"Animals are fine, but their acceptability is limited. A little child is even better, but not nearly as effective as the right kind of adult."
The hallmark of the Religion of Evil
(and, to a lesser extent, Cults
), with a tendency to leave behind blood-stained altars. Cold-Blooded Torture
is common as a technique.
The Super Trope
of Virgin Sacrifice
, Appease the Volcano God
, Targeted Human Sacrifice
, and Chained to a Rock
(which often involves the chained getting Fed to the Beast
). Does include
the sacrifice of other intelligent races
. Just about required for A Fête Worse than Death
The nastier forms of Marriage to a God
overlap with this, as do a number of devices Powered by a Forsaken Child
. It's also the only funeral practice that can mark characters as evil even if carried out as part of the respect Due to the Dead
is replete with this.
Be careful when sacrificing someone to summon and make a Deal with the Devil
: It's not unheard of
for the victim
to get to make a deal instead of you...
There is more evidence of this in Real Life
than of the subtrope Virgin Sacrifice
, though most of it is accusations by the enemies
of the people involved.
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Anime and Manga
- Black Butler: The Satanic cult that kidnapped Ciel as a child attempted and succeeded in sacrificing the kid to summon Sebastian. It worked. And then Sebastian proceeded to slaughter them all, deciding that Ciel was more interesting anyway.
- In Berserk, before the Godhand transforms the bearer of a Behelit into one of their Apostles (or one of their own), the prospective demon will often be asked to do this, the victims invariably being people the bearer holds most dear. Once the choice to sacrifice is made, the Godhand marks the person to be sacrificed with a mark called the Brand of Sacrifice, which draws the monsters from hell to them like a lightning rod, and unless they're a supreme Badass (like say, Guts), chances are they're going to die. Horribly.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, this is how you make a Philosopher's Stone. You can make less powerful versions by sacrificing dozens of people, but if you really want a powerful one, you have to sacrifice entire countries. The Big Bad does exactly that. Twice.
- A necessary part of demonic pacts in Bible Black. In the backstory, one backfired quite badly when the demon was late to the summoning; the leader of the summoners decided to kill the rest in order to force the issue along, and when the demon did show up, the Not Quite Dead sacrifice killed the summoner and made the pact herself.
- Luu from magico was shoved off a cliff by her fellow villagers as part of a ritual to protect the village from a demon residing in the nearby Luna Spring. Fortunately she was Badass enough to survive. Zodia reveals that the ritual is total B.S., that there is no demon, and that it's just a horrible superstition.
- Subverted and Played For Laughs in the Ranma ½ manga. After Akane enters a long-distance swimming competition, she reaches the end first, only to be grabbed by an enormous jellyfish. When Ramma hears from the officials that they have to present this jellyfish king with a young maiden once a year or it will punish them, he springs into action. As it turns out, they weren't trying to make her a Human Sacrifice. All it wanted to do was take some pictures with Akane and present her trophy. By "present a young maiden," they meant that they had to "present a young maiden for it to hold."
- In Ghost Sweeper Mikami, this is how Kinu "Okinu" Himuro died. (She was a normal Miko and was thrown alive inside a volcano to appease the Kami and turn her into a benevolent spirit.) She explains this herself to Yokoshima and Mikami once they awake her spirit in the first episode.
- The Big Bad of Yu-Gi-Oh! R intended to sacrifice Anzu so that the Wicked Gods could restore Pegasus to life. (Pegasus was dead in the manga, having been Spared by the Adaptation in the anime.) Whether he planned to do this using magic, technology, or a combination of both was hazy. The plan was ruined completely when the Wicked Avatar, the most powerful of the three Wicked Gods, was defeated.
- In a flashback in One Piece, when the Shandians were struck with a plague, their village shaman declared it was a curse and the only way to stop it was to sacrifice their fairest maiden to their god...a giant snake. Then Monteblanc Norland arrived on Jaya, killed the snake, and showed the natives how to cure the plague. Of course, he did get into a lot of trouble when he just barged in on the Shandians sacred ceremony and committed blasphemy in their eyes and almost got his crew killed.
- The Knights of Darius in Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu take blood sacrifices before doing battle.
- Human tribes in ElfQuest have a habit of doing this with Elves. The very first episode starts with a torture scene.
- Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village is built on the site of an ancient altar devoted to human sacrifice. This gives the area a certain bad juju, and it's implied that he either takes advantage of the residual magic or he put his house there to suppress it.
- In "Schippeitaro", the young man finds a village that has to make these, to the Spirit of the Mountain.
- The Final Sacrifice, of course. Apparently necessary to summon an invincible army of Canadian Aztecs or something.
Please, can we have just one more sacrifice? Mike:
Okay, but this is the final sacrifice
- In Race With the Devil, two families witness a human sacrifice during a Satanic ritual and go on the run to escape the cultists pursuing them. It's also implied to happen to them at the end.
- Spectre (1977). Near the end the cultists attempt to perform a human sacrifice to summon the demon Asmodeus.
- King Kong (1933). The natives sacrifice Fay Wray to the title creature.
- In the Children of the Corn series, the children murder all the adults and sacrifice themselves to "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" when they turn 19.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has one where a man being lowered into a pool of lava has his heart ripped out of his chest. Then they try to do the same to Willie Scott.
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Savages try to sacrifice a woman to their centaur deity, but Sinbad saves her.
- Clash of the Titans. The Greek city of Joppa tries to sacrifice Andromeda to the Kraken, but Perseus saves her.
- Heavy Metal. A group of cultists tries to sacrifice a woman to their deity "Uhluht'c" but Den saves her. This was also a recurring theme in the source comics.
- The Lair of the White Worm. The villainess tries to sacrifice a woman to the title monster.
- Of course featured in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.
