Traversing the Paths on the Tetractys of Life

There hasn’t been much talk here about the paths themselves on the Tetractys since we figured out a way to associate letters to them.  Largely, this is because I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to start.  I mean, I developed the whole mathesis thing out of a need to work with a Greek system of paths between the spheres on the Tree of Life, yet never actually did much pathworking or meditation on the paths themselves on the Kircher Tree (which, though it goes against my usual advice, I think was justified here).  I know that the paths describe a means of change and evolution from one emanation to the next, yet beyond that…it was hard to say.  Since then, I’ve been looking at the Tetractys and trying to figure out where to start.  Unlike the Tree of Life in qabbalah that so conveniently gives us Malkuth as the starting line for our Work, the Tetractys doesn’t have anything so readily apparent.  Then again, the answer was literally staring out at me from the middle of the whole thing, and it’d be a shame for me to ignore my own patron god Hermes at this point.  Starting with that brief moment of inspiration, I started from the middle of the Tetractys and worked my way out, and now I’ve ended up developing a way to traverse the sphairai on the Tetractys of Life in an ordered and coherent way.  Bear with me guys, because this post is going to be a little lengthy to get all my thoughts out.

So, we have our Tetractys of Life.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s ignore the letters on the paths and focus just on the existence of the paths:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

First, let’s talk about having a single “path” (really, a network of paths between individual sphairai) that traverses the whole Tetractys sphere by sphere.  I propose the following schema:

  1. Mercury
  2. Air/Jupiter
  3. Fire/Mars
  4. Sulfur/Sun
  5. Mercury
  6. Salt/Moon
  7. Earth/Saturn
  8. Water/Venus
  9. Mercury
  10. Light/Fixed Stars
  11. Monad
  12. Darkness/Earth

Graphically, the paths on the Tetractys selected between these sphairai look like this:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1

I’ll bet you’re confused.  For one, we have twelve spheres listed, with Mercury being listed three times; shouldn’t we have to go through each sphere only once?  Second, we’re starting with Mercury and not the Monad; shouldn’t we start with the Monad being the All and the Source of all?  Well, sorta.  I’ll admit, my background in qabbalah was inhibiting me from running with this sequence of paths, but then, mathesis is not qabbalah, and the Tetractys is not the Tree.  In Hermetic qabbalah or Jewish kabbalah, we have a clearly defined start and end, a Source and a Destination, and either of them will be Kether or Malkuth depending on whether you’re going up or down the Tree.  However, while the Tree is like an elaborate map, the Tetractys presents us with something different, like a blueprint.  Instead of showing how things come to be in a linear fashion, the Tetractys shows the presence and building blocks of life present in all things; the Tetractys shows how things come to be in a nonlinear fashion.  There is no single end goal with the Tetractys; the Monad descends into the Tetrad, not any one of the four elements alone.  All the parts of the Tetractys must be constantly and repeatedly traversed to become complete both of ourselves and of the cosmos, encompassing all aspects of the act, process, and result of Creation.

As for passing through the sphaira of Mercury, let’s talk about what we’re doing on the paths first.  We start with what looks like the Mitsubishi logo around the Tetractys: three rhombuses each with one acute corner at the Mercury sphaira and the other acute corner at one of the distant corners of the Tetractys.  I’ll call each of these three sets of four sphairai a system, and each system focuses on a particular theme:

  • The Hot System involves the active principles of Air, Fire, and Sulfur.  Processes of power, actively causing change.
  • The Cold System involves the passive principles of Salt, Earth, and Water.  Processes of reception, passively receiving change
  • The Cosmic System involves the encompassing principles of Light, the Monad, and Darkness.  Processes of cosmic stasis and unity.

In each case, we both start and end at Mercury, both astrologically and alchemically, being the center and present in nearly all things except the purest and most extreme of all elements: Earth, Fire, and the Source itself.  Everything else is connected with Mercury, so it makes sense that it’s the only one that can reasonably allow us to translate between the three systems. Yes, we can go from Water to Air (traversing the Cold and Hot Systems directly), Sulfur to Light (Hot and Cosmic), or Salt to Darkness (Cold and Whole), but a better balance can be preserved and future progress can be assured by always returning to Mercury.  If we spend some time in the Hot System, we should pass from Sulfur through Mercury to Salt, because Mercury is what naturally balances the two forces.  At the end of the Cold System, we pass from Water/Venus to Light/Stars; though it’s not immediately apparent how Mercury balances these two, consider the myth of Aphrodite being born from Ocean (Water) from the remains of Ouranos (Sky); the ability to create physically comes from supercelestial impetus and the latter is accomplished by the former, but also consider the endless horizon is the meeting point of the two realms.  At the end of the Cosmic System, we proceed from Darkness to Air; again, an awkward comparison to make, but recall that in the Poemander myth of creation, air is what separated the heavens from the mixed mass that would eventually become the Earth, and the ability to begin the process of rising and falling through the spheres is accomplished by means of air as an intermediary.  Mercury is a symbol of strong change, but not in a way that changes something into its direct opposite; rather, Mercury changes something into its complement, something that completes and links the two systems together.

