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Human Sacrifice

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Sacrifices humains by Pierre Fritel, 1882

"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."
Lord Summerisle, The Wicker Man (1973)

The act of killing a human being in a ritualistic manner, often as an offering to a deity, demon or some other supernatural entity. 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.

In fiction, this includes the sacrifice of other intelligent beings. 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. Martyrdom Cultures tend to regard this as a noble way to die, and Mayincatec is replete with this.

Note: 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... And woe be unto you if you screw up the procedure.


When this shows up in media, it's usually the driver for a rescue plot, though in the case of horror, it is not uncommon for the protagonists to fail. Or to wind up sacrificed themselves.

This is Truth in Television, almost to the extent that we could believably say every ancient culture in the world performed human sacrifice at some point or another. However, some of those cases are backed by archaeological findings while others are more based on accusations by the enemies of the people involved, and needlessly to say, modern media often focuses more on this as a trait of certain exotic cultures rather than an universal antropological happening.

A subtrope of Offerings to the Gods.




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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • A necessary part of demonic pacts in the Bible Black. In the backstory, one of these 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Knights of Darius in Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu take blood sacrifices before doing battle.
  • 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 awaken her spirit in the first episode.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the people of ancient times activated the Stone Masks with the blood of sacrificed humans. Turns out this was overkill, since it doesn't take that much blood to activate the Masks.
  • 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.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid:
    • While Order-class dragons helped people grow stronger and become better, Elma reveals they typically required humans to sacrifice themselves to help others in their group (Elma herself preferred offerings of high quality meals).
    • Tohru actually complained about the cliche of young maidens always being the sacrifices back when she first met Kobayashi.
      Tohru: Yesh!! Don't think that all dragons are lolicons who ask for little girl sacrifices!! Princess moe my ass!!
  • In Monsters Can't Clean, Kriela's village offer her up to be eaten by a dragon. It's not that they wanted to do it, but the dragon (Idoru the Gluttonous) is very real and willing to massacre everyone if his demands are not met. When someone actually trained in combat shows up, the villagers happily point her to the dragon's hideout.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • It's not brought up in much detail, but there are several points in Red River (1995) where it's made apparent that human sacrifice is considered an acceptable practice, at least for Ishtar. When Nakia first kidnaps Yuri to Hattusa, her cover story for having Yuri Bound and Gagged is that she was being kept as a sacrifice for a public ceremony. Kail is only able to save her by pretending that Yuri is not a virgin and thus not usable (it's also mentioned that there's a set amount of livestock that makes for suitable reparation for such a sacrifice). Later, after Nakia has Yuri kidnapped and Kail has no idea how to find her, he angrily imprisons Nakia and tells her that he'll be holding a city-wide prayer ceremony for Yuri's return. If she doesn't conveniently show up before it's over, he'll use Nakia as a sacrifice for the ceremony. He's angry enough about it that Nakia takes the threat seriously and has Urhi return Yuri.
  • 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 Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, a girl volunteers herself as this in a ritual that will keep the Blue-Eyes White Dragon protecting the village.
  • The job of Heroes in Yuki Yuna is a Hero and the rest of the Yuusha De Aru series comes down to this. It also borders on a Virgin Sacrifice as Heroes are all preteen and early teen girls who are particularly "pure", but whatever that means isn't elaborated. Heroes fight to protect the world and World Tree from Vertexes. They usually either lose their lives in battle or become increasingly disabled as they fight. Sometimes, the Taisha have to resort to more conventional sacrifices if they can't use the Heroes by killing equally young mikos. The morality of sacrificing children comes up in the second season when Yuna must marry Shinju-sama and essentially die, or the world will be destroyed.

    Comic Books 
  • Age of Bronze: Kalchas claims that in order to turn the wind that keeps the ships locked into the bay at Aulis, a maiden needs to be sacrificed to Artemis -a daughter of Agamemnon, since he's the one who ticked her off. Iphigenia is lured to Aulis under false pretences and duly sacrificed, to the protest of few.
  • In Athena Voltaire and the Feathered Serpent, summoning the titular serpent properly requires a human sacrifice. Athena's escape means that the summoning is done improperly (meaning fatally, for a lot of the Nazis involved).
  • 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.
  • Human tribes in ElfQuest have a habit of doing this with Elves. The very first episode starts with a torture scene. If a human helped an elf escape, they took their place on the sacrificial pillar. The Forevergreen arc also has the Hungtsho make these on Door and Windkin's behalf, whom they view as gods.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #24, the Rube Gold Berg Hates Your Guts Death Trap requires the sacrifice of a full-blooded Indian female indigenous to area who is dropped on to a slab to tip it and smash it through the wall. Whether the sacrifice is actually necessary, or just an equivalent weight, is unclear, but when Indy rescues the sacrifice, the whole process goes catastrophically wrong.
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Starman Annual #1, the Prairie Witch kidnapped Opal City police officer William O'Dare in the 1940s and planned to sacrifice him so that her future crimes would be successful. However, Ted Knight, the original Starman, rescued him before she could do so.
  • During one of her time-travels, the protagonist of Lilith finds that the Triacanto of that era has hidden itself in one of Cortez' men but she doesn't know which one... So, after helping the Aztecs capturing them, she personally kills them one by one under the guise of human sacrifice until she finds the right one.
  • In Lori Lovecraft: My Favorite Redhead, Dick Van Von and Natasha Reich sacrifice a Disposable Sex Worker to summon the demon Bifrons. Later they attempt to sacrifice Lori to summon another demon.
  • In the My Boyfriend Is a Monster volume with a mummy boyfriend, the mummy in question was an Inca prince who was drugged and left to freeze to death on a mountainside as a sacrifice, all for learning forbidden magic. The end of the book has the prince give more information about how his culture viewed human sacrifice, notably how it was considered an honor.
  • In Robyn Hood: The Curse #5, the Big Bad performs an Aztec human sacrifice by the cutting the heart of his living victim, atop his new skyscraper (which is shaped like a pyramid) to open the gate between worlds and summon Quetzalcoatl.
  • Rulah, Jungle Goddess: There are multiple stories in which Rulah has to prevent other tribes from practising human sacrifice: often in quite gruesome and inventive ways.
  • Simon Dark: Dall Moss knew bringing Simon to life would cause a demonic entity to come through the veil alongside him and kill one of those performing the ceremony, but he intended this sacrifice to be Gus and the thing took Dall instead.
  • Some of the villains in Tex Willer tried to do this. Most notably the Kuchtaqa kidnap young women from other tribes to sacrifice them to Hamatsa, the Cannibal God... Who, much to everyone's horror, actually shows up to pick up his "brides". When Tex arrives he exposes Hamatsa as a giant puppet that looks like a Humanoid Abomination, meaning the "brides" aren't killed in a sacrifice, but raped by the great priest and those who are in the scam.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Urzkartaga, who grants Cheetah her powers, is a cruel evil god who requires his worshipers to sacrifice humans to him by draining their blood, which caused his temple to be hidden and all refrences to him destroyed in an attempt to drain him of his power.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016):
      • Steve Trevor was drawn in to Themyscira by magic to be an innocent killed on the island as part of Ares' plan to unmake the magical boundaries.
      • Zeus' plan involves regularly scheduled human sacrifices to strengthen him.
  • Mampato:
    • In a story set in the time of King Arthur, Mampato is captured and almost, almost sacrificed by a druid... who worships Nordic gods like Odin and Thor, at Stonehenge.
    • In another adventure located in prehistory, there is a tribe of cavemen, the Munga-mungas, who sacrifice their enemies to a "God of Water", which turns out to be a plesiosaur.
  • In Runaways, the Gibborim are nourished by human souls. However, they cannot feed on the souls of people they kill themselves. They can only feed on souls that are sacrificed to them. This also applies to their children introduced in the 2017 series, which leads to problems when one of them, Gib, joins the Runaways after turning against his siblings to save humanity. They don't want him to starve to death, but they also don't want to kill people to feed him.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Schippeitaro", the young man finds a village that has to make these, to the Spirit of the Mountain.
  • In "The Imp Prince", the protagonist Léandre saves a girl from being sacrificed in a temple.

