2
$\begingroup$

This country is dominated by witch covens, who celebrate a holiday every year called "the great feast". Each coven selects 7 witches from their community to participate in a ritual that ends with a lottery. A witch is chosen at random to be sacrificed to Baphomet as an offering. After they are killed, the body is devoured by the other 6 witches. This is the highest honor, as the soul of the witch that is eaten will become one with their deity. Their devotion serving as an example to the community, and being devoured ensures that a part of her strength, will, and power remains within the coven. This ritual is administered by a council, who oversees the preparations and is responsible for carrying out the festivities.

Their are two problems I can see resulting from this. This ritual puts much power in the hands of this council, who lead and oversee the process. It can be a breeding ground for corruption, in which afministrators may see fit to get rid of a rival through this process ( that uppity bitch thinks she's so smart! I have to get rid of her!). A council member may decide to enchant the process, making the random selection less.....random.

The second issue is that a rite like this can lead to discouragement among the masses. Preserving one's life is the greatest instinct. Witches may not be bothered to achieve high ranks or expand the greatness of the coven if they believe that their lives can end with a simple lottery. This cuts back on motivation, leading to stagnation and discontent with the hogher-ups within the coven.

How can I avoid these problems from taking root and make being killed and eaten a worthy honor to aspire to?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What's your yardstick for "honorable-ness"? $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Nov 26 '19 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ This could be a cultural thing as the samurai often practiced seppuku to restore honor, the art of disembowelment without anesthetic. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 26 '19 at 2:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Take...eat... this is my body. Take... drink... this is my blood. $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 26 '19 at 5:24
5
$\begingroup$

First of all address the real world issues with death by sacrificial offering...

  • If the witch has dependent family, the coven needs to adopt and take care of those dependents forever.
  • If the witch has debts, the coven needs to pay them in full.
  • If the witch has assets, property or valuable possessions, those items should be distributed to the witch's family as if the witch had died in any other way. If there are no heirs, the items should go to a charity, not to the coven.

Second on the magical level, the ritual actually has to work. The witches who consume the feast should acquire the memories and magical abilities of their meal. This would quickly lead to each years surviving witches becoming the most powerful casters in the coven. Attending the feast should be a fast track to power and no other method of power acquisition should come close. Attendees would carefully guard their right to attend each year's feast since not attending would equate to a major loss of status. So only the single, most powerful witch who had not previously feasted would be allowed to join the veteran six each year.

Finally, the selection of the sacrifice should be free from magical influence. Each attendee should publicly bath in salt water to ground out their magic temporarily. They must attend the selection in the nude to assure that no talisman or other magical items are concealed on their person. The selection should be held within a protective circle such that no external forces can enter from outside. Within the circle only the seven witches and the tools for the selection reside. Among those tools is a tub full of pure water and a bag containing six black and one white stone.

After the selection is complete, the winner bathes in the pure water, restoring her magic to full power. She then seals the bag and stones in a jar full of salt water and casts a death curse on the jar. The curse will protect the jar from tampering until the next feast night. In this way, the only witch who is not interested in the results of the next feast, prepares the selection tools for the next feast.

By negating all real world consequences of the sacrifice, by removing all doubt of the rituals effectiveness, and by assuring that the selection process remains fair and unbiased, you can make the ritual of the sacrifice truly honorable.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Can the selected witch temper with the next result as a revenge ? $\endgroup$ – MakorDal Nov 26 '19 at 8:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not magically. The jar of salt water negates any spell cast on the stones or bag. She might be able to protect a friend by studying the rocks before putting them back in the jar then whispering a clue such as "the white one is rounder than the others", but that would only protect that person, not target the next victim. We probably need to add a randomizer to the order that the witches choose stones since whispered knowledge will help early pickers more than later ones. ...and wouldn't help the last picker at all. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Nov 26 '19 at 9:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And, if Baphomet is real... The "magical influence" of a witch is insufficient to change the outcome. The last witch who tried to dispose of a rival this way found her own name erupting from the flames - despite not even being one of the chosen 7! And her coven did not even receive the full benefits from the ritual... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 29 '19 at 17:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor "Psst... One of the black stones is rounder than any of the others" $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 29 '19 at 17:07
6
$\begingroup$

Brain Washing

Oops, No I mean Belief, and Politics.

