The gods set the terms

I’ve been circling and circling my topic.  I am working towards engaging Samhain and Halloween, Catholic answers to interacting with the dead, and the whole question of what awaits us at life’s exit point.

To deal with them I would like to first consider the topic of sacrifice.  I think that for the average Canadian the term  “to sacrifice” has commonly come to mean  “giving something up,” or  “denying yourself some good thing” in order to achieve a greater result.

However I would like to go back to our roots, where to make a sacrifice means  “offering something at cost to a deity”. In Nkonya sacrifices are offered either in hope to obtain a boon, or in fear to appease an offended deity.

Our Celtic ancestors, and many others world-wide  have shared and do share this view.

In making any sacrifice a key point is that the god or ancestor approached specifies the required sacrifice, it is not left to the discretion of the supplicant.   In Nkonya the priest of a shrine will act as the intermediary between the shrine god and the offerer and must be consulted in advance if the correct sacrifice is to be made- whether wine, or a chicken, a sheep, or a goat.  He will then offer the sacrifice in the prescribed manner.

There are many boons sought: Success in business, or in exams, on the playing field, or in conceiving a child.

However the most urgent sacrifices are made to appease an offended deity, who will kill you if you do not offer the necessary sacrifice posthaste.  This may be because you have directly broken a taboo, or it may be because you have stolen a neighbour’s chicken and he in turn has called on a deity to arbitrate the case and kill  the offender.  An honorable person who has invoked such a curse will announce his actions so that you have a chance to make it right and live.  Not everyone is honorable.

This brings us to the Christian view.  We acknowledge  only one deity,  God Most High, the Creator God. He is all-powerful, unchanging,totally other. He also takes the initiative, announcing himself as ‘I Am” in a burning bush, and entering human existence as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

This is God, of whom Jesus said,

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

At this season of the year when the grass of the field turns brown, leaves fall from the trees, and the days grow short and cold,  we build bonfires against the coming Winter, listen to the lowing of the penned cattle, and consider sacrifice. The first question is, “What sacrifice does the Most High God, the Creator, the Lord of the Harvest,  require?


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