Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Vol 9, No 2 (2007)

Putting the Blood Back into Blót: The Revival of Animal Sacrifice in Modern Nordic Paganism

Michael Strmiska
Issued Date: 14 Dec 2007


The meaning of animal sacrifice has fascinated historians of religion for decades. In addition, it goes against trends of professed concern for animals in contemporary Western culture, although the notion of sacrifice remains important in Christianity, and animal sacrifice is still practiced at the feast of Id al-Adha in Islam. Scholars of religion have viewed it various as a bribe to divine powers (Edward Tylor), as reinforcing the community of believers (Robertson Smith, Emile Durkheim, and others), as recapitulating a primal event (Mircea Eliade, Sigmund Freud), as deflecting social tensions (René Girard), and as a substitute for hunting (Walter Burkert) or hunting’s structure idealized in the face of primal chaos (Jonathan Z. Smith). Today, some followers of Modern Nordic Paganism (e.g. Ásatrú) have revived animal sacrifice as part of the ritual of blót, which honors important turning points in the ritual calendar. Fieldwork among these Pagans suggests that perhaps Burkert’s vision of animal sacrifice as a privileged vestige of prehistoric hunting culture offers the best lens for understanding this controversial practice.

DOI: 10.1558/pome.v9.i2.3921


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