What we eat has a huge impact on how we feel, and the state of our physical health. I think it also effects us at emotional levels. Where nature is honoured as sacred, and relationship is highly valued, eating becomes an activity with spiritual implications. For me, nothing I do is separate from my Druidry, not even lunch. I don’t believe there’s any one right way of doing this, but there are many issues around food that we might want to contemplate from a spiritual perspective.
Where did the food come from? Is it part of our land? How do we relate to the spirit of the place it originated? Do we experience food differently if it’s locally sourced, or we’ve grown it ourselves, or foraged it from a hedgerow? The origin of the food can significantly shape our relationship with it and also raises issues around food miles and sustainability.
How was it prepared? For me there is a huge qualitative difference between pre-packaged mass produced, and homemade. Where someone has invested love and time in creating nourishment, it can be related to as a bardic expression, and it is richer. It’s unique, and there is more soul in it. There’s also less packaging usually, which is an environmental plus. Mass produced food can be bland and will be the same every time. The more inspiration we bring to our food, the more interesting and rewarding it becomes.
How do we eat it? Food that we share with loved ones and take time over is more pleasing than a hastily grabbed solitary snack. It’s about taking the time both for relationship with the food, and with those around you. Food creates space for social bonding, which is powerful, so when we think about food we can also be thinking about community.
I find that what I eat has huge impact on me. I spent time as an omnivore, and found that meat sits very heavily in my gut – some people equate this with satisfaction, but it’s not a sensation I like. I find my body feels more comfortable when I don’t eat meat. I assume this will vary from one person to another, but finding the diet that suits us is a huge contributor to wellness and feeling good. If I keep refined sugars and pre-processed food minimal, I feel cleaner, lighter and better in myself. I find that including a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables makes me feel better about myself – not just as a physical experience, but emotionally better and spiritually more open. Where I’ve experimented with vegan food, I find I feel lighter again, and I enjoy being less dependent on animal products. Although I’m very conscious of the sustainability issues here too, it’s the impact on my body and my sense of self that incline me to continue exploring.
Too many people are all or nothing about food. For some, vegetarian, vegan or meat eater labels are such a big part of sense of self that exploring alternatives seems threatening. I like experimenting with food, learning to cook in new ways, and there are vegan tricks that everyone, regardless of overall diet, would benefit from. Nuts and pulses are great, and broaden a diet and meal repertoires. It was from vegan cooks that I learned to mix raw and cooked things, and to explore texture to a greater degree. Vegan meals don’t focus on a solid lump of animal product, so you have to think about the components in totally different ways, again opening up creative possibility.
How I feel about myself as a spiritual person is informed by what I eat. Would I feel as I do if I consumed a lot of fatty, high sugar, chemical laden food? Or if I frequented fast food emporiums with their disposable, unsustainable packaging? I wouldn’t be the same person at all. When I’ve eaten in ways that felt at odds with my beliefs, I’ve been deeply unhappy.
I’m not any kind of food evangelist, beyond the ideas that we shouldn’t waste it, we should enjoy it and we should be responsible about it. How we eat affects how we feel. It’s a key point of engagement with the rest of nature, which for any pagan ought to make it a point of significant interest. We can make it a conscious part of our spiritual expression. We can eat with awen, and recognise spirit in what we do.