a rare instance. Killing of a live animal is another form of archaic sacrifice or offering that really is not something that is all that common in a Neopagan context. Most of us purchase our meat already slaughtered for consumption, but there are ways to offer a portion of that meat as a sacrifice in the form of the shared meal.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh, Druid, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF)

Do modern Paganisms stand to gain anything positive from giving offerings and sacrifice to the Gods? What about blood sacrifice?

“As a Polytheist who does not really identify as a Pagan, I can’t speak for “modern Pagans.” I believe that authentic religious traditions — rather than psychological models drawing from religious terms or structures, or social movements similarly using the aesthetic of religion for artistic, activist, or community-centered reasons, etcetera — should have trained specialists who handle the navigation of sacrifices to the respective gods of said group, assuming that said gods request, require, or even accept sacrifices. Not all gods like bloodshed or death. As for “blood sacrifice,” I will take this to mean “ritual bloodletting” (as indicated above), and again say, that while I cannot speak for Modern Paganisms, I can state that magically and religiously there is great potency in these technologies which can be certainly used for ‘gaining something positive.’” — Anomalous Thracian

“Giving offerings to the gods cannot possibly be a bad thing. Like prayer and interaction with one’s religious community, I tend toward the belief that you can’t get enough of it. Giving special offerings that take effort, non-blood sacrifices, are just more of the same. I do not believe that Pagans need to give blood sacrifice unless and until they understand the context of that act, have trained personnel who can perform it for them, and have a distinct need to do it: either because they need to share ritual food, they are in a place where they need to butcher their own meat and they choose to sacralize that act by offering their food animals to the gods, or their gods demand it of them and no other options are satisfactory. Even in the last case, I still believe it is imperative and necessary for context and training to occur first. As I stated in the PantheaCon panel, I expect that most modern Pagans, living in countries where they do not have to butcher their own meat and practicing religions that have lost their connection to customs where blood sacrifice was practiced, will never need to do this, and their deities would not ask it of them as a result.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Our relationships with the Gods dictate the value of sacrifice within a particular context. Much of what we would gain would be within the relationship itself, and that would depend on the practitioner and the God(s) in question. To make a broad, sweeping statement here about gain or loss would be devaluing to the individual and cultural relationships of varying practitioners of the craft.” — Crystal Blanton

“I have mixed feelings about blood sacrifice. On one hand, it would do us all good to get a first-hand understanding of where our food comes from and a first-hand understanding that what we are eating was itself alive only a short time ago. On the other hand, butchering animals requires skills you just don’t learn unless you grow up on a working farm and the only thing worse than not sacrificing is sacrificing clumsily – the animal should not suffer needlessly. Beyond that, I look at the community and legal problems blood sacrifice brings to some of the Afro-Caribbean religions – that’s not a battle I care to fight. But when you move beyond the issue of blood sacrifice, there is unquestionable benefit from sacrificing to the Gods. It brings us into closer relationships with Them, and it forces us to consider our relationships with food and with the non-food offerings we may be asked to give.” — John Beckett

“Absolutely, yes. We gain their blessings and we build our relationships with them through sacrifice. As far as blood sacrifice goes, in my years as a pagan and decade plus in ADF I have rarely heard it mentioned. I think we as Neopagans should focus on how we can use practical items to sacrifice in ritual, rather than trying to focus on something that is uncommon.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Where does volition and willingness come into sacrifice?

“Pretty much everywhere. Consent is sacred at every step; consent of the person performing or contemplating the sacrifice, consent of the sacrifice itself, consent of the one who raised or produced the sacrifice, consent also of the spirit or deity in question.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Constantly. If a thing is done against one’s will, it cannot be a sacrifice, period. If a person is forced to make an offering, that is no sacrifice, it is compulsion, and no good spirit or deity accepts that as sacrifice. In Haitian Vodou and in all the other traditions I know of where animal sacrifices are performed, no one would ever offer an animal without that animal’s permission; again, to do so without it would be compulsion and would not be a proper sacrifice. Even in halal and kosher ritual, from Islam and Judaism respectively, the animal must be awake and willing to be sacrificed; it cannot be knocked out before the knife is used. This is causing some issues with animal rights activists, most recently in Denmark, for example; but the alternative, to knock an animal unconscious and then kill it, would be completely wrong in that sacrificial tradition — while it may appear to the untrained eye of an animal lover looking at a video to be “kinder” to do this, an unconscious animal is unable to give consent and thus it is both cruel and, from a sacrificial standpoint, unholy/wrong. Those who understand butchery know that there are techniques to kill an animal without pain, and all who perform halal and kosher rituals must be certified as trained.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Volition means the act of making a decision, and willingness simply means being prepared to do something. As in all rituals, we have to properly prepare ourselves. In many traditions it means putting on special ritual clothing, setting up an altar, smudging ourselves, ritual bathing, and other things to prepare us for the act of ritual. In ritual, we decide who we are going to sacrifice to and why. We always need to enter ritual with a purpose, and we should always have a reason for sacrifice—even if it is just to build a better relationship with our gods. A ritual without a purpose is a waste of everybody’s time.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Does volition come into play in animal sacrifice, does it matter, and if so, how is it obtained?

