adjective: Cowardly; easily frightened.
The word chicken has traditionally been used to describe a coward. Also, earlier people believed that the liver was the seat of courage. But chicken-livered or chicken-hearted, it’s all the same. Earliest documented use: 1616.
Source: Word A Day, by Anu Garg
Why am I starting with that definition? First, because it was the word of the day in a newsletter that I get (sometimes they do interesting terms, instead of individual words).
Second, because if you read many of the ancient spells, you’ll note that a large number of them call for the sacrifice of particular animals.
A sizable number of these require the practitioner to then eat some part of the animal, often the liver. Picatrix, for example, has so many of these liver-eating spells that I lost track of the number of them.
When reading descriptions of these workings, we might ask “Why the liver?”.
Agrippa tells us that Saturn rules the liver and frankly, Saturn ain’t skeert a nobody.
Additionally, the liver gets astrological attribution to the Sign of Leo, the fearless Lion.
So, now you know.
Note, I’m not condoning animal sacrifice. I am, however, raising the issue of it.
I’m quite firmly against it… in my own practice. I’m too much of an animal lover to go that way, myself.
I do use bones, leather and other animal substances, I just try to make certain that they were obtained ethically and no animals were unnecessarily killed or harmed in the process.
In more mundane matters, I’m against “sport hunting” and “sport fishing” (catch and release). But I’m not against hunting and fishing for food. This bleeds over (bad pun perhaps intended) into my thinking about spell work.
Yet, I am not wholly against animal sacrifice in occult ritual… for others.
I choose not judge those who engage in those practices. The only exception is, where they are excessively cruel and torturous.
What do I mean by excessively cruel and torturous?
Well, I don’t want to gross anyone out but two spells come to mind, as examples. One is an old school witchcraft spell (not Wicca, just general, European style sorcery).
It involves stitching shut the eyes and mouth of a live frog. The frog (or perhaps a toad, I forget) acts as a stand in, a type of sympathetic magick for a target.
The target (person the spell is worked on) is to become blind and dumb to certain facts. The intention is that the target sees nothing and says nothing.
That Old Black Magick
Another is the infamous black cat bone of of the texts of forbidden, black sorcery, given to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, by the Devil, himself.
The spell in question is for invisibility. As you have already pieced together from its name, the spell involves the harvesting of a particular bone, from a black cat.
Exactly which bone that is is only determined during the working. That’s because the sorcerer takes a live, black cat and tosses it into a cauldron of boiling water, until it dies.
There, everything remains until all is so thoroughly cooked down that only one, single bone floats at the surface. That is the bone that purportedly provides the power of invisibility.
The Witch’s Hammer
I happen to think that anyone who would do such a thing is probably already invisible, at least in so far as they likely have few, if any, friends.
And furthermore, if you’re willing to be so callously cruel to an innocent frog or cat, then you deserve to have your eyes and mouth stitched shut and you should be tossed into the boiling cauldron. This witch, right here, would gladly hit you in the head with his hammer.
Just my opinion.
Some people seem unable or unwilling to sort historical precedents from acceptable practices. These folks fall on both sides of the argument.
One camp says “That’s the way they did it, therefore, that’s how it’s done”.
Others say, “That’s the way they did it (and it’s disgusting and vile), therefore, we’re not going anywhere near any of that stuff”.
We’re adults (at least, we’re supposed to be) so, we’re not going to hide our heads in the sand and pretend that animal sacrifice isn’t how it was done, back in the day.
In fact, there are many traditions that still practice these methods, particularly longstanding paths in the ATRs.
Sometimes Bad Is Bad
I really don’t think it’s helpful if we mount our soapboxes and decry how awful sacrifice is.
Why? Because whether we see such things as being morally acceptable or morally reprehensible has little to do with how good we are, as individuals; next to nothing, in fact.
It has everything to do with the culture we belong to. We like to think that we’re “better people”, because we frown on these practices.
But really, by the time we came along, the tide had turned to such a great extent that there was already strong support for environmental protection, vegetarianism, vegans and (among occultists), the notion that we should love on the fur babies, not slice them open on altars.
Is it better, now that most magicians don’t use sacrifice in their workings? I think so. I’m personally pleased about that development. But I still won’t rail against old traditions that still employ it. The exception to that, in my way of thinking, is now clear to you.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Like say, not skinning a cat.
Aaron Leitch has a blog about a substitute for blood in Solomonic workings.
There are many different ways. Explore.
You’re So Vain…
You Probably Think
This Taboo Is About You
But we don’t get to be high and mighty about our choice not to use sacrifice, either. Chances are, if we were raised in those old times, we would almost certainly (like 99.9% chance) have viewed these things as perfectly normal.
If someone was to say it was wrong, it would strike us as odd and probably even foolish, because we would have been raised around it, as the way of the world.
It’s the 0.1% who eventually steer society as a whole in a different direction and so, statistically speaking, that ain’t us, folks.
The first ones who raise a stink about morally questionable behaviors are usually outcast —in some cases, put to death— for their radical going against the grain of society.
It’s not even those 0.1% who come immediately after them who cause significant change. It’s several generations before new ideas like “Hey, don’t harm the critters!” becomes OK to even *say*. Then, it’s several more generations before it takes up enough support to be considered a movement.
