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Reply To: Sacrificial Origins, with Mythologist Norland Têllez


What dark topics. I have a few thoughts and ideas I have heard I will share. I will start with one of those “I have a friend who has a friend…” or “I have a cousin who…” story. In my case, it is a “I have a cousin who…” story.

I have a cousin who is a fundamental Christian minister. She has told me that in her studies the reason that fundamental Christians will show the cross but not a cross with Jesus hanging on it is because it shows the violence of the crucifixion and that that is (in her words) Satan’s glory to see Jesus crucified on the cross, that Satan loves nothing better than to see this. That is interesting to me that the crucifixion was there to kickstart humankind’s compassion. She has also mentioned to me the idea that when Jesus was crucified it was intended for the purpose of there being no more human sacrifices necessary–that Jesus shed his blood for all our sins (including previous human sacrifices for which there will be no more need of, we might assume). So then we have to wonder if people have compassion only when they themselves somehow equally receive it? Such as in the Our Father prayer, “forgive us our trespasses/ as we forgive those who trespass against us.” People are told that Jesus who died on the cross for us has forgiven us of our sins and has therefore sacrificed his life/shed his blood for us. I often do wonder how children tolerate or absorb this image and the gruesome story of Abraham who was going to sacrifice his own child until he suddenly heard God’s voice tell him not to. Also, one wonders if part of the reason in this Bible story that it is written that God at first told Abraham to sacrifice (kill) his own son is so that children might learn to fear God. One would think that Abraham’s son would never want to walk anywhere with his father ever again in case God (or his dad) might change his mind again. I now feel inspired to in the future write about how those takes may have affected children in Catholic school back in the day–including myself. They always sounded a but surreal to me or as if some madness had overtaken people’s minds. It didn’t even sound or feel real or “human.” When I thought of Jesus dying on the cross I thought it was because people were short-sighted and mean. I did not think of it as human sacrifice–but as a sacrifice that people would have to make by imposing upon themselves the sacrifice was really how terrible their own loss of a holy man and healer in their lifetime. Another sacrifice, I thought, was the guilt they would probably live with to know they could do such a thing to someone who did nothing to hurt them except to go against the political grain of the time.  I always thought these stories too gruesome to share with my daughter when she was young. She heard them later from her Christian and Catholic friends and family members and when she got old enough she could make up her own mind about religion and/or spirituality. (I also did not expose her to certain fairy tales when she was young if they were extremely violent.)

Like Martin, I also wonder how the ripping out of a human heart can bring compassion to a tribe, but I did like Norland’s explanation of this. While on one hand I find it difficult to see how they could feel/believe that a “sacrifice of one for the many” can evoke compassion when it is such a gruesome act leaving people to wonder who would be next, more likely identifying with the victim in first and foremost fear that it could have been them or that it could be them next time, on the other hand perhaps people would feel compassion for the heart once removed from the body while it is still beating (as I have read about this actually happening). So now I am waxing gruesome imagery too.

I can probably truthfully say that for the most part I would rather not be thinking about this stuff; however, as Norland tells us it is an important part of our human history to understand.

In shamanic/pagan circles sometimes symbolic sacrifice is done with things like offerings to the gods like certain herbs in the incense or like food or wine or juice. As people in the ritual take a sip of wine or juice from their own cup they also give a libation for the gods and give some libation back to the earth from whence it came that gave to us. In this way those in the ritual share and appease the powers that be by being generous and by acknowledging them for the gifts of the earth that the earth/cosmos brings to offer. Some churches see the sacrifice as offerings of money–such as when people tithe–many Christians believe that in order to receive “good” amounts of money you should sacrifice a certain percentage of your weekly paycheck. Catholics practices include observing Lent in which time while waiting for Easter and the resurrection of Christ all sorts of sacrifices are made not considered symbolic but considered real but just not all that dire: one person might sacrifice/giving their time to a cause or someone in need, another person might give up eating sweets for the time being, whereas monks or holy people such as priests, popes, or nuns might engage in either symbolic flagellation (beating oneself as Christ was whipped before he was crucified as in the Passion) or actual, actually drawing blood. A very small minority of people other than those in holy orders also cause self-harm actually or symbolically to be considered a sacrifice. I have always thought this extreme for our times in my humble opinion. You can read more about this here:

Why do people still find it necessary to make such sacrifices? Maybe Lent is a good excuse to finally begin that diet or do that exercise you have been wanting to do. I am not sure why people make these sacrifices. Many Catholics stopped observing Lent by not eating meat on Fridays way back when, when I was growing up. In my family we did not eat meat on Fridays but had to go without or eat fish. Some people explained this as on Good Friday it was better to identify not with the flesh but with the spirit as if meat were more “grounding” than fish which would be less like our flesh and blood. We acknowledged to stay away from food items that were of blood sacrifice. We all loved fish and lived on a lake, so none of us ever felt like it was a sacrifice–except we knew the reasoning of staying away from food that was bloody. (That is rather gruesome or gross again.)

What other types of sacrifices can people in these forums mention, whether symbolic like libations (which can be regarded as actual by some people, as if the gods will really be watching and hearing and somehow partaking) or actual such as giving up a certain food or a certain amount of your time to help out a cause? I guess the point is to somehow give some gift away and go with less or else to even suffer somehow. Maybe a mother has somehow sacrificed a lot for her children. Maybe you sacrifice a day off work if get called in for someone who is sick and can’t go to work.

I had some other thoughts when reading the posts but for now I will end this response.