“Yes. There are various methods for this, from speaking with the animal directly and observing its behavior (or hearing back, if the asker can communicate with animals directly), and so forth. The ritual structure being employed should provide the structures for ascertaining this. If they do not, they should maybe be reevaluated in order to ensure that they are completely understood and trained.” — Anomalous Thracian

“In terms of how we obtain it: In Haitian Vodou, animals are raised explicitly for the purpose of food and for ritual-related food or ritual purposes where the animal cannot be eaten afterward. These animals are raised by hand, by the community that will sacrifice them. Before they are sacrificed, they are washed, decorated, and prepared by the community. They will be led into the peristyle (the Vodou temple), and presented with a number of various foods. One of these foods is chosen ahead of time as being the official sacrificial food. The animal is told what will happen, and that if it is willing to be sacrificed, that it should eat the official food to signify this. Only if the animal eats the special food will it be presented to the spirits for sacrifice. If it eats anything else first, it must be let free because it is not willing to do the work. It has been my experience that the willing animals not only go immediately to the official food, they will eat all of it, and not even touch the other food (which will be the same: for example, three identical piles of corn for a chicken). They also act like they know what is happening, and they do not fight when they are picked up by the butcher, etcetera. It is a profound experience that is observed with the greatest amount of kindness and dignity. The animal has one life, and is being willing to give it up for us — how could we be less than respectful of that?” — Mambo Chita Tann

“It would have to come into play. A person has to choose to sacrifice an animal, and that is the very definition of volition. In a Neopagan context, I find the notion of animal sacrifice not necessary except for rare exceptions.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

Should animal sacrifice have a place in modern Paganisms, reconstructionisms, and Witchcraft?

“As I am none of these things, I do not feel that it is my place to answer for them. That said I believe that animal sacrifice should have a place in any authentically lived religious tradition which has spirits or gods which request or traditionally receive such things.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Until and unless those practices have a stated need for animal sacrifice – and I believe that most of them never will – I would say no. Should that become necessary, for logistical reasons (i.e., not living in a land with easy access to food animals, refrigeration, etc.), or should the gods require it, then I would believe that those same gods would provide access to the proper context, training, and ability to do so. Vodouisants themselves have this situation. Very, very few individual Vodouisants perform animal sacrifices, and even those who do, do not do it on a daily or regular basis. In the cases where that is a necessary event, there are trained personnel that one can go to, who will perform it on your behalf. I rarely perform that act in the United States; it is simply less necessary here, given our modern conveniences when it comes to food. Even in Haiti, I do not perform it often, and in all cases, I have access to trained personnel who can help me with the sacrifices I am not trained to perform myself. Everything is community-based. Modern Paganisms would have to define the same sorts of communities before they would even know if that was something they were going to need to do. If it ever happens, I believe it would be a long time in the future.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“In general, it could have a very important place, but unless it can be done right it shouldn’t be done at all.” — John Beckett

“In most instances I do not think animal sacrifice really has a place in modern Neopaganism. I do know of a heathen farmer who raises his own pigs and ritually sacrifices one, but this is a rare situation. In a modern context, there simply are alternatives to sacrifice that are every bit as effective.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

What is the nature of sacrifice in terms of transactions between spirits, Gods, and other entities?

“Sometimes sacrifices are a form of payment. Other times they are a form of celebration. Sometimes it is a transaction, sometimes it is praise; always it is reverent.” — Anomalous Thracian

“Depending on the context and the nature of the sacrifice, the sacrifice can reinforce connections by being a thanksgiving for help that has been given; it can be made as a promise for future action; it can be given as a substitute for someone else’s life (as I mentioned above). Sacrifice can represent a total offering of the self to the deities or spirits, or it can be a payment for an expected reciprocal benefit. There is no general meaning that applies to all sacrifices from all people to all spirits or gods – each one, like its nature as a unique and special thing, has a unique and special meaning.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“The nature of sacrifice is that which defines our relationship with the gods (and Kindreds). There are many reasons for sacrifice, and that defines what exactly is being asked or expected in the transaction. Here are few types of sacrifices as our Arch Druid Kirk Thomas has discussed in his various works:

