Animal Sacrifice, Avians, and the ATRs

In case you didn’t read the title, this post is going to feature the topic of animal sacrifice. No doubt it will piss some people off, and I won’t care. So if this topic is something that gets you all worked up, go somewhere else. This post will detail my own personal perspectives regarding birds; if you want something that gives a more general overview on the topic, you can read my colleague’s post here.

In being an avian aficionado and being involved in the ATRs, I’m in a very unique position. I can either be seen as a barbarian for participating in animal sacrifice, or I’m too sentimental when it comes to the birds. As the augur or ‘avian tech’ I inspect the birds for health, divine with them, and prepare them for the Big Moment. I also have a pet hen and 3 quail, and I divine using a mated pair of Old German Owl Pigeons affectionately named Punta and Pinga. They fulfill 3 functions: as important spiritual tools, as therapy animals, and as cherished pets. People wonder how I can make these separations in my mind. It’s very easy for me. I look at numbers and facts. I am also a carnivore. And so are the majority of the people and spirits I interact with on a daily basis.

A stack of birds.  My pet hen and one of my quail.

A stack of birds. My pet hen and one of my quail.

People’s negative opinions on animal sacrifice are primarily fueled by ignorance, xenophobia and racism, with a liberal frosting of sheltered pacifism. The same people who would hurl stones at those who practice animal sacrifice are the very same people who would cram Burger King deluxe chicken sandwiches in their cavernous maws. They don’t even think about where that chicken “meat” came from. Or they will try to justify it by saying that it was from birds raised as food for human consumption. They don’t think about the fact that these broiler birds are bred to suffer and die in horrible ways. That’s 9 billion birds. Anually. The birds we eat from factory farms are horribly deformed, spend most of their time laying in their own feces, and with suppurating and infected sores. How appetizing. Their deaths are equally unappealing. There are no bird-specific regulations, and humane slaughter standards do not apply to poultry. Which means these production-raised birds live out their lives in misery, and die in horrific ways. For example, being boiled alive.

While we’re on the topic of chickens specifically, they weren’t even originally domesticated for food.  The bird’s use as food exclusively is a relatively new invention in the history of bird husbandry.  The birds I have handled prior to sacrifice have all been raised in the sunlight, scratching in dirt.  They are healthy, sturdy, vibrant animals who can walk and run, even fly.  No sores, no diseases or infections.  When it’s time for them to die, it happens quickly and cleanly.  I can’t even compare to the ones I see shrink-wrapped in the supermarket. I don’t think I will ever understand how it is perfectly fine to raise and slaughter an animal in this manner, but completely unacceptable to take a perfectly healthy, well-adjusted bird from a smaller farming operation and pray over it before making it a sacred offering, where it is then shared with the spirits and the people present.  We feast on animals who live and die in agony.  Most humans don’t even die as peacefully.  Many die riddled with disease, stuck within a medical system that encourages lingering and undignified deaths based on conservative Christian thinking, leaving the surviving family to deal with horrible debts and the trauma of watching their loved one slowly die in agony.  It’s a degree of backward thinking that could only be sustained by privileged, sheltered xenophobia and wilful ignorance.

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The Metaphysics of Respect

People often seem to be under the curious notion that respect is something that will just be handed to them on a silver platter. I’ve often said that things such as: money, material acquisitions, titles and stations, or having male genitalia do not automatically gain you respect, at least not in my eyes. But many people seem to be under the notion that all they need are these things in order to have respect simply dropped at their feet. There are situations when yes, respect is a thing to be demanded. However, if the persons to which you are demanding the respect find that you consistently cannot back up that pitbull mouth with your poodle ass, then they are just gradually going to become frustrated with you over time. At the very least. Action talks. Bullshit walks.

Now don’t get me wrong. Ego is a great thing to have. I’ve never agreed with the notion that one shouldn’t have ego in a spiritual tradition. If you want to live without ego, become a snapping turtle. Egoes are important. They are our sense of self as higher-thinking and functioning entities. It’s what you do with it that can ultimately fuck you up and piss off those around you. When I see things like jealousy, backbiting, or two-faced behavior, it tends to tell me two things: that the person or persons involved are highly insecure, and behaving in a cowardly way. An in spiritual systems that would be termed “warrior traditions”, this sort of thing is especially unwelcome. It’s like the crippled elk attempting to conceal a broken leg from the wolf. Or an injured seal leaving a trail of blood in shark-infested waters. The inevitable fallout from these types of behaviors takes away from the goal, and can distract those around you and hinder their progress. What do you have to offer? What do you have to give? How do you plan on helping those around you, even if it means lending your back to allow someone to step up higher than you?

