Star Trek for Pagans: Klingon religion across the Series(es), Part 1 of 3

“Where are the words, duty, honor, loyalty, without which a warrior is nothing?”

Worf, TNG “Heart of Glory”

Worf_Klingon.jpg

I’m afraid this post got way too long, so I am splitting the Klingon religion post into 3 parts. It was at 15 pages, and I wasn’t done yet. That’s just too damn long. So, you get to read some it early, since the first section was ready to go! As I said in the inaugurating post, this series is going to be full of spoilers for Star Trek. This is your only SPOILER WARNING for this article. Most of the posts I will be doing will be examining a single episode, or maybe two, but every once in a while I’m going to focus on a larger concept that goes across all the series(es). So in this three-part series (really one long post), I’ll be examining the religion and ideology of the Klingons.

The warrior society of the Klingons could be compared to the Vikings in our own images (3).jpghistory. I’ve seen them jokingly, and somewhat accurately, referred to as “Space Vikings”, with all the positive and negative traits that a term like that implies. The focus on honor and dishonor, their proclivity for telling stories of their battles and accomplishments, their love of wine, women and song, and glorification of death in battle make them recognizable as analogous to such. On the negative side, we see some crews of Klingons being basically Space Pirates and raiders (like in the Enterprise episode “Marauders”). In fact, the Klingons could have easily become a crude parody. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and for the most part they were treated with great respect by both the writers of the show and the Federation characters.

In The Original Series, Klingons were the antagonists to our valiant Federation heroes, and we did not get a lot of insight into their culture. They were portrayed as cunning adversaries, but extremely ruthless in achieving their goals. In the movies, the Klingons were used not just as antagonists, but as a metaphor for the Russians near the end of the Soviet Union. With the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis (Chernobyl), the main energy source for the Empire, they enter into peace talks with the Federation, because they can no longer afford to fund a war. The Undiscovered Country makes Kirk’s prejudice towards Klingons a key point of the plot, and clearly portrays his inability to adapt to a new age and the possibility of peace as a serious character flaw. As he later says of Chancellor Gorkon “It never occurred to me to trust him.” There were those in the Federation who could not conceive of themselves without the Klingon Empire as an archenemy, and they, not Klingons, are the antagonists in this movie. That is also certainly how some Americans were feeling about the Russians at the time the movie came out.

In the later series(es), starting with The Next Generation (hereafter I’ll reference the series as TNG), we began to explore Klingon culture more deeply, through the character of Worf. Worf was raised by humans, after his family was massacred by the Romlulans, along with 4,000 other Klingons on their outpost at Khitometer (the same Khitometer where the peace treaty with the Federation was signed, ironically). After the massacre, a Starfleet ship came looking for survivors, and found only a seven-year-old Worf. When the Klingons told them that Worf had no living relatives, the Starfleet officer that found him adopted him and raised him alongside his own son (although it was later discovered that Worf had a secret, younger brother on the Klingon homeworld, Kurn). It is through the character of Worf that Star Trek first begins to explore Klingon culture. Hence, most of the series I am going to reference in this article are TNG, Deep Space Nine (DS9), and Voyager (VOY).

Klingon culture is governed by rituals, in which every action has a very specific and very significant meaning. In the DS9 episode “Apocalypse Rising”, Worf, Sisko, Odo, and O’Brien must infiltrate a Klingon outpost. The three non-Klingon characters are temporarily surgically altered to look like Klingons. Worf gives Sisko, Odo, and O’Brien lessons in how to behave like a Klingon, and during these lessons Captain Sisko mistakenly challenges him to a battle to the death by striking him with the back of his hand instead of his fist! Even a small mistake can be deadly if one is not fully versed in the ritualistic symbolism of Klingon culture.

download (2).jpgThe most important figure in all of Klingon culture is the legendary warrior-hero Kahless the Unforgettable, who lived about 1500 years before the show takes place. A deleted line from the TNG episode “Rightful Heir” states that Kahless’ death was 1,547 prior to that episode, making it 822 A.D. on Earth, if you’re interested in that kind of thing1. His prowess in battle and wisdom was so great that he has been elevated to a God-like position in Klingon religion, although he is never officially given that title (We’ll discuss Kahless more in part 2 of the Klingon series). In fact Worf states that Klingons believe that their ancestors had killed the Gods who made them! This was the exchange that prompted it:

 

Kira: I suppose your Gods are less vague than ours.

