Today I will reblog something I wrote myself almost a year ago before I started blogging for myself again. It was originally posted on the 31st of July, 2015, on a blog which I shared with Galina Krasskova (Gangleri’s Grove) and Tess Dawson (Canaanite). This blog has since been put on private and is only visible to me, Galina, and Tess, because the project never really got off the ground. Therefore, I am now reproducing the blog post below, having made some grammatical and stylistic edits, as well as a few places where I formulated things differently.
I wanted to talk a bit about something that has come to my attention recently, namely the abandoning of animal sacrifice at the five-yearly festival of the Goddess Gadhimai at her temple in Nepāl. This issue was brought to my attention by Galina Krasskova who wrote about it on her blog, here.
As a disclaimer, I want to start out by saying that the followings are my opinions and thoughts, based on the information I have been able to find. My own tradition is Hellenic polytheism, and some thoughts may be influenced by this background, or I may make comparisons to my tradition.
According to a press release by Ram Chandra Shah, chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Trust “The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.” He also says: “The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”
In this press release, Ram Chandra Shah uses language that simply calls animal sacrifice “bloodshed”, “killing and violence”, and that it is time for the festival to become a “celebration of life”. This betrays a gross misunderstanding of the nature and meaning of animal sacrifice. Does animal sacrifice mean killing something? Yes, of course, it does. But to call it mere “bloodshed” and “violence” doesn’t do justice to the sacredness of the act of ritual killing.
The following thought is based on information I read in Walter Burkert’s “Greek Religion”. The act of killing an animal in a devotional act to an immortal being is the ultimate celebration of life. The juxtaposition of the immortal and the sacrificial victim reinforces in the worshippers the preciousness of our lives, and that we too will eventually die. Furthermore, the meat of the sacrifice will then be prepared and served to the worshippers, and therefore, death also sustains life. We kill so that we may live, and we give the death of the sacrificial victim(s) extra meaning by doing it in devotional acts to the Gods. Thus, we make their lives sacred, which is the origin of the word sacrifice; sacred-making.
The pressure that has been mounting on the temple of Gadhimai to abandon this centuries-old practice comes from Western animal rights activists, and Nepāli and Indian animal rights activists inspired by the “great” Western example. India has taken steps in recent years to prevent the transportation of animals to Nepāl for this sacrifice, making it difficult for Gadhimai’s worshippers in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to come and celebrate the festival as is customary.
All this pressure comes from the West, and is a symptom of the West’s detachment from food production, as most people just go to the store to buy meat, without really having to think about the animal that meat came from or how it was killed. This is because, in the West, animal slaughter is hidden away in slaughterhouses, where animals are sedated and put on death row, mechanically slaughtered in a manner that doesn’t do justice to their lives. It is a very sad reality. And this detachment is being exported worldwide because of Western cultural hegemony in the name of “progress”, sacrificing centuries of tradition on the altar of Western insensitivity and Christian morals.
Another thought I have stems from the origin story of the custom of sacrificing animals to Gadhimai. According to the story, a man called Bhagwan Chowdhary was sleeping in prison when Gadhimai appeared to him in a dream. She promised to release him from prison and take away all his worldly cares, in exchange for a blood sacrifice. Originally she asked for a human sacrifice, but Bhagwan Chowdhary was able to convince her to accept the sacrifice of an animal instead.
I think this teaches us some very important things. One, that the Goddess is unlikely to look kindly upon the caretakers of her temple for abandoning something she demanded be instituted, because of pressure from the West and Western-inspired people in India and Nepāl. Two, I don’t think that you want to anger a Goddess by taking away her sacrifices, especially since she originally demanded a human sacrifice, but agreed to a downgrade after dialogue and negotiations with her devotee, Bhagwan Chowdhary. Three, this is how it should be, asking the Deities themselves, through dialogue and negotiation, and not through unilateral action.
A final thought of mine concerns us, the polytheists in the West, who struggle to rebuild our traditions and it’s customs, including the right to sacrifice animals to our Gods. For us, the loss of another such tradition elsewhere in the world is also a great blow, and should make us redouble our efforts to rebuild and to resist against the march of our Western mainstream cultures that are based on Christian monotheist morals and ideas.
– “Sickened to my soul” by Galina Kasskova.
– “Gadhimai Temple Trust Chairman, Mr Ram Chandra Shah, on the decision to stop
holding animal sacrifices during the Gadhimai festival.” by Ram Chandra Shah.
– “Gadhimai Festival 2015: Nepal Bans Mass Sacrifice” on HNGN.
– “Nepal’s Gadhimai festival bans animal sacrifice” on DNA India.
– “Gadhimai Festival Slaughter Is Banned In Nepal, Saving Millions Of Animals” at The Huffington Post.
– “The death of Nepal’s killing fields: Centuries-old festival where Hindus decapitate hundreds of thousands of animals to ‘appease goddess’ is banned” at The Daily Mail.
– Burkert, Walter. “Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical”, 1985. Blackwell Publishing.