Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Compassionate Thanksgiving!

I give thanks that there is an ever growing number of people out there fighting for the animals and for the true spirit of compassionate love, at Thanksgiving and every other day. Blessed be!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving again

I feel like Thanksgiving as a holiday is a mixed blessing. I have been a vegan for long enough that Thanksgiving now has happy connotations of sitting down and enjoying a cruelty free meal. But being part of the world, I see the cruelty this institution carries forth with the tradition of turkey slaughter.

It seems ironic that the season directly following Halloween is the one full of actual horror. A culture of people sitting down to a ritual of celebration and gratitude over a table laden with ribs, legs, and gizzards sounds like the extreme, anti-Druid propaganda that Caesar used to spread. Yet its real and we do it without even thinking.

Bowling with turkey carcasses, putting fireworks in the anal cavity of turkey carcasses, or shooting turkey carcasses out of catapults are some examples I have heard from "creative fundraising" in local and national news. We as a culture seem to have totally desensitized ourselves to the fact that turkeys are living things. The happy turkey as a cariacature of this holiday hides the horrors or factory farming that put these intelligent, sensitive beings through tortures for every moment of their unnaturally short lives. Currently the "pardoning" of one turkey by our president is the only opportunity most Americans have to look at a living turkey's face and feel any kind of compassion. Yet the very associations of the word "pardon" imply that all turkeys deserve slaughter. As if they have committed some crime simply by being born into their species.

I occasionally clean barns for the local farm animal sanctuary, and I rub elbows with several turkeys there. Fiona is my favorite. She is quiet and dignified, but friendly. She follows me around the farm and supervises all my work. Her vocalizations sound like amiable gossip as she takes great interest in all my affairs. At open houses she is always the star of the photo opps because she sits down in the grass and lets everyone pet her. And she always searches you for treats. She will take any type of food that you drop but her favorite is popcorn.

Fiona is one of three siblings, along with Burnadette and Tom. Tom recently passed from the organ failure commonly associated with factory farmed birds. They are genetically modified to be so meaty that their poor organs and limbs can barely carry them through their brief lives.

It would be great if we took the Thanksgiving season as an opportunity to extend our compassion and thoughtfulness about the creatures so many of us eat.

Here is some very basic info from

More than 248 million turkeys are raised for food every year in the U.S.; about 77 million of them are slaughtered and eaten for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.(8,9) Before ending up as holiday centerpieces, these gentle birds spend five to six months on factory farms, where thousands of turkeys are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.(10) To keep the extremely crowded birds from scratching and pecking each other to death, workers cut off portions of the birds' toes and upper beaks with hot blades and desnood the males (the snood is the flap of skin that runs from the beak to the chest).(11) No painkillers are used during these procedures.

Let's really go forth into the world this Thanksgiving and share the happiness of enjoying a cruelty free meal. That would really be something to be thankful for.

To conclude I want to share a poem that I read as a child but did not really "recognize" until recent years. This is from the book, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein:

Point of View
Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless
Christmas dinner’s dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey’s point of view.
Sunday dinner isn’t sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.
Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
‘Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner’s point of view.

Samhain and rolling toward Thanksgiving!

Ugh! Well, so much for my goals of posting a lot more about Samhain. It really is a busy time of year for me. Not only because of all the pagan parties and events and rituals but because I work at a domestic violence project, and October is national dv awareness month. So I had tons of late nights and a really wierd schedule getting through the whole month.

Our Samhain ritual at our local temple (the Temple of the Feminine Divine) was really good. My priestess class planned the ritual. We met for three hours every Sunday for a month beforehand to plan it. In the end, I was the priestess who invoked the goddess Morrighan into the circle for the ritual, which was cool for me. She is one of the goddesses (though she's a triple goddess so I don't really think of her as one) whom I relate to very strongly.

Morrighan means "Great Queen" or "Phantom Queen" in Gaelic. The Morrighan is commonly thought of as a triple goddess, but the names of the three vary from telling to telling. The Goddesses whom I relate to as part of the Morrighan are Macha, Badb, and Nemain.

The Morrighan is often boiled down into a "war goddess" but I see this as over-simplification. She is a Goddess of protection, of birth and of death. I see the overarching theme of her powers as "transition" rather than "death."

The Morrighan can be a guide between the realms, and it was in this spirit that we invoked her for our ritual. We then lit votive candles in memory of our ancestors. Everyone in the circle called out the name of one ancestor, as well as one quality of theirs which we admired. For instance, I called on my Grandmother. I named a quality of hers that I admired as creativity. We put our votive candles in sand trays on the central altar. Once about sixty votives lit the table it was a very impressive sight.

After this part of the ritual, we did a spiral dance. We had some drummers and the pace was fairly slow. Some people found it too slow for their taste but I think the energy of it matched where we were as a room.The dance concluded at our ancestor altar, where we had a cauldron filled with spiritual affirmations that our class had made ahead. Everyone took one before we reformed the circle and closed.

It was a very well recieved ritual. One of my coworkers attended for the first time and we had our photo taken together. When whoever took it put it on facebook we could see a huge round aura or orb encircling the two of us. It was a cool affirmation.

Back to the Morrighan. I did say earlier that I planned to write more about how to do neutralizing or binding magick in ways that do not create a ding in your "karma" (the pagan rule of threes, whatever you send out you get back times three). My idea for this ritual work includes working with the Morrighan, particularly in her identity as Macha.

A verbal tradition that I recieved from Laurie Cabot is that English witches carried forth the ritual of the black feather...that leaving a black feather for an "evil doer" (think child abuser, rapist, etc.) calls Macha to come and judge that person's deeds. This is an attractive concept because calling the goddess to judge the situation seemingly keeps your personal judgements out of things, which is more in keeping with the rule of threes.

As an animal rights vegan I think about our ability as pagan vegans to work toward neutralizing (eventually ending) the abuse done to animals. While a neighborhood animal abuser may certainly be the issue, I myself was thinking about factory farming as an industry, rather than any individual. So I was thinking about how to do a "black feather visualization" that does not have to do with actually sending/leaving a black feather for one individual.

Just always remember to call on Macha with respect, and remember the rule of threes when sending out any magicks. No neutralizing/binding spell should be done lightly or as an impulsive response. And when applicable, activism/mundane responses to the abuse should also be taken (calling animal welfare, supporting animal rights work, etc.).

Black feather visualization:
Cast a magick circle according to your own practices.
Get into a comfortable position and get yourself into a meditative state by your own practices. At the very least take several deep breaths and be still for a moment or two to get yourself into "the zone" (which is the alpha state).
open your hands in front of you and visualize a black feather there. feel it's weight. since it is a spiritual feather connected to the goddess Macha, feel it's aura and notice anything else about it.
Thank Macha for granting you this feather.
Say something like the following:
"Goddess Macha, protector and fair judge of our deeds, I respectfully ask for your intercession. I invoke your feather as a call for you to look at (name the individual or the institution). None of us are perfect, nor do we always act in perfect accordance with the laws. Yet I feel that (name) is doing great harm. I know I am not worthy to judge it myself. I therefore gratefully ask for your intercession. Please neutralize all harm in this situation, in the correct way and for the good of all. Let healing replace woundedness. Let justice replace victimization. Let justice and good reign in this situation, and in the world.  I release this feather to go forth and do your will."
feel the black feather floating upwards out of your hand. notice how fast or slow it goes, where it seems to go, and how it feels.
Thank Macha again for being present and hearing your request.
Come out of the alpha state and open your circle according to your own practices.