Literally, from birth everyone is trained to believe that:

  1. It is a great Honour to participate.
  2. It is an even greater Honour to be selected as the sacrifice.

And politically:

  1. Everyone in a family of one of these sacrifices gains immense social/political power.
  2. Families will gain some social/political power based on the quality of their candidates. The more gifted/numerous the better.
  3. Every family who did not offer a candidate is punished by removing social/political powers.
  4. Not performing a sacrifice seriously weakens a particular defensive/strategic advantage. Perhaps the mooring spells will erode, perhaps the six who feast become strong enough to defend the nation against XYZ powerful threats.

There will be corruption - power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.

However by tying social/political power directly to the process it becomes a self-balancing process.

  • Get rid of a competitor and risk making their family powerful, and vengeful.
  • Don't offer a sacrificial candidate, and watch everything your family has built up torn down. (Hint: no one likes having their possessions repossessed)
  • Don't train everyone from birth to be compliant with this. Then deal with forcing a potentially powerful magic user to participate.
  • Don't allow the small/poor/inconsequential families from participating and enjoy social unrest. They may not be very powerful individually, but there are many of them, and someone has to deal with the garbage.
  • Don't perform the ceremony, and die.
| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ It would be better if your three reasons were put together in your title. Like thatm it's a bit short and only sarcastic intead of being useful to your answer. $\endgroup$ – MakorDal Nov 26 '19 at 7:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MakorDal I actually think it is the point of my answer. Brainwashing is the answer. The rest is pointing out how that situation can be achieved. $\endgroup$ – Kain0_0 Nov 26 '19 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ You put much more than that in your answer : there are true advantages, maybe not to the individual, but to those close to her. Those are witches, so the sacrifice is not just a political plot to kill off someone. $\endgroup$ – MakorDal Nov 26 '19 at 8:54
3
$\begingroup$

Ironically enough, what you're describing isn't all that far removed from the societies in the districts from the Hunger Games novels. If you think of the capital as your council, and take out the whole cannibalism thing, then you have almost exactly the same problems and you've even highlighted that in your question.

The problem with this model isn't the sacrifice per se; it's the uncertainty. Most western law is built around the concept of certainty in business and protection of the citizenry of the state. Contract law in particular was a way of ensuring people couldn't renege on their agreements and thus gain unfairly from a business transaction. In this case however the uncertainty is even more pronounced - why would you plan for a future that might not happen? The way to solve this and make it fairer is to actually make it less random, not more.

Instead of a coven 'selecting' the witch to participate in the ritual, there needs to be a set of rules and criteria governing the selection process. In other words, the witch who best fits the criteria is required to participate. More to the point, once they are selected, they have a guaranteed 7 years in which they are a part of the ritual and after that it is their turn to be sacrificed. This means that you only have one witch selected out of your coven every 7 years, and the senior witch in the ritual is the one to be sacrificed.

This satisfies two aspects of certainty for you;
1) The rules are set, meaning they are beyond corruption
2) The people who want to participate know the criteria they have to meet, and those who don't know what to avoid.

Basically, the process is open to corruption and to uncertainty by virtue of the randomness you've introduced, not in spite of it. Take that out, put in a set of rules that govern the process deterministically, and it's much harder to circumvent. Ironically, that would also fit in better with a normal religious practice as it would be rooted in dogma which is considered inviolate.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ That 7 year wait to die is dangerous : you have to sacrifice yourself for... what ? $\endgroup$ – MakorDal Nov 26 '19 at 7:59
1
$\begingroup$

Here's something to think about: What if the cannibalism was actually a biological necessity? Then humans would go to great lengths to justify it to themselves and to the victim, with a result likely looking much like the other answers here.

I heard about (but did not personally read) a story, in which there was a community of humans (I assume they were humans, anyway) with a finite supply of some vital nutrient. Without this nutrient, a person cannot grow to maturity. As the community had no way of procuring more of this nutrient, the only way for any individual to get enough of it to mature was by way of cannibalism.

