Modern culture prevents many of us from engaging in a critical part of our human heritage—developing a sacred relationship with food. I’ve talked about developing such a sacred relationship with food on this blog before with regards to growing it and/or foraging it—how gardening allows me to develop a sacred relationship with plants, how seed saving and starting completes that cycle, how wild food foraging and medicine making allow for that connection, and how locally-based seasonal diets can help reconnect us.
However, I’m staying with my family for a few weeks before making my official move to PA, and trying to eat as I usually do (locally, seasonally, organically) has presented some serious challenges. The truth is that in poor, rural areas in the USA, organic and local food is simply not as available (or affordable) as it is in the cities or suburbs. In other places, poor areas of cities may also have no access to food. Where my parents live, farmer’s markets are practically non-existent out here, at least that I have been able to find. When I went to purchase some food I can get locally in Michigan, the markup around here was incredible ($12 for a tiny jar of tahini (not organic) compared to a much larger jar of organic tahini for $6 in Michigan, $2 for a single organic orange (compared to a bag of organic oranges for $3.99, $4.99 for gluten free noodles (also not organic) compared to $1.99 organic brown rice noodles, and so on. I was used to paying half of that for these kinds of staples, even in a much more expensive and wealthy area. So, given this situation that I’m seeing here, I’m using this blog post to explore other options for creating a sacred relationship with food that doesn’t have to do with the procurement or purchase of food itself.
The question is, what can we do to honor our food if buying local and growing our own food is off the table? This post explores other ways we can use prayer, ritual, and celebration to help bring the sacred back to our food—of any origin.
Everyday Prayer and Energy Blessings for Food
The tradition of praying over food is used in many religious traditions, and it certainly has a welcome place within earth-based spiritual traditions and druidry. Prayers don’t have to be complex, but taking a moment to honor our food acknowledges the life that was taken (either plant or animal) to eat that meal. I also think that simple prayers can offset the problematic energetics that accompany industrialized foods. Here’s are two simple prayers that I use to honor the food (using the five elements):
With the blessing of the earth, I honor the lands that sustained this meal.
With the blessing of the air, I honor the hands that prepared this meal.
With the blessing of fire, I honor the labor that produced this meal.
With the blessing of water, I honor the lives that were given for this meal.
With the blessing of spirit, I wish a safe journey to those who now move on.
In gratitude, love, and peace, I recognize that all are part of the great web of life and that I, too, will one day return.
Another simple “prayer” was taught to me by a friend who runs a sustainable living center, Strawbale Studio. She has people of many faiths and traditions visit each month for full moon potlucks and began doing a simple physical energy blessing. Since nothing is said during this prayer, its very appropriate for mixed groups, and it works surprisingly well on its own.
Start by rubbing your hands together, generating heat and friction. After a few moments, when you feel your hands tingling, place your hands over the food and send the positive energy that you raised into the food. Then, move your hands outwards to face any others in the room, sending positive energy in their direction. Finally, sweep your hands above your head and circle them down to the earth below to bless the land and all its inhabitants.
Food as a blessing to others
I like to give others the blessing of an extra special home-cooked meal or beautiful and tasty dish for difficult times or special occasions. This was once a common thing–to bring an elderly or sick neighbor a hot meal, to show up on a new neighbor’s doorstep with freshly baked bread to welcome them, or even to give food as gifts for fiends and family.
I like to continue this tradition as much as possible. Even this simple little gesture really brings a sacredness to the food, showing them that you were willing to cook it, to think of them, to bring it to them. This kind of food is appreciated so much mroe than normal food–it lends a positive energy to the whole experience.
Blessings for the Land – Traditional Ceremonies
Traditional cultures had many blessings for the land—in fact, this is where most of the festivals associated with the Wheel of the Year came from—all had something to do with the crops, the livestock, the harvest, the dark and cold times. But for now, let’s look at some specific ceremonies that anyone can do and that function as land blessings directly tied to our food system and lands that produced them.
Many traditions had blessings specific to treecrops and harvests. For example, Native Americans blessed maple trees in the late winter before the sap ran to ensure a good maple sap harvest (given that maple sap was one of their only sources of sugar, it was a very important harvest)! Dancing and erecting a maypole is also a wonderful way of bringing fertility to the surrounding land. In the United Kingdom, Wassail traditions were used to bless apple orchards to encourage bountiful apple harvests—again, apple was a critical crop for both food and drink. This is a tradition that I’ve been blessed to participate in while living in Michigan. Wassail ceremonies can also be adapted more broadly to honor all of the food-bearing plants on the land—and they very much appreciate the positive energy such a ceremony provides!
