Pictures and comments have been floating around the internet of the cows that died in the recent heatwave. There were, of course, suggestions of conspiracy. The truth is that most, not all, of these cows were held in feed lots where a dense population, no trees for shade, inadequate water and cement exacerbated the 108 degree temperatures that lasted several days. They could not survive. The current Big AG practices of grazing, to feed lots, to slaughterhouses and then packing houses is not a happy one, at least not for cows. These practices were implemented to meet demand while keeping prices low for the consumer, utilizing questionable grains and various drugs. Yet these systems try to make use of all saleable parts of the animal. The blood becomes blood meal, bones become bone meal, and these are sold to you at a premium for your gardens and greenhouses. The manure is composted and sold to you for your gardens, and many have utilized methane captures to sell for fuel. Of course, the hides are sold at auction for your shoes and purses. It is not only the cattle industry that utilizes this kind of intense raising of animals. It happens with pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys as well. The practice of raising animals for sustenance, utilizing blood, bone, hide and feathers has been around since our ancient ancestors. What is missing is the sacred. There is a growing swell of people that desire a healthier environment for animals which produces a healthy product for humans. They are promoting NEW practices for gardening that helps the gardener produce good harvests without chemicals and with low water use. These NEW ideas and practices, are called permaculture and regenerative farming and they promote small local farms that provide food for the local community. These practices have also attracted a large following of people that desire to live a simpler life closer to the land. These practices also addresses energy consumption by the encouragement to eating locally grown food. All of these things are being SOLD to you, and are NEW movements and buzz words on social media. These practices are NOT new but a part of the everyday lives of our ancestors as was the sacred. In ancient times, as the solstice drew near, an animal was selected for sacrifice. The animal was separated out and fed well with all its favorite things. Sometimes a wreath of flowers was placed on its neck. Everyone who was attending this festival would gather for the slaughter and words of thanks and offering would be spoken over the animal. When the animal was slaughtered, the blood would be caught in a ritual bowl and saved for pouring out later. In almost every spirituality, blood is sacred, recognized as the life source for all living things and therefore to be treated with respect. When the time for ritual came, all attending would make a procession to the altar with the head of the clan or tribe carrying the offering bowl. Other's that were attending might have brought fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs or bread. After establishing sacred space for all the attendees, the blood bowl would be held up as an offering to the gods. Then a pine frond would be dipped into the bowl and blood would be splattered on each attendee to remind them of their connection to all living things, their ancestors and the gods. Once this was done, the blood was poured out on the altar and onto the ground. By this act they were recognizing the sacredness of life, their gratefulness for the harvest and returning life to the progenitor. Gift for gift, the divine exchange as in the rune Gebo. In midsummer, women would go out and sing to the landvaettir to engage their assistance with the growth of their crops. Once the offerings had been made they feasted, played games and drank Meade. These practices were also used at planting and harvesting and the other feast times of year. Much of the New practices that are being touted have been around for a couple thousand years. Building swales or Hügelkultur was a common practice among our ancestors and only recently re-discovered. Pouring blood on the land, burying the plants that were left after harvest, leaving fruit on the trees for the Land Wight's, all of these things were sacred practice to them. Being responsible for the life of an animal that you were raising was a sacred responsibility. The rains and the water you used were sacred. You left a gift (which was usually something that would feed the land) if you were taking a tree or a branch or a stone or foraging. You made an offering for a good hunt. All of these things were recognized as having spirit and they were us as we are them. The gods were in all things and disrespecting any of those things was an affront to the gods. When the sacredness was forcefully removed from our ancestral practices, the land, the animals and the water became mundane. When time further removed us from those practices, our care for the earth went from the mundane to a commodity to be used. Agriculture became big business. Resources became commodities . Processions became parades and old practices were thrown over in the name of commerce. When we were told that we had no connection to nature but that it all belonged to one god we lost the sacred. If we stand a chance at survival as humans and if all the earth is to survive, we must find the sacred again. As I walk our land I am keenly aware of the interplay between trees, plants, birds, insects, animals and us. We want to make our land better than when we received it by protecting what is here and creating an environment where it can flourish and grow stronger. By doing this, being aware of our connection to all things and remembering that we are this land and it is us, we have returned the Sacred. Glad Solstice!