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Author Topic: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?  (Read 1306 times)

TheGreenWizard

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Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« on: August 11, 2018, 12:08:23 pm »
Recently, I've been reading Beckett's book, Path of Paganism and finished the section, "Putting It Into Practice." Those not familiar with the book, this section discusses daily spiritual practices, altars, the duality of faith/fear, ethics, magic, and living in troubled times. My emphasis in this post is more on the first and fourth topics, daily spiritual practices and ethics, in particular reference to food.

Beckett's view on food in this book is more about the relationships people have with food, ranging from mindless (it's there, I'll eat it) to sacramental (I know that something must have died in order for me to eat this product - regardless if it's animal or plant based). He focuses mostly on the ethical aspect of eating food, and, if I recall correctly, acknowledges that obtaining ethically sourced meat products and organically grown produce is limited by socioeconomic status.

However, he does not go into dietary restrictions made by religious beliefs. As we know, there are religions in which there are dietary laws - Judaism comes to mind with abstaining from pork, and/or shellfish and not eating dairy with meat products. While these religions and spiritual belief systems are much older, I do wonder if Pagan practices (such as certain flavors of Wicca, Kemetic, etc) have dietary restrictions or limits.

Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2018, 12:30:16 pm »

Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?

Good topic. My paganism doesn't restrict what I can eat at all, except perhaps in the most general sense: The body is Her temple, so treat it right. That leaves things very open.

(Also, it's UPG, but chocolate is the food of the gods, a gift of passion from Her to us. It's incontrovertible.)

I'd like to say I go the extra mile for locally sourced, humanely produced, eco-sustainable groceries, but I'd be lying. I eat whatever. I tried deer hunting once (bow and arrow, accompanying an experienced hunter)--for several reasons, among them a pagan desire to be closer to my meat source and to truly appreciate what it takes to put food on my table--but I found it too boring and would rather spend the time in the woods birding.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2018, 02:49:59 pm »
Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?

Well, I don't eat any meat or meat byproducts, and my motivation is religious. Not *all* Hindus are vegetarian, but the majority of us are, and almost all Brahmins and religious devotees are. More importantly, nearly all Hindus, even those who eat meat, abstain from eating cattle. It's prohibited by several religious texts that are accepted by most Hindus.

Food is something that is fundamentally spiritual for me. It's never *just* food, it's something I am thankful to have, and something that other people, and beasts of burden, work hard to produce. I don't abstain from killing plants, in the way some Jains do, but I do avoid unnecessarily destroying them. So, I prefer products that are farmed in an ecologically friendly way, when I can get them, but I can't always afford them. Likewise, free trade foods are always good if I can afford them. 
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2018, 03:09:04 pm »
Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?

I know someone (Celtic reconstructionist) who does not eat potatoes for religious reasons (specific requirement from a deity, not a 'other people need to do this' thing.)

I have had multiple conversations with Darkhawk, where we have talked about the fact that some people can do magic on a vegetarian diet, and some people (including both of us) really can't. And that talking about these things in advance of ritual work is usually a good thing to do. (I don't eat a lot of red meat routinely, but my go-to meal after heavy ritual work is a hamburger or steak, because wow is that what my body needs.)

Before I had blood sugar issues, I would do short-term fasting (that day) for certain rituals - initiations and Samhain, mostly. For both, I'd also do a series of progressive short-term (i.e. week or three) food choices aiming toward more easily digested foods, and less processed foods. These days I can do the latter, but not the former, but still save it for specific occasions where it's a deliberate working tool, not a thing I do routinely.

I came into Paganism already aware of my own disordered eating patterns, aware of (and a big believer in) Health at Every Size, and extremely wary of food restriction as a thing without a clear well-identified purpose, so restriction for the sake of restriction has never been part of my practice.

And since then, I have issues where things stop being food for my brain at regular intervals (so advance meal planning is tricky, more than 3-5 days out) and other days where chronic health symptoms like fatigue (and sometimes outright nausea) mean food is extra hard, and eating anything is a win.

Building a sense of my own intuition, however, is key to my witchy practice. This article from the Fat Nutritionist was a later read in my thoughts on this (it dates from 2010) but really sums up how important learning to trust my body and listening to what it wants and needs is. (And understanding that there are some specific places where bad history - notably stuff around my mother and food- has messed up that trust, and working to fix that.)

Which is going pretty well these days, for lived experience of 'well'. (For a variety of reasons, I get regular blood work, and see my doctor and nutritionist every four months, so I get regular feedback on the effects on a medical level too.)