- Played with in The Beastmaster: A child is being offered up as a sacrifice to the evil god Aar on top of a pyramid. The Beastmaster sends his falcon animal pal to grab the infant and fly it to safety. The Big Bad evil priest watches it fly away, then turns to his minions: "See! Aar has spoken! He wants your children!"
- The second child got saved. The first one was not so lucky and got tossed into a fire pit.
- The movie Q: The Winged Serpent features an Aztec cultist who prays the ancient feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl back into existence with a series of human sacrifices of somewhat-willing victims in modern-day New York City.
- Dragonslayer has a king who's worked out a pact with a dragon to sacrifice virgins to it (basically chaining them to a rock so the dragon can eat them) in return for the dragon leaving his kingdom alone, but seeks the help of a wizard to take the dragon down when it turns out that his own daughter is next in line to be sacrificed this way.
- In The Mummy 1999, Imhotep seeks to sacrifice Evey in order to bring back the woman he loved, Anck-Su-Namun.
- In The Prodigal (based on the story of the Prodigal Son), the protagonist falls for a priestess whose worship includes human sacrifices (men diving into a pool of fire). At the end of the film, she is stoned to death and winds up in said pool.
- Cthulhu (2007). The Lovecraftian cult led by the protagonist's father has been doing this for some time. One chilling dream sequence shows screaming children crammed into a wooden cage for the Fish People, and when Things Fall Apart we see a minor character tied to a post in the sea, waiting for the high tide. Finally the protagonist is offered a chance to sacrifice his gay lover and achieve eternal life as leader of the cult. The movie ends before we discover what his decision is.
- Dagon (2001): Barbara in the end.
- Devil's Prey (2001)
- The Wicker Man (The original version); Sergeant Howie fears that this is what Summerisle has planned for the missing girl, Rowan Morrison, whose disappearance he is investigating. In fact, he is the chosen sacrifice. His sole, pyrrhic victory is pointing out that next year, when the crops fail again, only the sacrifice of Lord Summerisle will be sufficient. It goes unspoken that that won't work either.
- Played for laughs in the Beatles' Help!!. Spending the whole movie trying to kill Ringo, who has a sacrificial ring stuck on his finger, the cult leader muses to himself "Perhaps if we gave away free tickets to the youth organization annual sacrifice and dinner dance, all this could be avoided. It's a very real problem!" just before he turns a flame thrower on the band.
- In The Mask of Fu Manchu, the Chinese villain is about to sacrifice a white woman to bring Genghis Khan back to life.
- Conan the Barbarian (1982): The villain's cult has a human sacrifice ritual that involves naked virgins jumping into the pit of a giant snake.
- In The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, child sacrifice is heavily Implied to be practiced by the Mystery Cult being investigated by an Occult Detective in connection with over one hundred missing children. This is almost certainly the intended fate of the infant in a photo the investigator has recieved.
- Prevalent in Warhammer 40,000 literature
- Appears in the fifth book of The Dresden Files, Death Masks. The Big Bad utilizes a human sacrifice as part of a plague's power source. It's also referred to in the backstory of a character in Proven Guilty.
- And it appears again in Changes.
- Not exactly a human sacrifice, but this was part of the Big Bad's plan in Summer Knight, and Thomas almost had his heart cut out at the climax of Blood Rites.
- The Angaraks from The Belgariad took it to extremes: each temple had one sacrifice per hour (During their holy days, at least. The characters estimate that the actual rate of sacrifice is about 2,000 per year), which is completely unsustainable unless there were only a handful of temples on the whole continent. Even then, the mass graves would be impossible to maintain.
- It's mentioned that the Thulls breed like rabbits (in part, to try and get out of being a possible sacrifice - sacrificing the pregnant messes up their count) and that Torak's priests are willing to take just about anyone as a sacrifice (and it's either implied, or outright stated, that this is what tends to happen to prisoners who fall into the hands of the priests). Also, they only burn the heart as an offering - the rest of the body is typically disposed of in a nearby fire pit.
- Occurs or is referred to in several H.P. Lovecraft's stories. Most notably in The Call of Cthulhu, which features a police raid on a Cthulhu-worshipping voodoo cult that practices human sacrifice (they maintain that they can't be tried for murder because they have never killed anybody), and in Dreams in the Witch House, which features child sacrifice.
- The priests preparing to sacrifice Carthena in The Eye of Argon.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Sauron corrupts Ar-Pharazôn and the kingdom of Númenor into this with their newly-adopted worship of Melkor. Throughout the Second and Third ages, Sauron also gets the Easterlings and Haradrim under his rule to worship him in such a way.
- In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, Istra's apparent fate.
- In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan, the God-Emperor sends prisoners to the tombs as a sacrifice to the Nameless Ones. Arha must decree how they are to be sacrificed. (She has Bad Dreams after.) Her own dedication was set up as a feigned this — a man wielded an axe as if to cut her head off, and was stopped.
- Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". The lottery in question is to choose the victim required for the sacrifice.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus, captive, is brought before the altar for this. Ulysses Paxton saves him.
- In Andre Norton's The Time Traders, the prehistoric tribe is set to cremate their chief with great honor. Too great: they intend to kill Ross Murdock on it as a sacrifice.
- In Terry Pratchett's Pyramids, Pteppic is presented the case of a handmaiden who refused to be killed for the last king's funeral. When he asks if it was not voluntary, the priest agreed that yes, it was, and she didn't volunteer.
- Bethan would have been one in The Light Fantastic, but she ended up being saved by Cohen, Rincewind, and Twoflower. Unusual in that she wanted to be sacrificed, because voluntary sacrifices get rewarded after they die.
- In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, how Odin ended up in America. And Lakeside's secret.
- There is also a throwaway line about car gods becoming the receipents of human sacrifce on a scale unseen since the Aztecs.
