The Sacrifice YKTTW Discussion

The Sacrifice
Making an offering to the gods
(permanent link) added: 2012-10-04 17:49:08 sponsor: Goldfritha (last reply: 2012-10-11 04:57:17)

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Sacrificing a young boar (to be the caption)

An old, pious, and pervasive practice -- making an offering to the gods.

While this is Truth in Television, fictionally, it tends to be the more dramatic animal sacrifices rather than the cheaper and more commonplace things such as wine, or flowers. Animals are also often entirely burned up when offered in fiction. While this was sometimes practiced -- and the technical term for it is a holocaust -- generally just part of it was actually burnt; the rest was cooked up and eaten by the sacrificers.

Super Trope of Human Sacrifice (and therefore Virgin Sacrifice); please include only non-human sacrifices here. Also, because this is a widespread custom, only include particularly striking Real Life examples.


  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus book The Mark of Athena, Percy has them sacrifice Chrysaor's boat and all the Pirate Booty to Dionysus.
  • The Dragon Jousters novels don't show the sacrifices, but they're used to justify keeping dragons for military use. The gods take the spirit and blood of the (many, many) sacrificial animals, and most of the leftover meat goes to feed the dragons.
  • Sacrificing animals is fairly common on Discworld. In Mort, the coronation of Princess Keli involves a nearly-blind priest and a confused goat. The audience brings raincoats.
  • In the Marcus Didius Falco novels, sacrifices to the Gods are common and routine, as you might expect for a work set in the Roman Empire. Falco's not particularly devout (though he does end up keeper of the sacred geese for a while), but many of his acquaintances make regular sacrifices.

Tabletop RPG
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had a number of examples of this over the years.
    • Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia. Appendix 3 (Clerical Quick-Reference Charts) had data on each deity, including when and which items were sacrificed to them. For example, the standard sacrifice to the Celtic deity Arawn was valuable items when a worshipper died.
    • Module D3 Vault of the Drow. In the Drow temple to Lolth, worshippers could make sacrifices to Lolth and receive advice from her clerics.
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. In the Fire Elemental temple visitors can sacrifice valuable treasure in a fire pit.

  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's The Emperor Constantine, Livia, hearing that her husband died in battle and lost, announces that a prophecy that an enemy of Rome would die that die has come true. She tells Constantine that she had promised to sacrifice cattle in thanksgiving if it were true; Constantine, who has not quite grasped the whole Christianity thing yet, agrees.

Myths & Legends
  • Polykrates offered the gods a precious ring as a sacrifice. It proved a Clingy MacGuffin, reappearing in the stomach of a fish he ate, and thus did the gods reject it.

Video Games
  • This is a huge part of The King of Dragon Pass. Sacrificing to the gods can convince them to smite your enemies, bless your clan, or teach you their secrets, among other things. You can also build temples that provide permanent benefits but cost upkeep in the form of annual sacrifices to their respective gods.
  • In Riven, a temple has several offerings of fruit to a statue of a whark.
  • In Black & White, mana can be generated by sacrificing anything living. People work best, but this hurts your Karma Meter.
  • In Dungeon Keeper, minions (mostly monsters) can be sacrificed by dropping them into a temple with a font. Sacrificing the right minions can earn a keeper several benefits (or curses, if the wrong minions are sacrificed), and is one of the only reliable ways to recruit the much coveted Horned Reaper into your dungeon's army.
  • In NetHack, if you find an altar of your alignment, you can sacrifice the corpses of monsters you slay there, and gain luck, as long as the corpses are fresh--Gods don't like stale offerings. Sacrifice enough and you can even be gifted with an artifact, though this will reset your luck back to neutral. (Just don't sacrifice a human, unless you're chaotic.) If you find an altar that's not of your alignment, you can try to convert it with a sacrifice, but this is risky--if it fails, your god may take offense.
  • In Myst IV, the player must make an offering to a nature spirit in order to receive its guidance through the spirit world. The offering is either smoke, a bubble, or a dandelion puff, depending on the spirit chosen.

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