We recently received an email through the webpage, asking if witches sacrificed cats in their rituals. As this was a serious question, and the party was actually looking for information, we responded that no, this was indeed NOT the case. That Wicca is a nature-based religion and quite a number of wiccans are actually vegetarians, or vegans. The idea of killing an animal is quite distasteful, in any form.
However, "ritual" sacrifice is conducted. For example, wine can be poured onto the ground as a sacrifice to the Goddess. During harvest rituals, a corn king is constructed and decorated with fruits, vegetables, flowers. The king is then sacrificed, usually over a bonfire, indicating that nature must die in the fall, to be re-born again in the spring.
There are religions that sacrifice animals during ceremonies, such as the African-based religions of Voodoo (or Voudon) and Santeria. Usually small fowl such as chickens, and even goats are used. These animals are usually raised for these purposes and the ritual killing is very powerful in the context of these beliefs.
The idea of sacrifice also started me thinking of the sacrifices we, as "every day folk", make during our lives. The idea of sacrifice is giving up something that means something to you, in order to get something else. It isn't always a pretty sight!
How many of us sacrifice our family life to get ahead in our jobs? We give up hours of, what would seem, terribly important family time, to get ahead so we can can have more money, prestige, or power. We want to have our mistress, and end up sacrificing our wife and the relationship with her. We give up friendships, sometimes long friendships, in order to leave behind bad habits, such as drugs, or other destructive behaviour.
These are all forms of sacrifice, although I'm not sure that we think of them of such all the time. Also, I think we forget that we are giving up something to get something else. Very few people "have their cake and eat it too". It all depends on the choices that we make, what we are willing to give up, and the return we get at the end. Maybe we forget that if we neglect a relationship, it may not be there when we come back to it. Many people tend to stand there, scatch their heads, and wonder what happened to them! Maybe they wouldn't have made that choice to begin with.
Are these sacrifices any more heinous than killing a chicken? Is there any less blood (a heart can bleed in the figurative sense), or any less of the strong emotions? Are the things we get in return as meaningful? Are we making these conscious choices, or are we driven by what "society" tells us we want and need?
These are questions only the individual can answer, based on their particular situation in life.
What are you willing to sacrifice?