Food and dream-food and food from the Otherworld have been on my mind of late, amongst other things. I think those of us trying to come out of the shadow of the Enlightenment and the mind-body split lose sight of how food and drink is very much a fixture of the spirit world and for spirits. I mean, many of us who do any kind of work with offerings know that leaving booze, water, food is a Thing that you do. Some classes of spirits prefer spring water. Some prefer whiskey where others want wine or beer. Some spirits have cravings. I did a feast for Athena the other night that, as I tried to listen to what she wanted, well, I realized she was giving me the ingredients for a pizza.

I can make a pizza.

NB: I’m not going to talk about fasting and asceticism here, though they’re definitely connected in very powerful and curious ways.

But food and drink are there at the beginning of the Western tradition. The Eucharist is bread and wine (or flesh and blood). The Garden has its tasting of the fruit. Göbekli Tepe had its ritual feasts of game animals and lots of beer and probably some of our early rave culture.[1] Odin works to get his hands on some choice mead. Taliesin’s experience with Ceridwyn’s cauldron is well known. The Papyrus of Ani has Ani enspelling the Dwat and gods to get a table with the gods and some beer. Honey is the food of prophecy, and Kalē of the Mountains in the Hygromanteia wants “honey and pine kernels.” The Norse gods consume the apples collected by Idun. The Olympians consume ambrosia and nectar. Many indigenous peoples and likely our ancestors had mythologies about verdant, vibrant lands with plentiful game and food. There’s whatever manna actually is. The classical shades of the dead require a sacrifice of blood before they can speak. Meanwhile, Joshua Cutchin’s A Trojan Feast gets at a good amount of the food lore surrounding, well, “Aliens, Faeries, and Sasquatch.”

Our ancestors blessed their food, or performed rites to promote good harvests, whether as old pacts with the spirits of land and grain and plenty, or in the name of saints who stepped into those roles (or who interceded on behalf of the community with those spirits and deity, depending on how you squint). Some folks still do these things, blessing the fields, blessing the food on the table. We’ve had a multitude of ways to do these things, and Lynn McTaggart’s research in Power of Eight has pointed to how just mentally intending at seeds to grow and be healthy for a bit in a group at the same time apparently works.[2] It should make you look at the efficacy of any such kind of tech to “consecrate” or “bless” any number of things. The grimoires are full of blessings of various “creatures”:

O God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, bless these creatures of spices, in order that the strength and virtue of their scents may grow, so that no enemies nor phantasms may be able to enter…

I exorcise you O creature of fire…

Bless O Lord this creature of fire, and sanctify it…[3]

(then lay thy hand on the crystal saying,) and thou, oh inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated, and blessed to this purpose, that no evil phantasy may appear in thee; or, if they do gain ingress into this creature, they may be constrained to speak intelligibly, and truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake. Amen.[4]

The modern Church still blesses incense in much the same way: “be pleased to look with favor on this creature, incense, to bless + and to hallow + it.” Indeed, Reginald Scot even uses this blessing as an example of how those “popish priests will leave nothing unconjured.”

goblin-market-white-and-golden-lizzie-stood

Everyone always points to Arthur Rackham’s illustration from Goblin Market (1933) when talking about Don’t eat the faerie food!

We have plenty of food taboos, and people still say, “Don’t eat faerie food!” “Don’t eat grave offerings!” (unless you’re the class of persons who’re allowed to do so). At least, you will be told you shouldn’t up until you should, such as the surviving sister of the Green Children of Woolpit who chose to eat Suffolk cuisine to survive in a Suffolk world (a faerie eating human food here), or Anne Jeffreys eating no human food but sustained by her invisible faerie friends, or Adam and Eve eating a certain fruit.[5]

Anyway, many practitioners come to recognize that plant allies can be very potent and helpful. The plants around us are also spiritual beings (or can be), as are the animals we eat, and many plants have established long-standing relationships, if not pacts, with humanity—wheat, maize, coffee, cacao, grapes, and so on. I can tell you that in my experience, wormwood can indeed be a green fairy who worms her way wherever she wills. In the Cambridge Book of Magic, there’s an extended marriage ritual for binding valerian and the practitioner in holy matrimony.

I could go into the humor, theological, and embodiment theories for why that’s a thing, but I’ll pass.

The act of eating, of consumption, entangles us with what we eat (and, ultimately, what eats us in the end).[6] In eating or drinking wormwood, we get together for a bit, a shared consciousness. Mugwort is always happy to see me, and I can only imagine she enjoys the rides we wind up taking. But I ponder my relationship with “faerie food,” with food from the spirit world. I’ve seen several accounts where practitioners will avoid such food unless reassured by their guides, and I’ve had that happen myself. There have also been periods where guides told me, “No, eat. Here. You’re hungry.” How does that food entangle us with There? Well, this is probably part of the broad prescription against eating such foods, or of many foods ostensibly of this world having particular protocols around their consumption and by whom and when.

574px-bd_ani_and_tutu

Ani and his wife Tutu with a table piled up with offerings.

