On Saturday, I posted about an alternative to animal sacrifice I found on another blog. In short, you can fill a coconut with wine, and sacrifice that. It was meant as an sympathetic alternative for those who can not and/or will not sacrifice an animal to the Gods, but do feel the need to include a homage to this practice. I'm revisiting that post because of two distinct, but equally interesting, reactions I go on that post. Note that I have not cleared the use of these quotes with their respective owners, so if either of them would like me to take theirs down, this post will change.

The first reacting was by Lesley Madytinou, on Facebook:

"A coconut is classified as a bloodless offering. Even offering a piece of uncooked meat from the butcher is a bloodless offering. Unfortunately there is no substitute for blood sacrifice. Its meaning and purpose is very specific. [...] The value of bloodless offerings should not be underestimated. Blood sacrifice has its place and purpose. So does the bloodless variety. Coconut could not ever be considered even symbolic of blood sacrifice. The 'soul' of the coconut does not leave its shell when its milk is spilt upon the altar. It is the actual physical action of this that fulfills the purpose of Thysia."

Lesley is right, obviously, in saying that the act of animal sacrifice only 'counts' when that which is sacrificed actually has a soul to sacrifice to the Theoi. There is no substitute for a true blood sacrifice. My interpretation of Lesley's words is that a practice like a coconut sacrifice does not have the same 'kick' as an animal sacrifice, and I got to thinking that it might be slightly disrespectful to the Theoi to pass off a coconut as a sacrificial animal.

This leads me to another reaction I got, from Conor W.:

"I don't see why it couldn't fit into reconstructionism. I think it is a brilliant idea really. [...] I'd like to politely point out that Reconstructionism isn't mimicry and I haven't ever met a single recon who is doing things exactly as they were done in Ancient Times. Substituting a Coconut for a Goat doesn't automatically make the ritual 'non-recon'. We have access to a lot of things the ancient Greeks did not have and integration is an important part of reconstructionism. After all, when was the last time you consulted the Delphic Oracle to figure out what a God wanted?"

I completely understand where Conor is coming from. Like Conor, I think it's impossible to reconstruct the practice of the ancient Hellenes completely, due to a large variety of factors. Conor's views seem to be more of the Reformed variety; a non-static interpretation where growth and development, and an adaption of the old ways to the new world, are encouraged. This is not my path, but I see the value in it, mostly because it would ease the ethical and religious questions raised by Lesley.

I agree with both views, and struggle with that because these two are saying the exact same things that I debated with myself before posting the coconut sacrifice post. This is why I posted these reactions--something I've never done like this. During my practice and writing, I constantly switch between these two views, one--born out of a desire to stay as close to the original a possible--sends me back to the ancient texts, and my own head, to figure out how to achieve the practice I want and the Theoi deserve, and the other--born out of necessity, in a world unequipped and unwilling to accommodate the ancient practice--has me figuring out ways to adapt modern possibilities to the ancient framework. It's a constant struggle, and I found it highly amusing to get these exact viewpoints on the same post I argued with myself about. It's like the proverbial angel and devil on my shoulder suddenly materialized, and I have absolutely no way of knowing with whom I agree the most.

I love my practice, but sometimes, reconstruction is really difficult. I have friends who have figured all of this out, who either say that animal sacrifice is fine, and then go on to practice it, or say that it was outdated even in ancient Hellas, and they see no need for it at all in modern practice. I wish I had that. The problem is that my reconstructive focus is on a time period where animal sacrifice was still practiced widely, and as such, I need to deal with the fact that, in order to reconstruct that tradition, I need to practice that as well. Only I can't. Not so much ethically, but legally, and practically. So where does that leave me?

I've lamented this position before, a lot of times, actually. I wish that, after nearly a year, I would have figured out an answer. Because, if I'm completely honest, I agree with Lesley far more than I agree with Conor. There are days, however, that I wish I could follow Conor's path. It would make life a lot easier for me. As for the coconut sacrifice, I'm glad I posted it. Not everyone struggles with these things as much as I do, so to some, it might be a great addition to their practice. I still want to try it, at least once, although I am (and was) aware it's not a full substitute.

I'm afraid I'll be struggling with this issue, and a few others like it, for a long while longer--perhaps even the rest of my life. That's alright: it comes with the territory. I would still love to hear the opinion of others. And Lesley, Conor, if either of you wants your name taken out of this, just let me know. I'll completely re-write the post. If not, thank you. You have helped me crystalize things that were in my head but I was unable to get at. Thank you for externalizing my internal dialogue.