In very traditional spiritual systems such as Palo (Kimbisa, Brillumba, Mayombe, and etc), Quimbanda and Ocha/Santo, the individual takes second place to the needs of the munanso, ile, household, family, what have you. If all you’re doing is spending time figuring out how to tear another person down, then you’re largely missing the point. As my Yayi tells me: The size of the prenda does not reflect the ability of the palero. Knowledge, wisdom, patience and strength of character will get you many places. Material objects won’t. The former are things that need to be earned through hard work and respect to those around you. Showing up at a household with your hand out will get you nowhere. If you have a lot of money to throw at a fancy car, and yet don’t know how to drive, then you’re just a chump with a useless hunk of metal. And anyway, if you don’t have a driver’s license, no amount of strutting or money-waving will encourage any scrupulous car dealer to sell you an expensive car. If you’re going to talk the talk, then expect to walk the walk. Otherwise you will simply be left in the dust.

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On Birds and Purity

Birds are very clean animals, despite what people may complain over regarding pigeons and parked cars. Even the lowly chicken, if given the option, would prefer not to live in cramped quarters and walk in its own excrement. Birds spend the vast majority of their resting moments cleaning themselves or each other, a process known as allopreening. To a bird, cleanliness and hygeine are of utmost importance, a matter of life and death. A skin ailment, dirty feet, an infection in the feather shaft, all can result in the failure of flight function, lameness and, ultimately, death.

Cleanliness and purity are defining features of a bird as much as eggs and feathers are. It probably comes to no surprise that birds have such a strong function in the healing and cleansing rituals and ceremonies within a wide variety of traditions throughout the world, but particularly within the ATR/DTR traditions and systems, such as hoodoo. Eggs cleanse and absorb negative energy by being rolled over various parts of the body, or on a specific afflicted area. They are then discarded by a variety of means which include hurling them at a crossroads or at a tree. They are sometimes cracked into a bowl and the contents interpreted for divinatory purposes. Wings and feathers also dust off debris and negativity. Whole birds are also used in the same manner as the egg, and are then humanely offered up in sacrifice and discarded, as their meat has become unfit to eat from absorbing the bad luck and negativity of the people.

Note that the above isn’t limited to chickens, but they are the most easily accessible of birds and have a long history of domestication. Other birds are also used and have a long pedigree of traditions and symbolisms associated with cleansing and purity, for example the dove or white pigeon, but it would be exhaustive to try to cover them all at this time. As an augur I’ll attest that birds make very strong and deeply meaningful spiritual allies and tools. This may also explain (aside from my own germophobia) why I am very aware of the cleanliness of my own body and surroundings, despite being elbows deep in such a visceral and sometimes very dirty spiritual tradition. The hawk never at all hesitates getting himself dirty in the heat of the hunt, but you must excuse and have patience with him when he takes his time to ensure that the blood is scraped from his beak and talons, and every feather cleaned and put back into place for the next hunt.

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Getting Back Into Blogging

I’m trying to get back into the saddle with blogging. One of the major points holding me back from this is that I’m generally a very private person. A lot of who I am and the Work that I do is something I tend to keep to myself, or are only known by parties who are directly involved in whatever I may be doing in whatever way. I’m slowly beginning to stick my head out of my shell a bit, but for me it’s a process. One of the things I will touch on with my Work is my role as augur. Put simply, augury is the practice of divination by studying the movements of birds, a practice popularized in ancient Greece and Rome, but is found throughout a variety of world cultures as an intricate form of divination (augury can also be used as a general synonym for divination). The form it takes varies a bit depending on the culture and belief system by which augury is employed. That is a major role that I play in the Work I do. But it’s something I’ll have to take the time to really sit down and write out, which I’ll do not now but at some point in the recent future. I am still getting back into the habit of writing my thoughts down, which is something I was never all that proficient at but allowed to atrophy in recent years.

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It’s Not the Content of Your Character, It’s What’s In Your Pants

I see this primitive form of thinking in more than a few occult circles.  It never ceases to amaze me how the shape and structure of one’s genitals is the ultimate determining factor in judging one’s ability to do a thing, or witness a thing, for example.  Question for the masses: would you want someone judging your ability based on, say, whether one testicle hangs lower than the other?  Or whether or not you have a hairy labia?  Or a zit on your ass?  How would you like it if people insisted on inquiring about these things, and categorizing you based on these features?  Would you like it if someone kept asking you about your sexual anatomy, and your choice of partner in the bedroom, or how you perform intercourse? Then, lay judgement on you solely based on your answers, let alone how you present.  Your physical strength won’t matter, or your skill levels, knowledge or ability.  Your genitals make you or break you in the eyes of others.  As much as the various occult communities pride themselves on being progressive, I still see this simian, knuckle-dragging “logic” stewing in every corner, not unlike a ripe outhouse in August.

