The ultimate aim of the original Indo-European sacrifices, modelled after the cosmic sacrifice of the Purusha [a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life] … must have been the liberation of the self from the illusions of the material fabric in which it is entangled and the direction of the energy of man into the divine consciousness.
The Proto-Vedic Ritual of Human Sacrifice – A Substitute for Self-Sacrifice?
This liberation is the principal aim of yogic ascesis as well, which is, as J.C. Heesterman has pointed out, an internalisation of the sacrifice. Since the primary purpose of a sacrifice is indeed that of self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of a human involved in the proto-Vedic Purushamedha [a Śrauta ritual of human sacrifice] must originally have been conducted as a substitute for a sacrifice of the sacrificer himself, since the sacrificer is, in all Vedic sacrifices, identified with the victim. As Heesterman states, “self-sacrifice is an all-but-ubiquitous theme in the ritual brāhmana texts, the victim as well as the other offerings being regularly equated with the sacrificer”. That is why the victim in the Purushamedha was originally exclusively a brāhman or a kshatriya, since only these two castes were qualified to act as representatives of the Purusha and to conduct sacrifices.
The Lokapurusha or ‘cosmic man’ ( public domain ).
The Phallic Force
At the same time, the sacrificial victim is always a male since only his energy can substitute for the phallic force of the Purusha that fills the universe with its life. We shall observe in our survey of the cosmological bases of sacrifices that the entire evolution of the material universe arises from repeated castrations, and preservations, of the divine phallus, first in the Ideal realm of the Purusha, then in the early cosmos of Brahman and, lastly, in the material universe, as the Tree of Life that arises from the underworld and extends to the heavens.
If what is most important in the Purusha is his phallic power, as is evident also in the Hesiodic account of the castration of Ouranos by Chronos, it is probable that the sacrifice originally focussed on the victim’s phallus, as we observe, for example, in the veneration of the penis of a slaughtered stallion among the ancient Nordic peoples. Similarly, in the Equus October ceremony in ancient Rome a race-horse was slaughtered and its tail (standing no doubt for its penis) was brought to the regia.
The castration of Ouranos by Chronos
In ancient Egypt, the castration of Re is represented as a self-castration. Hu, intellectual expression, and his consort, Sia, intuition, are said in a New Kingdom commentary on the Book of the Dead to be "the blood which fell from the phallus of Re, when he was going to mutilate himself". Since the castration of Re corresponds to the castration of Anu in the Hurrian epic of the Kingship in Heaven, and the castration of Prajāpati by Shiva, we may assume that this event precedes the formation of the Cosmic Egg which, in the Purānas arises, from the seed of Prajāpati/Shiva. This may also have been the source of the practice noticed in some rituals of the Dionysiac religion that may have involved self-mutilation.
Linga Temple, Hampi ( CC by SA 3.0 ). The Lingam represents the phallic power.
Sacrificed Animals Represented the Divine Phallus
Over time, however, the human victim was substituted with animals that equally represented the energy of the divine phallus, thus a horse or a bull, and finally with lesser animals such as sheep and goats. In all cases, however, the original significance of the sacrifice as a self-sacrifice is never forgotten, as many of the processes of the Vedic sacrifices as well as many of the accompanying Vedic chants reveal. The spiritual purpose of a sacrifice is indeed to control the sexual energy and convert it into spiritual energy directed to the attainment of the ideal “sattvic” state of the Purusha, that is, as the solar deity Vishnu.
Over time, human victim was substituted with animals (Wellcome Library, London)
The Swallowing of the Divine Phallus
It will be noted further that the phallic sacrifice of the ideal Purusha is repeated in the manifest cosmos, for such a sacrifice is necessary for the transference of the divine power to our solar system. The second sacrifice involves the destruction of Brahman/Prajāpati by his son Ganesha (Zeus/Seth) and the swallowing of the divine phallus by the latter so that the whole universe and its light moves into his body.
Seth is seen, for instance in the Egyptian mouth-opening ritual, to have been castrated or killed, for a bull representing Seth is slaughtered and its thigh is used to revive the dead Osiris. In the town of Saka, Seth as a bull undergoes self-castration and, in the Pap. d’Orbiney, Seth (called Bata in Saka), castrates himself in order apparently to avoid the sexual advances of his sister-in-law, and then goes into exile in foreign lands. This is clearly the source of the rites of the Phrygian Attis rites mentioned in Lucian’s De Dea Syria . In the mouth-opening ceremony performed on divine statues, too, the “thigh” represents the divine genitals – which, according to the Orphic cosmogonies, Zeus (Seth) is said to have swallowed after they had been severed from Ouranos by Zeus’ father Chronos. So it is not surprising that Seth’s genitals (“thigh”) are brought forward to revive the moribund Osiris with its life and light. According to the series entitled ‘The Contendings of Horus and Set’, too, the conflicts between the two gods include the violation of Horus the Younger by Seth and the castration of Seth by Horus. All these incidents focus on the importance of the divine phallus now as the life of the emerging universe as well as its light.
The Egyptian mouth-opening ceremony. Relief in the tomb of Renni ( kairoinfo4u / flickr )
Transformation of the Solar Force
The transformations of the solar force that are recounted in the mythology are focussed within the fire that is worshipped in the Āryan rituals. Indeed, the Vedic texts reveal a more than scientific understanding both of the several forms of heat that pervade the human microcosm and of the different parts of the flames of external fire. Such an understanding is clearly not a result of contests conducted among warriors but of the supernatural yogic discipline that informed the religion of the brāhmans and identifies them not just as wise men but indeed as “magicians”. This is of course the reason why the term “magi” used for their Iranian counterparts has long been equated with “magicians”.
The Indo-European sacrifice was seen as important not only for the spiritual liberation of the sacrificer but also for the solar rebirth that it allows the sacrificer to undergo as a brāhman, or one who has realised the solar virtue of his soul, just as the death of Osiris is followed by his revival in our universe as the sun. In the Indian horse-sacrifice, ashvamedha, for instance, the horse represents the sun which has been lost and must be recovered. Thus SB XIII,3,1,1 declares:
Prajâpati's eye swelled; it fell out: thence the horse was produced; and inasmuch as it swelled (ashvayat), that is the origin and nature of the horse (ashva). By means of the Asvamedha the gods restored it to its place; and verily he who performs the Asvamedha makes Prajâpati complete, and he (himself) becomes complete; and this, indeed, is the atonement for everything, the remedy for everything.
In the Indian horse-sacrifice, ashvamedha, the horse represents the sun which has been lost and must be recovered
This is the same significance that attaches also to the Osirian funereal rites, especially the mouth-opening ritual. For the assault on the solar force by Seth is referred to as the damage or robbing of the “Horus eye” [the sun] which must be restored to Horus the Elder/Osiris.
Belief in Spiritual Rebirth and Immortality
By performing a sacrifice, the sacrificer is able not only to achieve a spiritual rebirth but thereby also to overcome death itself and achieve immortality. As Heesterman remarked, “In the sacrifice are summed up the two opposite poles of the cyclical rhythm of the cosmos, birth and death, ascension and descent, concentration and dispersion”. And indeed it is sacrifice which renders the gods themselves immortal, that is, by realising their essential self as immortals. According to SB XI,2,3,6, “In the beginning, indeed, the gods were mortal, and only when they had become possessed of the Brahman they were immortal.” This was achieved through a focus on the vital fire within as well as without man. As SB II,22,8ff makes clear, at first the gods noticed that Agni the fire alone was immortal and so they sought, through austerities and eulogies, to implant the fire within themselves and thus became immortal themselves. We see that the immortal self that is to be realised is primarily related to that of fire, Agni. The sacrifice is also a means of sustaining the immortality of the gods so that the latter may in turn bless the human sacrificer with boons such as rain, food, wealth, etc.
Ultimately, as SB XIV,32,1 declares, “the sacrifice is the self of all beings and of all gods”. The sacrificer who performs the sacrifice to serve the external macrocosmic powers of the gods is called a devayājin. The sacrificer who is concerned exclusively with the self (ātman) is an ātmayājin ( SB XI,2,6,13). And, as Heesterman points out,
What distinguishes the self-sacrificer is his knowledge – the knowledge, that is, of the equivalence of ritual and self ... Thus, he is freed from his mortal body, from evil, and construes with Rg-, Yajur- and Sāmaveda and with oblations a transcendental body ... This transcendental body is no other than the ātman of the self-sacrificer, the erstwhile puruşa who no longer undergoes sacrifice but has mastered and integrated it.
Ancient Astronaut Aryans: On the Far Right Obsession with Indo-Europeans
If you have watched Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap, you will likely recall the catchy hair-metal song “Stonehenge”:
In ancient times
Hundreds of years before the dawn of history,
Lived an ancient race of people: the Druids.
No one knows who they were,
Or what they were doing . . .
It is true we do not know much about the Druids. We know even less about their forebears, the Indo-Europeans, who truly did live “before the dawn of history.” The Indo-Europeans left behind no Stonehenge, no trace of a writing system, no paintings of themselves or their society. We assume their homeland was somewhere between Eastern Europe and South Asia, but can only guess as to their genetics—did they look Slavic, perhaps, or were they more like Afghans?
Although half the world’s people speak languages descended from theirs, we have no surviving samples of Proto-Indo-European. This has not stopped us from looking: since the 19th century, linguists have tried to reconstruct the ancient tongue by comparing and analyzing its daughter languages. A few online geeks have even created “Modern Indo-European” for daily conversation. I have saved onto my computer a wonderful “practical course” developed by an Italian physicist in his spare time. (In case you are wondering, the Modern Indo-European for “telephone” is “qelibhanom,” while “An esti wifi ghostiljoi?” means “Is there wi-fi in this hotel?”)
Given the above, it would be strange for someone to turn to this phantom prehistoric culture for answers to modern political problems. But, as Umberto Eco pointed out, the far right has a special fondness for “primeval truth.” Blank canvases are a boon to mythmakers, and the Indo-Europeans—sometimes, less accurately, called Aryans—have provided a convenient tabula rasa for 160 years of racist idealism. As we will see, even today’s alt-right does not know how to quit them.
The grandfather of all Aryan race theorists was French aristocrat Count Arthur de Gobineau. In 1853, he published a 1400-page tome, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, promising to diagnose “the mortal disease of civilizations” and explain how societies collapsed. He began, sensibly enough, by ruling out declining morals the canker was not “fanaticism,” “luxury” or “irreligion.” Plenty of nation states had also survived bad governments. This might lead us to think that history is complex, that superpowers can rise and fall for hundreds of different reasons and that not even experts can reliably predict their lifespan. But rather than complicate geopolitics, Gobineau reached for a less logical conclusion.
His hypothesis was that every major civilization had been created by white Aryans if the Aryan stock became “diluted” by other groups, the civilization would go into decline. Ancient Egypt was “an Aryan colony from India.” China was, too, before it “became absorbed in Malay and yellow races.” Also originally white, according to Count Gobineau, were “the Assyrians, with whom may be classed the Jews.” This list ran all the way to “the three civilizations of America, the Alleghanian, the Mexican and the Peruvian.”
Gobineau brutally concluded that non-Aryans were incapable of forming advanced societies:
In the above list no negro race is seen as the initiator of a civilization. Only when it is mixed with some other can it even be initiated into one.
Similarly, no spontaneous civilization is to be found among the yellow races and when the Aryan blood is exhausted stagnation supervenes.
For Gobineau, this argument had its conveniences. Faced with any evidence of non-white civilizations, he could claim that white people had created them and then vanished. His evaporating “Aryans” were not unlike the “ancient astronauts” that UFO loons credit with building the Pyramids.
Such vagueness made his theory highly adaptable. In his book Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke charts the various ways this theory has been interpreted and deployed. While Nazi thinkers backed a genetic model of race, their Italian counterparts, such as influential fascist philosopher Julius Evola, developed a more esoteric reading. Discussing Arthur de Gobineau’s racial thought, Evola asserted that races only declined once their spirit failed. Evola actually rejected Alfred Rosenberg and other biological racists of the Third Reich, implying that their physical anthropology was based on reductionist and materialist science.
Gobineau had written his book before Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution. He had claimed the Germanic peoples were of purer Aryan stock than other Europeans—not for any German nationalist leanings, but because he believed that France’s nobility was descended from Germanic Franks (the common people, on the other hand, were said to be of Gaulish origins). He was not too fixated on Jews in fact, he more aggrieved by the bourgeoisie and underclasses that had toppled the Ancien Régime.
