As a result of a pan community debate there are some ill-conceived fearful assumptions about animal sacrifice which need to be addressed. I want to focus on two:
1. A presumption that public relations will be harmed in regards to paganism.
I hate to break this to you, but the public already think we’re freaks. Most acknowledge this and call for education to the public, but I don’t agree. Despite what the public thinks of us our numbers grow (even though I also don’t think that should be our goal). We’re mostly an educated bunch of outsiders. We read text that most common people have never heard of, we write on blogs that most common people will never read. We perform rites that most will never understand.
Pagans (as an umbrella term) have been attracted to whatever path because *I believe* the gods have chosen them to follow that path. I know some may contest this, (“I’m a person that follows my free will!”), but that’s how I feel about it.
Lately there have been newcomers, mostly very young, who have been introduced to paganism via popular culture, ie. Percy Jackson books and films or the Viking production etc. This is when it’s our turn to become mentors and educators. Education is indoctrination and it happens in stages and the first stage is made by students want to learn. The newcomers have climbed over the wall of mainstream culture and religion and stand at the start of the long path. They also bring with them aspects of their previous culture, that’s what we have to teach them about.
Regardless of what we do, whether it be animal sacrifice or performing bloodless pagan rites at Stonehenge, someone is going to contest us, is going to try and shut us down, is going to associate us with their perception of evil.
Lastly, animal sacrifice should be for the gods, and only that. It should not be a statement to any mortals including yourself, your friends, or “the public”.
2. Presumption that animal sacrifice will encourage animal abuse, akin to ‘satanic’ practices.
We live in a fantasy violent culture. Last week I watched a very fun film that was a satire of sorts in regards to ultra-violence in horror films. Scenes where a pretty blond gets her head chopped off, where bear traps are used as grappling hooks lodged into peoples backs, etc. My emotional response? Laughter, fun, enjoyment.
Am I cruel, am I evil? The point that this film is quite popular is proof the general public is desensitised to fantasy violence, but we’re not violent on mass. My reaction is shared by the majority as we are generally smart enough to know that this is not real.
Reading a news article about some stupid teenagers performing ‘Satanic’ animal sacrifice that involves torture and cruelty results in anger from me. My reaction is shared by the majority as we are generally smart enough to know that this is reality.
When you read about these cases things like movies and video games are cited for being the cause. But it is not, nor is our fantasy violent culture. There is something *wrong* with these people and regardless to what they are exposed to they will do it. A movie might be inspiration but it is not the cause. There are other motivations, other influences such as sexual or physical abuse, mental illness, drug abuse that are affecting these people. They can get inspiration from any catalyst.
Given that all this discussion has been made by people who are well educated, who have dedicated time, passion, love into constructing concise arguments for our right to perform animal sacrifice I doubt a disturbed teenager is going to get confirmation to be cruel from our writing, or even have the patience to read it. Especially when there are more easily assessable media to be used for inspiration.
In the extreme case that something like this does happen it is our responsibility as caretakers of our faiths to stamp it out, and to contest mainstream media that is blaming us for the actions of someone troubled. That should be the only time we try to educate the public on who we are.
Even if an animal sacrifice is performed in public, it is still private. We’re minority faiths, a public rite by my understanding is only attended by people who are aware of what is going to happen, and they should be informed of the decorum to be followed before it happens. A group of people performing a sacrifice in a truly public space is not being respectful, and this is something that I would object to. Likewise I’d object to people posting videos and photos of the rite; this animal is sacred, revered, and should be respected. Its life belongs to the divine: your ego should not be part of it. You nothing to prove to anyone but the gods.