1. Transactional sacrifice is the most common form of sacrifice where the sacred object is offered, and in the nature of hospitality, a gift is given in return. The basis of ADF’s Return Flow portion of ritual is “a gift calls for a gift.” The best one can offer is given, and the blessing and gratitude from the gods is given in return. 2. Piacular Sacrifice was a common Roman offering given during ritual to ask for recompense in case the offerings given weren’t enough or good enough. It is based on the fact that humans are inherently flawed, and the offering is given to acknowledge that. This type of sacrifice is still seen in the Roman Catholic Church. 3. The appeasement sacrifice is a type of offering given to a being or god to leave you alone. It is literally the “take this and leave” offering. Generally, this type of offering is given to beings not aligned with the ritual being worked, and they are given an offering out of respect to acknowledge they exist, but they are not part of the work being performed. 4. The shared meal is a type of sacrifice where a portion of the cooked food is offered to the gods. This is a very common ancient and Neopagan practice. 5. Chaos mitigates cosmos is a type of sacrifice that uses a series of offerings to recreate the cosmos in a ritual setting. This type of sacrifice goes back into the pan Indo-European creation story of Man and Twin. Man kills Twin and Twin is dismembered to create the world and cosmos. The chaos is the unknown or Otherworld, and Man takes his place as king of the Otherworld. This type of offering is meant to recreate this, but without any actual bloodshed.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

What about relationship; how does it play into the idea of sacrifice?

“I cannot imagine giving a sacrifice without having a relationship both with the being receiving the sacrifice and the community that would benefit from it; either in the form of food/reversion of the offerings, in the benefits gained from the sacrifice, or both. One might give a random gift to a stranger, for example, but it would be unlikely that one would give a random stranger the most expensive, most wonderful thing one owned. Sacrifice is a special event in the already-existing relationship between beings.” — Mambo Chita Tann

“Sacrifice strengthens relationships: between worshipers and their Gods, and among members of a religious community.” — John Beckett

“Sacrifice is as much about building relationships with the gods as any other reason. It is an act of hospitality. When we open sacred space, we invite the Kindreds into the ritual as family and kin. That relationship is built on sharing and trust. We sacrifice to solidify our relationships and make them stronger. Sacrifice allows the gods to give us their blessings and strengthens their bond with us.” — Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh

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74 thoughts on “Blood sacrifice and modern Paganisms

  1. I have practiced ritual blood-letting on very specific and rare occasions. On at least one of those occasions, I got the clear message that further blood was absolutely NOT desired. I’ve also used my own blood as an ingredient in magical potions, again, only for specific purpose.
    I’ve witnessed animal sacrifice — and very badly done, and that was a giant turn off even though I do understand the impulse; I felt if it could not be done correctly without undue suffering to the animal, it should not be done at all.
    I agree, this is not a topic that lends itself to a single homogenized statement applicable to all those under the neo-pagan umbrella.

  2. I used to work in the poultry industry and the particular factory I worked in switched to halal. They still stunned the fowl prior to slicing their throats. Not all forms of Islam mandate that stunning is prohibited.

    Within Heathenry, the Blót is a major component of practice. The word “Blót” stems from the common, proto-Germanic word for “sacrifice; worship” and is commonly accepted to have a common connection to the word “blood”. As such, many Heathens (and that number is increasing) believe that proper practice does call for animal sacrifice, in the correct circumstances.

    I personally have not performed such a sacrifice, but that because I lack the facilities to do so in an appropriate fashion (one that conforms to both religious ideals and also legal requirements).

    • Interestingly, blót enters the Finnish and Sámi languages as luotattaa ‘growl, murmer’, luote ‘charm, spell’ (Finnish) and luotam, luottat ‘chant’ or lihte ‘sacrifice, native Sámi religion’ (Sámi).

  3. So you asked a bunch of people who do not perform Blot regularly, to offer perspectives on… wait for it… Blot.

    • Since when is animal and blood sacrifice confined only to Heathenry? The article also never used the term Blot, so no one was asked about blot. They were asked about sacrifice from their own perspective.

      • Oh horrors!
        “So you asked a bunch of people who do not perform Blood sacrifice regularly, to offer perspectives on… wait for it… Blood sacrifice.”

        We cool now?

        • Almost 😉

          Some of the people quoted do have experience with animal sacrifice. It also makes sense that folks who have the means yet choose not to are asked about it so we might see objections that people might have to it, whatever they may be, and furthermore the people asked have been part of an ongoing series on the Wild Hunt about notions of sacrifice.

          I’m really pro-animal sacrifice. Yet it is nice to see and read various perspectives on it as it 1) helps me examine and/or strengthen my own justifications and 2) Helps me understand sacrifice and reasons for sacrifice among other faiths.

          • “Some of the people quoted do have experience with animal sacrifice.”

            I will strongly disagree on that point. From reading the article, the closest any of them has with animal sacrifice is the Voudon practitioner. None of them have any practical experience based on years of regular, animal, sacrifice.

          • I know and have had discussions with a few of the people and consider a couple of them friends. AT LEAST ONE has experience with animal sacrifice and not as a “I just tried it once” kind of deal.

