Standing at the Crossroads

This month’s column is a subject that some of you might find disturbing or just plain “icky”. If you stick with me, though, I promise I am not advocating wholesale slaughter and random killing of sweet brown-eyed critters. <g>. I also promise that I won’t get graphic.

It’s butchering time out where I live. Folks are getting ready to fill their freezers and smokehouses with hogs, cows, and chickens. A lot of the folks in my area are either Amish or they simply do things the way their parents, grandparents, etc… down the line did things. Yes, they add in a lot of technology to help them do it, but when it comes to living simply and frugally – well, I live in farm country, and “that’s just the way it’s done”.

Now, I understand that for many of you, and perhaps most of you, butchering time is a foreign concept. You’ve never had to go out and kill your own dinner. Unless you are vegetarian, your meats come in nicely packaged or shrink wrapped parcels from the store. If you are into more gourmet foods, it might come from a butcher in your city – but still, you never have to “do the deed” yourself.

This is a good thing
Most of us have not got the skills to properly or humanely kill a creature, and I in no way advocate trying it for the first time alone. However, if you do live on a farm, or have recently moved to one, and wish to “get back to basics” and try this for yourself, then by all means, do so – with a little help that first time from someone more experienced and able to teach you the proper way of it.

So what does this POSSIBLY have to do with spirituality? Well, with Vodou, the main problem many folks have with following or even considering the religion is Sacrifice. Now I understand totally if you are vegetarian, and if you are, then that does not mean that Vodou is totally out of the picture for you. There are many groups in the United States who practice “vegetarian” forms of Vodou. Instead of sacrificing a living animal they will use bread shaped as such, or they will offer other foods instead of meat. The Lwa gain nourishment from many things, you do not have to offer them blood to have them work with you.

Truth be told, I have sacrificed ONE chicken to a spirit in my entire life – and those were, in my opinion at the time, dire straits. Options for foods or other items offered other than blood or killing will be discussed with entries for each Lwa as I get into those. I have practiced Vodou for 10 years without regular bloodletting, and I have thrived in my religion the entire time.

In Haiti and many other countries, however, people are starving. They do not have the luxury of choosing to eat meat or not – if it is food, if it is available, they eat it. This is where the sacrifice of animals comes into play. Yes, they are offering the blood and certain parts to the spirits, but the animal is then cooked and everyone participating eats it later. It is not wasted, it is not thrown away, and it is not cruelly tortured for sport. Hollywood and the various Anti-Superstition Campaigns have done a lot to give sacrifice a bad rap.

Now, here on my farm, I have chickens, lots of them <g>. I also have donkeys, a horse, and a cow. I have killed chickens for dinner before, I intend to have the cow butchered for meat. Most of my chickens, however, will never see the dinner table, they are too spoiled and pretty. For instance, I have two spare roosters – ones I do not need for breeding, and they free range with the guineas. They serve no “farm purpose” they are just “there”.
They are both beautiful roosters, and very nice tempered, so they are not aggressive or mean – this is their saving grace. I have named them Attila and Blue. I raised these two roosters from day old chicks I had gotten this last spring at the feed store. They were so cute and fluffy and very sweet to play with. Now, they are big and colorful and spoiled rotten <g>.

Attila will come every day (at least twice) to my front porch and look up for treats. If I do not notice him, he’ll crow to me, to get my attention. I fully expect one day to find him in the house, looking for bread ends to munch on. I leave my door open, usually, for the dogs to run in and out, so it is small matter for a rooster to come up the stairs and into the kitchen. He is not afraid of the dogs, nor most anything – hence his name <g>. Blue is a bit more timid, but he is not afraid of me, just the dogs get to playing rough with each other and he runs the other way.

Now, these two chickens are not really good for eating anyway, even if I were so inclined. They are smaller and skinnier than chickens grown for meat production, and they would be pretty tough and stringy. If I were in Haiti, and starving – they would look like pretty good eats, perhaps, but I am living in America, and I am not starving, and I have the option of letting them live happy, bug eating, carefree lives.

I do eat meat, and I do kill my own when possible – because I feel it is kinder to them to be raised happy and healthy and to be killed humanely.

The factory farms that cut the beaks off chickens, to keep them from pecking each other bald; that stuff as many birds as possible into a smaller space to get the most yield; that feed them growth hormones and antibiotics to keep disease away (disease caused by their living conditions) – THAT, in my not so humble opinion, is cruel torture.

I do plan to raise some meat chickens, simply for the reasons stated previously about factory farms. Will they be offered as sacrifice before they become dinner? Perhaps, but probably not. I find that blood sacrifice is seldom as necessary as Hollywood makes it out to be.

If, by chance, I do choose to kill them in a sanctified manner – i.e.: offering their blood to a spirit, then so much the better. Many ethnic and religious groups have protocols for how their meat is raised, handled and killed for eating, why not mine also?

If you have stuck with me this far, then kudos to you <g>. I realize the subject can get pretty badly handled at times, and I’ve tried to be as politically correct as possible with this column (which is new for me, LOL I usually just speak my mind).

My intention when I began this article was to broach the subject of Sacrifice and make it seem less like the blood orgy it is often portrayed as. My intention was also to let folks know that there are options other than blood letting to “feed the spirits”. I hope I have succeeded and not simply confused the issue further.