This is When We Sniff Butts

April 5, 2011 by Categorized: Fur and Feather.

… and touch noses and get to know each other, right? Maybe not.

 

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth. “ ~ Henry Beston

 

When was the last time you laid hands on an animal? For some of us, it may have been quite a while. For others we lay hands on our beloved pet daily, for a few others we lay hands on animals for our livelihood.

 

Many of us wear leather each day and yet have never been in the presence of a living cow. Some of us will eat an animal’s flesh more often than we lay hands on it; touching hide, feeling fur, smoothing feathers.  It is not uncommon to meet a Pagan, Witch or Heathen who proudly displays a bear skull upon their altar, yet when asked, they admit they have never actually seen a bear in its natural habitat.

 

Throughout my life I have had the privilege and the responsibility of living and working with animals. Up close and personal, from birth, through life and unto death. Perhaps even onto my own dinner plate.

 

I come from farm folk, I have participated in dog shows and kennel clubs, and I have worked in rescue and the fostering of abused animals. I have assisted with the training of dogs and horses. I have worked at boarding kennels, pet stores and dog groomers. I have been a midwife to birthing animals and I have also hunted and killed. Always with reverence and respect, even when I was knee deep in half frozen mud and manure, bone tired and heart broken.

 

Animals have been my hobby, my friends, and my joy, a big part of my spiritual path, my frustration, my job and my life’s work. Recently I have decided to back up all my experience with education as well. It is from this perspective that I will be writing this column.

 

I am not anti or pro anything. This is not a soapbox. I do not bother with black and white; I am a pluralist and a polytheist. My goal with this column is to encourage discourse and raise awareness. It is up to you to form your own opinions.

 

Here are some of the topics I hope to cover in Fur & Feather:

 

Animals in the News: This being part of the PNC and all … I will post and comment on news stories about animals. Everything from painful stories such as cases like the slaughter of mush dogs in Whistler this past winter and the ongoing investigation, to the heart warming tales we all like to read now and then. I hope to not only report and comment but to also take a look at why such stories might matter to your average Pagan, Witch or Heathen.

 

Animal Rights, Rescue and Rehabilitation: The Earth is our Mother and we must take care of Her … but what of Her creatures? Here I will share my personal experiences working in these fields and interview other people who work to save animals. As well as ask if a Nature worshipper is obligated to volunteer at the local Humane Society or to report a case of a neighbour hoarding cats. How relevant is animal rights, the extinction of species and the abuse of family pets to the Pagan community?

 

Animals and Spirituality: Together we can study animals in mythology and folk lore. What is our evolving relationship with animals compared to our Pagan ancestors and their rites of animal sacrifice?

Let’s take a look at how a modern Pagan works with animals in ritual and magick. How does one train their dog to behave in ritual, or keep kitty off the altar? Is animal sacrifice ever acceptable in a modern setting?

Many Pagans work with spirit animals, totems or guides we may call them. But what does this mean and what are these animal spirits? How can we connect so easily with a spirit animal and yet be so removed from the flesh and blood critter lying as road kill on our street?

 

Cohabitation and Training: Many Pagans have pets, but how do we live with them? I hope to offer tips and advice on training, first aid and emergency procedures, how to introduce a new pet to your home and much more.

 

Ethical Eating: Many of us eat animals; this is a big part of humanities’ relationship with them. I hope to respectfully cover the many different perspectives on eating, and not eating, our fellow members of the animal kingdom.

Not just what we eat, but also what we feed our critters. How ethical and healthy is your own pet’s diet?

 

Farming, Hunting and Husbandry: From homesteading to factory farming and from the breeding pen to the show ring. More and more people are raising chickens in their backyard, even in the city. What are our alternatives to the modern factory farm?

Are we doing right by our animals to create inbred champion dogs, cats and horses to display for trophies? How do you tell if your puppy came from a reputable breeder or from a puppy mill?

How do we hunt ethically and with respect? The hunt is an important motif in many Pagan practices and celebrations, deities of the hunt populate our many pantheons’. Yet this topic is often glossed over, it is time to stop romanticizing and start scrutinizing.

