I Truly Hate ‘Pagan Food’

I Truly Hate ‘Pagan Food’

This mini-rant is part of a much larger rant about how Pagans seem to have confused ‘spirituality’ with ‘medieval reenactment’. But seeing as I brought up the ‘r’ word, let’s start with a little creative visualisation:

  1. I invent a time machine and take you back to the Kingdom of Wessex in the ninth century. (Sidebar: I have actually been in the DeLorean from Back To The Future. But in this visualisation my time machine is bigger and also has a slot for my iPod. The doors still open up, though.)
  2. We see a village ‘wise woman’, on the eve of a major Pagan festival, carrying food supplies along a path.
  3. We bundle her and her food into the time machine and bring her back to modern Britain.
  4. We then take her to Waitrose.
  5. Several hours later, a large table is laid out, covered in the foods and French wine we have bought at Waitrose and the fish, turnips and rock bread the wise woman was carrying. The room is decked out in a way most pleasing to High Priestess Lawson.

Now… Which side of the table is she going to enjoy more?

Yes, yes. She’s probably mistaken us for awesome, handsome elves and is refusing to eat anything we have prepared for her lest she be trapped in Elf-land forever. (Elf-land has really turned to shit if it looks like modern London.)

But I think you get my point.

Our ancestors choked down rocky-bread, hideous honey cakes, soured ale, etc because they didn’t have Waitrose. If your belief system requires you to prepare a meal that is literally fit for The Gods then what are you doing messing about trying to make homemade mead in the food processor?! Food for Pagans doesn’t have to be ‘Pagan Food’.

Food itself is a cornerstone of all major belief systems. It also has the potential to greatly enhance your magical practice… If you get it right. Think about this: you consume several pounds of food every day. Nothing in your entire life chemically affects you as much as the food you eat.

Which is why I cannot stand the prevailing concept of ‘Pagan food’. Pagan food like this Witch’s Cauldron Pasta. Has this woman based her entire belief system on some kind of theme restaurant? Do you think she can get unlimited refills on her chalice? Is her pentacle a paper placemat that has been coloured in with crayons?

And by the way, ‘a jar of Alfredo sauce’ is not actually an ingredient in anything except wallpaper glue. This ‘recipe’ is just a list of vile packaged foods and yet if we combine them all they somehow become a meal that’s fit to be named after a nature religion? Cooking -especially sacred cooking- is not just buying ready-made ingredients and applying heat to them.

Let me tell you what Pagan food is, in my estimation. It’s the first asparagus of the spring, it’s fresh oysters pulled off cold winter rocks, it’s locally made cider fresh from the cask.

So, here’s my three step formula for proper Pagan food:

  1. Buy some proper cookbooks and commit to actually cooking from them
  2. Book yourself on a wine appreciation course
  3. Eat the seasons. Here’s a helpful website called -funnily enough- Eat The Seasons.

Is it not written:

“Be goodly therefore: dress ye all in fine apparel; eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and wines that foam! Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me.”

Becoming proficient at food preparation -not just sacred food preparation- is an essential part of the magical arts. Not only does cooking provide regular alchemical metaphors of transformation and completion, but an expanded knowledge of food is also an expanded knowledge of the world, of culture, of history.

Our ancestors prepared the best food they could for festivals, sabbats, etc. Rather than simply playing dress up, we need to do the same thing today.

Shaping a tube of cookie dough into little half-moons is not food suitable for divine beings. Please don’t feed your Gods the way you clearly feed your children. They deserve much better.

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  1. 1

    YOU. are my new favorite person. It’s things like the half-moon processed crap cookies or celery and peanutbutter phallic symbols that really drive me back under the hills and away from most any pagan “community.”

    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Sister Health Honey (8 oz) =-.

  2. 2

    I genuinely don’t understand how this continues to happen.

    I have this theory that pagans need to be more secular. Replace at least some sabbat rituals with big, seasonal meals shared with family and friends.