          • It’s also worth noting that the Voudoun practitioner is also the “deified king” of a Kemetic revivalist temple. It would have been nice if the article had even one person who has considerable, regular experience with blood sacrifice as part of their tradition. Couldn’t they even scare up a hunter willing to talk about the intersection between their religion and their hunting? I think this is one of the most unbalanced panels I’ve seen in recent years. The “umbrella” of Paganism is huge, but it always seems like the same people being tapped to talk about things here. The festival-circuit-and-blogosphere set. Would be nice to see people who pride themselves on their journalism reach beyond the usual suspects, especially for a topic this controversial. There’s way more diversity in the comments than in the article– which is pretty much always the case.

          • I hope she got a refund on her foney baloney RsB initiations.

            Some “experts” you have there Wild Hunt… any jackass with a blog and a pulse.

    • Unfortunately, the people I had contact with DID perform Blot often — monthly. And yet, the sacrifice was persistently done badly with much suffering, screaming, and lingering death of the animal.

  4. Though it obviously isn’t common, I have performed a live animal sacrifice in the context of traditional witchcraft (by which I mean my BTW-derived American tradition of Craft, though it is not a specific teaching of my Craft tradition). Specifically, I have offered Hecate the blood of a chicken killed for Her feast, and will do so again in the future. If we lived in a rural or communal situation where we raised most of our own food, I’d do it with every animal we ate, frankly. I personally feel that modern Western culture has divorced itself too far from a real understanding of where its food comes from, and, as a result, has lost the appreciation for the animals that die to sustain us. I consider it intellectual and spiritual honesty, and I don’t have much patience for people who eat meat, but think that killing that meat in a reverent and sacred manner is barbaric and horrifying. That’s hypocrisy of the first order, in my opinion.

    It is a place I came to by dealing honestly and forthrightly with my own relationship with food, and being able to look my gods in the face and admit that I participate complicitly in the killing of animals every single day, with nearly every meal — so I’d better be willing to put my money where my mouth is, and take responsibility for it. If I’m not willing to admit that I kill them (even if someone else is doing the actual killing most of the time), I have no business eating them.

    No deity with Whom I have relationship *requires* blood, in the sense of demanding it. But the gods and the earth and the web of life are the direct source of all my abundance, including every bite of food that passes my lips. Death is the source of my sustenance, the foundation upon which Life is built. That, in my opinion, is one of the Mysteries at the heart of the Craft.

    People tend to get very defensive about this topic, as if they’re afraid we’re talking about killing the neighbor’s cat and leaving it to bleed and rot on a stump somewhere. That’s a popular conceptualization of animal sacrifice, but I’d venture to say it accurately describes almost none of the religious animal sacrifices worldwide. I killed a chicken, with a knife consecrated for that sole purpose, in Hecate’s name. I then cleaned it, cooked it, and served it to Her and Her people, in attendance at Her feast. The carcass became soup that fed my household, and the bones and some of the feathers were preserved for other use. Nothing was wasted.

    Nothing I did violates my ethical standards — quite the contrary, in fact. I feel much better about the bird I killed with my own hands, purchased from a local source where he had a relatively normal life for a rooster, than I do about the roasted chickens I used to bring home from the supermarket for the sake of convenience, which I’m sure lived in horrendous conditions and died wretchedly in a processing machine somewhere. Nothing I did violates any of my oaths, nor any of the tenets of my faith. Nothing I did makes any of my gods unhappy, including the Lord and Lady of my Craft. It might well be the most honest, and most sacred, meal I have ever prepared. It was the first time I’ve actually done it (after considering the possibility for years), but it will most certainly not be the last. People who aren’t comfortable with that should probably stay far away from my feast table, come Harvest Home.

    Other initiates (and other traditions, although, again, I am not speaking for my entire tradition on this point, this is my own thing) are free to feel differently, of course. But I confess I have some difficulty understanding their viewpoint in the context of a religion involved with gods of hunting and agriculture, and, by association, animal husbandry. 🙂

    • It is by far, THE most most powerful, humbling and emotional thing one can experience.

    • I agree with you Keith. I share your opinion and have similar experiences.

      I identify as a “Wiccan,” (from a New American Tradition) and while our tradition does not require blood sacrifice, most of us do participate in ritualized Sacred Slaughter several times a year in the observance of certain holy days.

      This practice is not a secret, nor is it bragged about. But our reasoning, theology and methodology are one of absolute reverence for the Animal. The experience has been profound and transformational for many participants.

      We are very much out of touch with where our food comes from and the process which takes an animal from the fields, to our tables. That is a big part of our reasoning. We believe that we should maintain that knowledge, experience and relationship with food, our heritage as humans, as well as Pagans. The experience of Sacred Slaughter has deepened our appreciation for the meal, which we share in celebration of our holy days.

      I think that Sacred Slaughter not only has a place in contemporary Paganism, but that further space should be made for it. I’m happy to see that the topic is being explored here and I hope that more Pagans who engage in such rites will feel encouraged to speak up.

