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At the beginning of The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Leova, the heroine, belongs to a religion that practices human sacrifice. And that troubles me as a novelist.

I find such a thing revolting. Perhaps, I should’ve taken the easy way out and argued that we have no way of knowing for certain if the Continental Saxons killed people as part of their worship.

Just one problem. After my research, I get the sinking feeling they did sacrifice humans in extreme circumstances such as war or famine, and I owe it to the readers to be true to the characters, faults and all.

So Leova accepts human sacrifice as a way to call on the war god to save her community, as you can see in this excerpt:

Leova swallowed her tears and held her burden more tightly as she and Sunwynn stepped into the hot, dusty chaos of the road. Surrounded by screams and wails, Leova looked to her left and gazed down at the Irminsul, standing tall near the drought-shrunken Diemel River. As long as the oaken pillar stood with its treasure, the gods would favor the Saxon peoples. Leova made out the warriors kneeling before the Irminsul, vowing to sacrifice the first captives and booty they won in battle. Her gaze traveled up the pillar’s great length to the top, where it divided itself into two bent branches and the idol of Wodan stood.

For more about why the Continental Saxons’ religion might have included human sacrifice, see my post on Unusual Historicals.


By Marianne Klement-Speckner (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)