    Fan Works 
  • Casey Steele: In Casey's backstory, she was kidnapped by a Satanic cult and sacrificed to an unnamed deity. She got better.
  • Domoverse: This is attempted on Estelle, twice, by cultists trying to bring their god to Earth by powering their ritual with human sacrifice.
  • The Female Of The Species: Lions have a ritual where new kings kill cubs that aren't theirs. This is both done to appease the Great Spirit but also to make certain who the next heir is.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles: In War for the Lost City, a flashback reveals that Shadow Corrupter was subject to this at the age of thirteen, back when he was known as Gleaming Path. The cult that his parents belonged to had spent centuries trying to conceive a child at the date when the Corrupted Shadow was killed, so that they would serve as its new vessel in a sacrificial ritual. This lead to Gleaming Path to become Shadow Corrupter, and what made him the new leader of the cult.
  • Lost Cities: In the end of the first chapter, it's implied that the unicorns of the Heartspire had take up the habit of sacrificing earth pony captives in an altar at the top of their tower.
  • RWBY: Scars: Members of the Salem-worshipping cult practice human sacrifice. This often includes feeding live people (especially Hunters) to Grimm.
  • Subverted in Slipping Between Worlds: modern druids understand how difficult it is to find a young woman of untarnished reputation — and plainly renunced to Virgin Sacrifice because we're in Ankh-Morpok — and stand for making a metaphorical sacrifice by dousing the victim in false blood at the climax. The sacrifice is made, the gods don't complain and the girl can enjoy her Sunday afternoons.
  • Transition: The first chapter has Jinx and Raven having sex before the former sacrifices the latter at her request, It Makes Sense in Context although it takes a while to find out How We Got Here.
  • What The Water Gave Me: Stoick is forced to throw his five-year-old son off of a cliff by his village as an offering to the gods.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.
  • Parodied in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, when King Julian suggests throwing one of their number into a volcano to bring rain. (While the cast are animals, they all act like humans in the context of the film).
    King Julian: What, so now it's crazy to throw a giraffe in a volcano to make rain?
    Gloria: YES!
  • Moana: Maui tells Moana that the entrance to the Realm of Monsters requires a human sacrifice. Moana starts to freak out until he laughs and says he was just joking.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Apocalypto is all about this until an eclipse stops the proceedings and sets up the Stern Chase of the second half.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, it is established that in order to retrieve the Soul Stone, a person must sacrifice a loved one. In the stone-keeper's words, "A soul for a soul." Thanos murders his daughter Gamora to claim it in Infinity War, and in Endgame, Black Widow sacrifices herself so Hawkeye can take it.
  • The Beastmaster: A child is being offered up as a sacrifice to the evil god Aar on top of a pyramid. He gets thrown in the fire. The second child is about to be sacrificed. The Beastmaster sends his falcon animal pal to grab the infant and fly her 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 Cabin in the Woods centers around a shadowy global organization that sacrifices people to monsters from horror stories of their cultures (zombies for Americans, Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl for the Japanese, etc.) every year in order to appease the Ancient Ones and ensure humanity's survival. One of the members remarks that in the old days they could just throw a woman into a volcano.
  • A particularly evil version in Cabiria. The Carthaginians routinely sacrifice small children to Moloch, by throwing them into a fire pit. Cabiria is rescued just in the nick of time.
  • 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.
  • Clash of the Titans. The Greek city of Joppa tries to sacrifice Andromeda to the Kraken to placate a vengeful goddess, but Perseus saves her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Peter is forced to commit a human sacrifice at the end of the bizarre Initiation Ceremony that opens Curse of the Crimson Altar.
  • Dagon (2001): Barbara in the end.
  • Dead Birds: The ritual that Hollister performed to try and reach his wife requires the brutal torture and murder of an unknown number of victims.
  • Deadtime Stories: In "Peter and the Witches", the witches have to sacrifice a young woman as the climax of the ritual to restore their sister to life.
  • The Devil Rides Out, as with a lot of devil cult movies, has the Big Bad trying to sacrifice someone near the end — in this case, the young daughter of the main family of the movie.
  • Devil's Prey (2001)
  • 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.
  • The Eagle (2011): The Seal People sacrificed the Roman officers they captured in battle.
  • Eye of the Devil, which came out six years before The Wicker Man, has a very similar plot, involving a Town with a Dark Secret that is preparing a human sacrifice in order to restore failing crops. The difference is that in this one the victim is a believer in the local Cult and goes to his death willingly.
  • 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 received.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: Most of "M"'s followers sacrifice themselves in the orgy/ritual to summon the Homunculus.
  • The Final Sacrifice, of course. Apparently necessary to summon an invincible army of Canadian Aztecs or something.
    Tom: Please, can we have just one more sacrifice?
    Mike: Okay, but this is the final sacrifice.
    Tom: Yay!
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Savages try to sacrifice a woman to their centaur deity, but Sinbad saves her.
  • In The Hazing, Professor Kapps kills Jill and is using her as a human sacrifice to complete the ritual in the Tome of Eldritch Lore. However, before he is finished, he is interrupted by Marsha and Doug.
  • Hellbound: A human of royal blood needs to be sacrificed by the villain to open the gates of Hell.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: Vortigern kills both his wife and daughter for power from the eldritch creatures, though he's very upset about it both times. It doesn't stop him though.
  • King Kong (1933). The natives capture Fay Wray's character to sacrifice her to the title creature.
  • The Lair of the White Worm. The villainess tries to sacrifice a woman to the title monster.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, Belial sacrifices another warlock, Max, against his wishes to bring the Witch Queen back.
  • Left Bank unfolds a story of a ritual sacrifice being performed to ensure fertility of the crops every seven years.
  • The Little Hours: Massetto is staged for sacrifice after the witches' fertility ritual.
  • In The Mask of Fu Manchu, the Chinese villain is about to sacrifice a white woman to bring Genghis Khan back to life.
  • Midsommar: Over the course of a festival that takes place only every 90 years, the cultists of Hårga sacrifice nine people (four local volunteers, four hapless outsiders, and one select).
  • In The Mummy (1999), Imhotep seeks to sacrifice Evey in order to bring back the woman he loved, Anck-Su-Namun.
  • In Pig Hunt, the hippie cult captures captures people and sacrifices them by feeding them to the 3000 lb boar they worship.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Wicker Man (1973): 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.
  • The Witch Files: After the coven spoils Jules' attempt to become immortal by being crowned, she announces that she can achieve the same end through human sacrifice, and abducts Jason to be her victim. Claire and MJ chase after her to stop her.
  • The Ashikari cultists of X-Cross cut off women's legs as a ritual, also turning their corpses into scarecrows, according to Mononobe to keep disasters at bay, and also to prevent women from leaving the village.
  • As a lost tribe of Aztecs, the Tulpani still practise human sacrifice in Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold.

