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Sophie  Sophie is offline
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Join Date: 10 Oct 2004
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Sacrifice and suicide


Well, sorry to interrupt this interesting discussion - but to come back to Epona's Wild Daughter and my nightmare...

...I have had further thoughts. My nightmare was about a sacrifice - a self-sacrifice - in blood. I forgot to say that in my nightmare my friend committed suicide by slicing his veins and letting his arterial blood flow. I can't think of a greater sacrifice than suicide.

The link with Epona is very obvious here. Our ancestors sacrificed animals - and in some cases other humans - to goddesses. They did so by cutting the arteries. This practice still takes place in the few remaining religions of animal sacrifice, and of course both Judaism and Islam practice ritual killing for the meat to be kosher or hallal. The cult of the Goddess among our long-ago forbears was one very bloody era, as very old matriarchal art and (later) writings have testified (though it was not, of course, solely about sacrifice!). Male gods too demanded sacrifice - but Epona is female.

Sacrifice, of course, serves many purposes. It is a propitiatory act, meant to pacify the divinity. The ancient Goddess cult was extraordinary in that it joined - in ONE figure - the darkness of death and the light and promise of life: most fertility goddesses (or the Goddess in her many guises) started off as mainly cthonian goddesses, who had to propitiated so that she would not ravish us and take us to her underground realm too soon. So we sacrificed another human being (one to replace all) or an animal, to say to the goddess - "here - take this sacrificial being, we respect your kingdom of death, but leave us alone for now."

These cthonian goddesses (and the gods too - like Cernunnos in Gaulish mythology) evolved into fertility goddesses - while still keeping their cthonian element. Epona is one of those. This is what has prompted modern pagans to define the Goddess in terms of the cycle of life-death-life and the triple Maiden-Mother-Crone. These are modern definitions, of course, but they tap into the double cthonian-fertility rites. Fertility goddesses also had to be sacrificed to, with animals and produce. As I wrote above, Epona's worshippers brought her apples and flowers as well as killing animals for her. The reason for those sacrifices were to ensure good harvest and plentiful birth of foals, calves, etc.

Sacrifice is deeply magical and religious and I can't think of a single religion that doesn't have it. Modern Pagans, though many do not practice ritual sacrifice, still sanctify the athame and the cup. In the Christian religion, sacrifice has remained a central theme, and is re-enacted every time people participate in the Eucharist.

I witnessed ritual sacrifice of an animal in Congo. It was a deeply holy moment, to me rather frightening and off-putting, but very powerful. The witch-doctor was trying to propitiate a Spirit that was haunting a village and had destroyed crops. The Spirit was female. She was not an evil spirit (I was told) - she had done good things for the village before - but she was very powerful: and she had been wronged. The witch-doctor was trying to right the wrong.

I believe this nightmare is about a sacrifice I am asked to do - and about how far I am ready to go. Am I ready to give my blood for what I am going to do - my plans after my job ends in a week? Am I ready actually to die for it? These are two different questions.

(at this stage, I am not sure why it is my friend who was involved in this dream, slitting his arteries. I am going with the idea the dream was about me).

There is also - running parallel - the whole notion of self-sabotage. Epona's Wild Daughter digs deep and asks us to follow her, so bear with me. In lunar-rabbit's reading for me, she saw my nightmare as a test - or rather, showing a test I would be going through. Where is the demarcation between sacrifice and sabotage? Between giving and empying yourself? Between propitiating and colluding with murder? I am not sure. Epona, unlike her wild daughter, is always shown on her horse walking sedately - no mad gallop for this goddess. Perhaps I am being drawn to this - notion of fertility - mixed with going to the limit (the cthonian element) - but pacing myself. Sacrifice is NOT sabotage - but in order not to cross the line, one must advance securely.

There is also the other form of sabotage, far more pernicious - and for me, more dangerous: the one that come from not performing the necessary sacrifice. Suicide is often a result of wrong choices - or no choices. Sacrifice automatically gives you a choice - if I sacrifice this I shall obtain that. Now in the ancient world suicide was not always the choice of despair - but it was the act of those that had sacrificed everything, made the wrong choices, and were up against a wall: in honour they had to die (read the stories of Cicero's and Petronius's suicides for an illustration of this - Petronius especially touches me at this moment: he died by slitting his own arteries, after he realised his Emperor, Nero, had gone totally mad. Up to then he had done much to temper Nero's craziness - sacrificing his conscience in doing so). But in some cases, suicide was a sacrifice so that others may live and thrive.

We can say then - that there are times when suicide of some part of the psyche - or some element of the person's life - is necessary for the others to live.

Again, I am hoping Epona's pace will help me walk securely through this time: but I know shall have to sacrifice to her. The alternative will lead to despair - the depression that comes from not doing what we are called to do, which even when we do not top ourselves, is also a form of self-sabotage. This is the test lunar rabbit was talking about. Yet I know that some part of me might also have to commit suicide - sacrifice itself willingly and die for the rest to thrive. Now I must find out - which part?

Can I say, therefore, that the suicide of the whole is what happens when insufficient suicide of parts have taken place?

One more thing: sacrifice is a lonely act. Even when it is practiced with a thousand other worshippers around, the one being sacrificed and the one doing the sacrifice are alone in a circle - together yet separated by the knife.
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