Do you have eating rituals?

I certainly do. Eating is a sacred act for me, the food I eat gives up its life to enable mine whether it’s animal, vegetable or mineral and as an awenydd, a spirit keeper, I have to respect that. Making a ritual for eating ensures I respect my food and thank it for giving me life.

Those of us who had a christian upbringing might well recall saying grace before meals. It’s a good idea but not, for me, about thanking some god for giving me my food but about thanking the spirits of the food itself for giving its life for me. That may seem somewhat uncomfortable to you, to actually have to acknowledge that you live by killing and eating. Some folk try to get out of that by only eating vegetables … Ha! That doesn’t work unless you’re good at kidding yourself, which is not the way of a spirit keeper! Vegetables live, and die, just as all life does. It gives up its life for you when you eat it, even if you only eat its fruit … its babies …or do “cut and come again”, pulling bits of it off but not killing it all in one go, more a bit at a time.

How do I handle this kind of thing?

Through respect.

I care about how everything I eat is born, grows and dies.

I make a commitment to my food that I will learn as much as I can about its life. I try to know the provenance of everything I eat and that’s not always easy with things like coffee, lemons, olive oil, tea, chocolate, salt … You have to trust some labels, after checking up on them as much as you can on the internet and such. With things like milk, butter, eggs, cheese, bread, meat, veg, I buy local or grow it myself, I know the people who produce the things, know how the beasts are cared for, and the veg, how they die too. Knowing all this I feel a great sense of connection with my food.

And I won’t buy stuff that has in some way been harmed in its growth or making. I count how the land is farmed, what forests are cut down, what water diverted, what chemicals used, how the animals lived whose manure is being used. I also try to know what land was used and how to make any factories involved in making things for my food – like glass bottles, cardboard packets, plastic, tin-foil. I want to know about how my fridge and freezer were made and how energy efficient they are.

‘My!’ I can hear you saying, ‘how does she ever get the time to do all these things? And why does it matter anyway?’

If I don’t bother, don’t care, don’t look, then to me that’s like not bothering or caring what happens to my child, or my parents, or my partner.

‘But they’re only vegetables, only animals!’ I can hear that cry somewhere out there.

“only” … “only” ???

For the spirit keeper there is no such thing as plants, animals, minerals that are here just for our use and benefit. The spirit keeper lives with everything else, as an equal, not as some superior kind of being. If anything, for the spirit keeper, human beings are “new boy on the block”, all the rest of creation are our elder brethren. Spirit keepers respect their elders … even when they eat them.

It’s a deep and complex relationship we have with our elders. They feed us. In return we learn how to give back to them. For each of us this giving back is different.

So … what is my eating ritual?

  • I go to the garden, larder, shop, farm where the food is grown and ask, ‘Who wants to come with me, who wants to be my food?’ I’m always attracted to particular things; those eggs, that milk, those veg, this pig, that cow. I then pick, buy, exchange, barter, for those things; take them home, store them properly, cook/prepare them as best I can and eat them.
  • As I cook I say thank you to each item of food. I also say, ‘How much of this do I need at this meal?’ My hand and knife get it right. I do a quick check how to cook each thing as well – with the food itself; it always works.
  • I make space and time for my eating. I choose the crockery and cutlery – even if it’s just a sandwich I’m doing – and where I’m going to eat. I never, ever, answer the phone while eating! Eating time is sacred time.
  • And I say thank you to the food before and after eating.

Yay! Being a spirit keeper can look like hard work if you’re used to just slobbing about, but it’s great, it helps your body use the food really well; it helps your spirit work with the energy of the food to the best for both you and the food.

And … it helps you connect with the rest of creation in a beautiful, responsible and respectful way. The pagan rede says you get back what you give out: Newton (scientist and alchemist) said “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Both of these tenets are ridgepoles that hold up the roof of my life. I give respect and love and caring … and do you know, I get it back.

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