  5. Oh witches and their bodily fluids….. Seriously though, I have held a fatted hen, and hushed her heart to begin the process of Supper…much the same as offering the first blood of Spring to the fields for the next harvest..I have hunted for my family and recieved meat in gratefulness when i was no longer able to hunt myself, I have sacrificed my time and skill for others so that they may pass on these traditions, like in Haitian practices, the food,,grains fish coconuts all givin the time and love to be shared with the spirits and then with the ‘family’…here it comes in the quiet waiting, for the deer to come down the path,,,having already said our prayers and prepared ourselves, when it is a rabbit or fowl, the words are said before the first cut, and the prayer doesnt stop till the last drop has been collected, much of the liquid will be scatterd onto the earth in the garden, to replenish and to remember when it wasnt a rabbit being slain… the rest made into food for ceremonial as well as practical use….Personal blood lettings are different , its the Power you are working with that call s for it, not just a thrill at the macrabre…[.or attention seeking behavior..].. People a in every culture must kill to eat, unless they have chosen otherwise, and a calm, sincere way is almost always used in ceremony, NOW..down at some slaughter houses it is a different story….but that is only for food not ceremony… I have done both animal and personal , both work for the purpose and intent that are set to them…it isnt something that gets done every tuesday, but only when THE sPIRITS ARE TRULY IN NEED ,,,OTHE TIMES , THE CANDY RUM, STORE BOUGHT GOODIES AND TRINKETS SERVE JUST AS WELL…..

  6. It seems foolish to discuss this subject with a panel where 80% of the participants have no hands on knowledge of the act of animal sacrifice, and the one person who seems to have knowledge of it, comes from an African Diaspora religion which is “pagan” in only the most marginal of ways, and certainly not “Neo-Pagan” by any rubric. This seems akin to asking five people about baseball, where four only play soccer, and one plays cricket.

    With that said, as a pagan who actually practices animal sacrifice, I would like to try and answer these questions in as clear and as concise a manner as possible. I ask for the humble reader’s forgiveness as I spread the responses out over the next few days, but I do ask you to keep in mind that the original panel was given a month to respond.

    Caveat: As the question is being asked using Latin derived terms, I must abandon my more familiar liturgical language of Old English. I ask for the reader’s forgiveness if my use of Latin comes off as crude.

    How is sacrifice separate from blood sacrifice? Does blood sacrifice include personal blood offerings or is it limited to animal sacrifice?

    The word “sacrifice”, from sacer- (“holy”) faciō (“to make”), means “to make
    something holy”. People misunderstand what this really means. Something is not
    sacred in and of its own right, but it is made sacred through the actions of
    man. That which is profane, from pro- (“before”) and fānum (“a temple of sorts”), is
    brought from the world of mankind into the realm where man and deities interact,
    the sacrum. With this understanding,any and all offerings brought before the gods, and offered in a ritually proscribed manner, become “sacrificial.” An act of sacrifice includes not only includes bringing something profane into the sacrum, but altering it so that it becomes unusable in its original state. This is usually accomplished through an act of destruction for inanimate offerings (weapons are bent, bread is broken, objects are burnt, etc.) and in the case of animate objects, through some act of violence. The object is taken from the profane world, transformed in the middling realms where men interact with the divine, and further transformed into an
    irreversible form and “taken” by the divine to their realm, the sanctum.

    With this as our understanding, the notion of a “personal blood sacrifice” becomes rather nonsensical. While blood may be seen as having the ability to sustain life, it
    is not alive itself. For a person to make a personal blood sacrifice, they would have to leave the profane, enter into the sacrum to become “holy”, and then transgress this level of being through an act of self-destruction, and enter into the realm of the sanctum. It certainly can be done, but there would be no coming back in one piece, or in a “workable” condition. That which is given to the gods cannot be taken back to its original state. When an animal is offered to the gods, it is altered irreversibly, and while the meat and viscera may return back to the sacrum, it is no longer an animal… it has been transformed into meat, and when it is removed from the sacrum into the profane, it has become a vehicle to transform the holy might of the gods into the profane world as food and aspersed blood.

    • I appreciate the effort and completely agree about the chosen panel, but you’re not going to have days to compose this. Threads close very quickly here, sometimes a couple of days, sometimes within 24 hrs.

  7. Well, I may be biased as a vegetarian, but I really don’t see the place of animal sacrifice in modern Paganism. What right do we have to take another life and offer that to the gods as if it was ever ours to offer in the first place?

    Sharing a meal with the gods (even ritually butchering an animal to eat) is I think a different concept, but I would still be concerned about the humane and welfare issues of slaughter.

    I think animal and blood sacrifice will always be a divisive issue, and one of those things that makes Paganism seem shocking to the mainstream society, which may be reason enough to avoid it anyway.

