Mythstakes: The Sacrifice Sequel

Hana McNierney, Wilcox and the World Editor

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In a previous issue we discussed myths; the mystical stories which people of ancient and present times believed in, which are shared to find reason in a world of chaos. To counter the horror these myths foresaw, some cultures turned to another seemingly ancient practice: sacrifices. Most will admit to having encountered at least once in their lifetime the sharing of an extravagant tale where a beautiful young maiden was slain during times of war and natural disasters to appease the gods. However, these stories are also shrouded with an air of whimsical fantasy, but on the other hand, evidence of such sacrifices are still being uncovered today.
A year ago in Peru, the insane discovery of an abundance of child sacrifices was discovered. Today, these skeletons are thought to be “a centuries-old ritual massacre” and “the largest known case of child sacrifice ever found” in response to an El Nino climate attack, according to The New York Times. Scattered across the ground at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas are one hundred forty skeletons, of both girls and boys aged five to fourteen, along with two hundred llamas. An ancient Chimu group shares a particularly gruesome tale where the children are thought to have had their hearts wrenched out of their chests to calm the violent hurricanes and storms of the El Nino. The discovery made by local Michele Spano Pescara and shared by archaeologist, Dr. Gabriel Prieto has since made its rounds in the media and more archaeologists have contributed their thoughts on the reasons behind the sacrifice. One, for example, believed that the mass sacrifice was a way for the leadership to demonstrate their power and willingness to take brutal means to gain what is favorable to them. Another falls in line with the stereotypical view of sacrifices, believing that it was a way for the Chimus to communicate and appeal to the supernatural world.
Sacrifices also played a major role in other parts of the world. In India, for instance, believers of the Vedic and Hindu religion were annually expected to perform a sacrifice, in addition to those surrounding pivotal moments in life and requests by a practitioner. On the other hand, Buddhist followers did not share these customs; rather, they viewed sacrifices as brutal, and depicted their loyalty through offerings. Traveling to China reveals a history of largely different sacrificial backgrounds. For one, those who served with an emperor were expected to remain with him, even after death. On the other hand, commoners also regularly made sacrifices to gods, and ancestral worship was another major reason for these offerings. Moving a little further east, Japan also had its fair share of sacrifices before the Middle Ages. The Shinto, Confucius, and Buddhist religions encouraged individuals to give up proportional offerings of living necessities to their gods. As more religions became established in the country, emperors also started to take part, and mass human sacrifices were not uncommon.
A much subtler form of sacrifice can still be seen in the world today under the religion of Christianity. If you travel to cathedral, you may catch a glimpse of a person shuffling on their knees across stretch of land. Although not to the extent of murder, this discomfort and perhaps excruciating process is a modern way for people to sacrifice during times of prayers and wishes. Different sacrifices have origins from all across the world, and evidence of past occurrences are still being dug up today. When people hear the word “sacrifices,” their minds may instantly associate the term to an ancient time period, however, offerings are still made today.