But this context of royalist class warfare was quickly forgotten. The “Aryan race’ became whatever each right-wing sect wanted it to be. The Nazis made it a conduit for nationalism and populism, fusing it with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Evola added his own idea of “spiritual races,” incorporated jargon from yoga and alchemy. He also ignored Gobineau’s disdain for modern Italians and started using the term “Aryan-Roman.” Today, the Aryans are invoked by numerous motley groups from New Ager neo-fascists in Europe to “race realists” in the United States, whose language is only a few steps rightward of Richard Dawkins.
People of any political persuasion can be racist, but white nationalists are their own unique brand. White nationalism is not just a prejudice—it is a full-scale belief system that considers race to be the hidden root of societal ills. More precisely, white nationalism is a vitalist ideology: it pictures society as an organism sustained by a life force, an invisible oomph. Not all vitalism is racist. We find forms of it when people attribute economic success to vague abstract energies such as the startup spirit or Ayn Rand’s “motor of the world.” There’s even a type of vitalism in the technocratic-centrist idea of “knowledge economies.”
“White nationalism is not just a prejudice—it is a full-scale belief system that considers race to be the hidden root of societal ills.”
A non-vitalist might grasp that corporations and empires become “great” from the power vacuums and opportunities that appear around them. Whatever asset made a superpower “great” in one century could be useless in the next, and vice versa. Blockbuster Video was not eclipsed by Netflix because it had lost some primal quality—but this is how vitalist reactionaries frame such issues. For white nationalists, the primal quality is whiteness. All of their political “solutions”—segregation, separatism, immigration barriers—hinge on the assertion that white people are fundamentally different. Fantasies about prehistoric Aryans exist to fill this ideological need.
This begs the question of how white people are different. It is in the answers that Gobineau’s offspring show their full diversity.
A much flaunted feature of alt-right white nationalists is how little they resemble stereotypes of blue-collar skinheads or unlettered rednecks. Rather, they hail from the same wealthy, ivory-tower backgrounds as the elite liberals they claim to oppose. Their top magazine, American Renaissance, was founded in 1990 by Jared Taylor, a Yale graduate who began his media career at the Washington Post. Richard Spencer, the latest “dapper” poster boy of white nationalism (and now the internet’s most meme-able Nazi), holds an MA degree from the University of Chicago and devoted two years to an abortive PhD at Duke. Their holiest book, Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve—which claims that the welfare state “encourag[es] the wrong women” to have babies and makes alarmist predictions that a low-IQ underclass will outbreed the high-IQ elite—was also praised in liberal organs like the New York Times and by “Team Hillary” stalwart Andrew Sullivan.
The alt-right is the prodigal son of elite liberalism, and nothing shows this more clearly than its racial thinking.
In “The Ways of Our People,” a 1996 essay for American Renaissance, Jared Taylor tries to tackle his movement’s basic questions: “How are the white man and his civilization unique? Why do they deserve our loyalty?”
Taylor’s answer is surprising:
Neither the Japanese nor the Mexicans nor the Malays nor the Israelis tolerate alien incursion, displacement or “multiculturalism.” They fight them instinctively, without having to explain to themselves why they must fight them and why they must survive as a people. Only whites pretend that pluralism and displacement are good things and that the measures necessary to ensure group survival may be immoral.
White people, he argues, are distinguished by their “concern for others,” their “altruism,” their “noblesse oblige.” They take pains to protect wildlife, whereas non-whites have a “strictly utilitarian, even exploitative attitude toward animals.” He also claims a fundamental distinction in the treatment of women: “Only in the West was the objectively weaker sex elevated and protected through an elaborate code of chivalry.’”Taylor even claims that “the welfare state is an almost exclusively white enterprise.” In contrast to other races’ pragmatism, white societies “have treated non-white nations with remarkable forbearance” and their ‘inherent racial traits’ also make them prone to “capitulation.”
The only word missing is that recent alt-right favorite: cuck. Yet Taylor’s white race is not just emasculated, it is also feminized. Whiteness, to him, is virtuous, dainty, sensitive and impractical—and for these reasons, worth venerating on a pedestal. Crucially, Taylor (unlike earlier Nazi German theorists) did not position whites as an assertive “Herrenvolk” who have been softened by “Jewish influences.” Instead, he argues that “altruistic inclinations that are probably inherent in whites” have become “perverted” into egalitarianism and multiculturalism.
The Ancient Romans and Spartans might have shuddered to hear they were chivalrous to women and soft on their foes.
What Taylor’s essay reveals is that liberal truisms were so pervasive during the Clinton era that even white supremacists mistook them for timeless, intrinsic values. Taylor’s picture of non-white cultures is also a consequence of the late 20th century. If Mexicans and Malays “instinctively” hated “alien incursion,” national liberation movements against colonial rule would have formed centuries earlier. Today we can take the existence of Mexican and Malaysian nationalism for granted, but neither one was a thoughtless impulse. Someone, at some point, had to invent them and popularize them. If nationalism proceeded organically from race, we could also ask why there is so much sabre-rattling between Malaysia and Indonesia, or between India and Pakistan—countries whose boundaries and national identities did not exist before colonialism.
Taylor’s presentism drew immediate rebukes from his own camp. Samuel T. Francis, another American Renaissance contributor, wrote that “Mr. Taylor’s catalogue of white racial traits . . . strike me as being largely modern.” Under the pseudonym “Edwin Clark,” Francis wrote a follow-up essay: “The Roots of the White Man.” By studying “common features of archaic Indo-European peoples,” he hoped to unearth the “deeper traits” of white people and “discover more profoundly who we are.” But while Francis drew most of his examples from the Greeks, Romans, Germanics and early Indians, his Aryans are nonetheless a product of the 1990s.
What comes first on Francis’ list of supposed Aryan traits? “It is a widespread feature of early Aryan thought that there exists an objective order that is independent of what we believe or want to believe—in other words, truth.” This is a strange thing to highlight. The idea of objective truth is hardly unique to Indo-European cultures. But Francis was writing in the heyday of post-structuralism, when it had to be emphasized that the Aryans were no fans of Derrida.
Like Taylor, Francis tries to bind whiteness to a notional form of liberal humanism—in his case, turning the Aryans into would-be Alan Sokals. He contrasts their “objectivity” with the “non-Aryan, magical view of nature,” wherein “Cosmic Order is merely the product of will”: “if the priests or the divine king did not perform the proper magic rituals, the sun literally would not rise, the Nile would not flood, and food would not grow.” How this makes the Egyptians more relativist than the Romans (who also performed agricultural magic) is not clarified. At best, while admitting that “early Aryans did believe in and practice magic,” Francis claims that their worldview was not “dependent on magic” and that they saw “nature exist[ing] apart from the tricks of the magicians and sorcerers.” But that could be true for most cultures that practice sympathetic magic. Science and mysticism were not fully separate fields in the pre-modern world. It was only in the 1700s, for example, that chemistry unhitched itself from alchemy.
“Alex Jones-style ‘constitutionalists’ revere the early American republic as an unspoiled Avalon, treating its constitution not as a white paper authored by mortal men but as something closer to the Ten Commandments or Holy Grail.”
Francis’ take on the Aryans is virtually the opposite of how they are viewed currently by a large section of the European far right. In The Yoga of Power, Evola struck out at empirical science, promoting esotericism instead: “That which does not depend on the laws of nature, but which rather bends, changes and suspends them, is a different kind of power. It is a direct acquisition of a few superior beings.” To Evola, the Aryans were not great because they kowtowed to an “objective order” but because they developed yoga and the “Royal Art” of alchemy, magical practices he believed could allow “aristocrats of the spirit” to surpass objective limits. Science earned Evola’s disapproval, since its gifts were too readily democratized:
A handgun will produce the same results in the hands of a lunatic, a soldier, or a great statesman in the same sense, anyone can be transported in a few hours from one continent to another. We may well say that this “democracy” has been the leading principle in the systematic organization of modern science and technology. As we have seen, the real differentiation of beings is the condition for an inalienable knowledge and power, which cannot be transferred to others they are exclusive and “esoteric,” not artificially, but by virtue of their very nature.
Francis, being an American paleocon, still pays lip service to democratic government, claiming that “a limited democracy” with “its tendency to separate the sacred from the secular’ has ‘deep racial and cultural roots among Europeans.” His essay gives us this astonishing passage:
Some scholars believe that the tripartite structure of Indo-European society survived into medieval Europe with the division of society into “those who work, those who fight, and those who pray,” and it may also be reflected in the division of political functions into executive, judicial, and legislative in the U.S. Constitution, and even in the Christian idea of the Trinity.
As silly as it seems to link the US constitution to the ancient Indo-Europeans, it fits a common thought pattern for the American right. To the rest of the world, America’s founding fathers might be modern figures belonging to an age of skepticism and upheaval. Within the US, however, they have drifted halfway into primal myth, alongside Moses or King Arthur. Alex Jones-style “constitutionalists” revere the early American republic as an unspoiled Avalon, treating its constitution not as a white paper authored by mortal men but as something closer to the Ten Commandments or Holy Grail. This mythologizing occurs throughout the right, from sovereign citizen militias to Supreme Court “originalists” like the late Antonin Scalia. What counts as “primeval truth” is, then, so relative it does not even have to be pre-modern.
The American alt-right favors a more utilitarian, technocratic language than its European far-right cousins, but its belief system is no less mystical. Even when couched in social science concepts like IQ, it retains the airy promise of a cure-all tonic. In a post from Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute, we read:
[T]here are few, if any, constructs in the social sciences more powerful than IQ. It correlates with and predicts an extremely wide range of social phenomena including, but not limited to, school and economic performance, criminal behavior, differences in wealth between nations, and demographic groups within nations. [. . .] Among elite opinion makers, however, the importance and predictive power of IQ is denied, as is the idea that it is genetically based.
It is a vitalism of mind over matter, or rather of IQ over matter. Here, alt-righters do not differ much from their liberal elite enemies. Liberals yearn for rule by those who are “qualified” and disparage “low-information” plebs for keeping America down. Alt-righters, meanwhile, blame an ethnic minority underclass, believing that the sinking ship might float again if its passengers were whiter, better segregated and quicker at Lumosity puzzles. Neither group cares much for the systemic problems of capitalism. Instead, they pin everything on personal virtues: if only better people filled so-and-so positions, the system would be better too!
How should we respond to the spread of “race realist” arguments? Moral condemnation is not enough it does not faze alt-righters to be called “racist.” Their ideology already assumes that racism is true, so accusing them of it is like accusing a Trot of being unpatriotic. What is more likely to give the “redpilled” pause is the suggestion that they are being naïve, that their newfound politics is just as gullible as the liberal “cuck programming” they have allegedly shed, that race realism is not a suppressed Grand Theory of Everything but a useless red herring.
Arguments against the alt-right should not defend the political establishment, but rather point to better ways of understanding and fighting that establishment than through inane theories about “cultural Marxism” or bygone Aryan cultures whose virtues nobody can agree on. Virtues are too trivial a basis for a politics that aims to do anything productive, and that includes “racial” virtues.
Human sacrifice has been practiced on a number of different occasions and in many different cultures. The various rationales behind human sacrifice are the same that motivate religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice is typically intended to bring good fortune and to pacify the gods, for example in the context of the dedication of a completed building like a temple or bridge.
In ancient Japan, legends talk about hitobashira ("human pillar"), in which maidens were buried alive at the base or near some constructions to protect the buildings against disasters or enemy attacks,  and almost identical accounts appear in the Balkans (The Building of Skadar and Bridge of Arta).
For the re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they killed about 80,400 prisoners over the course of four days. According to Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed in the ceremony. 
Human sacrifice can also have the intention of winning the gods' favor in warfare. In Homeric legend, Iphigeneia was to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to appease Artemis so she would allow the Greeks to wage the Trojan War.
In some notions of an afterlife, the deceased will benefit from victims killed at his funeral. Mongols, Scythians, early Egyptians and various Mesoamerican chiefs could take most of their household, including servants and concubines, with them to the next world. This is sometimes called a "retainer sacrifice", as the leader's retainers would be sacrificed along with their master, so that they could continue to serve him in the afterlife.
Another purpose is divination from the body parts of the victim. According to Strabo, Celts stabbed a victim with a sword and divined the future from his death spasms. 
Headhunting is the practice of taking the head of a killed adversary, for ceremonial or magical purposes, or for reasons of prestige. It was found in many pre-modern tribal societies.
Human sacrifice may be a ritual practiced in a stable society, and may even be conducive to enhance societal unity (see: Sociology of religion), both by creating a bond unifying the sacrificing community, and in combining human sacrifice and capital punishment, by removing individuals that have a negative effect on societal stability (criminals, religious heretics, foreign slaves or prisoners of war). However, outside of civil religion, human sacrifice may also result in outbursts of blood frenzy and mass killings that destabilize society. The bursts of society-sanctioned killings during European witch-hunts,  or during the French Revolutionary Reign of Terror, may show similar sociological patterns [ citation needed ] (see also Moral panic).