Eventually, over a huge amount of time, it becomes the new norm. And then, folks like us get to feel better about ourselves because “we don’t engage in such atrocities 😤”. But we didn’t put in all that work to change that norm; others did. Likewise, it’s the killing part that most of us are uncomfortable with… not the eating.
So, we won’t pretend that we’re morally superior for not “slaughtering” animals, before we sit down to a breakfast of store bought bacon and eggs, a lunch of a chicken sandwich and a dinner of steak. That’s hypocritical… at best.
I have an early childhood memory of my grandfather cutting off the head of a chicken, with a hatchet and watching it run around until it dropped. But we also ate that bird for dinner, the same night.
Nonetheless, we have at least evolved enough that we can safely put away the sacrifice of the cute and fuzzy things, in our magick. We’ve discovered that the Gods will make do with other types of sacrifices and we don’t necessarily have to use the death of an innocent animal to appease any Deity or Spirit.
As a magician, you’ll want to understand all the intricacies of every sorcery operation you read. Now, you know why so many old spells call for liver eating.
Strive to understand the magick tech in everything, even the stuff that is so foul, you are 100% certain that you would never do.
Why? Because through understanding it, you’ll indirectly gain insight into the types of work that you will do.
For example, if eating the liver represents taking on the courage that the animal’s liver is said to possess, then that concept of “taking in courage” must be inherently useful (perhaps even mandatory) for the magick to work.
If so, how does one swap out animal sacrifice, substituting something else in its place, something that gets the job done, equally well? I pose this question to you in sincerity, not rhetorically, since I think it will benefit each practitioner to seriously ponder it, for themselves.
In the spirit of “question everything”, we must also examine the possibility that maybe it isn’t necessary. If not, then why?
Can it be true that one can adapt a spell or a ritual, omitting such things as sacrifices?
If you are 100% purist in your approach and you believe that the magick will not work (for whatever reason), then certainly, the answer is a resounding NO.
I happen to subscribe to the philosophy which says that while “less is not necessarily more”, it is true that “less is often more”.
My favorite form of martial arts is Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Lee tells us that it’s not about daily adding to the number of moves and techniques but rather it’s about stripping away all unnecessary movements, thoughts, gestures, etc, until what remains is only that which gets the job done.
Taking Care Of Business
Lee would never have you toss out any action which was central, vital, critical for success. Still, anything that could be substituted with something simpler, faster, more efficient, smoother, more easily defensible, he’d tell you to do that in a heartbeat.
Anything which was traditional, for the sake of tradition, alone, was right out the window.
In that vein of thought, one questions, if the Spirit is known to accept all these things as offerings, then why offer blood, when it isn’t strictly needed? If we can get the thing done and remain cruelty free, then why not do it that way?
Some will say that there are texts which will prescribe specific animal sacrifices and therefore, that’s the only way to do it. But I know a good many magicians who get excellent results in their work and they don’t sacrifice animals… ever. They’ve found work arounds and these seem to do the trick.
Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?
One might go through all these sets of questions and arrive back at the starting point, deciding that there are very real, very solid reasons for the sacrifices.
One might come to the conclusion that they simply cannot be (effectively) dispensed with, regardless of how unpleasant they may be. That is up to the individual.
Likewise, you might come to the conclusion that some (or perhaps all) of the sacrifices are unnecessary and may be effectively replaced with something else. This too, is up to the individual.
For me, I’m not about to sacrifice an innocent animal, for the sake of my sorcery. Yet, I also refuse to pass judgement on anyone who has a practice in which the animal is treated well.
By that, I mean that they are treated as well as any pet, up until the time of the ritual. Then, they are killed in as painless a manner as possible.
Finally, no part of that animal goes to waste. Some parts may be left out, as offerings to the Gods but the bulk of it is used for meat and the bones, hides, etc, are put to some, practical use, as well.
I’m not personally going to be a regular part of those sorts of workings, since I find them to be unpleasant. But I won’t get on my high horse and debase it as cruel, when the last several meals I ate contained turkey bacon, tuna and roast beef.
Copyright 2020 Kevin Trent Boswell
Side Note: After I wrote this, a wasp entered the house and I killed it. I’m not so much of a pacifist that I’m gonna catch and release a thing that regularly takes dive bombs at me in the wild. Those little fuckers seem to have it out for me.
I also set aside the body of the thing, as creatures like that are in fact useful in spells of both defensive sorcery and malefica.
The former is a common sense issue and the latter is something that you should not hesitate to use, when someone simply won’t leave you alone and the defense spells don’t seem to be enough.
Try to strike a balance. Take comfort in the fact that you are gentle and you forego the harming of innocent creatures. Also, be willing to play executioner, where necessary, to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Don’t slaughter or torture the cute, fuzzy critters, just for your spells. Also, don’t be squeamish about when others do (torture notwithstanding, obviously).
Unless you are completely vegan, wear no leather and use no products that contain animal products, use nothing that was tested on animals, etc, you probably have way more blood on your hands (by extension) than you realize.
Even if you fit that description, you probably accidentally harm things, all the time. Life is a messy, violent business, on even the best days.
Life feeds on life…
feeds on life…
feeds on life…
feeds on life…
feeds on life…
feeds on life.
This is necessary.
This is necessary.
This is necessary.Tool, from the song Disgustipated