After two hours, all that is left of the cow on the spot where it came to its sacred end, is its skin and tail. Folded into a neat package, the tail nicely draped over it.
I don’t know much about butchering, (nothing actually), but what I saw today was definitely craftsmanship. I somehow expected a big, muscular man to come and kill the huge cow that was patiently waiting in the old stable cut out of the rocks beneath a house. But he was not big. His knives weren’t either, but they were sharp and the butcher of course knew how to handle them, as was evident later.
The hardest part was to get the animal to fall over on the floor. Its front legs were tied together, but the cow kicked them loose again. So they were tied tighter, and then the back legs as well. Still it didn’t fall easily and it took three men and one woman (no, not me!) to keep the animal down. Then the head, covered with a plastic bag, was pulled backwards. The butcher stroked the animal firmly over its neck a few times, murmured a prayer and then slit the throat with one quick and effective strike of his amazingly sharp knife. Blood came out like a wild river, the cow mooed and kept kicking its legs for more minutes then I had expected, and that was it.
Beforehand, I wondered if I really wanted to watch this. And if I did I would keep my distance, I thought. But no, I should have known myself better by now: the cow was still kicking around a bit when I moved closer and closer. Interesting to see how the whole head was eventually cut off. And even more interesting to see how perfectly smooth the skin looked when it was very slowly taken off. As if it only needed a little bit of cleaning before the tailor could just start working with it. One by one the legs were slit open, the axe did its job cutting through the bones, and later the four feet were standing there, right next to the head. The cow was turned from one side to the other, it was cut in half, and pieces of it were hung on a hook and placed on a big piece of plastic. All the time the knives and axe were placed at exactly the right place – I don’t know how I know that, but it was obvious somehow. And when the last piece was carried to the hook, only the skin and the tail attached to it were still lying there. The woman present (actually my beloved’s mother, who helped the butcher with such aplomb that I looked on with admiration) cleaned it with some water and folded it.
In the meantime, men were busy lifting the parts of the cow onto the back of two pick-ups – the cow, costing 2200 ytl (1200 euros) was bought by two families. Who is taking the head? Here are two legs for you and two legs for us. Who wants the liver, and who the bucket full of fat? The farmyard is then cleaned with water and a broom. And tonight the rain, that had begun to fall, will wash away the last traces of blood of the Feast of Sacrifice.