Many cultures show traces of prehistoric human sacrifice in their mythologies and religious texts, but ceased the practice before the onset of historical records. Some see the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22) as an example of an etiological myth, explaining the abolition of human sacrifice. The Vedic Purushamedha (literally "human sacrifice") is already a purely symbolic act in its earliest attestation. According to Pliny the Elder, human sacrifice in ancient Rome was abolished by a senatorial decree in 97 BCE, although by this time the practice had already become so rare that the decree was mostly a symbolic act. Human sacrifice once abolished is typically replaced by either animal sacrifice, or by the mock-sacrifice of effigies, such as the Argei in ancient Rome.
Ancient Near East Edit
Ancient Egypt Edit
There may be evidence of retainer sacrifice in the early dynastic period at Abydos, when on the death of a King he would be accompanied with servants, and possibly high officials, who would continue to serve him in eternal life. The skeletons that were found had no obvious signs of trauma, leading to speculation that the giving up of life to serve the King may have been a voluntary act, possibly carried out in a drug induced state. At about 2800 BCE, any possible evidence of such practices disappeared, though echoes are perhaps to be seen in the burial of statues of servants in Old Kingdom tombs.  
References in the Bible point to an awareness of and disdain of human sacrifice in the history of ancient near-eastern practice. During a battle with the Israelites, the King of Moab gives his firstborn son and heir as a whole burnt offering (olah, as used of the Temple sacrifice) (2 Kings 3:27).  The Bible then recounts that, following the King's sacrifice, "There was great indignation [or wrath] against Israel" and that the Israelites had to raise their siege of the Moabite capital and go away. This verse had perplexed many later Jewish and Christian commentators, who tried to explain what the impact of the Moabite King's sacrifice was, to make those under siege emboldened while disheartening the Israelites, make God angry at the Israelites or the Israelites fear his anger, make Chemosh (who the Moabites considered to be a god) angry, or otherwise.  Whatever the explanation, evidently at the time of writing, such an act of sacrificing the firstborn son and heir, while prohibited by Israelites (Deuteronomy 12:31 18:9-12), was considered as an emergency measure in the Ancient Near East, to be performed in exceptional cases where divine favor was desperately needed.
The binding of Isaac appears in the Book of Genesis (22) the story appears in the Quran, though Islamic tradition holds that Ismael was the one to be sacrificed. In both the Quranic and Biblical stories, God tests Abraham by asking him to present his son as a sacrifice on Moriah. Abraham agrees to this command without arguing. The story ends with an angel stopping Abraham at the last minute and providing a ram, caught in some nearby bushes, to be sacrificed instead. Many Bible scholars have suggested this story's origin was a remembrance of an era when human sacrifice was abolished in favour of animal sacrifice.  
Another probable instance of human sacrifice mentioned in the Bible is the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter in Judges 11. Jephthah vows to sacrifice to God whatsoever comes to greet him at the door when he returns home if he is victorious. The vow is stated in the Book of Judges, 11:31: "Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer Him a burnt offering." When he returns from battle, his virgin daughter runs out to greet him. She begs for, and is granted, "two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends", after which "he [Jephthah] did to her as he had vowed."
Two kings of Judah, Ahaz and Manassah, sacrificed their sons. Ahaz, in 2 Kings 16:3, sacrificed his son. ". He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel (ESV)." King Manasseh sacrificed his sons in 2 Chronicles 33:6. "And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger (ESV)."
According to Roman and Greek sources, Phoenicians and Carthaginians sacrificed infants to their gods. The bones of numerous infants have been found in Carthaginian archaeological sites in modern times, but the subject of child sacrifice is controversial.  In a single child cemetery called the Tophet by archaeologists, an estimated 20,000 urns were deposited. 
Plutarch (c. 46–120 CE) mentions the practice, as do Tertullian, Orosius, Diodorus Siculus and Philo. Livy and Polybius do not. The Bible asserts that children were sacrificed at a place called the tophet ("roasting place") to the god Moloch. According to Diodorus Siculus's Bibliotheca historica, "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire." 
Plutarch, however, claims that the children were already dead at the time, having been killed by their parents, whose consent—as well as that of the children—was required Tertullian explains the acquiescence of the children as a product of their youthful trustfulness. 
The accuracy of such stories is disputed by some modern historians and archaeologists. 
Neolithic Europe Edit
There is archaeological evidence of human sacrifice in Neolithic to Eneolithic Europe. [ citation needed ]
Greco-Roman antiquity Edit
The ancient ritual of expelling certain slaves, cripples, or criminals from a community to ward off disaster (known as Pharmakos), would at times involve publicly executing the chosen prisoner via throwing them off of a cliff.
References to human sacrifice can be found in Greek historical accounts as well as mythology. The human sacrifice in mythology, the deus ex machina salvation in some versions of Iphigeneia (who was about to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon) and her replacement with a deer by the goddess Artemis, may be a vestigial memory of the abandonment and discrediting of the practice of human sacrifice among the Greeks in favour of animal sacrifice. [ citation needed ]
In ancient Rome, human sacrifice was infrequent but documented. Roman authors often contrast their own behavior with that of people who would commit the heinous act of human sacrifice. These authors make it clear that such practices were from a much more uncivilized time in the past, far removed.  It is thought that many ritualistic celebrations and dedications to gods used to involve human sacrifice but have now been replaced with symbolic offerings. Dionysius of Halicarnassus  says that the ritual of the Argei, in which straw figures were tossed into the Tiber river, may have been a substitute for an original offering of elderly men. Cicero claims that puppets thrown from the Pons Suplicius by the Vestal Virgins in a processional ceremony were substitutes for the past sacrifice of old men.  After the Roman defeat at Cannae, two Gauls and two Greeks in male–female couples were buried under the Forum Boarium, in a stone chamber used for the purpose at least once before.  In Livy's description of these sacrifices, he distances the practice from Roman tradition and asserts that the past human sacrifices evident in the same location were “wholly alien to the Roman spirit."  The rite was apparently repeated in 113 BCE, preparatory to an invasion of Gaul.  They buried both the Greeks and the two Gauls alive as a plea to the gods to save Rome from destruction at the hands of Hannibal. When the Romans conquered the Celts in Gaul, they tortured the people by cutting off their hands and feet and leaving them to die. The Romans justified their actions by also accusing the Celts of practicing human sacrifice. 
According to Pliny the Elder, human sacrifice was banned by law during the consulship of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus in 97 BCE, although by this time it was so rare that the decree was largely symbolic.  The Romans also had traditions that centered around ritual murder, but which they did not consider to be sacrifice. Such practices included burying unchaste Vestal Virgins alive and drowning hermaphroditic children. These were seen as reactions to extraordinary circumstances as opposed to being part of Roman tradition. Vestal Virgins who were accused of being unchaste were put to death, and a special chamber was built to bury them alive. This aim was to please the gods and restore balance to Rome.  Human sacrifices, in the form of burying individuals alive, were not uncommon during times of panic in ancient Rome. However, the burial of unchaste Vestal Virgins was also practiced in times of peace. Their chasteness was thought to be a safeguard of the city, and even in punishment, the state of their bodies was preserved in order to maintain the peace. 
Captured enemy leaders were only occasionally executed at the conclusion of a Roman triumph, and the Romans themselves did not consider these deaths a sacrificial offering. [ citation needed ] Gladiator combat was thought by the Romans to have originated as fights to the death among war captives at the funerals of Roman generals, and Christian polemicists such as Tertullian considered deaths in the arena to be little more than human sacrifice.  Over time, participants became criminals and slaves, and their death was considered a sacrifice to the Manes on behalf of the dead. 
Political rumors sometimes centered around sacrifice and in doing so, aimed to liken individuals to barbarians and show that the individual had become uncivilized. Human sacrifice also became a marker and defining characteristic of magic and bad religion. 
According to Roman sources, Celtic Druids engaged extensively in human sacrifice.  According to Julius Caesar, the slaves and dependents of Gauls of rank would be burnt along with the body of their master as part of his funerary rites.  He also describes how they built wicker figures that were filled with living humans and then burned.  According to Cassius Dio, Boudica's forces impaled Roman captives during her rebellion against the Roman occupation, to the accompaniment of revelry and sacrifices in the sacred groves of Andate.  Different gods reportedly required different kinds of sacrifices. Victims meant for Esus were hanged or tied to a tree and flogged to death, Tollund Man being an example, those meant for Taranis immolated and those for Teutates drowned. Some, like the Lindow Man, may have gone to their deaths willingly.
Ritualised decapitation was a major religious and cultural practice that has found copious support in the archaeological record, including the numerous skulls discovered in Londinium's River Walbrook and the twelve headless corpses at the French late Iron Age sanctuary of Gournay-sur-Aronde. 
Germanic peoples Edit
Human sacrifice was not a particularly common occurrence among the Germanic peoples, being resorted to in exceptional situations arising from crises of an environmental (crop failure, drought, famine) or social (war) nature, often thought to derive at least in part from the failure of the king to establish and/or maintain prosperity and peace (árs ok friðar) in the lands entrusted to him.  In later Scandinavian practice, human sacrifice appears to have become more institutionalised and was repeated as part of a larger sacrifice on a periodic basis (according to Adam of Bremen, every nine years). 
Evidence of Germanic practices of human sacrifice predating the Viking Age depend on archaeology and on a few scattered accounts in Greco-Roman ethnography. For example, Tacitus reports Germanic human sacrifice to (what he interprets as) Mercury, and to Isis specifically among the Suebians. Jordanes reports how the Goths sacrificed prisoners of war to Mars, suspending the severed arms of the victims from the branches of trees.
Germans sacrificed Roman commanders and officers after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. 
By the 10th century, Germanic paganism had become restricted to Scandinavia. One account by Ahmad ibn Fadlan as part of his account of an embassy to the Volga Bulgars in 921 claims that Norse warriors were sometimes buried with enslaved women with the belief that these women would become their wives in Valhalla. In his description of the funeral of a Scandinavian chieftain, a slave volunteers to die with a Norseman. After ten days of festivities, she is stabbed to death by an old woman, a sort of priestess who is referred to as Völva or "Angel of Death", and burnt together with the dead in his boat. This practice is evidenced archaeologically, with many male warrior burials (such as the ship burial at Balladoole on the Isle of Man, or that at Oseberg in Norway  ) also containing female remains with signs of trauma.
According to Adémar de Chabannes, just before his death in 932 or 933, Rollo (founder and first ruler of the Viking principality of Normandy) practised human sacrifices to appease the pagan gods and at the same time made gifts to the churches in Normandy. 
Adam von Bremen recorded human sacrifices to Odin in 11th-century Sweden, at the Temple at Uppsala, a tradition that is confirmed by Gesta Danorum and the Norse sagas. According to the Ynglinga saga, king Domalde was sacrificed there in the hope of bringing greater future harvests and the total domination of all future wars. The same saga also relates that Domalde's descendant king Aun sacrificed nine of his own sons to Odin in exchange for longer life, until the Swedes stopped him from sacrificing his last son, Egil.
Heidrek in the Hervarar saga agrees to the sacrifice of his son in exchange for the command over a fourth of the men of Reidgotaland. With these, he seizes the entire kingdom and prevents the sacrifice of his son, dedicating those fallen in his rebellion to Odin instead.
Slavic peoples Edit
In the 10th century, Persian explorer Ahmad ibn Rustah described funerary rites for the Rus' (Scandinavian Norsemen traders in northeastern Europe) including the sacrifice of a young female slave.  Leo the Deacon describes prisoner sacrifice by the Rus' led by Sviatoslav during the Russo-Byzantine War "in accordance with their ancestral custom." 
According to the 12th-century Russian Primary Chronicle, prisoners of war were sacrificed to the supreme Slavic deity Perun. Sacrifices to pagan gods, along with paganism itself, were banned after the Baptism of Rus' by Prince Vladimir I in the 980s. 
Archeological findings indicate that the practice may have been widespread, at least among slaves, judging from mass graves containing the cremated fragments of a number of different people. 
The history of human sacrifice in China may extend as early as 2300 BCE.  Excavations of the ancient fortress city of Shimao in the northern part of modern Shaanxi province revealed 80 skulls ritually buried underneath the city's eastern wall.  Forensic analysis indicates the victims were all teenage girls. 
