Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Controversial Subject of Animal Sacrifice

It's no secret to history, and no doubt to any logical mind, that the ancient Polytheists (not just Greeks) participated in the practice of animal sacrifice to their Gods, and not in small amounts. At the Panathenaia, for example, Athena received a sacrifice of 100 oxen, which were then used in a great banquet to feed the worshipers. There are also vase paintings from around 500 BCE that show bulls being led to the altar of Athena for sacrifice, with the Goddess lording over the procession. While people in mainstream society, and even many modern Pagans, may find the act to be cruel at best, what does animal sacrifice really entail? What is the reality of it all? Are we really appalled by it, or are we just being reactionaries to something that has been made taboo? Is our condemnation of it real, or manufactured?

I think I am first safe to say that most Pagans, and Hellenic Polytheists like myself, do not practice animal sacrifice today for a number of reasons. One, the expense. Two, many of us don't feel the need or the desire to go through such pains. And three, there's no need to sacrifice an animal when any meat you like can be picked up fresh at the grocery store and placed on the altar of the God you wish to offer to. It is far cheaper, far less burdensome, and far less messy. We are just as, if not more content, by pouring libations, burning incense, and giving general foods and goods to our Gods. On the other hand, there is also no law in the United States that forbids the sacrifice of livestock for religious purposes. The US Supreme Court ruled, by all 9 Justices, that animal sacrifice for religious purpose is protected under the 1st amendment during a case involving the Floridian city of Hialeah and resident worshipers who preformed animal sacrifice.

So let's break the subject down into simple reality. Mostly no one becomes offended or repulsed if I tell them that I am going hunting. They have no problem with me loading a rifle and putting a bullet through a deer's heart, and afterward, breaking his body apart and using it for meat. They don't think twice about it even if I decide to stuff and put his head on my wall when all is said and done. However, if I put a religious meaning onto it, then all of a sudden, the exact same act becomes an offense. Why? Why is it more wrong to chop up a chicken for my family while praying to a God, than it is to simply chop it up without prayer? It's ridiculous to suddenly make killing an animal a horrid offense the minute it becomes religious, but totally fine if there's no religion attached. The animal dies either way. The only difference in the actual act of killing is that the Pagan may offer the animal to a God as well.

Animal sacrifice, in my view, actually gives the animal more respect and honor than simply putting them through a conveyor belt in a killing house, or gunning them down at random in the forest. With the religious aspect, the animal is made sacred and treated with the utmost respect because it is being given to the God. Even more honor is bestowed by the fact that the animal will likely be used for good purpose once the sacrifice is over, such as the oxen at the Panathenaia, instead of being killed for mere sport like many hunters do these days, or being massively killed on farms for mere profit. These are the people and places that truly do dishonor to the animal and commit the horrid acts. They exploit the animal in every way imaginable, and could not care less how close they bring the creatures to extinction. The Pagan or the Polytheist who gives the animal to the God cares for the creature far more than your average, mainstream butcher or hunter. The animal is seen as a sacred gift to the Divine, and a salvation to the people by the food and service that its body gives. And being reverent of nature and its beings also means that, for the Pagan or Polytheist, such things must be protected and preserved, never exploited and ruined.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.