Human Sacrifice

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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    To win at war, make crops grow more, to cure our kids when ill,
    The sun to shine, this song to rhyme, more victims we must kill!


    “Animals are fine, but their acceptability is limited. A little child is even better, but not nearly as effective as the right kind of adult.”

    —Lord Summerisle, The Wicker Man

    The hallmark of the Religion of Evil (and, to a lesser extent, Cults), with a tendency to leave behind blood-stained altars. Cold-Blooded Torture is common as a technique.

    The Super-Trope of Virgin Sacrifice, Appease the Volcano God, Targeted Human Sacrifice, and Chained to a Rock (which often involves the chained getting Fed to the Beast). Does include the sacrifice of other intelligent races. Just about required for A Fete Worse Than Death.

    The nastier forms of Marriage to a God overlap with this, as do a number of devices Powered by a Forsaken Child. It's also the only funeral practice that can mark characters as evil even if carried out as part of the respect Due to the Dead. Mayincatec is replete with this.

    Note: Be careful when sacrificing someone to summon and make a Deal with the Devil: It's not unheard of for the victim to get to make a deal instead of you...

    There is more evidence of this in Real Life than of the subtrope Virgin Sacrifice, though most of it is accusations by the enemies of the people involved.

    As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

    Examples of Human Sacrifice include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Hinamizawa's festival used to be about this.
      • This is also Hanyuu's origin: she was a normal human once, but she was sacrificed to become a presiding deity over the shrine.
      • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni Beatrice needs human sacrifices to be resurrected and murders the Ushiromiya family to fill her quota.
    • In Berserk, before the Godhand transforms the bearer of a Behelit into one of their Apostles (or one of their own), the prospective demon will often be asked to do this, the victims invariably being people the bearer holds most dear. Once the choice to sacrifice is made, the Godhand marks the person to be sacrificed with a mark called the Brand of Sacrifice, which draws the monsters from hell to them like a lightning rod, and unless they're a supreme Badass (like say, Guts), chances are they're going to die. Horribly.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, this is how you make a Philosopher's Stone. You can make less powerful versions by sacrificing dozens of people, but if you really want a powerful one, you have to sacrifice entire countries.
    • A necessary part of demonic pacts in Bible Black. In the backstory, one backfired quite badly when the demon was late to the summoning; the leader of the summoners decided to kill the rest in order to force the issue along, and when the demon did show up, the Not Quite Dead sacrifice killed the summoner and made the pact herself.
    • Luu from Magico was shoved off a cliff by her fellow villagers as part of a ritual to protect the village from a demon residing in the nearby Luna Spring. Fortunately she was Badass enough to survive. Zodia reveals that the ritual is total B.S., that there is no demon, and that it's just a horrible superstition.
    • Subverted and Played For Laughs in the Ranma ½ manga. After Akane enters a long-distance swimming competition, she reaches the end first, only to be grabbed by an enormous jellyfish. When Ranma hears from the officials that they have to present this jellyfish king with a young maiden once a year or it will punish them, he springs into action. As it turns out, they weren't trying to make her a Human Sacrifice. All it wanted to do was take some pictures with Akane and present her trophy. By "present a young maiden," they meant that they had to "present a young maiden for it to hold."

    Comic Books

    • Human tribes in Elf Quest have a habit of doing this with Elves. The very first episode starts with a torture scene.
    • In Spawn, the cult of Urizen - a God of Evil so malevolent and so dangerous that the rulers of Heaven and Hell cooperated to seal him away - had a unique variation. The cult initially had 13 members, most of them insane rich people. Once per month, during the New Moon, one of their number was elected to be a sacrifice, and would be hunted by the others, killed, butchered, and then cooked and eaten by the rest of the cult in an evil version of a formal dinner party. By their own accounts, this "blended" the victim's soul into theirs, and when only one was left, that cultist would be the vessel in which Urizen would return. However, Spawn sabotaged the eighth ceremony, placing a curse on the intended sacrifice which caused the remaining cultists to die horribly when they ate his flesh, literally puking their guts out and being consumed from within by hellfire. Unfortunately, while this eliminated the cult, Urizen would still be a big problem later.

    Fan Works

    • The concept is lampooned in the DeviantArt comic seen here (be warned, it is very NSFW) where the summoned demon is upset that the unseen cultists are offering her a human sacrifice (having likely tortured "the poor thing"), claiming she has no idea if her apartment would let her keep pets and couldn't afford to feed her if they did. "Why does no-one ever tribute a Playstation or a Netflix gift card?" she complains.


