Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Goats' head soup

Dead and kicking
Bhaktapur, Nepal-

Just saw my first goat sacrifice yesterday, and am still recovering.

I was under the naive impression that they held the poor thing down, slit its throat and let the blood drain out while the animal just kind of faded away. Nope. One guy holds it up by the horns and yanks its head back, another guy holds it by its tail, lifting it off the ground. The idea is to get the blood to SPURT and PUMP out onto the vehicle (usually car, tractor or motorbike) that is being .... well, christened is definitely not the right word. ("Inaugurated," maybe.)
Then as the goat screams and kicks in the air they carry it round the bike in a circle to get ALL Corners covered by blood.

If you stand too close you are in danger of getting spurted on, for real. Fresh blood is the reddest red you can imagine, it almost hurts your eyes. I used to have a bright red nail polish that was the same colour but you never see it elsewhere in nature. Not that bright.

Finally they brutally sever the head (at this point the throat is torn wide> open and you can almost see the heart still pumping) and put the head in the front adorning the ground. The body lies kicking and thrashing beside the vehicle.

I love all animals, but goats really have sass and personality, and this really bothered me. According to an American Hindu scholar who was with me, the scriptures say it is not a sin to eat meat as long as it was sacrificed to a god. But does sacrificing it in order to safeguard your vehicle count as religious? or at all spiritual?

Everywhere we went, at literally every corner of Bhaktapur, there were machines and vehicles adorned not just with pools of blood but what looked like clear plastic tubing. These turned out to be the washed strung-up entrails of the animal, draped like a festive garland over the radiator grill or handlebars. I purposely missed the sacrifice of a water buffalo last night in front of Brahmayani Peeth temple, but I did talk to the Navadurga Dancers who were required to drink the blood straight from the animal's neck. Their white ritual gowns were soaked pink like tie-dye. It is still really hot here in the daytime (okay, pretty hot - nothing like India though) so I am tired from walking all over town. Time to go shower. I have loads of photos to download, too.


Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Darkhorse from Nashville writes:

This ranks up there/Down There! with seal clubbing. But apparently in Bhaktapur it isn't just an annual thing... so awful.

Sorry that you ever saw this, in fact. As George Harrison said many times, "The nervous system can only take so much!"

Ashini said...

Wow, what an image. Thanks for sharing this b/c I thought it was the same as you initially thought. How did you handle this? I think I might've walked away at the first cut.

Lotus Reads said...

Woooo, how vividly you describe the sacrifice, I almost felt I was there. I have often wondered at the hormones coursing through the animal's body when it knows it is going to be killed and brutally at that. As a meateater it bothers me to know that I will be ingesting those same hormones...

A nice, informative blog. I will visit often.

Bernie Quigley said...

The vivid description of the goat sacrifice brings truth to your observations & dispels illusion which many seek in turning East. After reading this I saw in my morning paper a priest saying Mass in an Episcopal church. I recalled Joseph Campbell’s discussion with Bill Moyers of the tribal rite of sacred intercourse where logs fall on the male and female participants and they are burned to death. The people of the village then consume their bodies. Campbell then pointed his finger at Moyers and the camera cut to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to an elderly woman receiving communion. Campbell said, “And that’s the sacrifice of the Mass.” In the Tolstoy translation of the New Testament it is clear that what Jesus was railing at in the “moneychangers in the Temple” episode was the selling of animals for the purpose of animal sacrifice in the Temple. Jesus abhorred this practice but the Church symbolically incorporated it into their ritual. I wickedly enjoy your journeys.