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The term first fruits designate the offering of the first crops of the harvests and the beasts of the herds, which were supposedly the best of quality, to placate and give thanks to the gods. However, the term is derived from an earlier term, the Firstborn of the Womb, which designates the "firstborn" of the Creatress.
Firstborn of the Creatress extends back to the Sanskrit Hiranyagatbha. Every priesthood wanted its god to be the firstborn of the Creatress, so most Asiatic gods claimed to be. This desired aroused because it was held that her first child would naturally have authority over all others. Since realistically it was even impossible to believe each god was firstborn scholars finally settled upon the term and agreed that it designated that "each god was the firstborn of one of the Great Mother's virgin emanations." Thus each god was born from a virgin birth.
A classical example of this was the Buddha. Each of his many incarnations was the firstborn of the Goddess's earthly representative, a temple maiden or devadasi. The maiden also was known as the "Virgin Bride of God" who bore the name as well as the spirit of Maya, the virgin aspect of Mother Kali. In all such myths the virgin had an earthly husband who never laid with her until she brought forth her firstborn, who was known as the son of God, or, as with Buddha, the son of Ganesha, the Lord of Hosts.
During this period in the Middle East the name Maya became Maia, Mari, or Mary. All pertaining to the "virgin of God" or the temple maiden or kadesha which is the equivalent of the Hindu devadasi. Such myths fit the classic Indo-European legends where an angel of the Lord "came in unto" Mary (Luke 1:28), a Biblical phrase for sexual intercourse; and her husband Joseph "knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son." (Matthew 1:25)
Usually the firstborn, the divine son, was singled out for a special fate. He was a son of a god, who came from the god, and was to be sacrificed and offered back unto that god. Thence, the meanings of both terms or the "firstborn" and first fruits are practically synonymous. From the most archaic times the first fruits of any crop were offered in placation and thankfulness to the god who supposedly gave them.
The firstborn sacrifice was a very ancient tradition among the Egyptians as recorded in The Book of the Dead. "On the day of hacking in pieces the firstborn...the mighty ones in heaven light the fire under the cauldrons where are heaped up the thighs of the firstborn." It is thought that perhaps later dynasties permitted animal sacrifices, but hieroglyphic signs show these thighs to be human and not animal.
There appears to be a similarity between the mass sacrifice of the firstborn Egyptian sons to appease the gods and a Biblical record of the killings to appease Yahweh: "And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of the Pharaoh who sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of the cattle." (Exodus 12:29)
Like the Egyptian gods Yahweh demanded the firstborn sacrifice: "Sanctify unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openest the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine." (Exodus 13:2)
Later the Lord Yahweh redeemed the firstborn of Israel: "And it came to past, when the Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man, and the first-born of beast; therefore I sacrifice unto the Lord all that openest the womb, being males, but all the first-born of my children I redeem." (Exodus 13:15)
This lead to the Jewish ceremony of the eating of the Paschal Lamb at Passover to commemorate the release of the Jews from bondage in Egypt.
Some scholars further suggest that the Biblical story of Abraham's wanting to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:9-13) is paralleled to the Boeotian myth of the king's firstborn son Phrixus, who was to be sacrificed on the altar, when the ram of the Golden Fleece suddenly appeared as a substitute victim.
There is also another incident, among many, of sons being killed by the God Yahweh. When the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, put incense and fire into their censers to make offerings to the Lord which the Lord commanded them not to do "...there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." (Leviticus 10:1-2)
Two facts seem evident: the sacrifice of the firstborn was demanded usually when the God Yahweh was displeased or when his people wished his favor. He, like all gods, had to be appeased, or, so the people were made to believed.
Originally the sacrifice of human and animal victims seemed preferable to the gods rather than crops. This is seen among the Druids, the ancient Jews, the Aztecs, the Khonds of southern India, as well as many other cultures. Although blood sacrifices are not used in most Neo-pagan and witchcraft ceremonies, they are still practiced in the religions of Voodoo and Santeria.
The God Yahweh accepted animal and fruit sacrifices, but he was not the first to do so; Oriental priests were offering animal sacrifices long before the period of Abraham. The Jew continued offering human sacrifices right down to the Essenic ceremonies of the Christos.
From these Essenic Christos ceremonies came the Christian or Catholic celebration of the Mass. According to Catholicism the Mass is the unbloody reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ. This occurs within the mystery of the substantiation, the changing of the elements of bread and water into the body and blood of Christ which the celebrants may consume in the communion services. Also most Protestant denominations have a communion service. So for the Christians the crucifixion of Christ, which they believe atoned for their sins, negated the need for human and animal sacrifices.
In many of the sacrifices preceding the Christian era the priests became selfish and gave only the inedible parts of the sacrificial victims to the gods, thus keeping the meat for themselves and the people. Some cultures thought it only necessary to offer the animal's blood to the gods. The blood was offered because, it was believed, the animal's life and vitality was in the blood. (See Attraction of Blood) Thus the priests of Oriental and Grecian temples as well as the Rabbis of Jewish synagogues lived off of these sacrifices. A.G.H.