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Pagan Kosher: Eat Local

b2ap3_thumbnail_rusting_plow_sm.jpgThe first principle of Pagan kosher is eating locally. Local is a scale of distance. It might be the chickens in your backyard, or on your roof if you live in a city. It might be the milk you buy from the farmer in the next town, the grain from the next county, or the potatoes from the next state over. This both cuts down on the use of fuel needed to transport food and honors the place where we live. We live in a highly mobile society and, as Pagans, it can be hard to connect with a local landscape. We often use meditation as a way to make that connection, and while that is a valid approach, knowing what lives near your home that can feed you is far more visceral.

Corporate agriculture has allowed us to become profoundly disconnected from our food sources. An entire generation has been raised with no more connection to “chicken” than the plastic wrapped packages in the grocery store. I have heard numerous stories about children who, upon being shown an actual garden, are afraid to eat the vegetables because there is dirt on them. As a primarily Earth-based religion, we aren’t generally in the category of the rupophobic (yeah, that’s fear of dirt). But a substantial number of us live in cities, where the local environment includes a lot less dirt and a lot more concrete. Plants and animals do not generally thrive on concrete.

Tribal cultures knew the land they lived on. They knew where and when they could find mushrooms. They knew where to dig groundnuts and sunchokes, and where game grazed. Agricultural societies had no less knowledge. They knew when to plant and when to harvest, and where the livestock would thrive and where it needed shelter. This knowledge was passed through families, shared among those who worked the land. Tribal people’s regard the lands they live on as their pantry, and while they may not do annual crops, they still do light cultivation of edible perennials.

For Pagans, the place where we live provides for our shelter, and perhaps our spiritual needs. But when we connect with our local food-shed, we have far more opportunities to revel in our sense of place. We honor relationship, not just with the land but with those who grow the food. The sacred web of community is built from such connections. Trading eggs for squash with a neighbor gives one increased food security in these uncertain times. Such trades acknowledge our own vulnerability, which is the nature of community. Leaning on each other has become foreign to our independent consumer culture, and is one of the things that makes building our Pagan communities more difficult.

So find out who nearby you raises chickens, and when the farmer’s market is. Farmer’s markets are great sources of local food and are becoming incredibly popular. So much so that cities may have better one’s than do the suburbs. And cities are jumping on the urban agriculture band-wagon left and right and there may be resources you can locate through your city government. If you live in the suburbs, what can you raise yourself? Can you start a little garden? Get some chickens? Perhaps a goat? Check your local ordinances. Not all towns allow critters, but many are softening those laws. My own town just voted to allow up to three hens. If you live in the country, likely you already know people who produce their own food. They might give you advice for free or be willing to trade. Know the land by the food that grows there, by the medicinal plants that evolved in that environment. Feed the soil and you feed the land spirits.

In the following weeks I will write about the other three principles of Pagan Kosher. Local Harvest farmer’s market locator

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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.


  • Pumpkyn
    Pumpkyn Tuesday, 15 January 2013

    I really enjoyed reading this entry. I'm looking forward to reading more about Pagan Kosher.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Wednesday, 16 January 2013

    An article in support of your position, though it's not too friendly to vegans.

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Thursday, 17 January 2013

    Anne, from a nutritional standpoint, veganism is highly risky behavior. But I completely support it from a religious standpoint, as long as it is done with consideration for the environmental consequences. I view it as an ascetic practice, something that has a long history in ancient Paganism.

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