    • The Final Sacrifice, of course. Apparently necessary to summon an invincible army of Canadian Aztecs or something.
    • In Race with the Devil, two families witness a human sacrifice during a Satanic ritual and go on the run to escape the cultists pursuing them. It's also implied to happen to them at the end.
    • Spectre, a 1977 TV Movie written and produced by Gene Roddenberry. Near the end the cultists attempt to perform a human sacrifice to summon the demon Asmodeus.
    • King Kong (1933). The natives sacrifice Fay Wray to the title creature.
    • In the Children of the Corn series, the children murder all the adults and sacrifice themselves to "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" when they turn 19.
    • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has one where a man being lowered into a pool of lava has his heart ripped out of his chest. Then they try to do the same to Willie Scott.
    • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Savages try to sacrifice a woman to their centaur deity, but Sinbad saves her.
    • Clash of the Titans. The Greek city of Joppa tries to sacrifice Andromeda to the Kraken, but Perseus saves her.
    • Heavy Metal. A group of cultists tries to sacrifice a woman to their deity "Uhluht'c" but Den saves her. This was also a recurring theme in the source comics.
    • Lair of the White Worm. The villainess tries to sacrifice a woman to the title monster.
    • Of course featured in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.
    • Played with awesomely in The Beast Master: A child is being offered up as a sacrifice to the evil god Aar on top of a pyramid. The Beastmaster sends his falcon animal pal to grab the infant and fly it to safety. The Big Bad evil priest watches it fly away, then turns to his minions: "See! Aar has spoken! He wants your children!"
      • The second child got saved. The first one was not so lucky and got tossed into a fire pit.
    • The movie Q – The Winged Serpent features an Aztec cultist who prays the ancient feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl back into existence with a series of human sacrifices of somewhat-willing victims in modern-day New York City.
    • The movie Dragonslayer has a king who's worked out a pact with a dragon to sacrifice virgins to it (basically chaining them to a rock so the dragon can eat them) in return for the dragon leaving his kingdom alone, but seeks the help of a wizard to take the dragon down when it turns out that his own daughter is next in line to be sacrificed this way.
    • In The Mummy, Imhotep seeks to sacrifice Evey in order to bring back the woman he loved, Anck-Su-Namun.
    • In The Prodigal (based on the story of the Prodigal Son), the protagonist falls for a priestess whose worship includes human sacrifices (men diving into a pool of fire). At the end of the film, she is stoned to death and winds up in said pool.
    • Cthulhu (2007). The Lovecraftian cult led by the protagonist's father has been doing this for some time. One chilling dream sequence shows screaming children crammed into a wooden cage for the Fish People, and when Things Fall Apart we see a minor character tied to a post in the sea, waiting for the high tide. Finally the protagonist is offered a chance to sacrifice his gay lover and achieve eternal life as leader of the cult. The movie ends before we discover what his decision is.
    • Dagon (2001): Barbara in the end.
    • Devil's Prey (2001)
    • The Wicker Man (The original version); Sergeant Howie fears that this is what Summerisle has planned for the missing girl, Rowan Morrison, whose disappearance he is investigating. In fact, he is the chosen sacrifice. His sole, pyrrhic victory is pointing out that next year, when the crops fail again, only the sacrifice of Lord Summerisle will be sufficient. It goes unspoken that that won't work either.
    • Played for laughs in the Beatles' Help!!. Spending the whole movie trying to kill Ringo, who has a sacrificial ring stuck on his finger, the cult leader muses to himself "Perhaps if we gave away free tickets to the youth organization annual sacrifice and dinner dance, all this could be avoided. It's a very real problem!" just before he turns a flame thrower on the band.
    • In The Mask of Fu Manchu, the Chinese villain is about to sacrifice a white woman to bring Genghis Khan back to life.
    • Conan the Barbarian (1982): The villain's cult has a human sacrifice ritual that involves naked virgins jumping into the pit of a giant snake.
    • Thir13en Ghosts (a remake of the older film 13 Ghosts) puts a spin on this, in that the ritual requires a willing sacrifice. Initially, Arthur (who is orchestrating the ritual) plans to be the sacrifice himself, until he realizes he was tricked into doing so by Cyrus.


