Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sacrifice tends to be an aspect of magic that people are either very comfortable with or very uncomfortable with. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground in there, from what I’ve seen.
In my previous life as a corporate bunny, I ran with an awesome pack of girls who worked with me. Like me, they were interested in magic. We did magic work together (outside of work, of course). One of the things we discussed, as a principal of Shamanism in a Neo-Pagan context, is the concept of sacrifice = power (neatly printed on Post-Its and stuck to our computers).
Think about it this way: Remember when you were little and you wanted something very badly? Your parents said, “If you want x you have to do y to get it. Y could be anything from chores to research to whatever because parents tend to be kind of capricious like the gods. The point of y was to show your parents that you were serious about whatever it was that you wanted (i.e., x).
Sacrifice is a lot like that! You’re showing your god/dess/es that you mean business about your goals and you’re willing to give something up to get what you want. It’s a sticky concept to explain in some ways, especially if you have baggage around Christianity. (After all, this is the Lenten season!) When things got hard, my circle of girls would remind one another that, when we chose to give something up, it generally led to being more powerful in some way. Mythos is full of this. Demeter gave up her daughter for part of the year but gained her for the other part of the year. Inana journeyed to the underworld. The Goddess sacrificed the God so the crops would be fruitful.
But it has to be meaningful. Sacrifice without meaning and by rote becomes hollow and significantly less powerful.
The big taboo in Neo-Paganism is, of course, blood sacrifice. If you started out in Wicca (and you probably did), blood sacrifice is often frowned upon, especially in front of the newbs. There are a lot of reasons for this. Safety, of course. No one wants you to get an incurable disease from a rusty ritual dagger. And, of course, the more magical aspect of it, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing and who you’re feeding your life’s energy to. You want to be certain that you can manage the relationship with that deity/spirit without it getting more and more demanding of your life energy. You want to avoid potentially becoming its puppet plaything (The if you give a mouse a cookie scenario).
In the interest of disclosure, I do very rarely do blood sacrifice. But, I do do it. I am careful as to which deities I do it for. I do it only when I want something very badly. I do it as a demonstration of how seriously I want something. Getting my house is a good example,
especially since there was a housing lottery involved. Getting a first floor condo in exactly the neighborhood I wanted with awesome neighbors and the biggest kitchen of its kind came out of my last blood sacrifice. I also do it when it’s ritually required. It’s been ritualistically required of me exactly once in over fifteen years of magic. Once in a blue moon, the land requires it. That’s been maybe three times. In fifteen years, I’ve done blood magic less than ten times.
If you’re going to do blood sacrifice, do it safely. Go to the drug store and buy disposable lancets that you use only once each. Swab your finger before pricking it. Put a bandage on it afterwards. If you’re putting your bloodied finger on a surface, make sure it’s clean. A lancet will ensure that it’s a small amount of blood and it’s a teeny tiny wound like when you get a finger prick at the doctor’s office. This is the method I use as it’s the safest and cleanest.
Blood sacrifice, however, is not required this week. (Words I never thought I’d say for one hundred please!) A meaningful sacrifice to your Powers That Be is, however. You and your PTB will know best what that is for you. Think on it.