  • H. P. Lovecraft's stories:
    • "The Call of Cthulhu" 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).
    • In "The Dreams in the Witch House", the eponymous witch practices child sacrifice.
  • Alien by Igor Dravin (Чужак, Игорь Дравин):
  • In A Memory Called Empire, the Teixcalaan empire is based on, among others, the Aztec, so of course they practice a fair bit. Human sacrifice is considered somewhat unusual in the modern age, but are still performed by volunteers (who usually do the deed themselves) for significant events. During Mahit's stay on Teixcalaan, she's witness so a supporter of the general One Lightning sacrificing himself in the hopes of giving One Lightning success in battle, and Emperor Six Direction sacrifices himself to legitimize his successor, and give her enough good PR to immediately end the Succession Crisis that was starting up. In a bit of Blue-and-Orange Morality, sacrifices are required by law to be volunteers not because it's inhumane to kill, but because picking out someone or taking someone random would take the chance of having that honor away from someone more dedicated.
  • 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 sacrifice on a scale unseen since the Aztecs.
    • Odin and Loki's plan is to start a war between the Old Gods and the New. Dedicating the divine blood spilled to Odin and the chaos to Loki.
  • Necromancy in An Army of the Dead involves human sacrifice. In the case where it was used in the story, an entire army is sacrificed. Strangely enough, by the good guys, and for good reason.
  • In The Barbarian and the Sorceress, Barnabus attempts to sacrifice Rom to summon an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Torak's Religion of Evil in The Belgariad collects its own followers' hearts at a prodigious rate: on one holy day, each major temple sacrifices 1110 people, the majority of the year's offerings. The culture of one Angarak nation revolves around avoiding being chosen: males spend their time saving to buy slaves to send in their place, while women stay perpetually pregnant to disqualify themselves. When Garion learns in The Malloreon that the sacrifices continued even after he killed Torak, he is appalled. Fortunately, he gets to nominate Torak's replacement.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia:
  • 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 (1973).
  • Not a rare custom in the world of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories:
    • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome institutes this as part of the Religion of Evil.
    • In the Back Story of "The Devil in Iron".
    • In "Xuthal of the Dusk", Thalis dismisses how the god Thog claims victims as no worse than this; Conan disallows because you don't need either.
      When I was a child in Stygia the people lived under the shadow of the priests. None ever knew when he or she would be seized and dragged to the altar. What difference whether the priests give a victim to the gods, or the god comes for his own victim?
    • In "The Vale of Lost Women", Livia runs into this.
    • In "Shadows In Zamboula", this is to be Conan's fate:
      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.
  • Obviously, in the Aztec Empire depicted in El Conquistador there are plenty of this. But also in the Europes, as they sacrifice heretics, witches and stuff to the almighty man in the sky.
  • This is a common motif in the Mythopoeia of The Crocodile God, as it focuses on the precolonial Tagalog culture of the Philippines, and their shared cultural ties with ancient Polynesians. However, this does not make it a Religion of Evil; sacrifices were mainly practiced out of desperation, ironically to one of their NICEST gods—Haik, the Tagalog sea-god as well as the title's crocodile-god. In Mirasol's first lifetime, she was a chief's daughter who was (almost) ritually drowned as an offering to Haik because the village was suffering a drought, but he rescued her and gave them a dying whale for food. It's implied that this is why Haik began their Reincarnation Romance several lifetimes later, as he notes that she's been spiritually open to connecting with him ever since.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, LeFel has long searched for the three humans he must sacrifice for his Cool Gate.
  • Deeplight: Before they tore each other apart in the Cataclysm, the gods were appeased by sacrificing randomly selected islanders. In truth, the sacrifices themselves meant nothing. It was the fear of the surviving people that fed them.
  • Diana Tregarde: In Burning Water, the "Texas Ripper" murders (thought to be the work of an ordinary serial killer by the cops) are actually a series of sacrifices to the Aztec gods.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • In 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 (that, and it'd mean she spent her teenage years staying at home on weekends for nothing).
    • Guards! Guards!: When a dragon takes over the city, a suggestion is put forward to sacrifice a virgin to it to prevent any flame-related "incidents". It's noted that most of Ankh-Morpork's religions are very specific on the subject of sacrificing folk: Only criminals. Of course, refusing to be sacrificed voluntarily is a criminal offense...
  • Doc Savage: The Shimba attempt to sacrifice Pat savage as part of a ritual to convince his followers of his magical powers in Land of Long Juju.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In general, there is the Death Curse a wizard can produce. This is a sacrifice of self wherein the wizard uses the last bits of life and magic they have inside to unleash a powerful, and usually fatal, attack on his or her enemies.
    • Summer Knight: It isn't that the person is special, but rather the Big Bad infused the would-be sacrifice with the mantle of the Summer Knight. If she kills the sacrifice on the Altar of the Stone Table on the Summer Solstice, the power will be given to Winter rather than returning to Summer as it should. The imbalance will give Winter an edge and decisive victory over Summer, resulting in the next ice age.
    • Death Masks: Nicodemus utilizes a human sacrifice as part of a plague's power source. He originally wants Harry, being a wizard, but when his nemesis Shiro, a modern-day paladin offers himself in Harry's place, Nicodemus makes the swap.
    • Blood Rites:
      • The evil coven sacrifices one of their own number of ex-wives to unleash a powerful bad luck curse on a woman who was suspected of going to marry their ex-husband and risk ruining their alimony. They chose her because she thought a girl named Inari was also a potential wife to their ex and tried killing Inari, not realizing Inari is the daughter of the coven's magical benefactor Lord Raith. Her father wasn't amused at all by that.
      • The coven's plan involves using Thomas Raith, a friendly vampire (and also son of the aforementioned Lord Raith), to empower the curse to kill Harry Dresden because Harry and Thomas are the last known bloodline of Thomas and Harry's mom, who cursed Lord Raith years ago with her Death Curse to not be able to feed on people, castrating him and his goals.
    • It's also referred to in the backstory of a character in Proven GuiltyCharity reveals that she was an attempted sacrifice to a dragon, until Michael showed up to save her. The result was a Rescue Romance.
    • Changes:
      • Queen Mab requires Harry to kill the tortured, broken, and traitorous Winter Knight he seeks to replace in exchange for her power and help. The sacrifice had his tongue removed, eyes gone, body now tiny and frail from only getting enough nutrition to survive, and on his body were tattoos of the word "traitor" in many languages.
      • When Harry arrives at the home of the Red King, a priestess is offered to Harry as a would-be sacrifice. He refuses, to the irritation of his fairy godmother because she hasn't made a virgin sacrifice in ages.
      • The Red Court Vampires have built up a powerful magical curse to destroy Harry by sacrificing hundreds of people to prepare the curse, and at the right moment, the key sacrifice would unleash it. They plan to sacrifice Harry's daughter, who he didn't even know existed 96 hours before hand. Harry is able to turn this against them by sacrificing Susan, mother of Harry's child, and just-turned full vampire. She resists her inner demon and lets Harry kill her on the alter, so she, now the youngest of the Red Court, will spread the curse to every single elder member of the court.
    • Skin Game: The Gate of Blood, the final gate into one of Hades' personal vaults requires not just a human sacrifice, but one who will die willingly so their ghost may pull the lever to open the gate. Nicodemus sacrifices his own daughter because she is the only one he is certain will actually help him.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea: In The Tombs of Atuan, the God-King sends prisoners to the tombs as a sacrifice to the Nameless Ones. Arha must decree how they are to be sacrificed. (She has Past Experience Nightmares after.) Her own dedication was set up as a feigned this — a man wielded an sword as if to cut her head off, and was stopped.
