The building of this altar is spread over a whole year, during which period the sacrificer has to carry about the sacrificial fire in an earthen pan for at least some time each day, until it is finally deposited on the completed altar to serve as the offering-fire for the Soma oblations.
This is what may conveniently be called the Prajapati theory, by which the "Lord of Creatures," the efficient cause of the universe, is identified with both the sacrifice;(yajna) and the sacrificer (yajamana).
An important collateral identification is that of Prajapati (and the sacrificer) with Agni, the god of fire, embodied not only in the offering-fire, but also in the sacred Soma-altar, the technical name of which is agni.
Similarly the sacrificer, as the human representative of the Lord of Creatures, is identified with Soma (as the supreme oblation), with Time, and finally with Death: by the sacrificer thus becoming Death himself, the fell god ceases to have power over him and he is assured of everlasting life.
And now we get the Supreme Lord in his last aspect; nay, his one true and real aspect, in which the sacrificer, on shuffling off this mortal coil, will himself come to share - that of pure intellectuality, pure spirituality - he is Mind: such is the ultimate source of being, the one Self, the Purusha, the Brahman.
And Mauss describe a sacrifice as "a religious act, which, by the consecration of a victim, modifies the moral state of the sacrificer or of certain material objects which he has in view," i.e.
In the former case the sacrificer is raised to a higher level; he enters into closer communion with the gods.
In the latter either some material object, not necessarily animate, is deprived of a portion of its sanctity and made fit for human use, or the sacrificer himself loses a portion of his sanctity or impurity.
The necessary elements of a Hindu sacrifice are: (I) the sacrificer, who provides the victim, and is affected, directly or indirectly, by the sacrifice; he may or may not be identical with (2) the officiant, who performs the rite; we have further (3) the place, (4) the instruments of sacrifice and (5) the victim; where the sacrificer enjoys only the secondary results, the direct influence of the sacrifice is directed towards (6) the object; finally, we may distinguish (7) three moments of the rite - (a) the entry, (b) the slaughter, (c) the exit.
In the most developed forms, such as the offering of soma, they assumed a great importance; (r) the sacrificer had to pass from the world of man into a world of the gods; consequently he was separated from the common herd of mankind and purified; he underwent ceremonies emblematic of rebirth and was then subject to numberless taboos imposed for the purpose of maintaining his ceremonial purity.
The only permitted method of kindling it, (b) the tracing on the ground of the vedi, or magical circle, to destroy impurities, (c) the digging of the hole which constituted the real altar, (d) the preparation of the post which represented the sacrificer and to which the victim was tied, and other minor details.
The object of the sacrifice being to bridge the gulf between the sacred and profane worlds, the sacrificer had to remain in contact with the victim, either personally, or, to avoid ritual perils, by the intermediary of the priest.
The remainder, divided into eighteen portions, was cooked; seven fell to the sacrificer, after an invocation, which made them sacred by calling the deity to descend into the offering and thus sanctify the sacrificer.
(6) Then followed the rites of desacralization, including burning of certain of the instruments, lustration of the post, destruction of the butter, &c. Finally the priest, the sacrificer and his wife performed a lustration, found in an exaggerated form in the "bath" which concluded the soma sacrifice, and the ceremonies were at an end.
The sacrificer may aim at causing a speedy death or a slow one.
And it is also probable that certain persons combined in their own individuality the functions of magician and sacrificer as well as soothsayer.
This, according to Westermarck, is the central idea of human sacrifice: the victim is substituted for the sacrificer, to deliver him from perils by disease, famine or, more indefinitely, from the wrath of the god in general.
Sometimes the sacrificer's hands are laid on the victim before it is slain, or he may be smeared with its blood; in other cases the blood is smeared on the door posts, or the sacrificer is touched on every part of the body with the victim's body.
The corpse may be burnt, in part or as a whole; portions may be assigned to the priest, the sacrificer and the gods; the skull, bones, &c., may receive special treatment; the fat or blood may be set aside, and they or the ashes may be singled out as the share of the god, to be offered upon the altar; the skin of the victim may be employed as a covering for the idol or material representative of the god, either permanently or till the next annual sacrifice.