Hunting and Sacrifices

This post was prompted by an article over at the Wild Hunt, where I asked some questions about where hunting stood in the nature of sacrifices.  The articles is linked below. In addition, so is some of my other works along similar lines.

I have been following the discussions in the blog communities with interest, as animal sacrifice is a bit of a hot topic these days. The whole debate is quite intriguing.

So here is the questions I asked in context of the article;

1) Small-farm, loving-raised animals have been addressed as acceptable for sacrifice. What about wild animals? “Nature” raised?
2) Hunting is very much a game of chance, and prey species often withhold consent (my experience). They don’t give their lives willingly, especially to a predator/hunter. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?
3) What about if the kill is not “humane”? Bad shots happen in hunting, for many factors. Can this still be considered a sacrifice?

I got some great responses, and I wanted to discuss them here.

“Consult your deities!” Cat C-B

This is one of the foundations of any sacrifice or offerings involving animals.  I agree entirely, and this is part of my practice.  But not just my deities, but also my ancestors and the spirits I work with. They are the first and last point of contact, and the ultimate decider concerning what is a “sacrifice”. As I have mentioned before, I don’t have much of a god-phone, so I only work with Skadi. That means the ancestors and the spirits are just as central to my work as the gods.

“But it is very true–even with the best will in the world, hunters do not have perfect control over a shot. And it is best to understand up front that the ideal, of an animal that does not find its suffering prolonged, may not always translate to the real. I suspect our ancestors were well aware of this–and I’m quite confident my gods are. In reality, the best we can manage is likely, “no needless suffering.””  Cat C-B

Honestly, I could not have said it better myself. Skill with a bow or gun is helpful of course, but even with skill I have no control over things like wind, cold, foliage cover, or the flood of adrenaline that makes your hands shake.

“Wild hunted animals have led a better life and probably are a more humane option than even well reared farm ones. Incorporate divining and prayer before the hunt – make it as clean a kill as possible, dispatch quickly if needed and make an offering when dead. If it’s bad, finish it off and make some recompense – apologies to the animal, take a week off or something.” linguliformean

Two very important points here. Divination, prayer, and pretty intensive spirit work go into my preseason, as well as before hunts. Clean kills are the ideal of course, but as Cat C-B pointed out, not always the reality. Once the animal is dead, I am responsible for it, the physical remains as well as spiritually. More on this in a moment.

“… I would hold a ritual of blessing and dedication to Herne, the Hunter and ask him to bless my bow (or rifle depending on the season in question). If my hunt was successful, I would offer a prayer of thanks to Herne and offer a prayer of blessing and gratitude to the spirit of the animal hunted. While field dressing the animal, a portion would be left behind as an offering to the Lord and Lady of Animals in thanks and ask that they ease any lingering fear or pain attached to the spirit of the animal I just killed and that it be allowed to return to the herd in the next birthing season.” –

Some good points. Here I want to expand on my responsibilities as a hunter. First off, I guess I would replace Herne with Skadi. Second, prayers, offerings and portions for deity, ancestors and spirits is a part of my practice after the kill. Not only is it my responsibility to do my best to ensure ” no needless suffering” in shooting and recovery of what I shot, I am also spiritually responsible for the kill, as well as ethically responsible to use everything I can of the physical parts. To use the Riddick adage, “You keep what you kill” in the widest sense. I am responsible for the spiritual well-being of what I kill, and this includes offerings to the animal itself, any guardian spirits, as well as its ancestors. The goal being, is that the spirit (and/or any in its “community”) does not harbor any ill will. Third, the last part is one of the best. Allowing it to return to the cycle of rebirth, not only for the sake of the spirit itself, but for a continuation of good fortune in the hunt. That is what I meant by being responsible for what I kill. I have had spirits follow me around until I helped them “cross over” and return to the cycle of rebirth, and often to the keeping of their ancestors. A kind of spiritual conservation.

” In the context I am knowledgeable of, wild animals do not seem to have been used as sacrificial offerings… There is also the issue of quality control – the animal offered should be the best you can present. This involves having raised it yourself to ensure that it is the best of the flock/herd. When you hunt, there is no guarantee that your quarry will be suitable. Finally, there is methodology – right practice is an extremely important part of ritual. When you kill an animal on the hunt, you do not have the surety of a tried and tested method of sacrifice.” – Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

I can see how context is important, and really, this one comes down to a difference in context. Perhaps Lēoht’s context does not allow wild animals to be sacrifices, but that has not been my experience. Certainly, such contexts, cultures, traditions what have you exist. Traditions and beliefs may vary. Concerning the “best” of the herd, what characteristics are considered “best?” The fattest pig? The strongest bull? The most productive chicken? In regard to hunting, would these be the largest rack? (Snicker)

I have made reference to a couple of my posts on such things below. As to the last part, who defines “right” methodology? By what standards are “tried and tested” methods measured? There are many diverse ways to approach sacrifice, and I do not think any one method is the “right” one. That is for the gods to decide.

“There was a good thread on FB on this from a Heathen perspective. IIRC wild animals are not acceptable for blot because they belong to the utgard. The tradition is that domestic animals were given by the gods to humanity, so we offer back that gift.” – Northern_Light_27

Now I got to say, this is one of the more interesting comments. I have not heard of such a thing or thought of this before. I do have quite a Northern bend to my practice, that is to be said. My question is this then, what happens if the deity I work with, being Skadi, is (partially) of utgard?

Ultimately in my opinion the details are really between the person, and the gods, ancestors and spirits they work with. Whether or not something is, or is not acceptable , is up to (T)them. The best I can do is ensure the animal does not suffer needlessly, that I make the best possible effort to find animals I shoot, that I use the remains to the fullest extent, and that I make sure the animal is cared for spiritually and joins the cycle of rebirth so the hunt can continue.

I always welcome comment and further discussion!

References;

http://wildhunt.org/2014/11/animal-sacrifice-in-modern-paganism.html

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/hunting-and-blood-rites/

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/animism-polytheism-and-shamanism/

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/bears-and-the-ancient-north/

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About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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