The ancient Chinese are known to have made drowned sacrifices of men and women to the river god Hebo.  They also have buried slaves alive with their owners upon death as part of a funeral service. This was especially prevalent during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. During the Warring States period, Ximen Bao of Wei outlawed human sacrificial practices to the river god.  In Chinese lore, Ximen Bao is regarded as a folk hero who pointed out the absurdity of human sacrifice.
The sacrifice of a high-ranking male's slaves, concubines or servants upon his death (called Xun Zang 殉葬 or Sheng Xun 生殉) was a more common form. The stated purpose was to provide companionship for the dead in the afterlife. In earlier times, the victims were either killed or buried alive, while later they were usually forced to commit suicide.
Funeral human sacrifice was widely practiced in the ancient Chinese state of Qin. According to the Records of the Grand Historian by Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian, the practice was started by Duke Wu, the tenth ruler of Qin, who had 66 people buried with him in 678 BCE. The 14th ruler Duke Mu had 177 people buried with him in 621 BCE, including three senior government officials.   Afterwards, the people of Qin wrote the famous poem Yellow Bird to condemn this barbaric practice, later compiled in the Confucian Classic of Poetry.  The tomb of the 18th ruler Duke Jing of Qin, who died in 537 BCE, has been excavated. More than 180 coffins containing the remains of 186 victims were found in the tomb.   The practice would continue until Duke Xian of Qin abolished it in 384 BCE. Modern historian Ma Feibai considers the significance of Duke Xian's abolition of human sacrifice in Chinese history comparable to that of Abraham Lincoln's abolition of slavery in American history.  
After the abolition by Duke Xian, funeral human sacrifice became relatively rare throughout the central parts of China. However, the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty revived it in 1395, following the Mongolian Yuan precedent, when his second son died and two of the prince's concubines were sacrificed. In 1464, the Tianshun Emperor, in his will, forbade the practice for Ming emperors and princes.
Human sacrifice was also practised by the Manchus. Following Nurhaci's death, his wife, Lady Abahai, and his two lesser consorts committed suicide. During the Qing Dynasty, sacrifice of slaves was banned by the Kangxi Emperor in 1673. [ citation needed ]
Retainer sacrifice was practised within the royal tombs of ancient Mesopotamia. Courtiers, guards, musicians, handmaidens and grooms were presumed to have committed ritual suicide by taking poison.   A 2009 examination of skulls from the royal cemetery at Ur, discovered in Iraq in the 1920s by a team led by C. Leonard Woolley, appears to support a more grisly interpretation of human sacrifices associated with elite burials in ancient Mesopotamia than had previously been recognized. Palace attendants, as part of royal mortuary ritual, were not dosed with poison to meet death serenely. Instead, they were put to death by having a sharp instrument, such as a pike, driven into their heads.  
Human sacrifice was practiced in Tibet prior to the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century.  Historical practices such as burying bodies under the cornerstones of houses may have been practiced during the medieval era, but few concrete instances have been recorded or verified. 
The prevalence of human sacrifice in medieval Buddhist Tibet is less clear. The Lamas, as professing Buddhists, could not condone blood sacrifices, and they replaced the human victims with effigies made from dough.  This replacement of human victims with effigies is attributed to Padmasambhava, a Tibetan saint of the mid-8th century, in Tibetan tradition. 
Nevertheless, there is some evidence that outside of orthodox Buddhism, there were practices of tantric human sacrifice which survived throughout the medieval period, and possibly into modern times.  The 15th-century Blue Annals reports that in the 13th-century so-called "18 robber-monks" slaughtered men and women in their ceremonies.  Grunfeld (1996) concludes that it cannot be ruled out that isolated instances of human sacrifice did survive in remote areas of Tibet until the mid-20th century, but they must have been rare.  Grunfeld also notes that Tibetan practices unrelated to human sacrifice, such as the use of human bone in ritual instruments, have been depicted without evidence as products of human sacrifice. 
Indian subcontinent Edit
In India, human sacrifice is mainly known as "Narabali". Here "nara" means human and "bali" means sacrifice. It takes place in some parts of India mostly to find lost treasure. In Maharashtra, the Government made it illegal to practice with the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act.
Currently human sacrifice is very rare in modern India.  However, Isolated incidents of sati ("self-"sacrifice of a widow, sometimes despite her will) were recorded in India in the late 20th century, leading the Indian government to promulgate the Sati (Prevention) Act in 1987, criminalising the aiding or glorifying of sati. Also, there have been at least three cases through 2003–2013 where men have been murdered in the name of human sacrifice implying the practice may still be ongoing in greater numbers in the unpoliced slums.   
Thuggees, tuggees or thugs, were a religious cult devoted to Kali and an organized gang of professional robbers and murderers who traveled in groups across the Indian subcontinent for several hundred years. They were first mentioned in the Ẓiyāʾ-ud-Dīn Baranī (English: History of Fīrūz Shāh ) dated around 1356. In the 1830s William Bentinck, along with his chief captain William Henry Sleeman made a concerted effort to put an end to the activities of the Thuggee. The effort proved successful, with the cult's activities being fully eradicated in the span of a few decades.   Thugs would join travellers and gain their confidence. This would allow them to then surprise and strangle them by tossing a handkerchief or noose around their necks. The killings were performed in honour of the goddess Kali and were very ritualistic.  They would then rob the bodies of valuables and bury them. This led them to also be called Phansigar (English: using a noose ), a term more commonly used in southern India. 
Regarding possible Vedic mention of human sacrifice, the prevailing 19th-century view, associated above all with Henry Colebrooke, was that human sacrifice did not actually take place. Those verses which referred to purushamedha were meant to be read symbolically,  or as a "priestly fantasy". However, Rajendralal Mitra published a defence of the thesis that human sacrifice, as had been practised in Bengal, was a continuation of traditions dating back to Vedic periods.  Hermann Oldenberg held to Colebrooke's view but Jan Gonda underlined its disputed status.
Human and animal sacrifice became less common during the post-Vedic period, as ahimsa (non-violence) became part of mainstream religious thought. The Chandogya Upanishad (3.17.4) includes ahimsa in its list of virtues.  The impact of Sramanic religions such as Buddhism and Jainism also became known in the Indian subcontinent.
It was agreed even by Colebrooke, however, that by the Puranic period—at least at the time of the writing of the Kalika-Purana, human sacrifice was accepted. The Kalika Purana was composed in Northeast India in the 11th century. The text states that blood sacrifice is only permitted when the country is in danger and war is expected. According to the text, the performer of a sacrifice will obtain victory over his enemies.  In the medieval period, it became increasingly common. In the 7th century, Banabhatta, in a description of the dedication of a temple of Chandika, describes a series of human sacrifices similarly, in the 9th century, Haribhadra describes the sacrifices to Chandika in Odisha.  The town of Kuknur in North Karnataka there exists an ancient Kali temple, built around the 8-9th century CE, which has a history of human sacrifices. 
Human sacrifice is reputed to have been performed on the altars of the Hatimura Temple, a Shakti (Great Goddess) temple located at Silghat, in the Nagaon district of Assam. It was built during the reign of king Pramatta Singha in 1667 Sakabda (1745–1746 CE). It used to be an important center of Shaktism in ancient Assam. Its presiding goddess is Durga in her aspect of Mahisamardini, slayer of the demon Mahisasura. It was also performed in the Tamresari Temple which was located in Sadiya under the Chutia kings.
Human sacrifices were carried out in connection with the worship of Shakti until approximately the early modern period, and in Bengal perhaps as late as the early 19th century.  Although not accepted by larger section of Hindu culture, certain Tantric cults performed human sacrifice until around the same time, both actual and symbolic it was a highly ritualised act, and on occasion took many months to complete. 
The Khonds, an aboriginal tribe of India inhabiting the tributary states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh were alleged by British authors to have practiced human sacrifice.  
In Ancient Hawaii, a luakini temple, or luakini heiau, was a Native Hawaiian sacred place where human and animal blood sacrifices were offered. Kauwa, the outcast or slave class, were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini heiau. They are believed to have been war captives, or the descendants of war captives. They were not the only sacrifices law-breakers of all castes or defeated political opponents were also acceptable as victims.  
According to an 1817 account, in Tonga, a child was strangled to assist the recovery of a sick relation. 
The people of Fiji practised widow-strangling. When Fijians adopted Christianity, widow-strangling was abandoned. 
Pre-Columbian Americas Edit
Some of the most famous forms of ancient human sacrifice were performed by various Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas  that included the sacrifice of prisoners as well as voluntary sacrifice. Friar Marcos de Niza (1539), writing of the Chichimecas, said that from time to time "they of this valley cast lots whose luck (honour) it shall be to be sacrificed, and they make him great cheer, on whom the lot falls, and with great joy they crown him with flowers upon a bed prepared in the said ditch all full of flowers and sweet herbs, on which they lay him along, and lay great store of dry wood on both sides of him, and set it on fire on either part, and so he dies" and "that the victim took great pleasure" in being sacrificed. 
North America Edit
The Mixtec players of the Mesoamerican ballgame were sacrificed when the game was used to resolve a dispute between cities. The rulers would play a game instead of going to battle. The losing ruler would be sacrificed. The ruler "Eight Deer", who was considered a great ball player and who won several cities this way, was eventually sacrificed, because he attempted to go beyond lineage-governing practices, and to create an empire. 
The Maya held the belief that cenotes or limestone sinkholes were portals to the underworld and sacrificed human beings and tossed them down the cenote to please the water god Chaac. The most notable example of this is the "Sacred Cenote" at Chichén Itzá.  Extensive excavations have recovered the remains of 42 individuals, half of them under twenty years old.
Only in the Post-Classic era did this practice become as frequent as in central Mexico.  In the Post-Classic period, the victims and the altar are represented as daubed in a hue now known as Maya Blue, obtained from the añil plant and the clay mineral palygorskite. 
The Aztecs were particularly noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale an offering to Huitzilopochtli would be made to restore the blood he lost, as the sun was engaged in a daily battle. Human sacrifices would prevent the end of the world that could happen on each cycle of 52 years. In the 1487 re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan some estimate that 80,400 prisoners were sacrificed   though numbers are difficult to quantify as all obtainable Aztec texts were destroyed by Christian missionaries during the period 1528–1548.  The Aztec, also known as Mexica, periodically sacrificed children as it was believed that the rain god, Tlāloc, required the tears of children. 
According to Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 people" were sacrificed in the ceremony. The old reports of numbers sacrificed for special feasts have been described as "unbelievably high" by some authors  and that on cautious reckoning, based on reliable evidence, the numbers could not have exceeded at most several hundred per year in Tenochtitlan.  The real number of sacrificed victims during the 1487 consecration is unknown.
Michael Harner, in his 1997 article The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice, estimates the number of persons sacrificed in central Mexico in the 15th century as high as 250,000 per year. Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, a Mexica descendant and the author of Codex Ixtlilxochitl, claimed that one in five children of the Mexica subjects was killed annually. Victor Davis Hanson argues that an estimate by Carlos Zumárraga of 20,000 per annum is more plausible. Other scholars believe that, since the Aztecs always tried to intimidate their enemies, it is far more likely that they inflated the official number as a propaganda tool.  
United States and Canada Edit
The peoples of the Southeastern United States known as the Mississippian culture (800 to 1600 CE) have been suggested to have practiced human sacrifice, because some artifacts have been interpreted as depicting such acts.  Mound 72 at Cahokia (the largest Mississippian site), located near modern St. Louis, Missouri, was found to have numerous pits filled with mass burials thought to have been retainer sacrifices. One of several similar pit burials had the remains of 53 young women who had been strangled and neatly arranged in two layers. Another pit held 39 men, women and children who showed signs of dying a violent death before being unceremoniously dumped into the pit. Several bodies showed signs of not having been fully dead when buried and of having tried to claw their way to the surface. On top of these people another group had been neatly arranged on litters made of cedar poles and cane matting. Another group of four individuals found in the mound were interred on a low platform, with their arms interlocked. They had had their heads and hands removed. The most spectacular burial at the mound is the "Birdman burial". This was the burial of a tall man in his 40s, now thought to have been an important early Cahokian ruler. He was buried on an elevated platform covered by a bed of more than 20,000 marine-shell disc beads arranged in the shape of a falcon,  with the bird's head appearing beneath and beside the man's head, and its wings and tail beneath his arms and legs. Below the birdman was another man, buried facing downward. Surrounding the birdman were several other retainers and groups of elaborate grave goods.  
