It’s not something Pagans want to talk about it. The Neo-Pagans think it immoral and any Pagans, magic-workers, and worshippers who perform it mentally ill, but serve slaughter-house lamb at the dinner table and worship gods who indulged in such sacrifices “in the past.” The Pagans, magic-workers, and worshippers who perform it won’t discuss that they do. While my freshly adopted ADF practices have blended with my folk magic and traditional witchy practices with not but a scar, it is a crooked scar, a crooked line for a crooked path that I don’t feel comfortable even discussing on a philosophical level with a great deal of the Pagan community. Many polytheistic traditions recognize that killing “may be inevitable and indeed necessary,” as Prof. Werner Menski writes about Hinduism in his Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions (2007). My practices are considered darker, I work with bone and blood; yet 99% of the time I can’t kill a fly, ant, or spider; and I could never put flesh between my lips–unlike those who judge me.
WARNING: This post could be a little grisly to some folks. I discuss murder, sacrificial killing, animal rights, where your food comes from, and possibly other things you probably try to extract from your reality. Not for the faint of heart or irresponsible, unaccountable omnivores. I am also a strongly-opinionated Capricorn, though I think this disclaimer is simply attached to Capricorns and Tauri.
I thought I would write about the Keys of Solomon (the Clavis Solumonis and the Lemegeton, or “Greater” and “Lesser” Keys), but after watching the very, very disturbing video (known as “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick”) of Luka Magnotta brutally murdering and vandalizing a corpse which he dismembered and mailed pieces of to the headquarters of the two largest political parties in Canada (he’s on the run and assumed to be in France; stay alert!), killing is unfortunately a topic I cannot get out of my head today (and who knows if I’ll ever get the images out of my mind’s eye).
I have been out of sorts all day since I first read about Magnotta’s act. And while it is an absolutely cruel and unnecessary thing to do to any creature, one thing stands out to me: the dismemberment of limbs after death. Magnotta’s act might make your heart cry, but how is dismembering a corpse any different than butchering an animal for consumption? Or cutting off a wing to waft your smudge? Or a claw for a talisman? Or, you know, some good old fashioned human bone-reddening and necromancy with human skulls and remains? Not really that different.
My own moral compass is guided by maintaining honor and reverence for and a *ghos-ti- relationship with the Gods, Dead, and Spirits (and, you know, by what will allow me to sleep at night, and live without guilt), so I cannot personally bring myself to do anything more with a corpse than to let other creatures feast on it and leave me the bones; nor could I bring myself to eat meat. The idea of eating flesh disturbs me greatly. The idea that folks can eat flesh and yet not admit any connection between that and cannibalism or the murder of innocents scares me. Have we become so desensitized to the journeys our food takes to reach our plates? Considering most of us no longer do the slaughter ourselves.
How Wiccans can possibly move at all, especially in this modern world, and still follow the Wiccan Rede I cannot comprehend. There are very few living things that can provide you nourishment without dying. For example, the potato is its own plant, and must therefore die when removed from the earth; but the apple tree continues to blossom and die back and return again even when the fruit is harvested. This understanding led to the birth of fruitarianism, a lifestyle in which a person only consumes such things as the apple, that mustn’t die to provide, an extremely restrictive form of raw veganism that is only inclusive of fruits and nuts (and which I personally enjoyed for a summer, and which is the ultimate “colon cleanse” and “feel-good diet”). How can the Wiccan fuel their body and mind while following the Wiccan Rede as anything but a fruitarian? How can the Wiccan live in a house, use air conditioning, running water, have wooden furniture, watch television, go on the Internet, etc. etc., while following the Wiccan Rede? These are perhaps Mysteries not meant for my more traditional mind; if any Wiccans would care to enlighten me, I am actually quite open and interested. (But I doubt any Wiccans would touch my blog with a ten-foot stang.)
