Quantum Foodweb – Raw Milk As Sacrament
November 17th, 2011 | D.I.Y., Traditional, Asatru, community, culture, Dairy, faith, family, farm, foodways, foodweb, health, heritage, honor, raw milk, religion, respect, ritual, sacrament, sacred, scandinavian, Yogurtistan
There are various other definitions of sacrament, I like this one because it makes me think of the gut-friendly micro-organisms that grow in milk–uniquely active indeed. This is a post I have been putting off writing and I understand why. I am not sure if I can quite capture what I want to say here, but I have to give it a shot.
Sacrament: A rite in which God (or gods) is (are) uniquely active. -Hexam’s Concise Dictionary of Religion
The fact that many cultures around the world traditionally have a sacred bond between the animal (sheep, cow, goat, yak etc) and the fresh milk that animal produces is an aspect of the importance of farm fresh raw milk that sometimes gets left behind these days. We often get caught up in reacting to all the legal nonsense the various agencies keep throwing at us. At the moment there is this big push, through the Food Safety Modernization Act to tag all animals and put in a comprehensive tracking system, supposedly so food can quickly and easily be traced back to the source, in case of contamination. This way, the problem can be more systematically contained. In reality, it is an expensive solution looking for a problem. Simply knowing your source is the most reliable way to ensure you are putting well treated, good quality, safe food on your table, no fancy label can change that fact.
Let me say that again: any good chef–or good mother–knows, the best way to know where your food is coming from is to raise it yourself or know the person who is raising it for you. Not only that, but it is actually beneficial to exercise your own body’s intuitive systems as well as memory functions. There are some things you have to know for yourself, directly. There are certain things you shouldn’t trust to huge faceless corporations that can change their name and identity, study you to best advertise to you and do their best to make it illegal to photograph or video their operations. It is common sense to understand that the more hands involved in getting your food from the ground to your table, the more is getting skimmed off the top. This is why there’s such a huge trend in the culinary industry in which chefs source their own local produce. This trend kicked off with Alice Waters in the 60s and has been steadily growing ever since. Alice wasn’t the only one to think this up, any good chef/cook/mom who loves their family will go the extra mile to get the food they know is grown with love. This is something that is deep in all of us, no matter what our traditions.
I’ve been fascinated with food preparation rituals for as long as I can remember. Over the past seven years or so, I have finally turned to an exploration of my own heritage. Most of the Swedish pagan traditions were completely wiped out during the witch hunts in the 1600s, but many rituals remain in the strong culinary heritage that has been passed down to me through my mother. Making yogurt is one of my last tangible connections to my ancestors and their original healing rituals. When I make yogurt I open myself up to the ritual and allow myself to listen. In this process I have learned to rediscover my ancestor’s beliefs and understand my health from the inside out by getting to know my gut micro-flora.
In the book Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, Anne Mendelson points out just how extensive the area she calls Yogurtistan is, from India all across Europe and into Africa. Reading this tantalizing book opens up a whole world of taste that is lost to us in this modern world with our industrial tanks blandly homogenizing all the milk in stainless steel vats. There are many different flavors of milk depending not only on which animal the milk is from…sheep, goat, yak, buffalo, auroch, cow…but where the animal grazed and what it grazed on. Like wine, milk has terroir. Some people can even sense the quality of the energies involved in caring for the animal to be milked. Sikhs prefer to raise their own cows, milk them and prepare the yogurt, heating it gently and thankfully while preparing the medium to have the culture added in an spiritual and alchemical purification process.
The cow is sacred in India:
In this worldview she is the wellspring of life in a palpable form, inexhaustibly pouring forth the miracle of milk, a holy substance considered to have been purified by inner fires in the grass-transforming alembic that is the cow’s body. -p15 Milk
Remember the definition of sacrament quoted above? “A rite in which God (or gods) is (are) uniquely active.” Micro-organisms are a major source of the fire in the cow’s body, and the level of respect for the cow and the milk extends to this other ingredient, the beneficial probiotics, which the milk provides the ground substance for. Even in today’s ultra-modern probiotic industry they have found that the best medium to grow beneficial micro-organisms for the human gut is milk. In many traditional societies including Scandinavian ones, the matron of the house was also the brew-mother and worked with micro-organisms to make herbal beers as well as cultured dairy. It was a relationship that was understood in different terms than we do today. The invisible cultures of yeast or bacteria were often considered gods or spirits that needed to be called or prayed into the ground substance. The microbes were respected, honored and understood.
