This being the first year that I’m observing this (still haven’t settled on a name) festival, I know better than to decide that I know how it’ll be and then get upset when it doesn’t go according to my planning. This is first for the bull spirits, secondly for Poseidon, thirdly for Dionysos. I go where Poseidon leads, not the other way around. However, I think it’s fair to say that I was still not expecting to be ill for this and certainly not this ill. It works — it adds a whole alternate state of consciousness dimension to this . . . but it also adds hacking cough and long sneezing fits and flitting in and out of wakefulness. I have three distinct things planned, most of which happen on the last day, the 14th, and other than that I wanted things like exhaustion and pain and, well, I’m getting them.
As happens when I’m in no place at all to give attention to serious thoughts, last night while I drifted in and out of sleep, I found myself thinking on sacrifice, on the bull running, on bull jumping, on Apis. I support animal sacrifice, which is not and should not be the same thing as animal cruelty and torture. As a meat-eater, I would actually prefer that all the meat I consume be raised ethically and slaughtered in a spiritual setting. Since I don’t raise the animals that I consume, it has to be enough that the slaughter is humane.
So, it’s not that some of the bulls that are run wind up dying that bothers me. If we, in theory, considered the same set up as the bull running, that ended instead in a religious, sacrificial ritual wherein the bulls were slaughtered and their meat parceled out to the attending crowd, yes, it would bother me less. The bulls would still be terrorized. They would still be driven onward, in fear and in pain . . . but it wouldn’t be such a blatant waste, and in the end, there would be recognition of what was given.
That still doesn’t go far enough for me. Fear is unavoidable — animals who are used to different environments are placed in streets, in crowds. We as humans tend to strive to avoid fear, to squelch it from our lives, and I’m not sure that’s reasonable or even laudable. Fear is a part of being alive, part of being mortal. It should be embraced, experienced, lest it becomes a tether. But, I would rather there be less needless pain on their part. I don’t think suffering is avoidable in life anymore than I think fear is, but I do think that needless suffering should be avoided, when possible. Of course, this is all theoretical, leading to my theoretical sacrificing of bulls, rather than just running and terror and pain.
Bull is a majestic creature. I can easily wrap my head around what it must be, how amazing it must be, to run along side these charging beasts. Part of the downside of our modern lives is, we don’t really have outlets for this sort of thing, for men and women to pit themselves against nature, for the warriors within to be challenged, for the hunters to go forth and hunt and provide for the tribe. No, that’s not exactly what’s happening here, but I’m sure it touches upon that spirit, that instinct, that need. We say we want security and safety, and mostly we do, as a species, but we also know that we’re missing something, and that need then must be fulfilled in some other way. I’m sure the bull running fills that need for these people who partake in it. I say this so that people do not think I’m mindlessly against the bull running. I get the attraction. I honestly do. I just think it’s time that we, as a species, *think* about what we’re doing, and why, and see if there aren’t better options. Traditions for tradition’s sake is what is mindless; these things should be examined.