  • Eddie LaCrosse: In The Sword-Edged Blonde, Queen Rhiannon was found with what appeared to be the remnants of a baby in a pot surrounded by occult runes, so the obvious conclusion is that she killed her son as part of a magical/religious ritual. She didn't — the baby was kidnapped and the Queen was framed.
  • The priests preparing to sacrifice Carthena in The Eye of Argon.
  • 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.
  • Fire and Hemlock: Polly's hobbies include making up stories, a pastime in which she is joined by an adult by the name of Tom Lynn. Much like Tam Lin, he is the destined human sacrifice, paid to hell or something similar, for the immortality of someone else. It is implied that he can be saved if he can keep Polly as his friend for a defined period of time, but of course, it doesn't go so smoothly.
  • In The Folk Keeper, when the Folk become unruly, one of the ways they can be calmed is through a human sacrifice. However, this is generally not considered to be a morally acceptable method, and Folk Keepers are employed to placate the Folk through other means. Sir Edward, however, has been making human sacrifices to the Folk in secret.
  • 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 The Girl from the Well, the villagers of Aitou ritually sacrificed young girls. Their high priest made them think it was necessary in order to hold shut a Hellgate, when in fact the sacrifices were intended to give him the power to control the hellgate.
  • The Heartstrikers:
    • During the magical drought, the oldest dragons couldn't survive without the ambient magic. While many went to sleep, some, including Julius's grandfather the Quetzalcoatl, turned to human sacrifice to limp along. It wasn't enough to save him when his daughter Bethesda decided to kill him.
    • It's mentioned, however, that humans are by far the least magical species. Even during the drought, when they were the only ones besides dragons who had any magic whatsoever, it was such an incredibly small amount as to be not even worth mentioning. Therefore, what little human sacrifice dragons were doing during the drought disappeared entirely afterwards.
      Amelia: So long as the teleporting gets done, I don't care if you make the circle out of orphan hearts.
      Svena: [confused] What are you talking about? The hearts of children without parents are no more magical than the hearts of any other child, which is to say not very magical at all. You know perfectly well that humans are a vastly inferior source for—
      Amelia: For the love of—it was a joke.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, the worst and most potent forms of Blood Magic are powered by sacrifice. For every rule there is an exception; a good form of human sacrifice (albeit voluntary self-sacrifice) is practiced, rarely, 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. And, as with the Dresden Files example above, mages can blow themselves up in a last-ditch desperation attack called Final Strike.
  • The House of Night: Two in Awakened, Jack(!) and Zoey's mother Linda (very nearly Zoey's Grandma!), both sacrificed by Neferet.
  • The Hunger Games: Tributes are sacrificed by the Capitol to remember the betrayal of District 13.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Roane once witnessed a ritual killing on another planet. A scene on Clio reminds her of it.
  • In The Iliad, Achilles captures twelve Trojan youths to sacrifice on his beloved Patrocles' funeral pyre.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: In The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus, captive, is brought before the altar for this. Ulysses Paxton saves him.
  • Stephanie Burgis' Kat, Incorrigible: In A Tangle of Magicks, Kat realizes that the young men are planning on a human sacrifice to Sulis Minerva.
  • Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story opens with a very Aztecish sacrifice.
  • Lammas Night has both sides getting involved with this. The Thulists in Germany routinely sacrifices people during their rituals, while the Oakbrook Manor coven in Britain expect a Heroic Sacrifice to be needed to protect the country (and their current High Priest has tagged himself for the role).
  • The Laundry Files 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 Lost Years of Merlin: Fincayran humans sacrificed dwarves and other races in the past, as the absolute nadir of their misdeeds. It's this which caused Dagda to remove their wings.
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". The lottery is an early-summer affair to choose the victim of a ritual stoning, implied to be a harvest offering.
  • Merkabah Rider: In "The Blood Libel", the Rider clashes with a Cult that is kidnapping children and sacrificing to the demon Moloch.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucien knows that Catarina will institute this once her plans are complete.
  • In The Night Mayor, the protagonists are trapped in a virtual reality realm built of old movie tropes. At one point, they're captured by an evil cult who try to sacrifice the female lead to their god.
  • Practiced by some of the cults on the Street of (the) Gods, which appears in a couple of Simon R. Green's Nightside novel series. It's widely regarded as unsavory, but it's not technically banned as long as it doesn't endanger the tourists.
  • Obsidian & 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.
  • In The Obsidian Trilogy, the Endarkened perform sacrifices of sapient beings (not just humans) as a standard part of magical rituals. They plan to perform one ritual in particular at the climax which would release their God of Evil from his banishment, but it requires an unwilling sacrificial victim, and one of the main characters foils it by switching places with the victim at the last second and dying willingly.
  • 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.
  • Old Kingdom: The only way a Charter Stone can be broken is if a Charter Mage is sacrificed upon it. To break one of the six Great Charter Stones, only the blood of one of the Great Charter bloodlines — the royals, the Abhorsens, and the Clayr — will do. The Big Bad of Sabriel, a renegade member of the royal family, had his two sisters sacrificed to break two of the Great Stones, and would have broken two more with the blood of his mother and half-brother had the Abhorsen not arrived.
  • 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.
  • A renowned anthropologist in Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus 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.)
  • 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.
  • In A Practical Guide To Evil some evil nations, such as Praes or Helike, practice human sacrifice to fuel magic rituals, such as making barren fields fertile or letting fortresses fly.
  • 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.
  • In Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower, human sacrifice is one of the most potent ways to empower a god, as faith and sacrifice provides gods with their most potent power. A willing sacrifice is even moreso, and can empower a deity to make major miracles happen in return. Most willing sacrifices are worked out well in advance by contract, with the deity being obligated to provide a miracle in return for the death of one of its followers.
  • The Reluctant King: Murugong demands human sacrifices by his worshippers. He isn't too choosy on just who his worshippers are, only that they provide this. Some magic also requires such a sacrifice, as related at the end of The Goblin King.
  • Repairman Jack: The immortality ritual in The Haunted Air requires annual child sacrifice.
  • 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.
  • 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 Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet: On his journey to Vastergotland in Sweden (which, unlike Norway, is still pagan), Hallfred is seized under false accusations of murdering a farmer, and after convening to judge him, the locals decide to offer the stranger as a sacrifice. However, Hallfred's innocence is revealed before the sentence is carried out.
  • In The Saga of the Borderlands, by the Argentinean writer Liliana Bodoc, the empire of the Lords of the Sun performs human sacrifices, especially of virgin princesses, a practice that to other peoples of the Fertile Lands it seems repugnant.
  • In Shaman Blues, the hallmark of Black Magic are sacrifices, which eventually escalate into human ones. The villain is suspected of having performed those, as the heroes find twelve skeletons in her basement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • At the end of the first book, Daenerys 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, since sacrificing royals apparently provides more power than sacrificing common men.
    • 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.
    • This seems to have been a fairly integral part of how the Old Gods were worshipped in the North, once. At one point, Brandon has a vision of ancient Starks slitting a captive's throat in front of Winterfell's heart tree. At another point, a character tells of a historical incident where a band of slavers were captured by Northern soldiers and given over to their slaves, who tore them limb from limb and hung their entrails on a weirwood's branches to honor the gods.