    • Prevalent in Warhammer 40,000 literature
    • Appears in the fifth book of The Dresden Files, Death Masks. The Big Bad utilizes a human sacrifice as part of a plague's power source. It's also referred to in the backstory of a character in Proven Guilty.
      • And it appears again in Changes.
      • Not exactly a human sacrifice, but this was part of the Big Bad's plan in Summer Knight, and Thomas almost had his heart cut out at the climax of Blood Rites.
    • The Angaraks from The Belgariad took it to extremes: each temple had one sacrifice per hour (During their holy days, at least. The characters estimate that the actual rate of sacrifice is about 2,000 per year), which is completely unsustainable unless there were only a handful of temples on the whole continent. Even then, the mass graves would be impossible to maintain.
      • It's mentioned that the Thulls breed like rabbits (in part, to try and get out of being a possible sacrifice - sacrificing the pregnant messes up their count) and that Torak's priests are willing to take just about anyone as a sacrifice (and it's either implied, or outright stated, that this is what tends to happen to prisoners who fall into the hands of the priests). Also, they only burn the heart as an offering - the rest of the body is typically disposed of in a nearby fire pit.
    • Occurs or is referred to in several H.P. Lovecraft's stories. Most notably in The Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game), which features a police raid on a Cthulhu-worshiping voodoo cult that practices human sacrifice (they maintain that they can't be tried for murder because they have never killed anybody), and in Dreams in the Witch House, which features child sacrifice.
    • The priests preparing to sacrifice Carthena in The Eye of Argon.
    • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Sauron corrupts Ar-Pharazôn and the kingdom of Númenor into this with their newly-adopted worship of Melkor. Throughout the Second and Third ages, Sauron also gets the Easterlings and Haradrim under his rule to worship him in such a way.
    • In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, Istra's apparent fate.
    • In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan, the God-Emperor sends prisoners to the tombs as a sacrifice to the Nameless Ones. Arha must decree how they are to be sacrificed. (She has Bad Dreams after.)
      • Her own dedication was set up as a feigned this—a man wielded an axe as if to cut her head off, and was stopped.
    • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"
    • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus, captive, is brought before the altar for this. Ulysses Paxton saves him.
    • In Andre Norton's The Time Traders, the prehistoric tribe is set to cremate their chief with great honor. Too great: they intend to kill Ross Murdock on it as a sacrifice.
    • In Terry Pratchett's Pyramids, Pteppic is presented the case of a handmaiden who refused to be killed for the last king's funeral. When he asks if it was not voluntary, the priest agreed that yes, it was, and she didn't volunteer.
      • Bethan would have been one in The Light Fantastic, but she ended up being saved by Cohen, Rincewind, and Twoflower. Unusual in that she wanted to be sacrificed, because voluntary sacrifices get rewarded after they die.
    • In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, how Odin ended up in America. And Lakeside's secret.
      • There is also a throwaway line about car gods becoming the recipients of human sacrifice on a scale unseen since the Aztecs.
    • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born" Salome institutes this as part of the Religion of Evil.

    When I was a child in Stygia the people lived under the shadow of the priests. None ever knew when he or she would be seized and dragged to the altar. What difference whether the priests give a victim to the gods, or the god comes for his own victim?


    I shall take it with my bare hands, twisting it from your shoulders as the head of a fowl is twisted! Thus the sons of Kosala offer sacrifice to Yajur. Barbarian, you look upon a strangler of Yota-pong. I was chosen by the priests of Yajur in my infancy, and throughout childhood, boyhood, and youth I was trained in the art of slaying with the naked hands — for only thus are the sacrifices enacted. Yajur loves blood, and we waste not a drop from the victim's veins. When I was a child they gave me infants to throttle; when I was a boy I strangled young girls; as a youth, women, old men, and young boys. Not until I reached my full manhood was I given a strong man to slay on the altar of Yota-pong.

    • Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story opens with a very Aztecish sacrifice.
    • In the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey, a good form of human sacrifice (albeit self-sacrifice) is practiced by the leaders of the Shin'a'in tribes to call on their Goddess, basically to prove how truly dire the situation is and how much they need her help.
    • In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, a water spirit reveals she has no soul by her idle comments about the human sacrifices that a barbarian tribe offers her annually; she says only that it's not that useful because she's not a cannibal, but they do wear nice clothing.
    • A renowned anthropologist in Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card postulates that slavery - our heroes' motivation to meddle with the past in the first place - actually emerged as a relatively benign alternative to human sacrifice. (This is relevant because the Tlaxcaltecs, who never got that cultural meme, may well have taken over the world in another timeline.)
    • As in its more famous adaptation, getting to the center of the Zone in Roadside Picnic allows for your wishes to be granted. However, there's a Meat Grinder anomaly blocking the only path. It'll go away for a few minutes if something is thrown into it—something large and organic...
    • The first part of Princess of Wands features a cult that sacrifices people to first summon then feed an Eldritch Abomination they worship.
    • In Keith Laumer's Retief short story, "The Brass God", the Hoogan Pope wants to sacrifice the entire Terran diplomatic team for consorting with demons (actually another unrecognized alien species), but when it's pointed out that this might make the Terrans reluctant to keep funding his theocracy, he decides he'll be satisfied with sacrificing Retief alone.
    • Tamora Pierce's standalone short story "Plain Magic" is about a teenage girl whose village stakes her out as a sacrifice to a dragon that's been terrorizing the area, on the advice of the local wizard. She's saved by a peddler woman who knows that this is unnecessary; apparently dragons in this world are ordinary if dangerous wild animals and the idea that they care about having virgins to eat is just a superstition.
    • A Song of Ice and Fire has an example of a hero doing this: Dany burns a woman alive in order to produce a fire capable of hatching her dragon eggs. To be fair, the woman in question was pretty nasty and would almost certainly have been executed one way or another.
      • The followers of the Red God, R'hllor, are fond of burning people. Melisandre in particular is searching for "King's blood" (a King or his children) to burn.
      • The Iron Islanders drown victims for the Drowned God. Now that Victarion Greyjoy serves both R'hllor and the Drowned God he burns a ship of captured women at sea for both gods.
    • In The fall of Tartarus, by Eric Brown, a colony planet has its sun start to go nova. In the years before the planet is incinerated a cult forms whose members believe that the nova is caused by a god, and that if enough pain is felt by its members the phenomenon will stop and the planet will be spared. So they willingly undergo "penance", a process that begins with flogging and cutting, continues with progressively more radical mutilation (implied to be executed in medically sound conditions but with no anesthetic whatsoever) and ends with the members, now reduced to little more than eyeless heads on limbless torsos, being roped to a cross and exposed to the scorching heat of the oversized sun. For hours. The sun blows up anyway.
    • In Vitaliy Zykov's Way Home (Дорога Домой, Виталий Зыков):
      • The kidnapped humans manage to botch up the sacrifice and survive, setting the plot in motion.
      • Necromancers of Nekrond will sacrifice whatever sentient needed for the current task.
      • K'irsan developed a ritual to fend off death by sacrificing another sentient to extend his lifespan. He is forced to go through said ritual sacrificing an elf. While this merely adds to the long list of reasons the light elves want him dead, the dark elf investigator on the scene is less than pleased.
      • Anything connected to the Elder powers will also require sacrifices. In a large-scale example, a minor ritual is used to trigger a monster invasion of a town. The dead of the invasion, numbering in the tens of thousands, are the actual sacrifice.
    • In Vitaliy Zykov's Conclave of Immortals (Конклав Бессмертных, Виталий Зыков): the satanic cults, the new church and the utterly self-interested shapeshifter Leonid.
    • In Valentin Ivashchenko's Warrior and Mage (Воин и маг, Валентин Иващенко):
      • Upon stumbling on a group of tomb raiders who have unleashed an epidemic curse from the tomb, Vale sacrifices the surviving raider to stop the epidemy. This is legal in the Empire.
      • During his Revenge crusade against the church, Vale executes the clerics from the chorus which destroyed his hometown by sacrificing them, causing his own men to slap some sense back into him. Although the clerics burned their families as well, they consider Vale's actions beyond justification.
    • Alien by Igor' Dravin (Чужак, Игорь Дравин):
    • In Young Wizards a wizard can sacrifice himself by saying a certain short phrase in the Language of Magic, releasing all of his supernatural energy for use by the Powers That Be. This is an extreme measure, as in a series where Heroic Sacrifice is commonplace this is only mentioned in passing.
    • The Yuuzhan Vong in the New Jedi Order series will happily sacrifice humans (and other sapient beings) on a grand scale as part of their worship. Notably, they have the same basic reason as the real-world societies that inspired them, such as the Aztecs- they believe that such offerings are necessary to sustain their gods, without whom the universe could not exist. Of course, the Vong themselves have little to no fear of death or pain, so they don't really have the context to understand why everyone else thinks they're so horrible.
    • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucien knows that Catarina will institute this once her plans are complete.
    • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, LeFel has long searched for the three humans he must sacrifice for his Cool Gate.
    • In The Vampire Lestat, Marius tells the story of how Druids would kidnap the right kind of man, train him and then sacrifice him to the god of the groves. Which turns out to be a vampire who will make him a vampire for the Druids to worship.
    • Practiced by some of the cults on the Street of (the) Gods, which appears in a couple of Simon R. Green's novel series. It's widely regarded as unsavory, but it's not technically banned as long as it doesn't endanger the tourists.