Worf: Our Gods are dead. Klingon warriors slew them long ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.

Kira (to herself): I’ll never understand Klingons.

Dax: Don’t worry about it, Major. Nobody does. I think they like it that way2.

 

Despite believing that their Gods are dead, Kahless is believed to have supernatural powers, and he has promised to return one day from Sto-Vo-Kor (the afterlife for the Honored Dead) when the Klingons need him most. In addition, relics from his time, such as a knife with his blood on it, are interred in sanctuaries with clerics to tend to them and referred to as “sacred3”. Really, Kahless is their God, even if he is never called such.

Klingon religion also has shamanic elements, such as fasting in caves around fires in an effort to evoke a vision of Kahless. In “The Sword of Kahless” Worf recounts to Dax something that happened when he was a child. “I was raised by humans, but I was too Klingon to be one of them. I did not belong. I begged my foster-parents to allow me to visit the Klingon homeworld. They arranged for me to stay with my cousin’s family. When I first set eyes on the great domes of Qo’noS, I felt that I had finally come home. But my own cousins wanted nothing to do with me.”

Dax: “You were too human to be one of them.”

Worf: “I ran away into the mountains. I was without food and water for several days. But there, in the caves of Nomat, Kahless appeared to me and told me I would do something no other Klingon has done. After I returned to Earth, I pondered the meaning of his words, and wondered what lay ahead for me. When was old enough, I joined Starfleet.” Worf is the first, and so far only, Klingon in Starfleet. This shows, among other things, the importance of visions to Klingons.

In “Birthright”, part 1, the android Data is shocked by an energy discharge during an experiment in engineering. It triggers a hidden program that his designer/father had placed in his positronic brain, which was only to be activated when Data had reached a certain point in his evolution as an individual. While he was unconscious, he experienced images and, as he puts it, “has a memory record for that time period”, which should not have been possible. During this experience, he saw his father, Dr Soong, along with other confusing, dream-like images that it seems unlikely a purely logical mind would produce. In Ten-Forward (the bar/restaurant/social gathering place on the Enterprise), Data approached Worf to discuss this experience. Data clearly chose Worf because none of his human friends have a context for visions and shamanic experiences anymore in Roddenberry’s world, but it is a well-known and integral part of Klingon religion. As such Worf is the only person on the Enterprise who could possibly advise Data about his experience. Their discussion also gives us more information about what happened in the caves of Nomat, as Worf was telling Dax about his vision in “The Sword of Kahless”. The caves of Nomat were not empty and he was not there alone. When Worf ran away from his cousins, he went to a Klingon monastery, seeking a vision.

The seventh season of TNG shows us another type of Klingon religious activity in the episode “Firstborn”. In this episode, Worf is concerned because his son Alexander has no interest in going through with the First Rite of Ascension, with is required for Klingon boys his age. It’s the first step to becoming a warrior. At this point Alexander has no interest in that life, and Worf is worried that when he gets older he would change his mind, but by then it would be too late. The Rite had to be completed then if Alexander wanted to become a warrior later on. But Alexander is one-fourth human (his mother K’Ehleyr was half-human) and has spent his whole life around humans. Worf resolves to try to get him interested and engage him in his heritage.

At Captain Picard’s suggestion, Worf takes Alexander to a nearby Klingon outpost that is celebrating the Festival of Kot’baval. This is different than seeking a personal vision in a cave; this a celebration in community, surrounded by other Klingons. There was not ascetic fasting or testing of oneself, but instead the atmosphere is festive, one of merriment and enjoyment. There are clearly carnival-like treats for sale, too, as Worf is shown sharing some wormy snack wrapped in cloth with Alexander, who is enthralled with the dramatic, dance-like portrayal of a bat’leth fight. The festival celebrated Kahless the Unforgettable’s defeat of the tyrant Molor infestival-kotbaval-c single combat. During the festival an older Klingon warrior played Molor, mock-battling other patrons of the festival. The words were not spoken, but sung, in Klingonese. Worf takes the challenge, and fight-dances with Molor, but is of course defeated. Even Alexander takes part, and the generous Klingon playing Molor pretends to be wounded by Alexander. (Is it appropriate to say anything involving Klingons is cute? cuz Alexander’s joy is adorable). Of course, only the actor portraying Kahless can defeat Molor, and there is much cheering from the crowd when he appears.

