You are what you eat. Morsels of food get broken down and integrated into our bodies to become one with us, merging with our molecules and tissues. A type of transubstantiation occurs every time you place digestible material within your body. Consider then, what you might become depending upon what you ingest. Suppose that what you ate could alter your very nature as a human being. What if you could alter the nature of what you are eating through magical means and transform your physical body into a sacred vehicle for divinity? This is not only a thought many folks have had before, it is an ancient sacred practice known as saying grace through thankful prayers of gratitude over the food we eat.
Since the dawn of our existence, human beings have manipulated diet in an attempt to alter the relationship with the physical and spiritual world. What we place into our mouths not only affects our health, but can also affect our state of being. Potions, fasts, fasts, elixirs, poisons and other ingestibles have all been used by shamans, yogis, holy men and witches through the ages to attain states of ecstasy and transform the body into a spiritual vehicle.
Imbuing Food with Magic
One of the primary ways the ancients used food to transform themselves was by imbuing it with magic, prayers, blessings and grace. Most cultures everywhere through time have practices of making food sacred using these methods. In every major religion, there are rituals that involve saying blessings over food and imbuing it with spirit. Ritualizing the act of eating and raising it through intention is one of the oldest tricks in the book.
If you were raised in a Christian household, you might be familiar with the habit of saying grace over food in a practice of being thankful that you have something to eat, and as a way to express humility, but among the occult and pagan traditions, the meaning of this gratitude went a bit deeper. Saying grace is not only a Christian tradition, thousands of years prior the Hebrews and Pagans had these practices as well. The origin of the word “grace” comes to us through Latin and Greece from “gratis” which is” to be thankful”, but it is more like an ecstatic kind of thankfulness that gives praise to heaven. The roots of this are from the sincere feeling of joyful ecstasy. This word comes from a time when the pleasure of eating food could be felt due to lack and hunger, it was a downright hallelujah. To truly feel grace in a time when you thought all was forsaken and lost is a very special feeling indeed. Closer to salvation that being thankful, Grace is a feeling of being alive. If you find yourself unable to relate to this kind of elation, try a fast for a few days and when you ingest your next meal, you will praise God. The combination of spiritual fasting followed by Gratitude and sacrifice for the food that filled their bellies made eating a very different experience in the cultures of old and gave this higher tone to gratitude.
One of my favorite expressions of this was in the fabulous film “The God of Cookery” by Stephen Chow, in a scene where he is starving and defeated, rejected and disposed by all. He is given a very simple meal from the kindness of someone’s heart and it is the most delicious magical meal he has ever eaten. This is true Grace and a blessing.
Food is a blessing, a life-giving force. In many places, the Gods are fed first, in order that thanks be given. Not only was the food praised with gratitude, but sacrifices were made for it. Making an altar where you lay offerings of the cornucopia were required in most places on earth for centuries.
The purpose of most grace and blessing rituals over food was done in order to unify the ingestor with divinity through the blessing of nourishment. Saying Grace is a way of placing deity into your food and then taking the deity into you. This really is the same as the transubstantiation described at length in the Eucharist. Also known as Communion, the Eucharist of eating the bodies of Gods was common practice a long time Before Jesus. Pagans participated in such rituals for perhaps as long as there is recorded history. All of the Grain and agriculture Gods filled this purpose including Osiris, Dionysus, and Bacchus. Egyptians ritualistically ate the flesh of Osiris in little wheat cakes, much like communion wafers are passed around every Sunday in Church for the purpose of raising eating to a sacred activity.
Theophagy: Eating God
This esoteric and Alchemical action is mostly known as Theophagy, or “eating God”, and if we are able to expand our minds to consider that the sacred Earth might be a part of divinity, we are in fact eating the Goddesses body in every bite we consume.
“By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself…The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany.” –Mircea Eliade
Just as you are what you eat, people eat God ritualistically by imbuing food in order to become Divine. In the primal mindsets of antiquity, qualities are ingested just as easily as vitamins and other nutrients. This is known most popularly as “Sympathetic Magic." All over the world we see magicians and witches use the principles of sympathetic magic and correspondences between things to imbue or confer certain properties into matter. Much like beta carotene is passed from the carrot to our bodies, divine essences are conferred through the mouth into the body via the consumption of divine material. While all things can be broken down into chemical constituents and caloric values, there is also this sort of “spirit” in the things you eat.
For example, when you drink fresh champagne from the region in France where it is made with love and care, it is quite a different experience than drinking one of those little bottles purchased at a 7-Eleven in a mad rush on a frantic New Years Eve--even though technically they are made of exactly the same chemical components. There are different qualities to different things, and those are absorbed along with the nitty gritty of their components. So, if something is imbued with the holy spirit through the blessing of grace, imagine the things it could confer.