- Not a rare custom in the world of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories:
I shall take it with my bare hands, twisting it from your shoulders as the head of a fowl is twisted! Thus the sons of Kosala offer sacrifice to Yajur. Barbarian, you look upon a strangler of Yota-pong. I was chosen by the priests of Yajur in my infancy, and throughout childhood, boyhood, and youth I was trained in the art of slaying with the naked hands — for only thus are the sacrifices enacted. Yajur loves blood, and we waste not a drop from the victim's veins. When I was a child they gave me infants to throttle; when I was a boy I strangled young girls; as a youth, women, old men, and young boys. Not until I reached my full manhood was I given a strong man to slay on the altar of Yota-pong.
- Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story opens with a very Aztecish sacrifice.
- In the Valdemar series, a good form of human sacrifice (albeit self-sacrifice) is practiced by the leaders of the Shin'a'in tribes to call on their Goddess, basically to prove how truly dire the situation is and how much they need her help.
- In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, a water spirit reveals she has no soul by her idle comments about the human sacrifices that a barbarian tribe offers her annually; she says only that it's not that useful because she's not a cannibal, but they do wear nice clothing.
- A renowned anthropologist in Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card postulates that slavery - our heroes' motivation to meddle with the past in the first place - actually emerged as a relatively benign alternative to human sacrifice. (This is relevant because the Tlaxcaltecs, who never got that cultural meme, may well have taken over the world in another timeline.)
- Invoked in Roadside Picnic (as in its more famous adaptation): Getting to the center of the Zone allows for your wishes to be granted. However, there's a Meat Grinder anomaly blocking the only path. It'll go away for a few minutes if something is thrown into it—something large and organic...
- The first part of Princess of Wands features a cult that sacrifices people to first summon then feed an Eldritch Abomination they worship.
- In Keith Laumer's Retief short story, "The Brass God", the Hoogan Pope wants to sacrifice the entire Terran diplomatic team for consorting with demons (actually another unrecognized alien species), but when it's pointed out that this might make the Terrans reluctant to keep funding his theocracy, he decides he'll be satisfied with sacrificing Retief alone.
- Tamora Pierce's standalone short story "Plain Magic" is about a teenage girl whose village stakes her out as a sacrifice to a dragon that's been terrorizing the area, on the advice of the local wizard. She's saved by a peddler woman who knows that this is unnecessary; apparently dragons in this world are ordinary if dangerous wild animals and the idea that they care about having virgins to eat is just a superstition.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has an example of a hero doing this: Dany burns a woman alive in order to produce a fire capable of hatching her dragon eggs. To be fair, the woman in question was pretty nasty and would almost certainly have been executed one way or another.
- The followers of the Red God, R'hllor, are fond of burning people. Melisandre in particular is searching for "King's blood" (a King or his children) to burn.
- The Iron Islanders drown victims for the Drowned God. Now that Victarion Greyjoy serves both R'hllor and the Drowned God he burns a ship of captured women at sea for both gods.
- In The fall of Tartarus, by Eric Brown, a colony planet has its sun start to go nova. In the years before the planet is incinerated a cult forms whose members believe that the nova is caused by a god, and that if enough pain is felt by its members the phenomenon will stop and the planet will be spared. So they willingly undergo "penance", a process that begins with flogging and cutting, continues with progressively more radical mutilation (implied to be executed in medically sound conditions but with no anesthetic whatsoever) and ends with the members, now reduced to little more than eyeless heads on limbless torsos, being roped to a cross and exposed to the scorching heat of the oversized sun. For hours. The sun blows up anyway.
- In Vitaliy Zykov's Way Home (Дорога Домой, Виталий Зыков):
- The kidnapped humans manage to botch up the sacrifice and survive, setting the plot in motion.
- Necromancers of Nekrond will sacrifice whatever sentient needed for the current task.
- K'irsan developed a ritual to fend off death by sacrificing another sentient to extend his lifespan. He is forced to go through said ritual sacrificing an elf. While this merely adds to the long list of reasons the light elves want him dead, the dark elf investigator on the scene is less than pleased.
- Anything connected to the Elder powers will also require sacrifices. In a large-scale example, a minor ritual is used to trigger a monster invasion of a town. The dead of the invasion, numbering in the tens of thousands, are the actual sacrifice.
- In Vitaliy Zykov's Conclave of Immortals (Конклав Бессмертных, Виталий Зыков): the satanic cults, the new church and the utterly self-interested shapeshifter Leonid.
- In Valentin Ivashchenko's Warrior and Mage (Воин и маг, Валентин Иващенко):
- Upon stumbling on a group of tomb raiders who have unleashed an epidemic curse from the tomb, Vale sacrifices the surviving raider to stop the epidemy. This is legal in the Empire.
- During his Revenge crusade against the church, Vale executes the clerics from the chorus which destroyed his hometown by sacrificing them, causing his own men to slap some sense back into him. Although the clerics burned their families as well, they consider Vale's actions beyond justification.
- Alien by Igor' Dravin (Чужак, Игорь Дравин):
- In Young Wizards a wizard can sacrifice himself by saying a certain short phrase in the Language of Magic, releasing all of his supernatural energy for use by the Powers That Be. This is an extreme measure, as in a series where Heroic Sacrifice is commonplace this is only mentioned in passing.
- The Yuuzhan Vong in the New Jedi Order series will happily sacrifice humans (and other sapient beings) on a grand scale as part of their worship. Notably, they have the same basic reason as the real-world societies that inspired them, such as the Aztecs- they believe that such offerings are neccessary to sustain their gods, without whom the universe could not exist. Of course, the Vong themselves have little to no fear of death or pain, so they don't really have the context to understand why everyone else thinks they're so horrible.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucien knows that Catarina will institute this once her plans are complete.
- In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, LeFel has long searched for the three humans he must sacrifice for his Cool Gate.
- In The Vampire Lestat, Marius tells the story of how Druids would kidnap the right kind of man, train him and then sacrifice him to the god of the groves. Which turns out to be a vampire who will make him a vampire for the Druids to worship.