This symbiotic relationship between microbe and man exists in every culture. Over and over again we find that traditionally families had a specific culture that they tended, consumed and passed down to the next generation. This blessed invisible ingredient helped them digest their food, giving health and longevity. Over the millenia of co-existing this relationship became very intimately intertwined, but in the past 40 years it has been broken in many families. It is important for us all to rediscover these family-heritage guardian-angels as our world grows increasingly toxic from the foolish actions of arrogant and greedy corporations. More and more studies are coming out exposing just how damaging constant doses of antibiotics from the meat and dairy products of Big Ag are to our digestive and immune systems.
I have plenty of personal experiences that connect the digestion with the nervous system, in particular dreams. This could be because of the vagus nerve which connects digestive system, heart and brain physiologically. I have done many fasts, diets and experimented with my body and digestive system in a variety of ways, some of it accidental, or incidental and some of it planned. I have often noticed how much my digestive system’s condition affects my dreaming state, my levels of irritability and anxiety as well as how I understand the world. When you are living under attack both within and without from toxins and parasitic micro-organisms, the whole world seems out to get you and dangerous. Most of the people running the world are operating under these conditions and it is easy to understand why most of our world’s leaders are blind to and terrified by the changing world system.
When I started this website I was in the middle of a crisis–my gut and immune system had been completely destroyed by dangerous mold and bacteria. Everything I thought I knew was broken and I couldn’t even trust my own body anymore. I had to rely completely on someone else to take care of me. It was really tough as I prided myself on being self-sufficient and invincible. It was at that time when I started using the name Hella D. Hella is the goddess of the underworld in Scandinavian tradition. It was then that I started studying runes and Asatru more personally. Asatru is the modern living practice of the ancient Northern tradition and is perfect for me as it can be practiced very individually while at the same time being a part of a larger community. In many ways it is like the Sikh religion and it is very animistic. The best ways to understand this ancient worldview is to meditate on the ancient runes. One of the runes I have a personal affinity with is Uruz which is the auroch, full of healing power. The shape of the rune is the shape of the colon and I find that when I resonate the sound of the rune deep into my gut and open myself up to experience the colon from the inside then Uruz becomes a healthy colon full of a diverse garden of friendly microbes. Many healing traditions say that the way to maintain full health is to have a good digestive system and the Chinese seat of chi is in the abdomen. This is a powerful area of the body that is intimately intertwined with the outer world and we often need help from the microscopic gut gods to digest and catalyze our experiences in it.
One of the best probiotics for the small intestine is Acidophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus) which is yogurt. In one of my very first videos I demonstrate how to make yogurt from fresh raw goats milk yogurt. You can see how I consider the act to be a sacrament with the magical folding of the towels used to wrap and incubate the yogurt.
The whole process is sacred. This sacred ritual starts with finding top quality milk from goats or cows that I know are allowed to enjoy what they are — eat grass and have a good life. I enjoy making my own yogurt and dreaming about my long lost ancestors as I prepare the unadulterated milk using the technique my mother’s mother passed down… “7, 8, 9, Ouch!” With a full dose of love and gratitude as the milk slowly heats and cools and the new culture is added before being incubated. There are many types of cultures and ways to culture, and it seems more are appearing every day. I posted previously about the Abkhasians, their special dairy culture allowed them to live to be centenarians. This is my ancestral tradition. The process is sacred and the farm fresh milk itself, from cows that are treated with basic respect, is also sacred.
Farm fresh raw milk is indeed a sacrament and has been so throughout many cultures throughout the world. It is a central part of my own religious and traditional rituals as well as many other of the cultures from Asia to Africa, that live in North America. In our food tradition the process is what matters, the ritual, respect and honor that is given. The essence of this love and respect infuses into the food and is the true nourishing manna. This is why we are malnourished and irritable when fed food from the industrial food system.
We are begging, asking and demanding for this basic consideration in every corner of our foodwebs from genetically modified vegetables to factory farmed animals to treatment of migrant workers. We have to respect and honor the cycles of life if we want to be whole and healthy ourselves.
Thank you for that inspiring essay! I’ve often pondered if “freedom of religion” issues could be linked to food freedom to battle bureaucratic oppression.
Welcome to the Church of Milk. Pastor Hella D will be serving the sermon right after milking.