    Live-Action TV

    • Kolchak the Night Stalker episode "Legacy of Terror". An ancient Aztec cult is performing Human Sacrifice to bring back their deity.
    • Several demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are after human sacrifices.
      • In "When She Was Bad", the blood of the four people who were nearest to the Master at the time of his death is needed to bring him back - those people being Jenny, Giles, Cordelia, and Willow.
      • Subverted, however, in "Doomed". Buffy and Giles think the demons are hunting for human victims to throw into the Hellmouth in order to blow it open; in truth, the demons intend to sacrifice themselves. Spike almost causes a disaster by accidently helping them by throwing one of them into it.
    • An episode (or two? or more?) of Gilligan's Island had the Headhunters wanting to perform a human sacrifice.
    • It was just a staged production number, but an episode of The Muppet Show had Janice offered up as a sacrifice to some stone idol that she stalled by singing "A Little Help From My Friends" until she could be rescued.
    • In Caprica, this is one of the services offered in the illegal virtual nightclubs that Caprican teens frequently visit. Since it's all VR, no-one actually dies for real, but the idea of teenagers creating human sacrifice clubs for fun shows just how decadent Caprica is under all the richness.
    • Doctor Who:
      • In the episode "Meglos", the Doctor is offered up to Ty—almost.
      • In "The Masque Of Mandragora", Sarah Jane is nearly sacrificed by Cult of Demnos.
      • And "The Aztecs", naturally. Barbara, posing as the god Yetaxa attempts to halt the Aztecs' human sacrifice, but it doesn't take.
      • And Donna nearly gets stabbed by the priestesses in a Roman temple in "The Fires of Pompeii".
      • In "The Horns of Nimon", the cargo are human sacrifices, in the same manner as the Athenians in the legend of Theseus.
    • An episode of Supernatural ("Scarecrow") involves townspeople performing a yearly sacrifice of a man and a woman to a Norse god in order to keep the town prosperous.
    • The Collector: One of the Devil's clients got an extension of his deal that would require one every 10 years. The Devil said he had the same arrangement with the Phoenicians.
    • In Merlin, a blood sacrifice is required by the gate-keeper to the Spirit World to both open and close the gate. An already dying Morgause has Morgana use her as a sacrifice to open the gates, Lancelot sacrifices himself to close them.
    • The show Myth Quest had an episode where the male protagonist went to the Aztec empire and almost became a sacrifice.

    Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

    • Chaining-to-a-rock sacrifices are fairly common with dragons and other monsters anyway, and the ur-example was probably Andromeda with the sea monster from Greek mythology. The monster was killed when Perseus showed up to rescue her and turned the beast to stone with Medusa's head.
    • Also from Greek mythology we have Agamemnon, who offended the goddess Artemis and was forced to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to appease her (though sources differ on whether the girl was actually killed or taken off to be a priestess of Artemis). His wife Clytemnestra did not take this well, setting off a cycle of bloodshed in true Greek tragedy fashion.
    • In the Book of Genesis, God orders Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac; at the last minute, Isaac is spared and a ram is substituted. It is debatable whether this story represents a test of Abraham's faith or a moral evolution from human to animal sacrifice in Hebrew practice (not that those interpretations are mutually exclusive).
      • The Book of Judges, however, recalls the story of Jephthah who offered his virgin daughter as a burnt offering. The story of Jephthah is a lesson on the making of rash vows, i.e., be careful what you say you're going to do, because you might just get held to it.
        • Given that she goes into the hills to mourn her virginity rather than her imminent death, it's heavily implied that she was being offered as a living temple servant, rather than a burnt offering. Same lesson. Same principle. Maintains internal consistency that God is not cool with murder.
      • Also mentioned is the propensity for certain religions of the peoples they were displacing and the ones of the neighboring peoples to have this, and also for the Israelites to keep picking it up themselves, much to God's displeasure.
      • One of the stated reasons why God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites was to put a stop to this sort of thing through scorched earth policy. It only sorta worked.
    • Similar to the Judeo-Christian example above is the Islamic lore, except Ishmael (or Ismail in Arabic) is the one sacrificed instead (and like the example above, gets substituted with a goat/ram). Unlike the Christians, Islam celebrates this day as Eid Al-Adha, or "Day of Feast", where cattle is usually slaughtered and its meat distributed to the poor by a responsible Islamic body on the region.
    • The Book of Daniel speaks of Babylonian human sacrifices to a dragon.
      • According to legend, Saint Margaret was about to be sacrificed to a dragon. Most likely explanation is that she was about to be fed to a python snake in circus. The Romans knew the African rock python (Python sebae) which can grow large enough to devour children or even small sized adults.
    • 2 Kings 3:27 mentions king of Moab sacrificing his oldest son and heir to have the Israelites and Moabites to lift the siege of Kir-Hareset.
    • Every single Aztec god (except Quetzalcoatl) demanded some form of this, often in very specific and highly inventive ways. See Real Life below.

