Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of an animal
usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favour
with a deity. Animal sacrifices were common throughout
Europe and the
Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East until Late Antiquity, and continue in some cultures
or religions today. All or only part of a sacrificial animal may be
offered, especially in the context of ritual slaughter.
2 Ancient Europe
3 Abrahamic traditions
3.2.1 Strangite Latter Day Saints
5 East Asian traditions
6 Traditional African and Afro-American religions
7 See also
One of the altars at the Monte d'Accoddi, where animal sacrifice may
During the Neolithic Revolution, early humans began to move from
hunter-gatherer cultures toward agriculture, leading to the spread of
animal domestication. In a theory presented in Homo Necans,
Walter Burkert suggests that the ritual sacrifice of
livestock may have developed as a continuation of ancient hunting
rituals, as livestock replaced wild game in the food supply.
Ancient Egypt was at the forefront of domestication, and some of the
earliest archeological evidence suggesting animal sacrifice comes from
Egypt. The oldest Egyptian burial sites containing animal remains
originate from the
Badari culture of Upper Egypt, which flourished
between 4400 and 4000 BC. Sheep and goats were found buried in
their own graves at one site, while at another site gazelles were
found at the feet of several human burials. At a cemetery uncovered
Hierakonpolis and dated to 3000 BC, the remains of a much wider
variety of animals were found, including non-domestic species such as
baboons and hippopotami, which may have been sacrificed in honor of
powerful former citizens or buried near their former owners.
According to Herodotus, later Dynastic Egyptian animal sacrifice
became restricted to livestock - sheep, cattle, swine and geese - with
sets of rituals and rules to describe each type of sacrifice.
By the end of Copper Age in 3000 BC, animal sacrifice had become a
common practice across many cultures, and appeared to have become more
generally restricted to domestic livestock. At Gath, archeological
evidence indicates that the
Canaanites imported sacrificial sheep and
goats from Egypt rather than selecting from their own livestock. At
Monte d'Accoddi in Sardinia, one of the earliest known sacred
centers in Europe, evidence of the sacrifice of sheep, cattle and
swine has been uncovered by excavations, and it is indicated that
ritual sacrifice may have been common across Italy around 3000 BC and
afterwards. At the Minoan settlement of
Phaistos in ancient Crete,
excavations have revealed basins for animal sacrifice dating to the
period 2000 to 1700 BC.
Preparation of an animal sacrifice; marble, fragment of an
architectural relief, first quarter of the 2nd century AD; from Rome,
Ancient Greek religion: Holocaust (sacrifice), Hecatomb
Ancient Roman religion: October Horse, Tauromachy, Taurobolium
Germanic paganism: Blót
See also: Jewish and Islamic ritual slaughter
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Slaughter offering and Korban
In Judaism, the qorban is any of a variety of sacrificial offerings
described and commanded in the Torah. The most common usages are
animal sacrifice (zevah זֶבַח), zevah shelamim (the peace
offering) and olah (the "holocaust" or burnt offering). A qorban was
an animal sacrifice, such as a bull, sheep, goat, or a dove that
underwent shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter). Sacrifices could also
consist grain, meal, wine, or incense.
Hebrew Bible says that
Yahweh commanded the
Israelites to offer
offerings and sacrifices on various altars. The sacrifices were only
to be offered by the hands of the Kohanim. Before building the Temple
in Jerusalem, when the
Israelites were in the desert, sacrifices were
offered only in the Tabernacle. After building Solomon's Temple,
sacrifices were allowed only there. After the Temple was destroyed,
sacrifices was resumed when the
Second Temple was built until it was
also destroyed in 70 CE. After the destruction of the Second Temple
sacrifices were prohibited because there was no longer a Temple, the
only place allowed by halakha for sacrifices. Offering of sacrifices
was briefly reinstated during the
Jewish–Roman wars of the second
century CE and was continued in certain communities
The Samaritans, a group historically related to the Jews, practice
animal sacrifice in accordance with the Law of Moses.
Matagh of a rooster at the entrance of a monastery church (Alaverdi,
Armenia, 2009), with inset of bloody steps.
Further information: Lamb of God
References to animal sacrifice appear in the New Testament, such as
the parents of
Jesus sacrificing two doves (Luke 2:24) and the Apostle
Paul performing a
Nazirite vow even after the death of Christ (Acts
Christ is referred to by his apostles as "the Lamb of God", the one to
whom all sacrifices pointed (Hebrews 10). According to the penal
substitution theory of atonement, Christ's crucifixion is comparable
to animal sacrifice on a large scale as his death serves as a
substitutionary punishment for all of humanity's sins.
Some villages in Greece sacrifice animals to Orthodox saints in a
practice known as kourbania.