Beyond that, I do try and shop when I have the choice from places that treat both the human staff and the animals involved well (among other reasons, this often produces better tasting food!) I don't always manage it, but my usual default grocery store is Trader Joe's, which is pretty good about labelling, and where my preferred choice for a lot of things is usually in my budget, and is a reasonable balance point for all the ethical/sourcing things.  for me.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2018, 05:54:09 pm »
I know someone (Celtic reconstructionist) who does not eat potatoes for religious reasons (specific requirement from a deity, not a 'other people need to do this' thing.)

I also have this kind of a personal  prohibition, on Spree and (less strictly) other artificial citrus candies though I almost hesitate to term it "religious" because I am pretty sure any good doctor or therapist would have said the same if I had the kind of relationship with them to do that. 

(I don't know why, but somehow fake citrus-y sweets seem to short circuit my brain into extreme addiction to the point where I will keep eating to the point of obvious blood-sugar imbalance and severe nausea---usually an effective deterrent but not for me in this case---and at one time was consuming up to 2 lbs a night instead of an evening meal. )

  However, I doubt an ordinary mortal would be as successful in bolstering my willpower in this regard, so it's a very beneficial thing that could be considered religious in nature.

I do try, not always successfully,  to eat ethically-sourced foods and be generally healthful, which I might do from logic alone but, again, my beliefs bolster this.  Luckily I am one of the few people I know who actually prefers goat and mutton over more common meat because these can be easily sourced where I am from a local humane farm and also the Navajo trading post, making a bit of a better alternative.  I would like to grow some of my own food but am a bit of a black thumb and so far have only succeeded with onions and basil.

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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2018, 08:02:41 pm »
Recently, I've been reading Beckett's book, Path of Paganism and finished the section, "Putting It Into Practice." Those not familiar with the book, this section discusses daily spiritual practices, altars, the duality of faith/fear, ethics, magic, and living in troubled times. My emphasis in this post is more on the first and fourth topics, daily spiritual practices and ethics, in particular reference to food.

Beckett's view on food in this book is more about the relationships people have with food, ranging from mindless (it's there, I'll eat it) to sacramental (I know that something must have died in order for me to eat this product - regardless if it's animal or plant based). He focuses mostly on the ethical aspect of eating food, and, if I recall correctly, acknowledges that obtaining ethically sourced meat products and organically grown produce is limited by socioeconomic status.

However, he does not go into dietary restrictions made by religious beliefs. As we know, there are religions in which there are dietary laws - Judaism comes to mind with abstaining from pork, and/or shellfish and not eating dairy with meat products. While these religions and spiritual belief systems are much older, I do wonder if Pagan practices (such as certain flavors of Wicca, Kemetic, etc) have dietary restrictions or limits.

Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?

Nahua religion doesn't really have any dietary restrictions. You can eat pretty much anything. However, there are special meals prepared for specific ceremonies. Mostly, these are some form of tamales, the most common being honey-sweetened tamales. For the festival of Etzalcualiztli the people are supposed to eat a maize and bean stew, basically a Mexican version of succotash, and for Tititl a blue maize atole (a type of maize gruel) is served.

In Mesoamerican mythology, human beings are made from maize, so eating maize is not only part of a balanced diet, it reenacts the creation of humanity. In general, I try to eat some form of maize with every meal, although I don't treat this as a rule.

(Also, it's UPG, but chocolate is the food of the gods, a gift of passion from Her to us. It's incontrovertible.)

I think we can call this one pretty much confirmed.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 09:18:32 pm by SunflowerP »

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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2018, 09:22:40 pm »

A Reminder:
Hi, Yei,

Just a quick note: don't forget that you need the trackback quote code for each post you're quoting/replying to! I've fixed it for you this time, but in future, please remember to either use the 'insert quote' button (on the posts in the Topic Summary under the reply box) to add excerpts from additional posts, or reply to each post separately.

Thanks!
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2018, 05:16:07 pm »
Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?
I eat vegetables daily, and once a week I eat meat. I really dislike when food is thrown away. I don't like eating large quantities of food. I think there must be moderation with food.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2018, 10:13:30 pm »
Aside from allergies and dietary intolerances, are there foods that you do not eat because of your practice? Conversely, are there foods that you have to include in your diet because of your practice? What is your relationship with food - do you try to buy from ethical sources (such as the local butcher or the local farmer) or are you simply aware of what you eat and make conscious decisions with regard to what you eat?

