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Offerings to the Gods

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I was under the impression that dedicating a temple to a dark god required the assistance of their priesthood and expensive rituals?"
[...]
the warlock raised a thin eyebrow as he answered, "That is more of a buy-in. Naturally, no Dark God would want to provide benefits to a Keeper who wasn't willing to commit to the God's cause, and prove it by investing quite a bit of wealth and effort into flattering the deity in question."
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Gods Need Prayer Badly, but what if they need something else as well? Historically many religious practices involved making a physical offering, usually food, or live animals, sometimes manufactured goods, and in some rare cases, human beings.

In polytheistic settings, different gods may appreciate different kind of offerings. This can also be a part of Bargain with Heaven.

Scam Religion naturally would try to exploit this.

Super-Trope of Appease the Volcano God and Human Sacrifice. Leaving Food for Santa might be considered a "modern" equivalent.


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Examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin, during a speech worshipping his television, sets a bowl of oatmeal in front of it an offering, saying it represents his brain.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Offering motes of Life Energy extracted from people, to more than one God of Evil, is something that happens. The first time that the titular Ami does it, is as a substitute for regular Human Sacrifice, because then she's not killing people. Life Energy is easily recovered with eating and stuff.
  • Oversaturated World: From Group Precipitation: From "Mysterious Ways": Ahuizotl's worshippers get a Catgirl transformation if they sacrifice a cat, presumably to him. It's also possibly a requirement, as the requirement of such a sacrifice is limiting his worshiper base.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Gods of Egypt: Defied when Bek comes seeking Horus, hoping to bring Zaya back to life. Horus, wallowing in self-pity since Set blinded him, thinks he's bringing another offering which he has no interest in, since they just rot and start to smell. Although he will accept it if it's wine.
  • In The Matrix Reloaded, the people of Zion leave offerings for Neo (particularly bread, which is extremely rare in Zion) in the hope that he'll protect their loved ones while in the Matrix. This isn't mere bribery: Neo has literal godlike powers within the Matrix, and Zionites see him as their messiah, prophesied to end the war with the machines.
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    Literature 
  • In American Gods what is actually given doesn't matter materially, what matters is the act of devotion behind it. Naturally giving a few fruits or a saucer of milk will sustain a god more than a simple prayer, and a human life all the better and other gods grant the most.
  • Sacrificing animals is fairly common on Discworld.
    • In Mort, the coronation of Princess Keli involves a nearly-blind priest and a confused goat. The audience brings raincoats.
    • Going Postal: Parodied with the Church of Offler the crocodile god, who is said to pay special attention to any prayers that come with sausages. It's a good deal for the priests too:
      Moist von Lipwig: As I understand it, the gift of sausages reaches Offler by being fried, yes? And the spirit of the sausages ascends unto Offler by means of the smell? And then you eat the sausages?
      Priest: Ah, no... It might look like that to the uninitiated, but, as you say, the true sausagidity goes straight to Offler. He, of course, eats the spirit of the sausages. We eat the mere earthly shell, which believe me turns to dust and ashes in our mouths.
  • The Dragon Jousters novels don't show the sacrifices, but they're used to justify keeping dragons for military use. The gods take the spirit and blood of the (many, many) sacrificial animals, and most of the leftover meat goes to feed the dragons.
  • In The Egypt Game, the titular game frequently includes offerings to the gods. Typically they're things like flowers or a dead lizard, but once April announces the gods must be appeased with a "horrible and bloody" sacrifice. After some discussion of writing a letter in blood or sacrificing Marshall's stuffed octopus, they decide to sacrifice hair and fingernails: parts of their own bodies.
  • In the Marcus Didius Falco novels, sacrifices to the Gods are common and routine, as you might expect for a work set in the Roman Empire. Falco's not particularly devout (though he does end up keeper of the sacred geese for a while), but many of his acquaintances make regular sacrifices.
  • Metamor Keep: the gods of the Lightbringer pantheon always demand some form of payment for their blessings, their High Priestess in Metamor is something of a Flat-Earth Atheist due long experience with their mercantile attitude in fact.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • The demigods at Camp Half-Blood throw scraps of their meals onto a fire to send to their divine parents.
    • In The Mark of Athena Percy has them sacrifice Chrysaor's boat and all the Pirate Booty to Dionysus.
  • The Ear, the Eye and the Arm mentions that animal sacrifices are part of 23rd century mainstream religion in both Zimbabwe and Gondwanna. Though the Zimbabwean custom is to kill them painlessly while the Gondwannan gods need a great deal of pain to wake them up, and it turns out they take human sacrifices as well.
  • Imperial Radch: Downplayed with the Radchaai state religion, where people often buy flowers and incense to leave at temples when they pray. When Breq is exposed as an AI Wetware Body, one of her enemies tries to smear her by claiming that it profaned the temple for an inhuman being to leave offerings.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Livestock sacrifices were a common feature of ancient Greek and Roman festivals. One of the more unusual being the throwing of fish into a volcano to honor Vulcan.
    • The explanation for burnt offerings is that Prometheus tricked the gods by killing a bull and separating the meat from the skin and bones and fat, wrapping the bones in the skin so it'd look bigger and setting both piles on fire. He then asked Zeus which one he preferred as a sacrifice. Zeus, who preferred the smell of grilling fat, chose the bones, and so humans feed on the meat while the gods feed on the smoke of a sacrifice.
    • King Minos begged for help from Poseidon, who agreed on the condition that Minos sacrifice a magnificent white bull Poseidon had sent. Minos agreed, but when the time came to sacrifice it he couldn't resolve himself to kill it, instead killing a high-quality but mundane bull from his own herd. In revenge, Poseidon caused Minos' wife Pasiphae to feel an unnatural attraction towards the bull, leading to the birth of the Minotaur (to which seven young Athenian men and women were sacrificed each year until Theseus got involved).
    • During the Trojan War, Agamemnon forgot to include Artemis in his sacrifices. The angry goddess then demanded Agamemnon's own daughter in sacrifice (although depending on the version, she teleported Iphigenia away at the last second, leaving a doe in her place).
  • According to The Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim celebrated his survival of The Great Flood by making an offering to all the gods, who "gathered around like flies." This act caused the gods to rethink their plan to Kill All Humans, and they rewarded Utnapishtim by granting him Complete Immortality.
  • While typically associated with "pagan" religions, animal sacrifices have been part of all three major Abrahamic religions.
    • The qorban was the sacrifice of bulls, sheep, goats, or doves commanded in the Torah, but discontinued after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple of Jerusalem and the Jewish people became more-or-less permanent refugees.
    • Animal sacrifice hasn't been part of Christian doctrine since the split from Judaism, but there's some fringe sects and long-standing rural communities that still practice it. Along with the Strangite faction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
      • According to the "penal substitution" theory of atonement Christ's crucifixion is comparable to animal sacrifice on a large scale, serving as a substitutionary punishment for humanity's sins. The book of Hebrews in particular, being aimed primarily at Christian Jews, delves into this comparison and explains how all the sacrifices and rituals were a big ol' foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus and the reconciliation with God that it enabled, which made the law "fulfilled". Other books of the New Testament say that the sacrifice that God really wants from us these days is ourselves - our time, energy, resources, and attention devoted to Him and His cause rather than satisfying our own selfish desires.
    • Muslims traditionally sacrifice a goat or sheep during the holiday Eid al-Adha, when able, to honor the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son by God's command, only for God to order him to kill a lamb instead once his devotion was proven.

