Thursday, August 13, 2015

[Guest Article: Jessica] The Pagan Vegetarian


A note from Witchy Words:  At the beginning of the year, I asked the circle I coordinate, Circle of Fountains, if they'd each like to do a guest article based on a topic that I might not be able to cover.  This is a great effort by my amazing circle to give you information that you might not otherwise encounter here at Witchy Words.  The following article is not written by me but another member of Circle of Fountains, with credit and notes about its author below.  Enjoy!

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For many years my diet consisted of animal meat as the main component.  When I was a teenager, I briefly stopped eating animals due to gastrointestinal issues, but lack of support from my family and school made it very difficult to continue.  Later, my father-in-law had a farm and would give us half a butchered cow every six months or so. Every day a beef dish was probably on our menu.  You may think you would LOVE to have steak virtually every day, but believe me, it will not be the case.  By my early 30s I was already opting for more veggie fare.  If there was a vegetarian option, I was probably going to take it. Animal meat was not a priority and, as I began to learn more about the horrible practices of factory farming, it became even less of an option.

I came by my Paganism in a similar manner.  For the longest time I attended Christian church because it was supported and readily available.  As I learned more about what beliefs I had and found that they didn’t coincide with ‘traditional’ religious systems I made the choice that was right for me.  Finding others who shared these beliefs also make it easier to practice my faith.

I made the conversion to full vegetarian about five years ago.  My path was made a bit easier by the fact that I had been in a relationship with a decade-long vegetarian for about 6 months.  He is an awesome cook and helped to navigate the landmines of grocery shopping and eating out.

It wasn’t until a few years later after reading some articles and blogs regarding the subject that I began to contemplate how being a vegetarian related to Paganism.  Many specifically referenced the Wiccan tenet, “And it harm none, do what you will,” and how literal should that be taken when it came to the food we ate.  I feel that, for the majority of Pagans, the holding of nature as sacred is important.  We understand the interconnectivity of all living entities and feel that we get back the energy that we put out. “Put your intentions out for the universe.”  This is the line of thought that makes more sense as to how the two are related.

Many texts and rituals discuss thanking the tree or bush or plant from where you may have taken a clipping or branch to use in your magickal workings.  Do your best to leave as little a mark or scar on living things as they provide for us tools or ingredients.  Yet every day we allow factory farms to cage chickens in overcrowded conditions, stacked upon one another or keep cows perpetually pregnant so that we may take the milk meant for the calf and boxing that calf in so the meat can then be sold for a high price as young, tender and delicious.  Other cows are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, made to eat corn instead of grass to fatten them up, yet causing disease in the process.  How is this revering life as sacred; especially life that is being sacrificed so that we may eat?  Yes, I will concede these days there are more farms that are refusing to treat these animals in such a barbaric manner, but that are few and because of that are more expensive to maintain.

When it comes to parsing our Pagan beliefs with our everyday actions, how does this one get a pass?  As an animal lover, would you go to a puppy mill knowing how horrible and unhealthy they are for the dogs?  That’s the kind of question I ask myself, along with “Would I personally kill the animal I wanted to eat?” For me, it’s an easy choice to not eat animals.  Being a Pagan helps solidify that decision.  I believe the moral and ethical reason behind being a vegetarian/vegan fits right in with my Pagan beliefs.

Reading this you may think I’ve tried to convert you, but I assure you I haven’t.  What I do hope is that you will take a more conscientious look at where your food comes from and reflect upon whether you feel that your spiritual beliefs are uncompromised by the decisions available to you (and if not, what can you do to change it).  Living a life where you can put your spiritual beliefs into practice isn’t always easy.  Some beliefs dictate that believes must share them with everyone; others require special clothing or rules for genders and ages.  I feel that all Paganism requires is a respect and reverence for all living things and that we take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, and the energy we commit to the universe.  As a Pagan vegetarian, I know I have made a lifestyle choice that embodies those beliefs wholly.

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Employed in the non-profit sector, Jessica has been a long-standing vegetarian.  She was one of the original forming members for Circle of Fountains and currently maintains the yearly ritual book as the circle's Archivist.  When not at work or in circle, Jessica has a strong love for roller derby and is a referee with Fountain City Roller Derby.

