It’s been hinting at me lately, just little bits over the past week. Passing mentions; seeing more vividly the victims of cars on the side of the road; thinking of certain friends and family; old interests coming back to life. Recently I saw one of the friends I’ve been thinking of, and it rushed at me.
I must learn to shoot a bow. I must learn to do so accurately, because I will have to learn to hunt and send a brother across the Hedge.
Hunting in and of itself is not the issue. My grandfather was a hunter; my mother grew up eating pheasant, grouse, and venison, all killed, dressed, and butchered by my grandfather. I respect him for that, especially as he never kept a trophy (unless you count photographs). I have several friends who hunt. I like the taste of venison. I respect hunters who respect their prey. But I have never hunted. I never learned to shoot a gun or a bow. I never had the desire.
But I must learn, and will likely have to hunt more than once. I will likely need to learn to dress and butcher my prey. I must learn the primal side, the darker side of His nature, and take part in walking another life across the Hedge.
It will not be this year, or even next. There is much I have to do now, including get myself into shape and, soon enough, learn to shoot a hunting bow. But it will be, as Kit said, “Sooner than I feel comfortable.”
I am not looking forward to it.
I have killed bugs a-plenty, especially cockroaches, mosquitoes, and fleas. My first job was in a veterinary clinic, where I assisted with euthanasia. I’ve owned pets my whole life; one of our dogs supposedly died in my room overnight, I stayed with one of our cats as he left us, and I found one of our cats after he had passed. Cernunnos’ voice asks, How is this different from any of that? While I understand His question, it still feels different to me.
I have always been fascinated by good hunting stories and archery. I don’t have the “killing Bambi” issue; Bambi is damned tasty in my opinion. I am an unapologetic omnivore, and while the sources of my food aren’t always ideal, I have a very good idea of where it comes from and what is required. Animals die in order for me to eat their tasty meats. They do not always live well; they do not always die quietly. But I have never directly taken another life to sustain my own. While that is part of the lesson – to be part of the cycle, part of that darkness – it is not one to which I look forward. The idea of taking a life, especially one that I have come to identify as Brother and Sister, saddens me.
Still… there is duality in it. While it saddens me to take a life, the idea of knowing how grabs me. There are rumblings of dark times and, the world being what it is, it behooves us to know how to feed ourselves. The killing makes me weep; the dressing and butchering raises a primal feeling of independence. There is a part of me that loves to plunge my arms up to my elbows in earth; that same part longs to plunge my hands into blood and flesh and bone, knowing that both skills give me the option to feed myself and my family.
I don’t know how this lesson will end. It begins as soon as I can start learning the hunting bow. I know where to find equipment, and have had a good friend, hunter, and fellow Pagan offer to teach me. So much is already in place for this lesson, and while it excites me a little, it frightens me more.
*sigh* Whatever the case… I will do the Work He gives. I will learn the lessons He teaches. I may not wholly look forward to it, but it shall be what it will.