In my notes I have written:
After Eleusis the Rharian field was a place or orgy and eating beef. The ephibes would lift up a bull for sacrifice and a solumn libation.It is a quote from Walter Burkert- Homo Necans, page 293
On the page before that I took another quote:
The collective experience that life and nourishment result from terror, the encounter with death and destruction, binds the Mystai together and adds a new dimension to their lives
death as transformation, the butterfly a symbol of the soul.
Homo Necans- man the killer- deals primarily with how humans get over killing, using myth and ritual to make safe something that is both physically and psychologically dangerous. The psychological dangers of killing are more than sorrow arising from empathy with one's victim, people learn to enjoy the hunt and over coming one's abhorrence at killing an animal hints at darker possibilities.
Every animal has a mother, clearly. And the Goddess who gives birth to all gives name and form to the knowledge that something has been taken and someone must be placated. The Mistress of the Animals, either as the Pure Artemis or the not so pure Wild Woman (such as Nin Hursag).
Herakles is said to be a mythological figure from this time in his lion skin and carrying a club; a seeker of immortality in the Underworld. And Dionysos Zagreus, Dionysos who ensnares, the god who possesses seems to be pure intoxication, a god one drinks in.
Homer sort of around 800 BC (and is to my mind as much Babylonian as Greek) says that a priest may only draw close to the Divine if he has "burnt many thigh pieces of bulls" -Il.1.40, 22.170; Od. 1.66- the god is present where offerings have been burnt over a long period of time.
This implies that it is use that creates a Holy place.
Or does it mean that it is the blood of sacrifice that causes the god to draw near?
If this is the case then as Berkert says, it is the intensity of the human reaction to seeing blood flow and watching death that feels like an encounter with the sacred. The connection between the feelings of Holy and horror and the desire for the Divine, become one experience..
The preparation for sacrifice shown on Greek vases includes bathing and dressing in clean clothes, putting on ornaments and wreaths. Sexual abstinence is most likely a part of the ritual. A procession begins as the celebrants start to leave the mundane, ordinary world. They sing and dance and the sacrificial animal goes with them, likewise decorated and slowly transformed. Legends tell of animals willingly offering themselves to be sacrificed.
After the killing and dismemberment the long bones and the pelvis is placed on the alter with flesh to be burnt. The skulls are preserved in the sacred place.
Latter the Pythagoreans and the Orphics (say around 600 BC) would demand that the lives of all creatures with souls should be preserved. Empedokles in particular described animal sacrifice as cannibalistic madness.
With the Neolithic age came the knowledge that the food crops came from earth and seed. Asherah of Canaanite religion like her Akkadian counter part, Ishtar represented the full store house, the fertility of the land; of fertility and plenty. Warfare was also very much a part of farming; it couldn't be otherwise. Inanna the Lioness of battle: "My lady, lioness in the battle, who butts the foreign lands, Enlil has entrusted me with bringing back the kingship to Sumer. May you be my help!"