How Did People Sacrifice To The Gods In The Past?


One of the primary ways to worship is to create offerings and perform sacrifice. Deities throughout history have accepted all kinds of sacrifices.

Some forms of sacrifices are public, performed by the community. But there are also private sacrifices as well that are performed in more of a one on one manner.

Below, I will go over a few of the traditions involving sacrificing from civilizations of Antiquity.

Sacrifices To The Greek Gods

Parthenon temple on a bright day. Acropolis in Athens, Greece, on a bright day
The Parthenon, a Greek Temple.

Libation is a very particular sacrifice that the Ancient Greeks made for their deities. Libation is an offering in the form of a drink, and libation is made out of wine, milk, and honey.

A lot of Greek deities were known to like honey, which makes honey get used in quite a few sacrifices that they held. This is actually an incredibly sensible development because, before the voyages of discovery, honey was one of the main ways that Europeans were able to obtain sugar.

The first batches of every harvest, be they fruit, beans, or grains, were also traditionally sacrificed to the deities. As well, it was also not uncommon to sacrifice a cake to the gods.

Beyond vegetation, fruit, and sugary things, animal sacrifices were also usually given to the gods. The most often animals that were sacrificed by the Greeks were goats, sheep, bulls, and oxen.

Typically, the sacrifices are supposed to be domesticated animals. However, Artemis actually prefers to have animals sacrificed to her be from the wild–which makes sense because Artemis is the goddess of the hunt.

In addition, there are specific animals that certain gods do prefer. For example, Hestia is known to prefer the sacrifice of a domesticated pig, Apollo is known to prefer the sacrifice of female animals, and Athena is known to prefer cows.

Sacrifices To The Roman Gods

Ancient ruins in Rome, Lazio, Italy
Remains of the Roman Forum, where the Roman gods were worshipped.

The Roman deities are incredibly similar to the Greek deities in a lot of ways. As such, there is also a similar degree of practices followed.

The Roman gods are also known to accept drink offerings, especially the goddesses. But rather than making libation, Roman deities are usually pleased with spiced or honeyed wine or simply just milk instead of a mixture of the three.

In addition to drinks, the Roman gods also enjoy sacrifices of herbs (particularly good smelling ones), spices, flowers, and incense (especially frankincense). With progressing trade roots, it became popular to offer them Indian spices–which the Europeans themselves also found very valuable.

Another interesting thing that the Romans typically offered to the gods were their spoils of victory. Sometimes, this even included their defeated enemies as the sacrifices.

When it comes to animals, the three most commonly sacrificed animals in the ancient Roman Empire are the cow, the pig, and the sheep. Which was the most common typically depended on where you were within the empire as not every area is suitable for everything.

Like the ancient Greeks, the Romans also had some specific animals that were preferred by certain deities. For example, Mars preferred bacon fat, Neptune preferred the entrails of bulls, and Venus preferred doves, horned rams, and bulls.

Sacrifices To The Egyptian Gods

The temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor in Egypt
The temple of Hatshepsut, where Egyptian gods were worshiped, especially Ra.

The Egyptians sacrificed animals similarly to the Greeks and the Romans, but they did not typically sacrifice the bull. It is believed that they held the bull at a high regard, and thus cherished it.

More than sacrifices, the Egyptians were known to typically build altars and monuments. The many altars and monuments that were built by the Egyptians still cover the Egyptian countryside.

The difficulty with knowing just exactly what the Egyptians do stems from the fact that so many things from Ancient Egypt have been destroyed, altered, or are just unable to be understood due to lack of translation capability. There are many things that we are able to tell, like the ways that certain rituals were played out, but there is far too much that we are just uncertain about.

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