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The central feature of the Avestic divine service was the worship of fire, a worship, however, unconnected with special fire-temples.
Like the modern Mobeds in India, the priests carried portable altars with them, and could thus offer sacrifice everywhere.
It was the acme, "the king of the sacrifices", the solemnities lasting three days and being accompanied by all kinds of public amusements.
The idea of this sacrifice was to provide the gods of light with another steed for their heavenly yoke.
Then the sacrificial efficacy passed from them to the horse. They accepted the horse, but the sacrificial efficacy went to the steer, sheep, goat, and finally to rice and barley: Thus for the instructed a sacrificial cake made of rice and barley is of the same value as these [five] animals" (cf.
Hardy, "Die vedisch-brahmanisehe Periode der Religion des alten Indiens", Münster, 1892, p. Modern Hinduism with its numberless sects honours Vishnu and Shiva as chief deities.
Kluge "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache", Strassburg, 1899, p. By sacrifice in the real sense is universally understood the offering of a sense-perceptible gift to the Deity as an outward manifestation of our veneration for Him and with the object of attaining communion with Him. As the meaning and importance of sacrifice cannot be established by a priori methods, every admissible theory of sacrifice must shape itself in accordance with the sacrificial systems of the pagan nations, and especially with those of the revealed religions, Judaism and Christianity.Among the various sacrifices two were conspicuous: the soma offering and the sacrifice of the horse.The offering of the soma ( Agnistoma ) -- a nectar obtained by the pressing of some plants -- took place in the spring; the sacrifice lasted an entire day, and was a universal holiday for the people.However, that the gods were not entirely indifferent to man, but gave him their assistance, is proved among other things by the serious expiatory character which was not quite eliminated from the Vedic sacrifices.The actual offering of the sacrifices, which was never effected without fire, took place either in the houses or in the open air; temples were unknown.
Worthy of mention also are the sacrificial twigs ( baresman , later barsom ), which were used as praying twigs or magical wands and solemnly stretched out in the hand.