7 comments:

  1. I appreciate the blog post. I was a vegetarian for a long time and even a vegan for a few years. I am careful about the meat I consume as is my husband. We prefer organic and free range animals and whenever possible we try to source locally. We do this with as much food as possible. We are also slowly giving ourselves the means to provide meat products for ourselves (such as raising chickens, possibly goats and/or a cow or 2, and hunting). I fully support those who are vegetarian or vegan and I think that you made an excellent point on eating in a way that fits your faith. Thank you for your article.

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  2. I have been vegetarian for almost 10 years and was vegan for 2 of those. For various reasons, including some related to my health, I added eggs and some dairy back into my diet. I hate the way dairy cows and chickens are treated so I buy local eggs and will have my own chickens by next spring. As for dairy, I try my best to find items that are more ethical, but it is significantly harder. I think being a vegetarian has brought me closer to nature and animals. I almost feel like they know I'm vegetarian. But I could just be crazy. Haha! However, everyone views things differently, and I strongly believe everyone should eat what makes them feel good health wise, spiritually, and morally.

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  3. Great post! If more people would be aware of the story behind the food on their plate (this also goes for vegetables), we would be in a much better relationship with the Earth and its creatures. I have to say, I like animal-related food too much to leave it out of my menu completely (but I do most of the days). When I eat them, I say "thank you" in my head to the spirit of the animal.

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  4. I also turned to vegetarianism after having digestive issues and thanks to other health problems after 8 years I have had to return to eating chicken for protein. I've typed and retyped this comment multiple times because I do not want it to feel like an attack but I'm not good with sugar coating or putting things lightly. It's just not a strong suit of mine so forgive me for coming off abrasive or rude but I do feel the need to bring this up because it just isn't sitting right with me.

    Do you have your own farm where absolutely everything you eat is grown on it so you know how every single plant is treated and handled? Do you you eat nothing but the food that you ethically harvest and prepare yourself? Because if your answer is no to any part of that, you're being a hypocritical and there is no where to draw the line or gray area. You cannot assert that people are compromised for not living the same lifestyle as you and expect people to not wonder if you are even true to the ideals you think everyone else should live with.

    I'm not in the business of telling people how to live their lives because anyone can take a look at any aspect of my life and pick it apart but telling people they are "morally corrupt" or "unethical" in their practice because they eat meat isn't exactly following what they are preaching when they say it fits their "harm none" crede. In using those terms, in saying: " I feel that all Paganism requires is a respect and reverence for all living things and that we take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, and the energy we commit to the universe. As a Pagan vegetarian, I know I have made a lifestyle choice that embodies those beliefs wholly." You are saying anyone who doesn't follow the same lifestyle as you, isn't doing those things. But you don't get to make that judgement about people and still consider yourself not putting negative energy out in the universe. Being told you are less than for any reason is hurtful.

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    1. Hi Ivyanna! I'm sorry you've struggled with this article. I wanted to clarify that I did not write this piece but a member of my circle did. I have to eat fish and poultry for health issues, so I can sympathize with some of the points you've made. However, my circlemate and I are close and we've rarely butted heads when it comes to her being vegetarian. What I can do is pass your comment along to her and let her respond to it. Thank you again for reading!

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    2. Hi there.

      I wrote this article. I was asked to contribute to Marietta's blog and she thought it would be interesting to have my PERSONAL take on being a Pagan who practices vegetarianism. I'm not sure how I'm a hypocrite by stating this major lifestyle choice embodies my Pagan beliefs and that I hope it leads others to at least look at the behind the scenes of many conveniences (like not having to grow our own food or slaughter the animals eaten) that we all enjoy. No, I don't grow my own vegetables as I live in an apartment and it's pretty much impossible to do so...would I if I had the means and resources? Yes. Not once did I say that anyone was "morally corrupt" or "unethical" for their choices...I simply stated what I felt being a Pagan meant in relation to my not eating meat. And if you read the beginning again, I didn't even tie the two together or consider it when I first decided to not eat meat. Also, by saying that I am embodying what I feel Paganism represents, does't necessarily preclude that others aren't. That's an awesome aspect of being a Pagan, we take from it and interpret it as we see fit, how it makes sense to us and our lives. I know for a fact that many do NOT think about what happens before their food reaches the stores. I'd say about 80% of conversations I have with people who ask me why I'm a vegetarian will say that they'd rather not think of it because then they might have to make a different choice.
      Harm None is a tricky philosophy...harm nothing living? Harm nothing with a conscience? All we can do is make the best of the choices available to us and choose what we can live with.

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