- Practiced by some of the cults on the Street of (the) Gods, which appears in a couple of Simon R. Green's novel series. It's widely regarded as unsavory, but it's not technically banned as long as it doesn't endanger the tourists.
- In John Milton's Paradise Lost, this is pointed up as a trait of Moloch, via burning little children alive.
First MOLOCH, horrid King besmear'd with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents tears,
Though for the noyse of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their childrens cries unheard, that past through fire
To his grim Idol.
- Also as the practice of Lapland witches.
- The Laundry Series has human sacrifice as a necessity in opening a gate to elsewhere or calling down an information entity. It's noted that with the advances in modern computational theory, one solid sacrifice can net the yield of dozens during the old days. In fact, the Holocaust was an attempt at modern, industrialized human sacrifice... and the main reason it failed was because the Nazis botched the math ( at least, in this universe...).
- The gamebook Quest for King Arthur has the protagonist captured by druids at one point for a sacrifice. In Quest for the Cities of Gold from the same series, he is captured by Aztec priests.
- Immortality ritual from The Haunted Air requires annual child sacrifice.
- In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Roane once witnessed a ritual killing on another planet. A scene on Clio reminds her of it.
- In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, when Ziantha goes back in time, she finds herself in the body of a war captive, buried alive in a tomb as a sacrifice.
- In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Green Robes select victims with a Lottery Of Doom.
- In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, The Fair Folk pay the tithe in blood.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Tangle of Magicks , Kat realizes that the young men are planning on a human sacrifice to Sulis Minerva.
- In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Tiger, Tippo, though a Muslim, practices this. It saves Sharpe's life, and some other prisoners'; they are saved in case they are needed.
- A Nichts worshiping cult in Of Fear and Faith sacrifices people on a bloody altar in order to summon Nichts, ostensibly under their control. When Phenix finds them trying to do this to Elin, it doesn't end well for them.
- Two in Awakened: Jack(!) and Zoey's mother Linda (very nearly Zoey's Grandma!), both sacrificed by Neferet.
- Obsidian And Blood takes place in the Aztec Triple Alliance at its height. As such, human sacrifice is quite prevalent. Interestingly, unlike other examples of this trope, the sacrifices are portrayed exactly as they would have been in the Triple Alliance: as a necessary and honorable sacrifice to keep the end of the world from coming. Since it's a fantasy novel, it really DOES keep the end of the world from arriving.
- Noah from The Raven Cycle was sacrificed by his best friend in an attempt to wake up a ley line. It didn't work. Noah did, however, get to live on as a ghost due to the power of the place where he was killed.
- Book VI of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War claims that the Gauls frequently sacrifice humans, especially in the face of war or disease. More specifically, some of them place their human offerings inside huge statues made from wicker which are then set on fire, burning the victims alive. We thus have to thank Julius Caesar for The Wicker Man.
Live Action TV
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Legacy of Terror". An ancient Aztec cult is performing Human Sacrifice to bring back their deity.
- Several demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are after human sacrifices.
- In "When She Was Bad", the blood of the four people who were nearest to the Master at the time of his death is needed to bring him back - those people being Jenny, Giles, Cordelia, and Willow.
- An episode (or two? or more?) of Gilligan's Island had the Headhunters wanting to perform a human sacrifice.
- It was just a staged production number, but an episode of The Muppet Show had Janice offered up as a sacrifice to some stone idol that she stalled by singing "A Little Help From My Friends" until she could be rescued.
- In Caprica, this is one of the services offered in the illegal virtual nightclubs that Caprican teens frequently visit. Since it's all VR, no-one actually dies for real, but the idea of teenagers creating human sacrifice clubs for fun shows just how decadent Caprica is under all the richness.
- In the Doctor Who episode Meglos, the Doctor is offered up to Ty — almost.
- In The Masque Of Mandragora, Sarah Jane is nearly sacrificed by Cult of Demnos.
- And The Aztecs, naturally. Barbara, posing as the god Yetaxa attempts to halt the Aztecs' human sacrifice, but it doesn't take.
- And Donna nearly gets stabbed by the priestesses in a Roman temple in "The Fires of Pompeii".
- In 'The Horns of Nimon'', the cargo are human sacrifices, in the same manner as the Athenians in the legend of Theseus.
- In The Krotons, the Doctor rejects this on the grounds they are too civilized.
- An episode of Supernatural ("Scarecrow") involves townspeople performing a yearly sacrifice of a man and a woman to a Norse god in order to keep the town prosperous.
- Interestingly for a show that involves them battling at least one pagan god every season, this is quite rare, all the pagan gods (upto date) do except sacrifices, and do eat humans, however the majority of them simply kidnap and kill people rather than have someone sacrifice the person to them. A repeat of "Scarecrow" didn't occur again till the eight season in "Heartache" where they battle a cult sacrificing people to the Mayan god of Maze.
- The Collector: One of the Devil's clients got an extension of his deal that would require one every 10 years. The Devil said he had the same arrangement with the Phoenicians.
- In Merlin, a blood sacrifice is required by the gate-keeper to the Spirit World to both open and close the gate. An already dying Morgause has Morgana use her as a sacrifice to open the gates, Lancelot sacrifices himself to close them.
- The show MythQuest had an episode where the male protagonist went to the Aztec empire and almost became a sacrifice.
- The Dark Curse from Once Upon a Time requires the heart of the thing the caster loves most in order to be unleashed. When the Evil Queen cast the curse, she had to sacrifice her father Henry.
- The Smallville episode "Harvest" features a village that abducts and sacrifices lost travelers. Several years ago, a meteor shower of blue kryptonite fell on the village and killed a local girl, but the blue kryptonite purified their water, healed their illnesses, and made their crops grow big. The villagers, thinking that God sent the meteor shower and that the loss of the girl was payment for their boons, thought they had to keep sacrificing people to maintain the boons the blue kryptonite gave them.