    Tabletop Games

    • Dungeons & Dragons:
      • In The Book of Vile Darkness (the Splat Guide, not the Tome of Eldritch Lore in the game itself) it states that "official" sacrifices to evil gods make infernal invocations cost less. Yes, you can say you massacred that last village in the name of Dread Lord Bane, but unless you do the full thing with the Ominous Latin Chanting and bloody altars, it doesn't fully count.
      • From the Kara-Tur setting; This is also one of the most notorious parts of yikaria (aka yakfolk) culture. Their dark elemental god demands four sacrifices per day per community, and each of the four corresponds to a different element. One victim is thrown off a mountain (air), another is drowned (water), a third is burned alive (fire), and a fourth is buried alive (earth).
      • Special mention goes to Lolth, the dark goddess of the drow. While her priestesses certainly sacrifice captured members of other races, Lolth actually prefers her own subjects as victims. And drow who disobey her or rebel against her are not considered "her own subjects". She actually prefers her own loyal priestesses who fail to stand out among or one-up the others in her twisted theocracy. Her Social Darwinist dogma and Machiavellian rule over them makes this a useful tool.
    • Many of the rituals carried out by sorcerers in Geoffrey McKinney's recently released pulp fantasy-inspired Carcosa setting for OD&D involve some form of human sacrifice in order to summon powers granted by alien gods. The level of explicitness in the rituals is similar to the supplement The Book of Ebon Bindings for Empire of the Petal Throne, and the rituals in question involve some seriously nasty violence, with four of them involving sexual assault. Not surprisingly, most sorcerers in the Carcosa setting are Complete Monsters, with the only good ones in the bunch being the ones who stick to the banishment rituals, which do not require anyone to be sacrificed.
    • Warhammer 40,000 All sorts of Chaos rituals call for it.
      • Not to forget the thousands of psykers sacrificed daily to power the Astronomican.
      • There are actually two types of human sacrifices made to the Emperor—the first is hundreds of psykers who are literally fed to him through the Golden Throne, and the psykers who are pressed into service in the Astronomican choir and slowly burn out their souls providing the psychic power the Emperor needs to project the Astronomican.
    • The Aztechnology corporation in Shadowrun sacrifices people in magical rituals to increase profit - but since it's on their turf, it's not illegal. It's also a bit of a dirty secret.
    • An immense number of cards in Magic: The Gathering involve sacrificing creatures to pay their cost. One of the best examples may be the 5 Heralds of the Alara block, who sacrifice three creatures to bring forth a great monster. Of course, Magic being what it it is, most of them probably won't be strictly human.
      • Played more straight in the set Dark Ascension, where some cards gain bonuses if you sacrifice humans specifically.
    • Mage: The Awakening lets you regain Mana by performing a sacrifice. You get tiny amounts for animals. Killing a human? Much more. Of course, since you are slaughtering another human for no reason other than petty gain, your Karma Meter will fall to bits...
      • In the predecessor game Mage: The Ascension, sacrifices could enhance spells but had to be willing—either well-treated animals or brainwashed or fanatical humans. Unwilling sacrifices generated enough magical resonance opposed to the spell to cancel out any benefits from the sacrifice, although that didn't stop many villains from doing it anyway.
    • Likewise, Geist: The Sin Eaters allows a Sin-Eater to regain Plasm if they kill someone in a way resonant with their Threshold. A Torn (death by violence) might just beat someone to death, a Silent (death by deprivation) might strangle them, and a Prey (death by nature) might sic a mad dog on them. Doing so to gain Plasm usually dings their Synergy, though.
    • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle the Lizardmen are incredibly fond of blood sacrifice, and their god Sotek appeared after the death of thousands. They manage to be one of the nicer races all the same though, because they mostly sacrifice the Exclusively Evil Skaven and Dark Elves. And most of the humans they kill are ones who mistook themselves for Conquistadors.
    • Call of Cthulhu
      • Worlds of Cthulhu magazine #3, adventure The Golden Scorpion. The PC will be sacrificed by the Aztec descendants they encounter. The only question is, what will they decide to do afterward...
    • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook House of Hell features a demonic cult that carries out human sacrifices. One of the illustrations in the original edition of the book depicted cultists ready to sacrifice a nude woman upon an altar; this got yanked in subsequent printings.
    • The Sarrukh of the Forgotten Realms practiced Sarrukh sacrifice. This was not actually truly evil - the sacrifices were honoured volunteers, and the deity they were sacrificed to wasn't evil, he just had made a "you sacrifice to me, I help you" pact with the Sarrukh. Then they started to want to sacrifice slaves of other races, the deity took measures to accommodate them, and the Sarrukh rapidly slid into deep evil, dragging some fragments of their deity with them.

