Sunday, July 7, 2013

Santeria

As much as I hate tours, the fact that I was being led like a lamb to the slaughter had the benefit of giving me time to think about what I was going to write, and how I was going to write it.  I'm not quite sure how to proceed with talking about the days I spent in Nepal, because by comparison, I was like a chicken running around with its head cut off.  Which is, considering these bloody similes, maybe the best place to start.

So I don't, in fact, practice santeria (and neither do I have a crystal ball, and a million tugrugs ain't a million dollars but I've damn near spent all of that, anyways) - long breath while I recover from my Sublime-inspired birdwalk - however I do practice Christianity, a religion that has its roots in Judaism, which DID, at one point, perform animal sacrifices and, in at least one event recorded in the Old Testament, human sacrifice*.  I always find it interesting when Westerners get squeamish about the idea of animal sacrifices.  We like to think we are civilized, and that that is SO far removed from who we are as a people, but it hasn't been that long since Americans burned witches at the stake, or hell, since Shirley Jackson wrote "The Lottery."  So when my reading of Lonely Planet's Nepal guide revealed a temple where blood sacrifices were performed, I decided a visit would make an interesting blog.

First, a little Hindu theology 101.  The temple in question is dedicated to, quite possibly, the most bloodthirsty of all Hindu deities, Kali.  Hindu gods seem to have no end of incarnations, and Kali is one of the incarnations of  Shiva's consort (Shiva's a dude, which makes Kali a chick, if any mere mortal has the balls to call her that).  Some of her incarnations are peaceful and benevolent - I like to think of that as the way a teacher may be all kindness and jokes with one class and a hardass with another class - you gotta know what the situation calls for, and sometimes it calls for a bloodthirsty demon slayer.  Like in most religions, a sacrifice to Kali is meant to invoke her blessings on the supplicant.

Dashinkali is a working temple, which means that non-Hindus are not allowed to go in.  There is a platform closer to the temple where apparently you can see a little more of what's going on.  Whether out of respect or, more likely, squeamishnness (I'm pretty sure they don't sacrifice cats, but what if they did?  I would NOT be down with that), I didn't really try to find my way to the platform.  Before I came, though, I found the blog of a guy who did, though, so when I can find it again, I'll have to put it on here, in case y'all are really interested.
To get to the temple was another one of those kind of harrowing rides around the valley.  The roads are narrow and partly unpaved, with lots of switchbacks, not to mention it's the rainy season so there's a lot of mud...that sort of thing.  It would have taken even longer to get there if I hadn't had my taxi leave early; the traffic had become much worse by the time we were on our way to Patan.  From the parking area you follow a path through the trees, lined on both sides with vendors selling, among other things, offerings for the goddess.
I'm sorry, I thought you said we were going to Washinkali.  I've changed my mind.
In one of the internet cafes I was using while I was blogging about Tibet last week they had statistics about which temples in the Kathmandu valley allow blood sacrifices, and which ones only allow plants.  It also had a quote of how many animals are ritually slaughtered each year, and was meant to encourage tourists to visit only "green" temples.  I don't remember those statistics; suffice it to say that it was a LOT.
Since I started off by talking about sacrifice and the Judeo-Christian tradition, there IS a story in the Bible about two brothers who performed sacrifices.  And it even involves one who offered plants, and one who offered animals.  God wasn't pleased with the plant sacrifice, and that brother got around to blood soon enough.  On the other hand, as I mentioned before, we've evolved, sort of, or perhaps been taught that it's better to sacrifice your selfishness and willfulness to something greater.  I don't really know anything about Hinduism, other than a few names of deities and holidays, so I don't know if a sacrifice has less meaning if there's no blood involved.  But that moment when I thought about the idea of sacrificing a cat gave me a whole lot of pause.  Is it okay to sacrifice an animal as long as it's not cute and fuzzy?  How about as long as it's not a person?  As an outsider, I probably don't have any business having an opinion one way or another, but it turns out I kind of do.  And this blog has kind of gotten away from me, so we'll leave it at that.



*No, not Abraham and Isaac.  There's another one.  Trust me on this.

6 comments:

  1. Guessing we get one anyway, but so glad you're having a good vacation! ;)

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    1. Thanks! I'm ready to go home now, though, I think - enough of internet cafes and beds that aren't mine and FLIES! I am looking forward to getting back to UB most of all because of the lack of flies!

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  2. I love seeing all the places you've been to. I knew when
    took that 1st jump into the pool at 1 1/2, showing no fear,
    that you would always be fearless.

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  3. More baby stories! Preferably one that's embarrassing, so I can tease her when she gets back to UB ;P

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    1. She can tell you, but not my readership in general, such as it is.

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