Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart
This chapter examines the associations between religion and violence. The Bellonese case reveals that the ideology of honor drove the pattern of vengeance killings; that this ideology primarily pertained to men and their agnatic kin; that it was supported by appeals to gods and ancestors; and that peace rituals did not produce permanent effects. In the Fijian case, it is shown that war-chief and land-chief were ideally balanced with each other, the one standing for external violence, the other for internal peace. In Bau, this balance was upset and inverted due to the sea-going war-chiefs who came to engage a pre-eminent position by terminating the land-chiefs. In the New Guinea Highlands societies, a higher development of an ideology of wealth used is observed as a life-giving replacement for persons, whether for bridewealth payments, payments to allies, or compensation to enemies.
This chapter presents a survey of several contemporary, major definitions of sacrifice as forms of symbolic and performative violence. A modest discussion of patterns in the sacrifices of animals and their symbols in various traditions is reported. The chapter then turns to an interpretation of the more troubling topic of actual human sacrifices in various cultures. The role of emotion and aggression in sacrifice appears in a number of Greek rituals and cultural expressions. Human sacrifice has been practiced in Mesoamerica for over 1500 years. It has increased, and the amount of territory controlled in Mesoamerica has increasingly expounded, assuring a tremendous growth in tributary payments to the capital and its royal families. The Mesoamerican religious traditions did not only seek substitutes for human “debt payments” or sublimate in rituals their aggressive drives toward humans in ways that eliminated human sacrifice, as many other peoples did.