Thursday, February 08, 2007

Animal Sacrifice and Authenticity

Last month Classics scholar Mary Beard suggested that contemporary Hellenic Pagans were not quite authentic because they omitted the centerpiece of ancient Paganism: animal sacrifice. (I discussed her critique here, and she responded.)

Orthodox Christian blogger Rod Dreher's recent post--and especially the comments--pretty well illustrate just how squeamish today's population--even omnivores--are about the idea of animal sacrifice.

Other than followers of Afro-Diasporic religions (Santeria, Candomble, etc.), only a tiny number of contemporary Western Hemisphere Pagans perform animal sacrifice.

(Muslims typically perform animal sacrifice for the festival of Eid ul-Adha. Christians, as one of Dreher's commenters points out, believe that Jesus' death ended sacrifice. Jews would not agree, but having centralized their rituals at the Jerusalem Temple--which was then destroyed--they moved to a different religious model.)

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Blogger Deborah said...

Throughout this controversy, which I have been reading with interest, I have been surprised not to see mention of plain ol' PR. Surely one reason that Pagans avoid animal sacrifice is to avoid the shitstorm that would follow. One scholar may complain that Zeus worship without sacrifice is inaccurate, but that is small compared to the thousands of community leaders, judges, and other people in power who would go on the warpath were blood sacrifice to be restored.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Even before you get to the "What would people think?" idea, I would suggest that animal sacrifice is no longer part of the religious culture in which most contemporary Pagans live.

To perform sacrifice would be literally learning a new ritual vocabulary. There would be a "strangeness" threshold to get over.

And I say that as someone who hunts and who has butchered farm animals--sacrifice would still be Something Else.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, I was wondering if you would know the address for James O'Dell's website that is listed in the article you linked? I did find something called "tropaion" on google that mentions his name, but I'm unsure if that's the same person.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

There is a blog called Tropaion in my blogroll, but I do not know if anyone named James O'Dell is connected with it.

7:55 AM  

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