Moses attempted to end human sacrifices by inaugurating the ransom as a substitute. He established a systematic schedule which enabled his people to escape the worst results of their rash and foolish vows. Lands, properties, and children could be redeemed according to the established fees, which were payable to the priests. Those groups which ceased to sacrifice their first-born soon possessed great advantages over less advanced neighbors who continued these atrocious acts. Many such backward tribes were not only greatly weakened by this loss of sons, but even the succession of leadership was often broken.
An outgrowth of the passing child sacrifice was the custom of smearing blood on the house doorposts for the protection of the first-born. This was often done in connection with one of the sacred feasts of the year, and this ceremony once obtained over most of the world from Mexico to Egypt.
Even after most groups had ceased the ritual killing of children, it was the custom to put an infant away by itself, off in the wilderness or in a little boat on the water. If the child survived, it was thought that the gods had intervened to preserve him, as in the traditions of Sargon, Moses, Cyrus, and Romulus. Then came the practice of dedicating the first-born sons as sacred or sacrificial, allowing them to grow up and then exiling them in lieu of death; this was the origin of colonization. The Romans adhered to this custom in their scheme of colonization.
Many of the peculiar associations of sex laxity with primitive worship had their origin in connection with human sacrifice. In olden times, if a woman met head-hunters, she could redeem her life by sexual surrender. Later, a maiden consecrated to the gods as a sacrifice might elect to redeem her life by dedicating her body for life to the sacred sex service of the temple; in this way she could earn her redemption money. The ancients regarded it as highly elevating to have sex relations with a woman thus engaged in ransoming her life. It was a religious ceremony to consort with these sacred maidens, and in addition, this whole ritual afforded an acceptable excuse for commonplace sexual gratification. This was a subtle species of self-deception which both the maidens and their consorts delighted to practice upon themselves. The mores always drag behind in the evolutionary advance of civilization, thus providing sanction for the earlier and more savagelike sex practices of the evolving races.
Temple harlotry eventually spread throughout southern Europe and Asia. The money earned by the temple prostitutes was held sacred among all peoples—a high gift to present to the gods. The highest types of women thronged the temple sex marts and devoted their earnings to all kinds of sacred services and works of public good. Many of the better classes of women collected their dowries by temporary sex service in the temples, and most men preferred to have such women for wives.