The use of systems here isn’t just to provide a way to go through all the sphairai of the Tetractys in one go.  Rather, within each system are four sphairai and four paths, forming a kind of mini-tetractys within each system in a mini-cycle.  While one can traverse each system once to complete the whole Tetractys, I see it being worthwhile to cycle through each system several times to really grok and complete the work that needs to be done in each.  If we consider the three phases of alchemy (nigredo, albedo, rubdeo), then each system can be viewed as one of these stages, and it may take time for the Work from each phase to settle in.  Going through each stage of the work thoroughly requires several iterations; for instance, cycling through the Hot system four times would yield a pass each to focus on the ideas of Hot, Hot-Air, Hot-Fire, and Hot-Sulfur.  By cycling not only through the Tetractys as a whole but within each system on the Tetractys, we can begin to fully understand each force in its entirety and on its own terms.

All this leads to the cycle of paths that this “Mitsubishi” arrangement forms.  We start with Mercury then descend into the Hot System by progressing to Air, drying ourselves into Fire, and rarefying ourselves into Sulfur.  From there, we return to Mercury, cooling down and becoming pure Salt, degrading into Earth, then quickening into Water.  After that, we return to Mercury, ascend into the Light, achieve union or the image of the Source, then descend back down to Darkness.  From there, we repeat the process over again, returning to Mercury and heating up again into Air, cycling through the Tetractys infinitely and repeatedly, each time becoming more powerful with each sphaira and each time achieving more and more of the henosis that is the Great Work.  So, a full set of iterations to proceed throughout the whole Tetractys in this manner would involve a total of four stages that I tentatively call Initiations, progressing through the different systems or within the same system to obtain a deeper understanding of each force.  Keeping the same order within each system, the whole schema looks like this:

  1. Hermetic Initiation
    1. Hot System (Mercury → Air → Fire → Sulfur)
    2. Cold System (Mercury → Salt → Earth → Water)
    3. Cosmic System (Mercury → Light → the Monad → Darkness)
  2. Hot Initiation
    1. Hot System with a focus on Mercury (e.g. a deeper acquaintance of the Hot forces)
    2. Hot System with a focus on Air (e.g. seeing Air and how it relates and acts throughout the Hot forces)
    3. Hot System with a focus on Fire (e.g. same as above but with Fire)
    4. Hot System with a focus on Sulfur (e.g. etc.)
  3. Cold Initiation
    1. Cold System with a focus on Mercury
    2. Cold System with a focus on Salt
    3. Cold System with a focus on Earth
    4. Cold System with a focus on Water
  4. Cosmic Initiation
    1. Cosmic System with a focus on Mercury
    2. Cosmic System with a focus on Light
    3. Cosmic System with a focus on the Monad
    4. Cosmic System with a focus on Darkness

And, after this, we’d repeat the whole thing over again as many times as desired or as necessary until we achieve the Great Work.  Besides, by completely cycling through the whole Tetractys (at least in the Hermetic Initiation) starting and ending with Mercury, we hit Mercury four times, and four is a number mythologically sacred to Hermes.  And, if we consider all the Initiation passes together, we pass through the entire Tetractys a total of five times.

So, in this manner, we have a set of twelve paths traversing three systems within the Tetractys.  Each system is composed of four sphairai, all starting with and ending with Mercury; Mercury is then a liminal point between the three “worlds”, both starting and ending each set of paths within an system.  We constantly proceed from and return to Mercury as a central hub or nexus.  However, with our twelve Mitsubishi paths, we leave another set of twelve paths unused.  What are these paths?

