Last week’s message from the Blackbird caught my attention, as it appeared at a time when I was spending time thinking about how we work with spirit animals, and about how our own ancestors in the past had been working with animals. Like, all these nice prehistoric cave paintings: what might be their meaning? How did they relate to these animals?
And then a thought struck me. What you see on these paintings are mostly animals that they would have hunted for food. The ones they would have depended on for their very survival. Their life quite literally depended on their relationship with these animals. And so it should come as no surprise that these same animals are also depicted in what we guess are probably images made for spiritual/shamanic reasons…
… such a big contrast to our world today. Many of you follow a spiritual/shamanic path, and work with animal guides as part of that, or even have some animal spirit guide that they feel particularly strongly connected to. What animal is that? I dare to bet that it is not a chicken or a cow. And that the last time you ‘connected’ to these was when you bought their meat pre-packaged in the supermarket, conveniently making it possible to forget that this was once a living being.
And this just feels so wrong to me right now. What happened with to our personal relationship to these animals? They give us so much. Yet most of us don’t have a relationship with any of them at all.
Note that I am not trying to preach here. I am just as guilty as anyone else about these things. I am not a vegetarian (I try to limit my meat eating, but have found that my health suffers when I am on a fully vegetarian diet, as I cannot properly digest many of the replacement foods like nuts.) So I have some kind of excuse to eat meat, but no excuse whatsoever to not be more conscious of what it means to eat it. So here’s a note to self: I should do better in the future…
But how? What is a respectful relationship? I decided to ask my patron deity, Cernunnos the hunter, for his take on this. You find his advice below. I also connected to Cow, and I will post her message next Wednesday.
[The usual disclaimer: this message was channeled. What this means is that I sincerely belief it contains input from a source outside of me. Of course, in order for me to receive it, it then had to be filtered through my own brain, and so it may be that it got somewhat influenced by my own ideas. So, read it as a source of inspiration, not as something to be taken as literal truth.]
This is Cernunnos speaking
I have a question to you. You eat. You have no choice. You need food to survive. There is no criticism in that. It is one of the laws of nature that the death of others is almost always required to sustain life. That is what is. It would be hypocritical of me to blame you for that.
But there are different ways in which you can deal with that reality. And I do not much like what I am seeing right now. You have become accustomed to treating your food as things. As something that you buy packaged in the supermarket and that has little connection to the natural world. And it saddens me so much to see the gifts of the earth degraded in that way. It is not right to treat them in such a distasteful manner.
And I had hoped to see things improve with people who proclaim to follow a path that is about honouring nature. But I do not see it. Yes, I see you hugging trees and maybe being vegetarian and working with all kinds of spirit guides. But…
Even those among you who think they are morally superior for not eating animal products. Even you I see make a dichotomy between those plants and animals you use within your practice and the ones that are for sale in the supermarket. As if the ones that should be your closest allies have no value because you no longer consider them as wild creatures. And it saddens me. It saddens me so much to see you forget about the sacred bonds your people made so long ago.
For let me tell you a story about how your kind became the people who you are now.
There was a time when you were just like any other animal. You had to hunt all the meat you wanted to eat and to gather what plants you could find in the wild, having to trust that nature would provide for you, and thereby, accepting that you were living on her terms, that she would feed you but also had the power to kill you when she deemed that you were taking more than your fair share. And there was a certain kind of harmony then. But life was purely about survival and you could not count on long-term stability.
And so we made you an offer, that we would help you to have a more stable life of in return you were to work with us and allow us to teach you how to be stewards of this world.
And so we helped you create relationships with what were then wild animals like boar and cow, and we helped you set up an arrangement that was for the mutual benefit of both partners. You would take care of your animals and make sure they had a comfortable life, and in return they would allow you to use their meat when you needed it.
But then you started breaking the bargain. You started seeing the relationship only from your own side, and forgot to honour the spirits of these animals and listen to what they had to teach you. They became meat rather than spirit flesh. And it has only gone downhill from there.
You have forgotten how to deal with death, you have forgotten that you too, will one day be asked to pay your part of the debt. You have forgotten that you are part of the cycle, and not some kind of super-deity who does not need to take part in the cycle of life. You have invented a god that is so much on your side that you started forgetting about all the other ones. And then you started to believe that you were the chosen ones who were supposed to be superior to everything and everybody else, and that your god had ordained it so.
That way of thinking leads to death. Not just natural death, but the evil that is disconnectedness. It is a rotting of the soul, a tumor on your heart. And so I implore you to listen to my pleading.
Next time you meditate, take a moment to connect. Truly connect. Not just to the spirits of some exotic looking otherworld, but to the simple things close by. Make a connection to the spirit of the cow that produced the milk in your fridge, and to the chicken that will be your dinner for tonight. Allow them to talk to you. Give them your appreciation for the gift of food you have been given. Then ask whether there is something you can do in return for this gift, whether that be saying an extra prayer, supporting a cause or doing something practical yourself.
I am not asking you to change your eating habits, as I understand that some of you need meat in their diet, and sometimes eating a bit of meat may be the more ecological option. Do your own research, then follow your consciousness. Be honest to yourself and the world around you. What is necessary for your survival? What is excess? What is a well-earned occasional luxury, and what is pure decadence? Be honest, that is all that I will ask of you.
And stop putting parts of your life in different categories. There is no such thing as the spiritual aspect separate from the survival aspect. You are a single person. Don’t pretend otherwise, for that way you make yourself vulnerable to evil. And so ask what is requested of you in return for what you take, give back in equal matter. Remember to be grateful.
And next tine you work with spirit animals, remember that the wisdom of the chicken and the cow has just as much value as that of the eagle and the bear. And maybe they actually have more to teach you, as they are so much closer to you in spirit. Try to reconnect. But do realize the hurt you have done to them over the centuries as well. So be aware that they may refuse to work with you until you have proven to be honest and trustworthy, and are willing to live up to the ancient bargains again.
But let that not deter you. These relationships are broken today, but they should be mended. And each of you has a role to play in that. You cannot stay on the sidelines. Each of you is in relationship with domestic animals. Give them the honour they deserve.
Beith is a druid who likes to wander through the forest, inviting the trees to be her teachers in life. She also runs a personal blog about her druid journey, that can be found at wandering-the-woods.com. In real life she’s a mathematician, trying to walk the boundary between the rational and the irrational.