    Podcasts 
  • In "The Stolen Century" in The Adventure Zone: Balance, the crew of the Starblaster lands on a planet where everyone dedicates their lives to perfecting some sort of craft, such as music, dance, or woodcarving, and offering it to something they call "The Light of Creation." No one's entirely sure who or what it is, just that they have the power to decide what knowledge is shared with the world, and what isn't. Every few months, people set their creation (or do a performance) at the mouth of a vast cave where the Light is believed to reside, and when they're finished, a flash of light fills the room and "consumes" the work—no one can remember it, even if they just saw or heard it. If it's good enough and "accepted," whatever's in the cave "shares" the work—suddenly, everyone in the world knows about it and can remember it, even if they weren't actually there. If not, it's gone forever, and no one will ever remember it again. This turns out to be the origins of the Voidfish.
  • In Less Is Morgue it turns out that essential hurricane prep in their version of Florida includes a bag of meth to offer Florida Man in exchange for their lives. Leaving Riley and Evelyn to frantically try to come up with a substitute when he comes knocking.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One adventure (a Whole Plot Reference to King Kong) has a native tribe leave regular sacrifices of food (and the occasional prisoner) to the tribe of colossal apes that live on the island. The book notes the apes aren't actually carnivorous (it's the mountains of fruit that attracts them), but they're so big they won't notice if they happen to eat a pig or human along with the rest.
    • Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia. Appendix 3 (Clerical Quick-Reference Charts) had data on each deity, including when and which items were sacrificed to them. For example, the standard sacrifice to the Celtic deity Arawn was valuable items when a worshipper died.
    • Module D3 Vault of the Drow. In the Drow temple to Lolth, worshippers could make sacrifices to Lolth and receive advice from her clerics.
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. In the Fire Elemental temple visitors can sacrifice valuable treasure in a fire pit.
  • Pathfinder: "Idols" are artifacts that gain intelligence and divine power when fed with worship and regular offerings, which can be anything from sacred feasts to blood sacrifice. Sacrificed items mysteriously vanish soon after being "accepted" by the idol, and blood sacrifices cause the idol to become Evil.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Wulfrik the Wanderer travels the world killing the monsters and champions the Chaos gods demand of him, using their remains as sacrifices to the Chaos gods.
    One of the most devoted followers of Chaos to walk the earth, Wulfrik has made offerings of lords, kings, sea-serpents and dragons to his masters. To Khorne he offers up their skulls, to Nurgle the contents of their slit bellies, to Slaanesh their still-beating hearts, and to Tzeentch their dying breath.

