Dies Sanguinis (24 March) was the "day of blood".
In Roman times, this was part of series of celebrations related to Cybele and Attis, representing a cycle of death and rebirth.
- The high priest (Battakes) and the galli did a wild dance around the sacred pine tree. The Battakes flagellated themselves and the galli with a whip hung with knucklebones. Clarinets and cymbals were played, and timbrels beaten furiously. People would also beat their breasts with pine cones and cut their arms and shoulders with knives. The blood from this was spilled on the pine tree or altars, with screams and yells that were echoed by the crowd. Some spectators entered the frenzied dances themselves and even participated in the next step. This was ritual castration of initiates, performed with broken pottery, sharp flint, and glass. The pine was then buried. The high priest said prayers for the protection of the emperor and Empire.
For modern eyes this ritual may look more than just a little extreme. People whipping themselves into a frenzy (literally) and cutting themselves? Voluntary castration - whatever for? The galli were a gender variant group, eunuchs, and keepers of the temples of the Great Mother. The ritual of castration formed part of their initiation into the Mystery cult of Cybele. Whatever else the castration did, it was also a sacrifice and commitment to a new life within the cult.
In modern times many people want quick and easy change. Advertisements and infomercials make many promises of simple solutions to problems - such as weight control, or monetary rewards - but few really work, or last. This is because lasting change or improvement requires effort, sacrifice and commitment.
In ancient times you gave something of value to the gods to indicate the worth of the endeavour that you wanted protected or blessed - the more sacrificed the more it was hoped that the deity would protect or bless that endeavour. In truth though, it also upped the stakes for those involved, and increased their commitment to success.
Sacrifice is all about deciding where to put one's focus and effort. In simplest terms, we focus on what we seek to achieve and sacrifice our time to those ends. Our lifetimes are finite and deciding which activities to pursue, and which ones are worth pursuing, can make all the difference. Commitment - making sure that that we maintain our priorities, is what makes the difference.
There are no guarantees of success in this life, but focus and commitment can help make the journey to our goals more rewarding, even if we never get there.