- In the third season of Teen Wolf someone starts sacrificing people in threes of a type. It starts with virgins, but moves on to other groups.
- Mission: Impossible: In "The Devils", the IMF stop a British lord who involves foreign and domestic officials in Satanic rituals and human sacrifice for blackmail purposes.
Mythology and Religion
- Chaining-to-a-rock sacrifices are fairly common with dragons and other monsters anyway, and the ur-example was probably Andromeda with the sea monster from Greek mythology. The monster was killed when Perseus showed up to rescue her and turned the beast to stone with Medusa's head.
- Also from Greek Mythology we have Agamemnon, who offended the goddess Artemis and was forced to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to appease her (though sources differ on whether the girl was actually killed or taken off to be a priestess of Artemis). His wife Clytemenstra did not take this well, setting off a cycle of bloodshed in true Greek tragedy fashion.
- In the Book of Genesis, God orders Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac; at the last minute, Isaac is spared and a ram is substituted. It is debatable whether this story represents a test of Abraham's faith or a moral evolution from human to animal sacrifice in Hebrew practice (not that those interpretations are mutually exclusive).
- The book of Judges however recalls the story of Jephthah who offered his virgin daughter as a burnt offering. The story of Jephthah is a lesson on the making of rash vows, i.e., be careful what you say you're going to do, because you might just get held to it.
- Given that she goes into the hills to mourn her virginity rather than her imminent death, it's heavily implied that she was being offered as a living temple servant, rather than a burnt offering. Same lesson. Same principle. Maintains internal consistency that this particular God is NOT cool with murder.
- Also mentioned is the propensity for certain religions of the peoples they were displacing and the ones of the neighboring peoples to have this, and also for the Israelites to keep picking it up themselves, much to God's displeasure.
- One of the stated reasons why God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites was to put a stop to this sort of thing through scorched earth policy. It only sorta worked.
- Similar to the Judeo-Christian example above is the Islamic lore, except Ishmael (or Ismail in Arabic) is the one sacrificed instead (and like the example above, gets substituted with a goat/ram). Unlike the Christians, Islam celebrates this day as Eid Al-Adha, or "Day of Feast", where cattle is usually slaughtered and its meat distributed to the poor by a responsible Islamic body on the region.
- The Book of Daniel speaks of Babylonian human sacrifices to a dragon.
- According to legend, Saint Margaret was about to be sacrified to a dragon. Most likely explanation is that she was about to be fed to a python snake in circus. The Romans knew the African rock python (Python sebae) which can grow large enough to devour children or even small sized adults.
- 2 Kings 3:27 mentions king of Moab sacrificing his oldest son and heir to have the Israelites and Moabites to lift the siege of Kir-Hareset.
- Every single Aztec god (except Quetzalcoatl) demanded some form of this, often in very specific and highly inventive ways. See Real Life below.
- In Japanese Mythology, a young princess named Kushinada had to be offered in sacrifice to the Orochi. (Her sisters had all died in the same way). The god Susano-oh was passing by, decided to save her and slayed the Orochi instead.
- In the Christian martyrology, Saint George of Cappadocia was famous for having slain a dragon to save the local princess from becoming this. The whole reign converted to Chistianity afterwards.
- There are numerous ballads in Balkan and South Asian folklore about entombing living people (usually the wives of the builders) in walls, bridges, or resevoirs to ensure that they do not fall down.
- Norse Mythology: In Gesta Danorum: When King Wikar and his crew cannot get good weather for sailing, they resolve to sacrifice one of their own for fair winds.
- Williams Electronics' Gorgar has the player rescue a damsel before she can be sacrificed to the titular monster.
- In Necronomicon, one of the targets on the "Cult of The Bloody Tongue" playfield is devoted to this.
- The Wizard Mode of Loony Labyrinth requires rescuing nine sacrificial victims from the Minotaur.
- Heavily implied in the "Tower" table of Ruiner Pinball, particularly with the hooded guard holding a bloody sword over a pool of blood.
- In The Book of Vile Darkness (the Dungeons & Dragons Splat Guide, not the artifact in the game itself) it states that evil gods will grant you certain boons if you make a proper sacrifice to them. You can say you massacred that last village in the name of Dread Lord Bane, but unless you do the full thing with the Ominous Latin Chanting and bloody altars, it doesn't fully count. The boon you receive gets more powerful depending on the power of the one performing it, the qualities of the sacrifice, and how elaborate the ritual is. For example, a low-level cultist sacrificing a peasant farmer may only get a small bonus to his saving throws for a few hours. But a powerful cleric sacrificing a Paladin on an altar in front of 200 worshippers after horribly torturing him for a night and a day could cause a powerful demon to appear and serve the caster for a day.
- Many of the rituals carried out by sorcerers in Geoffrey McKinney's recently released pulp fantasy-inspired Carcosa setting for OD&D involve some form of human sacrifice in order to summon powers granted by alien gods. The level of explicitness in the rituals is similar to the supplement The Book of Ebon Bindings for Empire of the Petal Throne, and the rituals in question involve some seriously nasty violence, with four of them involving sexual assault. Not surprisingly, most sorcerers in the Carcosa setting are pure evil, with the only good ones in the bunch being the ones who stick to the banishment rituals, which do not require anyone to be sacrificed.
- Warhammer 40,000 All sorts of Chaos rituals call for it.
- Not to forget the thousands of psykers sacrificed daily to power the Astronomican.
- There are actually two types of human sacrifices made to the Emperor—the first is hundreds of psykers who are fed to him through the Golden Throne, and the psykers who are pressed into service in the Astronomican choir and slowly burn out their souls providing the psychic power the Emperor needs to project the Astronomican.