I think there are many places we can draw upon for inspiration to engage in land blessings—and blessing the land that provides our food is a way of honoring that food, that land, and bringing in a sacred awareness of our dependence upon the soil, sunlight, rain, microbial life, plants, bees, and so much more. Even if you aren’t eating locally, the blessing radiates outward to all life. We can begin to enact them again with our friends, family, and in our communities. This work is powerful, meaningful. The first time we put up a maypole, the land was blessed. The first year we did a wassail, the trees were piled with fruit!
But we can also create simple new traditions that honor the land—and by extension—the food we eat. An example of a very simple ceremony is putting out home-cooked food for the land as an offering. I like to put out homebrew (wine or cider) with cakes that I bake especially for the ceremony. This can be done at any point, although you could time it astrologically to make an offering on the full moon (or another auspicious harvest day—any old Farmer’s Almanac will provide all such days for the year). I like to make regular offerings in this way, taking some of the best food I prepare and leaving it as an offering.
Truthfully, whether or not you draw upon an ancient tradition like the Wassail or something right out of your head is not important—the important thing is to honor the land from which all of our food flows. I think we have a great opportunity to spread “oak knowledge” by offering such blessings of the land and inviting others to do the same. The land in our world today, at least here in America, often get no such honor. Through these kinds of celebrations, we can shift our consciousness and recognizing the importance of maintaining a physical and spiritual connection with the natural world upon which our food systems and lives are based.
Seasonal Ritual Feasts and Dinners
Feasting and ceremony have a tremendously long history, and using food and the act of partaking in sacred rituals surrounding food goes back before recorded human history—in the USA, of course, Thanksgiving is our traditional ritual feast, honoring our history and seeking to be thankful for what blessings we have been given. Its unsurprising that in this massive age of consumerism, our “giving thanks” and partaking a traditional, seasonal meal has been subsumed in the consumerist hysteria of black Friday.
Given this, we can again, draw upon ancient traditions or create our own traditions and rituals surrounding food. For me, at least once a year, I like to hold a ritual dinner, honoring my food, eating in silence, and simply being with it. This is usually done by cooking one of my last harvests of the year, right before I pull out the main part of my garden. I cook all my food from the garden, say prayers, make offerings, and generally just be thankful for the food and my opportunity to develop a relationship with it.
A second kind of simple seasonal food ritual is simply creating a meal based on foods available at that season. Root stews with beans in the winter, greens and salads in the spring, corn and potatoes in the fall, and so on. You can create a whole menu of seasonal, special foods and recipes that you create to honor the season (and tie these with the wheel of the year). I have done this—and some of the recipes shared on this blog, like dandelion wine, are part of seasonal food preparation that I’ve done to honor the land and develop a deeper connection. While my recipes are tied locally to my land, they don’t have to be, and I think the attempt is what is important.
I hope what this post has suggested is that there are many, many ways in which we can develop a more sacred relationship with food–even when certain options are closed to us. There are so many other kinds of things you can do with ritual and food—and the sky is really the limit!
Reblogged this on Higher Density Blog.
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Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
Such an important post!
“The question is, what can we do to honor our food if buying local and growing our own food is off the table? This post explores other ways we can use prayer, ritual, and celebration to help bring the sacred back to our food—of any origin.”
Having lived all over the US — 43 locations in my 42 years — I know well the challenges of living in areas in which local, organic food is not readily available or affordable. Like Willowcrow, I’ve also experimented at various times with different methods of rei-nvoking and re-infusing the sacred in food and water — with excellent results. So much so that I regularly bless even homegrown organic food before consuming it. Many thanks for expanding this conversation and perspective. 🙂
Thank you, Laura. I would love to hear some of your ways for blessing your food!
I usually keep it pretty simple: Reiki from the palm of my hands, with a feeling of gratitude and the phrase that always makes us smile and giggle: “Blessings on our deliciousness!” It’s silly, but in that silliness is Seelieness, of the Faerie Folk. In a pinch, I’ve successfully used Reiki to remove the chlorine taste and smell from tap water, and when preparing food for guests, potlucks, or long term food storage, I almost always have on some kind of music with sacred chants that I end up dancing and singing into the food while I chop, blend, whirl and arrange. — Not the most traditional methods, but they get the job done with a glad heart. 🙂
I think the idea is to put good energy in, and get good energy out! Thanks for these suggestions!