Sacrifice of a lamb, or less commonly a
rooster, is a common practice in Armenian Church and Tewahedo Church.
This tradition, called matagh, is believed to stem from pre-Christian
pagan rituals. Additionally, some Mayans following a form of Folk
Catholicism in Mexico today still sacrifice animals in conjunction
with church practices, a ritual practiced in past religions before the
arrival of the Spaniards.
Strangite Latter Day Saints
Animal sacrifice was instituted in the Church of
Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints (Strangite), a minor Latter Day Saint faction
James J. Strang
James J. Strang in 1844. Strang's Book of the Law of the
Lord (1851) deals with the topic of animal sacrifice in chapters 7 and
Given the prohibition on sacrifices for sin contained in III Nephi
9:19-20 (Book of Mormon), Strang did not require sin offerings.
Rather, he focused on sacrifice as an element of religious
celebrations, especially the commemoration of his own coronation
as king over his church, which occurred on July 8, 1850. The head
of every house, from the king to his lowest subject, was to offer "a
heifer, or a lamb, or a dove. Every man a clean beast, or a clean
fowl, according to his household."
While the killing of sacrifices was a prerogative of Strangite
priests, female priests were specifically barred from
participating in this aspect of the priestly office. "Firstfruits"
offerings were also demanded of all Strangite agricultural
harvests. Animal sacrifices are no longer practiced by the
Strangite organization, though belief in their correctness is still
Neither The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nor the
Community of Christ, the two largest Latter Day Saint factions, ever
accepted Strang's teachings on this (or any other) subject.
Qurban and Eid al-Adha
Animal sacrifices at the
Eid al-Adha Islamic festival in Pakistan
(left) and India.
Muslims engaged in the
Hajj (pilgrimage) are obliged to sacrifice a
lamb or a goat or join others in sacrificing a cow or a camel during
the celebration of the Eid al-Adha, an Arabic term that means
"Feast of Sacrifice", also known as al-Id al-Kabir (Great Feast), or
Qurban Bayrami (
Sacrifice Feast) in Turkic influenced cultures, Bakar
Goat Feast) in Indian subcontinent and Reraya Qurben in
Muslims not on the
Mecca also participate
in this sacrifice wherever they are, on the 10th day of the 12th lunar
month in the Islamic calendar. It is understood as a symbolic
re-enactment of Abraham's sacrifice of a ram in place of his son. Meat
from this occasion is divided into three parts, one part is kept by
the sacrificing family for food, the other gifted to friends and
family, and the third given to the poor Muslims. The sacrificed animal
is a sheep, goat, cow or camel. The feast follows a communal prayer at
a mosque or open air.
Cattle sacrifice at Eid.
The animal sacrifice during the
Hajj is a part of nine step pilgrimage
ritual. It is, states Campo, preceded by a statement to intention and
body purification, inaugural circumambulation of the Kaaba seven
times, running between Marwa and Safa hills, encampment at Mina,
standing in Arafat, stoning the three Mina satanic pillars with at
least forty nine pebbles. Thereafter, animal sacrifice, and this is
followed by farewell circumambulation of the Kaaba. The
Muslims who are not on
Hajj also perform a simplified ritual animal
sacrifice. According to Campo, the animal sacrifice at the annual
Islamic festival has origins in western Arabia in vogue before
Islam. The animal sacrifice, states Philip Stewart, is not
required by the Quran, but is based on interpretations of other
Eid al-Adha is major annual festival of animal sacrifice in Islam.
Indonesia alone, for example, some 800,000 animals were sacrificed
in 2014 by its
Muslims on the festival, but the number can be a bit
lower or higher depending on the economic conditions. According to
Lesley Hazleton, in
Turkey about 2,500,000 sheep, cows and goats are
sacrificed each year to observe the Islamic festival of animal
sacrifice, with a part of the sacrificed animal given to the needy who
didn't sacrifice an animal. According to The Independent, nearly
10,000,000 animals are sacrificed in
Pakistan every year on
Eid. Countries such as
Saudi Arabia transport nearly a million
animals every year for sacrifice to Mina (near Mecca). The sacrificed
animals at Id al-Adha, states Clarke Brooke, include the four species
considered lawful for the
Hajj sacrifice: sheep, goats, camels and
cattle, and additionally, cow-like animals initialing the water
buffalo, domesticated banteng and yaks. Many are brought in from north
Africa and parts of Asia.
Other occasions when
Muslims perform animal sacrifice include the
'aqiqa, when a child is seven days old, is shaved and given a name. It
is believed that the animal sacrifice binds the child to Islam and
offers protection to the child from evil.
