an excerpt from

Authentic Thaumaturgy

Copyright © 1979, 1998, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits

Here’s an excerpt from the Second Edition of Authentic Thaumaturgy, my book on magic and religion for players of fantasy games such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons®, G.U.R.P.S.®, and Magic: The Gathering®, etc. “A.T.” is published by Steve Jackson Games and is available from them, from, or from your local game store.


Any of the methods used by magicians to raise mana in magical ceremonies can be used (and often are) by Clerics and worshippers to raise mana for religious rites. Breathing exercises, meditation, potions, singing, chanting, dancing, and sex are all used, depending upon the nature of the deities involved.

There are different motives, often mixed, for making sacrifices: Apotropaic sacrifices are offerings made to dangerous or Evil spirits in an effort to encourage them to go away. Propitiatory sacrifices are offerings made to gain or regain the favor of a spirit one may have offended. Thanksgiving sacrifices are simply a way of showing the spirit worshiped that his blessings are appreciated. Supportive sacrifices are offerings made to strengthen the spirit worshiped or to express one”s love for him. The whole essence of a sacrifice (“holy offering”) is that the humans making it decide that they will do without the energy in the object or being that is being sacrificed, so that the spirits worshiped may have it.

The idea that fruits and vegetables, which are often sacrificed to spirits, have any mana may seem strange, unless you have seen Kirilian photos of plants that have been injured. Huge sprays of energy, which many researchers think is (or is related to) mana, suddenly gush forth out of the damaged plants. Apparently some worshippers manage to focus this energy and to send it along with the mana of their prayers to their deities. Naturally, animals and humans have a great deal of mana, and animal sacrifice is quite common around the world.

Some deities like animal or human blood (which can certainly make you emotional while donating it) but aren”t interested in total sacrifices (if you kill a person or animal, it won”t be able to donate blood next month). If this sounds too gruesome, consider the Zulus who lived (until a few decades ago) on a diet composed primarily of milk and blood from their cattle, which they both milked and bled regularly. Blood sacrifices are messy but they are not always the sign of an “Evil” deity. Hunting gods, for example, often expect the first blood and meat from newly—slain game.

Human sacrifice is not frequent, even in those cultures that practice it (except for the Aztecs, who were — according to one theory — short of meat protein in the Valley of Mexico and long on prisoners of war). Most tribes simply don”t have large enough gene pools to make human sacrifice on a large scale practical. Instead, it is most commonly used as a form of capital punishment. The amount of mana to be gotten out of human sacrifices is large (basically all of the person”s MPs) but the process is risky unless the victims are willing, since they may always choose to spend their dying mana surge on a curse against the sacrificers! Nonetheless, the assertion that the only Mages or Clerics performing human sacrifices are “Evil” ones, while plausible in most circumstances, is not always true.

For that matter, Yahweh, the God of Israel, had blood sacrifices (doves, for example) made to Him right up to the destruction of His temple in Jerusalem by the Romans — not to mention the millions of human sacrifices made to the One True God under His various names for the last four thousand years.

But most deities, especially the creative ones, prefer other bodily liquids in sacrifice (such as milk, orgasmic fluids, or the sweat from hard work) or else such items as wine, fruits, flowers, expensive incenses, etc.

Nonphysical sacrifices include the mana generated from abstinence and/or fasting, the keeping or breaking of food or other taboos, hard work, artistic creation, etc.

The whole point of a sacrifice of any sort is that the worshippers are “feeding” the deity with their human energies (mana) in addition to any energies the sacrifice may have on its own.

This is why gold, silver and jewels (which have little if any mana of their own) are so often sacrificed. It”s not just that the Clerics want lots of money for the local temple (though that is sometimes part of it), it”s also a matter of people getting very emotional when they give up something of high financial and/or artistic value. If you sacrifice a consecrated sword or golden torc to a deity, you are giving the stored mana in it to the deity — so breaking the sword or torc and throwing it into a pit or a lake can make perfect sense, either as part of a ritual of mana release or as a way to ensure that no one will ever desecrate the object.

Copyright © 1979, 1998, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. Unlike his other sharetext postings, this text file may NOT be freely distributed on the Net, since it is part of a book available for purchase from Steve Jackson Games and/or If you would like to be on one or more of Isaac Bonewits’ emailing lists, click here to get subscription information.

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