To answer the question of the existence, extent or frequency of modern Pagan blood sacrifice one must first solve the problem of defining what makes a Pagan. The definition of Pagan is so subjective as to be almost useless (the complexities in defining Paganism can be found in the article How Many Pagans are there in Atlanta?).
For the purpose of this article we will define Pagans as any following a reconstruction of a pre-Christian religion from any geographical location. This excludes paths such as Voudon, Santeria and Satanism because these derive from or are influenced by Christianity and thereby post-Christian. This does include Wicca and other witchcraft paths, Shamans, Druids, and any following Egyptian, Germanic, Norse, Greek, Roman or other cultural Reconstructionist paths.
Teenagers dabbling in the occult for thrills and rebellion who mutilate dogs, cats, or bunnies in cemeteries are not Pagans. They are misguided and uninformed disturbed youths.
Most modern Pagans will vehemently deny any form of blood sacrifice takes place. There are rumors of blood sacrifice in early Wicca back in the days of Crowley and Gardner but the validity of many of those stories is questionable. Today, however, Wiccans do not sacrifice people or animals. Various inanimate sacrifices are made. These can be food, herbs, flowers, scents, incense, coins and so on. All offerings of sacrifice are symbolic.
There are a few who do experiment or practice using a drop of their own blood to empower a ritual or charm. This is done for extreme cases to protect or heal someone in dire peril. The idea of blood strengthening a ritual or charm goes back to ancient beliefs that the soul or spirit was contained in the blood or simply that blood was the life source. Therefore blood had powerful energy. Psychologically, it is a powerful symbol to shed your own blood voluntarily, even if just a drop from a pricked finger! One Pagan found that donating blood was a spiritual experience and ritualized the process. This fits nicely as sacrificing your own blood to save or heal others fits well with the Rule of Three or Karma. In other words, a good act is returned three-fold.
There are Pagan paths that do perform an animal blood sacrifice on certain holidays. The animal (usually a goat) to be sacrificed is preferably chosen when young and raised by members of the group. This animal is considered holy and receives special treatment. It is believed that the animal must be joyful and content in life and calm and free of fear at death. Therefore the ritual slaughter is done quickly and humanely. When the animal is bled out the blood may be offered as a sacrifice to a ritual fire or utilized some other way in ritual. The animal is then prepared for cooking and becomes the main course of the holiday feast.
For those who may think that is cruel and bizarre you need to think about the meat you eat at your own holiday rituals: Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham. Somebody slaughtered those animals and it wasn’t as peaceful as it is for the Pagan goat or pig. Nor were they raised in a natural manner that gave them joy in life. The difference is that you didn’t have to do the killing, bleeding out, gutting, skinning and butchering. Your grandparents may have though. For the Pagan, such a ritual keeps them close to nature, the sanctity of life and the ways of the ancestors. It carries a lot more meaning than a trip to the supermarket.
So the answer to the original question is: modern Pagans aren’t engaging in human blood sacrifices. No babies or elderly or indigent people are being murdered. Nor are modern Pagans killing and mutilating puppies, kittens and bunnies. Yes, some modern Pagans will offer their own blood to protect or heal others. Yes, some modern Pagan paths will perform a ritual slaughter of an animal to be used at a holiday feast.
Is any of this really so different from the symbolic ritualized cannibalism of the Eucharist (where the body and blood of Christ is consumed as bread and wine) or the Thanksgiving turkey ritual (sacrificing a special animal to feast and give thanks for abundance)?
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