Not a have-to per say, but man, one of my deities LOVES McDonald's French fries and vanilla shakes (no whip and hold the cherry, please) ;)

My relationship with food is complex.  The one sentence summation: since as far back as I remember, Mom's been telling me the family is predisposed to have "the pudge," and she's always worried I'll get it, and nit-picky that I have it. Therefore, I am extremely self-conscious about everything I eat, and about a guilt level when I do eat.  I wouldn't say I have the greatest food preferences in the world, but I also don't think I do badly.  The struggle is constant.  I check everything into My Fitness Pal, and this year at least has not been a great success food and fitness wise because of work stress.

But my gods and guides are kind and encouraging. I'm aware my body really does need X amount of calories to run during a day; I can't just not eat, even when I'm feeling like that.  On bad days, it's whatever doesn't require a lot of effort, because some food is definitely preferable to me sitting on the couch at 7pm and realizing I'm starving and I haven't eaten in almost 24 hours because I'm out of it. On good days, I'm coming to enjoy a growing repertoire of things I can cook.

I suppose food is related to practice in the sense that, I get a lot of reminders from my gods that I can't practice, improve, or experience what we both want if I DON'T eat. So I better try to take care of myself, because we have work to do.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2018, 11:53:00 am »
Not a have-to per say, but man, one of my deities LOVES McDonald's French fries and vanilla shakes (no whip and hold the cherry, please) ;)

My relationship with food is complex.  The one sentence summation: since as far back as I remember, Mom's been telling me the family is predisposed to have "the pudge," and she's always worried I'll get it, and nit-picky that I have it. Therefore, I am extremely self-conscious about everything I eat, and about a guilt level when I do eat.  I wouldn't say I have the greatest food preferences in the world, but I also don't think I do badly.  The struggle is constant.  I check everything into My Fitness Pal, and this year at least has not been a great success food and fitness wise because of work stress.

But my gods and guides are kind and encouraging. I'm aware my body really does need X amount of calories to run during a day; I can't just not eat, even when I'm feeling like that.  On bad days, it's whatever doesn't require a lot of effort, because some food is definitely preferable to me sitting on the couch at 7pm and realizing I'm starving and I haven't eaten in almost 24 hours because I'm out of it. On good days, I'm coming to enjoy a growing repertoire of things I can cook.

I suppose food is related to practice in the sense that, I get a lot of reminders from my gods that I can't practice, improve, or experience what we both want if I DON'T eat. So I better try to take care of myself, because we have work to do.

Personally, I find that people with pudge are attractive, but I digress. I had an eating disorder about six or seven years ago, so any fasting or limitation on food is out. It wouldn't make sense for me on a mental health level.

I do try to get as much meat and dairy as I can from local sources, and I happen to be blessed in that I have family members who also do this. I can't remember the last time I bought beef or pork from a store. We also get canned and fresh goods locally when we can, but there are limitations to this, especially in the winter.

I think overall, my food choices are inspired by my faith, because I've learned to honor my body with food and trust that it craves things that it needs. Coming from an eating disordered background that was a huge mountain to climb. Because I'm a Pantheist I feel that trusting my body to know is part of my faith. The Mind-Body-Spirit model also informs this faith.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2018, 02:26:08 pm »


One of these days I'll get my shit together and actually write up the Ka theology stuff I need to write.  Maybe I'll make a little book out of it.  In any case, here is an old old post about food.

https://peacefulawakenings.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/this-is-not-as-simple-as-it-seems/
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2018, 02:39:21 pm »
Good topic. My paganism doesn't restrict what I can eat at all, except perhaps in the most general sense: The body is Her temple, so treat it right. That leaves things very open.

(Also, it's UPG, but chocolate is the food of the gods, a gift of passion from Her to us. It's incontrovertible.)

Knowing you, I can completely understand and see how you've tied this with your health (for those that don't know, Altair is a bodybuilder). My faith hasn't necessarily limited my diet, however, through Dionysus, I've realized that yes, I can have wild parties and eat whatever the hell I want to... but I'll have to pay the consequences for going past my body's limits. Now, I'm doing more to respect my body, and realize what foods affect me for the better. Coffee - though I love it - means I'm in the bathroom for a good time; tea, on the other hand, feels a lot better (like the Pomegranate Green Iced Tea I'm drinking now).

And I completely agree with your chocolate statement!

I'd like to say I go the extra mile for locally sourced, humanely produced, eco-sustainable groceries, but I'd be lying. I eat whatever. I tried deer hunting once (bow and arrow, accompanying an experienced hunter)--for several reasons, among them a pagan desire to be closer to my meat source and to truly appreciate what it takes to put food on my table--but I found it too boring and would rather spend the time in the woods birding.