    If it’s local and seasonal, it’s possibly a better of attuning with seasonal change than eating a chewy cookie dough half-moon alone in your backyard while wearing a velvet cape you bought off the internet, anyway.

  3. 3

    This seems to be a phenomenon contained mostly in Wiccanism (not entirely, but MOSTLY) and I just don’t get it. What does icing stars onto cookies supposed to *do*, anyway?

    This doesn’t end with Midievil doughnuts, either, a lot of Neopagans have an issue with thinking that religion has something to do with Dungeons and Dragons, Xena or any other kind of crazy nonsense that requires being dressed up in a robe and wig, and eating giant turkey legs. I don’t care if they want to go to the Ren Fest, but do they have to bastardize religion to do it? Well, I guess religion was already bastardized, so I should have said bastardize polytheism lol.

    Ah well, I suppose live and let live.
    Faith´s last blog post ..Photos- Brand New Casey’s!

  4. 6
    Leanne Pemburn

    Oh gods, I LOVE YOU!!!!! Can I shout this from the roof tops!! If I NEVER see any soda or flavored potato chips at a ritual again, that will be TOO DAMN SOON!!!

  5. 7
    Quaint Homesteader

    Great post, however there are some of us Kitchen Witch types that actually do know how to cook from locally grown organic food from scratch. http://www.localharvest.org Is a good place to start when looking for sacred food. Or check out a Mennonite cookbook, like Simply in Season.

    Can we also toss in a complaint about Pagans who play Farmville in honor of Demeter? I’m sure she’d much rather have a real life compost pile in her name!


  6. 8

    Sounds like you’ve been to some really shitty festivals. One of my favorite parts of rituals and Sabbaths has always been the food. I don’t think it’s as wide spread a problem as you think. I’ve been to gatherings all over my side of the US and Wales as well yet never had this problem in my group or any of the ones I’ve visited.

    The food has always been natural, seasonal and if possible relating to the ritual. Even better if someone has a recipe that’s been passed down through the generations that were specifically used for Sabbaths by some of our members that come from a long line of practitioners.

    Sorry you’ve had crappy experiences, but it sounds more like a problem of the company you keep and not a general rule to me.

  7. 9
    Jan Toroop

    The pagans must be from the medieval Americas because Europeans didn’t have access to pumpkins or beans until the 16th century.

  8. 11

    I am getting ready to attend my first Pagan Picnic and I am not sure what kind of foods to bring.I will be going with some friends and I don’t want to look like an idiot by bringing the wrong kinds of foods.Does anyone have any suggestions that might help me? Please? Thank you.

  9. 12

    @Brenda just play the local/seasonal olympics. :)

    Something as local as possible, as seasonal as possible. Google “assiette” and have a bash at it.

  10. 14

    We were bought up Pagan and even as children we never had all the weird stuff that is served up at sabbats, my mama always did huge roasts and pies and salads and it was totally awesome, she grew a lot of the veg herself and everything was made from fresh including the bread we love and continue this tradition still, what you grow is seasonal its whats available and so tasty, so good on you Gordon for speaking out as like everything else its a fad there is nothing wrong with good home cooked food and the more the better.

  11. 15

    A big part of me agrees with you. With the cook good, natural food. That is largely the foodie, professional baker, and attempting to be a kitchen witch part. I think all people need to learn some very, very basic cooking skills.

    However, the flip side of that is about time and money. Most of my experience with public ritual food is potluck. A lot of the time, people bring stuff they make, sometimes they bring store bought stuff. There are some people who just can’t cook (and honestly, probably shouldn’t), and there are some who do not have the time to make something, maybe they are running there right after work, or spend more time corralling kids first. There is also the issue of money. I feel like we get a lot of people who do not make a lot of money, so buying the expensive organic and natural stuff is really not a possibility.

    I do, however, really agree with you about the historical reenactment thing. If you want to try a very old recipe that is fantastic, sometimes bringing back old time foods is good, and food history is fantastic to learn. However, if it is terrible, please try to improve it, if it can be improved. Just because they made rock hard breads in ancient times, doesn’t mean we need to eat them now.

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