by Michael Finnegan Rhys

Creature of the Earth, walk softly.
Make no noise but the tread of your step
and the beating of your heart.
Make no sign but the mark of your footsteps.
Take what is your due, and nothing more.
Make offerings of labor and care,
and pay homage to the spirits of the land
and water and air.
Let the living of your life
be the measure of your love for the Mother
who sustains you.
for the bounty of earth and sea and sky
is the gift of life itself, and sacred
above all things.
And I will reveal Her mysteries,
for the way of the herd and grove
is the way of all living things.


Herne's Law
                         (notes and related information from a workshop presented by Michael Finnegan Rhys.
           All material on this page was written by Michael Rhys except where otherwise noted, and is offered here without copyright.)

    Underlying Philosophies: Departing From Linear Hierarchy

1. Life feeds on life.
2. All life forms are of equal value, regardless of their relative association to humans.
3. Humans are not superior life forms. Humans are not the top of an evolutionary chain.
4. There is no substitute for personal accountability
5. Animals are not humans, but humans are animals

      Rules of the Blood Hunt

                                       1. Never take the female of the species.
                                       2. Never take the young.
                                       3. Never kill a predator.
                                       4. Always take the "right" animal, not the available one.
                                       5. Process your harvest yourself.
                                       6. Eat what you kill.
                                       7. Waste nothing.
                                       8. Always maintain your skills and prowess.
                                       9. Always hunt in the same area (mountain, marsh, canyon, wood.)
                                      10. Protect and preserve the land on which you hunt.
                                      11. Be prepared for hard times.
                                      12. Be self-reliant.
                                      13. No one goes hungry.

1. When you kill a male, you kill one individual. When you kill a female, you kill many. There are exceptions, of course. ( waterfowl). If the animal is one of the species which mates for life, it probably shouldn't be hunted at all.

2. For genetics' sake. It is vital that every animal's genetics has the opportunity to make a contribution to the gene pool. With the current extraordinary demands on wild animals, this is more true today than ever.

3. The existence of predators is both vital to and a leading indicator of the health of the environment. Their presence prevents the need for "culling", which is the  human destruction of animals to reduce the herd.

4. In addition to #1 and #2, a responsible hunter makes a restrained selection based upon a number of factors involving terrain, time of day, quality of the shooting opportunity, size of the animal, intuitive impressions, etc.

5. And cook it and eat it. You cannot be responsible for that which is not in your control. Hunting involves the entire process, from the field to the dinner table. See #12.

6. Prohibits waste and wasteful killing by maintaining a balance between harvest and appetite. See #7.

7. Should be self-explanatory. Life is sacred and cannot be wasted.

8. To ensure safety, personal responsibility, and efficiency. A wounded animal is the worst possible outcome of a hunt, and a hunter must take every possible precaution against it. See #4.

9. Monitor the health of the land on which you hunt, and evaluate your impact on it over time. Be as familiar with your hunting ground as you are with your home. See #10.

10. As your existence depends on the land, the land depends on you. Threats to the land are threats to your survival. There is a direct correlation between the health of the land and the health of the people who live on the land.

11. Nature is not constant. Days of famine are sure to come. Starving to death dishonors the life that was sacrificed so that you could live.

12. Dependent people cannot be responsible people. Dependent people cannot be free.

13. A day comes when the hunter can hunt no more. No one really "owns" food.

                              Hunter's Rules, Adapted To Modern Living

                               1. The environment (habitat) is more important than jobs.
                          2. Share habitat and accomodate your wild "roommates."
                          3. Accept the presence and activities of predators.
                          4. Take only what is your due.
                          5.  Know the origins, processes and politics of what you consume.
                          6. Avoid gluttony.
                          7. Minimize waste.
                          8. Preserve the skills of growing, preserving, and cooking.
                          9. Eat local foods.
                         10. Care for the land.
                         11. Be prepared for hard times.
                         12. Be self-reliant; practice "grassroots" politics
                         13. No one goes hungry.

