Joined: Aug 03, 2001 Posts: 2828 Location: Michigan
Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 2:30 am Post subject:
The general principle at work here is that people will give what offerings are available to them, and if you're a shepherd what you have available is sheep.
I'm not, of course, claiming that Rao's flock is mostly shepherds in the present day, just that they likely were at one time and old traditions might persist. There are possible explanations for why they wouldn't: NorkerMedic suggested symbolic replacements might have come into use over time. Or perhaps the practice died out after the Keoish invaded Veluna and temporarily banned Rao's rites. Perhaps after the Crook of Rao disappeared, Rao showed his displeasure by no longer responding to the old rituals. Isle of the Ape indicated that Rao has grown more distant in recent centuries, and perhaps that is why.
Your worshiper of Zilchus analogy is interesting, because my argument is based more on careers than holy symbols and merchants, too, will give what they have available. I don't think it makes sense to compare a person whose wealth is all tied up in one thing (a shepherd) to someone whose money doesn't seem to arrive from any particular source. As a fairer comparison, a merchant who deals in livestock may well sacrifice some of it to their god. A merchant with more liquid capital might be more likely to give a monetary donation, though it's not unreasonable for one to buy a bull to sacrifice in Zilchus's name. Incidentally, I view Zilchus's coin purse symbol as a more modern version of an older symbol like Dagda's cauldron of plenty.
The question of what Rao, in particular, gets out of it opens a can of worms. What do gods get out of any form of worship? Presumably they're not literally eating any meat they're given, but sacrifice is a signifier of devotion and gods benefit from that. I can see an argument that he's not going to benefit from something antithetical to his ethos (i.e. the slaughter of prisoners of war, though I would say, rather, that he would benefit but his ethical qualms would outweigh that benefit) but the slaughter of domesticated animals is a neutral act orthogonal to the axis of war and peace. Outside a vegetarian ethical paradigm it's not violence in the sense that Rao normally opposes, so it's no more antithetical to Rao's being than any other expression of devotion.
The idea that Rao is more divorced from the life-death cycle than, say, Obad-hai is one I'd challenge. The Book of Incarum credits Rao with the creation of humanity and it seems fair for humans to give blood for blood.
Joined: Feb 16, 2003 Posts: 3604 Location: So. Cal
Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2017 3:37 am Post subject:
Outside a vegetarian ethical paradigm it's not violence in the sense that Rao normally opposes, so it's no more antithetical to Rao's being than any other expression of devotion.
While true, it has nothing to do with any sort of vegetarian paradigm. Vegetarian ethics is a not a necessary factor in this line of resoning. It is a non-factor. Of course there is nothing stating Rao is against slaughtering animals for food. The point is, does Rao place a special value on the spilling of blood in such a way as to specifically make a religious rite out of it? A worshiper of Rao might say of prayer of peace for an animal when it is killed, but that is just representative of a individual doing something pious and thoughtful in a particular situation. This is very much different from making the slaughtering of an animal a religious rite conducted during worship (usually at the high altar or equivalent), which is what we are talking about here.
To me this is an act that is contrary to what I see as the focal points of Raoan worship, those being peace and serenity. I just don't see a "And now for something completely different." moment where the priests bring out some animals and slits their throats/snaps their necks...."And now back to the peace and serenity bit." fitting in, in any way. It just seems antithetical to what the focus of Raoan worship should be.
All that being said, Rao is a member of the very nature-oriented Flan pantheon. Seeing as so many Flan deities have such strong/overt ties to nature, it is also reasonable to link any deity in the pantheon to nature, even if only in some minor way. This could very well take the form of some minor religious rite, such as an animal sacrifice, as any one deity will not likely be so utterly divorced from what the other deities of the pantheon are involved with. This approach ties in to your whole Obad-hai/Book of Incarum reference (and no doubt even Nerull reaps an animal here and there. ) To finish this thought, I would be more open to the idea of minor animal sacrifices for Rao if things were set in the days of the old Flan empires, and I think that could be made to tie in very well with the perversion of such rites by the Ur-flan (and a subsequent move away from minor blood sacrifice by many Flan faiths due to relating it to that perversion).
That is just my take on it. I prefer to link blood sacrifice mostly to evil religions, with few exceptions (ex: I don't see something like a ritual hunt as being a blood sacrifice for non-evil alignments, but that has everything to do with the reason for the hunt). Blood oaths and similar rites I am perfectly okay with, though I would not use those for Rao either: a simple spoken vow, made with conviction, will suffice for the god of peace, serenity, and reason. _________________ - Moderator/Admin/Member -
Joined: Aug 03, 2001 Posts: 2828 Location: Michigan
Posted: Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:20 am Post subject:
The point is, does Rao place a special value on the spilling of blood
You're assuming that it's the gods who decide what their rituals should be. This isn't necessarily a safe assumption, especially with the greater gods, who are generally less interventionist (particularly Rao, about whom Tenser claims "Long and long Rao has refrained from any meddling here" in Isle of the Ape).
I think Rao's worship might involve animal sacrifice because I think it's something his worshipers would have particularly valued, particularly in ancient times. Rao's own opinion is, to borrow your phrase, a non-factor unless it's an act he has some reason to despise (i.e. he wouldn't put up with human sacrifice but has no reason to dislike animal sacrifice unless you believe the god is a vegetarian).
Earlier in this thread I suggested a "sacrifice" doesn't necessarily mean destruction, for example donating magic items to Boccob's temples rather than ritually destroying them. I considered something similar for Rao: donating sheep to the temple, which breeds them and dispenses them to the poor. While I think Rao's temples would definitely engage in charity, replacing animal sacrifice entirely with charity feels a bit too sanitized for me, so that it stops feeling like a historical religion and more like a utopian fantasy of a religion. That's not to say that all religions practice animal sacrifice, just that there's a line somewhere between "Raoism is a religion of peace" and "Raoism is so one-dimensional in its commitment to this ideal that it doesn't quite feel real" and, while the line is arbitrary and subjective, I'd still rather not cross it.
I recall the panel in Neil Gaiman's Sandman where Abel, telling an extremely sanitized version of his own story, claims "The Creator liked the sheep best, because it was all fluffy and funny and white--" and Cain interrupts to contradict him. "Because it was warm steaming meat! It was a bloody sacrifice, you idiot!"
There's certainly a strong canon case that good religions don't practice animal sacrifice. The only gods that have sacrifice mentioned in their rituals are the handful I listed in my first post to this thread: Iuz, Wastri, Nerull, and Erythnul (plus the description of Hextor's worship in Bastion of Faith mentions human sacrifice). Other gods have different rituals: Trithereon's service includes "ceremonial flames, bells, and iron vessels," while Ulaa's rituals involve "hammering on stone, rhythmically, and chanting in deep notes, with earth and gemstones displayed." Xan Yae's rites include "dance-like exercises, meditation, reading, chanting, and prayer."
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