There is really nothing more sacred than food. Eating is an act of transmutation. Food, which is composed of some part of the body of another living being, enters our bodies and becomes part of us. It always changes us in subtle ways and sometimes in ways that are not so subtle- because food can be both medicine and poison.

Is there anything more profound?

Living things or some parts of living things separated from their body, willingly or not, cease living briefly only to be dismantled and reassembled as fuel and building materials to support our metabolism and the very physical structure of our bodies.

Oh it doesn’t all stay there, granted. Much of it moves right through. But then other living things create their bodies out of it, and then they support the growth of other things until, eventually, we are very likely to end up eating the same molecules all over again in a different form. Some of the molecules in our food were eaten by our ancestors. Some will be eaten by our children’s children. Food is a wonderful part of an awe-inspiring cycle of life and death and it deserves to be treated with the utmost reverence; served with class and consumed with gratitude.

How do we maintain the sacredness of food, when it is such a mundane thing? Oh we could say that we should only source the best and freshest food, prepare it ever so carefully and serve it on the finest dishes, but all of these are privileges not all of us have access to. Many are forced to buy the cheapest food we can get our hands on, prepare it in the quickest manner possible in the brief hours we have with our family between work and sleep, and eat off of chipped plates we sometimes wonder aren’t leaching toxins into the food in the bits where the glaze has come off, but oh well, best not think about it since we can’t afford new dishes anyway. How do we honor the sacredness of food in these circumstances?

The answer, I believe, lies in ritual and attitude. Small things we do each day that remind us of what is important. We must prepare food to a certain degree every day, even if we’re just opening the container it came in and as part of preparing food we must prepare our selves and our food prep area, even if it’s just washing our hands and wiping down the counter. Each of these steps can be intentionalized and ritualized to give it a magical touch without adding too much time or complication to the process. Additionally, cultivating an environment of gratitude, simply by remembering to be grateful and expressing gratitude to others, also helps to remind us of the sacredness of things.

The Kitchen as Sacred Space

As a Kitchen Witch you are the priest/ess of your Home Temple and working sacred altar is your kitchen counter (or other food preparation workspace). This may be where you mix your potions and remedies and you might cast spells here as well, but you also prepare food and that is just as important as potions, remedies and spells because food, besides being that which sustains us, can also be potions, remedies and spells. And so this space, whatever you are using it for, is your sacred space, your altar and you should treat it as such.

It begins with knowing that your food preparation area is sacred. Knowing is enough. Once you know something is sacred, you will treat it as sacred. However, sometimes the action has to come before the believe, especially if we’ve gone the past 30 odd years thinking something isn’t very special at all. This is especially difficult if your kitchen isn’t your dream kitchen or worse, is what my Grama called a “One butt kitchen” - that you can barely move in and certainly nobody can help you out because they can’t fit in there. If we don’t love our kitchen, it’s hard to convince ourselves its sacred space. But do it anyway.

The first step to maintain your food prep area as sacred space is to keep it clean and clutter free. A clean food prep area is a healthy food prep area and clutter doesn’t allow energy to flow freely, which can interfere with spellwork. I realize that this can be difficult when you have limited counters pace and not enough cabinets, but you’re going to do your best. For some, it will mean that you will have to clear your counter and re-create sacred space every time. I personally have to move a bunch of stuff over to the kitchen table to do my work, and then back to the counter so we can eat and I store appliances and even a few pots and pans I don’t use more than once a week in the basement. But the clearing of the counter becomes part of the daily ritual that reminds me that I am creating sacred space to perform a sacred task.

Once the space is cleared, it should be disinfected and you can use a special homemade spray, blessed just for this purpose if you feel called to do so. (There are recipes in the Lotions and Potions chapter). Choose a fragrance that feels sacred to you. You may also wish to place a candle or a statuette of your hearth God/dess within view, to keep you in mind of sacredness.

Preparing yourself to approach the sacred altar is also a good idea. You may wish to have a designated apron; get a really nice one that makes you feel fancy, or homey and old fashioned, or professional, or whatever it is you want to be feeling while preparing the sacred meal. And of course, you should wash your hands. If you’d like to make a special scented hand wash just for this purpose, you’ll find that in the Lotions and Potions section as well.

