THIS POST IS NOT I REPEAT NOT IN RESPONSE TO CURRENT ONLINE DEBATE ABOUT ANIMAL SACRIFICE. (Really it’s just fascinating timing because we slaughter stock in late fall to early winter- Samhain, anyone?- and there happens to be a debate going on right about now)
ALSO: THIS POST INCLUDES THE DESCRIPTION OF ANIMAL SLAUGHTER
Last weekend was an historic first on the mini farm. The first young whether raised on the farm (whether: castrated male goat) was slaughtered for meat. It’s not the first animal killed on the farm. I have no idea how many generations you would have to retrace to find that information. He was the first goat that we raised and killed for food.
So how and why might I call his slaughter a sacrifice? Why is this even a big deal for me?
I started this venture just over a year ago after my former life was brought crashing down around me partly through my own actions and partly through some serious divine interference. When Ares says “jump” you freaking jump. If you fail to jump then the world will fall out from under you. Trust me. If you don’t trust me, trust the wonderful and understanding professional therapist who put me back together. It was this vaguely referenced series of events that led to me finally cutting all ties with my old life and starting over as a business owner and (eventually sustainable, off grid) small stock raiser and gardener. When I took that final leap into the new life, it was Ares who said “Trust Me.”
So I did. I have my reasons for doing so and they have taken years to develop. But I did.
Money is and will probably always be tight, but it’s there. Work is and will probably always be kind of spotty but it’s enough. Barely. I’d feel better if there was more interest in the business but Father assures me that will come in time. Food is plentiful. Shelter is an interesting story but suffices until better is built. And family… with few exceptions… is healing. Friends, magic and just plain FUN have never been better. Life isn’t easy but it’s GOOD.
All of this- and there’s more that I just can’t put into words- is the reason that I consider the slaughter of this goat to be a sacrifice. He represented in a living breathing way the fruits of the trust I placed in Ares as my abundant Father. (Why, no, I don’t just honor him as a war god) This goat was sacred, and in dying he fulfilled his sacred purpose.
I cared for the animal as best as I know how, and can honestly state that he gave every indication, both physically and per his behavior, of being a happy, healthy animal. I think sometimes that we forget that prayers can be prayers of praise instead of petition, so I did voice my praise and my gratitude for my good life as well as for the healthy animal and the promise of healthy animals in the future. I made sure the goat was calm before I opened a major artery with a single stroke of a very sharp blade. He died calmly and quickly, blood soaking into the earth to feed next year’s garden. Only when every last twitch was long done did my brother and I skin and gut the carcass, and begin the process of removing edible tissue for packaging and preservation.
Killing an animal is an act that I find to be simultaneously sacred and profane. Slaughter is the culmination of months or even years of effort to keep and raise healthy animals. It is not an easy task and destroying that effort may feel strange. I take a life to feed my own life, knowing full well that when I die my matter and energy alike will feed other lives- even if those lives are single celled decomposers. I experience the resistance of flesh to blade, the heat of blood, the last gasp of air in a physical, primal way. I don’t enjoy the act, but I sense the accomplishment. While I know perfectly well that this way of living is not for everyone, I can’t imagine a better way for me, myself, to BE pagan.
I realize this post is not well timed, given the debate currently staggering about drunkenly on other larger sites that people actually read. I realize that this post may be uncomfortable and even disturbing to some readers. Sad to say, but I don’t think either statement really affects me. I consider slaughtering animals that you have raised (or hunted, I will insist on including) to be a sacred act. It is an act that I will perform whenever circumstances are right, regardless of what others are saying, and with thankfulness in my heart for the animal, the earth, and the gods.