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit2

These twelve paths never touch central Mercury or the extreme Earth, Fire, or Monad sphairai at all, but instead connect the six “middling” sphairai of Darkness, Salt, Water, Air, Sulfur, and Light.  Two cycles are presented here, shown by the hexagram paths (inner cycle) and hexagon paths (outer cycle).  Instead of having systems, we have one group of six sphairai that are each connected to everything but their complement (e.g. Salt and Sulfur, Water and Light) and four leftovers that are unconnected which would link everything else together.  Rather than getting us to henosis and the Monad, or alternatively to a fundamental understanding of how our cosmos works through Earth and Fire, these cycles keep us trapped, never able to each any extreme and never having the ability to reasonably transform ourselves into anything we need to progress.

Between the Mitsubishi paths and hexagram/hexagon paths, I think we have a distinction of how things progress within the cosmos as shown by the Tetractys.  The hexagon and hexagram paths indicate a cycle of reincarnation, always stuck hovering around and just under the things that truly break them out but never quite within reach; the one thing that can do that is Mercury, which they constantly rely on but never call upon. We’ll call these set of paths the Agnosis Schema, as opposed to the Mitsubishi paths which I’ll call the Gnosis Schema.  The Gnosis Schema connects all the sphairai together and in a way that encourages, well, enlightenment in almost a Buddhist sense of extinguishing the process of forced rebirth and reincarnation, freeing ourselves from the trap of maya or ignorance that keeps us in the cycle of being reborn without our control.  In other words, the Gnosis Schema allows us to be reborn by choice and free ourselves from this Hermetic samsara, which is a world of difference from the Agnosis Schema; we can deliberately choose to go to places that we’d never end up in involuntarily or by accident.  We continue around the Gnosis Schema as long as we need or desire to until that last iteration where we go to the sphaira of the Monad and stay there, never returning to Darkness to continue the cycle.  (And, of course, metempsychosis or reincarnation was indeed a belief of Pythagoreanism and Neo-Platonism, so I’m in the right here to bring that beast of a topic into this.)

So, going back to the Gnosis Schema of paths, we can use the order of them to figure out a numerical assignment from 1 to 10 of the sphairai on the Tetractys of Life.  Again, if we start with Mercury as the start, we assign it the number 1 and proceed along the Gnosis Schema paths in order, skipping over where Mercury is repeated:

  1. Mercury
  2. Air/Jupiter
  3. Fire/Mars
  4. Sulfur/Sun
  5. Salt/Moon
  6. Earth/Saturn
  7. Water/Venus
  8. Light/Fixed Stars
  9. Monad
  10. Darkness/Earth

This system of numbers is grossly different from that of the qabbalistic scheme of things, and rightly so.  We’re not describing a path of linear descent from the Source to the World, but a means of cyclical progressive process that continually builds one up further and further until they reach the Highest without having to go down lower anymore.  Described numerically, the Tetractys looks like the following:

numerical_tetractys_gnosisBear in mind that, although each of the sphairai are associated with some celestial heaven (from the Prime Mover to the World we live in), these numbers do not describe their level.  The celestial numbers of the heavens stay as they are, such that Saturn is still the third heaven (from the Top), and so forth.  If we were to compare the cosmological number of each of the sphairai (based on their planets) with the Gnosis Schema numbering (based on their alchemical force), we end up with the following table (which is an exercise in polyvalent thinking):

Sphaira Gnosis Schema Cosmological
Alchemical Planetary
Mercury 1 8
Air Jupiter 2 4
Fire Mars 3 5
Sulfur Sun 4 6
Salt Moon 5 9
Earth Saturn 6 3
Water Venus 7
Light Fixed Stars 8 2
The Monad 9 1
Darkness The World 10

Note that two of the sphairai, the Monad and Mercury, are essentially the same when it comes to what their force is: the planetary force of Mercury and the alchemical force of Mercury are so close that they’re conceptually synonymous.  Likewise, the Monad is…well, the Monad.  There’s literally only one Monad in any system of thought here.  However, look at the numbers: we see two of the sphairai, those of Venus/Water and Darkness/World, have the same number in both systems.  While these are the exceptions to the rule, they’re exceptions worth noticing.  That Darkness/World is 10, the final stage in the emanatory process, is unsurprising; it is completion, it is the ending, it is the goal of creation to create the World.  Although it is present in the Dyad in contrast to Light/Fixed Stars and thus “comes first” before anything lower, the entirety of the World can only exist when all the other forces are present to give it life, animacy, and agency.  As for Water/Venus, it’s interesting that it’s kept the number seven between the two, that of essence and quality of life.  It’s low down on the Tetractys as part of the Tetrad, but all the same it’s vital to giving things animacy, as opposed to Darkness/World which is what is given animacy.

