Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making the Proper Sacrifice

The ancient world was full of blood offerings. Doves, goats, bulls... these things gave the gods pleasure. Their spirits took the prayers with them and ascended into the heavens on columns of ash. What animal was chosen to bear this message was important indeed. Since I don't have a sourcebook on hand of the meaning of ancient sacrifices, I've been mulling over the potential meanings of 10th Age sacrificial offerings. Without a good source, I'm relying on the vague knowledge of sacrifices I've accumulated over the years.

Only the evil gods accept the sacrifice of sapient creatures; in this case, Talleal is somewhat like Moloch, the devourer. Blood sacrifices are preferred by the mannish gods. The "airy soul" of the animal sacrificed brings the prayers to them, and so praying without making a sacrifice is, as Orijen wrote, "like striking sparks without fuel for a fire." Sacrifice can only be properly sanctified if it is made by a priest.

The elvish gods accept sacrifices of artworks, which gathers their attention. The destruction of fine carvings or small statuettes is common in elvish worship.

Purchasing of sacrifices is normally up to the temple: the worshipper may pay the priest a denomination of gold or silver for the prayer, and some of that is used to purchase the sacrificial animal. Many times, the animal is sacrificed on the exterior altar so that the petitioner can watch and know it is done. Some sacrificial rites (particularly those anointing a soldier for war) require the supplicant to touch, or be daubed with, the animal's blood.


  • Doves
Doves are commonly sacrificed to Vaela or other messenger gods. When a new enterprize is begun, doves are often sacrificed as part of a mass-offering. Sacrifice of a dove may also represent purity, or the quest to attain it, and dove's blood is used by Eleian priests to consecrate mannish marriages when they are performed ceremonially. Red doves are commonly sacrificed before going to war, or on it's eve, particularly by generals. The cost of a white dove is generally around 25 silver pieces. Red Doves cost upwards of 5 gold pieces each.
  • Crows/Ravens
Crows and ravens are favored sacrifices of the warlike gods as well as Quilian Knowais and Akem. They are thought to be the most intelligent of the birds, and are particularly blessed. Librarians of Quill keep massive rookeries to supply them with sacrifices as well as feathers for quills. The penraven that they breed is especially well suited for this and it's name is a pun on the ancient Weylic term for "king." Normal crows or ravens cost between 5-15 copper pieces, while penravens can cost anywhere from 3 to 25 gold pieces.
  • Owls
Owls are favored by Vaela, Halor, and Quilian as the bearers of wisdom. They are rarely bred in captivity. Those seeking a wise course of action or, truly, any advice from the gods often sacrifice an owl. The different colors are held to be honored by different gods: White owls are the province of Vaela, brown of Quilian, and grey of Halor. Owls purchased for sacrifice must be done so through hunters (who often trap owls explicitly for that purpose) where they can be bought for 2-4 gold pieces.
  • Cockrels/Chickens
The most basic form of sacrifice, the humble chicken is appreciated by all the gods. It is extremely cheap (2 coppers) and considered a very perfunctory sacrifice indeed. It is common, if this be the animal of choice, to sacrifice them in groups of ten. Sacrificed chicken meat is often used by the temples sacrificing them as food thereafter. Eleia particularly favors such barnyard animals.

The cockrel is somewhat more expensive (8 coppers) and specially raised black cockrels (5 silver) are beloved by Talleal and are sacrificed in honor of many dark and unpleasant gods.
  • Partridge
Slightly more expensive than a chicken (5 coppers) this is considered the minimum sacrifice that any self-respecting freeman can make to any god.
  • Rainbow Doves
Also known as peacocks, rainbow doves cost 1 gold piece or more and are imported from the southlands. Ostentatious gods and goddesses such as Raya prefer rainbow doves, and they often signify charm, joy, and freedom.
  • Geese
Considered by many to be either a horrible pestilence or worthy of being eaten as a delicious supper, geese are favored both by Hasht and Heimir. They cost 5 copper pieces each, and priests quite enjoy their sacrifice, for they provide a fine meal afterwards.
  • Swan
A high offering indeed, swan are difficult to catch and given often to Avauna in exchange for cures or healing. Along with other white animals (doves, sheep) these signify purity. They cost between 5-10 silver pieces each.
  • Gulls
Only the sea gods care for these birds. They are 2-5 copper pieces each, and sometimes used to consecrate sea-voyages or appease the wrath of Vodei.

  • Sheep
A basic animal sacrifice, sheep cost 2 gold pieces a head and are frequently sacrificed in large numbers on festival days. Every god welcomes the death of sheep, though Eliea is most fond of them. In her case, one might sacrifice a lamb (3 gold pieces, as it has yet to produce offspring) for particular favor.
  • Goats
Female goats (1 gold piece) are sacrificed to all the gods as well. This general sacrifice usually is called for when asking for great favors, or for strength or endurance to bear through some trial or trying time. Goats are often sacrificed in braces of five.
  • Rams
Rams (4 gold pieces) are a more substantive sacrifice than goats and are frequently made to be the bulk of regular offerings. Rams and sheep can be sacrificed together, particularly by adventurers or nobility, as they signify a great amount of devotion to the gods.
  • Kid
Kids, ie baby goats, are 2 gold pieces each and are generally sacrificed only when the life of a child is in danger.
  • Bull
Bulls cost a great deal (20 gold pieces) and are the so-called king of sacrifices. Haeron prefers red bulls, Talleal black, and other gods white or brown. Bull sacrifices are the heart of state sacrifice in the empire, and the emperor would never be expected to sacrifice less than ten bulls at a time. This sacrifice is a real and substantive devotion, and is looked upon with great favor by the priesthood. Large amounts of bulls may be sacrificed in order for powerful priestly magics to be enacted.
  • Cattle
Cattle (10 gold pieces) and calves (4 gold pieces) were once sacrificed in great numbers in antiquity. However, time and tide has turned against this type of sacrifice as particularly heathen or barbarous, perhaps because it was a sign of devotion to the Aspect-Gods to burn great flocks of cattle at the foot of the pillar hill before the empire's conversion to the religion of the north. Cattle are still sacrificed upon occasion, but rarely in numbers greater than 20, as opposed to classical times when herds of 100 or more might be consigned to the flames.

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