Blood on the Altar

This post is going to start with a religious anecdote, but I promise that it won’t stay there long. Stay buckled up for me, if you can muster the gumption.

I’m fascinated by gods, deities, and higher powers in mythology. I love legends of reality weaving beings far beyond mortal scope and understanding, and one of my favorite aspects of these divine figures is their conditions for supplication. Drawing the favorable gaze of your respective deity is important in mythos. Some gods need wheat. Some require subjects to undergo purification rituals in order to even be acknowledged. Almost all require a sacrifice of some kind: a transaction if you will.

Sometimes, that sacrifice is just an offering of time or ability, like that of Heracles’ trials, but murderous, living sacrifices are way more intriguing in my book. Honestly, props to the gods that are ballsy enough to beg for the death of an innocent life as a requirement just for an audience. It’s the ultimate offering that is often taxing on the mind and body of the follower. Even after the deal is done, the appeal of the blood sacrifice is very rarely permanent, and more often then not, yet another blood sacrifice is required later on down the road.

In this sense, the blood magic of the Aztecs and the Abrahamic religions inherently generates a cycle of endless demise. It’s cold, filthy, psychopathic fiendishness, and every time that I deep dive into the lore of the sacrifice, I wonder this: “What if the lesson to be learned here is not that this god needs death in order to be appealed, but that man is willing to go to inhuman lengths just to get what they want. What if this god is just a projection of our insatiable urge to get ahead, no matter the cost.”

The thing is, the only difference between making a deal with the devil and making a deal with god is the fact that the devil is honest enough to admit that he was tricking you.

People can be the same way as these blood-starved pantheons. Our perception of people can have the same effect as well; I can attest to that. At the risk of sounding like a martyr, I used to be as self sacrificing as they come, and that wasn’t a good thing. I constantly, over and over again, would throw myself on the altar to gain the affections of people I cared about. It was an unhealthy habit, but most of the time it didn’t bite me in the ass because, generally speaking, people are not monsters like the aforementioned gods.

In my experience, we attract the gods that we want to worship. We want to feel like our offerings are necessary and valuable. When we meet someone who will not only gobble up our sacrifices but also ask for more, we find what seems to be a valuable identity as a worshiper. Much like the gods of lore, though, enough is never enough.

Relationships are tricky business, a fine tight-rope walk on the balance between being generous and being cautious. Becoming too much of either can throw a wrench into any good encounter, but if we are going to fall, most would rather be considered too generous than too cautious. Contrary to what we might assume, I would say that is far more dangerous of a place to wind up though. Being too cautious, especially due to unresolved fears, can be just as toxic to our sense of self, but if you had to pick a poison, I would choose that. At least you have a chance of recognizing those fears and finding closure. When your generosity is being abused, however, you are in the hands of your god’s mercy, and if someone behaves like they deserved to be treated like a god, their capacity for mercy is already questionable at best.

Believe it or not, relationships don’t have to be transactional. Their success needn’t be measured by the evenness of the “how much have you done for me” scales. The minute we start using this as a measure of a relationship’s viability is the moment when we you are obligated to keep tally of the bad moments. It’s a wholly shitty feeling to hear someone throw your previous wrong-doings in your face, but it feels even worse to have someone throw your generosity in your face.

If you have found yourself constantly sacrificing yourself to appease the temperament of your friend, family member, or partner, you are probably in something more akin to a cult than an actual, functioning relationship. Narcissists and sociopaths run this gambit and will milk it for as long as they can until their victim is bone dry. Their altar never has enough blood spilled on it, and if one of their followers ever dare to skip out on a round of self-sacrifice, they will be met with accusations of self absorption. It’s a nasty trick, but admit it, you can only bleed so much. Eventually, we have to look at our own flagellation and wonder if the scars were worth it.

I can’t really answer that question for you. Some relationships do require vast amounts of patience and sacrifice, but healthy ones never require that as a condition to keep them under control. We are not to be sinners in the hands of an angry god. Your love, attention, and resource are not meant to be currency to buy the affection of someone; they are items of celebration between two equals, who have no debt to be paid. When you walk into the cathedral of a healthy relationship, you do not find frescoes of gods meeting men. You discover a temple, stained in the images of two faulty, lovely humans meeting each other on equal ground.

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