Theophagy is performed ritualistically with the substitution of something, most often a type of food or drink, for the body of the desired God. These “stand-ins” for the bodies of Gods can include many things, ranging from grains, vegetables, or animals, to entheogens. Since it is difficult to obtain a physical, material substance of or relating to a God, something is imbued with the qualities or name of the God and then ingested.
The entire concept behind the word imbue is actually the operator of all theophageous events. The reason that theophagy can be effective, according to the mythology, is because things can absorb other things. When we digest food, it is absorbed into our bodies. When the rain falls on our skin or we jump into a pool, a certain amount of it is absorbed into our system. Same goes with X-rays, radio waves, even sunshine. Substances are literally, physically penetrating flesh and viscera, and absorption also takes place on other more occult levels as well. The idea that we are able to take in the essence of something goes back into the most primitive prehistory and finds its home with shamanic sages.
In order to imbue something there are vast options from which to choose: a very simple prayer, such as saying grace over a meal, or any style of chanting or dancing, invocation, or other magical operations. The ancient world preferred the ways of sympathetic magic, a method of deeply empathetic understanding that causes the division between desired experience and present reality to disappear.
The act of theophagy combines both imagination and physical interaction to produce an intoxicating imbuement. Combining visualization and belief with a physical act, especially ingestion, can have very potent results. One need only consult the statistics available on the miracle cures of the placebo for proof of this. When we imagine that a thing is imbued with the force of something, our minds can have a powerful influence to make that so, regardless of whether or not it is true in a physical sense.
This act becomes alchemical in that a transmutation of one material substance into another has occurred. In the Bible, Jesus takes the food on the table and makes it into his blood and flesh, much like when he changes water into wine. The word used to describe this is transubstantiation. It is believed this term was coined by an early archbishop named Hildeber de Savardin, who used the term quite literally, explaining that "His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been transubstantiated, by God's power, into his body and blood".
The importance of this alchemical process in the Eucharist is described very well by an unlikely source, none other than the beast himself, Aleister Crowley:
“One of the simplest and most complete of Magick ceremonies is the Eucharist.
It consists in taking common things, transmuting them into things divine, and consuming them. So far, it is a type of every magick ceremony, for the reabsorption of the force is a kind of consumption.... Take a substance symbolic of the whole course of nature, make it God, and consume it. The magician becomes filled with God, fed upon God, intoxicated with God… Day by day matter is replaced by Spirit, the human by the divine; ultimately the change will be complete; God manifest in flesh will be his name. This is the most important of all magical secrets that ever were or are or can be.”
Be Aware of What You Eat
As a country, Americans rarely think about these considerations while we eat. For many, eating has become a mindless activity done through habit and the meaning, sentience and feeling has been removed from it. Feeling gratitude while performing a blessing is important for the sincerity of the heart to imbue it with power. With the right intention and prayer, every meal can be a Eucharist, uniting your body with the Earth and the creator in every ecstatic bite.
Becoming aware that you are eating is a good start. When we raise our conscious awareness to what our physical body is doing has the effect of raising our whole mind to another level. Pay attention to your body. Many folks talk about paying attention to the breath, but perhaps not enough advocate turning awareness to eating, a thing we all do mostly every day. Watching your own state when you are eating is also key. Eating when you are angry or sad will affect your digestion because emotions are housed in your organs that need to perform this vital function. Saying grace and doing rituals when we prepare to eat can help clear our own emotional and energetic state so that we can extract more nourishment from the food we are going to ingest.
Give it a try during this season of being thankful, be sincerely grateful, nay jubilant in the ingestion of the fruits of the gods of heaven and earth and don’t be shy, don’t hold back. If you are having trouble raising it to 11, just take food away from yourself for a couple of days, and see how you feel about it then. Are you Grateful for the grace that relieves the suffering of hunger? Are you aware you are participating in an action of filing your belly that humans have been doing and sharing with each other since the dawn of time? If not, do not worry, just spend some time ascending your awareness to it and join the ranks of the ecstatic saints of old who rejoiced at the simple pleasures that the Eden that is Earth has to offer us in the form of FOOD.
“Thus, there is the amazing evidence of the one life flowing behind all forms and made available through nutrition to every creature. From the harvests in the fields a world is nourished, and those who absorb these harvests become proficient in many forms of activity.
In the Christian doctrine of the Eucharist, the divine blood parallels in alchemy the elixir of life. How this divine blood operates is not clear to many people, but in some mysterious way universal life supports the life of people, people who may never be aware of the source of their own nutrition and in a mechanistic era such as ours do not care about the source of their nutrition.” - Manly P. Hall, An Alchemists Primer