exWitch Australia
Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


The offering of a gift to a deity or a being in petition, thanksgiving, or appeasement.   These offerings usually consist of food, drink, the first fruits of harvest and the blood sacrifices of animals and fowl.   The highest sacrifice of human life is currently more rare.   Despite the hystrical claims to the contrary, made by well-meaning but sadly ill-informed Christians, there are no blood sacrifices offered in Wicca and Neo-Pagan Witchcraft practices.

The rituals of blood sacrifices are ancient.   They embody the custom of propitiating the gods.   Animals, fowls and humans have been sacrificed in various religious rituals to secure bountiful harvests, blessings and protection from the deities.   It has long been believed that the blood consumed in ritual sacrifice will give to the drinker the soul and attributes of the deceased, be it human or animal.

The "Kosher killing" of draining the blood from the sacrificial animal is not unique to the Jewish people.   It was common among the Oriental worshippers to offer the blood to the Great Earth Mother and retain the meat for themselves.   However, the Jews like the Hindus taught that the animal's soul was in the blood.   (Leviticus 17:11)

The Celts and Druids drank the blood of their sacrificed human victims, whose throats were cut over cauldrons, or burned their bodies alive in wickerwork cages.   The Aztecs cut the hearts out of the human sacrifices with flint knives; the priest held the still-beating heart aloft, then placed it in a ceremonial receptacle.   Then the body was frequently dismembered and eaten as an act of ritual cannibalism.   The Khonds of southern India speared their victims on stakes and cut off pieces of their backs to fertilize the earth.

The sacrifice of the first born child was prominent.   It was practiced by various cultures, especially during troubled times.   One example is that the nobility of Carthage during the Punic Wars sacrificed hundreds of children to the god Baal by throwing them in to pits of fire.

The Hebrews offered blood sacrifices.   The Biblical book of Leviticus, in the Old Testament, is full of instructions for sacrificing animals and fowl.   In Genesis, Cain offered the first fruits of his harvest, which was not pleasing to the Lord, while Abel offers one of his flock, which pleased the Lord.   Also, in Genesis, Abraham is tested by God by being instructed to sacrifice his son Issac, but at the last minute a lamb is permitted to be substituted. (Genesis 22:1-14)

The Hebrews commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt by the sacrifice and eating of the Paschal Lamb at Passover.   In Christianity, the Paschal Lamb is seen as a 'type' of Christ, and therefore, His death on the cross obliterated all need for further blood sacrifices.   Through Christ's death the redemption of humankind was obtained.   This is why the Eucharist and communion services observed in Christian churches represent the blood sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross.

The Eucharist and communion services are a crucial part of Christian belief.   In Catholicism, with the belief in transsubstantiation, the people belief the priest, the celebrant of the Mass, performs the same act as Christ performed at every Mass.   This is a belief which many Catholics are taught almost from birth.   When Protestants conduct their communion services they believe that they are commemorating Christ's act by consuming the bread and wine/grape juice.

There are plenty of descriptions of divine sacrifices reencounted in the mythologies.   For example, Osiris, Dionysis and Attis are dismembered in sacrifice for rebirth.

During the Medieval and Renaissance witch-hunts there were all sorts of accusations declared against witches of sacrificing cocks and unbaptized babies to Satan.   These accusations were also prevalent during the times of the Black Mass.   All of history rings with such accusations: the Syrians accused the Jews of human sacrifice and cannibalism; the Romans accused the Christians; and, the Christians in return accused the Gnostics, Cathars, Waldenses and Albigenses.

Blood sacrifice has been used in Ceremonial Magick.   Magicians have believed that it releases an instant burst of power which they used for the performance of magical spells and conjuration.   The old grimoires command the killing of animals and using their skins to make parchments on which to draw needed magical symbols.   Animals which were offered to God and demons had to be young, healthy and virgin in order that the maximum amount of energy would be released.

An example of this was stated by Aleister Crowley in Magick in Theory and Practice (1929), "The ethics of the thing appear to have concerned no one; nor, to tell the truth, need they do so."   Crowley routinely sacrificed animals in his rituals that took place in a magic circle.   He tortured the animal first in order to obtain an elemental slave, as "indefensible, utterly black magic of the worst kind," and then proceeding he stated he had no objection to such black magic when it was "properly understood."

Currently animals sacrifices still occur in various tribal groups and the religious practices of Voodoo and Santeria.   Such practices have been protested by animal rights groups, but the Santerians claimed the United States Constitution protects their right to worship as they deem proper.   They defended animal sacrifice by demonstrating its ancient roots.

see also: BLOOD


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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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