Killing of animals by dhabihah is ritual slaughter rather than
Animal sacrifice in Hinduism
Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with
Shaktism, and in currents of folk
Hinduism strongly rooted in local
tribal traditions. Animal sacrifices were carried out in ancient times
in India. Hindu scriptures, including the Gita, and the Puranas forbid
A male buffalo calf about to be sacrificed by a priest in the Durga
Puja festival. The buffalo sacrifice practice, however, is rare in
Animal sacrifice is a part of some
Durga puja celebrations during the
Navratri in eastern states of India. The goddess is offered
sacrificial animal in this ritual in the belief that it stimulates her
violent vengeance against the buffalo demon. According to
Christopher Fuller, the animal sacrifice practice is rare among Hindus
during Navratri, or at other times, outside the
found in the eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Odisha and
Assam. Further, even in these states, the festival season is one where
significant animal sacrifices are observed. In some Shakta Hindu
communities, the slaying of buffalo demon and victory of
observed with a symbolic sacrifice instead of animal
Rajasthan worship their weapons and horses on Navratri,
and formerly offered a sacrifice of a goat to a goddess revered as
Kuldevi – a practice that continues in some places. The
ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the
past this ritual was considered a rite of passage into manhood and
readiness as a warrior. The Kuldevi among these
is a warrior-pativrata guardian goddess, with local legends tracing
reverence for her during Rajput-Muslim wars.
The tradition of animal sacrifice is being substituted with vegetarian
offerings to the Goddess in temples and households around
There are Hindu temples in
West Bengal India and
goats, chickens and sometimes Water buffalos are sacrificed. These
sacrifices are performed mainly at temples following the
Hinduism where the female nature of
Brahman is worshipped in the
Kali and Durga. There are many village temples in Tamil Nadu
where this kind of sacrifice takes place.
In some Sacred groves of India, particularly in Western Maharashtra,
animal sacrifice is practiced to pacify female deities that are
supposed to rule the Groves.
Animal sacrifice en masse occurs during the three-day-long Gadhimai
festival in Nepal. In 2009 it was speculated that more than 250,000
animals were killed while 5 million devotees attended the
In India, ritual of animal sacrifice is practised in many villages
before local deities or certain powerful and terrifying forms of the
Devi. In this form of worship, animals, usually goats, are decapitated
and the blood is offered to deity often by smearing some of it on a
post outside the temple. or instance, Kandhen Budhi is the
reigning deity of Kantamal in Boudh district of Orissa, India. Every
year, animals like goat and fowl are sacrificed before the deity on
the occasion of her annual Yatra/Jatra (festival) held in the month of
Aswina (September–October). The main attraction of Kandhen Budhi
Yatra is Ghusuri Puja. Ghusuri means a child pig, which is sacrificed
to the goddess every three years. Kandhen Budhi is also worshipped at
Lather village under Mohangiri GP in Kalahandi district of Orissa,
India.(Pasayat, 2009:20-24).[full citation needed]
The religious belief of Tabuh Rah, a form of animal sacrifice of
Hinduism includes a religious cockfight where a rooster is
used in religious custom by allowing him to fight against another
rooster in a religious and spiritual cockfight, a spiritual
appeasement exercise of Tabuh Rah. The spilling of blood is
necessary as purification to appease the evil spirits, and ritual
fights follow an ancient and complex ritual as set out in the sacred
East Asian traditions
Taoism generally prohibit killing of animals;
some animal offerings, such as fowl, pigs, goats, fish, or other
livestock, are accepted in some
Taoism sects and beliefs in Chinese
In Kaohsiung, Taiwan, animal sacrifices are banned in Taoist
Iomante was a traditional bear sacrifice that was practiced
by the Ainu people.
Traditional African and Afro-American religions
Animal sacrifice is regularly practiced in traditional African and
The landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the
case of the
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah in 1993
upheld the right of
Santería adherents to practice ritual animal
sacrifice in the United States of America. Likewise in Texas in 2009,
legal and religious issues that related to animal sacrifice, animal
rights and freedom of religion were taken to the 5th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in the case of Jose Merced, President Templo Yoruba
Omo Orisha Texas, Inc., v. City of Euless. The court ruling that the
Merced case of the freedom of exercise of religion was meritorious and
prevailing and that Merced was entitled under the Texas Religious
Freedom and Restoration Act (TRFRA) to an injunction preventing the
Euless, Texas from enforcing its ordinances that burdened his
religious practices relating to the use of animals, (see Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code § 110.005(a)(2)).
Bans on ritual slaughter
^ In these cases,
Shaktism devotees consider animal sacrifice
distasteful, practice alternate means of expressing devotion while
respecting the views of others in their tradition. A statue of
asura demon made of flour, or equivalent, is immolated and smeared
with vermilion to remember the blood that had necessarily been spilled
during the war. Other substitutes include a vegetal or sweet
dish considered equivalent to the animal.
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