Inviting the Spirits of Animals Inside You
Originally published in ReWild Yourself! Magazine – Second Dispatch: Beltane – Let Food Be Thy Medicine
Often I’m asked if I “eat meat”. It’s a reasonable question and almost customary these days, with so many pathways and personal preferences. Like many folks, I’ve worked and played with wide variety of food forces and dietary styley — from raw vegan to Ayahuasa dietas, to farmers’ markets and vibrant veggie gardens, which have always been in my life, to home cookin’ from Papa’s old recipes, to this and that and in-between – so now, essentially, in moments of leisure, I might consider myself omnivore, yet one with deepest, deepest love for plants.
Food, these days, is as music — holographic, on-demand, wild, gentrified, and in a way; mp3’d — you know, everywhere, all around us, and always has been; yet now (in certain circles) the tendency is towards the plastic — with bits & pieces of food-like things. Whatever. Consider it all of distant memory — simply bad experiments, crude innuendo, innocent mistakes. Forget it. Fast Forward. Remember. Now — create and learn and love your lessons; on new horizons — there’s ever wilder ways to grow. Flow and flourish towards the analog, back to where we all belong.
Where is that?
Well, it’s up to you.
For Food is fuel for your journey, through Universe, Life, Death; your Days.
In myriad ways, the topic of foods of plants and animals comes up like wind and rain and snow. By turns serious, furious, curious, and delirious. For me at least, since branded “plant-person” — there’s a specific story I’d like to tell.
No big secret; There came a point where I took a break, or if you will — abstained/avoided/cold-turkey’d — animal foods, like no big deal. At the time, familiar as I was with the discipline, purpose and power of dieta; respectfully learning specific, significant, sacred plants, such as Ayahuasca — when it came time to apply this same principle to Animals — well, something other took control.
Backing up, just a wee bit, and to completely clarify — yes, I took a break in general from eating animals – there was however, one very important exception; out in the deep green jungles of Amazonia, I always invite the absolute entire forest, all the good spirits, including animals, to live and thrive inside me.
This is connected to a few perspectives.
First, and basic: if my Peruvian or Matsés friends have been out fishing all morning, and arrive home with Piranha, Catfish or Peacock Bass, and a wonderful group of women have prepared and cooked the catch on a fire they’ve kept going all day — I’m not going to refuse such dedication and such delicacy.
Same goes if someone has hunted Majas (Agouti) and someone else has made Majas soup, while someone else hunted Sajino (Peccary) and carried it for a few hours through the jungle, on their back. It’s the food of life in the jungle, a place where one needs to be at all times ultra fluid, sharp and strong. Add to these animals some yucca, perhaps a lime, a few fresh camu camu, and you’re feeling good and ready.
This approach is ultimately born out of respect, friendship, family, tribe and traditions. As well; adventure and the exhilaration of plunging head-first into wide, wonderful worlds.
Still, on occasion I have chosen not to eat a specific jungle animal. Such was the case when I was offered Howler Monkey, which came served as a whole forearm, with five tiny fingers curled, tufts of hair slightly singed — I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to, I had intended to. But with my guts a bit wrenched from weeks of drinking river water, and expecting, naively, a non-descript piece of “bragging-rights” meat, I was simply not up to the physical, mental and spiritual challenge of ripping into a roasted, miniature version of my own human arm.
My pale-faced refusal was met with some chuckles, which was rather more welcome than cross-cultural condemnation. More giggling-at-the-gringo ensued when I couldn’t dig in on dessert: scooping out and lapping up the Howler Monkey’s brains.
We were weeks deep into deep forest and it was Monkey on the menu that night. I opted for chonta and limes, chopped down and picked up from around camp. This Monkey, however, helped form the foundation for a second, deeper, perspective on eating animals, reflecting my intentions to invite the whole of the jungle into my body and soul, and illuminating one absolutely vital ingredient: discernment.
Howler Monkey Head – photo by Laura Stevens
The notion of “you are what you eat” seems to me rather profound when eating animals, and the idea of “eating meat” sounds to me incredibly vague, or absurdly specific — as though someone might ask “do you eat stamens?”.
There is, on a certain level, greater and more direct relation between humans and animals than there is between humans and plants. It’s just a mammal thing. Plants, on the other hand, convey something almost alien, and they are definitely Elders. That plants have Spirits is a concept now widely accepted, and engaged with great verve, for very good reason. Animals of course have Spirits as well, yet this sense of Spirit appears all too often in Big Broader Culture on the shy and thin sheets of the pseudo-spiritual. In the sense that “What’s your spirit animal?” is the new “What’s your sign?”.
When it comes to eating an Animal, inviting it into your body — the Spirit of the Animal is also consumed and assumed — it is an extremely powerful force to invite.
The Animal becomes You and You Become the Animal.
So, send your invitations with care, respect and attention.
For example, I’m not particularly interested in eating cows or chickens or pigs. I simply do not want to create my body, my energy, and my power with domesticated, mediocre entities. There’s always room to bend rules of course, and in this regard Bovine Colostrum has proven itself a unique ally.
Still, on the whole, and on my path I am drawn towards those animals that appear to speak higher languages — those beings capable of communicating their gifts, life-force, and powers with elegant articulation.
Elk, Moose, Bison, Deer, Salmon, Piranha, Kaaw/Herring Roe, and Gecko, are in this league, for me at least, and for many others, across many generations. And, while not a food — the venom/medicine of the phyllo-medusa bicolour tree frog, commonly known as Sapo or Kambo, is another potent intelligence I’ll invite inside of me. The Amphibian, I’d like to point out, is a valuable asset these days, as things go strange and boundaries dissolve.
Insects are yet another story, and these food-beings, Black Ants and Dragonflies in particular, have incredible tales to tell. Further, and it goes without saying, there is ultimate intelligence offered by wilderness and wild things.
Engage and invite the Animals with Ceremony, at all times possible. Animals, with their wise and clever ways, can apply characteristics and provide certain forces for you and to you.
For example, if I need to “swim upstream against strong currents”, I’ll eat Salmon. If I am required to withstand cold Winter winds, I’ll eat Bison. If my body and soul calls for stealth elegance, I’ll eat Elk.
Elk is one who really brought forth to me the power of Ceremony when eating animals. Subsequently, I’ve never eaten Elk in a city. This majestic and special animal responded to my invitations with a request to meet and eat it in the forest. So eating Elk, specifically it’s Liver, requires a full day, a trip and trek to some backcountry river, where also on the menu is fire, wind, flow, wild berries, swimming, contemplation, reflection, prayer, gratitude, reverence, incantations.
Plants! Earth! Sky! Trees!
Be in me — Live in me.
Waters, Rain, Rivers, Lakes, Mist, and the Mysteries!
Live in me — Be in me.
Animals! The Forces, Life!
Fluid, good, surrounding Sun!
We are one — I say to them — to all Good Spirits! Wisdom! Intelligence!
I invite you inside,
become part of me
I will be part of you.
Eat, consume, snack, savour — call it what you will.
Life! Force! Spirit! Worlds! — this is what we run on.
When you engage, invite, or in your way, nourish and encounter the Life and Spirits of the Animals, with degrees of ritual and respect reserved for highest order sacred plants — a new frontier, like deepest Jing — emerges as your guardian, with gifts and with great guidance.
The Animal’s benevolence, their beauty, bestowed for your benefit.