Pagan Blog Project 2014

A Vegan/Vegetarian Diet as a Practice of Faith?

Playing catch-up for last year’s Pagan Blog Project. I figured I’d try and finish up the rest of the alphabet in order to get myself back into the habit of writing about paganism regularly. I’d considered joining the Pagan Experience (basically a replacement for the Pagan Blog Project), but there are a lot of other things demanding my attention this year.

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Week 44 (V): adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet as an extension of “Harm none”

Many of you are already familiar with the “harm none” adage that some Pagans follow. But have you ever thought about whether this extends to other areas of your life?

I was re-reading some old forum posts recently and stumbled on this one that discusses a vegan or vegetarian diet being necessary for Pagans who adhere to the “harm none” rule. To be clear, this is not something that I do or an idea I subscribe to. But it did get me thinking. Why do I believe that it is my duty as a witch to harm none, but still eat animals and use animal products?

you find weird things when you google "animal rights"

you find weird things when you google “animal rights”

Full disclosure: I’m an omnivore who loves bacon. For me, it’s far more important to buy local, sustainably raised, humanely slaughtered meat whenever I can than to abstain altogether. Because of a number of personal factors, restricting my diet, regardless of reason, is just not in the cards for me.

Upon further examination, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that my goal is to harm none if there is no justifiable purpose. I don’t send out curses willy-nilly, but if I believe that someone has deeply wronged me, I’ll absolutely invoke Kali and stand back. Like most humans these days, I don’t go around slaughtering animals or hunting for fun*. I have never personally killed an animal, though I have participated in two chicken slaughters at a local farm. What is far more important to me is that I am not inflicting harm irreverently.

Being respectful of the animals you kill is another big part of my interpretation of “harm none”. I try to eat animals with respect. I do not buy factory farmed meat. I purchase milk and cheese made from cows that are not pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. I consume plants much the same way; I try to eat locally and seasonally. That is what “harm none” means to me in the broader context of my life.

 

* Before anybody goes nuts, “for fun” is the key part of this sentence. I’m contemptuous of people who hunt for sport, but if you’re using most of the animal for necessary things (food, shelter, etc), then I’m pretty ok with it.

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Lifting the Veil

Week 43 (V): lifting the veil, remembering the dead

The veil between worlds is thinnest during Samhain. I spent this Samhain remembering some of my loved ones who have died. I lost a friend to cancer when I was quite young, and a great-grandmother to just plain old age when I was in middle school. I’m fortunate enough to still have both parents living, and to have never lost a sibling or a partner. I want to recognize those who have and offer blessings. May your losses become easier to bear with every passing day.

It seemed appropriate to share some of my favorite poems about death. Before you get to anticipating bad goth poetry by moody teenagers, fear not! The three poems that follow were all written by poets over the age of 20.

The Ghost’s Leavetaking (by Sylvia Plath)

Enter the chilly no-man’s land of precisely
Five o’clock in the morning, the no-color void
Where the waking head rubbishes out the draggled lot
Of sulfurous dreamscapes and obscure lunar conundrums
Which seemed, when dreamed, to mean so profoundly much,

Gets ready to face the ready-made creation
Of chairs and bureaus and sleep-twisted sheets.
This is the kingdom of the fading apparition,
The oracular ghost who dwindles on pin-legs
To a knot of laundry, with a classic bunch of sheets

Upraised, as a hand, emblematic of farewell.
At this joint between two worlds and two entirely
Incompatible modes of time, the raw material
Of our meat-and-potato thoughts assumes the nimbus
Of ambrosial revelation. And so departs.

But as chair and bureau are the hieroglyphs
Of some godly utterance wakened heads ignore:
So these posed sheets, before they thin to nothing,
Speak in sign language of a lost otherworld,
A world we lose by merely waking up into sanity.

Trailing its telltale tatters only at the outermost
Fringe of mundane vision, but this ghost goes
Hand aloft, goodbye, goodbye, not down
Into the rocky gizzard of the earth,
But toward the region where our thick atmosphere

Diminishes, and God knows what is there.
A point of exclamation marks that sky
In ringing orange like a stellar carrot.
Its round period, displaced and green,
Suspends beside it the first point, the starting

Point of Eden, next the new moon’s curve.
Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us,
And ghost of our dreams’ children, in those sheets
Which signify our origin and end,
To the cloud-cuckoo land of color wheels

And pristine alphabets and cows that moo
And moo as they jump over moons as new
As that crisp cusp towards which you voyage now.
Hail and farewell. Hello, goodbye. O keeper
Of the profane grail, the dreaming skull.

There’s a clip of her reading this poem on Youtube. I find her voice delightfully haunting, perfect to listen to on stormy autumn evenings.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death (by Emily Dickinson)

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep (by Mary Elizabeth Frye)

Do not stand at my grave and weep..
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry..
I am not there. I did not die.


Uhuru

Week 42 (U): uhuru, which means “freedom” in Swahili

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom lately, and I realized just how lucky I am to be able to be out of the broom closet. I’ve been out since I was 13, reading books about Wicca in middle school. Sure in middle school I got a lot of nasty comments, but that’s middle school for you! I was out of the broom closet all through high school and college, and rarely encountered negative responses from people. Mostly people were interested and wanted to hear more about what it means to me to be pagan. I’m usually happy to oblige (I love talking about it!), so I had a lot of opportunity to educate people.

I'm grateful that I'm able to be out of the broom closet

I’m grateful that I’m able to be out of the broom closet

I know some (many?) other Pagans encounter a great deal of discrimination in their daily lives. This can be because where they live is conservative, or because their families aren’t Pagan-friendly, or (perhaps worst of all) because their partners aren’t open-minded. While none of my partners have been Pagan, they’ve all been respectful of my faith. I’m immensely thankful that, while I’ve had to deal with other types of discrimination, being Pagan is something that’s never caused me harm. May you all find the uhuru to be out of the broom closet.


Undrentide

Week 41 (U): Undrentide

This 2000 album from the Mediæval Bæbes is my favorite of all their albums. They’re an all-women group that sing and weave incredible harmonies, as well as playing instruments both modern and archaic. I sing some of their songs to get my mind focused for ritual or meditation. Plus there’s a medieval drinking song on this album! How can anyone resist?