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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Vegan Imbolc: Putting Plant Foods “In the Belly”


Imbolc is one of my favorite Sabbats. Here in Maine, it may not always seem like there is any sign of spring. But Imbolc helps us to remember that, especially the way that time flies, it will be here before we know it. Deep in the belly of mother earth, the wave of new life prepares and takes root. This time of very early germination reminds us to take some time and focus on the preparation and planning key to starting new endeavors. What do we need to spend our time on, while we are cooped up inside, so we can get a jump on the very first blessings of warmer weather? Because of this “new beginnings” aspect of the Sabbat, I see Imbolc as a very hopeful time.


In the spirit of new beginnings, I want to offer a couple of resources that the veg-curious can use to start dabbling in more vegan eating. It may be helpful to think about all the things we already eat vegan, or very nearly vegan. Chips and salsa, many salads, peanut butter and jelly, fruit, or pasta marinara are a few examples. There are even some lists online of the types of conventional snack foods that are vegan (most assuredly by accident). Oreos and most Oreo-type cookies are one example, as are regular Fritos. A lot of potato chips are also vegan, but you have to read labels. One of the most amusing bits of irony is that most types of conventional “bacon bits” made for sprinkling on salads are vegan. This is an important reminder that bacon is more about the smoke and the spices than whatever has been flavored that way.


PETA puts out an informative and sometimes amusing list of these “accidental” vegan products. This can be found here: http://www.peta.org/living/food/top-accidentally-vegan-foods/




Now: on to the dairy association of Imbolc. Part of the early spring vibe of Imbolc in agrarian societies has also been the lactation of mother animals. Of course, industrialization and the growth of factory farming have vastly changed our relationship to other animals. For vegans, Imbolc is a reminder of the powerful and symbolic bond that mothers have to their children. Mothers giving their own milk to their own children as a basic right might seem like common sense. But in industrialized agriculture it is far from the case. The babies of the big dairy industry are unwanted byproducts; especially the males. Even though fewer people are eating veal, these babies must be removed from their mothers at dairy operations, and are often disposed of. Cows are very maternal, and grieve horribly for their children. In fact, the maternal aspect of cows has caused them to be a symbol for many goddesses, including Hathor, Nut, and Brigid (possibly the daughter of or another version of the cow goddess, Boann). The anguish of Demeter when her daughter is stolen from her is easily rivaled by the misery of mother cows in a dairy operation. Theo, the calf pictured on this blog, was lucky to end up at a sanctuary. He was found while being offered for sale as veal on the roadside near a small farm. Even at small operations, it is not cost efficient for male babies of dairy calves to be kept.


Fortunately, we no longer need to get all our milk, cheese, or desserts from animal milk. And it has never been easier for many of us to choose to forgo animal products completely. Like bacon can be made of many different ingredients (tempeh and coconut are especially good), milk can be made from many different plants. We are all probably familiar with coconut milk. Now as the demand for cholesterol-free dairy alternatives increases, one can easily purchase plant-based milks in multiple flavors. Almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk seem to be the most popular. But people have long had access to rice milk, oat milk, and hemp milk as well.  And yes, there are also plant-based options for cheese, ice cream, whipped cream and the like. Vegan alternatives for milk, mayo, cheese and desserts have become so popular with health-conscious consumers that many animal agriculture interests have attempted to sue to protect these terms as legal for use on animal products only. A recent law suit against Hampton Creek Foods saying they couldn’t call anything “mayo” without eggs is one example. This issue has come up for vegan cheese makers also, forcing them to call their products by strange and ungainly names (and to use spellings like cheeze) so as not to break FDA regulations or various state laws. If nothing else, these attempts show that the cholesterol free, cruelty free versions taste good enough to give animal ag a run for their money.


Popular milk that is rich and creamy enough for things like cheese and desserts is cashew milk. This can be bought in a carton at many stores, but I’m going to celebrate Imbolc by sharing my own recipe for cashew cream with you all. This can be made affordably and easily at home. If you keep some unsalted cashews (raw is better but roasted is fine), then you can blend up a batch whenever needed. This recipe made and appearance in my Thanksgiving blog because cashew cream is my secret ingredient to make things like boiled onions and mashed potatoes taste like they did when I was a kid.


Cashew Cream:


1 cup unsalted cashews (raw preferred but roasted okay)


1 cup water


Soak them for at least an hour, right in the blender. Then blend until smooth. This can be refrigerated for a few days, but it’s better fresh so I suggest only making enough for your recipe. You can make as large or as small a batch as needed. Just keep to the 1:1 ratio of equal parts water and nuts.


Done. How’s that for a simple recipe?  Happy Imbolc!




(Theo the “veal” calf was rescued by Peace Ridge Sanctuary in Penobscot Maine: www.peaceridgesanctuary.org)




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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.  


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