    Theatre 
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's The Emperor Constantine, Livia, hearing that her husband died in battle and lost, announces that a prophecy that an enemy of Rome would die that die has come true. She tells Constantine that she had promised to sacrifice cattle in thanksgiving if it were true; Constantine, who has not quite grasped the whole Christianity thing yet, agrees.
  • In Aristophanes's The Birds, two Athenian men become tired of the constant political debates happening in their city-state and flee to the wilderness, where they meet the titular birds. They convince their new feathered friends that they should built an enormous city in the sky to celebrate themselves and their power; the birds agree and construct the city of "Cloud-Cuckoo-Land" (yes, that's how that trope got its name). A while later, the Olympian gods appear and reveal that Cloud-Cuckoo-Land is blocking off the smoke from mortal's burnt offerings, leaving them starving and desperate. As the play is full of self-deprecating humor and mockery of nearly everyone in Athens (where Aristophanes lived), scholars have for centuries offered all kinds of theories as to what he was trying to say with the work.

    Video Games 
  • City-Building Series:
    • Pharaoh: Festivals can be thrown in honor of a god to gain their favor, with the better ones costing beer in addition to money.
    • Zeus: Master of Olympus: Once a sanctuary is built, priests will regularly emerge to get sacrifices to the god. If the city has goats, sheep or cattle among its resources, they get those, otherwise they just get food from a granary. As there's no particular warning that your flocks are getting low (and they only replenish themselves slowly, which often doesn't keep up with the sacrifice rate), it's possible to suddenly face a famine or mass exodus because you're out of food/fleece.
    • Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom: Gods are kept happy by regular sacrifice of goods (never money), the more expensive the better, and when sufficiently pleased appear in the city to bless certain industries or provide other benefits. However, the only gods who get angry if neglected are the ancestor heroes Nu Wa, Shen Nong and Huang Di, the others remain neutral if ignored.
  • This is a huge part of King of Dragon Pass. Sacrificing to the gods can convince them to smite your enemies, bless your clan, or teach you their secrets, among other things. You can also build temples that provide permanent benefits but cost upkeep in the form of annual sacrifices to their respective gods.
  • In Riven Altars can be found throughout the islands, indicating the Rivenese people worshiped the wahrk before Gehn took over and continue to do so on the sly. Gehn himself turned their offerings toward Human Sacrifice, a conveniently terrorizing form of capital punishment.
  • In Myst IV, the player must make an offering to a nature spirit in order to receive its guidance through the spirit world. The offering is either smoke, a bubble, or a dandelion puff, depending on the spirit chosen.
  • In Black & White, A God Is You, and you can generate mana by sacrificing any living thing on your alter. People work best, but this hurts your Karma Meter; trees are the most benign but least valuable.
  • In Dungeon Keeper, minions (mostly monsters) can be sacrificed by dropping them into a temple with a font. Sacrificing the right minions can earn a keeper several benefits (or curses, if the wrong minions are sacrificed), and is one of the only reliable ways to recruit the much coveted Horned Reaper into your dungeon's army.
  • In NetHack, if you find an altar of your alignment, you can sacrifice the corpses of monsters you slay there, and gain luck, as long as the corpses are fresh—Gods don't like stale offerings. Sacrifice enough and you can even be gifted with an artifact, though this will reset your luck back to neutral. (Just don't sacrifice a human, unless you're chaotic.) If you find an altar that's not of your alignment, you can try to convert it with a sacrifice, but this is risky—if it fails, your god may take offense.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery offers a good, neutral, and evil god for each race. Your class usually indicates which alignment you start off as and which one you worship from the start, but you can eventually work your way to become a Champion of any one of the three gods if you find one of their altars and sacrifice enough to gain favor with them. Each god has their preferences for what they enjoy, but a good way to anger them is to sacrifice one of their own creations or other followers. An Elven druid shouldn't try to sacrifice wild animals to the god of Nature.
  • Fable I: The Hero can offer up money at the Temple of Avo in exchange for good karma, renewed youth, the title of Paladin, and a cool weapon. The Temple of Skorm, however, only rewards Human Sacrifice.
    Priest of Avo: Please be generous with your golden offerings.
  • Magic and Mayhem: On a couple of levels, there are altars at which the player is instructed to sacrifice either a summoned creature, or an apple; if they do so, they are rewarded with a number of creatures.

    Web Comics 

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