An Apology for Hunting
A quick note: This is a blog that I have been trying to write for a long time now. Every time I think I have it down I go back to the drawing board; scratching what I have and starting over. Thanks to Sam Webster over at Patheos Pagan Portal and his recent post on sacrifice (see “Toward the Pagan Restoration of Sacrifice”) I think I have the kick in the pants I need to sit down and finish this post. So I hope this time I can convey my feelings on this subject fully and respectfully. Remember, it is okay if we disagree but it is not okay if we refuse to listen. Further, the “apology” to which I refer in the title is not the “I’m sorry” kind of apology but rather my defense of hunting.
A while back I found myself in the middle of a huge debate on a pagan forum and it’s stuck with me ever since: can a pagan be a hunter too? I am here to tell you “Yes!”
See, I come from South Georgia (the American State not the former Soviet one) and around here hunting is a way of life. I can remember growing up in a house that boasted antlers and boars’ heads mounted on the wall and getting my first bow in third grade with a deer anatomy target. I’ll never forget the morning my father shot a deer from the back porch of the house and we ate venison that night for dinner. Just like I’ll never forget my first kill, a Marsh Hen (Rallus longirostris or R. elegans) I shot off the front of a john boat poled by my step-father while his father goaded the birds to jump by “hollering” (shouting for those not accustomed to the Southern vernacular). However, just a year or so after that first kill I gave it all up. I stopped eating meat which meant I stopped hunting since one only kills what he is willing to eat, a rule I learned when I was very young.
I became very disinterested in the hunting culture in which I was raised; sure I was still going out on the boat whenever my step-dad and his father went to harvest waterfowl but I never cared to raise my weapon. I went along with them because the river is gorgeous at sunrise (even if it is only 25 degrees F) and I knew that my step-grandfather was not long in this world so I wanted to hear his stories and learn his knowledge. So why am I now defending hunting? Because I am called to take up the bow again.
As many of you know, I am a dedicant of the Horned God (particularly the aspects of Cernunnos, Odin and Shiva who I call my Triple God) and one major commonality among the Horned ones is that they all have a relationship to the hunt. Cernunnos is known to many a modern pagan as Lord of the Hunt (this can be tied to English folktale of Herne the Hunter), Odin is said to lead the Wild Hunt , and Shiva appears in the Mahabharata as Kirata, the wild hunter. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not want to hunt because my gods do but I believe I am called to hunt. I have been given a family history of hunting, I was born and continue to live in areas where the hunting is plentiful, and I have the drive.
Further, hunting is the ritual I crave. Lacy and I are not very ritually focused in our everyday lives; we don’t work in much magick and we take the Holidays as days to relax more so than to host elaborate circles. Yet, hunting magick is the oldest form of magick in the world and it requires rituals that extend year round. For instance, this summer I am gearing up for dear season, even though it does not begin until September. I am doing all I can to profile the dear that live near me, learning everything about them from where they spend their days to what foods they prefer. I am also in the process of making a bow to use in this year’s hunts, aging the wood for a lunar cycle before I begin the careful shaping which will enable me to place food on the table. I have plans to watch the sunrise on my hunting grounds every day starting a month before season starts and extending to at least the end of season, whether or not I ever lose an arrow. Should the gods see fit to grant me a kill, the animal will be treated as a holy sacrifice; granted a swift death and a portion of the meat will be given back to nature and always treated with respect.
To me hunting is the most pagan thing in the world: an ancient ritual of life and death, an active prayer to the gods that I may sustain my life and a union of man and nature. Again, this is my view of pagan hunting and I know others exist. If you are against hunting I would like to hear why please tell me in the comments!