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Animal sacrifice and the power of Life and Death

Nsala Malongo,

Death and ritual sacrifice are very large components of my magical and religious practice, and I find that very seldom are they explored with any deep understanding of why they are useful and necessary for certain rites and practices.

There is definitely a repugnance for the sacrifice for animals in the frankly White-er side of Western magical and religious practice. I've heard a number of persons rail against it as cruel and entirely unnecessary, that it is uncivilized and barbaric. Obviously I think these persons aren't examining their views deeply; rarely are these individuals persons who abstain from eating animals...they just don't get their hands "dirty". I never hear them complaining about how Jewish folk practice kosher religious slaughter, or even much about the Halal practices of some Muslim folks. Read a newspaper in any city with neighborhoods that have a  decent amount of ATR practicing folks and you'd think the death of a chicken or goat was some rare horror, that only occurs during "Satanic" rituals and the like.

Of course, it can certain be done in an inhumane most things. It's cruelty that I feel is rightfully opposed, and not animal sacrifice itself.

Properly done, animal sacrifice combines sustaining the spirit and sustaining the community, in addition to taking responsibility for taking and giving life. It places the priest/ess at the center of the Yowa, in the image of Nzambi. The blood of the sacrificed animal and the energies of it's life feed the Nkisi, and it's body is prepared and fed to the Kanda, the community. So, everyone eats of the same flesh, that has been blessed to improve the health and well-being of the entire community. I'm sure this sounds familiar to the Catholic rooted folks. 

This animal, instead of dying purely to sustain the body, instead dies to sustain the body and Spirit. I can't think of a better way to honor and respect the spirit of the animals that we take. We use every bit of it, ideally--the menga feeds the nkisi, the edible flesh the people. The inedible bits become ngandos, ritual components with particular powers that are used in various rituals including the building of new nkisi.

Compare this to the animal raised in a factory farm, whose body is wasted and discarded, pumped full of poisons and maimed for pure profit. How is this better for the animal than a clean and spirit-minded death?

I've also heard it argued that for magical purposes the deaths are unnecessary. This is sometimes true; when it comes to feeding spirits there are many offerings one can make instead of the life of an animal. Sometimes the nkisi even prefer these offerings....but you cannot build nkisi without ngandos. You need the nature of the animals eventually, and there are times when simply nothing else will do. During initiations, cleanings, the menga must flow. There is a frisson created with the death and dying of a thing, a door opened between the unmanifest and the manifest. This "energy" makes it easier for the dead to speak and manifest, there is a release of vitality and power that cannot be had in any other way. Responsible killing is part and parcel to a Tata Nkisi's work.

It also has a transformative effect on the person doing the killing; the first animal I took as a sacrifice was intensely personal. I could feel it's heart beating in my hand, and it looked back at me and was intensely present and aware in that moment. I was surprised to find it was difficult; I've eaten COUNTLESS animals over the course of this life, and rarely thought twice about them as entities. This living thing's life was beating in my hands--soon beating it's last--and I was taking it for my own ends, no bones about it. Makes you take a close look at what you're trying to accomplish, especially when it comes to sorcery. Can't take a life for some frivolous bullshit. This bird looked me dead in the eye, and I looked right back at it in surety that the work I was doing was worthwhile. If it hadn't been, I'd have had to let the thing go and live it's life. When you respect the spirits of the animals you work with, religion / sorcery is truly a matter of life and death, and you cannot spend their lives needlessly.

This is similar to the concept of licensia, having the license to do a thing in the religion. You need both the spiritual license to do a thing as sacred and holy as taking life, and the balls to take responsibility for the harm you cause and wield the knife. Don't sit down at your dinner table eating that bacon, and then look askance at me when you've never wielded the knife.

This lesson ends up applying in many areas of life.

I hope the day finds you all well!


  1. This is something I think about a lot. I feel like when I come to a point to ritualistically take an animal's life, I'll either continue to eat ethically raised animals and feel fine about it because I've participated in the cycle (not just bought everything neatly packaged up at the grocery store) or it's vegetarianism-ahoy. I'm still working up to it.

  2. Beautiful post Brother! It is an important thing, as it de-trivializes death. Death is hidden from us in the west. Even the deaths of our own people. Whenever life and death are the stakes be it for spirituality, food, or politics, we must ALWAYS ask if this thing is worth a life.

    You have expressed this beautifully.

  3. @Deb I think it's awesome that you're thinking of this stuff. There comes a point in our development were it just has to be addressed. The key, I think, is to make a conscious choice and be accountable...whatever that choice might be.


    Thank you brother! Absolutely spot on about death being hidden in the West, a terrible business.

  4. Brilliant post Christopher. Very well put. I've always found blood offerings deeply moving. It creates a kind of 'crisis', which as you say, is a gateway. It's life and death. There is no greater mystery than that...

  5. Thank you for this Christopher, beautiful post. as Mr J said, the mysteries of death are so remote here in the west, pushed further by the gratuitous and caricaturesque portrayal of it in the media that it even becomes trivial for most people, nonexistent.