Personally, I feel it appropriate to comment on what the Gnosis/Agnosis Schemas mean for the individual letters of the paths themselves.  For instance, note that all the Air paths (letters Υ, Φ, Ψ, Σ, Δ, Μ) are all part of the Agnosis Schema, as well as the other fixed signs (letters Φ, Κ, Ν) as well as the other elemental paths (letters Χ, Ξ, Θ).  The twelve letters that belong to the Gnosis path are Ο, Ζ, Π, Ε, Η, Λ, Τ, Ω, Α, Β, Ρ, and Ι, which are the six non-fixed non-Air signs and the six non-Jupiter planets.  However, all I’ve done so far is figure out which abstract paths to take regardless of their letters; I fully expect my Tetractys of Life to have its letter-path assignments change over time as I fine tune and explore the system deeper.  The system, as of now, is coherent and structured, which I like, but who knows whether it’s actually valid and practical to use.  That’s what further writing and scrying is for, and now that I have an actual path to pathwork, I think that process should begin soon.

Animal Sacrifice: a bloody mess of a topic

Based on the comments from Ancient Cans of Whoop-Ass, I figured I may as well compile some of my own thoughts on the topic of animal sacrifice.  The topic came up because, in the process of bringing up a ritual from the PGM, it was noted that the use of the blood and head of a donkey (an animal sacred to Set-Typhon) or any animal was abhorrent to some people.  I have my own points of view on the matter, as surely we all do, and it’s definitely a touchy or messy subject for a lot of us to think clearly about.  To be blunt, I don’t have an issue with it.  For some people and paths, it’s not only a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.  For others, it’s the wrong thing to do and can cause more harm.  Like everything else, there’s no clear-cut answer, and the acceptability of animal sacrifice depends on the context in which it occurs.

First, let’s clear up a few terms:

  • Sacrifice is the ritual offering of something to a god or spirit.  It literally means “to make holy”, and refers to the dedication of some act, object, or intent to a higher purpose.  A material object, a physical action, an emotion, invention, or discovery of thought or resource can all be sacrificed and made holy to a god.
  • Animal sacrifice, then, is the ritual offering of an animal to a god or spirit.  This can take two forms: giving a live animal to a god, such as the Asclepian snakes living in the temples to Asclepius back in the day, or killing an animal to dedicate its life and blood to the god.  For the purposes of this post, I’ll be referring to the latter method of killing an animal.
  • Animal sacrifice is not the same thing as the use of animals, animal parts, or animal life in magical rituals, especially “low magic” that doesn’t involve the gods but relies on the animal’s own occult virtues.  Of course, things always get hairy when discussing the differences between magic and religion, but I hope the difference is clear.

There’s a lot of drama between people who support animal sacrifice and those who don’t, and even those who aren’t against animal sacrifice and don’t properly belong in either group (but for some reason or another often get thrown into one side by the other).  Emotions run high and a lot of assumptions remain hidden, and it’s often these basic philosophical ideas and assumptions that are at the real root of the matter.  Here’s a rough sketch of the Hermetic and Western philosophical background I’m coming from:

  • All things descend from the divine Source.  This means that humans, animals, plants, metals, stones, angels, demons, and everything from the lowest hell to the highest heaven share the same spark of holiness.  This does not, however, mean that all things are on the same level of holiness or that all things share equally in consciousness or power.
  • Animals have spirit and intelligence and consciousness; nobody’s debating that.  What would the point of animal sacrifice be of something without spirit, intelligence, or consciousness?
  • Animals are connected into the cosmos as humans are; we all have our part to play.  Just as animals fight and kill other animals for their survival and betterment, humans fight and kill animals for their survival and betterment.  Let’s assume that we’re not talking about intra-species killing, e.g. wolves against wolves or humans against humans.
  • Even though (individual?) animals have spirit and intelligence and consciousness, they’re on the same level of spirit, intelligence, or consciousness as humans.  In terms of activity, spirituality, and food acquisition, humans are higher on the food chain and have been for most of our evolution.  We don’t interact with them in the same ways as humans, even humans whose languages and cultures are utterly different from our own.  Likewise, some animals treat predators on their level in similar ways or fight them for dominance, and predators treat prey further below them as, well, prey.
  • Humans are higher than animals, and as humans made in the image of God and act as an intermediary between the physical and metaphysical realms, we are entrusted with the care and use of the world and things around us in the cosmos.  If something works for us in a way that brings us what we desire, we’re enabled to go ahead and do it according to our means and power, which we should be increasing anyway.
  • Just as humans are higher than animals, the gods are higher than humans; so, the gods will make use of humans for their power just as humans will animals.  However, because we’re higher than animals and operate in different ways, this means that the gods have the option to make use of us in different ways than animals, and may appreciate the slaughtering of animals and not that of humans, accepting the worship and service of humans instead.

