Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Ritual Sacrifice ~~ Agonalia

A note at Wikipedia's page for today, 9 January mentions that in Roman times the date would have marked the first Agonalia or Agonia. This is an obscure archaic religious observance celebrated in ancient Rome several times a year, in honor of various divinities. Ancient calendars indicate that it was celebrated regularly on January 9, May 21, and December 11. The object of this festival was a disputed point among the ancients themselves. The offering sacrificed to the guardian gods of the state was a ram.

Sacrifice. Which hapless early human culture first dreamed up that concept? Or was it one of those mysterious practices which cropped up all over the inhabited areas of the globe more or less concurrently?

The practice of ritual sacrifice can be traced further back than Roman and Greek civilisations. Ancient cultures of South America, Scandinavia, Britain, the Middle East all show evidence of ritual sacrifice having been part of their way of life. Appeasing or cajoling "the gods" would seem to have been the point of it all. The spilling of blood, whether animal or human, was powerfully symbolic - fresh blood had the mysterious, even magical, ingredient signifying life itself. Blood, then,was the highest offering possible. This idea of blood being a magical entity was carried through also by early practitioners of magick.

Gods who need appeasing or cajoling though? How did that idea arise? Perhaps due to the rigours of climate: droughts when water became hard to find, hurricanes, gales, floods, scorching heat, deep snow, heavy frosts all could interfere with primitive routines and the need to find food and shelter. For some reason the early human brain decided that all their various travails must be the doings of some unseen hand, belonging to some unseen being - who had better be appeased and cajoled if life were to continue in their neck of the woods.

That was all once upon a time stuff - in the 20th/21st century:
"And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made........"
(Paul Simon)


mike said...

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Burma opposition leader that was for years under house arrest, was not allowed to see her husband prior to his death from cancer while he was in prison, and not allowed to see her two children grow-up...she's one of my heroes. She has often been asked about her sacrifices, had this to say:

"It was not a sacrifice. It was a choice that I made. I decided to follow a path that I thought was right. And so really, I deserve no praise for it, nor do I really deserve compassion for any of the problems I might have met along the way because it was my choice."
(one of the sources,

The entirety of the Earth has been sacrificed to some degree for us and by us humans. I hope there are individuals that will continue to make choices to improve this sphere.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ That kind of sacrifice is a little easier to understand.
Perhaps there's a very faint element of "appeasing the gods" in it too - the gods of fate, destiny, karma - whatever.

Humans have become altogether too blasé, in many ways. Daft as we think those ancient customs were now, the people back then seem to have been far more aware of future potential dangers, which led to their sacrificing rams etc, than most people seem aware in 2013.

Wisewebwoman said...

Sacrifice was adapted to many religions including the one I was brought up in which incorporated symbolic "body and blood" into its rituals and the sacrifice of this cleaning me up.
Real sacrifices, particularly by the 1% are far too thin on the ground, I'm afraid.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ Yes the thread from the pagan survives "under new management".