Death Brings Life Essay

1124 words - 5 pages

Shirley Jackson is mostly recognized for her story “The Lottery,” for the story displays her emotions towards what she calls a “brutal rite, pointless violence, and general inhumanity” (Friedman 61). Critiques of the short story are mostly from a negative standpoint; however, there are a few who say the story is understandable, if seen from a religious point of view. In the story, the townspeople gather "on the twenty-seventh of June," to choose a lottery winner to stone to death in order to ensure an abundance of corn. While waiting for the lottery to begin, some of the townspeople start to question the meaning of the tradition, for they had forgotten the reasons why the lottery began. ...view middle of the document...

Adorned with gifts, “the scapegoats [are then] chased [out of Athens] or thrown down a cliff into the sea” in hopes of ridding the “community” of “negative forces as a whole” and as a way of “feeding the Gods” (13, 35, 36). The Pharmakos ritual is considered sacred and imperative to Greek religion and therefore explain why the tradition is incorporated into their calendar, thus making the Pharmakos ritual a yearly event to honor the Greek Gods for favors received and to cleanse the community of sins.
Another society that practices similar ritualistic sacrifices, as seen in "The Lottery," is the Mexicas (Aztecs). Author Kay Read suggests that Mexicas believe "everything [begins] in darkness, and in order for life to exist [Nanauatl (Sun God) had to] sacrifice himself" into the fire in order "to create the sun and the moon" (55). Read interprets the Mexicas’ understanding of the sacrificial rite as being "[equivalent to] human sexuality, agriculture, fertility, eating, decay, and death" (74). Thus, Mexicas believe if "death gives life," then repayment of a willing or unwilling sacrifice is also needed (187). The ritual consists of sacrificing a human victim every fifty-two years. If no individual are willing to sacrifice themselves by the fifty-second year, the Mexica religion suggests that warriors partake in "The Aztec Flower War," during which sacrifice victims are then captured. The human sacrifice takes place on top of one of two pyramids (Sun or Moon), and the body is then placed on a slab. While on the slab, priests cut open the abdomen, "extract the beating heart" from the victim, and raise "the [organ] to the Sun" as an offering to the Sun God (57). The priest then pushes the corpse down the "steps of the pyramid," to allow spectators to mutilate the body for show or decoration within the warriors' homes (63). The ritual is incorporated into the Mexica calendars to commemorate the event, making the event an important tradition for nourishing the Gods, for to live in this world is a rite, and in order to keep the world from coming to an end a sacrifice needs to be made.
Sacrificial rituals to appease a higher deity are practiced among one particular Amerindian tribe, the Pawnee. According to Skidi Pawnee mythology, “elements of Gods and spirits control the forces of nature”; these forces are powers of the Great Spirits (the Sun, the Earth, Summer, Winter, Rain, Lightening,...

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