Many Pagan and Polytheist cultures on our own planet have used ritual drama as part of their festivals, so this kind of display is very recognizable for Pagan Star Trek fans. These rituals can be used to teach history and to celebrate a past event, as they appear to be here, or they can build energy up to a point until a kind of group catharsis is achieved. The singing, instead of speaking, during the mock-battle is also reminiscent of the ancient Greek chorus used in plays, which were first presented at the Greater Dionysisa festivals in Athens. This type of ritualistic drama in Star Trek will be addressed again in a future post, focusing on the TNG episodes “Darmok” and “Masks”.

Klingons also practice Ordeal Rituals, driving themselves to the edge of their physical abilities and back. On the ten year anniversary of their Rite of Ascension4, a Klingon goes through a gauntlet of at least four pairs of warriors with cattle-prod-like painstiks. Before getting married, a Klingon groom and his closest friends also go through a period of fasting and intense physical endurance tests5. What’s interesting about these tests is that when Worf asks his human friends to participate, which Martok described as “four long nights filled with song and fellowship”, and the humans ask if he’s talking about a Klingon bachelor party, he says that “it is a … similar ritual”. Which means that Klingons see these physical endurance tests as being as much fun, as enjoyable as beer and strippers. And also means his poor human friends have no idea what they are getting into! There are also similar endurance tests every year on the Day of Honor6, as well as examining your behavior over the past year to see if you measure up to Klingon standards. Klingons are big on endurance rituals in general.

Voyager shows us another side of Klingon society, in the character of B’lanna Torres, images (4).jpga half-human, half-Klingon woman who is very uncomfortable with her Klingon side. In her own words, “I inherited the forehead and the bad attitude. That’s it7.” B’lanna had attended Starfleet Academy, but found the strict rules and regimented lifestyle hard to adapt to. Her temper got her into trouble more than once, and she eventually dropped out, believing she would never belong in Starfleet. She ended up joining the Marquis, where many malcontents and misfits ended up in the Star Trek universe. When the Caretaker pulled the Marquis ship she was on (and eventually Voyager as well) into the Delta Quadrant, she found herself in a situation she likely couldn’t have imagined. The Marquis ship was destroyed in the pilot episode of the series, so that Starfleet and Marquis crews are forced to work together. Throughout the series, her Klingon nature is much commented on and blamed for her temper, but not really explored, except for a few outstanding episodes.

This seemed like a reasonable place to end the first post, as it’s a basic overview of Klingon religion and ritual and a new section starts right after this. So, the next post will start the discussion of specific Star Trek episodes that are significant and delve further into Klingon mysticism. This might confuse some Star Trek fans, but “Faces”, despite being a fantastic episode about both of B’lanna Torres’ sides, will not be discussed in this series, because I am focusing on Klingon religion.

2DS9 episode. “Homefront.”

3TNG episode. “Rightful Heir”

4TNG. “The Icarus Factor”

5DS9. “You Are Cordially Invited.”

6VOY. “Day of Honor.”

7VOY. “Barge of the Dead”.

 

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Guest Post: Eating Healthy on Food Stamps/$200 a Month

This post was written by my brother, a little over a year and a half ago (when we were still living in Indiana), and posted to the Reddit Eat Cheap and Healthy subreddit (forum). The thread is here, if you want to to read my brother’s responses to the comments. He no longer has that account anymore so he won’t respond to to any more comments on this thread. I finally convinced him to let me repost it here as a Guest Post, since prepping and making your food money stretch as far as possible is a very important subject for homesteaders (and a LOT of other people). Enjoy!

