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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Animal Sacrifice

 When Should You Use The Delicate Setting On Your Tumble Dryer?


Dear Boss Warlock:

Always check pockets first.

So: a pen got into the dryer and now there's ink all over the dryer barrel. I fielded suggestions from the coven about what to do about the ink, but here's my question for you: how many chickens should I sacrifice?

Unlucky in Utica


Dear UU:

It is a wise witch who understands that there are no purely physical issues.

Annoying as the problem may be, on the grand scale of things, the situation sounds to me to be pretty well contained. In my estimation, one chicken should do the trick.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



My next-door neighbor stands in his front yard, garden hose in hand.

Welcome to the Long, Hot Summer of '23. We haven't seen Drop One of rain in weeks.

“Fifty percent chance of rain tonight,” I say over the fence.

He casts his eyes up to the sky: Here's hoping.

“Maybe we need to start thinking about killing the black goat,” I say: my standard in-group joke during rainless times like this.

(Black for dark rain-clouds. Thunder likes goats, they say. A bull, of course, would be even better, but these days, who can afford one?)

“Any chance they'd take squirrel instead?” he asks. Drought notwithstanding, it's been a bumper year for mast; there are even more squirrels frisking around than usual, which in this neighborhood is saying something.

“Not a chance,” I say. “It has to be something you value.”

He shakes his head. Damn gods. “Well, here's hoping,” he says.

“Here's hoping,” I say, and move along.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 How Throwing Rice Became a Wedding Tradition | Martha Stewart

Some Thoughts on an Old Wedding Custom


The Received Tradition knows three rites of grain-throwing, and each is implicated in the others.

Grain-Throw the First: the actual Sowing of Seed.

The symbolism of this gesture, both practical and ritual, needs little explication, beyond the observation that virtually every agricultural society sees sexual symbolism here.

Grain-Throw the Second: showering the newly-married with Barley.

Barley is the oldest cultivated grain known to humanity: we've been raising it for maybe 12,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. Though it would be impossible to prove, it's my guess that we've been tossing it at newlyweds since the end of the last Ice Age, as well. The symbolism of this playful, immemorial act can hardly be lost on anyone. Speaking as a (naturalized) Midwesterner, you've really got to love the custom's implied micro-aggression as well.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Well, now, there's something you don't see every day, Chauncey.”

What's that, Stanley?”

Oh, a bunch of pagans out on the front steps performing a sacrifice.”


Humans are herd animals. When we see a large group of people, all with their attention focused one way, we want to look with them to see what's going on. It's automatic, instinctive.

But, of course, this is Minnesota.


After the Rite of the Gates at Jane Hawkner's funeral yesterday—it's very simple, really: you open the Gates, the departed passes through, you close the Gates—we'd all trouped out onto the front steps of the domed and columned Lake Harriet Spiritual Community building to offer the traditional Fire Sacrifice in honor of the occasion.

(Let's be frank: pagan ritual has, for the most part, rung pretty hollow since the end of the days of animal sacrifice. But, of course, you don't have to kill an animal to offer sacrifice. Even in the old days, animal sacrifice was only one form of sacrifice.)

We'd set up the brazier on the landing between the two flights of stairs leading up to the door. As presiding priest, then, I stood with my back to the street, facing the Fire and the people coming out of the building.

So, unlike the rest of the worshipers there present, I didn't get to see the reactions of the passers-by.


Different places, different customs. Minneapolis having been, in its early days, largely populated by Scandinavians, we have—thanks to the infamous Founder Effect—a local culture of public privacy. You don't stare at other people, especially not at strangers. Really—so long as they're not doing anything harmful—it's best to act as if they're not even there.

(Dysfunctional as this may sound, it's probably the reason why there's such a large, self-assured pagan community here. Here, we could get away with it.)

So that's how it came to be that, on a beautiful early Saturday afternoon in high Summer, there can be a whole tribe of pagans out on the front steps doing something interesting with Fire, and the Minnesotans walking, biking, and driving by are wrestling—wrestling—with themselves not to look.

They'redoingsomethingthey'redoingsomethinginterestingIwannalookIwannalookI'mnotgonnalookI'mnotgonnalook I'm looking I'mnotlookingI'mreallynotlookingI'mjustwalkingjustwalkingby.

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  • Katie
    Katie says #
    As the offerings were given to the fire, two people drove by in a fancy convertible with a huge sparkly (I mean unicorns for littl

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacrifice Revisited

So: here was my evil plan.

Step 1. To lay the groundwork, as it were, the first year we'd do the presentation: “Sacrifice in Theory and Practice.”

Step 2. The next year, we'd bring in the cute little lambie and let the kids get to know it through the course of the festival.

Then at the big ritual we'd kill it and eat it.

Needless to say, we never even got to Step 1.


Thirty years ago, they wouldn't even let us talk about sacrifice at PSG. “Too controversial,” they said.

Well, that was 30 years ago, and this is Paganistan.

Moral of the story: Don't wait for Step 2.

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Banned at PSG!

25 years ago, they wouldn't let me give this workshop at PSG.

"Too controversial," they said.

But you'll be able to hear it in full—new and improved—at next year's Paganicon 2019.

Lucky you.


Sacrifice Revisited

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A Technology of Connectivity: New Light on Animal Sacrifice

Exciting new scholarship is exploding many of the old “myths” about animal sacrifice and casting fresh light onto the origins and meanings of this ancient and—to many of us today—mysterious practice.

Some findings from the emerging new consensus on the topic:

Animal sacrifice is a phenomenon of pastoral and agricultural societies. Hunters-gatherers don't practice animal sacrifice. (Think about it: how could they?) Of course, they do make offerings; hunters may set aside the god's portion from their kill. But in virtually all known examples, animal sacrifice comprises the offering and sharing of a domestic animal.

Animal sacrifice is not a “primitive” phenomenon. The old “evolutionary” paradigms for understanding the history of religions broke down long ago. Some religions sacrifice; some don't. The absence of animal sacrifice in contemporary Judaism and Christianity is due to specific developments in the history of these particular religions, which cannot properly be generalized to other religions.

There is no single reason for, or meaning of, animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice is polysemous: it means different things to different people. It may mean something different to every single person attending any given sacrifice. Previous theorists attempting to extract a single origin, purpose, or meaning for animal sacrifice were mistaken. While it makes sense to compare sacrificial practice across cultures, there are no universals when it comes to meaning.

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