Probably one of the most prominent examples in these circles is the 2011 incident at Pantheacon where transgendered women were barred from attending a ritual held by Z Budapest.  But that isn’t the only example.  Most of it doesn’t make it to the news.  As a transgender/genderqueer neutrois person, I’ve witnessed and had my own fair share of this bullshit.  If the shape, structure and positioning of a person’s erogenous tissue is the primary thing with which you judge a person’s character, skill, ability or even energy signature, then you have a problem.  Not least of which is being able to mind your damn business about someone’s physiology and medical history.

If you want to better understand my perceptions regarding gender, this is a good read.

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The Simpering Idiocy of the Masses

So, there are reasons why I shouldn’t read comments, or surf around on Internet sites reading various correspondences.  Of course, this and similar complaints have been repeated ad nauseam, so I’ll just cut to the angry, bitter chase.

I happened to stumble upon a conversation on social media regarding gender roles and so on.  Usually a hot button topic for me, to be sure.  Thankfully, I did not participate.  Doing so would be more trouble than what it’s worth, but that won’t stop me from articulating my thoughts on my own blog.  At one point a self-proclaimed “intellectual” happened to speak up about his viewpoints on “natural law”.  I notice those two words seemed to be hurled forth frequently by uneducated lackwits who somehow feel threatened by homosexuals, the transgendered or the intersex.  You must pick a side, and it better be my side.  They open their maws and screech about “natural law”, when in fact they hardly know what that is.  What they really mean is their own version of it, which is as deviant and as far outside of nature as one can possibly get.

manedlioness

The whole idea of “natural law” that they subscribe to presupposes the idea that one chooses to be this way, and that goes beyond the bounds of their perceived view of nature.  I do not conform to the binary, therefore I either CHOSE not to conform to the binary, or I simply do not exist.  Just as this maned lioness pictured above shouldn’t exist, even though she serves a very useful function to the pride of protecting her sisters against threats from other males, therefore performing a very similar function of a male lion.  But this is only one in a vast myriad of examples of gender non-conforming.  Nature does not and never has adhered to binary laws, though it does utilize them from time to time.  If in fact Mother Nature stuck simply to that, then there would not be growth, evolution, or progress.  There would simply be stagnation.  It must be one or the other, it can’t be both ways.

And this is where we leave all of those sophomoric fools who insist on there being specific rules.  It is proof that a vast majority of us have not progressed much farther than the chimpanzees.  They invoke “natural law” and “tradition” as if these things are proven facts.  Tradition needs to be challenged, otherwise we rot in the stagnant pool of ideology and bigotry, and fossilize thus in the apeshit of our own making.

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Griffin’s Wings

griffinscythia

So, I’ve decided to take up blogging again.  It’s been years since I’ve done so, and there are times when I am not always consistent.  When life happens, I’m off on the wing, too focused on what is occurring to think about documenting it later.  But here I am, and I will do my best to keep my writing consistent.  I wanted to start out this blog by talking a little bit about the Griffin.  I’m not going to get deep into the history, myth and symbolism, though I could very well do that in later posts.  For that, I’ll just direct you here.  This will be from the perspective of my myself and the paths I’ve taken in my life.  I will do the best to not get overly personal, as that isn’t the primary focus of this blog.

Consider now, the Griffin.  When most people think about a griffin, they think of an animal that is part lion and part eagle.  Usually, the components of this hybrid creature are clearly defined.  But it wasn’t always like that.  If you go back farther, before the ascendance of Christianity, what you end up with is a liminal creature who’s boundaries aren’t clearly defined.  Even still, we can talk a lot about what a griffin in fact is.  It is, above all else, a unity and a synthesis.  Heaven and Earth or, in parallel, Heaven and the Underworld.  Spiritual and temporal.  Male and female.  The Griffin is as ouranic as it is chthonic.  It is the symbol of the Sacred Hermaphrodite.  It is both and neither, and in between the lines is where you will find it’s true face.  It is the keeper of the secrets locked in the Vault of Heaven and etched upon the bones of the Earth in its deepest depths.

griffinfins

I have had a griffin tattoo on my left wrist for well over a decade, being the very first.  In a very visible location, its position speaks of it being a very important part of who I am.  There are many ways in which I am both and neither, a synthesis that stands all on it’s own.  It’s own creature.  I will not be boxed.  The griffin is a creature that will not stay long in an area where it cannot wholly spread its wings, or stretch its legs.  Despite what the fantasy novels may tell you, no chain has ever been forged that could contain a griffin.  To constrain it within one realm, Above OR Below is to cut off its true nature.  Then it becomes a beast of neithers, which is not who I am.  Far from being a contradiction, or some clumsy chimera, it is it’s own beast, who unlike other beasts masters dualities, and moves beyond them.

 

 

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