On this Samhain, I want to talk about one of the more taboo, yet prominent aspects of necromancy which is animal sacrifice. You might expect an “is it right or wrong” discussion, but I won’t be debating morality here. Your moral decisions on the subject are entirely your own. I also will not be talking about a religious standpoint, as in, animal sacrifice as an offering. Instead, I’ll talk about it from a secular, modern standpoint: how to navigate animal sacrifice as an ingredient in spells, to still produce successful results
This’ll be a long post, so tuck yourselves in.
So you come across a necromancy spell that seems feasible, but requires animal sacrifice. What do you do? Well for one, this isn’t exactly exceptional. Ritual sacrifice is pretty common in necromancy, and most magical traditions from ancient folklore to classical ceremonialism. Most animals were farm animals who would be eaten and resources afterwards, but that wasn’t always the case. Although it used to be more common back in the BC days, it is still practiced today.
Legal-wise, animal sacrifice varies by country and state. To hammer in the point, this may not be legal where you live. Always check your local laws before acting. Obviously, this subject is highly debated in the moral and legal realm, but we won’t talk about that in this post.
Understandably, a lot of people don’t want to perform animal sacrifice, but still want to perform successful necromancy. Most people who approach me for help on the subject are looking for a way to navigate this. Can we perform this spell without the ritual sacrifice? Can we substitute it? Did people actually do this? (Yes, they did.) Can we be successful necromancers while avoiding this?
Let’s start by discussing the most common question I receive on the subject. Can animal sacrifice be substituted in spells? Sacrificing a life is an impressive feat, which produces impressive, almost reality-bending results. I know someone who once redirected a hurricane from its predicted route with a sacrifice spell. That’s why people do it–for the results. But because the spell has a high results, it also has a higher risk factor if things go wrong. Because there’s a high danger factor, you don’t want to make the stakes even higher by implementing a wrong substitute, or (worse) ignoring the sacrifice entirely. If you’re going to substitute, you want to substitute something of equal value.
This is where the complications of substitution come in. At the risk of sounding like Fullmetal Alchemist, what equals the value of an animal soul? We can’t really equate that to anything else. I have seen people categorize blood magic and ritual sacrifice in the same vein, but to me there is no equivalence between the two. Using blood in a spell is a small sacrifice compared to giving a life. I’ve also seen some recommend killing plants instead; I do not believe plant life and animal life are equal on this scale. We use dead plants everyday in our tea, after all. How is that an equivalent sacrifice? In my opinion, an animal sacrifice can only effectively be substituted with a different animal.
To make things even more complicated, the animal chosen for sacrifice does have a symbolic significance in this spell. A black lamb is chosen for its symbolic connection to the Underworld–will the spell work the same with a fish? Theoretically, it might have a different effect, or it might not, depending on the spell and entity involved. Options listed in the spell may not be available to us, depending on where we live. This is a practical issue that must always be taken into account in spell work.
Most people I know who have performed these spells are either living or have lived on a farm / rural area, where animals are available and scheduled to be slaughtered anyway. If you live in an apartment in the city, you’ll have more obstacles in terms of accessibility and law enforcement. Morality aside, ritual sacrifice might not be possible for many aspiring necromancers.
To answer the initial question: What do I do if I cannot perform this ritual sacrifice, either for moral or legal reasons? My biggest recommendation is to search for another spell that doesn’t include the sacrifice. Don’t edit out the sacrifice or turn a blind eye to it; the spell is too powerful for you to afford that risk. There are other spells and other methods to achieve similar results, but you will have to look for them. You might need dig deeper into a different tradition, or test out more modern methods. I promise plenty of effective spells are out there.
I get it. I just spent forever making the simple point of “look for something else”. But I want to explain to people why substitution and erasure wouldn’t work. In the past, I’ve seen some necromancers respond a little harshly to people wanting to avoid animal sacrifice. “Do something else” is technically right, but can also be taken the wrong way. I do not believe that people “can’t be a necromancer” if they’re unwilling to do it. You can. Respecting life does not make you any less of a successful magician. At the same time, I don’t believe in shunning the practice or the practitioners for including ritual sacrifice. This is a reality of necromancy and witchcraft, so why ignore the subject?
I do encourage discussion on this post because I think the topic is often swept under the rug. But please be respectful of everyone’s views. We’re here to learn, not criticize.
If you’ve made it this far, here’s a big hug (っ´▽｀)っ