Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eating Ritual

Eating Ritual
Eating is a simple practice.  We put food into our mouths, then chew and swallow it. Nothing mystical about that, right?
Perhaps not.  But because of food's importance, it has been linked with politics, social structures, legal systems, health maintenance, magic and, oh yes, religion.
foods516.jpgOur lives still contain vestiges of these earlier practices.  Prayer (or saying grace) before meals is perhaps the most common.  It is popular not only in Christianity but also in many other religions.  The urge to give thanks for food prior to eating has its origins in the Pagan sacrifices common in ancient Egypt, Sumer, Greece, Rome, and many other cultures.  Portions of the food were burned or placed in offering bowls.  The food is now simply blessed.  People continue to offer food to deities in a variety of religions around the world, especially on feast days.  This is even found in some Christian groups.
The idea today is the same: verbally or psychologically linking food with deity.  Long ago, humans spent most of their time ensuring a steady supply of food, which could be wiped out by fires, droughts, insect infestations, torrential rains, storms, and unseasonal freezes.  Unable to physically prevent such catastrophes, humans naturally turned to their deities for protection.
When the harvest had been spared, our ancestors thanked their deities with offerings of food.  This may have been buried, flung into the air, or tossed into a fire.  The portion earmarked for the deities wasn't consumed by humans.
Even today, with tremendous botanical knowledge and global weather reporting, farmers in most parts of the world are still at the mercy of natural forces.  The increased knowledge and tools available to farmers and agribusinesses can't stop such events from destroying their crops.
In many parts of the world that suffer food shortages, food has become a tool of politics.  People are starving on every continent and within our own borders.  Emergency supplies shipped to the hungry are often held up by government intervention, or are funneled to those in power.
These two factors-the uncertainty of our food supply and its scarcity in many parts of the world-should deepen our appreciation of food.
food90c5457d3.jpgOur ancestors worshipped food, seeing it as a gift from the hands of their deities.  Food magicians don't worship food, though we respect it as a life-sustaining substance containing the energies of the earth.  Food is a manifestation of divine energies that's vital to our survival.  Approaching food from this frame of mind makes it easier for us to utilize it as a tool of self-transformation.
About prayer: if you don't subscribe to any particular religion, and haven't been in the habit of praying before meals, there's no reason for you to begin to do so.  Prior to eating, simply attune with the food (all of the food, not just that which you're eating for magical purposes).  You can easily do this by placing your hands on either side of your portion of the food before beginning to eat.  Sense their energies for a few seconds. You need say nothing.  This simple act, which you can do in front of those who know nothing about your magical studies, prepares your body to accept the food. You absorb its essence (power) before absorbing its manifestation.
If it is your custom to pray before meals, continue to do so.  Religion and magic have always been closely linked-religion worships the energy that created all things; magic utilizes the energies in those things that have been created.
You can also include a prayer to your deity while eating, or address your conception of deity during the magical preparation and consumption of the food.  Though this may seem to be a new idea, it isn't.  It's performed around the world by millions of non-Christian, non Western peoples.
Eating (and the resultant digestion) is an act of transformation.  Our bodies change food into the fuel necessary for our continued physical existence.  Be aware also of the higher aspects of food every time that you eat.
Earth, who holds the growing seed,
Sun, who ripens field and tree,
Shining sun and gentle earth,
Thanks for all you bring to birth.
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen by Scott Cunningham