Understandably, through some evolution of language the word ‘sacrifice’ has become a word that most people receive in a negative way. Whether it is being used just as a word to mean ‘doing without’ or ‘giving up’ something or is actually being used in a religious and or spiritual context. There seems to be something almost rooted in the deepest depths of our collective human psyche that makes us recoil whenever we hear the word sacrifice. Despite this the idea of self-sacrifice remains a much lauded and positive quality within modern society. If you consider the nature of modern society this actually makes a certain amount of sense, particular if like me your background is that broadly intended adjective ‘Western’. People far better qualified than I have waxed lyrical about the individualist nature of modern society, so I feel no need to add further to that particular discussion. Despite the misalignment of the idea of sacrifice, the use of sacrifice in religious and spiritual practices is something that remains strong even to this day and it is to that discussion that I wish to add.
One week long past the PaganPerspective YouTube collaborative dealt with a question regarding sacrifice and its use in the hosts’ personal praxes (praxes being the plural form of praxis, my chosen term for the collective entirety of a persons path – their theistic stance, their magical practices, their labels and so forth). It has been a while since I last watched the video, so the details are somewhat hazy, however I believe the question the hosts were answering was directly questioning the hosts’ opinion on using blood or blood letting in their praxes. Despite it being a long time since I watched the video, there were two or three things that stand out in my mind. Cara made mention that when we sacrifice something it is made sacred, moreover she mentioned that something we sacrifice is something that we value. Cara also said that though she does not use animal sacrifice in her praxis, she has not problems with it if the animal isn’t wasted (meaning so long as its eaten and its remains made use of etc); this was more or less the same opinion of Brendan who does use animal sacrifice in his praxis, or at least has done so in the past. However Brendon also made mention of his using a substitute for blood and an ‘actual’ sacrifice through the sacrifice of a symbol, in his example it was a pomegranate because he is able to tear the fruit open and its juices closely resemble blood.
Considering both Cara’s statement that we sacrifice things that are valuable or hold intrinsic value to us and all the hosts’ opinion that human sacrifice is no longer necessary etc, an interesting thought rises to the surface – do we consider human sacrifice to be taboo (or proximal to a taboo) because we believe that human sacrifice is no longer necessary or do we consider it to be taboo because in this day and age a human life is considered to be invaluable – literally, no value great or small can be placed on a human life? To my mind this is a stance that can slice either way in the argument. On the one hand it can be said that a human life is so incredibly valuable that its worth is incalculable and transcends the possibility of sacrifice because of this invaluable quality; on the other hand it can equally be said that the worth of a human life is less than nothing and therefore has no value for the purposes of sacrifice lest the sacrifice be received with disdain. Why then is the use of blood in praxis still considered to be non-taboo, even by those like Cara who don’t necessarily feel the need to use it in their praxis?
Though I really have no theory or even vague musing as to how, animals have also become caught up in the taboo (or seeming taboo) that says we cannot kill something as a form of sacrifice – be it human or animal (or plant, but I’ll touch on that later). I wont deny that there are a multitude of things that have had an affect on global culture of the course of several thousand years and that there are many good reasons for why people cannot do certain things, however those self same things and reasons are also viewed by the majority of the population as exceptions to the taboo – it is permissible for an animal to slaughtered religiously so long as the person killing it has the right combination of attributes and permissions. Which brings me to the sacrifice of plants. Though I do not have my own opinion on the matter, why is it that we see plants as permissible to kill when we don’t view human life or animal life in the same light? Is it because when we kill a plant it doesn’t scream or bleed or struggle and make a fuss, or is it because in some twisted way we see plant life as being less than that of human or animal life?
Nowadays, something as commonplace as the time taken to do something is oftentimes considered to be a sacrifice when such a thing is required. Personally I have a different opinion, however it is a good example of how Cara’s statement is becoming a bit of a truism – we are using or calling those things that we value for sacrifice, which for some people genuinely is their time. However, Brendon’s words are also having greater and greater bearing. If blood is an acceptable medium or offering, and there are things which can serve as acceptable substitutes for fleshy sacrifices is there then some combination of these things that can engender a more meaningful sacrifice? Is it even possible to have an objective understanding of ‘more meaningful sacrifice’?
Brendan’s Video: Unfortunately I can’t find Brendan’s video where he mentions the pomegranate, but this is the link to his personal YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/twistedwitch/featured