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.