I was led into the Temple of Eternal Sacrifice via the main entrance, passing under a large sign reading “There is nothing as beautiful as the bleeding female body,” one of the main mottos of the priestesshood. I only waited a short time before being ushered into a small but lavish room and seated at a table. The High Priestess entered, took her seat on the nearby throne and beckoned me to come forth. I took a proper prostrate position and waited to be allowed to rise. This quickly followed and the interview began:
Roman Times: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, it is a great honor.
High Priestess: Naturally. You may begin.
Roman Times: Thank you. As I understand it your order is 500 years old?
High Priestess: That’s a common misconception. The Temple history goes back 700 years. It’s only the new temple which goes back about 500 years.
Roman Times: What was the early temple like?
High Priestess: Confusion would be the best way to describe it. Virgins were sacrificed in a haphazard way with little thought to the order and importance of things. Drunken orgies were common, with duties left undone. This went on for nearly two centuries. No one really even tried to link the sacrifices to the world around them as we do now. Toss a few virgins on the altar, chant some meaningless rhymes and stab, stab, it was over. Time for more partying. I guess it would have stayed that way had we not fallen upon difficult times. Basically, it all came apart when the Roman leaders at the time decided the drastic rise in crop failures had to be stopped. The Oracles told of dreams in which a new order would come to power. It was clearly time for a purge. The High Priestess and her staff were baracaded in the temple and it was set ablaze. The new temple was quickly constructed and new leadership installed. Even then, it took a while for us to feel our way along.
Roman Times: A Purge? But I thought the temple was sacrosanct?
High Priestess: It is, but back then the early Senate still held sway. Even today, the only circumstance in which a purge could take place would be if I failed miserably in my duties. Though that would never happen, if it did I would WANT the Leaders to step in, slaughter us all, and appoint a new high priestess. After all it would be clear to anyone the gods were angry with the current staff.
Roman Times: Has that ever happened in the new temple?
High Priestess: Yes, as a matter of fact. Under the reign of Lilith the Messenger of Death, about 250 years ago, the people were growing increasingly alarmed by the number of defective births of first born male heirs. A subsequent investigation reveled Lilith was failing to meet her daily quota of virgin sacrifices, spending her time indulging in her sexual vices. As you know, the temple workers must indulge the high priestess’s every sexual whim, being even ready to die and be tortured as needed to satisfy her. The vast majority of high priestess’s use this right with care, but Lilith was thoroughly abusing her rank.
Roman Times: Did she do something particularly egregious?
High Priestess: Not tending to her duties as virgin sacrifice facilitator is the most serious crime there is. Still, no one dared to oppose her, given the inviolate nature of the temple. Things came to a head [the high priestess chuckled to herself], however on the third occasion of her eliminating the entire staff. Lilith was especially prone to strike down the temple workers for little reason. Naturally, a girl could be slain instantly for handing the high priestess the wrong knife or some such, but Lilith would go off if one of the poor girls breathed wrong, or for no reason at all.
Roman Times: You say this was the “third” time?
High Priestess: Yes, Lilith had completely slaughtered her entire staff twice before in a pique of rage. Fortunately back then the workers did not need as much training so replacements could be moved in quickly.
Roman Times: How many were on staff back then?
High Priestess: Not too many, the usual complement was 35.
Roman Times: A far cry form the 600 or so here at present.
High Priestess: Indeed. Anyway, the third time she did this the officials were forced to act and the sent in investigators. They went through 13 of them and their slaves before the Senate was compelled to send in an Amazon force.
Roman Times: Because men are never allowed in the temple?
High Priestess: Yes. The Amazons found the investigators in various states of torture or already dead. Lilith was quite mad and rushed them, forcing them to decapitate her. A fitting end as she hadtaken the heads of the entire staff in her last rampage. They were neatly arranged in rows in her chambers [I could see now why she chuckled earlier].
Roman Times: I don’t understand, didn’t the Amazons defile the temple by carrying weapons in?
High Priestess: Of course and by their mere presence. As all non-purified visitors to the inner chambers, they were imminently slaughtered by their sisters when they emerged. The Amazons understand sacrifice protocol very well.
Roman Times: I see. I thought the Amazons were enemies of the State?
High Priestess: Most are. These are civilized Amazons, actual Roman citizens with the rights afforded us all. They have formed their own battalion and have actually fought and defeated their barbaric counterparts. You should interview then some time.
Roman Times: That’s a good idea. I may do that.
High Priestess: Be careful though. They are not as tolerant as I. Say the wrong thing to their leader and you could find yourself drawn and quartered before you could speak again. They have had bloody fights within their own ranks. Really hot tempered those girls, but when you need a female force to purge a temple or slaughter another Amazon tribe, there is no one better.
Roman Times: Thank you for the advice.
High Priestess: Anyway, once the temple was purified by a large round of proper virgin sacrifices, a new high priestess was established and things soon settled back to a normal routine of daily blood offerings.
Roman Times: OK, coming up to the present. Do you think you are really appreciated as much as former high priestess’s were?
