#18: Memories of Anatolian Gods? (c.1902)

The impulse to offer sacrifice, substituting the blood or life or limb of one for another, was almost universal in Asia Minor and met widespread response from people of all classes and creeds. The ceremony seems to have been prompted by the monitions of conscience which suggested feelings of guilt or fear. It was of piacular rather than honorific character, that is for reconciliation with a feared and possibly alienated God, or as atonement for possible sins, rather than as a merely worshipful or convivial meal. The victim usually was a male, young and free from physical blemish. Especially acceptable animals were sheep, goats, cattle, cocks, deer and wild goats. Tradition avers that at some shrines deer used formerly to stalk out of the forest and present themselves for offering annually, but in these degenerate days such wonderful religion is realized no more. Still a true believer should renew his faith annually by eating the flesh of a wild goat caught and killed as an offering. Cattle, especially calves, were much used and abundant archaeological evidence all around us showed that in early days the people, especially the Hittites, cultivated a great system of cattle worship. Then it was with renewed interest and understanding that we read how the Israelites when they went astray from the worship of Jehovah proceeded to make and worship a golden calf with immoral Hittite orgies which were always forbidden in the Bible.

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I was once in a picnic high up among the beautiful Anatolian mountains and beside a beautiful mountain spring. While we were lunching another party arrived, who built a fire, killed a goat that they had brought, and roasted the meat of which they presented some choice pieces to our party, urging us to eat, and thereby become active, or at least tacit, partakers in their petition. They did not inform us of the object of their prayers and in view of the circumstances it would not have been good form to inquire. The leader, a Redhead or Shia Turk, was accompanied by his wife and an Armenian cattle lifter. The spot was much frequented by young mothers to induce an abundant flow of milk.

In general each village or perhaps community or region had its sacred place, apart from church or mosque. This was often on some high hill, under a green tree, near a flowing stream or fountain, and beside a sacred grave with its enclosing wall of stone or near a stone pillar. The presence of the saint ensures powerful intersection in behalf of the loyal people of his parish and of any humble worshipper.

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