Monday, July 29, 2013

Vegan Pagan "Defense against the Dark Arts" (or just some nosy nellies)

You can expect a fair amount of curiosity, questioning, and perhaps even hostility from the people around you if you suddenly start sharing your paganism or veganism with them. Like for any other marginalized and/or oppressed group, it truly is a “coming out” process.

You may want to get started and find your personal comfort zone with your path before you share it with others, if it is possible. Having done both I realize it is harder to keep veganism to yourself if you eat with coworkers regularly or dine with extended family, have a date night with friends, etc. It may help to just say, “I want to experiment with this kind of eating to see how I feel on it” or something else (which is likely true) in order to give yourself time to adjust before having to defend your philosophies.

Just about anyone who has written a vegan blog or book or rant of some kind has discussed the challenges met in one’s community when becoming vegan. The typical questions range from “where will you get your protein?” or “how can you live without cheese/creamer/milk chocolate?!” to more aggressive or juvenile things like, “I hate vegans. I saw one being so rude to a waitress once.” or “What, do you care more about cows than you do about people?” or something ridiculous like, “Oh, owwwwww…that poor broccoli! You killed it!”

I believe these all come from a defensive place. Unless people assume you are either trying to lose weight or have food allergies, they may feel judged by your eating choices even when you don’t say a word. Some of these are best laughed off but for many you can develop a pat answer. You may choose to educate them with actual facts about where you get your protein or simply develop simple responses to protect your choices like, “you know, it takes all kinds. I’ll eat what I want and you do the same.”

Many people in the new wave of vegans are choosing to call themselves “plant based” eaters, focusing on the diet and wellness aspects. Some people do so genuinely because the choice is purely dietary. Some others find that their coworkers, friends, and other peers are more accepting of this term than “vegan.” As both a pagan and a vegan it reminds me of the reason so many people might use “pagan” instead of “witch” or whatever the name of their actual pagan tradition may be. Society has a lot of stereotypes of certain words. Whether you decide to embrace or “reclaim” such words in your own life is totally personal choice and personal sense of safety. Both vegans and pagans have been investigated by child welfare simply for parenting their children within these lifestyles, for example.

I think the safest way to make these choices for yourself and your family is to do your research on both lifestyles before you jump out of the broom closet or the kitchen cupboard.  If there are local shops or community groups where a lot of vegans or pagans gather, perhaps you can find out from them what the local vibe is. Knowing of local resources and online resources can also help you advocate for yourself if you encounter any discrimination.

When there is a community presence around veganism or paganism, it can make it easier to face peer pressure or overt discrimination. Please know I am not saying you will definitely face these issues. Yet this can be serious business so forewarned is forearmed.

Although you can probably keep it private longer, the same goes for your choices about paganism. People you never expected to take it badly may get really upset by this choice and unload a lot of stereotypes onto you about evil, animal abuse, devil worship, or going to Hell when you die. Most generally it seems to me that the people who think about their own religion the least may have the most vitriolic reactions to yours.

I taught introductory paganism classes online for several years and had several students who had been in the broom closet for very good reasons, and did not expect to come out of it in the near future. I really believe you have the right to keep your path to yourself if it seems right to you. Not only does religious freedom imply a right to privacy, but there are definitely very real dangers and discriminations out there, depending on your culture and community.

Perhaps it is most disappointing of all when you finally find a vegan community and suddenly you find that your paganism is not accepted. Or you are a pagan trying out veganism and experience peer pressure or even bullying from members of your group. Both of these have happened to me at one time or another. I cannot pretend it doesn’t hurt, and I can’t tell you definitively what to do. I think the best advice that I can offer you is that you stay true to yourself, patiently educate your communities when possible, and cut your losses where you must. Eventually your true circle of friends will form. It helps that you have the world wide web to look to in many cases, besides your own locale.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ode to Freedom

This is a beautiful piece on uTube, sponsored by PETA2 (the youth activist leg of PETA).  PETA has a tee shirt of the "ode to freedom" concept also.

Inspired by this idea, I made my own ode. It is not a classic Greek ode, but is done in metric verse.

An Ode to Freedom


Soft grass upon the hillside grows,

it blooms in gold and green


The worms below will till the soil,

all life on earth to feed


The mother cow takes sweetness in,

to meet her baby’s need


No grasping hand to steal her milk,

no predatory deed


From worm to cow to calf to me,

all creatures may be free


When we who take so heedlessly

allow all life to be


In concert and, by divine right,

exist in Liberty.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Litha (Summer Solstice)

            At Litha the warm weather and growth seen in nature all around us leads to a holiday where we can really celebrate the joy of life. We are in the prime growing season—after the land has been prepared and the crops have been planted, but before we have to worry about the harvest and the winter.  All things have their polarity, however. Summer solstice is also a reminder that, from this point on, the days begin growing shorter and shorter on their interminable march toward the Winter Solstice. Even in the peak of life and joy, we are ever mindful of the approaching death and dormancy.

