About this series…
Living WitchCraft is an ongoing feature exploring the ways that the Craft touches every part of our lives. One of the tenets of our practices is that there’s no such thing as a mundane world for the Witch; everything is magical when we strip away illusion to see and interact with the world in its true spiritual state.
When you read the title of this post, did your sphincter pucker? Did your breath catch? Did a knot form in your stomach? That’s okay! Words have tremendous power and some words trigger reactions more forcefully than others. If, upon reading the title, visions of ritualistic slaughter, saintly martyrs, and mysterious practices ran through your mind, consider first how well the society you live in has trained you to conjure those images up, forcing you to turn your attention away to something more pleasant! That is the illusion pressing itself upon you; testing your resolve.
On the other hand, you might be thinking about a different type of sacrifice — soldiers giving their lives to a cause, civil rights workers dying to promote equality, a parent giving their child a kidney — which many like to think of as being noble, or worthy.
So, what is a sacrifice?
- A student losing sleep in pursuit of their degree
- Going to work every day
- Writing a blog
To sacrifice is to sanctify; to make something set-aside; holy. We do it all the time without realizing it and, because we don’t see the true nature of our act, we lose something special about ourselves.
To be a Witch is to live intentionally rather than accidentally, and sacrifice is an integral part of our Practice. But there are proper ways to sacrifice, and there are empty ways to sacrifice.
For a sacrifice to have power, it has to meet a minimum of 5 requirements:
It has to hurt
During the Lenten season, many people “sacrifice” things as an act of spiritual cleansing. They might abstain, for instance, from vulgarity, or chocolate, or adult entertainment. These things hurt — trivial though they may seem — but they are less about giving something over to holiness, and more about making themselves holier by practicing self-restraint.
In her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling touched upon sacrifice throughout her novels. Some examples include Peter Pettigrew, a.k.a. Wormtail, giving up his hand to resurrect Lord Voldemort: “Flesh of the servant, willingly given…” in book 4; Professor Snape killing Dumbledore in book 6; Harry Potter allowing himself to be killed to protect his family — his teachers, friends and schoolmates — in Hogwarts.
It must serve a purpose greater than yourself
Consider the most famous sacrifice in literature: the Crucifixion. In this myth, Jesus allows himself to be killed to rend the veil separating humanity from the divine, opening up direct communication once again.
Your sacrifices, of course, don’t have to be so lofty. Getting up every day to sacrifice your time at work, to provide for your family, is just as high a spiritual pursuit as being crucified. In this instance, the sacrifice, i.e. Time, becomes holy and precious. Your reverence of it then becomes infectious. But in this example, you must be cautious of the way you conceptualize your expression of this sacrifice. Get out of the habit of saying, “I’m busy,” or, “I don’t have the time for…” Instead, name the sacrificial purpose and make sure it knows what it’s for. For example, “I’d love to join you at…I’m giving my time to work at that hour so that…” and state the purpose.
It has to have meaning to you
This one goes along with the first requirement above. If the sacrifice doesn’t have meaning to you, then it doesn’t really hurt to give it up.
It cannot be taken by force
The point this requirement strives to make is that the sacrifice must be self-motivated. For a sacrifice to work, consent is required. Which starts raising some interesting magical discussions around questions of animal sacrifice, etc. Ultimately, you get to decide whether such practices meet with your needs.