A Season For Ritual by Kate Jonez

Perhaps the feast isn’t always a good thing. One supposes it depends on the purpose of the feast and what exactly is being served.While many in the U.S. may view Thanksgiving as a season of overindulgence, they can at least be thankful that they aren’t required to attend these gatherings…

The Blot – Vikings

The Blot or blood sacrifice was performed any time throughout the year when the Vikings wanted to thank their gods or encourage their favor.  For the most part, animals provided the blood for the Blot. But according to one popular Viking saga, humans were occasionally used. This particular saga recounts the sacrifice of the king of the Swedes to Odin.  For an everyday average Blot, animals were the most likely victim. Once the animal had been slaughtered, its blood was gathered up in a bowl. The priest recited songs in honor of the gods and the bowl was passed through a flame three times. Once the blood was sanctified, the priest sprinkled blood on himself, then on everyone else.  As soon as everyone was sprinkled adequately the feasting began.

Sati – Hindi

In many cultures funerals are an occasion for community get-togethers and feasts. The Sati ritual is performed by the widow of the deceased when she throws herself onto the funeral pyre of her husband. The act ensures that the couple will remain together in the afterlife. Not considered an act of suicide, the Sati is a high act of piety and an expression of love for the departed spouse.  The origins of the Sati are a bit murky, however. While it is performed as a religious rite, there is not much evidence that the Sati had its origins in religious practice. One theory suggests that the Sati was introduced to prevent women from killing their wealthy husbands to free themselves up to marry their lovers. Supposedly a voluntary act, many times the surviving spouses needed at little extra urging to participate. Before it was outlawed in 1967 instances of  women being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the fire were common.

Bacchanalia – Rome

Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) spawned the mysterious Cult of Bacchus. Originally, only women and girls performed the Bacchanalian rites which included frolicking naked while drinking and dancing. But soon, news of the cult’s especially merry festivals spread throughout the region. By the time the Bacchanalia reached Rome, everyone, even slaves, were invited to participate in the revelry. On festival days partiers painted the horns of goats with gold. They dressed in fawn skins or nothing at all. Participants would often bring their favorite sex toys to the party. When night fell, the party really got going. Devotees of Bacchus, danced, drank, whirled, screamed and worked themselves up into a frenzy that culminated with a mosh pit of sexual abandon. Often, the festival include frantic feats of strength or endurance. Revelers might rip up trees by their roots or eat sacrificial animals raw. The whole thing ended with everyone jumping into the river with specially made water-proof torches. Since the fire still burned even in water this proved the everlasting nature of Bacchus’ power.

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