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Blood Rituals: Animal Sacrifice on the Christian Periphery

Panel Chair: Curtis Hutt | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m.| Venue

In this panel, participants present their work – anthropological and historical – on animal sacrifice performed by Christians on the periphery of more well-known, dominant Christian cultures where such practices are unheard of and generally forbidden. This oftentimes includes adapting the rituals of the members of other religious communities and even performing them in markedly inter-religious contexts. These non-stereotypical Christian ritual practices will be understood as having been affected by diverse cultural influences – Jewish, Islamic, and polytheistic.

Paul Williams

“Dancing on the Edge of Sacrifice: Ritual Practices among Congolese Christians in the 21st Century”

When Rev. Bonanga travels the southern half of the Equator Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he navigates rivers and forests to visit church members; he also travels through a forest of ritual activity. More than fifty years after political independence and ecclesiastical autonomy, one of his challenges is to negotiate the relationship between ritual practice derived from non-Christian Mongo rituals and his own understanding of Christian practice. Based on my travels in this region in recent years, this paper examines contemporary encounters between the organized institutional form of Protestant Christianity (the “church”) and its ritual practices, on the one hand, and the disparate ritual practices of peoples throughout the riverine forest of central Congo, including animal sacrifice (mbeka), offerings to ancestors (bankoko), and resistance to witchcraft (ndoki), on the other.

Jens Kreinath

Animal Sacrifice among Christian and Muslim Communities in Hatay, Turkey

Sacrifice rituals are performed across the religious communities in Hatay. Regardless of the location or occasion of the sacrifice, the practice of animal sacrifice is common among the different Christian and Muslim communities outlined above. Most often they include the distribution of sacrificed meat, which often transcends the confines of the respective religious community. Even though the differences in the interpretation of ritual elements are certainly more explicit, this paper argues that features of sacrifice exist among almost all religious communities. Despite the different times and locations of sacrifice rituals, their similarities justify viewing them as part of the local interreligious culture. One of the most significant features is that Orthodox and Armenian Christian communities perform rituals of animal sacrifice and follow the traditions of animal slaughter and the distribution of the sacrificed meat that can be compared to the Muslim traditions of animal sacrifice.

Curtis Hutt

“A Threefold Heresy: Reassessing Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Animal Sacrifice in Late Antiquity”

Until recently, the vast majority of historians studying Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition in late antiquity maintained the following: a.) The sacrifice of animals along with the priestly leadership in Jewish traditions disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70CE. b.) Christians altogether rejected animal sacrifice, as the sacrifice of Jesus commemorated in the Eucharistic meal replaced for all time the need for these Temple linked ritual activities. c.) Islamic sacrifice during Eid al-Adha was primarily derived and adapted from the practices of polytheists in the Arabian peninsula as neither Jews nor Christians at this time carried out such rituals. In this paper, each of these venerable assumptions (2 theological, 1 academic) is challenged on the basis of new research into obscured Jewish and Christian pasts.


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