This is beautiful, Willowcrow. It is so important to bring the sacred back into the whole gestalt of food growing, preparation and eating. I also have been to places where good food just isn’t available. Aisles and aisles of sodas and mac and cheese – very little produce or organic packaged foods. Part is poverty and part is no awareness. Thank you. I love your blog.
What kind of blows my mind is that the stores are just as big, but they just don’t carry the organic produce. My mother tells me Walmart does, but I can’t bring myself to go in there.
Regardless, thank you for the wonderful comment :).
I know what you mean. I can’t bring myself to go in there either. It is based on supply and demand, so i guess people aren’t asking for it. Is it because they just aren’t aware or they just like what they are used to?
This is a really poor area, and I think there is that combined with lack of awareness about healthy food. But I think its kind of the law of supply and demand–if nobody is buying it, and the products on the shelves are almost non-existent, then there is no demand, so stuff stays high, so new demand won’t be created….
Maybe Walmart is trying to open up to a larger population…which is sort of scary because they will out compete the smaller health food stores, but at least more people will notice better food. I don’t know.
Yeah, I think Walmart is certainly market savy. It might actually help this kind of population afford organic food. Maybe I’ll bring myself to go in there just to see what they have (but I am NOT going to buy anything, haha!). Now I’m kinda curious…but going into Walmart…shudder…. 😛
Total shudder. Lol.
Definitely a shudder! When I lived in the mountains of Arizona, sometimes Walmart really was the only place to buy fresh organic food. Some other places carried it, but the produce was always disgusting and moldy. If people show demand for organic foods at Walmart, perhaps some locals will recognize the demand and at least band together to get a CSA. We had that in some places I lived — kind of a co-op group in a town without a farmers market, and one person from the group would make a weekly trip to an area that had a farmers market and shop via people’s lists. It wasn’t perfect, but it did bring local-ish produce to an area that otherwise had none.
We also did this in Madison, WI, where raw milk is illegal. One person had a connection with a farmer and we did a cash only, biweekly run and pickup. LOL, like the old time bootleg, I suppose, but with organic goodness. Only the one person even knew who the farmer was, totally secret location. When I visited Russia in 1990, people had similar arrangements set up for all sorts of things. This might be your way to meet some like minded locals who otherwise fly under the radar.
For non-perishables, you might want to check out http://greenpolkadotbox.com. They are a non-GMO company and carry overstock of brand name organics, which they will ship anywhere in the US. There’s a minimum purchase for free shipping, but it’s great for stocking up. Also, Frontier offers an option to have a few like minded people join together as a co-op, and then you can order bulk items at the rates co-ops and natural food stores pay. People do that here. Their website’s kind of tricky to log into (my experience), but you can save 30-40% off retail pricing.
Thanks for the suggestions, Laura! These are good suggestions. Raw milk isn’t illegal in pa (which is exciting, cause I love making cheese, and its just not the same with pasteurized milk). But its definitely going to be an adjustment for some things! We’ll see how I do–regardless, Walmart is NOT on the option list 😛
Thanks Laura, I will have to check out greenpolkadotbox and Frontier.
Your points about blessing and honoring our food are well taken.
It might be a bit early for farmer’s markets–here in northeast PA they just haven’t started up yet. Their numbers have increased astonishingly in the past few years. Also, have you heard of Frankferd Farms Foods? They sell bulk and organic products. If you have a large enough order (think buying club) they’ll do a truck delivery to your home. http://www.frankferd.com/
I think they actually deliver to a local place where I’m moving. Thanks for the tip! I’m not quite moved yet, so I will find out when I get there! 🙂
Thank you. Great article. I sometimes work with the Zen Buddhist idea of meditatively connecting with what I am eating in order to absorb the maximum nutritional value from it. I first experienced devoutly blessed food from the local Krishna restaurant when I was a university student, and there is nothing quite like it. The great thing is we can reenergize lifeless food though directed energy. I have recently started doing this as part of my Reiki practice.
Sounds fantastic, Leeby! I like that Buddhist idea as well. I haven’t seen a Krishna blessing yet, but I’ll have to someday!
And no need to stop with food. We can be fully present in everything we do.
Reblogged this on Rattiesforeverworldpresscom.