High Priestess: Sometime I have to wonder. I mean, people today seem to think this is all some sort of superstition. I wonder how they think they are enjoying an unprecedented time of prosperity? People forget who really makes their lives better. If I stopped doing my job, even for a day, deformed babies would popup everywhere. Appeasing the gods is a science. The number of sacrifices being tagged to specific gods and their needs shows this. We didn’t just pull a daily virgin sacrifice number of 17 from thin air. It is based on a Virgin per god-capita ratio. However, the tripling of virgin sacrifices on highholy days was due to a vision by the Oracle of Zeus. Whilenot quite as scientific, experience has demonstrated the folly of not taking such visions seriously. I’m sure you remember the collapse of the Temple of Juno. A needless, bloody mess. Nothing like that has happened since, due to the faithful offering of 51 virgins every high holy day.
Roman Times: And you satisfy all the gods?
High Priestess: Oh no. Some gods, like Bacchus, require no blood sacrifice. Jupiter, on the other hand demands 3. Mars, 2. The rest one or even just half a virgin.
Roman Times: Half? Who gets what half?
High Priestess: Very good question. It was just such a theological pondering which occupied the high priestess and temple staff for some time back when this was discovered. Obviously the upper half would be more worthy than the lower. We certainly did not want to displease any god. Then, as so often happens, the answer was right there in front of us.
Roman Times: Which was?
High Priestess: Split her lengthwise.
Roman Times: Isn’t that rather difficult? I mean some of the fierce tribes have been known to have warriors who could split a man in half, but how could a woman do it?
High Priestess: You know I think this was a test by the gods to see if we could figure it out. They do so love to test us. Here, once again, is where science comes to help. We, of course, tried using various implements to cleave the sacrifice in two, but it always took so many hits and was so messy, nothing worked out.
Roman Times: Were the gods displeased at these offerings?
High Priestess: Oh, we didn’t actually use any virgins or one of the sanctified altars. We used female slaves and a slab of marble which the temple has expressly for experimentation. No, it was a while before we were ready to present a proper sacrifice.
Roman Times: The gods didn’t mind waiting?
High Priestess: Well, we did a risk assessment and decided a short term displeasing of the gods was better than a long term wrath brought on by poorly executed offerings. At least the gods could see we were working on the problem and not just ignoring them.
Roman Times: I see, yes that makes sense. But you finally found a way?
High Priestess: It took quite a while and testing a number of prototype altar stations before we found one that would work every time. We went forthe obvious first, trying blades attached to strong bent poles that would impel the blade forward when released. It started between the sacrifice’s legs, designed to split right up through the head. This even required a novel two part altar so the blade could travel right through the middle.
Roman Times: And this was not successful?
High Priestess: No. Try as we may, it never quite made it all the way through properly. The body would twitch or move in some way and the cut would end up uneven. We had to put in a head stone to keep the girl from just being cut part way through then simply flung off the altar. It might have worked had we strapped her down, but a proper sacrifice requires the offering to lie down of her own accord with no restraints of any kind.
Roman Times: Were there more types of altars tried?
High Priestess: Many more, but no design proved to quite meet all the requirements. We finally went with a simpler approach by suspending a very heavy blade above the virgin and releasing it to come straight down.
Roman Times: That sounds good, did it work?
High Priestess: Yes and no. It did the job of cleaving her asunder in two equal parts, but the cut was not clean. The impact, even with a very sharp blade, would often shatter the skull. We even went with the split altar design so the blade could travel between the two halves on it’s downward plunge, but that still wasn’t good enough.
Roman Times: You must have gone through a lot of slaves.
High Priestess: Better believe it. The records stopped counting after about 300 or so. Still, we would not give up and finally, the high priestess at the time came up with the solution while she was cutting bread. She noticed she would move the blade nearly straight down, yet it still actually sliced through the bread. This was because one end of the knife was higher than the other. This provided a slicing action as the nearer end of the blade contacted the bread before the other end. So, the downward action was translated to a slicing action. She thought, if bread, why not people?
Roman Times: Brilliant!
High Priestess: It was indeed. They merely lifted the far end of the blade up some and achieved the same slicing action. Additionally they added a ragged edge to include a bitof a sawing action. Such an edge was useless when the blade just came straight down, now it added a lot of power to the cut. We finally had a reliable method of creating a clean cut, from the groin right on through the head.
Roman Times: I’m sure the gods were pleased.
High Priestess: They were. Our metrics indicated a jump in lambs being born, and the leper population actually decreased for the first time in 100 years.
Roman Times: Amazing.
High Priestess: No, just science. Action, reaction. We always gauge our progress, changing as needed for optimum results. What was ironic was the fact that now, what would have been the hardest sacrifice to perform was the easiest. Trip a lever and the blade does all the work. Beautiful.
Roman Times: Have there been many labor saving devices added over the centuries?
High Priestess: Yes. The skinning alive task, for example. Very noisy and time consuming, having to first make the cuts, then peel back the flesh. Fortunately we did not have to remove all the skin from an offering, but what we did have to do was quite labor intensive. About 130 years ago, the high priestess, Clavia the Cruel, invented a skin stripper while watching a group of carpenters doing work outside the temple. She noticed one using a device that shaved the wood to make it smoother or even it out. Straight away she sent for one of the tools and, after some experimentation, adapted it for the skinning process. Now we do not even need to make cuts first, although we still do for the sake of tradition. I simply run the sacrificial tool along the girl’s skin and neatly slice off long strips of flesh. It can even be set for the depth of penetration. A little surface skin, or a thicker strip of the whole flesh.
Roman Times: I can see you are thinking all the time.
High Priestess: Yes, our goal is to provide the highest quality sacrifices in the least time. There has been no negative feedback from the gods so we must be doing something right.
****** Part two in next entry ***********