A ritual sacrifice of retainers and commoners upon the death of an elite personage is also attested in the historical record among the last remaining fully Mississippian culture, the Natchez. Upon the death of "Tattooed Serpent" in 1725, the war chief and younger brother of the "Great Sun" or Chief of the Natchez two of his wives, one of his sisters (nicknamed La Glorieuse by the French), his first warrior, his doctor, his head servant and the servant's wife, his nurse, and a craftsman of war clubs all chose to die and be interred with him, as well as several old women and an infant who was strangled by his parents.  Great honor was associated with such a sacrifice, and their kin were held in high esteem.  After a funeral procession with the chief's body carried on a litter made of cane matting and cedar poles ended at the temple (which was located on top of a low platform mound), the retainers, with their faces painted red and drugged with large doses of nicotine, were ritually strangled. Tattooed Serpent was then buried in a trench inside the temple floor and the retainers were buried in other locations atop the mound surrounding the temple. After a few months' time the bodies were dis-interred and their defleshed bones were stored as bundle burials in the temple. 
The Pawnee practiced an annual Morning Star Ceremony, which included the sacrifice of a young girl. Though the ritual continued, the sacrifice was discontinued in the 19th century. 
South America Edit
The Incas practiced human sacrifice, especially at great festivals or royal funerals where retainers died to accompany the dead into the next life.  The Moche sacrificed teenagers en masse, as archaeologist Steve Bourget found when he uncovered the bones of 42 male adolescents in 1995. 
The study of the images seen in Moche art has enabled researchers to reconstruct the culture's most important ceremonial sequence, which began with ritual combat and culminated in the sacrifice of those defeated in battle. Dressed in fine clothes and adornments, armed warriors faced each other in ritual combat. In this hand-to-hand encounter the aim was to remove the opponent's headdress rather than kill him. The object of the combat was the provision of victims for sacrifice. The vanquished were stripped and bound, after which they were led in procession to the place of sacrifice. The captives are portrayed as strong and sexually potent. In the temple, the priests and priestesses would prepare the victims for sacrifice. The sacrificial methods employed varied, but at least one of the victims would be bled to death. His blood was offered to the principal deities in order to please and placate them. 
The Inca of Peru also made human sacrifices. As many as 4,000 servants, court officials, favorites, and concubines were killed upon the death of the Inca Huayna Capac in 1527, for example.  A number of mummies of sacrificed children have been recovered in the Inca regions of South America, an ancient practice known as qhapaq hucha. The Incas performed child sacrifices during or after important events, such as the death of the Sapa Inca (emperor) or during a famine. 
West Africa Edit
Human sacrifice was common in West African states up to and during the 19th century. The Annual customs of Dahomey was the most notorious example, but sacrifices were carried out all along the West African coast and further inland. Sacrifices were particularly common after the death of a King or Queen, and there are many recorded cases of hundreds or even thousands of slaves being sacrificed at such events. Sacrifices were particularly common in Dahomey, in what is now Ghana, and in the small independent states in what is now southern Nigeria [ citation needed ] . According to Rudolph Rummel, "Just consider the Grand Custom in Dahomey: When a ruler died, hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of prisoners would be slain. In one of these ceremonies in 1727, as many as 4,000 were reported killed. In addition, Dahomey had an Annual Custom during which 500 prisoners were sacrificed." 
In the Ashanti Region of modern-day Ghana, human sacrifice was often combined with capital punishment. 
In the northern parts of West Africa, human sacrifice had become rare early as Islam became more established in these areas such as the Hausa States [ citation needed ] . Human sacrifice was officially banned in the remainder of West African states only by diplomatic pressure, or when they came under colonial rule by European powers. [ citation needed ] . An important step was the powerful Egbo secret society being persuaded to officially oppose human sacrifice in 1850. This society was powerful in a large number of states in what is now south-eastern Nigeria [ citation needed ] . Nonetheless, human sacrifice continued, normally in secret, until West Africa came under firm colonial control [ citation needed ] .
The Leopard men were a West African secret society active into the mid-1900s that practised cannibalism. In theory, the ritual cannibalism would strengthen both members of the society as well as their entire tribe.  In Tanganyika, the Lion men committed an estimated 200 murders in a single three-month period. 
Canary Islands Edit
It has been reported from Spanish chronicles that the Guanches (ancient inhabitants of these islands) performed both animal and human sacrifices. 
During the summer solstice in Tenerife children were sacrificed by being thrown from a cliff into the sea.  These children were brought from various parts of the island for the purpose of sacrifice. Likewise, when an aboriginal king died his subjects should also assume the sea, along with the embalmers who embalmed the Guanche mummies.
In Gran Canaria, bones of children were found mixed with those of lambs and goat kids and on Tenerife, amphorae have been found with the remains of children inside. This suggests a different kind of ritual infanticide from those who were thrown off the cliffs. 
In Greek polytheism, Tantalus was condemned to Tartarus for eternity for the human sacrifice of his son Pelops.
Abrahamic religions Edit
Many traditions of Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam consider that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son to examine obedience of Abraham to His commands. To prove his obedience, Abraham intended to sacrifice his son. However at the eleventh hour God commanded Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son.
Judaism explicitly forbids human sacrifice, regarding it as murder. Jews view the Akedah as central to the abolition of human sacrifice. Some Talmudic scholars assert that its replacement is the sacrificial offering of animals at the Temple—using Exodus 13:2–12ff 22:28ff 34:19ff Numeri 3:1ff 18:15 Deuteronomy 15:19—others view that as being superseded by the symbolic pars-pro-toto sacrifice of the covenant of circumcision. Leviticus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 18:10 specifically outlaw the giving of children to Moloch, making it punishable by stoning the Tanakh subsequently denounces human sacrifice as barbaric customs of Moloch worshippers (e.g. Psalms 106:37ff).
Judges chapter 11 features a Judge named Jephthah vowing that "whatsoever cometh forth from the doors of my house to meet me shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up as a burnt-offering" in gratitude for God's help with a military battle against the Ammonites.  Much to Jephthah's dismay, his only daughter greeted him upon his triumphant return. Judges 11:39 states that Jephthah did as he had vowed, but "shies away from explicitly depicting her sacrifice, which leads some ancient and modern interpreters (e.g., Radak) to suggest that she was not actually killed." 
According to the Mishnah he was under no obligation to keep the ill-phrased, illegal vow. According to Rabbi Jochanan, in his commentary on the Mishnah, it was Jephthah's obligation to pay the vow in money.  According to some commentators of the rabbinic Jewish tradition, Jepthah's daughter was not sacrificed, but was forbidden to marry and remained a spinster her entire life. 
The 1st-century CE Jewish-Hellenistic historian Flavius Josephus, however, stated that Jephthah "sacrificed his child as a burnt-offering—a sacrifice neither sanctioned by the law nor well-pleasing to God for he had not by reflection probed what might befall or in what aspect the deed would appear to them that heard of it".  Latin philosopher pseudo-Philo, late first century CE, wrote that Jephthah burnt his daughter because he could find no sage in Israel who would cancel his vow. In other words, in the opinion of the Latin philosopher, this story of an ill-phrased vow consolidates that human sacrifice is not an order or requirement by God, but the punishment for those who illegally vowed to sacrifice humans.  
Allegations accusing Jews of committing ritual murder were widespread during the Middle Ages, often leading to the slaughter of entire Jewish communities.   In the 20th century, blood libel accusations re-emerged as part of the satanic ritual abuse moral panic. 
Christianity developed the belief that the story of Isaac's binding was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ, whose death and resurrection enabled the salvation and atonement for man from its sins, including original sin. There is a tradition that the site of Isaac's binding, Moriah, later became Jerusalem, the city of Jesus's future crucifixion.  The beliefs of most Christian denominations hinge upon the substitutionary atonement of the sacrifice of God the Son, which was necessary for salvation in the afterlife. According to Christian doctrine, each individual person on earth must participate in, and/or receive the benefits of, this divine human sacrifice for the atonement of their sins. Early Christian sources explicitly described this event as a sacrificial offering, with Christ in the role of both priest and human sacrifice, although starting with the Enlightenment, some writers, such as John Locke, have disputed the model of Jesus' death as a propitiatory sacrifice. 
Although early Christians in the Roman Empire were accused of being cannibals, theophages (Greek for "god eaters")  practices such as human sacrifice were abhorrent to them.  Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians believe that this "pure sacrifice" as Christ's self-giving in love is made present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In this tradition, bread and wine becomes the "real presence" (the literal carnal Body and Blood of the Risen Christ). Receiving the Eucharist is a central part of the religious life of Catholic and Orthodox Christians.   Most Protestant traditions apart from Anglicanism and Lutheranism do not share the belief in the real presence but otherwise are varied, for example, they may believe that in the bread and wine, Christ is present only spiritually, not in the sense of a change in substance (Methodism)  or that the bread and wine of communion are a merely symbolic reminder (Baptist). 
In medieval Irish Catholic texts, there is mention of the early church in Ireland supposedly containing the practice of burying sacrificial victims underneath churches in order to consecrate them. This may have a relation to pagan Celtic practices of foundation sacrifice. The most notable example of this is the case of Odran of Iona a companion of St Columba who (according to legend) volunteered to die and be buried under the church of the monastery of Iona. However, there is no evidence that such things ever happened in reality and contemporary records closer to the time period have no mention of a practice like this. 
Dharmic religions Edit
Many traditions of Dharmic religions including Buddhism, Jainism and some sects of Hinduism embrace the doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) which imposes vegetarianism and outlaws animal as well as human sacrifice.
In the case of Buddhism, both bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns) were forbidden to take life in any form as part of the monastic code, while non-violence was promoted among laity through encouragement of the Five Precepts. Across the Buddhist world both meat and alcohol are strongly discouraged as offerings to a Buddhist altar, with the former being synonymous with sacrifice, and the latter a violation of the Five Precepts.
In their effort to discredit Tibetan Buddhism, the People's Republic of China as well as Chinese nationalists in the Republic of China make frequent and emphatic references to the historical practice of human sacrifice in Tibet, portraying the 1950 People's Liberation Army invasion of Tibet as an act of humanitarian intervention. According to Chinese sources, in the year 1948, 21 individuals were murdered by state sacrificial priests from Lhasa as part of a ritual of enemy destruction, because their organs were required as magical ingredients.  The Tibetan Revolutions Museum established by the Chinese in Lhasa has numerous morbid ritual objects on display to illustrate these claims. 
In Hinduism, based on the principle of ahimsa, any human or animal sacrifice is forbidden.    In the 19th and 20th centuries, prominent figures of Indian spirituality such as Swami Vivekananda,  Ramana Maharshi,  Swami Sivananda,  and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami  emphasised the importance of ahimsa.
In the city of Altamira, State of Pará, several children were raped, with their genitalia mutilated for what appear to be ritual purposes, and then stabbed to death, between 1989 and 1993.  It is believed that the boys' sexual organs were used in rites of black magic. 
In the coastal village Collileufu, native Lafkenches carried out a ritual human sacrifice in the days following the 1960 Valdivia earthquake. Collileufu, located in the Budi Lake area, south of Puerto Saavedra, was highly isolated in 1960. The Mapuche spoke primarily Mapudungun. The community had gathered in Cerro La Mesa, while the lowlands were struck by successive tsunamis. Juana Namuncura Añen,   a local machi, demanded the sacrifice of the grandson of Juan Painecur, a neighbor, in order to calm the earth and the ocean.   The victim was 5-year-old José Luis Painecur, an "orphan" (huacho) whose mother had gone to work as a domestic worker in Santiago and left her son under the care of her father. 
José Luis Painecur had his arms and legs removed by Juan Pañán [ who? ] and Juan José Painecur (the victim's grandfather), and was stuck into the sand of the beach like a stake. The waters of the Pacific Ocean then carried the body out to sea. The sacrifice was learned about by authorities after a boy in the commune of Nueva Imperial denounced to local leaders the theft of two horses these were allegedly eaten during the sacrifice ritual.  The two men were charged with the crime and confessed, but later recanted. They were released after two years. A judge ruled that those involved in these events had "acted without free will, driven by an irresistible natural force of ancestral tradition."   The story was mentioned in a Time magazine article, although with little detail. 
In 1963, a small cult in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, founded by two brothers, Santos and Cayetano Hernández, committed between 8 and 12 murders during bloody rituals that included drinking human blood. The cult was initially a scam to obtain money and sexual favors, but after a prostitute named Magdalena Solís entered in the organization, she inaugurated human sacrifices inspired by ancient Aztec rituals as a method to control disciples.   
During the 1980s, other case of serial murders that involved human sacrifices rituals occurred in Tamaulipas, Mexico. The drug dealer and cult leader Adolfo Constanzo orchestrated several executions during rituals that included the victims' dismemberment. 