- The Aztechnology corporation in Shadowrun sacrifices people in magical rituals to increase profit - but since it's on their turf, it's not illegal. It's also a bit of a dirty secret.
- An immense number of cards in Magic: The Gathering involve sacrificing creatures to pay their cost. One of the best examples may be the 5 Heralds of the Alara block, who sacrifice three creatures to bring forth a great monster. Of course, Magic being what it it is, most of them probably won't be strictly human.
- Played more straight in the set Dark Ascension, where some cards gain bonuses if you sacrifice humans specifically.
- Mage: The Awakening lets you regain Mana by performing a sacrifice. You get tiny amounts for animals. Killing a human? Much more. Of course, since you are slaughtering another human for no reason other than petty gain, your Karma Meter will fall to bits...
- In the predecessor game Mage: The Ascension, sacrifices could enhance spells but had to be willing— either well-treated animals or brainwashed or fanatical humans. Unwilling sacrifices generated enough magical resonance opposed to the spell to cancel out any benefits from the sacrifice, although that didn't stop many villains from doing it anyway.
- Likewise, Geist The Sin Eaters allows a Sin-Eater to regain Plasm if they kill someone in a way resonant with their Threshold. A Torn (death by violence) might just beat someone to death, a Silent (death by deprivation) might strangle them, and a Prey (death by nature) might sic a mad dog on them. Doing so to gain Plasm usually dings their Synergy, though.
- In Warhammer the Lizardmen are incredibly fond of blood sacrifice, and their god Sotek appeared after the death of thousands. They manage to be one of the nicer races all the same though, because they mostly sacrifice the Always Chaotic Evil Skaven and Dark Elves. And most of the humans they kill are ones who mistook themselves for Conquistadors.
- Call of Cthulhu
- Worlds of Cthulhu magazine #3, adventure The Golden Scorpion. The PC will be sacrificed by the Aztec descendants they encounter. The only question is, what will they decide to do afterward...
- The Fighting Fantasy gamebook House of Hell features a demonic cult that carries out human sacrifices. One of the illustrations in the original edition of the book depicted cultists ready to sacrifice a nude woman upon an altar; this got yanked in subsequent printings.
- The Sarrukh of the Forgotten Realms practiced Sarrukh sacrifice. This was not actually truly evil - the sacrifices were honoured volunteers, and the diety they were sacrificed to wasn't evil, he just had made a 'you sacrifice to me, I help you' pact with the Sarrukh. Then they started to want to sacrifice slaves of other races, the diety took measures to accomodate them, and the Sarrukh rapidly slid into deep evil, dragging some fragments of their diety with them.
- Human sacrifice is not uncommon in Exalted. Most gods actually gain little more tangible benefit from such sacrifice than if animals were used instead, they just find it gratifying (nothing shows who's boss like being able to make people kill each other). Human ghosts actually benefit far more from such sacrifice; any human who is sacrificed in the name of the dead (often as part of funeral rites) will find their ghost bound in servitude to the recipient for eternity (barring deliberate release or the destruction of their master).
- The Talisman board game has several examples of human sacrifice:
- One of the random warlock quests requires the character to sacrifice one of their followers to receive a talisman, an item that is required to progress to the crown of command and ultimately win the game.
- A character may choose to sacrifice the lives of his followers to avoid losing his own lives when visiting the Vampire's Tower in the inner region.
- The Dragon Priestess character released in The Dragon expansion has a special ability that allows her to sacrifice her followers when encountering dragon enemies in order to receive a random boon, with the results being the same as those for characters landing on the Temple board space. This can range from gaining stats, spells, life, and fate, to enslavement or loss of life for particularly low rolls (however, she can use additional followers to adjust the results in her favor.)
- A Stranger card introduced in The Dragon expansion gives the player character an option to sacrifice a follower, or one of the character's own lives. Choosing the former changes the character's alignment to evil, while the latter changes the alignment to good.
- Black & White allows you require them from your followers, if you wish to be an evil god.
- And at least in the second game, you can do it yourself by throwing followers into the giant fire in the temple to quickly gain mana.
- The voodoo cult in Gabriel Knight 1 does this, with the police investigation of the discovered results being what draws Gabriel into the events of the game in the first place.
- Both the Silent Hill cult and the Shepherd's Glen cult in the Silent Hill games practice human sacrifice.
- A big point in Tales of Symphonia is dealing with this. Partly due to a not-so-evil-evil-being that's redealt with in the sequel at first then it hits really close to home for The Hero.
- Spelunky allows players to sacrifice to Kali humanoid enemies such as cavemen, Man Eating Plants, yetis, Cultists, and damsels that you could have rescued instead. Granted, sacrificing a live maiden gets you a lot of favor from Kali.
- A few are required in God of War at various points. In the first game, to open one door in the Temple of Pandora, Kratos must burn a man alive (which manages to get under his skin). In the second game, to reach the Fates, one must sacrifice himself after reading the incantation to do so - and since Kratos has a translator doing the reading...
- Jedoga Shadowseeker from World of Warcraft attempts to sacrifice a mook to an Eldritch Abomination. If the players can't kill the mook first, the boss Turns Red and can easily kill everyone.
- Humanoid sacrifice is also a widespread custom of the demons, Old Gods and loas followers.
- Has shown up in both Team Ico Series games so far: Ico himself is bound and left to die in a haunted castle, and Mono was apparently sacrificed due to a cursed fate shortly before Shadow of the Colossus starts.
- A couple of quests in Romancing Saga involve Virgin Sacrifices; in one case, the player can actually abandon the poor girl to her fate, leaving the quest unfinished and earning major points with the evil gods. On top of this, the player can actually engage in this themselves by venturing into the Netherworld, meeting Death, and sacrificing one of their own party members in exchange for power. Notably, Death always takes the second character in the party, which basically means he's targeting whoever you've been traveling the longest with...
