Tag Archives: ritual

Ritual & Sacrifice


Egyptian Sacrifice

Ritual activities include sacrificial offerings, prayers and deeds.  Sacrifice was the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.  Sacrifice might be part of a ritual to appease a god or gods or change the course of nature. Votive deposits and offerings were objects offered as sacrifices without the intention of recovery or use in a sacred place generally to gain favor with supernatural forces. Some sacrificial offerings were made in anticipation of the achievement of a particular wish, others as a thank-you offering for favors received.

Sacrifice to Mithras

Anything of value could be a sacrifice.  Sacrifice could be bloodless as in cereal, food or artifacts or a liquid offering, a libation. Generally, the more valuable the offering, the more highly the sacrifice was regarded but the more difficult to make. The most valuable sacrifices have been that of lives, animal or human.

Archaeologists have found human and animal corpses with sacrificial marks long before any written records of the practice. Human sacrifice was usually reserved for the most important events—dedication of an important monument or building, the death of an important personage, or in times of natural disaster.

Venus Figurine

Some of the earliest rituals were related to burial which have been documented as long ago as 30,000 years or more. The cave paintings of Chauvet that have been dated to 32,000 years ago and those at Lascaux to 17,000 years ago depict strange beasts and may have been connected with hunting rituals.  Ancient Venus figurines may have been used to insure success in hunting or fertility for the land or women.  Later, more formal systems evolved.

Tomorrow, Greek & Roman Mythology    Rita Bay

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Animism, Myths, Legends & Folktales

Animism is one of the oldest spiritual concepts. It refers to the belief that non-human entities possess some form of spiritual life.  Animism acknowledges the existence of souls or spirits, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena like thunder, and geographic features like mountains or rivers.  

Animism is a component of the world view of some hunter-gatherer cultures in which the human being is regarded on a roughly equal footing with other animals, plants, and natural forces. Respect for the non-human life and objects, therefore, is critical. Ritual becomes essential to win the favor of the spirits of one’s source of food, shelter, fertility; to wards off malevolent spirits; and to provide for the successful passage of a deceased’s spirit to the afterlife.

Mythology is related to animism because a large part of mythology is based upon a belief in souls and spirits (animism).  Mythology later came to focus largely on the sacred stories of origins and transformation and death and doom myths.

The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural heroes and humans—a true account of the remote past. Myths explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established. Myths are closely related to legends and folktales. Legends, however, are stories that are traditionally considered true but are set in a more recent time and feature humans as their main characters. Folktales can be set in any time and any place and are not considered true or sacred by the societies that tell them.

Tomorrow, Creation Myths    Rita Bay

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