Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflections on a Sacred Killing / Eid al Adha

An introduction 
Eid – celebration, or festival (in Arabic)
Eid al-Adha / Solemn fesitval of Abraham/Ibrahim
In this case, the celebration of God allowing Abraham to keep his son for another day.

I remember this story from Hebrew Sunday School and
in my childish way
the Sunday School version made me angry

“ya know what?  You seem to like your son a fair bit.
I don’t really need him.  I just wanted to
Test your faith, see how
Far you would go for me.

Kinda like gang initiation rituals, except I’m
God so
It’s kosher.
To prove I’m not such a bad guy to follow for all eternity,  I’ll
Let you keep Isaac (Ismael) around
And to show your devotion,
Give me a sheep
I’m hungry.

for the first time I am posting words and images from the same event.  I took a lot of photos of the entire process, including the severed heads and the butchering process.  It's real life, a lot more real than buying meat in the supermarket.  It was done respectfully in this case.  I left the graphic images out of the blog in deference to those who may squirm, but I myself have spend a lot of time with them.  

The main part
This sheep is lying here in the grass,
in the sunshine 
at the foot of the mountain
I can see his sides rise and fall
He seems calm
With three of his legs tied together so he
Can’t run away
Resigned, I can still see his
Nostrils flare

since the accident I have been
with the quickness of death, the
fineness of the line between
waiting at the bus stop to go to work and being

here today I am given the opportunity to be
with death
in the moment it happens, but this time as
an observer
but this time
a planned death, a sacred death, a ritual killing
some of the others are unnerved, uncomfortable and
can't watch

I think of the Thich Nhat Hanh meditation on one's own death and I 
with the sheep

I can feel how different this is
the men are saying prayers
the slaughter is quick and humane
the animal is calm, there is no panic, no struggle

I am calm with the animal

Although he was immediately unconscious
when they slit his throat
the breath is still leaving the body
the blood is draining out, creating
steam and then the muscles
contract and the
now untied legs
move as though still alive
when they remove the intestines I can see they are also
still contracting
it takes 24 hours for life to leave the meat,
the men say.

this is not television, where I've seen countless
human animals 'killed'
this is how death happens in real life, after a
sacred slaughter

this is not my car accident
this was planned, this has been repeated for
thousands of years, since
this is a celebration, not a tragedy
I can sit with this body and be calm
this is so different


  1. Thank you for this. Jessica you have such deep courage, having a relationship with death, seeing how it varies yet with much in common. Your writing proves you a keen witness, you have compassion for all , and you have conveyed the deep respect and love for this life these men share, and that you share. I'm glad for you that you found the calm. It's because you have the courage to risk, to seek another "ending". Your writing helps me understand myself better, gives me hope.