Between 2009 and 2010, in Sonora, Mexico, a serial killer named Silvia Meraz committed three murders in sacrifice rituals. With the help of her family, she beheaded two boys (both relatives) and one woman in front of an altar dedicated to Santa Muerte. 
The “New Light Of God” sect in the town of El Terrón, Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Panama, believed they had a mandate from God to sacrifice members of their community who failed to repent to their satisfaction. In 2020, five children, their pregnant mother and a neighbor were killed and decapitated at the sect's church building, with 14 other wounded victims being rescued. Victims were hacked with machetes, beaten with Bibles and cudgels, and burned with embers. A goat was ritually sacrificed at the scene as well. The cult's beliefs were a syncretic blend of Pentecostalism with indigenous beliefs and some New Age ideas including emphasis on the third eye. A leader of the Ngäbe-Buglé region labeled the sect “satanic” and demanded its eradication. 
Human sacrifice is illegal in India. According to the Hindustan Times, there was an incident of human sacrifice in western Uttar Pradesh in 2003.  Similarly, police in Khurja reported "dozens of sacrifices" in the period of half a year in 2006, by followers of Kali, the goddess of death and time.     
In 2015 during the Granite scam investigations of Tamil Nadu there were reports of possible human sacrifices in the Madurai area to pacify goddess Shakthi for getting power to develop the illegal granite business. Bones and skulls were retrieved from the alleged sites in presence of the special judicial officer appointed by the high court of Madras.   
Human sacrifice is no longer legal in any country, and such cases are prosecuted. As of 2020 however, there is still black market demand for child abduction in countries such as Kenya for purposes which include human sacrifice. 
In January, 2008, Milton Blahyi of Liberia confessed being part of human sacrifices which "included the killing of an innocent child and plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat." He fought against Charles Taylor's militia. 
In 2019 Anti-balaka leader in Satema in Central African Republic killed 14 year old girl in ritualistic way to increase profit from mines. 
On 6 June 2000, three teenage girls lured a Catholic sister, Maria Laura Mainetti, out of her convent in Chiavenna, Sondrio, and stabbed her to death in a satanic sacrifice. 
United Kingdom Edit
In June 2005, a report by the BBC claimed that boys from Africa were being trafficked to the UK for human sacrifice. It noted that children were beaten and murdered after being labelled as witches by pastors in an Angolan community in London. 
Ritual killings perpetrated by individuals or small groups within a society that denounces them as simple murder are difficult to classify as either "human sacrifice" or mere pathological homicide because they lack the societal integration of sacrifice proper. [ citation needed ]
The instances closest to "ritual killing" in the criminal history of modern society would be pathological serial killers such as the Zodiac Killer, and mass suicides with a doomsday cult background, such as the Peoples Temple, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, the Order of the Solar Temple or the Heaven's Gate incidents. [ according to whom? ] Other examples include the "Matamoros killings" attributed to American cult leader Adolfo Constanzo and the "Superior Universal Alignment" killings in 1990s Brazil. 
Indo-European Ireland: A Discussion with Survive the Jive
The world isn’t set in stone. Religions change, tribes rise and fall, and cultures spread out and fade away. While over the period of a lifetime the world may appear stagnant and unchanging, the truth is that every single facet of human existence is fragile and only ever moments away from collapse.
The nature of this change is what fascinates most historians, and Tom Rowsell is no different. Known for his Youtube channel Survive the Jive, Rowsell’s interests range from the migrations and cultures of people, to ancient spirituality. These were the interests that brought Rowsell to Ireland late last year to make a documentary on the island’s ancient history, when I had the pleasure of talking with him:
“I’m here to make a film not only looking at the prehistoric heritage of Ireland and the roots of the Irish people, but also my personal connection through my ancestry to this land.”
Rowsell often uses his ancestral connections to a land to help explore its culture and religion. His documentaries on India and Sri Lanka both utilise Rowsell’s ancestral links to help bridge the gap between the ancient cultures and the more modern history of these places.
However, history is only a part of Rowsell’s work. Being a pagan, a significant part of his work focuses on the uncovering of the ancient practices and spiritual beliefs of the ancient Indo-Europeans. Rowsell’s own belief is that these ancient practices are fundamentally based on a truth common in most ancient religions:
“My views, in some ways, are very similar to what Yeats’ were. Yeats also believed in a perennial religion in a more literal sense which I think is ahistorical. He believed that there was one, primordial religion across the world that was destroyed by the integration of monotheistic religions. I don’t think that’s actually true, but I do believe that there is a real kernel of truth that is universal to all early religions and is only absent in some divergent, modern religions.”
This religious aspect of Rowsell’s work is a large part of why he came to Ireland. While ‘Indo-European’ might not be the first term that comes to mind when you think of Ireland, the island’s culture and ancestry are intimately linked with this ancient culture.
“I’m interested in the introduction of the Indo-European religion in Ireland between the end of the Neolithic period and beginning of the Bronze age. We can say with certainty that this was not a Celtic religion. Celtic languages came with a later invasion at the start of the Iron Age, but we can see from the archaeological record that there wasn’t a total shift culturally with the arrival of Celtic language. I don’t believe there was a total religious turnover like there was with Christianity.”
This may surprise some. It is common belief that the Irish are, in some way, a Celtic people. As such, it would seem reasonable to believe that the native religion of our ancestors would also have been Celtic in nature.
However, this is only part of the story. According to Rowsell, the ancestors of the modern, Indo-European Irish arrived much earlier in the Bronze Age, 1800 years before the Celtic characteristics of Irish society rose to prominence due to another, much smaller influx of people:
“It’s highly likely that aspects of the Bronze Age religion survived the arrival of the Celtic people.”
This misconception has rather serious political consequences. The Irish often define themselves as Celts, with Gaelic and Celtic often being used synonymously in ordinary language. With this being based on a complete misconception, the national identity of Ireland is in turn seemingly based on unsteady ground:
“Celtic I believe is a really problematic label for nationalists, partly because the Celts never constituted a nation.”
Considering this initial revelation, I asked Rowsell about the megalithic structures that dot the Irish landscape. Again, Rowsell says that the builders of these monuments were probably not as close to us as we like to think they are:
“They were not built by what we now think of as the Irish people. They were not built by druids, they were not built by Celts, they were not built by anyone like us. They were built by a Neolithic people more closely related to modern Iberians than to modern Irish, and they came, ultimately,from Anatolia.”
These people who, according to Rowsell, were similar genetically to many Neolithic populations in Europe at the time, lived until the early Bronze Age.
“This Neolithic population was destroyed and replaced by the Indo-European ancestors of the modern peoples of the British Isles.”
While we do not know whether it occurred through warfare or the spreading of infectious diseases, Rowsell made sure to emphasise how quickly this replacement occurred:
“Within two or three generations there was a very large turnover to this new population. What is interesting to me is what we can learn about these replacing people and how they appropriated the ancient Neolithic monuments for their own burials.”
This appropriation of the old Neolithic sites is something Rowsell said was particularly interesting. Places such as the Mound of the Hostages at Tara, while initially built by the pre-Indo-Europeans, was immediately integrated for use by our ancestors. Over time, these places became ingrained in our folklore and associated with supernatural creatures and events. However, Rowsell emphasised that we need to be skeptical of these associations:
“There’s a lot of folklore which is worth studying in its own right, separate from the archaeological reality of those monuments. However, the reality of why they were built however is elusive and will probably remain so.”
Having discussed all this, I asked Rowsell why we in Ireland often lay claim to the likes of Newgrange as our own creations. His response was that this kind of appropriation of the past is natural and simply part of human nature, but that we also need to be careful of the assumptions we make in trying to forge our own cultural identities:
“The kind of nationalist revisionism I find quite annoying and which is also prevalent in all cultures is what I call ‘mushroom nationalism’. This is the desire to believe that your people popped out of the ground like mushrooms.”
“In human psychology, there is a necessary and primal desire to connect the flesh to the soil. I am not against that. I am against people trying to oppose what are interesting developments in genetic science because they think if they accept these developments then the claim to their land is invalidated. This is wrong because they’re fighting against the truth, and that fight you’ll always lose in the long run. It’s better to just accept the reality of the history of your people and celebrate that, rather than celebrate a fake version.”
However, while this appreciation for historical fact is critically important, Rowsell does not think that means abandoning mythology:
“A problem we have is that we cannot separate what is myth from what is false. Myth is not false. Myth represents an essential truth that is beyond the modern historical method. As G. K. Chesterton said ― ‘Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist… Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.’”
This understanding of mythology for Rowsell gets to the core of the purpose of history. Through both the real and mythological stories of our ancestors we come to understand our own place in the world:
“We should use history to help people understand their ancestors, and in turn their place in the world. That they are not just atomized detritus floating through the void of time for no reason. That they have a purpose, and are part of a chain that has meaning, and that they have a duty themselves to maintain and contribute to this chain of knowledge and these traditions.”
This sense of purpose is also for Rowsell why religion is so important. With its destruction of metaphysics, the modern world has stripped meaning and purpose from everyday life and replaced it with meaningless materialist pursuits:
“The modern West is founded on the state-enforced religion of Neoliberalism, which requires people to take certain views that can even be contradictory at times, and also promotes a version of history that jars with people’s natural inclinations and often causes a sense of malaise. This is, I believe, the cause of the high suicide rates and the general increase in depression.”
“In the American Declaration of Independence the pursuit of happiness is written as a right of man, as if it were some butterfly that someone could catch and hold on to and not a fleeting emotion. You don’t live for happiness, you live for causes. You have goals and responsibilities. You live for these things, not emotions.”
This sort of state of being is totally at odds with what came before. Rowsell raised the examples of Ancient Rome and Ancient India. Both of these societies used a state religion to help unify their populations, a social practice that is still in use on some level today in places like Japan and India. However, a number of elements prevent this from being a solution in parts of the world dominated by monotheism:
“In Rome, if you were of a different religion there was no problem. You could believe whatever you want as long as you honoured the state religion when the necessary public festival occurs. Likewise, in Japan, you don’t have to believe in Shinto and in India, you don’t have to believe in Hinduism.”
“However, the likes of Sharia Law does require you to. Sometimes they allow you to pay Jizya and be a second-class citizen, but a lot of the time you don’t even get that concession. There’s no concession to a pagan. I think it would be the same in a Christian state.”
With this considered, Rowsell told me that he currently does not see any solution for Western malaise at a societal level. However, he was adamant that on a personal level the meaninglessness of modernity could be fought off. For anyone who feels that the emptiness of the world is starting to get to them, Rowsell gave this sage advice:
“Any religion is better than no religion. The religion that would commonly link a Westerner to their heritage and their ancestry would be Christianity, but a number of people over the last few centuries have found Christianity to be inadequate in some ways, and Paganism is now an ascendant force. It’s something that isn’t going away, but doesn’t seem to be growing particularly quickly either.”
“Any type of engagement with the divine or the transcendent reality is an antidote to the problem that modernity poses.”
The Real Wakanda – Inside the lost city of Benin
“ G reat Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see,” wrote Portuguese ship captain Lourenço Pinto in 1691. He added, “The houses are large, especially that of the king, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.”
Located in the depths of the jungle but connected to other African kingdoms and the Atlantic Ocean by the Niger River, Great Benin City was the imperial capital of an empire that, at its peak, stretched from Lagos in the west to beyond the Niger in the east – an area that equates to approximately one-fifth of modern-day Nigeria.
Benin made contact with Europeans in the 1480s when Portuguese traders happened upon it while seemingly trying to find a way around the traditional Sahara trade routes. Dutch merchants arrived 100 years later and, over next 200 years, more traders came from England, France, Germany and Spain. They all returned home with amazing stories to rival Pinto’s but today, if you mentioned the Benin Empire to a Westerner – even someone from Portugal, which maintained regular contact with the kingdom for 400 years – they are likely to stare at you blankly. So what happened to the great city of Benin and why did it disappear without a trace?
The beginnings of Benin
According to the oral history of the Edo people, Benin was originally called Igodomigodo, named after Igodo, founder of the Ogiso (meaning ‘rulers of the sky’) dynasty. Although Igodomigodo would go onto have around 31 Ogiso rulers who governed a formidable kingdom, the Benin Empire didn’t begin in earnest until the 12th century.
After years of political discord, Igodomigodo sent emissaries to the neighbouring kingdom of Ife to ask Oduduwa, the father of the Yoruba, for one of his sons to be their ruler. Oduduwa sent his son Oranmiyan and he became the first Oba, or king. He had a son, Eweka, but Oranmiyan found it hard to rule and he eventually renounced his position, saying that the politics of the people made his leadership intractable.
