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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Reshaped Living: Food and Drink ~ An Excerpt from my WIP

 I have recently signed a contract for a new book, a third in my Fairycraft series, and for today's blog I wanted to offer an excerpt from the draft,to give people a taste of where this one is going. It's much more personal than the others, and while it does quote sources and include the usual references (I am the one writing it after all) it also offers insight into the deeper layers of my own practice, specifically with the Othercrowd.

local apples, 2012

Reshaped Living: Food and Drink

As I moved deeper into working with the beings of the Otherworld I hadn't expected the way that it would impact unexpected  parts of my life. I suppose I assumed that as I learned and moved deeper into the work I was doing there would be a cost but it would be something straightforward like blood or physical effort; and certainly there has been that too. But I didn't expect the way that Themselves would come in and start re-shaping my life in practical ways, including what I could eat and drink and things I could or could not do.

There's something really, deeply alienating in this, or at least I found it so. It's hard enough to start with being on a spiritual path that many people don't understand, that is disconnected from mainstream modern paganism because of its emphasis on traditional folklore and beliefs. When you add in a variety of restrictions in how you have to live, particularly with the diet for me as I already had a few food allergies going on, it ends up making a person feel very at odds with the rest of the world. I'm also a stubborn person and I fight hard against the urge to resist when I am told not to do things.

I can't eat most processed foods (think frozen dinners and dried fruits, for example) or breads, pasta, or cereal (because of additives I have issues with). Outside of that though I was good, and my preferred diet before was heavily weighted towards coffee, soda, and convenience foods. So when the specific Good People who I deal with told me, about 5 years ago now, that I needed to change that entirely and focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, limited white meats and fish, nuts, drink water and fruit juice, and cut out all caffeine I was not thrilled. This represented a seismic shift for me, especially the caffeine.

Here's the thing though, about getting into this sort of spirituality. If you choose to do this kind of work then there's an understanding that you are agreeing to all the terms, including the ones that haven't been specified beforehand. And if you try to get around something they are emphasizing as important, often enough, they may give you a bit of time to toe the line voluntarily then they will step in and influence things themselves. Case in point - the caffeine. I fully admit to being a coffee addict and I don't say that lightly. When the no caffeine edict came down I was not happy, and initially I really struggled with it. It took me years to cut out caffeinated soda, and then I found myself stuck on coffee. Finally I reluctantly switched to decaf. And then, I suppose predictably, I began drinking a half dozen cups or more of decaf a day, defeating the entire purpose of it since decaf coffee does have some caffeine. So one Bealtaine morning when I poured my usual cup and added the cream, the cream disappeared; stirring it revealed that the in-date, unspoiled cream had curdled and was massed in a lump at the bottom of the cup. Not to be daunted - or to take a hint - I poured a fresh cup and added milk. It curdled as soon as it hit the surface. And I admitted defeat. I haven't touched a drop of coffee since, although I still crave it.

Initially I had no frame of reference for any of this outside of my own personal gnosis, nothing except the knowledge that they wanted certain things done or not done. Finally though I ran across this in a book by Yeats, and it made me feel less unusual in what was being asked of me:

“Those we speak of have for their friends the trooping fairies--the gay and sociable populace of raths and caves....The fairies are, of course, visible to them, and many a new-built house have they bid the owner pull down because it lay on the fairies' road. Lady Wilde thus describes one who lived in Innis Sark:--"He never touched beer, spirits, or meat in all his life, but has lived entirely on bread, fruit. and vegetables. A man who knew him thus describes him--'Winter and summer his dress is the same--merely a flannel shirt and coat. He will pay his share at a feast, but neither eats nor drinks of the food and drink set before him. He speaks no English, and never could be made to learn the English tongue, though he says it might be used with great effect to curse one's enemy. He holds a burial-ground sacred, and would not carry away so much as a leaf of ivy from a grave. And he maintains that the people are right to keep to their ancient usages, such as never to dig a grave on a Monday, and to carry the coffin three times round the grave, following the course of the sun, for then the dead rest in peace...."
-      ‘Witches, Fairy Doctors’ Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry Edited by W. B. Yeats [1888]

Reading this passage was very important for me because, above all, it made me feel less alone and at odds. Here was a historic account of someone who died long before I was born, but their life as it's described here resonated with me. Not every detail, of course - I eat some meat and don't eat bread, for one thing - but the broad strokes really spoke to me. I don't drink alcohol, as a rule, and my wardrobe is rather monochromatic, as it were. Despite the pressure of modern magical ways it's the older practices that speak to me, and about which I find myself compelled to speak out. And of course there's the bit about seeing the Daoine Uaisle, who I certainly try to stay on friendly terms with, for my part.

