Prayer is a form of communication with a deity or other spiritual being. Words addressed to a deity usually offer praise or seek guidance, blessing, forgiveness, fertility, victory, or protection. Like prayer, sacrifice is a form of communication with a deity for similar purposes. The word itself means "to make holy." As distinct from prayer, sacrificial offerings include objects of value and symbolic significance that are given to the gods to earn their favor. The gifts can take many forms, becoming sacred themselves through ritual consecration. The gods might be offered the most desirable foods or provided with the finest vessels, carvings, tools, and weapons. Historians, however, have often regarded blood sacrifice as the most powerful way to appease the gods. It was not unusual for societies to engage in both animal and human sacrifice, although the historical trend has been toward a sharp reduction in the latter.
The most sweeping theory is based on an interpretation of history that pictures the human condition as fearful and perilous, beset with threats to survival from starvation, attack, and events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods that were taken to be the work of angry gods. Possessing limited knowledge and technology, societies tried to find a way of negotiating with rival, demanding, and frequently unpredictable gods if the world and their own lives were to continue. Sacrifice soon became a significant form of exchange with the gods, a sort of currency in an age before the establishment of a monetary system. In modern parlance, sacrifice was a way of doing business.
One of the most dramatic episodes in Judeo-Christian Scripture begins with God's command that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, his son. Abraham sorrowfully prepares to obey, but God intervenes and provides a ram as a sacrificial substitute. The meaning of this episode has been the subject of intense discussion through the centuries, although it is most often interpreted as a celebration of faith on Abraham's part and mercy on the part of God. Another human sacrifice reported in the Bible has remained more difficult to interpret in a favorable light and, therefore, has received less attention. Jepthah pledged he would sacrifice the first living creature that he saw when returning home if God would grant him victory in an upcoming battle. The victorious Jepthah was greeted by his daughter upon returning home. True to his pledge, Jepthah made a burnt offering of his daughter (who is not given a name in the biblical account). Why would God intervene for Isaac but not for Jepthah's daughter? Was Jepthah pious or callous in carrying through with the execution? These questions continue to haunt scholars and ethicists.
There are tragic implications on many levels. Blanche cannot grow and survive in a world she is unsuited to, yet Stanley and Stella are only able to do so at the expense of part of their better natures with Blanche as a sacrifice. Unfortunately, it is a tragic consequence of human existence that new generations and new waves of history only thrive over the graves of those that have gone before, and ironically, each succeeding generation deceives itself into believing that it represents the pinnacle of human development: Surely another form of self-deception, this on a mass scale. One can be left with the feeling that self-deception is a part of the human survival mechanism, and desire only a function of reproduction. Yet, it is not so. Individual human destiny is much stronger than the force of history if only individuals grapple with who they are and the forces pressuring them, and have the courage to meet the mass wave head on. Perhaps no one in this play does so, but the desire is there and we can learn from their failure.
Human Sacrifice Essay - 3275 Words - StudyMode
This shocking description of an apparent massacre represents what Burr C. Brundage in his book (1979) calls "the central fact of Aztec life the nuclear cult of war, sacrifice and cannibalism." In this no doubt biased selection, major ritual elements of Aztec human sacrifice can be identifed that help illuminate some aspects of Aztec religion. Among the outstanding elements in the text are the centrality of the sacred temple of Tenochtitlan, the ascent and descent of the temple stairs, ritual dressing, dancing and music, the heart sacrifice of enemy warriors, the dismemberment and flaying of the victim, cannibalism, and an atmosphere of political and military crisis. While it is significant that even in the report of an enemy soldier like Daz del Castillo a number of indigenous facts of Aztec ritual sacrifice are communicated, it is important to acknowledge that many crucial dimensions are missed. First, the Nahuatl word that is closest to "sacrifice" was (paying of the debt). In many parts of the Mesoamerican world, the ritual killing of plants, animals, and humans was carried out within a deep-seated belief that the deities had created the universe out of their own self-immolations or the giving of some part of their essences. Secondly, this gift of life put a debt on human beings whose responsibility it was to pay back the gods through ritual sacrifice and the production of blood that would result in the rejuvenation of the divine forces that sustain the world. Thirdly, this commitment to paying the debt had many ritual and theological dimensions that the Spaniards could not understand including the Mesoamerican belief that the reliability of many crucial transitions between months, years and larger cycles of time depended on the ritual giving of blood. These are just some of the key meanings of human sacrifice that is often overlooked by public and scholars alike.
Ritual Human Sacrifice Essay Examples - Sample Essays
I personally believe that the Aztecs had various purposes for human sacrifice. These purposes ranged from the main factor of religious beliefs, to their economy, and nutritional protein received through cannibalism. Regarding the religious aspect, the Aztecs believed that the universe ran on an energy called tonalli, or "animating spirit". In humans, tonalli is said to be in the blood stream and when a man is frightened at his moment of death by sacrifice, the tonalli concentrates in the heart. This is why the hearts of the sacrificed were torn out and given to the gods. It was this that they believed nourished the gods and kept the sun in constant rotation. The gods need for tonalli is continual and essential in driving the universe. The Aztecs believed that without...
FREE Aztecs and Human Sacrifice Essay - Example Essays
Twenty-first-century historians tend to agree that human sacrifice was both a unifying event and an intense demonstration of religious beliefs for these powerful empires. The Aztecs believed that the "vital energies" of one person could be transferred to another person through drinking the blood and eating the flesh. The gods also craved flesh and blood, so human sacrifice benefited both Aztecs and their ever-hungry deities. Sacrifice was an integral part of their worldview in which the threat of death was ever present, a threat that had to be countered by extreme and relentless measures that would magically transform death into life. Discoveries since the mid-twentieth century confirm that many women were sacrificed in special rituals intended to renew the fertility cycle.