Written by Dyami Millarson
We know the modern adage, you are what you eat. The ancient polytheists of the Germanic world had this folk wisdom as well, and it was so profound a wisdom to them that it was a basic principle of religion to them: having sacrificed a strong animal according to the ancient tradition, the strong animal’s spirit is transferred to the human sacrifiers who consume the animal’s meat, blood and bones. So, the Germanic polytheists believed that eating strong animals made them strong.
On Monday 20 December 2021, I was having a soup made of a cock (male chicken, called rooster in US) which we slaughtered on Sunday 19 December 2021 during full moon. It was my first time slaughtering chickens. Before, during and after the experience, it made me think about the philosophy of existence. It helped me gain more insight into the ancient Germanic traditions of communal blood sacrifice, as it allowed me to understand better, from a spiritual perspective, why blood sacrifice was a communal rather than individual affair; doing this together helps with the bereavement process (verwerkingsproces in Dutch).
I believe that everyone should actually experience what it is like to take another being’s life before you consume the meat, because it is a spiritual experience that makes you ponder about existence in the human world (which may also be called Mithgarth). I am thankful I could experience this because when we buy chicken in the supermarket, we miss this spiritual aspect of the acceptance of the transition between life and death as well as the transition from death to feeding other life. When I was having the chicken soup on Monday, I was thinking especially about the latter transition and as the meat of the cock was really strong, it made me ponder the notion that eating strong animals makes us strong.
Taking the life of an animal with your own hands for the consumption of all of its meat is not just a spiritual or philosophical experience, but it is also an ethical matter of taking responsibility. Modern people like deferring the responsibility of slaughtering animals to others or even machines, this seemingly dissolves us of guilt and responsibility so we do not think much about it when we buy meat in the supermarket and consume it on a regular basis. However, when we do take responsibility, it makes us much more mindful of the meat and where it came from.
If one were to live according to the ways of the ancestors in the modern day and age, I believe it is relevant to incorporate the notion of taking responsibility for the meat that one consumes; where possible, it is best to slaughter animals yourself so that you feel the full responsibility of your actions and know the value of the meat. To me, it seems logical that the traditional polytheist ancestors would have fully agreed with such a philosophical notion of taking responsibility; we have to do this with our own hands and we should experience the entire spiritual process.
Slaughtering an animal for meat was a part of growing up among the ancients, and since we still consume meat in the modern day and age, I do not see why we should shun the entire spiritual process, we are missing the spiritual part where we take matters into our own hands and my heart tells me we should reclaim this spiritual aspect of existence that we are currently missing when it comes to consuming meat; meat is not just about consumption, but also taking a life and we ought to be part of the process of helping the animal spirit pass on to the afterlife. It is a very intimate process when you take an animals life, and this ought to be done properly.
To me emotionally, it makes sense to believe that the animal spirit transfers its power to the human who consumes its meat. When we are present during the process of the animal’s death, we share a very intimate moment with it and we are also going to be the ones who will absorb its powerful spirit. When I ate the chicken soup on Monday, I felt much more intimate with the meat because I had slaughtered this cock myself, and I felt deeply thankful to the cock’s spirit. I noticed that the cock’s meat was very strong in texture and very tasty as well; this feeling made an image of a strong spirit entering my body appear before my mind’s eye.