  • Special Circumstances: The first part of Princess of Wands features a cult that sacrifices people to first summon then feed an Eldritch Abomination they worship.
  • Star Wars Legends: 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 necessary 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 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.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, Istra's apparent fate.
  • Time Machine Series: 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.
  • 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.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Evil religions tend to practice this, specifically of virgins most often though other people too. The sacrifice being disemboweled, raped and or mutilated in some other way precedes this quite often.
  • The Traveler's Gate: Damasca takes nine citizens every year to sacrifice to the Hanging Trees of Ragnarus, which keep the Incarnations sealed. The series starts with Damascan soldiers wandering into Myria, a tiny village that isn't even aware they are part of Damasca and has no idea anything is expected of them. Apparently the soldiers are not normally supposed to take all the sacrifices from a single village, especially not such a small one. It's not clear why it was done differently in this case.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, The Fair Folk pay the tithe in blood.
  • 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.
  • The post-apocalyptic Mexican regime in Victoria explicitly imitate their Aztec ancestors and follow a cannibalistic Religion of Evil loosely based on pre-Columbian paganism. Human sacrifice is also practiced on a lesser scale by the neo-pagans in Cascadia, once their leaders go full Axe-Crazy.
  • Prevalent in Warhammer 40,000 literature.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Being the victim of sacrifice was Turtle Heart's fate in Wicked. There was a major drought at Colwen Grounds. A rowdy crowd, incited by a prophecy-giving clock, killed him. His two lovers, Melena and Frexspar, never went back to Colwen Grounds afterwards. They instead became missionaries at Turtle Heart's home region.
  • 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.
  • In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Green Robes select victims with a Lottery of Doom.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam Adamant Lives!: In "The Last Sacrifice", a lord runs a satanic cult which conducts human sacrifices. He films prominent citizens being involved in the rituals and then uses it to blackmail them.
  • American Gods (2017):
    • It's noted several times that any sacrifice performed in a god's name empowers them, just like any other worship. They've also found a loophole: they can kill people themselves and gain the power that way.
    • Vulcan gets this by one person falling into the molten metal in his plant each year, and from everyone killed by the bullets produced.
    • At the end of season 1, Wednesday kills a number of Mr. World's mooks and dedicates their deaths to Easter in order to remind her what true worship feels like, instead of the half-baked stuff she's been getting by on due to her deal with the New Gods.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Aztecs", naturally. Barbara, posing as the god Yetaxa, attempts to halt the Aztecs' human sacrifice, but it doesn't take.
    • In "The Krotons", the Doctor rejects this on the grounds they are too civilized.
    • In "The Masque of Mandragora", Sarah Jane is nearly sacrificed by the Cult of Demnos.
    • In "The Horns of Nimon", the cargo are human sacrifices, in the same manner as the Athenians in the legend of Theseus.
    • In "Meglos", the Doctor is offered up to Ty — almost.
    • Donna nearly gets stabbed by the priestesses in a Roman temple in "The Fires of Pompeii".
  • Eerie, Indiana:
    • In "Tornado Days", the fake Mr. Radford and Sgt. Knight consider sacrificing Syndi, an innocent, chaste, unsuspecting maiden, to Old Bob in order to appease it.
    • In "Mr. Chaney", Eerie chooses a Harvest King every 13 years to ensure good luck and low taxes. The tradition dates back to 1914. Marshall has the dubious distinction of being chosen as the seventh Harvest King in 1992. It turns out that the previous six Harvest Kings were sacrificed to the werewolf Mr. Chaney. The town authorities claimed that all of them moved to Spain. Dash X prevents Marshall from being eaten by hitting the werewolf over the head with a log. Mr. Radford later cures Mr. Chaney of his lycanthropy by shooting him in the foot with a silver bullet.
  • Father Brown: In "The Standing Stones", a group of villagers plan to sacrifice an innocent in order to end an outbreak of polio.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The rebirth of dragons may be tied to Daenerys having Mirri Maz Duur burned alive, since only death may pay for life.
    • Subverted when Melisandre restrains Gendry after comparing blood magic to slaughtering a lamb. Instead, she only draws some blood for a smaller ritual since Davos has persuaded Stannis to demand proof before consenting. He later escapes with Davos's help before more can be done to him.
    • In the sixth season, Stannis consents to having his own daughter sacrificed, so they can life the winter storm that's stopping their march on Winterfell. His wife later killed herself in remorse over suggesting it.
  • An episode (or two? or more?) of Gilligan's Island had the Headhunters wanting to perform a human sacrifice.
  • Highlander: Duncan and his guide are captured by a tribe an evil immortal set himself up as head of. The guide is sacrificed, and the plan is to kill Duncan later, but the natives turn on their king when they get sick from eating the guide's flesh.
  • K-9 and Company: Brendan Richards is almost sacrificed by the Cult of Hecate but Sarah Jane and K-9 are able to rescue him in the nick of time.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Legacy of Terror". An ancient Aztec cult is performing human sacrifice to bring back their deity.
  • Lexx: The "Cleansing" at the end of the first season had the entire population of the League of 20,000 Planets feed themselves to the Gigashadow. This was the masterstroke of the Divine Shadow aka the Last Insect's strategy of using humans to defeat themselves.
  • 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.
  • Midsomer Murders: The killings in "Murder by Magic" ultimately centre around an ancient human sacrifice, and someone's attempt to recreate in the present day.
  • 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.
  • 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 a few of the episodes of Mystery Hunters that dealt with a non-egyptian mummy, it seemed the mummies were likely killed as part of a human sacrifice on the belief it would help the community by pleasing their gods.
  • The show MythQuest had an episode where the male protagonist went to the Aztec empire and almost became a sacrifice.
  • The Nova episode "Ghosts of Murdered Kings" examines natural mummies found in peat bogs and concludes that many were pre-Christian royalty who were ritually sacrificed as penance (really, Mis-blamed for natural disasters such as droughts, plagues, and poor harvests).
  • 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 Outpost: In "Kill the Rat, Kill the Kinj" it's learned there's a cult sacrificing captured humans to a wild Lu'quiri. They're caught after kidnapping their latest potential victim.
  • A self-inflicted version in Rome. After the death of her son and the extinction of her political cause (partly due to Atia's machinations), Servilia goes to Atia's house with a knife and waits until Atia comes out. Then, with the full attention of everybody around, she curses Atia to have nothing but "bitterness and despair" for the rest of her life. To seal the deal, she then stabs herself (her loyal servant also joins her in death). Although a previous curse by Servilia was unsuccessful, this one is implied to have worked, as Atia's lover Marc Antony abandons her for Cleopatra.
  • 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.
  • 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. It fails because they didn't realize that by offering an adopted woman and one of the Winchesters is an offering rather than a sacrifice.
    • Interestingly for a show that involves them battling at least one pagan god every season, this is quite rare. All the pagan gods (up to date) do accept 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 eighth season in "Heartache", where they battle a cult sacrificing people to the Mayan god of Maze.
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "The Beacon", the people of Mellweather believe that a lighthouse called the Beacon chooses one of them to be sacrificed every year. If the chosen one does not die, an "accident" is arranged to ensure that the Beacon is satisfied.
    • In "The Last Defender of Camelot", Merlin compelled Lancelot to bring Tom to the cave in Cornwall so that he could restore his full powers by sacrificing Tom in the true Stonehenge, which exists in the land between the worlds.