So they had a culture of eating their dead, as there was no other way for the community as a whole to survive. This may have also included slaughtering individuals who had done their part in keeping the population stable by having at least two children. I don't know about that part, though; thinking about it now, it doesn't really make much sense.

Maybe your witch covens live in similar isolated communities and must conserve some vital nutrient in this manner. Or maybe their dependence on it is caused by their use of magic- maybe magic can only be used if you have this particular nutrient in your body, which you can only get by eating the flesh of a witch. Or, better yet, what if the vital nutrient is literally magic power? Living witches' bodies are soaked through with magic; by eating their flesh, you can assimilate their powers. Naturally, covens would want to hoard magic power and not let it go to waste.

There is a problem with this, however: It gives witches (and witch-wannabes) motive to murder other witches and take their powers. You could mitigate this by having the most powerful magic spells require seven individual casters, so if a coven had only seven members, there's be no reason for any murders, since killing any one of them would lock the rest out of the strongest magic.

This also wouldn't provide any reason for ritualistically bumping off one of the seven every year. Maybe the magic system requires a new member to join the coven every now and then to keep things from stagnating? I dunno. Under the gain-power-by-cannibalizing-a-witch suggestion, this would mean sacrificing one member to allow the new member to get some power and join the coven. I've no idea what the best way to choose who to sacrifice would be, though. If there's a rule, then someone's gonna break it.

Or maybe witches put themselves in dangerous situations often enough that they get themselves killed often enough that stagnation isn't an issue. Or, heck, maybe once the coven's magic gets too stagnant, spells start backfiring with increasingly-lethal results until one of them dies.

In either of these cases, the Great Feast would not be a scheduled holiday, but would rather simply take place whenever a member of the coven dies. It'd be a funeral. And also a ceremony to induct a new member into the coven. And also a feast. At which the deceased witch is the main course. Those things are all connected.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Make it more random

This would probably be the easiest solution. The lottery, or rather the choice could be done via a spell. Most witches attending the ritual take part in it to (example) summon a powerful demon which will choose one at random.

So either through a powerful, neutral entity or by the fact that they are connected via the lottery spell which would make interference noticeable by other witches, there will be little to no corruption in that choice. Who ends up being one of the 7 would be the next choice which could lead to problems.

Make it beneficial for the people left behind

It would fit the theme that the blood/life sacrifice would power up the bloodline of those related to the sacrificed witch. So not only stay parts of the sacrificed with the coven (power and will) but also those left behind are now stronger (could be temporary). So if it would be used to murder someone it would also power the remaining enemies/people that could seek revenge.

Punish abuse & other little bits

Of course, if somehow someone still managed to manipulate the choice there could be severe punishment. A ritual where the soul of the guilty one is shattered with a spell and then they are thrown into a hole where they slowly rot away being eaten by all kinds of worms and bugs. This, of course, is the worst possible way the life of a witch can end.

Maybe the eaten one, with leaving behind some parts of their power they also leave parts of their memory with those who ate her. So any animosity or even threats will be known to at least 6 people.

An unwilling sacrifice could lead to the ritual failing and the coven being cursed.

For the social aspects, I'd look at Kain's answer.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

It is impossible

If it is magically possible to influence the decision making process, it will happen. Every system humans have every set up is vulnerable to politicking.

It depends on the specific dynamics of the whole system, but there will always be ways to play with it. If getting your soul glommed on to Baphomet gives you some influence into his decision making process, you probably won't want to put a downright rival in the 7, but you'll probably want to politely pressure you respected advisor who you've got a good relationship with, whose position you'd conveniently be up for...

However, most likely the result is better when the process is more pure. Baphomet is a pretty clever guy, and he apparently wants it this way. Sacrifices are good -- manipulated sacrifices are better than no sacrifices, but not as good as pure ones.

You've got a decentralized coven system. Likely there's some sort of web of relationships and alliances. Likely all covens let some low level corruption go by, but the ones that really go all in on the backstabbing and corruption are regarded as low tier garbage covens.

I'd model it on past Academia. Before the accrediting system was so developed. It's all about who respects who. By the time you've finished your coven training, you'll probably know something about other nearby covens. If you're a hotshot, you want to work with other hotshots.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.