I’ve been preparing for the Vigil for the Bulls for about ten months now, as compared to the week or two I’ve invested in years past. I already know the vigil will have far-reaching consequences in my life.
Even as I was wrapping up last year’s vigil, I had a sense that I wanted to offer something more than my time, my energy, wine and incense. A couple of months later I hit upon the perfect thing: a bull.
Part of why I sit this vigil is because of the senseless spectacle of death which takes place in Pamplona each day after the bull run. These are animals being chased through a screaming crowd to the corral from which they will face near certain death in the bullfighting ring. It is essentially the opposite of the purpose sacrifice fills.
Sacrificing a bull in an ancient Hellenic city-state meant that there was a lot of meat passed around, mostly to people who didn’t get much of it. The meat from a bullfighting victim is sold to high-end restaurants, and commands a premium price because of its rarity. Moreover sacrifice is an offering — a big one — which is all about the gods. Bull running and fighting is a spectacle designed to celebrate danger, violence, and bloodshed, and which is all about the people. If a god dwells in those temples, the participants seem unaware. Certainly no god is being given a share of these deaths.
These other bulls meet there end in a way which is anything but holy. By making a votive offering of a bull during the vigil, I stand for a right relationship with the gods, as well as with these animals and other beings. Yes, the bull and I hang from the same food chain, but as an animist I seek a more respectful relationship, even with those beings I must eat.
This will be an offering that stands counter not only to bullfights, but to factory farms, and the unnatural disconnection from that food chain their presence has fostered. When I burn it has yet to be determined; I’ll be staying in a hotel the last couple of nights of the vigil, and setting midnight fires in the courtyard might be frowned upon.