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Link roundup: sacrifice

mythumbnailI have always been a bit interested in the idea of sacrifice. I remember listening in fascinated horror to the stories of human sacrifice when I visited the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza when I was about 12 years old. Though I have used the various myths of Gods who sacrifice themselves for the crops and the good of their people in rituals, and I have a line about sacrifice in my pre-meal prayer, I feel like there is a lot more to learn and explore about this topic in a modern Pagan context:


“While it is perhaps noble to make offering with your last or most precious bit, sacrifice is not based on suffering. Most sacrifice is done in a mood of thanksgiving and comes from the abundance of the offerer.” – Pagan Restoration


About the two meanings of ‘sacrifice’: “The common meaning of sacrifice is “to give up.” We pour a libation, giving up the opportunity to drink the wine in order to give it to the gods. We give money to worthy causes, giving up the opportunity to spend it on ourselves. … Sacrifice in this regard is a tangible expression of unselfishness or of long term thinking or both. … The older meaning of sacrifice is “to make sacred.” By dedicating something to the gods through ritual and ceremony it becomes sacred – it takes on some of the essence of the gods. Some of that divine essence then returns to us.” – Under the Ancient Oaks


From a review of Religion of the Gods: Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity about the meaning of ancient Greek artwork depicting Gods making offerings and sacrifices: “The question that follows is how that is possible as all sacrifices need a recipient; a recipient who stand higher than the donor so that could be propitiated or worshipped. The author gives a remarkable, but at the same time, simple answer: the sacrificing Gods and, thus, their religious praxis is not directed towards a higher being than themselves, because simply religion itself belongs to the Gods. Accordingly, They perform libations and sacrifices as Gods, and this divine practice does not intend to venerate the ‘other’ – as a human worshipper will do – but, on the contrary, the god’s ‘self’ as the source of religion and not the participants – a clear proof of Their omnipotence.” – Nikolaos Markoulakis, Tropaion


From a blog post about the book review: “But while I pour libations and make other offerings, I never once thought that I was making these offerings to someone or even to something. I do not pour libations out to gods, who I wouldn’t imagine would need them if they did exist. Nor do I make offerings to the earth or nature — unless you count my compost box. Who then am I offering to? Not to myself. Instead, I find value in the act of making an offering, a ritualized giving, even when there is no recipient.” – The Allergic Pagan


“Modern Pagans love to talk about how the Gods evolve with us, and how forms of offerings can be different in modern times. I agree – but I think the important thing that has shifted isn’t whether or not living sacrifice is needed or useful. What has shifted is the importance of the individual soul and the idea of consent, the willing sacrifice. … That focus on volition with regard to human offerings is reflective of how sacrifice can evolve in a modern context – a religious practice now shaped by modern values on individual liberty, but still preserving the core function of the act, which is the offering of vital life.” – Banshee Arts


“Sacrifice is often seen, in modern times, as hardship endured for the greater good, while ancient sacrifices are stereotyped as some kind of Gods-mollifying bribe or payment. It’s rarely thought of as an exchange between your present self and your potential for greatness. Odin’s sacrifice “of himself, to himself” during a nine-night ordeal while hanging on the world tree brought forth insight in the form of runes.” – Shirl Sazynski, Witches and Pagans


“When we share our food with the Gods we invite them to be part of our family. Sometimes that means giving up the food – pouring a libation on the ground or burning a piece of meat or bread in a fire. Sometimes it means offering it to them with ritual and prayer, and then eating what they do not consume – what the Egyptians called “reversion of offerings.”” – Under the Ancient Oaks


Oh, and I can’t forget “Destiny” by Mojo of Parnassus (lyrics and sample and song purchase), which makes me tear up every time I hear it.

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