Cooking Rituals

Rituals remind us that what we are doing is important and establishing a ritual for yourself to perform in companionship with your food preparation activities helps to remind you that preparing food is a sacred act full of magical potential. While it may seem to make more sense to reserve ritual for special occasions, daily rituals can be even more meaningful because they remind you of those things that are important to you every day, things that are sacred and things that are necessary to maintain your lifestyle or your identity or to advance toward your goals. They remind you who you are and what you’re about on a daily basis and, after awhile, they serve as a sort of comfortable anchor in a world that can be chaotic and strange.

Your ritual need not be overly complicated. It is best if it is not because complicating things tends to make them feel overwhelming and you may feel discouraged to do your ritual, or even to cook a meal, if the process feels like too much on top of everything else. So make your ritual simple, practical and meaningful.

1. Begin with the practical expedient of cleaning your ritual space, that is, your food prep area. Remove any unnecessary clutter, disinfect all of your surfaces and lay out the tools and materials that you will need, including your recipes and ingredients.
2. Prepare yourself. Put up your hair, wash your hands, put on your apron, etc..
3. Next, perform some action to mark the beginning of your ritual. I like to light a candle at this time. You may wish to ring a bell, or light some incense, or you might want to turn on some music you enjoy listening to while you’re cooking. Mark your boundary now.
4. Remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing and that it is important. Take some deep breaths and center yourself and then recite a prayer or an affirmation. It can be generic for everyday cooking, or specific to your magical working.
5. Perform your work. Try to give your meal preparation your full attention as much as you are able. If you are distracted things that can’t be ignored, like kids or plumbing emergencies, turn off your burners and deal with what needs dealing with a loving heart and return to your work when you can. If dinner isn’t perfect because you were distracted by things that were just as important, do not beat yourself up over it. There will be other dinners.
6. When you have finished, you may speak words to mark the termination of your working as you mark the boundary by repeating or reversing the action that marked the beginning of your work.
Here is an example ritual
This is the ritual that I perform when preparing a special meal. Because I honor Hestia in my home, I incorporate a prayer to her, but the prayer can easily be an affirmation. You should create your own ritual that represents your unique style.
1. I clean my area and lay out my tools and materials. I disinfect surfaces using my All Purpose Disinfectant Spray (the recipe is in the Lotions, Potions and Oils section). I use lemon scented herbs because I like how the fragrance makes me feel focused and alert and reminds me a bit of the lemon scented cleaners the grannies of my childhood used to use.
2. Put up my hair if it’s not already up, put on my apron and I wash my hands.
3. I light a small candle.
4. I say this prayer “Hestia of the Hearth, you are the first and the last and the center. Honor me with your presence and blessings as I prepare this meal that all who partake of it shall know comfort, welcome, and love and be truly nourished, body, mind and spirit. Thank you Hestia for your blessings.”
5. I prepare my meal.
6. I place a bit of the meal on a plate and place the candle on it, then I serve the meal to family. I leave the candle burning till the meal is over.
7. I clean up and put everything away.
8. I clean up all the mess.
9. Lastly (but before I settle in to do the dishes) I put out the candle (if it’s still burning) and say “Blessed be all who shared this meal.” and I take the offering out to the outdoor altar.

A Moment of Grace

Saying grace is a tradition in many households regardless of religion though it tends to be one of the first things that goes when we turn away from religion. It also tends to be one of those things that we just don’t bother with when we’re dining alone or that we are shy about doing in mixed company. But saying grace, regardless of the reasons we do so, forces us to pause a moment to appreciate the food and maybe even the living things that went into it, from the bodies of the plants and animals involved, to the farmers, to the cooks. Saying grace gives us a pause between the moment of beholding the food and the moment of eating the food to truly recognize and appreciate the food, which can only enhance our enjoyment of it. Thus, I would argue that every person who likes food should embrace the practice.

One reason for the grace is simply good manners. It gives us a moment, a “grace period” if you will, to pause and reflect before diving into the food like starving beasts. A moment to settle in and greet the meal, if you will, and perhaps exchange a few polite pleasantries before making free with it.
Grace as a Spell or Blessing
Some believe that it is a blessing of the food, which enhances its value to allow it to nourish the soul as well as the body, or that it ensures its healthfulness, sort of a charm against food poisoning. But many religious traditions already prescribe blessings of food, especially meat, in their preparation and we’ve already discussed how you can charge your food with your intention and with blessings during the preparation, thus the grace need not serve this purpose in many cases.
However, if you choose to approach your grace as a blessing or spell, you can state your intention at this time in the same way I described for the cooking ritual. Light a candle or otherwise mark the beginning of the ritual and speak your intention, evoking a God if you wish. “May all those present be filled with joy and good health as they consume this meal.” for example.