 

Book Reviews and More: I will review books, documentaries, blogs and maybe even the odd film about animals.

 

I plan to post at least once a month to Fur & Feather. I will also contribute to the main body of No Unsacred Place when I can find the time. While I am not new to blogging, I am new to this style of column writing, so expect a certain amount of “growing in” at first. I should also note that I am a farm girl, not an academic; my grammar, research and use of the language may not be on par with someone holding a Masters degree. You’ll just have to bear with this hill-billy Pagan chick, I guess. *grin*

 

If you want to know more about me, please check out the author page. I will post to Fur & Feather again soon.

 

Cheers!

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8 Responses

  1. I am looking to forward to reading your columns. I grew up with horses and miss them a lot. Still have dogs and love wildlife.

  2. This column will definitely be of interest for me; all my furry/feathery family members are rescues, and I volunteer with a local wild animal/bird rehab center. I can’t imagine the void in my life without the animal kingdom around me. I have recently moved to the outskirts of town, slightly more rural, and I rejoice in the songs of Spring everyday!

  3. I am excited to see you cover the topic about hunting and its role in paganism. I too find it often glossed over and even trumpeted as non-relevant in modern practice.

    Personally, I find those whom consume meat can become closer and more aware of the actual connection they have when eating an animal when they are involved in the hunt. I feel that it makes me have more respect for what I am eating. A hunter competes with its prey, and the prey is unlike a farm animal, as it may outwit the hunter as the hunter is now on the animal’s home turf. I could easily go on, but I think it best if I stop here.

  4. I look forward to your future postings. I have been a farrier for 30+ years and find that I connect to the earth through the animals I share it with.

  5. WolftribalApril 8, 2011 @ 11:31 amReply

    I am looking forward to your future articles. I especially connected with your commenting of how we can eat the flesh of animals without having even been in their presence when they were alive.

    I decided a few years ago that if I couldn’t “do the deed” myself, then I would go vegetarian. I am still eating meat, most of which I killed and skinned or de-feathered myself. I have found a much greater connection to the animals I consume.

  6. “Is animal sacrifice ever acceptable in a modern setting?”

    All animals must kill (and eat what they kill) to survive. I believe that the human body needs to eat meat as well as plants, so see acting as hunters as an intrinsic part of our human animal nature.

    And what is killing but a “sacrifice” of the being who is killed? We choose to sacrifice their life so that we may live – thus we participate in the cycle of life and death. But we can choose to make that sacrifice sacred, to honor the animal that we kill, to kill it with love and reverence.

    So to me the problem is not the act of killing, but becoming estranged from the killing – either doing it in a cruel, disrespectful way, or financially supporting the cruel, inhumane killing of animals by others (factory farming).

    I also think that how an animal lives has just as much importance as how it dies – more even. Thus I see a vast difference between an animal living free, being in control of its own life with the power to make its own choices for itself, and an animal being treated like a slave, like property. So I think the ethics of animal treatment relate just as much to the “keeping” of animals as it does to the killing of them.

    And I think we have to be honest with ourselves. Does forcibly separating a puppy from its mother and siblings (its pack) at a very young age respect the puppy’s freedom and psychological health? Does forcing a horse to “perform” to our expectations and carry around a rider that bounces on their back and jerks a metal bit in its mouth respect the animals freedom and health? (As a lifelong rider and former horse trainer, I know that it takes YEARS of practice to be able to ride a horse without inadvertently causing some discomfort to it, regardless of the riders’ best intentions). And are actions such as these done for the good of the animal, or for our own desire and pleasure?

    I think that the domestication and slavery of animals has been a part of our cultural heritage for so long (thousands of years, in some cases) that it is very hard for us to honestly acknowledge the truth of what we have always taken for granted. What else is making an animal work for our benefit (such as making a horse pull a plow or an oxen carry a load) than slavery? What else is cutting off a dog’s tail or ears for our aesthetic preferences than abuse? I think any discussion of ethical, sacred-honoring relationships with animals should honestly address these things.

  7. “When was the last time you laid hands on an animal?”

    A wild animal? This afternoon. My wife and I do wildlife transport for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

  8. Looks like I will have to post about hunting sooner than I had first planned!



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