Piece Be With Ewe

You may be thinking- This Lorax guy he has no tact. Always with a silly pun while making a point of fact. You would not be wrong friend but let me explain. A pun is some wit used with some words and some letters, as doth quote my boy Mark Twain:

Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which, before their union, were not perceived to have any relation.

That’s why today we’re going to discuss sheep. Well lambs specifically. But stick with me, this will make sense.

My neighbor keeps sheep. Sheep keep my neighbor. They keep him in tacos, and lamb chops, and barbecue dinner. Sometimes when I’m sitting outside talking with medicine, the mutton brigade next door can sound like children on a playground. There’s a near human tone to much of their vocalization. I catch myself thinking the medicine is saying words I can’t quite understand.

The other day my son informed me that the neighbor had given us a leg of lamb. That’s nice, but I hope he didn’t relieve the little guy of its leg just for us. I guess it’ll be ok with just the three. My son gave me the look which most usually follows dad jokes.

But the point is, the definition of the verb, sacrifice; to offer or kill as a religious sacrifice. Biblical history is full of lamb sacrifice, culminating in the New Testament:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29

This is not becoming a sermon… well if it is, it will be a sermon of conservation of a spiritual resource. So it’ll probably be worth it.

If you’ve followed these pages past, you will remember my discussion of the American Bison and the Maoist War On Sparrows as they relate to, or affirm the need for independent yet unified peyote conservation programs. To me it makes sense that learning from history requires comparing a former thing with a present one. Unfortunate numbers of bison and sparrows were sacrificed before the tragedy of it was realized and proactive measures to turn the situation around were implemented. The quote most frequently attributed to George Santayana which informs my reason for connecting the dots of history is:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

So back to the sheep. My metaphorical comparison of lambs to peyote is in the tradition of their sacrifice. Now I’m just as queasy with the idea of animal sacrifice as anybody, but I didn’t make up the bible. That’s just the way so it was written, and so it was done.

The Huichol people sacrifice the peyote/deer in their peyote pilgrimage. The Hebrew people sacrificed lambs (and other animals) throughout the Old Testament tribal times. Twice a day, and another, monthly. Yes, for real. Don’t fact check me on the numbers because I’m only Jewish by affinity, not heritage. But if the numbers are off they’re close. Or lowballed. But back to the sheep. They needed lots of them, is the point, for temple sacrifice. That was the deal. Plus, the lambs had to be impeccable. Grade A, unblemished, 100% blue ribbon winning 4H Club lambs. The best lambs. The greatest lambs you’ve ever seen.

So this required lots of lambs. I’m no shepherd and I’m not going to get all mathematical here, but if you need 750 plus prize winning lambs each year, you’re probably going to need a flock with scads of A minus, B, and C grade lambs. Not the best lambs. But lots of them, to make your required annual outstanding lamb target point.

Ok, I’m almost done with the sheep thing. We also sacrifice for our religious services. We sacrifice lots of medicine growing in the desert. A shrinking desert. Yes, properly harvested medicine may offer another harvest in ten years, so you’re also sacrificing time. If you do it right.

My recent discussion with the clergy of the Peyote Way Church has left me contemplating the correlation of a child’s growth timeline and the medicine. As was mentioned in that discussion, taking a knife to a plant we grew from seed for 18 years will feel different on your child’s 18th birthday ceremony than medicine you bought sliced and dried in a sack. It doesn’t make the medicine more powerful or sacred, it makes your relationship with it that way.

Oh Creator of all. I do not know your ways. I only observe your Creation, with respect and awe of unimaginable design in all that I see. From the creatures and plants and elements we share the earth with, to the stars and planets we share the sky with, your hand shows in their design. Help us be good stewards of your provisions. Teach me Creator, how to properly live within your loving design of miracles.

A brother of mine recently mentioned he’s been thinking how sad it is, that many of us know peyote mostly by how it’s passed around in tipi, powdered, in a bowl. It took me a while to feel my thinking about that. It’s another way of saying most people really know cow by hamburgers, and lamb by chops. But they are rarely, if ever, in contact with cows or lambs. Someone somewhere must provide for, and manage the animals we depend on for food. And in historical times, for food and religious offerings. You can bet the Israelites didn’t just wake up in the morning and say, hey, we’re gonna need a couple of lambs today (again) for worshiping the living God. I’d better go see if I can run down a couple in the Sinai.

Factory food style animal production which involves unhealthy or unethical animal husbandry is abhorrent. I think most people would agree on that, or I hope they do. We should try to choose our best option by supporting farmers who consider the welfare of the animals they raise to feed the people. Local, smaller-scale, and “farm to fork” sources are options more people are choosing, or becoming aware of, for their food purchases. Recent supply chain issues and food safety recalls have highlighted the liabilities of our dependence on factory farming.

I don’t think I’m stretching the similes too far by noting that our sacrifices of the medicine from its threatened ecology has similarities to factory farming, though not because of it’s economic industrialization or automation. But because not considering the future of the species while still sacrificing it for our needs has similarities to animal husbandry mismanagement, even if only by the fact that we’re not sacrificing our best lambs. We’re sacrificing them way before they should be. Ok, I know a lamb is a sheep before it’s a year old but we’re not talking about sheep. Well we were. But we’re done now.

New growth from recent harvest, next to plant with seed bearing fruit. This is the future of peyote.

Medicine that is being cut too young is not a proper sacrifice for our worship services is all I’m saying. That’s it. Long way to get here. And I wanted to point out an active study looking at how many years properly harvested peyote takes to regenerate new growth. Also the study notes how much mortality is involved, the percentage of plants that don’t grow back after cutting. It’s important to know and I’m glad this research is being done. You can read about it here. It’s helpful for getting an idea of what’s happening in the gardens as it relates to every bowl of powder passed around the tipi circle. I believe prayers for the gardens and an awareness of their delicate situation should go along with the medicine we pass in a bowl and use. Otherwise, we’re just pulling the wool over our own eyes.

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Mother Of Medicine

One response to “Piece Be With Ewe”

  1. It’s refreshing to read such well considered rich thoughts. I appreciate how it’s helping me remember and be aware of the value of life in all its layers and manifestations. Beautiful writing.


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