    Coming face to face with it and acknowledging it does become an initiation, not only in facing the responsibility of taking a life but also when you get to the realization that you too are in the hands of death, when you become the sacrifice, cheek bone broken against the asphalt, stage lights off, powerless. There too can you see that gate, the great threshold of copulation between life and death.

    To see the deity of death does breed respect for life and character, it forges the will.

  6. @Balthazar Thank you kindly! I like that word 'crisis' great way to describe that tension between.

  7. This is beautifully put and illuminates a topic that isn't explored very often. Indeed when it does come up, moralistic posturing soon follows along with railing against the very topic. It is rare to find intelligent conversation on animal sacrifice and especially on that involves experience.

    Hopefully this will get some to start thinking.

  8. I know this is going to cause an uproar but I wonder why this is still an issue in todays world. You bring up some very good points for the common person eating animal products. I'm vegan and practice vodou al though not an initiate. We see the spirits do show!

    A true sacrifice is something you give of yourself not of someone else or at their expense. Like attract likes, pain and suffering is not a positive event and has no place in my rituals. With that said, I do wish to learn more about all forms of magick and service to spirit, so I appreciate your article as I try to give your arguments the best possible platform to hold in my mind for the moment but also know, from experience of 3 decades, that we can go beyond that which is becoming archaic to make offerings and sacrifices that satisfy the spirits without copping-out and causing someone else to suffer for our own personal gains. We are not poor anymore where a chicken and goat perhaps are the entire family bank account just as we do not offer out daughters in marriage anymore. Perhaps being vegan is a sacrifice recognized by spirit as is rescuing an animal and providing them a home with healthy food and hospice care till their natural deaths could be seen as ones true sacrifice to the spirits, one that can be truly appreciated and gives great power over the years. People experience great spiritual connection after cleansing from animal products. Sometimes this takes days, sometimes months.How you are present for a sentient being after caring for and assisting their death in a loving compassionate non-violent way that necessitates discipline and true givingness of spirit in joy and love while suffering for the loss of a friend and family member. That is sacrifice. This I find very true over the last 3 decades of doing so. I have a good life, it comes naturally and I attribute this to not muddying up my practice with causing others fear, pain or suffering.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts on this if you could perhaps see the possibility and potential here.

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  10. It is Just plain Selfish to use some other being for your own ends , intellectualise all you want , the truth is always simple and straight forward . If you believe in animal sacrifice then why not go all the way and kill a human being? there are many instances of this in our magical past or is your selfishness to strong for fear of prison .I believe the farming of animals for food ,especially as we do now and using them for experimentation brings darkness to our own spirit. we evolve, human consciousness is more aware of the sentience and emotions of other spiritual living beings. If you truly respect the spirit respect the living body housing the spirit. why do humans think they have a right to rob and steal.

    1. Of course using other beings for one's own ends is selfish. So is eating them. So is driving a car, walking on grass, drinking water and killing all those poor microbes....etc etc etc. Don't make the mistake of thinking that nature--and hence spirit--have even the slightest connection to your silly 'moral' beliefs and concerns. Those are of value to persons and societies, but have nothing to do with nature or spirit.

  11. Having been a part of animal sacrifices, I've come to see them as a crutch. You should be able to raise more power on your own. Even human sacrifices or sacrificing your toddler won't ever get you as far as you could go on your own. I think ultimately it's a trap for most people because it externalizes processes that you could easily generate yourself, from scratch if you didn't build the attainment of it into a huge big deal that depended on other power sources.
    Also it will skew some people's spiritual paths, if a person feels bad about animal sacrifice or believes it is wrong, acting against their integrity weakens them as a magician. A large part of why it works for you is because it's something that's consistent with your sensibilities and values. You can attack social moral constructs but it's foolish to challenge a person's internalized value system.
    I personally don't have strong feelings about animal sacrifice either way, providing no one does it over the carpet at my house. BUT I do see a huge problem with telling people they must or should do certain things to advance spiritually. You shouldn't ever have to promise, say, do, fuck, kill, wear, eat or drink anything you don't feel good about or empowered by, even if you're aware it makes no sense. If someone else thinks you do then tell them to get fucked, the universe will clear every seeker a path of their own and people's qualms and biases need to fall away organically in their own time.

    1. Sacrifice isn't just about "raising power"; in the context of the living religions in which it's practiced, it's a communal event that creates deep bonds, amongst many other useful things. What is all this about 'attainment', and 'skewing' spiritual paths? You can't understand this properly if you can only see it through a Western worldview.
      I agree that if a person feels bad they shouldn't participate--they should go practice some other religion or spiritual tradition that aligns closer to their 'values'.
      While I don't think anyone should be forced to do anything to advance spiritually, I do think that if you aren't willing to do what we require, you should exercise your freedom to go do something else. There are many religions and spiritual ways to choose from, why not go out and find one that fits?


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