Grace for Gratitude

The grace is also used to express gratitude for the meal and, in some cases, for other blessings. Often the grace is addressed to a God in the belief that it is through the “grace of God” that the food has been provided at all. But it is important, I think, to recognize that, while God might have had something to do with it at the most basic level, a lot more than God went into the meal. The people who brought in the income to buy the food, the people who grew the food, the people who packaged, shipped, stocked, sold and prepared the food were all involved. The food itself gave of its literal body to be your dinner. There is so much to be grateful for. We can talk about the soil bacteria, the weather, the sun, the Earth and the Universe. Perhaps it is easier just to thank God!

But gratitude, no matter how complicated it gets, is very important in a magical household. We understand that the energy we put out is the energy that we attract, thus, the more gratitude we feel and express, the more gratitude we will be given the opportunity to feel and the more other people will feel grateful to us and will want to repay our service in kind. Gratitude is opens up the doorway to blessings and saying grace is such a simple way to instill the habit of gratitude.
But what form should this grace take? You may be attempting to construct something in your head right now that suits all of these, especially if the traditional graces you’ve learned seem trite or inadequate to you, or don’t suit your spiritual worldview. You may want to create or look up a new, Pagan or Atheist grace that recognizes the natural world and the hands of the humans involved, but there are other ways to approach grace.

The Gratitude Discussion

If you’ve got a few people around your table, especially if some of them are children, you may wish to begin your meal with a general discussion of gratitude. “Before we begin, let’s discuss what we are grateful for today.” This will not work if everyone is very hungry, however, and you may wish to continue the discussion between mouthfuls. Another angle of approach is to point out the origin of each dish before the meal begins, “I got this loaf of bread from the bakery in town this morning, isn’t it lovely? And this is one of the chickens I butchered last weekend, and all the vegetables came from the garden, except for the carrots, I got those at the farmer’s market. I am glad someone had better luck with carrots than we did this year.”

The Moment of Silence

If you feel awkward about speaking your gratitude, as you might if you are dining alone or in mixed company, you may wish to approach grace as a meditative exercise. Instead of reciting your gratitude, spend a moment looking at the meal, appreciating it and cultivating gratitude in your heart.

The Poetic Chant

Coming back full circle to the poetic chant, this is a good way to get a family group, especially one of mixed age, into the grace habit. The chanted grace can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but not so complicated that you’re going to annoy people. Once people start getting annoyed and impatient during a ritual, the energy starts to scatter.

One of the simplest graces I have ever heard, that is just as appropriate in a Christian household as a Pagan one and works beautifully in a mixed setting comes from my Lutheran aunt: “For the gifts we are about to receive, let us be truly thankful.”

This simple grace covers it all. It acknowledges that the food is a gift, from the Universe, from the Earth, from the plants and animals whose bodies formed it and from the people who prepared it and it calls upon all assembled to receive these with gratitude. The response from the group tends to be “amen” which really amounts to something like “Hear hear”, indicating that we all second that notion.
For my own nuclear family unit, I have written my own grace, which I am pleased to share with you. “The Earth gives us the food we eat, the Sun warms it and makes it sweet. And we remember all who give ,of themselves so we may live.”

Libations

The practice of pouring libations is an ancient one. It is mentioned throughout the Odyssey and the Iliad as a regular dining practice. A few drops of wine are offered to the Gods before they are consumed by the human participants of the meal. This acknowledges the presence of the Gods at the meal and serving them first indicates that they are particularly honored guests. A special container was used to receive the libations indoors, though pouring libations on the ground during outdoor meals seems to also have been acceptable. Libations are usually described as beverages, but food libations are just as appropriate.

In modern practice, we may or may not feel comfortable having Gods at our dinner table. It’s possible that we don’t engage with Gods at all, but perhaps personal household or ancestral spirits or guides might be present. Or maybe you engage with nature spirits, who dwell out of doors. In this case, the libation would best be poured on the ground outdoors. It may make more sense to carry the libation outside after the meal. You may wish to make libations a part of your daily meal tradition, or reserve them for meals related to holidays and other special occasions.

If you wish to offer libations, simply set aside a portion of the food and/or drink. If you have a designated vessel to receive the libation indoors, hold up the libation and say out loud who you are offering it to, the Gods, a specific God? Your ancestors? A specific ancestor? The spirits of this place? Then pour the libation into the vessel. After the meal, you can carry the vessel outside and empty it onto your outdoor altar or compost pile.

