human sacrifice and death penalty

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Sun Apr 26 20:07:57 UTC 1998

>As to the topic at hand re. sacrifice: perhaps the executions are not
>sacrifices as Lars notes.  HOwever, it cannot be denied that they are
>infinitely ritualized--with all attendant praayazcitti rites of debatable
>efficacy--and certainly sanitized.  Our "justice" system bears some
>reflection after watching the otherwise cult video "Faces of Death" which
>includes one of the LESS gory electrocutions.  The guillotine was virtuous
>by comparison.

Thanks for the remarks. However, I would like to emphasize that not every
event with a fixed procedure is a ritual in the religious sense of the word.
The killing of witches in the medieval period certainly had a ritualistic
and purificatory character. The executions were conceived with this in mind.
I think the modern mindset is different. We don't believe that the victim of
an execution is purified, we only believe that he is being punished by being
permanently removed, at that this has a deterrence effect. (Not everybody is
absoutely convinced about this, by the way). Nor do we believe that God will
stop sending us misfortune if we only do away with offensive humans. In a
society where such beliefs are prevalent, the execution does indeed acquire
some aspects of the sacrifice. The modern execution, as JRG points out, is
sanitized, and it is getting more and more sanitized. The most recent idea
is to use the condemned person as a "spare part bank": you strip him of
usable organs before the remains are buried. Luckily, such a practice has
not started yet, it has only been suggested. But it would be the final
deritualisation of the execution. It would be reduced to a common act of
slaughter, although in a hospital environment.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list