  • Gilles de Rais would sacrifice children in Macabre's "The Black Knight".

    Myths & 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.
    • The Iphigenia example is odd (and the "spirited away to be a priestess" option is favored) because otherwise, Greek myth is pretty clear that the gods despise human sacrifice. When Tantalus, a son of Zeus, hosted the great twelve of Olympus to dinner, he couldn't think of anything worthy, except for the most cherished thing in his life — his young son, Pelops. Tantalus butchered Pelops and served him up to the gods, and all of them immediately knew what he had before them and refused to touch it (save for Demeter, in some versions of the story; still morose over the kidnapping of Persephone, she ate Pelops's shoulder, replacing it with one made of ivory when she came back to her senses). They restored Pelops' body, brought him back to life, and Tantalus was condemned to the pits of Tartarus, to be surrounded by rich fruit and cool water, and unable to eat or drink. Pelops, in fact, became one of the ancestors of Agamemnon, so arguably this cycle of bloodshed started with Tantalus.
  • Examples in The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, God orders Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham has already erected an altar and is about to kill Isaac when an angel stops him at the last minute, telling him it was all a test of his obedience.
    • In the Book of Judges, the judge Jephthah promises to sacrifice as a burnt offering "whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites" (11:30-31). When Jephthah returns victoriously, the first to greet him is his teenage daughter. After granting her a reprieve of two months to mourn with her friends, "he did to her as he had vowed" (11:39). The alternate interpretation is that the burnt offering actually refers to an animal burnt offering made when a human is devoted to the temple sanctuary, and that she is mourning her virginity before a life of celibacy, not her death, and afterwards she was visited "from year to year" by Israelite women for the rest of her life (Judges 11:40).
    • The Book of Daniel speaks of Babylonian human sacrifices to a dragon.
    • 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.
    • Also mentioned is the propensity for certain religions of both the peoples whom the Israelites were displacing and the neighboring peoples for this, a prominent example being burning their children to idols. One of the reasons why God commanded the Israelites to wipe them out was to put a stop to it. Since the Israelites failed/refused to do so completely, their practices ended up being imitated by the Israelites on-and-off.
  • 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 lamb/goat/ram). Unlike the Christians, Islam celebrates this day as Eid Al-Adha, or "Feast of the Sacrifice", where livestock—usually a lamb or sheep but also possibly a goat, a cow, or a camel—is usually slaughtered. Although the traditional thing to do is to slaughter it yourself, most Muslims have neither livestock nor the expertise to slaughter and butcher an animal for meat, so generally most families pay a butcher the cost of buying, slaughtering, and butchering an animal, with instructions to send one cut to the family for its feast and give the rest to a responsible Islamic organization in the area for distribution to the poor; in some places, the butcher may also be permitted to take a small cut himself in compensation for his services.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Norse Mythology:
    • Gesta Danorum and Gautrek's Saga: When King Wikar and his crew cannot get good weather for sailing, they resolve to hang one of their own as an offering to Odin. Unfortunately for Wikar, the sacrifice turns out to be himself.
    • The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek: When Gothland is beset by a famine, an oracle reveals that "the noblest boy in the kingdom" must be sacrificed to Odin.
    • Saga of the Ynglings: When ancient Sweden is afflicted with drought, the Swedes turn to sacrificing humans. When it does not help, they resolve to sacrifice their King Domaldi, and this helps. In the same work, King Aun of Sweden sacrifices nine of his ten sons to Odin to prolong his own life.
  • Various legends have told about human sacrifices being made over the cornerstones to ensure the stability of the building being erected. This tradition eventually morphed into the current practice of burying a few coins and pictures (which have the faces of people) under the cornerstones.
    • Inbetween, some cultures used animals instead.
    • There is historical and archaeological evidence that this practice persisted into the late middle ages, and that sacrifices, up to and including human children, were incorporated into major building works. It ended up being Right for the Wrong Reasons; the blood added to the mix aerated primitive concrete and did make it stronger.