My father - who I'm on (now) agreeable terms with - invited me to go hunting once upon a time. I didn't do it at the time, but I am considering it again to ask to go with him. (More along the lines to 1. try to rebuild our relationship as father-son and 2. see if I can hunt animals. I'm completely able to hold an animal while it is dying, but I have yet to experience the "I am the reason why it died" aspect). That said, I do know that to get ethically sourced animal protein, that's sustainable, and blah blah blah is... well... expensive as ALL hell in NYC - even at the Farmer's Markets. But it does go directly to the farmer, so I shouldn't complain.
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2018, 02:46:29 pm »
Food is something that is fundamentally spiritual for me. It's never *just* food, it's something I am thankful to have, and something that other people, and beasts of burden, work hard to produce. I don't abstain from killing plants, in the way some Jains do, but I do avoid unnecessarily destroying them. So, I prefer products that are farmed in an ecologically friendly way, when I can get them, but I can't always afford them. Likewise, free trade foods are always good if I can afford them.

This is something I'm still trying to work into my faith/worldview. As described by Beckett, my relationship with food falls between the mindless eating, and the "I know somethign had to die for me to live" sacramental eating. There are times where I'm just completely drained of energy, and won't give thanks to the Gods or thank the organisms for their sacrifice so that I can keep living.

You brought up also the fact that many on this planet do not have reliable access to food, and work hard to produce it. This particularly is something I want to really focus more on in my practice and daily faith - simply giving thanks to those that produced the food from farm to plate. (Interestingly, I think I have picked this up, but more through my obsession with Japanese culture and language. I'll occasionally go through the motions of itadakimasu - putting my hands together, saying itadakimasu and then bow before I dig in - but I've wondered, as of late, if that's cultural appropriation...).

As I stated before, I'll try my hardest to go the organic route, or to buy produce from farmer's markets. But meat... urgh. so expensive!
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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2018, 02:57:01 pm »
I know someone (Celtic reconstructionist) who does not eat potatoes for religious reasons (specific requirement from a deity, not a 'other people need to do this' thing.)

This was actually one of the original intents behind my post - do your deities prevent you from eating certain things - but I decided to make it a bit more broad. Thanks for answering this part!

I have had multiple conversations with Darkhawk, where we have talked about the fact that some people can do magic on a vegetarian diet, and some people (including both of us) really can't. And that talking about these things in advance of ritual work is usually a good thing to do. (I don't eat a lot of red meat routinely, but my go-to meal after heavy ritual work is a hamburger or steak, because wow is that what my body needs.)

Before I had blood sugar issues, I would do short-term fasting (that day) for certain rituals - initiations and Samhain, mostly. For both, I'd also do a series of progressive short-term (i.e. week or three) food choices aiming toward more easily digested foods, and less processed foods. These days I can do the latter, but not the former, but still save it for specific occasions where it's a deliberate working tool, not a thing I do routinely.

I have not attempted to do (strict) vegetarianism in a long while, and that was before I became pagan. I do empathize with you re: the after ritual/after magic workings that a heavy, nutrient dense meal is necessary. I think there was once where I was very light headed because the work itself lasted over a few hours... oops. Good thing I had chocolate nearby!

Building a sense of my own intuition, however, is key to my witchy practice. This article from the Fat Nutritionist was a later read in my thoughts on this (it dates from 2010) but really sums up how important learning to trust my body and listening to what it wants and needs is. (And understanding that there are some specific places where bad history - notably stuff around my mother and food- has messed up that trust, and working to fix that.)

It's always a parent or family issue that screws up one's eating habits I'm finding... My mom would often tell me that I'm too skinny, or I'm getting fat while I was growing up and as a gay teen, that just really pestered the hell out of me and obviously didn't help me in developing my body image. I was either too skinny for some people, while others I had too much pudge. It has taken me about 8-10 years to really figure out what to do with my diet now, and to resolve my confidence/self-esteem issues that stem from my mom - much of all of this involved listening to my body (though... there are times where I don't listen, and I seriously regret it... and forget about it in a few weeks).
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go

TheGreenWizard

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Re: Food and Spirituality: What's On Your Plate?
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2018, 02:58:52 pm »
I eat vegetables daily, and once a week I eat meat. I really dislike when food is thrown away. I don't like eating large quantities of food. I think there must be moderation with food.

Arete - thanks for responding, however, I'm curious - are these decisions informed by your spiritual/religious practices? Are these traits inherited from your childhood? I can tell certain traits are derived from listening to your body (e.g., large quantities of food). But I am curious where do these practices come from.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go

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