~000~

SNAP/Food Stamps challenge! My sister and I live together, and we eat healthy food on just 100 dollars per month per person, a little more than a dollar per meal. This is how we do it.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles on people trying to live on food stamps to show how its nearly impossible to eat healthy food using only food stamps, so I figured that I would share how my sister and I manage to do it. We live in a large city in Indiana.

My sister and I are both disabled, we live together, and we get $200 in food stamps per month. This is what we buy each month for about 200 bucks. Everything pictured here is only $157.88 – The remaining 42 dollars will be spent at the farmer’s market for additional fruits and vegetables as needed throughout the month.

most of Food.jpg

Majority of everything above

dried beans

Dried Beans

bread

Bread, we have 5 move loaves, not pictured, kept in the freezer (my note: we had a chest freezer at the time, so when there was a really good sale on something, we could stock up while it was cheap. That alone saved us a lot of money in the long run, and I highly recommend it! We weren’t able to take it with us when we moved, unfortunately, and I’ll need to buy a new one as soon as we can.)

We try to waste nothing. We store everything very well and it easily lasts the month.

All of our vegetable scraps and any vegetable waste is fed to our worms, which fertilize our herb and container garden that we made out of 5 gallon buckets. We just harvested the last tomatoes and peppers, and recently started our fall/winter crop of carrots, kale, swiss chard, green onions, cilantro, peas, radishes, beets, spinach and lettuce. We’ll be harvesting the last of our basil this month before the temperatures drop to make pesto for pastas. Pesto keeps well frozen in ziplock freezer bags.

We grow the majority of our own greens. We’ve never bought fertilizer (my note: that was because we lived in Indiana at the time, which is part of the “Black Belt” of really, really good soil in America. We have to amend our soil now). As an added fertilizer, we like to top dress the veggie containers with coffee grounds that we get for free from local coffee shops.

Our garden has virtually no cost. We plant in compost that we make from leaves and other organic matter, which would otherwise just go in the garbage. We also get compost from our local municipality that provides it for free. Its made out of all of the ground up leaves and branches that the city collects.

We buy our vegetable seeds towards the end of the traditional growing season, the first week of September or late August. We just purchased about 100 seed packets for 3 cents each, they dollar store was selling them for 90 percent off. They kept fine in an airtight container in a dark area. They don’t go bad just because they’re a year or two old. Check out the Dollar Generals in your area for seeds.Here is the haul we got this week:seeds in mason jars

For extra greens, we go to a community garden that grows kale, lettuce and chard and allows anyone to harvest for free. Although this probably makes up less than 5% of our diet, but it is a nice addition.

We also like to buy food that is in season. We buy a lot of vegetables and fruit at the local farmers market, which gladly accepts food stamps.

We buy our bread for around $1 dollar per loaf, usually pretty high quality stuff. We buy it at a bakery outlet. You might have one in your area. Usually 50-75% off bakery items.

The majority of the meat we buy is from Aldi and Meijer. We only buy what is on sale. If it isn’t on sale, we don’t buy it. The vast majority of the packaged items are from Aldi, which always has very low prices.

We don’t do any couponing really. If we see one in an ad we might use it, but we don’t go nuts.

It can be done. It has taken us a little while to get to this level of balancing our budget and our desire to eat healthy food. We used to spend the exact same amount of food on ramen noodles, soda, and other “cheap” food, and we’d always run out in the middle of the month and feel like shit.

A few thing we are going to stop doing is buying bread and making it ourselves.

The one negative about all of this healthy eating, I suppose, is that it takes while to cook most meals. I like to make a lot of meat on the weekends and use the leftovers in recipes throughout the week. That usually helps cut down on time.

We like to buy whole chickens because we use the wings, extra bones and the carcass for stock, which makes wonderful soups with our leftover vegetables and beans. We usually use drippings to make a gravy, so that nothing from the bird is wasted.

Here is the breakdown of everything you see in the pictures:

Pork Shoulder 15 pounds @ 1.18 per pound $17.70 – This was extremely cheap. If it was not on sale, I would buy whole chickens instead, which are usually around the same price per pound.

Ground Chuck 4.45 pounds @ 2.38 per pound $11.90 – Also on sale, if this wasn’t on sale, I would substitute with ground turkey @ 1.77 per pound.