- This is the purpose the Bhaalspawn in the Baldur's Gate series are meant to fulfill. Sired by the dead god of murder Bhaal who had foreseen his own death, the countless Bhaalspawn each possess a sliver of divine essence. Their only purpose was to die — something made easier by all of them struggling with murderous instincts and being Doom Magnets — and thus release their essence. Then Bhaal's former high priestess Amelissan could harness the essence and revive Bhaal with it. Even the player character helps the plan along since he is forced to kill some of the last and strongest Bhaalspawn (other than himself/herself of course) near the end of the series. Ultimately the plan fails, because Amelissan harbored ambitions of godhood for herself.
- Three of the four Fatal Frame games had the failure of one of these being the reason the area you are in is haunted. In order:
- In the first game, the Rope Shrine Maiden was a girl/woman who had to be violently ripped apart by ropes in the Strangling Ritual in order to maintain the seal on the Hell Gate beneath the mansion. One of these girls, Kirie, fell in love with a man who was then killed by her family, resulting in her becoming depressed and causing her Strangling Ritual to fail to seal the Gate.
- In the second game, the village had to perform the Crimson Sacrifice Ritual, which involved taking sets of twins down to the Hellish Abyss, and having one of the twins kill his or her sibling. One set of twins, Yae and Sae, attempt to run away before their ritual. Sae is caught and sacrificed alone, which fails to appease the Abyss.
- In the third game, a Tattooed Priestess has to undergo several rituals in order to seal away the sadness and despair of her worshippers, with the final one, The Impalement, resulting in either her eternal slumber or her demise. During Reika's final ritual, she watches the man she loved die right in front of her, which causes the Manor of Sleep to be engulfed in The Rift.
- Legacy of Kain: This is done by the Hash'ak'gik cult to their (or others'?) firstborn.
- A purely technical version occurs in Warhammer 40000 Dawn of War: Winter Assault. The Imperial Guard's basic infantry units have Commissars, who can kill a random member of the unit in order to cause a fear-induced performance boost in the rest.
- The Oracle in Fahrenheit possesses anyone for a sacrifice to find the Indigo Child.
- This, of all things, is present in Terraria. Quote from The Guide: "In order to summon the keeper of the Underworld, you have to perform a live sacrifice. Everything you need to do so can be found in the Underworld." Little does he realise that what drops down there are Guide Voodoo Dolls...
- The Rite of Forfeit and Rite of Feasting in Solatorobo both require one; Elh is not happy about this fact.
- A subtle one in Final Fantasy X: this is essentially how Aeons are created, they are the dreams of the Fayth. A Fayth is a person whose soul is —willingly or else— sealed in a special kind of statue, they are essentially dead. One of the Fayth is a little boy.
- In Dark Souls the Way of the White captures and sacrifices undead to fuel the First Flame. If you go with the Rekindle ending, you sacrifice yourself this way.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, in order to start a quest to get special armor from the daedric prince Boethiah, you have to sacrifice one of your followers.
- In King's Quest VI, a sect of Druids that Alexander stumbles across capture him and attempt to burn him to death over a bonfire as part of their Rain Festival. It actually works, in an odd way, as Alexander only survives because beforehand he had prepared magic water that needed to be boiled to produce rain, thus fulfilling the festival's need, putting out the fire, and convincing the Druids he's a powerful nature wizard.
- In Crusader Kings II, Norse and Aztec Pagans engage in this.
- Vella (originally nicknamed Sacrifice Girl) in Broken Age is part of a ancient ritual where villages offer young women to a massive monster in order to prevent it from destroying them. Only the villagers seem far too happy over the proceedings and actually compete with each other over who has the best "feast".
- Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs: We find out there is an actual, tangible power to be obtained from human sacrifices, but the ones who found out, the Aztecs, weren't able to really get the scale needed to get anything significant, or at least useful to our villain's purposes. But it just happens that in more advanced ages, the whole process can be mechanized and industrialized... let's just say, a good chunk of London's population is never seen again.
- Hinamizawa's festival used to be about this.
- This is also Hanyuu's origin: she was a normal human once, but she was sacrificed to become a presiding deity over the shrine.
- In Umineko: When They Cry Beatrice needs human sacrifices to be resurrected, which is why Kinzo is orchestrating the murders except he's not, because he's been dead for two years prior to the beginning of the series. Later on it also becomes clear that the murders aren't meant to be human sacrifices.
- Played surprisingly neutrally in Kagetsu Tohya with Nanako, the spirit inside the Seventh Scripture. Arihiko is initially horrified and angry to learn that she was sacrificed to be joined to a unicorn spirit (long story) and made into a holy relic. However, she replies that she was happy do it, volunteered for it and was proud to have something useful she could do with her life. Still doesn't resent it. The mother who sold her into this service though, eventually wasted away and died out of guilt, spending her time apologizing to nothing despite being pretty well off for after the transaction. Nanako, who watched all this happen, was more depressed about this than her actual sacrifice, and decided to disperse her consciousness afterwards... until she met Ciel, who she quite likes despite her constantly remodeling her.
- Similar to the above, Angra Mainyu/Avenger in Fate/stay night and the sequel came into being when a village seeking something to blame for their own sinful impulses declared an ordinary man to be the source of all evil. Unlike the above, this was a horrible fate for the man who spent the rest of his life being subjected to every possible evil the villagers could imagine, ending only when he died of natural causes. He is understandably resentful of humanity.
- Kanshou and Bakuya, Archer's signature swords, are based on the legend of a married duo of blacksmiths who were tasked with forging a divine weapon for the Emperor. Realizing they could not meet his demands without a sacrifice, the wife threw herself into the furnace.
- In The Gamers Alliance, there are several attempted and successful human sacrifices. The Totenkopfs and the Sirithai in particular are fond of this little pastime.
