Paganism, food and spirituality

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Pagan Kosher

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Jews may avoid shellfish and pork, and Hindus can pass on the beef. Having food laws in the context of religion is a familiar concept, but why would I suggest such a thing for Paganism? I am not advocating for is a set of hard and fast rules such as never eat walnuts,but a set of guidelines. By Pagan, I mean the family of modern religions that honors the earth and women, and that may use ancient cultures as models for ritual construction and more tribal living. I am borrowing the term “kosher” because it is in common use, and because my husband is Jewish. I acknowledge there is an aspect of cultural appropriation to using a Jewish term when I am not Jewish, but it is my hope that we Pagans will come up with a term of our own. One of my friends suggested "Eating Gaian."

But why should it matter? Are not all acts of love and pleasure Her rituals? Certainly eating chocolate can approach the experience of ecstasy. But what if that chocolate was harvested with child labor? And how good can we feel about an industry built on a foundation of slave labor? The sugar trade spawned the African Slave trade, and never mind what it does to our health. But this is just one example. The food we eat should not just feed our hunger, our desire. It should feed our bodies and minds. It can connect us with our ancestors and our descendants. It can connect us to our local environment. Every time we eat, it is a chance to affirm our ethical choices, and create alignment with our communities. Food is powerful.

Pagans seek connection with, and honor the Earth. We address our ancestors and the land spirits. Our holidays follow the cycles of the seasons and harvest, and honor both life and death. How better to do all of these things than by the food we put in our mouths three times a day? But American Pagans come from an industrial food culture that has effectively wiped out local and regional foods, and replaced it with foods that not only do not nourish us, but suck nutrients out of our bodies, fill them with toxins, make us sick, disconnect us from the natural cycles of life, and deaden our sensibilities to cruelty. How much more profound would our connection to the Gods be if every meal was an act of worship and an affirmation of ethics?

In future posts I will fully outline the four principles of Pagan Kosher. These include, eating locally, eating clean food produced without chemicals, eating grass-fed animals and their products, and eating what our ancestors ate.

I think everyone (not just Pagans) should know where his or her food comes from. Our culture is appallingly ignorant and sometime willfully blind to the effect our food system has on our environment and on our health. While I don’t know where every bit of my own food grew up, I do know where all of our meat and eggs comes from, and about half of our vegetables. And however high my own standard, changing what I and my family eats is a process. Life gets in the way. For example, I keep having to move my garden and start over. So while my long term goal is to be able to produce a great deal more of my own vegetables, for now, we eat industrial organic and feel grateful that to have the option of buying something that contributes fewer toxins to the earth – not to mention my body. Our bodies are sacred, our Earth is sacred and we cannot survive well without honoring that reality in a visceral way.

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Tagged in: food Pagan Kosher
Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

Comments

  • Diotima
    Diotima Wednesday, 02 January 2013

    Thank you for addressing this, Selina. It's a vitally important topic, one which environmentally-aware people (and I'd like to think that means most Pagans) should be discussing or working on at every opportunity. Sadly, there seems to be a real lack of knowledge and awareness of the problems we are facing around our food supply, not only among the general public, but among many Pagans and a surprising number of people who refer to themselves as environmentalists, at least in my experience. I'm very much looking forward to further posts from you on this topic.

  • Diotima
    Diotima Wednesday, 02 January 2013

    Oh, and I like to call this kind of eating "fair-trade", because that is what needs to happen, not only in an economic sense, but in fair trade with the Earth and the ecosystem for all the food we eat.

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