If you are eating outdoors, the libation can be poured directly onto the ground or into the fire. The fire is considered to be the “mouth of the Gods” in many traditions and is especially suitable for libations to the divine. Be careful with alcoholic beverages, as they can cause the fire to flare up dramatically and this can cause injury. Other liquids can cause billows of steam to come up from the fire and these can also burn people.

If libations seem like a meaningful tradition to you, they can help you connect more closely to the Divine or your ancestors (or whoever you’re offering them too) while confirming the sanctity of the food. If food is good enough for the Divine (or the ancestors) it must be a holy substance.

Eating Together

Parenting magazines have been encouraging the family dinner table for strong families and well-adjusted kids for at least as long as I’ve been parenting and more recent research suggests that sharing a meal encourages trust and cooperation among more casual acquaintances and even strangers (Fishbach and Wooley. See The Hidden Brain from Feb 7, 2017) when the same type of food is eaten. Sharing a meal together gives a group of people whether they be a family, coworkers, or even strangers a sense of community and shared concern. Eating together is itself a magical act that creates an environment that eases differences and enhances respect for the other diners. It encourages us to share and to listen and to consider what we have in common.

Thus, I strongly urge you to make the family meal a priority. Even if you don’t have kids, adult family members eating together still has benefits for the household unit by encouraging communication and that atmosphere of shared concern. You also have the opportunity to share cooking responsibilities here and working together also strengthens bonds.

While most people who harp on the importance of the family meal are encouraging everyone to gather for dinner, or the evening meal. This is a bit of a carryover from the middle class family ideal of our parents’ and grandparents’ eras when Dad worked from 9 to 5 and mom spent the day at home working toward dinner promptly at 6pm. While there are still quite a few households that conform to this “norm”, most don’t. So you may find yourself eating dinner with one half of the family and breakfast with another. It may only be possible to get the whole family together once a week, or on holidays. Just do the best you can to get as many people to the table as possible as often as you can manage.

There are other factors that make getting everyone to the table a challenge. Sometimes people don’t have the same tastes or appetites. Rotating who is in charge of cooking can help with this, but this isn’t always possible. One way I deal with this is to note everyone’s favorites and delight at least one person at every meal- and we accept that there will always be something somebody doesn’t like. The important thing is to make sure everyone has a frequent opportunity to be delighted.

I also urge you to invite anyone with whom you are having a difficulty or circumstance has paired with you to work on a project to join you for a meal. Discussing the matter over a shared meal encourages an outcome that will make everyone happy. I am not even recommending a “sweeten up” or “harmony” spell here, though it couldn’t hurt to serve a main dish rich with basil and a dessert that’s heavy on the honey.

Our ancestors may not have realized it but the communal feasting that historically took place at every festival opportunity fed their social ties as much as their bellies. Most of the Pagan events I have been to have included some level of feasting, from potluck to snacking and many group rituals include the simple feast. It seems we know instinctively that communities that feast together are stronger. Integrating regular group meals with family, neighbors, colleagues, coven mates and friends will tighten your bonds and make for more satisfying relationships and maybe fewer disagreements over the fence line.

The Kitchen Altar

Many Witches like to have an altar to serve as a focal point for their magical activities and many Kitchen Witches likewise may set up a Hearth-specific altar to help focus your Kitchen-related magical activities.

While an altar often serves a religious purpose, it can also serve as a workstation and working at the altar, versus another workstation, helps us maintain focus on our work, reminding us constantly that we’re doing magick here, not just arts and crafts.

Sometimes the altar is separate from the work space, a small table or shelf within view of the kitchen workspace, decorated with sacred items that remind us why we’re doing this. And image of your kitchen god/dess to evoke while cooking and present offerings to, a candle, a bell, maybe photograph of the family. Ingredients can be placed on the altar and a blessing said over them to infuse them with magick before they are used. Kitchen tools can be dedicated and charged here as well.

Many Kitchen Witches do not have a special altar for their magical cooking but embrace their regular kitchen work space as their kitchen altar. This is a perfectly practical option, especially for those who consider all their cooking to be magical and/or have limited space. In this case, one might wish to have a small shelf or alcove or even just a corner that houses a statue, a candle holder or some other object to remind us of the sanctity of the space. Something to focus on, even talk to, while we’re working.

Whatever you choose to designate your sacred working space is right for you.