Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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Selina Rifkin

Selina Rifkin

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.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_starwberryleaves.jpgWhat does a sustainable future look like? And how do we get there? The book Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future contains a collection of essays on the subject. Perhaps the more important question would be what kind of influence can we, as Pagans, have? We don’t have the numbers to effect elections except perhaps locally. But we can talk to people. Interfaith is one such path. But so is FB and getting involved with local politics.

Visioning sustainable food production covers a lot of ground for me. As a Pagan, I take solace in the Earth. I want to see my planet in a healthy balance with its residents, with relationship being the basis for interaction. Industrial food production does not support the relationship model, but permaculture and biodynamics do.Read More

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b2ap3_thumbnail_candles_sm.jpgWhat do we do in the darkness – either literal or metaphorical – when our bodies or souls convulse with pain, and our minds can’t stop spinning? This is when we need a spiritual practice. The habit of a achieving a quiet mind and sense of purpose is like any other habit or skill (which is not to say they are functionally different), it is one we must practice.

I’m not talking about monthly rituals here, I’m talking about some form of daily practice, which was once referred to as piety. Piety got itself a bad name when, in the context of Christianity, it became a reference to rigid behavior that justified abusive acts. My grandfather ran away from home (permanently) because he was getting beaten for not saying his catechism correctly. But piety is simply showing reverence for deity in a consistent manner. In other words, some form of daily prayer.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_blacktomatoes2_sm.jpgWhere and how does food become a religious issue? I can think of two cases. The first is when we have a relationship with what we eat. The second, when there are purity issues at stake. In his Moral Foundations theory, Jonathan Haidt says that human concepts of purity are shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination, and holds that the body is a temple that can be desecrated by eating something that has been contaminated. While this has not, in my experience, been the case with the Pagans I know, it is common in many other religions.

I’ve found the first case is far more common for Pagans. Ritualizing the harvest of a carefully raised animal is now not uncommon among Heathens. Of the Pagans I know who garden, raise livestock animals, or grow their own food or herbal medicines, every single one has a relationship with the land, and the living beings that thrive there. Such relationships are deeply interactive. Goats are fed and milked. The milk is drunk, and soap is made nourishing humans and creating products that can be gifted or sold. Chickens are fed and housed, their eggs supporting bodies and their antics providing food for the soul. Gardens are carefully planned, mulched, fertilized and the harvest proudly shared, or preserved.

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  • Jenn
    Jenn says #
    I am a homesteader and so food is definitely a sacred part of my life. We raise chickens (for both meat and eggs) and Shetland she

Most of my friends are Pagan. If I were a member of a majority religion, this would be quite average. I go out of my way to find such friends, and this has served me well. Pagans don't judge me for what would be odd and quirky in average American culture: talking to land spirits, a fondness for discussing theology, and a willingness to embrace difference. All of these have been instrumental in my growth and healing, and in becoming a better person. I love my community and am deeply grateful.

And yet, I often find myself feeling frustrated when talk turns to politics.* This is not shocking I’m sure. And it would be easy to do what we so often do with our relatives, and just not talk about that particular subject. What is hard for me about this is that within the Pagan community, I have felt safe enough to allow my deepest wounds and secret places to be seen, and yet I may still be lambasted for holding an opinion that runs contrary to the majority. Should I do what I do with my family and set aside that part of myself? That would be hard. As with my spiritual path, my understanding of human behavior and history continues to grow. These are insights and understandings that I want to share and mull over with others, especially people who might not agree with my position. If my ideas will fall under the first challenge then they are not worth maintaining. But I don’t usually get to do that.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_justice.jpgWhile ethics is one of my favorite subjects, Pagans don’t have a set that we all agree upon. (duh) Some follow the Charge of the Star Goddess, or the Three-fold Law, and some work to cultivate virtues as opposed to following laws. But if we’re all working to be good people, why can’t we mange to get along a little better? In his TED talk, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, says that if you’ve ever been confused about why people just can’t get along, he might have an answer for you.

Haidt researches human morals and started by asking the question of why do human morals around the world have more to do with just how people treat each other? The norm in all cultures but Western, is that morals have to do with all sort of things that we often mock. For example, what you can and cannot do during menstruation, what you eat and with whom, and what you wear. For most Americans – let alone the small subset that is our religion – such questions are weird and alien. That’s because we live in a WEIRD culture. The term WEIRD stands for Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic, and was created by psychology researchers Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan. As Pagans in an industrialized culture, we cannot escape this.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thanks for posting! I appreciated your insights and the insights presented in the Ted talk you linked.
  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    I've really found Haidt's work to be transformative and will be writing more about him in the future.

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Permaculture goes beyond the idea of sustainability into what can we do to add health and vitality to the Earth. It is not enough to sustain, we must do more than just get by if we are to have a relationship with life on our planet. Relationships don’t thrive on ‘sustainable.’

Even before the industrial era, we have been extracting from the Earth without giving back. Tillage – which is plowing for agriculture – destroys soil fertility and irrigation inevitably creates salt contamination in former farmland. Cutting down too many trees has wiped out civilizations. However the industrial era has generated far more toxic messes than did the agricultural era, and the industrial solutions for land recovery have been less than satisfactory and are often expensive enough that the product stops being viable on the market.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_garden_sm.jpgI’ve been building a garden. It’s something I seem to do over and over, so this one is the result of years of experience. But this one is not just about growing food. This garden is about creating planetary change. It is a way to put shamanic, magical energy into my vision of what I think would make life on our Earth better. The principles are broad, and for the most part, I trust deity to move us toward greater health and well-being, although I do continue to educate myself as best I can.

The four areas I am working with are: agriculture and food production, sustainable finance, communication and human connection, and entertainment.

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