Am I saying that animal sacrifice is kick-ass awesome and everyone should get in on it?  No.  For one, there are other means to achieve the same ends that animal sacrifice obtains; it’s far from the only method of raising energy or empowering devotional or magical acts, though it’s certainly a powerful one.  For two, not all sacrifices have to be made with animal life, and sometimes an offering of plant life or symbols of prosperity will suffice.  Not everyone should kill, or even can; Pythagoreans were prohibited from killing or eating animals, and Buddhist and Jain monks are prevented from killing any living thing, though other devotees may make use of killing in trantric paths.  People involved in African diasporic religions make frequent use of the ritual killing of animals, and those involved with seriously reconstructing any number of ancient pagan paths from the Hellenic to Nordic to Semitic will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that the gods accepted, approved, and desired animal sacrifice.  This has happened across almost every culture, especially Indo-European and Abrahamic ones, for thousands of years, and for thousands of years into prehistory before or as cultures were coming together into civilizations.

Not all gods will want this to happen: some gods have begun to accept other sacrifices despite being accustomed to animal sacrifices over the centuries, while others are too young to ever have developed a taste for it.  However, to assume that all gods in every path and pantheon have “evolved” with humanity (a gross misuse of the term) to live without animal sacrifice is both short-sighted and hubristic.  Evolution does not suggest improvement, but only change and adaptation; the gods, being eternal and (usually) immortal, don’t have to evolve if they don’t want to., and the gods don’t have to change along with humanity if they don’t want to.  If anything, humans are changing faster and more than the gods ever will, and it may very well be that humans are changing in ways disagreeable to the gods rather than the gods ever having done disagreeable things.  Further, if you’re assuming anything on the part of the gods, you may have to answer for it if you happen to assume differently than how they actually think, and historically as well as mythologically this has ended poorly.  Consider Abel and Cain: they each made their offerings to the Lord, one of meat and one of grain, and Abel’s offering of meat was accepted while Cain’s wasn’t.  Cain thought that sucked, and so killed Abel; he assumed that this would be okay, and it wasn’t.  Consider, also, the siblings Antigone and Creon: Antigone wanted to obey the gods’ injunction to bury their deceased brother who had unfortunately committed treason, while king Creon threatened death against anyone who would dare it.  Antigone buried their brother; Creon had her buried alive as punishment.  Since it was the will of the gods that their brother should be buried as due to him, and since Creon hubristically decided otherwise, Creon got smacked and hard by the gods.

As for respecting animals and their spirits, that’s to go without saying.  Being the caretakers of the cosmos, born into it both as natives and visitors from the Source, we can’t just say “take it, rape it, it’s yours”.  That’s ascribing too much to ourselves and is dangerously prideful, and denies the holiness of everything else in the cosmos.  Animals are to be respected, honored, and cherished, but (based on the above cosmological framework), not put on the same level as humans.  I’m not saying you should grab any old cat or dog or raccoon off the roads, break their backs or skin them alive or douse them in lighter fluid, and drop them whole onto an altar; that’s disrespectful and needlessly painful.  When an animal sacrifice is to be done, it should be done to respect the humanity of the officiant, the divinity of the divine, and the holiness of the animal sacrificed/made sacred.  This is how we developed ritual acts of killing to begin with, done in prescribed ways to provide as clean and painless a death to the animal as needed, from which we have laws of kosher and halal butchery (which are known for being among the most sanitary, efficient, and respectful ways to kill animals for food and sacrifice).  Even then, some gods and practices require extreme forms of sacrifice, such as the tearing apart of goats in the Dionysian mysteries or the aspersion of blood in ancient Judaism, but these are also acceptable in their own contexts, because they’re allowed and supported by the gods that ask for them.*

Nothing’s stopping you or anyone else from respecting animals as humanity’s equals, if that’s your philosophy or cosmology, but by doing so in the Western framework you may be elevating animals to a position they may not have earned or lowering humans to a level they may be beyond.  Some (many?) humans are indeed on or below the level of animals, and some animals are indeed on or above the level of humans; these entities are exceptions to the rule, and again have their own context to consider.  Just as one wouldn’t be casting pearls before swine, one may want to think twice before sacrificing a certain animal that’s exhibited far and beyond normal animal qualities.

