Ahimsa Grove

Ahimsa Grove is a resource for vegan pagan living. It will include personal experiences and musings, recipes, shopping tips, vegan ethical and dietary considerations, and ideas for pagan practice including spells, rituals, and herbcraft.

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Historical Spotlight: Vegan Paganism and the Golden Age

Better late than never, I always say. A while back, I began describing some of the major vegetarian philosophies and leaders that have potential to form a foundation for a modern Vegan Pagan practice. Since Neo-paganism often includes the practice of ancestor reverence, I think of vegetarian philosophers as ancestors in this way. Since I have already discussed the Transmigration of Souls (see the blog archives from 2015), I will cover the vegetarian philosophy of the Golden Age before delving into brief bios of some lead writers in the creation of these historical traditions. Think of these as starting points. They are very brief introductions to complex ideas and to complex work done by the honored ancestors.

Some of the resources I used to research this include:

1)            Walters, Kerry S., and Lisa Portmess. Religious Vegetarianism: From Hesiod to the Dalai Lama. Albany: State U of New York, 2001. Print.

2)            Williams, Howard, and Carol J. Adams. The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-eating. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2003. Print.

3)            Preece, Rod. Sins of the Flesh: A History of Ethical Vegetarian Thought. Vancouver: UBC, 2008. Print.

4)            Shelley, Percy Bysshe, Henry S. Salt, and William E. A. Axon. A Vindication of Natural Diet. London: F. Pitman, 1884. Web.

5)            Adams, Carol J. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum, 1990. Print.

6)            Spencer, Colin. The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. Hanover, NH: U of New England, 1996. Print.

As a refresher, I’ll say that Transmigration of Souls is a philosophy about reincarnation. It implies that souls move from life to life in a journey toward spiritual evolution. The reason Transmigration is important to vegetarian spiritualities is that the belief indicates a soul can cross the barriers of species in this multi-life journey.

Veg-Pagan Ovid attempted to explain the Transmigration of Souls in book fifteen of his “Metamorphosis” as follows:

O species, stunned by your terror of chill death, why fear the Styx, why fear the ghosts and empty names, the stuff of poets, the specters of a phantom world? Do not imagine you can suffer any evil, whether your bodies are consumed by the flames of the funeral pyre, or by wasting age! Souls are free from death, and always, when they have left their previous being, they live in new dwelling-places, and inhabit what received them…. Everything changes, nothing dies: the spirit wanders, arriving here or there, and occupying whatever body it pleases, passing from a wild beast into a human being, from our body into a beast, but is never destroyed. As pliable wax, stamped with new designs, is no longer what it was; does not keep the same form; but is still one and the same; I teach that the soul is always the same, but migrates into different forms. So, I say as a seer, cease to make kindred spirits homeless, by wicked slaughter: do not let blood be nourished by blood!

This is a clear explanation of the doctrine. Veg Pagan ancestors who believed in the Transmigration of Souls felt that killing animals, like killing people, trapped them in a negative cycle of reincarnation until they finally learned from their mistakes.


Now, to the Golden Age. This refers to mythological origin stories in which life on earth began with no violence or predation. No one ate anyone else. The Garden of Eden prior to the “fall” is this type of story. Many non-Judeo-Christian (often called “Pagan”) versions of this paradisiacal myth coexisted.

Ovid’s Metamorphosis gives another poetic vision of the Golden Age. In the first book of this massive work, he describes it:

The teeming Earth, yet guiltless of the plough,

And unprovok’d, did fruitful stores allow:

Content with food, which Nature freely bred,

On wildings and on strawberries they fed;

Cornels and bramble-berries gave the rest,

And falling acorns furnish’d out a feast.

The flow’rs unsown, in fields and meadows reign’d:

And Western winds immortal spring maintain’d.

In following years, the bearded corn ensu’d

From Earth unask’d, nor was that Earth renew’d.

From veins of vallies, milk and nectar broke;

And honey sweating through the pores of oak.

You may also recall our discussion in a previous post about eating plants, where the fruit and nuts of plants have been seen as the most perfect (harmless) source of food. In Book Fifteen Ovid elaborates:

But that former age, that we call golden, was happy with the fruit from the trees, and the herbs the earth produced, and did not defile its lips with blood. Then birds winged their way through the air in safety, and hares wandered, unafraid, among the fields, and its own gullibility did not hook the fish: all was free from trickery, and fearless of any guile, and filled with peace. But once someone, whoever he was, the author of something unfitting, envied the lion’s prey, and stuffed his greedy belly with fleshy food, he paved the way for crime. It may be that, from the first, weapons were warm and bloodstained from the killing of wild beasts, but that would have been enough: I admit that creatures that seek our destruction may be killed without it being a sin, but while they may be killed, they still should not be eaten.

Similarly, Porphyry hearkens back to the Golden Age in his vegetarian treatise entitled, “On Abstinence from Animal Food”:

“…the ancients, being generated with an alliance to the Gods, were naturally most excellent, and led the best life; so that, when compared to us of the present day, who consist of an adulterated and most vile matter, they were thought to be a golden race; and they slew no animal whatsoever…. All things, therefore, are very properly said to have been spontaneously produced; for men did not procure anything by labor, because they were unacquainted with the agricultural art, and in short, had no knowledge of any other art…. But afterward, together with injustice toward animals, war was introduced among men, and the endeavor to surpass each other in amplitude of possessions.”

The vegetarian and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley summarized our hope for a future Golden Age in book eight of Queen Mab (yet another “faery tale”):

No longer now the winged habitants,

That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,

Flee from the form of man; but gather round,

And prune their sunny feathers on the hands

Which little children stretch in friendly sport

Towards these dreadless partners of their play.

All things are void of terror: man has lost

His terrible prerogative, and stands

An equal amidst equals: happiness

And science dawn though late, upon the earth;

            Basically, the mythos of the Golden Age reflects the worldview of the Transmigration of Souls. By saying all life is of one spiritual origin, these beliefs demand that their proponents practice an ethical system that aspires to “harmlessness.”

            In coming blogs, I will give introductory sketches of some of these Vegan Pagan ancestors, so that interested readers can engage in further study.



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Leslie earned her Master of Divinity Degree at Vanderbilt University and is a Wiccan Priestess, Ordained Interfaith and seeking ordination through the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor. Her column in SageWoman, “Child of Artemis,” deals with women and our relationship with animals. Leslie considers herself a cultural worker, dealing with issues of violence and oppression as they impact humans and other species. She has worked at a rural domestic violence prevention program since 2001 and is a board member on VegME, Maine’s vegan advocacy group.  


  • susan
    susan Wednesday, 29 August 2018

    Thank you Leslie! Such important and profound research! Imagine the dawning of a new Golden Age.......

  • Leslie J Linder
    Leslie J Linder Wednesday, 10 October 2018

    Thanks for reading, Susan. Yes, as for the new Golden Age...so mote it be. :)

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