    • I was going to save this for later, but your post is a good segue, so here goes….

      I see a great deal of talk about permission in this discussion, and I think I am beginning to understand the whole “volition” thing. They are assuming that an animal must “agree” to be sacrificed. While it may not be popular amongst the Neo-Pagan crowd, the fact of the matter is that livestock have ALWAYS been viewed as chattel, property, currency, etc. The word pecuniary comes from Latin “pecu” (cow), the English fee comes from OE “féoh” (cow), and so on. Asking an animal if I can sacrifice it? Do I ask the loaf of bread if I may offer it? Do I ask the libation if I may pour it?

      Once again, a complete lack of understanding of the gift cycle.

      The gods gave man cattle in illo tempore. The cattle grew in number under man’s stewardship, and the gods’ continued gifts. They are property, the physical sign of the prosperity the gods bestow, and to whom we owe their return. We don’t need to ask for permission. We are giving the gods back THEIR animal.

      There is the “sprinkling” of the head in some rites, which causes the animal to nod, but this isn’t an agreement to be sacrificed as much as it is an allowance for violence to be committed. It is an absolution for the violence that must occur for the sacrifice to take place. The subject was discussed in great detail in Rene Girard’s “Violence and the Sacred.”

      • “We are giving the gods back THEIR animal.”

        Indeed. As Lincoln pointed out regarding IE cattle raids, the sentiment behind cattle raiding seemed to be: “We do not steal their cattle, the Gods gave the cattle to us, they have cattle, therefore we are taking back our property”.

        • And do the animals get any say in this?

          Look, I don’t want to hijack this thread into a vegetarian vs. meat eating discussion, those things are pointless arguments.

          I’m just going to have to agree to disagree with you and Brian Smith, and leave it at that I think.

          • Of course they get no say in the matter. Does the okra get any say before it is put into the delicious gumbo or breaded and heavenly fried? Nope. Does the blade of grass get any say before I cut it? Nope. Do my trees or shrubs get any say before I trim them? Nope. Why would my livestock?

          • Seriously? Sentient animals can feel pain, fear and suffering. Plants cannot. If you don’t see that as an ethically significant difference, you genuinely scare me.

          • Really? Yes, because from years of slaughtering animals on the ranch… I know I try and perform every killing as slowly, and cruelly, as possible… striking fear into the hearts of the animal and all other animals. You sir, are a beneath contempt in this matter if that is automatically where you choose to take the disagreement. You have displayed no understanding of animal sacrifice save that of the typical neopagan. It is clear that you have no idea what animal sacrifice meant then, and no idea how people, who regularly perform animal sacrifice, actually perform it.

            I know your type, you aren’t half as interested in honest discourse as you are in throwing your vegetarianism out there in the hopes that someone attacks it instead of staying on the issues. Nice try troll… leave honest discourse to the adults.

          • I mentioned vegetarianism in passing and deliberately said I do not want to get into that argument. But what is ethical consideration about if not minimizing suffering? The fact that you don’t seem to factor that into your thought process, equating animals with plants for instance, suggests a lack of concern.

            I’ve worked on farms too, (part of the reason I don’t eat meat anymore) so don’t think that gives you some sort of moral high ground.

            Your passive-agressive use of ‘sir’ and your accusations of trolling tell me that you seem to be the one who doesn’t want to have an honest conversation, not me.

          • Interesting. Someone disagrees with you and they’re a troll? Surely that’s not how “adults” conduct themselves. Personal slights rather than healthy debate seems your thing but you accuse others of the same? You are very confused “sir”.

            I for one agree with what Treeshrew is saying. Does this make me a troll? No. Does it make me someone who may disagree with you? Yes. Shock horror! People have different viewpoints. *gasp*

          • Personal slight? You mean instead of asking “why do you feel animals have no say in the process” and instead just jumping to the conclusion that I am “unethical” and “scary”? Please, who came into the conversation with the vegetarian chip on their sleeve when it was completely unwarranted?

            We are discussing animal sacrifice, we are not discussing dietary choices. Yet, we’re the trolls for staying on topic and not engaging in personal attacks.

          • I think your mental image is very different from the reality of the situation. We aren’t a bunch of kids in WASP or Venom tshirts stabbing dogs.

      • I understand where you’re coming from, but I can’t agree that “the gods gave man cattle”. We know scientifically that cattle, like humans, came to be through evolution (in the case of cattle artificial selection by farmers played a large role). The idea that the gods gave animals to us to eat sounds a bit…well…creationist to me. I don’t believe humans have any special place in nature, nor that the world was set up for us.

        The argument that animals have always been viewed as property holds no weight. While I know that tradition is a big part of Paganism, doing something just because we have always done it that way does not make it right. For centuries, certain groups, genders or races of people were considered slaves and property too. Shall we bring that back too because of tradition?

