Toward the Pagan Restoration of Sacrifice
Some traditions develop the idea of merit, a sort of calculus of karma, where the practice of giving over time accrues to the offerer a certain quantity of benefit in proportion to the gift. This kind of thinking can have its problems—the Catholic practice of indulgences comes to mind. But it can also be more positively applied to action as a mode of offering, where labor in support of spirituality (like cleaning the temple or supporting the priestfolk) is itself seen as a kind of sacrifice.
What is vital is the doing: the methods are numerous and should be chosen on the basis of experimentation. The lists above are only the beginning. Animal sacrifice should be on the table at least for the meat eaters, at least once in life. (It feels to me like there is a moral obligation in there because I eat meat.) We can also remember that making offerings is not just for the Spirits and to the Gods but to teachers and leaders for honor, thanksgiving, and for their health and well-being. Iamblichus counsels that in sacrificial best practice, we remember all the beings to whom offerings should be made: we should cycle up from the local spirits, the elementals, then All the Gods, the retinue of the Deity intended, and then the Deity. You can then go on to the Creator and the One and the Void, if those are part of your cosmology. Experience has shown that the time for doing magic is right after the offering cycle (powerful!). And remember, a libation without dedication is just a spilled drink.
It is time for Pagans to restore sacrifice to its ancient and central place in our rites (and some are!). The world needs the Gods in Their fullest presence and we need to be fully present to Them if we wish our species to live in harmony with our world. The rite of sacrifice is crucial to our success. Let us restore it.
Sam Webster is a Mage, Mason, Sorcerer, Seminarian, and Pagan Priest, restoring the way of the Gods.
Webster's column, "Pagan Restoration," is published the 3rd Wednesday every month on the Pagan Channel. It is now being offered in a new format! Don't forget to update your RSS links and e-mail subscriptions.