Ground Turkey 4 pounds @ 1.77 per pound $7.08

Chicken Whole 10 pounds @ 0.88 per pound $8.80

Apples, Paula Red, 5 pounds $2.95

Bananas 3.14 pounds $1.63

Limes 1.5 pounds $1.00

Oranges 3 pounds $2.99

Peaches 1.1 pounds $1.32

Cantaloupe 3 pounds $1.49

Watermelon 15 pounds $2.99

Tomatoes, Roma, 1.4 pounds $1.11

Cucumbers 1 pound $1.00

Cabbage 4.43 pounds $2.12

Radishes 1 pound $0.59

Carrots 2 pounds $1.58

Eggplant 1.18 pounds $1.40

Parsley with root 1.29 pounds $1.66

Celery 1.5 pounds $1.69

Onions Red 3 pounds $1.99

Pumpkins 7 pounds $4

Peas 3 pounds $3.00

Mixed vegetables 4 pounds $4.00

Acorn Squash 2 pounds $2.50

Buttercup Squash 3 pounds $2.50

Butternut Squash 4 pounds $2.50

Butternut Squash 4 pounds $2.50

Onions Sweet 6 pounds $3.00

Onions Yellow 3 pounds $1.59

Lentils 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Kidney Beans 1 pound $1.00

Kidney Beans 1 pound $1.00

Garbanzo Beans 1 pound $1.00

Black Beans 1 pound $1.00

Black Beans 1 pound $1.00

Pinto Beans 1 pound $1.00

Rice 5 pounds $2.59

Bread, whole grain 8 loaves @ 1.25 each $10

Olive Oil $2.99

Mayo, Olive Oil Reduced Fat $1.89

Marmalade, Orange $1.78

Pasta Macaroni 2 pounds $1.49

Pasta 3 color rotini 1 pound $1.00

Pasta 3 color rotini 1 pound $1.00

Pasta bow ties 1 pound $1.00

Marinara $1.89

BBQ Sauce $1.25

BBQ Sauce $1.25

Drink Mix(Crystal Lite off brand) $1.69

Drink Mix(Crystal Lite off brand) $1.69

Grill Seasoning $1.25

Grill Seasoning $1.25

Steak Seasoning $1.00

Steak Seasoning $1.00

Salsa Mild $1.25

Salsa Corn and Black Bean $1.25

Instant Oatmeal $1.79

Milk, whole, 1 gallon $2.25

Milk, skim, 1 gallon $2.25

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Total Meat 33.45 pounds @ $45.48 – 0.55 pounds of meat per person per day

Total Fruit 31.74 pounds @ $14.37 – 0.52 pounds of fruit per person per day

Total Vegetables 52.8 pounds @ $38.73 – 0.88 pounds of vegetables per person per day

Total Dried beans/rice 15 pounds @ $12.59 – 0.25 pounds of dried beans/rice per person per day

Total Bread: $10 – 2 slices per person per day

Total Other $36.71

Total Cost: $157.88

Remaining $42.12 – Will be used for additional fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers market throughout the month. And maybe some local honey.

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Star Trek for Pagans: A New Series Introduction

407576449264763.jpg I considered whether I should put spoiler warnings on this post or not. After all, every show I am going to discuss ended more than a decade ago. The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, closer to 20 years. But I decided that just in case there are people out there who haven’t watched Star Trek in depth but still plan to one day, I’ll include one. So consider this your SPOILER WARNING. I’ll be discussing the themes of Star Trek and some of the specifics, not just in this post, but in the following series that this post is inaugurating.

Like many people who inhabit the internet, I proudly consider myself a geek. I indulge in many geeky fandoms and past-times, but the one that goes back the farthest is most definitely Star Trek. For reasons I won’t get into, I had a somewhat difficult childhood. Star Trek was always my happy place, my retreat from a world that seemed, at times, unbearably cruel. In many ways, Star Trek is responsible for raising me. Captain Jean-Luc Picard was more than a role model to me; he was a father figure when my own parents fell woefully short of the role. I think I may have first started exploring archaeology because it was a passion of Picard’s, but I have honestly watched Star Trek for as far back as I can remember, so it’s hard to actually pinpoint when some of my interests really began.

