I expected a reply in the terse-and-or-pissed vein. It's part and parcel to the topic, and I didn't question for a moment that someone would bring up the downside, dark side...etc. I did address ethics, but I did not address them in absolutes - that's not something I'm in the market to do. That's the "problem" with the Occult, what is an ethical issue for one is not for another.
"Right" and "Wrong" and "Batshit Insane"
One "Sorceress" and author advocates feeding rats chemicals, painting them with nail polish, and finally beheading them with a meat cleaver as part of a ritual. I find that reprehensible, she does not. She advocates doing it, I advocate a real life reenactment of "Willard" up in that batshittery. I'm going to strongly discourage anyone from doing it, I'm going to say I think it's cruel, pointless, and just a touch over the border into psychopathic. I'd suggest if they wanted to do something similar they feed the rat, baptized in the name of their enemy, to a python. Then, at least, the python eats (Python owners also often pre-kill their snake's dinner. It's safer and nicer for everyone). That's my "Batshit" line. It's not batshit to feed it to a snake, it's pretty batshit to lop it's head off with a meat cleaver... but "batshit" is an imprecise measure.
I'm not going to kill something "Just for a bone" or "just for a ritual" - if I kill it every part of it will either be consumed, preserved, or utilized for a myriad of purposes. I'm also not going to use methods which allow the creature to feel or know they're about to go - that's my line, and my ethos. Beyond that, I'll won't make excuses or apologies. Meat is murder... tasty, tasty, murder and I do not couch or hide that reality.
Harold asked: So what's next, boil a black cat alive for its invisibility bone? Or set fire to a live rooster to curse someone? How about crucifying a bird on a wheel, spinning it around, and whipping the bird as it shrieks in horror for the sake of a sex spell (Greek magical papyrus--can't get more traditional than that)?
From the original post itself: "If the issue is what is "humane" and what is "proper" - Drowning in a pond is a hell of a lot less pleasant than having a bead a benzocane slathered on one's back. Being stabbed through the chest with a dagger is, conversely, less pleasant than dying of old age." Just because I did not say "And you're a horrible person if..." does not mean there was not ethics in the mix. I did not advocate one method or another, because I don't advocate doing the ritual at all. If someone pressed me - Benzocane. I didn't say it's right, I didn't say it's wrong - I said that it's a little bit more complex than two polar points.
In another E-Mail, Harold Said: My understanding of the toad bone rit, from a description that was given to me a few years ago, is that it traditionally involves nailing a live toad to a board (which if I remember correctly was then thrown into a creek to drown). [SNIP] Nailing a live toad to a board is animal cruelty. I don't think anyone can honestly argue against that. [SNIP] But you did bring up the toad bone rit, so I felt free to react to that.
This is an example of what I mentioned in the first post: "For anyone who says "You can't just kill something just for it's bone!" - they're either being intentionally hyperbolic, or are grotesquely under-educated on the nature of the rite (and probably ought to stop discussing it). There's far more going on here. Again, more on that another time." Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the rite... or rather anyone who has read texts discussing it, will find that the information Harold was given was incorrect to ... well, a really big degree. The rite can be broken down rather simplistically to "Amphibian alive? Dispatch it. I won't tell you how. Amphibian dead? Pin it to a blackthorn tree, or an anthill. Wait until it's picked clean. Take the bones to the river. One'll get your attention." The amphibian, regardless, is dead before any poking, prodding, or dissection takes place.
Harold Said: The most we can do is hope it's not our black cat or our rooster or our bird, because we aren't allowed to condemn such traditional practices or to have ethics when it comes to what other people do. We are only allowed to have ethics if we keep them secret and never use them for anything except to guide our own private thoughts and private behavior. Sex fetishes get more public wear and tear than ethics do with us.
You're allowed to condemn it, but here's my point on the matter: If you (the general you) eat commercially packaged meat, you probably ought to speak to them about their animal handling practices before you speak to an occultist about theirs. I'd put my drinking money on the line that Wrapped-In-Plastic-Industries is worse than feeding the Lwa. Most consider it a "necessary evil" - why? If right is right, and wrong is wrong... go get 'em Tiger. If you have not done your homework there first, and come to me to complain, I'll laugh you out the door.
