This morning I accidentally ran over a small, young rabbit.
Living where I do, accidents such as these are unavoidable at times. Springtime is the worst time, as youngsters are making their way further and further from their homes, unaware of the dangers of the road. Baby birds that are not yet fully proficient in flying, young badgers and even deer that haven’t seen a car in their life. I carry special gloves in my car to take those I find left on the road and bring them to a more respectful distance, to be taken by the ants and foxes, the crows and other creatures. I’ve picked up all manner of roadkill from other people where they have just left it – even putting my back out once dragging a dead deer stag from the middle of the road where it endangered drivers coming around a blind bend. How people could just leave animals that they have hit is beyond me. I’ve had to call the police to inform them of deer that had been hit on the highway and that was still alive, blocking a lane, thereby getting police and environment officials there to kill the deer humanely as quickly as possible, and see that no one else gets hurt. It infuriated me that no one else bothered to take responsibility – no one else had made that call before me.
It doesn’t make it any easier, no matter how much death you see. Picking up the warm, soft furry body, its entrails in my other hand I carried it to the side of the road and placed it gently beneath the hedgerow. I was struck for a moment at how some Druids of old, such as the famed Boudicca would have read the entrails of a sacrificed hare to foretell battle outcomes, if classical sources are correct. I thought about how gentle my Druidry is compared to that, and how I would not change it for the world. As I lay its body on the ground, the green grass and nettles growing up towards the sun, all I could think was “I’m so sorry”. I asked that the gods be kind, and that they may forgive as this little one goes back to the earth from whence it came. A crow directly overhead cawed as I finished my prayer.
I know it may seem odd, asking pagan gods for forgiveness – many would say that attitude is for another religion. However, at that moment it felt utterly right – it was the first step towards making amends for the taking of a life. It acknowledged responsibility as well as regret. Whether the gods accepted it or not I do not know – the crow cawed just at that moment, but he may have just been greeting his mates, or laughing at me, or genuinely speaking for the spirits of that area.
Accepting responsibility for the taking of a life is a concept that was well known to the Celtic ancestors in this country. Whether accidentally or not, reparation must be made and responsibility claimed for one’s own actions. Stopping and taking the little body to a better resting spot was just the first step towards reparation. Asking forgiveness and expressing sorrow and regret was the second. Making a donation to the Hare Trust upon reaching work the third, and tonight in a small ritual an offering will be made to the spirits of place for peace. None of this will bring that little life back. However, it is a constant reminder of my place in the cycle of life, in the grand web of all our lives, how we are all connected, and how each of us is responsible for our actions.
Why all this effort just for a rabbit, some may wonder? To me, all life is sacred – it is why I am a Druid and a vegan. Ideas of reciprocity and responsibility are at the forefront of my worldview. I take what I have learned from our Celtic ancestors and apply the wisdom found in their teachings into modern life. Ancient Celts may not have felt so sorrowful at killing a bunny – but I’m not an ancient Celt. I don’t eat the meat, I cannot make use of the body, and so it seems dishonourable not to do something to make amends for the taking of its life. I live in a different world to the ancient Celts, and thereby must apply their wisdom into my modern worldview in the best way that I can to ensure that my life is lived fully, aware and awake and with honour.
Driving home, I shall drive even slower than I usually do, no matter what the cars behind me think. I am a part of my environment, a part of a very special ecosystem and I will do all that I can to preserve it, to cherish it and to honour it with all that I am. For me, there is no other way.