With these things in mind, I decided to look at the Egyptian Book of the Dead, specifically the Papyrus of Ani, for the first time in ages. I had already considered that, although written for the scribe Ani’s passage into the Dwat, into the Egyptian spirit world and realm of the after life, there remains a rather journeying quality, a rather Red Book quality to the Book of the Dead and the Papyrus of Ani. In many ways, the Papyrus itself is a magical object: it is the image of the kind of existence Ani would want after dying. Much as the creation of art and writing can shape the imaginal into a concrete form that helps bridge the desired, imagined reality into our physical reality, and much as sigil magic encodes our conscious intentions so we can send them into the unconscious or magical/spirit world, so too does the Papyrus seem to model a reality for Ani in the Dwat. In a way, it’s not all that different from how many Christians have sought to use Revelations as a model for their desired afterlife, at least in its descriptions of Heaven. They also keep using it as a model for apocalypses. And, given the Papyrus’s magical nature—it is a book of spells and prayers but also a magical object and model for an otherworldly experience—it has occurred to me that the Papyrus can have usefulness for imaginal and journeying/active imagination work.

So, what kind of reality does the Papyrus model for Ani? Well, it models one in which Ani has as much freedom and sustenance and agency as possible, one in which he can go wherever, pass whatever dangers or challenges, pass unmolested through the Dwat, as he can. But, there’s a lot of attention on getting a good meal—often at the table with the gods—and some good beer.[7]

I figured, what the hell? I mean, previously, I’ve considered the visionary nature of spirit dining in the Al Mandel scrying tradition. I suspect hospitality plays a role in how that magic works, along with some magical tricksy cunning to play against spirits in order to gain their compliance. I have also considered that the acceptance of food, of gifts, lends itself to pacting, willingly or not. After all, you should be wary of accepting gifts from the Neighbors, but I suspect they’re very cautious about accepting them, as well. This anxiety probably underscores the faerie unwillingness to accept payment or gifts, and I can imagine leaving out something for a brownie or similar spirit as a means to lure them into a pact. Now that you’ve accepted this cake, well, now let’s talk about what you owe me.

It’s rather much using faerie law against them.

Consider the Evocation of the Lady of the Mountains in the Hygromanteia:

At the first of August put honey and pine kernels in a bowl, take various colored silken pieces of cloth and write the following words on a parchment:…. Take all these things and go to a mountain at the same day. Place them on a firm rock at noon and hide.

The Lady of the Mountains will come and say: “Who did this good thing to me?” Then respond and say: “I did so, and I want such and such a thing.” She will say: “Go, and may your wish be fulfilled.”[8]

Kalē likes her pine nuts and honey, and the magician takes advantage of this. Indeed, note, she is lured by the treat, and she initiates the conversation. The magician hides and, with her accepting this “good thing” done “to [her],” the magician has an opportunity.

So, as I said, what the hell? I started trying out the Papyrus aloud, substituting “Osiris me” for “Osiris Ani,” and so on. The results thus far have been interesting, at least in terms of where my journeyings and my dreams have gone. One journey had my guide having me visit the Garden of Eden for a clandestine culinary incursion. I also dreamt that I was indeed dining with the gods—but not the Egyptian deities, but Odin, Thor, and the Asgardians—albeit in their MCU guises—as I was welcomed a princess of Asgard. I dreamt my roommate was trying to juggle a white icing cake—mostly successfully. I even dreamt of waking up to a bunch of Nazi/Hydra goons in their Brunch Operations Room where they seemed a bit put-out by my sudden appearance.

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Detail from a scene of Valhalla from Emil Doepler’s 1905 Walhall, die Götterwelt der Germanen. My dream was rather less vividly colored at this.

I didn’t eat anything: I didn’t get the chance, or I wasn’t hungry in the dream. I didn’t want to eat with Hydra either. I also did a bunch of apparent dream shapeshifting, which is another feature of the Papyrus and its spells. I am struck by the Norse motif, even if my dreaming rendered it ala Disney, and while my ancestry is western European, and while I do traffic with a couple of the pantheon—well—it wasn’t what I would expect, even if the halls of Asgard are places of feasting for the gods and the dead.

Anyway, I’m not offering you spiritual dietary advice, and consult your physician before consuming faerie food, but I will be curious myself where things go from here. And while many practitioners pay attention to what they eat in the physical world, I’m not sure how much they think about dining in the Other.

Featured Image: Ajale | Pixabay

[1] See also, well, Star.Ships.

[2] Lynn McTaggart, The Power of Eight: Harnessing the Miraculous Energies of a Small Group to Heal Others, Your Life, and the World (New York: Atria, 2017), 33-6.

[3] Daniel Harms, James R. Clark, and Joseph H. Peterson, The Book of Oberon (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016), 82.

[4] Via Trithemius, The Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.

[5] I had written an extended take on the role of food, drink, and appetite for all kinds of things in Paradise Lost with a detour to Peter Grey’s take in Lucifer: Princeps, but it was a total distraction with block quotes.

[6] Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your
worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
that’s the end. (Hamlet, 4.3)

[7] The attention spent on ensuring Ani has a mouth and can speak in the Dwat is also noteworthy, especially in light of, say, classical descriptions of the shades of the dead.

[8] Ioannis Marathakis, translator and editor, The Magical Treatise of Solomon, or Hygromanteia (Singapore: Golden Hoard, 2011), 131-3 (emphases in the original).

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