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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Human Sacrifice at the University

uppsala slot

The author traces his ancestry mostly to the Swedish town of Uppsala, near Stockholm. Uppsala is famous mainly for two things: its university and human sacrifice. These two facts are not unrelated.

In pagan times, Uppsala was the Norse equivalent of the Vatican. And as such, the priests would practice ritual human sacrifice of slaves and captives at every holiday. Admittedly, they were pikers compared to the Aztecs who could not get into the proper festive holiday spirit without some twenty-thousand excoriated corpses at the feet of their temple pyramids. The Norse priests would usually sacrifice no more than a few dozen, but still.

About a thousand years ago Christianity came to Scandinavia. In one of the most blatant and hegemonic acts of cultural genocide, the Christians converted the author’s ancestors, using both persuasion and force, as the situation demanded.Of course, if the Christians had, rather than stomping out human sacrifice, instead adopted it into their rites (as they did elsewhere with some less sanguinary pagan rites), they would have been guilty of the equally heinous crime of cultural appropriation. The human sacrifices stopped.Uppsala may have been the last place in Europe where public, ritual, human sacrifice was regularly performed.

The children of the pagan priests became Christians. Their sons became Christian priests. Their grandsons in turn found themselves Christian bishopsThe author here telescopes both history and genealogy slightly. In fact, this process took somewhat longer. with a particular problem: where to procure the priests needed for the growing Christian population. They solved that problem by founding the University of Uppsala, the oldest in Scandinavia, one of the oldest in Northern Europe, and some say one of the best.

Over time the subjects studied broadened and a fair number of significant scholars, like Carolus Linnæus (the creator of the system for classifying plants and animals still in use), made Uppsala their home. Many generations of the author’s ancestors studied and taught at Uppsala and many are buried there.

Today Uppsala is—to those who appreciate the charm of ancient university towns—an exceptionally beautiful place.The picture above is of its local castle. When the reader is invited to Stockholm, a short detour to Uppsala is highly recommended.