Giving Animal Sacrifice a Bad Name

You know that I am all for polytheism, and I say “All honor to Durga,” but isn’t this a bit much?

The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 40,000 people, many of whom were inebriated, took their sacrificial goats to the Tildiha village temple in Bihar state to pray to the goddess Durga on the last day of the Navratri festival.

“People were vying with each other to get their goats sacrificed first, and they had a verbal duel with the butcher,” Banka district spokesman Gupdeshwar Kumar told the paper.

In the ancient Greco-Roman world, people—at least urban people—often ate red meat only in the context of a religious ritual. James Davidson discussed this matter in Courtesans & Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens.

What is important is that the omission of fish [from the Iliad] helped to construct an opposition between the meat of pigs, sheep and cattle, all of which had to be sacrificed before it could be eaten, and fish, which was quite free of such structures, an item for private, secular consumption, as and when desired. In an important sense, fish-consumption was simply not taken as seriously as other kinds of carnivorousness.

Wikipedia’s entry on hecatomb (sacrifice of one hundred animals) quotes the Homeric passage about what sounds like one big cookout.

1 thought on “Giving Animal Sacrifice a Bad Name

  1. Looking at this from a slightly different angle, many modern events generate short-term crowds of markedly larger populations on a routine basis. Football games, for instance. Or some religious gatherings.

    It’s remarkable to me that more of these many huge crowds do not lead to more harm, destruction, death, since they so often combine intoxicants, enthusiasms, and restricted spaces. Even so, riots are common.

    I leave it in Durga’s hands to determine the divine assessment of the event.

    Blessings to all those killed or injured or distressed in the course of this melle of sacrifice!

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