cover image Ritual Sacrifice: Blood and Redemption

Ritual Sacrifice: Blood and Redemption

Brenda Ralph Lewis, . . Sutton, $19.95 (182pp) ISBN 978-0-7509-4500-4

Although many might dismiss ritual sacrifice as cruel, Lewis—a seasoned journalist and historian who is a specialist on the Aztecs—reveals it as a highly complex activity, one deeply entrenched even in the rituals of contemporary Christianity, and alive and well in the recent rise of neopaganism in the West. In fact, Lewis goes so far as to frame sacrifice as "the final step in the intellectual separation of humans from animals"—a claim that may give some readers pause. Peppered with vivid photographs and a full-color insert of images, from altars to funeral pyres, Lewis shows readers why, for many civilizations both ancient and recent, even the most extreme blood sacrifices were deemed essential not only to general survival but for preventing such atrocities as the end of the world. Her study canvases civilizations on six continents and assesses questions like why those chosen for human sacrifice embraced their fate so willingly. Lewis endeavors to hold her subject at arm's length so as not to disrupt this history with personal bias—though occasionally her partiality for science's superiority over religion is evident. Luckily, this does not disrupt her overall presentation of a topic that readers may be tempted to view with a misplaced, morbid fascination. (Mar.)