Are All Pagans Vegetarians?

Family Preparing Salad In Garden
Do you have to go vegetarian to be Pagan?. Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Question: Reader FAQ: Does Paganism Have Dietary Restrictions

A reader writes, "I'm interested in joining a local Pagan group - they're eclectic Wiccans - and I know that at least several of the people in the group are Vegan. I'd feel funny asking them about this, because I'm not vegetarian at all, but are there dietary laws within the structure of Wicca and other kinds of Paganism?"

Answer:

Although each coven/group/tradition is responsible for setting up their own rules and mandates, there's not any across-the-board dietary restrictions, no.

We don't have a Pagan equivalent of the Kosher diet. That having been said, there are some Pagans who believe that eating meat violates the concept of "harm none," as outlined in the Wiccan Rede, so they choose for that reason to become vegan or vegetarian.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Pagans (including Wiccans) who do eat meat and even kill their own food, so it really just depends on the group you're looking at. It may well be just coincidence that the members of the group you've met are all vegan. If this group requires you to be Vegan as part of membership, and you aren't down with giving up your carnivorous ways, then this is probably not the right group for you.

Witchvox blogger Lupa writes, "Humans have a tendency, even pagan humans, to place beings in our world (both physical, and their spiritual counterparts) into a hierarchy, with humans at the top, and those beings that most resemble humans higher than those that are more alien to us.

 Therefore, we assume that because a spirit in a non-human animal body experiences pain and suffering in the same way we do, then its death must be more important than that of a spirit embodied in a plant body, which may not have the same sort of nervous system. Additionally, the individual oak, bigger than we are, evokes more respect than the communal grass that we tread upon."

Interestingly, many people find that their diet does affect the way they practice. For me personally, even though I'm happily omnivorous, on days in which I have a ritual planned, I typically eat a very light breakfast and lunch, consisting of veggies and fruit, and then I usually don't eat dinner until after the ceremony - I also drink a ton of water and some herbal iced tea. I find that a not-full-of-meat-and-carbs stomach makes me more aware of my environment, and allows me to better work with the energy around me. On the other hand, if I carb-load and eat a bunch of non-plant things during the day prior to ritual, I'm pretty much worthless and can't focus at all.

There are also many people who do a detox cleanse or fasting prior to ritual, or during certain times of the year, or related to the moon phases. So, while the short answer is that no, there are no official or universal dietary mandates in Paganism, there's the long answer, which is that it is perfectly fine to rethink your diet for the purpose of entering into a ritual setting. No matter which way you choose to go with this, it's a matter of personal preference - do what works best for your body and spirit, and don't let anyone shame you for your dietary choices.