Heres 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 Amazon.com,
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 ones 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 arent
interested in total sacrifices (if you kill a person or animal,
it wont 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 newlyslain game.
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 dont 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 persons 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.
Its not just that the Clerics want lots of money for the
local temple (though that is sometimes part of it), its
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.