Having food laws in the context of religion is a familiar concept, but why would I advocate for such a thing for Paganism? Pagans are well known for disagreeing on plenty of things and this will not be any different. What I am not advocating for is a set of hard and fast rules such as never eat walnuts, but a set of guidelines.
By Pagan, I mean the family of modern religions that honors the earth and women, and that may use ancient cultures as models for ritual construction and more tribal living. I am borrowing the term “kosher” because it is in common use, and because my husband is Jewish. I acknowledge there is an aspect of cultural appropriation to using a Jewish term when I am not Jewish, but it is my hope that we Pagans will come up with a term of our own.
But why should it matter? Are not all acts of love and pleasure Her rituals? Certainly eating chocolate can approach the experience of ecxtasy. But what if that chocolate was harvested with child labor? And how good can we feel about an industry built on a foundation of slave labor? The sugar trade spawned the African Slave trade, and never mind what it does to our health. But this is just one example. The food we eat should not just feed our hunger, our desire. It should feed our bodies and minds. It can connect us with our ancestors and our descendants. It can connect us to our local environment. Every time we eat, it is a chance to affirm our ethical choices, and create alignment with our communities. Food is powerful.
Pagans seek connection with, and honor the Earth. We address our ancestors and the land spirits. Our holidays follow the cycles of the seasons and harvest, and honor both life and death. How better to do all of these things than by the food we put in our mouths three times a day? But American Pagans come from an industrial food culture that has effectively wiped out local and regional foods, and replaced it with foods that not only do not nourish us, but suck nutrients out of our bodies, fill them with toxins, make us sick, disconnect us from the natural cycles of life, and deaden our sensibilities to cruelty. How much more profound would our connection to the Gods be if every meal was an act of worship and an affirmation of ethics?
In future posts I will fully outline the four principles of Pagan Kosher. These include, eating locally, eating clean food produced without chemicals, eating grass-fed animals and their products, and eating what our ancestors ate.
I think everyone (not just Pagans) should know where his or her food comes from. Our culture is appallingly ignorant and sometime willfully blind to the effect our food system has on our environment and on our health. While I don’t know where every bit of my own food grew up, I do know where all of our meat and eggs comes from, and about half of our vegetables. And however high my own standard, changing what I and my family eats is a process. Life gets in the way. For example, I keep having to move my garden and start over. So while my long term goal is to be able to produce a great deal more of my own vegetables, for now, we eat industrial organic, get to the farmer’s market or local farms when we can, and feel grateful that to have the option of buying something that contributes fewer toxins to the earth – not to mention our bodies. Our Earth is sacred, our bodies are sacred and we cannot survive well without honoring that reality in a visceral way.