    Video Games

    • Black and White allows you require them from your followers, if you wish to be an evil god.
      • And at least in the second game, you can do it yourself by throwing followers into the giant fire in the temple to quickly gain mana.
    • The voodoo cult in Gabriel Knight 1 does this.
    • Both the Silent Hill cult and the Shepherd's Glen cult in the Silent Hill games practice human sacrifice.
    • A big point in Tales of Symphonia is dealing with this. Partly due to a not-so-evil-evil-being that's redealt with in the sequel at first then it hits really close to home for The Hero.
    • Spelunky allows players to sacrifice to Kali humanoid enemies such as cavemen, Man-Eating Plants, yetis, Cultists, and damsels that you could have rescued instead. Granted, sacrificing a live maiden gets you a lot of favor from Kali.
    • Played surprisingly neutrally in Kagetsu Tohya with Nanako, the spirit inside the Seventh Scripture. Arihiko is initially horrified and angry to learn that she was sacrificed to be joined to a unicorn spirit (long story) and made into a holy relic. However, she replies that she was happy do it, volunteered for it and was proud to have something useful she could do with her life. Still doesn't resent it. The mother who sold her into this service though, eventually wasted away and died out of guilt, spending her time apologizing to nothing despite being pretty well off for after the transaction. Nanako, who watched all this happen, was more depressed about this than her actual sacrifice, and decided to disperse her consciousness afterwards... until she met Ciel, who she quite likes despite her constantly remodeling her.
    • In the Castlevania franchise, this is usually required for Dracula to return, either to power the ritual or provide a body for him to inhabit. Depending on the nature of the ritual, it might require an innocent virgin or a warrior with tainted blood. In fact, in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, a young woman willingly sacrifices her soul to give the Vampire Killer whip its true power.
    • Similar to the above, Angra Mainyu/Avenger in Fate/stay night and the sequel came into being when a village decided they needed a concrete form of all the evils in the world and decided this random guy would do a nice job of it. This is not played as positively, possibly because he was tortured throughout his entire life before going insane and then being sacrificed. Plus there was no real benefit besides cheering the villagers up for a while. Naturally, he's slightly miffed about the whole event.
    • A few are required in God of War at various points. In the first game, to open one door in the Temple of Pandora, Kratos must burn a man alive (which manages to get under his skin). In the second game, to reach the Fates, one must sacrifice himself after reading the incantation to do so - and since Kratos has a translator doing the reading...
    • Jedoga Shadowseeker from World of Warcraft attempts to sacrifice a mook to an Eldritch Abomination. If the players can't kill the mook first, the boss Turns Red and can easily kill everyone.
      • Humanoid sacrifice is also a widespread custom of the demons, Old Gods and loas followers.
    • Has shown up in both Team Ico Series games so far: Ico himself is bound and left to die in a haunted castle, and Mono was apparently sacrificed due to a cursed fate shortly before Shadow of the Colossus starts.
    • A couple of quests in Romancing SaGa involve Virgin Sacrifices; in one case, the player can actually abandon the poor girl to her fate, leaving the quest unfinished and earning major points with the evil gods. On top of this, the player can actually engage in this themselves by venturing into the Netherworld, meeting Death, and sacrificing one of their own party members in exchange for power. Notably, Death always takes the second character in the party, which basically means he's targeting whoever you've been traveling the longest with...
    • This is the purpose the Bhaalspawn in the Baldur's Gate series are meant to fulfill. Sired by the dead god of murder Bhaal who had foreseen his own death, the countless Bhaalspawn each possess a sliver of divine essence. Their only purpose was to die—something made easier by all of them struggling with murderous instincts and being Doom Magnets—and thus release their essence. Then Bhaal's former high priestess Amelissan could harness the essence and revive Bhaal with it. Even the player character helps the plan along since he is forced to kill some of the last and strongest Bhaalspawn (other than himself/herself of course) near the end of the series. Ultimately the plan fails, because Amelissan harbored ambitions of godhood for herself.
    • Three of the four Fatal Frame games had the failure of one of these being the reason the area your in is haunted. In order:
      • In the first game, the Rope Shrine Maiden was a girl/woman who had to be violently ripped apart by ropes in the Strangling Ritual in order to maintain the seal on the Hell Gate beneath the mansion. One of these girls, Kirie, fell in love with a man who was then killed by her family, resulting in her becoming depressed and causing her Strangling Ritual to fail to seal the Gate.
      • In the second game, the village had to perform the Crimson Sacrifice Ritual, which involved taking sets of twins down to the Hellish Abyss, and having one of the twins kill his or her sibling. One set of twins, Yae and Sae, attempt to run away before their ritual. Sae is caught and sacrificed alone, which fails to appease the Abyss.
      • In the third game, a Tattooed Priestess has to undergo several rituals in order to seal away the sadness and despair of her worshipers, with the final one, The Impalement, resulting in either her eternal slumber or her demise. During Reika's final ritual, she watches the man she loved die right in front of her, which causes the Manor of Sleep to be engulfed in The Rift.
    • Legacy of Kain: This is done by the Hash'ak'gik cult to their (or others'?) firstborn.
    • A purely technical version occurs in Warhammer 40000 Dawn of War: Winter Assault. The Imperial Guard's basic infantry units have Commissars, who can kill a random member of the unit in order to cause a fear-induced performance boost in the rest.
    • The Oracle in Fahrenheit possesses anyone for a sacrifice to find the Indigo Child.
    • This, of all things, is present in Terraria. Quote from The Guide: "In order to summon the keeper of the Underworld, you have to perform a live sacrifice. Everything you need to do so can be found in the Underworld." Little does he realise that what drops down there are Guide Voodoo Dolls...
    • The Rite of Forfeit and Rite of Feasting in Solatorobo both require one; Elh is not happy about this fact.
    • A subtle one in Final Fantasy X: this is essentially how Aeons are created, they are the dreams of the Fayth. A Fayth is a person whose soul is—willingly or else—sealed in a special kind of statue, they are essentially dead. One of the Fayth is a little boy.
    • In Dark Souls the Way of the White captures and sacrifices undead to fuel the First Flame.
    • One of Kotal Kahn's Fatalities ("Totem Sacrifice") does this to his opponent in Mortal Kombat 11, complete with an altar.

