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Human Sacrifice

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We all have to make sacrifices.
~ Words of Bill Gartley.

Human Sacrifice is a ritualistic killing of one or more human beings so as to appease a deity, a demon or other preternatural force - often it is considered a barbaric act but depending on the time period or culture it could be a common occurrence (as was the case with Aztec civilization) or worshiped by billions as a righteous or spiritual event (such as Jesus Christ on the cross which was referred to as "The Crucifixion").

It is also used in some forms of Black Magic to obtain power from the death and/or suffering of victims - often this is done with ceremonial daggers, pyres or other ancient execution methods and a victim is usually picked for specific reasons (such as being a virgin).



As with some tropes, the concept of human sacrifice has long existed before TV Tropes itself was founded, being part of ancient cultures of man since immemorial. Some were supported by archaeological findings while others from accusations by the enemies of the people involved, sometimes exaggerated to the point of being questionable at best.

Regardless, the notoriety of real-life human sacrifice saw it popularized by modern media, serving as plot point of stories they featured in. Depending on story in question, human sacrifice can be part of Pact with the Devil-esque scenario, the culture of a society which either villainous or morally ambiguous at best, or the driving force for heroes to save the intended sacrifices from his/her doom (the sacrifice in question ranges from a damsel in distress or a vital villain who provide important assets for the heroes to stop an antagonistic force).


The following are methods of human sacrifice. Some of them are derives from historical accounts, while others proved fictional (either made up by the story's author or adapted from pre-existing questionable accounts in real life).

  • Ritualistic Dagger (the most common, where a victim is held atop an altar and a priest(ess) cuts them with a dagger while reciting a prayer or spell, sometimes a victim's heart is removed or their blood is collected for use in other rituals.) (status: confirmed as real)
  • Spread Eagle (a type of human sacrifice mostly associated with the Norse Berserkers under the influence of the mythical Berserker Brew and reserved for Christian opponents, dedicated to the chief Norse god Odin.) (status: considered mostly fictional by most historians)
  • Volcano Sacrifice (a stereotypical type of sacrifice performed by "natives" in jungle settings, where they take a virgin to a nearby volcano and toss them in as a means to appease the god(s) of the island/jungle (can be considered offensive in modern use).) (status: considered mostly fictional, save for isolated cases)
  • Pyre (the act of burning a victim atop a ceremonial fire, the most infamous of all pyres is the Wicker Man.) (status: Wicker Man is consider fictional, other methods vary from confirmed to debatable)
  • Impalement (some sacrifices involve impaling a victim on stakes or spears, an infamous example of this occurred in the old horror movie Cannibal Holocaust due to Alan Yates rape of a native woman and the tribe's impalement of said woman as part of a "cleansing" ritual.) (status: confirmed as real)
  • Scalping (most associated with Native Americans, this involves killing an enemy and removing the hair and scalp using a tomahawk - often keeping the scalp as a trophy.) (status: debatable, while a real practice the number of incidents may be exaggerated.)
  • Head Hunting (some societies would kill a victim and take the head as a trophy, some went further and would "shrink" the head - creating the infamous Shrunken Head.) (status: debatable, while real the number of such incidents was likely exaggerated.)
  • Cannibalism (some tribal societies would eat victims, often to try and gain their strength or wisdom - some would also resort to cannibalism to "cleanse" their territory of evil influences : as happened in Cannibal Holocaust when Alan Yates and his crew were ritualistically devoured to cleanse the jungle they had shamelessly ravaged.) (status: debatable, while incidents occur and are documented the number of such incidents is also exaggerated, as are the reasons for such acts to be performed.)


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