For a long time I didn't talk about these things, especially the diet, except to a very few people, not only because it seemed an awkward thing to discuss but also because I felt like they were such strange things to have restrictions on. Reading this as well as a chapter in the book 'Trojan Feast' that touched on people's food intersecting with non-human beings and seeing that other people who were connected to the Good People had also historically been known to have restrictions, or to live in ways that were at odds with those around them, even if there's no direct indication it was at Their direction, made me feel better.

I also want to be clear that while these dietary things may have some health benefits - particularly given how unhealthy American processed foods are - that was not the reason behind them, at least not for me. I have never had a sense that the Gentry were particularly concerned with my physical well being, unless I was doing things that actively and immediately harmed myself and then they were always pretty clear that I needed to stop for that reason. What their motivation was in asking me to eat or not eat certain things wasn't initially clear, although I began to suspect it had to do with getting me into a more, shall we say, psychically receptive state? This suspicion would later be reinforced after talking with a couple friends.

A friend at one point had mentioned that my diet as it was being shaped was strongly reminiscent of a Sattvic diet, an approach to eating found in the Ayurvedic system. A traditional Sattvic diet, broadly speaking, includes fruit and fruit juice, above ground vegetables and carrots, nuts, seeds, dairy products, honey, and grains (Cutchin, 2015). Not knowing anything about the subject I asked another friend who was fairly knowledgeable about it and he not only agreed with my first friend's suspicion but mentioned that Sattvic diets are often used by people seeking higher spiritual states because they open a person up to connecting more easily to spiritual energy (I'm paraphrasing here). This idea was echoed in a book I read recently, 'A Trojan Feast' which discusses in one section the Sattvic diet, its odd and apparently unconscious predominance among modern people who experience contact with non-human beings, and its reputed ability to raise psychic awareness or clairvoyance (Cutchins, 2015). I am by no means claiming that my food do's and don't's are Sattvic, as I do not follow nor know very much about Ayurveda, however I did find the connection interesting. Cutchins suggested that there may be a connection between the concept of sattva and its emphasis on freshness in food and the idea of the toradh or foyson, the essence, of food that the Good Folk were reputed to consume when given food offerings. By his theory it is the toradh of food that can be equated to its Sattvic quality, making this diet perhaps the closest to what one might hypothesize the Daoine Maithe themselves might consume.

I cannot say that like Lady Wilde's friend of the fairies I have had these preferences all my life, or that from childhood I was guided to seek out or avoid certain foods. But for the last five years or so, as I have stopped resisting the growing dominance of the Good People in my life and have instead embraced it, I can say with certainty that their influence has touched on unexpected areas, including my diet. This has been a hard change, and I fully admit that I fight against it as often as I go along with it, but ultimately I do think there is a purpose to it, and that the purpose has value not only to Themselves but also - I hope - to me.

Yeats, W., (1888). Fairy and Folktales of the Irish Peasantry
Cutchin, J., (2015). A Trojan Feast


  1. This is a very interesting post. I have often thought about how diet and spirituality intersect. Recently I have began re-evaluating my diet because at my age (over 50) it has become as issue for me. I also have made some connections with my diet and my magical/spiritual path.

    Again, excellent post:)

  2. If you would like to see a modern Irish Fairy go here

    1. I also tend to believe that the Daoine Maithe today would look just like anyone else in dress.
      Interesting blog btw, I enjoy reading yours when I have time.

  3. I too have some food restrictions as a spirit-worker (in addition to quite a few due to health issues, though it's not always a clear division between those two). I would add that in addition to making one a clearer conduit, those restrictions (along with other types such as clothing) *might* be put in place at least partly precisely because they alienate you. Having such daily restrictions that you have to be aware of keeps your focus on Them, and emphasizes your position outside the mainstream culture. It marks you - to yourself, and sometimes to others - as someone with a foot Elsewhere, with priorities other than the normal mundane ones. That can be powerful all on its own, regardless of the other effects of the restrictions.

    1. yes, good point and there is certainly that as well. Its impossible not to have part of your mind on Them constantly when food and drink are or become significant in your connection to Them.

  4. A note to you on Midsummer! First, I have been reading and enjoying your book, Fairycraft. Your post here though has a line about you feeling "less alone and at odds", a state I seem to have experienced forever -- not only being a solitary practitioner of a fringe spiritual path, but more obscurely yet, one whose affinities are toward the Good Folk. It has been my overall reaction to most of your book, the feeling of gladness that 1.) I am not the only one! and 2.) This pull I have felt for nearly 50 years is real, because They call to other people too. Thanks for all you are doing, most importantly helping to bring back the legitimacy that the Fairy Path deserves.