A few weeks ago, M. Horatius Pontifex Maximus cultoribus Deorum s. p. d., (Marcus Piscinus Horatius) sent out a list he compiled of the Regulations of Numa Pompilius. I’m going to go through the regulations one at a time here.
“Sacrifices are not to be celebrated with an effusion of blood, but consist of flour, wine, and the least costly of offerings.” [Plutarch, Numa 8.8] This means that this information was found in Plutarch and in Numa’s writings.
This makes me happy on a personal, spiritual level for a number of reasons.
First is that gods that demand blood sacrifice make me nervous. This is not the same thing as sharing some meat from your meal, or even a share of the meat before it is cooked, or cooking meat in a ceremonial feast with the gods, where you’re going to offer (feed) some of it to the gods and eat the rest yourself. Blood sacrifice, killing and sacrificing animals for no purpose other than the sacrifice, disturbs me.
Secondly, it’s a waste of resources. This corresponds to the “least costly of offerings” part. I think the gods like offerings, but I don’t think they like extravagant waste. If you’re well-off, perhaps you can afford to kill and burn up a whole cow on behalf of the gods. The problem with that, however, is keeping your mind on the idea that it’s how you offer the cow that’s important. People with wealth sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they can buy anything, including the gods’ favor.
Third, it’s frowned upon by larger society. Only child porn and other indecency with children gets people wound up faster than animal abuse. Animal sacrifice is viewed as animal abuse throughout much of Western society, and this is a really hard perception to change. It’s more than a little hypocritical, considering the way our society treats many of its food animals (see battery hens, pigs raised in sheds or corn-fed beef for examples). Nonetheless, it doesn’t make sense to taunt greater society into disliking pagans any more than they already do by doing something that’s poorly understood. It’s a public relations nightmare.
Fourth, most people don’t know how to sacrifice an animal without causing undue pain and suffering. I really, really don’t want to worship any gods that feed on suffering. And if I were sacrificing animals, I’d want to kill them quickly and cleanly. Slaughter is an art. Our modern slaughterhouses aren’t always quick, clean and humane either, and that bothers me. I don’t want to add to it all by being a direct agent of suffering to some poor critter. If sacerdotes were to start offering sacrifices on behalf of petitioners, I think they would need to be trained in the practicalities of slaughter as well as the relgious aspects.
All in all, it’s easier to avoid the whole issue by following Numa’s “no extravagant blood sacrifices” though I think the extravagant part was much more important to Numa than the blood part.