Human sacrifice

While I was writing the book I came across a photo essay in the Sunday Independent newspaper (London) of many pairs of shoes that had been found buried in the foundations of buildings that were now being torn down or renovated in London. Apparently during the 19th century there was a tradition of burying such things in the foundations as a good-luck talisman. I found that a little creepy and wondered if anything more sinister had ever been buried. I began digging around in anthropology books and soon found my answer:

“In modern Greece, when the foundation of a new building is being laid, it is the custom to kill a cock, a ram, or a lamb, and to let its blood flow on the foundation-stone, under which the animal is afterwards buried. The object of the sacrifice is to give strength and stability to the building. But sometimes, instead of killing an animal the builder entices a man to the foundation-stone, secretly measures his body, or a part of it, or his shadow, and buries the measure under the foundation-stone; or he lays the foundation-stone upon the man’s shadow. It is believed that the man will die within the year…the measure of the shadow is looked on as equivalent to the shadow itself, and to bury it is to bury the life or soul of the man, who, deprived of it, must die. Thus the custom is a substitute for the old practice of immuring a living person in the walls, or crushing him under the foundation-stone of a new building, in order to give strength and durability to the structure, or more definitely in order that the angry ghost may haunt the place and guard it against the intrusion of enemies.”
James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 1922.