Sacrifice describes ritual–symbolic behaviour grounded in idioms of vitality, used to correct social malpractice, counteract mortality, and foster human flourishing. Sacrifices help configure religious worldviews and are theoretically important because the emotional impact of death generates the capacity for sacrifices to carry significant social messages concerning highly charged situations of natural dangers, social disruption, and culturally defined malpractice. Sacrifices depend upon pre-existing systems of emotion, reciprocity, and embodiment to convey key cultural values.

Death as Medium for Message

The death of many forms of ‘life’, especially that of another human being, gives people pause for thought. One consequence of this high tension yet potentially depressive experience of grief is that death becomes a powerful medium for social communication when the abstract notion of death assumes material reality. ...

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