Star Trek was how I first began to form a moral code. Star Trek shaped my worldview in many ways, from my love of science and science fiction, to my ethics, to my love and wonder of the natural world. I saw the wonder I felt at the beauty of the universe reflected in the characters on Star Trek, without irony or bitterness or embarrassment. At the time I didn’t realize how rare this was to see portrayed on TV. I’m glad that I didn’t realize that when I was young. I’m glad that the awe at the universe is part of my personality now, too deeply embedded to be ripped out.

Although Gene Roddenberry saw the future of humanity as a humanist, atheistic, and non-religious, I can now see Pagan and animist themes running through it. Most of the time, these stories are told through the non-human characters, with the exception of Benjamin Sisko in Deep Space Nine. The symbolism of Star Trek speaks to me, and I’m sure it always will. While I am not a Pop Culture Pagan (::shudder:: PLEASE stop worshiping Kylo Ren!), and I do not believe that sci-fi characters have incorporeal spirits on the level of our Gods and spirits, I do believe there are things to be learned here. These characters are written from subconscious archetypes, from what Tolkien would call the “cauldron of story”. When every writer creates a story, they both take from the cauldron and add to it. Even if Roddenberry saw humanity’s future as atheistic, religious themes couldn’t help but sneak in through the show’s non-human characters. This is because without these themes, the universe would be incomplete, no matter how many species you populate it with.

So, I have decided to start a new series, Star Trek for Pagans, focusing on the spiritual aspects of my favorite sci-fi show. Because the Gods will always be the main focus of this blog, there will most likely be only one Star Trek post a month, but it could very well be much less often. It might well be whenever I damn feel like it. Fair warning! I know I won’t be writing for this series as often as for others I work on. Look for the first post, coming in about a week or so, about Klingon religion. That post I have been working on off and on since November, and its about 7 pages already, so I’m eager to finish it and get it out.

 

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Changes to the God of the Month Club

Okay so, I’ve been prompted to change how I approach the God of the Month Club. So far, I would pick 2 Deities from the Neos Alexandria pantheon, and 1 from somewhere else in the world. Since this was random, chosen from shuffling cards, it meant that I could end up with two Greek Gods a month, or two Egyptian. I decided that I’m going to do it differently from now on, dividing the Greek into one deck and the Egyptian into another, so that we get one Deity from each pantheon each month.

I’ve also been getting a push to explore the Vikings/Northern Tradition more thoroughly, so I’ve decided, for now at least, that I will do one Nordic God a month, instead of any God from any pantheon. I really enjoyed studying some of the other Deities from around the world, especially the Orishas and the Hindu Gods, but for now I think it’s important for me to get to know Odin’s family and the world-view and Tradition He comes from. I will probably go back to expanding the “other” category to the entire world again at some point. But not right now.

In this vein, the next Gods for study are Persephone, Montu, and Heimdall. But it’s already so late in the month, that for simplicity’s sake I’m going to wait til June to start. This also gives me time to work on a few other essays that I have had in a half-finished state for quite a long time.

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Round-Up of Interesting Links

When Was Modern Paganism Born?

Incredible pictures of white ravens! Stunning!

My Mother Wasn’t Trash – Heartbreaking and touching. Things we need to talk about, if “progressives” claim to really care about the poor, since they have pretty much abandoned poor whites.

The largest underground lake, now called the Lost Sea and located in Tennessee, was discovered by mistake when a child was playing in caves and woods in 1905. I wonder how many things like this will never be discovered now that we don’t let kids play in the woods by themselves?

Glima: the Martial Arts system used by the Vikings

My Mango Tree Could Kill Me When Food Runs Out – A terrifying reminder of why prepping and guns are important, and also why I live in the freakin’ woods.

Huge, Wooden Giants Hidden in the Woods Surrounding Copenhagen – This is a magnificent art project! I don’t know if the guy is Pagan, but it feels very Pagan. Talk about re-sacralizing the world around us!

Religion in Daily Life

Polytheistic Theology

A woman with vitiligo turns her condition into beautiful art and becomes a body posivity icon

Gods, Volcanoes, and AI – Thoughts about the non-humanness of the Gods and what that means for us and how we relate to Them.