The ethics in "Pulling a Kioni" are not just the ethics of burning something alive - which is at least two boxes of refined Batshit. He was performing a curse, if it was meant to harm or kill there's ethics in that too.
Is it right to kill someone? Generally, we say "No", but when it comes to throwing hexes and curses... many people say "Yes".
Is it right to kill an animal? Generally, we say "No", but when it comes to KFC... many say "Yes".
Why does the answer change, when the act has not?
Bringing more discussion from the S&M community into Ethics in Craft would actually be beneficial - as would bringing in a few people from the Psyvamp community.
"Perfection" versus "Reality" in Ethics.
And the "Real Witches Never" Fallacy.
Harold Said: Must someone who condemns boiling a black cat alive not ever have eaten a factory-farmed hamburger? No. We aren't perfect. We are human and we fail. That doesn't mean we must have no ethics and must not ever condemn anything we think is wrong. It does mean we should be wary of being hypocrites. But to remain silent in the face of what one believes is wrong is to become complicit in that wrong and to offend against one's own ethics. Why should that be expected of others just so someone can crucify a frog or set a rooster on fire?
You can cry out against what you think is wrong, but putting it in an absolute won't provide traction on convincing anyone else. If we put the emphasis on reducing harm (to borrow a term from the S&M community) and working within the law... the problems untangle. For most, not all.
Even within the context of S&M, they've yet to reach a perfect place. Legally, engaging in S&M activities is "Assault and battery" - but if both parties are consenting, and no lasting injury or harm is done, is there still a crime?
Is any utilization of an animal's death in a ritual context automatically wrong?
When does it become wrong?
Is it wrong because it's not on an abattoir floor/clinical setting?
What if it is done in the literal most humane manner possible, within a ritual context?
Where is the line of "torture" and where is the line of "humane"?
Harold Said: Tradition does not make magic. People make it. They got that tradition not because it was handed down as a fait accompli by the gods but because people created it in the flow of time in connection to their work with spirits. Because magic is a human creation, not a divine one, it changes--change is a fundamental property of us mortals.
Some believe that and some don't. Their praxis is going to be different by default, and in order to figure out the ethics of differing practices, one has to at least be somewhat flexible. I am not about to say that beating the tar out of a bird, or burning it alive, is "good" - but I'm also not going to tell the person doing it that they're "cursed and wrong", because then I've lost all chance of discussing it with them, and potentially getting them thinking about different options. Of course, if they think about it, speak to their gods, and still come to the same conclusion? Well... that's when the wicket gets sticky. If they've actually -done- it? Eh, lost cause. I'll just tip off the right people.
In the case of the Toadbone: In order to get a bone the animal has to be dead. How it dies is left to the spirits - you'll notice mine was dead already. Should I feel an ethical compunction knowing the spirits killed the animal, and placed it there, in a cruel way? It might surprise you that I actually do feel bad that I did not intervene. I would rather have lanced it in the heart, or smeared it with benzocane than it suffer and drown.
Harold Said: If a bunch of mainline religious people can recognize the need for change with respect to the immutable divine, why is it that people involved in so-called traditional witchcraft cannot rework old practices that offend against contemporary ethics? Is their contact with the spirit world so non-functioning? Do they have no more any revelation? Hang it up then.
If the praxis is an organic thing, changing with practitioners (and that is seen as a good thing) what about when the drift pulls it toward a -heavier- use of animal sacrifice? What if the spirit guidance says not to kill the critter first, but to crucify it alive? Should they still quest for that guidance, or ignore it?
Why is it offensive? Whose ethics? If culture defines the norms and morals, and I disagree with the norms and morals, am I not allowed to strive for a change? Why does adhering to something mean that the person is not functional as a witch? What if the contact they recieved, and the revelation they experience, brings them to the traditional form of the rite, not even allowing for "it was dead when I found it"? Should they discard this spirit guidance because it does not suit certain morals?
The questions I ask aren't actually rhetorical, though I don't expect that anyone will really answer them. I understand that a different worldview and upbringing yields different results - I stated as much in the original post. If we just shut down the discussion with "IT IS JUST WRONG, OKAY?!" we'll never figure out the lines that ought to be there... and what ought not be there.