Abstract | At the Table of the Gods? Divine Appetites and Animal Sacrifice

Jan-Mathieu (Mat) Carbon

The paper seeks to reassess some of the evidence for the offering of portions to the gods during animal sacrifice. Starting from a brief consideration of the myths relating to Prometheus and other figures, it is argued that these depict gods who could partake in feasts and who were manifestly interested in offerings of savoury animal parts, even meat. Myths of sacrifice certainly elaborated a hierarchy between gods and mortals, but this is not the whole picture. They also provided the scope for honouring the gods and opening communication with them, and this was effected through various forms of consumption and commensality during the rituals. Specific portions of the animal—not only the so-called “inedible” bones wrapped in fat, but also morsels of meat and additional parts—were burned for the divine recipients on the altar, releasing pleasing smoke and good omens, while others (the tail, the entrails) were roasted, performing similar functions; the same portions or anatomically related ones would then be consumed by privileged human participants. Still further parts could be set aside and displayed, or used and sampled for the divine offerings, while eventually also being eaten as a meal or in a feast. Sharing the sacrificial animal with the gods was both the modus operandi and an essential function of the rituals.




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