Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Food Sacrifice to the Fairies

Food Sacrifice to the Fairies




Food-sacrifice plays a very important rôle in the modern Fairy-Faith, being still practised, as our evidence shows, in each one of the Celtic countries. Without any doubt it is a survival from pagan times, when, as we shall observe later (in and elsewhere), propitiatory offerings were regularly made to the Tuatha De Danann as gods of the earth, and, apparently, to other orders of spiritual beings. The anthropological significance of such food-sacrifice is unmistakable.
With the same propitiatory ends in view as modern Celts now have in offering food to fairies, ancient peoples, e. g. the Greeks and Romans, maintained a state ritual of sacrifices to the gods, genii, daemons, and to the dead. And such sacrifices, so essential a part of most ancient religions, were based on the belief, as stated by Porphyry in his Treatise Concerning Abstinence, that all the various orders of gods, genii or daemons, enjoy as nourishment the odour of burnt offerings. And like the Fairy-Folk, the daemons of the air live not on the gross substance of food, but on its finer invisible essences, conveyed to them most easily on the altar-fire Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and other leading Greeks, as well as the Romans of a like metaphysical school, unite in declaring the fundamental importance to the welfare of the State of regular sacrifices to the gods and to the daemons who control all natural phenomena, since they caused, if not neglected, abundant harvests and national prosperity. For unto the gods is due by right a part of all things which they give to man for his happiness.
[Pg 280]The relation which the worship of ancestors held to that of the gods above, who are the Olympian Gods, the great Gods, and to the Gods below, who are the Gods of the Dead, and also to the demons, and heroes or divine ancestors, is thus set forth by Plato in his Laws:—‘In the first place, we affirm that next after the Olympian Gods, and the Gods of the State, honour should be given to the Gods below.... Next to these Gods, a wise man will do service to the demons or spirits, and then to the heroes, and after them will follow the sacred places of private and ancestral Gods, having their ritual according to law. Next comes the honour of living parents.’
It is evident from this direct testimony that the same sort of philosophy underlies food-sacrifice among the Celts and other peoples as we discovered underlying human-sacrifice, in our study of the Changeling Belief; and that the Tuatha De Danann in their true mythological nature, and fairies, their modern counterpart, correspond in all essentials to Greek and Roman gods, genii, and demons, and are often confused with the dead.