Walter Burkert - Burkert's Theory of Sacrificial Ritual

Burkert's Theory of Sacrificial Ritual

In 1985, Burkert claimed to have put together some of the pieces of how the sacrificial ritual actually proceeded. Firstly, under the direction of the priest, father or king, or priestess, a basket containing the utensils and a bowl of water were placed around the altar. The participants then dipped their hands into the consecrated water, and sprinkled it on the altar, victim and offerer. Salted-barley corns from the basket were thrown on the animal’s head and into the altar fire. A lock of hair from the animal is then cut and burned, libation being poured on the altar with prayer. After silence is proclaimed, the music of flutes begins and the animal is slain. The larger animals were killed with a sacrificial axe. The head is turned toward the heavens, and the throat cut. The blood then spreads on the altar and is caught in a vessel. In The Odyssey, onlooking women raise a cry of worship at this point. After the animal was skinned and cut into pieces, the inner parts were disposed and a part burned on the altar with incense. The remainder was roasted and eaten. If the entrails were of normal shape and color, it was an omen that the sacrifice was acceptable to the gods. In The Odyssey, men wrapped the thigh pieces in fat and burned them on the altar. The tail and back, along with other bones and pieces with less meat left over were burned with a libation. After this procedure, it was then that the worshippers shared the roasted meal, while music and dance took place in the service of the gods. At some special festivals, there are instances where everyone in the banquet consumes hundreds of animal sacrifices.

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