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    • Many human cultures have practiced human sacrifice, but none on a scale to match the Aztecs or Mexico. Their entire empire was organized mainly to secure sacrificial victims to appease hungry gods who would destroy the universe if not steadily fed. Since a brave warrior was believed to be the sacrifice most pleasing to the gods, the Aztecs forced their subject-ally nations to fight staged "flower wars" with them, the only purpose of which was for each side to take captives from the other, for sacrifice. Aztec infantry tactics and weapons, therefore, aimed at crippling rather than killing their opponents. This later proved a disadvantage when they had to fight the Spanish.
      • Which explains a great deal about Mayincatec.
        • It should be added that the "flower wars," as any scholar of pre-Columbian Mexican history will tell you, were conducted at a high level of protocol, at least by the standards of the civilization that practiced them. Far from being treated as slaves, the doomed captives were treated with enormous respect and were even the guests of honor at a lavish banquet to celebrate the coming sacrifice. For men who were going to get their hearts ripped out of their chests, it was about as pleasant a send-off as one could imagine.
          • Often times. Unfortunately for many, this was not exactly the case, as those who did not go alone were simply slaughtered outright, and those who couldn't comprehend probably didn't have it any better. Not to mention the strains of having a hundred or so of your people- and keep in mind that this is on a continent that had been technologically surpassed in most ways by Eurasia for about a two thousand or so years and so had very low population densities- who were almost always fit and valuable members of society getting jumped off in these wars for sacrifice had on everybody else. There was a good reason why by the time the Spanish came, the locals were very eager to help them.
    • With the possible exception of the Ancient Semitic cultures. The Bible mentions human sacrifice on many instances, and archaeology has confirmed the Biblical claims.
      • Several idol-furnaces of Molech have been discovered, which were used for roasting babies alive. There's a reason why his name has been reused for demons in modern mythologies.
    • Herbert Mullin killed thirteen people due to his belief that murder would appease nature, and stop it from destroying California with earthquakes.
    • Adolfo Constanzo and his cult committed an unknown number of human sacrifices, for what appeared to be vaguely religious reasons, and because they believed it would help their drug trafficking prosper.
    • The Norse would tie a slave to the slipway of a newly launched ship to be ritually crushed. As some of their ships were intended for distasteful activities it kind of figures.
    • Human sacrifice -- called muti -- is still practised today among certain Nigerian peoples.
    • The Etruscans, and later the Romans practiced a form of human sacrifice until it was officially outlawed during the Republic era. That didn't prevent some people from occasionally doing it anyway. The practice did evolve into the famous Gladiator Games.
    • Older Than Dirt, it is evident that most ancient societies practices such at least at sometimes in history. Cue some of the bog mummies and a lot of ancient grave sites.
    • The old Hindu tradition of Sutee in which a widow burns herself alive to join her husband in death. The British government found this custom distasteful for some odd reason and suppressed it.
    • A more benign version was a lampshading of this trope in a legend from the raising of the first Sikh army. The Guru asked for volunteers to be sacrificed and several came forward in turn (one version of the tale has it that they were one from each caste plus an untouchable). Each time the Guru out from behind a curtain with a bloody sword (the whole story actually is reminiscent of certain campfire games). At the end he revealed that the blood had been animal blood but the five who stepped forward had gone through a Rite of Passage to set an example for the rest. Then they had a feast. A cynic will note that it was quite plausible without direct divine intervention-if the Guru had recruited the "sacrifices" beforehand and told them what was to happen to make sure the show went the way he wanted.
    1. aka Heathens, aka Germanic Pagans, aka believers in Norse Mythology