        • No, you are out of this discussion because as was stated above, you have no desire for productive discourse but instead wish to base your “disagreement” and opinion on the matter solely on moral and philosophical objections as opposed to actually being educated and informed on the topic.

          • I’m curious as to how having moral/philosophical objections are some how wrong while being “educated” on a topic is right. Surely death/slaughter/killing is one of the simplest things there is out there and if someone disagrees with that as a concept, regardless of the context, that is their right. Just as it is your right to think that it is morally acceptable based on your worldview.

            I have seen productive discourse but not from you. Personal slights are not the way to continue a conversation, especially one that you disagree on.

          • The “educated” part is all about the “why”. Why are animals sacrificed? How does that fit into the cultural worldview being espoused here? It isn’t “one of the simplest things there is”, and only being so immersed in one worldview that you can’t see what another one might look like would make it so. Do you understand what reciprocal gifting is? Do you know what the meaning of the word “blot” is? Do you know how your ancestors regarded livestock, and what the differences are between that and your particular modern view? Do you know if non-Christian indigenous cultures today have a different view, and why? Do you know how your food is produced, and do you know what happens in a sacrifice, for different religions’ worldviews of sacrifice?

            Moral objections are rooted in a wider pattern of thinking, they aren’t universal and they don’t come out of nothing. Without education, saying “I have a moral objection to that cultural practice” is saying “my cultural worldview is superior enough to yours that I can say yours is unethical without knowing anything about what it is, how it came about, and how it fits into its greater whole”. It says “anything that thinks about livestock differently is wrong”, without knowing anything further. We’ve talked a lot on WH about interfaith, and this is an interfaith situation– and IMO that’s a poor way to handle an interfaith situation.

          • Thank you for your brilliant insight into the workings of my own mind. There I was thinking I wanted to engage in conversation, but apparently not. How did I ever cope without you telling me what I think?

            Anyway, I don’t think that religion can or should be separated from wider moral, ethical and philosophical concerns.

            I agree, I am uneducated about the topic. That’s half the reason I posted a comment here, to learn. Not to be told to basically eff off. Thanks for really demonstrating the virtue of hospitality there.

            I’m done with this nonsense. Have fun with your group of yes-men who won’t ever challenge your opinions on anything.

          • “I’m done with this nonsense.”

            You were done the minute you chose to come in and start your post with “Well, I may be biased as a vegetarian, but I really don’t see the place of animal sacrifice in modern Paganism.”

            Again, you want no discourse at all.

          • “Thank you for your brilliant insight into the workings of my own mind.”

            It was easy…

            “Well, I may be biased as a vegetarian…”

          • This comment doesn’t parse with the earlier one you made. You first said “I understand where you’re coming from”, but what you then said made it clear you didn’t, actually. You then called the person to whom you’re replying sort of creationist and said that their ethical thinking is “bizarre”, and then you straight-up flounced. Now you respond and say you “wanted to engage in conversation” (by telling someone their ethical thinking, which is rooted in a worldview you clearly *don’t* understand, is bizarre?) and you “wanted to learn” (was that very provocative false equivalence between cattle and slaves– which was offensive on a bunch of levels, IMO– your idea of asking a question to learn?), and then you flounce *again*.

            I’m going to say this again and again until it penetrates– Pagans do not all have the same worldview. Some worldviews are going to very, very alien to your own. This is a good example of that.

          • Morality is relative, though. What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander, as they say.

        • I’m really disinterested in your opinions; I am not out to sway the unswerving. I am interested in the historical facts and the theological underpinnings. If you don’t wish to engage in it, don’t.

          However, your opinion does not equal my knowledge, both academic and experiential.

        • My argument that animals have always been viewed as property has great gravitas. You can’t dismiss it out of hand and justify your dismissal with hyperbole about slaves and other antiquated practices.

          • Criticism would have required a critique. Rejection without explanation doesn’t warrant a polite response. I could have used far worse language.

        • Creationist you say… that is rich. We are discussing RELIGION and its mytho-poetic truths, not science. Go away fruitbat, you’re not adding anything to the discussion.

    • “I think animal and blood sacrifice will always be a divisive issue, and one of those things that makes Paganism seem shocking to the mainstream society, which may be reason enough to avoid it anyway.”

      Hahahahaha! “What would Mrs. Grundy think?” Hahahahahahaha! Best joke in this thread.

      But were you serious? Are you offering that in support of your argument? If so, then let me answer as seriously: NO. Not just NO, but FUCK NO. That will never, ever be a good reason to avoid our duties and responsibilities to our gods.

      You can argue that your vegetarianism is rooted in a moral imperative to not take animal life (but keep in mind that Pythagoras, a noted Pagan vegetarian, sacrificed an ox in gratitude for his inspiration), you can argue that a particular group or person does not have the appropriate skill to successfully carry out an animal sacrifice in a humane way (which is important, as an inhumane sacrifice can’t be acceptable), but you cannot, ever, ever, ever argue that we shouldn’t do it because “what would the neighbors think?” Who cares what they think? They aren’t participants in our rites.

