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Crucible of the Gods

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Black Sea Cultures Zoom In 3

A Living Tradition
Photograph by Randy Olson

Before sacrificing this bull...before preparing their sacred feast...before their traditions are forgotten, the men of Khakhmati, in the Khevsureti region of Georgia, do an ancient deed. First, the men—and only the men—gather on a hillside, sacrificial bull in tow. Next, the animal is positioned so its head faces the local deity—wherever it may be. The men intone a few prayers—some Christian, some not—then slit the bull’s throat. It’s businesslike, it’s festive, and it’s awfully messy. “If a spurting artery is aimed in your direction,” says photographer Randy Olson, “you can be 20 feet (six meters) away and still get covered in blood.”

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Leica M6
Film Type: Fujichrome Velvia 50
Lens: 28mm
Speed and F-Stop: 1/60 @ f/5.6
Weather Conditions: Overcast
Time of Day: 11 a.m.
Lighting Techniques: Fill strobe

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