Summarize each of the five contexts of sacrifice in Rev. Thomas’ “The Nature of Sacrifice” paper in your own words. Explain the effect of sacrifice on the cosmos and on the participants. (100 words min. for each context, 150 words min. for effect.)
This is the first time I am reading Kirk’s article, so I am glad I was pointed in the direction. In his article, he describes the five contexts of sacrifice, which in laymens terms essentially means the five reasons sacrifices were made in the “olden days”.
1. Maintaining the Cosmic Order
One method sacrifices were made was to recreate the cosmos. Essentially this means through sacrifice we are representing the mythos of how the world was created. For example, in Norse lore, the body of Ymir was dismembered and used to create the world. His skull was made into the sky, his blood into the seas, his bones into the mountains. Our sacrifice is meant to feed the cosmos and regenerate the life within ourselves. We sacrifice the “animal” and consume part of it during revels to promote furthering life. We are using modern methods to reenact an ancient custom to represent and honor the cosmic order and creation of our world.
(Word Count: 111)
2. Delivering Services Through Gifts
Another method of sacrifice is the delivering of services through gifts as a sacrifice. This is the act of offering a sacrifice as a gift, and in return we receive blessings through the waters of life. The term for this is *ghosti-, which means reciprocation of hospitality or a “guest and host” relationship. The relationship of guest and host between us and the Gods and the obligation of our relationships so that we give so that the Kindred may give. I give so that I may receive, I give to you so that you may give in return. In some cultures, the thought of the giver who has more to give, shall give more (Thomas).
(Word Count: 115)
3. Providing Protection
While similar to #2 in that you are giving to receive, another context of sacrifice was to provide protection. In a way this is like a bribe, such as bribing someone to protect you from a bully. This is like an investment in a safety net to encourage protection from the Gods against things like…diseases. Another spin on sacrifice for protection is to compensate for any wrong-doing the sacrificer has done, almost as sort of a payment to ensure a good outcome despite the wrong-doing. To complicate things even more, there were also methods of protection sacrifices that actually involved making an animal or person a “scapegoat” that harnesses the bad energies thought to exist, and then banished from the community as a representative of the negative energies being removed from the community through that sacrifice.
(Word Count: 136)
4. Commensality (Community)
I can’t imagine a community where you only eat meat that comes from a sacrifice, but the idea of it is quite interesting. The shared meal with the community and with the Gods is another context of sacrifice. The thought is that the shared meal is a gift exchange for protection. At CedarLight, we share a meal after ritual to ground the energies we created with our rituals. This allows the community to sit together, ground together, and share foods prepared specifically for the purpose of supplying the community with nourishment and in honor of the season. This in itself is another method not necessarily mentioned in Kirk’s article, but that I feel is important as well.
(Word Count: 117)
5. Mitigating Order with Chaos (the modern idea)
The last context of sacrifice that Kirk speaks about is the mitigation of Order with Chaos. The example used is within Roman rituals where the had to be performed perfectly, or it was thought that another ritual would have to be performed to make-up for the mistakes. There are other methods of mitigating order through Chaos aside from large-scale rituals, such as the destruction of a wickerman that encompasses messages from the community and is then burned to remove discord from the community. The destruction or payment for the destruction is what mitigates the chaos to help prevent bad things from happening.
(Word Count: 102)
The effect that sacrifice has on the community and participants varies depending on the type of sacrifice, but also has a common theme. The community as a whole can be affected by the blessings given from the sacrifices given. We share a common energy in ritual, so anything we bring to ritual or receive in ritual affects us all as we are all connected with the group mind during ritual. So it is important to give proper sacrifices that are accepted by the Kindred. There are also positive elements to shared energy in community sacrifice, such as grounding the community after intense ritual, or sharing a community meal or blessings in the waters of life after significant sacrifice. We are also affected when the community comes together for a common purpose, such as a healing rite with an intended outcome. The sacrifices given determine the success of our outcome for protection or healing, and those energies will share the wyrd within the community. So there is quite a bit of consideration with community sacrifice and how a priest ensures sacrifices have the outcome desired.
(Word Count: 184)