      As for your first paragraph, did you read the whole article, or just the headline? It is pointed out in several places that the animals are given the choice to participate or not. Some choose to, some don’t. How would an animal that didn’t want to participate be acceptable?

      • you also gotta love how he flounced from this discussion, removing his name from it so now instead of owning his words and beliefs, it simply shows the poster as “guest.”

        • That’s pretty rich, coming from someone who spends so much time on the internet, posting insults while hiding under fake accounts… Why don’t YOU own your own words and beliefs?

          (FTR: I’m a vegetarian, but don’t have an issue with respectful blood sacrifice to the Gods, Goddesses, Wights, etc.)

    • Ignoring the obvious “might makes right” argument, from which all other moral concepts derive, unless you are a (hardcore) fruitarian, you live by the death or dismemberment of other lifeforms. Or do plants not count, for some reason?

  8. I found this to be somewhat misleading, in that claims are being made for all of Haitian voodoo. There are many groups that do practice sacrifice and in Ohio it is a legally recognized religious practice. When done correctly and within a respectful context it can be a very powerful and profound act. to claim that this is not a potentially traditional as well as spiritual practice sells many members of our community short.

    • Thank you for that. At least the comments are bringing out people with actual experience in the practice.

  9. I further wish to add that as a hunter who regularly eats deer rabbit and turkey that was Wilde and free before landing on my dinner table, these animals were directly sacrificed for my wellb eng and were treated as such. While new age neo pagans may be comfortable with statements such as ” there is no place within our movement” this is a denial of a very basic aspect of many of our daily lives which is to eat meat and then honor it. Additionally when I have attended voodoo ceremonies with mambo Miriam of New Orleans they were very powerful and the loa accepted our offer with reverence. Please do not assume that your new vision of paganism applies to all as it reveals a naïveté that borders on judge mental.

  10. I feel that I must enquire:

    Why were no Heathens asked to participate in this discussion?

    • Ask your friendly librarian to get you a copy of Michael Strmiska, “Putting the Blood Back into Blót: The Revival of Animal Sacrifice in Modern Nordic Paganism,” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 9, no. 2 (2007): 154-89.

    • Because Heathens are not Pagans.

      It would be like asking why no Christians were asked about animal/blood sacrifice (there are still sects of Christianity that practice animal sacrifice, not to mention the Catholic beliefs of transubstantiation) or why Buddhists were not asked about it (probably the only religion I am aware of that has a mandate against such an act).

      • So…what? Heathens aren’t welcome on this page then, since it’s a pagan page? Will you be asking Jason to stop posting things about Heathens of note or ignominy? Or is this just a selective “Heathens aren’t welcome”?

        • Look at the title of the article.

          “Blood Sacrifice and Modern Paganisms”

          We Heathens are welcome here (as those of any belief), but remember that we are more like guests than hosts.

          The Heathen perspective on sacrifice is valid, it just does not come under the umbrella of Paganism, which is what was being investigated here.

          Don’t take it as a snub, take it as it is – Pagans discussing their perspectives on something that (most) Heathens don’t even see as an issue.

          • Allow me to respond with another question, then.

            Why should a Heathen be asked for their thoughts on the concept of blood sacrifice, in a modern Pagan context?

          • No, it really isn’t.

            Unless you are saying that Hinduism is, as well. At which point the term becomes meaningless as a descriptor.

          • How, exactly, is it? Unless you are going by the increasingly pointless definition of “Anything not Abrahamic” for Paganism.

          • What, exactly, qualifies under your narrow definition of “Paganism”?

            Still waiting for a response to my other questions, btw. Kindly answer them.

          • I did answer them but, since you seem to have rejected my response out of hand, I shall try again.

            Heathens aren’t welcome on this page then, since it’s a pagan page?
            Yes, they are. As guests – friendly outsiders. Otherwise I would have been banned/blocked ages ago.

            Will you be asking Jason to stop posting things about Heathens of note or ignominy
            No, but I would rather hope that some clarification is noted, that Heathens are not Pagans.

            Or is this just a selective “Heathens aren’t welcome”?
            Again, we are (obviously) welcome here, but our opinions and beliefs are not always relevant to topics discussed.

            Any more than that and I feel that I would be speaking on behalf of Jason and the team, which would be inappropriate.

            I’ve answered your questions (again). Now I feel it is only fair that you answer mine, rather than simply answering a question with a question.

            For the record, I am not the first, or only, person to describe Heathenry as distinct from Paganism. Many, if not most, Heathens I know do likewise.

          • This is still a very decisive issue in Heathenry. The orthopraxic forms say “yes, it is important” and the non-orthopraxic run the entire spectrum of answers.