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The offering of a gift to a deity or a being in petition, thanksgiving, or appeasement. These offerings usually consist of food, drink, the first fruits of harvest and the blood sacrifices of animals and fowl. The highest sacrifice of human life is currently more rare. There are no blood sacrifices offered in neo-Pagan and neo-Pagan Witchcraft practices.
The rituals of blood sacrifices are ancient. They embody the custom of propitiating the gods. Animals, fowls and humans have been sacrificed in various religious rituals to secure bountiful harvests, blessings and protection from the deities. It has long been believed that the blood consumed in ritual sacrifice will give to the drinker the soul and attributes of the deceased, be it human or animal. (see Omophagia)
The "Kosher killing" of draining the blood from the sacrificial animal was not a Jewish idea. It was common among the Oriental worshippers to offer the blood to the Great Earth Mother and retain the meat for themselves. However, the Jews like the Hindus taught that the animalís soul was in the blood. (Leviticus 17:11)
The Celts and Druids drank the blood of their sacrificed human victims, whose throats were cut over cauldrons, or burned their bodies alive in wickerwork gages. The Aztecs cut the hearts out of the human sacrifices with flint knives; the priest held the still-beating heart aloft, then placed it in a ceremonial receptacle. Then the body was frequently dismembered and eaten as an act of ritual cannibalism. The Khonds of southern India speared their victims on stakes and cut off pieces of their backs to fertilize the earth.
The sacrifice of the first born child was prominent. It was practiced by various cultures, especially during troubled times. One example is that the nobility of Carthage during the Punic Wars sacrificed hundreds of children to the god Baal by throwing them in to pits of fire.
The Hebrews offered blood sacrifices. The Biblical book of Leviticus, in the Old Testament, is full of instructions for sacrificing animals and fowl. In Genesis, Cain offered the first fruits of his harvest, which was not pleasing to the Lord, while Abel offers one of his flock, which pleased the Lord. Also, in Genesis, Abraham is tested by God by being instructed to sacrifice his son Issac, but at the last minute a lamb is permitted to be substituted. (Genesis 22:1-14)
The Hebrews commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt by the sacrifice and eating of the Paschal Lamb at Passover. In Christianity Christ is thought to represent the Paschal Lamb, and therefore, it is believed that his death on the cross obliterated all need for blood sacrifices. Through Christís death the redemption of humankind was obtained. This is why the Eucharist and communion services observed in Christian churches represent the unbloody sacrifice of Christís death on the cross. Christians believe when partaking in these services they share in the redemption and merits of Christ, an unbloody form of ritual cannibalism.
In justice it must be noted that most, if not all, Christians communicants are not aware that they are participating in ritual cannibalism and most would adamantly deny it with just reason. The Eucharist and communion services are a crucial part of their belief. They believe the night before he was crucified Christ changed bread and wine into his own body and blood which the apostles ate and drank. In Catholicism, with the belief in substantiation, the people belief the priest, the celebrant of the Mass, performs the same act as Christ performed at every Mass. This is a belief which many Catholics are taught almost from birth. When Protestants conduct their communion services they believe that they are commemorating Christís act by consuming the bread and grape juice.
The Christians need not be chastise for their belifs or for their lack of knowledge of what is actually occurring in their practice, but as Isaac Bonewits writes in Real Magic (Source: 44), "When the hunter runs down and kills a lion, he may eat the lionís liver thinking that this will give him strength; or a warrior may eat the brains of his slain enemy in order to assimilate his opponentís courage or cleverness. A communicant in a church eats a piece of bread which is believed to be the body of Christ so as to gain some of Christís attributes. All these are examples of Ďritual cannibalism,í and are essentially the same. The lion has strength and a lionís liver. If I have the lioní s liver, then I will also have the lionís strength. The same mechanism of association is operating in each example." (see Law of Association)
There are plenty of descriptions of divine sacrifices reencounted in the mythologies. For example, Osiris, Dionysis and Attis are dismembered in sacrifice for rebirth.
During the Medieval and Renaissance witch-hunts there were all sorts of accusations declared against witches of sacrificing cocks and unbaptized babies to the devil. These accusations were also prevalent during the times of the Black Mass. (see The Mass of Saint-Secaire) All of history rings with such accusations: the Syrians accused the Jews of human sacrifice and cannibalism; the Romans accused the Christians; and, the Christians in return accused the Gnostics, Cathars, Waldenses and Albigenses.
Blood sacrifice has been used in ceremonial magic. Magicians have believed that it releases an instant burst of power which they used for the performance of magical spells and conjuration. The old grimoires command the killing of animals and using their skins to make parchments on which to draw needed magical symbols. Animals which were offered to God and demons had to be young, healthy and virgin in order that the maximum amount of energy would be released. Theoretically, the killing, letting of blood and the fear of death throes of the victim, added to the frenzy of the magician.
An example of this was stated by Aleister Crowley in Magick in Theory and Practice (1929), "The ethics of the thing appear to have concerned no one; nor, to tell the truth, need they do so." Crowley routinely sacrificed animals in his rituals that took place in a magic circle or triangle, which prevented the released power from escaping. He tortured the animal first in order to obtain an elemental slave, as "indefensible, utterly black magic of the worst kind," and then proceeding he stated he had no objection to such black magic when it was "properly understood."
Currently animals sacrifices still occur in various tribal groups and the religious practices of Voodoo and Santeria. Such practices have been protested by animal rights groups, but the Santerians claimed the United States Constitution protects their right to worship as they deem proper. They defended animal sacrifice by demonstrating its ancient roots.
From reports by ex-members of some Satanic groups animal and human sacrifice still occur within these groups. The human victims include kidnapped runaways, children and derelicts. Frequently torture and sexual abuse is applied first. Both are believed to release energy for magical purposes. In various rites the victimsís blood is drunk, and parts of the body are consumed. A.G.H.
Sources: 4, 56.