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Lemures and Lemuria

Some cool info on Lemares. Still one day left, tomorrow, if you feel the need to do something to drive them off yourself. I was planning on writing something for this event this month but didn’t get around to it, so I figured I’d share this.

Neptune's Dolphins

umbilicusurbi the Mundus (Opening to the Underworld)

During the Lemuria (the feast of the Lemures), the Lemures try to find a home among the living. Some want to have a proper burial or justice be administered for their wrongful death. Others want a family to adopt Them, and give offerings in their memory. They want people to establish a cultus for Them.

Di Manes (The Dead) are separated into several groups. Di Parentes are the direct ancestors who guard the family line. The Lars (Lares) are the guardians of the home and the land. The Lemures (Note 1) are the Wandering Dead and can be considered “unwelcomed family ghosts.” Finally, there are the Larvae, who wish to do the living harm.

The person who encounters the Lemures has several choices. They can adopt one but they really do not know who these Lemures were. The person can place offerings on…

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Homesteading: Confronting Death

About month ago, we killed and ate our rooster. (I’ve  been behind on my blogging, there has been a lot of work to do) This was the first time we have actually slaughtered an animal. Of course, this is a part of homesteading, but it was a monumental step for my brother and I.

The death was quick and clean, which I was glad for. If we had botched the death, I don’t know if I’d have the heart to try again. Cleaning it was harder. We’ve never done this before, and it is a learning process. We’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube about how to slaughter and butcher a chicken, and it looks easy. But that’s people who have been doing it for years. I’m not ashamed to say that we ended up wasting some of the meat. We’ll have to keep trying.

It was a strange experience. I wasn’t prepared for how the meat was still warm while we were cleaning it. Of course I knew intellectually that it would be; that you have to get the guts and blood out while its still warm, right away. Somehow, I didn’t think about what the sensation would be like. I’m used to meat being cold, because it’s always come out of a freezer or a refrigerator. Feeling still-warm meat from a creature that was alive 10 minutes ago was beyond eerie. I almost couldn’t stand to touch the meat meat for more than a few seconds and feel the heat it was giving off. It wasn’t just warm; it was hot. Placing your hand on the hot skin of a headless chicken that still has feathers is … strange. It’s hard to explain all the emotions and thoughts it brings up. It was visceral (literally!) in a way nothing else I have experienced so far has been.

But once the head, feet, and skin are gone, a fascinating transformation takes place. It’s not a dead animal anymore. Now it’s food.

This is something that modern people don’t usually deal with, especially if they have never been hunting or did not grow up on a farm. My brother and I were raised in the city and chose this life; this is something we are having to teach ourselves. We decided to kill the rooster for several reasons. On one level, we had not had meat in a few weeks and we were hungry, and that’s what he was there for. But on another, we also wanted to confront death. We NEEDED to confront it. We wanted to make sure that we were emotionally capable of dispatching our livestock, before we ended up getting a lot more. There is a vast chasm of difference between the idea and act, between being okay with the thought of slaughtering animals for food and getting your hands bloody doing so.

One day this will happen to all of us. Death is unavoidable. And all of us are food for something else, even humans. We will be eaten by worms and fungus and germs if we are no devoured by lions and bears. That uncomfortable truth may be part of why most folks now prefer their meat to be gotten in a supermarket, cleanly wrapped in clear plastic and arranged neatly on perfect Styrofoam trays under artificial lighting.

But death is inevitable. And our modern society has such a phobia around it. And it’s not just about food. We also cart our old and sick people off to die alone in hospitals and old folk’s homes, because most people don’t want to look at them and be reminded of their own mortality. Our Pagan ancestors had no such luxury (and would likely be horrified by the cruelty of leaving our elders abandoned for the sin of growing old). Death was omnipresent for them.

Killing and eating my rooster bought me into contact with my ancestors who lived a more natural life than we do today. He had a good life. He had a good death. I had didn’t do the best job of using every part of the meat, but I will get better at cleaning and butchering. This is what it means to be human. This is what it means to be alive. This is the eternal dance of predator and prey. This is is Life. This is Death. This is the Deep Magic of the world.

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