A reader from Australia emailed me this morning. Her question was simple:
My reader wrote:
“I just found out recently that a *lot* of the meat here is now. My understanding is that those animals are then dedicated with a prayer to Allah by a practicing Muslim.
The issue there is that they don’t label such meat so you don’t know what you’re getting. (A horrible greedy move from corporations wanting to make money*)
As someone who makes fairly frequent food offerings which may have been halal meat without my knowledge – would this make a difference at all?
This is probably a really stupid question – but as someone else who makes food offerings, I was interested in your opinion.”
*(Apparently, it is less expensive to produce one category of meat. There have been issues for observant Jews and Muslims with kosher and halal slaughtering in factories, with it not being done properly, so perhaps the real issue here is factory farming… -GK)
Well, yes. It makes quite a huge difference. I’ve asked my reader to send me more information, and I’ll be doing some research on my own, but if meat is being rendered halal, and that includes a prayer and dedication to Allah, and then that meat is being sold without efficient labelling, that is a huge problem for us.
This is, ironically, the same thing early Christians had to deal with in the Roman Empire, where the majority of meat came from offerings to the Gods. This was one of the spurs to the development of the Eastern monastic movement, and you even see Vegetarianism in parts of the Eastern Church. The Christians solved this by conquering the Roman empire. #lifegoals.
Seriously though, if meat is offered to Allah, or dedicated to Him before purchase, (as it is perfectly acceptable and proper for Muslims to do), then it is not an appropriate offering to our Gods. Plus, if we consume it, we’re consuming meat dedicated to at best a God Whose tradition is opposed to ours, Whose tradition contributed to the destruction of ours, and we’re giving to our Gods, meat already claimed. This is horrifying to me. It’s like having a friend over for dinner and giving them meat that has been pre-chewed.
I would suggest two things: either slaughter your own meat (chickens, rabbits etc, but you have to have training for this) or research the hell out of it and find meat that isn’t halal. One thing you might look for is organic farms that will allow you to pick out an animal and have it slaughtered for you, then you get the meat, or you and whoever else has bought into the animal.
Either way, this is a significant theological issue, not just for those of us whose traditions involve the sacrament of sacrifice, but for those who wish to eat meat without polluting themselves. What is appropriate for a Muslim to give, is not for us (and vice versa).
I’m not sure what the state of things is in the US, but you better believe, I’ll be looking into it.
EDIT: after a cursory websearch it looks like this is a problem with USDA as well, so much so that there have been ongoing petitions for accurate labelling.
Someone emailed a colleague of mine out of the blue with the following question (he shared it largely out of shock at the utter obliviousness of it all):
-” What does the shaman who horses (1) deities get in return for all the sacrifice, hard work & suffering they had to endure to become a shaman in the first place?… Can the shaman expect to be a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer whose (sic) able to bring about change in his life & this world through sorcery, after horsing deities for years? Or is it dependent on the relationship that is forged with the deity?”
The question is offensive on many levels and oblivious on many others, so much so that I was left quite literally speechless when my friend emailed me. (I think I said something to the effect of ‘I don’t know quite what to say here but you do get the best questions. Damn!’).(2)
Even writing this, I’m still pretty boggled by the question. First of all, what do you get? You get a job. You get the honor and privilege of serving the Gods, a particular privilege that most people never even conceive of let alone experience.
But more to the point, it’s not about us. A shaman provides service to the Gods and to the community. It’s not self-serving. No one in their right mind would want this job and yet, it is an honor and a privilege to be taken up in this way.
I just am so boggled by the incorrect attitude displayed in the email, not just to the idea of a shaman’s work being for personal empowerment, but the idea that we can use relationships with the Gods for personal greed. It is so incredibly wrong. If you ever wanted a primer on how not to approach the Holy Powers, this is it.
There are many ways to approach the Gods but first and foremost there is a foundational commonality on those that are appropriate and that commonality is respect. These are Holy Powers. They are the Movers and Shapers of the Cosmos. We were created to exist in right relationship with Them. They do not exist to pander to the worst of our instincts and desires.
Part of regaining right relationship with the Powers involves understanding that everything is not about us. We are not the super-center of the cosmos. The universe does not exist to cater to our whims and to stroke our egos.
So to answer this fool’s question, you get to be of service. You get to go to your grave knowing you did your part to restore right relationship communally with the Gods. You get to experience specific Deities more closely than can ever be imagined. That is both a grace and a blessing. No, you cannot, as a result of horsing (or anything else we do) expect to be “a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer” capable of bending the world to his will (and if you want to study magic, that too is a lifetime’s commitment and takes sacrifice). This is not a D&D game. And everything, everything is always dependent on the relationships we forge with our Gods, and those relationships that we nurture? They’re the reward for the work.
1. To horse a Deity is to carry that Deity via possession. It’s terminology drawn from the Afro-Caribbean traditions. The Deity “rides” the devotee as one might ride a horse.
2. I asked my colleague’s permission to share the question for this post.
Be sure to check out my other sites:
Wyrd Curiosities at Etsy
My academia.edu page
My amazon author page.
Walking the Worlds Journal
My art blog at Krasskova Creations
My blog about all things strange, weird and medieval.
And if you like what you see, consider becoming a sponsor at Patreon.