Oranmiyan called Igodomigodo “ile Ibinu”, or land of anger, and left Eweka behind with palace guardians to instruct him in the art and mysteries of the Benin so he could govern his own people. Eweka’s eventual reign started the Oba era. Oba Ewedo, who took over after Eweka’s death in 1255, changed the name of the kingdom from Ile Ibinu to Ubini and it was later contact with the Portuguese that changed the name again to Bini, from which we get the name Benin.
With the Oba established, the social hierarchy of the Benin Empire began to take form. Apart from the king, the political elite consisted of the titled chiefs – the Uzama n’Ihinron – and the royal family. The Uzama were powerful, and their role in customs and royal administration was gnomic. There were also the palace chiefs who oversaw palace administration, and the town chiefs who carried out regular administrative work such as tribute collection and the conscription of soldiers. Other officials carried out various duties that ranged from hunting to astrology while there were also craftsmen who were like a caste – guilds of artists produced art for the king and his royal court.
Imperial golden age
Between the late 13th century and the 15th century, Benin’s empire grew sporadically under the expansionist wars of conqueror kings. The fascination with and the formidability of the empire are built around various historical artefacts such as the impressive range of artworks, their advanced trading networks and the military strategies by which the warrior kings expanded and defended Benin. Benin had a large army of well-trained and disciplined soldiers, and the king was the supreme ruling authority over them.
Oba Ewuare I, who reigned between about 1440 and 1473, is largely credited with the transformation of the kingdom into a modern state structure. He reorganised the political structures through reforms that minimised the uneasy relationship between the Oba and the chiefs, and it enabled him to monopolise military power with the latter factor being responsible for his imperialist expansion. He is also noted for promoting art and artefact production – namely the bronze casting, ivory and wood that Benin would be known for around the world.
The craftsmen produced a distinct style of art that included heads, figurines, brass plaques and other items of royal adornment. Artistry was used to celebrate royal omnipotence and to legitimise the king’s power and glory. As the Oba was believed to embody the country and its continuity, art was used to communicate his divinity and possibly to also subjectify his people who rarely saw or had access him as he was believed to be a divine being.
Oba Ewuare was also associated with architectural innovation, city planning, grand festivals and the introduction of royal beads. He built on the efforts of Oba Oguola and completed the first and second moats, a network of ramparts that walled the city against external aggressors. The moat was an impressive part of national defence covering roughly 16,000 kilometres and enclosing 6,500 square kilometres of community land. It was built over the course of six centuries and it was a work of pre-mechanical engineering marvel.
In 1974, The Guinness Book of World Records described the Benin Moat as the largest earthwork in the world prior to mechanical inventions and it is considered to be the largest man-made invention, second only to the Great Wall of China. Oba Oguola was also believed to be the one who first sent his craftsman, Igueghae, to Ife to learn the art of bronze casting.
Of the many artworks from the Benin Empire, two of them are iconic: The Bronze Head of Queen Idia and the Benin ivory mask. The Bronze Head is a dedicatory piece in honour of Queen Idia, the mother of Oba Esigie, the king who reigned in the early 16th century. Queen Idia was the first Iyoba, or Queen Mother, and she played a hugely significant role in his kingship.
As Iyoba, Idia was a titled chief in her own right and she had a district, Iyekuselu, where she presided. She could raise the levies necessary to fund the army she oversaw. Although women were typically banned from certain professions – the army included – she went to war and recorded numerous victories. She was described as both possessing military acumen and sorcery with which she helped her son Esigie to defeat his brother Arhuanran, a contender for the throne.
As she was the king’s mother, the Iyoba already commanded prestige. But Idia revolutionised the position, allowing future Iyobas to wield actual political power. The position demanded, among other qualities, the holder to possess metaphysical power to help her son overcome other contenders to the throne. Queen Idia was said to have magical healing powers, and was depicted in many sculptures and art works commissioned in her honour, such as the Benin ivory mask. This was a small-scale ivory sculpture, made in honour of Idia. The mask was worn as a pendant by Esigie.
Today, the mask is a stark reminder of the unsavoury circumstances in which artworks left the shores of Africa. The mask was chosen as an emblem of FESTAC ‘77, a festival that took place in Nigeria and drew people from every part of Africa to celebrate black culture. The Nigerian government tried to secure the mask on a loan from the British Museum, which refused claiming that it was too fragile to transport. The Museum also requested a hefty $3 million as an indemnity. A sign that things might be improving, last year the British Museum held talks to discuss the return of the Benin Bronzes.
Portuguese explorers made contact with Benin in the 15th century and they quickly started trading. The relationship between Portugal and Benin was so cordial that Oba Esigie was said to have sent ambassadors to Portugal, an exchange that resulted in European influences on Benin’s art and culture.
Esigie was reputed to have been literate in Portuguese and this boosted his interaction with the Portuguese traders. Meanwhile, the initial Portuguese missionary effort yielded some fruits as some churches sprang up in Benin. Trade continued between Portugal and Benin, with items including ivory, pepper and a limited supply of slaves.
During this period, there wasn’t really a major drive for a slave trade, because it was mainly women were sold into serfdom in Benin. Those who were enslaved – either because they were captured in war or forced to pay off their debts with hard labour – were arguably held more for the royal court’s prestige than actual economic proceeds. Trade in slavery was therefore marginal, as enslaved men were more useful to boost Benin’s military might than as a means of exchange. Besides, Benin was enjoying such an economical and military high that they didn’t need the proceeds from the Atlantic slave trade. It’s also worth noting that Benin’s relationship with the Europeans went beyond trading goods to warfare and mercenary services.
But by the 17th century, the kingdom had begun to decline as a result of a lack of leadership, internal fractures and indiscipline among members of the ruling class. When the slave trade was abolished and the price of ivory fell, it hit Benin hard. In the mid-18th century, the empire got a boost under Oba Eresonyen but it was not to last. The kingdom was starting to shrink as former territories began to move away from the old empire to towards the British both for trade and protection.
In the mid-19th century, Benin began to trade in palm oil and as the product became more important to the British, they sought to make Benin a protectorate. The Oba took refuge in isolationism and since Benin’s political power had declined, the king took to making human sacrifices to reignite his sacral authority. In 1892, vice-consul HL Gallwey pushed Oba Ovoramwen to sign his now diminished empire to the British as a protectorate. There was some doubt about whether the Oba indeed signed the treaty as he was unsure if the British had good intentions. By making Benin a British protectorate, the treaty would have facilitated commerce, ceased slave trading and ended human sacrifice.
Benin eventually fell during the punitive expedition of 1897. The Oba sensed that the British intended to depose him so his chiefs, against his knowledge, ordered a pre-emptive attack on a caravan carrying unarmed British officers. Two of the officials managed to escape but that incident sealed Oba Ovoramwen’s fate. Realising that his kingdom would be invaded, he ramped up the rate of human sacrifices to appease his ancestors.
The news of the Oba’s increasing bloodthirstiness, coupled with the deaths of the British officials, became a justification for the invasion of 1897 and Britain summoned its forces to descend on Benin. The Oba, his chiefs and their followers fled, although they came back and eventually surrendered. The Oba apparently approached the British with the pomp and pageantry of his position but he was humiliated and deposed. He was eventually sent to exile in Calabar, in the southeastern region of Nigeria, where he died in 1914.
Setting out to destroy what remained, the British set Benin on fire – but they moved the royal treasures to a safe place first. They sold some of the priceless artefacts in Lagos and transferred others to Europe, where they made their ways into private collections and museums. The sales were meant to cover the cost of the expeditions. In 1914, the throne was restored to Eweka II, Ovoramwen’s son, although under the supervision of the British colonial officers. What was left of Benin was nothing but a shadow of its former glory and today no signs remain of its mighty walls or moats.
Background on Haplogroup "R"
Origins of Y-dna Haplogroup "R"
According to the Genographic Project conducted by the National Geographic Society, Haplogroup R2a arose about 25,000 years ago in Central Asia and its members migrated southward as part of the second major wave of human migration into India.
According to Sengupta et al. (2006),
uncertainty neutralizes previous conclusions that the intrusion of HGs R1a1 and R2 [Now R-M124] from the northwest in Dravidian-speaking southern tribes is attributable to a single recent event. Rather, these HGs contain considerable demographic complexity, as implied by their high haplotype diversity. Specifically, they could have actually arrived in southern India from a southwestern Asian source region multiple times, with some episodes considerably earlier than others.
The following is Manoukian's (2006) summary of the findings of the Genographic Project conducted by the National Geographic Society and directed by Spencer Wells (2001):
Haplogroup R, the ancestral clade to R1 and R2, appeared on the Central Asian Steppes around 35,000 to 30,000 years ago.
R1, sister clade to R2, moved to the West (READ EUROPE) from the Central Asian Steppes around 35,000 to 30,000 years ago. R1 pockets were established, from where R1a and R1b emerged.
R2a [R-M124] made its first entry into the Indian sub-continent around 25,000 years ago. The routes taken are not clear, although the Indus and Ganges rivers are possible theories put forward. There could, of course, have been multiple immigrations of this haplogroup into the Indian sub-continent, both in the Paleolithic and the Neolithic
The final proof that Europeans are Albinos derived from Dravidian Indians, is the Genetic Distance Maps created by the studies:
"Genetic Distance Map from The History and Geography of Human Genes" by Cavalli-Sforza.
And "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans" by Sarah A. Tishkoff.
Both genetic maps show that Black and Brown Indians, and White Europeans, are alone together, separate from all other humans, like two peas in a pod. The only difference is that one group is pigmented, and the other is not! One group is Albino, the other is not!
4. Article Summary
- The ancient (Proto-)Indo-Iranic Sintashta and Andronovo peoples were ethnic Northern Europeans who migrated into Asia from Eastern Europe.
- They brought Indo-Iranic languages and culture into South and Central Asia by way of massive migrations and colonialist invasions, naming the regions after their own ethnonym: “Arya(n).”
- Initially, the Indo-Iranic population was genetically near-identical to modern Eastern Europeans, particularly Russians and Ukranians, and spoke languages similar to Proto-Balto-Slavic.
- However, evidence indicates that their phenotypes may have been closer to modern Germanic peoples, rather than Slavs.
- Over time, the ethnic makeup of the Indo-Iranic population changed, as they intermixed with various East, South, and Central Asian peoples.
- The Indo-Iranic population contributed 10-20% to the DNA of modern Western Iranians, who are otherwise mostly descended from the ancient native farmers of the region, exhibiting around 70% genetic continuity since the Chalcolithic Age (4500 BC).
- Some Iranic ethnic groups outside of the Iranian Plateau, such as the East Iranic Pamiris, have a greater proportion of ancient Indo-Iranic ancestry, and thus more closely resemble modern Northern Europeans.
- The modern Iranic population is ethnically diverse but predominantly of Middle Eastern genetic origin.
They Were Excellent Farmers And Into Skincare
For many years, archaeologists and historians were sure that the Mayans couldn't or wouldn't farm in their tropical forest environment. This was a harsh and dangerous environment to cultivate, with overgrown vegetation, a high degree of humidity, and a lot of animals and insects that you'd definitely want to avoid. However, it was recently found that the Mayans were actually very good farmers, and managed to modify about 150 square feet of their tropical wetland terrain and cultivate almost 500 square miles of farmland.
They have been known to grow quite an interesting array of delicious pineapples, chili peppers, cacao, squash, papayas, avocados, maize, and beans. Some of their uses were outside of the kitchen and were medicinal. Using plants and vegetables for their healing and antiseptic properties. Some plants were used for religious ceremonial usages, such as incense and oil making, and even what you might call “skin products”.
The Real Reason Ancient Indo-Europeans Carried Out Human Sacrifice - History
One historical scene in particular plays out this idea. It occurred as Cortes marched across today's Mexico towards the city and ruler he had heard so much about. At one point — not yet at the city — Moctezuma sent some emissaries to greet him. They brought two others with them, who were sacrificed in front of the Spaniards.
You can find accounts of this story from both sides: from the chronicles of Cortes and his conquistadors (Bernal Diaz, for example) and from native accounts (as told in The Broken Spears, as another example). And the differing reactions to this event tell you everything. The Spaniards were appalled, some even cried. But the emissaries were totally baffled by their reaction to the gift.
What you see is two cultures separated by an almost unimaginable amount of time, distance, and history. The clash that occurred would have been hard to prevent whenever it happened. As others have pointed out, even basic biology (immunity) was different enough to make an enormous difference without people consciously having to do anything.
Peter Watson's "The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New" is a pretty fascinating examination of the overall contrasts between Eurasian and New World cultures. It's a story that's hard to tell, and there is a lot of speculation and ambiguity. What is clear, above all else, is that the whole ordeal ended tragically, insomuch as it ever ended at all.