                        Hunting Actions for Bloodless Wildlife Experiences

 "Hunting" is not an action, but an experience. Actions determine the quality of the experience. The hunter's spirit determines her actions. Hunting is a spiritual act.  I do not advocate hunting for non-hunters. But I do proclaim the value of the experiences to those who would understand Her mysteries. Most of these experiences are bloodless, and I do advocate those actions which lead to hunting experience.

Stalking is the most effective and aggressive (active) method of hunting. It often requires a thorough knowledge of the creature, their environment, and safe procedures for interacting with both. Stalking typically involves entering the creature's habitat, finding scat, tracks, dwellings or other signs of the creature's presence, and following those signs to the creature itself. The most rewarding and challenging stalk is  one in which the animal is never made aware of the hunter's presence.

Baiting is the action of placing an attractive food. scent or decoy in a creature's environment which will lure the creature to the hunter. Baiting usually involves the use of a blind, depending on the wariness of the animal. Baiting requires caution and an understanding of its effects on the animal, especially when baiting with food, ( which is why I don't use food baits at all - like humans, other animals are often most attracted to foods which aren't necessarily healthy.)

Experimenting with scents is a great intuitive exercise, especially since humans have such a comparatively poor sense of smell. Any animal, from ants to gray whales to humans, will respond to the right scent. When using scents in the wild, it is a wise precaution to scent something that can be removed so as to not leave the scent for a long period of time. For best results when using scent, avoid bathing with any kind of soap for several days before hunting.

Decoys are either expensive to buy, or time-consuming to make, but can be extremely helpful in learning to understand the animal. This is particularly so since the decoy's placement is as important to its effectiveness as its design. the season, the time of day and even weather conditions can dictate whether a decoy will be successful. Certain animals respond to decoys much better than others.

Blinds are TEMPORARY structures which hide the hunter in the creature's environment. Using a blind is the most passive hunting method and has the least impact on a creature's natural behavior. Many sporting goods stores carry a variety of blinds made by several different manufacturers. These are light to carry and easy to set up. But it is easy to make your own blind, and less expensive. If comfort is a priority, especially if you have a medical condition or physical condition which warrants concern, then using a blind is the best way to hunt.

When making a blind, or selecting one to buy, there are a few important general requirements to keep in mind. A good blind should not be shiny, glossy or reflective. Ideally, it should completely conceal the hunter and any additional equipment. Piling up brush, limbs or grass is not a good way to build a blind, as it creates a great deal of noise and unnecessarily alters the environment. A good blind should go up quickly and silently. Burlap makes an excellent blind, but is not water-resistant. Canvas provides protection from the elements, but is relatively heavy and sometimes emits an unnatural scent, especially when it is new. The blind should be large enough to allow the hunter to move inside the blind without brushing against the sides. The color of the blind should be complementary to the natural surroundings. Avoid the use of solid colors, although black can be used effectively in shadows and white, of course, works wonderfully in snow. Especially avoid horizontal patterns.

Calls are sounds used to lure animals and the tools used to make those sounds. There are many inexpensive manufactured calls, but most of them require a bit of practice to use effectively. From the experiential quality standpoint, it is best to reproduce animal calls by using your own voice, lips, teeth, or whatever works. Many calls are only effective in season, and a call out of season often frightens creatures away more than it lures them. Seasonal calls include love and challenge calls associated with the creature's reproductive behaviors. Calls that are effective year-round are either territorial calls or are associated with food. Don't be afraid to experiment, however, since, like us, animals are often curious about the  unusual. Making totally senseless, bizarre, repetitive noises that sound like no living thing at all can sometimes yield surprising results!

Hunting from a vehicle is not a good idea, and is illegal in many states as it constitutes harassment. While there are exceptions, (dolphins and some other sea mammals apparently like swimming with boats), it is never a good idea to use a vehicle to pursue any animal. Animals often become unduly stressed when pursued. It is not uncommon for animals pursued by vehicles to panic and injure themselves. Young animals, when startled by a vehicle, can become separated and lost. Animals must always have an apparent and easy means of escape. This is not to say, however, that there is any harm done by taking advantage of chance encounters that occur in the process of normal vehicle travel. If you have such an encounter, it is best to stay in the vehicle and leave the motor running.

