The Interesting Thing About Power & Sacrifice

animal spirit dance homestead story
    A few months back I learned something about animal sacrifice. I know that’s a scary way to open a post, but hang with me  – it gets better. Harvesting (aka slaughtering) the livestock we raise is not a regular activity around here. Still, not too long ago, I was given the task of harvesting one of our roosters. If you’ve ever owned roosters and hens you know the hens can get torn up pretty bad in the daily (sometimes hourly) activity of mating. I wonder if the culture of cock fighting has not increseased the overall ferocity of the roosters making it tougher for the hens. Something for another post.
     I harvested this rooster with a good amount of preparation, both practical and spiritual. The spiritual part included some drumming to alter my consciousness to work with the spirits, I wanted to make this a good passing for the animal despite his roughness on our hens. I won’t go into those details here but sufficed to say I was still slightly altered when I captured and harvested the bird.
It was for that reason I was acutely aware of the power released as the roosters spirit passed. It really hit me like a small jolt of lightning – WOW did I feel that energy penetrating into my chest and spreading out to my fingertips! My site for the harvest was not well chosen, it was messy and longer than it needed to be. Perhaps for that reason my heart was especially open to the animal as its spirit left. “Aha”, I thought to myself, “this is why people practice animal sacrifice.” There’s nothing like direct experience to communicate the truth of something.
     The power released by this small bird was significant. For discarnate beings that power would have been enlivening nourishment, very real food for some kinds of spirits, helping or otherwise. We all can find historical references to sacrifice amongst our ancestors: Judeo-Christian texts as well as stories of my Celtic ancestors include human sacrifice for example. Santeria comes to mind as a modern example of animal sacrifice.

     For this reason I was well prepared for harvesting our Turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a large bird, at least 40lbs fully cleaned and gutted. Surely the energy released from this animal would be significant. I decided I’d better journey to the spirit of the animal itself to ask it where this life-force, this power should go (as well as discuss the method of ending his life). His answer was clear – out into the land to nourish the life there. This was very much in harmony with what the Spirit of the Land herself wanted, this power could be shared with the land nourishing many. I made preparations in my process to deliver his energy to the land as well as more expected steps like honoring the greatness of this gift – giving thanks for the life that would feed many.

Our Turkeys
     Of course nothing ever goes exactly as planned when harvesting an animal, the process will go as its meant to go. I set a day aside when my family would be away for their sake as well as mine – the work of plucking and cleaning takes time. The death itself went very well. I’ll spare you the details but I felt it was a graceful and dignified process that took into account not only the death of the turkey but passing of its spirit. Its for that reason I think bloodletting is actually more peaceful for some animals than a quick death with a gun or hatchet. I think Death is as great a mystery as life, animals understand this better than most of us.
The dissipation of power was not as sudden as with the chicken but rather an ongoing process that gradually infused the space around me. It was only afterwards, when I was plucking and gutting the bird that an unexpected power transfer occurred.
     In a heritage breed Turkey some parts are a little more like their dinosaur ancestors than others. The scaley clawed feet reach up far into what will become the drumstick. Removing those feet without diminishing the drumstick is a little difficult. I worried over the ankle joint with my butcher knife for some time before I got the first foot off. It was on the second foot (I was feeling frustrated), that I drove my knife pretty deeply into my thumb. For a brief moment the blood of the Turkey and my blood mixed.
     I was of course focused on cleaning the wound, stopping the bleeding (took a long time time), and getting back to the cleaning area before any critters (our dog Bella) showed up. I really didn’t stop to think about the event until later on in the evening when my thumb was throbbing. Could it be a serious infection, some cross-specie infection? I decided to journey to the spirits to find out.
     They were clear and adamant: I had absorbed power from the Turkey, I needed to release that power and the pain would pass. The best way to release the power? Dance the spirit of the Turkey. Quickly I went into a quite room in our house and moved the power of the Turkey. The turkey dance came quickly and easily. It took only a few moments before the energy began to dissipate out into the space around me. Less than a minute later the pain had almost completely subsided. The wound is healing up quite well.
I’m not against receiving power, I think its a part of life. But including intention in the process feels important to me. I don’t think I absorbed much of the power of that turkey, only a little really. Still it had a significant impact on my state of being. I was glad to be able to release the energy so cleanly, so clearly back out into the world. What a teaching, what a gift. The dance imparted to me more of the grace of the spirit of the turkey, increasing my gratitude for the blessing of its life.
This whole process has brought to light a new level of responsibility with respect to animal husbandry: caring for the spirit and the power of the beings we raise and harvest from start to finish. Its also an invitation to look at the power immanent in the land itself, to try to understand how our actions impact the spirit of a place, its vitality.
So when we make sacrifices we are liberating power for a new purpose in life. I think this can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. Have you ever had a personal process of sacrifice that was positive and liberated some stuck energy for the greater good? I’ve seen animals die, knowing it was their time, knowing they were ready to give back their life-force to the world and let their spirit journey on. I think in our culture most of us hold on to our life force until the bitter end, unwilling or unable to let go. Very often this creates tremendous suffering and waste.
Parents sacrifice and liberate energy in little ways every day. When we get triggered, reach a limit and instead of shutting down we surrender – laugh, embrace the little being thats driving us crazy, we liberate energy hidden in our spirits. Sacrifice and rejuvenation probably surrounds all of us every day. In fact, I bet you’re receiving power from something right now. How amazing is that?On another note – for those of you who know me through my work as a teacher for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, I’m stepping down as faculty. Some new requirements, the demands of home life are making it difficult for me to follow that track. Still, expect to see some new class offering from me in the not too distant future. This sacrifice will surely liberate something new and ancient!Blessings to you and yours throughout this transformative time.

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