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Sacrifice Does Not Mean Deprivation

By Erin Lale

[Snip] One thing that keeps coming up, which I am writing this essay because I feel the need to refute it, is the idea that sacrifice should mean hurting yourself or your family. That sacrifice means pain and deprivation. I think that’s the opposite of what sacrifice is supposed to be about. Having a relationship with the gods, spirits, ancestors, land wights, elves, etc. is supposed to be a positive experience, to benefit you and yours and your community. It’s not supposed to mean you take away from your children and make them go hungry. It’s not supposed to be about throwing away what you need to survive.

I think what we’re missing is that in a traditional farming society that ate meat, the animals were going to be killed anyway. Doing it in a ritualistic, holy manner made an important part of the agricultural year linked to the gods and also made people feel better about what they were doing. Is it not more humane to tell your child who has named the family goat that Butty is going to Thor, not only that Butty has to be killed and eaten because the snow has come and there isn’t enough for him to eat? Is that not the primal impulse to ease the concept of death by commending the souls of those we care about to an afterlife with the gods, whether they are people or animals, whether they were people killed in war or who died of old age, whether they were animals killed for meat or pets who died of old age?

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