Eating and Spirituality, Part 4: Myth and Symbol

Eating and Spirituality, Part 4: Myth and Symbol October 9, 2012

This is the final post in a series on eating and spirituality during the childbearing year that I wrote way back in February.  I don’t know why this post got orphaned, but at least I’m sharing it with you now.  In the first three posts I talked about why and how to start incorporating attention to food into your spiritual life, but I wanted to also touch on the mythology and symbolism of food.

Selina Rifkin, whose words I’ve relied on a great deal in putting together this series, points out that the simple fact of the existence of food myths is meaningful:

What is really inspiring to me is that stories about food exist. That might sound a bit odd, but we so take food for granted now that we don’t write stories about it (except maybe “Chocolate”) Our ancestors told stores about where certain foods come from, and how we learned to grow or hunt them. It was a big deal.

Selina points out that a great example many of us know is the story of Demeter/Ceres ceasing the growth of vegetation until the return of her daughter Persephone/Proserpina.  The myth explains the origins of seasons, especially in terms of the growth of food.

Reading and telling myths can help us connect with deeper truths about food and our relationships with it.  Paying attention to food symbolism is similar.  Selina is a fan of eggs during the childbearing year, for multiple reasons:

For health, eggs, especially yolks. Eggs are both highly nutritious and an ancient symbol of new life and possibility.

Other symbols of fertility and life include seeds, sprouts, and breads baked in rounded fertility goddess shapes.

What myths do you tell about food?  What foods speak to you of fertility, life, growth, or birth?


Sarah Whedon is Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary and is the founding editor of Pagan Families: Resources for Pagan Pregnancy and Birth. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in San Francisco with her partner and their children.

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