  • Williams Electronics' Gorgar has the player rescue a damsel before she can be sacrificed to the titular monster.
  • The Wizard Mode of Loony Labyrinth requires rescuing nine sacrificial victims from the Minotaur.
  • In Necronomicon, one of the targets on the "Cult of The Bloody Tongue" playfield is devoted to this.
  • Bally's Paragon shows a woman Chained to a Rock in the middle of a pit of bones, ostensibly as food for a chimera-esque monster.
  • Heavily implied in the "Tower" table of Ruiner Pinball, particularly with the hooded guard holding a bloody sword over a pool of blood.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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...
    • Different Worlds magazine #38 adventure "The Eye of Sitar". Azathoth cultists are planning to perform a ritual sacrificing 13 people at midnight on the fall equinox. If they succeed it will result in the dead rising from the grave all over the world and consuming the flesh of the living.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In The Book of Vile Darkness (the 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.
    • Carcosa: Many of the rituals carried out by sorcerers 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.
    • Forgotten Realms: The Sarrukh 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.
  • Exalted: Human sacrifice is not uncommon in Creation.
    • 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).
    • A cult exists among the mushroom farmers of Gethamane that believes that regular human sacrifice is necessary to keep the city's food production stable. They're entirely wrong — their sacrifices have no effect on anything and produce nothing more than a needless waste of lives. The belief exists chiefly due to damage to the manse that powers the mushrooms' growth, which tends to manifest by driving people who spend too much time close to it mad.
  • Fighting Fantasy: 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.
  • GURPS: In the adventure "The Isle of Night", Colonel Fitzhugh has been possessed by the spirit of the Wizard-Chief of the island natives. He tries to summon the Eldritch Abomination T'Soquat into our world and sacrifice his daughter Alicia to it.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The Sun God priests in the city of El Dorado cut the hearts out of sacrifices with a razor sharp quartz knife, then hold them up in the air while they're still beating.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • A lot of cards 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.
    • In the set Dark Ascension, some cards gain bonuses if you sacrifice humans specifically.
  • Numenera:
    • The Challifani gods demand blood sacrifice and mandate that Challifani priests and adherents practice flagellation, mutilation, and torture. The people of Lhauric believe that these horrific rites keep their gods happy and thus keep their city blessed. In reality, the Challifani have no power other than granting the priests scattered bits of information from their observations.
    • The Vralkans worship the Red Gods through human blood sacrifice, and lots of it. They habitually sacrifice their second-born children, and further mutilate themselves in a smaller version of this act as they offer their own blood. Animals can also be sacrificed, but a being who understands their fate is considered more valuable and desirable as a sacrifice to the gods; thus, the majority of their religious ceremonies see a human, abhuman or intelligent visitant strapped to the sacrificial altar.
  • Palladium Books: Blood sacrifice in general is explained by the fact that a living being's Potential Psychic Energy is doubled at the moment of death, then dissipates. But before it does, the energy can be seized by a priest or other magic-user to power a spell or ritual. This means that under the wrong(or right) conditions, it's possible to perform a sacrifice accidentally simply by having a large number of people die at the right place and/or time. Which is exactly what caused The End of the World as We Know It in Rifts.
  • Rocket Age: The Venusian Cult of the Fanged Mother kidnap and sacrifice both other Venusians and various aliens (including humans).
  • Shadowrun: The Aztechnology corporation 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.
  • Talisman 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.
  • Victoriana: In Faces in the Smoke Volume One: The Secret Masters, the Ancient and Holy Order of Sulis Minerva performs human sacrifices using Disposable Vagrants (members of the lowest classes of society because they're unlikely to be missed).
  • Warhammer:
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Chaos rituals almost invariably call for a human, or at least sapient alien, sacrifice at some point.
    • There are two types of human sacrifices made to the Emperor — the first is hundreds of psykers who are "fed" to him through the Golden Throne (it's not explained precisely what this actually means beyond it being a strictly one-way trip), and the second is 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 World of Darkness:
    • 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.
    • Mage: The Ascension: Sacrifices can enhance spells but have to be willing — either well-treated animals or brainwashed or fanatical humans. Unwilling sacrifices generate enough magical resonance opposed to the spell to cancel out any benefits from the sacrifice, although that doesn't stop many villains from doing it anyway.
    • 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...
    • Princess: The Hopeful: Anybody can petition the Darkness for a Caligo by ritually torturing or killing a sapient being. This is, obviously, a major Breaking Point and will always leave the ritualist Darkened if they weren't already.