- Happens more than once in the Whateley Universe. In the second Carmilla story, the Goths of Superhero School Whateley Academy attempt to sacrifice Carmilla to a dark god to gain a boon. Since Carmilla is only partly human, this goes drastically wrong. In a couple Bladedancer stories, the Tong of the Black Madonna commits human sacrifices by the dozen to perform their magical attacks on Bladedancer.
- At the end of their service, priests of Kahek in the Haskhian Inscriptions sacrifice themselves to their god.
- In the Justice League episode "The Terror Beyond", Hawkgirl mentions that her home planet, Thanagar, used to worship the Eldritch Abomination Icthultu and sacrifice people to it in exchange for knowledge. They eventually decided this was a bad idea. Dr Fate tries to perform the Thanagarian ritual sacrifice to prevent Icthultu from gaining access to our universe. Since his subject is the zombie Solomon Grundy, he would have just resurrected eventually (and in fact does during Justice League Unlimited, though it's shown that he Came Back Wrong), but either way, the Justice League interrupts the sacrifice before it can be completed.
- In the TV special Garfield in Paradise, a native princess (and her cat) are nearly sacrificed to a volcano.Turns out the volcano was more of a car guy.
- Rolf: The beast circles with hunger, we must appease it with a sacrifice! Ed, Edd n Eddy, "The Day the Ed Stood Still"
- Ra apparently requires "more-or-less human sacrifice".
- This is what supposedly happens in the South Park episode "Britney's New Look."
- Many human cultures have practiced human sacrifice, but none on a scale to match the Aztecs or Mexico. Their entire empire was organized mainly to secure sacrificial victims to appease hungry gods who would destroy the universe if not steadily fed. Since a brave warrior was believed to be the sacrifice most pleasing to the gods, the Aztecs forced their subject-ally nations to fight staged "flower wars" with them, the only purpose of which was for each side to take captives from the other, for sacrifice. Aztec infantry tactics and weapons, therefore, aimed at crippling rather than killing their opponents. This later proved a disadvantage when they had to fight the Spanish.
- Which explains a great deal about Mayincatec.
- It should be added that the "flower wars," as any scholar of pre-Columbian Mexican history will tell you, were conducted at a high level of protocol, at least by the standards of the civilization that practiced them. Far from being treated as slaves, the doomed captives were treated with enormous respect and were even the guests of honor at a lavish banquet to celebrate the coming sacrifice. For men who were going to get their hearts ripped out of their chests, it was about as pleasant a send-off as one could imagine.
- Often times. Unfortunately for many, this was not exactly the case, as those who did not go alone were simply slaughtered outright, and those who couldn't comprehend probably didn't have it any better. Not to mention the strains of having a hundred or so of your people- and keep in mind that this is on a continent that had been technologically surpassed in most ways by Eurasia for about a two thousand or so years and so had very low population densities- who were almost always fit and valuable members of society getting jumped off in these wars for sacrifice had on everybody else. There was a good reason why by the time the Spanish came, the locals were VERY eager to help them.
- With the possible exception of the Ancient Semitic cultures. The Bible mentions human sacrifice on many instances, and archaeology has confirmed the Biblical claims.
- Several idol-furnaces of Molech have been discovered, which were used for roasting babies alive. There's a reason why his name has been reused for demons in modern mythologies.
- Carthage famously had human sacrifices, especially of young children. There appears to have been a complex set of rules governing the practice; it seems that in general, child sacrifice was only practiced in times of extreme crisis, and only by the agreement of all the leading families (Carthage was a republic ruled primarily by its rich/noble citizens), each of which would have to give up a child. During the Punic Wars, the Romans found this habit of the Carthaginians to be particularly disgusting. (This may also have been the Romans projecting a bit—they had recently abolished human sacrifices themselves, and this tradition did survive and evolved into the Gladiator Games).
- Ironically, during the Second Punic War, with Hannibal's army at its doorstep, Romans themselves resorted to human sacrifice—the last official human sacrifice in Roman history.
- Herbert Mullin killed thirteen people due to his belief that murder would appease nature, and stop it from destroying California with earthquakes.
- Adolfo Constanzo and his cult committed an unknown number of human sacrifices, for what appeared to be vaguely religious reasons, and because they believed it would help their drug trafficking prosper.
- The Norse would tie a slave to the slipway of a newly launched ship to be ritually crushed. As some of their ships were intended for distasteful activities it kind of figures.
- Human sacrifice - called muti is still practised today amongst certain Nigerian peoples.
- The Etruscans, and later the Romans practiced a form of human sacrifice until it was officially outlawed during the Republic era. That didn't prevent some people from occasionally doing it anyway. The practice did evolve into the famous Gladiator Games.
- Older Than Dirt, it is evident that most ancient societies practices such at least at sometimes in history. Cue some of the bog mummies and a lot of ancient grave sites.
- The old Hindu tradition of Sati (or Suttee) in which a widow burns herself alive to join her husband in death. The British government found this custom distasteful for some odd reason and suppressed it. In the words of Charles Napier, the East India Company Commissioner in Sindh:
"Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."
- The origins of irrigation technology in China is said to have been because government minister Ximen Bao convinced the people that human sacrifices were not necessary to stop the flood as all they needed to do was divert the flow. Other forms of human sacrifices existed in forms of burying servants with the deceased. All forms of human sacrifice was officially banned in 384 BC.
- The Celts commonly murdered humans to their gods, normally in pretty brutal ways. Normally these victims would be captives from battle. However they would sometimes use it as a punishment. for instance if crops failed they would kill some of the fathers. In times of emergency they would round people into a wicker man and burn them alive (some historians dispute this, but there are Celtic legends of similar happenings occurring, such as victims being chained in their home, and then the Celts setting it on fire). As most of what we know about them was written by the Romans, these claims may have been exaggerated. However archaeological evidence has proven it did happen.