             Hunting Rituals ~ Ritual Feast

                    (Included here as anything but original, only to remind or stimulate creative development of meaningful ritual.)
 Every meal is a ritual, but we should also remember to make certain meals special. Such rituals are among the oldest human expressions of spirituality. The spiritual ingredients of a meal are as important as the organic ingredients in determining "nutritional value."

"Breaking bread together" is a unifying and bonding spell, although easily applied to other purposes. It is a universally understood
 magic, across all religions and cultures.

Set a table as you would an altar. Use appropriate colors and items in decorating, according to the occasion or season.  Include at least one candle for Deity ( Goddess), and more as is befitting. Place all of the food items on the altar. These should include a contribution from everyone who participates in the feast and ideally, should be "homemade" or made by the person's own hand. Not knowing how to cook is not a license to stand aside, but even more reason to fully participate.

Assemble the participants and address the thing that makes this feast special. Invoke the appropriate Deity ( Goddess) and light the
candle(s). There are many opportunities inherent in this part of the feast-- recognizing loved ones who are absent or gone, honoring one or more of the participants, etc.

Do not allow a mad dash for the food, as so easily can become the case. Rather, this is a good time to practice restraint, which
corresponds to the restraint we must learn to apply to everyday living. First service is a commonly used special acknowledgement, and
many cultures have traditional service arrangements which reflect their values. How would your values express themselves through meal service? (Hint: Is it okay for the last person served to find the bowl empty?)

Slow down! Seek savor and delight in every mouthful. Focus on the smells, temperatures, textures, sights of the foods-- the works of love for your pleasure. Any conversation should be treated like a condiment, and certain emotions ( anger) make poor additives to a good meal. There should be love, laughter, and lots and lots of zicker noises, (mmmmmmmmmmmmmm).

The rite is not done until the dishes have been cleared. Let the cleanup reflect your values and intent as much as the rest of your feast.

Sanctuary (On Public Land)

 In hunting cultures, there are often places which are forbidden to hunters, recognized for their special or unique qualities and set aside for other purposes. These are sanctuary, and the nearest American equivalents are Wildlife Refuges and Designated Wilderness,(although neither forbids sport hunting.) The acts of government bureaucracies cannot substitute for the acts of individuals, and the need for sanctuaries is perhaps greater today than it has ever been before.

 Select a site. This decision should be given ample consideration, taking into account the location, accessibility, and relative condition or health of the site. If the site is going to be sanctuary, you will have to assume some degree of stewardship responsibility. With that in mind, remember that the  sanctuary's size may be as large as a mountain or as small as a single tree.

  Before the ritual, examine the sanctuary thoroughly. Take time to find and meet as many of the creatures who rely on the site as you can. Include the less obvious creatures ( insects, microscopics, nocturnals) in this introduction process.

 Select an altar within the sanctuary. ( Notice, select, not construct-this is a permanent altar and will become the "heart" of the
 sanctuary.) The altar should not be obvious or draw attention to itself. A rock, stump, pool, or even a burl or branch will do nicely. This type of altar need not be where a circle of people can stand around it. The sanctuary surrounds it, which is more important than any need to accommodate human ritual.

 Construct a charm or talisman to bless or protect the sanctuary, whichever is the more apparent need, or both. Use all-natural
 materials, and include a small item of worth to you, such as a stone, a piece of jewelry, or a memento.

 The ritual begins by walking clockwise around the boundary of the sanctuary. This marks the space. As you walk, think about the
 special quality of the place and what it represents in terms of your life and your path in life. Walk slowly and deliberately and step
 hard, making every effort to leave a footprint.

 When the circle has been marked, move to the altar. Cast the circle and invoke the elementals according to your tradition. But when you cast the circle, cast it as you marked it, around the entire boundary of the sanctuary.

