Why would a Pagan want to talk about pancakes? Pancake day heralds the Christian Lenten fast. Where exactly Lent starts depends on when Easter is going to fall, which in turn depends on the moon because the date comes to us from the traditional Jewish calendar, which is lunar. Granted, most modern Pagans are always up for a bit of seasonal feasting, and pancake day is the kind of tradition we cheerfully borrow. But there is more to the pancake than meets the eye and it’s worth poking about in the whys and wherefores of this little feast, because it has much to tell us about our ancestors who lived closer to the land.
I was at the allotment yesterday. There were leeks to harvest, the last of the Jerusalem artichokes, and there’s still some kale. We’ll be planting potatoes soon. It’s been a mild winter so there’s more growing than usual. The grain harvest was months ago, the fruit you stored at the start of winter will run out, the root vegetables you stored will be running out. Even if you’re freezing and pickling and using all the modern storage methods, the last harvest is diminishing and there’s no sign of any decent new crops yet.
Welcome back to Earthy Thursday, our weekly segment on Earth and science-related news. This week we take a look at agriculture and the work that goes into it. How might we make meat more sustainable? Did the ancient Maya use permaculture? And could agave help make our food more drought resistant? All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
In today's Pagan News Beagle Fiery Friday, we have stories of interest to activist Pagans and their allies: religion in politics (Americans want more); religion in schools (Pagans want less); FL Governor Rick Scott gets hammered on global warming; smart phones for food justice; and cattle farmers build a local food economy.
Do Americans want more religion in political life? According to this Pew Center survey, the answer is a resounding "yes."
It's beginning to look a lot like summer (at least where I live). And when it's warm out, fresh fruit just feels right. In addition to cleansing, hydrating, and nourishing the body, it can also help align the spirit with sweetness, beauty, and the luxurious abundance of the earth. Plus, each fruit possesses its own unique magical properties. So I thought it'd be fun to explore the magical properties of various types of fruits, and to discuss some hints and tips about how we can effectively incorporate them into our edible enchantments.
So, without further ado, here are some of the fruits that seem to feel best this time of year, along with a sampling of their magical properties.
Where and how does food become a religious issue? I can think of two cases. The first is when we have a relationship with what we eat. The second, when there are purity issues at stake. In his Moral Foundations theory, Jonathan Haidt says that human concepts of purity are shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination, and holds that the body is a temple that can be desecrated by eating something that has been contaminated. While this has not, in my experience, been the case with the Pagans I know, it is common in many other religions.
I’ve found the first case is far more common for Pagans. Ritualizing the harvest of a carefully raised animal is now not uncommon among Heathens. Of the Pagans I know who garden, raise livestock animals, or grow their own food or herbal medicines, every single one has a relationship with the land, and the living beings that thrive there. Such relationships are deeply interactive. Goats are fed and milked. The milk is drunk, and soap is made nourishing humans and creating products that can be gifted or sold. Chickens are fed and housed, their eggs supporting bodies and their antics providing food for the soul. Gardens are carefully planned, mulched, fertilized and the harvest proudly shared, or preserved.
It is harvest-time here in the southern Highlands of the Appalachian mountains. The green beans have been blanched and frozen. The blessed elderberry harvest has been frozen and juiced and tinctured for winter healings. The apples are in now and I have spent many and many an hour cutting off the bruised parts and cutting out the wormy bits and chopping them up. Some have gone into bags to be future pies and apple cake. Others have become applesauce and many of them have been crushed for their juice and amended with yeast and honey to be hard cider in the cold months to come.
If I sound like the busy Ant from the fable that is appropriate. There are "fun" things that I have declined attending because the harvest is in and there is food to process. Not so much fun now but imagine pesto from my own basil, thawed in the depths of January. And I hold fast the notion of a crisp cold hard cider as the perfect celebration of the the Midwinter Solstice.