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Child sacrifice

Child sacrifice is the ritualistic killing of children in order to please, propitiate or force supernatural beings in order to achieve a desired result.

The practice has been believed to be central to some religions, made to a wide variety of gods, goddesses and spirits. These religions often depict the practice in myths as absolutely necessary to save the world from "chaos". In many cases, archaeologists have found evidence that suggests that the prevalence of child sacrifice in a culture (Carthaginian for instance) was probably far less than commonly believed, perhaps only as part of myths from some cultures.

References to child sacrifices have been found since the beginning of human history in many cultures.

  • In Greek mythology, a king sacrifices his daughter Iphigeneia in order to gain favorable weather for an invasion.
  • In the Bible, Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac for the glory of God, though angelic intervention prevents it; the near sacrifice of Isaac is one of the most challenging, and perhaps ethically troublesome, parts of the Bible, and has its own entry.
  • In the Bible, Jephtha, an Israelite general, does sacrifice his daughter because of a hasty pledge made to God.
  • The Bible implies that the Ammonites offered child sacrifices to Moloch.
  • Yoruba myths refer to "twin infanticide" as an ancient practice stopped by divine intervention of Shango.

Archaeology has uncovered physical evidence of child sacrifice at several locations. Some examples include:

  • Young children were buried with their skulls split by an ax at Woodhenge.
  • Sites within Carthage and other Phoenician centers revealed the remains of infants and children in large numbers; initially this was interpreted as evidence for frequent and prominent child sacrifice to the god Ba'al Hammon. However, many historians have disputed this interpretation, suggesting instead that these were resting places for children miscarried or who died in infancy.
  • The Incan culture sacrificed children. The frozen corpses are still being discovered in the South American mountains. The first of these corpses was discovered in 1995 by Johan Reinhard, a female child who had died from a blow to the skull. Other methods of sacrifice included wrapping living children in their burial clothes tightly enough to cause asphyxiation. These findings corroborated the documented stories by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. The practice itself was called capacocha by the Incans. One theory of why the Incans sacrificed children was that the children were to be emissaries to their deities. Archaeologists corroborated this theory with their own, that the child to be sacrificed met the Emperor and was the guest of honor at a feast before being sacrificed.
  • The Moche[?] of northern Peru practiced mass sacrifices of men and boys.

There is some evidence that the such practices extend even to modern times. The bodies of some young children discovered in remote regions of South America, are alleged to have been killed by drug dealers in rituals intended to ward off revenge for their successful cocaine runs. In Africa there have been several allegations of children sacrificed in muti rituals: attempts at witchcraft intended to bring prosperity to those performing the sacrifice.

It has been claimed that the Jewish law prescribing circumcision for males was a covenant for a largely symbolic flesh sacrifice to replace child sacrifice.

In modern times, child sacrifice is a term that has also been applied to the military use of children.

See also: infanticide

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