 Invoke a patron. This is a goddess or god who will be asked to aid you in the specific work of maintaining the sanctuary. Therefore, the selection of a patron is based upon your needs more than the land's. Another way of thinking about it is that stewardship is service of the patron deity. In that light, asking the patron to be the steward of your selected ( set apart), site would be an abrogation of responsibility more than an act of stewardship.

 With your charm or talisman in your hand, speak the vow that will sanctify the sanctuary. What are you willing to do to preserve this place? What do you intend the sanctuary to provide, ( be specific) and for whom? What will you do to see to it that the sanctuary is successful?

Hide the charm/talisman. It is important that the charm not be found or tampered with, especially by other people. But just as the site is unique, so should the charm/talisman be, as well as its hiding place. Intention ( function) should determine how you deal with this aspect of the ritual (form).

Bless the sanctuary. The best way to do this is with the use of sound because if sympathetically used, it is temporary and has a minimaleffect on the wild inhabitants of the sanctuary. Incense, which is more commonly used for blessing, can leave a potent residual scent that can last for days and certain oily blends can be toxic to some plants. Blessing the site is your first step as steward of the sanctuary, and the act should be exemplary of your future conduct at the site.

 Open the circle.

 Be sure to follow through, ( as with any ritual undertaking.) Visit the sanctuary often, and bring gifts when you visit...healing labor and reparation, ( non-chemical) fertilizers, water, salt, suet, etc. Be certain to make use of the sanctuary yourself and make it a place of meditation, communion, and magic.


  Be clean, be mindful, and keep love in your heart as you prepare any dish or meal. Explore the cooking traditions of other cultures and adopt what makes sense to you. Let's make bread pudding (yum!)

                     Dried, leftover bread ( saved from various loaves that didn't get eaten quite fast enough)
                     Eggs ( or substitute gluten)
                     Sugar or honey

  Clean the area and gather the ingredients together along with a mixing bowl. Wash your hands and as you do, wash away your negative thoughts, pettiness, pissiness...the things you don't want to put in the food.

Dice the bread into crumbs, singing, "Every crumb is sacred, Every crumb is great, If a crumb is wasted..." In short, strike up some mirth and joy ( and silliness too) as you begin to prepare the dish. You always know you're in the presence of a good cook if the cooking area is a pleasant place to hang out. You might even try talking to the food. "Oh, you beautiful creature of wheat! You didn't think I'd forget you, did you? Now into the bowl with you. There, isn't that lovely? Would you like some company? Well I just happen to have a couple of the nicest fresh eggs here and I'd like to introduce you." Seriously...don't knock it until you've tried it.

  Mix the eggs and milk together and beat with a whisk or fork. Again, be deliberate with every action and mindful of the origin of the ingredients.

  If using sugar, add it to the bread crumbs. If honey, add it to the eggs and milk.

  Add raisins. "My, my you are the most beautiful raisins I've ever seen! How lucky I am to have such fine fruit!"

  Add nutmeg

  Pour the wet mix over the breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture into a glass casserole dish. Place the casserole into a larger dish or pan and fill the pan with hot water. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes

Serve with cream and a dash of nutmeg. Eat with delight, appreciation, and gratitude!

 Correspondences for Herne
 (not the Herne of Olde England, but of modern North America)

                  Nature:    wild, secretive, instinctive, silent, persistent, observant
               Element: Earth
                Time: Twilight and Dawn
                Season: Autumn, correlating Samhain
                Colors: Brown, Green
                Planets: Saturn, Neptune to a lesser extent
                Zodiac: Capricorn
                Metals: iron, lead
                Runes: gyfu, wynn, eoh
                Herbs: hemp, benzoin, monkshood, belladonna, hellebore
                Trees: juniper. yew, aspen, ( as grove tree)

   Trailhead for further exploration: The traditional correspondences of the Wheel of the Year are based upon agriculture and the vegetable kingdom. Since many if not most of us are no longer farmers, it can be difficult to find relevance in such correspondences. How does the  significance of the Sabbats change if the Wheel reflects the animal kingdom? How do animal correspondences refer to 1st world cultures?

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