Something that I think is an important part of neo-Heathenism is getting back to whole foods and holistic living. Think you can be a tru Heathen and live on fast food, microwave dinners and weird chemical substitutes? Well yeah, you can, but you’d be selling yourself way short.
To me Heathenism is about holism. Recognising the way that – according to wyrd – what goes around comes around. And following on from that – you are what you eat. I would contend that a lot of modern food is a load of nothing, a falsely isolate confidence trick.
Take, for example, the humble canola margarine tub. Promulgated as part of the terror-filled flight from butterfat. Of course, if I understand correctly canola is extremely bad for you – almost certainly a lot worse than butterfat (which is itself much maligned).
A product of the industrial production line, canola oil-based margarine is literally nothing. It has no place in the natural order, at least, no place that makes sense outside of the complex abstractions of industrialised modernity.
Created to exploit our modern terror of food that has in fact served our species just fine for thousands of years, margarine and its ilk in turn seem monotonically related to the incredible rise in so-called lifestyle diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all the rest.
The latest fashion for margarine marketing here in Australia is to simply label the plastic tub “spreadable” without calling it margarine. As though we are supposed to write “spreadable” on our shopping lists where once we wrote “butter”. A product defined by its use, not its substance or properties. Literally nothing.
Now I’m no expert on nutrition, though I reckon Weston A. Price has a lot more sense than Kraft in these matters. But I do know that there is something terribly nihilistic about inventing new foods – which are terribly unhealthy – in order to ‘save’ the population from perfectly acceptable diets.
I’m talking about processed white bread, I’m talking about pesticide-soaked vegetables, I’m talking about all the nasty unfermented soy that the health conscious but ill-informed suck down happily.
These are not foods that you can grow with your own two hands. Yet nothing is more Heathen than what you can make with your own two hands.
Why did we go sour on traditional eating habits? A lot of it is to do with industrialised farming – which is of course the arch-lord of fragmentary rather than holistic life philosophy.
Apart from farming practices which strip the soil of fertility while doing nothing to restore it, industrialised farming also involves the application of all kinds of chemicals which destroy the environment and which end up in our bodies, taxing our systems an breeding disease.
In short – no consideration of the fact that what goes around comes around. Similarly, a lot of the food made with these methods is weak, vitamin-poor, tasteless, deformed. Bananas should not be able to keep fresh for a month at room temperature. Nor should they be bland, pale, seedless or as big as my foreleg.
These foods are gradually becoming embodied nothing, physical contradictions, floating in a putative non-space where we think we can pollute, destroy, and consume rubbish endlessly without consequence. The marvels of modern food are a whole philosophy of life, a philosophy of arrogance, mediocrity, greed (for those that profit) and ignorance (for the endless ‘consumers’ out there).
Heathenism has to have substance if it is going to be ever a serious proposition. In fact food and everyday holistic living is the most important legacy of the arch-Heathens. Certainly more important than gods, runes or dead languages. These folk lived with a sense of hands-on perspective. Pumping life poured through their veins.
Where does that leave us today? When you start researching alternative nutrition and realise how ubiquitous and unhealthy hydrogenated fats, canola, sugar-substitutes and high fructose corn syrup are – well, its just overwhelming.
Add to this the expense of organic grocery shopping. Why is organic food pricey? Cause you are actually buying something, not nothing. You are buying food grown the hard way, food with character, richness, luscious taste and lots of vitamins.
Why do kids hate to eat vegetables? Cause they taste gross. But feed them organic vegetables, free of GM and pesticides, and I bet you they won’t be able to resist.
I have a long way to go with rearranging my life in accordance with these principles; at the moment things are not very conducive to a lot of the changes I want to make or that in the past I have made but then was forced to relinquish.
But the way forward seems to me to be simple – once you’ve done your research you can start to gradually varying things. Just start in one area and slowly you can make the change. It’s the same with living in a more environmentally-friendly way: start small and work your way up. Even small changes can have big consequences.
Some easy changes you can make – stop eating vegetable oils (extra-virgin olive oil is much better); buy less processed bread (you get less slices but a lot more weight so it works out nicely); and pick up even the odd bit of organic produce – it is so good that you’ll soon be very motivated to either grow your own (which can be deeply satisfying) or else happy to rearrange your finances in order to go organic.
Dump on all those super-sugary foods like breakfast cereals that present themselves as health foods. Don’t read the marketing, read the ingredients list. The less of this rubbish we eat, the less of it we’ll crave. You can bet that Odin doesn’t have any fillings.
And don’t even get me started on the pasteurised milk fiasco. Back in the 1930’s they started packing cows into tiny, unsanitary living conditions. Then, to save money, they started feeding cows grain, which the poor beasts just cannot digest.
Result? Sick cows, which led to sick humans. Solution? Not to stop these bad animal husbandry practices but rather to process the milk in such a way that a vast proportion of its nutritional value is destroyed.
No Heathen culture would be so myopic, but here in modernity? This disastrous Government regulation makes it almost impossible to exercise your free choice to drink raw milk, even if grown in healthy conditions.
Well I’ve had raw milk and it’s just incredible. So powerful and rich. It makes you feel like a million dollars. I struggle to drink pasteurised milk anymore. You suddenly realise how unhealthy the stuff is, how inert and dead and foul, once you’ve had the real thing.
Well maybe postmodern industrial culture is like pasteurised milk – only satisfying if you’ve never drunk from the rich fountain of raw, living Heathen spirit.
It can take years to slough off the poison of postmodern culture (which doesn’t mean abandoning technology but rather treating it with the circumspection due to all things which seem self-evidently good). So start with just a little step, a little nibble, and be gentle on yourself.
The more you re-integrate yourself into natural living the easier it will be to keep going on down the path. You might just find yourself giving up the substitute diet of modernity and starting to eat the organic whole food of Heathenism.
The beating heart of old Heathen culture was frith – bountiful peace. Sounds better than waging war on my own immune system with poison dressed up as nourishment.