"After having treated their prisoners well for a long time, giving them all the provisions that they could one, he who is the chief calls a great assembly of his acquaintances. He ties a rope to one of the arms of the prisoner and on the other end, several feet away, out of harm's way, and gives to his best friend the arm to hold and the two of them, in the presence of the assembled group, slash him to death with their swords. That done, they roast him and eat him together, sending portions to their absent friends. They do this, not as is supposed, for nourishment as did the ancient Scythians it represents instead an extreme form of vengeance. The proof of this is that when they saw that the Portuguese, who had allied themselves with their adversaries, executed their captives differently, burying them up to the waist and firing numerous arrows into the remainder of the body, hanging them afterward, [the Tupi] viewed these people from another world, who had spread the knowledge of many vices among their neighbors, and who were much more masterly than they in every sort of evil, must have chosen this sort of revenge for a reason. Thinking that it must be more bitter than their own, they abandoned their ancient way to imitate this one.
I am not so concerned that we should remark on the barbaric horror of such a deed, but that, while we quite rightly judge their faults, we are blind to our own."
Yes exactly. Here we have two cultures still heavily under the influence of their own general religions, and the ways that each allowed or dealt with applying violence. Each reflected the cultural view of what "reality" was. In Europe, shamanism had been replaced with Christianity, which had its own concept of the real world — one that was a prelude to an afterlife, in which one would be judged. For the Aztecs (and for other New World peoples too) reality was in no insignificant part determined by the knowledge of priestly shamans, their experiences, and the experiences that people had during rituals. All three of those were heavily influenced (according to Watson and others) by the natural presence of the world's strongest hallucinogens that were unknown in Europe. Add to that much more extreme weather, and you have the recipe for understanding the world as a potentially violent, terrifying place. If blood sacrifice or even human sacrifice seems to appease the capricious gods of that reality, then of course it makes perfect sense to do it.
Yes, this was my instant thought. What a naive Eurocentric way to think of history to insinuate that everyone except the Europeans were just barbaric savages who killed and devalued life. As if the Europeans weren't fresh off their own multi-year killing sprees for this and that reason that equally would have baffled Native Americans.
>What you see is two cultures separated by an almost unimaginable amount of time, distance, and history. The clash that occurred would have been hard to prevent whenever it happened.
Because surely there was more they had in common than that made them different.
As I said, the clash would have been hard to prevent. The biological consequences of foreign diseases are an important way things wouldn't have been other than tragic.
He sailed to NZ, and tried to go ashore to collect water, but the local Maori attacked and killed 4 of his men before they even got ashore, so he left. It was another 100 years before Captain Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to set foot on New Zealand.
In the 16th to 19th centuries, I suppose it would have been an insurmountable medical problem. But what if they were separated until today? Perhaps in an alternate universe, instead of a wooden sailing ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, toxic gas bubbled up from the mid-Atlantic ridge (and a similar barrier in the Pacific), requiring pressurized aircraft to fly over. Or the two groups were on separate planets, requiring space travel to meet.
Would we be able to deal with the medical problems today?
Or, in a less unlikely scenario, there were plagues in the Americas that decimated European settlers more than the reverse, allowing the Native Americans to co-opt European shipbuilding and colonize Africa and Eurasia. Interesting to think about!
The Aztecs were not the only people living in the 1500s Mesoamerica. I don't know much, but Wikipedia mentions peoples like Purepechas, Talaxcaltecs, Matlazincas, Tecos, Mazahuas, Otomies and Chontales. And not even all Nahuas were Aztecs.
Was ritualistic human sacrifice a common practice among all these peoples, or was it something that mostly only Aztecs did?
methinks that it gave one big and convenient argument to the takeover for material and spices. they're inhuman, we shall have no shame in wiping them.
Their was a movie about the meeting with the pope also.
> was it hard to just back off and accept that people whoever they are should keep their land ?
It was only "theirs" by the same process of brutal conquest that the Spaniards later turned on them.
Yes? Consider Australia's situation where the natives had 0 concept of land ownership and sovereignty. Were the british colonists looking for more land just to assume that the aboriginals own the whole entire continent? Even though they used barely any of it at one time?
Plus it's easy to come and negotiate friendly, especially in Australia where it's not like it's crowded .
What would the Americas -- the world -- look like today if the Europeans never came here? Or at least, came and engaged respectfully.
Think about it, much of what is considered traditional european food actually came from the Americas: potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate. Italian cuisine wouldn't exist without the Americas.
And now that the whole world has benefited, where are the people who gave it all to the rest of us? Eradicated from existence.
Disease which was quite forcefully spread by Europeans as an act of warfare.
Nobody ever in any circumstances is stating or implying that native peoples did not engage in war, murder, etc before and during the arrival and colonization by Europeans. But that’s not the point. Native peoples died of natural causes while diseases Europeans introduced wiped them out en masse. The natural causes are not the point of the discussion.
The reality is there is a history of European empires colonizing and wiping out native peoples. If we refuse to look at this critically and learn from it then we have not improved beyond our ancestors. when this topic gets brought up, don’t bring up straw men based distractions. Engage in the discussion meaningfully with an open mind.
This is just demonstrably false (see, for one artistically valuable but hilariously naive example, the song "Cortez the Killer" by Neil Young), but will certainly be met by goalpost-moving of "nobody serious is saying that. "
I could have worded it better, but like I said original this particular silly talking point is hard to unpack and respond to since it’s such a non-sequitur.
The quote is from the section Disease as a weapon against Native Americans
The westerns saw the absolute devastation by their mere presences was causing unintentionally and occasionally decided to use it to their advantage purposefully. but I highly doubt that absent those occasions that we would have seen much different outcomes.
Absent total non-contact for the next two centuries.
2. As already mentioned in the other response to your comment there are multiple documented cases of deliberate infection, if that’s where you want to go.
The Truth About Tibetan Buddhism
Many Westerners before me have visited Tibet, popped into some monastery on a mountainside, and decided to stay there forever, won over by the brutally frugal existence eked out by Tibetan Buddhists.
I have exactly the opposite reaction. I couldn't wait to leave the temples and monasteries I visited during my recent sojourn to Shangri-La, with their garish statues of dancing demons, fat golden Buddhas surrounded by wads of cash, walls and ceilings painted in super-lavish colours, and such a stench of incense that it's like being in a hippy student's dorm room.
I know I'm not supposed to say this, but Tibetan Buddhism really freaked me out.
The most striking thing is how different real Tibetan Buddhism is from the re-branded, part-time version imported over here by the Dalai Lama's army of celebrities.
Listening to Richard Gere, the first incarnation of the Hollywood Lama, you could be forgiven for thinking that Tibetan Buddhism involves sitting in the lotus position for 20 hours a day and thinking Bambi-style thoughts. Tibetan Buddhism has a "resonance and a sense of mystery," says Gere, through which you can find "beingness" (whatever that means).
Watching Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel read a collection of the Dalai Lama's teachings in Central Perk on Friends a few years ago, you might also think that Tibetan Buddhism is something you can ingest while sipping on a skinny-milk, no-cream, hazelnut latte.
Or consider the answer given by one of Frank J. Korom's students at Boston University when he asked her why she was wearing a Tibetan Buddhist necklace. "It keeps me healthy and happy," she said, reducing Tibetan Buddhism, as so many Dalai Lama-loving undergrads do, to the religious equivalent of knocking back a vitamin pill.
The reality couldn't be more different. The first devout Buddhists I encountered looked neither healthy nor happy. They were walking from their villages in southern Tibet to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibetan Buddhism's holiest site, and the journey had taken them nearly three months. Which isn't surprising considering that with every third or fourth step they took, they got down on their knees and then fully prostrated themselves on the ground, lying flat on their bellies and burying their faces in the dirt, before getting back up, taking a few more steps, and doing the painful prostration thing again.
It looked life-zappingly exhausting. They moved at a snail's pace. Their foreheads were stained grey from such frequent, unforgiving contact with the bruising earth. They wore wooden planks on their hands, which made a deathly clatter every time they hurled themselves downwards. I'd like to see Jennifer Aniston try this. Tibetan Buddhism sans latte.
You soon realize that no Tibetan Buddhist sits cross-legged on cushions all day long while staring into space and thinking about the universe. No, worshipping Buddha is a full-on physical workout. At the Lamaling Temple on a hillside in Nyingchi County in south-east Tibet, I saw women in their 50s doing the prostration thing, like an archaic version of a Jane Fonda workout.
The temple itself is packed with weird statues. Red demons with contorted faces. Smug-looking Buddhas smiling patronizingly at the poor, exhausted worshippers. There's a statue of the "Living Buddha" (now deceased) who administered this temple in the 1950s and 60s and it is wearing sunglasses. Terrifyingly, it looks like a cross between the Buddha and Bono.
The Lamaling Temple, like others I visited, is painted in the most obscene colors. No inch of wall or centimeter of roof beam has been left untouched by the possibly colorblind decorators of Tibetan Buddhism's sites of worship. Everywhere you look there's a lashing of red or green or bright blue paint, a weirdly fitting backdrop to the frequently violent imagery of this religion: the statues of sword-wielding demons, the fiery paintings, the images of androgynous Buddhas, some with breasts, others with balls. "Peace" and "calm" are the last words that come to mind when you're inside one of these senses-assaulting places.
The Lamaling Temple also brings home the fact that Tibetan Buddhism, like every other religion on Earth, is made up of various, sometimes horn-locking sects. I excitedly lined up an interview with one of the monks and asked if he's looking forward to the day when the Dalai Lama returns from exile in northern India. He patiently told me—dumb Westerner that I am—that he doesn't worship the Dalai Lama, because he is a member of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism while the Dalai Lama is head of the Gelug school. Then there's the Kagyu school and the Sakya school—making four in total—which have hot-headed disagreements and have even come to blows in recent years over which deities should be worshipped and which should not. Religion of peace? Yeah, right.
Tibetan Buddhism has a whole lotta hang-ups about gays and girls, too. It says gay sex is "unnatural." The Dalai Lama declared in a talk in Seattle in 1993, during one of his whistle stop, U2-style world tours, that "nature arranged male and female organs in such a manner that is very suitable&hellip same-sex organs cannot manage well." (Someone needs to explain to His Holiness how gay people get it on.)
And as Bernard Faure of Columbia University says: "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is&hellip relentlessly misogynist." So while Tibetan women can become nuns, they can't advance nearly as far as men. Because according to Buddhist teachings it is impossible for women to become "the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One," "the Universal Monarch," "the King of Gods," "the King of Death," or "Brahmaa"—the five highest, holiest positions in Buddhism.
Of course, this only means that Tibetan Buddhism is the same as loads of other religions. Yet it is striking how much the backward elements of Tibetan Buddhism are forgiven or glossed over by its hippyish, celebrity, and middle-class followers over here. So if you're a Catholic in Hollywood it is immediately assumed you're a grumpy old git with demented views, but if you're a "Tibetan" Buddhist you are looked upon as a super-cool, enlightened creature of good manners and taste. (Admittedly, Mel Gibson doesn't help in this regard.)
I am well aware of the fact that I am not the first Westerner to be thrown by Tibet's religious quirkiness. A snobby British visitor in 1895 denounced Tibetan Buddhism as "deep-rooted devil-worship and sorcery." It's no such thing. But what is striking, and what caused me to be so startled by the weirdness, is the way in which this religion has come to be viewed in Western New Age circles as a peaceful, pure, happy-clappy cult of softly-smiling, Buddha-like beings. Again, it's no such thing. The modern view of Tibetan Buddhism as wondrous is at least as patronizingly reductive as the older view of Tibetan Buddhism as devil-worship.
Frank J. Korom describes it as "New Age orientalism," where Westerners in search of some cheap and easy purpose in their empty lives "appropriate Tibet and portions of its religious culture for their own purposes." They treat a very old, complex religion as a kind of buffet of ideas that they can pick morsels from, jettisoning the stranger, more demanding stuff—like the dancing demons and the prostration workout—but picking up the shiny things, like the sacred necklaces and bracelets and the BS about reincarnation.
It is all about them. They have bent and warped a religion to suit their own needs. As the Tibetan lama Dagyab Kyabgon Rinpoche puts it, "The concept of 'Tibet' becomes a symbol for all those qualities that Westerners feel lacking: joie de vivre, harmony, warmth and spirituality&hellip Tibet thus becomes a utopia, and Tibetans become noble savages." Western losers have ransacked Tibetan Buddhism in search of the holy grail of self-meaning.