            This is one of the holidays where the Oak King and Holly King are said to “skirmish” in their struggle to reign over the earth. This is partly a battle between the warm months and the cold months and also partly about the polarity of life and death. Both are always held in balance. While one is dominant, the other is always present. In fact they are two sides of the same coin and actually part of each other. This can be seen in the seasons around us so I think it makes sense that the story has been told in this way.

The Oak King is seen to win this particular battle, since the Sun and the light are most powerful at Litha. Yet the stage is set for the inevitable victory of the Holly King in a few months. After today, the sun begins giving way more and more each day to the night. You can visualize it that the Oak King is still strong, but he is feeling his age.

            In the meantime, the Goddess is now carrying the child of the Oak King (which of course is yet another aspect of himself). She is transitioning from Maiden to Mother again.

            At my temple every year we use the same pentacle made from woven branches in our Litha circle. A priest or priestess goes out in the full moon light on the eve of the solstice and harvests a bounty of greens, herbs, and flowers. These decorate our solstice altar. As part of our group ritual, we each pick some of the plants and put a wish into them that we wish to manifest over the next year. What we are doing is harnessing the pregnancy energy of this holiday to grow or birth something new over the next several months. We pass the pentacle around our circle and each of us weaves our chosen plants around it. The edge of the pentacle is solidly woven with flowers and leaves by the time we are done. A priestess takes this home with her each year and keeps it in her garden. When the next solstice comes around, we start again.

            Similarly, I think as vegan pagans we can harness the energy of pregnancy and birth to do ritual work. Perhaps we can ask for the birth of a more compassionate society (or human race), that honors the lives of all animals. We could also use the imagery of the Goddess as “Mother Earth” to celebrate her bounty and to send healing energy to Her.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Peace Ridge Cookout

It was a pleasant afternoon for a cookout. After a week of rain, and with a little witchcraft, we had a sunny day ;0)

Our meetup group filled a box with vegan food donations and other odds and ends for the farm. Then we grilled tofu dogs and veggies to go with the salads, wraps, and deserts that other folks contributed. One of the hits of the day was definitely the gorgeous chocolate ganache cake that a local vegan resteraunt owner (Lynn of Bar Harbor's Eden) served up.

We had a bit of an adventure assembling my new camp grill. Gwen managed to McGyver it together using a cake server as a screw driver. She rocks!
The beautiful cake

lightin it up

grilled onions and peppers

Some of our bounty

some treats for the critters

the donation box slowly filled

we had a vegan outreach table for new members and other folks attending the farm's open house

gwen saving the day with the grill

...and we used it to cut the cake when she was done!!

Vegan Cookout at Peace Ridge Sanctuary Open House

As part of our Meatless Mainers vegan dining meetup we teamed up with Peace Ridge, the farm animal sanctuary I am lucky to have in my town. People came from as far as Portland to meet the critters. Then we chilled with some vegan sangrea and grilled tofu pups as the sun went down. It was a beautiful day.
Missy the pig

a few of the many rabbits

Theo, the rescued veal calf

theo racing a friend

one of the sassy goats

all the kids loved Theo!

Azize got to know the goats, Missy, and Theo really well

In the afternoon heat I was jealous of the ducks and geese

blade and autumn greet a buddy

Fiona was also a star of the day

Gwen and her husband Chris get searched for treats

down the rabbit hole!


some of our group on the tour

the goats get a little help with the trees

sisters fiona and burnadette

popcorn the baby turkey

My mom, Mary Jane, and Autumn mug with Fiona

Portland Maine Veg Fest 2013

Some of you may remember that Gwen, Autumn and I (Leslie) all went to VegFest last year. It hardly seems possible that another VegFest is here! Time flies! That means that Gwen and I took the vegan challenge over a year and a half ago!

This year I attended VegFest as a VegMe board member for the first time, also. I look forward to working with VegMe ( on making vegan options and education available around the state.

Volunteer Angela did a great job on a hot day in the corn suit!

 Animal Rights Maine (ARM) had a Hawaiian themed party at their table, giving out vegan food samples.
 Our VegMe table was packed with resources about our Meatless Mainers veg meetup, veganism, and other vegan organizations around the state.
All we are saying is give peas a chance. :0)