  • In the tragic plays of Euripides:
    • In Hecuba, the deceased Achilles demands the sacrifice of the captured Trojan princess Polyxena, whom he was to wed, before he will allow the Greeks to return home after the Trojan War.
    • His later play Iphigenia in Tauris is an Author Tract against human sacrifice. Iphigenia, rescued by a goddess from being sacrificed so her father can get fair winds to Troy, finds herself pressed into preparing human sacrifice victims for the rite. Then one day, her brother and his closest friend show up and a literal Dea Ex Machina frees her.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Henry almost becomes one in Bendy and the Ink Machine, thanks to Sammy Lawrence.
  • Black & White and its sequel allow you to require them from your villagers or throw people into your altar fires yourself for a burst of prayer power, if you don't mind a fast slide down the Karma Meter. In the first game, the most useful sacrificial victims are the youngest ones...
  • 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".
  • In Capella's Promise, the village of Distana has to feed someone to the dragon, Vritra, in order to keep it from destroying their home. Strangely, a wolf managed to serve as the last sacrifice to weaken it for the party, making the entire situation come off as an Idiot Ball if any living creature, including monsters, would make a sufficient sacrifice.
  • In Crusader Kings II, Norse and Aztec Pagans engage in this, earning Piety and Prestige (game currencies) by doing so. The Norse have a Great Blot festival where prisoners are sacrificed, while Aztecs use it more like an execution method. The 2.6 patch similarly allows defensive pagans (Baltic, Finnish, Slavic, and West African) and offensive Tengri pagans to offer human or monetary sacrifices to the ancestors for a random chance of getting a boon.
  • In Dark Devotion, some cultists perform a sacrificial ritual to summon the Child of the Limbo, the game’s first boss.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One of the Story Breadcrumbs emails you get in Death Stranding mentions human sacrifices being done in the ancient past via live burial to ensure that a bridge stays up. This is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment that could easily be attributed to the weirdness of the setting and the willingness of email correspondents to spill their feelings to Sam, until your delivery package to reconnect Edge Knot City is a BB pod strongly implied to have a human infant inside.
  • Diablo, being a quite demon-heavy Dark Fantasy series, naturally features this a lot. It's a common practice of the various demon cults and other followers of the Seven Great Evils, and some of the more despicable human villains, such as Archbishop Lazarus, Maghda, and Adria use human sacrifice in order to further their goals.
  • Dead In Vinland potentially has a couple of rare heroic (or antiheroic) examples if you recruit Gudrun and have Moira become her apprentice. They can Mercy Kill a dying mook as a sacrifice to the Norse gods; then the very elderly Gudrun asks Moira to sacrifice her as a means of passing down her power to the next generation. Depending on player choice, Moira can go through with it. She ends up with the "Human Sacrifice" trait for the rest of the game; this heals her Sickness and Injury meters every night, but significantly damages her Depression meter every night as well.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The now-extinct Ayleids (Wild Elves) of Cyrodiil enslaved the Nedes (ancestors to most of the modern races of Men) and inflicted vile tortures upon them. In some cases, as mentioned in the Adabal-a, they sacrificed their slaves to appease their various deities.
    • Hagravens, a species of flightless harpy who were once mortal women that performed a ritual to trade in their humanity for access to powerful magic. A human sacrificenote  is required for the ritual to even become a Hagraven, and Hagravens serve as Evil Matriarchs to Reachmen clans as well as generally being an Enemy to All Living Things. Naturally, they have feathers, beak-like noses, and talons for fingers and toes.
    • One known cure for Lycanthropy requires bringing a human sacrifice to the Glenmoril witches coven. The witches will kill the sacrifice, infect the sacrifice's flesh with the disease, and the resurrect the sacrifice. The original Lycanthrope must then kill the sacrifice a second time, which will also permanently destroy their inner beast.
    • In Skyrim, starting the Daedric Prince Boethiah's quest requires sacrificing one of your followers. (The reward for completing the quest is one of the best legendary armor sets in the game.)
      • Skyrim also employs a variation of the trope as a cure for vampirism. While no actual creature has to be dragged to the ceremony, you must provide a filled black soul gem to the performing priest, and since only sentient beings like men and mer have black souls, you invariably pay for your return to life with the life of another person. This is more an example of an offering instead of a real sacrifice, though, seeing how any black soul counts, and there's a literally endless parade of Asshole Victims for you to soultrap that nobody will ever miss, least of all the Player Character.
  • The Oracle in Fahrenheit possesses anyone for a sacrifice to find the Indigo Child.
  • In Far Cry Primal, the Izila tribe practices human sacrifice, and various sites where they do it can be found around Oros, including one that looks like an intact Stonehenge.
  • Four of the five 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.
    • In the fifth game, the priestesses of Mount Hikami are sealed in boxes to hold back the Black Water of the other world, with a special few given arranged 'ghost marriages' so that they'd draw power from the thought of being Together in Death with their betrothed. Ose Kurosawa, however, realized in her last seconds that she wanted to be together in life, and her emotions made the ritual go haywire.
  • 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.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, this is how the Witches are created. It's especially bad since it also shows that some of them, like Rinea and Sonya's sister Hesta, were not that willing to go through it.
      • The Vain Sorceress Nuibaba is said to kidnap and sacrifice pretty Rigelian girls to keep herself young and beautiful. A cute Cleric rescued from her Abode confirms it when spoken to. It's believed in fandom that, if the player confronts and kills the Black Knight Zeke before facing Nuibaba, his girlfriend Tatiana (whom Nuibaba keeps prisoner) suffers this fate. And probably the aforementioned Cleric and a female NPC that's also found there. Even more, she also wants to sacrifice a "Brand Bearer" like Alm or Celica, thinking it will grant her immortality.
      • Towards the end, The Dragon Jedah pressures and tries to mind rape Celica into sacrificing her soul to free the sealed goddess Mila and cure the madness of the god Duma. Celica is this close to willingly sacrifice herself, since her quest to liberate Mila had next to no clues until them, but when she questions Jedah's intentions directly, he forcibly turns her into a Witch.
    • In the Fire Emblem Jugdral games, the Loptyr Sect (and before them, the Loptyr Empire) had a "project" named child hunts, where kids between 7 and 13 would be kidnapped from their families. Many of these children would be sacrificed to Loptyr while others would be forced to fight amongst themselves in arenas, with the surviving children crafted into nobles that would be few more than pawns of The Empire.
    • In Fire Emblem Awakening, the Grimleal sacrifice kidnapped maidens to Grima. Much later, the combined efforts of the Grimleal-fueled dark rituals and the will of the Hierophant/Future Grima result in the citizens of Plegia sacrificing themselves en masse at the Dragon's Table. As a direct result, Grima is revived at the height of his power and free to rampage across the world.
  • 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.
  • A few are required in God of War at various points.
    • God of War: to open one door in the Temple of Pandora, Kratos must burn a man alive (which manages to get under his skin).
    • God of War II: To reach the Fates, one must sacrifice himself after reading the incantation to do so — and since Kratos has a translator doing the reading...
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game: The Ritual Sacrifice card triggers all deathwish effects on your side of the board, in its art Brewess is leading the children of Velen to the sacrifice.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Carja Sundom used to sacrifice people to the Sun, combining the practice with Gladiator Games in the famous Sun Ring. Then the Derangement started, with the machines becoming more aggressive and dangerous. The thirteenth Sun-King, Jiran, went mad and desperately tried to appease the Sun with ever more human sacrifices. The Red Raids, where they attacked every nearby tribe for slaves and sacrifices, went on for almost twenty years until Jiran's son Avad raised a rebellion against him and killed him.
    Avad: He truly thought of himself as a Sun God. His mind was... broken. He believed that blood sacrifice would solve... well, everything.
  • A random event in Humankind has you chose either human sacrifice, or to substitute animals or perform no sacrifice. The Aztec culture special building lets you do this also, trading population for several turns of improved happiness.
  • In I Am Setsuna, a virgin needs to be sacrificed every hundred years. The object of the game is to escort the emponymous Setsuna to the ritual site.
  • In King of Dragon Pass you can sacrifice thralls to gods in return for learning miracles and hero quests, though the same can be achieved through the sacrifice of cattle and goods. One must also be careful about which god you choose to appease this way; Humakt, the god of death and Maran Gor, the mother of earthquakes respond positively to human sacrifice, Chalana Arroy, the goddess of healing is more likely to hurt your clan's magic for such a faux pas.
  • The King of Fighters 97 features this trope in one of its Multiple Endings. In the New Face Team end, the Life Energy gathered by the NFT isn't enough to fully resurrect Orochi... so Yashiro solves it by murdering both Chris and Shermie, then killing himself while telling Orochi to take their lives and energies for his Awakening.
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, 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.
  • For the franchise's latest bout of Surprise Creepy, Kirby Star Allies begins its endgame by having Hyness sacrifice his three generals, and then himself, to resurrect his "Dark Lord" Void Termina.
  • Legacy of Kain: This is done by the Hash'ak'gik cult to their (or others'?) firstborn.
  • In NetHack you can sacrifice corpses at an altar to gain favor with your deity. If your deity is good or neutral this is a bad idea. If your deity is evil it will summon a peaceful demon.
  • 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...
  • Late into the endgame of Shin Megami Tensei IV, a quest pops up to investigate the residents of the Tennozu area, who, contrary to the hellish conditions of the rest of Tokyo, are very well fed, insisting to the visiting investigators they're living on beef stockpiles. Aside from that, the only thing of note is the local cult's devotion to Gozu-Tennoh. It's actually Baal, whose lackey is inspiring the people to continue the old sacrificial ceremonies of the past with the small difference of replacing the sacrificed cows with humans. And when confronted, unleashes his full power as The Dreaded demon of Gluttony, Beelzebub.
  • In The Shrouded Isle, Chernabolg demands one member of a noble house be sacrificed to him every three months. He often asks that someone who harbors a specific major sin be the victim. However, selecting too many from one house will incite a rebellion, ending the plsythrough.
  • Both the Silent Hill cult and the Shepherd's Glen cult in the Silent Hill games practice human sacrifice.
  • In Six Ages, the outlaw god Uldak offers large numbers of cows in return for the sacrifice of a clan member. The rest of your pantheon does not approve of you taking him up on it, however.
  • The Rite of Forfeit and Rite of Feasting in Solatorobo both require one; Elh is not happy about this fact.
  • 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.
  • In Sword of the Stars II: The Lords of Winter Zuul Heralds need to consume countless slaves with high psionic potential over long periods of time before they can summon a Suul'ka. And of course, the "gods" are quite hungry when they're awoken from their centuries-long sleep, to the tune of depopulating a planet.
  • 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.
  • Has shown up in one form or another in all three Team ICO Series games.
    • ICO: Ico himself is bound and left to die in a haunted castle due to his horns being seen as a curse.
    • Shadow of the Colossus: Mono was apparently sacrificed due to a cursed fate shortly before the story starts.
    • The Last Guardian: Plays it less straight than the other two. The "chosen ones" are not intentionally sacrificed by their communities, and in fact people fight hard to save them, but should their kidnapping succeed the Big Bad converts them fatally into some kind of energy for its own mysterious purposes.
  • Stellaris: The "Necroids" DLC allows Spiritualist empires, and megacorps, to take the "Death Cult" civic, allowing them to sacrifice POPs every five years for high empire bonuses.
  • 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...
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Jedoga Shadowseeker 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.
  • In Zork III: The Dungeon Master, if you touch the table while its indicator shows "IV" in the Scenic Vista, you'll end up in a temple of some courtyard where the hairy bums perform some Human Sacrifice ritual on you by plunging a knife into your heart. This later becomes a plot point in Enchanter: the same hairy ogres make a sacrificial ritual in the castle's temple, and you are chosen as soon as you enter. And for good reason, too: it is necessary to get the sacrificial knife in order to cut the ropes that bind the jeweled box shut that contains the MELBOR spell... provided that you survive getting sacrificed with help from the OZMOO spell.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest II: Hargon, leader of the Shadowtime cult, offers himself as one to Malroth after you defeat him.
    • Dragon Quest III: Jipang is terrorized by Orochi, who demands a regular sacrifice of young maidens. Upon confronting the beast, you learn that Jipang's leader, Pimiko, is actually Orochi, explaining her attitude.
    • Dragon Quest VII: Queen Fertiti's attempt to have a Sphinx/Likeness of the Great Spirit built attracted monsters to their land, which then overtook the project and converted it to a statue of the Demon Lord. When they demanded a girl to be sacrificed, the Queen went instead.
    • Dragon Quest VIII: By the time the heroes first engage the Dragovian Lord, he decides that the party has come to offer themselves as Human Sacrifices.
    • Dragon Quest XI: When you return to Hotto after the destruction of Yggdrasil, the village is preparing to sacrifice one of their own to the volcano. You can learn that in previous years the sacrifices had always been of food, like grains. Miko said a human sacrifice was necessary this time but kept the reason a secret from the village. That reason is that her son, Ryu, had turned into the dragon which had been attacking the village after it was slain by them. Miko, searching for a cure for him, was willing to do anything to keep him alive.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, as revealed in the Demon Tsukuyomi case, the reason Yakumo was mutilating girls was to turn them into dolls and offer them up to Kakuya, satisfying her need for a Deadly Game and keeping her sealed for a further ten years.
  • 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.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 

  • 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.
  • In a very strange example of such a thing, is the relationship between a pitcher plant and an ant hill. Only matured pitchers will actually trap insects, but all pitchers (even just as tiny buds) produce the nectar that attract the ants. Once the ants have established the plant as a source of food, they will steadily feed from it while a comparably small number of ants will die in the plant. By effectively "sacrificing" members of the hive, it actually creates a mutual bond: the plant thrives from the nitrogen and phosphorus provided to it while the superorganism (hive as a whole) benefits greatly from the reliable source of food that will grow as their nest does.
  • Indigenous Filipino mythology has a VERY unique blend of Eastern and Western dragon folklore, and not because of Western colonization. Since crocodiles were thought to be dragons and saltwater crocodiles are notoriously big and mean, some tribes believed that crocodiles needed human souls to BECOME dragons, and they could naturally only get them through eating people. (Well, they could only KEEP a soul that way. Filipino souls can leave their bodies for any number of reasons, and it's only a BAD sign if they get injured or captured by a witch.)


Video Example(s):


Mayan Human sacrifice

Documentary segment from the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / HumanSacrifice

Media sources:

Main / HumanSacrifice