One of the amazing witchy women I follow on Twitter is a bastion of unbridled kickassery. She’s so awesome that I regularly check her posts rather than just wait for them to show up on my feed. You don’t need to know her twitter handle, but you could figure it out as her pic makes her look like a wonderfully attractive Canadian flag (if you can’t figure that out from my ‘followed’ list go back to remedial Dr Seuss studies and depart this blog forthwith). Now I’m not going to yak about anything profound. I’m just gonna complain. Because people. And I will abuse parenthetical statements shamelessly.
Now Ms Awesome Witchy Woman here had a post (I won’t say ‘tweet’, not because I’m not pretentious but because I like to choose my own pretensions thankyewverramuch) up earlier today in which she noted a large number of deer and rabbit hides were currently on her table, and that she had lost followers over this. So to quote Kim Kardashian on her wedding night, let’s have a little bitch, shall we?
Everything dies. That’s just how it is, and it’s never gonna change. And sometimes things die because we kill them and eat them. A lot of the time, those things never really lived before we ate them, and spent their time in some barn somewhere, chewing cud mindlessly like computational linguists trying to figure out where they fit in the grand scheme of things (hint: nowhere; deal). Other things were far more a traditional part of life’s big circle and got to live nice, majestic lives before we ate them. And some of those wonderful things have lovely hides and soft fur, from which we can make awesome things. Cute little bunnies and prancing deer are lovely manifestations of Nature, and are noble enough. And they taste damn fine.
So here we are, modern Pagan types. Those of us who are witches venerate a Horned God of the Hunt. Call him Herne, or what-have-you, but he hunts and that means he kills stuff. And–prepare yourself here, because I’m unveiling a mystery like a Gardnerian Scooby-Doo–killing stuff means stuff has to die. There’s no metaphor here, and no mental trickery possible to pretend hunting and killing means something other than it does (you know the kind I mean–where people eschew sex on Beltane, or pretend the Great Rite is never done except symbolically and talk about spiritual fertility, which is a thing, but doesn’t factor in to the natural processes or meaning underlying the whole season, when everything fucks, although, granted, elections fuck us in autumn). Even if you’re a vegetarian (like some of my fave witches) something dies so you can eat it, and live longer, so more things can die and you can eat them too. And this continues until you die, at which point something is going to eat YOU (maybe me if you’re free-range, grain fed and pair nicely with a Pinot Noir)! You can love these wonderful creatures but that love shouldn’t divorce you from the fundamental facts of life.
OK. So some people following this wonderful woman suddenly had an issue with the presence of hides in her house. They obviously didn’t think, because the very presence of those hides shows respect for the animals that died. These hides were kept, not discarded, and will be used, and crafted into something useful that will outlast the meat they gave for consumption. Maybe leather, or a nice warm bedspread, or gloves, or a suit for some wacky Furry out there (cause the God is horny….get it?) Nothing was wasted. I’m not gonna go into the tired, old and problematic bullshit Noble Savage trope (a concept which we should also hunt and kill…even if you do think I’ve got an attitude or am being a little Chero-cheeky) but I will say that there is something primal and, to me, sacred in honouring the spirit of an animal we have killed by not wasting any of it’s useful parts. And Awesome Lady Witch is truly honouring the spirits of these animals. And I respect that, and her, because witches should stick together, except when it’s because we haven’t bathed recently.
When I hear Pagans complain about hunting, or meat-eating, I’ve often heard the comment made that the Goddess loves all her little creatures because she’s the Great Mother. OK, I get that…it’s an awfully Christian sentiment, but I get it. To which I like to point out that sows and hamsters kill off some of their own young if they can’t feed them all–and so do many other animals. Hell, the very act of giving birth is to doom to death! The womb that built and protected your body gave you a physical form, and like all such forms your body has a shelf life. You will die as the ultimate consequence of having been born. Why do you think the spiritual experience of Binah, the Supernal Mother, is the Vision of Sorrow?
As Christopher Hutton put it in his amazing Charge of the Dark God, “I am the Death that must be so that life can continue, for behold! Life is immortal because the living must die.”
Don’t fear death–fearing the inevitable is wasted energy. You can’t do anything about it, and should accept that you’re gonna die. But your death will not be a terrible thing–not if you leave behind a life well lived, that meant something to those who survive you. And those hides Awesome Lady Witch has on her table are tangible symbols of lives well lived, that have meant something to those still living. They mean sustenance, creation of something, and connection with even our most distant ancestors.
In a way those folks who stopped following her on Twitter did so because, on a deep level, they are afraid of death–their own deaths. Clicking that ‘unfollow’ button was a gut reaction to being faced with the reality of death and its inevitability; a manifestation of a primal fear rooted in divorce from the natural world, not acceptance of its glory and our place in it as temporary travelers through its awesome and majestic reaches–travelers on a road whose end is somewhere ahead, for every one of us.