Rev. Kirk Thomas, presently the Archdruid of Our Druidry, has published an article that touches on this issue and how it relates to ADF, “The Nature of Sacrifice.” It is my observation that the general opinion in ADF is that any Being who would ask a sacrifice of an animal really ought to be questioned, and that you really should reevaluate your relationship. We are a few hundred to a couple thousand years into the future from the ancestors whose practices we study and look on with wonder and reverence. Don’t know about you, but just based on the circumstances in which we live, caught between two extremes–places of genocide, starvation, and dehydration; and places of obesity, mansions and castles, and more carbon emissions in one country than are released by the entire world–as any indication of our evolution. Pagans more than most should know that we have gone backwards, forgetting all the wisdom of the ancestors who laid the now-decrepit stones of our paths, abandoning the worship and reverence of all the old gods, the spirits, and the earth itself, the plant and animal medicine and lore, even the knowledge of things that we shouldn’t have to rely on other folks to do (grow our food for us, cook our food for us, wash our clothes for us, keep our homes for us, heal our sick from conditions easily treated with plants in our very backyards).
Is the Earth going to keep spinning if the king isn’t sacrificed at Beltaine? Yes, we know this to be true. Are there sacrifices that the gods of war will accept besides the blood of our enemies? Well, fuck, I sure hope so. (I’m not brave enough to work with Them myself, though.) Is animal sacrifice terribly relevant if you aren’t also slaughtering that beast to eat what you don’t share with the gods yourself? Not really. Is killing an animal for its blood in ritual necessary when you’ve got plenty of it yourself, and a prick of the finger will do? Well, I don’t think so myself. Is killing an animal to eat its flesh relevant when there are millions of vegetarian and vegan alternatives at your local grocery? No, not at all. And if you think I’m on my little mostly-anti-killing high-horse (though I did just slaughter a good deal of fleas today), it’s really more of an anti-selfishness high-horse (but yes, I am typing this from a computer; am I redeemed because it was second-hand, and all my lights are candles and LED?). For example, aside from the fact that I might not know what the Hel to do, I don’t think I would kill a beast if it was trying to kill me. I am sure if I had children (besides my chihuahua-child) to look after it would be a different story, but I accept that you can’t hunt the boar without accepting that you might get impaled on its horns instead. Unfortunately our technology and the Bible have made us believe that we can steal without offering our own lives as sacrifice. In addition to living as sustainably as I think I am able, by my oaths my life and all that I am are forfeit should I ever break my vows to the Kindreds, which are my ways of putting some balance back into my dealings with the world.
None of this is intended as a challenge. I lack humility on this subject, obviously, but I also recognize that not everyone leads the same life I do, in the same place. This is simply a snippet of my on-going struggle with being an eco-anarchist, activist, and Pagan in the 21st century. Some folks do raise their own beasts for slaughter (though from an environmentalist standpoint, not an animal rights one, I think it’s immoral, but that’s for another soap-box post), the stag-king is still a sacrifice in some traditions, and some altars are still bloody. And I might be vegan, but I do still work with bone and blood, which is enough in itself to make plenty of Pagan folk squeamish, even if the blood is always my own and if I have only thus far collected the bones and things exclusively from roadkill who assented (I always ask before taking anything, and always honor “No”). Animal sacrifice offends my sensibilities, yes, as does flesh-eating, but human sacrifice not so much, as long as it is in a willing spiritual, ritual fashion. We have the least innocence of any creature out there, and to willingly sacrifice yourself to the gods is also a gift to Nature, saving the Earth and all living beings from a little more hardship, a little more strain. I’m not saying everyone should go and off themselves–I have tried and failed and been caught in the net of the gods. But if your Beltaine ritual looks Sarah Lawless’, in which the May King of the year past and the one chosen for the year anew struggle until one dies or is incapacitated, is this not a willing sacrifice, unlike animal or blood sacrifice, which victimizes an innocent creature whose willingness we cannot ask?
So, tell me, how is my path darker?