One more thing: karma.  Though a useful concept in the contexts in which it arose (with different definitions for different dharmic paths), karma doesn’t have a place in Western traditions.  It’s an import, it doesn’t make sense when used by a lot of poorly-understanding laypeople, and it doesn’t quite fit with a lot of other things even when well-understood.  In Western philosophies and paths, we often have the notion of a divine, infinite Source, and when you throw anything infinite into the mix, all notions of balance and zero-sum games get thrown out of the window.  The physical universe and metaphysical cosmos is not limited, in the Western framework in which I operate, and so there is no need for ancient actions to have to have effects except for those allowed by those involved, though it may be difficult to escape them.  When you have infinity on your side, you really can do anything, and it’s hinted at that devas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas in dharmic paths are enabled to act without generating karma.  Even in Vedic Hinduism in which the notion of karma first arose, there were common thoughts of karma being dispensed by the gods themselves which could be placated into dealing less punishment or more blessings.  Hinduism, too, also allows and supports animal sacrifice in some contexts (primarily those worshipping Shakti, the divine feminine), and if they with their notions of karma can get by with it, I don’t see why others can’t.  Saying that animal sacrifice is “karmically bad” or “continuing suffering” is short-sighted; this ignores the past karma of the animal that led it there to be sacrificed, whether its karma warranted a more severe or painful death than the one given to it, whether the combined karma of animal and officiant was overall a good or bad thing, whether the animal sacrifice was an expedient means to solve bigger problems, and so forth.  Again, generalized and myopic use of misunderstood terms won’t help here.

You’ll notice that I keep using the word “context”, and it’s important you recognize what I mean when I use it.  I refer to the culture in which something occurs, the reasons and circumstances for something, and the people and entities involved with it.  Cultural appropriation is the act of taking something from one context and using it in a radically different one, dogmatic purity is the restriction of allowing any externally-derived innovation in a certain context, and so forth.  When I say “context”, I’m really saying “it depends”, because a lot depends on how, when, where, why, for what, and by whom something occurs.  Calling something “barbaric” or “abhorrent” disregards the notion of context, and is a kind of appropriation and judgment that often cannot be reasonably or reliably made from outside the relevant context; it’s a different story if you’re operating within that context.  Blanket statements cannot be made except at the highest, most general level, and at that level you can’t get much more specific than “it is” or “shit happens”; when you get any more specific or specialized than the cosmos taken as a complete whole in which everything occurs as it should, you’re going to run into different paths with different notions of acceptability.  Just as I wouldn’t use Solomonic conjurations to get the Greek gods to do something for me, so too would I not use animal sacrifice for a god that didn’t want it.  Different people have different views of divinity, and have different relationships with their gods than you may have; telling them that their practices are wrong when they’ve got it on good authority (assumingly) that they’re right is, simply, disrespectful and ignorant of their context.

As for my own practice, I do not make use of animal sacrifice, but am generally not against it.  I offer praise, wine, food, candles, incense, and the occasional flowers to the gods and spirits I work with, and while sufficient, I also don’t work with gods or spirits that I know demand animal or blood sacrifices (that I know of).  The god Hermes, with whom I’m starting a much closer relationship than I had expected to, has said that he would appreciate the sacrifice of small birds or larger animals, but understands that I am not in a place or position to do so; this may change when I move out of an apartment into a place with my own land and yard, and when I learn the proper procedures and handling involved.  The use of animal blood, organs, or other body parts are well-attested in Solomonic, ceremonial, and Western magic generally, and are not always some “witch’s code” or blind that swapped out names of herbs or bodily fluids with exotic names of animal parts.  Sometimes substitutions can be made, like this nasty mixture I’m setting for consecrating the Solomonic black-handled knife to stand in for the blood of a black cat; sometimes, the use of animal fluids, parts, or life cannot be substituted without a much greater cost.

I understand that even a position as mild(?) as mine will get some people riled up, angry, vitriolic, and downright spiteful of my very existence.  Some people, like militant vegans or extreme PETA activists, will vociferously argue against the use of any animal life for personal gain in any way; that’s okay, though I find their arguments against killing animals in any case to be more emotionally than logically or philosophically driven, not to mention ideologically oppressive.  Honestly, if a topic like animal sacrifice is all it takes to set someone off and think less of me, I’m sure they’d find more unsavory and disagreeable things to hate me over.  If you’d like to discuss this further, privately or publicly in the comments, feel free to, but keep it respectful, reasonable, and rational.

*  Remind me to work out my own notion of holiness and fix Socrates’ issues with piety later.