The Real Reason Ancient Indo-Europeans Carried Out Human Sacrifice
The ultimate aim of the original Indo-European sacrifices, modelled after the cosmic sacrifice of the Purusha [a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life] … must have been the liberation of the self from the illusions of the material fabric in which it is entangled and the direction of the energy of man into the divine consciousness.
The Proto-Vedic Ritual of Human Sacrifice – A Substitute for Self-Sacrifice?
This liberation is the principal aim of yogic ascesis as well, which is, as J.C. Heesterman has pointed out, an internalisation of the sacrifice. Since the primary purpose of a sacrifice is indeed that of self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of a human involved in the proto-Vedic Purushamedha [a Śrauta ritual of human sacrifice] must originally have been conducted as a substitute for a sacrifice of the sacrificer himself, since the sacrificer is, in all Vedic sacrifices, identified with the victim. As Heesterman states, “self-sacrifice is an all-but-ubiquitous theme in the ritual brāhmana texts, the victim as well as the other offerings being regularly equated with the sacrificer”. That is why the victim in the Purushamedha was originally exclusively a brāhman or a kshatriya, since only these two castes were qualified to act as representatives of the Purusha and to conduct sacrifices.
The Lokapurusha or ‘cosmic man’ ( public domain ).
The Phallic Force
At the same time, the sacrificial victim is always a male since only his energy can substitute for the phallic force of the Purusha that fills the universe with its life. We shall observe in our survey of the cosmological bases of sacrifices that the entire evolution of the material universe arises from repeated castrations, and preservations, of the divine phallus, first in the Ideal realm of the Purusha, then in the early cosmos of Brahman and, lastly, in the material universe, as the Tree of Life that arises from the underworld and extends to the heavens.
If what is most important in the Purusha is his phallic power, as is evident also in the Hesiodic account of the castration of Ouranos by Chronos, it is probable that the sacrifice originally focussed on the victim’s phallus, as we observe, for example, in the veneration of the penis of a slaughtered stallion among the ancient Nordic peoples. Similarly, in the Equus October ceremony in ancient Rome a race-horse was slaughtered and its tail (standing no doubt for its penis) was brought to the regia.
The castration of Ouranos by Chronos ( public domain )
In ancient Egypt, the castration of Re is represented as a self-castration. Hu, intellectual expression, and his consort, Sia, intuition, are said in a New Kingdom commentary on the Book of the Dead to be "the blood which fell from the phallus of Re, when he was going to mutilate himself". Since the castration of Re corresponds to the castration of Anu in the Hurrian epic of the Kingship in Heaven, and the castration of Prajāpati by Shiva, we may assume that this event precedes the formation of the Cosmic Egg which, in the Purānas arises, from the seed of Prajāpati/Shiva. This may also have been the source of the practice noticed in some rituals of the Dionysiac religion that may have involved self-mutilation.
Linga Temple, Hampi ( CC by SA 3.0 ). The Lingam represents the phallic power.
Sacrificed Animals Represented the Divine Phallus
Over time, however, the human victim was substituted with animals that equally represented the energy of the divine phallus, thus a horse or a bull, and finally with lesser animals such as sheep and goats. In all cases, however, the original significance of the sacrifice as a self-sacrifice is never forgotten, as many of the processes of the Vedic sacrifices as well as many of the accompanying Vedic chants reveal. The spiritual purpose of a sacrifice is indeed to control the sexual energy and convert it into spiritual energy directed to the attainment of the ideal “sattvic” state of the Purusha, that is, as the solar deity Vishnu.
Over time, human victim was substituted with animals (Wellcome Library, London)
The Swallowing of the Divine Phallus
It will be noted further that the phallic sacrifice of the ideal Purusha is repeated in the manifest cosmos, for such a sacrifice is necessary for the transference of the divine power to our solar system. The second sacrifice involves the destruction of Brahman/Prajāpati by his son Ganesha (Zeus/Seth) and the swallowing of the divine phallus by the latter so that the whole universe and its light moves into his body.