Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Eternal Sacrifice Resurfaces

An Incan maiden sacrificed with two others as an offering during the ancient Corn Harvest now has been placed on display in a museum. In the first day alone, she received hundreds of visitors in the museum in Argentina.

A special tomb has been created for her, consisting of a clear chamber filled with chilled air in a low-oxygen atmosphere. Some native tribes have made the customary protests against the display, claiming sacrilege and urging a 'decent burial' or privacy for the 'remains'. The fact that the three sacrificial victims were exposed to the elements deliberately 500 years ago for the benefit of humanity makes these arguments rather absurd.

Questions do arise, however, whenever an archaeological 'find' like this is displayed to the general public. From the point of view of a sociologist, the question would be: what drives us primarily to want to see a mummified corpse? Is it our fascination with death or our fascination with immortality?

From my own perspective, this nameless 15 year old girl has achieved the status of an immortal. She is defined forever by the act that ended her brief life, and if her act were efficacious in any religious or magical sense, then she is twice blessed, for she was elevated to the highest stature first by her own people and now has the attention of the entire world half a millenium later. Actually, she has been given a new name, 'La Doncella', 'The Maiden'. It is thus, in fact that goddesses were born in ancient times...

She was attired ceremonially, given corn alcohol and coco leaves and painted with red ochre. The use of red pigment in funeral ceremonies and sacrifice has been found throughout the ages on every continent. Freezing is said to be one of the most painless, even pleasurable methods of death. At very high altitudes, lack of oxygen dulls emotions as well. Corn alcohol and coco leaves may have been unnecessary in the circumstances, but certainly if any vestiges of fear or discomfort existed, they would have been erased by the drugs or transformed to a state of ecstasy. She and her companions were found at the highest altitude of any sacrifices in the Incan Empire, thus as close to 'heaven' as any one ever could be on this planet.

Now she sits in a clear coffin, while the living press their faces against the glass, viewing her and musing upon all the eternal philosophical questions or perhaps simply filled with simple curiosity. Death comes to all of us, after all. Is not her end one of the least painful and most glorious?

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